Archive for August, 2010

Your Grandparents Are Tweeting, Too

How long has it been a common joke that older people either don’t know how or don’t like to use newer technology?  New punch-line: the joke’s now on whomever came up with that idea in the first place.  In this past year, the number of people 65 or older who use some sort of social media service to keep up with friends and family has literally doubled.

Even though younger people still comprise the greatest number of people using them, the fact that so many seniors are now doing so puts the lie to the idea that they can’t keep up with technological developments.  While the older these users are, the fewer they become in proportion to those younger than them, the gap has been closing.

Of course, this will be limited by the sheer difference in numbers of people over 65 and those under 29 years old, but it still says a lot about social media.  Those same seniors who didn’t think it was worth it to learn about all kinds of developments that were “the new thing” years ago are going in for Facebook and Twitter in droves.

It’s understandable, too.  Social media makes it possible to update all of your friends and family (at least, the ones on a service with you) in a matter of minutes rather than the hours or weeks it would take for traditional methods like phone calls or mail delivery.  Since it’s more likely that seniors have moved farther away from their friends and family, because they’ve had more time to do so, they can really benefit from bringing them closer online.

So far, and that being only about seven years, social media has been predominantly the domain of the relatively young.  However, with seniors using it more and more for maintaining their own circles, perhaps it’ll even become a place where the old and the young interact with each other more effectively – even closing the so-called generation gap as they’re forced to interact with each other through this new media.

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Universal, Vital Google

There are a lot of people that have a beef against Google for one reason or another.  Even so, it’s worth paying attention to everything they do, because they’re the single most powerful presence on the Internet.  They make it possible for billions of people to find whatever they’re looking for with without a lot of trouble that you had to deal with when using a lot of the search engines that came before them.

When Google came on the scene in 1998, it revolutionized how web pages were searched by arranging everything on its new page ranking system.  Since then, it’s led the way in efforts to make sure that the top list entries are always the most relevant for searchers.  That’s why they’ve been able to become the most popular search engine on the web.

In fact, we probably couldn’t find half as much on the Internet without their help at some point or other.  They do everything from helping people find what they need to walking novice webmasters through everything need to know to work their websites, and offer ways for people to get websites hosted.  They’re even offering their own web browser now.  They really make all kinds of things possible – and easier since you can get everything covered in a single, consolidated place.

If Google wasn’t there, the internet might or might not be smaller.  It would be a lot harder to do whatever you want without it.  That makes it a resource that everyone ought to appreciate, no matter whether they’re unhappy about something the company does or they really love it all.  There’s plenty of other things that they do online that depend on Google, so that it proves its worth every day.

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Know What You’re Talking About

The prevalence of blogs on the Internet has proven one thing that so many of us have forgotten:  It’s important to know what you’re talking about before you say anything.  A lot of blogs have foundered because of this, and a lot more have become very successful for the opposite reason – sometimes even leading to careers going in new and unexpected directions as a result of someone knowing what they’re posting about.

However, the same rule applies to all other parts of life as well.  That’s why one pretty much can’t get a college degree without doing a few research papers.  The ability to find out about something when you don’t yet know much of anything is a very powerful tool.  So you need to be sure that what you’re saying online, be it on a personal page or a company website, is actually correct – even if doing so means doing some extra work.

That’s an important part of making sure that your content is worth reading to anyone who may look at it while searching the internet for something.  Distinctly knowing what you’re talking about is every bit as valuable to search engine crawlers as just being sure of yourself; but it’s more valuable to you in the long run, because you won’t get shoved down to the end of the priority list for being proven wrong.

As a result, it’s a good idea to double check on anything you’re not 100% sure of, when you want to use it as a fact or even as an anecdote on your site.  This can be tricky, if you found the information online yourself, because dead links and 404 errors can come up at any point to remove the reference that backs up your facts – that will make it hard to prove your facts if anybody asks where you got them.

That means that you need to use books and websites that can be counted on to maintain their pages properly when checking facts.  It also means that you need to check your facts whenever you can.  Otherwise, you aren’t going to be able to keep people’s attention for very long, or to be helpful to them when you actually have their interest.  That’s the difference between a site that people disregard and one to which they turn whenever they have a question on a given matter.

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Will Facebook Replace Google?

The changes in the Internet are very interesting to follow.  Once upon a time, the browser service was the central hub upon which all of your surfing would be based.  For the past few years, it’s been the search engines.  Just now, though, all eyes are turning toward social media like Facebook and Twitter.  This is especially interesting since Google has recently come out with its own browser software, thus making its own bid for the throne in the Browser Wars.

A lot of social media sites also have their own search engines, to help you find things on their sites that interest you.  Of course, they have their share of paid adds, but that just helps them to be able to afford the expenses associated with keeping their sites running.  The interesting thing is that the “search” bar at the top of the page is only half of the engine, even though it’s the whole of the software.

Facebook’s real search engine is everyone you know on it.  Anything they find interesting enough to post or to list as a “Like”, you can check up on for yourself.  It’s a more intuitive way of both finding things and being found, because it depends as much on your assessment of people as it does on your active interest in the thing you’re looking at.

The difference between social media like Facebook and conventional search engines like Google is that, with Facebook, one is not searching for salable goods or information so much as for people.  The other two can be found – there are plenty of pages dedicated to companies or subjects that people love and on which they want to gather information, but finding and keeping up with people is the main goal.

This has made social media very important lately, because life itself (both in work and leisure) has more to do with one’s interactions with others than it does with finding data or a good deal on a product.  As the Internet changes, this will become more and more apparent, I think, through what takes prominence online and what services see the most use.

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Websites Are Watching You As Much As You’re Watching Them

It’s long been known that spying goes on in the Internet, but the main culprits in this list of those who are notorious at spying may surprise you.  You would think Google, Yahoo! or Bing would be one of the biggest offenders, but in reality, they don’t rank anywhere near—Dictionary.com.  That’s right, dictionary.com.  A source to help you further your vocabulary or find a word you’re unsure of—and an avenue for Internet spying to take place.

Next on the list is Merriam-webster.com.  I think this means you’re not supposed to further your vocabulary.  The first of the Big 3 that show is Yahoo! followed by Bing, then Google.  You would think it’s the complete opposite, but the proof is in the research. If you go to the Dictionary or Merriam-Webster sites, you’ll see an abnormal amount of pop-ups, slow website navigation, ads that are geared toward your search history, etc. It’s a scary thing to say the least. Big Brother is watching you, but you really can’t do anything about it.

Spying from businesses isn’t anything new, and the traditional definition of the word suggests some illegal activity.  The plight in this situation is that it’s perfectly “legal”. Of course there are gray areas, but “beacons” are nothing more than a marketing tool used by some to see what it is you’re looking for.

There are companies that pay for services like this and it’s not right, to say the least—at least for people like me who like to be left alone.  Advertising and marketing is truly a billion dollar industry and there is a lot of “spying” going on with little to no consequences. So, yes, people are watching you on the Internet and selling your goods to the people who are paying for them.

It’s a vicious cycle, but there really is no way to combat that unless we stop surfing the Internet. At least you have the confidence to know that Google isn’t the number one offender in this case. Facebook doesn’t even come up high on it either.  You can see a list of the biggest offenders here.

Be careful where you go and make sure your filters are set the way you want them. It’s not an end-all solution, but it does help.

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Facebook Uses

What seemed to start off as the response to Myspace has grown into something larger than the Internet. Many people have started to use Facebook in many different non-traditional ways. A recent article by The New York Times advised of India’s use of the popular media site to catch angry and unsafe drivers. Let’s take a look of some of the many ways that the Book of Face is used.

Job Postings: There are still tons of thousands of people looking for jobs today. The next time you ask your boyfriend what his day consisted of and he replies “Facebook,” don’t lose all hope. He might just be trying to find a gig and get off your couch.

I Hate You Posts: You can know tell all those you secretly despise how you really feel about them, safely behind your computer screen. Fill up their honesty box with hateful messages or hide your true identity behind made up login names.

Staying Connected: The News Feed in Facebook seems to work faster than AP. There are constant updates that are available that pertain to many different topics.  Find out what your friends are doing, what your favorite celebrity is wearing and even stay informed on important world issues.

Local Hot Spots: Facebook  has turned into a virtual PR company. Numerous parties, gatherings and social events are all promoted on the site in hopes of attracting large amounts of party-goers.

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