Archive | March 2013

Social Media’s Social Impact

  Marriage Equality Day created quite the buzz on sites like Facebook and Twitter over the past couple of days. For those of you that live in a cave, millions of people around the United States changed their Facebook pictures and updated status in support of the gay marriage court case going through the Supreme Court this week. The red background and white equality sign, in its various forms, blanketed social media in a form of digital, peaceful form of protest against a law many feel is behind the times.

That being said, there was another major event that occurred that day. Facebook dealt with an overload of new profile pictures and status updates, and the buzz was heard worldwide.

Social media is the new chatroom, it’s the new book club meeting, it’s the new school cafeteria. There’s gossip and flirting, arguments and conflicting opinion, and social protest and displays of unity. This was definitely the latter. Without getting to political, the key message of this Marriage Equality display on Facebook, from almost all factions was, “yeah this is a big issue, but shouldn’t this have already been taken care of?”

The big fad for the beginning of the week was changing a Facebook picture to the marriage equality symbol put on display by the Human Rights Campaign. Users from all over the country donned the white equality symbol on their Facebook. In fact, 2.7 million more people (approximately 120% higher) than the previous Tuesday updated their Facebook pictures. Picture 2While some of that number might be skewed for people who didn’t update to the HRC equality picture, that number is still staggering. Look at this graph, that shows the break down of the number of changed profile pictures.

The social networking site also examined which states were talking bout the marriage equality act more. As you probably know, Illinois is facing a heated battle over the marriage equality act, as well as California. If you look at the map, you can see that both of those states had pretty high levels of picture changing, but it was the county that houses the University of Michigan, Washtenaw County that carried the biggest change on Tuesday. The other top counties for the profile picture updating also housed major universities, including the University of North Carolina, Duke, Indiana University, University of Colorado and the University of Texas at Austin. Image

Facebook uses a tool they call the “Talk Meter,” which is able to connect the data you provide Facebook on your profile, and relate that to status updates and comments. The big argument going on now, is that Facebook is using some of this data to connect advertisers with your wallets, but in this case, the Talk Meter was actually pretty cool.

The phrase “SCOTUS” which is the acronym for the Supreme Court of the United States, received an 8,000% spike in conversation on Facebook, on Tuesday alone. Five of the top eight topics discussed on Facebook in the first couple days of the week dealt with gay marriage in some which way shape or form.

One of the more surprising notes about the conversation, contradictory to most trends on social media, is that it wasn’t the younger generations dominating the discussions. Instead, it was the age bracket of 35-44 that had the most things to say about marriage equality.

The big topic of conversation here shouldn’t be the marriage equality day, while it is extremely important. The big topic of conversation here is the fact that 2.7 million plus people decided to show unity on a digital platform that reaches the world over. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, these outlets for expressing who you are may change or evolve as we do, but the idea of a global connection to one another is something that our generation and future generations will live with forever.

Advertisements

The most difficult experience I’ve had so far.

I’m going to Brazil (or at least trying, you’ll find out why in a second). The biggest problem with traveling abroad is the various forms of documentation needed to get anywhere. The last time I got my passport I was a minor, and this is my first time traveling abroad in a couple of years so I needed to get a new one. Well, lets just say this hasn’t been my best experience.

First and foremost I want to say that the Passport office at Arizona State and the El Sol Travel Agent I’ve been working with have done everything in their power to make this as easy as possible. CIBT, the visa/passport assistance company, have not. The representative I’ve dealt with over the past couple of weeks (who I honestly have no idea what her name actually is) has been rude and condescending in my few short interactions with her.

I’ve had my application returned to me twice, both times of which the Passport Agency has told me are unnecessary returns. The first time they returned it to me was because they requested copies of everything inside the sealed envelope, the envelope that contains my birth certificate and social security information. Sorry but I dont exactly keep copies of that lying around. When I asked her why, the CIBT representative didn’t give me a straight answer, but instead redirected the questions to why I didn’t give her my personal information that only state and federal governments should be entitled to. I finally told her to either help me get this process done or let me get back to work.

She hung up.

I went back and reluctantly got copies of all this information for her, because I didn’t have much of a choice, and sent the application again. And again, my agent receives an email saying the application has been rejected (not from the State Department, CIBT) because the authorization letter required for a voucher agency to file my passport, wasn’t on their letterhead. They refused to file this application because I didn’t use the piece of paper with their logo in the corner. So I get it back again, and the Passport Agency tells me again that this is not something that should require a return.

But again, I hauled ass and got it back to them.

Well as I write this today, I’ve been hung up on again. I received a call from CIBT regarding a confirmation of the information inside my envelope (remember, they have copies of everything). I called back as soon as possible and after being left on hold for ten minutes, I was told I’d receive a call back shortly.

Two hours later, I decided to try again.

I called the representatives direct line, and I heard the receiver pick up, background noise, a click and then dial tone. She picked up the phone and hung up on me. I called back not 30 seconds later, and I get “CIBT is currently closed, please call back again.”

Ha.

I understand that I am an inexperienced international traveler and that the litigation behind passports and visas can be so swamped down with red tape that it seems impossible to get anything done. But as a relatively experienced consumer, and someone interested in business, I can tell you that this is one of the worst displays of customer service I’ve been involved with. There is not a snowball’s chance in Hell I would ever voluntarily use this company for any sort of paperwork again.

4 major changes to Cable and TV in the next 10 years

In 20 years, if the cast of Saturday Night Live isn’t performing there bits in my family room I’ll be disappointed. That’s how fast the television industry has evolved, remember HD? That was the best it could get, and 3D is quickly becoming a normal thing, not just for the 1%.

The TVs of my children’s generation are going to be something we’d imagine out of Star Wars. Hand gesture or voice recognition, crystal clear, possibly 3D picture. But the biggest thing in my opinion? Smart TVs. Every major content provider (Apple, Amazon, Samsung etc.) are investing their work into smart TVs, and they should. Verizon is telling cable providers to quit the bundling crap or they’ll start losing customers, and new generations of the internet connected television are being released consistently in this market.

So, a hologram of Chris Farley doing the Super fan skit would be awesome, but there are some things that are much more likely to happen before 2023.

Social Interaction. It’s already half way there, Netflix and Facebook just announced they’re integrating with each other, but we’ve already done it for the past couple of years. You tweet about TV shows and movies you like, and the one’s you don’t. But I see it becoming one syndicated version, where you can tweet instantly while still watching your latest sitcom. The TVs of the future will connect you with your friends, straight from your couch, and you’ll be able to show, tell and share what your watching simply with a hand gesture.

Connections to the home “computer”- I use the term computer lightly because I don’t think we’ll have offices in 10 years in our homes. Tablets, phones, TVs and maybe laptops will be integrated into a cloud system through out wireless networks. We’ll be able to type word docs, view photos and music, access web browsers on any of the devices we have in our house and they’ll talk to and integrate with one another. With one button I’d be able to transfer the video I’m watching on my phone to the TV, or switch the music I’m listening to while getting ready back to my phone as I walk out the door. These TVs will be our desktops and major platforms to our friends and content, all stored in a server for us to access whenever we want.

Cable companies will disappear- Verizon is ahead of the curve with their speculation of removing bundling from it’s service. I’ve said it time and time again, people do not want to pay for 120 channels, and internet, and home phones, for $200 a month when they only use four channels and the internet. It’s a flat out highway robbery and unfortunately it will probably take a mass exodus of consumers for the bean counters at BIG CABLE to realize what they’re doing wrong, but hey that is the beauty of capitalism. A reaction to an action and not a proactive step.

Pay-per-channel: The big issue here, is that cable is already behind the curve. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, they already offer much more content then a cable company. If cable doesn’t figure out a way to compete, they could completely lose out. Sports networks are already on most smart TVs and if NFL network leaves DirectTV, they would lose a significant portion of their revenue, and threaten their business as a whole.

The way I see it, the six major media corporations (Viacom, Disney, Newscorp, Time Warner, Comcast and CBS) will shift away from their cable providers (and move away from providing them) and start hitching on to smart TV companies like Apple and Amazon Prime, offering their content on these TV sets for fractions of what they traditionally charge. The business model can work, Netflix has shown it, the difference between the two is the approach.

Why Google Reader kicking the bucket doesn’t matter

RSS is done. That’s the biggest reason. Really Simple Syndication isn’t that simple any more. It used to be impossible to find the tiny clusters of information on the big bad Internet, and we used RSS to aggregate our blogs instead of spending hours clicking around trying to find that person who actually made sense.

Today our Twitter feeds act like RSS readers. They offer the nut graf of an article or blog, followed with a link to the full site. We don’t follow blogs any more, we follow the people that write them. We cluster ourselves with people we’re interested in and organizations like Mashable or Wired, and we follow their writers that we enjoy reading. I don’t spend time reading through someone’s blog and follow the RSS, I just follow them on Twitter and read what I want to read.

I use an RSS, but only for a class. I currently have 2631 unread posts on my RSS reader, but that doesn’t mean I’m not reading, I’m just accessing it from other places. Now if you use a reader for your desktop you almost never get the full article anyway because every site needs the page views for advertisements. I’m on a twitter feed religiously, and I organize my lists in Tweetdeck (which I still think is one of the better apps for twitter on a computer) by different interests, creating 5 or 6 columns for things I follow like cigars, tech, Chicago sports teams etc. It allows me to filter through information, communicate directly with the writer of the content and view the information I’m interested in reading in real time.

So when Google told us they’re taking out Reader I rolled my eyes and scrolled through the next tweet. Because that’s how you saw it right? On Twitter.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

New anti-piracy laws, what’s it all about?

The Center for Copyright Information’s Jill Lesser told Wired in February there will be new anti-piracy laws in place by the end of the year. Essentially, the Internet Service Provider will be able to notify you, and eventually “throttle” your Internet connection if they detect copyrighted content is being downloaded illegally through P2P networks. There has been a lot of huffing and puffing from those who are against this new legislation, citing all sorts of personal privacy complaints yada yada yada, but in a conversation I had with one of the opposers, the only thing it seemed like he was mad about was the fact that he’d lose all his free stuff.

Too bad.

I dont feel bad that these people have to pay an extra 10 bucks to buy the new Bayside album. It doesn’t bother me, and I’m not trying to stand on a pedestal and say I’m a better person than those who snag music for free, I’m just saying it’s stupid for those people to argue that you shouldn’t be punished for committing a crime.

The major reason the other side is pissed on this issue is because it jeopardizes their ability to skip lines in movie theaters, save trips to Best Buy, and most importantly, not pay for the stuff someone else put the time to produce. The fact of the matter is, downloading albums and movies off sites like Frostwire and other P2P sites are illegal, period. End of Story. There is no other argument to be made to defend that. It is a crime, it is theft, and there is no reason it should not be punished. The reason it has taken so long to put one of these sorts of blockades in place is because:

  1.  there wasn’t an effective way to measure the actual content being downloaded without violating certain privacy laws,
  2. those who used the P2P networks were doing anything in their power to prevent this from happening.

The Wall Street Journal put out an article a couple days ago that shows that movie theaters and Hollywood have seen an increase of 6-10 percent in sales after the P2P network Megaupload and Megavideo were shutdown last year. Heaven forbid the people who spend millions of dollars producing a movie or an album want to see a little bit of money from their work.

The original purpose of P2P networks as my opposition told me the other day was to help speed up the time it took to download a file that was free to download and accessible on the Internet by providing more than one host. The key phrase there: free to download and accessible. While some of the files being downloaded and shared across P2P networks are perfectly legal, because they are free content or the original producer has given permission, an overwhelming majority of the content that is being downloaded is not free and is copyrighted by the original producer. 

It really is too bad that people are actually trying to block legislation like this to ensure the ability to steal. Over the next 20 years, the United States and the world are going to see this sort of legislation, and this sort of battle, continue to happen as more content becomes available over the Internet.

Brazil: the giant contradiction

As I approached the two month mark for my trip to Brazil this May, I picked up a copy of a book my professor told me to read about the country. Brazil on the Risebrazil-on-the-rise by Larry Rohter examines the country’s economic development in the last 40 years as well as the reasons for a lot of the social differences between the United States and Brazil. The book itself is great, and Rohter is incredibly knowledgeable on the subject, as he should considering he’s been covering Brazil for the New York Times for several decades, but the actual material is what vexes me. Brazil and its people seem to be a series of contradictions across its social, economic and political platforms.

Rohter examines their viewpoints on race in the second chapter, for example, and in that he makes the general point that Brazil’s view on racism is so complex that Americans aren’t capable of truly understanding how it affects their culture. He quotes a group of sociologists that says there is more than 300 terms to describe the different tones of skin color in the Brazilian Portuguese language. That’s insane.

In Brazil, there is a white elite that dominates the near majority of African and indigenous Brazilians. They control an overwhelming majority of the political and business positions, and with Brazil being known to have cases of corruption and favoritism, they manage to hold and dominate those positions. What puzzles me was the information from a 2000 census that said 30% of Brazilians are intermarried, and another survey that said 87% percent of Brazil’s 200 million population carried at least 10 percent of African blood in their DNA. How can a country, that while not institutionalized, show so many examples of public racism, yet a dominating majority be of mixed ethnicity?

The Brazilian culture is a complicated one to comprehend. They have an action Rohter calls jeito, which in English it means a way to move around someone or something. Literally a word used in soccer, a way to dribble around an opponent, a jeito is a way to avoid bureaucracy and pointless restrictions, like stop lights. At late hours in Rio De Janeiro, red lights are more of a guideline and not a restriction, says Rohter. Other ways to use a jeito in daily life would involve sliding a police officer a 20 dollar bill to avoid a speeding ticket, or calling a friend at one of the country’s dozen ministries to help speed along paperwork.

The Brazilian people have created a system to beat the system. Their political structure is slow and cumbersome, so the constituents decided to take matters into their own hands, by using corruption. They turn a cheek to some actions while raising a fist to others, and the course of those two actions is only decided when the issue could affect them in a positive or negative way.

Whether contradictory or not, the culture of Brazil seems fascinating to me, and I cannot wait to experience it first hand.

 

Introduction

I’m planning on attending a study abroad program through the university to go study international business journalism in the flourishing country of Brazil. Over the next 4 years, the largest South American country will host 3 major sporting events, the Confederation Cup, World Cup and the Olympics. On top of that, major technology companies and other businesses are putting head quarters in Brazil to anchor their South American projects. The country is quickly becoming an international economic staple. I want to see it first hand.

My goal of this trip is simple. To help broaden my perspective on the way a global economy works. We no longer can simply focus on the United States technology development and expect everyone else to follow. Our technology companies have paved the way towards a bigger picture, one that creates relationships from Rio De Janeiro to New York to London. I want to see that first hand.

I’m raising money through a kick-starter website, gofundme.com, where you can donate a $1 or $1,000 to my trip (anything will help!). My promise to you is simple, if you donate I will blog/provide photo and video content of my trip, a first hand account of what I’ve learned in Brazil. You can follow my whole journey on this website. Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy my experience!

Is Google taking over the world?

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 11.14.20 AM Okay. I’m freaked out. I’m sitting at my desk today writing an article about how Google has agreed to pay a settlement of $7 million to around 38 states because  they were illegally taking personal information that is being sent over wireless networks in YOUR homes.This is the breaking and entering of the digital world, and we’re all unarmed. So many questions are pinging through my head right now I feel like a pinball machine on Adderall.

First, WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY TAKING THIS INFORMATION FOR IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Call me paranoid, but Google already has enough info on me to get me indicted about 5 times over. Now they’re going around capturing text messages and emails from me? So screwed. But imagine if they hadn’t of gotten caught, who or what was the information going in to? I could only imagine the third party ad-agencies and product companies foaming at the mouth for more information regarding potential consumers.

Remember that text message you sent to your mom about the new shoes you wanted? Guess what: every time you go to a new website, that EXACT pair of shoes is sitting there. Creepy right? The options Google has at their disposal with this kind of information, which we assumed was completely private, is downright scary. With most forms of text messaging moving to data networks instead of cellular, the door is busted open for more of these kinds of information gathering campaigns.

Second, Are we just permanently stuck in a world of retargeting based marketing?

Google and basically every other website we go to uses retargeting in some way or another. It’s how they’re able to generate a lot of their ad revenue. I personally think advertisement is dying on the internet, simply because my generation doesn’t trust any ad. But with situations like Google logging text messages, we’re moving past them just using search engines and now they have the capability of logging communication with your family and friends.

I understand my house isn’t exactly Fort Knox when it comes to my wireless internet, but the fact that some random guy from Google is driving past my house in a van and is able to take any sort of information of my server really makes me uncomfortable. Part of me is happy that it’s only Google grabbing my info, because imagine all the whack-jobs with a computer that are capable of this stuff, and what THEY would do with the same information. But, that being said, it feels like Google is really pushing their limits as a search engine company. If they’re able to procure this sort of info from me without even asking, what other things can they do with my search history, cookies, email and all the other logs of memory the Internet keeps on us.

Every time you log onto the Internet, you leave a breadcrumb trail everywhere you go. It’s impossible to hide and companies are finding ways to capitalize on the trail to hopefully divert you to a product they know you’re interested in. There’s really no way to shut it off unless you just turn off every form of electronic that sends any signal anywhere.

Ha. Good one.

Finally, how big is Google going to get?

Remember IRobot? That mundane sci-fi flick with Will Smith? The company in that movie seemed like it was more important that the US government itself. With technology companies growing like wildfire, are we facing the same fate? Google has released a plethora of new products and services over the past 5 years and
they’re still moving forward. Google Glass is going to be able to tell you what bar to go into, check your Facebook, record video, and a number of other things. Google has a car, that drives itself (another product in IRobot), and I can almost guarantee their R&D department is working on some stuff we can’t even fathom right now. Where is Google going to stretch their limits in our lives next?

Arizona Tech Titans go to war

On March 7,  the Phoenix Business Journal hosted an event honoring some of the best names in the various technology sectors in Arizona. Some of the greatest minds were present, sharing ideas and swapping opinions on what lies ahead for the state of Arizona and it’s growing technology industry. While most of the conversation was relatively tame, it got a little heated during the panel. Check out the video, and you can read managing editor Patrick O’Grady’s take on the conversation as well. 

Facebook: $till Relevant??

I remember when I first logged on to Facebook. In my professional opinion (I think I was 15), Myspace was the best thing that could ever happen, and Facebook was so boring. There’s no where to listen to music, no “Top Friends”, this is Bull$#%^ I thought. But what the hell, I created an account anyway.

Now, over 6 years later, I’d say Facebook has me hooked. I update my status regularly and keep active conversation with friends and family. But I’ve watched the world’s largest social media network develop and evolve over the past 10 years, and I can’t say I’m one hundred percent impressed. Don’t get me wrong, the success of the company is a near impossible feat, and hands down Mark Zuckerberg is one of the greater minds of our generation, but I feel like since their IPO, they’ve developed an investor-first, consumer-second approach to their style of business.
Facebook’s profits and advertisements have clouded the vision of their company’s product, and it has affected the original mission of the company.We create products to produce cash, I get that, otherwise, what’s the point of going to work everyday? The social media site has made some drastic changes since its creation, and some may not be so popular with the users and others will. But today, Facebook announced an unveiling of their new “newspaper” timeline, and again, I see the “investor-first” mentality. The goal, at least in my mind, of this new style of newsfeed is to aggregate the information Facebook feels is important to you. But thats the number one thing I don’t like, Facebook shouldn’t be the one deciding whether or not my friends relationship status is less important than Walmart’s new deal on DVDs. Zuckerberg designed the site to connect with other college students at Harvard, and thus it expanded to different universities and eventually opened to the general public. The purpose, and use, of Facebook was to connect to those you don’t see everyday, eliminating the snail or email style of communication. It allows you to post the photos from the weekend getaway straight to the site, allowing your audience of 100-5,000 friends see and comment on your photos.
Facebook’s goal has changed. They opened their IPO nearly a year ago, and in that year I’ve consistently felt and heard a decline in the popularity of Facebook. They no longer appear to care about helping you connect with friends across the country, but rather care about their NASDAQ report. I get that the need to hold investors by generating revenue is now the lifeline of the business, and creating profit is the goal of starting a business, but if you lose the consumers, doesn’t that all fall apart?
Before social media really anchored itself in our lives, maybe we would of stuck through this debacle and dealt with it simply because there is nothing else, but in today’s world of constant digital communication, with new social media and tech sites appearing on the App Store and Internet everyday, Facebook needs to air on the side of caution when it deals with gambling with the way they change their product. The product was satisfactory, and people almost feel they NEED Facebook to communicate (that’s another scary thought to think about, but I don’t want to get into that). However, too drastic of a change, and people will leave the website, and when they do, it’ll be interesting to see how many investors decide to stick around. Once the flood gates open up on a social reaction like that, it’s hard to get it to stop.