May 04, 2010
How strong are your passwords?
Think malware is just something annoying, but not costly?
A study out today from Consumer Reports calculates Americans have lost $4.5 billion over the past two years, including replacing more than two million computers, because of malicious programs. (They're livestreaming an event today at 12:30 p.m. to talk about the report)
Something as simple as a better password can help.
I'm the first to admit that I fail at the password protection test. Unlike my super techie friends, my passwords are pretty lame because of my fear of forgetting them.
Bridget and I have realized that it would be easy for the two of us to figure each other's passwords out -- and if that's the case, it's probably not that hard for someone else to do that, too.
This week we're changing that. We're taking control of our passwords and creating a system that makes it easy for us to remember them, but really difficult for others to figure out.
I've probably missed the window for calling this spring cleaning, so maybe think of this as a May e-Cleaning.
To avoid the disaster of forgetting all these passwords once you've created them, come up with a system. Find an odd combination of numbers and or symbols. Don't use your birthdate, or your kid's birthdates, or an anniversary. If you can't deal with a random number combination you make up and memorize, use something like your dog's birthdate, your best friend's birthday -- combinations others can't figure out.
Yes, this is a pain. I've already created several passwords that I've forgotten, but it's just the hassle of clicking "forget password" and waiting for the email to come. This helps you remember your password, and, it's worth it.
Consumer Reports recommends inserting a random symbol into a password as well. To make it easier to remember, find one you like and use the same one each time.
Now that you've gone through the trouble of creating better passwords, be aware of phishing scams that try to steal your login data. If you click on a link that someone's shared with you, and it asks for your user name and password, stop and think before you fill it in: Is this legitimate? If the URL looks complicated for a sign in page, it should raise a red flag.
Do you have a system for managing your passwords?
April 27, 2010
Time to review your Facebook privacy settings again
All right, maybe it's an exaggeration to compare Facebook to the artificial intelligence software that tried to destroy mankind in the Terminator movies. But like the ubiquitous Skynet, it is integrating itself into many major websites in new ways.
Facebook is giving outside websites access to the information you make public. You should take the time to go back into your privacy settings and see what new ways it has attached itself to your online life.
For example, go on CNN.com and you'll see a widget that shows which CNN stories have been shared by people who are your Facebook friends. If you're not logged in to Facebook, it just shows what stories are popular with all Facebook users.
Some of these changes are cool and make sharing quicker -- such as being able to mark that you "like" a website without ever going to Facebook.
Or if you listen to music on Pandora.com , it can recommend playlists based on the artists you like on Facebook.
Your friends on Facebook can also share details about you via the websites they go to -- as long as you make that info available to everyone. The example Facebook uses is when a friend goes to a greeting card website, that site may prompt the friend that your birthday is coming up (if your birthday isn't private).
Here's how to control what is being shared on these sites:
• Control what your friends share: Under Privacy settings, click ``Applications and Websites.'' You'll see the option to control what info websites can tap into from your friends' accounts and share (as long as that info is public).
• Control what sites automatically personalize: Under the same ``Applications and Websites'' area, the last option is to control ``Instant Personalization.'' Here you can turn it off completely. If you want it to be used for some sites and not others, each site has a way to opt out.
If you come across a site that uses instant personalization, such as Yelp.com, you can click "No, thanks,'' at a Facebook prompt on the top of the page and it won't connect.
April 21, 2010
Residents sue town to keep e-mails private
A Herald colleague covering the Town of Miami Lakes writes this story about residents suing over the privacy of their e-mail addresses. [Click here to read the full story and download the lawsuit.]
BY LAURA ISENSEE
Two Miami Lakes residents filed a lawsuit Tuesday, asking a Miami-Dade circuit judge to declare their e-mail addresses private and not subject to public records rules.
Ceasar Mestre, a lawyer and town resident, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the residents, Lynn Matos and Jack McCall. Matos serves on the town's task force for youth activities while McCall is the former president of the town's Optimist Club. The suit does not seek any money.
The lawsuit comes a week after several residents urged the town to keep their e-mail addresses private and Mestre, who is running for Town Council, announced plans for the legal action.
Under Florida law, anyone can inspect and copy state, county and federal records. There are about 1,100 exemptions to the law, including Social Security numbers, records identifying sexual abuse victims and home addresses of law enforcement officers.
According to the filing, the residents gave Mayor Michael Pizzi their e-mail addresses to receive updates about community activities and did not consent to them being disclosed ``to any third party for any reason."
"The emails addresses are personal information that can be used to stalk, harass, engage in identity theft, hijack emails,'' Mestre said in the filing.
"Even if the content of the emails of the Mayor are public, the BCC [blind carbon copy] list is not a public record,'' he later wrote.
Civic activist Dr. Dave Bennett has requested the e-mail addresses of those receive update or town events sent by the mayor and maintains that they are public records.
Councilman Richard Pulido has also requested the e-mails that receive the mayor's updates, which have been denied.
The town's litigator, Gonzalo Dorta, previously advised Miami Lakes officials that the e-mails are public, but Dorta said there are conflicting legal opinions whether the e-mail addresses should be made public and advised not making them available.
April 20, 2010
Should Shamu return to Twitter?
Is it too soon to bring Shamu's Twitter account back?
That's the question SeaWorld's social media team is struggling with after a trainer was killed during a show by a whale named Tilikum.
Shamu still does shows at the park, but the humorous voice behind the Shamu Twitter account -- which has engaged with fans with jokes, trivia and photos -- hasn't spoken since Feb. 25.
With over 10,000 followers, the Shamu account was a highly successful way for the theme park to get involved with the community and promote the park. Currently, the park is sending all marketing messages from the vanilla-flavored account SeaWorld_Parks.
To SeaWorld's credit, its marketing team worked hard after the tragedy to address the touchy questions and comments thrown upon them on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. Instead of dodging questions about whale captivity, the team would responded to as many people as they could with how they care for the animals and the conservation work they do.
As time passed, the page filled with fans commenting about their love for the park and the whales.
Anne Fischer, the senior manager for lifestyle and digital marketing at SeaWorld, traveled from Orlando to the Florida Atlantic University campus in Davie to discuss this with the audience at last week's Social Media Club South Florida gathering.
She said in hindsight, her team would have done a few things differently. The SeaWorld team had not previously crafted strategy of how to handle a crisis like that.
"We weren't prepared to the degree we should have been,'' Fischer said.
She wished she could have done more, such as being able to understand tools to monitor what was being said on the Web. Or being more on top of deleting the inappropriate photos people were posting on the Facebook page.
She asked the audience if the Shamu Twitter account should be reactivated. After the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, is it too soon for humor? Or has enough time passed? And if the account reactivates, will it have the same tone?
Audience members had a hard time giving a definite answer. One person said it would be crazy not to use the Shamu account because of how large of a marketing tool it is for the park, but it's too soon to launch it now.
I'm on the side of bringing the account back. It always has been a favorite account of this column; every tweet brought a smile to Niala and I, and the world could use more smiles.
I'd start it back slowly. Give it a calm tone of showcasing cute photos of other animals. And I wouldn't make any cracks about being hungry or trivia about the strength of killer whales.
But that's easy for me to say when I'm not in SeaWorld's shoes.
So what do you think?
April 19, 2010
Businesses and social media
Last we, we wrote about businesses and social media - how companies like Darden Restaurants, which handle a group of chains including Olive Garden and Red Lobster, are handling their social media outreach. The businesses had gotten together for a South Florida Interactive Marketing Association event that featured Pete Blackshaw, a Nielsen executive who handles digital web strategy.
I also spoke with Blackshaw for this week's video show:
He offers some really interesting advice, but I wonder how many companies follow that. How does your business or brand handle social media?
April 16, 2010
Businesses should pay attention to Foursquare today
Looking for a dinner deal tonight? More than 40 South Florida businesses are giving deals today to tech geeks in honor of Foursquare Day. Use the Foursquare program at participating stores and restaurants, and you might get some perks.
Foursquare Day was an idea cooked up by a fan of the Foursquare application, which is a location-based-social-network-game-thing used on phones and shared with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Much like how Pi (3.14) has Pi Day on March 14th, a Tampa man thought Foursquare Day should be April 16th (4²=16).
And it wasn't long until his idea spread to fans in other large cities. But before I explain the Foursquare Day deals, here's how the Foursquare application works:
- You download the Foursquare application to your cellphone, or if your phone doesn't use apps, then use text messages to participate.
- When you arrive at a restaurant, mall, gym, grocery store, place of work -- anywhere -- just go into the application and "check in" by saying you arrived. You can also make comments about the place.
- You can sync it with all your connections on Twitter and Facebook and see where your friends are hanging out.
- The competitive part is seeing who can check into the same location the most times -- and then they rack up points and badges for bragging rights.
There's been lots written about Foursquare being dangerous for privacy reasons (it's easy to stalk or rob you when you're always saying where you are). Some hate it for other reasons. When Foursquare users post on Facebook every time they've checked into an area, it feels either like they are bragging, or simply put, a loser. (When you check in at the Taco Bell near your house every other night, it just looks sad.)
But Foursquare promotes it as a way to discover new places to eat, shop, etc. based on what your friends say they are doing.
Here's where the Foursquare Day part comes in. Some businesses are getting in on the game by saying if you "check in" on Foursquare today at their establishment during a certain time, you can get a deal.
Foursquare encourages businesses to pay attention to Foursquare to reward customers who visit often.
For example, the Pizza Fusion chain gives a free topping for anyone who checks in while there, and if you earn enough check in points to become a "mayor" of that area, you get a free bottle of organic wine. But on Foursquare Day, it kicked the freebies up a notch with a free pizza when you purchase a tea.
A day like today is to help draw more awareness of the application. Businesses who are participating are hoping that all the tweets and Facebook posts about people "checking in" to their establishment will help bring more awareness to their company.
Although most participants are small businesses, McDonald's is one major chain that is participating at a large level. If you check into a McDonald's today until 7 p.m., and if the McDonald's Twitter account notices the check in, you'll get a coupon for a free lunch.
But if you're a business owner who isn't using Foursquare, I'd at least monitor it today to see what is being said about your brand, and how many people are using the application to check in today. It might give you a sense of how popular it is with your clients, and if you should consider participating in it to get more people interested in your product.
It goes without saying that most people have no idea what Foursquare is. I don't know anyone in my circle of friends or relatives that uses it. One person in my company has "checked in" to The Miami Herald. Most folks I know who use it are the local tech geeks I follow on Twitter.
It's an interesting experiment for businesses to try, but at the end of the day, is it worth your time if not many people use the application? What do you think?
But if you do decide to use Foursquare, don't lie about your location. Or else...
April 12, 2010
Looking for a job? Expand your network online
In one of my other roles at the Herald, I do a weekly web business show - this week, we featured an interview with Roy Krause, the president and CEO of SFN Group, formerly known as Spherion. They're one of the largest staffing companies in the country and Krause spent quite a bit of time talking about how important expanding your network is - if you didn't catch the interview, here it is:
For those who need a refresher on social media sites like LinkedIn that deal specifically with the professional world, here are a few videos we did a while back with LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman about his site.
Some more practical tips: Bridget did a post last year about how to link people to your LinkedIn or Facebook profile - it's a good reminder as well to check yourself out online and see what comes up, as all potential employers do these days.
Finally, another tip: how to connect your Twitter account to LinkedIn - staying active on both networks and saving time!
What tips do you have to increase your network, especially in the face of job hunting?
April 06, 2010
Get proactive about sites that post personal information
If you're worried about what personal information is out there on the Web about you, be aware of Spokeo.com.
I typed in my name and it listed a good deal of information that I would never dare put on my social networks. It listed my address. Everyone in my household. My age. My relationship status. My zodiac. My ethnicity. It didn't know my occupation (ironically the easiest information to find about me).
It listed my interests (which it says are toys and reading). It says I have children when I don't. And for a price you could find out my credit and all the info about me on social networks.
But there is a way to take it off.
According Spokeo's site, it "aggregates publicly available information from phone books, social networks, marketing surveys, real estate listings, business websites, and other public sources. Spokeo does not originate data or publish user-generated content like Facebook or MySpace.''
That should make you think twice before filling out some online survey about your household. Here's how to get delisted from Spokeo:
On the very bottom right of the homepage, click the gray "Privacy'' link. Enter the URL of your profile. Type in an e-mail address. Spokeo then sends a link to that e-mail address for you to get rid of your listing.
My parents aren't even on any social network, but they were on here. As our column often points out, there's a lot on the Internet about you. And even when you think you're being good by using privacy settings in Facebook, it's still hard to control everything.
Be aware that there also are sites that aggregate every little thing you've ever put publicly on the Web and put it in a social search engine. Go to PeekYou.com and search your name. It had my old MySpace handle, MySpace picture and an incorrect age. It's all stuff I put on the Web, so it's not terrible, but it's not exactly the image I care to represent my professional persona. You can't delete a profile, but you can become a member and "contribute'' the correct information to any profile.
PeekYou says: "The information on PeekYou is already out there. By organizing that data into a better, more useful search engine, we in turn help the public become more aware of both the potential powers and liabilities associated with public knowledge.''
You can contribute by deleting fields. I deleted a bunch and it still had my name, city I worked in and my job. I can upload a photo I like or write the bio the way I want it -- if I so desire.
On the bright side, these sites typically don't appear high on the list when you search your name on Google, Yahoo! or Bing. The popular social networks you belong to, like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, will usually be the first results that show up.
March 30, 2010
Please tell me how you'd like me to talk to you
A friend in Dubai recently e-mailed me with the subject line: "a note about the e-mail I owe you."
In the message, which she sent to practically everyone she knows, she said she needed to own up to how bad she is at returning e-mails.
I e-mailed her to say Bravo! and asked what was the response from our other friends. She said it felt great to have the in-box albatross off her neck -- and this was her way of not just reaching out, but also getting more organized.
When there are a variety of ways to communicate with people -- text, instant messages, Twitter, etc. -- shouldn't it also be a part of netiquette to learn what form of communication people prefer?
In the case of my Dubai friend, she's not bad at communicating: she uses Facebook daily, chats with people via Skype and Google instant messaging, and still uses old-school devices like the phone and even writes actual letters. What I thought was great was that she articulated all of her communication preferences to her friends.
I think this is even more important in professional situations, because it gives you a chance to distinguish yourself. Everyone's got the e-mail signature that lists the variety of ways they can be contacted (Follow me on Twitter! Read my Blog!).
But I think in the rush to be available to everyone on all platforms, we've failed to indicate the way we prefer to be contacted.
This goes both ways: It's not just about asking people how they would like to communicate, but also about making your own preferences clear.
Anyone who has ever called my work phone knows that for years, my voice mail has contained a message asking public relations professionals to e-mail me (if they don't have it, I spell out my e-mail address.)
There are a few reasons, but mostly, it's because I like to store things via e-mail so I can go back -- even if months later, to retrieve what was sent. I'm not opposed to picking up the phone: sometimes, that's the fastest and most efficient way to communicate. It just seems, though, like SUCH a waste of time to retrieve voice mails when it's just easier to have that email as a record. (And for those who ask, no, the Herald doesn't have any type of automatic transcriptions of voice mails, or then I wouldn't be so picky about this.)
And that's my point, as well. It's not just about courtesy, it's about efficiency. These days, couldn't we all use a bit more of both?
What's your preference, or pet peeve on this matter? Weigh in below, please:
March 22, 2010
The Nestlé Facebook lesson: When being attacked, show that you're listening -- but don't sass back
That's the lesson a Nestlé social media administrator learned the hard way last week, after getting snippy with Greenpeace protesters who were repeatedly attacking the company's Facebook page.
Here's the breakdown: Greenpeace is protesting Nestlé's use of palm oil, an ingredient used in many of its products, saying it hurts the rainforests when not gathered in an environmentally sensitive way.
Protesters soon began to fill Nestlé's Facebook fan page with comments -- and many of those protesters changed their personal profile photos to be negatively altered logos, like changing KitKat to Killer and Nestlé to Nosale.
Nestlé then made a status update saying that they welcome the comments, but request that people not post with altered images of the Nestlé logos. It said any comments made by users with altered logos would be deleted.
But as the protesters cried that Nestlé doesn't support freedom of speech and they were "Big Brotherish,'' the Nestlé voice showed its annoyance, saying, "Oh please, it's not like we're censoring everything to allow only positive comments.''
Social media voices need to have personality to engage with users -- but NOT in this situation. When being attacked, show that you're listening and keep it professional. But don't sass back. Nestlé's Facebook administrator made the mistake of showing snark at multiple times, and now social media blogs are buzzing about how Nestlé handled it wrong.
Nestlé hasn't responded to our request for a comment. On Friday afternoon, the Nestlé Facebook administrator wrote that deleting comments with altered logos "was one in a series of mistakes for which I would like to apologize. And for being rude. We've stopped deleting posts, and I have stopped being rude."
Greenpeace isn't just targeting Nestlé. They also are going after Dove. But businesses can learn a lesson from Dove's Facebook Page. When a user first goes to the page, they don't see a massive list of Wall posts from various users. They are defaulted to a "Home Page'' graphic tab.
On that screen, Dove, in a calm, professional manner, makes it clear that this is a place for fans of Dove -- but it also lets visitors know it has the right to remove comments on anyone being offensive or violating intellectual property rights.
The point is the tone. Companies use social media to present a voice. When people are screaming at you, it's best not to scream back.
As Nestlé sits by for days and lets negative comments take over its Facebook page, it's turning into quite the social media mess. If you were Nestlé, how would you use social media to respond?