Location Sharing is Where I Draw the Line

I can understand sharing our little status updates, tweets, or even High School we graduated from; but my current location? That is where I draw the line. I’ve shared the city I live in and most people can see the college I’m attending, as I’m writing this I’m questioning whether I should pull all of that info down to be honest. But as for my specific location at any given point or time, that’s not going to happen.

My experiences with location sharing put reality square in my lap. My recent partner at one point even unlocked my phone and set up an app which shared where I was at any given time. I had nothing to hide, but because of my partner’s infidelities I was constantly hounded out of fear that I was going to do the things that had been done to me.

On top of that, recently that same ex sent me a random text saying, “I saw the Halloween lights you put up, I really like them.” I knew this was just a ploy to scare me, and yes I’m aware anyone reading this is most likely staring at the screen, mouth agape thinking, “Why the HECK have you not filed a  protection order?!?” Trust me, there’s nothing to worry about, they’re all just mind games.

My issue is that if I want someone to know where I am, then I’ll tell them myself. I will call them or text them personally. There is absolutely NO reason for me to post it to some online app or some social networking site so everyone and their mother can see it. Next thing you know, I’ll have an ex stalking me at a restaurant, followed by a text saying, “How’s that burger? Looks nice. I thought you didn’t like lettuce on your burgers?”

Now THAT would be creepy. Maybe I need to get my concealed handgun license…?

Honestly, I think as of right now I’ve decided that I will get one. This subject just bothers me too much.

Deeper Views on Accessibility

Last week we talked about how certain cultures, and persons within lower income brackets have experienced internet accessibility issues. Digging even deeper we’ve been delving into accessibility which goes beyond culture and income. What about those not able to type due to disabilities? What about those who are blind? These groups of society experience even more complicated issues than I would have expected.

My first task was to get a small taste of these disabilities in relation to the internet by using a ‘screen reader’. I expedited the process by allowing myself to find the screen reader before attempting to navigate by using only hearing. Once everything was downloaded I attempted to get the reader working. At this point I was still using my sight, justifying that someone would have been taught how to use this prior to actually doing so. Without someone to teach this, I’m fairly confident that this would be absolutely impossible. There is no way to know what is being clicked on, or what is even on the screen in front of someone without an initial lesson. Even using my sight, I had a hard time understanding what I was supposed to do to get it working. I spent a good 20 minutes or so clicking on things and listening to the person read only bits and pieces of what I was trying to get it to read. After a short while I found that I was supposed to use the supplied browser in order to get the reader to work. I haven’t even restricted my own sight yet and I’ve spent upwards of 30 minutes getting confused over this situation. I started to see that this wasn’t going to be anywhere near as simple as I thought.

I started up the browser and then the reader, closed my eyes and started to attempt to navigate and understand what was being read to me. First irritating fact I noticed was that since the internet is largely based on non-blind users, all of the advertisements, headings, and links were being read to me piece by piece. I attempted to click out of this and horribly failed. Finally I gave up and just allowed the reader to read through all the links until it arrived at the selected article I wanted to read. The voice was choppy, electronic, awkward, and just plain irritating; too fast at times, and not fast enough at others. This went on for about 5 minutes through the text and I finally got so irritated that I opened my eyes, shut off the program, and uninstalled it. I didn’t just turn it off, I was annoyed and irritated enough that I made a point to take the time and REMOVE the program from my computer.

Needless to say, I have a fresh perspective on disabled internet users. This little experiment was bothersome, a huge hassle, and the article I was trying to read was only 5-8 paragraphs long! What about books? Full web pages? Facebook? Twitter? I’m sure I would join the group of thousands of Americans who decided to just give up the internet altogether. It wouldn’t be worth the hassle or the encumbrance on someone to even teach me…

One Nation, Under Bill Gates, Divided

Over 146 years have passed since slavery was abolished in America, and racial issues continue to be a hot-button topic in today’s society.

I’m a huge supporter of equality of all types, but sadly some remnants still remain from American history which aren’t necessarily healing at rates which we thought they would decades ago. Jesse Washington writes about a few of these instances in racial separation online in this recent USA Today article, “For minorities, new ‘digital divide’ seen“. The issues this writer raises here aren’t centered on direct person-to-person segregation; rather issues where certain cultures of people are lagging behind in access to the internet as well as usage trends. What he’s highlighting seems slightly plausible, but I’m left to wonder how valid these statistics are.

I think that my disbelief stems from employment experience. I have worked for many different restaurants throughout college and one very common factor seems to be that the general age range of fellow employees seems to hover around 18-28. The reason I bring this up is because, no matter the race, color or sex of the people I work with, everyone seems to be doing the same types of things with their cell phones. Our generation seems alike in that we all check messages, Facebook, Twitter or share videos/pictures we find equally. I understand that this is in a work setting so, who can say that this would be the best sample of content that these people are accessing on a daily basis; but wouldn’t it be just as equal through the rest of their time?

I find it hard to believe that the instant my coworkers go home, that my white friends stop browsing Facebook and start searching Wikipedia, engaging in activities online which help further society, updating their resumes, etc. While my black friends and hispanic friends hop on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. We ALL waste time with entertainment at work (without regard to our ethnicity), so why wouldn’t that trend continue at home? Since we’ve focused on critical examination of our sources in this class recently, questioning something such as this seems only right.

To close the lid on this topic, I feel compelled to share part of the Pew Research Center’s Frequently Asked Questions section. This seems to be the writer’s sole resource for ‘statistical’ data and most of his ‘opinionated’ data, so my questioning started there.

Why don’t your surveys ever reflect the opinions of people I know?

Chances are you don’t hang out with a group of friends that represents everyone in America. Your friends, coworkers and family are probably like you in many ways. If you were to have a group of friends that represents all of the country, you would have acquaintances who are black, white, Asian, rich, poor, Muslim, Catholic, from the South, Northeast, etc., or any combination of those attributes. Few of us are lucky to have such a diverse group of friends.

Maybe I’m special but, I have acquaintances AND friends who are black, white, Asian, rich, poor, Muslim, Catholic, from the South, and the Northeast… The people I associate with and work along side are extremely mixed, therefore I cannot help but focus on the writer’s validity in this case.

New realizations on tagging

Discussions in class this past week turned towards user-based tagging and Folksonomies in the online world. When we first started the intro to these conversations I have to admit, my biased opinion was harsh. Right off the bat I wanted to dismiss the subject for some reason; my guess is because I have never really paid enough attention to their uses in blogs, social networks, websites, etc.

I’m now realizing that these tags and classifications all over the internet are exactly why I end up enjoying or not enjoying a website. If I search for something on the web and I’m not able to navigate a website easily, the subconscious determination is made to get what I came for and move on as fast as possible. On top of that note, if I believe I can find the information elsewhere instead, then I probably won’t even stay for whatever reason I came.

My point is this: A blog or successful website is just like any business out there. People come for a reason; even when people are just browsing they are looking to be entertained or intrigued. If they cannot get past the navigation of your blog or website then the content becomes that much more degraded. I say degraded specifically because, it doesn’t become irrelevant it just takes a backseat to the difficulty which the user is experiencing. By causing the user some irritation, you’re effectively forcing your content to have to be THAT much more interesting in order to shine through the irritation.

My resolutions are simple. With both my class blog and group blog, I am going to take a fresh look at user-friendliness and organization. Not only will it make my reader’s much happier, but in the long run it’s going to allow my content to shine through that much brighter. I’m here to attract viewers (users stated before), anything I can do to allow a pleasant experience on their part will ensure they are willing to come back.

Valid Evaluations

The past few subjects in class have been centered around source evaluation, so I wanted to elaborate a little more on that. When the subject was first brought up I’ll honestly say that I gave myself a little too much credit. My initial thoughts were that this was simple, if it looks and feels legitimate then it must be. What I have found though is that this evaluation process can go much deeper and yield much more accurate results if you allow yourself the effort to do so.

On the surface, information may seem believable and may be presented professionally; but no matter how great you think you may be at determining validity, there will always be someone else out there skilled enough to manipulate your opinions if they are driven strongly enough to do so. Going even deeper, certain authors and mediums of presentation can seem sound but we have to learn to break away from even these outward areas of deception.

What I’m glad to have taken from this whole subject is this:

Dig deep. When you think you’ve dug deep enough, dig deeper. Find out who and what is presenting this information, who is affiliated with (sponsoring) this content? All of these things are extremely important, and if you go deep enough you’ll gain the bigger picture that’s absolutely necessary to make our determinations on validity … well, valid.

Google can not, and will not be denied.

Strikingly similar to Midas in Greek mythology, everything Google touches turns to gold. If I’m correct, I believe even Midas learned his ‘touch of gold’ from some search poised on Google. This sounds like I’m joking, but even recently just as Google+ was hitting it mainstream, Facebook mysteriously ran into some reliability issues which angered a large amount of it’s users. Next thing I knew, there were people on my Facebook changing their profile pics to say, “Moved to Google+” or “Find Me on Google+”. I’m thoroughly convinced that it’s all a conspiracy. Either that or Google is run by the Illuminati… or both.

We have to realize that Google is a company just like any other. They are going to do what’s best for them and try to push the limits every chance they get. If they’re not moving fast and breaking ‘stuff’ then they aren’t trying hard enough. What I mean by that is, if they aren’t pissing someone off then they really aren’t operating at their fullest potential. On the flip side of this situation, I’ll be honest and say that I believe the corporate exec.s are somewhat sliding into the dark side of greed. As a search engine they have to maintain certain values as their top priority and honestly I believe their losing sight of this. I understand they have to push constantly towards being more successful, but at what point do we say enough is enough? They are using the power and leverage they have all over the world, and putting a price tag on it. “We have some of the most sophisticated web crawlers out there, we’re constantly improving our search result relevancy and working to deliver the best content possible to our users. But of course, if you want to be more ‘relevant’ in our searches you could always just pay 5 easy payments of $100,000 and we can fix that for you.” As consumers of the information age, we MUST understand that these things go on all around us. Taking things for face-value these days is exactly what they want you to do. Keep this in mind and RESIST!

Something needs to be done, I will admit. I’m not sure exactly how we should handle it but I will say that in the past, a few successful lawsuits seem to have fixed things. If they are advertising themselves as being unbiased but turning around and selling out, then am I the only person who thinks they might want to start preping for the big payout?

Filters everywhere!

So this week we’ve been talking about filters in internet media. Funny thing is, filters really have become a part of our lives so regularly that we don’t even notice it anymore.

Our experiment was to take a 24 hour period and specifically focus on finding filters which we came in contact with. The two main ones I want to focus on are Google and Hotmail target filters. I’m calling them target filters because that’s essentially what they are, filters which allow advertisements to target specific ages, genders, etc. of viewers.

Google is a little different, but it’s still interesting to see where they have come even over the past few years. First I remember the active search bar; basically an autofill feature which shows you popular search terms used to help speed the search process up, as well as assist you in finding the information you’re looking for that you might not know how to ‘phrase’ properly. It’s quite efficient I would say.

What I noticed over the portion of our experiment though is an evolved form which is being used today, which not only helps autofill but brings up your history of searches, and targets the autofill choices towards your search history. It’s all about speed and targeting, making those two elements work hand in hand is revolutionizing the way media is displayed and delivered these days.

Now with hotmail, I almost raise an eyebrow at what I noticed there. I recently bought a car, and there were obviously emails depicting offers on vehicles and talks of insurance quotes. What I noticed was that the ads being displayed IN my inbox, were targeted towards this! Almost invasive I might say…

These filters are everywhere, and it’s slightly unnerving at times. I’m interested to see how far this is going to go before more lawsuits come about, and legislature takes action.