Last Thing: Sharing Photos and Images

Internet photos and images are used extensively throughout the web, especially on social networking sites such as facebook.  It allows families and friends to keep up and share memories with one another.

Photos are pretty much the main way that my family and I keep up with each other.  Since my brother was assigned to Cape Cod, Massachusetts for the Coast Guard, we don’t get to see him and his daughter too much, and pictures are the way that we can keep up with them.  Whether its a birthday party or just another trip to the zoo, my brother knows that my parents will pester him until he posts the pictures online.  Actually, my parents each started facebook accounts to my surprise.  When I asked them why on earth they did such a thing, they claimed that it was only to see the pictures of our family.

While on the topic of facebook and photos, it is interesting to see how certain photos are becoming detrimental to students and ex-students finding jobs.  Employers, as a part of a background check, usually will look through all of your pictures for any evidence of why you would be a potential liability or why you should not be hired at all.   Facebook users need to be aware of the privacy settings when it comes to their pictures and personal information, or just not post that kind of material at all.

This article documents the growing popularity of employers searching these social networking sites for potential employees, and this one contains ten privacy settings on facebook that everyone should know about.

Forums and such

Forums have been around for probably as long as the internet has been available to the public.  I don’t have too much experience with them, but I did take a Sub-Saharan geography class a couple semesters ago that required us to use this feature.  Our assignment was to split into groups and develop a research project about one of Africa’s key issues, and we chose the proliferation of small arms and light weaponry in West Africa, a growing problem.  The forums on google groups was extremely helpful, we could share links and communicate all on one page, and it was much simpler than e-mailing back and forth.  It’s nothing special or exciting, but you can view the page here for an example.

I was looking at chowhounds.com and some guy posted his “best of” every food category you could think of.  It looks like he’s been around the country and know what he’s talking about.  He has pies from Alabama, french fries from Wisconsin, all over the place.  For frozen custard he was Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but as an honorable mention…. Carl’s from Fredericksburg, Virginia.  I was honored to say that I have been there!  I think I’ll go right now.

Whenever I search for answers to random questions, whether it’s how to get past a level in a video game or how do I solve this math problem, forums are usually the top search results.  Especially with video games, as there are numerous fan forums dedicated to helping others out with a certain game.

File Sharing

File sharing, as illegal as it may be (some types), has been one of my favorite online pastimes for years.  It is the main way in which my friends and family and I share music, pictures, games, etc.  Without this file sharing, I would not have discovered or heard half of my favorite bands and musicians I listen to today.

At Mary Washington, I was introduced to a file sharing community and network called The Hub.  It consisted of myself and a bunch of people I knew from school sharing all sorts of stuff, such as music, movies, etc.  One of my computer wiz friends explained to me why it wasn’t illegal, but I cant remember what he said.  After moving off campus I was no longer able to access the network, which actually made me think twice about living off campus.

I have used torrents in the past, but all 3 of my favorite websites for torrents were shut down at one point or another.  I recently succumbed to paying for music on iTunes, partially because I keep hearing stories (just google “file sharing fines) about people being fined six figures for downloading a few songs.  But that made me wonder, how do they select certain people to be fined or prosecuted?  If you are on any file sharing network such as Ares and search for a file, you see that hundreds and hundreds of users have that song.  Why don’t they all get fined?  The file sharing territory gets a little murky.

Here’s an article about a mom who was fined a bunch of money:

http://www.informationweek.com/news/internet/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=202300187

1.92 Million?!?!? :

http://www.prefixmag.com/news/illegal-file-sharing-leads-to-192-million-fine/29813/

RSS feeds… interesting

It’s funny how I’ve been familiar with all of these icons that I see daily when browsing the web, but I never really stopped to find out or ask what they meant.  This is especially true for the RSS feed icon.  That little orange square appears in almost every site I visit on the web, and it always just blended in with the background to me.  I’d click on it and see the headlines of the page I was on, but it wasn’t as attractive looking as before, so I went back to the homepage and figured it was nothing.  After today’s class, I finally know what it is and understand its usefulness.

Programs such as google reader and websites such as bloglines.com made me think about how large of a market there is for cutting mere seconds off of our work and leisure.  Without subscribing to RSS feeds and such, the next best alternative would be to have all of your favorite news and blog sites bookmarked on your browser.  To me, there is not a world of difference between having subscriptions to these sites on something such as google reader versus clicking on the bookmark you made.  I think it would take just as much time opening up the reader  and logging in, but maybe because I’m not the most technologically savvy person around.  Regardless, I was very impressed and pleasantly surprised by this RSS feed business.

In like 3 minutes I have subscribed to all my favorite sports news websites and sports blogs, and they are now all just one click away from each other.  Then again, they kind of were before too…

Social Bookmarking

It’s funny, I just began typing this blog post and thought I would just bash this whole social bookmarking thing.  I knew nothing about it before today, and upon first glance, it seemed like nothing special.  So I can save websites on this thing… okay.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been able to do this for, well, as long as the internet has existed.  I can see internet sites that other people like? Wonderful… why do I want to do that again?

But I guess this whole idea has its perks.  For instance, I somewhat recently switched browsers from Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox.  I had tons of bookmarked sites in Internet Explorer that I was so used to accessing with the click of a button and it totally threw me off when all of these were gone upon switching to Firefox.  Had I known about sites like delicious.com, I could have had easier access to these bookmarks, rather than retyping them all in.  This way, if I decided to use yet another browser, I will avoid the same problem I had encountered previously.

However, I feel like this whole social bookmarking thing would be much more effective if it was built in to a browser.  If one or some of these sites can merge with browsers, we could just have an option of logging onto a social bookmarking site through the browser and avoiding the middle step.  This way, any computer with this browser could access your bookmarks, requiring just a username and password.

45% of users think social bookmarking sucks:

http://amplicate.com/sucks/social-bookmarking

Some more poll statistics on social bookmarking:

http://www.doshdosh.com/are-social-bookmarking-buttons-useless/

Videos

Music has always been a big part of my life.  My brother and I have always dabbled in the music making business (well, not so much the business part).  He does everything from rap to play guitar, and I do the singing.  We’ve used different programs to construct beats and melodies, such programs as Cool Edit Pro and eJay.  These program would allow us to construct custom tunes and record our voices or instruments over them.

When we realized it was tough to become the music stars we had originally hoped, we decided to just record some cover songs.  One day,  my brother found this thing called YouTube and said that people were posting their own versions of songs, and that half of them sucked.  So we made some videos of him playing the guitar and me singing some of our favorite songs.  I was just about to type that none of the videos we posted received many hits, but I just checked and one of them got up to just under 4,000 views, surprisingly enough.

It is always very interesting and exciting to look at the comments that are posted about your videos.  Some of these songs are favorites of other people, so they’ll let you know if they don’t like your version.  But it’s always very encouraging and refreshing when people leave you words of encouragement and approval.

This if a video of him and me covering Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon:

This one is a cover of I Can Tell by Saosin (the one that has almost reached 4,000):

Thing 8: Podcasting

I have a favorite sports writer who writes for ESPN.com.  He is a fan of all the Boston teams (like me) and his sentiments usually echo mine and the majority of the Boston sports fans.  I followed his pieces when he wasn’t that big, but I watched his following become larger and larger.  Soon his articles began to be a huge deal, and whenever he would come out with a new piece, it would be on the front page of ESPN.com.

Then he decided to come out with a series of podcasts.  He would have special guests and just talk about about sports and other randomness.  I was pretty excited for this because if I like his writing so much, then I’m sure to love his commentary.  Turns out, he was just obnoxious to listen to.  I started listening to his first podcast, and all he did was ramble about absolutely nothing.  He called up random friends for their opinions about topics, and I was wondering, “who cares what these guys think?”  After those first 5 minutes, I looked down to see that the podcast lasted about a half hour.  Needless to say, I clicked the X button on the top of the browser.

Honestly, that is my only experience with podcasts.  I’m sure the world of podcasts is very large and interesting, but it I’m 0 for 1 on good experiences.  If you have anything interesting to check out, let me know!

Here’s the link to the writer’s homepage I was talking about:http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/simmons/index

Thing 6: Evaluating Web Information

The internet is the most accessible and simple way to find information for whatever reasons.  There are myriads of databases and webpages whos specific use is to inform the public on certain topics.  In my school career, one thing about online material has been pounded into my brian: do NOT always assume that it is from a credible source, and do NOT just use any material that pertains to your topic.  In class today, we examined different internet sites that were from sources that were not qualified to comment on the topic, sources that shouldn’t be cited in a research paper, and even sources that were designed to flat out discredit an individual, group, or cause.

The most interesting of these was www.martinlutherking.org.  In looking at the webpage, it was a little confusing.  There was a big picture of Martin Luther King, so I figured it was a tribute site.  But upon further investigation, it was clear that this website was attempting to discredit King and turn the public against him.  In searching martinlutherking.org on google, we found that this website was posted by a racist neo-Nazi group called Stormfront (http://www.stormfront.org/forum/).  Call me crazy, but I didn’t think that this group would be a credible source on Martin Luther King.

While we prepare to do our research papers, it is extremely important to know where to look for content.  Especially if we are taking a certain side in an argument, we need to make sure our content is credible and unbiased.

My Presentation: Internet Celebrities

My presentation was about how the internet can create celebrities, whether it be intentional or not.  Internet sites such as youtube allow just about anybody to post video content online for the masses to view, and every one of these videos has potential for a cult following.  There are many, many cases of this phenomena all over the web, but I chose to examine a few of my favorites.

Tommy Decarlo is an example of an internet rockstar.  Formerly a Home Depot employee, he was recruited online via MySpace by the classic rock band Boston and ended up going on tour with the band.

Brian Collins, my personal favorite, gave a horrendous and painful-to-watch sports rundown for Ball University.  Whether it was out of pity or because this guy was just plain funny to watch, he earned radio and television appearances, notably on the Late Show with David Letterman.

We also saw a tragic instance of YouTube stardom, as a 14-year old Canadian student filmed himself pretending to be a Jedi Knight, twirling around a baton.  Fellow classmates thought it would be a funny idea to post the video online, not aware of the emotional distress it would cause this poor kid.  A lawsuit was filed, but settled out of court before it even began.

This lead to a discussion about the rights of youtube users and the risks they assume, as well as copyright issues that have plagued sites like youtube in the past.

Here are a few links to some of my other favorites:

Star Wars According to a 3 year old:

Lex Luger is a great actor:

Thing 4: Wikis

As we learned in class today, wikis are quickly becoming the most popular and useful way to spread information.  For me, the majority of casual information I find is from one of the most popular wiki sites, Wikipedia.  Whether it’s settling a friendly debate, reading the plot of a movie I don’t feel like seeing, or figuring out how to get past a difficult part in a video game, wikis provide me with all the information I need.

According to (who else?) Wikipedia, the definition of a wiki is “a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editors.”  The problem with these wikis usually has to do with authenticity.  On some pages, all that is required to edit the page is membership.  And membership, in most cases, is as easy as providing a username and password.  For instance, in class today I created an account with Wikipedia and I was able to do this without even providing an email address.  Lack of security often leads to “trolling,” an online term used for internet community vandalism.

There are examples of more private, selective wiki communities.  Citizendium is a wiki site that requires the user’s real name as well as a brief biography of themselves.  This effects the growth of the site, but provides a vandalism free environment.  www.citizendium.org

www.pbwiki.com and www.wetpaint.com   are password protected wiki sites.