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Hate Yik Yak And Anonymous Gossip Sites All You Want, But They Won't Go Away
Throughout 2014, students at Colgate University in central New York were outraged by a slew of racist comments. They didn’t know who said them, just that they came from people on or close to campus. That’s because the offensive remarks appeared on Yik Yak, an app that shares anonymous posts with those nearby.
Yik Yak, which allows users to reach other users within 1.5 miles, is the latest social media craze on college campuses, and one that can send a school into an uproar with just a few vicious posts. Students protested at Colgate in September, arguing that the racist messages circulating on Yik Yak were symptomatic of larger diversity issues at the school.
Those posts became even more hateful after students demonstrated in December in response to the deaths of unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Some students were singled out in the “yaks” for physical threats.
In response, some Colgate faculty members had an idea: to bombard Yik Yak with positive comments attached to their real names and clean up the local forum by example. More than 50 faculty participated during the Dec. 12 experiment. But by the next week, biology professor Geoff Holm said, the posts had returned to their usual tone.
“The posts are mainly focused on sex and poop again,” said Holm, who helped organize the “Yak Back” effort.
“It’s the Internet equivalent of the truck stop bathroom wall,” he said. “Some of the posts are amusing, some of the posts are about genitalia and bodily fluids, and some of the posts get downright racist. So how do you control that? How do you as a campus community say, ‘You can do this, but you can’t do that’ with the posts?”
Nationwide, 2014 appeared to be the year of Yik Yak on college campuses, but the existence of anonymous online gossip sites is far from a new dilemma for universities. For the better part of a decade — since the rise of JuicyCampus in 2007 — colleges have struggled to deal with unruly, reckless and sometimes savage messages spread through anonymous Internet forums.
“I think with these forums, we’re getting a finger on a pulse of how racist many students are,” said Andrea Press, a University of Virginia sociologist who spent two years researching College ACB, a now-defunct gossip site. It’s shocking, Press said, because we’re seeing a side of people that is often kept hidden.
Princeton students protesting in December over the deaths of Brown and Garner were described on Yik Yak as “colored people getting militant.” Demonstrations at Penn State University prompted Yik Yak users to post messages like, “I hate porchmonkeys.” Already this year, students have complained of similar comments appearing at Clemson and the University of North Carolina.
Back at Colgate, students who spoke with The Huffington Post said they’d be happy to see Yik Yak banned on campus — some schools have blocked such websites and forums from their networks — but all agreed it wouldn’t do any good. After all, users could just jump to a different WiFi network to access Yik Yak.
Lawsuits don’t look like the answer either. Thanks to the federal Communications Decency Act, operators of such websites and apps are protected from liability for malicious comments that users make in their forums, just as news sites aren’t liable for their comment sections.
Yik Yak says it has filters triggered by racist, homophobic and other hate speech that can remove a post soon after it has been posted. But that clearly hasn’t stopped such messages from appearing and circulating on many campuses.
Anonymous posts can get ugly fast. At Vanderbilt University, users of Collegiate ACB, which was popular in 2012 and 2013 before shutting down, referred to a woman who reported a sexual assault at a fraternity as the “girl who ratted,” among other accusatory and often vulgar terms. Iowa State University users turned to Yik Yak to spread the word about a Snapchat account that was posting illicit photos of students on campus. At Bored@Baker, an anonymous forum confined to Dartmouth College, someone posted a “rape guide” that targeted a specific student, who later came forward to say she had been sexually assaulted.
“[Students] wonder if the people whom they pass on campus walkways are the posters of this bile, or a person in class or the dining hall,” said Alison L. Boden, Princeton University’s dean of religious life. “Yik Yak won’t stop students’ activism, their speaking out, but it leaves them feeling reviled, surveilled and unsafe.”
They Rise, They Fall
Although JuicyCampus was the first campus-based gossip forum to attract national controversy while spreading to hundreds of colleges, it wasn’t the first to exist. That was the Bored@ franchise.
Jae Daemon — the moniker preferred by the Bored@ founder, who wishes to be anonymous himself for this story — said he launched the first iteration in January 2006 when he was, aptly, bored in the Butler Library at Columbia University. He then expanded the platform to several other selective colleges, and by March 2007, The New Yorker had deemed Daemon’s websites the “new bathroom wall.”
At the time, Twitter was in its infancy, Facebook had no feed and MySpace was all the rage. Bored@ was a place for people to “truly” speak their minds, Daemon said, and its popularity grew without promotion.
“Bored@ has survived over the years by word of mouth, curious users who find their way to it and those who have enjoyed the site enough to anonymously invite others,” he said.
While Bored@ focused on elite institutions — its college-specific forums are restricted to students with a valid email address from that school — recent Duke University graduate Matt Ivester launched his own, splashier version called JuicyCampus with a broader canvas. Ivester’s site would eventually reach 500 campuses nationwide.
“When I started it, I just thought it would be something that would be really popular,” Ivester said. “I thought it’d be kind of lighthearted and entertaining. Didn’t think too much how, when people are anonymous, it can get much more vicious than it ever would in person.”
JuicyCampus worked, Ivester said, because people could talk about campus celebrities there the same way they talked about national celebs. But, he conceded, the freedom to attack individuals as fat or anorexic or promiscuous was also its downfall.
Colleges banned the website from their servers as its negative side drew criticism from students. The attorneys general of Connecticut and New Jersey opened consumer fraud investigations into JuicyCampus. Advertisers abandoned the website over its salacious reputation.
“There was no advertising revenue, no business model that made sense,” Ivester said. “It wasn’t fun to run, and the anonymous model was hurtful, and a lot of the posts were just so mean-spirited.” He closed up shop in February 2009, for a time redirecting visitors to the page to a new player: College ACB.
Though similar to JuicyCampus, College ACB added some user regulation features. Even then, the same kind of prurient gossip prompted student boycotts of the site. It shut down in January 2011. The next year, Collegiate ACB launched to replace College ACB.
The two Collegiate ACB co-founders, University of Florida student Kirk Henf and University of Central Florida student Tim O’Shea, tried to link the site with controversy, actively seeking publicity after threats on the site led to arrests, when university police departments contacted the site about threatening posts and throughout the brouhaha over Belle Knox, the Duke University freshman whose career as a porn star sent the campus into a tizzy.
But even the outing of Knox wasn’t enough to keep the site going, and it never reached the same level of popularity as College ACB.
When Collegiate ACB was sold in mid-2014 to an undisclosed buyer on online auction site Flippa for $27,500, one co-founder wrote in Flippa’s listing, “The attention that has been associated with it as of late, although positive for business, is something that has deeply impacted relationships with friends and family, and I no longer wish to be a part of something that has this negative connotation involved.”
Yik Yak came along in late 2013, but has grown exponentially in the past year. The company, which declined repeated requests for interviews and comment, has reportedly raised some $75 million in new financing. In addition to filters for racist and homophobic words, representatives for the site point out that users can essentially censor each other by down-voting messages.
Yet Yik Yak is facing the same turmoil as its predecessors, including calls for boycotts on campus.
Why Students Go To Gossip Sites
Defenders of these anonymous forums can be hard to find amid the flood of student op-eds arguing against them. Yet there’s no doubt they have a dedicated user base.
“For me, the reason why I am drawn to the app, why I use it so much, is I enjoy making other people laugh,” said Tyler Thompson, a Stanford University sophomore. “When I get a lot of up votes on a yak, that brings me a lot of satisfaction.” Thompson is a frequent “yaker” who was approached last spring to become an ambassador for the app on campus, a paid gig where he hands out Yik Yak swag to Stanford students.
Whereas Twitter is good for tracking current events, Thompson said he mostly uses Yik Yak to see what people are talking or joking about on campus. It bothers him when people dismiss it as a cyberbullying app, he said, because “98 percent of the content is not that way.”
While in Pakistan during his winter break, Ohio Wesleyan University senior Ibrahim Urooj Saeed said he saw lots of messages from Pakistanis who study at U.S. colleges and were home visiting family. Those posts offered useful perspective on bouncing between the two countries.
“It’s very interesting to see the challenges some students face when they spend a semester on a college campus and then suddenly are in Karachi where their freedom levels are a lot lower,” Saeed said.
Rachel Drucker, a Colgate sophomore and activist with the Colgate Association of Critical Collegians, sees Yik Yak from a different perspective. As someone who she said has been on the receiving end of hatred from anonymous messages, Drucker worries that some of the same people who make the vile posts could be sitting next to her in class.
“Even if someone posts something on an anonymous forum that they might not say in public, it still speaks volumes that they would choose to post anything at all,” she said. “Oftentimes, Colgate students and faculty say that we shouldn’t worry about Yik Yak because people will post hateful things on anonymous forums that they wouldn’t ever say out loud. This is not at all comforting to me.”
The primary issue for the failed sites, however, has not been students’ comfort level but the effect of all the criticism on their profitability. Most of their income has come through advertising, so as soon as controversy-wary companies start to pull their ads, the revenue that keeps the sites afloat vanishes, too.
That’s one key distinction for the Bored@ sites: They run on donations from users — though they’re not turning a significant profit. Daemon said he works on the web forums because he loves the “technical and philosophical challenges” of building a “pseudo-anonymous environment.”
A screenshot from the early days of Bored@Butler, an anonymous forum at Columbia.
But that freedom from advertising concerns doesn’t mean Daemon can ignore the issue of hateful posts. His websites promote some users to “trustworthy personalities” with moderation privileges, and they vote on what should be done with a flagged post. Daemon suggested that an advantage of this system is that “moderators have the ability to collaborate with their peers on why one should vote a certain way.”
He said he isn’t afraid to shut down one of his sites temporarily when it becomes overrun by racist or sexist comments. He’s also happy to assist police when they spot a serious threat in a forum, like the bomb threat against Dartmouth’s commencement in 2013, which police and the FBI easily traced back to the user who posted it. Around the country, more than a dozen people were arrested in the fall 2014 semester for making similar threats on Yik Yak.
Thompson, the Stanford student, argues that Bored@’s moderator regulation is similar to Yik Yak’s down-voting feature — a few down votes and a post is gone. While he concedes that anonymity frees some users to say horrible things, he sees Yik Yak’s strength ultimately as a forum for inside jokes and commentary.
“It makes you feel part of the community,” Thompson said. “When a funny thing is actually catered to our school, our campus, it makes it that much funnier.”
The Toxic Side Of Anonymity
“The Internet has greatly expanded all speech, including good speech and so-called bad speech,” said Tracy Mitrano, former director of IT policy at Cornell University. “That is a reality colleges and universities must contend with.”
The fact that anonymous forums produce discourse so drastically different from what most people would say face to face can be explained by the “online disinhibition effect,” according to the social psychology experts. Freed of their own identity in a sense, people drop their self-restraint. They may express their feelings, including anger and bias, more intensely. The safety of anonymity also encourages risk-taking, which doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in people.
Once people decide to enter such forums, the anonymity itself can create a common identity with strong group norms, according to research by Robert E. Kraut, a professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University.
“I know how popular this type of content can be,” said Ivester, the JuicyCampus founder. “I think it would be fair to say I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised that companies like this continue to pop up and operate. They exploit a human nature.”
And so the cycle seems likely to continue: The new website or app will advertise itself to college students as a place to truly speak their minds, until salacious gossip, hate speech and vitriol become its most noted aspects while the founders disavow such comments. Eventually a loss of revenue stemming from the negativity will kill the site, and a copycat will rise to replace it.
Today, JuicyCampus, College ACB and Collegiate ACB are virtually unknown to undergraduates, while Bored@ remains limited to a handful of campuses. Ivester still owns the URL JuicyCampus.com, which now leads to one of his latest apps: Kindr, which directs users to send compliments to people or read uplifting news. He recently launched Reveal, a social media app that requires users to send photos with their comments, which he argues is an push against anonymity.
Yik Yak remains the hot app on campus, even as competitors are already vying to replace it. DormChat users can anonymously message each other on campus. People with an .edu email can sign up for erodr; while Secret, which is basically a Yik Yak geared toward working adults.
Colgate professors say they’re still keeping an eye on Yik Yak. If the yaks focused on their college community turn really vile again, Holm said that he and his colleagues will likely jump back in to remind students that they’re watching and that words have consequences.
U.S. Agent Says He Became Covert Silk Road Employee
NEW YORK, Jan 14 (Reuters) – A federal agent told jurors on Wednesday he covertly became an employee of the website Silk Road, chatting with its operator about “damn regulators” minutes before authorities arrested the man they believe ran the online black market.
Jared Der-Yeghiayan, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security special agent, testified in Manhattan federal court that in July 2013 he took over a Silk Road moderator’s account and participated in the arrest of its suspected operator, Ross Ulbricht.
The testimony came on the second day of Ulbricht’s criminal trial. He faces seven counts including operating a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking.
Silk Road was an online black market bazaar where users could anonymously buy drugs and other illicit goods using bitcoins. Prosecutors say it operated from 2011 to October 2013, generating $200 million in drug sales.
Ulbricht, 30, admits that he created Silk Road, but his lawyer said Tuesday he was the “fall guy” for its true operators at the time of his arrest in October 2013.
During the trial Wednesday, Der-Yeghiayan said he became a Silk Road moderator after a support staff member called “cirrus” gave him access to that account. He reported to the website’s operator “Dread Pirate Roberts,” and earned $1,000 a week in bitcoin, he said.
After an IRS agent flagged Ulbricht as the Dread Pirate Roberts’ possible alter ego, Der-Yeghiayan said he became part of an operation to try to confirm that and arrest Ulbricht.
“The plan was to try to get in a position where we’d have the defendant in a public setting or cafe where he was required to use the Internet and initiate a chat with him,” he told jurors.
Der-Yeghiayan said he monitored if Dread Pirate Roberts was logged on as agents staked out an Internet cafe in San Francisco that Ulbricht was seen entering before.
Der-Yeghiayan said Ulbricht eventually came, but after entering the crowded cafe, went into a library.
After Der-Yeghiayan initiated a chat, Dread Pirate Roberts asked cirrus, “you did bitcoin exchange before you started working for me, right?”
Cirrus responded he had stopped because of “reporting requirements.”
Dread Pirate Roberts replied, “damn regulators, eh”
The message was sent moments before the FBI arrested Ulbricht and grabbed his laptop. Prosecutors say the laptop showed Ulbricht was logged into Silk Road as Dread Pirate Roberts.
The case is U.S. v. Ulbricht, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-06919. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)
Your Nintendo 3DS Is About To Be Obsolete
That shiny Nintendo 3DS you or your kid got for the holidays is about to be eBay fodder. On Wednesday, Nintendo announced a Feb. 13 release for its new handheld gaming device, dubbed the New Nintendo 3DS XL.
The device will cost $199.99, same as the current Nintendo 3DS XL, but it boasts a variety of new features that make it superior. Nintendo says the system will have improved graphics, significantly shorter load times, and the ability to interact with Amiibo figures.
Most importantly, the New Nintendo 3DS XL has two new buttons and a “C stick” nub that will allow control setups to be different than for the existing 3DS. That means upcoming games can be released exclusively for the new hardware. “Xenoblade Chronicles 3D,” which Nintendo says will be released in April, is one such game.
If you want to play certain upcoming 3DS games like that one, your current 3DS won’t work.
Load times on the New Nintendo 3DS XL compared with the existing Nintendo 3DS XL. (Source)
Nintendo’s push to get current 3DS users to upgrade isn’t unprecedented. The Game Boy Color wasn’t just a cosmetic upgrade to the original Game Boy when it was launched in 1998: Certain games, like “Super Mario Bros. Deluxe,” would only work on the new platform. The New Nintendo 3DS XL webpage directly links to a detailed 3DS upgrade guide.
In fact, Nintendo so clearly wants current 3DS owners to upgrade that the new device doesn’t even come with the cord you need to charge it.
“Rather than raise cost of New Nintendo 3DS XL by charging consumers for a component they may already own, we are giving them the option to only buy if they need an AC adapter,” a Nintendo spokesman told The Huffington Post via email.
Polygon notes this is the first time Nintendo has released a handheld product without a power cord. You can buy them from Nintendo for $9.95.
The decision to leave the AC adapter out may throw a wrench into any plans to unload your current 3DS on eBay, since you’ll either have to abandon the power plug you need or sell an incomplete system. Of course, that’s not Nintendo’s problem. The company has already sold more than 45 million Nintendo 3DS units, a number sure to go up next month.
Austen Heinz of Cambrian Genomics has been trolling hard lately, as blogger Josh Cunningham notes. That is, he’s been spouting provocative opinions to get attention. And it seems to be working, from his point of view.
Not only was Heinz involved in the vagina bio-hack nonsense, but he told the Wall Street Journal last June, “I can’t believe that after 10 or 20 years, people will not design their children digitally.” And he doubled down in the San Francisco Chronicle last week:
Anyone in the world that has a few dollars can make a creature, and that changes the game. And that creates a whole new world. … It is the most powerful technology humans have ever created. Hydrogen bombs can destroy whole planets, but this is a technology that can create planets. This is the greatest human achievement of all time — the ability to read and write life, because that’s who we are.
He also told CNN last April:
I think it’ll get very hot within the next few years in editing genomes for babies. … We could potentially see like an arms race among families…. We will eventually be able to write the code, not only to fix our current mistakes but also to fix mistakes as we age, and that’s going to be critical to living forever.
Cambrian is not actually intending to design creatures; it’s facilitating their production by “printing” DNA, and Heinz freely admits that safety is someone else’s job. But he sees that kind of quality control being delegated to an independent facility, not — heaven forfend — the government. He told Stephanie Lee of the Chronicle:
It’s pretty obvious why we wouldn’t want to do something bad. We wouldn’t want the industry to be regulated. So, “How do we democratize creation without killing everyone?” is basically the question.
Now, that is some quality trolling.
Synthetic biology, as a field, has some skilled practitioners of the art. Until Heinz came along, perhaps the most accomplished was George Church, recently seen in the crowd on stage at the last Colbert Report (at the 15:21 mark in this clip).
But Church (who was once an adviser to Cambrian), and Drew Endy, and other pioneers of synthetic biology, have never rejected regulation; indeed, they call for it — one may disagree with the limits they would choose, but at least there is some possibility of dialog. Heinz, however, as Marcy Darnovsky told the Chronicle, is espousing a kind of “techno-libertarianism.”
The more common approach, as described by Claire Marris in a new paper in Science as Culture, is somewhat gentler. In the minds of many scientists, the goal is to educate the public, but the title Marris chose suggests that the reality is better described with a different emphasis:
“The Construction of Imaginaries of the Public as a Threat to Synthetic Biology”
(There is something delightfully Brechtian about the concept: The people have forfeited the confidence of the scientific establishment and must therefore be replaced.)
The imaginary public that Heinz is appealing to, however, is rather different from the one most serious analysts, whether academic, commercial or governmental, visualize when considering the “problem” of creating acceptability for synthetic biology. His consists of cool techies, some of whom, such as Peter Thiel, have the cash to invest in Cambrian. That’s his core audience.
Heinz is clearly reveling in being a “bad boy.” There are those who think he is naive about publicity; to the contrary, he seems to know exactly what he is doing. The Chronicle piece provoked several posts of varying quality (here, here, here, and here), and a variety of comments. Some were supportive, but there were many sarcastic variants on “What could possibly go wrong?”
Criticism is unlikely to faze Heinz, who is probably operating on the tried-and-true premise that any publicity is good publicity. But if Heinz and his ilk are allowed to run free, it’s the rest of us that will live in the world they make. Said Darnovsky:
We have to take seriously people like Austen Heinz who say they want to modify future generations of human beings and upgrade the human species. I think that technical project is far more complicated than they acknowledge. Nonetheless, their story about what we should be striving for as human beings, as a society, I think is very troubling.
Another Uber Driver Accused Of Sexually Assaulting Passenger
An Uber driver in Villa Park, Illinois has been accused of sexually assaulting one of his passengers.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Adnan Nafasat, 46, who drives for UberX, was charged on Wednesday with criminal sexual assault, unlawful restraint and kidnapping.
The alleged assault took place on July 31.
Nafasat allegedly told the 21-year-old male victim to sit in the front seat because his back seat was dirty. He then repeatedly tried to kiss the victim, police said.
From the Tribune:
The victim tried to push Nafasat away and repeatedly asked to be let out of the car, but Nafasat told the victim he was not going anywhere and that no one knew where he was at the moment, prosecutors said.
Nafasat kept grabbing the victim and trying to kiss him when they were stopped in traffic, then would speed up when the victim tried to leave the car, prosecutors said. Nafasat grabbed the victim’s throat so hard the victim thought he would pass out, they said.
Nafasat eventually drove the victim to his desired destination, cops said.
“Our thoughts are with the victim of this horrible incident,” Uber Spokeswoman Jennifer Mullin said in a statement sent to The Huffington Post. “We immediately removed the driver from our platform upon learning of the allegations and have been assisting authorities with the investigation.”
Uber said it reached out to Chicago Police as soon as the company found out about the incident.
This is the second time in three weeks that an Uber driver has been charged with sexual assault.
Maxime Fohounhedo was charged late last month when, police said, he attacked a 21-year-old woman after picking her up from a Chicago bar.
Uber said Fohounhedo was not authorized to drive for Uber and that he used an account created under his wife’s name.
On Dec. 17, a Boston Uber driver was accused of raping a female passenger in the backseat of his car.
“This is a despicable crime,” Kaitlin Durkosh, spokesperson for Uber, said at the time. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim during her recovery. Uber has been working closely with law enforcement and will continue to do everything we can to assist their investigation.”
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Social Media Lessons From My 99-Year-Old Great Grandma
My great grandma, who we call Nonie (Italian for Grandma), turned 99 last year. She has served as the matriarch over the tight-knit Italian side of my family for decades, passing on bits of wisdom over the years. Nonie does not have a Twitter or a Facebook account, nor is she on LinkedIn. The extent of her online experience includes a few Skype sessions. She was simply blown away by the fact that I was all the way in Germany, yet able to be on the computer screen in her living room in California.
That being said, social media experience or not, anyone who has made it to 99 years old is worth listening to, and I recently realized I am using a lot of what I picked up from Nonie not only in my daily life, but also in my social media strategy.
Here are my top three social media lessons learned from Nonie:
The Whatever Principle
One of Nonie’s many catch-phrases is “Whatever, honey.” She always tends to soften statements by adding “honey” at the end. It can be interpreted as “let’s agree to disagree and move on.” A lot of times in these situations, a simple “honey” is not added after the whatever, but rather “I wish you a lot of luck, honey.”
So what does this have to do with social media? I certainly do not go around writing “whatever” under all the comments, tweets and blog posts I do not agree with, and I have never called anyone “honey.” However, on twitter, I keep the phrase “whatever, honey” in the back of my mind when someone decides to unfollow me. Why should I invest time in those that leave? My effort should be focused on engaging with those that stay and are open to conversing with me. I also keep this principle in mind when participating in discussions on LinkedIn. It is not uncommon to have professionals with differing views on a certain topic.
The best time to apply The Whatever Principle is when these discussions degenerate into personal attacks, or move away from the topic at hand. Before making a fool out of myself and stooping to unprofessional levels, I agree to disagree and move on.
Sometimes a topic or issue may be too important to just say “whatever,” and that is when Nonie’s second catch-phrase comes into play.
“To Each His Own”
The “To Each His Own” phrase is often used by Nonie as a follow-up line, after she has agreed to disagree. The phrase may seem dismissive on the surface, but after taking a closer look, I believe there are four main aspects that can be used to create an action plan when differences of opinion arise in the social media realm:
Acknowledge the Difference of Opinion
Do Not Judge
Know When To “Walk Away”
If a disagreement comes about, it is important to acknowledge the existence of the differing opinions without being judgmental. A respectful discussion could garner attention from other users, who could perhaps serve as mediators or provide a different take on a given issue, enabling further learning opportunities.
As soon as the discussion turns judgmental and disrespectful, one can easily begin to lose face amongst his or her peers, at which point “walking away” may be the best solution. Therefore, it is important to keep the phrase “to each his own” in mind, as it serves as a reminder that there will be differing opinions, and that these differences should be acknowledged and dealt with respectfully. If this cannot be achieved, the dismissive overtone of the statement needs to be applied.
Everything in Moderation
The third social media lesson I have taken from Nonie is the importance of moderation. A popular family story from a few years back took place during a road trip. It was lunch time and Nonie felt like eating a chilidog and fries, so the consensus was to stop at the fast food chain Wienerschnitzel. I am going to go out on a limb and say that 99 may have been a lot harder to reach had Nonie eaten fast food every day. But if you were to ask her about her diet, she will tell you “everything is okay, in moderation.”
In reference to social media, it is important to focus on networks that will help you achieve your personal and professional goals. According to a list on Wikipedia, there are over 200 “major” social networking sites, not including dating websites. I don’t know about you, but I do not think there are enough hours in the day to be present across all of these “major” sites.
A good approach is to find the top three or four networks that work for you, and begin engaging with people and building a solid network. If you try to spread yourself across too many networks, the relationships you build may merely scratch the surface and yield little to no fruit.
Of course, it is also important not to lose track of what is going on behind your computer or smart phone screen. Remembering to “look-up” and engage with the people in your surrounding environment is key. If you are busy formulating your next “perfect” tweet or Facebook post, you may miss out on some special “real-life” moments.
Whenever I fly back home to California, I make sure I spend the majority of time “looking up” so as not to miss out on any of Nonie’s advice. To draw on a fourth (bonus) lesson from Nonie, “everybody is welcome,” to leave any social media tips in the comment section below. Nonie always says everybody is always welcome in her home, and you can bet, if you drop by for a visit, there will be something delicious to eat and great conversation.
Sad But True: People Are Actually Going On MySpace In Search Of #TBT Pics
MySpace is back! Kind of.
People are returning to the social media site of yesteryear so they can dig up old photos for their new favorite social media sites: Instagram and Facebook.
Every Thursday, Instagrammers and Facebookers flock to MySpace for their #TBT (Throwback Thursday) photos, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. For the uninitiated: people post old photos with the hashtag “#tbt” each Thursday on Instagram and Facebook.
A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Oct 24, 2013 at 1:18pm PDT
Even Beyoncé is in on the #TBT trend.
To answer your questions: Yes, Myspace still exists. Yes, you can still get into your account if you can remember your password. The results may be horrifying. Remember how many pictures you used to take on your Mac Photo Booth? You do now.
MySpace launched in 2003 and was considered to be the most popular site in the U.S. in 2006. News Corp bought the site for $580 million in 2005, a move that Rupert Murdoch has since deemed a “mistake.” He’s right! The company eventually sold MySpace to Specific Media for $35 million in 2011
Last November, the site got 50 million unique visitors in the U.S. That’s a lot of visitors for a site that most people haven’t thought about in 8 years. Facebook currently boasts 864 million daily active users worldwide.
If you’re going to venture into the depths of your MySpace account, be careful. The captions you put on your horrible mirror selfies when you were 16 were not cool. I’m warning you now. The captions on my MySpace photos are all lyrics to songs from Sondheim musicals. It made me cringe so hard to read them. And most.are.written.like.this. Ah, 2006. You were a good year.
Fifteen-year-old me thought that the photo below was the best way to express my multitudes of ~feelings~. You’re just lucky that I used the black and white Photo Booth setting and not that horrible four pane Warhol-inspired one that is so vivid in my memory.
Go say hello to your old buddy Tom, while you’re out there. He misses you.
Samsung Approached BlackBerry About Potential Buyout: Report
NEW YORK/SEOUL, Jan 15 (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics recently offered to buy BlackBerry Ltd for as much as $7.5 billion, seeking its valuable patents as it battles Apple in the corporate market, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents seen by Reuters.
South Korea’s Samsung proposed an initial price range of $13.35 to $15.49 per share, representing a premium of 38 percent to 60 percent over BlackBerry’s current trading price, the source said on Wednesday.
Representatives from the two companies, which are working with advisers, met last week to discuss a potential transaction, the source said, asking not to be identified because the conversations are private.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said in a statement that it “has not engaged in discussions with Samsung with respect to any possible offer to purchase BlackBerry. Shares of BlackBerry, which soared nearly 30 percent following the Reuters report, fell back about 15 percent in after-hours electronic trading following the statement.
Samsung also told Reuters in Seoul that it has no plans to acquire Blackberry. “Media reports of the acquisition are groundless,” a company spokeswoman said.
Separately on Wednesday, Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail reported BlackBerry has shunned a handful of takeover overtures in recent months as its board and largest investor think its restructuring strategy will deliver greater shareholder value than current acquisition offers.
The board believes offering prices, some in excess of $7 billion, fall well below BlackBerry’s potential asset value in the next few years, according to the Globe and Mail report.
BlackBerry, a one-time investor darling that pioneered smartphones, has regained some of its lost swagger under Chief Executive John Chen, who is leading a bid to regain market share it has lost to Apple Inc, Google Inc and Samsung.
“BlackBerry is in such transition today, so any investment has been a bet on the future, so at this point Samsung is cutting in before that full future becomes a reality,” said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.
Samsung’s strength as the No. 1 global smart phone marker has been built on making devices for the consumer market, which has become crowded in recent years. With a takeover of BlackBerry, Samsung could make greater inroads into the corporate market, where it has trailed rivals.
“How many Samsung phones do you see in offices? This would be Samsung’s chance to get into the enterprise,” said BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis.
Any tie-up with Samsung would require the blessing of Prem Watsa, whose Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd is a major Blackberry shareholder. Fairfax helped bankroll a debt recapitalization that led to Chen’s arrival in November 2013 as CEO. Paul Rivett, president of Watsa’s Fairfax Financial Holdings, declined to comment.
The bid would also face regulatory scrutiny in both Ottawa and Washington. Under Canadian law, any foreign takeover of BlackBerry would require government approval under the Industry Canada Act.
BlackBerry’s secure networks manage the email traffic of thousands of large corporate customers, along with government and military agencies across the globe.
Samsung and its advisers also anticipate a complex approval process at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews deals for national security implication, the documents reviewed by Reuters show.
Samsung thinks that acquiring less than 100 percent of BlackBerry, perhaps keeping part of it as a publicly traded entity with an independent board, could help secure easier CFIUS approval. But it doubts whether it can accomplish its strategic objectives with less than 100 percent ownership, the documents show.
In 2013, the Canadian government had strongly hinted to BlackBerry that any sale to China’s Lenovo Group would be rejected due to security concerns, sources told Reuters at the time. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office would not comment on the report on Wednesday but sources familiar with the Canadian government’s thinking said a Samsung buyout was unlikely to raise such concerns.
Ross Healy, a portfolio manager at MacNicol & Associates, which owns a small stake in BlackBerry, said Samsung’s reported offer undervalues the company.
“To get a hold of the BlackBerry network and all its secure features, that would be a real coup for Samsung, looking to differentiate themselves from Apple and from others,” he said.
BlackBerry’s patent portfolio is composed of roughly 44,000 patents, worth more than $1.43 billion in net book value as of August last year, although many analysts think they could be worth much more.
Edward Snyder, managing director of Charter Equity Research, said it made sense for Samsung to target BlackBerry’s patents in its outgoing battle with Apple and others, and that it likely would need to bid for the whole company because BlackBerry management did not want to only sell specific assets.
“Samsung will have to buy the whole thing and then and shutter what they don’t need,” he said.
BlackBerry launched its long-awaited Classic model on Wednesday, hoping to help win back market share and woo customers still using older devices with a keyboard. The phone resembles its once popular Bold and Curve handsets.
In the third quarter, revenue at BlackBerry, which is increasingly focusing on providing services like secure corporate networks, fell to $793 million from $1.19 billion a year earlier, falling short of analysts’ expectations of $931.5 million.
Shares of BlackBerry jumped as much as 30 percent on heavy volume in afternoon trading at $29.71 per share in New York.
The offer price would imply an enterprise value of $6 billion to $7.5 billion for BlackBerry, assuming conversion of $1.25 billion of convertible debt, according to the documents.
BlackBerry announced a high-profile security partnership with Samsung in November. The partnership will wed BlackBerry’s security platform with the South Korean company’s own security software for its Galaxy devices. (Additional reporting by Vincent Lee in SEOUL, Alastair Sharp and Allison Martell in TORONTO and Randall Palmer in OTTAWA, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Christian Plumb)
POS Breaches in 2015: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Retailers had a tough year. With Target’s massive point-of-sale breach at the end of 2013 to a steady stream of retail breaches throughout 2014, it seems like cyber criminals continue to win the battle over consumer data. If 2014 was the year of the POS breach, then what will 2015 bring?
The good news is that there is a deadline for U.S. retailers and card issuers to adopt EMV chip-and-pin technology by October 2015. Due to what is being called the Payment Networks’ Liability Shift, financial institutions will no longer assume financial responsibility for fraudulent transactions if a merchant is using non-EMV compliant technology, including POS systems. It’s no surprise that financial institutions are incentivizing merchants to move to a more secure transaction method. Every year Americans lose $8.6 billion to fraud, according to the Aite Group, and this number is expected to reach $10 billion by 2015, according to the Nilson Report. The shift to EMV is starting slowly and will take at least a year to see any positive effects.
While financial institutions and retailers are moving in the right direction to create a more secure payment standard, there may be repercussions due to the lag time it takes to shift the systems. The bad news is that as retailers start seriously making the shift toward more secure payment technology, Experian’s Data Breach Industry Forecast predicts that payment breaches will increase as the window closes for cyber criminals to profit from this type of attack.
Additionally, there may be merchants that decide not to comply with the new security standard due to high cost to replace POS devices. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, changing to an EMV-compliant system will total $8.65 billion: $6.75 billion to replace 15 million POS devices, $500 million to replace 360,000 ATMs and $1.4 billion to replace over 1.13 billion credit and debit cards.
Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel. As we have seen in Europe, EMV-compliant systems are incredibly more secure than systems without EMV. In fact, EMV has cut card fraud by 65 percent in the last 10 years. That being said, U.K.-based card fraud expert Neira Jones believes that fraud has simply shifted from face-to-face fraud to card-not-present fraud. In 2012, card-not-present fraud increased by 21 percent in Europe, according to the European Central Bank, and has likely grown by 15 to 20 percent each year since 2008.
What does this mean for U.S. merchants and shoppers? We must work together to stop cyber criminals from exploiting technology and bank accounts for their personal gain. There are several ways to fight against cyber crime next year:
Invest in your future by switching to an EMV-compliant system. This call to action especially rings true for the smaller shops that may be affected by POS breaches. Believe it or not, cyber criminals do not just target the large enterprise-sized retailers. They also aim for small, local shops. Not to mention, it typically takes a company a full year to recover from reputation damage after a data breach, and many small businesses do not recover at all.
The safest form of payment in store is by using cash. You may also want to try using gift cards and store apps, since they don’t share credit card information with the register, reports Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan. Take the time to find out when you can receive a debit and/or credit card with chip-and-pin technology from your financial institution.
While it likely will get worse before it gets better, merchants and financial institutions are taking baby steps toward a more secure payment future.
This 'Taken' 'Super Mario' Parody Will Find You, And It Will Thrill You
He will find you, he will eat a mushroom, and he will kill you.
“Taken 3″ is out and it remains to be seen if the audience is the one who’s been taken this time. Until then though, let’s enjoy all the “Taken” comedy videos that are being released, like this one from WTFLOL.
Princess Toadstool has been … TAKEN, and Mario has to get her back, but first he has some choice words for the kidnappers about his specific skillset. You don’t want to know what kind of damage Mario can do with a plumbing snake.
VIDEO: Pardon? Testing new Google Translate
Rory Cellan-Jones tries out Google’s enhanced translation tool to see if it delivers on its ambitious promises.
Take A Ski Lift To Work… In Downtown Algiers
BY TRACY MORAN – OZY
Africa may be moving forward, but it’s still stuck in traffic. Gridlock and choking pollution have city planners in megacities like Kampala, Lagos and Lusaka searching for affordable, efficient solutions to their transportation troubles — and they’ve seized on glorified ski lifts.
By 2050, Africa’s urban areas are expected to house 60 percent of the continent’s population, up from 36 percent in 2010, according to the African Development Bank Group, an agency promoting local investment and poverty assistance programs. Congested roads contribute to the urban pollution that claims 49,000 lives annually in sub-Saharan Africa. But a solution is on the horizon, thanks to ropeway systems, also known as gondolas or aerial cable cars. The motorless vehicles hang from steel cables or ropes suspended from towers, and while they have been around since the 1600s, recent innovations — larger cabins and faster speeds — are transforming them from quaint gondolas into the realm of effective urban transport.
Coasting above the skyline in Constantine, Algeria, last year, it occurred to Patrick Kayemba that the stunning view and quiet ride could be just the ticket for cash-strapped cities facing a transport crunch. “There is no need for too much if enough can do,” says the executive director of FABIO, an African organization focusing on sustainable transport. Sure, it’s not a complete fix — and an aerial network can’t cover as vast a territory as bus or subway lines — but feeder systems stretching miles into and out of the city center, or other transportation hubs, can substantially ease traffic, congestion and pollution.
And the slow-moving trams of yesteryear would be replaced by new, faster cabins that cruise about 16 miles per hour and can carry up to 10,000 people an hour. Compare that with buses holding 50 passengers each or 2,000 cars with two to three passengers apiece. Aerial cable cars are also eco-friendly because they use no coal or gas; their only fuel is electricity, which comes from the grid or renewable sources.
Bigger, faster and … cheaper. They’re easy to build, require minimal maintenance and have no drivers to pay. Gondola systems can be put together in a year, while bus networks take at least five years to develop, according to Dr. Jürgen Perschon, executive director of the Hamburg-based European Institute for Sustainable Transport (EURIST). Algeria’s new system in Constantine cost $14 million to build, he says, and a comparable bus system would ring in around $25 million. Subways? They take decades to build and cost five times as much.
“People still see the technology as a low-cost amusement ride for ski resorts.”
The advantages roll on: no costly land acquisitions (other than station locations) or booting residents from their homes. Each tower takes just 4 square yards of space and can even be placed atop existing structures. And cars that soar above urban obstacles like highways, rivers or steep hills are fully accessible to passengers with wheelchairs, bicycles and strollers (only a quarter of London’s Tube stations are handicap accessible).
Austria-based cable car manufacturer Doppelmayr Seilbahnen has already installed a system in Algeria and has plans for others in Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Lusaka, Harare, Lagos, Mombasa and Nairobi. Contracts have yet to be signed, but Julia Schwärzler, Doppelmayr’s PR manager, notes that feasibility studies are complete for Kampala and Mombasa, and expects deals to be sealed early this year. “They’re jumping through our doors,” says Perschon about interested African planners. Jacob Byamukama, manager of transport planning and traffic management in Kampala, supports the concept. Assuming an ideal route can be found, “we are committed to implementation of cable car urban transport,” he says.
But is it safe? The perception is that “maintenance isn’t taken as seriously” in Africa, Perschon says. But upkeep is standardized, and the firms building the systems have a vested interest in ensuring they’re well-maintained. It’s designed to be the safest mode of public transport — but there are no guarantees. Seven people died in Singapore in 1983 when two cars plummeted to the sea after an oil rig struck the guiding cable