Category Archives: Web

Why Facebook Ads Need Quality Control Approval

facebookIt’s no secret that Facebook, the social media giant, hands out its users’ information to third parties. So long as an advertiser is willing to pay, the site will ensure only the most relevant viewers see their ads. Whether targeting specific audiences or opting for the sidebar approach, thousands of companies have gained business with their interest-based consumer outreach.

With Facebook’s newest newsfeed update, however, came the addition of centrally located ads. Now, users see posts directly within their newsfeed, right between their friends’ pictures and musings for the day. And while some are still less than thrilled about the post interruption, the website has done its best to insert only the most interesting of ads, depending on the user. Not only does this entice viewers to click, it allows for the highest success rates for future sales.

The problem? The ads have about a 50/50 shot at working correctly. Most of these errors are seen in mobile versions, in which multiple pages are offered, but don’t load. (Users are generally enticed with an article or slideshow of facts that falls within their specific age group and demographic.) Sometimes the user is stuck on an ad, sometimes arrows are ill placed and users click on banners rather than content itself, and sometimes the pages simply don’t load. Users are met with an ad – after being promised a slideshow of some kind – and left at a dead end.

Reflection of Brand

These errors were certainly acceptable at first, but now, months in, age is no longer an excuse. But who’s at fault? Facebook or the sponsors? Since it’s been seen across the board, it’s likely that the errors are on Facebook’s end – specifically their mobile site. So why aren’t the advertisers pushing for a working version? Or if they are, are they getting a discount in the process? Either way, constant errors reflect badly on both Facebook and the advertisers themselves. Not to mention users will soon quit clicking – if the article only has a 50% chance at working, why even take the risk?

But overall, it’s the consumer that’s really suffering. Not only are they using an inferior website (which may or may not allow them to read said articles), their newsfeed is still cluttered within the process.

Hopefully, Facebook engineers are working to find solutions to these ongoing errors. In the meantime, users can continue to take their chances, while advertisers will likely see a downfall in clicks.

The Next Gmail Change: Pictures Shown Automatically Via Email

gmailFor anyone with a Gmail account, you know just how annoying it can be when, every time you log in, you’re asked which senders can and can’t show their pictures (whether attached or embedded). A feature since the mogul’s begging, this practice is still in effect years after ongoing overhauls. They’ve changed their look, opted for a new way to write emails (in the bottom of the page, so that one can still view previous messages), and created a labeling system to better point out spam and phishing schemes.

Not to mention the change from Google Talk to Hangouts, and Docs to Drive. And just as we get used to a new set of features, it’s as though they’re throwing over the next round of email accessories.

Next on their list? Automatically displaying pictures in every email – even without the user’s permission. With all the new security features put into place, Google is able to identify spam (for the most part) before it even hits the inbox. So to bank on these growing features, they thought they’d save us a few steps. No more picture approval, just email opening and a visual aspect that’s waiting to be seen.

Why the Change is Long Overdue

When was the last time you were given the option to display pictures from an email you didn’t want? (Or at least didn’t know the sender?) Half the time, it’s the display that lets us know whether or not the email is worthy in the first place. Yet, time and time again, we’re forced to click our link of approval, just to see whether or not the mail is legit.

Besides, even if there was spam sending us photos – how would it harm our computer? If anything, it’s acting as a “spam flag” alerting us all the quicker that questionable content is in the mix. With the added step taken out, we can more quickly identify crap emails and get them reported to the proper authorities.

Why there’s no telling why Google – the Internet king – waited so long to make this ancient change, it’s high time we take advantage of its new feature. Whether looking for spam, cleaning out an inbox, or searching for legitimate content, the upgrade offers a new realm of freedom.

Look to your inbox for this and more upcoming changes in your Gmail account.

Need to Contact Facebook? Good Luck

contact usWith the incredible growth Facebook has seen in past years, it’s understandable that a few people may need to get a hold of the company. Whether for legal reasons, personal interest, or just needing to get some information, the site is surprisingly hard to pin down. Of course, it’s hard to blame them – even Apple doesn’t have a 24/7 support system without fees. (Users are required to purchase support timelines, after shelling out for the pricy products.) And contacting each of their users with an issue would likely cost millions. But when you’re raking in the dough, at what point is it an investment to stay available?

Rather than offering phone lines or even a message system (yep, you can’t even send in a rogue text query), Facebook has created a list of very specific scenarios — more than 150. Much like following an “if your answer is this, follow this,” map, where each instance is met with a pre-determined outcome. This goes for legal teams, individuals, concerned citizens, and almost any other form of social media user.

Don’t fit into the site’s molds? Too bad – you can either lie, or send a random email, hoping the site will get back with you. Spoiler: their response is unlikely.

Making Their Own Rules

Because Facebook is such a mogul, it’s safe to say they can do what they want. If they don’t want to be contacts by their billion users, they don’t allow it to happen. Sure it might up their public image, but when you’ve got more followers than any other social media network, why spend the extra time and funds?

Just because it’s the status quo, however, doesn’t mean it’s winning them any points.

What do users do when they have an actual problem? It’s insulting to be given a list of scenarios to sift through, but what if you don’t meet any of them? Why is a catch-all statement a cover up for poor customer service? Perhaps this mindset stands because Facebook profiles are free of charge, but even free services won’t last if customers aren’t happy.

For the most part, Facebook users seem to be plenty happy with their options, but for the few who do need to reach the site, their abilities are few and far between. As the site continues to grow and add even more users to the mix, let’s hope they donate some funds to letting others contact them. After all, customer service is a small price to pay for keeping customers happy – they’re the glue that keeps the entire operation in motion.

Why Commenting Systems on Websites Are Getting Overhauls

When you look at a popular website, the commenting system is probably one of the few places where there is little control in terms of content. However, this is about to change with two large websites and online resources, YouTube and Popular Science, announcing a revamping of their systems.

Comments

For YouTube, all comments will now be linked to a real persona via Google+. However, for Popular Science, the website has gone the easy way, removing comments entirely from their posts, and here’s why.

1. Why YouTube Adopted the Google+ Commenting System

For most of us, YouTube and Google+ are one and the same thing; they are both owned and run by Google. The Google+ social platform has largely been criticized for being a ghost town, but this is about to change when Google integrates this social layer onto YouTube. The new system offers benefits to all, commenters, video creators, and viewers. However, it may not be good news for trolls who have made the current commenting system one of the filthiest destinations on the Web.

Google+

With Google+ becoming the only way to leave a comment below a YouTube video, this may just breathe life to the social platform and bring conversations to this otherwise dead part of town. Current features of Google+ now come to YouTube including the ability to join a conversation either publicly or privately, new tools of reviewing comments, and the ability to determine what posts appear on top of a video.

Google is well aware that recent does not necessarily mean relevant, which is how the current YouTube comments operate. However the new system will see relevant comments, say from the video creator, your friends, or some other popular personality, take the top spot.

Conversations on YouTube and on Google+ will also cross the borders and appear between the two platforms. A YouTube comment that you post will now appear on your G+ stream if desired. Likewise, a G+ comment with an embedded YouTube video will not populate the comment section below that YouTube video. This offers a whole new way of video promotion and creating engagement.

2. Why Popular Science Shut Down Its Commenting System

According to Popular Science, comments can be bad for science.  Popsci.com posted a lengthy post explaining why they came up with this decision, of course using science to state their case.

PopSci

Popular Science posted a study and research information showing that commenters shape public opinion which in turn shape public policy, which in turn shape how and whether and what research gets funded. According to the site:

“Scientific certainty has now become “just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grosteque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”

While you may no longer be allowed to leave you comment on articles posted on the site, you can however share your thoughts through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, email, and more.  A few select articles that lend themselves to vigorous and intelligent discussions will also be open to comments.

It is clear that uncivil comments not only polarize readers, but they also change their interpretations of the story of video.  A fractious minority has enough power to skew a reader’s perception and these two websites have clearly recognized this fact.

By blocking out inappropriate attacks and rude comments, these two approaches may very well contribute to a much cleaner and a more tolerating Internet.

Is Firefox the new Internet Explorer for Mac users?

firefox-logoIf you have been using Mac for as long as I have, you remember the days when they came with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer pre-installed. Even if it wasn’t installed, there was a time when it was available for download on the Mac. It was the must have-browser, even if you used a different one like Netscape, Firefox or Safari.

Why would you still need Internet Explorer on your computer? At the time there were many websites that would not work in any other browser. In fact, many websites, especially banking sites, demanded you have IE installed; they wouldn’t even let you proceed without using it. There were other sites that would not load properly unless you were using Explorer. You would access a website, realize it wasn’t working right, try it in Explorer and everything would be fine.

Well, those days are long gone, or are they? Microsoft doesn’t even make a Mac compatible version of Internet Explorer anymore. However, there are still sites that do not run properly in all browsers. I encountered one this morning. I was in Safari and a specific website would not function properly. I tried over and over again and got nowhere. What did I do? I opened Firefox and tried it there. It worked perfectly.

In fact, there are many sites that, just like in the past with Internet Explorer, will state that they run best in Firefox. At my previous employer, we had a site we accessed constantly, but it would only work in Firefox.

While I choose to use Safari as my default browser on my Mac, I still have Firefox installed for those times that I encounter those sites that require it to work properly. Does this mean that Firefox is the new Internet Explorer for Mac users? I’d say it is — not only for Mac users, but for Windows users as well.

How much social media usage is too much?

social mediaIn a time where social media rules the Internet, it’s easy for users to become overwhelmed with the vast amount of profiles they can host. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., where does one draw the line as to how many profiles are enough? Especially when each platform is trying so hard to draw you in. Now companies host Facebook logins, and they’re constantly tweeting information that can only be seen by card-carrying members. They’re enticing us, and it’s working.

But there does come a point when all the social media is truly overwhelming. When too much time is being spent each day just keeping up with what others are doing online. We comment, like, share, and retweet all their best post from the day. And then we have to post things too, so other people can see them. Before long, keeping up with social media becomes a part time job.

Of course, celebrities can hire others to do it for them. When their day gets too busy, some social media professional is behind the keyboard, telling everyone about their busy day. Then thousands of responses come in. But what about the layman? Those who are logging in and putting up each post the old fashioned way?

Everyday Social Media

On Parks and Recreation, social media addict Tom Haverford is arrested for wrecking while tweeting. His tweets “Gotta pass this lady on the ejkerkj.” And “Just hit a fire hydrant, but I survived. #Unbreakable #WhatsMrGlassuptothesedays? #Whynosequel?” gave him away. As punishment, the judge took away all technology. No email, no phone, no mobile devices.

Should the rest of the world see the same punishment? When overwhelmed with technology, should we cut back? Cold turkey, no more electronics until a solid break has been had?

Of course, usage is different for everyone; we all have that friend who seems to be tweeting every second of the day. But after profile upon profile has been created, even the occasional users get bogged down with social media.

There’s truly no way to say how much to too much time online; that’s up to the individual. But to avoid a scene like Tom’s, or to just keep our heads straight between Facebook and all its minions, be sure to schedule break time each day. Otherwise we may just see what the effects of too much social media can do.

Facebook Ads primed to replace Google Ads

facebook_vs_google_featuredFor years, Google has proven to be the giant in Internet marketing with returns paralleled to none. With statistics predicting a growth of up to 77.3 percent this year, you should be expecting Google to make a fortune out of the business that it has continually monopolized courtesy of its firm control over search traffic, YouTube and Google Adsense.

Statistics Show that a new Giant is on the Rise in the Market

Google’s dominance faces challenges from upcoming Facebook, which is taking the ad market by a storm courtesy of its convenient support for mobile devices. In 2012, Facebook claimed $390 million off the ad market. Even though this is a mere 9.5 percent of the total market and minimal compared to what Google earns, it is an improvement for Facebook that experts believe will hold with the values for this year expected to climb to 13.2 percent.

This apparently trivial market percentage covers for over 88 percent of Facebook’s revenue collection in the past 12 months.  Even though Facebook has shown its intent of being more than a social site by venturing into search engine service provision with its Facebook Graph, the ads constantly popping up on your Facebook for Android or iOS app are still the main revenue sources for Mark Zuckerberg and his team.

Is the Growth just for a Season or is it Here to Stay?

facebook-mobile-ads

As the number of smartphone owners grows by the day, the number of hours people spend in front of their computer screens decreases exponentially. The number of people accessing their social site pages and other Internet services through their mobile devices is on the rise making ads placed on such platforms more viable that those targeting PC users. Since Facebook strongly focuses on access while on the go, I believe that it has what it takes to capitalize on this new Internet use trend.

Though Google Ads might still command more clicks per unit time, the price revenue generated per ad on mobile is comparatively lower than what Facebook has on offer. Experts argue that Facebook has an upper hand in the move from fixed to mobile computing since it was born in the era and has had to work out its solutions from scratch, unlike Google which has had to modify its strategies.

Facebook-Mark-zuckerberg

Facebook’s ability to merge mobile and desktop ads (unlike Google that needs different designs for each platform) makes it easier for advertisers to deliver the same content to their audience without incurring extra cost. With Facebook ad efficiency this high, demand for advertising space is bound to go up, and so will the total revenue generated per fiscal year. In essence, Facebook has the winning formula it needs to make it big in desktop and mobile advertising!

Rural Internet Options are Slim, Expensive

rural internetFor those that don’t live in the heart of a metropolis, logging into the interweb may just be a timely, expensive process. Rather than free hi-speed WiFi lining the blocks, online access is hard to come by, is slow, and not all that reliable. To the majority of the population, however, this may come as a shock. When web access is so readily available, it’s hard to remember that it’s not a luxury for the entire country.

According to the FCC, 19 million Americans don’t have access to hi-speed or broadband Internet. These figures are purely location wise; the option to purchase isn’t available. For comparison, that’s the same size as the U.S.’s seven most populous cities combined: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Antonio. Can you imagine any of them without hi-speed Internet? Let alone all of them?

Slow to Grow

While steps are being taken to get these rural communities connected, it’s safe to say they’re going nowhere fast. Grants are being awarded for communities to dig cable or obtain broadband access, for instance, in rural Kentucky, while Internet companies themselves are slow to move forward.

In fact, many communities don’t have access to cable Internet – and never will – simply because of their population. Even in communities where cable lines are only a few miles away, companies won’t lay the extra line because there’s not enough business to be gained. To the rest of us, this seems like a no-brainer; once the work is done, there’s steady profit flowing in. But apparently, that isn’t the case.

Some rural communities are looking to broadband connections instead, which works via satellite, however this is a lot slower, inaccessible in certain weather events, and equally expensive at 1/20th of the speed. Personal satellites are also available, but are almost double the price and limit one’s usage; half of paid data has to be obtained between 2 and 8 am (though some companies’ hours differ slightly). Yet because this is many users’ only option, there are growing wait lists, depending on location.

So what will save these rural Internet users? Will enough grants finally come through to grant them online access? Or will Google Fiber upstage every current Internet provider and bring in lightening-fast Internet to those whose current option is dial-up?  Whatever the answer, it’s beyond time. Nineteen million people is just too high of a number to ignore.

Why is Facebook so inconsistent about removing inappropriate photos?

flagAny Facebook user has had the option – at one point or another – to report a friend’s photo. Whether or not it was inappropriate, hilarious, or even sentimental, the site brought our moral stands to question, and tested us between friendship and appropriate viewing material. Of course, the majority of those times, the pictures were nothing to balk at. They may have been a nice nature scene, or a group of girls giving their best “skinny arm,” but because it’s a photo, the report option was still present.

As for actual inappropriate photos, there are those who report them every day. They click the button, Facebook goes through the necessary channels, and the pic may or may not be taken offline. But what’s the criteria? Who decides what’s offensive and what isn’t? Because, as is, there doesn’t seem to be a sweeping standard. I’ve seen pictures of naked children get flagged (all of the necessary parts were still covered), as well as those with no actual cuss words or inappropriate subjects. But because they eluded to something we shouldn’t be talking about, apparently, the photos were deleted. In some cases, the poster is even banned for a certain amount of time, depending on the seriousness of their crime.

But why are pictures of scantily clad adults – often in suggestive poses – perfectly acceptable? (Then again, if the public began reporting those photos as well, maybe their deleting terms would make a little more sense.)

We don’t get it, Facebook.

Private vs. Public Social Media Accounts

On more private ventures, such as Snapchat, Draw Something, or Words With Friends, users receive little to no guidance by app creators. This anything goes mantra may provide for some private humor, but by the time users log into Facebook, Twitter, or other public platforms, those same rules no longer exist. Because others can see it, whether or not under privacy settings, the site becomes responsible for all content.

Within its fine print, Facebook states that there’s a copy made of each and every post; just because they remove it from the site, doesn’t mean it’s gone. Which brings even more questions into light, such as what the company is doing with all of these discarded pics – hopefully they’re saved for staff training and staff training only. But whatever the rules, it seems to be on a per-case basis, and one that holds no rhyme or reason.

To stay on the safe side and avoid being banned, it’s best to stay overly cautions. You never know what Facebook may find offensive.

The Current State of Platform, Software and Device Security

The year 2012 and the better part of 2013 have witnessed the birth of new computing platforms, social network platforms and general computing trends that not only make the gadget and internet a better place, but also a more dangerous one. These innovations and developed habits expose us to a variety of threats that we must be aware of in order to survive in the modern digitally connected world.

Security

The release of new platforms gives both legitimate technology users and hackers something to look forward to. Users have to test new features and functionalities as hackers seek to exploit loopholes in the innovations’ firewalls. Since the adoption of new technology improves our efficiency, we will always be vulnerable to the accompanied hacker attacks and hope that the platform, gadget or software developer will release security patches as soon as security related bugs show up.

Are Security Risks Increasing or Decreasing?

As genuine developers come up with new software pieces, malicious developers are also at work trying to come up with re-engineered pieces that are better at breaching current and yet-to-come systems. This trend, confirmed by the attempts to improve on Skywiper/flamer to Stuxnet, gives system administrators something new to think about since they will be facing better-equipped criminals in the near future.

Even though the security trends of the future might strongly lean on the weaknesses of the new platforms and operating systems, we cannot overlook the birth of mobile devices. Since most people do not believe that, there are systems that can intrude the innate security of their mobile devices, cyber criminals might have an easier time in gaining access into the information people share through their devices.

With the number of possible additions to this list almost endless, the number of risks grows exponentially. The diversification of platforms and computing behaviors might give the average person an information overload that might force them to overlook some important security features or give cyber criminals more options to explore.

Do We Have a Choice?

Apart from the security issue, the manner in which we interact with other people is bound to change. The adoption of online solutions will greatly reduce personal level interactions while reducing the control we have over some of the information we might refer to as “personal.”

Nonetheless, the productivity per unit time is bound to increase since we no longer have to do all the hard work. The new systems and hardware products will take care of most of our needs despite the security and privacy risks, making them almost as important as the basic human needs. We will have no option but to live with the emergent vices and make the best out of the available virtues.