Category Archives: Social Networks

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.

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.

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?


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’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!

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.

Why LinkedIn remains the only international social site available in China

LinkedInIn what the Chinese government terms as a move to keeping its society sane and couth, it has blocked the use of social sites like Facebook and Twitter among many others. Actually, accessing these sites is next to impossible, and if attempted, is punishable by law. This unquestionable move to block out international social sites has however taken a surprising and unexpected twist manifested in the government’s decision to let the citizens access LinkedIn.

Though the reasons as to why China has let its citizen’s access LinkedIn still remains a mystery to many, there are many speculations that in the opinion of many contain all the logic needed to render them tangible.

Possible Reasons

Many people believe that LinkedIn’s approach to networking people is the only thing that has let it survive China’s strict censorship laws. LinkedIn focuses on professional qualifications and aims at letting employers meet employees without leaving the comfort of their offices. For a nation that is work-oriented like China, this is a gold mine since it will allow its population to network with professionals, both locally and internationally.

Unlike other social sites, LinkedIn did not come up with a simplified site version for China. Due to this, LinkedIn is more of a top-notch forum that will only work for Chinese who can at least construct coherent English sentences. Since English is not the first language is China, the number of people who can comfortably chat and exchange ideas on LinkedIn is effectively reduced to encompass only those who have gone through the pain of learning English for the sake of business.

Since LinkedIn is all about business and professional networking, loose talk and suggestive picture uploading that is rampant on other international social sites is unheard of. If we go by the fact that China’s basic motive in blocking other social site is for the sake of its societal ethical beliefs, then it would be right to conclude that LinkedIn does not have the capacity to breach these unwritten rules. In fact, all that LinkedIn can do is uphold the virtue of hard work and professionalism.

For How Long?

LinkedIn InNonetheless, it is almost impossible to draw a solid conclusion as to why LinkedIn roams freely in China, bearing in mind that in 2010, the Chinese lost access to one of the most powerful search engines in the world, Google. Perhaps, the Chinese government has realized that LinkedIn is the only safe channel through which its professionals can network with the international world. On the other hand, it could just be biding time before shutting down the service.

Apparently, China is confident that a social network that lets professionals meet and discuss job-related issues is not harmful to the society. After all, it is not the best place to plot or start a revolution or spend precious time chatting about celebrities and impossible fantasies.

Need advice? Try ChoicePunch

choicepunchEver since the world was introduced to PostSecret, the idea of going to strangers with news became a thing. Dark, embarrassing, or just needing to confess the fact that Progressive’s Flo is was too perky for her own good, the site allowed online users to get things off of their chests. Without the threat of a consequence.

Now, however, the theory of online sharing is growing – but it’s not just secrets that others are sending to the world. Now there’s an entire site dedicated to giving others advice. Found on, users can give advice, share personal stories, or just learn what others have to say. There’s even a private section to keep personal matters from being shared with loved ones (or the rest of the online population).

How it Works

Users can sign up for a free account, and as soon as they’ve confirmed, can start posting. Helping others can be found under the Speakout section, while asking others is known as a Reachout. Simply click your corresponding section, and begin communicating.

When reaching out, users ask a question, give a little background information, and then offer up relatable choices – usually two to four. They can then explain their situation so others have a better idea as to what they’re answering. When speaking out, users head to a main page where questions are displayed with images (ChoicePunch provides them), then they click on a post and give their opinion. This is done by choosing on a specific answer, or write a few sentences about why you agree or disagree.

Profiles also keep track of how many lives each person has touched, like an ongoing reminder of the good that can be done online. And while a majority of the questions are superficial, for instance diet advice, or when to tell a new significant other you’re a parent, there’s also a number of hard-hitting topics that are explored.

No matter the subject matter, though, ChoicePunch offers users an outlet that never before has existed. Instead of going to friends and family members, who may be swayed by background information, unbiased advice can be found almost instantaneously. And without footing the bill for an expensive or multiple-session shrink. By posting questions and answers online, strangers can give and get real-time advice that directly relates to their life.

To start getting real-time advice today, head to

Echofon for Firefox dies after Twitter API changes – Here’s how to get it back

In case you’ve never heard of it, Echofon for Firefox was an add-on for Firefox that allowed users to interact with Twitter without going to the official Twitter website. Available as a small pop-up window in the browser’s status bar, Echofon was a convenient and minimalist way to compose tweets, replies, and browse Twitter.

The last version of Echofon for Firefox ever released, version 2.5.2.
The last version of Echofon for Firefox ever released, version 2.5.2.

As of October 2012, Echofon for Firefox was officially discontinued by its developers so they could focus on versions of Echofon for mobile platforms (iPad, Android, and iPhone) instead. This wasn’t the end of the world, though, because Echofon would continue working as long as Twitter API 1.0 was still active.

With this foreboding message, Echofon for Firefox stopped receiving updates.
With this foreboding message, Echofon for Firefox stopped receiving updates.

Since this article exists, I think you can guess what the problem is: As of June 12, 2013, Twitter API 1.0 has been officially shut down, which also killed Echofon for thousands of users.

Users were left with this simple message when they opened Firefox today:

Can’t login to Twitter. (410 Gone (account_verify_credentials))

I wouldn’t be writing this article if it was all bad news, so here’s how to keep Echofon for Firefox working after the Twitter API change.

Patched Echofon saves the day for Twitter API 1.1

When I opened Firefox today and noticed that Echofon wasn’t working anymore, I immediately assumed the worst. Doing a quick Twitter search for “echofon firefox” confirmed my suspicions that my beloved extension had officially died.

However, something useful popped up in my search: Apparently, someone had patched Echofon and updated it to use Twitter API 1.1, which replaced the dead API 1.0. Rather than blindly run this updated extension, I took some time to do a file-by-file comparison between the patched version and the official version to make sure nothing nefarious was happening behind-the-scenes.

What I found were fairly minor modifications, and none of them appear to be malicious. Based on my findings, I decided to try the patched version for myself.

(Please note that I am not a computer security expert, so do not take this as a “seal of approval” or anything. Using 3rd-party software of any type, especially patched software, comes with piles of inherent risk.)

The tragic part about Echofon’s demise is that it ultimately comes down to some very simple code modifications:

// const TWITTER_API_URL    = ""; // old and busted
const TWITTER_API_URL    = ""; // new hotness

Without further adieu, here’s how to switch over to the patched version of Echofon.

How to install the patch

  1. Download the patched version of Echofon. The latest version of the patch appears to be “6”.
  2. In Firefox, navigate to your Extensions page. You can find this by navigating to the big Firefox menu, then selecting Add-ons. In the Add-ons window, click Extensions in the sidebar. You can also use the convenient shortcut Ctrl+Shift+A to access this menu.2013-06-12_12h46_53
  3. After navigating to the Extensions tab in the Add-on window, locate a gear icon in the top right corner. Click it and select Install Add-on From File…2013-06-12_12h48_07
  4. Locate the file you downloaded in Step 1 and open it
  5. Restart Firefox

After following those steps, you should see that Echofon for Firefox is again alive and well.

Performing your own analysis

If you want to independently check out what’s been changed in the patched version of this extension, comparing them is actually quite easy. Firefox extensions are packed as a .xpi file, which is actually just a compressed .zip folder. Just rename the file to .zip and you can extract it to your local computer.

By extracting both the patched version and the official version, I was able to use a great tool called Beyond Compare to perform a full directory comparison and analyze the modifications that were made to the extension.

Comparing the contents of the patched extension to the official extension
Comparing the contents of the patched extension to the official extension

Is there any chance of an official updated version for API 1.1?

I’d say it is very unlikely.


Facebook adds hashtags to compete with other social networks

hashtagA few weeks ago, Facebook announced that it was working on a way to integrated hashtags into its platform. Already a successful feature on Twitter and Instagram, the change would bring Zuckerberg and crew into the world of random and unnecessary links. Sure, some are helpful and even relevant, but when scouring Twitter, the majority of hashtags consist of a string of words that may or may not be spelled correctly. This is the world that Facebook wishes to join.

Once implemented, Facebook’s hashtags would link similar conversations, just as its counterparts do – or so their announcement said. However, unlike Twitter, Facebook has always been a somewhat private website; how will privacy locked-account owners react to these hashtags? Or will theirs even work? Will open accounts’ entire conversations be linked? There are still several questions in the way of logistics. But in theory, many are wondering if this is a necessary, or even a smart move.

Pros and Cons

Since the blowup of social media, Facebook has reigned as king. They have the most users, the most recognizable features (likes and tags, etc), and they even allow other accounts to post through their newsfeeds. Have a Twitter account? Link it to Facebook for maximum exposure! And so on. But now that Facebook is adapting others’ tactics, it’s hard to say whether they’re still on top, especially when the move doesn’t exactly fit into their platform.

Now, to conform, the site is spending thousands of hours and dollars on development, while raising questions along the way. And all to adapt to a trend someone else made popular.

As for the hashtag itself, only the future can know if it’s here to stay. It could easily die out just as quickly as it came to power, or forever change the way the public used the pound key.

It’s likely that Facebook sees this change as a move in popularity. “Everyone else has it,” they say. “Now we have to have it too.” Sure there will be less confusion as to exactly what the hashtag is, does, or when it can be used – though some will inevitably still use it emails, videos, or when speaking. But for the social media population not obsessed with hashtagging every other word, we’re questioning your motives, Facebook. I don’t see the value in stealing others’ mediocre ideas.

How to create Instagram-style photos without Instagram

Instagram is a sinking ship.

Don’t worry, I don’t mean that Instagram is going anywhere. After their $1 billion acquisition from Facebook (well, it ended up being more like $741 million after Facebook’s stock price tanked), they don’t have much to worry about anymore.

Now that Instagram is financially secure and under the protective wing of Facebook, new issues have arisen: the politics of social networks.

In case you missed it, Instagram’s CEO recently announced that they would no longer show Instagram pictures on Twitter. A few days after that announcement, Twitter publicly confirmed that Instagram had fully disabled photo integration with Twitter.

I’ve been a big fan of Instagram for two main reasons: 1) Although they can be easy to overuse, many of their filters do make photos more interesting, and 2) It’s easy for me to share pictures to both Facebook and Twitter through the Instagram app. Now that the second reason is falling apart, I started thinking about what I could do to keep my photos out of this upcoming it’s-our-content-not-yours social network war.

In this article, I’ll show you some apps you can use to make beautiful photos on your mobile phone without having to touch Instagram.


Available for: Android (free, reviewed in this guide), iOS ($4.99)

The Snapseed editor on Android

Snapseed is much more powerful than Instagram, offering a variety and depth of control that I’ve never seen in a mobile photo editing app. But, thanks to Snapseed’s crazy simple user interface, you’ll never feel bogged down with settings or controls.

Snapseed’s interface is based on simple gestures: after selecting one of the editing presets, you can swipe vertically to adjust individual settings like brightness, contrast, and filter strength, then swipe horizontally to increase or decrease the value. My favorite feature is that you can touch the image to switch between the original and your edited version to see how things are going.

Snapseed allows you to share your images through any capable app on your phone, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Snapseed offers several filters, photo frames, and a tilt-shift effect. Although it doesn’t have nearly as many preset filters as Instagram, the photo settings are all customizable so you can effectively make your own filters and save them as favorites for future use.

In case you’re wondering about the price difference between the Android and iOS versions of this app, I’d say it is likely due to the fact that Google recently acquired Nik Software, the company behind Snapseed. Hey, I’m not complaining.

Photo Examples from Snapseed

Left: Original
Right: Contrast Correction +100, Drama Filter +90, Straighten
Left: Original
Right: Contrast Correction + 54, Grunge Filter Style + 444

Pixlr-o-matic and Pixlr Express

First off, what’s the difference here? Both Pixlr-o-matic and Pixlr Express are from Autodesk, the same company that makes AutoCAD, Maya, and 3ds Max (how’s that for name dropping?). The main difference is that Pixlr-o-matic is like Instagram with preset photo filters and almost no editing, and Pixlr Express offers a more robust photo editing experience.


Available for: Android (reviewed in this guide), iOS, Chrome, Facebook – all free

The Pixlr-o-matic editor on Android

By default, this app includes 25 premade filters and has dozens of extra downloadable filters available for free within the app. Pixlr-o-matic’s filters often do much more than most filters I’ve seen, including pop art collages à la Andy Warhol.

The default filters are interesting but I wasn’t blown away by any of them, and one major disadvantage is that photo effects like blurring are built into the filter and can’t be manually applied or removed.

Pixlr-o-matic offers many “overlays” which are transparent effect layers you can add over top of your picture. These overlays can be used to give your pictures vignettes or that “worn, damaged photograph” look.

If you’re looking for an Instagram alternative that offers a ton of premade filters, Pixlr-o-matic might be the app for you. Overall though, I was unimpressed with the app and its user interface seemed to be very clunky and poorly designed compared to Snapseed.

Photo Example from Pixlr-o-matic

Left: Original
Right: Grayson filter (adds the collage effect too), Perga frame

Pixlr Express

Available for: Android (reviewed in this guide), iOS, Web – all free

Pixlr Express editor in Android

Pixlr Express essentially has all of the features that Pixlr-o-matic offers (including the same filters, borders, and overlays as far as I can tell). The biggest difference is that Pixlr Express offers additional advanced photo editing features, and gives you much more control over the individual filters. Also – and more importantly to me – the Pixlr Express’s user interface is much better than Pixlr-o-matic.

I chose to uninstall Pixlr-o-matic and kept Pixlr Express, since Express has all of the basic Instagram-style filters and allows for editing brightness, contrast, red-eye removal, and adding blur. If you feel overwhelmed by a full set of photo editing tools, however, you may want to stick with the simpler Pixlr-o-matic.

Photo Example from Pixlr Express

Left: Original
Right: Focal blur (circular), +22 blurring, +48 color boost, +60 glow


Available for: Android (reviewed in this guide), iOS – both free

Twitter’s new filters

Yep, that’s right, I said Twitter. In response to Instagram pulling the plug on Twitter support, Twitter decided to remind the Instagram guys how hard it is to recreate their product. Apparently, not very.

Twitter just released updated mobile apps for both iPhone and Android that offers filters that are extremely reminiscent of a photo sharing app that rhymes with Blinstagram. They even had time to make a cute little instructional video, so it’s safe to say they’ve had this update in the works for a little while.

The new version of Twitter includes 8 basic filters, including “Vignette”, “Black & white”, and “Vintage”. While they don’t offer much variety or as much dramatic effect as Instagram’s filters, Twitter’s simple swipe-based user interface makes it super easy to select a filter and move on.

Photo Example from Twitter

Left: Original
Right: Vintage filter
Fun fact: If this picture looks familiar, it’s because it is the same hill from the famous Windows XP Bliss wallpaper, which I took near Sonoma, California. It’s no longer a grassy field, and is now covered in grapevines for wine making.


So there you have it: four alternatives to Instagram that can help you make creative works of art out of your mobile photographs. Of course, the one thing these apps don’t offer (Twitter being the exception) is the accompanying social network, which is one of Instagram’s better features. But, if your goal is simply editing and sharing pictures, these apps should work just fine for you (and you can even re-share them on Instagram!).

On a related note, if you’d like to see some of the amazing things that can be done with photo apps like Instagram, check out How I Instagram from randsinrepose. That article was the inspiration for me to find better ways to perform simple edits on photos from my mobile phone, and showcases the amazing results that can be achieved when you put a smart person in control of a simple app.