Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Vocabulary Lesson: Infosuicide

Infosuicide is when a person removes his or her publicly available information and digitally "disappears." The term is used almost exclusively in the tech/programming community.

A concise definition from Urban Dictionary:
"Disengaging from the Internet via the deletion of all your publicly available information."
So a person has disappeared digitally, but remains alive in the physical world. 
Two well-known examples of this are Mark Pilgrim and _why. (More formally known as "Why the lucky stiff.") They deleted their online presence in 2011 and 2009, respectively.

Neither have provided details regarding their disappearances, but both have since expressed the desire for privacy. I would imagine the regaining control of one's life (as someone who locks down her privacy pretty tightly on her social networking profiles) and privacy may be reasons a person may want to purge his or her digital trail.

Additional Resources:
Infosuicide, Urban Dictionary
Delving into the (online) disappearance of programmer Mark Pilgrim, Daily Dot
What happened when one of the world’s most unusual, and beloved, computer programmers disappeared, Slate

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Technology Lesson: Quora

Quora is a question-and-answer website (and start-up, if that interests you).

The site is much like Yahoo! Answers, but was founded with the purpose of answering questions thoughtfully and intelligently. (I'm sure Yahoo! is not proud of its reputation and ignominy—tread though the Answers site carefully.)

Quora was founded in 2009. It requires users to sign up and answer using his or her real name (not a screenname). Users can connect through Facebook or Twitter (but are not limited to those accounts). Users may also access via an app. Last April, the site had 200,000 monthly visitors. There are at least half a million users.

I'll let Time take over for a moment:
Like many Web 2.0 services, Quora isn't so much a new idea as a fresh take on a leftover concept from the Web 1.0 era — it's a spiritual descendant of long-forgotten 1990s start-ups such as Abuzz, AskMe and Keen. You can post questions and answers on any topic and search for ones that have already been posted, from the mundane ("When did Steve Ballmer become CEO of Microsoft?") to the metaphysical ("Why do people lie?"). As with Twitter, you can follow other members (as well as specific questions); as with Digg, everyone can vote answers up or down, so the best responses are easy to spot and the worst ones stay out of the way.

Nothing extraordinary about any of that. So why is Quora attracting so much attention? It's the community. On an Internet that can feel as if it's inhabited largely by belligerent know-nothings, Quora is a place where the average citizen is an intelligent, well-informed person — and where, in a Lake Wobegon–like effect, most everybody seems to be above average. If you ask a question about a particular Web start-up, odds are that you'll get one or more thoughtful replies. And it won't be the least bit startling if one of them comes from a founder of the company in question. 

One of Quora's appeal is that it is popular in the technology and business world, so questions may be answered by the famed CEOs, presidents, and subjects behind your question. This also means that the questioned may be answered by a person with vast knowledge on the subject, and/or experience. Hopefully, most questions will receive good answers, which will enhance user experience.

I'll let Wired echo the experience:
The amount of knowledge that has been poured into the site is phenomenal. Users ask questions about raising capital, or about booting a cofounder who fails to pull his weight, and almost immediately a discussion sprouts up among seasoned engineers, investors, and CEOs. Sometimes, it’s almost comic how questions will draw cameo appearances from the exact person who can offer the most insight. How did Friendster blow it? Jonathan Abrams, the company’s founder, is among those who posted answers. Why did AOL make a particular decision? Here is former CEO Steve Case weighing in with his perspective. Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen has dropped in to answer questions; so, too, has Reed Hastings of Netflix and Rob Glaser, founder of RealNetworks.
The article notes however, that once you try another topic, the site is a "ghost town."

Still, I like the idea. I also think Old People have make a positive contribution. The site is said to have had a design overhaul within the last year, making it easier to use. Old People have expertise and knowledge at a wide variety of topics. Surely Old People can positively contribute?

Additional Resources:
Does Quora Really Have All the Answers?, Wired
Is Quora the Next Red-Hot Web Start-Up?, Time

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Technology Lesson: Facebook blocking

Most social media outlets include the option to BLOCK other users. This is handy if someone is harassing you. It's great for me when I find that lurking brings me down. Or when I want to maintain a level of privacy with particularly obnoxious people Out There on the Internet.

Hopefully your social media experiences are positive ones. If that's not the case, or you're hoping for the preservation of your sanity, I'm happy to help.

This is a slightly more complicated method than the one at the end of this lessons. It's a good idea though if you have multiple people to block.

1. Log in to Facebook.

2. Go to your privacy settings. (Click the small triangle at the right end of the blue bar at the
top of the screen and click PRIVACY SETTINGS.)

3. Scroll to the bottom. Find BLOCKED PEOPLE AND APPS. Click MANAGE BLOCKING, which you'll find to the right.

4. Go to BLOCK USERS. Fill in the blanks. You only need one. If you fill NAME, type the person's name and click BLOCK. A box will appear with people with that name. If you are blocking John Doe, you might want to try E-MAIL if that person's e-mail is available to you.

5. The person's name will appear under the two fields in blue. UNBLOCK will appear next to the name. You can unblock this person at any time. However, Facebook will make you 24 hours if you want to block the person again.

You can also go to the person's page and click the small cog wheel at the top right of that person's page. 

Click REPORT/BLOCK from the drop down menu. You'll get this:

Click block. If this is a person harassing you, or bothering you, choose from the provided options.

Facebook will NOT contact the person you have blocked. After the person is blocked, you will not see his or her name in the search bar, will not see his or her comments on your wall or anyone else's page

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Technology Lessons: Naming Family On Facebook

Among Facebook's many add-ons and customizations is naming your family members and listing them on your profile.

Distinguishing your kin is very easy. Here's how:


Go to your profile and click EDIT PROFILE. This is listed (for non-timeline profiles, at least) at the TOP RIGHT of your screen and after your credentials in the middle-top section of your profile.

Click FRIENDS AND FAMILY. (It's in the column on the right!)

Click ADD ANOTHER FAMILY MEMBER. (If you have no family listed, this text might be slightly different.) In this lesson, this text link is under the family members I have added.

Type the name of the family relation in the empty box. Facebook will auto-fill from your friends as you type. Click the name of the person you want.

Now choose your relationship between you and that Facebook friend. Facebook's list is based on the gender of the profile (I think).


Note that Facebook will e-mail the user asking you to confirm your relationship.

Your family will be listed beneath your friends on your Facebook profile when the relationships are confirmed.

If you want to remove a family member (or hide him or her) go back to FRIENDS AND FAMILY and click the ARROW next to that person's name:

Click SAVE CHANGES when you're done.