Friday, December 31, 2010

For a Good Laugh Check out these Flash Animation's

I've got a friend I've known since high school that's a wonderful graphics artist and has a great time playing around with flash videos and cartoons as well. So if you want a chuckle for the day check out his flash cartoons on his site And he's also available for any graphics or flash work you might be needing as well.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Put Your Best Tweet Forward: How to Schedule Tweets for Maximum Exposure

Great article and I've got nothing to add beyond re posting this article.

If you want to find a way to create an effective schedule for Tweeting have provided a great example of how one company crafts their schedule.

They have also shared some great tips and scenarios on using Twitter and how to make the most of this fabulous little marketing tool for you and your business too!

Amplify’d from

Twitter can be an amazing marketing tool. Some would say that strictly from a marketing perspective you get more bang for your (time) buck than you do out of Facebook. Those who find the most success with Twitter know something that others don’t: not all Tweets are created equal. Normally, it’s timing that has the most dramatic effect on success. On Twitter, timing is everything.

Understand The Timing

All of the tips below will go into specifics about techniques you should employ in your Twitter campaigns. They work, but only if you understand some basic Twitter time-etiquette. First, remember the Goldilocks Rule of Twitter Timing: “Don’t Tweet too much. Don’t Tweet too little. Tweet just right.”

People often ask, “How often should I Tweet?” The answer (and it’s not a cop-out) is, “As often as you need while respecting the rules of etiquette.”

An active Twitter account has many advantages. If you have an account with tens of thousands of quality followers, you will want to be in regular communication with them throughout the day. As most business owners check their emails several times during the day, so too should they check their Twitter.

There are three kinds of Tweets you’ll want to use. Replying to people who address you directly is a must and is arguably unlimited in scope. If eight people ask you something or say anything directly at you, replying to them is acceptable and necessary. People like to use Twitter as a communication tool and you won’t make people too upset if you’re popular. Replying to others means you’re active, so you won’t be breaking the Goldilocks Rule.

If you receive several communications per day, you can group them. If a couple of different people give you similar compliments, replying to them both in a single Tweet is fine. If you are not being Tweeted at a lot, you shouldn’t group the ones you get; reply individually.

The second kind of Tweet is conversational:

Searching for Tweets about your niche and starting or joining in on conversations is a good way for smaller accounts to get noticed and to get attached to the right hashtags.

The third, the “money Tweets”, are you marketing messages:

The Goldilocks Rule applies– some will go with one message a day. Others will go with several. It goes back to “as often as you need”. Overtweeting your messages will dilute them and may make some of your followers stop following you.

There is no magic number. It all depends on you, your audience, and circumstances surround the “now” of your messages. More on that at the end of this article.

Know Your Followers

Now that you know a little bit of Twittequette, having an understanding of who is getting the message is a key to knowing when to send the message. If you have a local business, it’s easy. People normally check Twitter in the early morning, before and after lunch, and at night before going to sleep.

For national or global businesses, it becomes more important to spread out your Tweets at different times. Most businesses that operate on a national level can let their Twitter account “sleep”. Even though it’s easy to schedule a Tweet at 3:00 am, your audience will be lower and having an un-manned Twitter account can lead to mistakes. For example, if you Tweet out a special or message at 2:30 am and someone replies, nobody will be there to answer them until much later that morning. However, for a global business, timing is dependent on exposure. Once you’ve sent out enough Tweets you will be able to put the data together and understand the best times to get your message across.

Tweet It Again, Sam

Scenario #1

You have the right message. You’ve molded it into the right piece of content. You have your shortened, tracked URL ready to go.

You’ve crafted the right mix of 110 characters (leaving 30 available for Retweets, of course). You Tweet it and…

… nothing happens.

Nobody clicks. Something went wrong. All of that work wasted. Time to start again with a new message, a new piece of… WAIT!

Don’t give up so easily. You can Tweet it again. And again. And…

Scenario #2

You just had the most successful Twitter post of your life. You Tweeted it in the morning and by mid-afternoon you had hundreds of Retweets and thousands of clicks. It’s time to put that one on the mantle and pat yourself on the back, but only for a brief moment before starting on the next super-amazing message…

WAIT! Just because you had success doesn’t mean you can’t have more success. You can Tweet it again. And again. And…

Depending on how often you have new content to Tweet and how time-sensitive your content is, you may be able to Tweet and Retweet content continuously. There are times when stories get very little posted in the morning but more when reposted in the afternoon. Sometimes, a story never takes off on Twitter, then reposted a week later yields opposite results. Strong content that’s still relevant can often be reposted weeks, even months later for a repeat of the same results.

Twitter will not allow you to post the exact same message over and over again, but you can change up hashtags to repost. All it takes is one different character for Tweets to pass through the duplication filter on Twitter.

Don’t get stuck repeating yourself over and over again, but as a general rule 5 or 6 Tweets in between makes reposting acceptable.

Creating A Scheduling Matrix

One thing that makes Twitter fun is discovery. People use it to learn the latest trends, hear the latest news, and share the latest content. Unless you’re a news organization, chances are you don’t have enough content to keep people engaged constantly. This is where a proper “Twitter Scheduling Matrix” comes into play. Spread your Tweets and reposts properly so that you can stick to a routine that fits both The Goldilocks Rule as well as the personality of your business. If you are Tweeting 5 “money Tweets” per day successfully and you’re only producing 5 pieces of content per week, you will have challenges keeping your Tweets relevant without the matrix.

We’ll use a local business as our example but the same principles can be expanded to fit whatever your business is doing. You have a blog that’s updated twice a week, daily specials, and a new video once per week. In your repository of old but relevant content, you have 30 blog posts and 15 videos. Below is an example of a scheduling matrix you can apply in this situation. This is an actual schedule for a local business in Southern California. The names of the blog posts and videos have been replaced with generic terms. Let’s take a look at the thought process day by day to understand why this matrix works for them:

Daily Special

Every day the special changes. They have one special and announce it at 7:00 am every morning, scheduled well in advance and posting like clockwork. They have a large number of “Twitter regulars” who look at this and often retweet it.

You will notice that Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday they post a different piece of content shortly after their daily specials. Because of the traffic they get on weekdays from their Daily Specials and retweets, they want to take advantage of people visiting their Twitter account. Wednesdays is the exception as the manager who monitors Twitter is making purchases that day.

Based upon “best times” they discovered through monitoring clicks on (or other analytics programs) they plan the rest of their days accordingly.


Perhaps the world moves a little slower on Mondays as we start our work week. Regardless of the reason, the peaks in traffic occur about an hour later than other weekdays. Still, it’s a good day for fresh blog traffic, so one of their two new blog posts of the week launches that morning. At noon, an older video is posted, followed by the repost (with slightly different wording) of their morning blog post. In the early evening, they select a blog post that was very successful for them in the past and repost it before their 10pm “overnight” post declaring that they have Daily Specials at 7am every morning. Monday is the only day they have 6 “money Tweets”.

Tuesday and Friday

These two days have proven to be very similar. No new content goes out since the latest blog post went out the day before. Tuesdays are normally heavy “news” days so there is more competition for eyeballs. Fridays are “bury the news” days when many people are just waiting for the week to end.


Everything gets moved up a bit because of what is happening in real life as the manager in charge is off making purchases. In the morning they shoot their weekly video and post it around lunch time.

Saturday and Sunday

No new posts, just rehashing from the week and in past weeks. The account is not monitored over the weekend but the Daily Special for Monday is posted late Sunday night for the loyal “early birds” to see when they get up and around to start their week.

Overnight posts

Even though we do not have them post anything overnight, we have a different piece of “overnight content” posted at 10pm so that nightowls and early risers have something different every time.

Craft Your Schedule

Terms like “matrix” can make it seem more challenging than it really is. The overall key to success is having a plan based upon real data that you collect and having the right tools to make scheduling your Tweets as easy as possible.

Address your fans as an audience but never try to seem more important than your business really is to them. This is Twitter. The vast majority will not hang on your every word. Penetration and exposure on Twitter becomes more challenging as the site grows and people’s feeds become more loaded. Scheduling properly is everything. Remember, your audience knows what they’re getting into when they follow you. As long as you deliver consistently and without abusing the system, your strategy will flow properly and Twitter can easily become your best social media marketing tool.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End to Federal Tax Deposit Coupons Starts Jan 1st,2011

Starting January 1, 2011, banks will no longer accept federal tax deposit coupons. Instead, deposits will have to be made using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). EFTPS business users can schedule payments up to 120 days in advance of the desired payment date and make their payments by computer or telephone.

Are you keeping up with the ever-changing tax laws and regulations? Need help? If so sign up for our monthly tax news letter or post any questions to any of our blogs or comments.

It's Time for Many Taxpayers to Prepare for Delays and You Can Thank Your Congressman

While Congress and the Senate were patting themselves on the back for their work on the tax bill they were setting in motion changes that came so late that the IRS won't be able to reprogram their computers or make all the changes to the necessary forms until the middle of February at the earliest.

So by waiting and playing politics until the last minute the politicians have again created ciaos and made both the IRS and the American Taxpayer the losers in this game of brinkmanship.

I can only hope that the American Taxpayer will create an outcry that will make it clear that they are tired of this yearly circus. It's time that tax law reform be made in a timely manor and put a stop to the total confusion that such last minute changes make for our citizens and businesses.

The hidden costs and delays such reckless disregard for the American Taxpayer causes is just not acceptable.

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Tax Season To Start Late This Year for Many Filers, Thanks to Congress

So now that members of Congress (and President Obama) are patting themselves on the back after their 11th hour tax deal, the real work begins: the IRS and tax professionals get to explain for the next month and a half why they can’t actually start processing your taxes on time. That’s because even though they had ten years to straighten the tax mess out, Congress approved a tax deal (with some bits retroactive for 2010 filers) at the last.possible.minute.

The idea that the IRS could just throw together some last minute changes on some forms in a couple of weeks is laughable. We knew it. Congress knew it. IRS Commissioner Shulman knew it.

But now we’re all pretending it’s okay because, you know, we have a tax deal.

However, Congress’ delay in getting its collective act together means that tax season will not start on time for many taxpayers. Officially, tax season kicks off on January 14, 2011: that’s when e-file opens and when Free File becomes available. However, taxpayers who itemize deductions on their federal form 1040 Schedule A or who intend to claim the state and local sales tax deduction, higher education tuition and fees deduction or educator expenses deduction will have to wait until mid to late February to file.

The majority of taxpayers will be able to fill out their tax returns and file them as they normally do. We will do everything we can to minimize the impact of recent tax law changes on other taxpayers. The IRS will work through the holidays and into the New Year to get our systems reprogrammed and ensure taxpayers have a smooth tax season.

About one-third of all filers itemize (that works out to about 50 million taxpayers) and several million more are expected to claim those non-itemized deductions which were reinstated.

If you’re affected by the change, you can begin working on your tax return as soon as you receive your forms 1099, W-2 and the like. You just cannot submit them to the IRS for processing until IRS issues the “all clear” for those returns. The delay will affect returns filed by paper and electronically.

Expect a few bounced returns. The IRS is gonna love that. As are paid preparers. You’ve been warned.

My advice? If you’re one of those taxpayers who files early, plan on exercising a little patience this year. Don’t yell at your tax preparers. And don’t shriek at the IRS. They had nothing to do with the delays and they’re working as hard as they can to get through tax season, just like you. Deep breaths.

And if you really, really want to scream at someone, try your Congressperson…


Monday, December 27, 2010

RALs Causality of Government Reporting Changes

Finally the IRS has taken a stand that is stopping many if not most RAL's. And while the IRS has always taken a dim view on Refund Anticipation Loans there recent action on stopping the debt indicator has driven a wooden stake into the heart of the beast.

Even companies like H&R Block are having problems securing a backer for their RAL products and that will potentially put millions of tax payers out on the streets looking for those companies that still can offer them. Right now it looks like Jackson-Hewitt is still going to be offering them but that remains to be seen.

So love them or hate them RAL's will be tough to find this year. But at least the IRS is under pressure to keep refunds flowing at an ever faster pace and tax payers can expect refunds in days anyway so RAL's not being there isn't the problem it would have been only a few years ago.

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H&R Block Announces Glitch in RALs for 2011

If you’re hoping to take advantage of Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) and related products during this tax season, you’re going to have to look pretty hard. Many third party preparers will not be offering those products this year, citing financial difficulties with underwriters.

Some of the financial difficulties stem from the economy. RALs (and similar products) are essentially loans secured by the promise of a tax refund. Fees for tax preparation products and tax preparation services are generally subtracted from the refund amount and the balance issued to the consumer in some form (check, debit card, direct deposit, etc.) in advance of the taxpayer’s actual refund less interest and loan fees.

In a tough economy, banks and other lenders are growing wary of offering consumer loans. Complicating factors, the IRS is sticking to their guns in a statement made back in August to no longer provide tax preparers, banks and lenders with the “debt indicator” that lenders use to determine eligibility for RALs. The debt indicator is an electronic acknowledgment to tax preparers advising whether any part of a taxpayer’s refund has been earmarked for offset due to outstanding tax debts or priority obligations such as unpaid child support or delinquent student loans. In previous years, the IRS provided this information, free of charge, to third party preparers, who then made the decision to offer a variety of loan products depending on the answer. Beginning in 2011, that information will no longer be provided to third parties, prompting many lenders to pull out of the business altogether.

One such lender, HSBC, pulled out of a deal to provide loans to H&R Block, the nation’s leading tax provider. In response, H&R Block took the lender to court and the two eventually reached a settlement for the upcoming tax season where the tax prep service agreed to cover any defaults on loans made by HSBC.

Since then, HSBC has changed its mind. Over the Christmas holiday, HSBC’s banking supervisory agency, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, advised HSBC to stop offering these loan products to H&R Block. HSBC promptly put an immediate end to their contract with H&R Block.

H&R Block has since expressed disappointment at HSBC’s actions but indicated that they have “several other financial products available and under development.” There’s no word yet on what those products will be.

Jackson-Hewitt, the nation’s number two tax preparer, has indicated that it will make RALs and related products available to taxpayers in 2011. The tax prep company relies on Republic Bank & Trust Co. to fund those loans.


It's Not All the Internet When It Comes to Newspaper Decline

Conventional wisdom blames the internet for the newspapers decline in the US and Brittan. But as this poll and some thought show there's much more involved than just free internet content that's behind the problem.

Newspapers in the US have just depended on advertisement sales for way to much of their income. And as advertising as moved to the internet newspapers (and magazines) have lost their primary source of revenue. That loss coupled together with the resulting decline in the quality and quantity of newspapers news coverage is what has spelled their huge losses in readership.

In those areas where newspapers receive more of their income from subscribers and other sources they have fared much better. And with more stable incomes they have kept the quality news reporting that is required to engage subscribers beyond what the free content of the internet can.

So the market changes in advertising and the resulting loss of income are much more the US newspapers underlying problem than the internet. Newspapers in the US (and Brittan) must find ways to address the changing markets not seek to place the blame on the internet.

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Ads, not internet, to blame for newspaper woes: study

It's common wisdom that the long, painful decline of newspaper business models began as the internet blossomed.

The internet is blamed for just about everything, from declining print subscription revenue to freefalling classified ad revenue. But is the common wisdom about the internet and newspapers wrong?

According to a study conducted by Oxford's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, British and American newspapers aren't struggling because of the internet. Instead, they're struggling because they've been too dependent on advertising revenue.

In looking at Scandinavia and Germany, for instance, the study's authors noted that online activity is high, but newspapers in these regions are still doing quite alright. So how do newspapers in Scandinavia and Germany compare to their British and American counterparts? There's one difference that stands out: the former generate on average 50% of their revenue from ads, whereas the latter generate closer to 80% of their revenue from ads.

That, the study authors believe, is a big part of the problem. "Countries like the US, Germany and Finland all have about the same proportion of
internet users
," they write. "However, the American newspaper industry, which has generated more than 80% of
its income from advertisements, is today in a much more serious crisis than its
counterparts in Germany and Finland, where advertising typically constitutes
about 50% of total revenues.

While it's nice to see increasing recognition that there's a lot more to the woes of the British and American newspaper industries than the internet, to pin the blame solely on where revenue has traditionally come from might be a little bit too simple. The British and American newspaper markets have many differences with the Scandinavian and German markets. The numbers make that abundantly clear: of the top newspapers globally, as measured by circulation, only one is German and none are Scandinavian. On the other hand, six of the world's most widely circulated newspapers are in the U.K. and eight are in the U.S. Bottom line: comparing the newspaper markets in different countries to each other is often little more than an apples to oranges comparison.

In reality, British and American newspapers shouldn't 'blame' the internet. And they shouldn't 'blame' advertising either. Blame is pointless. Markets change. The companies that succeed aren't necessarily the ones that are best positioned for the precise changes that occur; they're the ones that respond most ably to it.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Here's to the Crazy Ones

As the new year approaches I wanted to share a post that Apple put out some time ago. I think about it once in a while especially when I'm working on a project or idea that everyone tells me is silly, crazy, or impossible.

And as I read it I remember that most of the worlds greatest accomplishments have been done by those the world thought crazy.

So with that in mind here's Apples toast "to the crazy ones". I'm glad to consider my self in their numbers.

Here's to the crazy ones.

The misfits.

The rebels.

The trouble-makers.

The round heads in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They're not fond of rules.

And they have no respect for the status-quo.

You can quote them.

Disagree with them.

Glorify, or vilify them.

But the only thing you can't do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They push the human race forward.

And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world

Are the ones who do.  Quote attributed to  Apple

FaceBook Passing Google in UK Traffic Count

For the first time FaceBook may have passed Google in traffic on Christmas day in the UK. Hitwise reports that over half the traffic came from FaceBook during the holidays and when the final numbers are counted up FaceBook may have generated more traffic than even Google on Christmas day.

That's an amazing number when you consider that it means that FaceBook is now pushing the combined traffic of not only Google search but YouTube and all it's video content plus all the traffic Google has for it's online apps and it's Gmail traffic into second place.

Of course I'm sure that those FaceBook traffic numbers include a lot of YouTube video content that is watched as embedded video content on FaceBook. But still it's amazing to think that one site could be the center of the web when it comes to traffic generated and yet it produces none of it's own content.

That is the real power of FaceBook when it comes to being a site to envy. It produces those numbers based on your pictures, your contacts with friends and family, your posts and comments on other FaceBook pages, and of course those games like Farmville.

Anyway you get the picture. FaceBook is on top as a destination site and controls much of the traffic on the web yet produces nothing beyond providing a meeting and exchange place. They have the best of both worlds traffic and no cost to create it.

It will be interesting to see how they manage to hold on to number one and continue to grow when they are so high on the mountain. My guess is that they will as least slow down on numbers growth soon and it remains to be seen what effect such a slow down will have on the public's perception of their worth.

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Hitwise Finds Visits To Social Networks Surging

Out of a desire to say "hi" to old friends, reconnect with family members, or perhaps get a moment away from visiting relatives, it looks like lots of people are signing into social networks this month.  Indeed, Hitwise relayed some UK-specific stats today, and the increase has been sharp enough that Facebook might top Google in traffic on Christmas.

We'll head straight into the data so that you can head straight back to poking acquaintances.  Robin Goad reported, "As we get closer to Christmas Day visits to social networking sites have reached a new peak for the year, accounting for nearly 13.5% of all UK Internet visits.  In the last week alone there has been a huge uplift in traffic, with visits increasing by 9.7% from 14 to 21 December."

Next, Goad noted, "More than half of the traffic is being driven by Facebook.  The biggest social site in the world accounted for 57% of all visits to the social networking category in the UK last week and over the Christmas period could create history if it overtakes Google in overall market share online."

That scenario isn't at all far-fetched, by the way; here's a graph of what occurred last year:

It should be interesting to see how the situation turns out in 2010.  Advertisers are sure to keep a close eye on things.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Knowing the Symptoms of Stroke May Save Your Life

During the holiday season we often are under a lot of stress and we over indulge in everything from our eating to our running around. That means it's a prime time to have a stroke so be sure you know the simple signs of someone having a stroke. They use FAST to remember it.... Face, Arms, Speech, and Time.

So make a point of keeping stroke symptoms in mind and share them with others you know. With strokes it's time to treatment that matters most.

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Warning Signs of Stroke

Use FAST to remember the warning signs:



Ask the person to smile.
Does one side of the face droop?



Ask the person to raise both arms.
Does one arm drift downward?



Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase.
Is their speech slurred or strange?



If you observe any of these signs,
call 9-1-1 immediately.


NOTE THE TIME WHEN ANY SYMPTOMS FIRST APPEAR. If given within three hours of
the first symptom, there is an FDA-approved clot-buster medication that may reduce long-term disability for the most
common type of stroke.

Learn as many stroke symptoms as possible so you can recognize stroke as FAST as possible.

Stroke symptoms include:

  • SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body.
  • SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.
Call 9-1-1 immediately if you have any of these

Note the time you experienced your first symptom.
This information is
important to your healthcare provider and can affect treatment decisions.


Friday, December 24, 2010

I enjoy the season because I love the reason Christmas came to be. May gods blessings bring everyone a wonderful Holiday season and a glorious new year.

Can Grassroots News Curation Replace Mainstream News?

News and the way it's coming to us has already seen profound changes but as new and more better sites come on line it's only going to continue to change. As the filtering and depth of coverage increase we will all soon at least augment our TV and Newspaper news with online services that go far beyond the news readers most are now using.

For us news/info junkies it's a wonderful time to be alive.

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The 'interestingness curators' of social news

Maria Popova calls herself an "interestingness curator". On
average 55 times a day, the 35,000 followers of her @brainpicker account are
sent links to "stuff that inspires, revolutionises, or simply makes
us think". It might be vintage photos she's discovered of Soviet
schools in the LIFE Magazine archives, "21 films to
inspire entrepreneurs", or a fascinating new book about sex and
consumer behaviour. In a world saturated in information, Popova
sees her mission as helping her readers "become interested in
things they didn't know they were interested in", thus enriching
their "creative capacity".

It's more an obsessive hobby than a job -- Popova works in New
York for an ad agency -- but to thousands of iPad users @brainpicker now serves as a
radical new form of daily magazine. A free iPad app called
Flipboard turns Popova's links into elegant magazine-style pages
that you can flip through simply by swiping the screen. One moment
you're gazing at a photo essay she's recommending, the next a long
Washington Post investigation she considers important.
Suddenly, you've gained what's missing in the vast impersonal
openness of the internet -- a trusted curator.

In his prescient 1995 book Being Digital, Nicholas
Negroponte, the visionary founder of MIT's Media Lab, described how
customised daily news would one day find you through "personal
filters" that would understand your desires and interests. "You
would consume every bit (so to speak)," he said of this futuristic
virtual newspaper. "Call it The Daily Me." Flipboard isn't it --
but it is an important step towards a level of personal news
curation that lets you cut straight through to what's likely to
interest you. As well as giving you a choice of recommended
link-streams to follow -- apart from Popova's, Flipboard offers
options ranging from the New York Times to fashion
bloggers -- it lets you turn your personal Facebook and Twitter feeds into your very own digital
magazine, based on what your circle is getting excited about. The
more of your friends are linking to a particular item, the more
prominent it becomes in your Flipboard magazine.

Welcome to the new era of social curation. We're drowning in
data: Google's Eric Schmidt is fond of
pointing out that five exabytes (billion gigabytes) of information
were created between the dawn of civilisation up to 2003, yet that
much digital data is now generated in just two days. So we all need
a little help in smartly filtering which of those unmediated news
items matter to us. And though I'd love to think that, as a
professional magazine editor, I know what's right for you, I'm
honest enough to admit that your social network understands your
interests better than I do.

Popova, for one, is convinced. "Social curation is already
beginning to substitute the editorial model of traditional media,"
she says. "More and more, we find out about the latest 'it'
restaurant from our Facebook friends, and Twitter streams are
replacing AP newsfeeds." If I think of my own media
habits, I'm now getting most of my news from carefully selected
people I follow on Twitter, from journalists and politicians to
musicians and science bloggers. Sure, I love the expert curation
that shapes the many high-quality paper magazines I still daily
plunge into -- but my social feeds are now a welcome substitute for
what used to be my daily print newspapers.

It seems I'm not alone: a Pew survey of more than 2,200
Americans recently found that 75 percent of news consumed online
was via links from social networking sites or email. And it's not
just news: TV is about to become a much more socially defined
experience. From Sky to Microsoft, big money is being invested to
let you know what all your friends are watching, so that your
television pulls in whatever content it thinks is most relevant to

As for the wider web, services such as Pearltrees are seeking to
map people's online interests as well as their friends', so that
they can "individually and collectively [be] editors of their own
web". Plenty of Facebook-based services, such as, are making it
easier to follow what your friends "like" as they journey online.
Even clothes-shopping is becoming a socially curated experience:
Diesel stores in Spain now feature the Diesel Cam, which allows you
to try on jeans and then upload photos to your Facebook account to
seek your friends' instant opinions. Even the New York
is backing a personalised news service called
that relies on social sharing.


Christmas Wishes

My best wishes to you all on Christmas eve, Christmas and the new Year.

God Bless you one and all,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Smartphone Apps Again Draw Fire in Major Article

Is it just me or are only the security geeks and nerds of the world worried about our privacy?

I see article after article about this problem and it's been growing all the time both in attention to what's happening and as it's danger to us as users but where is the public outcry?

Wake up it's you, me, our wife's and kids, and even our businesses that are having our data tracked, stolen, sold, and sent to places unknown. Where are the complaints? Where is the out cry for controls being placed on such actions?

It's time that people woke up even though it may be too late. I for one don't cherish the idea that to use a smartphone to send a business text or a private email to someone special that it might be also seen by someone else without my knowledge or consent.

Nor do I think that any person with the money and desire should be able to follow my every movement in the name of helping me find my way or look for a burger barn with a sale on.

Anyway more fodder for the grist mill as PC World weights in on the whole app problem.

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Smartphone Apps Are Betraying Us, Report Says

More than half of iPhone and Android apps routinely share the personal data of their users with outside companies, a Wall Street Journal
investigation has found.

Specifically, 56 of the 101 popular smartphone apps examined by the newspaper were found to transmit the phone's unique device ID to other companies without users' awareness or consent. Forty-seven of the apps transmitted the phone's location, and five sent age, gender, and other personal details to third parties.

iPhone apps transmitted more data than the Android apps did, the study found. Among the worst offenders was TextPlus 4, an iPhone app for text messaging that sent the phone's unique ID number to eight ad companies as well as the zip code, age, and gender of the phone's user to two of them.

"Apple says iPhone apps 'cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user's prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used,'" the Journal reported. Nevertheless, "many apps tested by the Journal appeared to violate that rule." Apple also declined to discuss how it interprets or enforces that policy, it added.

Age, Gender, Location, Unique ID

Music app Pandora was another key offender, with both its iPhone and Android versions sending age, gender, location, and phone identifiers to various ad networks. Both versions of Paper Toss, meanwhile, sent the phone's ID number to "at least five ad companies," the Journal reported, while Grindr--an iPhone app targeting gay men--sent gender, location, and phone ID to three ad companies.

Despite the fact that Apple says apps must ask permission before revealing information, the Pumpkin Maker iPhone app, for example, transmits location information to an ad network without doing so, the Journal found.

Permission is not required on either Apple's or Google's platform to access some forms of the device ID, or to send it to outsiders.

"The findings reveal the intrusive effort by online-tracking companies to gather personal data about people in order to flesh out detailed dossiers on them," the Journal wrote on Saturday.

No Written Privacy Policies

Several of the app makers involved said the data they transmit isn't linked to the individual's name, while details such as age and gender are volunteered by users, the Journal noted.

Yet a full 45 of the 101 apps examined don't even offer written privacy policies, it found; in fact, neither Apple nor Google requires one.

Overall, the most commonly shared piece of information was the unique ID number assigned to every phone; it's known as the "UDID" on iPhones. Such IDs normally can't be blocked or deleted.

‘It's Nearly Impossible to Prevent'

So what can business and individual users do about all this leaking? "Not much," according to the Wall Street Journal.

"It's nearly impossible to prevent cell phone apps from transmitting information about a phone and its owner," the publication wrote.

To restrict tracking by location, the user can turn off the phone's location services, but that might also limit features like maps. And the "opt out" capabilities offered by some mobile marketing companies don't typically apply to apps, the Journal noted.

iPhone users can prevent the transmission of location data by going to "settings" and "general," it suggested; those with iOS 4 can control access even more finely by clicking on "location settings" and scrolling down the list of apps.

At least one ad company offers an opt-out feature by UDID, and Apple says it offers a similar program too, though it doesn't prevent the collection of iTunes data.

Top Suggestions

"The most important thing a user can do is pay attention to the information each app is requesting," the Journal noted.

What's most important to focus on? Among the Journal's suggestions:

* Watch for any app that asks to access "your personal information" in the list of permissions. As I've noted before, sometimes that kind of request makes sense; other times, it doesn't.

* Avoid apps you don't trust that request the ability to "read phone state and identity," which is listed under the "phone calls" heading.

* Turn off location capabilities by adjusting your location settings. As noted above, however, this could mean maps won't work.