People like Emojis, I prefer Emoticons :-)

Hieroglyphics are making an unlikely 21st century comeback, and it's all thanks to millennials' insatiable appetite for texting. Young people might hate history class, but they can't get enough of the cute little characters known as emoji, according to Daniel Wroclawski by Reviewed.com.

You're probably familiar with the bright yellow smiling, winking and frowning faces that seem to follow every text message these days. You probably even use them yourself. But you might not be aware that there are more than 1,500 to choose from.

Designed to symbolize everyday objects, expressions and ideas, they range from smiley faces, to foods, to sporting equipment, to holiday decorations and everything in between. And they're expressive enough to act as stand-ins for words or entire phrases.

Their eye-catching designs have propelled them to pop-culture fame, and that's made them fertile ground for research and experimentation by academics and artists. Just last summer, Emoji Dick, a translation of Moby Dick into emoji, was accepted into the Library of Congress. In December, the first all-emoji art exhibition was held in New York City.

Perhaps more important, the sheer diversity of emoji makes them a viable tool for crossing language and cultural barriers -- and could see them effectively become a pidgin language of their own. Italian art director Giorgio Mininno recently used emoji to help teach Chinese students about art, even though he couldn't speak a word of their language.

"The emoji helped them to find new ideas and facilitated the communication with us, sometimes breaking the language gap," Mininno told us. Eventually, he asked his students to create art out of the universally understood characters.

But while the characters seem simple, their meanings can vary in surprising ways.

"An emoji can mean a completely different thing to completely different people," said Nick Kendall. He's the co-creator of Emojicate, an app that asks its users to communicate solely through emoji.

Kendall has noticed this effect while chatting with his friends. Take the dumbbell emoji: Some friends use it to say, "Let's go to the gym," while others use it to tell him to "toughen up."

Despite their global appeal, emoji actually originated in Japan, and their unique cultural roots have created confusion over the intended meaning of certain symbols. Take the icon that depicts a woman with one hand outstretched, palm up. The official name of this emoji is "information desk person."

"There's something about her pose or the look on her face that people have read into," said Matthew Rothenberg, creator of Emojitracker. The site monitors emoji use on Twitter, revealing both real-time and long-term usage trends. "Everyone I know who uses that one, they use it to mean like ... she's the 'whatever' girl. Like, whatever."

(He pronounced that last "whatever" in a dead-on valley girl accent.)

But for all their diversity and flexibility, Mark Davis, president of the Unicode Consortium, says it doesn't take long before emoji users hit a conversational wall. There are only so many ideas the tiny pictographs can convey.

Still, that hasn't stopped people from trying. Some teenagers and young adults routinely converse using more emoji than words -- a trend reflected in the emoji-heavy lyric video for Katy Perry's 2013 hit single Roar.

While the video shows the pop star texting with the well-established WhatsApp messenger, new apps like Emojicate and an upcoming competitor called Emojli are swooping in to capitalize on the fad with specialized, emoji-only chat services.

Emojicate founder Kendall thinks emoji are especially useful because of their artful economy.

"Ten or 15 years ago, the idea that everything can be condensed into a 140-character tweet seemed ridiculous," Kendall said. But a single-character emoji, he argued, can convey the same information as 10 or more letters.

Unicode's Davis said he thinks emoji will be around for the next few years. What they'll evolve into after that is anyone's guess. For now, 1,500 emoji characters will have to do. Which do you prefer, emojis or emoticons?

- As seen in USA Today
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The Selfie Boom: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Infographic courtesy of TeenSafe.com

Apple and Home Depot Tread Lightly on Hacking Attacks

Don’t blame us. That’s what Apple is saying in a very carefully worded statement about the hacking of nude photos of celebrities. “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone,” the company says.

According to a report filed by Richard Davies of ABC News Radio, if any weaknesses or bugs in Apple’s cloud-based systems were found, it would be a major embarrassment. The attacks come less than one week before Apple shows off its new iPhone.

“After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet,” Apple said in a statement. “To protect against this type of hacking attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification.”

Apple says the hacking attack involved user names, passwords and security questions of specific celebrity iCloud accounts.

ABC News’ Alex Stone reports: “In 2012, a Florida man admitted to – and was sent to prison for – hacking into celebrity email accounts and stealing nude photos,”

“He would get a celebrities’ email address and then click Forgot Password on the email welcome screen. When prompted to answer security question – like a mother’s maiden name – he was able to find the answers online and then gain access.”

Home Depot is also dealing with a possible hacking attack. The No 1. home improvement retailer says “we’re looking into some unusual activity.” The company is working with banks and law enforcement, including the Secret Service, after reports of a major credit card breach. “Protecting our customers’ information is something we take extremely seriously, and we are aggressively gathering facts at this point,” a spokeswoman said.

Hackers have broken security walls for several big retailers in recent months – including Target. The rash of breaches has rattled shoppers’ confidence in the security of their personal data and pushed retailers, banks and card companies to increase security by speeding the adoption of microchips into U.S. credit and debit cards.

Supporters say chip cards are safer because, unlike magnetic strip cards that transfer a credit card number when they are swiped at a point-of-sale terminal, chip cards use a one-time code that moves between the chip and the retailer’s register. The result is a transfer of data that is useless to anyone except the parties involved. Chip cards are also nearly impossible to copy, experts say.

The possible data breach at Home Depot was first reported by Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security, a website that focuses on cybersecurity. Krebs said multiple banks reported “evidence that Home Depot stores may be the source of a massive new batch of stolen credit and debit cards” that went on sale on the black market.

The breach may have affected all 2,200 Home Depot stores in the United, Krebs says. Several banks that were contacted said they believe the breach may have started in late April or early May.

“If that is accurate — and if even a majority of Home Depot stores were compromised — this breach could be many times larger than Target, which had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen over a three-week period,” the Krebs post said. Krebs said that the party responsible for the breach may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers suspected in the Target breach late last year.

It’s an open question whether repeated reports of hacking will change consumer behavior. Periodic cases fuel outrage, but there’s no retreat from digital engagement or any imminent promise of guaranteed privacy.

“We have this abstract belief that privacy is important, but the way we behave online often runs counter to that,” said author Nicholas Carr, who wrote the 2010 book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

“I’d hope people would understand that anything you do online could be made public,” Carr said. “Yet there’s this illusion of security that tempers any nervousness. It’s hard to judge risks when presented with the opportunity to do something fun.”

-As seen on ABC
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Could Wearable Tech Like Google Glass Play a Role in Connected Education?

Google Glass Education
Guest post by: Online-PhD-Programs.org

Searching for better selfies

The world needs more selfie-friendly smartphones, said Molly Wood in The New York Times. For whatever reason, smartphone-makers haven’t “gotten the memo and made great forward-facing cameras.”

Selfies remain “unfocused, pixelated, dark, blown-out, backlit, grainy, and worst of all, distorted.” Part of the problem is that better cameras demand “bigger sensors and bigger optics, and that leads to thicker phones.”

Slender devices still dominate the market, “but bigger phones are becoming the rage.” In the meantime, customers looking to take better self-portraits should consider models with more megapixels, such as the HTC One or Nokia Lumia 1020. These cameras can’t take “good” photos, but they’re better than the Samsung Galaxy and iPhone, which both present would-be selfie-snappers with chronic focus and lighting issues. C'mon, get with the program!

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