Artificial intelligence behind the wheel?

First spotted on the highway almost a year ago, Google is developing a self-driving car. The company’s fleet of self-driving Toyota Priuses have logged a collective 140,000 miles, 1,000 of those with no human intervention, driving the Pacific Coast Highway, Hollywood Boulevard—and even San Francisco’s Lombard Street, reputed to be the most crooked road in the world. Engineers point out that robot cars, unlike humans, don’t drive sleepy, distracted, or drunk. Though years away from mass production, self-driving cars could transform society, Google says, reducing traffic and saving lives. “Can we text twice as much while driving, without the guilt?” said the car’s inventor, Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and a Google engineer. “Yes, we can, if only cars will drive themselves.” - As seen in The Week

Read these NetLingo blog posts here: http://netlingo.blogspot.com. Subscribe to the posts by clicking on Subscribe to RSS Posts and choosing your RSS reader, or subscribe to the NetLingo blog here!



Stop the Ban of Facebook in Egypt


In November, I've got a lot of tech news updates coming your way so read on...! Alarmed by opposition groups using Facebook to network, the Egyptian government has launched a propaganda campaign warning people away from the site. One opposition group, called the April 6 Movement, has used Facebook to organize strikes and pro-democracy rallies. Another group, of more than 100,000, uses Facebook to lobby Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei to run for president. On state-run TV, Mona ElSharkawy, the host of the country’s biggest talk show, has called for a ban on the social networking site. She warned viewers against its “evil,” saying it can be used by foreign intelligence agencies to gather information about Egypt. Within days, an Egyptian Facebook group called “Stop the Ban of Facebook in Egypt” had formed, attracting thousands of members. Makes you appreciate the fact that you live in the land of the free and can use Facebook any time you like! -As seen in The Week

Read NetLingo blog posts here: http://netlingo.blogspot.com. Subscribe to the posts by clicking on "Subscribe to RSS Posts" and choosing your RSS reader, or subscribe to the NetLingo blog here!



Face it, technology can be a PITA, even for the pros!

This was too good to pass up. Facebook is back in the news today only this time due to a SNAFU with their new Groups feature. Poor boys, they got a taste of what a PITA technology can be for the rest of us. Here's how it went down, no pun intended...

NAMBLA is an acronym for the completely unsavory North American Man/Boy Love Association. (For South Park fans, it refers to the National Association of Marlon Brando Look-Alikes). This acronym became popular after Facebook launched a new Groups feature and suddenly technology blogger Michael Arrington, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis all found themselves added to a Group called NAMBLA.

Apparently Calacanis quickly fired off an email to Zuckerberg saying that he was troubled to have been added to the Group without being given the opportunity to opt-in. It turns out, the Groups feature lets users automatically add existing friends to Groups, but they can't do this with people they don't know.

So how did Zuckerberg get added to NAMBLA then? That's all down to tech blogger Arrington. "I typed in his name and hit enter,' Arrington wrote on TechCrunch. "He's my Facebook friend, I therefore have the right to add him." Arrington added that "as soon as Zuckerberg unsubscribed I lost the ability to add him to any further Groups at all, another protection against spamming and pranks." A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed that Group members can only add their friends to the Group.
Allrighty then,
Erin

Everytime you go online, data miners are tracking your every move!

I've said it before and I'll remind you again, they're watching you! On the Web it's is almost impossible to avoid prying eyes. It's important that you understand how online marketers are monitoring you and what you can do about it. As seen in my favorite magazine The Week, please read on!

How frequently am I followed online?
Constantly. Your computer leaves a unique digital trail every time you visit a website, post a comment on a blog, or add a photo to your Facebook wall. A growing number of companies follow that trail to assemble a profile of you and your affinities. These profiles can contain shocking levels of detail—including your age, income, shopping habits, health problems, sexual proclivities, and ZIP code—right down to the number of rooms in your house and the number of people in your family. Although trackers don’t identify their subjects by name, the data they compile is so extensive that “you can find out who an individual is without it,” says Maneesha Mithal of the Federal Trade Commission.

How does the technology work?
The moment you land on a website, it installs a unique electronic code on your hard drive. Owners of websites originally placed “cookies,” the simplest such codes, on computers for users’ convenience, in order to remember things like the contents of online shopping carts. But a cookie placed by one site can also serve as a tracking device that allows marketers to identify an individual computer and follow its path on every Web visit. It’s like a clerk who sells you a pair of jeans at one store, then trails you around the mall, recording every store you visit and every item of clothing you try on. “Beacons” are super-cookies that record even computer keystrokes and mouse movements, providing another layer of detail. “Flash cookies” are installed when a computer user activates Flash technology, such as a YouTube video, embedded on a site. They can also reinstall cookies that have been removed. Such “persistent cookies,” says Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), make it “virtually impossible for users to go online without being tracked and profiled.”

Who’s doing the spying?
Marketers, advertisers, and those whose businesses depend on them. Most websites install their own cookies and beacons, both to make site navigation easier and to gather user information. (Wikipedia is a rare exception.) But third parties—advertisers and the networks that place online ads, such as Google and iAds—frequently pay site hosts to install their own tracking technology. Beacons are even sometimes planted without the knowledge of the host site. Comcast, for example, installed Flash cookies on computers visiting its website after it accepted Clearspring Technologies’ free software for displaying slide shows. Visitors who clicked on a slide show at Comcast.com wound up loading Clearspring’s Flash cookies onto their hard drives, which Comcast said it had never authorized.

How is personal data used?
It’s collected and sold by companies like Clearspring. Such information can be sold in large chunks—for example, an advertiser might pay $1 for 1,000 profiles of movie lovers—or in customized segments. An apparel retailer might buy access to 18-year-old female fans of the Twilight movie series who reside in the Sunbelt. “We can segment it all the way down to one person,” says Eric Porres of Lotame, which sells these profiles. Advertisers use the profiles to deliver individualized ads that follow users to every site they visit. Julia Preston, a 32-year-old software designer from Austin, recently saw how this works firsthand when she started seeing lots of Web ads for fertility treatments. She had recently researched uterine disorders online. “It’s unnerving,” she says.

Is all this snooping legal?
So far, yes. While an e-commerce site can’t sell to third parties the credit card numbers it acquires in the course of its business, the legality of various tracking technologies—and the sale of the personal profiles that result—has never been tested in court. Privacy advocates say that’s not because there aren’t abundant abuses, but because the law hasn’t kept pace with advancing technology. “The relevant laws,” says Lauren Weinstein of People for Internet Responsibility, an advocacy group, “are generally so weak—if they exist at all—that it’s difficult to file complaints.”

Can you avoid revealing yourself online?
Aside from abandoning the Internet altogether, there’s virtually no way to evade prying eyes. Take the case of Ashley Hayes-Beaty, who learned just how exposed she was when The Wall Street Journal shared what it had learned about her from a data miner. Hayes-Beaty’s computer use identified her as a 26-year-old female Nashville resident who counts The Princess Bride and 50 First Dates among her favorite movies, regularly watches Sex and the City, keeps current on entertainment news, and enjoys taking pop-culture quizzes. That litany, which advertisers can buy for about one-tenth of a cent, constitutes what Hayes-Beaty calls an “eerily precise” consumer profile. “I like to think I have some mystery left to me,” says Hayes-Beaty, “but apparently not.”

How to fight back against data miners
There are ways to minimize your exposure to data miners. One of the most effective is to disrupt profile-building by clearing your computer browser’s cache and deleting all cookies at least once a week. In addition, turning on the “private browsing” feature included in most popular Web browsers will block tracking technologies from installing themselves on your machine. For fees ranging from $9.95 to $10,000, companies like ReputationDefender can remove your personal information from up to 90 percent of commercial websites. But it’s basically impossible to eradicate personal information, such as property records and police files, from government databases. “There’s really no solution now, except abstinence” from the Internet, says Lt. Col. Greg Conti, a computer science professor at West Point. “And if you choose not to use online tools, you’re really not a member of the 21st century.”
Signing off,
Erin

P.S. Read these NetLingo blog posts here: http://netlingo.blogspot.com. Subscribe to the posts by clicking on Subscribe to RSS Posts and choosing your RSS reader, or subscribe to the NetLingo blog here!

New to the NetLingo Blog or Facebook page? Welcome!

Hi, my name is Erin and I am the founder of NetLingo.com ;-) If you are new to the NetLingo Facebook page or NetLingo Blog, I want to personally welcome you!

People tell me everyday "it's tough to keep up with all of this new technology!" I tell them "you're not alone!" It used to be that understanding the Internet was only for computer professionals and web design folks. Now you see technology permeating our lives everywhere and you realize that knowing Internet technology and online communication is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity.

Research shows technology continues to proliferate... there's new software, new hardware, new technologies, new websites, new online services, and new lingo created literally every day. If you're a professional who feels like you're on information overload or a parent who wants to keep up with what your kids are talking about, NetLingo can help you!

Why does NetLingo exist? To track new Internet terms and text and chat acronyms. Others can do that but NetLingo is unique because it’s written by a woman using layman’s language, we are the oldest site who specializes in Internet terms, we have the largest list of text and chat acronyms, and we offer a service that is organized to educate, entertain, and empower you.

NetLingo.com has thousands of definitions that explain the online world of business, technology, and communication, including the largest list of text and chat acronyms. We help everyone from students, teachers, parents, and seniors, to gamers, designers, and techies, to bloggers, journalists, and industry professionals worldwide. NetLingo has been the leading Internet dictionary since 1994 helping millions of people each month understand this new jargon.

Below are just a few of the useful, relevant, and reliable features that can help you learn more each month!

  1. Content is King
    The NetLingo Dictionary
    is structured in an easy-to-read layout and filled with easy-to-understand definitions. Compiled by a woman using layman's language, Erin's purpose is to educate, entertain, and empower you about the language used in the online world. All definitions are cross referenced and sorted by Category to give you the big picture. We encourage you to Add Your Own Lingo and Become an Editor.

  2. Word of the Day Emails
    Sign up to receive any or all four of our popular Word of the Day emails. You can get a daily Online Jargon Term, Online Business Term, Technology Term, and the Acronym of the Day. It's an easy way to learn a little bit at a time... Subscribe here!

  3. Feeds and Widgets
    It's a brave new world and NetLingo understands you want your information whenever and wherever you go, that's why we provide content in various Feeds and Widgets. Once you get the hang of it, you'll love it. You can even subscribe to these feeds so they automatically appear on your "My Yahoo" and "iGoogle" pages: Acronym of the Day, Jargon Word of the Day, New and Updated Terms, and Improve Your Internet IQ Blog. Plus, you can friend NetLingo and follow us on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter!

  4. Tips and Tools to Get With The Program
    We also understand the power of search, that's why we created a Toolbar that lives on your browser and a Search and Browse Box that lives on your website or blog. In addition to our popular Pocket Dictionary, NetLingo is loaded with tips to help you easily learn and reference online information, from Country Codes to File Extensions, from Top 50 Lists to Cyber Safety Statistics, NetLingo offers a free Blog and a paid subscription service called Get With The Program for parents and professionals to stay up-to-date on issues that matter.

  5. Books, apps & PDFs
    NetLingo publishes several products including our new book "NetLingo The List: The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms" and our "NetLingo iPhone app The List: Text & Chat Acronyms". You can still order the original book "NetLingo The Internet Dictionary" along with a series of NetLingo PDF Guides. We're also proud to offer a wide range of recommended reading books and geek gifts.

At NetLingo, our first commitment is you. We are dedicated to providing you the best Internet information and resources possible in order to empower you and your family to enjoy an active online life. To ensure that we live up to our commitment, we keep our content up-to-date and written in our signature style so everyone can easily understand the most amazing invention of our time: the Internet.

If you have any questions regarding NetLingo, don't hesitate to contact me personally.
See you online!
Erin Jansen
Founder, NetLingo.com

About NetLingo:
NetLingo.com is a definitive guide to Internet culture. In business since 1994, we are a consumer-technology publishing company and provider of personalized Internet information and educational tools. These tools motivate tech-conscious people like you to learn, understand and grow in your knowledge of hardware, software and online technology, business and communication. NetLingo has been featured on national radio and television programs including CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Fox News, Good Morning America, The Martha Stewart Show, and NPR, as well as in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, and many more newspapers and magazines.

Hold Everything: NetLingo airs again on The Martha Stewart Show

Erin's appearance on The Martha Stewart Show first aired in April 2010, and aired again July 29, 2010. Below is the link of the show for you to see :-)

Watch NetLingo.com founder Erin Jansen discuss the pros and cons of texting on the Martha Stewart show here!

It is a good thing! With more than 82 million people communicating regularly via text messages, and with limits imposed on the length of texts, these messages can rely heavily on shorthand. So what does it all mean? Erin offered Martha some some basic translation:

* 143: I Love You
* 2moro: Tomorrow
* 2nite: Tonight
* 411: Information
* B4N: Bye for Now
* BITD: Back in the Day
* BFF: Best Friends Forever
* BRB: Be Right Back
* BTW: By the Way
* FTF: Face-to-Face
* IRL: In Real Life
* JK: Just Kidding
* LOL: Lots of Laughs
* NBD: No Big Deal
* NP: No Problem or Nosy Parents
* OMG: Oh My God
* OT: Off Topic
* POV: Point of View
* RT: Real Time
* TMI: Too Much Information
* TTYL: Talk to You Later

Be sure and watch the show by clicking here! You'll learn about "The List" book and iphone app, which you can buy here ;-)
AMBW,
Erin

P.S. Read these NetLingo blog posts here: http://netlingo.blogspot.com. Subscribe to the posts by clicking on Subscribe to RSS Posts and choosing your RSS reader, or subscribe to the NetLingo blog here!

5 Guidelines if you’re gonna "Facebook It"


I can't tell you how many stories I hear from people about the mistakes they make while social networking. Some stories are just funny mishaps, but other mistakes can be quite serious. In an effort to keep it fun but take care of your digital doppelganger at the same time, here are 5 Guidelines if you’re gonna Facebook it:

Rule #1: Don't Ignore Your Privacy Settings
This is crucial. Take a moment and go to Account and then Privacy Settings and read through it so you can choose your privacy settings. For almost everything in your Facebook profile, you can limit access to only your friends, friends of friends, or yourself. You can restrict access to photos (plus birth date, religious views, family information, etc.) or you can give only certain people access to items such as photos. You can even block particular people from seeing certain information. Privacy experts suggest leaving out your contact info, such as phone number and address, since you probably don't want anyone to have access to that information anyway.

Also, if you want to prevent strangers and search engines from accessing your page, go to the Search section of Facebook's privacy controls and select Only Friends for Facebook search results. Be sure the box for public search results isn't checked. Privacy is your right to freedom from unauthorized intrusion, but it's up to you to protect it online!
See also: privacy (including The EFF's Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy)

Rule #2: Don't Post Too Much Personal Information
According to Consumer Reports and Internet child safety advocates, do not post your child's name in a caption. If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name.

Don't leave your full birth date in your profile. It's an ideal target for identity thieves, who could use it to obtain more information about you and potentially gain access to your bank or credit card account. If you've already entered a birth date, go to your Profile page and click on the Info tab, then on Edit Information. Under the Basic Information section, choose to show only the month and day. I know, I know, you've already been told this but you'd be surprised how many people don't act on it.
See also: digital footprint, identity crash, identity theft, open the drapes

Rule #3: Don't “Friend” Guys or Girls You’ve Just Met or Just Started Dating
My 40-year-old single friend's story best illustrates this rule... "I met Ken on match.com a few weeks ago and things were going well. It was technically our 3rd date, but this date involved a long day of 4th of July festivities at the beach along with some younger cousins (30ish) from his side of the family. Drinks were had, food eaten, pictures taken all day long. It was funny, too because I kept hearing the 30 somethings exclaim, as they looked and LOL’d at the LCD screen of their digital cameras, "Facebook it!" Since when has "Facebook it" become the new "Google it?" Anyway, other than the Internet being responsible for yet another new verb added to our lingo, I wasn’t much concerned. My 3rd date with Ken had ended after a beautiful display of fireworks over the Pacific Ocean. Was I really starting to like this guy? Hmmmm, kind of, but the verdict was still out.

Monday morning, coffee in hand, it’s back to the grind, but of course not before checking in on Facebook. Sleepily, I read through the various postings and I come to Ken’s, posted 22 min’s ago. He and his cousins had posted AND TAGGED me in every photo taken! EVERY photo was now on MY profile! OMG, how many people had seen these??? I mean, its not that there was anything incriminating in the photos, but I just wasn’t ready for my closest friends and family and business associates to see my personal life. SO up close and personal. I don’t even know if this guy’s gonna be in my life next week, you know!? Not two seconds later, my phone rings and it’s my Italian mother wanting to know every detail. "Who’s she and he? And wow, is that his place? Whose dog?" "Oh you look so happy in the pictures!" "Tuck your tummy in!" After getting rid of her, so I could tend to (not my first) social networking crisis, I promptly began searching my privacy settings, which I really knew nothing about. I just frantically clicked everything off and then called people, "What can you see now? Are they gone???!" After a few tries, I finally found the way to untag all the photos and some courage to bring up my first “talk” with Ken. Ugh, not sure what is worse: online dating or social networking! But the two combined is definitely not for me! In the end, Ken understood my greater need for privacy and understood why I untagged the photos. I am happy to report we are still FB friends but no longer exploring a possible relationship (a mere 3 days later and he told me he "wasn't feelin it," my earlier point exactly). Maybe dating and social networking can co-exist when you put some basic guidelines in place."
See also: online dating, social networking, anti-social networking

Rule #4: Don't Use a Weak Password
According to Consumer Reports and online privacy experts, avoid simple names or words you can find in a dictionary, even with numbers tacked on the end. Instead, mix upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. A password should have at least eight characters. One good technique is to insert numbers or symbols in the middle of a word, such as this variant on the word "houses": hO27usEs!
See also: cryptic password, leetspeak

Rule #5: Don't Permit Your Kids to use Facebook while Unsupervised
Facebook limits its members to ages 13 and over, but children younger than that do use it. If you have a young child or teenager on Facebook, the best way to provide oversight is to become one of their online friends. Use your e-mail address as the contact for their account so that you receive their notifications and monitor their activities. "What they think is nothing can actually be pretty serious," says Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. For example, a child who posts the comment "Mom will be home soon, I need to do the dishes" every day at the same time is revealing too much about the parents' regular comings and goings.
See also: facebooking, FBOCD, generation y, screenagers, tween, texting
YAFIYGI,
Erin

The 5 Guidelines if You’re Gonna "Facebook It" is online at http://netlingo.blogspot.com. Subscribe to the posts by clicking on Subscribe to RSS Posts and choosing your RSS reader, or subscribe to it here!

To Be Transparent or To Rebel?

That is the question of the digital age. The following editorial, as seen in The Week by William Falk, help illustrates the point... "Have you ever sent a snarky e-mail you wouldn’t want published? Made a cutting comment, entre nous, about a colleague or boss or friend? Said or written or texted something that could, if known to the world, get you fired or shunned in polite company? For shame! You are not being transparent.

Transparency, you see, has become the ultimate virtue of this digital age; only Luddites, still mired in the 20th century, cling to outmoded notions of privacy. Virtually every week now, some CEO, journalist, or minor celebrity is fired or humiliated because of an e-mail he or she assumed would be seen by one other person, or an off-hand remark that got tweeted. But as the digital media bites the hand that types into it, The New York Observer reports this week, a backlash against total transparency has begun.

When every person armed with a tiny keyboard is a reporter, the digerati are discovering, casual gatherings of friends turn into a minefield. Any bit of candor, any crude joke, any drunken cell phone photo from the bar may be tweeted or blogged or Facebooked to the world, and thus become part of your indelible Web profile. Even in casual conversations, hip young Manhattanites are acting like Supreme Court nominees, “watching what they say with unprecedented vigilance.’’ It makes me grateful to be a Luddite, with no Twitter feed documenting the thoughtless remarks that sometimes come out of my mouth, and no Facebook photo of that night in South Beach when I put an ice bucket over my head. So which will it be: total transparency, or rebellion? Rebel, I say! But please, don’t quote me."

See also: digital doppelganger, digital footprint, drug dump, open the drapes, open your kimono
CYO,
Erin

The Free 411 Info Service by Google


It's called Google 411 and it rocks! If you haven't heard of it yet, you absolutely must try it. Both free and easy... all you do is call 1-800-GOOG-411 (which is 1-800-466-4411), say where you are and the business you're looking for, and it will connect you for free (which means no more 411 info charges on your cell phone ;-) You can also use Google 411 to text in your query and it'll text back what you're looking for. I tried it and ended up using it again and again... now it's programmed into my phone and it's the NetLingo go-to 411 service. Sometimes big paradigm shifts come in small packages. Watch this quick video to learn more!
With the 411,
Erin

The List: Text & Chat Acronyms iPhone app

If you haven't downloaded it yet, now is the time! As seen on The Martha Stewart Show, the new NetLingo iPhone app is here!

The List: Text & Chat Acronyms
(this link will launch iTunes)

Whether you're a parent who wants to know what your kids are online chatting about, or a texting or chat addict who needs the latest acronyms, this app is for you! Powered by NetLingo, the largest library of texting, chat and IM acronyms and abbreviations on the web, this handy application provides an instant reference to over 1800 acronyms, plus 230 smileys.

Each acronym, abbreviation and smiley is defined and additional information such as acronym origin, usage, and classification is provided. Free future updates will include new acronyms and smileys from our ever-expanding database, plus enhanced application features such as lingo search, cross-linked acronym references, and the NetLingo.com "Word of the Day" feeds direct to your app. Happy messaging!

Special Offer: For a limited time, buyers of version 1.0 will receive a future free upgrade to NetLingo Premium upon it's release, which will include the ENTIRE NetLingo dictionary of online jargon for everything from business to technology to organizations, and more ;-)
Learn more about the NetLingo iPhone app here!

2G2BT,
Erin

OMG! Here's Erin on The Martha Stewart Show

At long last, Erin's appearance on The Martha Stewart Show aired in April 2010. They didn't let us know in advance :-( but we got the footage for all to see and they say it will air again :-)

Watch NetLingo.com founder Erin Jansen discuss the pros and cons of texting on the Martha Stewart show here!

It was a good thing! With more than 82 million people communicating regularly via text messages, and with limits imposed on the length of texts, these messages can rely heavily on shorthand. So what does it all mean? Erin offers Martha some some basic translation:

* 143: I Love You
* 2moro: Tomorrow
* 2nite: Tonight
* 411: Information
* B4N: Bye for Now
* BITD: Back in the Day
* BFF: Best Friends Forever
* BRB: Be Right Back
* BTW: By the Way
* FTF: Face-to-Face
* IRL: In Real Life
* JK: Just Kidding
* LOL: Lots of Laughs
* NBD: No Big Deal
* NP: No Problem or Nosy Parents
* OMG: Oh My God
* OT: Off Topic
* POV: Point of View
* RT: Real Time
* TMI: Too Much Information
* TTYL: Talk to You Later

Be sure and watch the show! You'll hear about "The List" book and iphone app, which you can get here ;-)
See you online!
Erin

Chat Roulette: Chat + Video = Obscene

I’ve tracked a lot of online trends but the newest craze to sweep the Internet

is one of the most shocking developments to date. It’s the website Chat Roulette and it instantly pairs strangers from around the world in a “chat and webcam” interface that allows users to talk to, write, see and hear each other.

I’m told the website was not made to be dangerous, but because of its simple nature, it allows anyone (including kids) to easily turn on their webcam and instantly see and talk to strangers. As you might surmise, a majority of the pictures via webcams contain obscene images, including nudity and sexual activity, truly shocking when you consider it is all in real time.

I first discovered Chat Roulette when Fox News ran a story on it and featured NetLingo as the source for parents to stay up-to-date with online language (watch the TV show here!). But it was a friend of mine who accurately brought the obscenity of this service to light.

When she told me the following story, I was stunned and I realized the best way to describe Chat Roulette to you is to tell her first-hand account. Two things should be noted: (1) this story is not for children 12 or under and (2) the narrator is my modern day, 43-year-old best friend who is an artist and not much shocks her, but she is also a parent and when she saw Chat Roulette, she was mortified. “What happened?” I asked. Here’s what she said…

“I went over to my boyfriend’s house and it was the usual scene: his youngest son (Franky, age 16) was at his computer making crazy, weird music while on Facebook, and my boyfriend (Allen, age 48) and his oldest son (Jake, age 19) were hanging around his computer looking at different t-shirt sites because they’re going into an online business together. So it’s the typical post-modern, nuclear family evening where we’re all gathered around the dinner table but everyone is on their computers, and suddenly Jake says to me “have you heard of chat roulette?” I said no and my boyfriend was like “OMG, you’ve got to see this, it’s unreal!” (at which point I got the distinct impression that he had probably looked at it a couple of times himself). So we logged on to chatroulette.com and honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same….

Once you get there you have to create an account and login, so while Jake is doing that, we position ourselves so that he’s sitting in the middle with the laptop, and I’m on one side and Allen’s on the other, so whoever he’s talking to can’t see us but we can see the screen. Bascially when you get there, you land on this page and it’s crudely set up like IM and there’s a video camera, and so he starts by clicking through to the first person. That’s how it works: you click a button and it randomly takes you to someone else who is logged on with their video camera and viewing and being viewed on this site. The first thing I noticed is that most of the people on there are old men! Not only that, but they’re just sitting there, mind numb, staring into the screen, waiting for someone to talk to them. Allen was like “it’s so sad, look at this, these people are sad, it’s pathetic” and we all agreed.

Of course Jake doesn’t want to talk to these men, he wants to talk to girls or other teens, so he keeps shuffling through chat partners, when the next thing I noticed is that along with old men waiting for someone to talk to them, it is also mainly men masturbating. Not only that, these men have positioned themselves to fill up the entire screen! We were literally watching strangers jack off as up close and personal as possible! We couldn’t believe it, we’d scream, and he’d click the button to take us to the next anonymous, random, who knows who, chatter. We must have seen at least 10 masturbators within 10 minutes! :-0

There were also lots of screens that just had pictures or an image in front of the webcam, like a twot-shot, but it wasn’t a person, it was a video that was looped over and over again showing a woman masturbating. We were like WTF? Someone put up a looped video of a vagina? What is the world coming too? It was unreal! And we did see young girls too (not really older women but mainly young girls) naked and half naked. I couldn’t believe how hideous it all was. In addition to being able to see everything, you can also chat with these people by IM, and even talk to them which also means they can hear everything you’re saying. Talk about online privacy gone awry.

Finally Jake stopped on a girl that looked to be about 15 who was a little on the heavy side and basically topless (she had positioned herself so you couldn’t yet see her nipples) and they had a small interaction: she said hi and asked him if he was horny, he said IDK, she said she could hear music in the background, and he typed I can dance, and she said let me see you dance. Of course we’re all ROTFL in the background, and suddenly Jake rips off his shirt and starts dancing, at which point it was the girl who decided to shuffle away from him! Too funny.

Then we landed on a chat screen with these 3 teen guys who were wearing sunglasses, smoking pot, and listening to loud music. So Jake was like “Yo” and they were like “Hey” and then Franky ran and got this weird walking cane that looks like a shrunken voodoo head and everyone was laughing so hard that Allen and I accidentally leaned into the video camera radius and the boys were like “OMG, who’s that old man?” And then clicked away and they were gone.

Here’s the deal: I’m an artist and a parent and not a lot of things shock me, but with this, not only did the people that were on there and what they were doing alarm me, but the complete uncensored access of it filled me with a kind of distress. Granted there’s a disclaimer at the beginning, but despite the warning, all kinds of pornographic and inappropriate behavior is going on. As a parent of a teen, I was horrified to realize that my son could not only be exposed or participating in this, but also abetting other minors in online porn (or pron as the kids say). Those girls were not adults. The only adults on there were the old men, waiting, staring mind numb at the screen probably for hours. It was creepy.

It also scared me because I know what I was like when I was a teen (which was 25 years ago) and if me and my friends would’ve known about this site back then, it would not have been good a good thing, at all. Frankly, we would’ve been exposed to appalling things which at that age can be damaging, and we would’ve ended up in trouble. The fact that kids are so much more modern these days, and have such easy, unrestricted access to such vulgar images is frightening. If ever there’s been a time for you, the parent, to stay informed about exactly this kind of stuff, it is now!” - Special thanks to my friend for sharing her story!

Here are the facts: Chat Roulette started in late 2009 but didn’t gain worldwide attention until early 2010, when several thousand people at any moment could be found on the chat service. It’s for this reason, many parental groups say kids should not be on Chat Roulette at all (or any video chat service for that matter). While the website has a “report this user” feature, there is no way to protect children 100 percent of the time. In addition, to keep them from partaking in any kind of obscene Internet meeting, kids should not be allowed to have computers and webcams in their bedrooms.

The solution is not filters and monitoring software alone, these cannot guarantee your kids will not see obscene content online. Parents must be proactive in personally monitoring Internet usage. And as my friend said, moms and dads need to stay up-to-date so you can have open, educated conversations with your kids about the risks involved when communicating in the online world. That’s why NetLingo offers a subscription service called "Get With The Program" specifically for parents and professionals. Launching next month, June 2010, sign up here to get an update! In the meantime, check out Chat Roulette if you must, but don’t say you haven’t been warned!
HCC batman,
Erin

Erin Jansen is an expert in online communication. She is the founder of NetLingo.com and author of “NetLingo: The Internet Dictionary” and “NetLingo: The List” - the largest collection of text and chat acronyms. Erin writes to educate, entertain and empower people worldwide about the language used in the online world. In addition to updating the online dictionary, she offers several free Word of the Day emails, a blog and a subscription service to help you improve your Internet IQ ;-) Learn more at www.netlingo.com

Internet addiction: Curfew on gamers

In international tech news, South Korea has imposed a gaming curfew to try to crack down on what authorities call an epidemic of Internet addiction among the young. The Culture Ministry announced this week that anyone under 18 would be blocked from accessing three popular online computer games after midnight. Many other games must add features that will drastically slow the speed of Internet access once a gamer has been logged on for a certain number of hours. The measures come in response to a rash of incidents that shocked the nation in recent months. In one case, a couple was charged with letting their infant starve to death while they raised a "virtual child" on the Internet. Whoa, as seen in The Week.

Okay, so why do we care about this? Internet experts look for trends coming out of South Korea because they embraced mobile technology and gaming much earlier than the U.S. did. Read my previous post about Internet addiction and take the test! Do you know someone who is borderline addicted to the Internet?
Post your comment here...

Apple's new iAd challenges Google in mobile ads


Advertising is everywhere, and now it's going to be on your iPhone apps. Apple has thrown down a direct challenge to Google's mainstay business of online advertising, announcing plans to introduce a mobile advertising platform called iAd, said Tom Krazit in CNET.com. The iAd platform will allow marketers to create advertisements that appear within apps for the Apple iPhone. The ads can be programmed to appear on the iPhone before the app begins playing. Apple hopes iAd will pry advertisers away from Google by offering them a chance to reach a captive audience using one of the premier mobile devices on the planet. As seen in The Week, what do you think about online advertising infiltrating your cell phone someday? Post your comment here!

Supertaskers: The rare few who can multitask

Several studies have shown that it's impossible for most people to concentrate on two or more things at once --homework and Facebook updates, for example, or driving and talking on the phone. But new research has found that about 2.5 percent of the population are supertaskers, capable of multitasking without suffering a decline in performance. University of Utah researchers set up 200 volunteers in a driving simulator and gave them each a cell phone. As they drove, they had to hit the brakes occasionally to avoid hitting a virtual car in front of them; meanwhile, they had to respond to a series of word and math tests through their phones.

The vast majority of subjects were terrible at multitasking: They were 20 percent slower to hit the brakes and performed worse on the phone-mediated word and math tests. But to the surprise of the researchers, one in 40 people excelled at performing two tasks at once, indicating that they could simultaneously concentrate on driving and a challenging phone conversation. There is clearly something special about the supertaskers, study author tells LiveScience.com. It may be that human beings have only recently developed the skill, he says, or it may be that some people's brains naturally have the ability to handle several tasks at once. Researchers now plan to study fighter pilots, chefs, orchestra conductors, and TV producers to see if there is a high percentage of supertaskers in some professions. Meanwhile, they warn against assuming you're one of the exceptions, since the odds are so heavily against it ;-)

Only one out of 40 people can pull it off... do you know a supertasker? I do. Post your comment here!

Do iPods cheapen music?

Like millions of music lovers, Steve Almond of the Los Angeles Times was thrilled with the advent of iTunes and iPods. "Suddenly, not only could I download virtually any song I wanted, I could easily organize my music and have it with me at all times.

But I'm starting to wonder whether supreme convenience has impoverished the actual experience of listening to music. When I was a kid in the prehistoric '70s, listening to music took time and commitment. After rifling through my collection, I'd put an album on the turntable, drop the needle, and sit around and melt into the music, often reading the lyrics from the album cover. It was not something I did while working on homework, let alone while checking email or thumbing out text messages. It was a transcendent event, with real emotional impact. These days, the ease with which we can hear any song at any moment we want, no matter where we are, has diluted the very act of listening, rendering it just another channel on our ever-expanding dial of distractions. Music is more accessible than ever, but it's also less sacred." -As seen in The Week

What do you think, do iPods cheapen music?

The PC: Miraculous but boring

Where's the sense of wonder? asked David Fearon in PCPro. The story of personal computers is one of "amazing semiconductor and materials science," astonishing leaps in processing power, and cleaver engineering that makes e-mailing and Web surfing quick and easy. But if you try to engage someone in a conversation about computing power, you'll soon notice they're wearing a glazed expression. You won't hear any admiration for "all this massive investment, all this science involving some of the world's finest minds." That's because "computing technology is assimilated into everyday life with such speed and regularity, we don't even notice that we should be amazed." We think nothing of firing up a browser, searching the Web for "fun games," and moments later playing "a game running in a Flash plug-in, running in a tab, running in a browser, running in a window, running on a multi-windowed operating system." Yet just a few years ago, that now routine scenario was inconceivable. That's computing for you. "It's a humdrum, everyday sort of miracle, but a miracle nonetheless." -As seen in The Week

Generation me, myself, and I

It's a frequent complaint among parents: Young people today are spoiled, self-centered, and have a huge sense of entitlement.

A new study has found evidence that it may be true. Researchers examined the results of a standardized personality test given to college students nationwide between 1994 and 2009. Called the narcissistic personality inventory, the test measures the respondents' degree of self-regard through a questionnaire that asks them to choose among such statements as, "I insist upon getting the respect that is due me," or, "I usually get the respect I deserve." (Narcissists favor the former.) The portion of students who registered as having high narcissism surged from 18 percent in 1994 to 34 percent in 2009. Psychologists have been debating the mixed results of various studies on whether self-centeredness is rising, but San Diego State university psychologist Jean Twenge tells Discovery News that she is "extremely confident" about her findings. It is clear narcissism is rising," she says. - As seen in The Week. Read a related blog post here.

So what do you think... are young people are becoming more narcissist and do you think social networking sites are a contributing factor?

Lessons from the European Dating Front

Russian brides are passe, says Petra Prochazkova in the Czech Republic's Lidove noviny. Now it's Russian men who are wooing women's hearts all over Europe's online dating websites.

"It may seem unlikely --after all, Russian women tend to see their men as drunken layabouts and filthy primates. But in the eyes of foreign women, Russians are "real men, at once romantic, kind hearted, and mouthwateringly manly." Czech and other European women are tired of the West European males on offer, "these bespectacled intellectuals or bland, boring bankers. We have our own intellect and education --we don't need a partner who reads nonfiction in bed. What we need "is a he-man, one of those real guys with a rugged complexion, weather-beaten by the Siberian winds." In surveys that measure this sort of thing, Russians currently come in third among the most attractive men in the world, "right after Italians and Americans." So even though many of them "dress like mobsters" and have absolutely no taste, they can afford to be selective in choosing their ladies. European men take note. "Women find a buttoned-up, humorless miser to be a far worse mate than your garden-variety Russian drunk." - As seen in "The Rise of the Mail-Order Russian Groom" in The Week.
MfG,
Erin

Real-time bidding: An invasion of privacy?

I love this editorial, it's by my favorite editor at The Week, Eric Effron. "If you are creeped out by those online ads that seem to know far too much about us --"Looking for a divorce lawyer?" "Need to lose weight?"-- then brace yourself.

Marketers are starting to employ a new technology, dubbed real-time bidding, that enables them to target messages based on what we're doing online at that very moment. Apparently, it's not enough that ads for everything from CDs to cosmetic surgery are now generated according to our recent Internet searches, Facebook postings, and even the content of our email. Now, if you make an online purchase of, say, a golf club, within milliseconds companies can buy online ad space from Google and other search engines to pitch you golf balls or golf vacations. The technology, Google's Neal Mohan tells The New York Times, "delivers on the promise of precise optimization."

Personally, I'm not sure I want to be precisely optimized. Then again, maybe it's better than all the imprecise optimization that goes on in the nonvirtual world. According to a recent study, every day, the average American is exposed to some 3,000 commercial messages, subtle and otherwise. That may seem hard to believe, until you remember that ads zoom past us on busses; greet us at the gas pump, in elevators, and at urinals; are stamped on eggs and other products we take home; have infiltrated movies and TV shows in the form of product placements; and, thanks to naming rights, have co-opted the identities of major sports stadiums and even school gymnasiums. If this all leaves you feeling a bit queasy, consider this: "Airlines have even sold ads on motion-sickness bags." - Eric Effron, The Week

Okay, so what did we learn here? Mainly that cloud computing programs, such as Google's Gmail program, can scan your email messages to deliver relevant online ads to you (doesn't sound like a good thing). We also learned more about contextual-based advertising (could possibly be a good thing if it ever gets here). The thing to keep in mind is protecting your privacy and limiting your use of too many online services. Read up about your digital footprint and see my shocking previous post on Google and privacy issues here.
B4N,
Erin

How about this: Getting disconnected

My best friend was on a conference call today where she heard of a new malady facing the human race: disconnect anxiety. I knew immediately what she meant, having experienced it at times myself, but wow, it’s always interesting not only to hear that others have a similar dysfunction, but that there’s an actual term for it. Hey, that's my job, tracking terms.


“Disconnect anxiety” describes what happens to people when they get cut off from their technological source: cell phones, email, social networking sites, blogs and the Web. We’ve seen it and experienced it, but isn’t that also the very definition of a SNAFU?

BlackBerries become CrackBerries, believe me I get it, this is the industry I work in. But when you finally unplug for a decent amount time, you see that the real world is still even more fascinating. In fact, just recently--back from a three week trek in South America with very little online access and “no, we didn’t bring our laptops”-- I must say I found my unplugged sojourn completely liberating. I was more present and enjoying the moment and the world around me. In fact, everyone was ;-)

The latest research shows that 68 percent of Americans suffer from occasional disconnect anxiety when away from a computer or cell phone: feelings that range from general discomfort to inadequacy and panic. Okay, time out… I think everyone needs to take even a mini-digital vacation, don’t you?

Try it. Unplug for a day… okay, maybe 4 hours. Disconnect from the motherboard and take a stroll, look up at the sky, watch the clouds. Whatever you do, just remember that life happens off the grid, too. The Internet is here to enhance our lives, not be our lives. So, connect back to yourself, the Web will always be there when you return.
Ciao,
Erin

Tasty Tech Tidbits: South American Style

I just returned from vacation in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Peru, and along the way I enjoyed learning a little about the tech industry in South America!

For example, did you know Latin America is the world's growth leader in terms of computers-per-person? In education, Uruguay is a pioneer in implementing the dream of Nicholas Negroponte: one laptop per child. Uruguay has also implemented "Zonamerica" a technological free-trade zone on the outskirts of Montevideo. Nearby neighbors like Brazil, Argentina, and Peru have backed various official stimulus packages for [[infopreneur|infopreneurs]], as well as laws to protect and encourage local [[software]] development. I find these examples to be exciting and it makes me reflect on the opportunity the region has to keep narrowing its digital divide!

A particular highlight in the tech field is Chile. With an initiative that managed to make headway in the demanding world of the social media networks that are so popular these days, Chile has emerged as a technological frontrunner. However, even though an enormous amount of faith has been put on the viability of social networks to facilitate communication during catastrophes (like the recent earthquakes in Chile and the [[Twitter]] rallies worldwide), it was also made very clear to me that both foreign service programs and national human volunteers are still necessary factors in delivering serious relief.

I also discovered the fact that Chile's earthquake has scientifically shortened the day. The geek inside me finds this intriguing ;-) As if the day weren't already short enough, it just got a little shorter according to a report in The Week. The massive, magnitude 8.8 earthquake that rocked Chile on Feb. 27 was so deep and strong that it redistributed the Earth's mass slightly; that movement shifted the axis by about 3 inches, enough to speed up the Earth's rotation. The faster it rotates, the shorter the day. Experts estimate the day is now 1.26 millionths of a second shorter than it used to be, and even though it sounds like an infinitesimal reduction, it is something that will last forever...

Claro! South America is incredibly impressive, and fun and full of light and life ;-) At the tech event I attended in Santiago, sponsored by Chile Ayuda, someone asked "Are you a tech entrepreneur?" "Of course," I said. "Well, I've got a suggestion for you: move south. No, I don't mean to Los Angeles or San Diego, I'm talking about way down south in Chile. They'll welcome you with open arms and offer you incentives." "Thanks for the tip!" I replied. And then I looked at my friend and thought hey, I may need to check this out...
C4N
,
Erin

One of my favorite terms is silver surfer...


...and "silver surfer" is the NetLingo Jargon Word of the Day today ;-)

A silver surfer is an adult, generally 50 years of age or older, who frequently surfs the Web and spends time online ("silver" refers to the color of their hair).

Unlike neophytes, silver surfers are considered netizens, experienced users of the net. The phrase silver surfer is commonly heard in the U.K., but applies to midlife adults (generally those in their 40s, 50s and 60s), and seniors (age 70 and over) everywhere. Here are a few humorous U.K. expressions I get a kick out of: BHIMBGO, BHOF, BARB, WOOF

The fact is surfing the Internet is great exercise for the aging brain! It helps keep you mentally sharp and feeling connected. Read my prior post "Know Any Silver Surfers? Get Them Online!" here. There are several online communities dedicated to silver surfers, in fact ThirdAge.com is definitely worth checking out. And if you haven't already done so, subscribe to the NetLingo Jargon Word of the Day here!
Cheers to the WOGs,
Erin
p.s. If you like the comic book character Silver Surfer, you should quick meet Surfus too...

Just another day in the life of Web head


I was catching a little junk sleep in the cube farm this morning when I woke up and suspected that a carnivore had attacked my inbox. I had a drunk mouse and sure enough, my zen mail messages had been carpet bombed and the bots , spiders and Trojans were winning the war against my firewall. I called tech support, who gave me the usual technobabble which bottom line meant it was going to be an all day repair job.

I could see from my peer-to-peer networking system that the net.god upstairs in the nerve center was trying to fix the problem and boil the ocean at the same time, the digiterati in the next cubicle were working on some new neologisms, and the neo-luddites across the way were talking about the latest in netsploitation. The network pirate two doors down was looking sinister this morning and the rest of the geeks, like me were just checking out the shareware girls as they, and the rest of the cappuccino cowboys, came to work.

I still considered myself a wild duck so decided it was the moment to take the nerd bird and pitch my shrink-wrap software, technopuppet idea to a guerrilla marketing drive-by VC in the Valley, Mr. Joe Letsdoit. I grabbed my smart phone, Googled it, then MapQuested it (I still like it better than Google Earth ;-) and headed for the airport before my seagull manager arrived. Within a few hours I was in Joe’s office ready to do my dog-and-pony show. Joe turned out to be pretty much of a drump and today he was experiencing a little ticker shock. He immediately asked me to open my kimono before even signing an NDA. I did, he groked my idea, but was already looking for a way to greenwash it. He said he had to keiretsu the idea and would get back to me.

I made the barbie bird flight back, stopped by Sharper Image with the rest of the technojunkies and made it home in time to work on my text-to-speech app for tomorrows office presentation by yours truly, the demo monkey, also known as waldo. The current look is cross of cornea gumbo and angry garden salad, but my main purpose tomorrow is to make sure everyone is eating our own dog food. That is, of course, if the tier zero propellerheads in IT haven’t jerry-rigged my system. Oh well, at least it wasn't a total salmon day. HIOOC, better head to *$ before I burn the candle at both ends, C4N!

Lifestreaming: The New Over Flow of Info

Trying to stay on top of technology is no easy task. Fortunately it is one that I love. Especially when I get to learn about new and intriguing technology that ultimately impacts us users. And then I get to try and explain it ;-) but for me that's the fun part.

Take lifestreaming for instance...

I just read an excellent column by Paul Gillin in BtoB who recently joined the Posterous parade and subscribed to Google Sidewiki. You've got to love a columnist who's second sentence out of the gate is "These technologies are going to mess you up."
Here's what he had to say:

"Posterous is one of the emerging class of so-called lifestreaming tools (Ping.fm is another) that magnify the voice of individuals by syndicating their comments through multiple online outlets. With Posterous, my messages automatically ripple out to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog and even video- and photo-sharing sites. Post to Posterous and be published everywhere.

Sidewiki is, potentially, even more disruptive. Google describes it as a way to “contribute helpful information to any Web page,” but it is really an invitation for customers to take over your site. A feature of the latest version of the Google toolbar, Sidewiki enables anyone to share commentary about any Web page. With a single click, visitors can see other people's opinions in an adjacent sidebar.

Services such as Posterous, Sidewiki and Google's new Wave platform are taking the commercial Internet to a new level. The first 15 years of the Web were all about sites: Information had a virtual home, and it was up to the visitor to find it. That scenario is about as efficient as requiring friends to come into your living room to hear your movie review.

The next evolution of the Web will take us beyond the site to a metaphor based upon content. Twitter began the journey three years ago with a service that casts messages into cyberspace to be caught wherever readers choose to catch them. Twitter has a Web site, but the majority of its active members send and receive tweets through third-party readers. Nearly every social platform will offer this kind of integration in short order.

These trends will disrupt traditional concepts of influence. Individual opinions will increasingly be magnified and syndicated through channels that can't easily be evaluated by monitoring comments, trackbacks and Technorati rankings. Marketing messages will be less important than the audience's validation of those messages. The winners will be the companies that do the best job of enticing constituents to do the talking for them." Fantastic!

Read more articles by Paul Gillin, a consultant who specializes in community journalism and social media, on his website, http://www.gillin.com