I'd wear a computer on my wrist would you?

We may soon be wearing our electronic gadgets—from heart monitors to cell phones—as a second skin. Researchers have discovered a way to create circuits so thin and flexible that they can be applied like temporary tattoos.

“All established forms of electronics are hard, rigid,” study author Yonggang Huang, an engineer at Northwestern University, tells ScienceDaily.com. But by using wires thinner than a hair and mounting them in flexible sheets of silicon and rubber, he and his colleagues were able to make digital patches that are as soft and elastic as human skin. The circuits, called epidermal electronic systems, can be rubbed on with water instead of needing tape or glue to attach. And they’re small enough to be recharged with solar power.

Researchers say the technology will be nearly invisible to wearers and could be used instead of bulky machines to record medical patients’ vital signs. The paste-on computers will also let us interact with video games and MP3 players using muscle or voice commands. “Ultimately,” says co-author John Rodgers, they will “blur the distinction between electronics and biology.”

Would you wear one on your wrist?

- As seen in The Week
Brought to you by NetLingo: Improve Your Internet IQ

Evidence Suggests that the Internet Changes How We Remember

MIT’s Technology Review’s Kenrick Vezina writes on a recent study that says we augment our memory with the Internet. The flood of information available online with just a few clicks and finger-taps may be subtly changing the way we retain information, according to a new study. But this doesn't mean we're becoming less mentally agile or thoughtful, say the researchers involved. Instead, the change can be seen as a natural extension of the way we already rely upon social memory aids—like a friend who knows a particular subject inside out.

Researchers and writers have debated over how our growing reliance on Internet-connected computers may be changing our mental faculties. The constant assault of tweets and YouTube videos, the argument goes, might be making us more distracted and less thoughtful—in short, dumber. However, there is little empirical evidence of the Internet's effects, particularly on memory.

Betsy Sparrow, assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University and lead author of the new study, put college students through a series of four experiments to explore this question.

One experiment involved participants reading and then typing out a series of statements, like "Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated," on a computer. Half of the participants were told that their statements would be saved, and the other half were told they would be erased. Additionally, half of the people in each group were explicitly told to remember the statements they typed, while the other half were not. Participants who believed the statements would be erased were better at recalling them, regardless of whether they were told to remember them.

Another experiment had subjects again typing predetermined statements into a computer, but this time, some were told that their statements would be saved in a specific folder on that machine. Participants were better at remembering the names of the folders a statement was stored in than they were at remembering the statements themselves.

The experiments suggest that we are less likely to remember facts when we know they can be easily looked up online, the researchers say. This conclusion is an extension of an idea proposed some 30 years ago by Sparrow's mentor (and a coauthor of a paper describing the latest work), Daniel Wegner, of Harvard's psychology department.

Wegner proposed the idea of "transactive memory" as a collective social memory of sorts. For example, if a friend has an exhaustive knowledge of Greek history, you can simply remember that The Iliad is Greek and that your friend knows about Greek things, rather than remembering who wrote the epic poem. Sparrow and Wegner say that the Internet may serve a similar function, acting as an extension of this external memory.

Mary C. Potter, professor of psychology in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, says the study supports the commonsense idea that we use external tools to remember information. She notes, however, that many of the results are at the threshold for statistical significance, and says the study should be seen as suggestive rather than conclusive.

Potter also wonders if the results may be due to sociological rather than psychological phenomena. When your friend whips out his smart phone to look up information about a band, this could be "because it's fun" rather than being about changes to how our brains store information, she says.

Nicholas Carr has been one of the leading voices in the debate. His book The Shallows, published in June, contends that the Internet is having a detrimental effect, an argument he supports with numerous scientific studies. He says Sparrow's study "indicates how flexible our brains are in adapting to our tools."

However, he's not convinced that this adaptation is positive. "It's critically important to remember that there's a difference between external memory and internal memory," he says. "If you're not internalizing ... then your understanding becomes less personal, less distinctive, and, I think, ultimately more superficial."

Sparrow, on the other hand, sees this adaptation as positive. She says our minds are molding to the Internet, just as they have in the past with technologies like the written word.

She's now trying to probe the benefits of this external memory with more experiments. Imagine a history student reading a dense passage, full of dates and names, about the American Revolution. Perhaps if the student is confident that the details will be available on the Internet, he will be better able to get a larger sense of why the revolution happened. Her intuition is that when we expect the details to be available later, we're better at looking for larger messages that might be obscured if we were preoccupied with minutiae.

- As seen in Technology Review

Pentagon Wants a Social Media Propaganda Machine

You don’t need to have 5,000 friends of Facebook to know that social media can have a notorious mix of rumor, gossip and just plain disinformation. The Pentagon is looking to build a tool to sniff out social media propaganda campaigns and spit some counter-spin right back at it, according to Adam Rawnsley in Wired.

Defense Department extreme technology arm DARPA unveiled its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program. It’s an attempt to get better at both detecting and conducting propaganda campaigns on social media. SMISC has two goals. First, the program needs to help the military better understand what’s going on in social media in real time — particularly in areas where troops are deployed. Second, Darpa wants SMISC to help the military play the social media propaganda game itself.

Not all memes, of course. Darpa’s not looking to track the latest twists on foul bachelor frog or see if the Taliban is making propaganda versions of courage wolf. Instead, it wants to see what ideas are bubbling up in among social media users in a particular area — say, where American troops are deployed.

More specifically, SMISC needs to be able to seek out “persuasion campaign structures and influence operations” developing across the social sphere. SMISC is supposed to quickly flag rumors and emerging themes on social media, figure out who’s behind it and what. Moreover, Darpa wants SMISC to be able to actually figure out whether this is a random product of the hivemind or a propaganda operation by an adversary nation or group.

Of course, SMISC won’t be content to just to hang back and monitor social media trends in strategic locations. It’s about building a better spin machine for Uncle Sam, too. Once SMISC’s latches on to an influence operation being launched, it’s supposed to help out in “countermessaging.”

Darpa’s announcement talks about using SMISC “the environment in which the military operates” and where it “conducts operations.” That strongly implies it’s intended for use in sensing and messaging to foreign social media. It better, lest it run afoul of the law. The Smith-Mundt Act makes pointing propaganda campaigns at domestic audiences illegal.

What exactly SMISC will look like it its final form is hard to say. At the moment, Darpa is only in the very beginning stages of researching its social media tool. They’re focused on researching the brains of the program — the algorithms and software that’ll identify, locate and make sense of social media trends.

For that, they need some social media data to play around with and test on. Darpa wants bidders to create it in one of two ways. Bidders can round up a few thousand test subjects willing to let their social media data be a guinea pig for SMISC’s software. Alternatively, they can rope in some consenting test subjects for a massively multiplayer role playing game in which generating social media data is a key part of gameplay.

SMISC is yet another example of how the military is becoming very interested in what’s going on in the social media sphere. Darpa has plans to integrate social media data into its manhunt master controller, Insight. NATO has already been paying keen attention to Twitter, using data from the micro-blogging service as an intel source to aid in bomb targeting decisions.

Darpa’s presolicitation offers a very vaguely-sourced anecdote spelling out how SMISC could be used. It details how a social media rumor about the location of a particularly reviled individual — identity and location undisclosed — almost led a lynch mob to storm a house in search of him. Authorities who happened to be paying attention to the Internet rumor were fortunate enough to spot it in time to intervene. In this telling of SMISC’s potential applications, the software could be used to as a tripwire to stop potentially dangerous social media campaigns in their tracks. But we’re sure you — and the Pentagon — can think of a lot less anodyne uses for Darpa’s social media propaganda tool.

- As seen in Wired

Army Seeks Social Media Gurus to Save Afghan War

Know how to tweet? Or how to put words into the mouths of foreign security functionaries? If so, the U.S. Army wants you to help un-quagmire the Afghanistan war. In honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, here's one way you can help and get out of the bleak job market.

A new solicitation from the Army seeks communications experts to run the full spectrum of outreach and messaging for the war effort, said Spencer Ackerman in Wired. A new “Web Content/Social Media Manager” will work with the U.S. military command in Afghanistan, known by the acronym USFOR-A, to spruce up and maintain “the command’s official website and related social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.” Other officials will dig into the Afghan security ministries to advise key officials how to convince people they’re competent, energetic and not at all corrupt.

To non-Afghan eyes, USFOR-A’s got a pretty robust social media presence. Check out how often it tweets its messaging on Twitter. Its YouTube channel is filled with positive videos, and its Facebook page — folded into the NATO command’s page — has nearly 80,000 Likes. Is the war won yet?

Evidently not. The solicitation sees the Taliban doing a better communications job than the U.S.: ”To date, the Insurgents (INS) have undermined the credibility of USFOR-A, the International Community (IC), and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) through effective use of the information environment, albeit without a commensurate increase in their own credibility.” Guess the Army thinks the Taliban’s recent English-language tweeting and SMS terror campaign is having an impact. Or that Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 2009 plea to revamp the war’s communications apparatus didn’t have the desired effect.

That problem’s magnified when it comes to the Afghan government, which is so corrupt that Ryan Crocker, Obama administration’s nominee for ambassador to Kabul, compared its perfidies to a “second insurgency” on Wednesday. The answer? “[C]ulturally-astute and culturally-attuned communication and public affairs advisement” to mouthpieces for the ministries of Defense and Interior.

What will those advisers do? The short answer is teach them how to spin. The long answer: “better align media reporting and public perception and proactively engage opinion-shapers, from media to key leaders, in order to bring these attributes of the information landscape into alignment.”

This is only partially about gaining or keeping Afghan support. The bolstered social networking push needs to have rapid translation into Dari and Pashto, as well as ceaselessly nimble translations of the local press so the military gets feedback, the solicitation says. But it’s primarily to “inform key audiences” — that is, “media and civilian populations internationally and within the region” about USFOR-A spin. And when the best that the smooth diplomat Crocker can tell the Senate about the war is that it’s “not… hopeless,” it’s no wonder that the Army thinks USFOR-A needs all the communications help it can get.

- As seen in Wired

Google: Changing how people think?

A new Columbia University study found that the use of Internet search engines alters the way the brain stores information.

Is Google making human memory obsolete? asked Matt Peckham in Time.com. That’s the question raised by a new Columbia University study, which found that the use of Internet search engines like Google and Yahoo changes the way the brain stores information. In a series of experiments, researchers found that student subjects quickly forgot information they’d entered into a computer, if they believed they could just retrieve it from the computer later. In another test, subjects were asked to remember a string of facts and which folders these facts were stored in. To the researchers’ surprise, the subjects recalled the correct folders—but not the information itself. What this study reveals, said Kari Lipschutz in Adweek, is that we’re adapting to a powerful new technology by altering how we think. In effect, “Google is becoming your brain’s external hard drive.”

As one who likes my brain the way it is, said Jakob Nielsen in Businessweek.com, I find this pretty alarming. It’s certainly convenient to, say, pull up any historical fact in a microsecond. But for a sense of the relative strength of European navies during the Renaissance, and how the struggle for power in that era has shaped the modern world, I still read a book or two—and weave that information into my memory. That’s what you call learning, and it’s what leads to “deep understanding.” The Web has its uses, but mainly, it “fragments information into tiny nuggets that can be digested in a two-minute visit.”

Socrates made a similar complaint in 370 B.C., said Ronald Bailey in Reason. That was long before Google, of course, but back then, the Greek philosopher was worried that writing was making human beings dumber. The written word transmits merely “the appearance of wisdom,” Socrates said, arguing that it would diminish the importance of memory and extemporaneous speech. He was wrong. So are the people who think Google will make us illiterate and shallow, said David Alan Grier in Businessweek.com. Over the last decade, Google and the Internet have raised research standards, stimulated political argument and discussion of thousands of topics, and given any individual with a computer instant access to an ever-expanding body of human knowledge. Does Google “provide all the information that we will ever need?” Of course not. Does it, on the whole, make us smarter? Sure it does.

- As seen in The Week

Tech Book Review - The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You

The former director of MoveOn.org, Eli Pariser, shows how Google, Facebook, and other sites track your mouse clicks so they can filter results and tailor them to your preferences.

The idea of the Internet as a free and open conversation “is fast becoming quaint,” said Jesse Singal in The Boston Globe. Not long ago, it was still possible to hope that the Internet would forever be a “clearinghouse of information and fierce debate,” a place where users would constantly be confronted by new and challenging ideas. As Eli Pariser observes, things haven’t turned out that way. Pariser’s Google isn’t your Google. Even his CNN.com isn’t your CNN.com. Instead, the pages many of us see have been tailored to who we are, where we live, and what we’ve clicked on. Pariser, the former director of the liberal activist group MoveOn.org, liked to monitor the opinions of conservative pundits using Facebook; one day, the pundits disappeared. Google had filtered his “news feed” not for political reasons, but to limit his updates to “friends” he’d interacted with.

Welcome to what’s euphemistically called the “personalized” Web, said Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times. Google, Facebook, Amazon.com, and other “filtering Goliaths” are forever tracking your mouse clicks and keystrokes in order to feed you the news you’re likely to want and the kind of products and advertising pitches you’re likely to respond to. The Internet isn’t even tailored to suit your tastes, really. It’s “personalized the way a blackmail note is personalized—to better fit your particular vulnerabilities.” Yet even our most benign impulses can lead us into cul-de-sacs, said The Economist. As filtering continues to privilege the popular above the unpopular, “people will be invisibly steered away from important issues that are unpleasant or complex, such as homelessness or foreign policy.”

“There’s another problem with filters: People like them,” said Paul Boutin in The Wall Street Journal. In a book that’s mostly a “powerful indictment” of a system that threatens to turn us all into ill-informed partisans, Pariser “fumbles around in search of a solution” because he knows that the Internet is too unwieldy now to be navigated without filtering software. Even so, “The Filter Bubble is well-timed” because the threat it describes is “real but not yet pandemic.” As Pariser notes, Google and Facebook both provide ways that users can disable personalization filters if they choose to. What’s more, the effects of filtering are sometimes mild. “In a test I conducted myself,” I recently asked a handful of Google users across the country to search a phrase in the news and we came up with almost identical results. “To tell the truth, we were kind of disappointed.” - Get the book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You on Amazon.com!

- As seen in The Week

Tasty Tidbits of News from the Tech Front

A Social Network for Seniors
Proust.com encourages older users to share memories and life stories by prompting them with questions. Barry Diller’s IAC this week launched a social networking site specifically designed with senior citizens in mind, said Austin Carr in FastCompany.com. Proust.com encourages older users to share memories and life stories by prompting them with questions about cherished events like their first kiss and favorite birthdays. Co-founder Tom Cortese said the idea of preserving family stories came to him after watching his grandmother battle dementia. “It was just this process of seeing memories go by the wayside,” he said. “There were so many stories I wish I knew about her life.” Modeled after a questionnaire devised by the master of nostalgia, French novelist Marcel Proust, the site helps users craft personal histories through its Q&A format. It also allows members and close family to purchase e-books and even physical copies of the digital autobiographies.

Ryan Seacrest's Fear of BlackBerry Neck
Ryan Seacrest is terrified of contracting “BlackBerry neck,” says the National Enquirer. The distinctive pattern of unsightly creases and wrinkles is caused by spending hours with a bent neck, looking down at one’s smart phone. The American Idol host is on his BlackBerry all day, and a source says he “keeps showing everybody his neck and asking if they can see anything. Now he’s trying to train himself to text without bending.”

Taking a Byte out of Cybercrime
Tens of thousands of new malicious pieces of software are being identified every day. The fight against hackers is projected to cost U.S. companies $130 billion in 2011, triple what they paid in 2006, said David Goldman in CNNMoney.com. This “rising tide of online crime” could be even more dangerous than the cyberwar the Pentagon fears, said Noah Shachtman in The Washington Post. With tens of thousands of new malicious pieces of software (malware) being identified each day, the Web could soon look “like the South Bronx circa 1989—a place where crooks hold such sway that honest people find it hard to live or work there.” Yet it’s only a “relatively small number of companies that support the criminal underground.” Half the world’s spam comes from just 1 percent of Internet service providers (ISPs). More data might lead us right to the criminals, but currently only 30 percent of companies report all of their data breaches.

The ID10T Story of the Week
A fugitive by the name of Victor Burgos taunted police on his Facebook page, posting "Catch me if you can. I'm in Brooklyn." Cops quickly tracked down Burgos to an apartment in Brookly where he was sitting at a computer with his Facebook page open. Uh dewd, it's called using the privacy setting?

Three Reasons Why Millionaires Love Facebook And Hate Twitter
Millionaires are signing up for Facebook in droves, but dropping out of Twitter, according to a new survey reported on by the Wall Street Journal. Julie Zeveloff of Business Insider says the survey, by Spectrem Group, found that 46% of online users with investible assets of $1 million or more are members of Facebook, up from 26% a year ago. The number of millionaire Twitter users, on the other hand, decreased from 5% to 3%.

There are three reasons for the difference in millionaire usage between the two sites, which are often mentioned in the same breath. First, Twitter is super open, making it tough for "control freak" millionaires to filter information. Facebook, meanwhile, has plenty of privacy settings. The second factor is age. From the WSJ: According to the study, among those with $5 million or more in investible assets, the boomers are slightly more likely to use Facebook than the youngest investors — 56% vs. 50%, respectively. (Warren Buffett is an exception, of course). Twitter was generally more popular with the younger-millionaire crowd. Finally, Twitter is a broadcasting tool, while Facebook is a networking tool. Savvy millionaires prefer the latter.

And finally, one of the perils of online relationships...
Cheryl Gray, 50, of Michigan is suing Wylie Iwan, 35, of Washington state after he ended their online relationship. Gray claims that after "meeting" Iwan on Facebook, she bought him gifts and spent hours a day communicating with him, before Iwan met someone else and disparaged her on Facebook. "I did nothing wrong," said Iwan. "It was an online relationship."

- As seen in The Week

Handwriting: No longer necessary?

Officials in Indiana have stopped requiring schools to teach third graders the art of cursive handwriting. In a few decades, no one who grew up in Indiana will be able to sign his or her name, said Theodore Dalrymple in The Wall Street Journal. That’s because state officials have stopped requiring schools to teach third graders the art of cursive handwriting—the looping, joined-up letters that have stood for centuries as a sign of education and sophistication.

Instead, students will be encouraged to focus on keyboard skills, on the principle that almost all writing today is done on a computer and a cell phone. Other states may soon follow, since the federal government’s core standards for schools make no mention of cursive handwriting. This is sad—and extremely shortsighted. Developing their own handwriting gives young people a powerful, and tactile, sense of their individuality and character. And when these schoolchildren grow up and have to sign a marriage certificate or will, will they need to “hire an out-of-stater or immigrant” to do it for them?

If only I could hire someone to sign my name, said Craig McInnes in The Vancouver Sun. I am “cursively challenged,” and the “meaningless scrawl” I call my signature comes out differently every time. Indeed, my handwriting has always been awful, no matter how many school drills I performed. Yet people still insist you can read a person’s character from their longhand. I live in fear of “having to write even short phrases on birthday cards,” in case the recipient concludes that I am an illiterate half-wit. Romantics may pine for the past, but give me a keyboard any day. In today’s workplace, said Kayla Webley in Time.com, knowing how to type is a vital skill. Knowing how to write longhand is as useful as “being able to churn butter.”

Cursive is far more than an “irrelevant relic” of the 20th century, said Mark Bennett in the Terre Haute, Ind., Tribune-Star. Studies have found that handwriting boosts fine motor skills in children, and writing things out by hand enhances comprehension and learning. Just as schools still teach math, even though “most of us rely on calculators to divide and multiply,” so should school districts continue to teach children both how to craft handwritten notes and how to type. Fortunately, many of Indiana’s third-grade teachers understand this, and say they’ll continue to teach cursive even if it isn’t required. The writing’s on the wall: Man cannot communicate by texting alone.

- As seen in The Week
Brought to you by NetLingo: Improve Your Internet IQ

How to Avoid Scams on Craigslist

When on Craig'slist be sure to deal locally, insist on cash, do some research, and pay cautiously.

1. Deal locally. Follow the same common-sense precautions you would if listing or answering a traditional classified ad. Make deals with local people whenever possible so that you’ll be able to meet face to face.

2. Insist on cash. “Fake checks and money orders are common.” If you accept one as a payment, your bank will “hold you—not the buyer—responsible.”

3. Do some research. When you can’t deal locally, check up on the other party: Get a street address and look it up on a White Pages service such as whitepages.com. If there’s a listing, “that’s a pretty good start” toward establishing your counterpart’s baseline reliability. Google the person, too.

4. Pay cautiously. Don’t ever wire money: Only scammers demand it. And “for God’s sake,” don’t e-mail your credit card numbers.

- As seen in Wired.com
Brought to you by the NetLingo Blog

Teamwork Can Outdo Brilliance

America’s companies should reconsider the value of “a well-assembled team that may not dazzle with individual brilliance but overwhelms with collective capability,” said Bill Taylor in Harvard Business Review.

America’s bosses are too impressed by superstars, said Bill Taylor. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg claims that employees who are “exceptional in their role” are “100 times better” than those who are just pretty good. But he would say that, wouldn’t he? He has to defend his $47 million purchase of a company, FriendFeed, simply to acquire—or, as some say, “acqhire”—its employees at a cost of about $4 million apiece. Does that really make sense?

“If you are building a company, would you prefer one standout person over 100 pretty good people?” Consider how the team players of the Boston Bruins beat the star-studded Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup, or how the Dallas Mavericks shamed LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Our fascination with “the Free Agent, the lone wolf, the techno-rebel with a cause” has gone too far. America’s companies should reconsider the value of “a well-assembled team that may not dazzle with individual brilliance but overwhelms with collective capability.”
- As seen in The Week

Planning on an MBA? Your tweet could be worth $37,000 - Apply by July 28

The University of Iowa’s Henry B. Tippie School of Management is offering a full scholarship worth $37,240 to the MBA program applicant with the best answer to their essay question. The catch: The answer must be in the form of a tweet, 140 characters or less.

Think of it as a chance for a prospective MBA student to hone his or her elevator pitch, says Jodi Schafer, Tippie's director of admissions and financial aid. "That's sort of the power statement you need to sell yourself quickly and concisely, the way you have to sell yourself quickly and concisely in business," she told Yahoo! Shine as reported by Lylah M. Alphonse.

The question is pretty straight forward: "What makes you an exceptional Tippie Full-Time MBA candidate and future MBA hire? Creativity Encouraged!" But crafting a 140-character answer is harder than it looks. (In fact, this paragraph itself is twice as long as the answer can be.)

So how are you supposed to sell yourself succinctly without selling yourself short? Schafer offered a tip: Just like on Twitter, applicants can use abbreviated links to direct the admissions officers to a more well-rounded answer posted on YouTube, Facebook, or a blog. "Personally, that's what I'd like to see," Schafer said. "People sending me elsewhere."

There's a one-tweet-per-applicant limit, and you shouldn't actually post your tweet on Twitter; to keep things confidential, students should send their tweet-like answers to the admissions office, along with the rest of the official application. The $85 application fee will be waived for students who submit the 140-character answers, and standard-length responses, usually about 450 words, are also acceptable—but not eligible for that full financial award package.

"Social media has been shown to be a powerful tool for business communication, so it makes sense that our applicants demonstrate an ability to use it," Colleen Downie, senior assistant dean of the full-time MBA program, pointed out on the Tippie MBA blog. "This is a way for prospective students to show us that they embrace innovation and are comfortable using the kind of media and technology driving so many changes in business."

According to Business Week, 307 people applied to Tippie's full-time MBA program last year. Schafer said that applications are up slightly so far this year. Given that applying to any graduate program takes a lot of preparation, "We never intended that our applications would jump drastically," Schafer explained. "We really don't expect to see the impact of this until 2012." That's when the "application tweet" will be open to all students, international and domestic. "There are a lot of people who have expressed interest, but they can't move their family or take the GMAT this quickly," she added.

The school's essay-by-tweet experiment is open to U.S.-based students only and runs through July 28. A scholarship winner will be announced on August 4.

A few other organizations are hopping on the Twitter bandwagon, though they aren't offering as generous a package as the University of Iowa. KFC (Yes, that KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken) is offering high school seniors a chance to be awarded up to $20,000 over four years for a single great tweet. Scholarship.com's "Short and Tweet" program encourages students to "sum up your college experience in 140 characters of less and possibly win $1,000 or a Kindle for school," and The 140 Scholarship offers three different awards for students who "write a Tweet highlighting how we can use Twitter to improve the world."

Brought to you by NetLingo: Improve Your Internet IQ

Is it the end of an era for .com? The Internet faces a domain name revolution!

The world of website names is about to be completely revolutionized. At the moment, a Web address can only end with one of 22 suffixes — .com, .org and .net are among the most popular — but in the near future websites could end with more tailored suffixes such as .kids, .shop or .nyc (for a big city like New York).

The body in charge of deciding the rules for website names, ICANN (International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), announced in June, 2011 that it will liberalize the market of address endings — also known as gTLD’s, generic top-level domains — allowing anyone to choose whatever suffix they want for their website, including ideograms and Arabic characters.

The Internet community, governments and companies have been campaigning for the liberalization of websites’ names for years. But with a customized domain name to cost around $185,000, it is expected that only big organizations will apply for now. “It may also take twice that amount to operate and maintain a proper gTLD of their own, a condition ICANN has made obligatory for all applicants,” points out Robin Wauters of TechCrunch.com. “The question is if the advantages of owning a ‘brand domain’ justify the high costs involved.”

As seen in N.Y. Metro, Beatrice Bedeschi interviews Brad White, ICANN’ s director of global media affairs.

What are the main changes you expect to happen after this decision?

That is the most exciting part of it: We don’t know, in the sense that now it is up to the creativity of the people, and their capacity to imagine new ideas. Nobody could forecast the success of Twitter or Facebook, until they completely changed the way we interact on the Web.

Do you think that companies will be forced to buy a customized name just to protect their brand?

There are safeguards built into the system, with strict rules on how to apply and what documentation to present. In other words, if someone applies for a specific suffix with the name of a company or a brand, we check that he is acting on behalf of the company and has the right to do so.

Do you think the $185,000 fee will prevent people from applying?

That’s the fee you have to pay just for the registration of the domain. Then you have to add all the money it needs to be administered. And one can make money by selling second-level domains afterward. The application is open to everyone, but of course we expect big companies to apply mostly.

“This may turn out to be the decision with the most repercussions ever taken by ICANN,” says technology writer Robin Wauters from TechCrunch.com. “It may represent an excellent opportunity for companies, organizations and cities worldwide to benefit from strong branding. On the other hand, the new extensions might cause confusion with end users.”

Still texting while driving? Don't do it!

In May, 2011, Indiana joined 31 other states when it passed stiff new laws prohibiting texting behind the wheel. Under the new law, effective July 1, Indiana drivers face a maximum fine of $500 if caught texting. Drivers under 18 are also prohibited from all cell phone use. With the addition of Indiana, 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have now banned text messaging by all drivers. Furthermore, eight states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have prohibited all handheld cell phone use while driving. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, distraction behind the wheel is still a major factor in many serious car crashes, with texting and hand-held cellphone use being the top culprits.

How Your Web Rep can Ruin Your Job Search

If I've told you once, I'll tell you again, you must manage your digital footprint and keep your digital doppelganger in line! Posting racy photos and controversial remarks won’t get you as much press as former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sexting display of his political briefs, but they can cost you in your online job search.

This has been a constant warning to job applicants, but the threat is more real than ever now that the Federal Trade Commission has allowed Social Intelligence Corporation to perform background checks on the Internet activity of job seekers. This means that your entire online history is fair game — even if you think it is private.

A recent Vault.com survey as reported in AM NY showed that while 93 percent of employers claim they haven’t rejected a candidate based on their social media presence, more than a third of recruiters do examine the social networks of applicants. That number is probably higher than they would like to admit, and will be even higher in the future now that there are companies out there willing to do such work.

So what’s a job seeker to do?

1. Stop trusting privacy settings - Privacy settings are not 100 percent reliable. If someone wants to find information out about you, they will. The fact that you tried to make it private won’t stop them from using that information against you. The less you trust a privacy setting, the more you might want to stop posting objectionable content.

2. Keep your image professional - According to the Vault survey, 60 percent of recruiters thought candidates should take steps to hide their personal pictures, and only 51 percent of job seekers said they actually do. But why post them in the first place? Pictures of you drinking or scantily clothed, or even that fun shot of you holding a samurai sword, could make you appear to be a risk in a recruiter’s eyes, no matter how cool you look to your friends. The truth is, you don’t look cool without a job, so stop sabotaging your search.

3. Your friends can hurt your career - It only takes one friend tagging a photo of you looking intoxicated — which will put the picture on your profile —to ruin your chances at getting a job. Recruiters will see these pictures. Ask your friends not to tag you in photos, and be vigilant and de-tag objectionable photos.

4. Keep your religious and political views to yourself - Before social media, it was said that you should never discuss religion or politics with friends. Follow that philosophy online.

5. Think of social media as your resume - You know you work hard; you know you always get the job done. Recruiters don’t. Put yourself in their shoes and make sure your online presence represents the type of person you would hire for a job. Until then, DQYDJ!

10 Smart Ways to Use Social Media in Your Job Search

Everyone’s talking about using social media for job-hunting. But how, exactly, should you do that? Alexis Grant of U.S. News shows 10 smart and strategic ways to network your way into a job using three popular online tools: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

1. Let people know you’re looking. Whether on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, let your friends and followers know that you’re looking for a job. Even better, tell them what type of job you’re looking for. They may not know of any openings right now, but if they know you’re available, they’ll think of you when a position opens up. That will help you hear about openings before they’re listed on popular job boards.

2. Don’t be afraid to network on Facebook.
Facebook may be for fun, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking your network there, especially if you already have hundreds of friends. Facebook can sometimes be more useful for job hunting than LinkedIn, because friends who know you personally have more of a stake in helping you. They want you to succeed—so use that to your advantage.

3. Make sure your Facebook profile is private. Much of your Facebook profile is public by default, and you probably don’t want a potential employer browsing your personal updates. Under Account, then Privacy Settings, choose “Friends Only.” That way, an employer who Googles you won’t be able to see the details of your profile, your photos, or your personal status updates.

4. Find information about hiring managers. Before you submit your resume, look up the hiring manager on LinkedIn and Twitter. (If he’s smart, he’ll make his Facebook profile private.) LinkedIn profiles and Twitter feeds are gold mines of information on individuals. Knowing more about the person who’s hiring can help you tailor your cover letter to their needs and desires.

5. Hyperlink your resume. Add the URL for your Twitter handle and LinkedIn profile to your contact information on your resume. (But don’t add your Facebook profile, since that’s private.) Not only does this offer the employer another way of getting in touch with you and seeing how you interact online, it also shows that you’re social media-savvy, a skill valued by many employers.

6. Be strategic with Facebook lists. Facebook’s list feature allows you to continue building your network without worrying about professional contacts seeing your personal updates. Under Account, then Friends, create a new list, and customize your privacy settings so professional friends can only see what you want them to see. That way your close friends can still keep up with your photos and personal updates.

7. Create the connections you need to get the job. It’s all about who you know, right? Don’t just use the connections you already have. Figure out who you need to know to land a certain job—likely the hiring manager—and make that connection, whether by getting them to follow you on Twitter by retweeting their tweets, or growing your LinkedIn network until they become a third-degree connection. Twitter in particular offers opportunity to connect with professionals who might not otherwise give you the time of day.

8. Get Google on your side. If don’t like what pops up when you Google yourself (because you know an employer will Google you), create a LinkedIn profile. Fill out your profile completely and become active on the network. That will help push your profile to the top of Google’s search results, which means a potential employer will see what you want them to see.

9. Join industry chats on Twitter. Look for chats that revolve around your industry, or better yet, the industry you want to work in. Joining online conversations helps you keep up-to-date on the industry, meet helpful contacts, and showcase your expertise in your field. You may also want to network with other job seekers through weekly conversations like #jobhuntchat or #careerchat (see also: hashtag)

10. Seek out job-search advice. All three of these networks are great places to find advice on job-hunting and mingle with other job seekers. Join LinkedIn groups that focus on job search. Follow career experts on Twitter, and “like” their pages on Facebook. That way you’ll get tips for your search even when you’re not looking for them.

- As seen in U.S. News Brought to you by the NetLingo Blog

Cybersex: It's about narcissism

Cybersex: Will it make monogamy obsolete? Internet connectivity and online porn have opened new ways to engage in extramarital adventures.

He never touched another woman, and claims to be happily married—yet for years he’s been conducting virtual affairs through Facebook, Twitter, and texting. Just how unusual is Anthony Weiner, New York’s scandal-plagued Democratic congressman? asked Tracy Clark-Flory in Salon.com. Not very. In a brave new world of online porn and instant Internet connectivity, millions of other men and, yes, women are exploring the “countless new avenues” for extramarital adventures. Like it or not, “technology has forever changed the landscape of intimacy and fidelity,” and is now forcing us to reassess our traditional concepts of monogamy. Does sexting count as adultery? Or are these virtual dalliances with strangers we’ll never meet just a harmless form of online entertainment?

These are questions we’re just now beginning to consider, said Andrew Sullivan in TheDailyBeast.com. For the first time in human history, the Internet enables people to create an alternative sexual reality where they can exist as “a body without a head (or a mind), a pair of strained underpants,” or even as an avatar with a whole new identity. “We haven’t quite figured out how to square this with our other lives.” In the past, infidelity was fraught with the possibility of destructive consequences, including sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Not so if you “cheat” through an online sex chat or a pornographic webcam. These activities are so wildly popular, especially among people under 35, because they allow otherwise monogamous individuals to let off some steam. What’s so terrible about that? said Jessica Bennett, also in TheDailyBeast.com. A recent survey found that 65 percent of women “and a whopping 80 percent of men” say they’d cheat if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. It’s simply unreasonable to expect one person to fulfill your every need, sexual or otherwise, through decades of marriage. Cybersex is just one of the many ways modern couples are seeking a little extra on the side. “That doesn’t mean the end of marriage,” but it may mean that we have to revise the rules.

If you think online sex isn’t “real,” said William Saletan in Slate.com, you’re fooling yourself. The Internet creates an illusion of anonymity among its users, making them think of online affairs as a “kind of a game disconnected from reality.” That was the rationalization Weiner himself used to excuse his “sexting”; as he said in his defense, “I never met these women. I never really had much desire to.” But what he called his “communications” turned into real online relationships, rife with intimate exchanges and sexual expression, which he pursued addictively and recklessly. Weiner’s pregnant wife is now heartsick, and his career is in tatters. Sounds pretty real to me.

But what a strange kind of reality it is, said Ross Douthat in The New York Times. As Weiner has reminded us, cybersex isn’t about relationships at all, or even about sex. It’s about narcissism—in its most “desperate and adolescent” form. You don’t tweet photos of your penis or artsy shots of your gym-sculpted pecs because you’re fascinated with the women on the other end. You send them because you’re fascinated with...yourself. Narcissism, of course, existed long before Facebook and Twitter, but social media serve “as a hall of mirrors in which it flourishes as never before.” In this obsessive new realm, the real thrill comes not from talking dirty but from the chance to say, over and over: “Look at me! Look at meeeee!”

- As seen in The Week

Is Facebook's 'like' button spying on you?

The Facebook "like" and Twitter "tweet" buttons that appear on so many websites do a lot more than just help you share content with friends...

The ubiquitous Facebook "like" and Twitter "tweet" buttons let web users share content with their friends and followers, but, unbeknownst to most, they also let the social media sites track users — even when people don't click on them, according to a study done for The Wall Street Journal. Here, a guide to the buttons and the privacy concerns they raise:

What do these buttons do?
Their primary function is to let users share items from across the web with their social networks. But they also place cookies on a user's computer that allow Facebook and Twitter to know when a user visits a specific page. If you visit any web page with a "like" button on it, Facebook knows about it. And the buttons "could link users' browsing habits to their social networking profile, which often contains their name," says Amir Efrati in The Wall Street Journal.

And it tracks you even if you don't click the buttons?
Yes. As long as you've logged into Facebook or Twitter once in the past month, your data is collected, even if you don't click the button. The tracking stops only when a user "explicitly logs out of their Facebook or Twitter accounts," says Efrati in the Journal.

How common are these widgets now?
The Facebook and Twitter buttons "have been added to millions of web pages in the past year," says Efrati. Facebook's widget appears on one-third of the 1,000 most-visited websites in the world, while buttons from Google and Twitter are on one-quarter and one-fifth of those sites, respectively.

Is Facebook using this data?
Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other "widget-makers" say they don't use the data to track users. And they say that the data is "anonymized" so that it can't be traced back to specific users. Facebook says it only uses the data to power targeted ads. The social network stores the data for three months, which is "substantially longer than the two weeks Google stores similar information," says Lee Mathews at Geek.com. Twitter says it doesn't use the data and deletes it "quickly."

What can be done to minimize this tracking?
"If you’re worried" about it, you should "log out of these sites after you’re done checking your email, tweeting, poking, or what have you," says Kashmir Hill in Forbes. "Yeah, you'll have to re-enter your password more often," says Linda Sharps at The Stir, "but it seems like you can have either convenience or privacy these days — not both."

- As seen in The Week
Brought to you by the NetLingo Blog

Talk is Cheap: Five VoIP-Powered Services

As seen in Conde Nast Traveler, Alex Pasquariello reports on the five most popular VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) powered services. Which one is for you?

1) For old-school travelers who still use hotel-room phones, the best way to call is using VoIP calling cards, including www.axvoice.com/plans/calling-card.html, Pingo.com, Enjoyprepaid.com, and Comfi.com. What do you need? A landline and a card or online account loaded with pre-paid credit.

The fundamentals of the classic calling card remain: Pick up a landline, dial a toll-free local access number, enter a PIN and an account number, and reach out and touch someone. What's new is that your entire call—whether to a landline or a mobile number—is routed over the Web, which translates into super-low rates.

Cost: Varies by destinations but ranges from 5 cents to 50 cents per minute.

Drawbacks: VoIP calling card services are available from a limited number of countries. Connection fees can offset the great rates.

2) For tech-savvy travelers who want voice and video chat, the best way to call is Skype. What do you need? A laptop, Android phone, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

A pioneer in VoIP applications, Skype remains the go-to service for travelers who are wired and who have consistent Wi-Fi access. Skype's mobile app, designed to work with the new generation of camera-enabled iPhone and Android devices, means you can leave the laptop at home. Voice and video chat to other Skype users is picture- and pitch-perfect.

Cost: Free when calling other Skype users; rates from 2.3 cents per minute for calls to landlines and mobiles in 42 countries when you pay as you go, and even lower with a $14 monthly subscription.

Drawbacks: Forgetting to turn off data service when using Skype mobile abroad can quickly lead to sky-high international data charges.

3) For globe-trotting Apple fanboys and girls, the best way to call is Apple FaceTime. What do you need: An iPhone, iPod Touch, or MacBook.

A super-simple Wi-Fi video-chat app available on the latest iPhone, iPod Touch, and MacBook devices, all of which have cameras and microphones. With a couple of taps, you're connected to your loved ones, and they can see your face via the front-side camera—or switch to the normal camera to chat while you show them the view of your destination.

Cost: Free to other FaceTime users.

Drawbacks: You can only call others who have the latest Apple gizmos, and it doesn't work with data service—you must be in a Wi-Fi zone.

4) For international road warriors, the best way to call is Toktumi Line2. What do you need? An Android phone, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

Wouldn't it be great to have a U.S. number at which all your clients could reach you even when you're abroad? That's what Line2 gives you—along with visual voice mail, so you won't waste time or money taking calls you don't want. When you're in a Wi-Fi zone, the Line2 app effectively adds a second line to your smartphone, allowing people to call you overseas at no extra charge to them.

Cost: The app is just 99 cents, but you'll need to pay $10 a month for a phone number, voice mail, and unlimited calls and texts within the United States; overseas, rates to land and mobile lines start at 2 cents per minute.

Drawbacks: See those under Skype, above.

5) Facebook fanatics, the best way to call is Vonage Mobile App for Facebook. What do you need? An Android phone, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

Vonage's VoIP service has traditionally been marketed as a replacement for home lines, but its mobile partnership with Facebook makes staying in touch on the go as easy as updating your wall. Download the app on your latest-generation iPhone or Android device and it imports contact info for all of your Facebook friends—if they also have the app, you're ready to chat.

Cost: Free to other Facebook friends with the Vonage Mobile App.

Drawbacks: Do you really want everybody you've friended on Facebook to be able to call you on your mobile?

Smart phones may be getting smarter by the minute, but the sound quality on most of them is far from genius. For crystal-clear audio on phone chats or during your in-flight movie, consider packing Etymotic's HF3 in-ear buds (etymotic.com; $179), or go wireless with Nokia's noise-canceling Bluetooth BH-905i headset (nokiausa.com; $300).

- As seen in Conde Nast Traveler
Brought to you by NetLingo.com | Improve Your Internet IQ Blog

Technology and Eroticsm: The Connection

“As our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer. The ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes—a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance—with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be a mere extension of the self.” - by Jonathan Franzen in The New York Times

Should parents get to control their kids' Facebook pages?

A California bill would let parents prune what their kids post online. Is this a victory for parents or a strangely heavy-handed law? What do you think...

Facebook is heading for a showdown with parents in California. State legislators are considering a bill that would force social networking sites to change their privacy policies, giving parents the right to prune online information about their children up to age 18. If a mom or dad didn't like a photo or post involving their kid, they could demand that Facebook remove it within 48 hours, or face a $10,000 fine. Is this a sensible way to help parents protect their children?

Some say yes, parents should set the rules: Once a kid turns 13 and becomes old enough to be an authorized Facebook user, "parental authority essentially is meaningless," says Mary Beth Hicks at The Washington Times. Facebook guarantees users' privacy, and essentially tells parents to mind their own business. It's about time we had "a law that reminds social networking companies of the primacy of parents in the lives of their minor children."

But do we really need a heavy-handed law? By all means, parents, keep tabs on what your children are doing online, says Jeanne Sager at The Stir. But don't demand that Facebook do your dirty work. If you want the ability to remove inappropriate pictures, tell your kid to give you his password. "That's all you have to do. Buck up and act like real parents."

Don't forget about kids' rights: This bill is supposed to be about protecting privacy online, says Kashmir Hill at Forbes. But for California teens, it does the opposite. Giving people "more control" over online information isn't always liberating — just ask some of the 16-year-olds who would be affected by this law. "Kids should have some privacy rights too, after all."

- As seen in The Week
Brought to you by the NetLingo Blog