Digital Stalking?

At this point in the web world, if you are at all computer savvy, then you probably know what a cookie is? Basically it’s a way for websites to track you as you browse online. It can also be a way for sites to remember you when you come back to them. Most of us never think about them. Usually we can deleted them and never worry about them again. We can even tell our web browsers to never allow them. They do have some use, but mostly for others. We have always had the option of allowing this personal information to be released, but do we still?

A Blog at TechRepublic reports that something called a “FlashCookie” is going a bit too far and neither asking or allowing us to remove it. Is our privacy at risk? In a time when we share everything about ourselves on facebook and twitter does our privacy even matter anymore?

Here is the blog: TechRepublic

And my comment on the blog: Comment


Baby Steps

I was reminded today of my baby steps into the world of the internet. My family had an old PC. I can’t remember for the life of me what kind it was, but the current Apple lover in me knows it was a Windows 95 barley functioning, PC.

Our family used America Online. The invitation to use AOL came in the oldest form of communication, the mail. My dad used to get so irritated by how many AOL discs we would get in the mail. Back then it could come in either a flopy disc or  cd-rom. I think ours was a cd-rom.

So finally one Saturday afternoon my dad decided we could indeed afford it, and looked over the requirements for the computer, and sure enough our computer could handle it. After watching the commercials for months I had visions of being able to do the most amazing things. None of which I can remember now, but I know none of them came true.

I can hear the crack – fizz – buzz of the modem dialing up the AOL world. You had to dial the number correctly. You also had to turn off call waiting or else when people called, one of two things would happen, they would kick you off line or hear a constant ringing.

There was a voice that always said “Welcome” and “You’ve Got Mail.” Then a page would load that was your gateway to the world. Thinking back now it was like the layout to Trivial Pursuit, there was sports, leisure, entertainment, lifestyle, news, shopping, and so many others.

Of course there was the email section and Instant Message. One social problem, that has not changed even now, is how certain phrases or tones could be misunderstood. SPEAKING IN CAPS IS LIKE SHOUTING. Which is odd because in the TV news world we type every script in caps.

You could not be cynical or properly cross with someone. Words need inflection and sound behind them. Sometimes they can be rather useless when just typed. Over the years I have misinterpreted, or have been misunderstood, so many times via email or “IM.” A problem I still face (as do many others) today.

My boss does everything in emails. So many times I find myself saying “This is really something we need to pick up the phone and talk with someone about.”

When I younger, even before the internet, I used to get so jealous of my older brother getting mail. I was always told, “You’ll get more than enough mail when you’re older.” There is something special, more so today, to get a well thought out, hand crafted, letter or thank you note. So the appeal of getting tons of emails was thrilling to me.

My brothers and I soon found our ways to chat rooms.  We didn’t know then what we know now about chat rooms. Back in those days we had to learn the hard way. There was someone who used the AOL handle as Jennifer Love Hewitt. Oh I just loved her. So what normal teenage boy, who loved a cute young actress, wouldn’t want to talk with her? Took a while to discover this was just some jerk who wanted to just mess with people.

Soon I found my way to a girl named Niki from New Mexico. Perhaps she found me? I can’t really recall. Anyway I could barley talk to girls so chatting with one online was brilliant. Looking back now this was quite dangerous. After talking through emails and “IM” for months we started to talk on the phone, writing actual letters to one another. Eventually we even sent one another high school yearbook pictures of ourselves. After a while the “Love-Affair” ended. My brothers and I fought for more equal time with the computer, but then Dad stepped back in and decided that more oversight was needed. Three teenage boys with cart blanche freedom online wasn’t such a good idea.

It was much longer after this I met a real life girl and started dating like a normal person.

Today I still enjoy getting emails and even real mail. I also love the world of Sykpe, Twitter, Facebook, and the wonders of where we are going still fascinate me. When I think about it though we were all pioneers of sort back in the mid-1990’s. I am trying to avoid the “Kids today” cliche, but they have no idea what it was like then to go from a word with nothing like this ever technology to an immediate on-demand society. It still takes a lot of mental balancing. It’s till too easy to be sucked in and loose sight of what the real world has to offer.Baby Steps


Weapons of Mass Distraction

We live in an amazing time. With little to no effort I can sit at my desk each morning and tell the world how I feel about my life and perhaps what I ate for breakfast this morning. With a few simple clicks I can call up a friend in England from my home in Maine for free. I can get the news from anywhere in the world delivered to me with one simple page of information. I do however go through this technologically savvy age with blinders on, by my own choice. With access to so much information we have started a trend of being inundated with tremendous amounts of useless information. The basic purpose of the internet and our computers, as being tools to share information to advance humanity, is getting lost in a mix of the “TMZ” styled gossip pages and hate groups trying to bring down all of humanity.

OK. While the last sentence maybe over stating things just a bit, it is fair to say we have strayed from the path that was dreamed of by those that came before us.

In the summer of 1945 when Dr. Vannevar Bush wrote “As We May Think” he had great hopes of seeing a future that served its people by sharing as much information as possible to achieve peace. With the WW II winding down, he hoped that other scientists would join him – not in making anymore weapons, but in finding other, more useful ways to serve humanity. It was a struggle to just keep people from leaving science, so Dr. Bush made his case though clearly describing the world we could, one day, live in. Throughout his essay, Bush describes with great accuracy the future, we now live in, including personal computers, i-Pods, the Internet, digital cameras, and so much more.  Dr. Bush clearly states how he hopes these new technologies would better serve scientists, police, and librarians.

Sadly I don’t think he ever envisioned a day when all these tools would be designed simply for entertainment purposes. Or how modern terrorists would learn how to use his vision of peace and knowledge as a weapon. As brilliant minds evolve to bring us greater and greater technology, so do the minds of evil. We live in a day where we must watch everything we do online very carefully. Without paying very close attention our identities could be taken. Homegrown terrorists join together and share information through their blogs and their communities, all online.  So often we hear of reports where someone learned how to make a device or a weapon on YouTube. We must always be on guard.

In May of 1965 Mr. J. C. R. Licklider wrote for International Science and Technology an article called “The Computers As A Communication Device.” Here again we see a great vision, a scientist who sees a day when we would be communicating and sharing information and technology for the good of our people. Licklider essentially dreamed of the internet as we know it. He saw his vision coming true within six years. He also hoped that one day everyone in the world would computers as communication devices.

Licklider even goes as far as saying “Unemployment would disappear from the face of the earth forever…” I doubt he thought that the internet would begin the end to the newspaper industry and put thousands out of work. He did have a logical plan for the cost of sharing information and perhaps his idea could have saved newspapers. He wrote there would be a cost for the service of sharing information, and a reasonable one too for today’s money, roughly $16/hour. We do pay our providers a fee for using the internet. Cable and DSL make out quite nicely. My personal bill is far more than I would like, but I get all the services I require at great speed. I can only assume that Licklider would have predicted that newspapers charge for their online information. We cannot change the past though.

I do love how he sought out an end to face -to- face meetings or expensive traveling to meet with others and how that could be done over the internet. My boss is currently interviewing job candidates via Skype. Due to budget restraints we cannot afford to fly them to us, so a free video conference is the next best thing. I would still argue, though, to never get so consumed by the internet and social media that we live only though our computers. Interactive communications shouldn’t limit us to just a computer screen.  To learn new things and share information we must experience life.

Should the computer itself have a life? Mr. Licklider also ponders the idea of the computer communicating back to us. “When minds interact, new ideas emerge.” The goal here is to speed up the process of fetching us the information we require. I can speak to my Apple computer and tell it to launch a program. Imagine if the computers that we use everyday took in all of the information on the internet to form ideas and to communicate back to us. The day is fast approaching when artificial intelligence can catch up to us and match us at our own level. Could we one day have something like the car from Knight Rider?

Or would we end up with something like “Weird Science”

It is a scary thought to trust that a machine could be program correctly to be interactive and communicate back to us. When you think of ALL of the information that exists on the internet, what comes to mind? We protect our children from it because they need to develop more before they can comprehend and understand it, to rationalize that the information is not all true and that there are people out there who just want to mess with your head. For example, here is a guy whose sole purpose of his website is to be mean to you. You want to avoid guys like this:

The bottom line is that we are still in our infant stages. We will look back in five years and laugh at shows like “iCarly” and say “See how out-dated that is!” Hard to imagine now, but we will move on to something more sophisticated than Twitter and Facebook. We will keep growing. The internet and computers will keep evolving. Today anyone can be a writer, musician, photographer, you name it. The internet is wide open to make your dreams come true. The next Dr. Bush and Licklider are out there, dreaming up what could be next. Our inspiration comes from everywhere. The internet and social media are still so new to us we need to figure out how we want to use it.

We must continue to call out for scientists and engineers. We can’t lose these great minds. The inventor of Segway, Dean Kamen, has said he worries that math and science are being lost in today’s world. His goal is to make it fun again and bring kids back into a world of endless possibilities. Otherwise we will have a society that is highly entertained and lost in a world of stuff like this:

I have nothing against being entertained. I certainly take full advantage of the wonders the internet has to offer, but there still must be so much more for us to do with it.


Just A Little Aggregating…

I am still in the early stages of learning Twitter. I am enjoying it more than I had before though. I started a twitter account for my newsmagazine show called “207” if you want to follow us it’s @207TV. In the aggregating world I am grabbing mostly other class members blogs. I have our professor’s blog, or rather our class blog. I also have the following: Chuck Q, Old TV News Guy, Dogfish60, and my own. I am also following the “Social Media FTW” feed I mentioned in a previous post. Finally I also have my own Twitter feed too. There is another from class I want to follow but cannot find the feed link on his blog. So if @TheGrimaldi is reading this please let me know where I can find the link to follow your feed in Google reader.

There are other feeds I would like to follow, certain TV shows. I am trying not to. I want to try and keep to things that actually relate to class (not so on twitter).  In my Apples’ Mail program I do have an “Add RSS” feature which I have been using for years. I admit I did try to just add a few to that but many would not work. Oddly enough though my own blog did work. The class blog did not. which i best it is forccing me to use the Google reader and not get lazy.

One more note on the Twitter page. It only dawned upon me tonight to use the # sign before 501dc. I saw someone else do it and realized that was the way to find everyone. I saved the search and I am now in the process of following more folks from class. Does it matter of they are in the acutal classroom versus the “Online Classroom?”