Best to worst communities on social media


Where to post, comment, and get the response you want

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. October 16, 2015

Online communities bring people together, and they also tear them apart. So, often we delete accounts, block “friends,” and end up arguing with a troll over something that doesn’t even matter. Social media has become the Wild West, a lawless avenue for people to act horribly, and then defend themselves with crude language and bad grammar. In this article, I’ll look at my experience with the most popular social networks and examine how we behave when things are at their best and worst.

Reddit: There is an organized chaos to Reddit that is beautiful. People who are active on the network govern each other quite effectively. While identity does not ever need to be revealed, the “karma” system gives everyone power. It’s democracy at its finest. Every person has the right to vote up or down a post, link, or comment. This means bullshit sinks to the bottom and only the best is left on top. It’s a great place to get an honest opinion—brutally honest—without much hostility.

LinkedIn: Things never really get bad on LinkedIn, but it never really gets that great either. Now and then someone will write a very thoughtful recommendation for you or endorse one of your skills, but it’s never the place to get into any serious debate. It’s a professional community, and it demands respect. It does that effectively by making every commenter, poster, and even viewer accountable for his or her actions. You can’t creep your ex-girlfriend’s LinkedIn page without her knowing. Overall, you are always safe on LinkedIn, as safe as you would be at a networking event.

Facebook: If LinkedIn is a networking event, Facebook is a full-blown party. I don’t need to go into detail about what Facebook is, but literally anything can happen when such a wide variety of emotions collide. Some people are trying to impress everyone. Some are trying to get sympathy. Some are trying to get others to do something or “like” something. Yep, it’s a party all right. You’ll be okay on Facebook if you are genuine. Beware, though. Since Facebook encompass people within your circle, their honesty might hurt you in real life. A bit of censorship is advised.

Twitter: Twitter allows you to target the rich and famous, as well as your own lowly followers, and reach out to all of them. Twitter is effective, but it has to be earned. You have to climb the Twitter ladder. Once you have power (i.e., a top-notch Klout score), you need to wield it responsibly. Failure to do so, or tweeting 140 characters that don’t fit others’ points-of-view will be met with a barrage of responses. The good stuff is highlighted, but the bad stuff will not be ignored on Twitter.

YouTube: I don’t know what it is about videos that causes people to be such unsophisticated, racist, sexist, and offensive assholes. But they do. If you post a video on YouTube, it might just end up being forgotten deep in the rabbit hole of user-generated content, or it’ll go viral and you’ll have to answer for it. Haters are going to hate, and, believe me, like how a stagnant pond in July breeds mosquitoes, YouTube breeds classless idiots with little good to say.

Dislike button

Hate Technology

How social media creates a vortex of outrage with no solution

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press, Sept 4, 2015

Cecil the lion, the drowned Syrian boy, and even Kony 2012: it seems as though social media today is a place where we air our grievances. Yet, after we’ve blown enough hot air at a topic, we move on to the next one. Social media is a great place to gain an audience, but it seems as though awareness is as effective as a like button.

There is so much misguided information floating around the Internet today that we aren’t solving critical problems intelligently; we prefer a mob mentality. After the death of Cecil the lion, the online world became outraged by the act of trophy hunting—and in a way, all hunting in general. With obvious nearsighted Western thinking, many couldn’t see the positive side to controlled hunting, hunting as a way to sustain national parks and control the population of potentially dangerous or pesky animals. Instead of educating themselves, we publicly demanded the head of a Minnesota dentist. It’s this type of thinking that makes many appear hypocritical.

Social media as a vessel to bring awareness to the masses has created an audience of self-righteous pundits that happily add to the noise, but do little to end it.

Pointing the lens at an overlooked crisis, social media decided to over-share the image of a drowned Syrian boy washed on a Turkish shore. It’s obviously a terrible sight, especially slotted in between newsfeed favourites: vacation pictures, selfies, and images of food. Many weren’t only outraged by the migrant crisis in Europe, but also by the fact that social media is now the platform people use to upset, guilt, and shame.

Yes, we are all nodding our head saying that what has happened is awful, but there is so much horror in the world, why share it with our morning cup of coffee? Why create activists out of people who are clearly only capable of being idle? Why shove it down our throats?

I’m not a proponent of censorship, but I am a strong supporter of context. So many people who’ve seen the dead Syrian boy are oblivious to the current crisis. They see a dead toddler and they react without thinking. Blinded by rage, all they are able to do is condemn whatever wrongdoing is taking place in the world. This is our crisis. This is a problem. The world of social media has become so easily manipulated that we are now zombies to whatever power of persuasion the networks want to use against us. People are reading misinformation sourced by other misinformation, and that leads to a vicious cycle of misguided points-of-view. We don’t know what we’re talking about, and, when we do, we have no way of acting, no solution, just stealth-shaming others.

There needs to be a change in the way we consume and discuss content and crisis online. Is a comment thread the best way to have an intelligent discourse? I don’t think so; I think it’s more of a toilet bowl we are all vomiting into.

Your device puts you in public

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy (photos via Thinkstock

Is there such a thing as digital privacy

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 25, 2015

The more we know, the more frightened we become, but that shouldn’t be the case. Technology has pushed people to the fringes of paranoia. The devices in our bags and pockets know more about us today than our parents do. Every action we make, every item we purchase, and every person we correspond with is ultimately recorded to some hard drive library or in the ether. And that data is combined into a harmless stat for marketers, law enforcers, and other faceless benefactors.

While it seems like we are closer to an Orwellian present, we are far from danger. I don’t believe information will be used against us for evil—at least, not unless we’ve done something wrong. I think what people need to start understanding is that the device they hold in their hand as they fall asleep at night is as close to being in a public place as waiting for the bus on the side of the road. Whatever you are doing is not important, but someone will probably see you. They might just be passing by in a vehicle or strolling by minding their own business, but you are there.

There are witnesses for our actions. Behaving as if the world is watching should in fact be our way of thinking when we use our smartphone to log onto the Internet. We have grown too comfortable with our devices. We treat them as our closest ally, never to betray us. But in fact it’s not your friend, it’s inanimate, and it’s a window into the outside world. Living through your device is essentially living in a glass house for everyone to see.

The devices are not the scary things. There is nothing scary about tools and appliances. We should not worry about an oven, but we should worry that if we leave the oven on, we’ll probably burn down our house. We are only now beginning to understand the damage our negligence can do through our electronic devices. Maybe there will never be a day when people are arrested for being drunk on the Internet. But being belligerent and harmful online is by no means an un-punishable act.

We need to start using our devices with responsibility. We need to learn that what we do there is not private. Even if you have a passcode to your phone and a complicated password for your accounts, someone somewhere knows it. A device is not a home you can secure, it’s a vehicle that takes you to sites worth visiting, and you share these sites with billions of other people.

In and out of the net

Image via Thinkstock

What has the Internet turned us into?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 23, 2015

When we think of the Internet we think about the free flowing traffic between us and endless information and connections. Without having to put on shoes or brush our teeth we can go shopping, hang out with our friends, attend a course, and watch a movie. That is the Internet we know of.

As our dependency on the World Wide Web increases and technology advances, the Internet becomes more than a research data base, social meet-up, and entertainment resource. Like a plant growing fast and wild, branches and roots stray off in directions away from our periphery. The Internet is also now a cliquey underground society fulfilling the needs of those who want smut, drugs, and other products not readily available at Wal-Mart.

The dawn of the Internet—sometime during the late ‘90s—changed the face and other body parts of the pornography industry and the way criminals corresponded, exchanging insight. Remember when free porn was like a hidden gem and “how to make a bomb” articles were the red flag keywords?

As the web progressed, leaked photographs, stolen identities, and bootlegging have become the norm. We are no longer fazed by these wrongdoings. We condemn them, sure, but the lawlessness of the Internet does not institute any repercussions. Click away, delete, or access a different hard drive and we’ll be safe. As the law tries to end torrent sharing sites such as Pirate Bay, it seems they may never stop the numerous illegal acts occurring on the Deep Web, an area of the Internet not indexed by standard search engines.

As of 2001, the Deep Web was believed to occupy a space 400 to 500 times larger than the Internet we normally access, our surface web. Here are some numbers that might give you a better idea: over 10 years ago, the size of the Deep Web was estimated to be about 92,000 terabytes, which is 92,000,000 gigabytes. But all the numbers are merely speculation, because there is no real way to measure it. What makes the Deep Web worrisome to some? Well, can you imagine a physical place where you can buy a quarter gram of Afghan heroin, various firearms, fake identification, and hire an assassin? No? Well, on the Internet, there are hundreds and thousands of places.

The way we make money has changed thanks to the Internet. The way I make money is through content creation. I write marketable copy for different companies from tech to arts. My job would not exist without the Internet. However, many are choosing different avenues online to make a living as well: e-commerce, SaaS, and monetized user generated content. The last one in the list is interesting, because people can literally sell a show from the comforts of their own home. It can be a video blog like the kind you watch on YouTube, it can be a video game commentary like the kind you see on Twitch, and it can be pornography like the kind you find on MyFreeCams. There is literally a platform for any kind of entertainment you want to produce, and you can make a living doing it. Just try to avoid using public library as your settings.

It’s horribly clear that today we can only truly know a person by understanding their search history. The fact that Google has more information about us than our friends and family says a lot. Our relationships, our knowledge, and the life we’ve created are now a few gigabytes on the Internet. And that is how significant we’ll continue to be as the web, like the universe, continues to expand.

The Social Media 15 Minutes Of Fame: How Our Online Behaviour Might Be Our Generation’s Legacy

Every now and then a new Internet craze will crowd our desktops. We will try to ignore it like banner ads, but still we end up being sucked in by the gravitational forces of memes and viral trends like neknomination, Harlem Shake, and flash mobs.

Although we might not (want to) participate in those sometimes disdainful, sometimes obnoxious and usually downright embarrassing acts, our culture is influenced greatly. It takes permanent snapshot of the times we are living in, and allows us to revisit it occasionally. These fads come and go like flu season, it seizes a few lives, ruin some reputations and paves way for the next phenomenon. The thing is, nobody ever starts a trend with a bad intention—sure they get out of hand—but it’s often rooted in good old fun or visions of stardom: to peer pressure or to find the 15 minutes of fame (shame).

With a public uproar against neknomination, there is no doubt that the online drinking game’s sustaining power is petering out, just like the way Harlem Shake, flash mobs, planking, and Kony 2012 eventually faded from our memory. They do a little bit of good and a little bit of damage, and remind us that nothing on the Internet should ever be taken lightly. It is a community we are all living in; the drunks, the slacktivist, the trolls, and the brilliant thought leaders, sadly there are more of the formers than there are of the latter.

So how can we, the well-minded individuals, find the higher ground, avoid embarrassment and save face (and our Facebook account)?

First off, following in other’s footsteps in never a good way to gain acceptance. You show everyone that you are a victim to peer pressure, that you are easily swayed and that you don’t have much creativity within yourself to come up with anything new. So understand your purpose for following others initiatives. Are you trying to fulfill some social obligation or are you trying to get more traction onto your site by harnessing something popular?

If the answer leads you to feel optimistic about the project, go ahead create it, but then hold it, allow the initial excitement to simmer down. Watch it critically.

Then think about your online persona; how do you socialize with your network? Do you speak your mind when you see something you disagree with or do you just let it pass? This will effect how your followers will react to your posting. You might have a target audience in mind, but your unsavory video or picture might turn the majority off. Share it privately; get feedback, not approval. It might be worth the laugh, but it might not.

Finally, consider your real-life entity, how do you as a person interact with other real life people? List the top ten people you interact with daily and consider how they would feel about your YouTube escapade. Your reputation will potentially affect them, so it’s only respectful to keep them in mind. Suddenly, what you have made might not be as golden as you initially thought.

Self-awareness will keep on solid ground, even on the Internet. Trends are established all the time, but few have sustaining power. What is more powerful than trend is a personality that is what you want to foster. Nobody cares what you do, but how you do it.

However, if you do still want your 15 minutes of fame, and you want to ride the coat tails of a neknomination, Harlem Shake or flash mob—try the counter trend method; turn the self-indulgent act into a selfless act, like what many are doing for neknomination, daring other to be charitable, by showcasing their kind deeds on the Internet.

But what’s done is done, neknomination is now in the rear view mirror, but let’s learn from this momentous moment in the history of the Internet. Say to yourself: “When the next trend comes along, I’ll use the power for good, and not to show off my ability to drink, dance or make my broskies laugh. Amen.”

NuData Security Reduces the Risk of Account Takeover Frauds by Detecting Criminals Earlier

Vancouver firm NuData Security is challenging how the online security industry deals with web fraud.

“The earlier you can detect fraud or criminal activity the sooner you can put a stop to it,” Jules Campeau, CMO of NuData Security, explained to Techvibes, “whereas a lot of our competition are looking at it after the fact—analyzing it in a forensic manner we are able to give accurate intelligence before it happens.”

A website is not a house: you can’t lock the doors, bar the windows and sound the alarms every time someone browses. You want those who visit to feel welcome, after all that is the whole purpose of a website. But how do you prevent those unsavory characters from entering your home page and soiling your cushions, tracking dirt onto your carpet and taking all your belongings?

In 2009, NuData Security became the solution for a struggling and publicly disliked CAPTCHA market. They created a behavioural analytics engine to understand and profile users before any critical events on the site occur enabling them to show a countermeasure that matched the threat profile of the user.

The behaviour technology developed and now NuDetect, NuData Security’s premiere web-fraud protection software, is protecting the world’s top e-commerce sites and gaining recognition from Gartner Inc., the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, in the Magic Quadrant for Web Fraud Detection.

“NuDetect profiles the user and provides a score based upon not who the user is, but what the intent of the user is,” said Campeau. “It can look at every single interaction event. That can be as simple as a mouse click, a stroke across your smart phone or as complex as filling out a form or entering a password.”

“We look at all events on the website as it leads up to a critical decision point, where you might be authenticating or making a financial transaction,” he continued. “We then compile a profile score on that user and then compare that to what is considered good and bad behaviour on your particular website and in the NuData Cloud to determine if the user is a potential threat.”

NuDetect customizes their scoring algorithm for each unique client, whether they are an e-commerce or a government site. What might seem like loyal customer behaviour on one may be incriminating on another. If NuDetect spots a suspicious user trying to purchase a product or alter information on the website, it would send a risk score to the client. From there, the client assesses the situation and determines the best action going forward, whether it is flagging the transaction for later review or blocking it completely.

“What our clients won’t tolerate,” said Campeau, “is if we’re blocking good customers from transactions. That is called a ‘false positive’ or a ‘customer insult.’ Our clients take that issue  as seriously as they do blocking the actual fraud transactions.”

The technology for NuDetect, behaviour analytics and online security are all continuously innovating. There is a lot to anticipate for the future, but NuData Security is developing features that will help companies determine if someone is pretending to be you. By recognizing biometrics, how you swipe your phone or the speed of your typing, the technology can decide whether there is abnormal behaviour on your device or on your account.

“Recently, the game maker Ubisoft had a data leak,” said Matthew Reeves, Marketing Associate of NuData, “they reported that someone internally had their password stolen. What we hope is that in the future even if the password and username is correct, you could tell they are using the site differently. Like a secondary check.”

“It’s not to say we are going to block you,” Campeau added, “but we might not instantly give you access to sensitive information. We might give you access to your email or the Internet, but we are going to check out some things before we do that. What we are is an enabler for companies to take action on those behaviours.”

NuDetect protects the world’s most successful e-commerce sites, odds are NuData Security is currently protecting websites you frequently use. That is why they are now standing face to face with some of the world’s online security industry leaders, competing with such names as RSA, American Express and etc. A great achievement for a Gastown company that only three years ago rebranded themselves, adapted to the a new technology and changed the game of online security.

Canadians Surprisingly Satisfied with Their Phone and Internet Service, Study Suggests

J.D. Power Recently released their 2013 Canadian Television Provider Customer Satisfaction Study and the 2013 Canadian Internet Service Provider Customer Satisfaction Study. According to the findings, customers who bundle their television, Internet and telephone services with the same telecom provider have the highest percent of satisfaction.

The study for television providers used six factors to measure customers’ overall satisfaction, those were cost of service, programming, communication, customer service and billing. The study for Internet providers used five, performance and reliability, cost of service, communication, billing and customer service.

The key insight from the study was that 83% of customers bundle their TV and Internet service, while 17% only subscribe to TV with their provider. 59% of customers with a TV and Internet also have telephone service from the same provider, which is referred to as the triple-play package.

Customers who selected the triple-play package pay an average of $165 per month. TV and Internet bundle cost an average of $156, while TV-only subscriptions cost $89.

“Bundling typically provides discounts and has the added convenience of one bill with one provider,” said Adrian Chung, account director at J.D. Power. “These elements are key drivers of higher satisfaction and provide the stickiness that leads to long-term loyalty.”

Triple-play customers tend to have the highest overall satisfaction with 690 on a 1,000-point scale, while TV and Internet bundlers have 678 and TV-only with 658. And 19% of triple-play customers stated that they “definitely will” recommend their providers to others.

Customers who subscribe to premium TV packages are more loyal to the provider. Only 16% indicated they “will likely” switch to another provider in the next year. They are also more “likely” to purchase additional services, while 22% of basic TV subscribers will likely switch in the next 12 months.

The study also shows that 42% of customers view content on their smarphones or tablets, but satisfaction among these customers average at 661, 22 points lower than those who only watch on their television.

“Satisfaction for mobile users suffers because they tend to experience more problems with picture and download speed,” said Chung. “They expect their mobile device to have the same speed and quality as their home TV, and in many cases their expectations are not met.”

When it comes to Internet, speed is the determining factor. The study shows that 15% of Internet users with fibre optic had their expectations exceeded, while only 8% of DSL and cable users have the same response.

Satisfaction is highest for customers with fibre optic Internet service. Customers who choose this service will experience fewer problems, but issues with their connection often lead to a significant decline in satisfaction.

“While customers with fibre optic connections are very pleased with the speed and reliability of their Internet connection, they also have very high expectations,” said Chung.

29% of DSL customers and 31% of cable customers have experienced outage with their Internet connection, where as only 25% of customers with fibre optic have experienced problems with their Internet. But if a problem does arise, fibre optic users’ satisfaction drops 114 points, 15 more than DSL and 13 more than cable.

In the eastern region, Vidéotron ranks highest in both television customer satisfaction with 747 and Internet customer satisfaction with 755. In the western region, SaskTel ranks highest in customer service with 730 points for television customer satisfaction and 705 for Internet customer satisfaction.

More than 10,500 telecommunication customers responded to the study conducted in October 2012 and April 2013.

The troll toll

Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept 24 2012

How to avoid trolls on the Internet

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

Opinions_trollA virus has struck the Internet. It is too late for a firewall, it is too late to do a full computer scan, and it is too late to unplug and re-plug your modem. Trolling is officially an epidemic in our online communities. If you have made a sincere comment or left a genuine opinion, a troll is not far away, hunched over their computer, preparing a patronizing reply.

Go to your computer and scroll down any comments list. You don’t have to go far to uncover the markings of a troll. They are ruthless, senseless, and ignorant creatures. Feed them enough negative reinforcement and soon they’ll be insulting your religion, your ideals, and even your mother. Like a junkie getting high off narcotics, trolls get a euphoric sensation from your aggravation. Stop, accept that they exist, and let their antagonizing words fade into the ether.

Although trolling is widespread, the websites that allow users to create their own aliases (Twitter, YouTube, etc.) are more commonly subjected to their antics. So until the day a law is made requiring all computer users’ identification to post comments, we must fend for ourselves. But how can we? The World Wide Web is such a vulnerable place. There are the mean streets of Facebook, the terrifying ghettos of Twitter, and the dark alleys of Reddit. How do we protect ourselves during our online explorations?

Remember, trolls are human beings. That is, they are bored, vulgar, and insecure human beings. That statement alone should make you feel better. But if you still feel victimized by their existence, try this option: kill them with kindness. You’d be surprised how effective positivity can be when following their curt comments. Kindness is troll kryptonite. Give them respect, but don’t linger long—they won’t return it.

As bullying continues in our physical world, cyber-bullying will survive in the virtual one. The Internet will always be home to intolerance, profanity, and slander. But the website universe is vast; there is room for the passive surfers, the gracious Googlers, and the tepid browsers. After all, you don’t need to frequent the Internet that often anyways. The best way to avoid trolls and the temptation of becoming one is to explore the real world. Go out tonight, grab a drink with friends, and laugh over the fact that someone somewhere is unable to terrorize you through a computer screen.