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Category Archives: Computers

What’s The Right Credit Card For My Business?

gty_credit_card_choice_kb_130405_wgA number of credit card providers have been really aiming at including small businesses in their product line. For new, small businesses this can work wonders as it is a lot easier to get a credit card than a loan from a bank.

Of course, there are dozens of choices available and this can often make it quite hard to choose a specific card. The best way to evaluate the sort of card that’s best for your business is to take a look at its spending habits. Different businesses have different spending habits, depending on the sort of business they have.

Balance

Consider if you plan on paying the balance over each month, or whether you will pay it off with time and want to pay the minimum payment. If you do decide to carry the balance then you will need to take a look at the annual percentage rate, as this can end up being quite costly for business if it goes wrong.

For those that wish to carry their balance and also have good credit, take a look to see if you can get a 0% credit card, as this will mean you pay nothing back for a set period. Fixed rates can be very attractive when interest rates are rising; however this is not the case currently.

For businesses that pay all of their balance each month, they should look for cards with rewards or longer periods of grace. These businesses can benefit greatly from paying back and the rewards for being disciplined are good. However, make sure you are disciplined as the costs for not being so are also high.

Charge Cards

A good alternative to the credit card is the charge card. This card differs as it allows businesses to have a short line of credit. The card will always be paid back in the full amount at the end of the month and there are harsh penalties. However, if you do pay back in full your business will receive a number of benefits for doing so. Charge cards often also charge an annual fee and there is a similar process to the credit card application online, when applying for one.

Though, if you do need flexibility, then a credit card is a better option – just be aware of the interest charges and when you need to pay the balance.

Rewards

We’ve mentioned rewards on a number of occasions and both credit card and charge card companies issue these. These often come in the shape of air miles, cash back and discounts at retailers, hotels or for services. Access to airport lounges and hotel upgrades are also part and parcel of these benefits and perks. The main thing here is to pay attention to the fine print if you choose a card with these perks, as the costs of not meeting the criteria are high.

So, in conclusion, the best way to choose a card is to look at your businesses situation and all the financial products out there and then take your ability to pay into account. By then choosing a card around your ability to pay, you can be sure that you will avoid steep charges and gain all the benefits you can.

Cormac Reynolds writes financial articles for a variety of businesses and blogs and has done so for many years.

 

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SeeMail iPhone App Revolutionizes Photo Sharing and Social Media

 

Author’s note: this is something I’m not sure I would use all that often, but I did check it out and it works pretty well. Might be fun for parties, weddings, family reunion type things. I guess if you want a still photograph, instead of just an iPhone movie this would be the app.  I look forward to their adding a few more social media platforms.

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 23, 2012) — A revolutionary new iPhone app for photo sharing called SeeMail allows users to add voice notes to photographs and is now nominated for the prestigious iMedia Next Wave Start-Up Challenge competition. No other app has ever blended photos, captions, locations, and audio like SeeMail. SeeMail is not another endless stream of photo sharing. SeeMail is personal, intimate, beautiful, fun and easy and brings storytelling to social media. iMedia’s Next Wave’s competition focus is on highlighting early-stage technology companies redefining the mobile marketing industry. SeeMail was chosen from a pool of hundreds, as determined by iMedia’s Next Wave Advisory Board to participate in Phase III, (community voting) of the Challenge and voting can be completed online at http://www.imediaconnection.com/iMediaLists/2012/breakthrough-next-wave/mobile-entertainment/SeeMail/.

How it works: SeeMail creates a unique style of mobile message inspired by the idea of sharing the story behind the photo

1) Choose a new photo, or select from your library or Facebook albums
2) Record a SeeMail AudioT.ag™ – just tap the record button and record your voice or anything going on around you
3) Add a caption to your photo
4) Postmark your current location – powered by FourSquare
5) Share privately with your SeeMail friends

6) Share publicly with Facebook and Twitter

7) Play and share SeeMail on the web

 

SeeMail 1.4 is now poised as the next social media powerhouse. New features include:

Facebook Sharing: Some moments need to be shared quickly.  So now you can share a SeeMail to Facebook, even if you do not share directly to another SeeMail user.  So, you can public post a SeeMail without sending it directly to another person.

Twitter Sharing: By popular demand, you can now share your SeeMail’s to your Twitter account. If you have multiple twitter accounts set up on your iPhone, you can share it to multiple twitter accounts at the same time from inside the app.

Full Web Experience: Every SeeMail that you share to Facebook or Twitter will automatically populate to your personal SeeMail Web page.

Try It Out Feature:It’s a great way for new users to experience the app without logging into Facebook.  View a welcome message and compose your own SeeMail to be sure it’s right for you.

SeeMail can be downloaded for free at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seemail/id429509393 and additional information can be found at www.seemail.com.

 

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The toys we have on our iPhones

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Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I have always enjoyed technology but find something new every day. In writing my grocery list I noticed that my notepad on my iPhone has speech recognition software. Thinking myself very clever I composed a short note on my notepad and cut it and pasted it into a text message to send to my wife. Having thought this absolutely wonderful are you then cut a note and started to pasted into my WordPress blog. Much to my surprise I found that the blog site also house Word recognition software. Our iPhones grand.

You have to go through and edit some of the translations but generally this saves an immense amount of time. Especially if you are trying to type on an iPhone, I am no where as good as my kids are at that.

I always enjoyed writing blogs, but sometimes the act of typing takes longer than it takes for a thought to get out of my mouth.

With my new discovery I can speak as quickly as the thoughts enter my head and record them at the same time. People sitting next to me on the train might think I am talking into a robotic device but then after all I guess I am. This entire blog was my first attempt and written entirely on speech recognition software from an iPhone 4 ain’t excuse me. There have been no editing at all so excuse some of the grammar and misspellings but all in all I think this is a very valuable tool.

 

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It’s All Geek to Me

Many people earn degrees based on their interests, it only makes sense, right? However, let’s face it, not everyone has same interest and maybe your run slightly (or highly) more to the nerd side. Sure you would love to be musician or draw concept art for car makers, but that just isn’t your thing. You are far more into Dungeons and Dragons than designing buildings. If so, here are some degrees you might like.

Astronomy – If you wish you could boldly go where no man has gone before, well now you can, at least in your mind. If long night and large telescopes intrigue you then why not study astronomy?  Granted, this can be pretty intense and mind boggling at times but deep down inside, you know you would love every minute of it. You might even get lucky and discover a planet or an asteroid about to hit the earth.

Physics – Physics and any other type of physics have a lot of overlap. If you like colliding invisible particles in multi-billion dollar pieces of equipment then you should love this field.  If you know what a mass spectrometer is, or how to use one then you definitely need to major in this.  Once again, this is no casual stroll through academic America, it is pretty tough stuff to wrap your head around, but you can do it. Just don’t look too closely too quantum physics, that stuffs insane.

Math – If you are math addict then you have little choice but to major in math. For some reason, geeks everywhere seem to love this subject and somehow they actually understand it.  Teaching would be your most likely option, but if you learn your advanced stuff you could get into programming, code breaking or the exciting world of accounting. If this isn’t for you, do what I did and go for…

History – On the entirely different end of the nerd mass spectrometer you can delve into the depths of history and the liberal arts. Learn about the battles epic battles with knights and maybe reenact some of them yourself.  Antiquities, artifacts and folklore are yours to master. You can even specialize in a military masters degree. If worst-comes-to-worst, you could at least get a job at Medieval Times.

Which bring us to literature, the cute, shy sister of history. Everyone has seen a bookworm or two in their lives. You know, they are always reading. They read in the car, they read while working out, they read while they eat and they fall asleep while reading. Are all books nerdy? No, but most are. For those who love to explore the vast plains of the unbridled imagination then literature is for you.

Which leaves us to the more important and eternal question, what will you do with these degrees? Well, it is true that many people end up doing something not related to their degree at all, teaching is the most obvious choice. You can go and be an inspiring influence and younger nerds who were once just like yours and let them see just where they will end up.

Jeff Jordan lives, breathes and writes in sunny Southern California. He mainly writes about education. automobiles, navy education, real estate and pop culture.  He would write about romance and dating but sadly knows nothing about it.

 

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Why Flash and Animated Websites Can Be Bad for Business

by Chris Bolton

Click to View Animated Gif

I love special effects, video games, and Sci-Fi movies. But I can’t stand a slow-loading animated website when I’m trying to accomplish a purpose. If I’m trying to get some information or buy a product, I want the shortest distance between my mouse and my goal. This is why Flash websites can sometimes do more damage than good. Sure, you’ve got a goldfish swimming behind the article you’re trying to read and fireworks following every move of the cursor–that’s a nifty trick–but I can’t read anything on the site, and it takes forever for all the graphics to load.

Most people who work in the web-world know that Adobe Flash-based websites have numerous issues. They don’t work on manymobile devices; they load slow; they can’t be read by Google (which means they get poor search engine ranking).

That being said, what if there was a solution that worked better than Flash–something that loaded faster and played nice with Google? Would we all start building websites that snow, sparkle, flip upside down, and make burps when we click buttons?

Well, there are alternatives to Flash these days. HTML5 is the most promising, and as it is more widely adopted, you will see more websites with HTML5 animation. But this is where I think we need to pause . . .

Just because we have these tools doesn’t mean we should run out and start dousing our sites in animated menus, dancing puppies, and scrolling banners.

Here are 5 reasons I think you should think twice before creating a website that relies heavily on any kind of animated effects.

1. Shiny/Flashy/Moving Things are Distracting

Things that blink, buzz, and whir serve a good purpose. There is a reason why we have traffic signs that blink, sirens that scream, and alarm clocks that buzz. These things are designed to tear our attention away from whatever we were trying to do in the first place and PAY ATTENTION. This is never a pleasant experience. Ambulance sirens scare the hell out of me, but I’m generally forgiving because they are serving a public good. If your website starts screaming, talking, spinning, or blinking, it might just scare the hell out of me as well. But my reaction will not be so forgiving. In fact I will never go to your website again.

2. Slow Load Time

Even if you have super-fast internet, your fans and customers may not. You’ve got about 2 seconds to engage your audience before they click onto the next thing. Loading excess animations and video will slow down your site load time. Also, putting a video or song on your website is great, but don’t make it auto-play. If your visitor wants to watch or listen, they will push play and they will usually wait a reasonable about of time for it to load. But most users like to choose whether to watch a video or not.

3. Animations Often Force an Experience

The internet is full of options. People like options. If a fancy animation loads when you land on a website, you are forced to watch it before you can go on to what you were trying to accomplish. The perfect example of this is a “splash page.” This is a page that loads prior to landing on a homepage and usually features some kind of animation or ad. Now if I’m trying to locate a concert date, buy your eBook, or perform any other transaction on your site, a splash page serves a s a barrier between your site and my intended action. If I’m on a mobile phone it could break your website completely.

4. Inconsistent Mobile and Tablet Experiences

More and more people are using phones and tablets to access the internet and leaving their desktops to gather dust. Creating animations that work well on a big screen and a tiny phone screen is a tough challenge and it often fails. The best mobile experience, in my opinion, is a simple one. I’m usually in transit when I use my phone and I want my information fast. Ask yourself what you want people to do on your website and make that super easy to do on any device.

5. Search Ranking

Search engines, like Google, are great at reading text. They are not-so-great at reading images and animations. Sure, HTML5 will be easier for Google to handle then flash, but because of the potential for keyword stuffing and hidden text, words that are embedded in images will probably not be given the same weight as text on the page.

All this being said, I love special effects and animation and there are some awesome interactive websites that are exceptions to the rule because they are designed as a novelty or a multimedia experience. But if you’re trying to grow your fan base and readership and sell some merchandise, you don’t need special effects. You just need a great-looking website that is easy to use.

 

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What Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) Can Teach You About a Successful Partnership

 

 

The partnership of Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized the way we access information on the web. Google is one of the most important companies of the 21st Century. Page and Brin took a college project and made it into an incredibly successful business. Along the way, they did it all together and remained equal partners in the development and management of Google. Their ability to work well together is what ultimately made Google great, and their example can teach us a thing or two about what makes a partnership successful.

Good Friends Make Good Partners

Sometimes people advise that you shouldn’t do business with your family or close friends. Page and Brin prove that business and personal don’t have to be so strictly divided. Page and Brin are not only great partners; they’re also very close friends. In their case, their business relationship and friendship began at just about the same time. As their business grew, so did their friendship. They show that a close personal relationship makes for a well-rounded and successful business partnership.
There are No Limits to What You Can Do Together

Page and Brin developed Google together, but their ambitions didn’t stop there. As they became so successful, they branched out and began working on lots of other projects together, too. For example, they’re working on ways to solve the energy crisis with alternative and renewable energy. When you have a good working partnership, it can be expanded to other pursuits. You aren’t limited to working together in your primary business, because the success you find together there can be found anywhere.
Take Full Advantage of Having Two Heads

They say “two heads are better than one,” and it’s true. Page was working on developing the Google search engine before ever meeting Brin, and it’s possible he could have done it alone. But having a partner made things easier, faster, and stronger. They both worked on the engine together equally, and they had better results because of it. Successful partners truly work together on projects. Rather than dividing the labor down the middle, they collaborate on all aspects in order to bring the strength of numbers to every product and part of the business.
Benefits of a Larger Support Network

When Page and Brin were first starting Google and working out of their dorm rooms, as college students they certainly lacked the capital to fully realize their business goals. They looked to their friends and family members to invest money in them. Successful partners realize the benefits of having twice the outside support and connections. Successful partners utilize all the resources of both partners.
Challenge Each Other

Perhaps one of the best aspects of a successful partnership is that each partner can challenge the other. Page and Brin actually disagree quite a lot, and their disagreements challenge them to come up with new solutions and really refine their products. Rather than letting their differing styles ruin their partnership, they appreciate their differences and use them to benefit their company.

Charlie Adams is a tech guru and internet expert who loves to blog about his interests. To ensure all his writing is professional and adheres to the strictest grammar rules he always proofs it with a grammar checker prior to letting anyone read it.

 

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Statistics and IT Go Together Like Movies and Popcorn

Certain things in life are made for each other: cheese and tomato, movies and popcorn, rainy days and hot chocolate, and … statistics and IT. Imagine being a statistician with no computer programmes or fancy software to help you organise and make sense of all the data around you. Imagine being surrounded by reams of paper and having to create graphs and charts by hand. Oh yes, IT is a boon to statistical analysis.

Statistics combines scientific and mathematical principles to collect, analyse and interpret data. They also devise data collection methods to ensure that the information is collected in a quantifiable manner. If you’re not highly focused and don’t possess Vulcan-like logic then you should probably consider another career.

Becoming a statistician

It should go without saying that you need to have taken maths and science throughout your school career. Statistics is not a field that you spontaneously leap into after years of home economics, history and geography, but if you’re the kind of person prone to spur of the moment gut decisions then, once again, statistics might not be for you.

So, you need maths and science – with good grades – and then degree. Not just any old degree will do. A bachelor’s degree in maths or science is a good starting point, but then you need to up the stakes and get your master’s degree and, if you can, a PhD. Statistics is one of those fields where a PhD will stand you in good stead, rather than simply being an interesting way to occupy five years of your life.

Your degree programme should incorporate maths (particularly calculus and linear algebra, according to printonereview.com) and statistics (of course), computer science, probability, logic and even psychology. You’ll also need to fully understand all forms of research methodology and be able to define terms such as Chi-squared test, analysis of variance, mean square weighted deviation, and Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient.

It’s important to note that just because you’re going to be neck deep in numbers doesn’t mean you can’t combine your statistical skills with other subjects. Statisticians are required in a wide range of fields, including biology (biostatistics), economics (econometrics), geography (geostatistics), business (business analytics), psychology (psychometrics), health (epidemiology) and reliability engineering – Wikipedia.

One of the reasons why IT is so important to statisticians is that they rely heavily on software that helps them arrange, access and assimilate information. Software can draw on numbers and run complicated calculations based on even more complicated formulas to generate charts, graphs and tables that help statisticians analyse data and reach logical conclusions. These programmes also detect minor errors that might otherwise have been missed.

Some statisticians also find that they have to tweak existing software or write their own programmes so they can run the tests and formulas they require.

IT is a boon to statistical analysis indeed.

Sandy Cosser writes on behalf of Now Learning, which promotes online IT courses and an assortment of other degree programmes in Australia.

 

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Going viral: from 350 to 135,000 readers a day

Recently one of my blog articles (A Dog’s Purpose? from a 6-year-old) went “viral” and in one week, had 335,000 hits.

One can never predict the reaction of the Internet, but your next article could be the one.  Who knows?  The point is that if you don’t set up a Social Network, maintain it regularly, and generate good content, it is sure not to happen.  I have to admit, it took me two years to grow the circulation from zero to around 350 readers a day.  When this article was first published it started with a few readers.  The next day it was around a hundred, the next 500, then 2,500, and then on a Friday it soared to 135,000 readers in a single day.

The amount of positive feedback we have had is amazing, and my business has never been better, time to re-staff.  The moral of the story is that attraction marketing is not an overnight sensation, but a process.  It takes time to build trust, and a brand, but if you stick with it, it works!

In my consulting business I work with business owners to integrate social media and internet publishing to generate interest and drive prospects to their websites, and make sure the sites are optimized to convert prospects into customers.  I would love to discuss some improvements to your business, at no charge, if you are interested.  Feel free to drop me a line by email @ steve@bayintegratedmarketing.com  http://www.bayintegratedmarketing.com  and please if you haven’t yet, please join my LinkedIn network at: http://linkd.in/IPwsK7v 

 

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This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

by John Brownlee

This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

This app is meant to all be in good fun, but it’s potentially a weapon in the hands of stalkers.

“Boy, you sure have a lot of apps on your phone.”

“Well, it’s my job.”

“What’s your favorite?”

“Oh, I couldn’t choose. But hey, want to see one to set your skin crawling?”

It was the flush end of a pleasurably hot day — 85 degrees in March — and we were all sipping bitter cocktails out in my friend’s backyard, which was both his smoking room, beer garden, viticetum, opossum parlor and barbecue pit. I was enjoying the warm dusk with a group of six of my best friends, all of whom seemed interested, except for my girlfriend… who immediately grimaced.

Girls Around Me? Again?” she scolded. “Don’t show them that.”

She turned to our friends, apologetically.

“He’s become obsessed with this app. It’s creepy.”

I sputtered, I nevered, and I denied it, but it was true. I had become obsessed with Girls Around Me, an app that perfectly distills many of the most worrying issues related to social networking, privacy and the rise of the smartphone into a perfect case study that anyone can understand.

It’s an app that can be interpreted many ways. It is as innocent as it is insidious; it is just as likely to be reacted to with laughter as it is with tears; it is as much of a novelty as it has the potential to be used a tool for rapists and stalkers.

And more than anything, it’s a wake-up call about privacy.

The only way to really explain Girls Around Me to people is to load it up and show them how it works, so I did. I placed my iPhone on the table in front of everyone, and opened the app.

The splash screen elicited laughter all around. It’s such a bitmap paean to the tackiest and most self-parodying of baller “culture”; it might as well be an app Tom Haverford slapped together in Parks And Recreation. But it does, at a glance, sum up what Girls Around Me is all about: a radar overlaid on top of a Google Map, out of which throbs numerous holographic women posing like pole dancers in a perpetual state of undress.

“Okay, so here’s the way the app works,” I explained to my friends.

Girls Around Me is a standard geolocation based maps app, similar to any other app that attempts to alert you to things of interest in your immediate vicinity: whether it be parties, clubs, deals, or what have you. When you load it up, the first thing Girls Around Me does is figure out where you are and load up a Google Map centered around your location. The rest of the interface is very simple: in the top left corner, there’s a button that looks like a radar display, at the right corner, there’s a fuel meter (used to fund the app’s freemium model), and on the bottom left is a button that allows you to specify between whether you’re interested in women, men or both.

It’s when you push the radar button that Girls Around Me does what it says on the tin. I pressed the button for my friends. Immediately, Girls Around Me went into radar mode, and after just a few seconds, the map around us was filled with pictures of girls who were in the neighborhood. Since I was showing off the app on a Saturday night, there were dozens of girls out on the town in our local area.

This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

Girls Around Me’s splash screen (left) and geo-maps interface (right). Lots of girls around the MFA.

“Wait… what? Are these girls prostitutes?” one of my friends asked, which given the Matrix-like silhouettes posing on the splash screen was a pretty good question.

“Oh, no,” I replied. “These are just regular girls. See this girl? Her name’s Zoe. She lives on the same street as me and Brittany. She works at a coffee shop, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t moonlight picking up tricks.”

“How does it know where these girls are? Do you know all these girls? Is it plucking data from your address book or something?” another friend asked.

“Not at all. These are all girls with publicly visible Facebook profiles who have checked into these locations recently using Foursquare. Girls Around Me then shows you a map where all the girls in your area trackable by Foursquare area. If there’s more than one girl at a location, you see the number of girls there in a red bubble. Click on that, and you can see pictures of all the girls who are at that location at any given time. The pictures you are seeing are their social network profile pictures.”

“Okay, so they know that their data can be used like this for anyone to see? They’re okay with it? ”

“Probably not, actually. The settings determining how visible your Facebook and Foursquare data is are complicated, and tend to be meaningless to people who don’t really understand issues about privacy,” I explained. “Most privacy settings on social networks default to share everything with everyone, and since most people never change those… well, they end up getting sucked up into apps like this.”

“But they know they’ve checked in, right?”

“Again, not necessarily. Foursquare lets you check other people into a location. If you get checked into Foursquare by a friend without your knowledge and have a publicly visible Facebook profile, you could end up in here.” (Update: Apparently, I wasn’t correct about this. Foursquare does NOT allow you to check other people in with you without their knowledge; I was confusing Foursquare for Facebook, which does offer this functionality. Thanks for the correction, unknown8bit! – JRB)

One of my less computer-affable friends actually went pale, and kept on shooting her boyfriend looks for assurance. A Linux aficionado who was the only person in our group without a Facebook account (and one of the few people I’d ever met who actually endorsed Diaspora), the look he returned was one of comical smugness.

“But wait! It gets worse!” I said, ramping things up.

“So let’s say I’m a bro, looking to go out for a night on the town and pick someone up. Let’s say I’m going to the Independent around the corner, and checking it out ahead of time, I really like the look of this girl Zoe — she looks like a girl I might want to try to get with tonight — so I tap her picture for more information, see what I can find out about here.”

I tapped on Zoe. Girls Around Me quickly loaded up a fullscreen render of her Facebook profile picture. The app then told me where Zoe had last been seen (The Independent) and when (15 minutes ago). A big green button at the bottom reading “Photos & Messaging” just begged to be tapped, and when I did, I was whisked away to Zoe’s Facebook profile.

“Okay, so here’s Zoe. Most of her information is visible, so I now know her full name. I can see at a glance that she’s single, that she is 24, that she went to Stoneham High School and Bunker Hill Community College, that she likes to travel, that her favorite book is Gone With The Wind and her favorite musician is Tori Amos, and that she’s a liberal. I can see the names of her family and friends. I can see her birthday.”

“All of that is visible on Facebook?” one of the other girls in our group asked.

“More, depending on how your privacy settings are configured! For example, I can also look at Zoe’s pictures.”

I tapped on the photo album, and a collection of hundreds of publicly visible photos loaded up. I quickly browsed them.

“Okay, so it looks like Zoe is my kind of girl. From her photo albums, I can see that she likes to party, and given the number of guys she takes photos with at bars and clubs at night, I can deduce that she’s frisky when she’s drunk, and her favorite drink is a frosty margarita. She appears to have recently been in Rome. Also, since her photo album contains pictures she took at the beach, I now know what Zoe looks like in a bikini… which, as it happens, is pretty damn good.”

My girlfriend scowled at me. I assured her Zoe in a bikini was no comparison, and moved on.

“So now I know everything to know about Zoe. I know where she is. I know what she looks like, both clothed and mostly disrobed. I know her full name, her parents’ full names, her brother’s full name. I know what she likes to drink. I know where she went to school. I know what she likes and dislikes. All I need to do now is go down to the Independent, ask her if she remembers me from Stoneham High, ask her how her brother Mike is doing, buy her a frosty margarita, and start waxing eloquently about that beautiful summer I spent in Roma.”

This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

The Girls of Girls Around Me. It’s doubtful any of these girls even know they are being tracked. Their names and locations have been obscured for privacy reasons.

Throughout this demonstration, my group of friends had been split pretty evenly along gender lines in their reactions. Across the board, the men either looked amused or (in the case of my beardo Diaspora friend) philosophically pleased with themselves about their existing opinions about social networking. The women, on the other hand, looked sick and horrified.

It was at this point, though, that the tendrils of the girls’ unease — their deeply empathic sense of someone being unsafe — seemed to creep through the entire group.

“And if that doesn’t work on Zoe,” I concluded, consulting the app one last time. “There are — let’s see — nine other girls at the Independent tonight.”

Often times, a writer uses tricks and exaggerations to convey to a reader the spirit — if not the precise truth — of what occurred. I just want to make clear that when I say that one of my friends was actually on the verge of tears, you understand that this is not such a trick. She was horrified to the point of crying.

“How can Apple let people download an app like this?” she asked. “And have you written about this?”

In answer to the first question, I replied that as sleazy as this app seemed, Girls Around Me wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. Sure, on the surface, it looks like a hook-up app like Grindr for potential stalkers and date rapists, but all that Girls Around Me is really doing is using public APIs from Google Maps, Facebook and Foursquare and mashing them all up together, so you could see who had checked-in at locations in your area, and learn more about them. Moreover, the girls (and men!) shown in Girls Around Me all had the power to opt out of this information being visible to strangers, but whether out of ignorance, apathy or laziness, they had all neglected to do so. This was all public information. Nothing Girls Around Me does violates any of Apple’s policies.

In fact, Girls Around Me wasn’t even the real problem.

“It’s not, really, that we’re all horrified by what this app does, is it?” I asked, finishing my drink. “It’s that we’re all horrified by how exposed these girls are, and how exposed services like Facebook and Foursquare let them be without their knowledge.”

But I didn’t have an easy answer ready for my friend’s last question. I’d been playing with the app for almost two months. Why hadn’t I written about it? None of the answers made me look good.

Part of it was because, like many tech professionals, I had taken for granted that people understood that their Facebook profiles and Foursquare data were publicly visible unless they explicitly said otherwise… and like my beardo Diaspora friend, I secretly believed that people who were exposed this way on the Internet without their knowledge were foolish.

That made Girls Around Me a funny curio, a titillating novelty app, the kind of thing you pulled out with your buddies at the bar to laugh about… and maybe secretly wish had been around when you were younger and single and trying to pull some action. And if I’d written a post about it a month ago, it would have probably been from that angle. The headline might well have been: “No More Sausage Fests With Girls Around Me [Humor]”

It was in just this spirit that I’d shown off the app to my friends in the first place. It was getting late, we were all drunk or on the verge of getting there, and it had been a perfect day. It would have been so nice to finish things with a laugh. But now, as six intelligent, sophisticated friends from a variety of backgrounds surrounded me — some looking sick, some looking angry, and some with genuine fear in their faces — I didn’t think Girls Around Me was so funny. It had cast a pall across a beautiful day, and it had made people I loved feel scared… not just for the people they loved, but for complete strangers.

So I’m writing about it now. Not because Girls Around Me is an evil app that should be pulled from the iOS App Store, or because the company that makes it — Moscow-based i-Free — is filled with villains. I still don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with what this app is doing, and the guys at i-Free are super nice, and certainly don’t mean for this app to be anything beyond a diversion. So, the reason I’m writing about Girls Around Me is because I finally know what to say about it, and what it means in the greater picture.

Girls Around Me isn’t an app you should use to pick up girls, or guys for that matter. This is an app you should download to teach the people you care about that privacy issues are real, that social networks like Facebook and Foursquare expose you and the ones you love, and that if you do not know exactly how much you are sharing, you are as easily preyed upon as if you were naked. I can think of no better way to get a person to realize that they should understand their Facebook privacy settings then pulling out this app.

That’s why I hope you’ll go download Girls Around Me on your iPhone or iPad. It’s free to download. Show it to someone. Give them the same demo I gave to my friends. Then, when they ask how it’s done and how they can prevent an app like Girls Around Me from tracking them, educate them about privacy.

Here’s a good place to start.

Update: In response to this story, Foursquare has killed Girls Around Me’s API access to their data, effectively knocking the app out of commission. For more details and a statement from Foursquare, read here.

Update 2: As of Saturday evening, Girls Around Me has been yanked from the iOS App Store.

Update 3: Girls Around Me developer i-Free has released a full statement on the app, in which they say they’ve done nothing wrong and been made a scapegoat for privacy issues. You can read their response — and ours — here.

Update 4: Think this issue’s dead now that Girls Around Me has been killed? It’s not at all. In fact, it’s very possible Girls Around Me could come back with its core functionality intact.

Update 5: We’ve written a guide on cutting apps like Foursquare and Facebook off from tracking your data. Read it here.

Update 6: Girls Around Me’s developer gave Cult of Mac an interview, in which they said that the app wasn’t for stalking girls without their knowledge, but for avoiding women who are ugly.

 

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How to Tell if Your Business Needs a Virtual Assistant

A lot of business owners operate under the conviction that they don’t actually need any help with the normal, day to day maintenance of their business, and in some cases, they are absolutely correct. To people like this, it’s okay to hire out specialized workers because those are tasks that they cannot complete on their own. The problem is figuring out how much you can actually handle by yourself before it all becomes too much, and that is where virtual assistants can come in.Virtual assistants handle various administrative, clerical, or copywriting tasks for a business, and they can actually do even more, depending on their own unique skill set and the needs of the business owner. Virtual assistants are versatile, flexible distance workers who usually have no trouble adapting to their workload.

Why would you want to hire a virtual assistant?

Why would you want to hire a virtual assistant? In the long run there are plenty of reasons why you might want a qualified VA on your staff, but let’s take a look at the short term right now to see what the immediate benefits of hiring a virtual assistant might be. Most business owners like to micromanage, especially in the early stages of the business when anything can, and usually does, go wrong. By having their hands in every little inner working that goes on with the company, they can quickly identify and correct problems with the business, and from there they can figure out viable solutions.

Managing Workload

Depending on the size of your business, this can be a truly daunting task, and it can keep you busy from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. On the other hand, if you have a virtual assistant working with you to manage some of the workload, the tasks won’t seem nearly as difficult, and you may even be able to pay more attention to individual tasks that you would otherwise rush over in your haste to get everything completed for the day.When you are thinking about whether or not you need a virtual assistant for your business, consider several important factors before coming to a conclusive decision.

Scheduling Tasks

First of all, and in the same vein as the previous paragraph, could you use an extra set of hands around during the day? Most people could use this, although some business owners might not want to readily admit it. There are always going to be tasks that you don’t have to personally see to, and in these instances there is nothing wrong with delegating them off to someone else who is qualified to handle them.

Introducing Ideas

Second of all, do you think your business would ultimately improve if you had someone around to bounce ideas off of? You may not want to admit it, but not all of your ideas are going to be sure fire winners, and sometimes it’s invaluable to have somebody around who can tell you to get back on track. All of these are reasons why you might want a virtual assistant.

Patty Thompson is a well known blogger on virtual assistant topics.She has an experience of more than 7years in this field.If you are interested in Patty’s virtual assistant services or if you want to know more about virtual assistants please visit her website.

 

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