Social Media Gets Turned Off

Social Media Gets Turned OffIf you’re a student at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then you are unaware that your Facebook friends have harvested plants, gotten into Mafia battles, and checked in at the local grocery store.

The university has blacked out social media sites for the last week.

The experiment began on Monday as a way for students to begin seriously considering the way they spend their time on the Internet. It was recently reported that the average user in the US spends more time on Facebook than on Google.

Eric Darr said the experiment is not a punishment for students, but the hope is that their university students will seriously consider the way they are using their time. Darr also added that he can’t believe that this week has caused such controversy on Twitter, Facebook, and even late night talk shows.  Some have gone as far to accuse the school of infringing on people’s rights.

The hope is that the block will show students that stepping away from the computer can be a good thing for their overall grades and class attendance. Even Mashable is interested to see if the school reports any increase in attendance, but Adam Ostrow adds that he doesn’t think the blackout is feasible in the long term. “You really can’t disconnect people from it in the long run without creating some real inefficiencies and backlash.”

Students can still check via their smart phones and Darr is okay with that. “I want an honest reaction to the experiment.” The reaction has ranged anywhere from a typical “eh-whatever” college student reaction to those who are finding it difficult to coordinate their social activities without access to Facebook and Twitter.

While the blackout won’t last forever, it does open up some interesting questions, like what is the time we spend on social media sites taking away from?  Are we slaves to social networks? I’ve only recently started to make myself “go offline” for one hour a day, and frankly, towards the end of that hour, I’m really excited about checking out the latest status updates or Twitter postings.

As far as a university goes, maybe if they attendance increases while social networks are down, it could be something that any school might consider shutting down during critical weeks like finals week. The next question I would ask would be when it became a university’s responsibility to teach you how to manage your time and be a dedicated student.

No matter what universities decide to do, the social blackout has caused controversy and stirred debate about how we manage our time on social networks, and how this time affects our daily activities. 

Opening Salvos from Providers of Location-Based Apps

Opening Salvos from Proivders of Location-Based Apps

It took a little time for businesses to realize the opportunities of using Twitter and quite some time passed before Facebook became a powerhouse, but it seems like smartphones and their location-based, GPS apps were recognized for their potential as soon as they came out the gate.  And yesterday, Skyhook Wireless opened fire on Google for allegedly interfering with Skyhook’s sales contracts, as well as infringing on at least four patents vital to its checkin or location-finding software.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Skyhook claims Google contacted its customers, namely Motorola, saying that in order to make and sell the Google Android smartphone the manufacturers had to use Google’s location service and not Skyhook’s XPS program.  Skyhook said XPS had previously completed Google’s approval process.

Part of the vitriol behind this and similar struggles stem from the still developing location/mobile advertising market.  Controlling location data, checkin-style advertising, and other future uses of GPS smartphones is a huge opportunity now, even in the beginning stages.  And it appears to be only getting bigger.

Drunken Pilots Spark Concern Among Airlines

Drunken Pilots Spark Concern Among Airlines

A Delta pilot who was arrested just before takeoff in Amsterdam on Monday for being drunk has underscored an issue that appears more frequently than most travelers imagined.

According to USA Today, US pilots who blow over the legal limit for flying (.04 percent) crop up one time a month on average.

The FAA data shows that 12 commercial pilots, out of the 11,000 tested yearly, are found to violate the FAA standard each year.

The legal limit for driving is .08 percent in most states, and the airlines have become more rigid about legal limits for pilots, setting the limit at .04 percent after a few high-profile cases in the 90’s.

The most notorious case occurred in 1990 when three Northwest Airlines crew members, including the pilot, tested positive for alcohol after landing a commercial airliner in Minneapolis. The pilot blew over .10 percent.

Elaine Weinstein, former head of safety recommendations at the National Transportation Safety Board, told USA Today that she felt there should be a zero tolerance rule for alcohol and drug use by pilots.

“If a pilot is drinking before he flies, it raises the question in my mind about whether this person has a substance abuse problem,” Weinstein told USA Today.

In order to keep pilots from consuming alcohol before flying the FAA conducts unannounced tests and trains flight attendants and co-pilots to disallow any drunk captain from get behind the controls.

Delta issued a statement concerning the pilot in Amsterdam, explaining that the flight was cancelled because the pilot appeared “unfit for duty.”

He was called in by a suspicious crew member. The passengers of the flight were put up in hotels near the airport and flew out the next day.

Rural Phone Companies Fight for Universal Service Fund

Rural Phone Companies Fight for Universal Service Fund

On Thursday, the House Communications Subcommittee will begin considerations about a bill to overhaul the Universal Service Fund.

For years, the USF has subsidized rural and high cost telephone service by charging end users a percentage fee on their bills.  In O ctober of 2008, these fees also began appearing on previously exem pt conference call service bills.

The Communications Subcommittee will consider both releasing more funds towards broadband services, as well as capping the service.

Broadband service providers welcome the changes, as technology is shifting away from “standard phone service” and the FCC as put the funding changes forward as part of the National Broadband Plan.

Rural phone providers are preparing testimony that warns that rural areas will end up being underfunded for service that is still considered “critical to overcome the economic challenges of deploying communication networks.” This comes from Shirley Bloomfield of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association.

With movements like dropping the plan to provide national broadband and the C-Seeks-Tighter-Broadband-Oversight.aspx">FCC requesting greater broadband oversight, it comes as no surprise that the broadband providers would be the ones in favor of the new legislation. 

The Digital World Pivots Around Me

Maybe Galileo had it wrong when he said the earth gravitates around the sun.

Today, I arrived at work ready to consume my news. I didn’t flip open a newspaper. I didn’t look for a remote to watch Good Morning America. I didn’t grab my iPhone to first turn to the New York Times or The Washington Post to sift through 100 stories that I didn’t want to read in order to find three that I did. I opened up my Google alerts, then checked my Twitter, then checked my News Feed on Facebook. Here I found stories that I had seeded the internet for, that my friends were taking part in, or that my friends had, because their preferences parallel mine, recommended to me. Hmm, my news seems to revolve around me.

On Twitter today, I stumbled across a link to a NYT article by Nick Bilton. Bilton writes, “If you pull out your smartphone and click the button that says locate me on your mapping application, you will see a small dot appear in the middle of your screen. That’s you.” After this, Bilton pointed out that as you move, your proxy, that little dot on the map, stays still; it’s the map that moves to keep up with you. Hmm, my mapping application likes to keep me in the center of the world.

As I jumped from link to link to link on Facebook today, I noticed an advertisement for Dallas- Cowboys-colored M&M’s that kept appearing on each page: my profile, my Facebook home page, my cousin’s photo album of her trip to Amsterdam. The ad was following me around! And it wasn’t the only advertisement stalking me. I seem to be the virtual host for a “Groupon” ad that pops up in the strangest places: “Deal of the Day: sushi half-off,” the ad tells me when I read The NYT, CNet, and the Wall Street Journal. Hmm, my advertisements seem to orbit me like officious peddlers in a Chinese market.

Bilton explains that this new online universe, the one that is geared toward the individual, is the way of the future. It’s a world where people don’t buy maps of the zoo, of Paris, or of the state of Missouri, they buy maps of themselves; maps that go where they go and change with their changing locations.

The same goes with the consumption of information. Consumers are now their own gatekeepers. They decide which news comes to them through their acquaintances, through their preferences, and, in advertising, through the trail of cookies they leave on Web sites as they surf.

“Now you are the starting point,” he writes. “Now the digital world follows you, not the other way around.”

The Internet has spawned a new generation that forces media to bend to each individual’s preference. My friends don’t watch Modern Family when it comes out Wednesday night. They watch it on their smartphones during class.

This generation wants the media consumption experience hyper-personalized. Therefore, content creators need to be diverse. Content should be consumable on televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets. The new generation wants the digital experience. They want to comment, to like, to get involved. They want to be in the center.

Galileo may have been right when he said the physical world orbits the sun. As for the digital world, it gravitates around me.

FTC Continued Focus on Online Privacy

The FTC has announced a plan to adopt new education and data collection restrictions to better protect the consumer’s privacy.

Senior attorney for the FTC, Loretta Garrison, admitted that consumers “..sort of know they are being tracked, but they don’t really understand the weather of information that’s being collected…”

What this means for consumers is that there’s a common sense element to knowing that our movements online are being tracked, but we don’t realize just how much information is being collected.

The FTC is sensitive to the members of Internet companies who fear that greater restrictions will limit them in a marketing sector that is rapidly growing. At the same time, the FTC feels like there should be a base of privacy protection should be available to consumers, similar to the “do-not-call” registry in place for telemarketers. Garrison also added, “There ought to be an element where if they don’t want to be tracked, they ought to be able to say ‘no.’.”

This fall, the FTC is planning to release a report of recommendations for companies and advertisers and web companies to provide specific concerns over certain practices and offer suggestions to protect their user’s privacy.

These guidelines will be an extension of their “self-regulation” policies, since without a Congressional act; the FTC cannot “force” companies to abide by these sorts of changes.

The concerns are spurned from recent concerns about privacy over Google street view and some of Facebook’s recent policy changes, prompting the FTC to express concerns about consumer’s online privacy.

While an “opt in” or “opt out” suggestion may not be feasible, due to the nature of online marketing, the FTC has raised concerns about how much is being collected from consumers as they browse their favorite web sites.

FCC to Open Wireless Across TV Spectrum

The F.C.C. will vote on Sept. 23 to make wireless Internet service available over airwaves, unlocking the potential of “Wi-Fi on steroids.”

If approved, the move will allow the white space portion of television broadcast spectrum to be used for wireless networks, which will do away with the need to find a wireless hot spot and will open the door to super powerful Wi-Fi networks.

The move will likely pave the way for a new suite of enhanced Wi-Fi devices capable of passing through walls and transmitting data over much greater distances than current technology. The stronger signals will bring wireless to rural areas, minimize dead zones, and help connect vast corporate campuses, hospitals and the like.

Furthermore, the FCC is doing away with the traditional practice of auctioning off the spectrum for revenues. The whitespace spectrum will be available without a license and for anyone to grab. The unused bands of television spectrum have been languishing all this time, but now, given the approval by the F.C.C. this month, start-up companies that have traditionally been unable to afford spectrum will be able to compete.

The idea is not without issue: broadcasters fear the new use of signals will interfere with their transmissions, and industries using microphones, such as theaters, stadiums and churches have objected to similar decisions in the past for fear of microphone interference.

 The F.C.C. tried to skirt these problems in the past by requiring new devices to include a feature that electronically searches for airwaves that are unoccupied. This failed to reconcile the problem, however, because the feature and the increased engineering intensity would have made devices more expensive.

As of the time of this writing, there is uncertainty regarding exactly how the F.C.C. plans to cope with the problem of interference, but analysts speculate that wireless microphones and broadcasts will be given certain transmission priorities.

According to CNET, the F.C.C. has mapped TV channels and major wireless microphone usage areas such as Broadway, and will require the devices using the white space to be configured around the frequencies of the mapped areas. Still, this posits the same problem as the previous ruling: developers may be unwilling to foot the hefty bill.

Nonetheless, Wi-Fi on steroids appears to be just around the corner as the F.C.C. seems poised on an affirmative vote. Early next year, certain Wi-Fi hotspots will be able to range for miles rather than half a football field.

Cool App of the Week: Lyric Search

One of my favorite commercials is of the guy who’s in the car with his lady and he’s singing the wrong lyrics to Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard.  While I’m sure that the guys in Def Leppard like a good case of Ramen Noodles (who doesn’t?) I would doubt they are singing homage to the noodle dish. What I love about this commercial is that we have all been singing the wrong words at some point – at the top of our lungs and with the biggest smiles on our faces.

In the commercial the woman called him on it and then called a library.  I found an app in the iTunes app store that will do an internet search for lyrics to whatever song you are listening to at the time.  I’ve tested it with both songs I’ve purchased from iTunes and things that I have gotten from other music outlets and it seems to work pretty well.

You can search for a song that is playing or on pause.  Just go to your home screen and tap the Lyric Search icon. Basically what it does is perform a Google search and send you back links for the different pages that will have the right lyrics. Then you just click on the one that has the information you think is right and you can find out if you’re right, or if your passenger is. If they are, tell them they are walking if they give you a hard time. You have the keys, and that means you have the power.

It’s free, pretty cool, and I’m sure at some point, I’ll use it to prove to my husband he’s wrong.

Any applications you think are worth my time to test out or play around with? I am welcome to suggestions. 

Telecom Industry Outlook: Proliferation and Innovation

While the world economy lurches through an economic recovery that economists are now saying will take longer than predicted, the telecom industry is forecasted to be a flotation device, one of the major industries driving economic resurgence.

According to an analysis by TMC Net, overall dynamics seem to be shifting in favor of telecom, primarily due to it being needed both in developed and underdeveloped nations.

Another reason the telecom industry is predicted to be a boon is because of its sheer size.

“The telecommunications industry encompasses a lot of technology-related businesses. Besides the legacy local and long-distance wireline phone services, telecommunications also include wireless communications, Internet services, fiber optics networks, cable TV networks and commercial satellite communications,” reads the TMC Analysis.

The telecom industry remains buoyant for two reasons: a generally improving overall global economy, and the speed with which technological inventions are churned out, making even saturated markets profitable.

A clear example of the machinery allowing the telecom industry such flexibility amid hard times can be viewed in China. Since increased connectivity is an investment toward prosperity in the future, China devoted $586 million in government pump spending to telecommunications infrastructure. In doing so, China has grown its mobile supplier base to nearly 800 million—the majority of these subscribers coming during the recession.  On the other end, the US, which is nearly 90 percent saturated, remains a profitable market because of the continuous network product upgrades and invention by the industry players.

And the developing world isn’t far behind. China began to deploy its own 3G network this year, opening up a market opportunity of more than $10 billion for several telecom companies, from wireless providers to equipment suppliers.

As the world becomes more connected, the market becomes more saturated; therefore, the revenue stream of garnering new subscribers begins to dry up. However, the perpetual cycle of progress, spurred on my competition and inventiveness foretells a continuously robust future for telecom.

Soon, companies will be putting forth 4G networks, data downloading will completely supplant voice calls for revenue generation, and smartphones will become more ubiquitous than the already old-fashioned feature phone.

What’s next? Who Knows? The only thing that appears certain is telecoms continued prevalence.

Facebooking beats Googling as Internet Pastime

A recent ComScore study has found that Facebook has surpassed Google as the place to be.

While Google gets the most overall hits, the users do not spend as much time on Google sites (YouTube and Google News included) users are navigating to and spending their time on Facebook.

Since social media is a growing trend in the way we communicate with friends, family, and even our customers, Facebook has found a way to not only get users to their website, but to make them want to stay.  With the addition of Facebook Places in August, Facebook users can check into locations, feed their status updates to Twitter, and instant message other Facebook friends. Regardless of your opinions on Facebook privacy practices, they have put everything into one place.

Facebook has the numbers to prove it.  In August alone, Facebook reported 41.1 million minutes of logged in user activity and the closet competitor is Google, who captured 9.6% of total time.

For businesses and companies who have been considering using Facebook to connect, it means that your customers are on Facebook, and parking there for a while. I’m curious to see if the Google number will be lower next month due to the release of instant search, which was, as Google stated, to shorten the length of time it took for you to get where you want to be. Since, apparently, users want to be on Facebook, I wonder how Google will feel about that.