Category Archives: Social Media

An army of chatbots will take over Facebook. Here’s why.

032715 facebook f8 zuckerberg

Credit: Facebook

They are here to help.

At 7 a.m. this morning, a robot told me the weather.

It wasn’t audible, although my phone chimed. It was The Weather Channel bot on the messaging app Kik. A message popped up, and then I asked for the forecast. I asked about the weather in Cupertino, and the robot balked. (You can only ask about local weather conditions.) So much for The Terminator taking over.

Retrieved from Computerworld

The tremendous ambitions behind New York City’s free WiFi

April 8

(EHB_1777 / Flickr)

At this very moment in New York City, you can walk up to one of 65 futuristic kiosks, punch in an email address on your phone and instantly receive a wireless Internet connection that follows you around town. It’s free — and it’s fast. Each kiosk, which is really an old payphone that’s been converted into an Internet terminal, is connected to gigabit fiber optics. It’s like having Verizon FiOS on every street corner, pumping out WiFi.

Retrieved from The Washingtonpost

Best practices for safely moving data in and out of the cloud

As everyone knows, cloud provider Nirvanix recently fell apart, declaring bankruptcy and leaving its customers in the lurch.   Nirvanix gave enterprises less than a month to move their data to a new home. To avoid the fate of those customers, follow   these best practices for safely moving data in and out of the cloud.

Due diligence: financials first

The Cloud Security Alliance’s February 2013 report, “The Notorious Nine: Cloud Computing Top Threats in 2013” has identified   a lack of due diligence as a continuing threat to cloud computing. When enterprises do look into cloud providers, their view   of things is a bit lopsided. “Cloud consumers place too much emphasis on information assurance and privacy, or focus on cost   reduction and savings at the expense of investigating the financial health of candidate providers,” says John Howie, COO,   the Cloud Security Alliance.

 

Retrieved from NetworkWorld

Social Media Policy Offers Dos and Don’ts for Employees

Is social media part of your job? Many employees, not just those in marketing, are being asked to use their personal social   networking accounts on behalf of their companies.

Social media works best when companies target a social network — such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest   — with their marketing message in hopes of reaching and piquing the interest of social media influencers, which, in turn,   can lead to a viral buzz with massive exposure. Nearly every employee needs to participate in order to pull it off.

Echoing this sentiment, Xerox’s social media policy succinctly states the following: “Individual interactions represent a   new model, not mass communications, but masses of communicators.”

Social Media Can Be Risky Business

For companies, there’s an element of danger in asking employees to spout off on social networks. After all, the public corporate   image is at risk. Employees also risk offending the company and losing their jobs. Social media in the enterprise is littered   with tales of employees getting sacked.

There needs to be clear communication between employer and employee on how employees should behave on social networks, in   the form of a written policy, not just for their safety but also to be more effective. We’re still in the heady days of the   social revolution where missteps happen all the time.

Xerox, for instance, has a social media policy for employees with social media as part of their formal job description, but   it apparently didn’t save a call center employee who says she was fired for an Instagram posting. DeMetra “Meech” Christopher   claims she never saw the social media policy because social media wasn’t officially part of her job.

Nevertheless, Xerox’s social media policy, which supplements a general Code of Business Conduct policy, provides a starting   point for better communication between employer and employee in the social revolution. It’s also worth a closer look, because   it helps employees become better social networkers.

The 10-page social media policy opens with general ethical guidelines and goes on to cover best practices in blogging, microblogging   (e.g, Twitter), message boards, social networking and video-audio sharing.

Among the general guidelines, Xerox employees are urged to get training in search optimization principles from a local Web   expert. When discussing Xerox-related matters that might encourage someone to buy Xerox products or services, employees are   required by the Federal Trade Commission to clearly identify themselves.

If employees are publishing content outside of Xerox, they should use a disclaimer such as, “The postings on this site are   my own and don’t necessarily represent Xerox’s position, strategies or opinions.”

Employees need to write in the first person to give a sense of individual accountability. They shouldn’t become embroiled   in public disputes or use sarcasm, ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, “or engage in any conduct that would not be   acceptable in Xerox’s workplace,” states the policy. “You should also show proper consideration for other’s privacy and for   topics that may be considered objectionable or very sensitive — such as politics and religion.”

Xerox serves up helpful tips for employees to become better bloggers, social networkers and contributors on messaging boards.   Writing tips read like an English 101 composition class. They range from having an objective before tapping the keyboard to   using your natural voice to always telling the truth. Employees should act professionally when confronted with inaccurate   information or negative comments. Also, don’t write when you’re unhappy, the policy advises.

Tips for Twitter, Facebook and YouTube

Micro-blogging tips are a little more straightforward, such as understanding that tweets can become part of your permanent   record and employees shouldn’t comment on every single post lest followers see them as some sort of Big Brother.

Employees should give credit to people who retweet their messages, while avoiding too much marketing hype, which will turn   off followers. “Don’t make a professional account too personal, but don’t lack personal touch either,” the policy says.

On Facebook, employees should visit other Xerox pages regularly and engage with the content. “By commenting or clicking ‘like’   on postings, your friends see your activity in their newsfeeds and, as a result, may become a fan of other Xerox-related pages,”   the policy says.

When shooting video for YouTube, employees shouldn’t post personal information about themselves or others. The videos should   have the same tone of voice, look-and-feel as other Xerox videos. Titles should have searchable keywords, and videos need   to be placed in similar categories (probably next to competitors’ videos), so that videos can be found. Videos should have   catchy descriptions, as well as a link back to the Xerox website.

Lastly, keep them short. “Be mindful of appropriate video length,” the policy says. “Effective videos can be as short as 30   seconds. The longer a video, the tougher it is to keep viewers engaged.”

What If Your Job Doesn’t Involve Social Media?

Employees who work with social media as part of their jobs can learn the basic rules from policies such as Xerox’s, but policies   need to go further both in depth and breadth. Perhaps a social media policy needs to be created for all employees regardless   of job function.

As the line between work life and social life, physical world and digital world increasingly blurs, employers and employees   need to know what they can and cannot do with social media — and, of course, how to use social media effectively.

Retrieved from NetworkWorld

At last! The FAA has seen the light on in-flight electronics

At long last, airline passengers fed up with having to switch off their electronic devices during takeoff and landing will be able to use them freely at all times on a flight,  not just at cruising altitudes.

The FAA has announced that airlines will soon be receiving guidance on how to implement the new rules, which still require devices to be in airplane mode at all times.

“I will be the biggest proponent of following flight attendant instructions,” said FAA administrator Michael Huerta in a Washington news conference. “But I did feel like any regulation that has been around for a long time — a lot has changed in 50 years. Let’s take another look.”

The change won’t take place overnight; each company will ease the restrictions according to their own timelines. Still, it’s a welcome relief for passengers after a years-long battle to overturn the prohibition.

Surprisingly, once an independent panel (whose members included Amazon) signed off on the idea, it didn’t take long for the FAA to follow suit. A decision was expected “within months,” according to my colleague Lydia DePillis, but the government’s announcement today came just five weeks after the panel finished its safety study.

In a statement, the FAA said customers will “eventually be able to read e-books, play games and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions.”

Requiring that passengers use airplane mode might make life more difficult for flight attendants, who might not be able to check as quickly whether a customer has the feature turned on. But there’s little point in keeping your cell radios enabled anyway, said Huerta.

“They’re going to ping for a signal, and they won’t get one,” he said. “You’re going to arrive at your destination with a dead phone, and I don’t think anyone wants that.”

Retrieved from WashingtonPost

What’s holding back the cloud industry?

While cloud enthusiasts roaming the halls of McCormick Place convention hall in Chicago last week at Cloud Connect may be   high on the market, the reality is that many enterprises IT shops are still reticent to fully embrace public cloud computing.

Network World asked some of the best and brightest minds in the industry who were at the event about what’s holding the cloud   industry back. Here’s what they said:

The organization Eric Hanselman, Chief Analyst, 451 Research Group

Cloud sounds like a great idea, but how will it really work when it’s adopted? Hanselman says one of the biggest barriers   is an organizational one. Typically IT organizations are split into groups focusing on compute, network and storage. When   applications run from the cloud, those are all managed from one provider. That means the jobs from each of those groups within   IT may change. How can organizations evolve? “You’ve got to converge,” Hansleman says. That could be easier said than done   with people’s jobs at stake.

cloud computing

Cloud industry thought leaders (from left): Eric Hanselman, Krishnan Subramanian, Randy Bias, Bernard Golden, Andy Knosp

Security and application integration Krishnan Subramanian, director of OpenShift Strategy at Red Hat; founder of Rishidot Research

Security is still the biggest concern that enterprises point to with the cloud. Is that justified? Cloud providers spend a   lot of money and resources to keep their services secure, but Subramanian says it’s almost an instinctual reaction that IT   pros be concerned about cloud security. “Part of that is lack of education” he says. Vendors could be more forthcoming with   the architecture of their cloud platforms and the security around it. But doing so isn’t an easy decision for IaaS providers:   Vendors don’t want to give away the trade secrets of how their cloud is run, yet they need to provide enough detail to assuage   enterprise concerns.

Once IT shops get beyond the perceived security risks, integrating the cloud with legacy systems is their biggest technical   challenge, Subramanian says. It’s still just not worth it for organizations to completely rewrite their applications to run   them in the cloud. Companies have on-premises options for managing their IT resources and there just isn’t a compelling enough   reason yet to migrate them to the cloud. Perhaps new applications and initiatives will be born in the cloud, but that presents   challenges around the connections between the premises and the cloud, and related latency issues.

New apps for a new computing model Randy Bias, CTO of OpenStack company Cloudscaling

If you’re using cloud computing to deliver legacy enterprise applications, you’re doing it wrong, Bias says. Cloud computing   is fundamentally a paradigm shift, similar to the progression from mainframes to client-server computing. Organizations shouldn’t   run their traditional client-server apps in this cloud world. “Cloud is about net new apps that deliver new business value,”    he says. “That’s what Amazon has driven, and that’s the power of the cloud.” Organizations need to be forward thinking enough   and willing to embrace these new applications that are fueled by big data and distributed systems to produce analytics-based   decision making and agile computing environment.

It’s more than just technology Bernard Golden, VP of Enterprise Solutions for Enstratius, a Dell company

The biggest inhibitor to more prevalent cloud computing adoption is that organizations are still holding on to their legacy   processes, says Golden, who recently authored the Amazon Web Services for Dummies book. It’s not just about being willing   to use new big data apps, and spin up virtual machines quickly. It’s the new skill sets for employees, technical challenges   around integrating an outsourced environment with the current platform, and building a relationship with a new vendor. “For   people to go beyond just a small tweak, there needs to be a significant transformation in many areas of the organization,”    he says. “Each time there is a platform shift, established mechanisms are forced to evolve.”

Regulatory compliance Andy Knosp, VP of Product for open source private cloud platform Eucalyptus

One of the biggest hurdles for broader adoption of public cloud computing resources continues to be the regulatory and compliance   issues that customers need to overcome, Knosp says. Even if providers are accredited to handle sensitive financial, health   or other types of information, there is “still enough doubt” by executives in many of these industries about using public   cloud resources. Many organizations, therefore, have started with low-risk, less mission critical workloads being deployed   to the public cloud. Knosp says the comfort level for using cloud resources for more mission critical workloads will grow.   It will just take time.

Retrieved from NetworkWorld

Tech spending hurt this year by Congress

Tech spending in the U.S. will increase by a smaller amount this year than earlier predicted, Forrester Research said today. And it is blaming Congress for the forecast decline.

Instead of rising 5.7% this year, tech spending will increase by just 3.9%, Forrester said.

The federal budget sequester, the government shutdown and the threat of default “has had negative impacts on the economy, has had direct negative impacts on federal tech buying, and has indirect impacts elsewhere on CIOs who simply became cautious,” said Andrew Bartels, a Forrester analyst.

In hardware purchases, for instance, Bartels said that CIOs who might have bought new servers to meet new demand, are instead moving peak loads and special projects to infrastructure-as-a-service providers rather than add capacity. “They are not buying servers they might have otherwise bought, said Bartels in an interview.

In terms of dollars, Forrester expects total U.S. private and public spending on technology to be about $1.243 trillion this year; the 2012 figure was $1.195 trillion.

Sequestration, and federal spending cutbacks in general, are having a major impact on federal IT buying, the TechAmerica Foundation said earlier this month. Federal IT spending has declined from a peak of $80 billion in 2010 to $70 billion in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The White House, in a report last week that cited private estimates, said the 16-day federal government shutdown reduced the growth rate of GDP in this quarter by between 0.2% and 0.6%.

Next year will be better, said Forrester, which is expecting U.S. business and government purchases of IT goods and services to rise by 5.3%, supported by a revived housing sector, “modest improvement” in employment and consumer spending and improved exports, Bartels wrote in a blog post.

Retrieved from ComputerWorld

Is that hotspot safe? Wi-Fi Alliance wants to help with its Passpoint program

Security-savvy mobile-device users are increasingly casting a skeptical eye on public Wi-Fi, and now the vendor consortium behind the wireless standard wants to make logging in via that coffee shop network a bit safer.

The Wi-Fi Alliance’s Passpoint program, based on the Hotspot 2.0 specification, will make public hotspots both safer and easier to use, according to CEO Edgar Figueroa.

“Today, for the most part, when we go on a public hotspot we are sending data without protection. With Passpoint the connections are secure and the communication is encrypted,” Figueroa said.

Also, users should no longer have to search for and choose a network, request the connection to the access point each time and then in many cases re-enter their password. All that can be handled by Passpoint-compatible devices, according to Figueroa.

“The beauty of Passpoint is that the whole industry has agreed to do it this way. More than 70 [devices] have been certified,” he said.

Mobile operators have come to see public Wi-Fi as an important part of their networks as they face growing data usage volumes, and between 60 and 70 big operators are members of the Alliance, Figueroa said.

But he had little to say about the uptake of Passpoint among operators, and would point out only two examples: the first Passpoint-compatible hotspot from Boingo Wireless at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and 30 operators taking part in a trial conducted by the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

Work on an updated Passpoint program has also started. It includes new features for standardized user provisioning. Today everybody signs up users differently, and that makes it harder to implement roaming, according to Figueroa.

The plan is to have the new specification ready next year.

The most obvious problem for current Wi-Fi networks is performance in crowded environments, and Figueroa said the Alliance has addressed that issue with the 802.11ac certification program, which “offers a robust solution that takes you onto 5GHz. So far that band hasn’t been widely used, but ac makes it more compelling,” he said.

The Alliance has also added the new WiGig program, which approves products that operate in the 60 GHz frequency band and offer gigabit speeds over short distances. The technology will be used to connect PCs and portable devices to monitors, projectors and HDTVs wirelessly. Other applications include “instant backups,” according to Figueroa.

“This will be our attempt at making this market go … We have a critical mass of vendors who are investing,” Figueroa said.

Behind the scenes, other areas are also being explored.

“There is a lot of stuff going on around the connected home. There are also a lot of things we are working on for smart grids and there are interest groups looking at health care,” Figueroa said.

Retrieved from ComputerWorld

Paul Ryan and Elizabeth Warren will now take your Change.org petitions

When a handful of Denver residents came together this year to demand a protected bike lane downtown, their most effective weapon wasn’t a visit to city hall or a coordinated telephone campaign. It was an online petition — 834 signatures that inspired two city council members and the Denver Public Works commission, to publicly back their cause.

“Let me know what else I need to do to help this,” councilwoman Susan Shepherd wrote back, right on the petition’s Web site.

The experience encouraged Change.org, the platform behind the petition, to tie leaders more closely to those they represent. The organization seems serious about recruiting powerful people. On Wednesday, Change.org rolled out an upgrade called Decision Makers, which features profile pages for members of Congress that collect all of their public responses. Yep, that’s right: Your elected officials will now be responding directly to your Change.org petitions.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was among the first to sign up.

“Change.org is going to be a big help,” said Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee. “It will be a transparent, public forum where we can talk with our constituents.”

Others who’ve pledged to join the program include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.). The push to include lawmakers will soon lead to a broader focus on city officials, governors, business executives and others. One mayor, San Francisco’s Ed Lee, has indicated he’ll be responding to petitioners, too.

We the People, run by the people

Targets of a Change.org petition currently get notified when they receive a request, and when new signatures are added. But for the most part, it’s been a one-way relationship. Now the lines of communication will go both ways, with opportunities for a petition creator to keep rallying regardless of the response. In an interview, Change.org’s Jake Brewer said the system works much like the White House’s We the People petition site — but with some key differences. For one thing, while decision makers have access to the Change.org platform to log their responses, they don’t own it or set the rules. That’s a subtle dig at the Obama administration, which has on occasion decided to ignore petitions that crossed the signature threshold required for an official response.

That said, what also sets Change.org’s Decision Makers program apart from We the People is that it won’t include an explicit signature threshold. Brewer said Change.org simply makes recommendations for where to draw the line depending on a constituency’s population size and geography. In other words, it’s the civic process that matters — not the outcome.

“We need people’s voices to outweigh money in politics,” Brewer said.

Do online petitions really matter?

In its basic mechanics, the online petition of 2013 isn’t so far removed from its offline cousin. But in the way it’s socially regarded, the Internet petition has become a prominent symbol for 21st-century politics. Participating in a movement has never been easier, a fact that has led critics to dismiss the online petition as so much idle slacktivism.

Yes, it’s far easier to put your name on a petition than it is to stage a physical sit-in. At the same time, managing a petition — and doing it well — can be deceptively hard. At the national level, it takes 100,000 signatures to warrant a White House reply. (To be fair, the administration has had to raise the threshold over time because hitting the mark grew easier as the service became more popular. But think of it this way: Only a fraction of White House petitions have ever produced a substantial policy change.)

“A hundred signatures on a petition to a school board is going to have much greater impact than — I mean, you’re going to need to get 50,000 or 100,000 for a Paul Ryan or a Liz Warren before they even begin to take notice,” said Evan Sutton, a spokesperson for the New Organizing Institute, a left-leaning think tank for digital politics.

In short, there’s an inverse relationship between the importance of a decision maker and the work it’ll take to get them to listen, much less act.

The balance of power

If the bar for results is set so high, then who benefits more? Constituents, who through Change.org now enjoy greater access to elected officials? Or lawmakers, who by volunteering to respond can offer the promise of engagement without really committing themselves to anything?

In that respect, online petitions are really no different from constituent mail or phone calls, which can just as easily be written off. Where they might make a big difference, however, is in the way lawmakers talk to themselves and each other.

On the one hand, petitions can help officials make better choices. They’re not only an indication of what voters care about; they’re also a clue as to how strongly those voters feel. Dueling petitions give lawmakers insight into which position is more popular — or perhaps simply more organized. On the other hand, petitions also tend to activate the poles of the electorate. Lawmakers who are made to feel more accountable to them may wind up exacerbating partisanship. They might even marshal extreme petitions as evidence for their political agendas.

Still, the fact that petitions tend to be more effective in a local setting suggests that, on balance, when decision makers refer to a petition as a way to back themselves up, the effects will go toward producing results rather than talking points. Incidentally, that’s precisely what happened when Denver councilwoman Susan Shepherd signed onto the bike lane proposal. Within a week of Shepherd’s announcement, two other public officials had addressed the issue. The petition had become a collaborative policy initiative.

“I think that’s when it really starts to distinguish itself from a petition that goes at people,” said Brewer. “It actually starts to transition to, ‘Okay, the next step of this solution is that other people need to be involved. Let’s go involve them.’ ”

Retrieved from WashingtonPost

Adobe confirms Flash Player is sandboxed in Safari for OS X Mavericks

As outlined in a post to Adobe Secure Software Engineering Team (ASSET) blog, the App Sandbox feature in Mavericks lets Adobe limit the plugin’s capabilities to read and write files, as well as what assets Flash Player can access.

Adobe platform security specialist Peleus Uhley explained that in Mavericks, Flash Player calls on a plugin file — specifically com.macromedia.Flash Player.plugin.sb — used to define security permissions defined by an OS X App Sandbox. The player’s capabilities are then restricted to only those operations that are required to operate normally.

After years of fighting malware and exploits facilitated through Adobe’s Flash Player, the company is taking advantage of Apple’s new App Sandbox feature to restrict malicious code from running outside of Safari in OS X Mavericks.

Flash

In addition, Flash Player can no longer access local connections to device resources and inter-process communications (IPC) channels. Network privileges are also limited to within OS X App Sandbox parameters, preventing Flash-based malware from communicating with outside servers.

Uhley noted that the company has effectively deployed some method of sandboxing with Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox browsers. Apple will now be added to that list as long as users are running Safari in Mavericks.

“Safari users on OS X Mavericks can view Flash Player content while benefiting from these added security protections,” Uhley said. “We’d like to thank the Apple security team for working with us to deliver this solution.”

Retrieved from Apple Insider