Social Media Turning Into Storefronts

If you take a look at how social media sites have evolved in the past few years, you’re going to see a pattern: they’ve all become places for companies to place their ads and initiate marketing efforts. It’s a billion dollar industry. After all, you always have to take your business to where the people are, and people are spending a great deal of time on social media. So what’s the next step? Bringing your marketplace directly into social media, of course. You can already set up a storefront on Facebook, but the interface is clunky and limited in its appearance; it’s just not an appealing place to shop for anything other than apps. Pinterest, with its cleaner design and focus on images, seems like the perfect place to put a “buy it now” button, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

In a recent update, Pinterest announced that it will be making it easier for people on iOS and Android (later) devices to link their Pinterest App to their credit card information. This “Buy Button” has a similar setup to an iTunes account, which allows you to buy music and videos directly. Business who have “Rich Pins” set up will then have the option of allowing customers to purchase items through the Pinterest App. As far as social media marketing goes, making it easier for people to instantly buy items of interest is a brilliant idea. It plays on the customer’s impulses; you can expect low-cost items to sell at greater volumes. If there’s anything I can compare it to, it would be the Micro-transaction* function from the gaming industry. The only difference is you get something tangible in return for your money.

*Micro-transactions are low-cost purchases in many free-to-play games that grant you access to limited items, extra play time in cases where the number of actions you take are limited per increment of time. These range from 99 cents to hundreds of dollars depending on the popularity of the game. These games are also called “Freemium” games. Personally, I despise this sort of practice and will not endorse any company or developer who employ this unethical tactic.

Apple Watch: Yea or Nay?

Apple WatchOkay, this post is going to deviate a little from my usual fare of social media, privacy, and marketing entries, but I feel it must be said. I’ve worked in the watch industry for over five years, so when I heard that Apple’s got a new watch product, it really piqued my interest. What fun gadgetry can we expect from the computer giant? How will they innovate on an age-old accessory that has claimed a sizable piece of real estate in the “Men’s Fashion and Prestige” department? Then I saw the announcement videos, the renderings, and the previews and was immediately underwhelmed.

Will the Apple Watch be successful on the market? Yes, initially. People love brand new devices, and that’s doubly true for Apple products. In fact, I predict that people will be forming lines days before release to get their hands on one. Then will come the inevitable storm of unboxing videos, demonstrations, people excited for their snazzy new timepiece; the buzz will be spectacular. But what about the long run? What about long term success for the Apple Watch? That’s where I think the product will fail. Well, maybe not fail, but run its popularity course and disappear into, dare I say it, the sands of time. Why? Let’s explore a few reasons right off the top of my head.

Apple Watch Icons
Organization. Look, you’ve decided to go with a rectangular case, but your app icons are round. Not only that, they’re clustered closely together in different sizes and colors; it’s simply not easy to organize them or find what you want when you’re on the go. And if you’re going to be putting something on people’s wrists, you can be that they’ll be using it while walking. If we do that with phones, we’ll do that will watches, too, and with every gait and stride, we’ll frustrate ourselves as we tap the wrong icon for the bajillionth time thanks to the tiny screen. Will it actually be easier than I’m describing? I don’t know, but I intend to find out when I get to play with one at the Apple Store…and I’ll post an update when the time comes!

Power. Wait, you’re telling me you have to charge the Apple Watch every night? Or at least you recommend it or risk having your nifty high tech watch turn off when the power gets too low? People with mechanical watches have trouble keeping their timepieces wound and running. In fact, there are devices called winders that are specifically designed to keep automatic watches powered by rotating them and activating the rotor at fixed intervals. Furthermore, automatic watches need to be wound every 2-3 days if you wear them every day. You’re telling me that in this day and age, with this kind of technology, we have to maintain its run time more often than centuries old technology that doesn’t even use batteries? Come on, Apple! You can do better than that!

Apple Watch Use
Now let’s talk about the convenience factor. Does the Apple Watch offer any functions that your current smartphone cannot perform? If not, can the extra functions be performed by a cheaper alternative? From what we’ve seen so far from commercials and promos, the Apple Watch will let you open your hotel door or unlock your car doors (if you have that function on your vehicle), monitor your heart rate, and allow you to send doodles using its touch screen. Smartphones can already be used as hotel door keys, unlock car doors (again, if your vehicle has that function), and you can send doodles using its touch screen, all with the help of a few handy apps. As for your heart rate, a very nice heart rate monitor that also functions as a watch will cost you less than an Apple Watch, and they have vastly superior battery life.

The takeaway from all this: the Apple Watch can perform many of the same functions as your smartphone, plus a few features here and there. Those extra features, however, can be done by other, less expensive alternatives. And if you’re a potential buyer, chances are you already have a smartphone, which renders most of the what the Apple Watch offers redundant. What what about fashion? Surely it will be cool and trendy to wear such a prestigious piece of technology on your wrist, right? Of course, but if I know watch lovers (and I really do), they don’t wear their nicest timepiece every day. They’re for special occasions, and while not in use, they’re stowed away in glass or wooden cases, waiting for the next big event to be shown off in all its glory. Watches get banged up if you wear them every day, and every watch lover will have one that they won’t worry too much about if they get scratched up, cracked, or dropped. They’re called “beater watches”. The Apple Watch is a nice timepiece. Great price, too, but you can be sure people will feel just a little pissed off when they realized their snazzy smartwatch starts to get more than a few scratches on the case and glass. Look at how we treat our smartphones nowadays: protective covers, screen protectors, everything we can do to keep them protected and looking pristine. This will be a piece of wearable technology that buyers will be hesitant to wear every day. At the end of the day, people who purchase one will look back after a few months and wonder: “Why the hell did I buy this?”

The Facebook Giveaway Scam


You must’ve seen it before: Pages on Facebook claiming to give away FREE iPads, iPhones, and other Apple accessories. That’s right, FREE! Did I mention it was FREE? All you need to do is Like and Share the Page with all your friends and you’ll be automatically entered into this FREE giveaway! Simple, right? So what are you waiting for?


Before you agree to any terms and conditions set out by this “altruistic” Facebook Page, just note one thing: IT’S ALWAYS A SCAM! Unless you see news from an official Apple source and not just some Page that was created a month ago (that’s right, check the creation date of the Page!), your default reaction should always be “It’s a scam!” Every. Single. Time.

So what do they get out of someone just sharing a Page? Information about you, and everyone you get to share. How? Take a look at this section here:

Share What do you suppose happens when you click on the number of shares so far? It shows you a list of everyone who shared the Page, image, or post, which in turn gives you access to any public information on those people’s accounts, including geographic location, email addresses, websites, and even phone numbers. In the world of scam artists, this type of information is absolutely crucial, especially when the old method of acquiring that sort of information requires the purchase of mailing lists, which can be unreliable and expensive. By participating in these Facebook scams, you’re literally helping the scam artist! So what comes next after your Like and Share? Most likely they will have a link for you to click on that requires you to fill out a simple survey to enter completely. Like so:


Notice that the top three “offers” you have to complete involves installing something on your computer. Any time anyone tells you to install something so that you get something else for free, they’re either scammed or trying to scam you. The rest are surveys you need to fill out, which requires you to enter your email address, name, phone number, physical address, and date of birth. Getting this type of info from you is every scam artist’s wet dream! Not only that, let’s take a look at the privacy policy of these so called “survey” and “contest” sites:

privacy noticeShown above are the last 3 segments of a long privacy policy that basically says that you’re agreeing to let them sell or transfer your personal information to anyone, including third parties, if their company ever gets bought, merges with another company, creates an alliances with another company, etc. Oh, and also they can change their Privacy Policy at anytime without notice to you, because the onus is on YOU to come back and check the page. Any legitimate company or website worth their salt will send you a notice via email.

These types of scams are incredibly effective because they take advantage of the hype built up by official companies like Apple, who spent millions of dollars to generate hype and demand. Scam artists take advantage of this by using powerful and enticing terms like “FREE” (notice the all caps for emphasis), and “Giveaway”. Everyone wants free stuff; it’s a very basic marketing tactic that’s been around as long as commerce. Don’t participate in it. The battle to end the trade and sale of your personal information begins with you! Be mindful of marketing language, and more importantly, always be aware that scams are still a rampant problem. Every new social platform gives these crooks and criminals a new way to implement their old tricks. Remember: in the world of social media, protecting yourself also means protecting your friends and family.

Separating Fact From Fiction Using Research

What if I told you that you can find the truth behind nearly everything “surprising” or “shocking” you see on the Internet, especially from social media networks? No, it’s not magic. It’s called “research”. Clickbait articles are rife in your newsfeed, and sometimes you’ll see something that you just can’t help but click on. This past couple of weeks it was #BendGate, which addresses the structurally integrity of the newly released iPhone 6. If you haven’t heard about this yet, check out this video:

Yes, the iPhone 6 does bend due to its thin aluminum chassis. But I’m not talking about a test to verify the claims of others. I’m talking about parody videos like this one:

This video does not identify itself as a parody, nor does it warn that you shouldn’t try this with your actual phone. People unfamiliar with Youtube user Doc Brown may not realize this as the video is shared on our favorite social networks. Face it, we tend to watch videos more than we read descriptions.┬áCoupled with people posting sarcastic and satirical comments (which does not translate well in text form), some people may actually damage their own iPhone 6. It’s not exactly War of the Worlds, but it’s a similar effect. As you can see, research is important, especially with the way data is shared today. In case you’re interested, here’s an in-depth explanation about the iPhone 6 and why it bends:

On Passwords, Backups, and Encryption

The Passwords

It’s always worth mentioning again the importance of having a strong password in favor of one that’s easy to remember. Your personal information should never be something you risk for the sake of convenience, especially when your credit history and personal savings can be put at risk. Just keep in mind that a strong password does not necessary mean a complicated string of unrelated letters, numbers, and symbols. Unless you’re protecting sensitive government information, your password can have special significance to you, and yes, you should include different cases, numbers, and symbols. These types of passwords are almost ubiquitous in most sites that require you to create an account. No, they’re not there to discourage you from joining or make the process unbearable. These precautions are put in place with the very specific purpose of protecting your personal information. The problem is people tend to input the very minimum to meet the requirements, nullifying the original intent of privacy and Internet safety! Just take a look at the 25 most common passwords of 2013 from CBS and you’ll see what I mean. Keep in mind that even simple passwords can be made more difficult to decipher. The word “password”, for example, can be written as “P@5sW0rD”. Here we capitalize the letter “P”, use the “@” symbol to represent “A”, use TWO separate characters for “S”, and a zero for the letter “O”. Combine this with the rule “Every other regular letter has to be capitalized”, and a once simple (and most common) password is now one that is far more difficult to crack. For the sake of clarification, never use the word “password” in any way, shape, or form. Pick something with personal significance and add a string of numbers that you’d always remember, like the month and day of your children’s birthdays.

Note: Be wary of any Internet service that will send you your password if you click the “I forgot my password” button. If they do, it means your actual password is on file somewhere, which means that it can be stolen. Any website worth its salt will have a “Reset your password” function, which means that the passwords you choose are heavily encrypted, and not even the owner of the website knows what it is. Here’s a video explaining how that works:

The Backup System

The Cloud is the latest technology for securing important data, and many tech companies have jumped on board. They claim that by putting your storage space online and separate from your device, that device can be made smaller or have room for other emerging technologies, causes less environmental damage, and runs faster. But how safe is your data? Many people were quick to claim a failure in Apple’s iCloud services for the recent theft and distribution of many celebrities’ private photographs. According to Apple, the iCloud system was not breached; the data was stolen by targeting the username, password recovery, and security questions. Keep in mind that this isn’t anything new! This has always been the very first step in stealing passwords and identities online! It is by far the simplest and most effective method. So what does it come down to? STRONGER PASSWORDS! This cannot be stressed enough! If you’re constantly paranoid about your photographs and personal data, you can always opt for the original method of storing your data: external hard drives. You can keep a backup of your computer on it, and while it may require you to periodically update it manually, the only way that data can be stolen is if you are careless online (say with poor passwords) and somehow allowed a virus into your main computer, or if someone broke into your home and stole your computer and/or hard drive. In which case you can protect yourself with encryption programs.

The Encryption Method

Encrypting your computer might seem like you’re going a little too far, but for those who are absolutely serious about keeping their data safe from prying eyes, it’s an absolute necessity. With free-to-use programs like TrueCrypt (no longer maintained), you can encrypt your entire computer or partition the drive so that sensitive information cannot be accessed without the proper password or key. Even if someone did get their hands on your machine or hacked into it externally, the data you’ve encrypted would be useless and all but impossible to decipher. Whether or not your data is important enough for this safety measure is entirely up to you.