Webconsuls Blog

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Protect Yourself and Your Computer

Conscientious web users need to protect themselves from spam scams that can waste their time, steal personal information, and turn their computers into "zombies" spewing more spam throughout the Internet.

Spam methods change quickly and what was popular last month may be outdated next month. A popular one today is "greeting card spam" when someone you do not know sends you an e-greeting card. To read it you have to download a special program which could contain code would compromise your system. An insidious version of this spam scam is to use information on the web, such as at MySpace.com, to find your friends and use their name to send the card. Be very careful before downloading any program.

Stock market "pump and dump" schemes are also popular today. A spammer will buy a penny stock and then send millions of emails "pumping" the stock. If only a few people buy the stock then it will go up and the spammer will "dump" and take a profit. If you get unsolicited information that seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

To protect yourself you use up up to date anti-virus software that has the latest virus information. You should avoid clicking on links in emails but rather type in the complete URL since what you see in the email may not be where you end up. Keep your financial and other confidential information on a flash drive and only connect it when you need to access the information. Do not fall for schemes. Use common sense.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why Mobi?

The US wireless industry crossed 80% subscription penetration in Q207. Though the growth rate has slowed down, there is still plenty of room for growth over the next five years. 86-88% of the handsets sold in the US are now replacement devices. Time for an upgrade? The % contribution of data to service revenues jumped from 14.5% to almost 17% in Q207 and is certainly going to cross 20% by the end of this year. Considering the market was only at 6% in 2004, it is a significant improvement in 3 years. Verizon led in % data contribution to ARPU with 19% followed by AT&T at 17.3%, Sprint at 16.3%, and T-Mobile at 15%. If your users are not looking at your site via a handheld device now, they will be soon. Got .Mobi?

Google Sky - Now in Google Earth



Google again in the news with Google sky, a new feature in Google Earth. Stargazers in the family are going to love this one. Google continues to bring innovative and fun products to the marketplace. What makes it even nicer on the pocket book is that they are giving these tools away for free.

To use Google Sky, open Google Earth 4.2 and click "Switch to Sky" in the "View" Menu, or just click the "Sky" button in the Google Earth toolbar. You can do all the fun things you do in Google Sky that you can do in Google Earth, Like Zooming in and out, Dragging around the stars, Search for your favorite planet, Galaxy or other far flung corner of the known Universe.

With Google Sky, Google has successfully brought together a millenia of human knowledge in one easy to use location.

Way to go Google.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Human Computation - Google TechTalks



ABSTRACT Tasks like image recognition are trivial for humans, but continue to challenge even the most sophisticated computer programs. This talk introduces a paradigm for utilizing human processing power to solve problems that computers cannot yet solve. Traditional approaches to solving such problems focus on improving software. I advocate a novel approach: constructively channel human brainpower using computer games. For example, the ESP Game, described in this talk, is an enjoyable online game -- many people play over 40 hours a week -- and when people play, they help label images on the Web with descriptive keywords. These keywords can be used to significantly improve the accuracy of image search. People play the game not because they want to help, but because they enjoy it.

Luis von Ahn is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, where he also received his Ph.D. in 2005. Previously, Luis obtained a B.S. in mathematics from Duke University in 2000. He is the recipient of a Microsoft Research Fellowship.

He describes other examples of "games with a purpose": Peekaboom, which helps determine the location of objects in images, and Verbosity, which collects common-sense knowledge. He also explains a general approach for constructing games with a purpose.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

SMO ~ The old fashioned way

About a month ago I sat in on a Social Marketing Optimization (SMO) Training Seminar. The obvious purpose of this seminar was to teach a company's employees the importance of SMO, which is how to get involved by setting up a Stumble Upon account, becoming a regular user of Stumble Upon, writing blog entries, posting comments to blogs, etc.

The trainer took a few minutes to explain that Social Marketing or Social Media is not a new convention, in fact all of us have and continue to participate in Social Marketing activities in our everyday lives; however, this participation traditionally may not have occurred on the web, but instead in our daily contacts with friends, neighbors, co-workers, storekeepers, etc. As the trainer explained this phenomena, if you need a recommendation for a plumber you might first call your trusted next door neighbor, before searching the web for plumbers in your neighborhood.

At the time I thought that this was a clever analogy, but it came to me later that a closer analogy to the anonymity of web SMO might be the traditional Service Station proprietor.

Do you remember the old-fashioned Service Station owner? I have fond memories of a particular Service Station owner ~~ my father, Joe, who owned a Service Station from about 1955 until 1963. When my father first leased the station it was a Wilshire Service Station located at the corner of 7th and E Avenue in National City, CA.

Looking back I now realize that Joe was an original and natural social marketer. How he came to own the service station is another story, but suffice it to say the service stations, as we knew them then, offered anyone, who ventured into the station, a wealth of assistance and information. And while my father had a good number of regular customers, for the most part the daily customers were strangers to my father. And yet these strangers, not unlike today's web social group members, depended on him for more than gasoline.

If the customer needed driving directions, no Mapquest, just ask Joe or one of the service station attendants. If you needed a local or state map, they were provided by the service station at no cost! Need a suggestion for a good restaurant, again no IPhone with Google maps, just ask Joe and he might send you to the El Juan Cafe for Mexican cuisine (still in business) or Keith's Family Restaurant (still operating) for home-made fried chicken. Looking for a particular church, Joe only had to point you across the street to St. Mary's Catholic or just down the street to St. Matthew's Episcopal. Need to know what was playing at the local movie theatre, Joe could tell you the current film and show times at the Bay Theater (built in 1944, the building is still there but for sale for $2.7m.)

And let's not forget that service stations in years past did not have mini-marts, but they did offer you a clean restroom, a soda machine, they could fix a tire, tune your car and if you needed a phone, just come on in and you were given the opportunity to use the business phone. No payphone on site and certainly no cell phones.

One of my favorite memories of Joe, as a social marketer, was him serving as an impromptu employment agency. Frequently local people would stop by looking for work and if Joe didn't have an opening, he would know which businesses in the neighborhood were looking for employees. Over the years, Joe employed many family friends, offering them part-time positions to help make ends meet. No Hot Jobs or Monster.com...just stop by and talk to Joe.

And there were even days when a complete stranger would come into the station, ask for a fill-up; however, when payment was requested suddenly they would indicate they had no money. These strangers would then barter with my father leaving a watch or something else of value promising to return later with cash to redeem their item. I don't know, you might call this a little credit union, pawn shop, or even pay day advance.

Sometimes the service station would serve as a small used car lot. Local people would ask to park their cars with a "for sale" sign posted on the car. My father bought more than one of these used cars over the years, the most memorable being a seven+ passenger Cadillac Limousine, circa mid 1940s. (see the photo of my dad in front of the black Cadillac taken in 1960, wearing his Wilshire shirt, with my then four year old brother, Michael, sporting his own Wilshire shirt.) Could this have been the precursor for CARMAX?

I like remembering my father and his service station. He took good care of his customers and he was always willing to provide recommendations, not unlike today's blogs, and other on-line social media and marketing vehicles.

Click here to learn more about:

the history of service stations or to enjoy photos of the Bay Theater.