Category Archives: Social Media

Many of us accept friend requests from people we don’t know on social networks for different reasons. We may want to grow our network, connect to influencers, or simply find new people to share with. However, you may want to be a bit more careful who you accept those friend requests from. Especially if you owe money.

It seems like those pesky debt collectors have turned to friending people on social networks to electronic cigarette demo publicly shame them into paying their bills. So if you get a friend request from a complete stranger that also happens to be a hottie in a bikini, be sure to second guess the request.

Federal regulators are weighing new restrictions on how debt collectors can use social networks as they work to impose federal oversight over the debt collection industry for the first time. Read more about this at Bloomberg.

This morning I asked Santa to call a close friend and my little brother. I assume Santa did. Just to be sure, I also asked Santa to email me.

For the last few years, Google and NORAD have happily tracked Santa on Christmas Eve. This year, Microsoft wooed NORAD over to Bing, but Google is still in the game. On Christmas Eve, they’ll have their own Santa Tracker, using Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google what-have-you. Until then, you can go to to entertain yourself and your kids.

SantaTracker is a bright and fun HTML5 site (with an accompanying app). You can Pokies play mini games and poke around, waiting for the “developer elves” to launch the map once Santa gets on his way. You can also call Santa and leave him a voice mail. Finally, you can have Santa call a friend or send them an email. Of course, being on top of social media, Santa also sends Google+ messages 24 hours a day.

The messages can end up being slightly hilarious. The way Google has arranged it, you feel a bit as if you’re playing Christmas mad libs. Give it a try and send yourself or a friend a surprise message from Santa.


If you don’t live here, you probably don’t realize a lot of the extremes that exist in the Silicon Valley. In my last year (my first year), in the Bay area, it has been nothing if not a culture shock for me.

Regular people working for tech firms, just trying to get by. Students, grabbed right out of college, pulled into startups or excellent jobs at Google, and making the “big bucks” because they don’t yet have “real” expenses.

The uber-rich of local Valley neighborhoods (I live at the intersection between two of those neighborhoods and routinely follow Ferraris onto the highway ramp) who exist right along with the rest of us.

Then I go to the Stanford Shopping Centre and I see, as I wait to turn left, the homeless and homeless vets who are routinely on the corner of El Camino and Sand Hill Road (Sand Hill, where there is more venture capital money than you can imagine), and I wonder who is helping those people. When I actually have cash, I’ll often give it to these guys. Maybe I’m just a sucker, but the image in Pokies my mind, of these homeless people surrounded by all this excess in the Valley – well, it bothers me.

Because of that, I like to hear when something good and charitable happens around here. That it’s not just about sportscars and high-end fashion.  On Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook (who is only 28 years old) announced he would donate nearly $500 million in company stock to a local charity called Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The SVCF is a charity that works with donors and other charities to allocate their money, offer grants, and help charities with programs like marketing and fundraising. Zuckerberg’s donation is earmarked for health and education issues.

In recent years, Zuckerberg pledged $100 million in stock to Newark public schools and joined with Bill Gates in the Giving Pledge, which asks the wealthiest amongst us to donate most of their wealth. (Really, how many Teslas do you need anyway?)

You can read Zuckerberg’s Facebook pledge here. And really, it gives me a little faith to know that despite the extremes of wealth and poverty in the Valley, some people really are using their money to help.

With over 275,000 apps in the App Store specifically optimized for iPad, and what seems like a million more for iPhone, it gets a bit overwhelming to discover the apps that can benefit your life — especially when you consider the average person only downloads 60 apps to their iPad. Here’s a list of the 5 that have earned prominent positions on my home screen, never wiggling to be tapped out of existence… in other words, the ones I can’t seem to shake off:

Bloomberg TV
I’m not a big “stocks” guy, and my financial portfolio consists of lots of credit card balances and too-high interest rates. So, I’m probably NOT the target audience for this iPad app. However, I am compelled to tune in every morning — they have diverse coverage of what’s going on in business, with a razor-sharp focus on the tech industry. I find their commentary to be witty, succinct and spot-on. You can register and synchronize content across your devices, create custom playlists, and oh yeah, you can get stock portfolio updates if that’s your thing. On my iPad mini 4G (Verizon), there’s never a hiccup in performance either.


The Magazine
I would like to find the individual at Conde Nast that made the decision to just port their print magazines to a “pdf” style iPad edition that requires me to sit and stare at the download meter as each 600mb edition downloads. This is the experience you want to provide your end-users? I don’t want a big, thick, glossy, tree-killing tome ported to my iPad. Just when I’m about to give up and go back to lugging around magazines heavier than my grandmother’s Bible, Marco Arment steps in to save the day. The creator of Instapaper, he has redefined the “magazine” experience for us on-the-go tablet geeks. Just imagine: instant download, simple, clean design, TEXT to READ, no stuffy, 25mb .jpgs, and no intrusive ads and lame videos. Just content. Marco’s vision is to “go beyond technology” and deliver big-picture content experiences. I hope product managers, or those in charge at the Big Media Companies, will get a chance to download this app. Maybe then they’ll re-think what they’re doing… and save me some precious space on my almost-filled-up iPad.


TED Books
I know, I know. that annoying state. However, I found this app this year, and find it almost all-consuming. There’s a Newsstand-like UI filled up with short ebooks about the human condition and what you can do to be an active part of making things better. I find the selections to be uplifting and some quite controversial. Most are in nice, bite-sized chunks as well.



Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re thinking, “Oh he’s trying to prove he’s a literary fellow”. But what I like about the McSweeney’s app is less the “liberal Mother Jones” kinda bloviation and more the diverse writing that never ceases to surprise me. Even today I was able to tap in and read about how Yoga is able to help people who are struggling with tragic circumstances in their life, learn about self-driving tractors, and laugh at the “pain” of playing sudoku. All that and then add that I get a monthly Greil Marcus column. Can’t be beat.



Tom’s Guide
There’s no shortage of tech apps and sites to get your fill of whatever it is you’re jonesing about at any particular moment. It’s a tad overwhelming, actually. How many Engadgets, TechCrunchs and Verges do I need in my daily tech news Favorites list? Well, I discovered Tom’s Guide this year. And what I like most about it is its simplicity in the face of a constant stream of information. “Tech” as a subject is big, and Tom’s Guide takes the low-fi road in presenting it. Text with a small picture, when appropriate, and a very easy navigation scheme. It’s one key app I use to get the tech news I need for my day.



Tied for 5th: Tappestry
Disclosure: I know the developer of this app. Having said that, Tappestry opens up a new way of sharing, debating, and dialoguing with communities around almost any subject. You start out by broadcasting what you’ve learned, read, tried, achieved, or want to do. Anything. It won’t take long for someone to have something to say about your post. There’s much more going on behind the scenes though: Tappestry represents what I like to call the “achievement broadcast complex (ABC)”… it’s the first app that I know of that facilitates you being able to record what you’ve learned, take it with you wherever you go, and discover like-minded people that add to your learning and offer you new perspectives.

I’m sure you’ve seen it on Facebook. I’ve seen it at least 30 times in my feed this morning.

“Oh no! Instagram changed their terms of service and they can now sell my photos!”

First off, I’m actually impressed that people are reading their Terms of Service. (Hey, you guys know Facebook pretty much owns all your stuff anyway, right?)

Here’s the new line in the TOS:

You agree that a business may pay Instagram to display your photos in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions without any compensation to you.

Here’s the thing – Facebook is already doing this to you. I can’t tell you how many times I look over in my right column and see that one of my friends has Liked a page or Purchased something, and it even shows their photo. The first time it happened it was jarring – did my friend give that company the right to use their profile photo? Well no. But we did give that right to Facebook to use in their sponsored posts.

That folks, is what Instagram can do. You’re not going to be seeing your cool photo on the side of a bus or denigrated at a bus stop beside a weeks-old movie poster. Instagram can’t change your photo, modify your photos, or drop their logo on it. In fact, as the Verge puts it:

Well, an advertiser can pay Instagram to display your photos in a way that doesn’t create anything new — so Budweiser can put up a box in the timeline that says “our favorite Instagram photos of this bar!” and put user photos in there.

Again, Facebook has already been doing this to you for months. Yet, we tend to eventually accept all that Facebook does to us because our worlds are often on Facebook.

Thanks to The Verge for clearing that up. Guess their news feed was overrun as well.

UPDATE: Instagram says “Thank you and we’re listening.” They’ll be re-wording their policy soon, so that the legalese is less confusing.


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