Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stalking? There's an app for that.

A large part of Facebook's appeal is the ability to add apps to your account. Games (such as Farmville or Vampire Wars), social apps (like Yelp or horoscope apps), self improvement apps (dieting apps, investing tips) and many more can be found on the site, many of which are free.

There are times where Facebook will determine that certain apps violate their terms. For example, in early 2009, Burger King created an app that, if you dumped 10 friends, would give you a free Whopper. Really. Facebook's rationale was that apps are not allowed to tell people if you've dumped them as friends, and this app did.

Facebook just pulled the plug on an app that many contended was a stalking app. Breakup Notifier was an app released recently. The whole purpose of the app was to let you know if someone's Facebook relationship status changed. For example, if someone was listed "in a relationship" and changed their status to "single", you would be alerted.

Many people view this as a stalking app, but in my opinion, if someone puts this information out there publicly, there really isn't anything wrong with it. I could just as easily bookmark a profile and revisit it to see if someone changed their profile status, and I would also be able to see it through my News Feed. This app would just monitor it for you and send you a response via e-mail when that status changed, providing you with real time information.

Facebook has apparently permanently disabled the app, citing some reason or another. Was it the 3.6 million users it amassed in a week (and the strain it added to their servers), was it complaints, or was it something else? I would guess complaints. I am assuming that the same people who post their relationship status publicly are the same people who wrote to Facebook to complain.

Undeterred, the creator of the Breakup Notifier has created another app, Crush Notifier. This works very much like speed dating. Let's say Sally has a crush on Tim. She would mark that she has a crush on him, using this app. Tim would not receive notification of Sally's crush, so Sally does not risk rejection or awkwardness. However, if Tim marks through the app he has a crush on Sally, they would both receive e-mail notifications that they like each other. Crush Notifier even has a business model, where you get two uses for free, and would need to use Facebook credits to receive any further e-mails.

Amazing how social media continues to change society, huh? Well, as Ricky Bobby said, "Does that blow your mind? That just happened!"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I am the number 6 Google result for "cat-proof software"

Statcounter (the site I mentioned which showed what browsers people were using to visit my site) provides a lot of cool features. If I had my own Web server, I could get this same information by perusing my Web server logs, but since I am running a site through Google's Blogger service, I don't have access to those.

Statcounter logs all sorts of information, for example, computer IP address, operating system, browser information, screen resolution, and more. One of the other things that is cool is that it can tell you how people found your Web site, assuming they didn't just type it in to their address bar.

For example, if you Google:
Professor Cameron blog

I am the first result for this. This makes sense. If you were to then click on that Google link, I would be able to see that someone Googled that and found me using those search terms. I can also see which search engines people used to find me. Of my recent visitors, 55 found me using Google, 7 using Bing, 4 using Yahoo!, and 1 using Ask. (Note: Statcounter only logs the most recent 500 visits for free users, and many of them didn't find me using a search engine, hence the small numbers).

I sometimes will pop on the system and see how people for finding me, and there are always some interesting results.

For example, I have a number of searches I would expect. The following searches led people to me (again, some Google, some not):
interesting computer stuff (name of the blog, that makes sense)
professor cameron (makes sense, that's me)
fun stuff with professor cameron (I assume someone just forgot the name of my blog here)
eric cameron pccc us (that's me!)

In addition, there are searches that turned up specific blog posts of mine. I have a number of searches related to computer hardware disposal (due to a recent post), PCCC Panther Alert (something I've discussed a few times - PCCC's emergency alert system), Zune disaster (an older post), an assortment of things related to Microsoft Office hotkeys, and other such searches. As a matter of fact, I am the number 6 result on Google for cat proofing computer due to a post from last year.

Then, there are the bizarre ones. These serve to show me that search engines, though amazing, still have a ways to go. Here are some of the bizarre searches that have led people to my site:
  • simple one touch notification pagers from chef to servers 163-001
  • i get taken advantage of a lot
  • Bergen Community College, "flight simulator"
  • Professor Cameron porn
  • wife playing world of warcraft when supposed to take children +subpoena
Some of those are bizarre! I wonder what was going on in that last search...

Anyway, you can see searches like Professor Cameron porn would lead you to this site because somewhere in a page is each of those words. I posted about pornography a few times, and of course Professor Cameron is on every page, so yeah, that works.

I am pretty sure whoever was searching for that was disappointed when they found my blog.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Web browser usage

Sites like Statcounter can track happenings on your Web site. For example, I can tell you of my last 500 visitors, 49% used Firefox, 27% used Internet Explorer, 6% used Google Chrome, 2% used Safari, 0.4% used Nutch, and 0.2% (one user) used Konqueror.

We see a lot of statistics regarding Web browser usage. It does vary by region. Firefox and Chrome seem to be more popular in Europe. According to Statowl, the latest numbers for the US, around 60% of users are running Internet Explorer, and only 20% running Firefox. World numbers are somewhere around 47% for Internet Explorer and 31% for Firefox, according to Statcounter.

None of these will be 100% accurate, but they do paint a picture for us. Why are my users more likely to use Firefox than the average world user? I would assume that, as I maintain a technology-related blog, my users are more likely than the average user to use a browser like Firefox.

If I were doing Web design and I had these numbers, I would need to make sure the browsers my users use were the browsers I was testing my site in. Though it really should not happen, there are times a page looks different in Internet Explorer and Firefox (for example).

It is interesting for me, as someone who is not running a for profit site, to look at these statistics. For someone who IS running a for-profit site, this information can be critical.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spy vs. Spy

A few years back, I attended a workshop hosted by NJ Infragard. It's a group that puts on workshops related to security, specifically computer security.

(Amusingly enough, every time I mention Infragard, I get an email from someone telling me how "bad" they are. I also get a comment every time I post anything remotely related to Web design, from someone who hates a stock photo company called Getty Images. Always interesting to see what brings out the commenters and emailers!)

Anyway, that said, one meeting had the key speaker being Kevin Murray, of Murray Associates. His company is one that is part of an industry I didn't even realize exists. His company will come in and sweep your company for wiretaps, listening devices, and the like. It was quite educational for me. He told some crazy stories about how far people go to spy, in politics, and in private industries like pharmaceuticals.

Anyway, the company maintains a blog with tons of news involving espionage, privacy, and security. This site is definitely one I check out from time to time. I enjoy computer security, but I am not actively involved in it on a day-to-day basis. Reading the perspective of someone who is out there in the field is entertaining and educational for me.

Link to Kevin's Security Scrapbook

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Happy Birthday Facebook!

So Facebook turned 7 yesterday...and to celebrate, it seems to have developed a problem. For many users, the site is down, and the Internet seems all a-buzz over it. Rumors of the site shutting down start flying and people get crazy.

This is the longest outage I can remember (around 12 hours). I can imagine there are many people who are lost right now...or angry they can't play Farmville or Mafia Wars...or can't communicate with friends because it seems like no one keeps track of people's email addresses anymore.

This does seem to be an issue with certain people's accounts. My professor one works fine, but most of my friends can't get in, and I can't get in to my personal account.

I am sure heads will roll at Facebook after such a long outage.