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Category Archives: Platforms

All Online Digital Roads Lead to Google Plus

All Online Digital Roads Lead to Google Plus
By Chris Abraham

Google can’t get any of us to use Google Plus, but they’re still trying. And they’re pushing hard. One of the reasons I love blogging is, for good or evil, I don’t need any evidence for anything I say. With that caveat, Google’s closing in on its goal of being federated across all of its properties, so be acutely aware. They’re triangulating us all and will soon be able to identify not merely what “you” — someone like you, a demographic generality — want, need, and desire, but what you, yourself, (or me, Chris Abraham), want in particular, down to, at most, your person (and the maximum 7.8 square meters around you).

Rejoice! I am no longer a 35–44 year-old white, college-educated, man, living in Metro Washington, I am 44-year-old Christopher James Abraham, who lives between Columbia Heights and Arlington Views, off of Columbia Pike in South Arlington, VA, who owns guns, motorcycles, spends money on eBay and Amazon, and loves eating fish tacos at Taqueria el Poblano during their weekday happy hour from 4-7pm — and many other very specific details of my life (like the fact that I attended the Nation’s Gun Show at the Dulles Expo Center).

Rejoice! Soon, Google’s reason for being will become truly manifest: all Google “organic” search results will be curated for my specific proclivities and all ads over all Google-associated and Google-partnered advertising networks, both online and offline, will be tailor-suited, bespoke, based on both my literal history of past searches, emails, subscriptions, and purchases but also based on a lot of cross-referencing that will try to predict my current, short, medium, and long term purchase and search decisions based on other close, similar users and algorithms that can now access petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes, and maybe even yottabytes real-time.

What does it mean? Well, I don’t care about my privacy, really, just my convenience. Then again, I am one of those guys who consider Minority Report to be more of a promise than a threat. I am one of those guys who grew up on The Well and the Meta Network, online communities that enforced real names anyway.

So, I am running full speed into the arms of big data to the extent that I recently gave up my Apple iPhone 5, a superior device, as my primary mobile device in favor of the new LG Google Nexus 5, a terribly-flawed-but-Google-integrated smart phone. But I am sold on the Google Empire because they stalk me so well.

The problem with the iPhone, as far as I am concerned, is how balkanized the phone is. It’s like the US: there is a Nation-State, Apple iOS, but the true power lies in the States, the Apps. Google Android phones are ruled by a federated, unified, Google OS, Android, with the Apps being mere applications under Android, with many of the top useful apps on Android devices being fully integrated Google Apps.

In the last six months, Google has made a lot of progress bringing us all in from the cold: from YouTube, from Google Search, from Picasa, Gmail, Google Apps for Business, Android phones, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Blogger, Google Hangout (née Google Talk), Orkut, and even Google Groups.

To wit, my friend asked me if I had ever been to the Tilted Kilt, a Hooters-like bar wherein the girls wear very revealing variations of the Scottish Kilt. I remember having been there years ago while in Atlanta. I searched “tilted kilt chris abraham” and the photos I had taken popped up in images, images that I believe I might have shared on Google+ years ago. Until recently, these sorts of deep content had been disappeared and lock-boxed into the bellies of Google’s various properties for whatever reason (maybe to not freak people out, so that they felt more comfortable sharing on Plus without always ending up in search); now, more and more of Google’s users’ content will be the first content to show up on top (as long as the content is set to public).

What’s more, Google’s always been savvier than this. Google has always gamed serendipity by serving up search results that include the people who are in your Google network, be it in your Gmail Inbox, your Contacts, your Google+, Picasa, or through any connections. This has always been the case. My friends are always popping me notes saying how small the world is because how often they bump into my content when searching for information on social media, single speed biking, digital PR, marketing, motorcycles, or firearms — yes, indeed, the world is small, but Google’s mad skills are making it (at least appear) smaller and smaller within your circle of friends and larger social networks. And, circa 2014, this will become even more refined and as close as real time as is “humanly” possible.

In many ways, the moment you step into an online world as curated by Google’s algorithms, you’re indeed entering a sim, stepping into a simulacrum of sorts, one of which Narcissus would be proud: the perfect reflection of your hopes, wants, needs, world views, passions, and desires. We’ll all become the Kings of our online experience.

The Emperor’s new clothes; the emperor has no clothes!

When Google buys applications, web properties, new and cool websites, and all the rest, profiting directly from those acquisitions is not what they’re interested in. Google’s only interested in heading you, as an online denizen, off at the pass. What they want is to flush all of us online grouse out of the bushes so that they can finally get a good bead on us. When Google finally gets us all locked in their sights, they’ll be able to finally identify each and every one of us all the way down to as close to our social security, passport, and drivers license numbers as possible.

And that’s an excellent thing if you’re willing and able to remain safely ensconced in the warm, soft, velvety embrace of the Matrix — like me — though I am not sure if this will reassure everyone as much as it does me. And, since every action has a reaction, Google’s search engine algorithm has a profitable flaw: it tends to highlight and prioritize popular content. And, what content is generally most popular?

Salacious gossip, embarrassing revelations, revealing photos, humiliations, and defamations. The dark side, of course, but also not Google’s problem: they just give the public what they want, just like anyone else — and if they didn’t, someone else would — all the while running profitable inline, contextual, banner, pre-roll, and video ads.

And all of this fun stuff is pinned to Google+.

As the saying goes, “all roads lead to Rome.” And Google’s Rome is Plus. Now that Google has us all hooked, they’re integrating all of these properties into the new Google+, whether or not you are currently a registered member. If you’ve invested in Google in any way, you’re a potential Plus member; and, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll just jump in feet first. It’ll improve your participation everywhere else, trust me, starting with the world’s favorite site: YouTube. As you may know, Google’s changed access to YouTube commenting to prefer Google+ members.

Google’s almost completed their new roads project: all roads lead to Plus. Resistance is futile. Still fighting? This is quicksand mate, stop struggling and just relax into Google’s vision for your media future, both online and off. It’s beyond your control.

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Chris Abraham

Principal Consultant at Gerri Corp.
Chris Abraham is a leading expert in digital, including online reputation management (ORM), Internet privacy, social media marketing and digital PR with a focus on blogger outreach, blogger engagement and Internet crisis response.
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Pinterest Updates: What Businesses and Brands Should Know

Pinterest Updates: What Businesses and Brands Should Know
By Jessica Oaks



Pinning things has become the new de rigueur for a large swath of the Internet population. Gone is the day of the bookmark. Gone is the day of the RSS feed. In today’s Internet environment, it’s all about pinning things, using Pinterest. While this simple task may seem on the surface somewhat trivial, the opposite is true. Put simply, pinning is as strong an indicator of what’s hot and what’s not as hashtags or what’s trending on Twitter are. Understanding this can allow businesses to more effectively market their products and build their online reputations.
 

 
The Social World’s Impact on Brick and Mortar You’ve likely seen it. A Yelp sticker in the window of your favorite restaurant. Stickers that say, in a nutshell, “We’re liked online so give us a try in real life!” That philosophy is beginning to find its way beyond the confines of review sites and into the broader digital realm. In fact, Nordstrom recently made the decision to base its product displays on which items had the most “pins” on Pinterest. A common sense, no-duh strategy when you think about it, but one that was seemingly forward thinking. Think about it: how many stores, especially stores as reputable and large as Nordstrom, have you seen do such a thing? And yet, it could represent a tidal shift in the way that businesses market their products and interact with consumers.

What Businesses Can Do to Capitalize on Pinterest

Perhaps most importantly, businesses need to be on Pinterest. Businesses have already adopted other social platforms; in fact, businesses large and small have all but universally joined Facebook and Twitter. The next logical step for many is to join Pinterest. This holds particularly true for businesses that sell a product, as for many of its users, Pinterest is a sort of giant wish list. Instead of bookmarking pages or adding a blog to an RSS feed, a user will pin a specific pair of shoes, dress, or pair of pants. If your products aren’t listed on the site, they can’t be pinned.
Perhaps more importantly, you can’t gain invaluable data on consumer interest and demand.

The Internet Experience in a Mobile World

It could be argued that Pinterest has caught on in such a big way because it is tailored to the mobile experience. The website interface is mobile friendly (with a recent redesign, the mobile site now looks and functions in much the same way as the company’s native app), the user experience is interactive, and there’s no shortage of stimuli to keep people engaged.

With people accessing the Internet increasingly from their smart devices – iPhones, Androids, Samsung LG2s and tablets – Pinterest is increasingly looking like the website of the moment. It provides search functionality, a browsing experience, and archiving and sharing apparatus all in one. In other words, Pinterest is Google and Facebook all at once. And, with wireless service providers such as T-Mobile offering free 4G LTE data for certain plans, the opportunity to access Pinterest anywhere, anytime is now a reality among many customers. To learn more about devices with free 4G LTE, check this out.

In 2014, “The Year of Mobile,” there are many online outlets for businesses to interact with consumers, but perhaps none better than Pinterest, what may be the most mobile-friendly platform of them all. Brands need to ask themselves: can they risk not having a presence going forward? Is Pinterest merely a fad or is it destined to have a real impact on consumer behavior and marketing?

Pinterest Can Help Improve the Bottom Line

There can be little doubt that Pinterest is destined to join the ranks of Facebook and Twitter as the next big name in the tech world. Some would argue that the company has already achieved this. Regardless of how one would value the success of Pinterest, it is likely safe to say that businesses looking to engage with their customer base should consider joining now, before they fall too far behind the curve.

Jessica Oaks is a freelance journalist who loves to cover technology news and the ways that technology makes life easier. She also blogs at FreshlyTechy.com. Check her out on Twitter @TechyJessy.

‘Windows XPocalypse’ and Security


‘Windows XPocalypse’ and Security
By Tim (TK) Keanini

Technical support and automatic updates for Windows XP will ended on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014. This has brought up some concerns around security, as patches for known issues were previously delivered via the now defunct automatic updates. What does this mean for Windows XP users?
 

 
The Basics

First it is important to note that on April 8th, only a few variants of the XP operating system were End-of-Support. End-of-Support means that there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates. Further details can be found on Microsoft’s web site, but I will summarize the changes here.

The systems that people must worry about are:

  • -Windows XP Home Edition
  • -Windows XP Media Center
  • -Windows XP Professional
  • -Windows XP Tablet PC Edition

When it comes to embedded systems (non-desktop versions of XP), the only one that people need to take urgent action on is Windows XP Professional for Embedded Systems. This product is identical to Windows XP, and Extended Support ended on April 8, 2014. If you have an XP variant for which support ended on 4/8/14, you need to treat it as if it were already dead and move quickly into getting it replaced. Pretend that it caught fire, and you will be moving with the right amount of urgency.

Here are some other variants of Windows XP that are going to receive updates after 4/8/2014. Organizations should still be planning now for cutovers on these systems.

  • -Windows XP Embedded Service Pack 3 (SP3). This is the original toolkit and componentized version of Windows XP. It was originally released in 2002, and Extended Support will end on Jan. 12, 2016.
  • -Windows Embedded Standard 2009. This product is an updated release of the toolkit and componentized version of Windows XP. It was originally released in 2008, and Extended Support will end on Jan. 8, 2019.


Point of Sale Systems

It turns out that Point of Sale (POS) systems run two types of Windows Embedded platforms, but those End-of-Support dates are not until 4/12/2016 and 4/9/2019. Businesses should, however, take immediate action to identify which version they have and put in motion a plan to migrate well before these deadlines.

These systems include:

  • -Windows Embedded for Point of Service SP3. This product is for use in Point of Sale devices. It is built from Windows XP Embedded. It was originally released in 2005, and Extended Support will end on April 12, 2016.
  • -Windows Embedded POSReady 2009. This product for Point of Sale devices reflects the updates available in Windows Embedded Standard 2009. It was originally released in 2009, and Extended Support will end on April 9, 2019.


Since POS systems deal with such sensitive information and have become such big targets for attackers, retailers should definitely already be working with vendors to plan for these upgrades to ensure that there are no lapses in security. Some have asked if retailers should switch from traditional POS systems to wireless tablets and smart devices to increase security. However, this is not an effective defensive strategy as the adversary is able to find weaknesses in all information technology. The best strategy is to maintain diligent and vigilant security measures for whatever systems a retailer is using to take payments.

Security Vigilance

As businesses leverage information technology to remain competitive and grow, there is an equal responsibility to manage the security of this infrastructure. An accurate inventory and maintenance schedule is fundamental, and if a business or technology partner does not know the End-of-Support schedules for critical devices, bad things are certain to happen.

Businesses need to know the End-of-Life/End-of-Support schedule not only for all of the items on their own asset list, but also for the systems used by partners. If you have partners with technology, or you are using a Value Added Reseller, ask them to produce a monthly report of their applications or appliances that are coming up for End-of-Life/End-of-Support in the next 24 months. Stay ahead of the game and minimize surprises.

Handling Windows XP End-of-Support – Feed it, kill it, but don’t starve it.

As you all know by now, on April 8th 2014, Microsoft stopped supporting some variants of XP. The software industry for years has operated this way with every system on your network having a predetermined service life, but given the current threat landscape, I would like to propose a change. You see, the problem is that on 4/8/2014, all of these systems that are End-of-Support will continue to work just as they did on days and years prior. This is a big problem because people don’t change their behavior when things are business as usual.

What I’d like to see happen when any information technology reaches End-of-Support – meaning no fixes will be issued for newly found security vulnerabilities – is that it stops working. That’s right, kill it!  Having an End-of-Support/End-of-Life technology alive and connected to the Internet makes it a liability for everyone online. It is called End-of-Life for a reason, and what I want to see happen is for the vendor to literally end the technology’s life. One of the rules in my personal playbook is: Feed it or kill it, but never starve it. Complex and dynamic systems do not deal with this lingering state very well, and it is time we make a change in how we handle the service life of a product.

Traditionally, the retirement phase of a product’s service lifecycle begins with the announcement of the End-of-Sale (meaning you can no longer purchase the product), followed by a period of time known as the End-of-Life that ultimately ends with the End-of-Support date when no more updates will be released. This is a critical stage for close-sourced products, because no one other than the vendor can issue fixes, and that vendor just told you they will never issue another update no matter what. Right here, kill it please. The implementation of this new policy must happen early in the service life, but if done well both technically and socially, the world will be a safer place because the right expectations and events will drive the right behavior.

No product should be online if there is no opportunity to fix newly found vulnerabilities. We have a problem on the Internet where a patch is available and yet people are still irresponsibly running old versions. At least in these situations, remediation is available via an update, but when there is no update, my position is that the technology should be killed immediately.

These expired versions of Windows XP will continue to work, and trust me, they will be targeted by attackers because what better investment can the adversary make? If they spend a week to develop a new exploit, they get to use it on expired technologies until the end of time, as no patches will ever fix it.

You can ask customers politely and even urgently to upgrade, but until their current version stops working, or worse, is part of a security-related catastrophe, they will typically do nothing. The reason Y2K drove a change in human behavior was because on that date, old code was going to fail – there was a clear and significant event approaching. On April 8th 2014, customers’ Windows XP systems worked just like they did on days prior. I predict that End-of-Support XP systems will still be on the Internet and will be used for botnets and other supply-side resources for adversaries.

Consider this problem five or ten years into the future when millions of devices brought on by the Internet of Things are allowed to remain online after their End-of-Support date. We cannot afford this, people! The change I’m pushing is good for everyone because Internet security is everyone’s problem.

Tim (TK) Keanini is the CTO of Lancope.