Monthly Archives: January 2012

10 Reasons Lots of Websites Violate SOPA and Don’t Know It

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve at least heard of SOPA. Detractors have compared the bill to censorship policies in countries such as China, Iran and Syria; the grassroots effort to stop it have been massive. Administrators from some of the largest sites in the world have publicly opposed the measure for many reasons, one of which is that inadvertent violations could sound the death knell for a website. Here are ten of the reasons why violating SOPA could be so easy that a site would be unaware until it was too late.  Fortunately, the SOPA bill is delayed/shelved in Congress right now but it’s still important to remember the impact it could have some day.

  1. Vague Language – Though House supporters have claimed that SOPA is designed to protect the intellectual property of Americans from foreign profiteers that illegally distribute content in exchange for advertising and membership revenue, the vague wording of the bill makes it difficult to understand exactly what constitutes a violation and certainly doesn’t offer immunity to inadvertently-offending American sites.
  2. User-Submitted Content – If a site allows any sort of user-submitted content to be posted as part of their business model, they could very easily find themselves in violation of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Under the current language of the proposed law, the owner of the site that hosts the content, the user that posts a link to the content and the website that allows the user to submit that link could all potentially be charged with violating the bill.
  3. The “Friend-of-a-Friend” Effect – Do you remember when you were a kid, and the friend of a friend did something that got you all in trouble? Maybe you weren’t directly involved, and maybe you didn’t even like that person very much, but your mom still said that you were “guilty by association.” Under SOPA, the same principal applies: even if a link to legitimate and legal content housed on another site is shared, the site that posts the link could be punished if the hosting site is found to house illegal content as well.
  4. The Comments Section – One of the quickest ways to lose faith in humanity and the education system is to take a look at the comments section of a YouTube video or comedy article; comments are almost universally inflammatory and poorly spelled, but that’s still legal. Should SOPA pass and one trolling user posts copyrighted material in the comments section, the site would be in violation and could face blacklisting, blocking of revenue and DNS blocking.
  5. Banner Ads – Aside from being an irritating part of web-surfing, banner ads are arguably the lifeblood of the internet. Those blinking, shouting, IQ-test-offering bits of space pay for the hosting and maintenance of your favorite sites. Depending on how those ads are distributed, the site admins usually have little to no control over their content. Foreign companies can (and do) use protected images in these sites, which could lead to SOPA complaints for the site that hosts the ad.
  6. Fair Use – Copying material that is copyrighted for “transformative” purposes, such as creating a parody, is called “fair use,” and has a precedent of use as a legal defense against infringement claims. SOPA would effectively end the practice of fair use, as investigation of claims isn’t required in the current wording of the bill. Hosting currently-allowed fair use images or content could lead to violation charges.
  7. Housing a Discussion Forum – Many websites dedicated to a niche interest or subject also house a forum for users to discussed this shared interest. SOPA would make it almost impossible for sites to allow forums, due to the violating content that many users have in their signatures and avatars. Even if those users never shared a single illegal download link, the site could still be in violation from those avatars and signature panels.
  8. VPN Violations – Because the SOPA wording allows culpability to be extended to anyone aiding someone who posts copyrighted material, a web-based company that uses a virtual private network could find themselves facing allegations in the event that another network user shares illegal content.
  9. Search Engine Results – Part of SOPA’s line of defense against piracy is to require the blocking of offending sites from search engine results. Should a site that hosts such content slip through the cracks of a search engine site, that search engine could be held liable for violations.
  10. Open Source Software – For every expensive piece of software available, there’s a perfectly legal, user-built open source version. Created by users for users, the open source format is one of the great accomplishments made possible by worldwide networking. Companies like Mozilla, whose Firefox browser allows open source plug-ins, have already come under fire for permitting the creation and use of plug-ins that would allow access to sites wrongfully blocked in the event that SOPA passes.

Though there is no question that piracy is a problem that affects the entertainment industry to the tune of millions, SOPA is not the solution. While supporters pay lip-service to the idea of protecting American interests, the bill could potentially crush the internet as a viable source of start-ups and entrepreneurial spirit. The inherent riskiness of any web-based venture in a post-SOPA America would discourage investors from putting money into these ventures.

10 Search Engines That Don’t Start with a G, B, or Y

In the world of online search engines, most people stop with the Big Three. Google, Bing and Yahoo! Search are indisputably the most widely used. For those who like to run off the beaten path or march to the beat of their own search engine, here are ten alternatives to consider the next time you need to find information online.

  1. AltaVista – In operation since 1995, AltaVista is one of the web’s search trailblazers, and is still in operation today. For those of us who were around in the wild days of the internet’s infancy, the fact that the familiar name is still an existing entity might come as a surprise. Though they retained the name and url, AltaVista search was acquired by Yahoo! in 2003.
  2. WebCrawler – If searching the Big Three individually just won’t do, spin all of them into one search with WebCrawler. With a single-query system that uses metasearch technology to trawl most of the major-player engines in one go, you’ll also find multimedia results and local news.
  3. DuckDuckGo – DuckDuckGo is a pared-down approach to web searching, offering prompts for disambiguation and a zero-click feature that plops information in an easy-to-spot red box above the link results and a no-tracking policy for the privacy-minded user.
  4. Ask – Once known as AskJeeves, is another longtime player in the online world. A unique approach to results grouping and simple presentation make Ask a standout.
  5. MetaCrawler – Taking its name from the metasearch technology that allows a single-query search of several indexed engines, MetaCrawler’s popularity peaked in the late 90′s, but the site is still in use and relatively popular today.
  6. Mahalo – Though the human-powered format of Mahalo returns fewer results than a larger engine, the fact that they’re hand selected means that the results you are presented with are much more likely to be high-quality, relevant ones.
  7. Dogpile – Once upon a not-so-distant time, the go-to search engine for quick results was Dogpile. Unceremoniously unseated by Google, the new Dogpile is staging a comeback with a clean interface, respectable index and crosslinking.
  8. Lycos – Acting as both search engine and web portal, the 1994 research project that became Lycos was one of the world’s first internet ventures to turn a profit. Now owned by Hyderabad’s Ybrant Digital, Lycos is still widely used.
  9. Info – Another single-query platform that returns results from several engines, Info boasts an overlap rate of only 5% in the top 20 searches and extensive vendor information.
  10. Search – With a proprietary algorithm that sorts the results of several platforms into one cohesive list, Search is a powerful engine that separates sponsored links from the returned relevant results and allows customization of metasearch options.

In addition to these general search engines, there are dozens of specialized offerings with an emphasis on specific media, professional and industrial information and blogosphere results. Games and entertainment also have their own niche in the market.

10 Tips for Getting a Deal on Business Internet Service

Businesses that rely on an internet connection to get the job done can’t afford to contract with a sub-par bargain provider due to network unreliability and often slow connection speeds. However, a package with all the bells and whistles can get pricey. These tips can help you keep your bottom line healthy. 

  1. Keep An Eye On TV Commercials – Most of us pay little attention to the advertising spots on television, but they’re a great way to keep yourself informed of promotional offers and good deals from service providers.
  2. Fliers – Tossing those promotional mailers into the garbage without a second glance can be tantamount to throwing money away. Often, this is the only way that some of the better deals are publicized.
  3. Internet Research – Finding a great deal for your business connection can be as simple as utilizing your home service for research. There are several specialized websites that offer apples-to-apples comparisons of various service providers.
  4. Comparison Shopping – Keeping careful and detailed notes on the information you find can help you compare plans side-by-side to make the best choice for to suit the needs of your business.
  5. Talking to Colleagues and Friends – People rely on word of mouth to find the best deals on a wide array of services; internet providers are no different. A discussion with colleagues or friends about your business connection can provide you with a one-on-one service review. By the time you’ve finished the conversation, you’ll have a basic idea of the strengths and weaknesses of a provider.
  6. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions– When you contact a service provider’s call center, don’t be shy. Ask questions, and stand strong against the high-pressure sales techniques that some operators will use.
  7. Research Business Rates – Some service providers offer special pricing or promotional packages for business services. As you conduct your research, be sure to find out which companies offer these incentives.
  8. Read the Fine Print – All too often, we find what seems to be a great deal only to find that the prices rise considerably at the end of a promotional period. Be sure to keep a close eye on the fine print of your agreement, and read everything carefully before you sign.
  9. Local Forums – Online forums and message boards for business owners in your community can be a great way to get real answers about the satisfaction level of your peers with their internet service. These users can also steer you in the right direction when you’re looking to secure other services.
  10. Your Current Bill – Anyone who hasn’t made the switch to paperless billing knows that a considerable portion of a traditional bill consists of promotions and advertising for additional services. Be sure to skim over them when the bill comes in each month; what you find might surprise you.

Troubling economic times have forced many small business owners to cut costs wherever they can; finding a sweet deal on such a vital service as an internet connection can make quite a difference when money is tight. With a bit of research, you’ll find a money-saving option that suits the needs of your business in no time.

10 Tips for Getting a Deal on Home Internet Service

Even when finances are tight, foregoing home internet service is a sacrifice that many of us hate to consider. So much of our daily routine is handled via the web, that canceling our connections can actually cost money in the long run. With these ten tips, you can save money and keep your link to the online world.

  1. Bundle Your Services – Most cable and home phone providers offer a bundled package, which can net deep discounts on services you’re already using by combining them. If you have existing television, phone and internet service, it might be wise to consider the bundle option.
  2. Consider Alternate Providers – Often, we don’t even consider certain types of service providers; companies that specialize in mobile broadband home service can be significantly cheaper than cable or DSL connections, but are almost always comparable in speed and reliability.
  3. Choose Your Plan Carefully – While a high-speed connection is non-negotiable for many people, it isn’t always necessary to choose the highest tier package. If your usage is relatively low, you can save a considerable sum by opting for a lower level plan.
  4. Don’t Throw Away Those Mailers – Though most people toss those circulars and fliers in the trash can, they may not all be junk mail. Mailers from cable and internet providers often contain valuable promotional information or codes.
  5. Speak To A Call Center Agent – Customer service representatives often have the low-down on non-publicized plans and discount deals; explaining your circumstances and asking if there are lower-priced options available can sometimes give you access to these deals.
  6. Pay Attention to Television Commercials – It’s practically human nature to ignore television commercials; we’ve even developed technology that allows us to skip them altogether. However, there are valuable deals lurking in those advertising spots. Keep an eye on the commercials for internet service providers, and you might get information that will save your family money.
  7. Monitor Your Usage – Many service providers have usage limits; exceeding them can lead to incredibly expensive overage fees. Knowing what the limitations of your plan are and how much you’re using is imperative if you’re on a budget.
  8. Comparison Shopping – As with anything else, finding the best deal on internet service requires a bit of research. Comparing the plans and pricing options of several different providers is the best way to be sure that you’re getting the best possible deal.
  9. Factor End-of-Promotional Increases – Though promotional pricing can be attractive, it’s wise to check the fine print of an agreement before signing; some plans can increase so much at the end of the promotion that you’d be better of taking the plan with no promo.
  10. Specialized Web Sites – If you don’t currently have a connection, taking a laptop to a WiFi hotspot or visiting the local library to do some research is a must. There are specialized web sites available that offer side-by-side comparisons of many popular providers and the plans they offer.

10 Ways Texting is Ruining the Vocabulary of Our Kids

OMG, did you know that kids are now thinking in acronyms?  Do our kids even know what an acronym is?  Kids today are so busy tweeting with limited characters or texting little bursts of information that they don’t want to use big words.  Seriously, if you don’t use the words you learn they will never become a part of your vocabulary.  The schools are trying to teach vocabulary, but kids just aren’t using it.  Check out 10 ways texting is ruining the vocabulary of our kids.

  1. Takes too long to text big words: Even if your kid knows big words there is a chance that his friends won’t and frankly it just takes too long to type in a big word when a smaller one will communicate the same thing.
  2. Many acronyms already exist that are easier: When something is funny do they text, that is hilarious!  Nope, they text… lol or if it’s really funny they text, rofl.  These have become standard acronyms on texting so everyone uses them so that they will be understood by their friends.
  3. Adults don’t understand the acronyms: If you actually text using real words then your folks could go back and read your texts.  What if you texted something you don’t want your parents to know.  Like WTPT, where’s the party tonight?  If they stick to these acronyms most adults won’t know what they are saying and they can avoid getting into trouble.
  4. Short and sweet: Many times the kids will misspell words so that they can save characters.  Spelling and vocabulary go hand in hand. ( If U no wat I mean)  Really kids would just write KWIM? (Know what I mean), but they will shorten other sentences and drop punctuation and everything else.
  5. Dictionaries are changing: In their defense, Dictionaries are there to tell us what a word means and when certain “words” are used enough then they end up in the Dictionary.  Some of us purists think that only words should be in the dictionary and not abbreviations or acronyms.  When a child goes to look up a word in a dictionary the words we grew up with will have changed.  Like Rachael Ray made up EVOO for Extra Virgin Olive Oil and it’s made it into the dictionary.  Although, anymore most people don’t even own a dictionary, they look it up online.
  6. Some teachers are bowing under the pressure: Teachers are even allowing kids to write their term papers in text speak.  Now where is the common sense in that?  If you don’t even have to know your words or how to spell them when writing a school paper then what is this world coming to?  Don’t do it teachers, don’t cave!
  7. Face to face communication is the exception and not the rule: You might think that kids only use text-speak while texting and that when they are talking to each other they use their vocabulary.  Well, if you think that you would be wrong.  Not only are teens starting to speak their text speak abbreviations, but texting is making face-to-face communication more difficult for kids.  They would rather hide behind their phones than to speak to someone in person.
  8. Texting and e-mails have done away with letter writing: Another time when we use our vocabularies is when we write letters to each other.  We would write out our thoughts in long hand.  When was the last time you received a letter in the mail?  People just don’t do it anymore.  It’s all about the e-mails and texting now and social media.  Social media sources may keep us in touch with people we went to high school with, but do we really care?
  9. Creating a new language: Instead of working on developing their own language they are busy learning and using another language.  Or I guess you could call it a different dialect of the same language.  Because those of us who speak English can figure out text-speak if we really try.  Most of it is intuitive; kids continue to strive to create new abbreviations instead of learning how to converse with words in the English language.
  10. Spending more time on texting their friends than doing their homework: This final reason is one that is more an effect of time management than the actual use of texting.  Kids spend so much time texting to their friends that they aren’t spending enough time on their homework.  This may affect their vocabulary because they need to do the work.  Make sure kids know how to use the English language before allowing them to text.