Tag Archives: network literacy

Security Practices Reviewed

Do you really know the best ways to stay safe online? A recent post on the Google Online Security Blog showed that average web users focus on different tactics than those favored by security experts.

In the blog post, Iulia Ion, Rob Reeder, and Sunny Consolvo highlight the results of two surveys they conducted. One was with security experts and one with users of the web who weren’t security experts. The two groups were asked to list the three best practices for remaining safe online. As the graphic (from the original post) below shows, the opinions of the two groups diverged, although both had recommendations about password usage.

Image from Google Online Security Blog post - New research: Comparing how security experts and non-experts stay safe online
Image from Google Online Security Blog post – New research: Comparing how security experts and non-experts stay safe online

I thought it would be useful to look at these recommendations and provide some of my thoughts:

Install Software Updates

Experts’ top recommendation was to install software updates – why? All software is prone to bugs, and many of these can be exploited by “bad guys” to compromise a user’s computer. As these bugs are discovered and the exploits employed, vendors provide patches for their software which fix the bugs. If you don’t keep your software up-to-date, you are unnecessarily exposing yourself to the risk of being compromised.


Experts advise using strong, unique passwords, while non-experts only advised strong passwords. By using unique passwords for each site, you can reduce the impact of a single site being compromised or your password exposed. Think about it this way – if you use the same strong password for every site you visit, what happens if one site gets hacked and someone finds out that password? Now, the “bad guys” have your password for all the sites you use.

Using strong, unique passwords presents challenges, like, how do you remember all those passwords, especially if they are non-memorable? That’s why the number four recommendation of experts is to use a Password Manager. Most reputable password managers keep your passwords encrypted, so they can only be unlocked with a master password or fingerprint – now you only need to remember one strong password, and the rest can be unique and non-memorable.

Non-experts recommend changing passwords frequently, but that really only provides protection against passwords being exposed and used long after the fact. This recommendation is likely made because many enterprises encourage (force) their users to change their passwords every six months.

Two-factor Authentication

Experts also advise the use of two-factor authentication. This means that, in addition to your username and password, you must have something else to prove who you purport to be. Many services, like Twitter, will send you a text message with an additional authentication code, if you configure it that way. This means that even if someone has your username and password, they wouldn’t be able to log in as you from a new device (most two-factor authentication can be set to only prompt for the second factor every 30 days, or when logging in from an unrecognized device.)

Anti-virus software

The number one recommendation of non-experts was to use anti-virus software. Why didn’t experts recommend the same? Since new bugs and exploits are being discovered all the time, anti-virus software often doesn’t catch the latest problem. If you believe that having anti-virus software will protect you from all threats, then you may be less cautious and let your guard down.


Being an active participant in online communities and using online services entails some level of risk that your personal information will be misused. Adopting some of the expert-recommended practices outlined above will make it a bit harder for the “bad guys,” and doesn’t impose a large burden on you.

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (Security Practices Reviewed) was originally published Thursday August 27, 2015 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Twitter Cohort Lite

By Molly C. Herndon , Social Media Specialist

The Personal Finance and Network Literacy teams will again be joining forces to create a learning opportunity for folks interested in Twitter. The 2-week event will begin May 18.

This year’s event will focus on asynchronous activities that participants can complete at their own pace. The event’s guides have assembled resources and homework for participants that will teach new skills and broaden existing networks. Watch videos and view last year’s syllabus here.

The Twitter Cohort Lite promises to be an easy way to get your feet wet and start tweeting with a supportive and encouraging network of professionals. By participating in this year’s event, you will:

  • Twitter-CohortBuild your Twitter personal learning network centered around your interests.
  • Engage in conversations with a Twitter community that starts with your fellow cohort members and reaches across the world.
  • Start online relationships that will last into the future.
  • Begin to see how Twitter can be used for teaching, learning, and connecting.

So if the Twitterverse seems intimidating or if you’re just learning to enhance your own personal learning network, register today for this immersive learning opportunity.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on May 5, 2015.

Can a Smartphone Make You Smarter?

Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Using smartphones and other mobile communications devices have become a way of life for many of us. As of 2010, there were over 7.000 health applications for mobile devices – and the list keeps growing. Dr. Shore and colleagues have cataloged and prioritized applications for mental health for the military and summarized three leading military mental health projects using mobile technologies [1].

Military Personnel showing individual information on cell phone
[Flickr, Operation Lone Star by Texas Military Forces, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015

Mobile Health, or mHealth (using mobile communication devices for health care services), can improve traditional mental health practices by enhancing communication, enriching health information, encouraging engagement, and improving compliance. Mobile technology can be used easily on-base or in the civilian community, is easily accessible (can be carried in a pocket, purse, or backpack), and can provide patient physiological data as well as voice and text communications. A wide range of mHealth applications for the military have been developed or are in development. Some of the projects being developed include:

  • Remote Exercises for Learning Anger and Excitation Management (RELAX): This application collects self-reported information about the emotions of the user and physiological information that is reported to a therapist to assist in therapist-directed feedback to address anger and stress.
  • Remote PTSD monitoring and diagnosis using an automated system: The application uses voice analysis software to screen and identify individuals at risk for PTSD.
  • A Conversational Independent Living Assistant for Cognitive Impairments: This project extends the current Planning and Execution Assistant Trainer (PEAT) to help users in the VA system to plan, execute, and monitor daily activities. The application is planned to have a virtual caregiver who interacts with the user.
  • Naturalistic Neurocognitive Assessment: A video game for smartphones, the application assesses increasingly complex neurocognitive metrics.

While there are many opportunities to develop innovative mobile technology solutions, there is a limited base of mental health literature evaluating outcomes when using these devices. Still in its infancy, the field of mobile technology and of mHealth is fast moving and provides many possibilities for uses in mental health for care providers in the future.


[1] Shore, J. H., Aldag, M., McVeigh, F. L., Hoover, R. L., Ciulla, R., & Fisher, A. (2014). Review of mobile health technology for military mental health. Military Medicine, 179(8), 865-878. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-13-00429


This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Goodbye AleX

The eXtension Network Literacy Community of Practice (CoP) will no longer be tweeting using the @AleXNetLit twitter account.

In a blog post explaining AleX, we wrote:

“AleX NetLit is an experiment. She is a new tool for learning in the changing knowledge and communication landscape. Will she make an impact? We’re not sure, but we will keep trying to use new and innovative tools to help people understand and harness the power of online networks.”

After careful consideration, the CoP steering committee, with input from the broader community, decided that our use of AleX was not making a significant impact, and that our efforts would be better directed elsewhere.

Members of the Network Literacy CoP remain active on social networks and use the hashtag #netlit to signify posts of interest to the community. Please look for that hashtag, or visit our page https://www.rebelmouse.com/NetworkLiteracy/, where we aggregate #netlit posts from across social media sites.

Where we went wrong

While we firmly believe that using a persona to communicate and help focus our message via social media was a worthwhile endeavor, there are things we could have done better:

  • AleX was crafted to help us think about one of our target audiences – Military Families’ Service Professionals. However, we never gained traction with that particular audience, and are now working to help them get started in social media instead.
  • We rotated the responsibility of tweeting as AleX, but most of us simply channelled what we would normally tweet through her account. AleX never developed her own personality and lacked consistency in style and content.

We’re open to the possibility of using a persona when we feel it will help build engagement and communication with others. Any future use of a persona will be informed by the lessons we learned while tweeting as AleX.


Stephen Judd – UNH Cooperative Extension and Chair, Network Literacy CoP

Bob Bertsch – North Dakota State University Extension, frequent AleX contributor, and Engagement Coordinator, Network Literacy CoP

Peg Boyles – Network Literacy CoP member and frequent AleX contributor


This article (Goodbye AleX) was originally published Monday July 7, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Implications of social media “endorsements” for knowledge workers

On October 11, 2013 Google announced a change to its terms of service that will allow the company to include a user’s (for users age 18 and over) profile name and photo, reviews, and ads they +1’d in advertisements on Google web properties (e.g., Search, YouTube, Play store). These “endorsements” will potentially be shown to the people the user has chosen to share content with.

Example from Google support page (https://support.google.com/plus/answer/3403513)
Example from Google support page (https://support.google.com/plus/answer/3403513)

Users can change the options on the Shared Endorsement setting page to prevent their name and photo from being used in advertisements.

Implications for professionals

If you are using a Google+ profile in your professional work, you will want to consider the implications of your name and photo being used to endorse products and services in Google advertisements. Many organizations, especially Extension, have policies in place which govern employee endorsement of products and services.

For example, the University System of New Hampshire Conflict of Interest Policy as it applies to Extension employees (Section 7.10.1) states:

“Each employee must exercise extreme caution and professional judgment, deliberated with diligent care, when using any brand name in any service, work product, or program resulting from performing the responsibilities of the position of appointment. As a general rule, promoting or endorsing brands of commercial products is prohibited.”

If you are governed by a similar policy, you will probably want to disable the shared endorsements setting.

Google’s handling of change

Google has been very forthright about the policy change and has been presenting users with banner notifications and Google+ notifications regarding the new terms and how users can change their settings:

A banner displays on Google search, alerting the user to the terms of service changes
A banner displays on Google search, alerting the user to the terms of service change
Google+ users receive a notification, alerting them to the terms of service change
Google+ users receive a notification, alerting them to the terms of service change

Other social media networks have similar policies

According to the New York Times:

“Facebook has been aggressively marketing social endorsements, which it calls sponsored stories. For example, if you post that you love McDonald’s new Mighty Wings on the chain’s Facebook page, McDonald’s could pay Facebook to broadcast your kind words to all your friends.

Facebook does not allow its users to opt out of such ads, although users can limit how their actions on the social network are used in some other types of ads.

Twitter also enables advertisers to show public tweets in their ads, but requires advertisers to get the permission of the original author of a message before using it in an ad.”

Understanding how each network can use your information is a critical network literacy skill. It is important to be proactive, and ensure that your information is shared in the way that is most appropriate for you.


Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (Implications of social media “endorsements” for knowledge workers) was originally published Monday October 13, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Ignoring Networks at Your Professional Peril

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit



Hi, AleX:

You have always been a dedicated professional. Your work has always been about serving your clients, building one-on-one relationships grounded in trust.

British Coffeehouses in the 17th century provided raucous places where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged.
British Coffeehouses in the 17th century provided raucous places where ideas could be freely discussed and exchanged.

It’s reflected in the way you regard network literacy. Admit it, AleX: Deep in the back of your mind, you still harbor this fear that any significant investment in social media will work to dilute these close relationships.

That’s understandable. Just be warned: By ignoring emerging social networks, you’re imperiling your professional future.

It’s important for you to come to terms with that fact, AleX.

Granted, a handful of CEOs pointing to a clutch of online infographics, some specious at best, stubbornly maintain that networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not only eroding the minds of young people but also costing the economy some $650 billion a year.

Don’t buy into it, Alex.

Truth is, the benefits of social networking have been apparent for a long time, a very long time — in fact, for as long as 500 years.

Rudimentary forms of social networking have been traced as far back as 17th century English coffeehouses, raucous places in which people shared ideas freely and openly and that bore an uncanny resemblance to the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century.

Many of the exchanges that grew out of these boisterous meeting places provided the basis for intellectual and material advances that have benefited countless millions of people and that are still being felt today, almost half a millennium later — a theme explored by famed science and technology writer Tom Standage in a recent article in the New York Times titled “Social Networking in the 1600s.

Proponents of conventional wisdom of the day derided these coffeehouses as venues of idle chitchat, much as their 21st century counterparts do with social media today.

To be sure, lots of idle chitchat and gossip occurred in these haunts. Yet, something remarkable happened too. In addition to consuming copious amounts of coffee and indulging in idle gossip, not a few of these coffeehouse patrons read and shared the insights from the latest pamphlets and news sheets, many of which dealt with the prevailing scientific, literary, political and commercial themes of the day.

In a diary entry dated in November, 1633, renowned diarist Samuel Pepys observed that discussion covered such diverse topics as how to store beer, the implications of a certain type of nautical weapon, and speculations about the outcome of an upcoming trial.

Conventional academic leaders of the day heaped scorn on the low caliber of discourse that purportedly prevailed in these coffeehouses.

“Why doth solid and serious learning decline, and few or none follow it now in the university,” Oxford academic Anthony Wood plaintively asked. “Answer: Because of Coffee Houses, where they spend all their time.”

They were misinformed. Lots of serious discussion and learning ensued in these coffeehouses.

Borrowing Standage’s picturesque term, these coffeehouses turned out to be “crucibles of creativity” — environments in which people representing diverse backgrounds and perspectives met and exchanged ideas. Many of these ideas, in the course of meeting and mating, provided the basis for new ways of thinking, which, in turn, spawned new concepts and inventions. Some ended up changing the course of history.

One of the more noteworthy examples of coffeehouse exchanges: Lloyd’s of London, the world-renowned insurance firm, which grew out of Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, a popular haunt of ship captains, ship owners and maritime traders.

One coffeehouse served as the nursery of modern economics: Adam Smith passed early drafts of “The Wealth of nations” among his acquaintances at the Cockspur Street coffeehouse, where many Scottish artists and intellectuals of his time gathered.

Yet, why should we be surprised by this? For his part, Standage cites modern research demonstrating that students learn more effectively when they are interacting with other learners.

Coffeehouses provided 17th century entrepreneurs, journalists, scientists and philosophers with highly generative, open-source platforms — foundations on which many of the predominant ideas, concepts and technologies of the modern era took form.

This brings us back to the present-day, AleX. As Standage stresses in his article, the emerging social media platforms of the 21st century are providing us with the same kinds of highly generative platforms — places where people, in the course of exchanging ideas and sparking new ones, have the potential of improving the lives of countless millions of people for generations to come.

Under the circumstances, is there any reason why you shouldn’t join into this conversation, AleX?


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Ignoring Networks at Your Professional Peril) was originally published Tuesday August 27, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

I downloaded what?

As computer users, we often run into situations where we need an additional program to accomplish something, and it often happens at the last minute. Beware of what additional software may be hitching a ride with that nifty little program!

Watch the first fifteen minutes or so of the embedded video to see this in action:


An educator, Chris, wants a copy of a YouTube video to show to a class while not online (we’ll disregard the copyright caveats today). The educator next door suggests that Chris download a YouTube capture program to save the video locally. Being a saavy user, Chris goes to a site like download.com because they screen for malware and are owned by CBS.

Chris finds the program and clicks the download link. Since there’s only an hour until the workshop, Chris clicks that they’ve read the user agreement and accepts all of the install defaults. Chris captures the YouTube video and uses it in the presentation and is quite pleased.

The next day, Chris’ homepage and default search engine have been changed, and there are all sorts of links and ads on pages where there shouldn’t be.

What happened?

When Chris installed the program, the installer included a bunch of “helpful” applications (most in the form of browser add-ons) that modified the browser. These changes result in special affiliate links and ads that generate income for the company that created the installer.

While small software utilities are often “free” to the end-user, they do cost time and money to develop and maintain. Developers realize that users like Chris may not be willing to pay for an application that only gets used a handful of times. So the developer works with a company that packages the installer for their app, and in return gets paid for each download.

Now Chris isn’t happy, and the IT department probably isn’t either. These tag alongs can be difficult to remove and can ruin the user experience on the web.


  • Don’t just accept the defaults, be aware of what other programs are being installed
    • You don’t really need a toolbar, coupon reminder, or the like.
  • Don’t install free applications from the Internet without understanding what else may be installed (if at work – make sure it’s permitted by your organization’s policy)
  • Even commonly used applications (e.g., Flash, Java) may install additional programs – make sure you deselect the option to install the “promoted” apps.

If you already have one of these applications or toolbars how do you get rid of it?

If you find you have installed something you didn’t want, you’ll need to uninstall it manually. The first place to check is the Programs or Add/Remove Programs application within the Control Panel (on Windows). You may also need to look at the add-ons or extensions within each browser and remove from there, and possibly reset your homepage and default search engine if they’ve been changed.

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (I downloaded what?) was originally published Thursday July 18, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Farming Lessons for 21st Century Professionals

This is part of the “Hi, AleX” series — advice to AleX NetLit about enhancing her levels of network literacy through day-to-day personal and professional social networking. AleX Netlit is a fictional persona created by Network Literacy Community of Practice to serve as a guide to Military Families Service professionals, Cooperative Extension educators and others seeking to learn more about using online networks in their work.

@AlexNetLit on Twitter
More about Alex NetLit



Hi, AleX:

In several previous communications, we have used real-life examples to illustrate how online media are changing the workplace.

As far back as three decades ago, futurists such as Alvin Toffler warned of the challenges people would face wading through and making sense of all the data being generated by computers and other technological devices.

Many professions already are at the front line of these challenges. In fact, a sector of the economy that many people would seldom associate with fast-paced technological change — farming — is undergoing sweeping change. This wrenching change is not only affecting farmers but also a group of professionals long associated with farming — Cooperative Extension agents and other educators.

The data generated by technologies such as precision farming is challenging farmers in a way they never expected. There are lessons here for all 21st century professionals.
The data generated by technologies such as precision farming is challenging farmers in a way they never expected. There are lessons here for all 21st century professionals.

Within the last generation, farmers have increasingly begun to rely on highly sophisticated technological devises, such as yield monitors and light bars — devices attached to their tractors, sprayers and other equipment — to make pinpoint applications of things like fertilizer, insecticides, and herbicides.

Why are these pinpoint applications so important? Because these enhanced levels of accuracy not only save farmers money but enable them to become more effective stewards of the land by reducing chemical applications required to grow their crops.

But farmers have discovered something else. These technologies generate data, lots and lots of data, much of which they have not even begun to assimilate.

Like a growing number of other professions, farming increasingly is about data management, not only collecting and managing the immense amount of data associated with every facet of farming but also determining how all of this interrelates.

“Basically, it all boils down to this: How do we take all this agronomic data and process it and, by gaining knowledge from it, make informed farming decisions,” asks Dr. John Fulton, a precision farming expert and Alabama Cooperative Extension System professional who has been on the frontline of efforts to help farmers cope without this new data challenge.

“Right now, data management is the challenge — about the biggest challenge we face,” he adds.

This pretty much expresses the challenge for Extension professionals.

In the past, Extension work was mostly about quickly responding to their farmers’ needs. But this new data issue is challenging them to reassess the ways they interact with their farmers.

They’re learning that while quick response is as important as ever, so is the need to help farmers to see the bigger picture— to understand farming not only as a system of interrelated parts but also to anticipate trends before they morph into full-grown crises.

This has challenged Extension professionals to become more multidisciplinary in their thinking. Increasingly, their in-service training explores the linkages among all facets of farming, such as insect and weed control and plant and soil science.

They’re also developing a keen appreciation for how their work is best served through building strong social media presences among their clients.

There is a lesson here for you, AleX, and for legions of other professionals. The flattened knowledge landscape that forms the basis of professional life in the 21st century has also created a special set of opportunities for those professionals astute and enterprising enough to sieze on them.

To put it another way, this new information order is crying out for professionals with a special set of skills: people capable of drawing big, overarching pictures of their professions and showing the people they work with and serve how to make sense of all of it.

It underscores the value of two skills we’ve discussed on earlier occasions, AleX: aggregation and curation, namely learning how to gather and organize information in ways that your audiences can derive practical use from it.

But remember, AleX, this involves more than simply aggregating and curating information.

As many Cooperative Extension professionals are learning through experience, the most effective 21st century professionals will be those who learn how to use social media to focus and refine online discussion and, when the need arises, to help correct faulty information.


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Farming Lessons for 21st Century Professionals) was originally published Wednesday July 10, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Online advertising influenced by offline activities

Wiertz Sebastien - Privacy used under Creative Commons license - http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz/6092000030/
Wiertz Sebastien – Privacy used under Creative Commons license  http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz/6092000030/

When I wrote last year about Online privacy, the message was that our perceptions of online privacy revolve around the use of information we consider private or personal in a context we weren’t expecting. This post will take a look at how our offline behavior and information is being used to influence the advertising we see online – in particular, ads on Facebook.

Your first reaction may be that there’s no way that your Facebook identity can be connected to your offline activities, but that’s not correct. There are a large number of companies, called data brokers, that gather information from a variety of sources, and link that information to create a profile of an individual. Once these data brokers have an email address linked to an individual, they can use that to create targeted advertising campaigns through Facebook.

What kinds of information do data brokers collect?

To understand the kinds of information that data brokers collect, it’s instructive to take a look at the company Acxiom.  According to their document, Understanding Acxiom’s Marketing Products, Acxiom has both household and individual data, including name, address, telephone, email, gender, education level, occupation, voter party, date of birth, marital status, number of children in household, children’s age ranges, household interests, home owner status, home purchase date, home loan amount, home market value, and much more. This data comes from a variety of sources, including public records (marriage licenses, property transfer and tax records, etc.), self-reported survey information, purchase information, etc. Axciom then uses this information to provide services to its customers including targeted or addressable advertising. Axciom states that they don’t share sensitive data, that any individual record contains only a subset of data that they collect, and that data may be combined to create “inferred elements.”

How can this information be connected with my Facebook profile?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation EFF) recently wrote about the details of how data brokers are able to partner with Facebook to show you targeted ads. In brief, data brokers provide Facebook with a hash (a hash is derived summary of an original value that is not reversible, so the original value is obscured) of an email address for each user they’d like to see a particular ad. Facebook then compares that hash to the hashes of the email address of each Facebook user. When there is a match, the two parties can be confident that it is the same person, even though they didn’t share the actual email address with each other. Facebook is then able to present the purchased ad to the user. In turn, Facebook provides information back to the broker about the success of the ad and aggregate demographic information about the viewers.

A simple, contrived example

It may be easiest to get a sense of what’s happening through a fictitious example: A data broker would like to advertise dog food on Facebook, but only display that information to dog owners. In their dataset, the broker has stored publicly available dog license information and associated that with particular individuals whose email addresses they have also determined (through surveys or commercial entities.) The broker gives Facebook a list of hashed email addresses (they don’t share the actual email address) and Facebook compares that list to their own list of all hashed email addresses associated with Facebook accounts. The dog food ad is displayed to each user who is on both lists. So, even if a user has never posted about their dog on Facebook, they could see ads that are targeted to them based on offline information.

So what?

Is this a privacy violation? It likely depends on your perspective. Data brokers would contend that the information they gather is publicly available or shared by the individual. Facebook would contend that the resultant ads have greater relevance to the user, and are more desirable than displaying random ads to each user. The individual may find it creepy that Facebook appears to “know” about things that they did offline and did not intend to share with Facebook. The user may not have thought that licensing their pet would lead to them getting pet supply related ads on Facebook.

As technology makes the sharing and combining of this sort of data easier, we can expect to see more examples like this. I remember a conversation from 15 years ago with a friend that sold life insurance. He would hire a college student to go to the county records office and get the information on marriages and births, so he could send the people letters offering his services.  Now that large companies are combing through and digitizing these records, they are public in a way we may not be thinking.

How can I stop it?

The EFF article has information on how to opt out and what that really means. Unfortunately, there is no central clearinghouse where you can opt out from all data brokers at once, and opting out does not mean that data brokers will stop collecting your data. Opting out only affects how the data broker will use your data.

Sign of the times

Many people have had the experience with physical junk mail, of suddenly receiving a flood of mail related to something they’ve done, like receiving extended warranty offers after purchasing a car. It appears that online ads have become the analog of junk mail, targeting you based on information gleaned elsewhere. As long ago as 1999, Scott McNealy, then CEO of Sun Microsystems, was quoted, “You have zero privacy anyway…Get over it!”

The only things that are truly private are those things known only to you. Once others know our actions, behaviors, or information, it is no longer private and we are confronted with how that information is used and in what context. Controlling our expectations and how others use the information we leave scattered in our wake is a challenge we will continue to face.

– An excellent explanation of the technical aspects of the data broker / Facebook relationship – Security Now podcast Epsiode 404 with Steve Gibson from the TWIT Network.

Author: Stephen Judd (@sjudd)

This article (Online advertising influenced by offline activities) was originally published Tuesday May 21, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.


Opening Your World with Social Media

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield will be long remembered as one of the most visionary and perceptive users of social media to advance space exploration.
Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield will be long remembered as one of the most visionary and perceptive users of social media to advance space exploration.

Canada’s top space explorer, Chris Hadfield, has been described by Forbes magazine as the “most social media-savvy astronaut ever to leave the Earth.”
He returned recently to earth to well-deserved fanfare.

Hadfield has sparked a passion for space exploration across Planet Earth through his social media presence, even while living and working more than 200 miles above it as commander of the International Space Station.

All professionals can — and should — draw inspiration from what he has achieved with social media. Hadfield has accomplished something that NASA has struggled to do for 40 years: re-ignite a sustained, passionate interest in space exploration among ordinary people. He has done it using common social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Reddit, though with additional help from an onboard digital camera.

How did he do it?

He’s Personalized His Message

For starters, Hadfield struck an effective balance between the mundane and the sublime aspects of space exploration.

As one of his sons, Evan, who was quoted in the February 22, 2013 online edition of the Guardian, described it, “Dad wanted a way to help people connect to the real side of what an astronaut’s life is— not just the glamor and science, but also the day-to-day activities.”

His YouTube appearances dealt with all sorts of topics related to living in space — for example, how to brush one’s teeth and shave in space; how to clean up spills; and how to make a peanut butter sandwich in zero gravity.

By highlighting the routine aspects of his job, he’s humanized his message in a way that enables ordinary people to relate to him.

He Democratized It, Too

chris-hadfield2Hadfield also democratized his message by inviting an active dialogue with thousands of people across the planet.

He organized an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit that drew almost 7,800 comments and followed this with the first Google+ hangout from space, answering questions via a live downlink from space.

Words with Pictures

Hadfield also understood the value of visual imagery — telling his story not just with words but with pictures, often stunningly beautiful pictures.

His daily posts feature not only natural phenomena such as rain forests, deserts and polar ice caps but also of the world’s major cities, captioned with verbally picturesque descriptions: “a somber spring night in Boston,” “Manila in the night, like a vase full of flowers,” and “Paris, well-named City of Light.” (Small wonder why Hadfield has been credited with possessing a poet’s turn of phrase.)

Hadfield carried his visual passion into his YouTube presentations, many of which generated hundreds of thousands of views. Almost all of these presentations were accompanied by visual props, whether these happened to be his sleeping compartment, his toothbrush, or his razor. He strove to be visual in all facets of his social media work.

The Art of Simple but Concrete Messaging

Hadfield, while keeping his messages simple, also was careful never to deviate beyond his core theme. Borrowing a phrase from Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the New York Times bestseller “Made to Stick,” he mastered the importance of “discarding a lot of great insights in order to let the most important insight shine.”

Virtually all of his messages were also anchored in what the Heaths term concreteness. In one of his YouTube presentations, for example, he not only discussed the challenges of maintaining dental hygiene in a weightless environment but also demonstrated it by brushing his teeth. While discussing what it’s like to sleep in zero gravity, Hadfield donned his Russian-supplied pajamas, floated into his personal cubicle and zipped himself into his sleep bag.

Takeaway Lessons

While earth-bound professionals may not live and work in as glamorous environment as the International Space Station, we can still learn a lot from what Hadfield has achieved.

Personalize and Democratize!

The title of an old hit song from the early 1960s, “Welcome to My World,” first popularized by Jim Reeves, could be readily applied to the success Hadfield has acquired through his social media efforts.

Hadfield has succeeded spectacularly partly by identifying his strengths, namely his passions, interest, training and unique professional perspectives, and packaging them in an unusually compelling way through social media. But in addition to capitalizing on these strengths, he also found a way to personalize his message — to welcome people into his world — that has resounded with hundreds of thousands of ordinary people across the globe.

We should be asking ourselves: What are the talents, personality traits and expertise that set us apart from others, and how can we use these to build our own social media presence?

Likewise, we need to give more thought to how we can personalize and democratize our messages more effectively. With the right amount of forethought and planning, we can learn how to weave both the mundane and remarkable aspects of our work into social media products that our users not only find entertaining and enlightening but also highly useful.


Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield spacewalking outside of the International Space Station.
Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield spacewalking outside of the International Space Station.

For better or worse, pictures increasingly trump text in this social media-driven age.

Hadfield understood this. Virtually all of his postings dealt in some way with visuals, whether these happened to be tweets of images from the earths’ surface or the expert use of props in his YouTube presentations.

We should be actively searching for ways to anchor our messages in compelling imagery. Most of us, if we think about it, are equipped with all sorts of visual imagery that we can weave into our social media narratives.

Be Concrete!

Borrowing a page from Hadfield, we should strive to ensure that all our messages our simple and straightforward and, equally important, as concrete as possible — and, when possible, enhanced by images that help convey the point clearly and succinctly.

Parting Words

Granted, in both a literal and figurative sense, we may never reach as high as Chris Hadfield. Even so, let’s not forget that we all possess a unique set of training and insights that potentially could be shared with people from many different backgrounds.

We, too, have compelling stories to tell. The sooner we envision ways to personalize, democratize and visualize our stories, the better equipped we will be to reach out to our audiences, whoever they happen to be.


Author: Jim Langcuster ()

This article (Opening Your World with Social Media) was originally published Monday May 16, 2013 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.


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