3d key

The holiday season is about to begin, it is a good opportunity to spend time with your family and love ones.  Depends on where you are, there may be a couple of days in December when no store is open and there isn’t much else to do around town.  Instead of spending all those time watching TV or movies at home, why not to spend an hour to organize your online passwords and social media security settings?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Invest in a password management app or service – for every sites that you use online, regardless if it is for banking or for Facebook, you should be using different password for each site. And every month or two you should recreate new passwords.
    • So services such as LastPass, or FOSS app such as KeePass are good tools to use for managing logins. There are other password management tools out there, the open directory has more listed here. However, make sure your master password is extremely complex and you are the only one will ever guess it. Read more here about how to create strong password.
    • If you don’t like having a 3rd party online service to manage your password, KeePass is the choice.  You can install KeePass on a USB key so that you can carry it around.
  2. Fully understand privacy settingson websites – get familiar with the security and privacy settings across the sites you use online, here are a few things:
    • Turn on SSL or secure browsing on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.   
    • Validate privacy settings and raise settings to what you are comfortable with, company keep changing their terms of services and privacy settings, keeping settings up-to-date is very important.
    • Turn on 2-step authentication on Google (use your mobile phone as a hard token)
  3. Change the PIN on your iPhone or the unlock pattern on your Android phones.
  4. Set a habit to use private browsing on Chrome, Firefox or IE (Windows 7 or later), and clear cache and sessions once in a while.  And do the same thing on your smartphones.
  5. (Google) review the Dashboard and individual entries under Authorized Access to your Google Account, revoke whatever you don’t need.
  6. (Twitter) review the list under Settings -> Applications tab, revoke access of services that you no longer use.
  7. If you have a smartphone, spend some time to pick a good security and anti-virus app.  (Lookout Security and AV is pretty decent for Android.)  It is worth every penny!
Hope the tip helps.  Have a wonderful and safe holiday!
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On Wednesday, I finally received access to Google Plus, the latest creation from Google and a new social media site to the market.  Overall functionality in Google Plus can be broken down into:

  • Circles – The contact management and organizer in the system.  Similar to how contacts work in Gmail – tagging contacts, but with a much better user experience.
  • Sparks – Basically topics that you can add to follow.  The system will present you the relevant posts on the subject.  Topics, such as sports, technologies, cars, etc.
  • Hangouts – simply put, group video messaging
  • Instant Upload – On mobile, when you take a photo, it is automatically uploaded to your private collection.  You can choose to share it with your circles at a later time.
  • Huddle – You can think of it as a mobile group text messaging and chatting
  • Stream – On the main page, each spark and circle will have its own stream available.  Think of it as a subset view of your friends and people you follow.
After spending a night playing with Google Plus, I have realized that Google designed the new social media site with lots of learnings from Wave and Buzz.  The most important improvement of all, is actually the launch strategy!  Not every functionalities are implemented just yet, but the new service covers many different features that would certainly appeal to all types of users.
  • Unlike Buzz, which was a single feature targeted only at Twitter users.  It really was a little web application or plugin, not a platform!
  • Unlike Wave, which was a was a new product, new methodology and probably way ahead of its time.  (Design a platform for the masses, not only for geeks and power users!)
  • And unlike Google TV, which was announced in May 2010 at Google I/O, but the product didn’t ship until October 2010.  All the hypes were dry up!
At the end of the day, Google is not a startup anymore.  When a new service is launched, people expect more.  We don’t want to see you make a big fuzz around a small feature (e.g. Buzz) nor an announcement of something you will launch in 6 months or  year (e.g. Google TV.) At least they got this right with Google Plus.

What I like so far

  • The user interface of Circles is very well done!  Extremely useful for organizing people into different circles.  It makes group messaging via Hangouts and Huddle much useful.  Let say if you find a good article about wine, you can share with your Wine Tasters circle and not necessarily share with all of your friends.
  • If I feel like reading posts by the people I follow, I don’t need to open a new tab in Chrome.  I can just click on the Stream.
  • The group messaging capability seems useful.  Good start for collaboration and sharing information with specific group of friends.
  • Group video conferencing under the same UI.
  • The Google Plus settings is somewhat mature.  It integrates with other Google services already, this make it seamless for the users.
  • The system automatically grab your Picasa web albums and share them with your peeps appropriately.
  • The mobile app is available since day one, and it is pretty slick too.
  • The photo view in the system is decent and simple.

What needs to be done (and soon)

  • The Google Plus platform is still somewhat buggy.  For example, the people recommendation to create Circles needs to be more refine.  Once the system retrieved my contact list off Gmail (about an hour after I created the new profile) the list changed. The system is not reading my list off from my Twitter profile.  I had to go elsewhere (http://socialstatistics.com/) to find people to build up my “following” circle.  The circle recommendation only limits to my friends now.  When I open up the “following” circle, you will show me a few folks that I may be interested in following?
  • Sparks is not integrated with Google Trends.  So I have to manually define the list again.
  • The Google Plus settings is only somewhat mature.  I like to see more privacy and security settings around setting up the new circles.  It feels like I was robbed out of something great.  And I like to be in control, specially in social media sites.
  • Why is that Posts and Buzz are separated?
  • The Google Plus mobile app is not necessarily optimized for Android tablet.  Seriously guys, add some Pulse like feature for Streams and Sparks!!!
  • Where is Aardvark then?  Google’s Q&A acquisition from Feb 2010.

Bottom line

Google Plus is a good start and looks promising.  Will I switch to it 100% from Facebook?  Not just yet!  Will I continue to use it?  Definitely.  I always prefer the one-stop-shop approach and Google did a nice job from both business and end-user perspectives. IMO, Google Plus will threaten Facebook in some ways.  (Give it 6 months to a year?)  But I think that Google Plus also competes with companies like Twitter and Tumblr, as well as startups who are currently working on group messaging or mobile video conferencing.
And by the way Like vs. Plus.  Take your pick!
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This video from TED by Eli Pariser talks about the negative side of both online personalization and digital curation. With more recommendation engines available in the market for marketing, news, products and services; no one will see the same sets of information anymore. And that makes it hard to lever everyone’s knowledge base on issues and World news. When everyone is under information overload, how do we solve this problem? More personalization of information? Or to make sure everyone get the same raw materials and draw their own conclusion?

I encourage you to check it out and let me know what you think.

Update: here is a Q&A with Eli Pariser posted by Mashable on June 3rd on the same topic. http://mashable.com/2011/06/03/filters-eli-pariser/

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