Evgeny Morozov: The ultimate social media skeptic

It’s easy to get excited about the potential of the Internet and social media to have positive impacts on our lives. We see proof of this every day, from the self education movement to the Arab Spring.

Yet there are downsides to all this connectivity as well. Evil forces can also use these tools to harm their enemies.

Evgeny Morozov has emerged as one of the leading wet blankets in this area. He seems to get a big kick out of making fun of people who get overly optimistic about the potential surrounding social media and political movements in general. His skepticism offers a healthy contribution to the discussion, though he seems to focus much of his energy on the wide-eyed evangelists. Most people are optimistic yet don’t see social media as a panacea. Yet we can all recognize that the balance of power has now been altered within nations once controlled exclusively by dictators. Unless a regime goes to the extremes taken in North Korea, which then necessitate a stagnating economy, it is now much more difficult to manipulate public opinion through state television due to the Internet and social media.

Morozov may have some valid points, but this fundamental change is striking fear in leaders around the world.

Exposing Vacation Shams

You work hard so you deserve to gain some quality relaxation and leisure as well. When you’re able to take some time off to get away, you deserve to be able to do so without worrying about much. Unfortunately, travel scams are rampant that even your vacation may not be safe. In fact, some people prey on vacationers hoping to catch a deal on a vacation, or people already enjoying their vacation. There are a few things you should keep in mind when dealing with travel situations where you’re open to being faced with a possible vacation scam situation.


Photo Courtesy of Fotopedia

Scams Occurring Doing the Booking Process

It goes without saying, not all travel companies are created equal. The travel club scam is one of the most used vacation scams available to would-be travelers. The travel club scam involves organizations that claim to give people access to discounts as long as you pay a fee. Once you pay the fee, they don’t hold up their end of the deal, or the deals presented are few and far between. Be sure to look into which travel clubs are reputable before paying money for any type of membership.

Credit Card Scams

Leaving your credit card in the hands of people with bad intentions can be problematic. When checking into some hotels and resorts, some will try to overcharge you for things you didn’t intend to pay for. Be sure to receive any hard copies of charges and read them before signing anything. Some resorts will stoop so low as to secretly add charges to your card for things such as phone calls that you never placed. If this occurs, contact your bank as soon as you notice the discrepancy and cancel all bank cards. The bank will ask you to file a formal dispute and ask for specific details, so take care of this as soon as possible.

Be Careful who you Park With

A classic travel scheme involves fake parking attendants. You’ll pull up at a venue and a person, seemingly official, will issue you a pass for you pay for parking in the location. Always ask the attendant to show identification or similar credentials before handing over any money. If the fees seem outrageous, don’t pay for it. Try your absolute best to gauge the intentions of the person claiming to be an attendant and make a decision from there.

Best sites for renting rooms and vacation homes

The sunset view above was taken from my old apartment in Santa Monica. It was right on the beach and I suspect it would have been very attractive to rent on a nightly basis for days I couldn’t be there. The first site listed below didn’t exist at the time, but now people from around the world can rent spare rooms or entire houses or apartments using Airbnb.com with access to over 1 million people who might be interested.

We’v listed some of the best sites out there for renting rooms and vacation homes apart from your standard travel sites. If we’ve missed a good one (or a new one is launched) please let us know.

Airbnb.com
This site is getting all the buzz in this space. You can read much more about it on publications like Forbes and Fortune, as the founders have raised over $120 million in venture capital. The site is beautifully designed and very easy to use. It’s easy to post rooms or places to rent and it’s equally easy to find what you’re looking for. The site is also loaded with photos and users are ranked with feedback so you have some idea of the kind of person you’re dealing with.

HomeAway.com
This site is geared to vacation rentals, and the quality of the rentals seems to be excellent.

CouchSurfing.org
The ethos here is very different. The idea isn’t to make money but to connect with people who are traveling or find people willing to host travelers. It’s much more suited to the backpack set, and this nonprofit has created an interesting community of like-minded people.

HomeExchange.com
The name says it all here. We’ve seen this in the movies and the concept is pretty simple. Swap homes with someone else looking for travel and nobody has to pay anything.

Craigslist
It’s crude and simple, but it’s still an amazing resource. Go to any town and you can find places to rent right away, and you can move in often the same day.

Sublet.com
The design of this site hasn’t been updated in years and it shows. That said, you will find some good listings here, so it’s always worth checking out.

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