Social Media Will be Used in New Ways

With the advent of Facebook Faces and the ability it gives the social media behemoth to track the location of a user via their iPhone, it seems only a matter of time before several things start happening. First came the break-ins as intrepid thieves learned that certain users were out of their homes. Suddenly, it seems obvious that for every new application under the sun, someone is plotting a devious usage of that technology. Other crimes might be enabled, or deterred, by new technology.

Is that utilitarianism limited to hackers and identity thieves? As the technology improves, it seems obvious that even large companies would use it to their advantage. In this case, the iPhone’s GPS capabilities make it a potentially unwitting partner in causing you some futuristic feeling grief. In time, as Facebook Faces manages to track its users’ locations to the square yard of the Earth’s surface, more than thieves will have their day.

An example would look like this: your auto insurance company, long your friend as they utilize social media, tracks your driving down the freeway on a road trip. Suddenly you decide it’s time to show your pal the full acceleration capabilities of your new car. Stepping on the gas, you’re quickly driving at well into triple digit speeds in the middle of nowhere. There’s not a soul to be seen, especially not a state patrol cruiser.

But eyes could be watching you through the GPS capabilities in your phone. And when they notice that you’re moving across the desert at 130 plus miles per hour in a 75 mph zone, something unusual happens. A few days after your return from the road, you get an email from your insurer. You’ve been dropped. No explanations, no begging for leniency. Ultimately, you’ve been seen in the commission of a major violation. You didn’t get away with your crime this time.


Digital study guides gain in popularity

With smart phones and now tablet computers like the iPad, students have so much more information at their fingertips, including digital study guides that can make it easier to study, or to avoid real studying.

At this time of year, students are buying textbooks and looking for ways to avoid reading them.

Nothing is new about that. CliffsNotes guides, with their familiar yellow and black covers, have been in book bags since 1958.

What has changed is how many study guides, or cheat sheets, are available online and on mobile phones. Whether you know them as CliffsNotes, SparkNotes or Shmoop, these seemingly ubiquitous guides are now, in many cases, free.

“Two to three years ago, the wisdom was that students do research online, but not study online,” said Emily Sawtell, a founder of McGraw-Hill’s online collaborative study site called GradeGuru. “That has changed in the last 12 months.” Ms. Sawtell said she had tracked a significant increase in the search term “study guide” on Google.

All in all, this is a net plus, as access to information is always a good thing, though it can obviously be abused. The real challenge is to train younger students how to focus on a subject without distractions so real learning takes place.


The Facebook Phenomenon and AT&T Wireless Coverage

Remember life before Facebook? That’s okay, neither does anyone else. The Facebook phenomenon is suddenly such a critical part of daily global communications it’s hard to remember a time — all of six years ago — when it didn’t exist.

There’s no doubt about it, Facebook represents a radicalization of social communication. Its use has skyrocketed from its beginnings in 2005. In 2008 it overtook the once highly popular Myspace as the world’s most popular social networking site. By July 2010, Facebook boasted 500 million users.

Mark Zuckerberg, a student at Harvard University, started Facebook way back in 2004. Initially the site was limited to students at Harvard, and then expanded to other universities. By 2005 the site became available to general Internet users over the age of 13. Its use and revenue quickly grew, and then in 2009 it exploded.

What’s interesting about Facebook as a social networking tool is that it attracts multigenerational users, from teenagers to senior citizens. It allows users to get in touch with just about anyone, anywhere, without using up all their AT&T wireless coverage, as long as they have a free Facebook account.

As its use has increased, more and more people have utilized it to renew relationships from long ago. High school sweethearts long separated have found each other. Children given up for adoption decades ago have reunited with their birth parents. In this way Facebook is a kind of miracle. It’s enabled friends, lovers and families, to reconnect, something almost impossible to accomplish just a few years ago.

Where will Facebook and the social media revolution take us? Are we becoming too connected? Will we lose every vestige of our privacy? No one knows. For now, all we can do is hold on tight, surf the web and keep connecting. We’ll find out where we’ve gone to when we get there.


New wireless auction approved by administration

Here’s some good news for the wireless industry and for the economy.

The Obama administration gave a major boost to the wireless industry Monday by announcing plans to make available for commercial use a huge swath of spectrum.

Obama signed a presidential memorandum directing the federal government and private companies to identify unused airwaves that could be auctioned off, or at least shared, to expand mobile broadband for consumers over the next decade. The goal is to free up some 500 megahertz — almost double the current amount of spectrum available for commercial use — by reallocating airwaves now operated by companies, broadcasters and government agencies.

This is welcome news to those of us who believe that the wireless industries provides one of the largest areas of potential economic growth over the next 10 years.


Wi-Fi access expands on domestic flights

Here’s some good news for travelers.

In-flight Wi-Fi is not yet a commodity, but it is no longer a rarity. Most domestic airlines have been upgrading their fleets to offer the service more widely, to the point where nearly one-third of the roughly 2,800 aircraft in the nation’s passenger fleet are equipped with Wi-Fi, according to Aircell, the company that equips most of the Wi-Fi-enabled planes in the United States.

If you travel on planes a lot and plan to use Wi-Fi frequently, you can shave some expense from the process if you have a Wi-Fi-enabled mobile device like an iPhone or Droid, which incur lower charges than the fees charged by airlines if you use a smartphone or laptop without Wi-Fi. If you don’t have your own device, airlines are not yet providing one.

But no matter what device you use, the connection process is fast and usually pain free.

On the other hand, an airplane has been one of the few areas where you were forced to go without a connection for a period of time. Wi-Fi can certainly come in handy to kill time or deal with issues that can’t wait, but we’re learning that putting away your phone and laptop can be important for your long-term sanity. I guess we now at least have a choice.


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