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Get Up, Stand Up: Stand up for Your Rights!

Online privacy issues have dominated the news both nationally and internationally for the past few weeks. Coverage has ranged from Bill IP21C (Way to represent Matt!) to Iran’s chokehold on civilian Internet access. Since Papyrusnews.com hasn’t updated since May 24 (Seriously, guys, get with it!), I’ve decided to blog about what these issues mean for us as users. I’ve also thrown a light article in to the mix to help validate a few of my points.

So, as the story goes, the city of Bozeman, Mont., has invoked a human resources requirement that has job applicants forking over tons of personal information. The requirements include, but are not limited to, “…any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.” The etc. here includes email passwords by the way!

Bozeman Attorney Greg Sullivan defended the requirements in the media, stating that a number of the positions (Police, Fire, lifeguards) require people of “high integrity.” So, they conduct these types of investigations to “make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the city.”

While I admire the effort this city is going to ensure it has the finest town council possible, I feel that it’s a tad ludicrous. I mean, it’s a bit like allowing your employer to snoop around in your underwear drawer. Sure, the town would like upstanding citizens to serve the municipality, but where does it end in regards to background checks? It is really necessary to have access to personal email and websites? When did the disclaimer “this is not a reflection of XYZ organization“ expire? Did Bozeman miss the memo that grants civil liberties to ALL, and not just those outside of civil service?

For me, all of this dialogue around state officials demanding personal information and pushing bills that allow authorities to take personal information from ISPs is a blatant violation of the constitutional amendment. Are we shifting toward a communist type approach to Internet governance? Are we moving toward a state-run-media like China?

Just Friday, it was reported in the New York Times that the Chinese government had ordered Google to take down its Google Suggest application because it gave search results with “suggestive implications.” Alike their Iranian counterparts, Chinese computer users are also outraged by such government censorship. What’s more, the Chinese government has also announced plans to “force computer makers to install Internet censorship software on all computers sold in China after July 1.”

Again, I get that there are good intentions behind these outlandish requests, such as limiting pornography, but aren’t adults capable of making their own choices as to what they should or should not view?

My dear colleagues, it seems that sadly, our privacy is being threatened, and that the line between being secure and being invaded is incredibly blurred. My hope is that our friends in Iran and China continue to fight for their online rights, and that we Canadians blogg and tweet like nobodies business to have our online voice heard- we will NOT be silenced!

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June 20, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Evaluation in an Era of Apathy

I was particularly interested in what Martin Delaney had to offer to us this week in class. Evaluation to me, while I understand its importance, has always been one of those things we throw in at the end of the comm plan with no real hope of being able to accomplish it effectively. Now, before you toss my butt out of CPRS and IABC for blasphemy, gimme a chance to explain.  The issue I have with evaluation is that it depends, a lot anyway, on the willingness of people to give their time, with no real offer of anything in return, to participate in the process.  This is why I asked Martin about alternative evaluation methods that don’t rely on surveying people about their attitudes and feelings.  We’ve all, or at least a large part of us, taken research methods and know how difficult it is to create a truly valid and reliable survey that can be generalized to a larger population. It requires a lot of work and a lot of people willing to give up their time.  Now, I may be a pessimist but as the world grows further desensitized not only to advertising but to communications efforts in general, especially surveys I find, I just find it difficult to believe that a survey could really be an effective means to evaluation.  I mean, how many times have you just tossed out the satisfaction survey in a new electronic you’ve bought?  People talk all the time about how we are an apathetic generation.  Agencies such as Extreme have to use incredible shock methods to make us lift our heads up to notice. And we only give them one glance anyway.  Seriously though, what are the chances after we’ve already taken our precious time to participate in some sort of communication initiative, such as attending a fundraiser or an open house, that we’ll actually give up more time after the fact to tell them how we felt about it? Slim to none I think.  But again, I may be a pessimist.

Anyways, this was not the point of my blog.  What I was thinking was that I really appreciated Martin’s presentation in that he showed us some awesome, free evaluation tools available to us that I never knew existed. I mean, google analytics, I’m fairly confident that while I’m a bit sketched out that google is officially taking over the world, that’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard of.  Plus, it was totally cool to see that our blog is making a mark on cyber space, it really made me feel like we’re truly learning something. We’re officially leaving a cyber footprint…maybe all of this stuff really does make a difference.  Not that I was an unbeliever to begin with, but to see it in action, how cool! Anyways, I just wanted to say that I’m totally psyched about writing up the evaluation section of our plan now. We’ve officially got some incredible tools at our finger tips that we had no idea about. So I guess I’m sending out a big thank you to Martin and DeNel.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

(SEO)ver-rated?

There’s a lot more to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) than meets the eye. Google and other popular online search engines prioritize search results on the basis of several criteria. These criteria include whether or not a website has a user’s search terms in its title, slogan, text body and keywords; how often the search term appears within the website; and whether or not an organization pays to have its site bumped to the top of the results list.

This makes it very easy for organizations to promote their websites with a few simple SEO tricks. Through Google Analytics and other statistical tools of the like, organizations can determine what terms users search most frequently, then include those terms somewhere (or everywhere) on their website.

Organizations could even include the hot search terms in invisible text, thus bumping its website even higher up the search results list, and under the Googler’s cursor before other websites.

But is all this SEO action benefitting the Googler?

Those searching for “best quality cupcakes” truly want to find the best quality cupcakes possible. If an internet-savvy cupcake company with mediocre cupcakes is including the search terms “best”, “quality” and “cupcakes” repeatedly on their website, then Googers will find their website first. With the level of trust that many internet users place in Google and their go-to search engines, it’s likely that they’ll trust their search engine to find them the website for the best quality cupcakes. Little do they know, they won’t be finding the best quality cupcakes any time soon—just the best quality SEO. (Which is not nearly as tasty under a blanket of vanilla frosting and sugary sprinkles.)
I guess it’s up to consumers to look closely at the websites their search engine retrieves for them, to determine if it’s really what they want. But in today’s fast-paced web-based world, I worry that many consumers won’t take the time to look past the first three websites that Google populates.

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment