Monthly Archives: June 2013

Why Blogging is Hard: The Julie Story

Aidan explained to you guys why blogging is hard for him and told you I would let you guys know why blogging is hard for me. My reasons are pretty different from Aidan’s. I love writing, and it comes naturally to me especially when I get an idea I can crank out the story relativity fast. I love using WordPress but it took me a while to learn all the formatting techniques, I’m still learning actually. The first time I tried to embed a Youtube video it took me way longer than I would ever like to admit.

For me the issue isn’t writing or finding stories (although there are dry spells where nothing really sticks out at me and I write posts about my dog), the problem with blogging is when real life gets in the way. As some of you know I have been in Texas for the last two weeks and will be here for two more weeks. I did okay keeping up with the Keeping It Real section at first but then on June 11th my first nephew was born. Rhodes is absolutely amazing, the perfect baby! My sister and Rhodes were in the hospital for four days and came home last Friday. After that we were all getting adjusted to the new family member and there hasn’t been much time for anything including blogging.

It's exhausting being an Aunt
It’s exhausting being an Aunt

 

I’m okay with that, though. I am so thankful for the community of people that read and like our blog! We are so grateful you guys continue to come back even if we don’t always provide awesome content! But my family comes first, as I’m sure you all understand. Now that things have settled down here in Texas I’ll be posting more frequently, and once I’m back in NYC I will be posting non stop I hope! Thank you all for reading, I think you are awesome :D.

Why blogging is more difficult than I ever thought

History of Geekingitreal

Our blog came about from a variety of different aspects. Julie, who is in charge of the “Keeping it real” section already had her own blog and previously shared her thoughts. I, on the other hand, did not but I became increasingly aware of how important it is to have an online presence, especially in my field! I go to numerous different networking events and I wanted to be able to provide people with a greater insight of me rather than just handing out a business card with an email address. With this in mind I decided to approach Julie with an idea to combine the two and thus geekingitreal.com was born with a really cool logo designed by my rather talented sister Naomi.

Progress

I am actually really pleased with our progress in such a short amount of time. We have done all the right things (I think) and have been indexed by Google as well as getting views from other search engines. Our traffic to the site is gradually increasing and we’ve actually been accepted by Google AdSense already which is a pretty good sign. It shows that our blog is different and original and hopefully enjoyable! Julie is a natural when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keeps on getting us hits from strangers all over the world so I nag her to make sure she keeps blogging and this is where the problem lies…

Blogging is hard work!!

Blogging IS hard work. I just had to reemphasis that. As much as we both enjoy writing about causes that affect us and we are passionate about I had no idea the amount of time and effort you need to put into it for it to be worthwhile. Julie’s cousin runs a blog (which you can view here) and she would tell us how she’d often be up at 1am writing articles. At the time I was like “oh wow, dedicated” but now I know what she means and can appreciate what it takes to have a good functioning blog. With everything else that we have going on, trying to maintain a blog as well is difficult. That’s not to say it isn’t rewarding because it is and who knows, in the future that could mean financially rewarding as well, here’s hoping.

I understand that the last two weeks the articles have been few and far between and whilst I am not making excuses, there have been good reasons for this. Apologies though to those who like reading the blog – I do intend on making a real concerted effort to make sure it stays relevant and up to date in the future and from here on in!

I guess I was unprepared for what was in store. I have to stay up to date with technological developments as it’s my field but when you write a blog it’s different. Suddenly you have to research things a lot more and make sure you fully grasp what is being discussed otherwise you look an idiot and the blog becomes irrelevant. Your arguments become dissected in much greater detail so you have to be prepared to back up your statements with authoritative sources. My aim, other than to promote myself (which incidentally sounds extremely superficial and I can assure you, I’m not!) is to try and make varying technologies and the field I work and study in easily understood to the masses.

So for those of you who are considering doing a blog I’d say go for it. It’s worthwhile and very rewarding when total strangers read your articles and comment on how good it was. The caveat though is be prepared for what lies ahead. It’s not as easy as you think! To those that already blog – how do you manage it? Do you have a specific strategy and time allotted to it or is it a case of “as and when”? I’m intrigued to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

P.S. I am sure Julie will have her own story to tell on this as well so keep a look out for that in the future… *UPDATE*: And here it is…

Weekly summary of the controversies of PRISM

Trying to write up a summary of the weeks events relating to PRISM is not easy. As I started writing this an email came in from a friend telling me about another revelation in today’s Guardian newspaper and that brings me nicely onto my first point.

More classified material to come…

We don’t know when this will end. It is obvious that there are still some more very revealing stories to be told yet and the Guardian are going to do a trip feed approach. You can hardly blame them for this. The question is what on earth could there be? Well it appears that GCHQ (the equivalent of America’s NSA) were spying on foreign dignitaries during the G20 summit in London back in 2009. I don’t intend on going into much detail about this as it deserves its own piece but it shows that the PRISM and related programs are very far reaching.

Snowden has also spoke about how the US has been hacking certain Chinese institutions and launching cyber attacks there. This is obviously going to be yet another embarrassment to the White House especially given the recent summit between President Obama and his Chinese counterpart in California. One thing is clear – China has gone from being indifferent to the scandal to very interested indeed. It also brings into question though what Snowdens intentions are? This moves away from the philosophical idea that it was purely to spark a debate on citizens liberty, privacy and freedoms and more into the realm of politics.

Declassified information by NSA

What I have found interesting, and it is a stark difference to the past, is how the intelligence services have declassified information so that they can provide further details to back up their claims. I cannot remember a time in the past when this has been the case. The cynic would have you believe that they are only providing the information they want you to know and the rest will remain “classified” to “protect national security” which therefore alleviates the ability to have a full and open debate on the issue that the White House says is keen to see. Furthermore there was a closed doors briefing given to the entire Senate last week. Very few details have emerged from it though other than some senators obviously feeling that the NSA are right in their actions.

Snowden unable to enter the UK

Another telling sign that the British government are worried is that an alert has been issued by the Risk and Liaison Overseas Network at the UK Border Agency which is ultimately governed by the Home Office. This procedure is normally used when a person already has clearance to enter the country either by already holding a valid visa or not needing a visa due to an agreement between the UK and the citizens country. The alert stated that airlines would be liable to a £2,000 charge which is in the form of a fine. On top of that the airline responsible would be liable for the costs of the persons detention and removal. This is valid under Section 40 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

The apparent justification for the alert is because Snowden is apparently “highly likely to be denied entry to the UK“, although they do not state why. I would assume, having looked through the immigration rules, specifically part 9 that deals with refusing entry, that the reason would fall under the following category:

(6) where the Secretary of State has personally directed that the exclusion of a person from the United Kingdom is conducive to the public good;

I have to reiterate though that this is only an assumption and a personal opinion as nobody knows the reason behind it given that it’s not been disclosed. You can also find out more information about it here.

Disclosures from Technology companies on requests

Finally we have the disclosures from the various different technology companies stating how many requests they had received. The government have not given them permission to break it down into sub categories so currently they are unable to say how many relate to FISA requests. Google are fighting this saying:

We have always believed that it’s important to differentiate between different types of government requests. Lumping the two categories together would be a step back for users.

and they have the support of Twitter as well with their Legal Director, Benjamin Lee tweeting

We agree with @Google: It’s important to be able to publish numbers of national security requests—including FISA disclosures—separately.

But in the meantime we know the following:

  • Facebook said it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests covering between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts.
  • Microsoft said it received between 6,000 and 7,000 requests from US government agencies affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 customer accounts.
  • Apple said it received requests for information linked to between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices between December and the end of May.

Whilst that may be a sizable chuck, it’s not as bad as I was expecting to be honest. I hope that it can be broken down into more specific categories so we can gain a better understand.

I wonder what this week will bring…

Why The West Wing Makes Me Sad

A few months ago the late nineties drama The West Wing appeared in my Netflix recommended for you section, I used to think West Wing would bore me, but I thought I would give it shot. I’m about halfway through the first season and I do like it and it doesn’t bore me, but it kinda makes me sad.
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I just finished the episode where President Bartlet negotiates a fictitious cease fire between India and Pakistan with the help of a zany Brit named Lord John Marbury.
I try to keep up with world news, I read a variety of different news sources, but I am by no means an expert. I know I like nationalized health care, I like Obamas social views for the most part, but I don’t  like what happened with the IRS and I don’t like Obamas drone policy, I don’t want us to invade Syria, and I don’t like this NSA stuff.
In the 2008 election I had just turned 18 and I was so excited about Obama, I was one of the many young people that cast my vote for him. In the 2012 election I wasn’t as keen on Obama, I still liked him, but I had some reservations. I actually really liked the governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, until he started running and changed from a moderate republican to the flip flopping, right wing , extremist that we saw during the election.
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Where is our modern day real life president Bartlet? I realize that the West Wing is a tv show, and not real life. History taught  me that there are great leaders and horrible leaders and everything in between. I want a great president. Is that too much to ask? Maybe  if Obama had a reality show where I got to see him all the time I would like him more? President Bartlet makes decisions I don’t like or agree with in The West Wing, but I still like him because he has a good heart. In 2008 Obama gave off the impression that he was just a good guy. That he loved America and wanted what was best for the people. I think he is a good guy at heart, but lately his speeches he seems to be getting more agitated (being president is hard, I get that) and he just keeps repeating the same promises over and over.
Yes Obama is dealing with a bipartisan congress, that, in my opinion is tearing the USA apart. And it makes me sad that he can’t accomplish all the things he promised and he is making some choices  that I would not have anticipated in 2008.
We do not live in a tv world, cease fires do not always happen, promises not always kept. I cannot imagine being president, and I have the utmost respect for whoever is in office. I pray for the presidents strength and wisdom. And I will continue to enjoy the West Wing even if it disheartens me a little about our current state of affairs.

Facebook hashtags – check your privacy settings!

As we all know Facebook loves to change its settings and add new features constantly. The latest is to introduce clickable hashtags and follow Twitter’s lead. This means that if you put a hash in front of a word it will become clickable for others to view, depending on your privacy settings.

The good news is that Facebook has said that it will honour people’s privacy settings like it does with the Graph Search ability. Therefore if you have your privacy settings set to “Friends only” then you will be fine. The problem arises when people don’t check their posting settings. For many people their posts are set to “Public” often with them not even realizing. I have noticed this especially when posting from phones. In the past even if you posted something under the public category it wasn’t too bad as there was no real centralized way to search but this has now changed. Furthermore now that Facebook has switched on this functionality it applies to all your past posts with hashtags as well.

How to check your privacy settings

With the above in mind you might want to double check your privacy settings and understand what and to whom you are posting. To check your privacy settings (from a webpage) click on the lock icon in the top right hand corner of the page. Click on the section where it says “Who can see my stuff?” and make sure that the “Who can see my future posts?” is set to Friends. If you are concerned with your previous posts then if you click on “More settings” in the same section, go and find and click on the section “Limit The Audience for posts you’ve shared with Friends of Friends or Public“. Here it gives you the option to set all of your past posts to Friends only if you desire. After that you’re good to go!

Hashtags

For those who want to enjoy using the new hashtag ability all you need to do is put a hash in front of a word and it will become hashtag clickable and thus searchable. To carry out a hashtag search of those who are talking about the same topic just click on the hashtag which will now be a link once something is posted, much like the same way that Twitter works. Alternatively you can also just search for hashtags by using the search function within Facebook and inputting a hashtag such as #privacy ;).

Hope this helps people! What do you make of the new hashtag functionality? Do you think it works or should Facebook just keep doing it’s own thing and stop trying to copy Twitter? Let us know your thoughts.