streeteasy.com Saves the Day!

Hello world, it’s me, Katherine, and I have officially begun my last week of college classes. Cue panic attack lol (but seriously where does the time go? FREAKING OUT). I am a basket case of emotions right now – scared, sad, sentimental and excited – but I really am grateful for technology, once again, for allowing me to finish out my senior year at UNC and for helping me get excited about my big move to NYC in July.

Yes, I have already thanked email for connecting me to my future employers, but today I’d like to thank the site streeteasy.com for allowing me to house hunt in NYC without leaving the comfort of my home (and pajamas) in North Carolina.

Image

I was alerted to the site by a colleague of mine (I am old enough/mature enough to have colleagues?!) who used the site to help him find an apartment rental when he moved to NYC last July. 

The site is unique in that in hones in on housing in New York. That is, as opposed to sites like Zillow.com or realtor.com, it is specific to the neighborhoods and boroughs of New York. This has been extremely helpful to me and my future roommate (hey Kelley!) as we try to search for housing in particular areas of NYC that will be close to our work. 

The site is really awesome, too, in that it knows New York housing and will allow you to search for apartments that don’t require you to pay a broker fee, as this is common in the NYC house hunting voyage (AKA I am going to be even more broke than I already am).

This site has made me all the more thrilled about my move to New York, though. It is exciting to know that I won’t be homeless, and although my rent payments will force me to have a lifestyle equivalent to a person without money, I am excited and grateful to know that I will have a place to call my own and to relax after work. 

So, if you are moving to NYC, I highly suggest giving streeteasy.com a whirl – you won’t regret it!

Overall, technology has connected me more than I could even imagine to my future home and it has made me excited to take on this new journey. I am looking forward to July and can’t wait to be a city gal!

Think Before You Tweet Part Deux

People, people – have we already forgotten what I said about the Internet being forever?! I am afraid so, based on one 14-year-old Dutch girl’s tweets to American Airlines over the weekend.

Sarah A.K.A. @QueenDemetriax_ posted a fake terrorist threat against American Airlines on her Twitter account, tweeting the following at the airline:

@AmericanAir hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye

The airline promptly responded with the following:

@QueenDemetriax_ Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.

Image

Sarah then begins to freak out, while simultaneously being jubilant about her increase in Twitter followers (typical 14-year-old girl reaction I’d say). She even tweeted “Okay today was the highlight of my twitter days.” I mean, are you kidding me?!

Well, SHOCKER ALERT, turns out it is actually not smart to tweet fake terrorist threats! Who woulda thunk it? Sarah has since been arrested and her Twitter account has been suspended. But, luckily Storify has screenshots of all her tweets here.

I really don’t know what to say about this, but I’ll repeat myself once more. The Internet is forever. For.Ever. Even though Sarah deleted her tweets and even though her account is no longer in use, Storify captured her tweets and they will forever be available for people to search and for people to remember Sarah’s lack of judgment.

And, it’s a reminder that if the Internet finds something to be a big deal, the world is going to have to react. Even if her threat was fake, because there was so much attention surrounding it, it would’ve been a crime not to arrest her, for if such a threat had been dismissed as fake and had become real, there would’ve been a great deal of blame passed around.

So, like I said in talking about Stephen Colbert, think before you tweet. Think before you post anything on social media or online. While most of us would know not to make such a distasteful joke like Sarah, I am sure there are times when we have tweeted or posted questionable or risque things. Don’t do it. People can screenshot that in seconds and it can haunt you for eternity. So think before you post, and really, just don’t be dumb.

A Real Life Catfishing

I just wrote about an online fairytale, and here I am twenty four hours later about to talk about an online nightmare.

You’ve probably heard of the dating app Tinder, right? I’ve never used the app but from what I understand it “matches” you to people you may want to date who are within a certain radius of you (is that right world?). The app’s website claims “It’s like real life, but better.” 

On the app, your Facebook page is linked to your Tinder profile, and this allows you to choose certain photos from your Facebook to appear on your Tinder profile. You can then write a little bio about yourself that appears under your name (first name only). Basically you match up with people (and potentially go on dates with them) after only looking at a few pictures. Doesn’t sound like real life to me, but I digress.

My classmate and friend Kristin recently learned that her identity has been stolen online and is being used on Tinder. Someone who is going by the name of “Kim” and is about 80 miles away from Athens, GA has used photos of Kristin to advertise herself on Tinder. It’s like an episode of Catfish, but it’s all too real when it’s your face in the photos.

Image

Turns out this “Kim” gal has gone so far as to create a fake Facebook account with Kristin’s pictures. Scary stuff. 

Kristin is angry, and rightfully so. I would be terrified to find that someone had taken photos of me offline and used them for their own purposes. Even creepier when it’s used on this dating app. 

Kristin is now trying to find said “Kim,” and is using her situation as motivation for her final class paper to write about online security and privacy. But, she needs YOUR help. If you live near Athens, GA and can “match” with “Kim” on Tinder, we need you to do that! We need to stop “Kim” and save Kristin’s identity! Please read Kristin’s story here and pass this along! And, if you get any leads, email Kristin at shotwellka@gmail.com.

Google Doodle Competition

Imagining the world without Google is pretty difficult this day and age, but even when I was a child, it simply didn’t exist. Now, I use Google umpteen times a day and don’t think I would make it through a single college research paper without the search engine. 

If you’re anything like my professor, John Robinson, you’re not only drawn to Google because of its ability to help you learn about any topic in the world, you’re drawn to it because of its, well, drawings. I’m talking Google Doodles, people.

According to Google, “Doodles are the fun, surprising, and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers, and scientists.” The first Doodle was born in 2000, and since, over 1000 Google Doodles have been created for the site.

These Doodles are designed by a team of illustrators, and they are an entertaining change of pace from the typical Google logo. Google engages its users because a lot of them can’t wait to see what Doodle Google comes up with next.

Image
Switzerland Children’s Day 2013 (November 20, 2013)

So this year, Google announced it’s doing good with its Doodles, launching a competition for kids and teens to come up with a Google Doodle, in the hopes of winning a $30,000 college scholarship, as well as a $50,000 Google for Education technology grant for their school. The theme for this years competition is “If I Could Invent One Thing to Make the World a Better Place,” so Doodles should reflect this idea. Entrants from kindergarten to high school are welcome to enter and can submit as many entries as they please.

Google is propelling its popular Doodle page to help spark ideas in children, the world’s future, and I for one am excited to see what these kids come up with to make the world a better place.

If you love Google Doodles, too, but aren’t quite in the kindergarten to high school age range, feel free to send any Google Doodle ideas you may have to proposals@google.com – user suggestions are welcome!

Pinterest: More Than Just Crafts, Clothing & Cake

I guess you could say I love Pinterest. I’m not afraid to admit that I have nearly 20,000 pins on my Pinterest page. Should I be embarrassed? I cannot be tamed.

I love that the site connects me to an infinite amount of other sites around the Web. It’s a virtual bulletin board that allows me to pretend I have the most beautiful clothes, that I eat the most gourmet foods and that I travel to the most exotic places. I love that it puts me in touch with others around the web who share my interests. As of today, I, a random young woman on the Internet, have over 2,300 followers on Pinterest. 2,300!

Now, imagine how a company could leverage itself on Pinterest to connect with the 70 million worldwide Pinterest users – the possibilities are endless!

Image

What can companies do to promote themselves on Pinterest, you ask? There are 5 easy ways a company can master the art of Pinterest.

#1 – Make your website “Pin”-friendly. 

By having the Pinterest widget on your company’s website, consumers can easily post content from your site directly onto their Pin boards. The content is then shown on their friends’ Pinterest feeds and immediately your website is given more exposure.

#2 – Organize your content.

Make sure that your Pin boards have specific themes. For example, I, as a self-proclaimed foodie, have boards for specific types of food (e.g., Dip It Low for all your dipping needs, as well as All Things Cake Batter for, well, all things cake batter). A clothing boutique, on the other hand, would likely want separate boards for the shoes, tops and accessories they sell. By organizing your content, your Pinterest is easier for consumers to navigate.

#3 – Brand your Pins.

By adding a small company logo to the photos that your company pins, you increase brand awareness by consumers, who then share these logos with their friends every time they repin your content. While adding a logo to the photos takes a bit of extra time, the brand exposure you receive by taking this step are far-reaching.

#4 – Include shopper-friendly information.

Pinterest users want to be able to look at a pin and immediately know about the product or service being presented to them. Therefore, it is essential that companies include detailed descriptions of their pins, so that consumers don’t have to go too far to find product information or price.

#5 – Engage the community.

It is essential that companies be active on all of the social media they are a part of. Whether it be Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook, companies need to ensure that they are spending time on their social media platforms each day. To be involved on Pinterest, companies can repin relevant content from other users, reply to consumer comments and answer consumer questions. Some companies, such as AMC Theatres have used Pinterest to host contests and giveaways – just check out their pin board AMC Giveaways!

Nowadays, companies must have a social media presence, and it is vital that they have a presence on the same platforms that consumers use. With Pinterest rapidly growing in popularity, companies can use these helpful hints to kickstart their use of Pinterest. For more inspiration, check out some companies who are utilizing Pinterest to enhance their brand!

Is Your Smartphone Stalking You?

Everyone has their own opinion regarding smartphones. Personally, I love mine (read: I am addicted to mine) and use it for virtually everything. My parents, on the other hand, think I am too “attached” to my gadget and use their own smartphones more sparingly than I.

Whether you love them, hate them or are completely indifferent to them, your smartphone actually tells a lot about you…via your WiFi signals.

SmartPhone-Location-Tracking

Recently, software companies have developed programs to track smartphone users as they mobilize through cities, by using data emitted on public WiFi networks. From this data, they are able to create profiles on various consumers that, while they don’t include a consumer’s name, tell a great deal about a person.

These signals can track where you work and eat, where you shop and exercise and so much more. While they claim to keep consumers anonymous, it’s hard to believe when so much of your lifestyle is being swept up by this data.

From the data, people are being clumped into lifestyle categories. For example, the software can monitor how often a person visits a yoga studio and thereby classify them as a casual, intermediate or heavy yogi.

So, while your name remains unknown to these companies, much more is known, begging the question–how do you feel about your smartphone knowing so much about you?

If you feel insecure about companies tracking you, here are methods to opt out of location tracking.