Category: Social issues involving home computing

Are Siri and Alexa being seen as personal companions?

Article

Is Siri ending up as your personal companion?

Conversations with virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa may be signs of loneliness | First Post

Talking to Siri often? You’re probably lonely | Times Of India

Do YOU rely on your phone for company? Human-like gadgets can offer relief from loneliness in the short term | Daily Mail

Older adults buddy up with Amazon’s Alexa | MarketWatch

My Comments

Hey Siri! Why am I alone now?

A situation that has been drawn out lately is someone feeling comfortable with their iPhone in their hand or sitting at the kitchen table beside an Amazon Echo speaker, trying to build a conversation with Siri or Alexa rather than simply asking something of these voice-driven assistants.

Amazon Echo on kitchen bench press photo courtesy of Amazon USA

Is this smart speaker becoming your personal companion?

Here, a Kansas University study found that Siri, Alexa and co are being seen as a short-term panacea for social exclusion and loneliness. This is something that is being brought on by broken relationships or an increasing number of work situations where one is spending significant amounts of time away from their significant other or their normal communities. It is also symptomatic of a loss of community that has come about in this day and age.

It is also worth knowing that older and disabled adults are using Alexa or Google Home as a companion in the context of managing lights, or simply asking for the time or a music source. These devices are deliberately designed to look like other pieces of consumer-electronics or IT hardware rather than the typical bland look associated with assistive devices. They also do serve as an aide-memoire for dementia sufferers but only in early stages of this condition before it becomes worse.

But Siri, Alexa, Cortana and co are not perfect replacements for real-life friends, There is the long-term risk of you losing real human interaction if you rely on them as your companions. Here, you simply keep them serving you as a voice-operated “digital concierge” that helps with finding information or setting up your smart home rather than the be-all-and-end-all digital companion.

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What needs to be answered about school-supplied technology

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 connected to Wi-Fi hotspot at Bean Counter Cafe

Many questions need to be raised by knowledgeable parents about school-based IT programs

Parents often face a question when their child starts secondary school concernimg the technology that is being used as part of their education. This is more so with laptop computers that well be used at home to complete homework assignments and at school to take notes and do research.

Increasingly schools are supplying the families with the appropriate technology, typically with government and private-sector assistance. These computers may be supplied at a heavily-subsidised price so there isn’t much effect on the parent’s hip pocket.

But schools see this technology as part of their realm of control in your student’s life in a way that they see what the student does at home or away from school activities as bearing on the school’s name. This may be more so with privately-funded and similar schools where the school places a strong emphasis on their name and reputation.

These questions are worth raising during information nights or parent-teacher meetings that you will be engaging in during your child’s enrolment.

Is the technology sold or leased to your family by the school?

If you are acquiring the technology through the school, it is worth enquiring whether you are buying the computer so that you own the computer or whether you are leasing it or renting it on an annual basis where the school or school district has legal ownership over the equipment. This may include situations where you may borrow the computer for the duration of your child’s enrolment or for certain years but you may have to pay a bond on the equipment.

This can help with further issues regarding whether you can retain the computer to be used for the younger children or as a utility computer. On the other hand, it can also affect issues regarding maintaining the system and what happens in case of loss, theft or damage.

As well, it is worth finding out whether a technology-buyout program does exist where parents or students can purchase leased or rented computer equipment that they currently use from the school. This is important for equipment supplied to senior high-school students because most of the school-supplied technology programs require that the senior students relinquish their computers once they graduate from their senior years.

Such a buyout option can benefit both the school and student in different ways. The student benefits by being able to keep the computer as a personal computer through the years between their high-school graduation and their entry to tertiary or trade studies. The school also benefits because they aren’t keeping rapidly-depreciating assets on their books but can turn them over for cash which can be used to buy newer technology.

Who provides support in case of equipment failure or accident

Ask the school whether they have a maintenance programme for the school-supplied equipment. This includes what kind of minimum turnaround time exists if the equipment needs to be serviced. As well, does the maintenance programme cover for accidental equipment damage because students can easily end up being accident prone.

It may also include whether you have to pay to replace failed or damaged parts and whom you buy the replacement parts from.

Insurance coverage for theft and damage

To the same extent, it may be worth looking at your home-contents insurance policy to find out whether they provide coverage for equipment that is damaged or stolen while away from your home, including overseas. This may be of importance when your children go on the many field trips and school camps that will be part of their education; or when they engage in social activities with their friends.

Exchange-student programs

Your school may participate in an exchange-student program where one or more local students travel to another area, typically another country while the school hosts and teaches the students from one or more other areas. This is typically to encourage awareness of different cultures and increase knowledge of different languages.

Such programs typically will include overseas travel and having the participants stay in private households that are part of the participating school’s community. There are questions that will be raised if you end up hosting an exchange student or your child becomes an exchange student themselves.

If the school facilitates this program whether by itself or with a third party, you may have to find out where you or the school stands if the equipment belonging to your child who is overseas or the student you are billeting was stolen or damaged.

Similarly, your child or the student you are hosting may need assistance with connecting to different networks such as the host’s home network in the case of your child or your home network in the case of the guest student.

For that matter, it may be a good idea for schools, student-exchange agencies and students participating in exchange-student programs to read an article I wrote on this site about testing Skype across separate networks to make sure it works properly. This is because the videocall functionality in these programs can be used as a way for an exchange student to keep in contact with home and show what the “other” culture is about.

Can I configure the system myself?

An issue that is also being raised regarding school-supplied technology is whether you can configure the system yourself or perform remedial repairs on the system.

This may be to get the laptop to work with your home network, or to install any drivers to get it to work with the network-capable printers in your home. As well, you need to be sure that the school-supplied computer can gain access to other network resources and the Internet in a similar manner to other devices that exist on the home network.

Similarly, there is the issue of keeping the operating system and applications on these computers updated and patched to avoid these computers and the rest of your home network’s computers being the target for malware. Here, the kids’ computers could be updated with the latest patches whether they are at school or at home.

Different operating platforms

This issue of configuring the school-supplied laptop yourself also extends to coping with different computer platforms and operating systems. For example, you may find that the school supplies your kids a MacBook Pro as part of one of Apple’s education-technology programmes that the school is benefiting from, while you are more comfortable with the Windows-based computer you use at home. Similarly, the school may have all the computers running Windows 10 but you are pushing the barrel with Windows 7 on the work-home laptop that you normally use.

Here, you may be able to find out whether you can learn about the computing platform and operating system your school uses and how to configure it to work with your home network and peripherals.

How does the school handle a “bring-your-own” computer?

Another situation that is appealing to parents is the ability to buy their kid’s computer from a third-party retailer and have that as the computer thay use for school. This is typically due to the ability to purchase the system at a cost-effective price through a “back-to-school” special run by a major retailer or online and some governments may provide a benefit to families to assist with purchasing this education-related technology.

This concept is being facilitated also by the fact that the “bring your own device” concept is in full swing at workplaces and newer operating systems and software allows for a level of manageability in these situations.

Minimum standards for this computer

You should find out what the minimum standards are for a computer you supply yourself. The standards for the hardware should be based on the kind of CPU the computer must have, the amount of RAM and storage space the computer has, and the graphics subsystem and display resolution that the computer has to have. This also includes the minimum standard for the Wi-Fi interface for schools that implement a Wi-Fi network.

As for the software, you need to find out the minimum version and edition of the operating system along with the application software you need to have installed.  You may find that application vendors may supply a “student edition” of their software which is licensed for personal and education use only and some of these programs may be licensed for a small number of computers that are in the same household.

Use of a school-supplied disk image?

Some schools may require the use of a disk image that is managed by the school themselves in order to assure better control of the computer on the school premises. Here, you may find out whether you need to install this image and if you can get away with a dual-boot setup where you have a “home” operating environment and a “school” operating environment.

The better solution would be a USB stick or optical disk full of any courseware that is necessary for the curriculum, including any software that is required for the studies. The Internet use at the school environment can be controlled using the network hardware that runs the school’s network.

Can the system be maintained by the school’s IT staff?

It may also be worth inquiring whether the school’s IT staff are willing to provide maintenance and support for equipment that is brought to school on a BYO basis. Here, it may be about rectifying a system failure that occurs on that day or adding support for student-accessible peripherals that the school owns such as printers or sensor devices used as part of science experiments.

Computer-education courses for adults

In a lot of households where one or both parents aren’t computer-literate is that one or more of the teenage children end up providing assistance to the parents when it comes to personal-computing issues. This is typically due to the children learning many concepts regarding personal-computing through their school years.

It may also be worth finding out if your child’s school runs adult-focused courses about computer education. This may be of importance for those of you who haven’t had much education-based or workplace-based exposure to personal computing and will be of importance for people who do work that is primarily blue-collar.

Typically, the mode of delivery for these short courses would be evening classes taught by one of the school’s computing-science teachers. The school will usually charge for the courses and the students’ parents may pay a cheaper fee due to the fact that their child is attending that school.

Here, the courses should teach the essentials about knowing your way around your computer such as file management; along with safe computing practices. This should also include learning about keeping your computer system in top order like backups and keeping your software up-to-date. As well, such courses should highlight making effective use of the Internet and its online resources in a safe manner.

Some of the courses may offer tuition in other computing platforms like the Macintosh platform which may benefit adults who are used to, say, Windows learning about the other platforms and would come in handy if the school works on that different platform.

Conclusion

Once you ask the right questions from your child’s school’s staff, you can end up being an active participant in your child’s IT-focused education without fearing as though the school “owns you”.

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Dealing with Internet trolls

Article

How to kill a troll | Naked Security (Sophos)

My Comments

Anyone who has a personal Internet presence on a message board, social network or similar environment or operates such a presence for their company or other organisation can end up facing the worst side of the Internet.

This is typically in the form of the “Internet trolls” who exist on message boards, social networks, blog comment trails and online chat rooms just to cause trouble. This has manifested in online harassment which is mainly in the form of schoolyard-grade activity like foul names or targeted embarrassment attempts. But there have been acts like physical threats against person, animal and property; stalking, sustained harassment and sexual harassment with young women being the main victims.

It included a situation that I faced regarding a café I regularly visited where their Facebook presence was tarnished with foul comments because the business didn’t permit a protest group to put some flyers about their campaign by their cash register. Here, I was defending the café in their stance regarding what had happened.

But what can you do? You could block the accounts where the behaviour is coming and implement technological measures that do this for you. Here, such measures work on logic like blocking relatively young accounts that mention you, accounts with very few followers that mention you or accounts that generate replies containing certain keywords.

On the other hand, you could embarrass the source of the comments. This plays on various analogies associated with social taboos like in-workplace sexual harassment where a person isn’t just hauled up before law courts but the court of public opinion doesn’t look favourably on them. This would be hard to implement in the online world due to the ease in which one can create an anonymous online presence such as with the use of multiple disposable emails or pseudonyms.

Some countries like the UK have given their online-harassment laws more teeth such as legislating for longer prison terms. To the same extent, we should be encouraged to use all of the civil and criminal laws available to us as a tool to deal with Internet trolls, but a key problem is working with the problem from a cross-jurisdictional angle. This is where you identify that the activity is appearing from another state within the same country in the case of countries like Germany, Australia and USA, or another country; such as someone residing in the UK being harassed by someone using a computer located in New York State in the USA.

As well, there have been various PR activities to pillory the trolls such as Mary Beard’s activity after being victimised by schoolyard-grade online behaviour. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind on British TV and had her friends and supporters work together to “fight back” against the troublemakers. Businesses and organisations who have been “got at” by trolls can use their loyal support base who have an active online presence such as their regular customers to work together for this same goal. 

Let’s not forget that the channels that exist to report trouble on a social network, bulletin board, chat forum or the like do exist for you to report this kind of trouble.

Personally, I would encourage any campaign to crack down on Internet trolling to be done as a group of many people. They can pool resources and use their contacts to work together to defend the people who are being affected or make life hard for the troublemakers. This can manifest in using technological tools to limit their effect on the affected forums, using civil and criminal legal action against the troublemakers or use online and offline public-relations efforts with a view to pillory them.

Sometimes some disturbing situations that happen with social networking, Internet forums, instant messaging and the like may require you to simply ignore or block trouble on the Internet but others may require you to work actively against it.

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Doncare has launched a mobile-phone app to help people in domestic-violence situations

Article

Doncare launches LiveFree App to fight domestic violence | The Weekly Review

From the horse’s mouth

Doncare Community Services

Press Release (PDF)

Facebook Page

App Site (iTunes App Store)

My Comments

Doncare Community Services, along with Doncaster Rotary Club, have just launched an iPhone app that provides information about domestic and relationship violence. This provides the general information that women need to know about handling these situations along with knowledge of legal and similar resources they can avail themselves of.

A typical situation that concerns online domestic-violence resources is that these resources are typically furnished as Web pages which can yield a privacy risk for the victim of this violence due to the fact that Web browsers list what you have browsed. This is a key risk for  lot of these victims who live in a highly-controlled abusive relationship. Here, the perpetrator is often likely to check on recent Web-browsing activity that the person has done on the computer equipment used in their home as part of wanting to know what they think and do as well as whom they see. These people even have to do this browsing from their workplace’s computer, a friend’s computer or a publicly-accessible computer like one installed in a library or café.

The native mobile app has the advantage that they can download the app from the platform’s app store, use it and delete it quickly if they fear that the perpetrator is snooping around their phone. Then they re-download the app from the app store as and when they can.

One limitation about this app is that it is focused on resources and legal options that are available and relevant to Victoria, Australia. An improvement that I would have would be to download information about options available in other jurisdictions, something that can be provided during the setup phase or at a later point. This effort could be positioned as part of a localisation effort that would take place during the app’s lifecycle.

At least this is an example of what can be done by family-violence support organisations regarding using the smartphone and tablets that people own. This is where a free, easily-downloaded, easily-uninstalled app that has this critical information and access to critical resources can be used as a tool by people who are at risk.

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Facebook launches a “Safety Check” program for use during emergencies

Facebook Safety Check iPhone notification screenshot courtesy Facebook

Facebook Safety Check notification on iPhone

Articles

SAFETY CHECK: Facebook Tool Simplifies Users’ Communication During Disasters, Crisis Situations | AllFacebook

Facebook’s new Safety Check lets you tell friends you’re safe when disaster strikes | NakedSecurity (Sophos)

From the horse’s mouth

Facebook

Introducing Safety Check (Press Release)

Feature Description

My Comments

Facebook has just released a system which works during natural disasters or other civil emergencies to allow people to be sure that those friends of theirs who are in the affected areas are OK. This system, known as Safety Check, was born out of a “notice board that Facebook built in to their system during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. It would still complement other methods like phoning or texting those you know in the affected areas.

If an emergency happens, this would affect a known geographical area and Facebook would determine if you or your friends are in that area or not. Typically, this would be brought on by emergency services and the media advising Facebook of these situations. This would be based on the City data in your Profile or rough-gauging where you are interacting with it from. It would also use the Last Location details if you opt in to and implement the “Nearby Friends” app as another metric.

Facebook Safety Check dashboard screenshots (regular computer and mobile) courtesy Facebook

Facebook Safety Check dashboard- regular and mobile (handheld) views

Here, you will have a notification that will pop up if you are in the affected area and you mark this as “I’m Safe” if you are OK and safe, or mark as being “Out Of Area” if Facebook miscalculates your location and determines that you are in that area when you are are not in that area. The latter situation can happen for people who are in a large metropolitan area or conurbation and the disaster or crisis situation only affects a small part of that area.

This status will show up to your Friends as a Notification and in their News Feed to reassure them.This is augmented by a special “dashboard” page created for the emergency that shows a filtered list of your friends who are in the area affected by the crisis so you cab know who has “called in” to say they are OK,

This same setup also benefits those of us who are outside the affected areas and want to simply be sure that none of our friends have been affected by that crisis. Here, we receive the News Feeds and Notifications about our Friends who have “checked in” as being safe or out of the affected area and can also see this on that same “dashboard” page.

As for the privacy issue, these updates are only visible to those people who are currently your Facebook Friends when it comes to “coarse” coverage and to those of us who have reciprocally enabled the “Nearby Friends” functionality on Facebook for each other.

Although Facebook is the dominant consumer-facing social network and is able to achieve this goal, various other messaging and social-network services could learn form this setup to allow “at-a-glance” notification of our loved ones’ welfare during natural disasters and other crises.

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Facebook now exposes suicide-prevention resources to their users through an infographic flow-chart

Article

INFOGRAPHIC: Suicide Prevention Resources On Facebook – AllFacebook

My Comments

I have previously covered the issue of Facebook in relation to the difficult topic of suicide and self-harm with an article about some incidents where a Facebook user sought assistance to handle a suicide attempt across the other side of the world; as well as another drawing attention to teenagers using this service as a counselling resource to reach out to other at-risk teens.

Now Facebook have taken it upon themselves to provide resources to help users worried about a person who is at risk of self-harm or suicide. This is more so where a Facebook status update becomes something to vent one’s feelings as I have seen before many times.

Here, they have exposed these resources and what they can do by showing an infographic flow-chart (PDF) about what they can do to help the user who is worried about their friend. They are exposing this flow-chart using a series of public-service announcements that appear across the Website so everyone who is using Facebook is aware of the resource.

This is in addition to partnering with organisations like Lifeline and Samaritans as well as implementing protocols and procedures to handle these situations especially where it happens in another country. One of the actions can include Facebook drawing the affected person’s attention to their local resources as well as keeping the concerned friend “in the loop” through a special Web dashboard.

As well, they have made a “one-touch” reference list of these organisations in their online help so that anyone across the Internet can be aware of these resources.

What I see of this is that Facebook, due to the sheer number of regular users, has done the right thing to handle this situation and this could open up questions amongst Internet-based online communities about how to handle situations where a person expresses a desire to harm themselves through these communities.

 

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Using Facebook to tackle teen suicide

Article

Teens meet on Facebook to talk about suicide

My Comments

I have often heard remarks about the negative influence of Facebook and other social networks on teenagers’ lives and how they use these services. But this article has highlighted how a group of teenagers have used this service to reach out to teenagers on this sensitive topic by setting up an open group which can act as a forum on this topic.

They took the fact that nearly every teenager has Facebook presence and they often vent their feelings on their Facebook Wall as I have seen before. This group effectively became a forum to raise a subject that is normally considered taboo. I had a look at the forum and there were even images and referenced to people who have lost people that were close to them in this manner.

I would like to see this group exposed not just to Australian media but to worldwide media because this isn’t just an Australian issue but a worldwide issue.

For further help on this topic, I have published a list of some of the organisations looking in to the suicide and depression issue but there will be a similar organisation operation close to you.

Australia
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call-Back Service 1300 659 467
Suicide Line 1300 651 251
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
United Kingdom
Samaritans 08457 90 90 90
Ireland
Samaritans 1850 60 90 90
USA
1-800 SUICIDE (HopeLine)
– Kristin Brooks Hope Center
1-800-SUICIDE
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Tablets–another screen for the TV viewing area

Article

The tablet will be the center of the connected lifestyle — Online Video News

My comments

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computerThis article is affirming the idea of using a tablet computer like the Apple iPad or the Acer Iconia Tab in the lounge room as you watch TV. Some people may object to this because of the “too many screens” argument. But of course, you will still look at the big screen for the video content.

Small personal TV

One of the most common TV-related apps for the iPad and tablets of its ilk is as a personal screen for viewing content. This could be in the form of downloading or streaming the content to the tablet device and has been subjected to various legal strangleholds with Hollywood.

But it also has been taken further with broadcast-LAN tuner adaptors which tune in and stream TV content to these tablets once controlled via a special app. As well, the use of DLNA media player software can allow you to view video content held on your home network through these devices.

Remote control for large screen

Another application of interest is for the tablet to work as a remote control for the large-screen TV. Here, this would work with apps delivered by TV and set-top-box manufacturers to the various app stores for the tablet platforms.

It would work hand in glove with programming your PVR, use of interactive-TV applications or even using the interactive functions of a Blu-Ray disc; as well as navigating an increasing array of TV channels.

Of course, I have a doubt about this when it comes to activities where you need instant response. I would like to be sure that you tap MUTE on the tablet and you are sure that the racecaller voice that is part of that commercial isn’t heard the moment you press it for example.

As well some manufacturers may limit this function to their tablets, especially if the tablet is the same brand as the TV in question; usually as a way to reinforce brand loyalty.

Show downloaded content on large screen

In a similar way to the previous “small personal TV” application, a tablet computer can be used to show content on the large television or video projector. This can be through a direct connection from the tablet’s miniHDMI socket or AV-out jack to the TV or by pushing the content to an Apple TV or DLNA network media player.

But wait there’s more:

Internet browsing concurrent with TV viewing

A very common application that I have noticed with smartphones and tablets is to engage in Internet use while watching TV. Examples of this include researching a TV programme on IMDB or a concept that was used in the TV program; using the tablet as a persistent scoreboard during a sports game or updating the Social Web during a TV show. I have expanded on the “persistent scoreboard” application in this site by mentioning an increasing number of “scoreboard apps” that are available for most sports codes and leagues and the role of these apps in enjoying your favourite sports fixtures.

The persistent scoreboard could be an app in itself or simply an always-refreshed Web page; and could remind you of where the players stand in that match you are watching. In some cases, the apps provide access to player / team information as well as on-demand video replays or interactive progress maps. Of course, you could head over to other commentary sources for comments other than what the TV commentators are barking about.

As I have seen, a lot of TV shows are integrating the Social Web very tightly in to their programming fabric. This can be typified with selected Twitter and Facebook comments being read out by the compere or a ticker with Twitter comments crawling across the bottom of the screen. Even news and public-affairs events will have official or unofficial tickers running on Twitter or Facebook as people post up comments on these events using the Social Web.

The tablet computer may work better than the “smart TV” Social-Web apps because the TV usually works with one account at a time and you won’t see the show’s video occupying the screen as you post your comment. One or more tablets (or small computers) can perform this function in an individual manner for individual viewers,

Setup requirements

In most cases, a Wi-Fi connection to the home network and broadband connection is all that is needed if the tablet is just being used at home; and would be necessary for network-media-adaptor use. This could allow you to buy a Wi-Fi-only model if it is to stay primarily at home or not be used with an external wireless-broadband router on the road.

Conclusinon

As I have said, the tablet is now working as a supplementary screen in the TV lounge area rather than just as an ebook reader and email terminal.

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Twitter–who see what and when

Another increasingly-popular social network service is Twitter. This was intended as a “microblogging” service but some people have been implementing it as another social network.

Like the similar Facebook article that I have written for Facebook novices, this will list who will see which information you post when you use Twitter. Here, I would recommend this as a bookmark or favourite or as something to print out and keep near the computer or have available on the business intranet.

Twitter lexicon

Tweet A public Twitter post. Also to leave a public post on Twitter
Follow To subscribe to a Twitter user’s Tweets (public comments)
Follower A person who subscribes to a user’s Tweets. Is also capable of receiving direct messages from the users they follow.
Hashtag A reference tag that is preceded by a # (hash) symbol and is used for filtering Tweets on a topic. Used primarily in front of cities, TV shows, brands, etc.
Mention or Reply A Tweet that features a Twitter user with that user’s name preceded by an @ symbol.

Who sees what

What you do Who sees this  
When you post a Tweet All your Twitter Followers  
When you Retweet someone’s else’s Tweet All your Twitter Followers Your followers will see the original Tweet suffixed by “Retweeted by <your_user_name>”
When you reply to someone else’s Tweet or mention another user in your Tweet All your Twitter Followers The Tweet will have the other person’s username preceded by the @ symbol and the user will be able to see the mentions or replies in the “reply / mention” filter
When you send a direct message to a Follower Only that specific Follower that you address Your Follower has to be following you to be able to be contacted by a Direct Message

What to do where on Twitter

General comment or broadcast message Post a Tweet Be careful what you write as all followers or potential followers can see what you write.
Reply to someone else’s Tweet or mention a Twitter user where confidentiality isn’t required Post the tweet using the Reply or Mention tools Again, be careful what you say when you write these posts.

This can be good for congratulating the user or offering some sympathy on an event they Tweeted about.

Direct private message to a Follower Post a Direct Message  

 

If someone follows you on your Twitter account, it may be a good idea to check that person out when you receive the notification by email. Here, you could then consider following that person and being able to use direct messaging as appropriately.

It is also worth noting that a lot of social Twitter users use “textspeak” (abbreviations and acronyms for common expressions used when sending SMS messages) when they send out Tweets. So you may have to use resources like the Urban Dictionary to help you understand some of this lingo.

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People-tagging of photos–a valuable aid for dementia sufferers

Facebook started it. Windows Live Photo Gallery has implemented it since the 2010 version and made it easier with the 2011 version.

What is people-tagging

The feature I am talking about here is the ability to attach a metadata tag that identifies a particular person that appear in a digital image. These implementations typically have the tag applied to a specific area of the photo, usually defining the face or head of the person concerned. It will also become available in current or up-and-coming versions of other image-management programs, photo-sharing services, DLNA media servers and the like.

In the case of DLNA media servers, one of these programs could scan an image library and make a UPnP AV content-directory “tree” based on the people featured in one’s photo library.

Initially the concept, especially the Facebook implementation, was treated with fear and scorn because of privacy invasion. This is because this implementation allows the metadata to be related to particular Facebook Friends and also allows the photo to be commented on by other Facebook Friends. Now the Windows Live Photo Gallery application attaches this metadata in a standardised XML form to the JPEG file like it does with the description tags and geotags. There is the ability to make a copy of this file without the metadata for use in posting to Internet services.

A relevant implementation idea

One key benefit that I would see with this data when implemented with electronic picture frames, HDTVs and similar devices is the ability to overlay the tags over the picture when it is shown. This could be achieved by the user pressing a “display” or similar button on the device or its remote control. Devices with touchscreens, stylus-operated tablet screens or other pointer-driven “absolute” navigation setups could support a function that shows a “people tag” as you touch areas of the image.

Benefit to Alzheimers sufferers

Here, this feature could help people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related illnesses by helping them remember whom their family members or friends are. If the user is using an image-management program or DLNA media-server setup capable of using these tags, they can call up a collection of images of the person they think of and have those images appearing on the screen. If the device has a communications-terminal function like a telephone, one of the images can be used as an index image to remember the correspondent by. This function could be extended by the use of an automatically-updated index image or a screenshow that shows “key” images of the person.

Improving on the idea

To make this work, there needs to be an industry standard that defines how the people-tag metadata is stored on the JPEG file. As well, the standard has to support functions like one or more separate “nickname” fields for each of the people that can be displayed as an option.  This is because a person may be known to one or more other people via a nickname or relative-shortcut name (Mummy, Daddy, Nonna, etc).

Another issue is to encourage users to establish consistency whenever they tag up a collection of images. This could be achieved through “batch-tagging” and / or improved facial recognition in image-management tools. This may be an issue if two or more people are tagging images from their own collections to serve a third collection and they know the people via different names.

Conclusion

Once we cut through the hysteria surrounding people-tagging with digital images and focus on using it as part of desktop image-management systems rather than social networks, we can then see it as a tool for helping people remember whom their loved ones are.

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