Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Should I use Blackberry Messenger to Connect With My Audience?

A lot organisations and individuals now display their Blackberry PIN for customers, consumers and others to follow them and keep in touch with them easily.

I am skeptical of using Blackberry for that purpose. While I think that the Blackberry messenger is a great application for friends to get quick information update, I am not sure this works well for organisations for the following reasons:

1. Blackberry Messenger is a closed platform. This means that only those using Blackberry phones will have access to your information.
2. Since other mobile phone companies like Apple and Samsung have their own chat platforms, will you be planning to have multiple devices to connect to other platform users? Or you just connect with the blackberry users and forget all the others.
3. Even with the popularity of the Blackberry phones in Nigeria, believe it or not there are still more people in Nigeria Using Nokia phones to browse the internet.
4. A lot of Nigerians still use only a laptop or a desktop to access the internet.

5. It is limited to 2000 connections so when your organisation or group followership gets above 2000 will you be willing to migrate them to another platform or leave them at that number?

6. Because it is device specific what do you do if the phone gets missing or gets faulty or is stolen?  Simply forgetting to charge the phone could mean a post might be delayed.

7. Any phone with a working Blackberry messenger also has email active and can have access to Twitter and Facebook. And all these platforms are not limited to the Blackberry platform. So why limit yourself?

8. Your Posts or messages will be received only on mobile devices. This limits the possibilities of what you can post or send.
9.  Imagine sending a link to your YouTube page, while the Blackberry can actually view this, streaming video is charged for Blackberry phones in Nigeria and this could discourage people following the link.
10. While you can block a malicious follower on Twitter and block an email addresses, Blackberry Messenger allows the sending of PIN to PIN messages which will be delivered even if the two users are not connected.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Tragic Passing of Goldie Harvey and the Online recklessness that Followed

While still reeling from the Oscar Pistorius shooting on Valentine’s night, I heard rumors that Nigerian performer, Goldie Harvey (May her soul rest in peace) had died that same day. Of course my first instinct was to shrug it off. You see, I have trained my instincts to ignore any rumors of death coming from the Nigerian social media atmosphere from the numerous times we have "killed" Nelson Mandela. Thank God Madiba's life is not in the hands of a “tweeting happy Nigerian".

But then the rumours would not go away and then I saw a post on the blog of a popular blogger. The saddest part of the post was while she was validating  Goldie's death by claiming that Goldie's best friend, who was also her mutual,  friend had informed her,  she didn't see it fit to post a proper post. A fitting way to announce the death of a friend was a quick “I posted it first” post!

And then the so called Twitter overloads took over the next day postulating all sorts of reasons of her death and googling Wikipedia to explain pulmonary embolism. They even knew it was caused by her 24 hour flight from California. These overnight pathologists forgot that even if it was a 24 hour flight and she was seated in the same spot, the high-fliers from Kennis Music she was flying with would have schooled her on whatever she needed to do. And did she need schooling? Hasn't she been around the world from Lagos to London, to Johannesburg to Kuala Lumpur? If only the bloggers needed to shine less they would have accurately informed their followers that a typical British airways flight from California to Lagos, for example,  involved three stops: first to Dallas, then to London and finally to Lagos. Or didn't they know this?  Even the new 787 Dreamliners can't do a 24 hour flight.

Mainstream media also started to push the pulmonary embolism rumor. Forgetting they are bound by editorial discipline and should not be carrying unfounded rumours that was been expressed by the man on the street or the woman on Twitter. It was almost as if they couldn't sit back and allow new media to enjoy the entire spotlight!

The next chapter was even sadder. Sudden reports that someone was calling Goldie names and saying she was happy she was dead.  This is the chapter that had a little ray of light because yes: a particular blogger who recently had a face-off with President Obasanjo refused to mention the twitter account while raining insults on the person. You see, your intuition probably served you right.  When I saw this particular angle, I was suspicious. So I ran some analytics on the Twitter account and found out it was created 2 days after her death. So someone had actually created a Twitter account to get followers from the tragic passing of Goldie. And the funniest thing: She was getting the followers!

And then the tribute song and in less than 3 days after her passing. I can't help but ask: Were the artistes waiting for her to die? Or were they waiting for any artiste to die? Or they wrote it for someone else and quickly modified it for her? Do they understand the ethical implications of cashing in on someone else’s tragedy? How many tribute songs were written for Whitney Houston within 2 days of her death? I rest my case.

Finally, when we thought it couldn't get any worse, copies of the autopsy when it was finally done were now flying around the internet. Apparently someone took a picture with his or her phone and shared it online or with a media house. I do hope her family did not stumble upon the report online before it was handed to them by the hospital.

You see, Social Media and the internet have so much potential in this part of the world because it now means we can verify facts, engage with people, question our so-called normal and effect change. But this democratic empowerment promised will all be flushed down the loo if we all do not rein in ourselves. The "I tweeted it first" mentally or "I blogged it" first should be thrown into the trashcan.  Of course there is room to be first but information should be properly researched.

Some bloggers should realize that people now ask them questions they should be googling themselves. While I won't advice this, I guess it speaks of trust and respect towards the bloggers. Or does it speak of laziness on the part of their followers? You see, to whom much is given much is expected. Or if I can borrow from Hollywood, with much power comes great responsibility. So if people now see bloggers as source of credible information, they should be careful what they say or share. 

As for the rest of us, we need to know that the internet and Social media is not a wild wild west where there are no rules and everything or anything goes.  Let's all not forget that in the abundance of tweets”, sin is not lacking. Let's formulate the simple habit to google out supposed claims before sharing. Or refuse to share if you are too busy to properly research. A simple no comment does not kill, but the wrong words online may never be wiped off.

I can't help but ask:  Is social media exposing how reckless we have become? Or are we like this because we don't really understand how we should behave on it? Is the Nigerian more interested in the bad news, gossip, the rumours and the falsehoods first? Have we thrown all caution to the winds? Is this why when a plane crashed in Lagos people who got to the scene first, started out by taking pictures before anything else? Is that why people are creating accounts on Twitter where they tweet pictures of their body parts or write racy stuff that doesn’t do anyone any good?

The future of the impact of social media and the internet in Nigeria will depend a lot on the foundations we lay. A lot of good is already happening on social media and the internet in Nigeria, so we cannot afford for it to become a looked down upon media form the way tabloids are regarded or as a form of negativity. I do hope though that time will be a differentiator and will sort out the wheat from the chaff or else, the unlimited potential of the internet and social media in Nigeria may never be fully realized.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Keeping Safe Online in a Connected World

With the massive adoption of the internet nowadays, people have never been connected like we all are. But with this connectivity, access to the internet, email and other resources come all sorts of risks. Phishers are trying every means to direct us to fake versions of the websites we use to steal some kind of information which they can profit on. Hackers are trying to break into our computers or computer network s and steal sensitive information. There is the risk of losing devices you use to access the internet with the potential hazard of having our sensitive information in the wrong hands.
So what exactly can be done?

Here is my list of tips that can keep you safe online no matter with what device or devices you access the internet with.

1. If you use social networks like Facebook or twitter know, that while they ask for your email address to login, they don't need you to use the same email address password as your password.

2. Use different passwords for every email, social media or service account if you can.

3. When you get those spam emails promising everything from easy money to exclusive pictures of some superstar, don't click on the link they offer you.  Delete the emails in a breath and have the same attitude to such links on Facebook or Twitter too.

4. No matter how good an anti - virus is, it will be no good unless it is updated regularly.  Regular updates can be as frequent as every 4 days. Most antivirus will update automatically so checking and noticing your antivirus is no longer updating is probably a sign that it has already been compromised. If this is the case you might need a new installation.

5. Never use your smart phone or tablet without having a password active on the device.  While the password will not stop a thief from stealing the device it will at least protect your information from the thief.

6. For devices like smart phones which have memory cards. There is always a function to encrypt the card. So if a thief steals your device, they won't be able to have access to the files on the memory card. Make sure you always use this feature.

7. Blackberry protect allows you to remotely find your device if lost. So you may want to make sure Blackberry protect is active on your device. The only problem is a tech savvy thief will find a way around this.

8. The iPad and IPhone also have a feature to find your device if missing. Make sure you turn it on.

9. Most free email services including Yahoo and Gmail have password reset features to take back your email account in case a hacker takes over them. These features allow you to set another email account to use for a password reset. Make sure you have this feature in place too.

10. Know that hacking is big business now so handle everything you do online with caution but not necessarily fear.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sharing Short URLS to an Audience

I went to an event some weeks ago and at the end of it there was an advert for additional content and instructions on how to download the mobile applications for different mobile platforms.  The links were shared with short urls like the popular bitly, tinyurl etc  and that was when I realized that sharing short url on a screen is a bad idea. While they work excellent for sharing links within Twitter or Face book by cleaning the look of the URLs and reducing the character count, they don't work well visually.

Short urls generated by services such as bitly are case sensitive but a lot of us are used to typing in our web addresses directly without ever using the shift button on the keypad or not caring any less because we all believe writing it all in small letters or capital or mixed does not make a difference. Well in the world of short urls. Type case makes a difference. 

I believe the best method to share a link to your mobile applications, website or any resource on a screen is to get your webmaster to do a re-direct from your website to the links you want to share.  For example, he/she can do a redirect from " " to your mobile application. This will be easier to do and less prone to errors than using a short URL.   

Another easy way will be to give an email address where your audience can send a mail to get the link. They may only need to send a blank email. This method even allows you to still use a short URL.

One option I like is for them to send an SMS with a keyword to a phone number Of a SIM placed on a SMS gateway or server solution. The system can detect the keyword they sent and send back a link to their phone numbers. This method not only allows the use of short URLs and will seem easier as most people feel closer to SMS on their mobile device than E-mail.  This is actually my favourite of the options in this article even though it sounds a little bit techy. ( OK, full disclosure after spending a while developing a solution like this, it has to be my favourite)

Any of these methods though will reduce the potential problem of displaying a short URL on a screen which will be hard to type onto the mobile phone browser or will create an impression of the site been available if the wrong case of characters is typed in.

The general idea in the world we live in today where there is every possibility to want to share links at the end of an event is to look for a method that will ensure the accuracy of the links you need to send.

You can follow my thoughts on Twitter @folarinoye