All A-Twitter about Bots

Twitter announced this week that around 23 million of their users are bots, not actual humans. That’s a whole lot of fake profiles. Which brings up a question that a lot of folks have; what exactly is a bot? We hear of them taking over apps, and invading websites, but there’s still some confusion on what they are. For starters, “bot” is short for “internet robot” and the short definition is “a software application that has the ability to take over and run automated tasks through the internet.” So bots start out good. They can do things like patrol websites and do helpful things like check product reviews for profanity, count negative reviews that need attention etc, all at a much faster rate than a human. Bots are only considered bad when they are used for what’s considered “malicious purposes,” meaning that they are taking over an application for a destructive reason. They are mostly used for creating false profiles on social media websites, trying to entice a user to click on a link that will direct you to either a porn site or some other shady fraudulent site. There are even particularly evil spambots that are able to crack passwords, and once they gain access, can really turn into a headache. This is where they gain control over your accounts and start spamming all of your contacts.

The issue with bots having such a large presence on websites like Twitter is that they are giving a misrepresentation of how many users a site actually has. This affects advertisers mostly, as they are paying a fee to reach a certain amount of users. They do not account for how many profiles are actually bots. In the case of Twitter, 23 million fake profiles rounds out to about 9% of their active accounts. The company says that number might be on the low end, so the percentage is most likely larger. The only option is to be extra suspicious of any direct mail that you receive, and to think twice before clicking on any sketchy links. Twitter will undoubtedly be putting in overtime to try and clean up some of their bot profiles, but in the meantime there are some guidelines to follow if you don’t want to get spammed. First and foremost, don’t follow everyone back who follows you, even if it is the polite thing to do in the world of social media. Be wary of accounts that follow a lot of profiles, but don’t have many followers. Also be suspicious of any profile that has a lot of typos. Having a few is normal, but when words are continuously misspelled, chances are that it’s a spambot. These bots know that sex sells, so most of their profile pictures are of attractive women. That pretty picture can burn you in the end, so keep your eyes open and your mouse to yourself.

Endless Summer

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There’s less than a month of summer left, so it’s time to fit in the rest of those all-day music festivals and camping trips. Or in most cases, both. We have put together a checklist of stuff to bring with you to make sure you have a good time with limited regrets.
1. SPF. This should be #1 on the list whenever you are going to spend a prolonged amount of time in the sun, but it is the often the most overlooked. In the event you forget it, there’s a cool new bracelet called the SunFriend Personal UV Monitor. Just wear this on your wrist and you will know when your skin is about to be overexposed, and it’s time to find some shade. The bracelet runs for about $50, but is worth its weight in gold when you don’t have to deal with sunburn when you get home.
2. A battery backup will make you the envy of all your friends. These things are truly invaluable at any outdoor event. You can use it to charge up your camera, and even more importantly, your phone. This will prevent you from getting stuck in line for a wall charger; now you won’t have to miss out on anything.
3. If you are going camping, remember to bring a Bluetooth speaker. Camping is no fun without music. Most of the wireless speakers on the shelves today go for under $50 and have an awesome sound quality. They will connect right away to your phone, and you can charge them up with your battery backup. Now you can keep the party going until late into the night.
4. A travel charging cable might be a good idea too. A shorter version that will fit into your bag easily, and that way if it gets lost you still have your old trusty one at home. Keeping your phone charged is super important when you are at a festival, as it’s easy to lose your friends, and without a phone there is not guarantee you will be getting a ride home. To avoid sleeping in a field, make sure your phone stays juiced.
5. A 360-Degree Lantern will light up your campsite in all directions, and can stay lit on a single charge for up to 12 hours. You can manipulate it to exactly where you need it to go, and it is super bright.
6. For the girls, waterproof mascara is the only route to take. Remember to throw some in your bag; if you forget you are running a huge risk of spending the day looking like a raccoon. It’s not a good look.
7. A cooler will save you a ton of money. Pack as much food and drinks that you can to avoid spending all of your money on overpriced beer and festival grub. They have fancy stainless steel coolers out now that will keep everything cold for longer. It’s worth the investment; trust that you will make your cash back on this one.
8. A jug of anti-bacterial gel. Without access to soap and water this will literally be a lifesaver. Bring enough so you can share the wealth with your friends, and at the same time win instant popularity points with strangers. Same goes for baby-wipes. These are essential when camping out without easy access to showers.
9. An indestructible phone case will save the day when you accidentally drop your phone in the dirt or mud for the thirtieth time. There are a few good brands out there, but LifeProof has made a name for itself this summer in the area of phone protection and is highly recommended.
10. Above all, remember to have fun! The last days of summer can really fly by; enjoy them while they are still here. If you remember all of your essentials you should get through a few days roughing the outdoors just fine.

Playing With Your Food

Cool new app alert! A new app called “Rise” is being talked about as the next best thing in the world of diet and exercise apps. The outline is pretty simple and easy. Just take a picture of the meals you consume, and send them through the app to dieticians that will offer helpful feedback on whether the food you’re eating is helping or hindering your weight-loss attempts. One of the biggest draw to this app is that it allows dieters to be in touch with their diet coach daily, instead of the traditional once-a-week.

Most people are busy taking pictures of their meals and uploading them to Facebook and Instagram just to make their friends green with food envy. This should make it easy for the users of the Rise app to adjust and take pictures of their food for more productive reasons.

This app will probably work especially well with people who are visual learners. Instead of tracking calories or the amount of carbohydrates that are being consumed within the day, you are getting actual feedback from a diet coach on what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. This might help take some of the guesswork out of dieting. Anything helps! The app is available now for iPhone and Android.

HelloWorld

Cool new app alert! There are a few ways to digitally track your friend’s (and even your enemies) nowadays, but this new app named “HelloWorld” is designated just for check-ins, and looks pretty cool. For starters, it is solely designed for posting updates regarding your whereabouts, and lets you add pictures to enhance the update. For example, if you are in New York, and close to the Statue of Liberty, you can use the Statue’s photo and check in there. Friends will be able to see this, and can see if anyone is nearby in case you want to meet up. On a less exciting level, you can also do this at your local coffee shop or bar.

Similar to “Snapchat” posts will disappear after 24 hours, so you don’t have the worry of stalkers checking your past location check-ins. Also, the app doesn’t give the direct address to where you are, just a vague location, so security concerns should be limited. The app is available for Android now.

Checking-In Gets a Digital Makeover

Remember the days of hotel keys? Not the flimsy cards they give you nowadays, but the actual metal keys that you picked up from the front desk clerk. Seems like forever ago, right? Well pretty soon those little cards will be a thing of the past as well. This week Hilton Hotels announced that they are going to be launching an app that will let you select room preferences and check in and out all from your phone. By early next year you will be able to unlock your hotel room door straight from the app. Once that is implemented, there will be virtually no reason to visit the check-in desk. This is exciting news for frequent travelers who have to deal with front desk hassles often. Hilton isn’t the originator of the hotel app; Starwood hotels and resorts came out with their app earlier this year. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, Starwood owns the fancy “W” hotels along with chains like the Westin and the Sheraton. With these two heavy hitters offering this service, imitation will surely follow with smaller hotels.

Putting the “V” in Vanity

“Narcissus” by Daneli on Flickr

As if the narcissistic “selfie” craze that’s so popular right now isn’t embarrassing enough, Microsoft announced this week that they are set to release their new Lumia “Superman” phone with one unique feature: a forward facing camera. Looks like Microsoft has decided to cash in on the trend of people shamelessly taking photos of themselves, and is hoping this feature will set their Windows phone apart from the competition. The reality of this phone is that it will save selfie fanatics the approximate 2 seconds that it takes to switch your phone’s camera from normal to forward facing. Then consider that you might want to take a photograph of something other than your own face? There is a time delay for that, hopefully it’s not an action shot.

Naturally the phone will come with the egomaniac’s guide to the Internet; preloaded with all the necessities such as Instagram, Photoshop and Vine. This way you can Photoshop and post your selfie right away! Just remember to filter out all those flaws first; after all no one likes an unedited selfie! The Superman is slated for a late summer release. It’s guaranteed that there will be a lot of people that are into this idea; but whether that percentage will be higher than the group that finds this concept completely ridiculous is still unknown.

Up in Smoke

Beware: If you are using a Samsung phone with a 3rd party battery; your phone just might implode in flames. This week it was reported that a 13-year-old girl in Texas fell asleep with her Samsung Galaxy under her pillow, where it caught fire while she was sleeping. Luckily the smell of fumes woke the girl woke middle of the night, and the flames were extinguished.

Samsung’s owner’s manual does state that 3rd party batteries are not supported, but that is information for the consumers that actually read the fine print, whomever they may be. Perhaps they should consider putting that warning in a much larger print, considering what dangerous situations this could put a user in.

Samsung offered to replace the phone and the burned bedding, although they are sticking to the excuse that the warning is listed in the manual. Hopefully this little girl’s experience will help bring awareness to this possible danger, and will keep it from happening to someone else.

Spambot Love?

The uber popular dating app Tinder is burning up with more than love and lust this week. It looks like the app has encountered some problems with annoying malware and bots attacking their site. These bots have started creating fake profiles of attractive potential suitors in hopes of luring unsuspecting love seekers to porn and prostitution sites. Tinder has wised up to these antics and is working to block these pests, but now spammers are asking that you leave the website for a 3rd party site, so if you use Tinder be aware. Once you get directed to those sites it will tell you that your age must be verified, and will ask you to enter your credit card. We all think that no one could be naïve enough to actually enter their personal information in these situations, but you would be surprised. Stay on your toes and make sure you are not getting hooked up with a virus-infested bot. Just swipe left. ♥

Airbnb Gets a New Look

The San Francisco startup Airbnb overhauled it’s logo, website and mobile app this week in attempt to bring even more popularity to the six-year-old company. Airbnb is all the rage when it comes to traveling these days. The way Airbnb works is that if you have an available apartment, house or room to rent out you can do so through their website, which also allows you to set pricing and make payment arrangements. So when visiting a new city, instead of staying in a hotel, you can actually stay in someone’s home and get the feeling of living in that city, even if just overnight. The newly revamped website is actually really cool. It asks you to pick a destination city, and for larger cities it gives the background on different areas and what they are all about. The San Francisco destination page gives all the information on the different districts, what areas they are bordered by and what they are known for. The city descriptions are on point and aren’t completely sugar-coated. The listings page looks super professional, and there are multiple pictures of listings shown, so you can really get an idea of where you could potentially be staying. Airbnb states that they offers listings in 192 countries, and boasts over 500,000 listings, ranging from shared rooms and studio apartments to mansions and even a castle.

Now people that are listing their homes, otherwise known to Airbnb as “hosts,” have the option to leave recommendations for bars, restaurants and other neighborhood gems that are off the beaten path. This is perfect for visitors that don’t want the traditional tourist experience. The price of different places varies, but most of the listings on the site are considerably less than a hotel. It still is a gamble however, as unlike a hotel you are not exactly sure what you will be getting. There are no guarantees that the place listed will look exactly like its pictures, and although hosts are supposed to leave the place clean for guests, you never know. A way to avoid any surprises is to check host reviews on the site, and contacting hosts/guests through the site’s messaging option is recommended. This site is definitely something worth checking out on your next trip.

Facebook Immortals

Our Facebook pages will outlive some of us. And now our profiles are all set for that to happen. Facebook announced this week that they have tweaked their privacy settings in the event that a user passes on and their profile becomes a “memorialized” page. This way a users page will still be active, even in the event that the user is not. They are also implementing something called a “Look Back” video for user’s that have passed on. These videos became popular when Facebook generated them for their tenth anniversary. They will include a user’s top posts, important moments and most liked pictures. Sounds a little morbid, but perhaps this will be a helpful tool to grieving loved ones. Time will only tell.