FaceBook Virus or Ethics Violation?

FaceBook presently seems to be demanding a cell phone number as a condition of logging on. It could be a virus forwarding mobile phone numbers to China or Siberia for posting unauthorized charges to cell phones to steal money, or it could be FaceBook actually pulling the same stunt themselves for the same reason — to place unauthorized charges on the cell phones. It cannot be to authenticate customers as they are already authenticated through providing a valid non-public (not yahoo, hotmail, msn, etc.) email address.


Using Social Media for Education

We came across a July 1 post by Phil Montero at http://theanywhereoffice.com on how to use Social Media, such as FaceBook to enhance education at K-12, College, and special post secondary educational situations. It was a good find. His link for further information is http://www.theanywhereoffice.com/digital-lifestyle/using-social-media-for-inspired-learning-and-education.htm which points to Fred’s article at http://www.fredshead.info/2010/05/100-inspiring-ways-to-use-social-media.html.

Here is a taste of Fred’s patter:

“Social media may have started out as a fun way to connect with friends, but it has evolved to become a powerful tool for education and business. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter and tools such as Skype are connecting students to learning opportunities in new and exciting ways.”

One interesting aspect of this web site is that it is designed to be accessible to the visually impaired.


Work Shifting: common sense leads to new productivity

On 08/31/2010 10:23 AM, Mike Mansbach, Citrix Online wrote:

John:

Workshifting, or the flexibility to work when and where you want, is on the rise. The advantages for employees and companies are plentiful — from cost savings and increased productivity to a greener workplace.

This new podcast, featuring Phil Montero, CEO of The Anywhere Office, explores the advantages of a workshifting environment and how to create your own workshifting program.

“There’s no shortage of benefits for both employees and businesses.”

Listen to the podcast to learn:

* Key benefits of workshifting for employees and businesses
* How to implement a strategic workshifting program
* How to pick the best tools for a workshifting environment
* And more…

View this Complimentary Podcast

Please forward this to colleagues who might be interested in learning more.

Best regards,

Mike Mansbach | VP & GM


On 08/31/2010 12:41 PM, John Nash of API, replied:

Hi Mike,

Thank-you for writing. Yes, I know workshifting is important. I am working from home right now. I simply shell into my servers with SSH2 or connect with FileZilla. The 16 people I expect to add to my workforce soon will also largely work when and where they can be most successful and cost effective.

I am interested in your presentation, but when I tired to view your previous link, it refused to let me participate: it is a “Microsoft Only” setup. Yes, I could simply load a virtual machine with one of the MS environments in it: that is not the point. If you are hosting the presentation, then I would expect to see how your product line facilitates my success in using a totally space / time / equipment independent work environment. Since the presentation is only accessible to Microsoft, it is probable that your tools are only accessible to Microsoft.

Work Shifting involves more than geographic location. It involves location, time, equipment, intellectual activation (mental readiness) and even social presence. Essentially, our present technology allows the worker to work when it is optimal. We are entering an age where not only time or location but especially computing device is flexible. Most mobile devices today do not use Microsoft. Most professional web servers do not use Microsoft. While I know there are sporadic instances of a Microsoft web server or two, or a Windows email machine here or there, Microsoft exists mostly on the end user desktop, and they have been loosing market share fast.

I sincerely thank-you for thinking of me, but neither of us can profit from this. If you have a presentation later that conforms to international standards and respects technological diversity, please let me know: I would be happy to view it on one of my Ubuntu desktops.

John Nash, CEO
American Programmers Independent, LLC.

P.S. The Podcast Mike provided a link to in his email today DOES work, although it is only audio (.mp3). In time, hopefully, larger corporations will begin making their products compliant with html v5 standards so that all media can be played with Google Chrome or any other standards compliant browser without extra addons. If you would like to listen to his link, click here. To check out Phil’s web site with his ides on Work Shifting, browse to http://www.theanywhereoffice.com/.


“On-Line Sales Tax Legislation” HR 5660

There is no “New Internet Tax” — at least not in HR 5660. This article by John C. Dvorak appeared in a blog from PC Mag (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2367551,00.asp). It is worth confronting at this time because it represents one serious problem with the blogosphere — laziness. It took me under five minutes to check this out, but a professional reporter did not invest five minutes of his time to do the same.

For one thing, HR 5660 is included in HR 4577. For another it is not news, it happened in July. The Federal government does not get any money as a result of this legislation. And even more importantly, all it does is establish a simplified standard format for the State forms used to collect Sales Tax from retailers so that on-line businesses don’t need to learn 50 different sets of rules. Mr. Dvorak writes:

A new piece of legislation claims to level the playing field between Internet retailers and brick-and-mortar stores, but this “fairness” bill is anything but.

Internet stores and direct mail operations have long been targeted by money hungry legislatures as potential sources of more tax money for government coffers. There’s always a bill in the works trying to tax Internet stores. Over the years, these proposed laws have been discovered early on, forcing the tax mavens to regroup, over and over again.

They’re at it again, with a bill called The Main Street Fairness Act (HR 5660). This time the bill is cloaked in a cloud of last minute darkness. The argument is that the poor brick-and-mortar stores are being killed by Internet companies, because the latter don’t have to charge tax if they are out of state. Of course! This supposed advantage is negated by shipping costs, but that is seldom brought up. People generally buy things on the Internet when they are not available locally—or when they’re much cheaper online. Tax has little to do with it. This rationalization is meant to cover up the fact that HR5660 is just a money grab.

I looked up this legislation and read through a summary section by section and a good part of the actual law (http://commdocs.house.gov/reports/106/h4577.pdf). Dvorak is wrong: the bill is what Bill Delahunt says it is (http://delahunt.house.gov/2010/07/delahunt-introduces-main-street-fairness-act.shtml) — a mechanism for using the same form for every State (instead of 50 different sets of laws and related paperwork).

All the on-line retailers I use already collect sales tax: this bill created no new tax, only a means of replacing the myriad different forms and rules with a single form so retailers can easily accommodate all the States without a herculean effort to analyze and comply with 50 different laws.

Sales tax goes to the State in which the consumer lives, to pay for the consumer’s needed police, fire, school, and other expenses. If you live and are protected by the police in Washington, then you pay tax to Washington, not California, for your own government, not someone else’s. If you do not like your own State government’s sales tax, then you need to change your State government.

Mr. Dvorak, I like reading your column, but you need to take time to read the legislation before you blog on it. Going off half cocked degrades your credibility.


Ten Habits of Bad Web Design

Every self-proclaimed “web designer” and “expert” does not necessarily know what she or he is doing. More often than not they are simply sales types who have decided “there is money to be made” in selling web sites, and they’ll fast talk inexperienced people into buying from them. Baseline Magazine reports ten of the worst mistakes you can make in website design in their article at http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Intelligence/Ten-Habits-of-Bad-Web-Design-171565/ Basically, these mistakes give the same impression as the fast talking salesman in a pink suit with green stripes, white shoes, and two teeth missing hawking his wares out of a suitcase as he stands in the opening to an alley and watches for police.

1. Shouting — Scrolling text, automatic launches of video and audio, and screen-grabbing ads are all turnoffs.

2. Clutter — An over-abundance of links, boxes, and menus paralyzes visitors with uncertainty, not to mention eye-strain.

3. Unfriendliness — Prescription-label-sized text, ill-used white space, links represented by obscure, unfamiliar icons … these are helping your visitors how?

4. Navigation Hazards — Broken or misdirected links, poorly worded links, an inability to go directly back to the home page—all will drive your visitors batty, if they even stick around.

5. Catastrophic Colors — We’re already on your site. Why the gaudy display of plumage to get our attention?

6. Lack of Contrast — Some color is good. Keeping a visitor’s interest requires balance.

7. Runaway Text — Hiding text off to the side or below the screen without easy scrolling tells users you just don’t care if they read it.

8. Drop-Down Debacles — Drop-down menus that disappear below the visible page and prevent visitors from getting at those unseen links are site-killers.

9. Devilish Details — Grammar gaffes and errors in spelling or fact-checking leave a lasting impression, and not a good one.

10. Printing Problems — Print-configured pages should actually print easily and in a usable fashion.

It does take effort to avoid some of these, and sometimes things such as spelling errors do creep in, but they should be fixed as soon as they are found.  Before even beginning to create a web site one should first decide what the message is and to whom it is directed. Then one chooses appropriate colors, then fonts, layout, and other design details.

For an individual, it may make sense to just use the one minute “instant web site” tools provided by many web hosting companies, such as GoDaddy.com who has a nice selection of very easy to use tools — click, wait a minute, ah, instant web site — and their hosting packages are cheap. In fact some of these tools, for example Web Site Tonight, will even prompt you for your purpose, likes and dislikes, and fill in some content for you.

For a professional, if you can’t or don’t have time, to carefully scope out exactly what you want, at least set up one of the professional looking blog packages, such as WordPress, specify “static pages” with the standard information every web site needs (About Us, Privacy Policy, Contact), and choose a template with a color scheme that evokes the impression that you want. You can see this approach on some of our sites at http://jdnash.org and http://alt-fw.org. By starting in this way you will start working out what you really need in a web site and keep notes for later, when you do have time to think it through in advance and do a nice job.