How Information Insurance Can Help You Bridge Mortality

What if you died tomorrow with a secret or confidential information and passwords locked away inside your head? What if your loved ones can’t find your bank accounts or your coworkers can’t access hidden files? offers a solution to bridging mortality with its information insurance plan. A deathswitch is an automated system that prompts users for a password ( at a frequency of your choice) to make sure you’re still alive and well. When you fail to enter your password for a certain amount of time, the system continues to prompt you again several times. If there is still no reply, the computer presumes you’re dead or severely disabled, and your pre-written messages are automatically emailed to those named by you. You can create email messages, attach files and specify recipients and your messages are automatically sent after your switch is triggered.

The free account offers 1 email recipient and no attachments. With the premium account ($19.95/year) you get 30 messages with up to 10 recipients each and the ability to attach files such as videos, photos and documents. Some users have found a deathswitch to be very convenient for funeral instructions, bank account information, computer passwords etc. The company even boasts a free trial so any interested users can set up a fake message to another email account, stop responding to the prompts and see how it all works. Luckily, if your recipients change their email addresses, you have the ability to edit your information every time you answer a prompt.

The company boasts encryption technologies and high security measures to protect your messages from hackers but you help but wonder, how safe is this process? Most importantly, how necessary is this process? It’s interesting to see how companies are beginning to use technology in innovative ways and in this case, capturing the attention of the password/secret junkie who is constantly worrying about the information they carry around in their head on a daily basis. There is no doubt that as society progresses towards a technological takeover, information insurance and services like the deathswitch are becoming more feasible.

Mac App Store Unveiled

If you’re a Mac user, yesterday was a big day and chances are you’ve already spent a few hours exploring the new software update that included the App Store feature. Basically this means that you can now download Angry Birds on your computer as well as your smart phone…oh and there’s other apps available for download too. The store is very well organized and the concept is exciting because it means the world of apps is progressing even further, stretching from smart phones to personal computers. If I didn’t already have a Macbook, I’d want one now, and that’s exactly what Apple was hoping for, increasing consumer demand for their product and keeping current users happy with the ability to extend game play and app usage to another platform.

You can find programs like iPhoto and Keynote as well as apps that appeal to musicians, graphic designers, fashionistas, serious gamers and everyone in between. Apple has now pinpointed a very specific sector of the market that they, for the longest time, did not have control over. Why would I go to Best Buy and purchase a computer game for anywhere from $20-$40 when I can purchase something very similar (if not exactly the same) right from my house and pay $5-$10? Once again Apple dominance has exerted itself but it seems to be a serious benefit to the consumer. It’s always nice to have a choice and now I do.

After exploring for a while I’ve come up with a few recommended apps. First off, Twitter is a must-have and not having to log in online makes me very happy! I’ve never been a fan of tweetdeck or hootsuite, I found they gave me nothing but problems in terms of functionality so this is a breath of fresh air! Second, I love the simplicity and effectiveness of Caffeine. Anyone who frequently gives presentations or watches videos on their computer will understand how convenient it is to have a switch in one spot to disable the screen from fading or the computer from sleeping/turning off. Lastly, Booxter looks like an excellent way to keep track of your books, movies, music and comics. Any collector can appreciate the simplicity and the organization this app offers.

Will the app store translate well to personal computers? Will users participate? Is this just the beginning? There’s no way to know for sure what the future holds but there’s also no denying the power of the app! I for one am very excited to see what possibilities lie ahead and exactly how much computer memory I can consume with download apps.

The Rebirth of Myspace

I’m sure we can all remember designing the layout for our Myspace page, adding music from our favourite bands, photos of ourselves and our friends and spending hours looking at profiles and commenting. It’s hard to recall, but at one point Myspace was the hub for social activity. Flash forward a few years and Facebook has taken social interaction to a whole new level. While we’re all on Facebook playing games, tagging photos, and creeping profiles, Myspace is still defying the odds and thriving outside of the spotlight.

What was once a website based on social connections and content sharing for people of all ages, is now a music network that is growing larger every day. Myspace is a great example of how shifting your focus online, can bring unexpected success. If you take the time to visit the website, you’ll find bands and artists of all genres showcasing their song recordings, concert/show listings and interacting with fans. With a sleek new image, Myspace helps users connect with their favourite artists with daily top artist charts and even offers them the ability to purchase music.

The new Myspace is about showcasing new and interesting movies, music, TV, games and people who create, find and share. The site offers a simple signup and once you’re in, live notifications will let you know who is interacting with you. You can set viewing preferences and auto share content with Facebook and Twitter. Myspace sees the new design as an award for users who love to share, listen to favourite artists over and over and connect with new interests. They emphasize that music is their core focus and they want to showcase users who find the “cool stuff” and create trends in the online community. There is also a game section to keep you occupied for hours and the topic page features new trends, world events and allows users to watch video clips, read articles, and view photos. Myspace is encouraging self expression through profile design and has recently re-launched with a new logo to match the concept.

There is even a new section entitled karaoke that features Myspace users singing their favourite songs and showcases the most popular videos. It has never been easier to reach out to the music community and we can all thank Myspace for that!

Despite the attention Facebook has received in the past few years, Myspace is far from dead. The new beta site is a breeze to navigate and the graphics and content organization are flawless. While it may seem that only one community can be the winner, I think both have their strengths and weaknesses. Facebook will never have the personalization that Myspace offers and it will never be able to compete with the platforms Myspace has created for bands and artists to share their media. On the other hand, Myspace will never have the personal connectivity that Facebook offers or the corporate brand pages that allow businesses to interact with consumers. While both similar concepts, their communities and the user experience are entirely unique.

It will be interesting to see how users respond to the new Myspace. Hopefully the re-design and re-launch will create some well-deserved buzz for the long lost website. It just goes to show you that re-inventing a brand can make all the difference in the world.

Tech Savvy Tots: How Young Is Too Young?

Technology has taken the inevitable leap towards a younger target market and experts are urging parents to monitor and limit their children’s usage of electronic devices. These young children are growing up alongside parents who blog on a daily basis, share family photos on Facebook and are constantly connected through their mobile phones so it’s no wonder that their habits are becoming contagious.

A recent study conducted by Research Now for security company AVG found that 84% of Canadian children have an online presence by the time they are two years old. More than one-third of Canadian mothers posted photos of newborns online and another 37 percent said they’d posted sonograms of their as-yet unborn child. What’s even worse? Eight percent of Canadian moms had given their baby a social network profile on a site like Facebook.

While these behaviors are most likely stemmed from good intention (ex sharing photos with family and friends that live far away), no one is sure what it means for the children with profile pages and photos floating around online before they even turn five. The rate at which technology is holding parents and their children captivated has educators and parenting experts worried.

How many times have you been to the mall and seen an eight-year-old girl with a cell phone? How many of your younger cousins or siblings have their hearts set on an iPod Touch for Christmas? Realistically, technology is becoming more user-friendly and companies are realizing that children are the wave of the future. Imagine presenting a child with an iPod at a young age; that child will be much more likely to remain brand loyal for the rest of his future purchases because of his early influence.

The problem, according to Professional Parenting founder Judy Arnall, is that the research on the effects of this technology on children is not available yet, it’s happening too fast to be studied. Of greatest concern to the Calgary parenting educator are the hand-held, portable devices such as the iPod Touch, or the Nintendo DS.

The iPod Touch has thousands of downloadable apps that preach developmental pros for children such as teaching them to count, spell, add, or even learn a new language. This new direction combined with the device’s overall appeal and popularity is proving to have a big influence on parents who want to believe that the devices are educational and beneficial. Many experts worry that these devices are seductive to the point of children preferring them above all else. Technology can be very addictive and marketing techniques/campaigns make certain devices seem seductive to the public, which is where the problem takes root. Toddlers are growing up with the belief that an iPad is as indispensible as Lego bricks or Barbie dolls.

There is no doubt that these technological learning devices have a place in a child’s routine but experts say they can’t be the only option. The fact is that children learn best when they engage all five of their senses but screens limit that experience to hearing and sight. Parents need to limit usage and ensure their children have human interaction and a hands-on-environment that welcomes brain growth and development. As for the social network pages one can only hope that parents can strike a fine balance when it comes to sharing content about their children online.

Amber Alert Uses Facebook To Reach Masses

Ontario’s Amber Alert program has begun a new journey through Social Media giant Facebook. As of Friday October 8th their Facebook page has become visible to users worldwide and they hope the community can help them track down missing children in the real world. In less than 24 hours the page was already “liked” by over 18,000 people and looks to provide a new sense of hope for the authorities.

OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis says “In the first hours of a child abduction it’s extremely critical that we get information out to the public fast and there’s no time to waste.” This is why they are focusing their efforts on Facebook where they can post live updates and alerts that are immediately visible on the news feed.” With 15 million active Facebook users in Canada, authorities are hoping to spread the message quickly. Aside from their agreement with Facebook, the alerts are also broadcast on radio, TV, Ministry of Transportation highway signs, OLG terminals and convenience store LCD screens.

There is no doubt that this medium has created a new outlet for sharing information about missing children but as with all social media endeavors, there will always be risks. As we all know too well, when you share something online you can’t simply remove it afterwards. That content could be floating around the Internet for months and authorities want to ensure that citizens are double-checking how recent online Amber Alerts are before they take action.

Ontario is the third province to create an Amber Alert Facebook page (New Brunswick with 24,000 likes and PEI with 9,400 likes) and Canada is actually the first country to send Amber Alerts through Facebook. This seems to be the beginning of a new communication wave that, as with anything else, has its pros and cons. For now, just spreading the word quickly and reaching a mass audience simultaneously is enough to provide new hope for children across the province like the 16 out of 19 that were found using the alert system since 2003.

It’s great to see Facebook expanding beyond social interaction and becoming more mature. Businesses and organizations are finally beginning to realize the potential of tapping into the sites online communities. This is an excellent example of a provincial effort using social media to improve its reach and frequency with alerts/messages. Hopefully if everyone comes together and unites for a common cause, we can help the authorities track down missing children and potentially save their lives. If you haven’t already, please “like” Amber Alert Ontario’s Facebook page and help spread the word across the country that Social Media really can make a difference.

How The Modern Day Documentary ‘Catfish’ Shines A New Light On Social Media Identity Theft

If I’ve learned anything from the documentary Catfish, it’s that you never really know who you’re talking to online. As scary as it sounds, it’s actually relevant in modern day life especially with the recent boom of social media that seems to foster identity theft and deceit. Do you really know if the person in the profile photo is who they say they are? This film explores that realm and discovers that the answer is no.

Websites like Facebook and Myspace are praised for bringing people together and allowing communication even though the other person is miles away. What we seem to lose sight of very quickly is that we’re sitting in front of a screen with absolutely no idea who is on the other side of the conversation. Yaniv “Nev” Schulman is a 24-year-old photographer who, after having one of his photos published in a magazine, receives a painting in the mail by an 8-year-old girl in Michigan named Abby. Retreating to his online domain (Facebook), Nev connects with Abby and soon enough develops a close relationship with not only the 8-year-old girl, but also her mother Angela and older sister Megan. As Nev’s relationship with the family begins to grow, his filmmaking brother Ariel and their friend Henry, decide to begin documenting this journey to see where it ultimately leads.

What Ariel and Henry originally intended to document was Abby’s artistic ability and every day inspiration but by the end of the film you realize it has become the perfect analysis of the modern day social networking age. At some point along the way the story shifts from Nev and Abby to Nev and Megan who begin an impersonal love affair that is a superficial common place in today’s society. They communicate via text message, online chat and phone calls, yet all Nev knows about Megan is what he’s gathered from her Facebook profile page. It seems as though he is in love with an online profile, not an actual person.

The underlying theme doesn’t evolve until later on in the film but the influence, and seemingly strong foothold of the Internet, is apparent throughout. This film is about more than an online bond, it’s about society’s shift away from human interaction into an age of artificial and hollow relationships based on unstable foundations and naivety. Essentially the vast portion of this film has us looking over Nev’s shoulders as he sends online chat messages, posts comments on Megan’s wall, and uses Google street view to discuss locations or travel destinations.

Aside from its extremely creative and unique depiction, many critics are left wondering if the film’s ending was fact or fiction. So far reviews are mixed from the general public who argue that the handheld camera style is nauseating and that the movie has no right to consider itself a “thriller”. Either way, Catfish is sure to make an impression and change the way you think next time you find yourself chatting with a stranger online.

The Gap Logo Disaster

Since launching on October 4th, Gap’s new logo has received a firestorm of criticism from every corner of the Internet. Gap swapped the old logo for the new one on their website without saying a single word and once fans and consumers caught sight of it, they turned to the Internet to complain. Consumers immediately compared the new logo to Coca-Cola’s release of New Coke saying it was best left alone. Fans on Twitter and Facebook were not afraid to critique the design and point out that the new logo destroyed the brand image Gap had spent 22 years developing.

Completely stunned by the overwhelming and unexplainable response, the company reacted to what was quickly becoming a public relations fiasco by sending out a friendly invite to fans. Just a few days later the message appeared on their Facebook fan page asking for new design ideas and inspiration to replace the very unpopular new logo. The company stated that they were listening to consumer complaints and returning to the original design. Most importantly, Gap admitted to missing the chance to gather consumer input and they say that when it does come time for the logo to evolve, they will go about it in a different way. Although many fans reacted instantaneously to Gap’s decision to bring the old logo back with joy and appreciation, many are left wondering if a contribution to the future logo design will be utilized or just tossed in the vault.

Even though consumers can sleep well knowing their complaints were heard, stockholders, employees and even competitors must be in awe at how such a large and established company could make such a silly mistake. Gap had a solid fan base of 700,000 people and could have benefited greatly by simply listening to what they had to say and getting their input on the design and the new company image. The fact of the matter is that a logo is extremely important to a brand and often consumers find themselves connected with the image, which in this case, proved true on multiple levels.

This story has become another example for other businesses utilizing social media. Thankfully, through all this drama, we can learn a thing or two from Gap and hope that no such mistakes are made in the future. This whole thing started because the company launched a logo without telling anyone so when it appeared online, fans and consumers were outraged and offended. Not to mention that the company had a reason for creating a new logo but it was never conveyed properly because of the way in which they approached the situation. It seemed, from a consumer point-of-view, that Gap didn’t even care enough to tell its loyal fans what they were planning or how their image was evolving and that gave off a sense of arrogance that did not sit well with the public. This is where the problem lies; many businesses don’t realize that the community they are building online is not just some outlet for promotions, it’s a fan base that deserves recognition and attention. There are ways to engage people and use their enthusiasm to your benefit, especially through social media platforms. The whole point of using social media is to interact and show some personality so why are companies like Gap not utilizing this fan base to their benefit? Hopefully after the dust settles Gap will take a long, hard, look at their strategy and realize that they have a few holes to patch up.

After such a massive public relations fiasco, it seems safe to assume that Gap will lie low for a while and allow the story to bury itself in the news headlines. After all this I can’t help but wonder, will a new Gap logo ever meet consumer approval?

The Birth of Ping; Apple’s Social Network

Apple is no stranger to innovation so when Steve Jobs announced the creation of Ping, a social network for music lovers, people weren’t very surprised that he’d managed to do it again. Social networking has been a hot spot for brands and businesses alike to interact with consumers and potential consumers via multiple platforms that are built around a variety of different interests. However, what about bands and artists and people with a real passion for music? Apple saw an opportunity and seized it. Not only that, but they did so with such precision that only 48 hours after its debut, Ping had already acquired over one million registered users.

The social network, offered as part of the iTunes 10 update, allows users to create a profile with a photo and other personal information, and add friends and artists they appreciate. Once they’ve joined, users can specify which genres of music they prefer and see what friends and artists are listening to. Users can also post reviews on songs, albums or artists for everyone to see and link to them from their profiles. Ping not only allows an expansion of your musical library, but it also gives people the ability to interact through a shared passion for music.

Not every artist has jumped on the bandwagon but those who have are already establishing fan bases quickly. From the perspective of an average user, I can say that the reason I enjoy it so much is that I love discovering a new band or artist and completely emerging myself in their sound. If I can see what tunes Madonna is listening too, you better believe I’ll check them out. If I, as a fan, am interested in an artist’s music, I can bet I’ll also be interested in what that artist is listening to personally since there is no doubt that their musical choices influence their own sound to some extent.

Aside from the people who dived in early, there may be a few who are hesitant to share their musical library with the world, and for good reason! Who doesn’t have at least ONE embarrassing track on their iPod? I know I could name a few! Luckily for these people, Ping offers the option to display music you like on your profile, or not. As for privacy, Ping has kept it very simple. You’re either private or public. If you choose to remain public, anyone can follow you (similar to Twitter) without your permission and your profile photo and provided information will be accessible by anyone on the network. If you choose to remain private, no one can follow you but your name and photo will appear for some options such as writing reviews.

For the time being one of the biggest downfalls I’ve managed to spot is the horrendous “recommendations” Ping offers. Instead of tying this into iTunes’ Genius feature, Ping is simply pulling the top artists on the network which presents two problems; the recommendations are nowhere near the music I enjoy and Ping can only pull from which artists have signed up so if you’re favourite artist doesn’t have a profile, you’re out of luck, at least for the time being. Hopefully Apple will clue in and fix this issue in the future but for now it looks like I’ll be using the search bar a whole lot.

From what I can tell, Ping is just your average social network so far. There are many updates, changes and additions that need to be completed before Ping can rise to its ultimate potential. What it requires to be successful is not unattainable and knowing Apple’s track record, it should not be difficult to incorporate. Ping isn’t incredibly useful just yet but it has managed to lay a solid base for a future worldwide platform that has the potential to change the way people share music.

Windsor To “Vote Out Loud” For Fall Election

Politics don’t seem to be resonating with Windsorites and with a voting turnout of 38.2% at the last election in 2006 the numbers don’t lie. This year, in hopes of improving the turnout, the city has rolled out a campaign they call Vote Out Loud. This campaign is aimed directly at University and College students and young people in the city who don’t seem to be concerned about voting. Their plan was to create a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter in hopes of reaching these would-be voters. The plan will cost approximately $6,000 as the city intends to partner with merchants, educators, young entrepreneurs etc in order to entice these young people to become active in their own community and head to the polls for the next election this fall.

VOLVote Out Loud has a great website with candidate resources, merchandise and voting/ward details that makes navigating the election scene a little easier. Young Windsor entrepreneurs like Shane Potvin, Tom Lucier and Owen Wolter have all played a role in this concept. The young people who are consistently missing from the polls have no problem telling the world what they think or what they ate today on Facebook. It is the hope of the Vote Out Loud activists, that this Fall they may want to take that love of expression into the physical realm by voting and ultimately impacting the structure of city hall. As far as Blab is concerned, it’s about time social media made its way to the Windsor political scene! It’s great to see citizens coming together in an attempt to change the way people feel about voting with a catchy social campaign.

Aside from its implementation to Vote Out Loud, social media in general is an amazing political resource that would allow candidates to interact directly with the young generation that never shows up at the polls. There are 34 non-incumbent candidates running for council and most of them have adopted online and social media strategies to reach voters. Some candidates have Facebook pages where citizens can ask questions and express concerns, some have created groups to gather supporters and send mass messages about campaign details, and some have built websites to showcase their platform and let voters see the person behind the campaign. All these examples are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were just a few years ago.

At Blab we are very excited to see the changes taking place throughout the election campaign process. In the future we hope to see strong social media campaigns and creative incentives for Windsorites to join and participate in the online communities. There are a plethora of opportunities at the doorstep and as the years pass, it’s our belief that politicians will turn to this interactive and exciting medium to communicate with potential voters on a new level.

It’s disheartening that year after year so many Windsorites aren’t showing up to the polls and we can only hope that these new online strategies will attract a once ignored generation and entice them to vote and show some concern for the city they live in.

Advanced polls at Devonshire mall open October 9th and conclude at the WFCU Centre on October 16th. Anyone may attend the advanced polls ahead of the regular Election Day (October 25th).

The Social Network On The Big Screen

The much anticipated movie, The Social Network, hits theatres today across the country and while many are skeptical or simply not interested, at Blab we are extremely excited to see social media in the spotlight for once. When I was younger I used to joke about the fact that directors were running out of ideas for original films so they started using books and true stories and anything pre-established that they could get their hands on. Now with the age of social media upon us, Director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin have taken advantage of the hype surrounding Facebook and have placed Mark Zuckerberg’s life on the big screen.

The movie is based on Ben Mezrich’s 2009 non-fiction novel The Accidental Billionaires yet none of the Facebook staff or employees, including the founder Mark Zuckerberg, were involved with the project. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have much to say about the movie but he did comment state “I just wished that nobody made a movie of me while I was still alive.” He has also stated to Oprah Winfrey that the film is mostly fiction and that he was more hard working than his on-screen portrayal.

Filming began October 2009 in Cambridge, Massachusetts where two prep school campuses and Wheelock College were set up to look like Harvard. Ever since the filming of Love Story in 1970 that caused significant campus damage, Harvard has turned down most requests for on-location filming. According to the director, the first scene of the movie where Mark is with his girlfriend took an astonishing 99 takes to finish!

The movie begins in 2003 and follows Harvard sophomore and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg as he begins toying with the idea for a university version of Hot or Not. Inspired by his idea, Harvard classmates the Winklevoss twins begin helping Mark create “Harvard Connection”, an online community for Harvard students. Once established, Mark decides to perfect this idea and use it to create “The Facebook” which immediately becomes a campus success. Betrayed and enraged, his classmates bring him to Federal court on charges of intellectual property theft. The movie follows Mark in his journey to create the most popular website on the Internet while he burns bridges along the way.

The movie has received universal acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes, a popular online movie review website, reports that 97% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 54 reviews, with an average score of 9.5/10. What do the critics have to say? “Impeccably scripted, beautifully directed, and filled with fine performances, The Social Network is a riveting, ambitious example of modern filmmaking at its finest.”

At Blab, we are really excited to see The Social Network on the big screen, especially the story of how Facebook came to be. While older generations are likely to ignore the movie, it should be a huge hit with teenagers and middle –aged adults who engage with the website daily. From the trailer, it looks to be a very well directed film with an excellent cast (Jesse Eisenberg, and Justin Timberlake to name a few).

Watch the trailer, go see the movie and let us know what you think!