Thursday, April 8, 2010

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Socially Ambiguous Ethics on Social Media: aka "When is is justifiable to hack someone's Facebook?"

I'm no girl scout. I will never claim to be an angel. Yet when it comes to other people's privacy, I draw the line.

If I'm working with a client and they need to log in to something, I turn my head out of respect for that person. Not that I have any spare hours in the day to break into someone's email, mind you -- but the mere idea of invading a client's privacy is a no-go zone for me. I don't hack, don't want to learn to hack, and find it incredibly offensive for the rare individual to assume that all computer professionals are inherent hackers. I had this sweet little old lady neighbor, many years ago, who I helped on a daily basis, turn to me one day and tell me that her electricity got turned off because of some computer malfunction at the power company... and asked me if I hacked in to her account.

I choked on my tea. She was 84 years old and knew absolutely nothing about computers. She heard the power company say "computer malfunction" and immediately thought of the only person she knew that worked on computers; me. So I tried not to take offense at the question and calmly explained to her the reality of the situation.

Someone I know, in the last year, decided to blithely inform me that he was a spammer and could easily harvest all our emails and eat up our bandwidth, just for fun. That immediately rankled me and I let loose with both barrels -- this is not something I condone under any circumstances. His relative, in an effort to save face, scrambled to claim he was kidding. He did not. In fact, he didn't speak another word. That, to me, spoke volumes.

Now I'm faced with another ethical issue; the issue of social media. Is it ever ethical to hack into a friend or family member's profile, for the purpose of removing something you don't like?

Naturally, I say no. Apparently my moral compass appears to point true north more often that the ones that show up for church every sunday.

Hacking into ANYTHING is a moral minefield. We all know if you hack into a bank or a government institution, you're going to jail for a long time. Yet somehow, hacking into your friend's MySpace page is considered okay? Why, because there's no money involved, no national security to compromise?

I'm on Facebook. I take my privacy seriously. And if someone I know, decides to hack into another's profile, well, that does tremendous damage to my respect for that person. Trust is gone; it doesn't matter if it was my page or someone else's. But the only punishment for such an offense is banishment from Facebook. Big Deal. People that hack will just do it again -- I was proven right in this conclusion recently. They hack you, you change your password. They figure out your password, hack you again. They get banned from Facebook, but they come back under another name and do it again.

Being in this business, you hear all the horror stories -- and six months ago, a friend of mine on MySpace was hacked into by someone she thought was her best friend. This friend deleted things she didn't like (music, quotes, etc) and put things on the page that actually got my friend fired. She thought it was funny.

We're not talking about asking your best friend, roommate, sister, etc to log in for you because you're away from a computer and need to have something put up or taken down. That's not hacking. Hacking is when you go in, without permission, and do something that the owner did not ask you to do.

The next time you log in to that Twitter page, Facebook page, or MySpace.... consider how you would feel if your privacy was violated in such a way. If you knew who did it, and it was someone you trusted like a friend or family member, how would it make you feel? Would you consider the seriousness of what just happened, or would you try to shrug it off and simply change your password?

Think about it. Then tell me what you think the punishment for hacking social media should be.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Conficker Worm...

Well if you're reading this, you've managed to escape the stupid worm that was supposed to wreak havoc on machines today. The Conficker worm, as it's been named, has not taken hold as expected mainly because people have been on high alert -- meaning that many of you listened, updated your operating system, and woke up those antivirus programs.

Some of you even turned off your computers and refuse to turn them back on till tomorrow.

But regardless of what you did to protect yourself, just remember this; protection against viruses is not a "special occasion" event, it's a full time job. Conficker may not have been able to do too much today, but the idiots who created it may have decided to change the date of attack - or done some other modification to the worm. This worm does an E.T..... it "phones home" to get further instructions. Annoying, isn't it?

So stay on alert, keep that antivirus running, and as they used to say on Wayne's World, "Party On, Garth!"

Oh good lord, I just dated myself.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Worm April 1st

Some of you may have heard about the Conficker Worm scheduled to hit April 1 ( a few short hours); this is yet another warning that if you are one of those that don't have your antivirus or your Windows OS getting its updates, DO IT NOW.

I know that the excuse for some is that they had gotten an update at some point that "screwed up their computer" and they've vowed to never get windows updates again, but this is a dangerous practice. You need your updates. Even if you know it will conflict with that game of yours you absolutely have to play... GET THE DANG UPDATES, FOLKS.

What would you rather have -- the inability to play a game for a couple of days, or your entire computer infected and the contents lost?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Afternoon...

Yesterday I came to the conclusion that my clients who have online shopping are in need of help -- and I think I have the answer. See, if you have a shopping system and a product to sell, someone ends up having to take the pictures, edit the pictures, take down product information and prices, and load all that stuff up into the shopping system.

It takes some time to do that. And if you hire someone like your web designer to do that, it's going to cost quite a bit. Since most webdesigners charge between $50-$100 an hour, it would tend to make the task of loading up your shopping system quite expensive.

Here's the big question... if you were given the option of having someone from our service that could put the products in the system for you -- and all you had to do was provide a list of products and prices -- at under $15 an hour, would it be worth it to you?

Fire up those emails, folks. If there is interest in this service, I will be hiring and training to provide it. Speak now, or forever hold your peace!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Economy and Your Website

Do you have a small business? Are you trying to start a business? Well in this current economy, the whole proposition can be made easier by making sure you have a website -- one that establishes your presence on the web, one that can be found in the search engines.

Compared to what other advertising and marketing costs, websites can be remarkably cheap. For example, I've been trying to come up with packages for people who are truly struggling to find a way to get online with a minimal amount of money -- and one of the cheapest ones I could come up with is my E-Business Card site, a concept I came up with about 10 years ago while building up the city website of a small coastal town.

The E-Business Card site is $199 to set up and $4 a month. It's a single-page site, which features your basic services, contact information, logo and 2-3 pictures of product or store. The cost includes your domain for the first year, and every year after that, your domain is just $15 per year.

Compare that to advertising in your local paper. The last time I tried to place an ad in the local paper, they wanted to charge me $299 a MONTH.

So if you're looking for a way to get exposure quickly and inexpensively, the E-Business Card site is the way to go.

Now, we all know everyone's cutting corners and looking to trim costs. Most people that know me, even just a little, know I charge some of the lowest fees in the business. They generally appreciate that little aspect of me that pretty much assures I'll never get rich.

When a website is built, there is always the initial build -- the setup fee. This is the most expenisve part of your website, but at WitzEnd Consulting we try to make this easier to handle in this uncertain economy. You need just 50% down to start the site and the remainder in 30 days, billed easily to your credit card.

Here it is, in a nutshell: the average custom website costs anywhere from $1500 to $3000, depending on content. (we're assuming no "membership sites", anything with databases, flash, etc). A template site, about half that. (and you update it yourself)

The hosting of the website is the second cheapest part of the whole website. (only the domain itself is cheaper). The economy hosting at WitzEnd Consulting is $90 a year (we will let you know when estimating your site, what type of hosting you will need).

Recurring costs for a website are always a) hosting, b) domain renewal, and c) updates done by your web designer. Even with a template site, where the client does the majority of the updates themselves, a web designer can help you out by making some of the "hard stuff" like emailable forms and flash enhancements. You control how much you spend; any good web designer will tell you in advance what the charge would be and wait for you to approve the charge before the work is done.

Moral of the story; the build of the site is your biggest investment. Talk to your web designer if you have questions or need help. If we don't know you're confused or are having trouble updating, we can't help you. And we want your website to be a positive experience.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Has it really been that long?

Yes folks, she's back.

True to the old adage that it's the roofer's house that's always got the loose shingles, my website is always low man on the totem pole in the WitzEnd World. But it finally got its due, this month.

New stuff is UP!

And more is coming. Although I've wanted and planned to upgrade for some time, part of this was motivated (and definitely pushed by) new Flash classes I was teaching. It seemed a little silly that here I was scheduled to teach Flash and I still hadn't even finished the flash I was planning for my own site. So sad!

But hey, I did it! Or at least got a large chunk of it up... keep checking back. I have a whole new section coming that may surprise some of you (but not all of you who know what I used to do prior to morphing into a computer geek!). It's major.

And as is the norm for a little brown geek on a Sunday night, approaching midnight... I'm working on more stuff.

Just keep checking back. Trust me. :)