Stop Censorship: Protest SOPA/ PIPA

Many websites are blacked out today to protest the proposed U.S. legislation that threatens internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

While I do not support piracy, SOPA, as it is written, won’t shut down pirate sites. Instead, these sites will simply change their IP address and continue their criminal activities, while law-abiding companies will suffer penalties for breaches they were unaware of.

If these bills are passed, the U.S. government could order websites to be blocked using similar methods to those employed in China. Entire websites would be deleted from search results. This is not just inconvenient, it’s censorship. As an avid reader, writer, a journalist, a blogger, and a social media user, I do not support censorship in any way, shape, or form.

Please do your part to stop censorship by writing to your congressperson and tell him/her to oppose SOPA and PIPA. Not only am I against this act, but Facebook, Wikipedia, WordPress, Google, Twitpic, Mozilla, Zynga, LinkedIn, and other internet “giants” oppose this act. Hell, even the White House/Obama administration is against it as it is currently written.

Amy’s Bookshelf will be blacked out on January 18, 2012 from 8:00 AM- 8:00 PM EST (or 5:00 AM- 5:00 PM for all of my fellow West Coasters).

Please write to your congressperson and ask him/her to oppose these acts.

Twitter Tuesday: What’s a Hashtag?

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When I try to explain Twitter, hashtags always baffle people. So I thought, “What a great idea for a Twitter Tuesday post.” Hashtags are such an important aspect of this social network, especially if you want to get serious about Twitter. If you have no idea what a hashtag is, or the concept evades you, read on!

WHAT IS A HASHTAG?
Simply put, a hashtag is a keyword. It is often preceded by the number sign (#hashtag). Sometimes, memes will go around Twitter using these hashtags (#tweetyour16yearoldself comes to mind). Hashtags can be used to find people talking about a particular topic. For example, if you want to connect with people in #Eugene, you can search for that hashtag. I had a public relations course at the University of Oregon where the professor assigned the class a hashtag and we could tweet her our questions. Other students could also chime in on the conversation.

If enough people use a hashtag, it can become a trending topic. When this happens, it will show up on the righthand side of the Twitter homepage under the trending topic list.

The point is, if you want to connect with people on Twitter, you need to use hashtags.

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Do you have anything to add about hashtags? Let me know in the comments below. Also, feel free to ask me your Twitter questions.

Post a Day 2011

Have you heard about Post a Day 2011? It’s a WordPress challenge to post every single day for 2011. Obviously, I missed the boat by not starting on January 1st. However, I want to start posting regularly on this blog again, and what better way than this? So I will justify it this way: I will have 365 posts completed in 2011 by the end of the year under the category “Post a Day 2011.”

I contemplated starting a new blog for this project, but I opted to do it on this blog for a couple of reasons. This is my main blog, and I would hate to abandon it for this project. I also want some of the posts to be about books and social media, which would be posted on this blog. Lastly, the main purpose of this project is for me to become a better writer. The only way to get better is to practice. I blog every day for work, but that’s a specific type of blogging. This is my chance to have fun with it.

So I should probably start writing those blog entries, huh?

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Are you doing this challenge too? Post your blog link below so I can follow you!

Facebook Friday: 2010 Status Trends

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On Tuesday, I posted Twitter trends for 2010, so for Facebook Friday I thought I’d give you the 2010 Facebook status trends. This information is courtesy of the Facebook blog. The comments on the trends are all mine.

  1. HMU
    • This apparently stands for “hit me up.” To be honest, I have never seen someone use it. Have you?
  2. World Cup
    • Self-explanatory, though I don’t follow soccer (“football” for all of you non-Americans).
  3. Movies
    • Specifically, Alice in Wonderland, Inception, Toy Story 3, Eclipse, and Iron Man 2. Why isn’t Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on this list?
  4. iPad and iPhone 4
    • I kind of want both of these.
  5. Haiti
    • The earthquake in January.
  6. Justin Bieber
    • Let me just say it . . .  what’s with Justin Bieber anyway?
  7. Games on Facebook
    • I don’t play any . . .  I should probably see what they’re like, but I don’t have the time!
  8. Miners
    • The Chilean miners.
  9. Airplanes
    • Because of that song . . . “Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? I could really use a wish right now . . .”
  10. 2011
    • What, this was used more than 2010?

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What were your top statuses for 2010? Let me know in the comments below!

What You Should Know About Spam

Today I want to talk to you about spam. I’ve been getting a lot more of it than usual lately, so I did some research on it.

AKISMET

Free WordPress blogs—like mine—use a service called Akismet. Askimet uses a filter that automatically detects trackbacks and spam comments. It can mark legitimate comments as spam, so check your folder at least every 15 days (as this is when the spam is deleted).



WHAT DOES A SPAM COMMENT LOOK LIKE?

Spam comments will often have multiple links in the text. However, my most popular type of spam comment appears to be innocent at first—like this:
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At first glance, this seems great. But when I dive in deeper, I notice the red flags—namely the website and the IP address. Spammers will post comments like this to get people to click on their link and to



HOW DO I CHECK FOR SPAM?

I make an effort to read through and look at every comment on my blog. When I get spam messages, I look at the name, website, comment, and IP address. Spammers will often leave multiple comments under different names from the same IP address. If I see that, I skim the messages and delete them.

If I am not sure about a comment, I will check the website to see if it looks legitimate. If the comment looks okay, but I don’t like the website, I will delete the site but leave the comment. Other than that (and possibly editing out bad words), I do not change the content of the comment.



HOW TO NOT GET MARKED AS SPAM

  • Leave a comment related to the post. General comments about the blog are better emailed to me at amy@amyerickson.net or placed on one of my pages.
  • Link to a real website, blog, or Twitter account. This way I can see if you’re a real person. Most spammers link to a pharmaceutical site or something similar.
  • Email or tweet me if you are concerned. This extra step will go a long way in proving that your comment is legitimate.

Of course, I will keep looking over my spam, so don’t worry too much.


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How many spam messages do you get on your blog? Let me know in the comments below.

Twitter Tuesday: 2010 Trends

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Twitter can be a powerful tool for communication.

The site recently released a list of its top trends and tweets for 2010. This information is all courtesy of Twitter and can be found here. The things in this color are items that I remember tweeting about.


Overall Top Twitter Trends for 2010

  1. Gulf Oil Spill
  2. FIFA World Cup
  3. Inception
  4. Haiti Earthquake
  5. Vuvuzela
  6. Apple iPad
  7. Google Android
  8. Justin Bieber
  9. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
  10. Pulpo Paul

10 Most Powerful Tweets of 2010

1.


2.


3.


4.


5.


6.


7.


8.
http://twitter.com/#!/foster208/status/29551172941
9.


10.

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What are your top trends or tweets for 2010? Let me know in the comments below!

Twitter Tuesday: Retweeting

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WHAT’S A RETWEET?

If you actively use Twitter, then you already know the answer to this question. But if you’re just starting out and trying to learn the lingo, read on.

A retweet is when a tweet is reposted by another person (giving the original poster credit). The term retweet is often abbreviated to RT. There are two kinds of retweets, an “Old-Style Retweet” and a “New-Style Retweet.”

 

“OLD-STYLE RETWEET”

The “Old-Style Retweet” allows you to edit a tweet before sending. It looks like this:

Please note how you can add a comment to the tweet before sending. Some Twitter clients will post retweets like this:

This is actually a retweet of a retweet. Note the (via @username) at the end of the tweet, as that is what I was trying to show.

 

“NEW-STYLE RETWEET”

The “New-Style Retweet” does not allow you to edit a tweet before sending. It looks like this:

It’s faster, cleaner, and looks almost exactly like the original tweet. The downside is that you can’t comment on what you post. Because the tweet doesn’t add the @username or via @username, the it contains less characters than the old-style retweet.

 

WHICH ONE DO I LIKE BETTER?

They both have their advantages and disadvantages. I have the old-style retweet set as the default on TweetDeck because I like to comment on a tweet before sending it. The new-style retweet does have its advantages, and I will use it when it makes sense to (for example, when reposting a long tweet).

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF RETWEETING

  1. It helps you feel involved in the community.
  2. You can communicate with other users. Most will appreciate having something retweeted.
  3. It spreads the word about a link, post, comment, etc . . .
  4. Others might return the favor.

So start retweeting! The Twitter website and many applications have easy-to-use retweeting buttons.

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Do you feel that retweeting is important? Let me know in the comments below. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @amye_

My Opinion On: Google eBookstore

Please note that I actually wrote this article a few days ago, so when the store launched, I had to change some things around. As it is more of an opinion piece than anything, I feel that my original post is still valid.

Google eBooks (formally Google Editions), an online bookstore, launched today in the United States.

Google Editions will have a significantly different sales model from most competitors, such as Amazon’s Kindle store or Apple’s iBookStore. Instead of purchasing books through a single online store, Google will let users buy them either from Google or from independent bookstores and then tie them to a Google account, which will enable them to read the books anywhere and on any device they please.

via Google’s Book Store Is Coming Soon [REPORT].

I like the ability to purchase books through several stores and read them anywhere, but what happens if you get locked out of your Google account for some reason?

As much as I love technology, I don’t know if it can replace the physical book for me. I like the way books look on a bookshelf, I like the way they feel, I even like the way they smell. You don’t have to depend on a battery, and it’s easy to share them with friends. If I traveled more, I’d consider reading more books digitally. But for now? I think I’ll sit back and keep an eye on how they’re evolving.

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What do you think about digital books? Are you excited about Google’s eBooks? Let me know in the comments below.

Facebook Friday: Cartoon Profile Pictures

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Were you wondering why your friend looks like a cartoon character all of the sudden? There’s a new meme going around Facebook, where people change their profile picture to match their favorite childhood cartoon.

One of my friends posted this as an invitation:

Change your Facebook profile picture to a favorite cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday (Dec.6) there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. It’s for a good cause.

Another posted this:

Change your FB profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal is not to see a human face on FB till Monday, December 6th. Join the fight against child abuse, copy & paste to your status to invite your friends to do the same!

Now it’s an interesting enough concept on its own, but why are people doing it?

It apparently began in Greece and Cyprus to support a campaign against violence on children. This campaign started on November 16th and will end on December 6th. The United Nations is also running a campaign to fight violence against women and children; it runs from November 25th to December 10th.

I absolutely think this is a good cause, but I fail to see how this meme will do anything significant. Here’s why:

  • I have many Facebook friends who have posted cartoon pictures as their profile picture. Only two have posted an explanation in their status, and only one mentioned the fight against child abuse. They just want to play the game.
  • Awareness is good, but does this cause people to go out there and support a cause? I think a better way to raise awareness would be to post hotlines and websites where abused children can find help.

So instead of posting pictures of my favorite childhood cartoons (incidentally, Doug or Inspector Gadget), I’m going to take my own advice and give some links and hotlines.

If you suspect child abuse, or are being abused yourself, please call a hotline.

  • Childhelp.org is the leading national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Check out their website for more information.
    If you are in the U.S.A., Canada, or U.S. Territories, call:
    1-800-4-A-CHILD (or 1-800-422-4453)

If you know an organization that I missed, or the hotline for any other country, let me know and I will add it on.

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Ramblings of a Writer: December, Patch.com, Spam

In case you didn’t know, these “Ramblings of a Writer” posts are basically just updates on my life, or (quite literally) me rambling about writing. I will occasionally post news about this blog—either things I’m thinking about doing, or concerns I have. If you find these casual posts or my life interesting, feel free to check out my Tumblr.

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First of all, happy December! Now is the time to break out the holiday music and all that fun stuff. I’ve already finished my Christmas shopping, but I’ll be helping my mother and grandmother with theirs.

I’m doing some freelance writing for Patch.com. They’re owned by AOL and run local websites for cities across the United States. I’m covering several cities in Orange County, including Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Corona del Mar, and San Juan Capistrano. If you go to my Patch.com profile, you can see everything I’ve written for them.

Now onto the reason why I decided to write this post: Spam.

For some reason, almost every comment on my blog has been marked as spam. It appears that all of my comments from countries other than the U.S. automatically go into spam, which is horrible because I get excited when I receive comments, especially from another country! I am doing everything I can to fix it, but I’m rather limited because this is a free WordPress account and I can only change so many things. If your comment does get marked as spam, don’t worry—I will manually go through everything flagged as spam at least once a day until the problem is fixed. If you have any advice for me on this topic, or concerns, please let me know!

Thank you so much for reading!

~Amy