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Barbara Larson

Barbara Larson

Monday, 11 July 2016 17:43

The ABC of Google Quick Answers

Google is increasing the number of queries that receive a Google Quick Answer box. The number of results that had an answer box went from just over 20% in December 2014 to more than 30% in May 2016.*Brands that wish to maintain a strong digital presence need to make sure their website is well represented within these rich answers.

Answer boxes provide users with scannable, easy-to-digest answers at the top of the search results so that users can find the information they seek without having to click off to another website.These answer boxes are pulled from high-ranking websites that Google trusts to provide users with the correct response. They appear most frequently in response to question queries, such as those beginning with ‘what is’ or ‘how to’.

As they become increasingly significant on SERPs, companies who are not optimized to receive Quick Answers have a good chance of falling behind and losing ground to others in their industry.

How do Google Quick Answers impact brands?

When Quick Answers first appeared, many site owners became nervous about the potential implications for site traffic. With the answer to many queries appearing right at the top of the page, users would theoretically lose their motivation to click through to the websites.

Some sites found this to be true. Wikipedia, for example, saw a drop in traffic that many attributed to the growth of Quick Answers. This is likely because the domain specializes in providing people with the type of rapid response that many can now receive right on the SERP.

However many business websites started to see tremendously positive results.

It is important to remember that Quick Answers are not just taken from results in position 1 on the SERP. The can come from any result on the page, although the majority come from the top 5 results.This means however that sites ranked in position 3 or 4 can receive an answer box and suddenly be front and centre on the page, without even earning the top ranking spot. This draws the user’s attention to this result and can have a very positive impact on site success.

Adobe, for example, benefited from a 17% incremental lift on topics on which it has secured the Quick Answer box. The results contributed to millions of additional visitors to Adobe.com.Kirill Kronrod at Adobe reported that within the sub-set of 2,000 How-To phrases, 60% produced Quick Answers, contributing to 84% share of voice with Quick Answer boxes for the main site and 98% including supporting sites.

Quick Answers help Google improve the user experience, and your brand needs to optimize to remain relevant.

The ABCs of succeeding with Google Quick Answers

quick answers

A) Understand the four key factors that matter for Quick Answers

Although there is no concrete formula that brands have to meet before they will receive a Quick Answer, there are a few commonalities that sites which earn the answer box tend to have.

Sites have over 1,000 referring domains
Pages rank in the top 5
Pages are less than 2,000 words
Pages have strong user engagement
All of these factors demonstrate to Google that you have a site appreciated by users and that offers value to readers. These factors show that you offer an authoritative resource, making you appealing to Google.

B) Find the best opportunities to explore

It is important to find opportunities where you have a reasonable chance of gaining an answer box.Since only one site can have it at a time, you need to have the domain authority and response needed to make your page stand out. SEO software can be an enormous asset in this quest.

You can research which keywords have high traffic and which ones already have Quick Answers. If the keyword already has a Quick Answer, you will need to investigate the page to see if you can outperform it.

If it does not, then you can see if an answer box would be the optimal display for the user. Make sure that the pages you select to optimize for the Quick Answers will lend themselves easily to you fulfilling the four key factors.

C) Optimize your site for the answer box

On-page optimization: you will need to follow on-page optimization best practices to improve the ranking of your site. These will include using your target keyword in titles and headings, linking to other pages in your site, and making your page more engaging with images and other rich media.

Remember that Google wants to be able to pull the answer quickly from your text, so include the answer to the target question in the first paragraph and use lists and bullets – which are appealing both for users and search engines – where possible.

Off-page optimization: you want to focus on cultivating backlinks, so look for opportunities to write guest posts to bring links to your site. It is also important to develop a thorough content distribution system that will attract attention to your content.

When people are exposed to your content and it provides them with value, they become more likely to share it with others and link back to it themselves. For off-page optimization, you also want to submit pages to Google Search Console to maximize visibility.

Technical optimization: use schema markup to increase visibility for your site. Schema was developed as means of providing search engines with an optimal look at your site. It will help the search engines quickly interpret your material, which will aid Google in its quest to quickly pull answers from websites.

Of course, your pages should also be optimized for mobile, since not being mobile-friendly can hurt sites in the SERPs and hinder the user experience. Also include your page in your XML sitemap to ensure that Google can easily find and interpret the material.

Google Quick Answers offer users an improved user experience, making them popular with the search engine. To remain relevant for customers, you need to follow these ABCs and ensure your site is optimized to provide the answer box for the key terms that are important for your business. For more information, check out our Quick Answers pdf guide.

Source:  https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/07/05/the-abc-of-google-quick-answers/

Venture capitalist Jim Breyer knows a bit about the next big tech revolution. He backed Facebook when it was just a baby in 2005. The social network is now worth over $326 billion.

So where should you be putting your money next? Into artificial intelligence, according to Breyer, an area which will create more wealth than that made for internet and social network investors.

Breyer expects artificial intelligence to transform content and the film entertainment business."

"Ten years from now, it will have even more significant wealth creation, stockholder appreciation opportunities, than what I believe we saw in social networks in 2005 and internet investing in 1995," Breyer told an audience at the Viva Technology conference in Paris on Thursday.

Breyer was a former board member of Facebook and is still a significant shareholder. Through his firm Breyer Capital, he has also invested in a number of other companies including music streaming service Spotify and movie production start-up Legendary Entertainment, which was recently acquired by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda for $3.5 billion.

At Legendary Entertainment, Breyer said he saw the use of artificial intelligence which has the potential to revolutionize the industry. Legendary Entertainment was behind the blockbuster movie "Interstellar" and Breyer explained how artificial intelligence was used to get the trailer right.

"We applied statistics, machine learning, and a small group of data developers to analyze how that first trailer of Interstellar was received on Facebook, Instagram and other social networks. We then used that data to inform us on how that second trailer should look and the final trailer," Breyer said.

"What really mattered for us, how many theaters should we open in, where should we open, how should we market, and where a 150 million (dollars) might be used typically for a marketing budget for a film, narrowing that down to perhaps 100 million (dollars), and using advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, human-assisted learning, with the data...it's far less costly, fare more effective."

The technology will also be used to inform casting decisions, budgets, and other aspects of making a movie Breyer said, who predicted that the movie industry will be "revolutionized by artificial intelligence".

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/01/ai-will-be-a-bigger-than-social-networks-internet-early-facebook-backer.html

With tons of new content published online every day and our attention spans shrinking by the day (or minute), having a firm understanding of the individuals you're trying to reach is increasingly vital to a business's existence. New research and tracking trends are popping up all over but this is what you should get used to in 2016:

It's all mobile.

Everything and everyone is mobile. Your research, analytics and marketing must be, too. Emily Culp of Keds stated in a recent interview that consumers look at their phones 150 times a day. Pew Research recently jumped on board with mobile surveys, increasing the percentage of their telephone surveys conducted via mobile to 75%. It was only 25% back in 2008. Which makes sense because as of 2014, 44% of Americans lived in households with no landline, so researchers were missing a huge portion of the population by surveying people with landline phones.

Your business, your content and your research needs to be mobile friendly. How long are customers spending looking at your page? Are they using an app or visiting your mobile site through Chrome or Safari? Do they first check social before beginning their shopping? Most of their activity will occur on their mobile device.

Track the decision-making process.

The consumer experience does not begin when someone enters your store or visits your website. As I mentioned above, so much of their activity is on their mobile device and their likely chatting with friends, visiting your social channels and those of influencers well before they get to the business's site. It's crucial to understand all the steps and see where most of your audience is spending their time prior to a purchase.

"The way you present your content, value proposition and call to action will have a big impact on the decision-making process and whether your users will convert," says Darryl Stevens founder & CEO of digiTech Web Design. "I recommend that you get to know your customer from a deeper perspective. There is a treasure trove of data that you can glean from each user action, interaction and decision, both within your website and on other touch points. You can use these to optimize your design and content for better performance."

Time is measured in nanoseconds.

Attention spans are short and getting shorter. Marketing must match that pace. Short videos, flashy photos, and quick reads get and keep attention. If you take too long to reel in the customer, they've moved on to a new site, new feed or new app.

Similarly, if a message doesn't work, you must adjust quickly and seamlessly. There is very little time to go all the way back to the drawing board. A-B testing and having backup options for each campaign is the only way to keep those potential customers. "Understanding what you have learned in the past is critical so you can re-apply and synthesize those learnings quickly so not only making faster adjustments but better decisions" says Kristi Zuhlke, CEO and Co-Founder of KnowledgeHound, a technology that enables market research and marketing organizations curate, search and analyze their market research within seconds. Stay on top of the analytics and be checking your progress far more frequently than a quarterly or monthly basis. If you wait that long, you've already lost too many people and you won't be able to win them back.

It's always worth noting that the core principles of marketing haven't changed. You still need to offer a product people want or need at a price they're willing to pay. However, place and promotion have consistently evolved to mean mobile and online engagement. Remember, people will read and engage with content that is interesting and relevant to them. Sometimes that content is your marketing.

Source:  http://www.inc.com/adam-fridman/how-market-research-is-changing-in-2016.html

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 11:47

Google: Dare to Daydream

Google's Cardboard has proved to the masses that virtual reality is more than a pipe dream. Inexpensive cardboard headsets leverage smartphones to create makeshift head-mounted displays for low-level VR experiences.

For those whose fancies of owning a US$600 Rift or a $900 Vive were out of reach, Cardboard was a way to keep their imaginations captive while Google was dreaming of Daydream.

Coming two full Google I/O developer conferences after the introduction of Cardboard, Daydream gathers novel and nebulous ideas surrounding mobile VR into a cohesive ecosystem that someday could be a star.

Twinkle, Twinkle

Daydream builds on the Cardboard concept.

On the software side, Daydream and its VR tools will be baked into the upcoming Android N. Users will have the ability to switch between a traditional user interface and VR mode.

With Cardboard's cogs still in place -- things like VR versions of Street View and YouTube -- Daydream will arrive with a healthy amount of content. Further, Daydream-compatible apps from CNN, HBO Now, MLB.com, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Hulu, Netflix and IMAX are headed to the platform.

As for as hardware, Google has given top device manufacturers standards for developing Daydream-ready smartphones and headsets to hold them. Vendors selling the headsets will be required to package them with the Daydream remote control.

Nodding Off

Quietly, Google has been conquering the VR industry.While most of the press has gone to the high-end headsets, such as the Rift and PS VR, Cardboard has become the world's most successful VR platform.

Cardboard app downloads have surpassed the 50 million mark, Clay Bavor, head of VR at Google, said during Google's I/O 2016 developers conference last month.Those numbers are telling. Ultimately, Google has been looking to solve one of VR's most fundamental problems, suggested Abi Mandelbaum, CEO of YouVisit.

"While high-end developers like Oculus and HTC have worked to create headsets that provide highly immersive experiences, these pieces of hardware are very much unavailable to the general population due to their price tag and additional computer power needed to support them," he told TechNewsWorld.

As a result of its approximately $30-tall barrier to entry, Google's Cardboard platform has been a free-for-all to some degree, and its VR experiences are among the most basic of those on the market.

While hopes were high for a standalone headset to follow Cardboard, Google decided to make VR native to the phone, noted Marxent CTO Barry Besecker.

Google is "betting that mobile will be the key to VR proliferation, vs. desktop or console-based hardware like Oculus," he told TechNewsWorld.

Lucid Dreaming

Along with setting standards for Daydream hardware, Google will work to further establish itself in the VR market on the software side.

Through Daydream, "Google is helping to close another massive hole within the VR industry -- that is, the gap between the growing number of devices to view VR experiences and the limited amount of immersive content available to consumers," said YouVisit's Mandelbaum.

Google has kept consumers from nodding off while some awaited the release of the high-end headsets and others still await the affordability VR's second generation likely will bring.That said, even though Google's VR efforts have held the attention of the masses, it's premature to consider them a success, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

If Google sees Daydream through, the company's sheer scale and resources might help it claim ownership of the market-- but Google has developed a reputation for failing to follow through, he told TechNewsWorld.

"Daydream VR appears to be the new strategic direction for Google VR," Enderle said, but "be aware that Google has the attention span of a small child on sugar, so how long this will remain 'strategic' will likely be measured in months."

Waking Up

The noise Google has kept up with its VR initiatives may have kept consumers from falling asleep, but it also might be waking up the company's rivals. OnePlus, HTC and LG have gotten a relatively early start before VR rush hour arrives.

One Google rival might be sleeping in, though -- unless Apple is keeping long hours in a lab somewhere working on its own VR products, which is entirely possible, according to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

"Microsoft is betting on HoloLens, and we still have to see what's up with Apple," he told TechNewsWorld. "Often Apple comes a little bit later than the others, but then they do it a lot better. I think that's the game plan here."If Daydream is everything Google hopes it will be, Apple could start to hear murmurs from its following if it doesn't come up with an answering volley.

While Cardboard eventually grew beyond Android to support iOS, Daydream is native to Google's mobile operating system.That could be risky, suggested Google may need to find away to support other platforms or it risks making the same mistake as Oculus and Samsung did, according to YouVisit's Mandelbaum.

Samsung's Gear VR, powered by Oculus -- a platform much like what Daydream wants to be when it grows up -- arrived with a built-in ceiling. Gear VR is compatible with just four Samsung handsets, he pointed out.

"In order to be successful in offering universal access and driving both viewership and creation," Mandelbaum said, "Google will need to shift to a more device-agnostic strategy that allows consumers access, regardless of their technology or location."

Source:  http://www.technewsworld.com/story/83620.html?rss=1

Tuesday, 21 June 2016 14:00

ETHICS IN INTERNET

1. “Today's revolution in social communications involves a fundamental reshaping of the elements by which people comprehend the world about them, and verify and express what they comprehend. The constant availability of images and ideas, and their rapid transmission even from continent to continent, have profound consequences, both positive and negative, for the psychological, moral and social development of persons, the structure and functioning of societies, intercultural communications, and the perception and transmission of values, world views, ideologies, and religious beliefs”.

The truth of these words has become clearer than ever during the past decade. Today it takes no great stretch of the imagination to envisage the earth as an interconnected globe humming with electronic transmissions—a chattering planet nestled in the provident silence of space. The ethical question is whether this is contributing to authentic human development and helping individuals and peoples to be true to their transcendent destiny.

And, of course, in many ways the answer is yes. The new media are powerful tools for education and cultural enrichment, for commercial activity and political participation, for intercultural dialogue and understanding; and, as we point out in the document that accompanies this one,2 they also can serve the cause of religion. Yet this coin has another side. Media of communication that can be used for the good of persons and communities can be used to exploit, manipulate, dominate, and corrupt.

2. The Internet is the latest and in many respects most powerful in a line of media—telegraph, telephone, radio, television—that for many people have progressively eliminated time and space as obstacles to communication during the last century and a half. It has enormous consequences for individuals, nations, and the world.

In this document we wish to set out a Catholic view of the Internet, as a starting point for the Church's participation in dialogue with other sectors of society, especially other religious groups, concerning the development and use of this marvelous technological instrument. The Internet is being put to many good uses now, with the promise of many more, but much harm also can be done by its improper use. Which it will be, good or harm, is largely a matter of choice—a choice to whose making the Church brings two elements of great importance: her commitment to the dignity of the human person and her long tradition of moral wisdom.

3. As with other media, the person and the community of persons are central to ethical evaluation of the Internet. In regard to the message communicated, the process of communicating, and structural and systemic issues in communication, “the fundamental ethical principle is this: The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons”.

The common good—“the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily”5—provides a second basic principle for ethical evaluation of social communications. It should be understood inclusively, as the whole of those worthy purposes to which a community's members commit themselves together and which the community exists to realize and sustain. The good of individuals depends upon the common good of their communities.

The virtue disposing people to protect and promote the common good is solidarity. It is not a feeling of “vague compassion or shallow distress” at other people's troubles, but “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all”.6 Especially today solidarity has a clear, strong international dimension; it is correct to speak of, and obligatory to work for, the international common good.

4. The international common good, the virtue of solidarity, the revolution in communications media and information technology, and the Internet are all relevant to the process of globalization.

To a great extent, the new technology drives and supports globalization, creating a situation in which “commerce and communications are no longer bound by borders”.7 This has immensely important consequences. Globalization can increase wealth and foster development; it offers advantages like “efficiency and increased production... greater unity among peoples... a better service to the human family”.8 But the benefits have not been evenly shared up to now. Some individuals, commercial enterprises, and countries have grown enormously wealthy while others have fallen behind. Whole nations have been excluded almost entirely from the process, denied a place in the new world taking shape. “Globalization, which has profoundly transformed economic systems by creating unexpected possibilities of growth, has also resulted in many people being relegated to the side of the road: unemployment in the more developed countries and extreme poverty in too many countries of the Southern Hemisphere continue to hold millions of women and men back from progress and prosperity”.

It is by no means clear that even societies that have entered into the globalization process have done so entirely as a matter of free, informed choice. Instead, “many people, especially the disadvantaged, experience this as something that has been forced upon them rather than as a process in which they can actively participate”.

In many parts of the world, globalization is spurring rapid, sweeping social change. This is not just an economic process but a cultural one, with both positive and negative aspects. “Those who are subjected to it often see globalization as a destructive flood threatening the social norms which had protected them and the cultural points of reference which had given them direction in life....Changes in technology and work relationships are moving too quickly for cultures to respond”.

5. One major consequence of the deregulation of recent years has been a shift of power from national states to transnational corporations. It is important that these corporations be encouraged and helped to use their power for the good of humanity; and this points to a need for more communication and dialogue between them and concerned bodies like the Church.

Use of the new information technology and the Internet needs to be informed and guided by a resolute commitment to the practice of solidarity in the service of the common good, within and among nations. This technology can be a means for solving human problems, promoting the integral development of persons, creating a world governed by justice and peace and love. Now, even more than when the Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communications Communio et Progressio made the point more than thirty years ago, media have the ability to make every person everywhere “a partner in the business of the human race”.

This is an astonishing vision. The Internet can help make it real—for individuals, groups, nations, and the human race—only if it is used in light of clear, sound ethical principles, especially the virtue of solidarity. To do so will be to everyone's advantage, for “we know one thing today more than in the past: we will never be happy and at peace without one another, much less if some are against others”.13 This will be an expression of that spirituality of communion which implies “the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God,” along with the ability “to ‘make room' for our brothers and sisters, bearing ‘each other's burdens' (Gal. 6, 2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us”.

6. The spread of the Internet also raises a number of other ethical questions about matters like privacy, the security and confidentiality of data, copyright and intellectual property law, pornography, hate sites, the dissemination of rumor and character assassination under the guise of news, and much else. We shall speak briefly about some of these things below, while recognizing that they call for continued analysis and discussion by all concerned parties. Fundamentally, though, we do not view the Internet only as a source of problems; we see it as a source of benefits to the human race. But the benefits can be fully realized only if the problems are solved.

ABOUT THE INTERNET

7. The Internet has a number of striking features. It is instantaneous, immediate, worldwide, decentralized, interactive, endlessly expandable in contents and outreach, flexible and adaptable to a remarkable degree. It is egalitarian, in the sense that anyone with the necessary equipment and modest technical skill can be an active presence in cyberspace, declare his or her message to the world, and demand a hearing. It allows individuals to indulge in anonymity, role-playing, and fantasizing and also to enter into community with others and engage in sharing. According to users' tastes, it lends itself equally well to active participation and to passive absorption into “a narcissistic, self-referential world of stimuli with near-narcotic effects”.15 It can be used to break down the isolation of individuals and groups or to deepen it.

8. The technological configuration underlying the Internet has a considerable bearing on its ethical aspects: People have tended to use it according to the way it was designed, and to design it to suit that kind of use. This ‘new' system in fact dates back to the cold war years of the 1960s, when it was intended to foil nuclear attack by creating a decentralized network of computers holding vital data. Decentralization was the key to the scheme, since in this way, so it was reasoned, the loss of one or even many computers would not mean the loss of the data.

An idealistic vision of the free exchange of information and ideas has played a praiseworthy part in the development of the Internet. Yet its decentralized configuration and the similarly decentralized design of the World Wide Web of the late 1980s also proved to be congenial to a mindset opposed to anything smacking of legitimate regulation for public responsibility. An exaggerated individualism regarding the Internet thus emerged. Here, it was said, was a new realm, the marvelous land of cyberspace, where every sort of expression was allowed and the only law was total individual liberty to do as one pleased. Of course this meant that the only community whose rights and interests would be truly recognized in cyberspace was the community of radical libertarians. This way of thinking remains influential in some circles, supported by familiar libertarian arguments also used to defend pornography and violence in the media generally.

Although radical individualists and entrepreneurs obviously are two very different groups, there is a convergence of interests between those who want the Internet to be a place for very nearly every kind of expression, no matter how vile and destructive, and those who want it to be a vehicle of untrammeled commercial activity on a neo-liberal model that “considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples”.

9. The explosion of information technology has increased the communication capabilities of some favored individuals and groups many times over. The Internet can serve people in their responsible use of freedom and democracy, expand the range of choices available in diverse spheres of life, broaden educational and cultural horizons, break down divisions, promote human development in a multitude of ways. “The free flow of images and speech on a global scale is transforming not only political and economic relations between peoples, but even our understanding of the world. It opens up a range of hitherto unthinkable possibilities”.18 When based upon shared values rooted in the nature of the person, the intercultural dialogue made possible by the Internet and other media of social communication can be “a privileged means for building the civilization of love”.

But that is not the whole story. “Paradoxically, the very forces which can lead to better communication can also lead to increasing self-centeredness and alienation”.20 The Internet can unite people, but it also can divide them, both as individuals and as mutually suspicious groups separated by ideology, politics, possessions, race and ethnicity, intergenerational differences, and even religion. Already it has been used in aggressive ways, almost as a weapon of war, and people speak of the danger of ‘cyber-terrorism.' It would be painfully ironic if this instrument of communication with so much potential for bringing people together reverted to its origins in the cold war and became an arena of international conflict.

SOME AREAS OF CONCERN

10. A number of concerns about the Internet are implicit in what has been said so far.

One of the most important of these involves what today is called the digital divide—a form of discrimination dividing the rich from the poor, both within and among nations, on the basis of access, or lack of access, to the new information technology. In this sense it is an updated version of an older gap between the ‘information rich' and ‘information poor'.

The expression ‘digital divide' underlines the fact that individuals, groups, and nations must have access to the new technology in order to share in the promised benefits of globalization and development and not fall further behind. It is imperative “that the gap between the beneficiaries of the new means of information and expression and those who do not have access to them...not become another intractable source of inequity and discrimination”.21 Ways need to be found to make the Internet accessible to less advantaged groups, either directly or at least by linking it with lower-cost traditional media. Cyberspace ought to be a resource of comprehensive information and services available without charge to all, and in a wide range of languages. Public institutions have a particular responsibility to establish and maintain sites of this kind.

As the new global economy takes shape, the Church is concerned “that the winner in this process will be humanity as a whole” and not just “a wealthy elite that controls science, technology and the planet's resources”; this is to say that the Church desires “a globalization which will be at the service of the whole person and of all people”.

In this connection it should be borne in mind that the causes and consequences of the divide are not only economic but also technical, social, and cultural. So, for example, another Internet ‘divide' operates to the disadvantage of women, and it, too, needs to be closed.

11. We are particularly concerned about the cultural dimensions of what is now taking place. Precisely as powerful tools of the globalization process, the new information technology and the Internet transmit and help instill a set of cultural values—ways of thinking about social relationships, family, religion, the human condition—whose novelty and glamour can challenge and overwhelm traditional cultures.

Intercultural dialogue and enrichment are of course highly desirable. Indeed, “dialogue between cultures is especially needed today because of the impact of new communications technology on the lives of individuals and peoples”.23 But this has to be a two-way street. Cultures have much to learn from one another, and merely imposing the world view, values, and even language of one culture upon another is not dialogue but cultural imperialism.

Cultural domination is an especially serious problem when a dominant culture carries false values inimical to the true good of individuals and groups. As matters stand, the Internet, along with the other media of social communication, is transmitting the value-laden message of Western secular culture to people and societies in many cases ill-prepared to evaluate and cope with it. Many serious problems result—for example, in regard to marriage and family life, which are experiencing “a radical and widespread crisis”24 in many parts of the world.

Cultural sensitivity and respect for other people's values and beliefs are imperative in these circumstances. Intercultural dialogue that “protects the distinctiveness of cultures as historical and creative expressions of the underlying unity of the human family, and...sustains understanding and communion between them” 25 is needed to build and maintain the sense of international solidarity.

12. The question of freedom of expression on the Internet is similarly complex and gives rise to another set of concerns.

We strongly support freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. Freedom to seek and know the truth is a fundamental human right,26 and freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy. “Man, provided he respects the moral order and the common interest, is entitled to seek after truth, express and make known his opinions...he ought to be truthfully informed about matters of public interest”.27 And public opinion, “an essential expression of human nature organized in society,” absolutely requires “freedom to express ideas and attitudes”.

In light of these requirements of the common good, we deplore attempts by public authorities to block access to information—on the Internet or in other media of social communication—because they find it threatening or embarrassing to them, to manipulate the public by propaganda and disinformation, or to impede legitimate freedom of expression and opinion. Authoritarian regimes are by far the worst offenders in this regard; but the problem also exists in liberal democracies, where access to media for political expression often depends on wealth, and politicians and their advisors violate truthfulness and fairness by misrepresenting opponents and shrinking issues to sound-bite dimensions.

13. In this new environment, journalism is undergoing profound changes. The combination of new technologies and globalization has “increased the powers of the media, but has also made them more liable to ideological and commercial pressures”,29 and this is true of journalism as well.

The Internet is a highly effective instrument for bringing news and information rapidly to people. But the economic competitiveness and round-the-clock nature of Internet journalism also contribute to sensationalism and rumor-mongering, to a merging of news, advertising, and entertainment, and to an apparent decline in serious reporting and commentary. Honest journalism is essential to the common good of nations and the international community. Problems now visible in the practice of journalism on the Internet call for speedy correcting by journalists themselves.

The sheer overwhelming quantity of information on the Internet, much of it unevaluated as to accuracy and relevance, is a problem for many. But we also are concerned lest people make use of the medium's technological capacity for customizing information simply to raise electronic barriers against unfamiliar ideas. That would be an unhealthy development in a pluralistic world where people need to grow in mutual understanding. While Internet users have a duty to be selective and self-disciplined, that should not be carried to the extreme of walling themselves off from others. The medium's implications for psychological development and health likewise need continued study, including the possibility that prolonged immersion in the virtual world of cyberspace may be damaging to some. Although there are many advantages in the capacity technology gives people to “assemble packages of information and services uniquely designed for them”, this also “raises an inescapable question: Will the audience of the future be a multitude of audiences of one?...What would become of solidarity—what would become of love—in a world like that?” 

14. Standing alongside issues that have to do with freedom of expression, the integrity and accuracy of news, and the sharing of ideas and information, is another set of concerns generated by libertarianism. The ideology of radical libertarianism is both mistaken and harmful—not least, to legitimate free expression in the service of truth. The error lies in exalting freedom “to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values....In this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and ‘being at peace with oneself”'.31 There is no room for authentic community, the common good, and solidarity in this way of thinking.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION

15. As we have seen, the virtue of solidarity is the measure of the Internet's service of the common good. It is the common good that supplies the context for considering the ethical question: “Are the media being used for good or evil?” 

Many individuals and groups share responsibility in this matter—for example, the transnational corporations of which we spoke above. All users of the Internet are obliged to use it in an informed, disciplined way, for morally good purposes; parents should guide and supervise children's use.33 Schools and other educational institutions and programs for children and adults should provide training in discerning use of the Internet as part of a comprehensive media education including not just training in technical skills—‘computer literacy' and the like—but a capacity for informed, discerning evaluation of content. Those whose decisions and actions contribute to shaping the structure and contents of the Internet have an especially serious duty to practice solidarity in the service of the common good.

16. Prior censorship by government should be avoided; “censorship...should only be used in the very last extremity”.34 But the Internet is no more exempt than other media from reasonable laws against hate speech, libel, fraud, child pornography and pornography in general, and other offenses. Criminal behavior in other contexts is criminal behavior in cyberspace, and the civil authorities have a duty and a right to enforce such laws. New regulations also may be needed to deal with special ‘Internet' crimes like the dissemination of computer viruses, the theft of personal data stored on hard disks, and the like.

Regulation of the Internet is desirable, and in principle industry self-regulation is best. “The solution to problems arising from unregulated commercialization and privatization does not lie in state control of media but in more regulation according to criteria of public service and in greater public accountability”.35 Industry codes of ethics can play a useful role, provided they are seriously intended, involve representatives of the public in their formulation and enforcement, and, along with giving encouragement to responsible communicators, carry appropriate penalties for violations, including public censure.36 Circumstances sometimes may require state intervention: for example, by setting up media advisory boards representing the range of opinion in the community.

17. The Internet's transnational, boundary-bridging character and its role in globalization require international cooperation in setting standards and establishing mechanisms to promote and protect the international common good.38 In regard to media technology, as in regard to much else, “there is a pressing need for equity at the international level”.39 Determined action in the private and public sectors is needed to close and eventually eliminate the digital divide.

Many difficult Internet-related questions call for international consensus: for example, how to guarantee the privacy of law-abiding individuals and groups without keeping law enforcement and security officials from exercising surveillance over criminals and terrorists; how to protect copyright and intellectual property rights without limiting access to material in the public domain—and how to define the ‘public domain' itself; how to establish and maintain broad-based Internet repositories of information freely available to all Internet users in a variety of languages; how to protect women's rights in regard to Internet access and other aspects of the new information technology. In particular, the question of how to close the digital divide between the information rich and the information poor requires urgent attention in its technical, educational, and cultural aspects.

There is today a “growing sense of international solidarity” that offers the United Nations system in particular “a unique opportunity to contribute to the globalization of solidarity by serving as a meeting place for states and civil society and as a convergence of the varied interests and needs...Cooperation between international agencies and nongovernmental organizations will help to ensure that the interests of states—legitimate though they may be—and of the different groups within them, will not be invoked or defended at the expense of the interests or rights of other peoples, especially the less fortunate”.40 In this connection we hope that the World Summit of the Information Society scheduled to take place in 2003 will make a positive contribution to the discussion of these matters.

18. As we pointed out above, a companion document to this one called The Church and Internet speaks specifically about the Church's use of the Internet and the Internet's role in the life of the Church. Here we wish only to emphasize that the Catholic Church, along with other religious bodies, should have a visible, active presence on the Internet and be a partner in the public dialogue about its development. “The Church does not presume to dictate these decisions and choices, but it does seek to be of help by indicating ethical and moral criteria which are relevant to the process—criteria which are to be found in both human and Christian values”.

The Internet can make an enormously valuable contribution to human life. It can foster prosperity and peace, intellectual and aesthetic growth, mutual understanding among peoples and nations on a global scale.

It also can help men and women in their age-old search for self-understanding. In every age, including our own, people ask the same fundamental questions: “Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?” 42 The Church cannot impose answers, but she can—and must—proclaim to the world the answers she has received; and today, as always, she offers the one ultimately satisfying answer to the deepest questions of life—Jesus Christ, who “fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling”.43 Like today's world itself, the world of media, including the Internet, has been brought by Christ, inchoately yet truly, within the boundaries of the kingdom of God and placed in service to the word of salvation. Yet “far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come”.

Source: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/pccs/documents/rc_pc_pccs_doc_20020228_ethics-internet_en.html

Thursday, 19 May 2016 12:51

Searching Dirty to Find What's Hidden

Several weeks ago, a legal advocacy group issued a press release, which informed about the organization's efforts on behalf of teenage girls who had been abused in a detention center. It referred readers to a redacted document on its Web site for more information.

As the mother of a teenage girl, it sparked my interest. I displayed the redacted PDF document, and then examined its security. Since I was able to discover the names of the girls, I informed the group, who quickly corrected the flawed document.

But what if my motives were not that of a curious and outraged parent?

Stories about improperly redacted documents appear frequently in the news and legal literature. Often, those who discover the redacted information expose it. But the motives of researchers run the gamut from mild curiosity to winning at all costs. Thus, while exposure might not be desirable, use of the information without the creator's knowledge or consent could be worse.

As was the case in this example, such findings often involve serendipity. But luck isn't always a factor. Strategy plays a major role in certain types of research; for instance, competitive intelligence. It behooves companies to learn about these techniques in order to protect their confidential information.

Private - Keep Out!

When researchers want to know something about a company, one of the first places they check is its Web site. They read what the company wants them to know. Then, if they want to dig deeper continuing to use the company itself as a source, they check two things: the Internet Archive and the Web site robots exclusion file (robots.txt).

The former archives previous versions of the site. As I relate in an earlier article, these sometimes shed light on information the company might not want to reveal.

Because of improved security at Web sites, robots exclusion files generally are not as helpful as they used to be. But researchers still check them, and so should you.

The files contain commands that instruct search engines about areas of the site they should not index. Any legitimate search engine will obey these commands.

To work correctly, the file must appear in the root directory of the Web site. It must bear the filename, robots.txt. Therefore, to find it, you enter: http://www.domain.com/robots.txt.

They are easy to read. The one on The Virtual Chase looks, in part, like this:

user-agent: *
disallow: /_private/
disallow: /cas/
disallow: /cir/
disallow: /data/

The user-agent is the targeted crawler (search engine). The asterisk is a wildcard. Each character string following the command, disallow, is a subdirectory. Consequently, this abbreviated set of commands tells all search engines not to crawl the subdirectories labeled, _private, cas, cir and data. A researcher, of course, will choose to attempt entry, or not.

It's like placing a Keep Out sign on a door. If the door isn't locked, someone may walk through it.

Careless Clues

As I explain in the above-referenced article on the Internet Archive, a prospective client approached a group of my firm's lawyers about launching a new business in an industry with an unsavory reputation. One of the conditions for considering representation was that the woman not have prior dealings in the industry. She claimed she did not.

Research at the client's business Web site in the Internet Archive, however, uncovered circumstantial evidence of several connections. Through telephone research and public records, we were able to verify that not only was she working in the industry, she was the subject of a then-active federal criminal investigation.

Clues about information you would rather researchers not discover often come from the company itself. In a recent and widely publicized example, Google inadvertently released information about its finances and future product plans in a PowerPoint presentation.

Searching for Microsoft Office files is, in fact, an expert research strategy because the meta data often reveals information the producer did not intend to share. You may tack on a qualifier or use a search engine's advanced search page to limit results to specific file types, such as Word documents (doc), PowerPoint presentations (ppt) or Excel spreadsheets (xls).

At Google, the qualifier is filetype: whereas at Yahoo it is originurlextension:. Enter the file extension immediately after the colon (no spaces). Check each search engine's help documentation for the appropriate qualifier, or consult a Web site, such as Search Engine Showdown, which tracks and informs about such commands.

Searching certain phrases sometimes produces intriguing results. Try the phrases below individually to discover the potential for this technique when coupled with a company, organization or agency name:

"not for public dissemination"

"not for public release"

"official use only" (variations include FOUO and U//FOUO)

"company confidential"

"internal use only"

You might find additional ideas for searching dirty in the Google Hacking Database.

Copyright Underground

Book search engines, such as Amazon.com's Search-Inside-This-Book, Google Book Search and the Text Archive at the Internet Archive, are becoming increasingly valuable in research. If you uncover even a snippet of relevant information online, it may save you valuable research time offline.

One of my recent success stories involves finding an entire chapter on the target company in a book published just a few months prior to the research. Of course, I was unable to read the book online. I had to purchase it. But the tools helped me find what I might have missed without them.

However, this is not the underground to which I refer. By using these tools, you are not skirting the process for rewarding those who wrote and published the book.

The underground, while eminently real, is not so much a place as it is a mindset - one that sets information free. The result is a mixed bag of commercial products, including books, music, digital artwork, movies and software, that have been copied or reverse engineered.

Try the search strategy below. Replace the phrase, Harry Potter, with the keywords of your choice:

"index of" "last modified size description" "parent directory" "harry potter"

The portion of the search statement preceding "harry potter" comprises a strategy for finding vulnerable Web sites or servers. In a nutshell, it commands the search engine to return matches to directory structures instead of single Web pages. If a Web site is properly secured, the search engine will be unable to provide this information.

To some extent, you can monitor the availability of files that comprise unauthorized copies of products

by setting up what Tara Calishain calls information traps. Tara's excellent book on Information Trapping provides many examples of ways to monitor new information.

One possibility is to use the above search strategy for best-selling or popular products, and then set up a Google Alert for new matches to each query.

While you should monitor hits at other search engines besides Google, doing so requires more work. First, test and perfect the query so that you are retrieving useful results. Set the search engine preferences to retrieve 100 items per page. Then copy the URL when the search results display. Paste it into a page monitor, such as Website-Watcher or TrackEngine. The tracking software or Web service will monitor changes in the first 100 search results. You may opt to have it send the changes to you by e-mail.

Companies and other organizations that want to protect proprietary or confidential information should conduct this type of research with regularity. You can expedite some of the search process with information traps. But considering the stakes, regular thorough searching is a worthwhile investment.

Source:  http://archive.virtualchase.justia.com/articles

The UK Intellectual Property Office is investigating how search engines and social media networks can step up their game to deter piracy. The Government is pushing for voluntary anti-piracy agreements between major Internet companies and entertainment industry groups, but will consider a legislative approach if these fail.

 

uk-flagLast week the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) published its strategy for tackling copyright infringement over the next four years.

 

Among other things, the government said that it would work with search engines and social media platforms to reduce the availability of infringing content on their services.

However, new information just made available suggests that this cooperation may not take place on entirely voluntary basis.

 

In fact, the Government is considering the introduction of updated anti-piracy legislation if the measures taken by Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other tech stakeholders prove insufficient.

 

Civil servants at the IPO have started to collect evidence for ministers to document potential gaps in current legislation which need to be addressed, The Times reports today.

According to Ros Lynch, director of copyright and enforcement at the IPO, not all tech companies are doing as much as they should.

 

“A number of companies do have procedures in place and they are taking some action. I’m not saying they’ve been wholly effective. Some are not doing as much as they could,” Lynch says.

In recent months the UK Government has hosted talks with tech companies and entertainment industry players, hoping to reach voluntary agreements. Thus far these meetings have been without result.

 

Google, one of the primary targets of the movie and music industry companies, maintains that the current takedown system is both effective and efficient enough to deal with infringing content.

However, UK music group BPI would like to see a more pro-active anti-piracy stance from various intermediaries. Search engines, for example, should make sure that content doesn’t re-appear under a new URL once it’s been removed.

 

“This damaging situation can only be remedied by Google themselves changing strategy and proactively pursuing a ‘notice and stay down’ approach, so that once a piece of content has been notified for removal by the BPI, it isn’t indexed again for the same site and stays removed,” the BPI noted previously.

 

How UK law could be amended to address these concerns is unclear, but the major search engines and social networks are likely to push back hard against more restrictive policies.

 

This is not the first time that the UK Government has warned major Internet companies over their lacking anti-piracy policies. Former UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid issued a similar “legislative” threat two years ago, without much effect.

 

Source:  https://torrentfreak.com/uk-govt-targets-google-and-facebook-in-piracy-crackdown-160516/

 

Friday, 15 January 2016 17:22

How to Start a Research Business

 

By Marie Huntington, Demand Media

A research business provides consulting services to people who desire to obtain data about specific topics. The research consultant gathers information from credible sources and provides an analysis of his findings. Research consultants can also interpret the information for clients. A research business owner or consultant is also called an information broker, and many companies hire information brokers to perform research services.

Step 1
Establish your market niche and ascertain what type of research services you will offer. Basically, your market niche is the image you will portray to the world and how you want others to perceive your business. You may be an expert in a specific profession, such as accounting, law, genealogy or education. Alternatively, you may want to provide research services for a variety of different topics. If you choose a specific niche for your research services, refresh your knowledge and conduct your own research on the topic. For example, if you intend to provide information about statistics, develop a clear understanding of how data are collected for statistics and understand how to interpret statistics.

Step 2
Make a list of credible resources that will provide accurate information related to your specific type of knowledge. You can utilize online magazines, government resources, online encyclopedias and published books. Also, depending on the type of information you will provide, it may be beneficial to develop connections with experts in the field. For instance, if you plan to offer information about educational topics, it will be helpful to develop a relationship with school administrators, teachers or professors.

Step 3
Determine how you will deliver the findings of your research to clients. You can provide Internet-based research and deliver the information to customers via email. Set up a website with a web hosting service. Market your site with search engines, and provide an email account to enable potential customers to email their proposals for research. Additionally, you will need to determine how customers will pay for your services, for example through an account you set up with an e-commerce business. Alternatively, you may opt to consult directly with business owners and potential clients. Either way, develop a plan for how you will provide information to clients and how you will charge.

Step 4
Market and advertise your services to potential clients. Establish relationships with potential clients and other business owners. Advertise your services via a website, message boards, business cards and proposals to companies. Join professional associations and network with other consultants. Additionally, developing an effective marketing strategy allows you to categorize your target markets and understand how to successfully promote your services to ideal clients. Your potential clients for a research business can encompass a wide range of people and businesses that wish to obtain accuarate information on a variety of topics.

Source: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/start-research-business-3386.html

 

Monday, 29 June 2015 11:32

WEB ANALYTICS

Today the use of internet has increased to the extent that every individual and company is employing it to further their business goals. The internet is not only used for research but also for online trading of goods and services, which is a clear indication of the heavy dependence of companies on the internet for their revenue. With this increased reliance, the companies have the need to gain a better understanding of the activities on their websites. For this purpose tools such as ‘Web Analytics’ becomes important.

Web analytics is used to optimize the use of internet and to gain insight into the activity that customers engage in, when they visit a website. It keeps track of the number of visitors, and the amount of time they spent on the website while identifying the new visitors and returning visitors, for marketing purposes. This becomes useful when developing business strategy, especially for those businesses that are increasingly relying on the web for their revenue.

While Web Analytics present a variety of possibilities, and statistics, most of it might be irrelevant. Hence one of the first things you should do is to identify your key stakeholders, and what they are interested in. Recognizing the goals of the board of directors and the company will save you time and trouble of organizing irrelevant data. Also identify the valued customer, i.e. what is preferred most, whether a customer who visits most often or a visitor who stays longer? You should try to maximize the visitor’s experience, by understanding what he seeks when he visits your website.

Web Analytic Basics

After outlining the principle goals, identify the critical metrics needed. What are the signals that indicate the utility of a customer, and where do the gaps exist? How can we encourage consumers to sign up or make a purchase? After such metrics are identified, your task becomes relatively simple. You don’t need to go through the vast amounts of data and ratios. Instead you could do a targeted analysis of the metrics you have singled out, and prepare a presentation or report on the relevant statistics.

Understanding the basics of Web Analytics is the first task to utilizing it optimally. It may seem like a daunting task initially, but in reality there are just a few simple steps you need to follow.

You can start by taking a look at the basic figures given in the summary. The summary is available in any Analytics tool which includes the number of visits, bounce rate, average time on site etc. You should understand what they represent. See how they compare the recent trends, i.e. how the numbers of visitors, average number of pages visited and other statistics compared to last few weeks, or last month.

You should also have an understanding of where the traffic is generated from. Apart from direct traffic, i.e. the people who visit the website by typing in the URL, there are two major external sources that can guide traffic to your website; i.e referring URLs and search engines. You should take a look at the figures to see how much is contributed by the direct traffic; the people who know your website enough to know its URL, and from the external sources; the referring URLs.

Again the key is to look for trends and see which traffic generating source has grown the most, and which is lagging behind. You can try to identify keywords that become the source of most traffic generation, or keywords that direct traffic from Search Engines.

Since the homepage is not always the first page a visitor encounters when they visit your website, it is important that you see the individual bounce rates for each of the entry points. A visitor may click on a link to your website, and go deep into your website, instead of visiting the homepage first. You should identify the pages that are the top entry points, and analyse which of them are engaging enough for a visitor to want to browse more. Keep an eye out for pages with a high bounce rate, since those pages are not convincing the visitors to stay and browse more. This could be because those pages may not be fulfilling the consumer expectations.

After following these steps, by now, you should have narrowed down focus areas (pages and keywords) for you to concentrate on when tweaking your website to generate more activity and attract new and old visitors. Web Analytics is best employed when it is used for constant improvement of the customer experience on your website. However, from the range of Web Analytics tools available, choosing the best one might be a daunting task.

Types of Web Analytics

According to user reviews, Google Analytics seems to be the popular choice. It offers a sophisticated data integration free of cost, and hence is a great option for starters. Yahoo Web Analytics also follows closely. A bit of an upgrade from Google Analytics, it gives bit more insight into consumer behavior and demographics. Clicky is also undoubtedly one of the best, with an affordable price, and a more current report than Google and Yahoo. Clicky allows you to view what current users are doing on your website. Though many more options exist, the choice of the best tool depends on your requirement and budget.

Although Web Analytics is a breakthrough in conducting business online, use of the right criteria, data and tools is imperative to employ it successfully. Effective use of web analytics requires identifying the stakeholders, identifying the valued customers, and thereby identifying the relevant metrics. Also we should keep in mind our specific needs and budget while choosing the best tool available.

Summary:

To use web analytics, we should identify the stakeholders and the valued customers, and hence identify the relevant metrics. Also while choosing the best tool available we should keep in mind our specific needs and budget.

 

Friday, 26 June 2015 10:24

Information Gathering on the Internet

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to gathering information on the internet. Depending on the type of research, the rules may vary. An effective information gathering technique can result in better utilization of your time, broaden your perspective by going through various resources, can communicate to your audience with clarity, and enhance your critical thinking skills. Most researchers suggest that the best results are achieved when you start with an outline. That would give you some direction in finding what you want in this vast array of information on the internet. Also, it is suggested that you alter your search as you go along trying out different terms and keywords for your research.

There are five key steps you could follow to achieve best results.

  1. First, be clear of your research direction. You should be knowledgeable about the topic you plan on gathering information. If you are not very familiar with it, it is suggested that you take out a few minutes to browse on the topic. If the topic is too broad, narrow down your topic to make it more specific and manageable.
  1. Second, consider your target audience. Consider how knowledgeable they are on the topic, and decide on the sources you would require accordingly. For example, for a panel of doctors, a medical study would need to be in-depth, citing other studies and experts on the topic. On the contrary, if your audience is the general public, a study has to be presented in a simple format avoiding any jargon. If you are doing a research task for someone else, it is always best to consult them on the type or sources they expect you to use. They can help you in understanding the audience better.
  1. Third, make a rough outline of where you would want to look for material and type of resources you intend to use in your research. You can select from several options such as journal articles, blog posts, online magazines, and publications. This outline, however, should be flexible. You can, and should, modify your outline based on your search as you go along. Change keywords and search tactics depending on the material you retrieve. Be innovative with your search, and follow new directions, and explore new material if you can. While you browse for information, keep an eye out for valuable pieces of information. You often stumble across such information unexpectedly that could be useful to support your case. Nevertheless, make it a point to use varied resources for your research.
  1. Fourth, . All the data that you have collected from various sources is worthless if it is not properly organized. Hence, information organization is a necessary step in information gathering. After you have collated all the information, it is important to index and organize them to use it effectively. Presentation is extremely important in a research task; hence organization of the data makes it easier to properly present your findings.

Hence it is always best to make an outline, evaluate your audience, and consult with your client. The outline gives you direction. However it should be adjustable and you should make amends as you go along and find new material, new concepts, and perspectives. 

 

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