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Patrick Moore

Patrick Moore

Nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet,” wrote Tony Schwartz in a recent essay in The New York Times. It’s a common complaint these days. A steady stream of similar headlines accuse the ‘Net and its offspring apps, social media sites and online games of addicting us to distraction.

There’s little doubt that nearly everyone who comes in contact with the Internet has difficulty disconnecting: People everywhere are glued to their devices.

 

Many of us, like Schwartz, struggle to stay focused on tasks that require more concentration than it takes to post a status update. As one person ironically put it in the comments section of Schwartz’s online article, “As I was reading this very excellent article, I stopped at least half a dozen times to check my email.”

 

There’s something different about this technology: It is both pervasive and persuasive. But who’s at fault for its overuse? To find solutions, it’s important to understand what we’re dealing with. There are four parties conspiring to keep you connected — and they may not be whom you’d expect.

 

The tech

 

The technologies themselves, and their makers, are the easiest suspects to blame for our dwindling attention spans. Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” wrote, “The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention.”

 

Online services like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Buzzfeed and the like are called out as masters of manipulation — making products so good, people can’t stop using them. After studying these products for several years, I wrote a book about how they do it. I learned it all starts with the business model.

 

Because these services rely on advertising revenue, the more frequently you use them, the more money they make. It’s no wonder these companies employ teams of people focused on engineering their services to be as engaging as possible. These products aren’t habit-forming by chance; it’s by design. They have an incentive to keep us hooked.

 

 

However, as good as these services are, there are simple steps we can take to keep them at bay. After all, we’re not injecting Instagram intravenously or freebasing Facebook. For example, we can change how often we receive the distracting notifications that trigger our compulsion to check.

 

According to Adam Marchick, CEO of mobile marketing company Kahuna, less than 15 percent of smartphone users ever bother to adjust their notification settings — meaning the remaining 85 percent of us default to the app makers’ every whim and ping. Google and Apple, who make the two dominant mobile operating systems, have made it far too difficult to adjust these settings, so it’s up to us to take steps to ensure we set these triggers to suit our own needs, not the needs of the app makers.

 

 

Your boss

 

While companies like Facebook harvest attention to generate revenue from advertisers, other more generic technologies have no such agenda. Take email, for example. No one company “owns” email, and the faceless protocol couldn’t care less how often you use it. Yet to many, email is the most habit-forming medium of all. We check email at all hours of the day, whenever we can — before meetings begin, waiting in line for lunch, at red lights, on the toilet — we’re obsessed. But why? Because that’s what the boss wants.

 

Near the top of the list of individuals responsible for your seeming addiction to technology is the person who pays you. For almost all white-collar jobs, email is the primary tool of corporate communication. A slow response to a message could hurt not only your reputation but also your livelihood.

Unfortunately, being chained to technology can leave little time for higher order thinking. Real work — requiring the kind of creativity and problem solving that only comes from uninterrupted focus — no longer happens in the office, it starts at home after the kids are put to bed.

 

 

Cal Newport, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, calls this sort of work “deep work.” In his book by the same name, Newport writes, “Deep work is to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task, and shallow work describes activities that are more logistical in nature, that don’t require intense concentration.” Playing email Ping-Pong with colleagues is shallow work.

 

Newport recommends people discuss the appropriate ratio of deep and shallow work with their employers. “Get your boss to actually try to commit to a vision like, ‘About 50% of your time should be unbroken and 50% should be doing these shallow tasks.’” Newport continues, “When they’re actually confronted with how much time you’re spending trying to produce real results with your skills, they have to start thinking, ‘Okay, we need to change some things.’”

 

Your friends

 

Think about this familiar scene. People gathered around a table, enjoying food and each other’s company. There’s laughter and a bit of light banter. Then, during a lull in the conversation, someone takes out their phone to check who knows what. Barely anyone notices and no one says a thing.

Now, imagine the same dinner, but instead of checking their phone, the person belches — loudly. Everyone notices. Unless the meal takes place in a fraternity house, the flagrant burp is considered bad manners. The impolite act violates the basic rules of etiquette.

One has to wonder: Why don’t we apply the same social norms to checking phones during meals, meetings and conversations as we do to other antisocial behaviors? Somehow, we accept it and say nothing when someone offends.

 

 

The reality is, taking one’s phone out at the wrong time is worse than belching because, unlike other peccadilloes, checking tech is contagious. Once one person looks at their phone, other people feel compelled to do the same, starting a churlish chain reaction. The more people are on their phones, the less people are talking, until, finally, you’re the only one left not reading email or checking Twitter.

 

From a societal perspective, phone checking is less like burping in public and more like another bad habit. Our phones are like cigarettes — something to do when we’re anxious, bored or when fidgety fingers need something to fiddle with. Seeing others enjoy a puff, or sneak a peek, is too tempting to resist, and soon everyone is doing it.

The technology, your boss and your friends all influence how often you find yourself using (or overusing) these gadgets. But there’s still someone who deserves scrutiny — the person holding the phone.

 

You

 

I have a confession. Even though I study habit-forming technology for a living, disconnecting is not easy for me. I’m online far more than I’d like. Like Schwartz and so many others, I often find myself distracted and off task. I wanted to know why, so I began self-monitoring to try to understand my behavior. That’s when I discovered an uncomfortable truth.

 

I use technology as an escape. When I’m doing something I’d rather not do, or when I am someplace I’d rather not be, I use my phone to port myself elsewhere. I found that this ability to instantly shift my attention was often a good thing, like when passing time on public transportation. But frequently my tech use was not so benign.

 

 

When I faced difficult work, like thinking through an article idea or editing the same draft for the hundredth time, for example, a more sinister screen would draw me in. I could easily escape discomfort, temporarily, by answering emails or browsing the web under the guise of so-called “research.” Though I desperately wanted to lay blame elsewhere, I finally had to admit that my bad habits had less to do with new-age technology and more to do with old-fashioned procrastination.

 

It’s easy to blame technology for being so distracting, but distraction is nothing new. Aristotle and Socrates debated the nature of “akrasia” — our tendency to do things against our interests. If we’re honest with ourselves, tech is just another way to occupy our time and minds. If we weren’t on our devices, we’d likely do something similarly unproductive.

 

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2016/02/04/the-4-reasons-youre-addicted-to-technology/

 

Russian search engine Yandex said on Tuesday it planned to capitalize on its expertise in data analysis to develop its business beyond Russia which could help to drive its expansion as advertising revenue growth slows.

 

Yandex, the market-leading Internet search engine in Russia with a market share of 60 percent, gets the bulk of its revenues from text-based advertising which have been hit by the country's economic downturn.

 

It also offers free email, maps, music streaming and other services aimed mostly at Russian-speaking consumers. Since it listed its shares in New York in 2011, Yandex has been trying to expand beyond former Soviet countries.

 

The company said it had applied technology widely used in its search engine to develop other products. These include tools to help retail banks predict what products customers want and to help software developers target advertising campaigns.

 

The Yandex Data Factory project, which has offices in Moscow and Amsterdam, is designed to help companies in Russia and elsewhere to increase sales, cut costs, forecast demand, develop new or improve existing methods of audience-targeting, it said.

 

"The mathematics of big data is an asset we have so far applied to one model in one market," Arkady Volozh, the chief executive officer of Yandex, told Reuters.

 

"Our growth rate is falling as scale increases ... What next? We see we've got an asset we could apply elsewhere and we are trying various business models," he said.

 

The company gave no estimate for future revenues, saying only it had already received requests from various industries.

Yandex said in October it saw sales rising 27-30 percent this year, a slowdown from 37 percent in 2013 and 44 percent in 2012, as the Russian economy headed for recession following Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and a slump in oil prices.

 

Source:  http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-yandex-idUSKBN0JN1EN20141209

 

Monday, 22 June 2015 19:39

Research Methods

Online research is not only easy for the researcher, but also cost effective. You can survey a large group at barely any price online. However, a researcher will have several options to choose from when deciding a research method, and to decide on the best one for his task there are some things he should consider. He can start by narrowing down the research topic, which is important even for internet research.

The first step to conducting any research is to be very clear about what you seek. A researcher should first make up his mind what he is searching for. He may start by narrowing down his research area, i.e. the discipline. Then he can narrow it down further and decide what his research topic or focus is, to gain direction, and then he needs to decide and finalize his research question. This will give direction to what exactly needs to be searched.

After the research question is finalized, it will be easier for the researcher to decide what kind of sample he needs. A sample population is based on the target population; hence the target population needs to be defined. A researcher needs to know what group, age and gender he is looking for. A sample will be derived based on that. There are lots of sampling techniques that can be used in this sense. Some of these techniques include random sampling, stratified sampling, or quota sampling. Each of them has its pros and cons.

After the target population and the sample is finalized, there are other considerations you need to review. Is your sample small or large? Do you need qualitative data or quantitative data? A researcher may sometimes require a little of both. Since every research method is best suited to different requirements, after you have decided the size of the sample and the type of information you seek, then you can choose a research method.

Surveys and questionnaires are often used when you have a large sample. They are easy to distribute, fill and collate. They are mostly used for quantitative information but can be used to collect qualitative data too in some instances. If you are an online researcher, your task is made even easier. There are online tools available like Surveymonkey.com and Google Forms that allow you to not only make a customized form, but collate the data and present it in visually appealing graphs.

Interviews are traditionally conducted via face-to-face conversation, however with the technology available, interviews now also encompass questions asked over Skype, and other video calling software. They are often used when short answers are not preferred in one or more of the questions, and follow-up questions might need to be asked. They can be used for either quantitative or qualitative information, but they are preferred for small samples over large samples. Since conducting interviews is time-consuming and labor intensive, using interviews for large samples might prove to be costly.

For an even more qualitative and detail based research, case study is also an option. When a single person, program or a project has to be evaluated, you seek various dimensions and aspects to it and compile it. If it is a person being observed, a researcher will observe them over a period, and record his actions and reactions to stimuli. Case study is strictly used for qualitative data and small samples, because it requires effort and is a time intensive process.

While most of the research methods online are similar to methods used for traditional offline research, more caution should be observed when employing these techniques. Researchers often face problems due to the anonymity maintained over the internet as it becomes harder to establish real identity. Also, it is essential to make sure informed consent is obtained since covert research is often frowned upon. If a researcher uses online research with care and makes sure he uses the right medium, and method, internet research is going to be of immense help. 

Thursday, 02 July 2015 11:28

Internet Regulations

Internet Regulations refers to limiting user’s access to information on the internet. This control on internet information is a highly deliberated topic, and the possibility of internet regulations resulting in internet neutrality has been greatly debated around the world. Forms of Internet regulation include domain registration and IP address control that could lead to censorship of data or media. The purpose of such regulations is to restrict and control certain aspects of information and access to them.

Most of the Internet control is levied by a country’s government when they are concerned with issues relating to censorship, in their effort to protect the best interest of the general public. By imposing such regulations, a governmental agency can track anyone who puts up unacceptable information on the internet.

Advocates and critics of internet regulations present sound arguments for and against such regulations.

People supporting the introduction of internet regulations argue that the best way to continue with the investment and innovation in broadband service is to introduce regulations. President Obama, also a supporter, said that this was necessary to preserve the “free and open internet.” According to the proponents, regulation would discourage the service providers from limiting the speed and access to the customers who pay for their service. This would bring greater equality in the internet usage.

The internet as a community should mirror the society as a whole. While free speech is important, there are certain rules and liabilities applied in a society. These rules and liabilities allowed in society should be replicated in the online community,hence calling for internet regulations. Such parameters can significantly reduce the amount of spam, fake websites, cyber crimes and online theft.

However, historically previous regulations have resulted in slower service, imposed market entry barriers, and suppressed innovation. Such barriers have also introduced price discrimination within the market with the absence of a free market, causing more inequality in the internet usage instead of greater equality. There have even been breakthroughs in the internet without the supervision of the government, therefore it is safe to assume that the innovations will continue. 

Freedom advocates also heavily oppose internet regulations while some others say that it should be regulated in a similar manner to other media, such as TV. TV, for instance should be regulated for children and to protect individual rights. However, with this kind of censorship, an internet user might miss out on information that would be useful to him, and that he intends to use for a productive purpose. This could in turn lead people to resort to unlawful means, and look for loopholes to bypass the censorship.

There are also some users who are particularly concerned about taxes. They believe with a regulatory body, probably the government, watching over the internet, taxes will be introduced. Progressive Policy Institute economists Litan and Singer did a study, in which they concluded that regulation imposed on the internet would result in an average annual increase in taxes between $51 and $83 per household. Users are concerned about taxes especially on the major traffic generating sites such as Wikipedia, Youtube and Facebook. However despite concerns, Kim Hart from FCC has assured that such regulations will not increase any taxes, under the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Many people are of the view that internet usage will be compromised as a result of controls and regulations. It will not only be more expensive, but also there is a strong possibility that it will be slower. Involvement of increased red tape rarely does any good, and hence in this case as well it might not be beneficial. However, the government has repeatedly assured that this won’t happen, and regulation is better for freer internet and continued innovation. 

 

Sunday, 28 June 2015 06:10

Firewalls

Firewall is a term that most internet users are familiar with. They may have come across the term at the office when they browse the web, or at home, when several people use the same connection, where security needs to be setup. But what is Firewall, and how does it work? Although many people might have heard of the term, few are aware of its uses.

‘Firewall’ refers to a security system that is employed to keep out the viruses and doubtful networks. It  can be software based or hardware based. It regulates the information flowing in and out of the network and have a set of rules that is used to filter the trusted networks, prevent unauthorized access of information, as well as remote access to your network.

Most Firewalls employ the use of filters, which means the information or data that is flagged by the filters are not allowed through. Firewalls use several methods for this purpose; packet filtering, application gateways, proxy service and Stateful inspection. The good thing is, Firewalls are customizable, allowing you to choose the unique features for your protection online. You can customize them according to the level of security you need. Often, Firewalls use two or more of the techniques mentioned above for greater security. Such Firewalls are known as Hybrid Firewalls. You can also use settings which block out content with certain words, which is often done in offices, or at home, to filter out inappropriate content when children are using computers.

There are also several options of Firewall security that can be used. You may choose between the hardware firewall and a software firewall. Hardware firewall can be purchased, but usually comes preinstalled on a standard router, while software firewall is installed on computers as an added security measure. Hardware firewall is used typically by large corporations, who want a single security umbrella for several departments and systems. They can hide your IP from the connections outside, along with providing protection within corporations and between departments. However, since it is a place based security system, it is usually not recommended for individual users and personal computers. Software Firewalls can operate outside your home and office, hence it is recommended for digital security when you are on the move.

Firewall is a useful tool in protecting your PC from the external environment. It protects your computer from harmful content while protecting your personal information being sent out. It acts as a guard screening all the incoming and outgoing traffic from your computer. While different security levels can be established by different settings on Firewalls, it can also be customized to suit your needs. You can also choose between the hardware and software firewall, both of which work well in different situations.

Summary:

Firewall is a security system to protect your PC from the external environment. They are customizable, for you to choose a combination that suits your needs. Yu can also choose between the hardware and software firewall, both of which work well in different situations. 

 

Wednesday, 01 July 2015 12:29

Hacking and Cyber criminals

A billion dollars, 100 banks, 30 countries. This is what a multinational gang of cyber criminals managed to steal before they were discovered. This is an example of a successful bank heist conducted through computer networks, otherwise known as a cyber crime.

Any crime committed against an individual, corporation or government over internet or a computer network is termed cyber crime.  Cyber crime ranges over a broad spectrum of activities. It includes hacking, money laundering and forgery among others. This particular crime involved a sophisticated system of hacking malware, which took screenshots of the banks’ computer every 20 seconds. The Carbanak gang, named after the malware they use, gained familiarity with the banks’ system, and employed various ways to steal. In some cases, they transferred money to dummy accounts by gaining access to administrator’s computers, while in others they simply used a code to instruct the ATMs to dispense money. They monitored the workers and mimicked them to transfer the funds into dummy accounts. The hackers further limited the theft in a single bank to $10 million, to avoid raising alarm.

All this was discovered by Kaspersky, a Russian cyber security company. They were alerted by a targeted bank that discovered a piece of foreign code in their ATM. Kaspersky then helped the other victim banks to uncover the piece of malicious software in their system or ATM, which has resulted in the theft. “Losses per bank range from $2.5 million to approximately $10 million," Kaspersky said in a statement.

According to the Kaspersky Chief of Staff, this was “the most highly sophisticated criminal attack we have ever seen.” An estimated number of 10 hackers worked on one theft, over two months for a single attack. The complexity of the crimes and the remote controlling of ATMs was something new that Kaspersky and the banks had not witnessed before. Over a period of approximately two years, they managed to target banks in 30 countries, before raising alarm. Kaspersky has asked financial institutions to take a look at their networks for the presence of Carabank to avoid further losses. 

 

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