You Could Lose Your Job…Permanently.

Everyday, millions of people use social media as a means of communication.  If you have been reading my blogs thus far, you know the deal about online permanence: social media sites make it easy for people to say or show things to the rest of the world, and, with that said, the Internet then becomes sort of a digital permanent record. Everything an online user is responsible for publishing stays in cyberspace and will be there until tomorrow, six months from now, and for many years to come.

When we think about permanence, of course the top factors that will pop into our heads are Facebook posts, Tweets, YouTube videos, etc. We may even think of blog posts, like this one, that allow people online to share their interests and thoughts on different topics. However, do we ever really acknowledge the comments that people leave on other people’s works? There have been news reports and articles that speak of people—famous and not—who have done things online that have cost them their jobs. Tweets and pictures posted on Facebook are the most common evidence of people’s mistakes online. However, when it comes to posting comments on blogs and other articles, who would think that one’s chances of getting caught in that environment could be that great?

Kotaku is a site dedicated to video games. It is a hub for blogging, cheats, news, and reviews. Earlier this year, blogger for Kotaku, Jason Schreier posted about two employees from Alpine Access, Xbox’s tech support system services. Both employees had very similar situations occur on Kotaku where they left comments that mentioned their company. The first former support agent for Xbox ‘s comment was seen by a higher member of Microsoft who then brought it up to the manager. The man Schreier refers to as “Bob” said, “I was then reminded that we weren’t allowed to speak about the company, or anything related to it on social media sites or any related sorts.” After being asked by his manager if he had mentioned the company on Kotaku, Bob responded that he had, and was given a three-day suspension from work. On the third day of his suspension, Bob got a call from his manager…he was fired. In an email, Bob had said, “I believe this entire thing was taken a little too far. I understand that it can make Microsoft look bad with an employee talking bad about their customer. But what I was saying wasn’t as bad as they are making it seem.” Below is Bobs comment on Kotaku.

Image

The second man from Alpine Access was also fired from his job after commenting on Kotaku, his scenario being a little different from Bob’s. “A couple of months ago, [“we’ll call him ‘Frank’”] was asked to get on a conference call with three Alpine executives who accused him of stealing from Microsoft by generating codes that give out free time on Xbox Live’s premium Gold Membership” (Schreier). Frank said, “They claimed the reason they’re firing me is because I broke the non-disclosure agreement I signed when they hired me. This agreement stated that I’m not allowed to tell anyone I work for Microsoft or Xbox.” Below is Frank’s comment on Kotaku.

Image

Surprisingly, Frank was a good sport when responding to being fired for his comment, “In all honesty, if I was an employer and my employee wrote something like that about a product I was trying to sell, I could see myself firing them too…I’m upset about losing my job, but I understand where they’re coming from.” As unfortunate as this story is, these two men learned their lesson on what not to say online that could cause trouble. One could only hope that others learn from these stories and be careful about what they say/do on the Internet.

Time to Reflect!

                The semester is finally coming to a close! Yesterday in my Technologies and the Future of Writing class, which is the third and last module within the Introduction to Writing Arts course, five groups of four students presented Pecha Kuchas. You are probably thinking,

I used to love that show! Or even

What does a song sung by the Muppets have to do with writing and technologies?

I’m not talking about Pokemon, and although that tune is just so catchy, a Pecha Kucha is neither of those things. Devised in Tokyo, a Pecha Kucha is a presentation in which the presenter(s) is limited to a small number of seconds to speak per slide and elaborate on different topics that relate to the display of pictures, alone. The format of a Pecha Kucha is concise and fast-paced, which made classmates pretty nervous. Practicing our lines over and over again to get the words to perfectly correspond to the picture on each slide was a pain, and personally stressed me out. However, in the end, every group’s presentation went really well; despite all of the aggravation, the Pecha Kuchas turned out to be successful and overall, a new and interesting experience. The topics covered by these presentations included: Saftey, Freedom, Etiquette, Anonymity, and Permanence with regard to writing in online spaces.  

 A Walk Through A Slide 

            For my third slide in my group’s Pecha Kucha on Permanence, I chose to include a screen shot image of a sign up page for online banking with TD Bank. Although there were plenty of options for taking screen shots of different webpages with fields waiting to be filled with one’s personal information, I believe my picture got the point across. Besides cybershopping, online banking has become a new craze, and one that can be overestimated when it comes to the privacy of one’s identity. People don’t often realize that once their information is in the system and “locked up” in cyberspace, it is permanent; there are unforeseeable possibilities of one’s person information being found, stolen, shared, and even used. Take online banking for example; in order to sign up for an account available via the Internet, one must enter their information that should not be known to anyone else but that person.

Image

It seems quite mind boggling that there are online users (or hackers) that know secrets of breaking into cybervaults and accessing the information of others, almost like it is a practice. The problem is, there are only so many ways that a person can protect their information once it appears on the computer screen. I had blogged about an article on a website that leaked sensitive information of many celebrities. The website showed addresses, social security numbers, credit scores, and other records of stars such as Jay-Z and Britney Spears. I chose to include the cited text that I did in this slide, because I wanted to emphasize the risk of submitting personal information online. The quotation from USA Today said, “The site did not state how the information was obtained or why the people targeted on the site were selected.” This scenario could honestly happen to anyone; I feel that once word gets out that the rich and famous can even be robbed of their private identities, then that is when other online users come to the realization that, “Wow…that can happen to me too.” As a part of my whole 5-slide section of the Pecha Kucha, I saw this slide as presenting a fact followed by a warning. The slide focused on the idea that there are so many ways in which we fill out information online; surveys, membership accounts, and online shopping are just a few examples. Of course there’s no way of knowing what can or will happen to our information once it’s in cyberspace; it’s just a risk that we are all apparently willing to take. I felt that this slide was arranged nicely, for the following slide touched on the fact that websites are personalizing what we search for using signals that track all of our actions online. With this order, the audience sees a small factor of permanence and then goes into the bigger picture—pretty much everything is permanent, and with much more scrutiny online today, users need to be cautious of what information they publish and where they put it. If I could have done anything differently with this slide, I think I would have used a different quote from the article I got it from. My narrative for this slide was a bit difficult to recite, and I got a little tongue-tied. Then again, twenty seconds was a short amount of time to fit a lot of words in, to begin with!

            With the topic of Permanence, my group created a blog on WordPress.com named, “Always There, Never Gone”. Group members had to blog up to two times a week for four weeks, posting about readings on Web 2.0 and how they related to permanence, and also about an article of our choice relating to our topic.

What I Learned about my Blog Topic

            After four weeks of relating class readings and discussions to the theme of permanence, I have learned greatly about the many ways in which technology is almost like a trap—whatever happens online stays online. From tweets, to Instagram posts, statuses on Facebook, online memberships,  and even text messages, there are plenty of opportunities for people’s actions to become permanent, beyond their control.

            As a general reaction to the class readings on Web 2.0, I am just so amazed by the capabilities of modern technologies and how they have become a part of everyday, human life. There are technologies that foster social media, technologies allowing people to communicate in any way, anywhere, and at any time. Users find themselves to be very reliant on these technologies, as they constantly want to stay informed with the actions and whereabouts of others, as well as putting in their own two cents. Although communication can be a benefit of technologies, the threat and inevitability of permanence can pose problems. People sometimes don’t think twice about what they post online, and when they come to regret the actions they present, they cannot take them back; it’s like what Margaret Atwood said in her article, “Atwood in the Twittershere,” “Oops! I shouldn’t have said that. Which is typical of “social media”: you’re always saying things you shouldn’t have said.” 

            There are other technologies that keep track of users’ actions online. In this way, businesses are able to satisfy the needs of consumers more effectively, and websites can layout guides and suggestions to make online searching simpler for users. In Duhigg’s article, he writes about Target’s assigned Guest ID numbers for its customers through the experiences and findings of Statistician, Andrew Pole, who says, “We want to know everything we can.” Is finding information about others that goes far beyond what their names are or their IQs helpful for companies in advertising their products—absolutely! However, the idea that everything online users say or do is—in a way—monitored, is something that we should always keep in mind.

            I have learned through this class that the world of technology is rapidly changing, and that goes for those who use technology as well. However, whatever people are responsible for online, and even through phone technologies, always remain. 

An Unexpected “Vacation”

At first when my Intro to Writing Arts class was banned from using Facebook, I really got nervous.

But…But…I have things to do and people that I need to talk to!

facebook blocked

I am not all that obsessed with Facebook. Back in high school up until my freshman year in college, I used to sign onto the site all the time to check up on my family and friends’ statuses, creep on people’s freshly posted pictures, and to publish my own material to be shared with (and hopefully “liked” by) everyone. Yeah, I’m not proud to admit that, but it’s the pathetic truth. These days, with homework out the wazoo, I don’t even get many chances to use Facebook. I mostly use it to communicate and network with my peers when I need to.

I had a group assignment for my Public Speaking class that was due on that upcoming Monday, and of course, my group decided in class the day before the Facebook ban was intact that we would communicate through a Facebook thread message as a way to prepare an infomercial for our next class.

Wonderful.

I didn’t even have any of the group members’ numbers! I emailed a message out to everyone explaining my dilemma, but none of them got back to me—again with the bad luck. Without access to Facebook, I guess I felt helpless. There I was, unable to get in contact with my group for Public Speaking, and there was nothing else that I could do, aside from continuing to email group members, which probably wouldn’t get me to receive any more responses. You have no idea how much I freaked out over this stupid one-minute infomercial assignment—the same one we prepared and completed before we walked into the classroom that Monday afternoon. Thankfully, it was a piece of cake and I worried terribly for nothing, like usual.

My other issue I had due to not being able to log onto Facebook was something that also made me uptight; this time however, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel much sooner. I am a President of a club here at school, and we had our biggest event of the year on the Sunday following the day when everyone’s lives went back to normal; the God of social networks, Facebook, was once again allowed to be put to use. The week leading up to the big day for the Early Childhood Club was a little chaotic with preparations for every little detail for our big event. The club has its own group on Facebook, which is so extremely helpful for me when it comes to communicating with certain or club members; so (you guessed it) OF COURSE not being able to announce information about our event or check with certain people to make sure that they were ready for Sunday was like torture. Every time I found notifications the top bar on the home screen of my phone, it would kill me to just ignore them. Luckily, I informed some members of my executive board about my unfortunate situation so they could communicate within the club Facebook group for me. Although not being able to speak for myself made me feel bad, especially since I couldn’t explain the ban on the site to club members, the distance that set me apart from this social network kind of made me relax. Having a reason not to be on Facebook actually felt good, as awful as that may seem. :/

This experience really made me realize that life goes on—yes, even without Facebook. Sure, I couldn’t log on for a whole week, but I knew I could count on others to communicate for me and inform me of what went on while I was away on a Facebookless vacation. As for my Public Speaking assignment, my group did what needed to be done, and we ended up receiving full credit, all by working together face-to-face! How about that! Being away from Facebook did put some strain on me, for I was afraid about how much I was missing; then again, everything worked out in the end…and I got a nice break, too! 🙂

vacation

No, I am NOT a Teacher’s Pet.

I know what all of you are going to think, right from the get-go, when I say that I chose to blog about my tweetservations (observations, if you didn’t follow) of  @billwolff.

That’s lame. Teacher’s Pet. Cheater.

Yes, I am very well aware that I chose the very Professor that gave this assignment. Originally, I had kept a close eye on a one person in particular who happened to tweet quite frequently. However, it turns out that plenty of my fellow bloggers had the same idea. Great minds think alike!

Since I didn’t want to post material that I knew others had already blogged about and risk copyright infringement, I decided to turn to another member of the Twitterverse—no, not because time was running out and I panicked (I didn’t); not because I felt lazy and didn’t feel like finding someone else (I also didn’t); and even though this figure will determine my grade for this assignment and he also has my academic transcript at hand, I did not choose to write about him for any of the reasons above.Wolff 2

Wolff

When I got to thinking about it, Professor Wolff was an interesting character to follow (even though some of us had no choice but to follow him). Have you heard of him? If not, I will introduce you! Bill Wolff is an Associate Professor in the department of Writing Arts at Rowan University, a Delaware Division of Arts “Fellow” in Photography, a husband, and a father of an “already-tweeting,” young child. Professor Wolff has a whopping 1,818 followers and is currently following 1,277 people on Twitter. He has tweeted 23,610 times and has come a long way since his first trials with communicating in the Twitterverse.

With jokes aside, I have noticed how good Professor Wolff is at what he does. As a professional, Wolff sparks up conversations with and also replies to the tweets of his posse of fellow educators from around the map. He also directs tweets to his students (obviously) that involve his module of Intro to Writing Arts. However, Professor Wolff has also shown that he can also serve as a friend and just a friendly guy on Twitter, tweeting about his family and other subjects outside of the educational realm. Why he has never seen the movie Hercules and is actually intrigued by the “post-apocalyptic psychological horror Flash cartoon series” Salad Fingers, beats me; but these things that he shares through Twitter make him the teacher that I really want to become—one that can really connect with their students.

Bill Wolff has been a great professor in Intro to Writing Arts, and an awesome dude to know. He has made me feel very welcome as a member on Twitter, and I thank him for that!  So… still think I’m a brown-noser? Hmmm? You might. But I’m not; I swear! Leave a comment and tell me what you think! 🙂

Once it’s Out There, ‘Creepy’ Shenanigans Can Happen

We all know by now that whatever is sent through cyberspace, stays there. Our first instinct may be to look back on our past Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram pictures, and YouTube videos to reflect upon our mistakes, cherished memories, and our growth as human beings throughout time. But there are other ways in that we can permanently document ourselves online—banking and shopping online are only a few examples from a long list of servers that lure you into filling out personal information. Let’s face it—all of us have entered this kind of information about ourselves on the Internet in some way or another; and that’s totally fine. It’s not a crime. What is a crime, however, is that there are some people online who know that the Internet is full of secrets and confidential information; and they will do everything in their power to hack into online users’ private files. With our names, addresses, and social security numbers submitted into the Web, we become vulnerable. Although, we may have gained a sexy pair of heels (or a new release of a videogame) out of these situations, we don’t know what could be done with our identities in the process. (Another blog, “Who Knows?” goes further into the subject of privacy). Any one of us can be a victim of hacked information, celebrities included

beyonce-jay-z-vibe-vixen1

On March 12, 2013, a website posted sensitive information of stars such as Jay-Z, Paris Hilton, and Kim Kardashian, as well as government officials including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. According to the article, “Stars hacked! ‘Secret files’ on celebs leaked online,” “The site did not state how the information was obtained or why the people targeted on the site were selected, describing the records only as ‘secret files’.” Social security numbers, addresses, and credit reports were all recorded on the site. Posted along with their information were “unflattering” photos of the selected celebrities. Andrew Smith, Los Angeles Police Commander, mentions that other “top police officials” have also had their confidential information stolen and posted online before. Smith thinks this that, “People get mad at us, go on the Internet and try to find information about us, and post it all on one site.paris-hilton-best-friend-08

There was no evidence found on who had accessed such private information…but even if there was, would it be that important? The main idea behind this major hacking report is that personal information is confidential for a reason. We need to keep track of where we share our identities online and for what reasons. All too easily, such precious data can be found and taken into the wrong hands. Smith says, “The best word I can use to describe it is creepy.” As much as we think the Internet can protect own data, we need to use caution, because once it’s in there, it ain’t coming out!

computer-hacker

A Girl’s Story: A Permanent Footprint in the Media

It is so easy for us to communicate online. Whether we want to update our Facebook statuses, send out tweets, or post YouTube videos, we can complete any of these actions in the matter of seconds with just the confirmation of the Enter key. Although such actions take no time at all, we sometimes fail to realize that those few seconds cannot be taken back. In some cases, it may seem like we can save these rather personal publications from going viral. Unfortunately, we have little control of what we post online after we send it through cyberspace.

It’s just as easy to forget about the things we put online. Our actions from the past can come back to haunt us…also very easily; most of the time, it is when we least expect it.

This past October, fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd committed suicide prior to her sixteenth birthday. Todd was a victim of cyberbullying and cyberstalking for two years after she exposed herself to an anonymous stranger that she had trusted during a video chat. The stranger blackmailed Amanda, asking for a “show”; and if he didn’t get one, Amanda’s reveal would be spread to her friends and throughout the Internet. A year later, an inappropriate photo of Amanda was set as a profile picture for another Facebook account created by the same anonymous figure. The blackmailer had contacted Todd’s friends from her school, which snowballed into, what came across as, a shameful and provocative reputation. Being judged by people at school and having to constantly move from place to place trying desperately to shake off her blackmailer, Amanda was consumed by depression, panic, and anxiety to the point of drug abuse, alcoholism, and self-harm.

A month before her death, Todd posted a video onto YouTube, which shared her story, “Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self-Harm”, which reached over one million views. Although there was nothing that could have been done to stop Todd from acting on her death, the plea expressed in her video influenced campaigns and support groups to urge teens to think about the consequences of posting “sexy” pictures or videos of themselves online. It was said In the Community Blog section of the CBC News website, that the Children of the Street Society, “a charity that seeks to protect children from sexual abuse,” recently started a campaign that “[intends] to raise awareness that, when you are online, there is no such thing as sharing just one photo”.

Amanda Todd’s story just goes to show that once we send things through cyberspace, anything can happen; the risks can be scary and endless. What also can be scary is the fact that poor choices continue to be made online everyday by teens and adults alike. According to Hallae Khosravi from the Toronto Standard, “teenagers aren’t going to stop sending naughty pictures anytime soon. We had it before the rise of smartphones and social media, and just as sex has never gone out of style, nor will the thrill of seeing and sending sexy pics”.

Like Todd’s story, her YouTube video that proved it all has created a permanent footprint in social media. The idea that your life could change from just one submission on the computer is something that all online users should always keep in mind. Although there are advantages of today’s technologies that make tasks quicker and easier to complete, we tend not to think about the downside—the Internet leads us into a trap that is hard to get out of. Everything we put online becomes permanent, instantly, and we are then vulnerable of what could happen next. Be safe when you are online…you won’t regret it.

 

There For Thousands of Eyes to See

Image

In Margaret Atwood’s article, “Atwood in the Twittersphere,” she reflects upon her beginning experiences using Twitter, which at first she thought “was for kiddies”. Twitter is a social network with which you can follow your friends, family, and even people you don’t know and be updated with whatever they post, or “tweet”. In the words of Atwood, “Let’s just say it’s communication, and communication is something human beings like to do.” Whether you’re engaging in conversations by commenting on others’ tweets or just throwing out your own lines of random thoughts, your every word is monitored by your followers. Atwood says comments about her own followers, “They’re sharp: make a typo and they’re on it like a shot, and they tease without mercy.”

A major difference between everyday verbal communication and written communication online is that what you submit through the Web remains there. Sure, Atwood’s spelling errors that are caught by her followers are not that great of a concern; but when it comes to saying things that you could regret later on, you’re out of luck. Atwood even reacts to her words published in her online article,

“Oops! I shouldn’t have said that. Which is typical of “social media”: you’re always saying things you shouldn’t have said…come to think of it: once decrees and blessings have made it out of the mouth—or now, in the 21st century, out of the ends of the fingers and past the Send button—you can’t take them back.”

This brings me back to Twitter and having followers. I followed Margaret Atwood today, and guess how many people are following her…392,290! That means that there are 784,580 eyeballs (thank you, phone calculator) that can be reading about anything from what she had for dinner to her thoughts on works that her fans send her to read. No matter what you decide to post online—whether it is something silly with little significance, something inspirational/informative or something you wish you hadn’t said—it will reside in cyberspace and may potentially be remembered by those who are connected to you. Even pictures are krazy-glued to the Web with the click of a mouse (what’s left of them) or a tap of a finger. My intention of this response is not to go all “Big Brother” on the idea of publishing things online. We all have posted something; it has become a part of life…and for some people, it is their life. I feel that we sometimes forget who our audience is; not only that, we don’t think before we type. We can believe that our actions online will disappear by logging out and shutting down our laptops…if only it was that simple! #besmart #thinkahead

Still Have A Lot To Learn About Technology

            Reading J. D. Bolter’s articles on writing and its connections with technology put me in such a state that I wanted to chuck all of my connections to writing that I own out of my window—my laptop in my lap, my tablet atop my laptop keyboard, a sheet of paper and a pen to the side of my electronic devices that I used to take notes of the articles, and my TV standing on my dresser…which I barely even use—I wanted it all destroyed.

Putting what I was reading, how I went about reading it, and my thoughts about writing in my future into perspective was a jumbled cluster of confidence in my “natural” writing, doubt and feelings of failure in the ways that I attempt to use digital technologies, and confusion by which my dreams of teaching young children were becoming foggy with the question of “how?”

Bolter’s first excerpt I read was, Writing as Technology. In the beginning of my reading, I was feeling good about myself as my beliefs about handwriting were right there on page fifteen:

“Still, the manuscripts were produced at the relatively slow pace of the scribe’s hand, not the insistent rhythm of the machine, and we can see on each page the variations in size and shape of letters that indicate direct human production…we admire the manuscript as art, however, what we admire is the apparent negation of technology, the fact that the codex is not a printed book and therefore not the product of a machine” (Bolter, 15).

As a writer, I stand a firm ground in the appreciation of texts written by hand; even printed texts are okay in my book. However, I am not one to have disbelief in that modern writing technologies today are more effective. I feel comfortable with the Greeks’ translation of techne, which is “a set of rules, system or method of making or doing, whether of the useful arts or the fine arts” (Liddell & Scott, 1973, p. 1,785). I also agree with Bolter’s point, that, “It is not the complexity of the devices that matters so much as the technical or literate frame of the mind” (17). When arriving at the words on page nineteen, however, I was not feeling so comfortable anymore; “The technical and the cultural dimensions of writing are so intimately related that it is not useful to try to separate them…” (19). I took a look at my workplace on my bed, with all of the technologies mentioned earlier surrounding me; shoot. Why I read one article off of my laptop and the other on my tablet while I took notes on both with paper and pen is way too long of a story to explain…however, this situation is not far off of from my usual writing ritual involving digital technologies; it’s always a long and complicated process.

In Bolter’s Introduction: Writing in the Late Age of Print, the line, “The shift is happening throughout our culture, away from patterns and habits of the printed page and toward a new world distinguished by its reliance on electronic communications,” scares me (5). If I can’t even get in sync with digital technologies of today, how am I going to teach children in the future about writing of their time?  When I used to think of my future profession as a preschool teacher, I thought of the library of books with words and pictures that I will put together in my classroom; I thought of those sheets of paper with chunky lines on them that I used as a kid that I would have my students use to practice writing their names. “Can printed picture books hope to compete effectively with broadcast television and interactive video?” (6). Well, only time will tell; however, I can’t keep relying on the things that have made me the writer that I am. I have to get with the times and learn to widen my opportunities in other modernized writing technologies and environments.

Picture Books.

Picture Books. (Photo credit: San José Library) 

I didn’t end up throwing anything out of my window. Although I do not have any answers yet for why I write the way I do, why it’s difficult for me to be more efficient when using digital technologies, and what I am going to do about it in my future career, I need to embrace the idea that I am still a student in college to resolve my problems in writing. It will be readings such as these that will remind me to evaluate my thoughts on and my techniques in writing, and how I can do better in the times ahead.