*blows proverbial dust off the blog*

A lot has happened since SharkNotes was last in operation. The quick story is this…I now have a different job, one that does not require/allow me to read the entire the Internet all day and report on it. The job is really great (challenging, but in a good way), but I do miss blogging.

This is not me launching into full operation mode or anything, but it’s a great time to mention that I have a story.

I need get this weekend off to a proper start (cocktail, anyone?), but this I want to finally tell the story of VideoGate 2010.

Want to Know What People are Saying about You?

Sometimes I think I should rename this blog “social media makes me glad I’m not in high school anymore,” or something along those lines. Even though social media tools can do a lot of good, there are always new uses popping-up that make me cringe. Enter AboutEveryone: a new website that allows people to anonymously share what they really think about you.

To comment or view a profile, simply paste the Facebook URL of the person-in-question into the search box on the homepage. If there is already a comment about them, it will appear underneath a textbox for your own submission. If not, you can be the first to leave a comment.

Since the site appears to be pretty new, I bit the bullet and searched for myself.  There are no posts at this time and I am not masochistic enough to check again. However, I know for some people growing up online, the temptation to check again and again may be tough to resist. Just reading some of the recent comments on the homepage remind me of being cyberstalked when I was younger, in a time considerably before social media.

Maybe I am just pearl-clutching here, but thinking of how AboutEveryone will be used makes me uneasy in the same way that sites like formspring do, except that the new site opens you up for commentary whether you ask for it or not.

I’m sure everyone has an eye roll-inducing facebook connection or two, but do those thoughts really need to go public?

Source: cnet News

Check Me Out on CR4

In addition to keeping an eye on social media trends, I write for 30 different blogs that cover a wide range of engineering topics for the community site, CR4. Some blogs are easier to write for than others (for example: Alternative Energy vs. Semiconductors/MEMS technology).

Since I’m writing pretty much non-stop, it makes sense to share the most popular ones on here as well. So, here are five “quick hit” blog entries that have done well in the past week:

Stealth Fighter Plane Makes Inaugural Flight – Aerospace Technology blog

Honda’s Feeling Not-so-Fit – Valve Technology blog

Training Watson to Take on Jeopardy Champions – Test & Measurement blog

Water Purification on the Go – Mechanical Power Transmission blog

Which Technology will Win the Race to the Pump? – Pump Technology blog

Social Media’s Role in International Affairs

It’s impossible blog about social media and not address how it’s being used in current international affairs. I do not claim to be an expert on the any of these happenings, but I have been following the news online and through my own social media channels.

Sharing the Scene
Americans sometimes forget just how many liberties we have. For many in the U.S., social media is used to post silly pictures of friends or to tweet complaints about ill-perceived customer service experiences, etc. Meanwhile, in the midst of protest and revolution, those in Egypt were depending on social media tools to tell the world exactly what was happening on the ground, and also to help plan and arrange protests.

Unfortunately, while social media tools allow people to rally together, they can also be used by government officials to track dissidents and distribute propaganda. Granted, revolutions have been happening without the aid of social media for years; these tools just add an extra layer of complexity to the situations (good or bad, depending on what side you’re on).

Finding People, Saving Lives
As if there wasn’t already enough going on in the news, on Tuesday afternoon, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake ripped through Christchurch, New Zealand. New Zealand police called for a large-scale evacuation on their website, and Facebook and Twitter quickly become overrun with updates.

For some, social media has been a way to assure family and friends about their safety. The Christchurch city council and government are using Twitter to share regular updates. Hash tags being used to track the situation are: #eqnz, #nzeq, #Christchurch, #chch, and #NewZealand.

Additionally, search-powerhouse Google has established a Christchurch Earthquake page as part of their people finder service. There people can look up someone, or share information about someone they know or have found. As of Tuesday, the site says to be tracking about 5,200 records.

That’s not to say that social media didn’t cause any issues in its role in New Zealand. The B2C Marketing Community reports frustration regarding re-tweets of old news and the spread of misinformation. Some reports contained positive news that was later retracted, or included “unfiltered speculations.”

As these situations are ongoing, social media continues to be praised and criticized for its role. I know that for me personally, social media continues to keep me updated. Have you been using social media to follow international news?

Sources:
Crovitz, L. Gordon. “The Technology of Counterrevolution.” The Wall Street Journal. 7 February 2011. Accessed: 21 Feb. 2011. < http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704709304576124573160468928.html>

“Deadly Quake Strikes New Zealand.” CNN. 22 Feb. 2011. Accessed: 24 Feb. 2011. <http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/02/21/new.zealand.earthquake/>

Kravets, David. “What’s Fueling Mideast Protests? It’s More than Twitter.” 27 January 2011. Accessed: 24 Feb. 2011. < http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/01/social-media-oppression/>

Morrison, Thomas. “Egypt’s Social Media Revolution.” Business 2 Community Marketing Community. 21 Feb. 2011. Accessed: 24 Feb 2011. < http://www.b2cmarketinginsider.com/trends-news/egypt%E2%80%99s-social-media-revolution-016044>

MSN NZ. “Social Networking Plays Massive Part in Christchurch Rescue.” MSN NZ. 24 February 2011.  <http://news.msn.co.nz/article/8215797/social-networking-plays-massive-part-christchurch-rescue>

Tsukayama, Hayley. “New Zealand Quake Search Effort Launched Over Social Media.” The Washington Post. 22 Feb. 2011. Accessed: 24 Feb. 2011.
< http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2011/02/new_zealand_quake_search_effor.html>

Walls, Alex.  “Social Media Steps Up in Quake Recovery.” The National Business Review. 23 February 2011. Accessed: 24 Feb. 2011. < http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/social-media-steps-quake-recovery-aw-86739>

Image: http://blog.studionorth.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Twitter-Egypt-revolution-268×300.jpg

Alarming Social Media Trend: Self-Harm Videos

I often hear myself saying how glad I am not to have grown-up with social media. I was a freshman in college when Facebook first appeared, and then it was a tool exclusive to the university.  Eight years later, I have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, YouTube, and LinkedIn. I wouldn’t say that I’m “active” on all of these accounts, but more of an observer.

I doubt that I’d have the same casual attitude about social media if I was coming-of-age along with it. It seems that young people are spending a lot of time living their lives online. What this will mean in the long-run is still unclear, but occasionally a new social media trend will make headlines.

The latest trend on the radar: self-harm videos on YouTube.

The Scope of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury on YouTube,” a recent study published in Pediatrics, has found that teens are uploading videos of themselves cutting or performing other acts of self-harm on the popular video-sharing site. Dr. Stephen Lewis, lead researcher and Professor of Psychology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, suggests that these videos may be reaching other vulnerable teenagers who may see the behavior as “acceptable and difficult to overcome.”

An Already Difficult Problem
For some background, Lewis and his colleagues estimate that between 14-24% of teenagers and/or “young adults” have engaged in self-harming behavior at least once. These behaviors are defined as “deliberate destruction of one’s own body tissue,” and include cutting, burning, scratching, or hitting without the intention of suicide.

Although these behaviors are sometimes dismissed as “cries for attention,” Lewis calls this sentiment a misconception as self-harm is often done in secret in attempt to cope with negative emotions.

The Study
To understand the role that online self-harm videos may play on behavior, researchers first performed Google searches of YouTube with the keywords “self-injury” and “self-harm.” They chose the 50 most-viewed videos featuring an actual person (sometimes performing the act) and the 50 most-viewed videos featuring descriptions and photographs of self-injury. Overall, the 100 selected videos had been viewed more than 2 million times.

From watching the videos, the research team was able to make a number of conclusions about their accessibility and popularity. Namely, that 80% of the content is open to general audiences, and that viewers generally rate the videos highly and often name them as “favorites.”

Other findings note that videos containing only descriptions and images generally receive the most views. Over half (53%) of the videos use a factual or educational tone, and 51% of the videos “conveyed a message of hopelessness” (these are not mutually exclusive).

Conclusions and Concerns
Based on the findings, Lewis and his team suggest that these non-suicidal, self-harm videos may normalize and reinforce the behavior for their audiences who can watch them over-and-over again. They say that many teens use the Internet for social interaction, and that these videos may be more pronounced with those who already self-harm.

Lewis cautions parents, mental health professionals, and doctors to be aware of this trend, so that they can talk openly to teens about self-injury and the triggering effects that watching the videos may have on them.

A spokesperson for YouTube told The Washington Post that they are looking into the feasibility of providing helpful resources or links for users searching for self-injury videos. As for the content itself, she notes that YouTube has policies against graphic content and content that encourages dangerous activity. The site relies on users to flag questionable videos, and YouTube reviews and removes those in violation.

Have you seen any of the videos in question?

Sources:
Paddock, Catharine. “YouTube Self-Harm Videos Could Be Reinforcing Behavior.” Medicalnewsdaily.com. 22 February 2011. < http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/217136.php>

Tanner, Lindsey. “Study Finds Many Graphic YouTube Self-Harm Videos.” The Washington Post. 21 February 2011. Accessed 22 February 2011.
< http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/21/AR2011022100069.html>