Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Web Secret #69: Is This A Scam?

When I get an e-mail telling me I won 20 million Euros in the Paris lottery I know it's a scam.

But sometimes, I get e-mails, or read stuff online - and I am not so sure. When that happens, I launch Jason Morrison's neat little website "Is this a scam?" The site is a Google Custom Search Engine tuned to anti-scam and anti-fraud sites, useful forums, and government agency websites.

I simply LOVE the simplicity of this website. In white lettering against a vivid bright green background, you read:
Is this a scam?
Wondering if an ad, email, or miracle cure is a scam?
Ask the internet
All you do is fill in your area of concern in the search window and click "SEARCH".

As an example, I have been wondering if a certain $29.99 product will really give me teeth as white as Beyoncé's. So I entered "teeth whitening". Here are a few of the listings that came back:I am now thoroughly enlightened.

Scam off.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Web Secret #68: Wireless Extension Cords

It's been a while since I've reviewed cool stuff. Hadn't been inspired, until I stumbled upon one of my favorite sites,, a website that features endless toys, gadgets and geekery.

Anyway, the gadget du jour on the site, Wireless Extension Cords, had me reaching for my Amex card in a matter of seconds. Why? - (you might ask...)

I like to imagine that when Al Gore is paid $250,000 to deliver a keynote speech about global warming, his computer/microphone/powerpoint/lighting set up works. I, on the other hand, arrive at my speaking venues ready to give a stirring presentation about innovative uses of social media, and find that, 9 times out of 10, things DON'T WORK or are "not set up properly."

Examples of "things not working" include:
1. my flash drive does not work in their computer
2. my PowerPoint slides are not visible on their screen
3. the microphone they attached to my lapel is dead
4. no one knows how to operate the brand new LCD projector
5. I have 10 minutes of power left before my computer dies (did I click "hibernate" instead of "shut down" before I got on the plane???) and the nearest outlet is 20 feet from the dais.

And the tech person assigned to FIX things at the conference is:

a. unfindable
b. an idiot
c. does not have the necessary gear to solve the problem (eg an extension cord!)

This has led me to arrive with enough backup equipment to implement a Plan B, a Plan C, or (God help me), even a Plan D, when all else fails.

Clearly a new addition to my presentation first aid kit is going to be Wireless Extension Cords (priced at an affordable $34.99.)

All I need to do is plug the Wireless Extension Cord (WEC) base unit into a standard wall outlet, and plug whatever I need into the satellite unit (in this case my laptop power cord.) (The WEC uses microwaves in the 7.2GHz range, so it won't interfere with wireless networks, Bluetooth components, etc.) Now, all I need to do is adjust the antennae on the two units so they are aimed at each other. Turn everything on and I have the power! The distance the WEC units can broadcast differs from situation to situation (due to interference of such things as walls, power lines, and microwave ovens), but ThinkGeek has beamed power over 300 feet!

Problem solved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Web Secret #67: Everything Is Virtual

Question: What's the next step in the social media revolution?

Answer: An explosion in virtual activity in an increasingly sophisticated virtual world.

In its day, (the 90’s), the TV show Star Trek – Deep Space Nine featured what seemed like a very futuristic concept, that crew members on a spaceship would be able to enter a virtual recreation area where, (even though they were in a spaceship), they could play baseball on a virtual ball field, listen to jazz in a vintage nightclub, etc.

Fast forward 10 years or so, and today, we can go to Second Life, (an online virtual world), and have all kinds of experiences that would never be available to us in the “real world”. Granted Second Life does not have the sophistication (yet) of the Star Trek holosuite – but that’s just a matter of time. I just heard a prediction that by 2012, many of us will be watching the London Olympics on 3-D TV sets. Just imagine that Second Life becomes a 3-D environment which we can enter as ourselves, without an avatar, and the leap to recreation in a holosuite suddenly seems much smaller.

Some experts believe that the existing surging virtual goods market represents a profound economic revolution, on par with the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century.

In a thought provoking article in The Guardian, Is virtual boom our industrial revolution? journalist Victor Keegan point out that people using Facebook or other social networks are already sending each other "virtual" gifts such as roses, birthday cakes or even stuffed animals. These gifts are often paid for with "virtual" currencies. Estimates put the value of virtual goods on Facebook at almost $100m.

A team, including the guru of virtual world economics Edward Castronova, has been poring over internal transactions for Sony's Everquest II online game. It found that income per capita in the game was between $130 and $164 a year, putting the average player on par with citizens in developing nations such as Congo.

The reason Keegan believes that virtual interactions represent a seismic economic change rather than a passing fad are numerous:
  1. The technologies behind virtual spaces are rapidly developing.
  2. Soon products will be constructed in a virtual world and then "printed" out in the real world as a tangible product.
  3. Social networks, virtual worlds and the three-dimensional web are getting more powerful every year.
  4. There is a growing awareness of the necessity to combat global warming, (and I would argue, to cope with pandemics), by limiting the use of transportation in favor of staying home, using virtual goods and traveling in virtual worlds. It is much more cost-effective - as increasing numbers of organizations have already found out - to meet or collaborate in a virtual world than to fly everyone to a destination.
Keegan closes his article by making the somewhat mind bending argument that everything can be seen as virtual. A piece of chocolate you eat becomes virtual in a matter of seconds; a virtual rose sent to your Facebook can last longer than a real rose. Many things we think of as real – such as "money" in the form of a dollar bill, or the value of a "brand" such as Nike – are already virtual.

Keegan concludes that if the move towards virtual doesn't become a revolution in its own right, it will only be because the virtual and real worlds will have merged to the point where it is difficult to distinguish them.

The implication for me is clear – there is a huge opportunity, (I would even say an imperative), for clinicians, companies, associations and organizations to establish their presence in a virtual world – be it an existing platform, or one yet to be created.

I will meet you there.

Thank you Online Therapy Institute Blog for your thought provoking "Is Face-to-Face Therapy Technically More Virtual Than Online Therapy?" which led me to Keegan's article and inspired this post.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Web Secret #66: 5mn Life Videopedia

Do you have the patience of a toddler?
Wouldn't be caught dead reading instructional manuals?
Too proud to ask your friend/relative/colleague for help when your computer/hairdryer/toilet goes on the fritz?

Then you need the 5mn Life Videopedia aka, a website containing tens of thousands of professionally produced instructional videos across 20 categories and 140 subcategories. 5min features content from some of the world’s largest media companies as well as the most innovative independent producers.

For our purposes, I decided to browse the 5mn Tech category.

Product Reviews: I am thinking of getting a MacBook Pro, so I click on Product Review Videos, then enter "MacBook Pro" in the FIND window. Voila: A Look at the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch 2009. I have to watch a 10 second ad before my video launches - no biggie.

Software Tutorials: My brain dead neighbor is asking me to help her unglitch her vintage computer. Step one - run Scandisk. I set her up to watch How to Run Scandisk in XP. She leaves me alone. All are happy.

How to Do Stuff on the Web: I have been dying to add a Favicon to my website. No sweat, here is How to Add a Favicon - nice & easy.

Tech Others: This section features an amalgam of useful material, including lots of "how to shop for..." videos. For example, I've been thinking of buying an LCD projector. Here to help me is A Guide to Buying LCD Projectors., I love you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Web Secret #65:

The other day, my friend Alex, the computer genius, started raving about a website called He confided, "Before I purchase any electronic stuff, I check them out first. It's the kind of website where you can find deals like 'Buy a ream of paper, get an Apple MacBook for free!'"

OK Alex, not quite, but the site promises to scour thousands of online retailers and tens of thousands of deals to deliver the best 100+ deals each and every day. They verify that each deal is valid, the lowest total price they could find, and from a reputable retailer. Then and only then do they post it. And contrary to the name, does not just feature Apple products.

I visited the site this morning and found that Alex was right. Here are just a few of the deals that were available that day:
  • a refurbished Apple MacBook Core 2 Duo 1.83GHz 13.3" Laptop in White, for $569.99 (!)

  • an unlocked Nokia E71 Smartphone for $280 + free shipping

  • an HP02-Compatible Inkjet Cartridge 8-Pack for $35.
The deals are endless, ranging from items costing just a few dollars, to LCD TVs costing many thousands. Savings are considerable, and tells you exactly how to get them - which websites to go to, what coupon codes to enter, etc. - I just added you to "My Favorites".