Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Web Secret #243: Passwords - part 2

Sometimes I think that I am one of 5 girls in the US reading Wired Magazine. For those of you who do not partake, Wired is a monthly magazine, published since January 1993, "that reports on how new and developing technology affects culture, the economy, and politics."

Wired is geeky, very, very geeky. And male, very, very male. A typical issue will almost certainly feature a piece on the online gaming industry, a gadget like a cross bow that shoots slime, and an article featuring some dude's game changing impact on the tech industry.

Wired, I forgive your chauvinism. Where else would I find a really great story like "Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can’t Protect Us Anymore," a first person account of what it's like to have your digital life completely destroyed by hackers and what to do to fight back.

Here is the Cliff notes version of that article:

The bad news is the password system that is meant to protect our online bank account, websites, e-mail and more is growing increasingly inadequate as hackers become ever more clever and destructive.

More bad news, no new system has yet been devised to replace it. In a couple of years, we may log in to by scanning our eyeballs, but we are not there yet. Even more depressing - hackers are often teenagers whose sole reason for hacking is to wreak havoc.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to improve your passwords. Has Mat Honan, the article's author advises:

  1. Reuse passwords. If you do, a hacker who gets just one of your accounts will own them all.
  2. Use a dictionary word as your password. If you must, then string several together into a pass phrase.
  3. Use standard number substitutions. Think “P455w0rd” is a good password? N0p3! Cracking tools now have those built in.
  4. Use a short password—no matter how weird. Today’s processing speeds mean that even passwords like “h6!r$q” are quickly crackable. Your best defense is the longest possible password.
  1. Enable two-factor authentication when offered. When you log in from a strange location, a system like this will send you a text message with a code to confirm. Yes, that can be cracked, but it’s better than nothing.
  2. Give bogus answers to security questions. Think of them as a secondary password. Just keep your answers memorable. My first car? Why, it was a “Camper Van Beethoven Freaking Rules.”
  3. Scrub your online presence. One of the easiest ways to hack into an account is through your email and billing address information. Sites like Spokeo and offer opt-out mechanisms to get your information removed from their databases.
  4. Use a unique, secure email address for password recoveries. If a hacker knows where your password reset goes, that’s a line of attack. So create a special account you never use for communications. And make sure to choose a username that isn’t tied to your name—like m****—so it can’t be easily guessed."
You have been warned.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Web Secret #242: PatientsLikeMe

Every year, I attend the World EAP (Employee Assistance Program) Conference.

And every year, I learn about something amazing from someone attending or presenting at that conference.

2012 was no exception. I was fortunate to be co-presenting a "Super Session" on Social Media and Apps with Barbara Veder, (the clinical leader for a major Canadian EAP's Digital Management Team.) As we were catching up, Barb proceeded to tell me about a web site called

"Do you know about it? Have you been on it?" she asked me. "No and no." And then I forgot about the conversation until I found a scrap of paper in my conference bag on which I had noted the website's url.

In 2007, PatientsLikeMe was named one of "15 companies that will change the world." Here is the amazing, touching story about this fantastic resource:

Whether you are an EA professional or a therapist, this web and social networking site is a veritable treasure trove of resources, information, and support for a myriad of diseases both behavioral and physical. PatientsLikeMe now serves and is served by over a 170,000 patients suffering from 1,000+ conditions.

In addition, at the heart of the site lies a revolutionary research platform that aims at doing almost real time research on new therapies and medicines. For more on that watch this TED talk.

Can't wait to see what I learn at the 2013 Conference.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Web Secret #241: Sugru

What was created by a woman, named one of the 50 best inventions of 2010 (along with the iPad,) costs under $10 and is marketed almost entirely by its users?

Give up? Welcome sugru.

As Time Magazine explained, "sugru Looks like Play-Doh, acts like Super Glue. Sugru, a brightly colored silicone rubber, is the brainchild of ... Jane ni Dhulchaointigh, who worked with scientists for five years to develop a material soft enough to mold yet durable enough to fix or "hack" things so they work better."

If you go to the Sugru landing page, you will see their tag line "The future needs fixing," followed by a brief definition, "sugru is the new self-setting rubber for fixing, modifying and improving your stuff. Over 155,000 people in 119 countries are using it make their stuff work better."

Still not sure what sugru is?

You're not alone, because it's almost impossible to explain sugru, you have to show sugru. But it's not sugru's employees who do that, it's sugru's users, who send videos from around the world, which are showcased all over the sugru website.

Here is just one example:

Sugru staff understand that their thousands of customs will do a better job of coming up with ideas and sharing them than they ever could
. That's crowd sourcing at its best.

Imagine the money and staff they save by really making the customer king.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Web Secret #240: the Millenials Next Door

I hang out with Millenials. I have no choice in the matter, all three of my kids are Millenials. This generation is typically defined as including teenagers and young adults who were born in the 1980s up to the year 2000. And I am here to tell you, they are not like you and me.

Exhibit A Snapchat - Thanksgiving - My twins are home from college and I notice that they are even more focused on their smartphones than usual. Amid giggles and snorts of laughter, they introduce me to a phone app called Snapchat. I'll let the New York Times explain: "Snapchat is a photo-sharing app that changes privacy norms in a very novel way. [Great, just what we needed - less privacy.] The free app allows users to send others photos and control how long receivers can see them. These photos last for up to 10 seconds, before they disappear forever."

By late October, TechCrunch was reporting that "users have shared over 1 billion photos (“snaps”)" and "users share over 20 million snaps every day, a figure he says keeps growing." So this app allows you take a photo, send it to your friends, they view it for a few seconds, and then "poof" it disappears. Get it? If you are over 29, maybe not.

Exhibit B Fab - Thanksgiving was a busy time. My 23 year old grabbed my iPad from me and told me "You need this." She then proceeded to download Fab, a mobile shopping app that has taken the world by storm. No question, Fab features some of the coolest stuff ever. Brilliantly curated jewelry, furniture, handbags, gadgets and more. My oldest child explained "it's like Pinterest, meets eBay, meets Etsy." This is because Fab allows you to instantly share the fact that you like a particular item with all your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I have a confession to make - I have never had the impulse to share my interest in various inanimate objects with a whole bunch of random acquaintances. In fact, I highly value my privacy. In addition, I found myself craving a Xanax within 10 minutes of trying to make sense of this haphazard, disorganized website/app. Check it out, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Exhibit C - Guess what my 18 year old daughter wants for her birthday? You would never guess. A record player much like the one I owned when I was 12 years old.It's cute and retro - no doubt about it. Thing is, I vividly remember the first time I ever heard music played on a compact disc. This was sometime in the 80s and I was blown away. The sound was clear, there was no static and the CD players were small. The overwhelming majority of us got rid of our heavy boxes of records, sold off our ginormous stereo systems, and never looked back.

I know, I don't get it either.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Web Secret #239: The Google Job Experiment

A great viral campaign costs next to nothing. The idea is everything.

Alec Brownstein is a copywriter who wanted a great job
, at a top New York City ad agency.

How to make that happen?

Alec knew that everyone likes to google themselves. So he made a list of the top creative directors at his target agencies. Then he bought Google ad words for the creative directors' names.

This meant that anytime the directors googled themsleves, his ad appeared at the top of the results page:

Hey John Doe Googling yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun too.

He created ads for 5 people, got interviews with 4, and was offered a job from 2. He achieved his goal to be hired at a major ad agency.

It cost him $6 to buy the ads.

Think about it.