Driving Distracts Cellphone Users

As one commentator said, this research is worthy of an Ignobel Prize.

(Note: Not an Internet related topic, but I still had to post this up. Please scroll down to go to my actual post for the week).

Posted in research | Leave a comment

Great technology! Same generation gap

The amazing technology we wow at today is crud compared to what’s coming.  How do I know?

Evidence 1: This is a calculator adding machine Arithmometre in 1887.

Check this out! It can add, subtract, and- wait for it- multiply! Egads!

100 years later, we have the pocket calculator. Further down the line, we have calculators in most devices. (What did we have before the Arithmometre? Some people called it a brain, but that wasn’t good because we had to charge it overnight so that it could work well the next day.)

But this time, major innovations will take less than 100 years. At this rate, digital technology is going to enhance into unimaginable dimensions faster than ever. You couldn’t tell a person 15 years ago that a day would come when she could fit 1,000 songs into a device the size of her hand.

Here’s a nice idea to follow from this. If everyone uses these new devices and innovations, then we will have more in common and might understand one another better, right? On Jen’s latest post about Netspeak and the discussion of the generation gap, I commented that despite the equalising forces of technology, older and younger generations will still remain distant and have a hard time relating to each other. Let’s say we don’t want to judge now since baby boomers did not grow up with the Internet. What if we started judging with the generations that were born into the age of the Internet?

I hold firm to the belief that the gaps between generations will not close regardless of equalising technology. I did not know about the Internet until I was 10. When I moved to another country at that age, I could not keep in touch with my friends because none of them had email addresses yet. 13 years later, the Internet is like my third arm, but I can still appreciate what it has to offer me possibly better than a younger person who did not have to go through that kind of separation.

Anytime some new gadget or digital innovation enters the market, I sigh wishing it had come out sooner and have this vision of what I’ll be telling my grandkids about “the olden days” which they did not have to “suffer”.

Grandkid 1: You mean you would carry around those “CDs” to listen to music?
Grandkid 2: That’s so dumb. Why couldn’t you just download it into your brain chip?
Old Esma: It wasn’t so bad. When mp3 players came out, I could download music from the Internet onto my personal computer, plug the mp3 into the USB port and transfer the music file into the device.
Grandkid 2: But you still had to carry the device?
Old Esma: Yes, and I had to carry earphones as well.
Grandkid 1: You mean the United States of Apple didn’t surgically stitch them to your ears at birth? Grandma, you lived in really scary times.


The generations have their distance when it comes to the Internet, but how far apart are they? Pew Internet research gives us the 2009 stats.

Rachel also posted an interesting link on her post showing where the generations are at when it comes to social networking.

Do you believe technology that is easy to use by all will close the generation gap?

Posted in Facebook, innovation, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Judging Credibility of the Internet as Users

Since Week 5’s topic was on credibility and purpose, I want to look at this from the user’s point of view. The Internet does not come with a handbook with warnings and instructions. It is up to the user to learn (or be taught) how to navigate through the loads of information available and choose what to consume.

My stance: The more a person uses the Internet, the better she or he will become at judge a website’s credibility.

The evidence: A mail survey (1089 respondents) was conducted by Penn State University Professor S. Shyam Sundar and instructor Carmen Stavrositu to determine if this was the case.

Their results support my opinion. The findings show that if a person uses the Internet to search for information, they will develop a “self-efficacy with the medium”. This means that a person will believe she or he is capable of using the Internet, which the study says leads to more directed consumption of online sources, and that affects a person’s perceptions about the Internet’s credibility. In short, internet usage increases our abilities to judge what we read.
Interesting findings from the survey:

  • The more people use a medium, the more credible they believe it to be.
  • There’s a positive correlation between newspaper use and Internet use, leading them to state that the Internet is seen as a supplement-not a substitute to traditional news sources. This adds to the discussion on the complementarity of print and web that went on Lieu’s post.
  • Heavy newspaper users rate Internet sources the same way they rate traditional media, probably due to the newspapers heavy marketing of their web pages.
  • If the Internet is used as a source of entertainment, perceptions of credibility does not change much since you’re looking for amusement.

For further studies, check these two sites out:

  • Stanford University Web Credibility Project on what increases credibility
  • Consumer Report’s Web Watch interesting findings on how people SAY they evaluate websites credibility (privacy statements) vs how they actually evaluate it (design of the page).

Side note: People who have weak analysis skills will have a hard time judging sites despite amount of time spent online and may need outside help in determining the credibility of information online.

Images on the chart taken from here and here:

Posted in research, trust | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Updating the About Esma page

I updated the the About Esma page by writing a profile of myself, not as a person, but as an Internet user.

Here is the second part of my user profile:

My relationship with the Internet goes like this:

  1. I am a link surfer. Easily distracted, I jump from link to link and end up spending hours glued to the screen. I once went on Wikipedia to look up a literary term and ended up reading about Norwegian bridges, which I found to be fascinating.
  2. I love Wikipedia. Finding Wikipedia made me feel the like a woman who finally got pregnant after years of infertility. I love learning about random things, but dislike the heavy bound encyclopedias and couldn’t get enough of library books.
  3. Me and Wiki

  4. I am not on the pulse with Internet trends, but thanks to my link surfing, I find out eventually (within the year).
  5. My greatest grievance is that many products can’t be shipped to Australia (Amazon, eBay, half.com). The Internet world is still US oriented (which I did not mind while in the US).
  6. I can’t embrace online health advice, dating sites, Twitter and MySpace (in that order).
  7. I read about pop music and watch movie trailers. I’m interested in knowing and understanding mainstream media and pop culture. I can’t stand watching full movies or listening to half the tunes out there.
  8. The Internet has severely reduced my attention span. If I start on one topic then jump to another, you know what to blame.

Define your relationship with the Internet. What are your Internet interests and web-surfing habits?

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Facebook Places? What were we thinking?

Check in to your location via the Facebook Places app

When Sarah mentioned the location-based social networking Foursquare in our last lecture, I had the same thought as Dijana in her last post: can Facebook get any creepier?

No surprise that Facebook developers have boarded the location train and launched Facebook Places, far behind Foursquare and Gowalla. Google had bought it’s own version called Dodgeball back in 2005, and continued with Google Latitude from 2009, so why not combine that with Facebook? Or even better, combine Foursquare with Facebook?

From Dijana’s post, I was directed to the article titled “Will Facebook’s new location feature make poor people feel bad?” (because poor people can not go to posh restaurants to show off their location), but skipped most of the actual article and went straight to the comments to read a range of responses. This one struck me the most:

Someday we are all going to look back on the Facebook phenomenon and scratch our heads and wonder, “What were we thinking?”
‘s comment on Facebook Places on Read Write Web

At first, I thought Foursquare was a service where you indicate your whereabouts by clicking a spot on a map, but it’s more than that. People “check in” to a “place when they’re there, tell friends where they are and track the history of where they’ve been and who they’ve been there with.”

Let’s imagine that in a different scenario:

But that’s not the image Facebook wants you to see. According to them, you’re preparing a rosy scrapbook of great parties, past pleasures, and favourite haunts:

Assuming Facebook and I are still around 20-30 years later as the optimistic man in the video says, I will have a load of digital files on what I’ve done with who and when. I will go through these the same way high school girls will go through the thousands of pictures where they did those fish-lips poses.

To summarise, here are four issues with these social “passports” that may have us wondering “What were we thinking?:

Going to Brad's Party in NY xxoo

  1. More screen time: Another reason for people to keep their eyes peeled on their phones or computers instead of on people.

  2. Inflates the narcissitic side of people: Just another inventive way to show off where you have been or gain attention even if you just grabbed fries from McDonalds.

  3. Waste of time: just like many Facebook status updates or Tweets.
  4. Privacy and security concerns: Besides the stalking, I’m more concerned about teens bullying each other. However, as much as people lament the loss of privacy, it’s up to the individual to maintain that privacy.

Would you be interested in signing up for this?

UPDATE: For those whose lives aren’t as focused on the outside world, there is Get Glue, Miso, and Philo that allows you to check in the books you’re reading, the shows you’re watching, and the music you’re listening to. CNN has more on this. This deserves a future post.

Posted in Facebook, innovation, privacy | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Muslim search engine blocks nudity

China is not the only country with Internet censorship. In attempts to block explicit content, some Muslims have attempted to create filters.

First, I’ll look at Im Halal search engine, halal meaning religiously permissible. It has two filters: the first gives you “clean results” for your search, while the second rates the results on a haram (forbidden) rating of 1 to 3, making it easy to block out “potentially sinful material“, using the words of The Times Online.

The second search engine is called Taqwa, “piety” in Arabic. Monday’s The Age featured this new site in an article titled “Search and chat website for the modern Muslim“. Frustrated at Internet filtering in Dubai, Melbournians Kerim Nu’man and Marwaa El Hassan created and developed Taqwa, “the Conscience Engine”, which allows users to judge Internet content themselves and discuss it with others. It has three Pac-Man like icons for users to rate the result as halal, haram, or debatable.

Let’s test these search engines out. I’ll experiment with the words “sex education”. Then, I’ll look up something more explicit, such as “nudity”. Finally, thanks to the tips on users from Whirlpool, I’ll bypass the blacklist by looking up “nudity education”. Yes, a strange term, but it’s an experiment to see how the different filters work. Here are the results on Google, Im Halal, and Taqwa.

SEARCH ONE: “sex education”

Google results: Results seem neutral to me. I blocked out the image from the video on the right. I don’t know why there’s a duck there, but I assume it’s a video for younger children. Links on the right turn on alarm bells.

Im Halal’s results: No Wikipedia entry at all. Maybe it’s been dismissed as forbidden. Mostly links to scholars’ articles.

Taqwa’s results: The first two links are from Yahoo Answers, then Pro Choice America, and a site on sex for teens by teens. Google seemed more informative.

: If I were a Muslim who preferred Internet filtering, I’d stick to ImHalal and then Google.

SEARCH TWO: “nudity”

Google: Trust Wikipedia to be at the top of the list. The rest is basically what you expect from such a search.

ImHalal: Blocked. No results.

Taqwa: The Pac-Man skull of Haram.  At least there are results to distract you.

Verdict: If I were a Muslim parent and had to judge a search engine based on one search, I’d have my kid search on Taqwa.

SEARCH THREE: “nudity education”

Google: Wikipedia entry, a parent’s review of a movie that has nudity, the Sex Ed show, an advice column, and a debate of whether nudity is art on The Age. Given the strange combination of search terms, strange results are bound to come up.

ImHalal: We may have passed the filter, but we didn’t get much by doing so. This was the only relevant link, and it doesn’t focus on just the search term.

Taqwa: A warning on results, and then a link on asexuality. Well, there’s a Wikipedia entry.

Verdict: So we can pass blacklist terms, but we don’t get much by doing so.

Final verdict: Being used to Google, I wouldn’t bother moving to another search site, except for image search to avoid irrelevant mostly results (2/6 pictures on page 1 were not the team):

Posted in censorship, search | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Smell the Internet

The Internet is the best thing after sliced bread. It seems like we can do anything. Through the ‘Net, we can shop for groceries, talk with friends, buy and download books, rent movies, and gather an audience. What else can we do on this global system of interconnected computer network? Can we:

If only...

  • see? Documents, pictures, animation, video, text.
  • hear? Dialogue, music.
  • smell…. taste… touch?
    No… no… and no.

So maybe the Internet’s not too close to sliced bread yet. At least we can smell bread. We can’t smell anything through the Internet. Not only that, we can’t touch the animals on Cute Overload, nor can we taste Adriano Zumbo’s infamous V8 cake.

We can’t do any of those. Or can we?

I answer using Barack Obama’s catchy campaign slogan, “Yes we can“. Thanks to (drumroll) iSmell!

iSmell failure for a dot-com company

No, it’s not a new Apple gadget.

Smelling is possible through certain molecules finding its way to your nose. Produced by Digiscents, iSmell indexed thousands of smells that could be digitized and embedded into a web page. It’s like a code that gets activated so that when you visited Slice of Lemon, you’d activate the iSmell which would release a whiff of citrusy goodness.

Sadly, iSmell came at a time when there was little demand for it and ended with a place among PC World’s “25 Worst Tech Products of All Time“.

Tell me: Do you think this type of sensory technology will pick up interest any time soon?

Posted in research, usability | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments