Monthly Archives: August 2013

Why I hate Internet cookies

My PC has been mis-behaving itself recently. I’ve been getting some Security Essentials warnings recently about an .html file that the software didn’t recognise. I am not aware that I have ever accessed this file and as the file was stored in my Temporary Internet Files folder, there’s a good chance it was part of an install.

The alerts were starting to become annoying. I cleaned my temp files folder (there were over 9,000 files in there) and I decided to tighten up my Internet security by tightening up my browser settings.

I felt that I was no longer in control of my PC. I hate that. I hate the way that files appear on my PC without my explicit say so. so I decided to do something about it…

imageIn Internet Explorer – the browser I use most often I went into ‘Internet Options’ and clicked on the ‘Advanced button’ in the privacy settings tab.

I ticked the dialog box to Override automatic cookie handling and set the cookie status to  the following:

I set the ‘First Party Cookies’ to Accept.

First Party Cookies are necessary on a site for you to be recognised as an individual visitor.

Blocking first party cookies makes it really hard to login to any site anywhere. Google certainly will not let you log in without accepting first party cookies.

I set the setting for ‘Third Party Cookies’ to ‘Prompt’.

I did this to see how many ad serving cookies were going to be placed onto my PC. Every time a hidden cookie tried to place itself onto my PC I would get an alert.

Each cookie belongs to a website – either the main website such as (First Party), or one of the ad server companies that serve ads within that site. These are domain names such as, and

These third party cookies monitor your browsing habits and deliver ads to you. Often they deliver the same old ads over and over again.

I then did my work as usual for the rest of the day. I logged on to sites where I usually logged on, and blocked all cookies from each site that requested it through the Privacy Alert dialog box.

Now, 24 hours later I have had 168 Alerts from different sites that wanted to put a cookie onto my machine.

That is 168 sites with domain names I have never heard of, hiding on sites that I use regularly. Hidden, perhaps malicious sites that I would normally automatically grant access to place files on to my machine.

Most of these sites serve (hopefully) relevant ads. Some of these sites, as they are not under the control of the host web site, could introduce worms and other malware onto my machine.

You can of course, totally control your privacy by blocking ALL cookies. It makes it really difficult to browse the web and access the sites you need to. You can use a totally private website such as DuckDuckGo if you are tired of Using Google Search


Or you could take the easy route and block all third party cookies from accessing your machine. After another 10 alerts as i visited another web site, I think that is going to be by far the easiest way to help keep my machine safe…

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.


Why our social networks make us feel lonely

There are days when I look at my Facebook and other social network feeds with envy. Everyone in my social circles seems to live and lead perfect and interesting lives. I see stories of holidays, activities, friends getting together and having fun. I see complaints, whinges and bitching. I see anger and indignation, boasts and one-upmanship.


But do I see the truth about my friends and their lives? Or do I see the minute speck of reality, carefully edited that they want me to see? Do I only see the carefully crafted parts of their lives that they want me to see – so I can think of them in a better light. So that they can show me the best part of who they really are. But are they the person I think they are?

Are our social networks changing us – encouraging us to portray a better version of the people we really are?

Our communities are weakening as we spend more and more time away from our friends and families. more and more of us think of ourselves as lonely. But how can this be? We have lots of friends on our social networking sites. We engage with them often. Our online social lives are demanding and require us to constantly contribute. At dinner, at home, as soon as we wake we add status updates to show our friends what a great time we are having. We feel connected to all our friends. And our friends stop us from feeling alone don’t they?

Our online networks grow. We collect connections on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook like badges of honour – as a mark of how successful we are. But do we have the deep friendship and relationships with these collections? Of course not. We are replacing intimacy with status updates and photo sharing.

But do the online messages of support really make us feel part of a closely knit community of friends?

I know some of my friends on social networks really well. I share gossip and experiences with some of my friends. My other friends, my weak ties still matter in my social network. But they are less ‘connected’ to me than my strong ties. I can not manage to have a close relationship with all of my social networking friends, Dunbar’s threshold number of 150 friends works for us online as well as offline.

As humans we tend to be really social creatures and congregate together in communities either offline or online. However, we are valued and rewarded for our individuality. At work we are measured for our personal achievements – not the achievements of the community, or work group as a whole. As a result of our achievements we get paid more salary, bonuses and achieve a higher grade of career. We feel better about ourselves and spend more money to validate our self worth.

Unfortunately, in pursuing our careers we often ignore the personal community that makes us feel connected. We spend more time on social networks, sharing thoughts and feelings online that we could be sharing with our close family friends and communities.

But social networks are making us lonely.

We become addicted to our devices, to our virtual relationships. We all suffer FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and we use our smartphones from the shower to the sack. We effectively manage our social lives through our devices. But are we truly fulfilled with our online social lives?

We are exchanging our community and our conversation with online connections. We seem to have many friends – but we are ultimately lonely. Our conversation now happens online instead of face to face.

We will always be heard by someone online. We can get the attention that we crave online. We can write humorous, witty posts, we can share interesting, thought provoking prose. We can be who we desire to be online. And we will never be alone. We have our connections and we have our conversations online.

And as our conversation happens online, we spend time making sure that our online status shows us in the best possible light. We promote our successes and edit out the unsuccessful parts of our lives. We delete swathes of our actual lives to show how fabulous our lives seem.

The problem is that conversation is unstructured, chaotic and unpredictable. It is unedited, it is ‘how it is’. Sherry Turkle in her brilliant Ted talk talks about conversation.

‘People say, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with having a conversation. It takes place in real time and you can’t control what you’re going to say.” So that’s the bottom line. Texting, email, posting, all of these things let us present the self as we want to be. We get to edit, and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch, the face, the voice, the flesh, the body — not too little, not too much, just right’.

And yet our online messages, are thoughtfully constructed and edited. This post has been corrected, and edited. It is not the original thoughts from my brain. It is a better version of the original truth I intended to share.

Our online messages are not chaotic. They are carefully contrived to have the biggest impact on our society. We display ourselves to our community in the best way that we can. We announce our successes (and our failures) in the way we want them to be seen by our connections. We cut out the bits we do not want you to see. We reserve the unedited truth for our face to face friends.

In the Innovation of Loneliness, Shimi Cohen says ‘I share therefore I am’. We use technology to define our thoughts and feelings – even as we are having them. We are faking experiences so that we have something to share with our connections.

As Turkle says,

“That feeling that no one is listening to me is very important in our relationships with technology. That’s why it’s so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed — so many automatic listeners. And the feeling that no one is listening to me make us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us”.

Don’t let a machine take the place of the human that cares about you. Ignore Timothy Leary’s phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out”. Sometimes the best way to enjoy your true friends is to Drop in, Tune in, Turn off.

Eileen Brown is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.  Connect with Eileen on Twitter and  or contact her to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

Sex, Tattoos and iPhone accidents

I love this. Following on from my post about people using their smartphones from the shower to the sack, here’s an infographic from SquareTrade the protection plan for mobile devices and laptops showing that people that have sex more than once a week damage their iPhones.

The study also shows that those who have tattoos, ride motorcycles or trade stocks also have a higher chance of a phone fumble.

If you have a tattoo or ride a motorcycle you are 25 percent more likely to have had an iPhone accident.if you live in a household of more than 4 members, or have sex more than once a week you are 15 percent more likely to have an iPhone accident.

And if you are a stock trader beware. You are 40 percent more likely to have had an iPhone accident of you frequently trade stocks.

Ty Shay, SquareTrade’s Chief Marketing Officer. “As our devices become increasingly central to our lives, they’re at the mercy of our lifestyles and sometimes risky behaviour. This research gives us a glimpse into what trends we may see in the future.”


There’s a theme here. iPhones.

I think if you don’t want to have an iPhone accident then don’t do the activities in the infographic – or switch to a different mobile OS such as Android or Windows Phone Smile

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

How Twitter has ruined our ability to spell

So Twitter users can’t spell? Well there is no big surprise there then. With only 140 characters per tweet to compose your pithy message, you haven’t got much choice. You have to to truncate your message – or commit one of a whole host of grammar sins.

imageResearch by Brandwatch and a cool infographic shows that we can not spell. Twitter is the worst offender when it comes to spelling. Users are almost twice as likely to deviate from official English than they are on Facebook and 25% more likely to misspell than on Google+.

The US are slightly worse at spelling than UK Tweeters. Females are worse spellers than men with 1 in 169 misspelling words compared with 1 in 192 males.

Interestingly though, females tend to elongate certain words such as ‘looool’, ‘ohhh’ and ‘awww’ whereas males on the other hand shorten words. Males use words like ‘kinda’, ‘gotta’ and ‘wanna’ in their tweets.

The top five grammar errors highlighted by the study are: im, wont,dont, cant and id. The missing apostrophe  is obviously down to the limits of 140 characters in a tweet.

This limit has also encouraged us to use acronyms liberally such as ‘lmao’, ‘lol’ and ‘omg’.

We also misspell words on Twitter. Words we tend to get wrong are: definitely, weird, surprise, separate, embarrass, government, argument and achieve.

We are however becoming slightly more literate in our online conversations – but only by 0.01% per year. At least we are moving in a positive direction.

It is difficult to get your point across in such a succinct way on Twitter when limited by characters. Having to abbreviate words and missing out vowels is not new. We have been using mobile phone ‘txt spk’ for years when texts were limited to 160 characters per message. We have happily transferred our abbreviated language onto Twitter.

But this short form language is now prevalent our day to day verbal interactions. Listen to your children and your friends.The spoken word is now peppered with WTFs, OMGs and LOLs  We are using verbal emoticons to describe how we feel instead of using the longer description.

Twitter and texting has provided us with new language forms and it is not surprising we are adopting these shortened forms of language as our lives become busier and busier.

Perhaps blog posts will start to go the way of the tweet becoming shorter and shorter to avoid the curse of the ultimate blogger insult, TL:DR

Credit: Sammy0716

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.