Monthly ArchiveNovember 2009

Social Media 24 Nov 2009 11:05 am

Tweet your happiness; it’s contagious

A study from Harvard Medical School suggests that happiness could be contagious. And so could obesity, smoking, depression and grumpiness.

The article “Social Networks and Health” from the Annual Review of Sociology suggests that if your good friend is happy, you are much more likely to become happy. And if your good friend is overweight, you are more likely to become overweight. Scientists think these occurrences are due to humans mimicking those around them, eating the same foods, performing the same acts or just maintaining the same outlook on life.

This all seems logical with friends you see face-to-face, but what about through social networking online? Could a tweet on Twitter about getting a new job make your friends a little happier, or could a Facebook photo of you sulking just bring your friends down?

Currently there isn’t much in research on whether your cyber-friends affect your happiness, but it seems possible to some degree. Online social media allow friends to connect with you, share photos and video, even offer support. Though not as personal as, well, in-person connections, social media is allowing more people to share and be happy together.

Concerning if your Internet friends could contribute to your weight, smoking habits or mood swings, that may need a bit of research but happiness seems a sure thing. So tell your followers, connections, buddies and friends on the web that you’re happy. I’m sure they’ll pass it on.

Alyssa Eckles

Uncategorized 23 Nov 2009 11:19 am

Could subscription fees be the end of Hulu?

Free television shows you can watch on your computer? It sounds too good to be true? That’s what Hulu, the online video player, is beginning to think as well. showcases the latest episodes of shows from major cable channels for free. It’s simple to work: just find the series you want to watch and click on an episode. There are commercials and Hulu will remove television shows after a short period of time, but overall it’s a great concept.

Despite its popularity and general success, Hulu is considering a huge change. The video player has announced it would like to start charging viewers in 2010, turning the “free-for-all” website into a subscription service.

If Hulu starts charging its viewers for content, it will lose quite a few significant audience groups. People who just want to catch up on a series won’t continue with Hulu, and neither will those who use it as a surrogate television. Most major television channels will offer the three most recent episodes of a show for free, if you don’t mind their finicky media players. Many users will be hard-pressed to find something positive about a media player which charges it viewers for something they had been getting for free.

Hulu will need to evolve if it wants to charge viewers and remain the top online-video site after YouTube. The first thing will be to cut all commercials; nobody wants to pay to sit through the same McDonald’s commercial five times in a 20-minute show. Hulu will also need to beef up its content. Currently, it only offers maybe 5-10 current television shows from each main channel and only a few shows from smaller specialized channels like Syfy. More shows from more channels would be a great way for Hulu to keep its audiences.

The biggest thing Hulu will need to do to remain popular with subscription fees is simply to be the best. Whether it’s offering more than 300 television series in their entirety or featuring full-length movies before their release on DVD, Hulu could survive a major change. Without something extraordinary, though, Hulu won’t make it to another season.

Alyssa Eckles

Uncategorized 23 Nov 2009 11:12 am

Texting While Driving: A Dangerous Distraction

As technology advances, people are increasing their ability and preference to be in a state of constant contact with others. However, when this expansion of communication reaches a point of pervasiveness that interferes and distracts from an individual’s primary tasks the results can be disastrous.

With the growth in cell phone usage, more and more people are prone to utilize their phones while they drive. This is not limited to teenagers or younger adults; people from all ages are increasing the use of their phones and other electronic devices in various capacities while driving. This includes such things as dialing a phone number, checking email on a mobile device, changing the music on a digital music player, and sending text messages.

Driving is primarily a visually dependent activity, thus any action that removes the driver’s eyes from the road is potentially dangerous. Beyond merely seeing the road, driving requires the diver to be mindful and aware of what is going on around them. Texting and similar actions take both the drivers eyes and mind away from the road.
Various studies, both in real and simulated scenarios, have established the hazards of this distracted driving. According to research conducted at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, when a car driving at 55 mph texting takes the driver’s concentration off the road for the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field. Furthermore, a study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory at Wokingham, Berkshire England found that texting while driving is as impairing as drunk driving. Yet, regardless of all the tests all the evidence, even first hand experiences in close crash situations a large number of people continue to text while driving.

The legal regulation of texting and driving is gaining support on multiple levels all across the United States. Nationally, President Obama signed an order that forbade all federal employees from texting while operating a federally owned vehicle. Additionally AAA is lobbying for a bill that would force all states to adopt no texting while driving laws and enact them by 2013. On the smaller scale a little under half of all the states so far have passed laws that outlaw texting while driving.

This is a great step towards reducing the problem, but it is difficult to actually enforce the laws. Simply spotting the behavior, beyond being a poor/distracted driver, is difficult let alone actually proving that whatever the driver was texting. It only takes a couple clicks to erase all text messages on a phone. Theoretically this is can occur in less time then it would take for a police officer to pull a person over and walk from their patrol car to the other vehicle. Thus without subpoenaing cell phone records confirming that the person was indeed texting and driving would be extremely difficult. Even then, a person could delete the text and not send it, thus making the subpoena irrelevant. The punishment for texting while driving varies throughout the states that have banned it, but the standard seems to be a moderate fine, which increases per offense.

Where legal regulation falls short, technology is stepping up to help. Although the advances in technology and increased level of communication lead to the danger these distracting dangers, several steps are being taken to correct the problem. One example of this is the development of Microsoft and Ford’s Sync technology. Sync allows a person to connect their phone wirelessly to the car using Bluetooth technology. When a text is received, Sync provides a number of prewritten responses that can be keyed in and sent using the appropriate number on the dashboard. Sync also includes voice command technology that allows a person to vocally control various calling features of their phone. Specific music artists and tracks can also be vocally selected from a digital music device when one is connected to the vehicle. Although there is currently not adequate technology to allow for talk to text/text to talk interaction reports claim that Ford and Microsoft are currently working on further development. All of these applications allow for a more seamless, less distracting, driving and communicating experience.

Not waiting for legal regulation and technology to take their full affect there are groups attempting to raise awareness about the dangers of texting and driving. Many of these stem from established groups that are aimed at aiding and informing teenagers and their parents. The most shocking effort of the anti-texting and driving movement is a public service announcement made by a British police department, with the intent to be shown to teenagers. The extremely graphic video shows a teenage girl whose texting and driving has devastating results. Click here to view the video: Texting and driving PSA. While the video is indeed disturbing, the intention is to illustrate just how dangerous texting and driving can be.

In the end, the main goal of all of these efforts is to encourage drivers to keep their eyes and minds focused on the road. The law, technology and community groups are all moving forward to eliminate texting and driving, hopeful that society will soon follow suit.

Mike Witkowski

Uncategorized 05 Nov 2009 04:40 pm

Who Has The Time!

It never ceases to amaze me how much technology has come into my life in the past 20 plus years. Email was wonderful, but has become a dumping ground for unnecessary things. Phishing is terrible. It takes me longer to go through my email to find the relevant messages.

Looking at the social media spaces that I have set up is time consuming as well. When do I or anyone else have time to do their “real jobs.”

Articles are being written that many employers are banning employees from engaging in social media on company time.

Sandy Eiler