Nesting Buddy

When Entrecard and Adgitize closed shop a few years ago, many bloggers were wondering if there will be some kind of platform that could help promote their sites and act as some sort of directory service. One of those that tried to fill in the social media vacuum was Bloggabase.

Created by Andy Barr and Richard Leigh of PR agency, the basic idea of Bloggabase is that it allows bloggers to sign up and provide a few details about their blogs such as the topics covered and the demographic of their target audience.

Once 2,000 bloggers have signed up, the service will open to agencies, offering subscription-based access to the database. The intention, say the creators, is to allow better targeted relations, so much so that bloggers are encouraged to complete a ‘key words’ field to help hone the approaches they may receive.

The concept is nothing new. If you have been blogging for some time now, then you’ll note that Bloggabase is very similar to Gorkana, Response Source or even the US site, BlogDash.

It appears that the intention of the creators is to continue to tweak the way blog profiles work to make it increasingly easy for bloggers to limit the approaches they receive to only the most relevant ones. A good comparison would be Foodies 100 and Tots 100 which allow food bloggers to create targeted profiles, which can then be browsed and targeted by agencies on a one off or subscription basis. In the case of Bloggabase, it’s not limited to the food industry alone, hence reach more bloggers not covered by the popular 100 sites.

Does it help the blog’s popularity? Is it mainly focusing on search engine optimization (SEO)? The answer could be between yes and no. SEO is mentioned a few times in the press release and the first thing a blogger is presented with when they sign up is the amount in GBP they can expect to charge ‘per blog post’.

However, Bloggabase frown upon paid links as such practices are against Google’s Terms and Conditions and the FAQ confirms this, so quite where the value is for SEOs remains to be seen – which means it’s in a grey area.

Link-free advertorial could indeed be a way to ‘monetize your blog’ as the front page splash promises, but I don’t think many bloggers would get many non-SEO approaches. It’s the unbiased review that search engines want.

Will Bloggabase be a success? It’s too early to tell at this time. Monetization and paid post aside, useful multi-sector database sounds promising.

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E-Mail Scanning
Finally, a major shift in company policies have allowed social networking sites and internet companies to help weed out unwanted and predatory behavior in order to protect the most vulnerable group in society: the children.

Google and other companies like Facebook and Microsoft just went a step further by voluntarily policing their services, including search and email, for child pornographic materials. The companies use algorithms to test whether the digital information encoded in images matches against the child pornography database at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

As a result, police authorities in Texas recently arrested 41-year-old John Henry Skillern after he allegedly sent an email to a friend containing child pornography. The tipster that blew Skillern's cover? Google.

The search giant alerted local law enforcement after detecting the allegedly illicit images in Skillern's Gmail account, part of the company's ongoing effort to root out child porn online. In doing so, it offered a glimpse of the vast power it wields over its users.

Federal law requires that Google and other tech companies report instances of child porn discovered on their services to the NCMEC, a nonprofit group that maintains a database of URLs and file information associated with known child pornography.

Google emphasizes that it only uses this email-scanning technology to detect these kinds of files, "not email content that could be associated with general criminal activity (for example using email to plot a burglary)." Translation: if you're Gchatting with a friend about buying marijuana, Google doesn't want you to worry about being turned in.

Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called Google's child-porn-detection system "a targeted, narrow way to get at the problem." But he warned of the potential dangers involved in allowing services like Google or Facebook to police their users.

Ryan Calo, a tech policy expert at the University of Washington School of Law, said that if Google "decided to take it upon themselves to police other things, they could do it and it wouldn't violate the terms of service or the Fourth Amendment," which bans unreasonable searches of private citizens. You invite Google to look in on your communications by signing up for its services.

As for the company's assurances that it doesn't police user accounts for evidence of illegal activity beyond child pornography, Calo said that promise "needs to go into the terms of service for it to matter."

The concerns about this kind of corporate surveillance aren't abstract. Earlier this year, Microsoft admitted in federal court documents that it forced its way into a blogger's Hotmail account to track down a leak of proprietary software.

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Facebook Fake Accounts
This story should serve as a warning to everyone who thinks that they can easily find their lifelong partner, lover and future soul mate in social networking sites. There are some cases that online lovers are successfully matched, but more often than not, criminal elements will take advantage of the situation that knows very few regulations.

One example of how criminal syndicates operate are best captured by this story about a single mother who truly believed he is doing something noble by helping a foreigner who she thought would become part of her life forever. In the end, she incurred nearly PhP 5 million in debt after being scammed by a fake Internet suitor.

According to an ABS-CBN News report, "Maricel" (not her real name), 58, used to run a successful money lending business that allowed her to send her three kids to school. "Nagpapautang ako ng pera sa mga pulis at sundalo atsaka civilian din. Basta lumapit," she said.

With her earnings, she bought a house, empty lot and car for the family. However, as a solo parent, she also wanted to find a rich foreigner and marry him.

In 2011, an alleged foreigner from London identifying himself as "George" befriended her on the social networking site Facebook.

"George" started courting Maricel, saying that he wanted to come to the Philippines and marry her.

He also claimed to have money.

"May pera daw siya sa UK. $2.5 million. Sa pera natin 112 million pesos," she said in an interview on ABS-CBN Bistado.

Instead of coming to the Philippines, Maricel got a private message on Facebook that said George was hospitalized and was in a coma.

A "friend" of George said the foreigner left his money to Maricel. The catch: she had to send 60,000 pesos to get the money.

Several people then contacted her and said George had sent two boxes to her.

"Nakipagkita pa ako sa Malate. Ang kailangan daw 675,000 pesos," she said.

Maricel said she kept paying via money transfer in the hopes that she would get the alleged boxes sent by George. She also started pawning her things.

"Mga alahas, mga gamit sa bahay. Kulang kulang 3 milyon. May interes pa yun aabot na ng P5 milyon," she said.

Jenny, one of Maricel's daughters, said they only found out about the scam when their mother said she had pawned the house. "Nakasangla daw yung bahay. Siyempre nakakapanghinayang," she said.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has so far listed 48 victims of the Internet love scam nationwide from January to July of this year.

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Sociable Gamers
Video gamers can now proudly say to their parents that their hobbies allow them to evolve emotionally and socially. In fact they can now justify to their parents why they should be allowed to spend some time in game arcades and computer shops.

That is if they believed the latest study by Twitch that shoots down the stereotype that video game players are loner geeks who live in their basements – and the results also show why Twitch itself might be valuable to a company like Google.

The study, commissioned by the popular San Francisco video game site, concluded that game players – particularly those who are part of the Millennial generation – are more educated, optimistic, financially successful and socially conscious than non-gamers.

The study puts to bed the stereotype that gamers are "the basement-dwelling, not-particularly-socially engaged young men they were thought to be," said Twitch Chief Revenue Officer Jonathan Simpson-Bint, former president of games media publisher Future US.

"Gamers lead more active social lives than non-gamers," Simpson-Bint said. "They’re closer to their families, more optimistic about the future. And they’re very socially conscious."

A Twitch spokesman declined to comment on published reports that Google’s YouTube was offering US$ 1 billion to buy Twitch, but unverified reports revealed that the deal was "imminent."

The new report is from research firm LifeCourse Associates, which specializes in studying the Millennial generation. The company’s president, demographer Neil Howe, is credited with co-coining the term Millennials. The study was based on a March survey of 1,227 people aged 13 to 64.

Millennials are a key demographic for Twitch, which has more than 45-million monthly viewers.

The report also highlighted the following:
  • 57 percent of gamers said their friends were the “most important thing” in their lives, compared with just 35 percent of non-gamers who agreed with that statement.
  • 82 percent of gamers agreed that “spending time with my family is a top priority,” compared to 68 percent of non-gamers.
  • 16 percent of non-gamers lived alone, compared to 10 percent of non-gamers, and they were more likely to watch TV by themselves (23 percent to 40 percent.)
  • 76 percent of gamers agreed that “having a positive impact on society” was important, compared to 55 percent of non-gamers.
Twitch became popular because members live-stream video games while they play for others to watch and learn. It is also a portal for video game news and watch e-sports tournaments.

Next week figures to be huge for Twitch because it plans to stream the major press conferences and game news from the annual industry conference E3 in Los Angeles.

Twitch viewers are watching less traditional TV, which the study also quantifies: About 59 percent of gamers said they watched more online content this year than last year, and 36 percent said they would rather watch streaming programming than conventional TV.

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Aquaman Animation
The newest DC Universe Animated Original Movie, "Batman: Assault on Arkham", was just released and it packs some very hard-hitting action. Nobody will doubt that the modern-day Batman is much darker, brutal and decisive when he deals with his enemies.

The next question is, will DC carry the same PG-rated behaviour in the next animated feature, the Aquaman-centric "Justice League: Throne of Atlantis"?

"Throne of Atlantis" will serve as a direct sequel to last year’s “Justice League: War”, and tells the story of Atlantean villain Ocean Master, Aquaman’s half-brother Orm, who declares war on the surface dwellers after his king is killed following an alien invasion.

Based loosely on the New 52 story arc written by DC Comics’ chief creative officer Geoff Johns, Throne of Atlantis focuses on a young Arthur Curry, who discovers his Atlantean heritage and, from the looks of it, must team up with the Justice League to bring Orm down.

Entertainment news site Idle Hands posted a ton of new stills from the upcoming film this week, which show off its crisp visuals as well as giving us a glimpse at Green Lantern, Cyborg, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Aquaman’s future wife, Mera.

Fans have been hoping to see Aquaman get his own animated film for quite some time now, especially after the character’s absence in "Justice League: War". If Throne of Atlantis is anywhere near as enjoyable and action-packed as "Justice League: War and Assault on Arkham", we’re in for quite the treat.

Plus, the film should act as a nice way to tide fans over until Aquaman’s quick debut in "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice", and serve as a way for DC to prove how awesome the character really is.

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