Monthly Archives: February 2010

Visualize.us – social bookmarking for your favorite images

I ran across Vi.sualize.us a while ago in beta but never took the time to get involved in what the tool had to offer.  I found a need for it today and went back to exploring what services it could offer me.  You integrate Vi.sialize.us into Firefox as an extension, or a bookmark button for other browsers. You can also paste in an image link if you want to go the very manual route.  Once that portion is done, you are ready to use the service.

The idea is to bookmark and share favorite pictures you find across the web, not just blog postings and web pages as usual.  Usually the images themselves are the important part of the page.

Some bookmarking services off the ability to snip part of the webpage, or you could always right click and open just the image.  But that leaves a nasty URL behind and limited context for the image.  Vi.sualize.us adds tagging, liking, comments and sharing to the pictures you find.

They have navigation for your images, most recent and the most popular on the site.  They offer tags to watch and the most used overall.  RSS feeds exist for public, personal and individual picture images.  So enough of the UI description, how about the experience.

Sharing an image on the site was limited, no Twitter integration, but did have Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg and email.  You can like any image on the site and keep it private or share it to your stream.  The original source of the picture is always accredited right below te picture with a link to the posting it was found.  This is great for the creator or owner of the images and source verification for copyright.  I also noticed that they built in a filter, with the default of on for safe images.  I presume unsafe means NSFW.

The images on the site itself ran the entire spectrum from signs to abstract.  I found the most benefit in tagging and grabbing images for use in future postings, links or other production as the copyright or Creative Commons rights would allow.  I can now quickly save and tag images instead of goofy bookmarks and searches, shrinking down my time to find and share.

I will run it for a while and see how often I go back.  That becomes the thermometer for any new tool.  If I fold it into my daily workflow, I will add the image feed to m normal social streams.

School provided laptops, should you expect privacy?

Recent news in Pennsylvania, from Lower Marion School District, has the school and officials under fire from parents and students claiming their expected privacy was compromised.  We have an opinion right in the middle of this controversy.

The school provided the students these laptops with the understanding they

courtesy of Geekologie

courtesy of Geekologie

were to be used for school activity.  Whether or not an appropriate Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) was created, is not clear.  It should have defined what was expected in usage, the monitoring ability and a clear line forcing the parents to sign and understand what AUP the school had created.  A mandatory meeting should have been help with the parents and kids outlining the entire process.

We deal with multiple school districts in the local area that all have controlled computers that sit inside the school and are taken home by teachers and students.  These computers all connect back through the school filters, firewalls and proxies to provide the safest environment possible.  Yet, it could not be perfect.  Any computer provided in this format, should reasonably expect some form of controls that will be installed.

The next step was the means of access and recovery the school distrcit utilized.  They school reguarly connected to laptops and took control or watched desktops for helpdesk operations and to assist in recovering in lost or stolen laptops.  However, the officials also activated the built in camera in the laptops, without warning.  This is where we offer our opinion to meet in the middle.

The schools should take one of two paths when issuing equipment like this to students.  One path says buy laptops with no camera installed, removing this possibility.  The other path is more complicated.  The AUP for the district should outline the possibility and also set some established hours that the camera may be activated, and only in recovery mode that is well documented when performed with some audit trail.

As we debated this, one point was raised that beared a bit of explanation in this thought path.  Most of these laptops would be forced to connect to district servers to get security and policy updates once they access the Internet.  If the laptop was stolen or lost, this might not happen till after normal business and school hours.   So if the AUP said they would only activate during normal hours, how would they act if the computer came online only at night and they wished to track it?

I don’t think there is reasonable expectation of privacy on the content you access with a school issued laptop, however there is one with the placement and timing of the camera itself.  Mainly when the AUP does not address or reflect the ability the district has to activate such features that interfere with expected visual privacy.  Internet access is just data flow and can be routed through anywhere and monitored.  But the physical setting anyone is in normally would have expectations of privacy involved.

The district was right in coming clean in what access and steps they take and also in immediately suspending this practice until the investigations and complaints are over.  However, every district and company needs a better defined AUP to address this immediately.

Can you be fired for Facebooking while not at work?

A recent trend of employers seems to be that they are allowed to have some input on your life outside of work if they feel it could misrepresent the company.  Previously, you could only share your thoughts about your employer with friends over a dinner via verbal conversation or in writing to editorials in newspapers.  What happened outside of work only made it back inside when a co-worker was involved or a a letter was mailed pointing you out.  With social networking, you can reach hundreds and thousands almost instantly and forever.

Recently, British Airways took it upon themselves to suspend 15 crew members over some online antics.  Another recent study shows that 8% of US companies have fired employees over social network abuse.  Is this a trend in your company environment?

Does your company have a policy that reflects anything beyond utilizing social networks at work and sharing confidential information?  Probably not.  There is the major issue I feel needs to be addressed.  When you begin your employment, companies make you sign an Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP) that describes, some in great detail, pretty much everything you can do with the computer resources.  However, once off of a company device or network, it is remakrably absent.  As it should be.  But, in rebuttal, if they can suspend, terminate or reprimand you then it needs to be spelled out.

We suggest staying away from any network activity that would bring your character into question or is not approved for usage.  Approved means a poilicy exists.  Just because they do not block a site does not give you reasonable expectation to participate.  Query the IT and Human Resources department to gt copies of policies and join a team to build them.  getting involved and knowledgeable is the key to success in using and enjoying social networks with the enterprise.

Tungle moves freetime widget out of beta and into public availability

I admit, I am a Tungle fan and a user.  You can see my freetime and schedule meetings previously just at http://tungle.me/IdoNotes    Well today they announced the public availability of their widget that can be placed into blogs, sidebars and other webpages.  This is huge for those that do interviews, meetings, podcasts and more exposing free time options.  I will be finding a place for mine shortly on all my blogs and websites.

For those of you unsure of how Tungle works, you can listen in to my interview of Marc, their CEO from a few weeks ago while at Lotusphere 2010.

The security of what you are doing remains in tact, as they pull your calendar from numerous places, including Lotus Notes.  The person attempting to schedule a meeting simply selects numerous times and you pick the one that you want.  Done.  No more emails back and forth and guessing schedules trying to find some time that works.  This fills that gap in an instant.  Here is how mine will show letting you know I am open or busy right now and to click to schedule a meeting.