How online dating taught me to wary of my web presence
One man who messaged me on Craigslist was in his third year of engineering at the University of Toronto and he seemed like a decent guy. We arranged to meet a few days later and, naturally, I decided to put his name into Google.
Imagine my surprise when his name and phone number brought up multiple crude profiles on gay male escort websites complete with headshots.
Of course I was worried that he might be a male escort. But another part of me was worried for this stranger. What if he was set up by someone out to hurt his professional reputation? Given all the horror stories I’d read about identity theft on the Internet, that conclusion didn’t seem like a huge stretch.
I didn’t grow up engulfed in the social media machine. I got my first cellphone in my first year of university. I got Facebook at 16, and I’m still not sure about the fascination with Instagram. But I’m painfully aware that every single thing we put online is a tool, whether it’s a photo or something we write. Anyone can take these tools to construct an image of us, and these images may not be flattering. In fact, some of them can be damaging, hurtful, or malicious.
Hard to know which celebrities have ghost-tweeters
About 290,000 people follow Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Twitter, perhaps to read what he has to say about the country’s affairs or to glean a little personal insight into what makes him tick.
Thing is, most of the messages that are sent from his account aren’t really his.
Harper only “occasionally” sends out tweets himself, according to a spokesman.
Much like many other high-profile Twitter users, most of the short-form messages that appear under Harper’s name and avatar are actually crafted by ghost-tweeters charged to work social media on his behalf.
“I assume if it’s an institutional individual — if it’s a CEO, if it’s a big personality, a singer, or it’s a politician — then they are not doing it themselves,” said Greg Elmer, director of the Infoscape Research Lab at Ryerson University studying social media.
Surprisingly, neither chose engineering
The voyage they planned for the toy figure was originally conceived as a fun project for two high school friends who shared a love of science. By attaching cameras to a weather balloon and styrofoam container, the 18-year-olds from Toronto hoped only to capture pictures of the earth’s curvature.
But the lego figure they included in their makeshift craft on a whim catapulted the test flight to greater heights than Ho and Muhammad ever imagined. Footage of the plastic figure soaring 24 kilometres above the earth garnered instant praise once it had been posted to Youtube, and the teens found themselves dead centre on the public radar.
Students: Be proactive and prepare for The Hunger Games
William Johnson is coordinator, off-campus outreach and engagement at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ont. where he’s responsible for event management, student engagement and communications.
When I speak to students about career development and social media, I want them to take away that they need to be proactive if they want to increase their chances of post-graduate career success. In 2012, there are far too many university graduates annually for current students to put off thinking about their post-grad life until the day after their convocation. If you want to make a smooth transition from pupil to professional, you must constantly be seeking ways to set yourself apart from the cohort.
1. Realize you’re still a hot commodity
You need to recover the pride and excitement you had when you were first accepted to university. While recent public sentiment might suggest that the degree is losing its value, there are over 600,000 more jobs for graduates in May 2012 than pre-2008 recession (a sharp increase in employment prospects). Despite this increase, employers are still paying individuals with degrees premium wages, according to Statistics Canada and the Boudarat, Lemieux and Riddell study. A university degree may not be for everyone, but higher employability and income can almost certainly be the result for everyone obtaining one.
Prof. Pettigrew on how some students can’t use computers
There’s a lot of talk about how today’s student is a “digital native” and how educators have to adjust to their mad high tech skills. Born and raised with electronic technology, the high tech world is as natural to today’s students as a first language.
Of course, what exactly that implies, is anyone’s guess, and some commentators have begun to point out that maybe this whole digital native thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe being raised with technology doesn’t mean students have the skills we think they do. Mary Beth Hertz, for example, has noted that just because students know how to use computers doesn’t mean that they know how to use them well.
My experiences this year have begun to make me think Beth Hertz is right. Maybe more right than even she imagined.
Strange as it sounds, I’m worried that this generation of students increasingly doesn’t know how to use computers. Before you scoff and say “Ridiculous: today’s students are all about technology. They grew up with it. The eat, breathe and sleep technology” consider the following, admittedly anecdotal, evidence.
Exhibit A: A student who is required to submit her paper in Word format comes to me and says she doesn’t have Word on her computer. I tell her that she can create Word files for free in Google Docs, or she can download Open Office for free and save her files in Word format that way. She can’t manage to do either. Later, she drops the class.
David Purdy is an instructor at King’s in Halifax
Like many great online discoveries, it was boredom that led David Purdy to Wikipedia in 2006. Six years later, fewer than 50 people have created more articles than him. Purdy, a Haligonian raised in Paradise, N.L., has more than 4,500 articles and 130,000 edits to his name.
Purdy was on an engineering work term in Calgary, Alta. when he first came across the free encyclopedia. “It was the peak of the oil boom and there were drive-by hirings,” he says. “My supervisor was constantly getting promoted and being replaced by someone else. No one really cared about the work term student,” he adds. “At the point where I was really bored out of my mind and could not find any work for anyone to give me to do, I discovered Wikipedia.”
After four years at Memorial University he transferred into English literature. “When [engineers] look at something they want to know how it works. When I look at things,” he says, “I’m more interested in the etymology of the words used to describe the thing or the history of the thing.”
Two are in Ontario
Startup Genome has released a global ranking of Startup Ecosystems and three of the top 20 entrepreneurial cities are in Canada. The ranking is based on eight components: startup output, funding, company performance, talent, support infrastructure, entrepreneurial mindset, trendsetting tendencies and ecosystem differentiation. Toronto is eighth, Vancouver is ninth and Waterloo, Ont.—the only small city on the list—punches above its weight class at 17th. Here are the top 10:
A 2002-themed party causes one man to reflect on identity
It all came back to Facebook, eventually. Twice during the night, someone apologized for deleting me from their list of friends. Twice I said I didn’t care. But I get it. It’s important, and especially so on that Saturday night. Facebook was, ultimately, the reason we were there.
The invite had been a long one, but the premise was straightforward enough, if slightly strange.
“Hello to my DEAREST friends… who have found themselves a DECADE older (or at least a few years older)!!” a Facebook invitation shouted at me sometime in October. “For many of you, 2002 marked a few big things in our lives. Possibly your high school graduation, as well as your first year at a post secondary institution. 2012 brings us 10 years from those days as innocent, uncorrupted youth to where we are now…a DECADE later.”
Textbooks remain costly in an increasingly electronic age
From the 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings
It’s a textbook case in how to annoy students. This year, OCAD University in Toronto required students in its first-year visual culture course to purchase a “custom reader,” comprised of parts from two American text- books plus additional material on Canadian and Aboriginal art. Separately the items retail for over $300. The custom text was priced at $180. But there was a problem—this art book didn’t include any actual art.
Due to unexpected expenses in obtaining copyright, the publisher simply left large white boxes where the pictures were meant to go; students were told they could look at the art online. They got outraged instead—a petition was organized, parents began blogging and local media soon picked up the cause of the artless art book.
Not always. Some things matter more than class size.
From the 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings
It’s 11:30 a.m. and this is how the morning has gone for the 71 students in Science One at the University of British Columbia—one of the rare small-class programs that brings big universities down to a more human scale. It started with a physics mid-term, which most of these high achievers feel good about. Then a quick, unscripted shift into biology. Projected on the classroom screens was a story from that morning’s headlines about a massive phytoplankton bloom off the B.C. coast caused by a program that seeded the ocean with iron sulphate in hopes of building a salmon food source. Chemistry instructor Chris Addison happily ceded time to biologist Celeste Leander so students could discuss what she called the “justifiable concerns” of messing with the ocean environment.
That diversion is what Addison calls a “typical Science One moment.” Seated at the back of the room were other instructors in this holistic program—a physicist, a couple of biologists and a mathematician—all welcome to contribute. Instructors try to sit in on as many other classes as possible, said Addison. “That’s where you get the interplay between the disciplines.” Addison then waded into a mini-lecture on energy levels in multi-electron atoms, before the class split into groups of about six to work through a series of questions. They debated the answers among themselves, knowing they’d have to justify their reasons before the full class, if called upon. Amir Ashtari, 17, prefers the small class size to the usual first-year prospect of packed lecture halls. “Here you are amongst a group of friends who are respectful to you and also who are smart,” he said. “Even if you ask a stupid question they come and help you.” Hanne Collins, 18, said she likes the accessibility of instructors, and that they know her name. “Their doors are open and if you have a question, you just walk in,” she said. “They’re not bogged down with 500 students.”
Hint: it’s not just those annoying “friends”
During the few moments of free time I have during midterm season, I surf the web and catch up on my social media profiles. As I recently did this, I heard a ‘ping’ come from my Facebook tab. After I excitedly clicked the little blue ‘f’, eager to read what new gossip my friend wished to dish, I was disappointed to find that the contact starting up the conversation was a semi-casual acquaintance from high school.
We all have those online “friends,” the ones where continuing a conversation is as painful as a trip to the dentist. My usual plan is to just ignore the message—waiting until this well-meaning individual moves on to what I’m sure is a riveting conversation with someone else. This usual strategy, however, no longer worked. Why? Because now Facebook has let the object of my avoidance know that I have read the message.
Back up your files. Here’s how.
It’s 11:00 p.m. You’ve been working for a month on a term paper that’s due tomorrow and it’s almost finished. Suddenly, the music you’ve been playing in the background starts screeching and your screen is filled with blue and white text. Doubt and panic set in. You restart and pray to the god of zeroes and ones that the computer starts working again. Fingers are crossed. Breath is held.
Nothing. Your computer crashed and decided to take your term paper with it.
Halloween is coming, but that’s not why I’m trying to scare you. Computers can be fixed, applications can be reinstalled, but the only picture you have of someone important can’t simply be retaken, and that term paper can’t easily be rewritten.
You need to start backing up your files.
Prof. Pettigrew is skeptical
This week, the B.C. government announced its plan to make free textbooks available to its students. This is one of those concoctions that smells delicious until you get a bit closer. And then it seems half baked. And then you realize it might even have been a recipe for disaster all along.
First, it is not at all clear who will be writing these books. None of the published reports I have seen make this point clear, and the government press release says they will be “created” with “input” from faculty and others. That sounds ominous. The only textbook that sounds worse than a free government textbook is a free government textbook created by a committee.
Even more ominous, none of the “quotes” in their press release is from an actual university instructor. Were faculty even consulted about this scheme?
Save time for what really matters
From grabbing notes for that class you missed to citing an essay to organizing your drinking schedule, being a new university student isn’t easy. Luckily, there are three amazing web sites—Google, Workflowy and CiteMe— that will help you keep up with your studies. Learning to use these sites will make your life as a student much easier.
This may seem like an obvious choice but it’s one of the most robust, useful applications on the web and most people use it just to search. Google is your best friend and it has grown into one of the most fully-featured web applications around. With resources such as Google Docs, Books, Maps, Calendar, Gmail and their newly launched Google Play store where you can buy ebooks, apps and more, Google is a student’s best friend. Clicking the top menu bar at Google and diving in to any of these useful applications will guide you in the right direction for an organized school year.
New smartphones launch in fall
Students are hooking up more and more with wireless companies in the back-to-school season, making this period a key time for buying cellphones.
New smartphones are usually launched at this time along with plenty of deals as back-to-school starts to rival the holiday shopping season for cellphone sales, say analysts and wireless providers.
Computer science student Varun Vrayen was out this week cellphone shopping with his friends, all newly arrived from India to attend university. They were looking for unlimited calling to stay in touch with each other and call back home.
“If we need some help or if we’re lost in the city, we’ll need to talk,” said 23-year-old Vrayen, who was in Public Mobile store in downtown Montreal.
Tips from a student who has trouble resisting Apple
Then you remember all of your required courses, you notice that you don’t have any of the prerequisites for that cool Psyc. class, and that interesting microbiology course is only available at 8:00 a.m., rendering it suddenly less interesting.
So you compromise. You take that histology lab that’s more boring than the first two hours of Titanic, but hey, at least you’ve crossed a required course off the list.
If you’re looking for the perfect laptop, computer or tablet for the new school year, similar compromises are required. Here are a few tips for getting the device that best fits your needs:
1. Don’t compare Apples to Apples. Compare them to PCs.
Drifting in class? Forgetting homework? Try these.
It’s exactly what it sounds like. Make sure to treat it like it’s big brother Wikipedia, which means background research but no direct citations. Or, if you don’t have Tetris on your phone, you can use it to play the ‘random article’ game. (It’s like a drinking game, except it’s mostly played by people like me, who spend time wondering whether the Millenium Falcon could beat the Enterprise.)
Have you ever wanted a less-annoying digital version of the naggy parent who reminds you about all your homework? myHomework is perfect for students who want to get more organized, or for students who like fiddling with their cellphones instead of working under the pretense of getting organized. Download this app and never forget another essay, reading, or upcoming test.
Curiosity photos compiled into neat video
NASA’s Curiosity Rover is impressive. It has been remotely controlled from earth and managed to cut through rocks with it’s laser. But until now, we were mostly watching it through still photos. Check out this video that someone put together using photos from its descent to the red planet:
Aquatron laboratory will test cleanliness of ballast water
Jane Gerster, The Canadian Press
Dalhousie University is working on a system to test the cleanliness of ballast water, the only such facility in Canada, just as new regulations could be introduced that would govern what ships could discharge at ports around the world.
The Aquatron laboratory is scheduled to conduct its first tests of ballast water at the Halifax school later this month.
“We have to imitate a ship taking on ballast and then we hold the water so that represents transit of the ship going somewhere,” said John Batt, the manager of the research facility. “Then we test the water on a de-ballast.”
Batt said water will be pumped through a control system and a ballast water management system separately. The results will then be compared and the tests will be repeated with different salt water levels.
More fun than a guidance counsellor?
Trouble choosing a major? Luckily for you, there’s a new app to help students choose careers and it’s a lot more fun than a guidance counsellor.
This September, students at two U.S. universities will take virtual inkblot tests that will match them with potential fields of study and careers. (In case you didn’t know, inkblots are those blobby images that psychologists hold up for people in movies.)
The test is a series of images and associated words, such as a picture of a tent and the word “camping.” Students click either “Me” or “Not Me.” Based on the results, the application presents a list of seven personality categories and an algorithm matches them with potential careers.