Tech Stuff

A collection of hacks and discoveries.

Interest-centric Interactions: Personalization or Invisible Censorship?

Imagine yourself on a trip to your local public library. Upon your arrival you notice that their selection of books is considerably smaller than you remember, but to your delight, they have preserved all of your favorite genres and topics. Your librarian explains that through the use of a new “magical” technology, your library experience has been tailored to suite your tastes – spy novels, tech magazines, war documentaries and the likes. Your library experience will now be much more enjoyable without the vast clutter of boring books that you once had to wade through to find that one appealing book to take home. But there is a hidden cost to this magic library: a vast range of topics are now forever out of your reach, and even worse, in your bliss, you will never know what you’re missing out on.

At least once per day, I log in to my Facebook account and spend a few minutes combing through my News Feed and then switch tabs to Google News where I spend several more minutes reading the daily news. It is easy to forget that much of the online information that we take in is filtered and personalized. And it should be. In an age of easy and constant information production – tweets, status updates, blog posts, etc. – information overload is a serious problem for users and must be handled with filters of some sort. Tech companies of all stripes have adopted personalization as a core tenet in their product designs. The concern is, who controls these personalization filters and how do they affect our online experience?

In a recent TED talk, Eli Pariser warned of the dangers of online filter “bubbles”. Pariser argues that personalization severely narrows our exposure to important information and ultimately narrows our worldview. A liberal user’s online bubble might exclusively consist of information from liberal sources. Because they are unaware and uninvolved in the invisible work of personalization algorithms, users may eventually come to believe that their worldview is the only worldview. At the heart of this problem are the lack of user awareness and participation in the management of these information filters.

Many Facebook users are oblivious to the fact that their News Feed is filtered based on the frequency of their interactions with others. On Facebook and other websites, users have little control over the degree to which personalization occurs.  Transparency, with regards to how content is filtered, is typically very limited and often the only thing that users see in the filtering process is the final product. This amounts to a form of invisible censorship, providing the user with agreeable content but withholding potentially important content.

Users need to push for more open and customizable methods of personalization, and web developers ought to listen. Ultimately, it is user who should have control of their information bubble and the filtering rules applied to it.  The internet’s power lies in connecting us to the unfamiliar and unknown. We must be careful not to sacrifice exposure to new content in the name of personalization.

June 2nd, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

Self-study Guide for a CompTIA A+ Certification

Last summer, I got my CompTia A+ certification after passing both the 601 Essentials exam and 602 IT Technician exam. Instead of taking an expensive classroom prep course or buying an equally expensive video set, I decided to go the cheap route and get a big, fat test prep book and work my way through it.

After going through the whole studying and test-taking process, I’d like to offer some A+ preparation advice.

Here is my step-by-step study guide for acing the A+ exam:

1. Review the exam format and objectives: Check out CompTIA’s official website and the info that it has up about the A+ exam. It’s changed a bit since I took it. Be sure to download the objectives to get a feel for what you’re going to need to know before taking the exam.

2. Buy a prep book: I used this book by Sybex and I found it to be solid. It covers everything you’ll need to know to take the exam and it’s got decent practice materials, although I did find their questions to be a little easier than the actual exam questions that I was given. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about the Mike Meyers prep book. You should be OK buying either.

3. Take apart and rebuild an old computer: This is pretty important if you want the information you read in the prep book to stick. Make sure you can identify the main components on a motherboard and all the different types of ports.

4. Watch free prep videos online: You can find these with a simple Youtube or Google search. An excellent resource is this

5. Use free cram guides: I used this guide from to complement the material I was reading from my prep book. Be aware that most of these cram guides do not cover the material in enough detail to fully prepare you for the exam. Use them to review material that you’ve already learned.

6. Take timed practice exams: Simulate the test environment and time yourself. Completing timed practice exams will help you work on your pacing and identify weaknesses in your studying.

7. Buy a test voucher.

8. Ace the exam!

August 29th, 2009 Posted by | Technology | 1 Comment

Four Facebook Easter Eggs

My friend at Facebook showed me these two neat tricks (easter eggs) built-in to Facebook. I’ve also included two more common easter eggs that I’ve discovered elsewhere on the internets.

1. Show load time of your page in milliseconds:

Just scroll down to the bottom of your News Feed to the bottom left and hover over the copyright symbol.


2. Show internal host IP address:

Just hover over the year.


3. Lens Flare Mode:

Enter the Konami code with your keyboard (↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B, A, ENTER) while on Facebook – anywhere but inside of a text box. You should see a cool lens flare effect when you click anywhere on the page.


4. Pirate Mode:

Scroll down to their very bottom and click on English (US) or whatever your current language is. A pop-up menu will prompt you to choose a new language. Among the choices are English (Pirate) and English (Upside Down). Enjoy.

August 26th, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Ultimate SEO Checklist

Here is a quick checklist of SEO tasks to complete for any website that you want to optimize:

1. Pick a few keywords or key phrases to optimize for. You will need to do your research to see which words and phrases are already saturated. For example, one of the key phrases I’m optimizing for Decent Global is fashion jewelry.

2. Optimize TITLE tags for all pages. Aim for a max of 70 characters in the title.

3. ALT descriptions to all images, relevant ones. Do NOT keyword stuff your ALT tags.

4. Add META descriptions and META keywords to all pages. Keep descriptions under 150 characters and use less than 10 META keywords.

5. Use <H1>, <H2>, and <H3> header tags appropriately to draw attention to important text on a page. You can also bold important text.

6. Optimize URL structure (also called URL rewriting). No ugly dynamic strings should be in your URL’s.

7. Make sure your content has the proper keyword density. I believe the proper density is 2% to 6%. Use the SEO for FireFox add-on to check this.

8. If possible, move to a domain that has a keyword you need in its domain name (i.e. Register that domain for more than one year. Search engines may trust your domain more if you do.

9. Create quality backlinks. No spamming and no link buying. The best places to leave backlinks are pages with medium to high PR that have content that is relevant to the keywords you are optimizing for. Your anchor text (the stuff that goes between your <a> tag) should NOT be your site name. It should be a keyword or phrase that you are optimizing for.

10. Enter your site into website registries (like DMOZ or Yahoo). Search engines will trust your site more if it is listed in a quality website registry (one with human reviewers that don’t accept spammy sites).

Some extras:

  • Use Google Webmaster to check how Google is indexing your website. Fix any errors you see.
  • Use a robots.txt file to block search engines from indexing content that you don’t want indexed.
  • Use nofollow on links (inbound or outbound) that you do not want to pass link juice to.
  • Search “” on Google to view your indexed pages and check to see that the titles and descriptions are all correct.
  • Get your site’s HTML and CSS validated by using the Site Validate tool by W3. Try to follow established web standards as often as possible.
  • Use the Website Grader tool to check your SEO progress and compare that to your competitors progress.

And that’s it. Remember, this checklist is not all-inclusive but it is a good start for anyone trying to tackle SEO.

August 12th, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 34 Comments