Category Archives: Personal

Smartphone Microscopes, Just in Case You’re Still Afraid of Anthrax in Your Mail.

In an attempt to make science more accessible it is now possible to 3D Print a microscope for your smartphone…and if I could afford a smartphone I would totally get a microscope for it. Just saying.

This isn’t a new idea, but it has certainly come a long way from it’s origins…and become much cheaper in the dawn of technological advances. But, don’t take my word for it. Feel free to see it for yourself.


True Story

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Minimalism


Social Network Suicide Prevention: Is It Enough?

 

When you wake up on a Sunday morning, the last thing you think you’re going to encounter is a suicide threat on one of your social network feeds. I certainly didn’t anyway. Perhaps for some people that’s pretty “normal” (and I use the term very lightly). For me it wasn’t. And of all places it was on Instagram! A little iPod note screen shot talking about having decided on a suicide date. It caught me off guard so much I wasn’t sure what to do. Of course after a few minutes of reflection I decided to look up if there was some way I could report the person was suicidal, and thankfully I found it. Though others were coming to the rescue and commenting on the person’s status, I wasn’t going to try to talk down someone I hardly knew, and I certainly wasn’t going to let them post something that sensitive, without reporting it.

I still wonder if it was the right thing to do or not.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provided me with some great information about what social networks do in situations like this. Unfortunately Instagram was not on that list so it took me a little more time to try to figure out how to do it…which partially is why I’m writing this post. But, what shocked me was how little the social networks actually did in these situations.

Naturally when you send a report to a social network, they have a policy that they are not liable for the person’s actions after initiating contact. What they do is take the information from the report and send a cute little e-mail informing the person that an anonymous user reported them for (fill in the blank) and offer them the contact info of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline where the individual could get professional help, which includes both a phone number, and a live chat. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a very sensitive community, with the understanding that a person doesn’t have to be suicidal at all to call. On their site they say:

If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.”

Super nice of them. Here is the kicker…

Of course the site Admin also informs the user that the information they’ve posted is a violation of the Terms of Agreement and promotes the issue of (insert issue here section whatever part who cares) and they will have their profile terminated. Instagram and other Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter terminate the account to prevent the escalation of violence. Instagram even has refused to allow certain terms to be searched and in some cases have warnings attached to keywords (click here for more info)

Yeah it’s a bit harsh…and can escalate the personal torment of the individual.

I can’t help but ask myself how I feel about this whole scenario? Is it even worth it to report the issue if it means removing the self expression of the user? Does it even help the person if therapy is offered to the user? Perhaps not.

Knowing all this information I still had to make the decision whether or not I was going to report the user for self harm. And I did. Not because I felt it was right for the profile to be terminated, and not because I was obligated by any moral or social standing…but because I wanted to give the user another option. It is said that the main reason a person will post about suicidal thoughts is because they want either some kind of affirmation that they should go through with it, or they want someone to show they care enough to try to stop them. If they were suicidal and didn’t post anything to a social network or even tell anyone then one can assume that they had their mind already made up, and nothing can really be done for them…a sad assumption, but not an unfounded one. There are a lot of misconceptions about suicide. But even severely depressed people have mixed feelings about death, and most struggle until the very last moment between life and an end to their pain. Most suicidal people don’t want to die…they just want their pain to stop or someone to prove they care. The impulse to end it all, does not last forever.

After my struggle to report the user I posted info on how to do it incase anyone else wanted to try. Another user (one I know personally) pointed out how very little the social media sites actually do and that he felt these threats are the best form of awareness. He isn’t wrong. Seeing a real threat for yourself is definitely a wakeup call. But I feel it is better to offer the options to a hurting individual. If they do contact the Lifeline, law enforcement and intervention can be provided for the individual (because IP addresses are used to locate the nearest help center and ultimately the individual in crisis). I would rather offer them the option than nothing at all.

So are the policies of Social Networks really effective in these cases? That I can’t say for sure. every situation is different. Legally there is very little they can do, and with the masses they have to keep track of it would be unfair to ask them to take any more responsibility on the matter. But what I can say is that it offers a helpful option and removes the individual from potentially being a threat to others and ridicule.

 

Below are a series of helpful and thoughtful videos that touch on several subjects involving and related to depression and suicide (I’m addicted to TedTalks okay? They’re just so informative). 

 

Feel free to leave you comments, questions, or concerns on the matter or videos below.  

 

 


Verizon Phones and Big Brother: How “We The People” Let It Happen

As posted this morning by none other than British News The Guardian, the United States is up in arms about finding out that Verizon has been providing cell phone call information to the Government for a few years now.

The Verizon order was made under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) as amended by the Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, said he was troubled by the Guardian revelations. He said that he had written to the attorney general, Eric Holder, questioning whether “US constitutional rights were secure”. -The Guardian

He said: “I do not believe the broadly drafted Fisa order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”

Another article I found says a bit more on the subject:

In 2006 USA Today reported that the NSA had a similarly expansive database of cellular data, not only from Verizon but also from AT&T and BellSouth. That program was launched as part of the push for tighter security and surveillance in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Despite public uproar and several lawsuits against cell phone carriers following the revelation, the NSA never officially announced that the database was shut down. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lobbying group that promotes digital privacy, still has pending litigation seeking to curtail the NSA’s practices. – Time ; 7 Things to Know About the Government’s Secret Database of Telephone Data

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/06/05/7-things-to-know-about-the-governments-secret-database-of-cellular-data/#ixzz2VT7atHbQ

May people think this information is new, but it really isn’t. It’s ages old, and without this scandal we still know that it was bound to happen sooner or later anyway since the Patriot Act after 9/11 was voted in. I had personally figured this had been happening much longer than these articles had allegedly stated, perhaps even before 9/11. In fact I just assumed I was being “followed” since the day I bought a cell phone, got an e-mail address, or even joined Pinterest, that someone out there was collecting my information. How? Because I signed a contract that said my information might go elsewhere for any undisclosed reason beyond my knowledge. Why? Because everyone else was doing it.

The issues we’re dealing with are ones philosophers and average Joe’s’ and Jane’s’ alike have been concerned about for some time. Though newer generations don’t mind the subject so much. Our personal information has been able to be tracked sine we checked the “I Agree” buttons on Facebook , Google, Yahoo etc… Terms of Agreements. The issue is not really “Can the Government do that?” The issue is…we let them by giving our information away. Authors Hal Abelson, Ken Lendeen, and Harry Lewis sate in their book Blown to Bits:

We lose control of our personal information because of things we do to ourselves, and things others do to us. Of things we do to be ahead of the curve, and things we do because everyone else is doing them…We give away information about ourselves — voluntarily leave visible footprints of our daily lives — because we judge, perhaps without thinking about it very much, that the benefits out weigh the costs.

Ever bought a grocery club card, joined a social media group, paid taxes, walked into a store with security cameras? Then you should know already that you’ve been watched. To be fair not every surveillance camera is owned by Big Brother, and not every grocery store is selling you a card so some creep can know what kind of turkey you buy, but with each of these actions we are continually handing over our rights to privacy and offered limited control over it to make us feel a little better. We’re offered the incentive of a lower price for getting a grocery card so we can be statistics on consumer reports. We’re keeping in touch with our friends on social networks in exchange for having ads targeted at us. We’re willingly walking along the street allowing cameras to look at us, keep track of us, all for the sake of feeling a sense of security without a second thought. We pay money and give information to a government, with the mindset of patriotism and the idea that they’ll keep things running so we can live our lives feeling safe (though lately I’m not sure many feel this way anymore). We are willingly handing over our privacy. Or are we? Has the idea of privacy changed since the dawn of the technological age? It’s hard to say. All I know is privacy doesn’t seem like it means being left alone.


Family Safe Online Games…That Don’t Suck.

Screenshot taken from Kabam.com

Screenshot taken from Kabam.com

One of my goals this semester was to survive my senior project: Complete success! Hopefully I will have more time to post things from now on (and I say hopefully very lightly).

My senior exit project was to create a design campaign that encouraged parents to become more actively involved in their children’s online lives and offering them all the quality free resources a parent ought to be able to get their hands on all in one website. However, since the project is only a prototype and I do not have the funds to keep the project running, I figured I would take all of my knowledge and offer it to you, my faithful readers (again I use the word faithful lightly).

One of the challenges I faced with this project was finding online family friendly gaming that…well…wasn’t a complete waste of time. Some games are neat, but overly violent, and other games were…well…they really sucked and were poorly designed…it was a nightmare.

One of the unique things about this generation is that we have an increase in parents who are gamers. Sure we all love Halo and Catherine just as much as the next guy, but are those games really appropriate for children to play 9or even be present while playing)? Then we run into the problem of how to choose what kinds of games kids like before we go out and find games to buy them? What do they even like out of a game?

I offer you a solution of various safe online games to help get parents in the right direction and help them give their gaming children a taste of variety.

Safe-game.com: Okay, so the site it’s self is pretty lame looking, but it’s got gold…trust me. You’ve got you classic games many of us grew up with like Donkey Kong, Tetris, and Pac Man. In addition to that you’ve got a variety of gaming genres to get the kids started on and help them figure out what games they’re good at and what interests them. Great for ages 8+…and possibly a few parents looking for a taste of the old arcade.

Gamehouse.com: An awesome mixture of classic and contemporary games with varying game styles. You can also purchase games for both Mac and PC here and they also offer reviews and top picks. Better for older kids…I’d say for  ages 10+ maybe 13+ depending on the game. Parent discretion advised.

Bigfishgames.com: Not entirely family friendly. These games are catered to a much older audience and parents are cautioned to review games thoroughly before game-play begins (or are encouraged to  test run the game to see if they think their child can handle some of the content). However, there are some pretty cool graphics in a bunch of the games and most of them are pretty mild. I’d say for ages 13 and older (some of them I’d play myself ).

Kabam.com: I play on here all the time. Great free online strategy games with awesome graphics. They have a freaking Hobbit (yes as in LOTR) game on here. What’s not to love? Some mild violence (let’s be honest… it’s war strategy games). Best for ages 13 to 15+ …and mom and dad. It’s a bit more mature.


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