We’ve all heard it.
“Oh man, that video has gone viral.” That means, if you’re terminally unhip and regard Facebook and YouTube as juvenile, that it has become an Internet sensation, spread like wildfire and been viewed millions of times.
If you’re an advertiser, that’s golden. For St. Patrick’s Day, for instance, Guinness has a commercial mimicking a sheepdog trial showing a border collie herding a group of guys past a series of obstacles — such as a couch with a TV, a restaurant and even a group of dancing women — and into a pub, while the tagline plays “round up your mates for a Guinness.”
As I write this on St. Paddy’s Day, it has more than 1.8 million views on YouTube. Whoever came up with this idea is no doubt being hailed by their mates as a genius. So viral is good, right?
Maybe not. That example is small potatoes next to the “Kony 2012” video, which has been viewed more than 100 million times. Of course, endorsements by celebrities such as Oprah and Justin Bieber might help this a bit. Showing the history of an African warlord and his army’s enslavement of girls and use of children as soldiers, along with monstrous atrocities, it has achieved its aim of publicizing who Joseph Kony is and why he should be brought to international trial.
But it is not without pushback. The creator, a nonprofit called Invisible Children, is now getting criticism for not also noting that Kony has already been pushed out of Uganda and that his army is now down to several hundred diehards. So its call for international help in finding him ignores the fact that U.S. Special Forces are already there and doing this.
There is also a lot of questioning on the purity of their intentions. Why now, years behind the curve, and how much of the contributions that they solicit are going to causes — and how much to the organization itself?
So sometimes viral can open you up to more scrutiny than you’d really like. That’s the danger in becoming an overnight sensation. Just ask recent Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry if “any publicity is good publicity.” Sometimes it’s just like wearing a red shirt during the running of the bulls at Pamplona.
Wait a Day or Two
It’s the same for most news stories: If you want more of the whole truth, wait a few days for the story to be examined and a few more voices to be heard. Then you’ll have more information to judge things.
Remember the video supposedly showing USDA employee Shirley Sherrod admitting racial bias? That turned out to be a cleverly edited hoax, but not before she was forced out of her job. A year later, her lawsuit against the editors marches on.
And in Computer News …
Waiting a few days can help you guard against scams and similar e-mail hoaxes, as well. For a week or so recently, we were all bombarded with fake Better Business Bureau messages saying they had received a claim about our business and we should “click here to view the complaint.”
Of course, if you listened closely you could hear the ticking sound. Just another scam.
But if you waited, you saw the pattern: multiple messages with different people’s names in the header but the same content —a giant tip-off. Time to set your spam filter to include the unique phrases in these messages and send them into instant delete status.
Another way to check for bombs is to simply hover your mouse cursor over a “click here” link (without clicking). That will show the actual destination address. If it doesn’t match who it says it is, delete it immediately.
… and Speaking of Hacks
Apple aficionados love to pretend that Macs never get viruses and you can blissfully surf without fear. But this week, Apple issued a patch for its Safari browser with fixes for 83 different vulnerabilities. Last week it issued a patch for the iOS operating system used on iPhones and iPads that fixed 81 flaws.
So ignorance isn’t bliss here, any more than it is for PC users. For businesses being pushed to allow employees to hook in their iPads, etc., it’s a wakeup call. Even allowing employees to install iTunes on their computers will open them up to additional paths for hackers.
No matter what, however, people will continue to love their Apple products. Lines formed at 5 a.m. outside Apple stores as people awaited the new iPad 3. Of course, with more than double the number of pixels per inch as the iPad 2, the screen is a beauty, the camera is significantly upgraded and battery life remains at more than 10 hours. The iPad 2 now lists for $399, $100 less than the new model.
Apple continues its propaganda campaign of a “post-PC world,” but its own self-interest in that more than undercuts its message. Wouldn’t we all like to brand our competitors’ products as obsolete? Good luck with that.
Cliff Feldwick is president of Riverside Computer Consultants and does PC troubleshooting, network setups and similar techno things for small businesses, when not trying to avoid being terminally unhip and obsolete. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or ay firstname.lastname@example.org. Older columns are online at www.feldwick.com.