Securing Social: Keeping Prying Eyes at Bay

Whenever I’m asked about security, I always start by informing the person who is asking that, “You are not the NSA.” Security is in fact less of a concern for the average person than the average person thinks. The problem, when I talk to people, isn’t that they’re lackadaisical about security, but that the whole topic seems sufficiently vast and complex that they don’t feel like they’re up to the challenge.

But as I say, you are not in fact the NSA (unless of course you are, in which case… hi!). You don’t need to be Fort Knox online, you just need to follow a few basic procedures to keep the lower-level thugs and hooligans stymied, because the big boys don’t have time for you. But seeing as how we’re in the middle of something of a cyberwar with Anonymous and LulzSec and the rest, its worth the piece of mind to just make sure you are following those rules. First and foremost, people, get yourself a few decent passwords.

But beyond that, many online web services – including all the major social networking services – offer the option to browse their content via HTTPS. HTTPS is a “secure tunneling” system, meaning that all traffic between you and Twitter, for example, is sent encrypted so that the nefarious elements of the Internet cannot snoop your communications or even hijack your connection.

So, a good password means only you can log onto your own accounts. And a secure connection means that nobody can take control of your account after you’ve logged in by piggy-backing on your session. That’s about as much security as most anybody needs online, so lets talk about how to get that HTTPS connection on your Social Networks.


Once you’ve logged onto Twitter, check the settings page, under your username, and you’ll see this page:

The Twitter user account settings page

Scroll to the bottom and you’ll see the option to “Always use HTTPS,” check the box, hit save (it will ask you for your password again) and you’re done:

Check the box to be sure to always use a secure connection.


From your normal page, at the top right, you can access your “Account Settings” page:

Why this stuff isn't under Privacy Settings is beyond me. But you want to go to Account Settings.

From there, on the main “settings” tab, towards the bottom, you will see the option to use a secure connection. Not also: you can have an email or text message sent to you whenever your account is logged into, in case you are concerned that someone may be accessing your account:

Check the box to always use a secure connection.

Google (Gmail):

It appears as though, with the newly-minted Google+ system, if you’re using your Gmail on an HTTPS connection, then the same will be true for browsing your Circles. I note, however, that my Google Reader account – which now sports a Google+ centered menu bar – does not use HTTPS. So, this is a potential downfall of the Google+ system that I hope they resolve soon.

But to secure your Gmail account and (mostly) your Google+ account, log into your Gmail account. From the upper-right menu, select “Mail Settings”:

Mail settings is a place to familiarize yourself with. There's lots of options worth checking out.

From here, you can select your secure connection from right on the General tab:

The general settings tab, with HTTPS option highlighted in red.


These are just a few popular social networking tools you might be using. There are many others and I’m sure if you do a little digging around in your account settings, you will find the same option for secure connection. If there is no such option, I would seriously consider deleting that account and moving on from that service.

I hope you find this helpful, and if so, that you pass it on to other people in your Friends / Followers / Circles and let them know how to stay a little bit safer on the Internet.

Economy Technology

Twitter Users Don’t Really Seem to be Using Twitter?

I posted this just a few seconds ago to the Twitter feed, but I thought it required a bit more commentary:

CHART OF THE DAY: Here’s How Twitter Employees Use Twitter.

What is interesting about this chart is the sort of lack of engagement as most of us who have been living the Web2.0 thing since Web2.0 was a phrase anyone gave a shit about. The thing is: what has given rise to the huge swell of new technology over the course of the last ten years has been the near-ubiquitous spread of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow programmers to share data between different applications. For example, this website features the latest updates from my Twitter feed and linking systems. You don’t need to go to Twitter or to see what’s going on, because I’m able to request this information on a moment to moment basis. Or rather, the code that makes my site work does.

But what this chart reveals is that the company most directly responsible for huge dissemination of data across the Internet is made up of people who, at least as they report it for this study, don’t actually engage in a lot of that same type of information sharing. They use the web interface, iPhone and Mac applications, but Foursquare and many of the other services just barely register. One presumes that the “other” category would include sharing a page from another site.

Its hard to imagine where the Internet goes next week, let alone in a year. I am constantly being tired and annoyed by those who attempt to do so. But it seems like perhaps a pendulum between social / proprietary data may be the new expression of the classic pendulum of technology as we’ve known it, swinging between client/server (or “cloud”) relationships and peer-to-peer systems.

Anyway, I just found that interesting…..

Media Politics

CNN Says Twitter Users are Obviously “Narcissistic.”

Just thought I’d post this to the blog. AP reporters are being encouraged by their union not to tweet news articles while they’re negotiating their contract. Certainly, it makes sense. Probably, it will reveal information of great interest to anyone who studies the flow of information in social networks. But @CNN opts not to bother going into any detail with this and chooses instead to focus on getting a nice dig in for all us Twitter users:

Reporters often volunteer to spread links out of good will for their employer or for obvious narcissistic reasons. The labor union is discouraging people who’s job explicitly entails using social-networking services from participating in the boycott.

Good of CNN to point out the obvious: that anyone who uses Twitter is a narcissist. Or perhaps, anyone not tweeting out of a sense of “good will for their employer” is doing it for narcissistic reasons.

Now as it happens, I am a narcissist. But I keep that separate from my Twitter usage. Because I’m a pro. And I’m sure the “Worldwide Leader in News” who urges us to “Go Beyond Borders” and has “The Best Political Team on Television” would readily recognize such egotism when they see it. So, its not like they’re completely wrong.

But let’s not drag everybody down to our level, shall we, CNN?


Happy New Year! What’s Coming for DFE?

Now that the dust has settled on the New Years celebrations and we’re heading into the official start of the new year – the first day back to work – I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on where we are and give you some thoughts on where we’re headed as the year progresses.

The first and most obvious thing is that “blogging” as a trend and a vehicle for large-scale traffic, is dead. Writing, I am happy to report, is not.

When this site got its start six years ago, huge volumes of traffic were being pushed through Blogger, and other sites because people wanted the opportunity to be social in their views and reflections and blogs offered the best choice at the time. However, setting up and running a blog – even on hosted sites like – still requires a certain level of commitment that most people just don’t have time for. Besides which, having a blog suggests needing to write something useful or profound, whereas most people would be perfectly happy to write a quick sentence about their kids or where they’re going tonight. So social networks like FaceBook and Twitter provide a low-impact, low-key way of doing everything that blogging was ever about – reading other’s thoughts, sharing your own.

As a developer and as an enthusiastic consumer of technology, my own habits have moved much more in the direction of social networking and away from this site: the @dragonflyeye Twitter account and the DragonFlyEye.Net FaceBook page have both become central parts of my day-to-day communication with my audience. The site is still in regular use, but largely as an essay writing site, and quite static. Meanwhile, the most recent update to the site layout – done about a year and a half ago – reflected some but not all of this reality. The site definitely features other networks more prominently. But it also was setup to enhance the profile of the writing and actually represents a return to a fairly traditional blog layout.

In more techy/wonky news, recent developments in HTML5 and CSS3 support across the Internet have made this an exciting year to be a web developer! Whereas support for Internet Explorer 6 had previously stunted broad support for the rich new layouts promised by CSS3, we head into the new year comfortable in the knowledge that support for “Web Fonts” and other neato tricks like text rotation can be relied upon sufficiently. Personally, the idea that I can create a new version of DFE with the slick custom fonts presented by sites like The Blaze (conservative bastards that they are!) has me jumping out of my skin to get started!

So, what does all this mean for the future of DFE? Where do we go next? Well, here’s an unordered list of goals and projects for the near future:

  • Writers! As ever, I am looking for new writers with new voices for the site. In my most conceited moments of pure dream-land, I have always envisioned DragonFlyEye.Net as Rochester’s online answer to Harper’s and Rolling Stone. I don’t want the site to be all politics, all the time. And I am actively campaigning to find new writers and essayists for a wide variety of topics including those proven to be of interest to my Twitter followers: science, technology, music and culture.
  • A new layout, a new focus. I think it’s time to completely rethink the DFE layout yet again. Whereas the current focus is on egalitarian display of my writer’s work, I think the next layout will need to focus on the “DFE Network” as a unit: Twitter, FaceBook,, perhaps Google Buzz and others. The front page will likely take on more of a news magazine look and feel, in an effort to drive more traffic onto the site.
  • Onward and upward, Social Networkers! The ability to directly engage with you, my audience, has been an invaluable asset in understanding what it is you’re really interested in and what will drive the next wave of inspiration. Thank you so much!! And we’re not stopping now. I’m wracking my brain, trying to come up with cunning new ways of expanding my reach on FaceBook, Twitter and other social networks. By all means, help me out with a few #ff’s and “likes”!
  • Mailing list. Email still has a prominent place in our communications, with new innovations like Google Wave pointing the way to richer versions in the near future. So, DFE is going to have a mailing list soon, so as not to miss out on these new technologies. This is requiring a lot of recoding to an old plugin I wrote for a local band many years ago, but hopefully I won’t be too much longer with that.
  • Twitter integration. Yeah, I know I listed SNs above. But Twitter in particular has been a key to my current strategy and will be a lot more key in the future. I’m playing around with Twitter logins to allow commenting quickly and easily through the Twitter API. Also, there’s going to be some new back end funkiness that will help me find more of you cool people.

Wow. That shouldn’t take too long, should it?

I want to thank every one of you who reads my blog, my Twitter feed, my FaceBook page and everything else I’ve been working on over the past several years. Thank you for sticking with me as I’ve struggled to transition from my old rapid-fire, hyper-partisan blogging into new realms of content and media. I could not do this without you. Or rather, I totally could, but it would boring as hell…

Happy New Year from DFE!


Throwing Sheep at a Problem

BBC News has an interesting article about the future of “Web2.0” sites and development, interviewing the man who coined the term Web2.0.  Seems like, if he only knew the silliness about to be unleashed on the Internet, he might have named it something different or avoided it altogether.

But much though he may sourpuss at the irrelevance of some Web2.0 applications, the fact is that we are by and large fairly frivolous people with fairly frivolous interests.  It doesn’t diminish the Web2.0 brand to see that silly little social applications have been built, it reinforces the relevance that the Web2.0 evolution has had in that powerful concepts have invaded the simplest of communication.  To be sure, loading down browsers with a ton of irrelevant JavaScript crap is not what the originators had in mind.  They had it in mind that we would “harness collective intelligence.”

Weep for the lost opportunity if you must.  But what they didn’t have in mind – indeed, what the visionaries of our society so rarely ever have in mind – is the sheer volume of our collective intelligence occupied at all moments with the research and development of fart jokes.


Hey, Cool!!

A friend of mine hipped me to the newest Rochester social networking site,  Go check it out, it’s kind of like a MySpace for the Wedge.