Buzzword Alert - A blog

Buzzword Alert:


A blog

Word Watch: Stay on top of the latest tech buzzwords and Internet lingo.

Buzzword Alert: Facebook Connect

Last August, when I wrote about Facebook’s evolution from a social network to a social utility, the lingo around the social networking phenomenon was well established. We friended college classmates, facestalked exes, posted public messages on walls, unwisely poked colleagues and watched the newsfeed update us on everyone’s recent activity.

In the context of recession, wars and sharp cuts in online advertising, however, Facebook’s path to profitability is under increased scrutiny. ROI for traditional online advertising on the social networking platfrom hasn’t panned out as Facebook execs might hope, as numerous bloggers wagged about in several reports last year.

Facebook Beacon was one approach to monetizing over a hundred million users, though a massive backlash put Mark Zuckerberg and company back on their heels. Beacon is back now, along with ‘Social Ads.”

Enter Facebook Connect. When it was announced in the May of 2008, developers and tech pundits took notice of the further extension of Facebook’s open API. TechCrunch saw it as a response to MySpace’s Data Availability.

Facebook Connect is the latest example of data portability, where users of one website can bring their established personal data, friends and preferences into another network. Connect allows Facebook users to their identity as an authenticating credential on third-party websites, desktop applications or mobile device.

Using Connect, users can log on to other websites using Facebook IDs. Users can choose to rebroadcast their actions on that third-party site to all of their friends within Facebook, whether it’s watching TV shows or movies on Hulu, or, Digging news stories, buying products or the like.

Does that sound familiar? It should — OpenID was supposed to be the decentralized single sign-on authentication system for the Internet. And before that, Microsoft’s Passport. Neither one has really caught on, for a variety of reasons.

It took until this past week for the buzz around Facebook Connect to really take off, when the New York Times broke the story of Facebook aiming to extend its reach across the Web, rolling out the system to Digg, Hulu and, among 24 other partners.

And, as Michael Calore explains on Wired, as Facebook Connect expands, OpenID’s challenges grow. Some pundits think it may be a fatal blow, because of Facebook’s reach, popularity and the partnerships it has worked out with other sites.

Facebook is being quite careful in its approach to Connect, given privacy concerns. If it pulls it off, however, the social networking giant will have unprecedented data about Internet users browsing, watching, commenting and buying habits to offer advertisers — and that might just be be worth something.

That’s a good thing, too, as some clarity in Facebook’s path to profitability would be timely. The costs of operating one of the world’s top 10 websites are staggering. According to this post from Frédéric Filloux, editor of Monday Note on Dan Farber’s Outside the Lines blog, Facebook has:

  • 13,000 servers, with an estimated 50,000 more needed in 2009
  • a million dollar monthly electricity bill and a half-million dollar monthly bandwidth tab
  • 2 terabytes of data uploaded every day that require the purchase of one NetApp 3070 every week

With those kinds of numbers, the connection Facebook will need most may be one straight to your wallet.

Buzzword Alert: The retweet (RT) is the FWD of 2008

Twitter, the wildly popular microblogging service, has spawned Yet Another Tech Acronym. I know, I know, YATA YATA YATA.

Stay with me. RT is to FWD as 2008 is to 1998, except on a larger stage. The Internet has grown a tad since the late 90s, after all. Just as your mom might once have forwarded you a link to the Hamsterdance, now she may RT a link to her a dynamite turkey gravy recipe. (I say ‘your’ mom because I’m still working on getting mine to read my work online instead of printing it out.)

In of itself, the addition of retweet to the list of online conventions spawned by Twitter might not inspire an avalanche of commentary.

Many netizens already simply refer to one another with “@username,” dropping a domain name, surnames and other non-essential clutter. Usage usually drives meaning in language. When you have only 140 characters to work in, however, concision drives usage.

Similarly, if you “@username” someone on a discussion board or comment section on a blog, you’re replying specifically to them. Websites that chronicle and translate the lingo on Twitter are springing up everywhere, like the Twitter Glossary, Twittonary and the Twictionary.

Retweet, however, is worth another look. The word garnered special mention over the past weekend by some of the most influential social media pundits around in the blogosphere, including Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang, who posted Retweet: The Infectious Power of the Word Of Mouth, and Shel Israel, who wrote that ‘retweeting is the most powerful single aspect of Twitter.’

So what is it?

To retweet is to repost the tweet of another Twitter user using your own account.

Most users shorten “retweet” to RT and add it at the beginning of the tweet. RT is followed by the @username of the user being retweeted and then the body of the tweet, including links.

A tweet, if you missed it, is the tongue-in-beak name for a single post to your microblog.

Why is RT important? If you’re trying to understand social media, influence marketing and Internet culture, go back and read those posts from Shel and Jeremiah.

When you RT someone’s message, you’re endorsing the idea, link, question or answer to your network of subscribers, along with anyone monitoring Twitter for hashtags or brands that you might mention. They in turn can RT your message, quickly spreading the message globally. In a time where breaking news often shows up on Twitter hours before it hits the broadcast networks, the power of the RT is substantial.

Intellectual property law and editorial standards around the retweet are, like the term itself, still to be defined. Should you add in your own comments and, if so, how? [Brackets, for example. -Ed.]

Should you always attribute the original tweet or only the most recent retweeter?

If a Twitter account has a dollar value or is a corporate entitity, should there be affiliate advertising dollars if your users click on a link?

Should enterprise microblogging platforms have an automatic RT function?

Some answers are already cropping up in the blogosphere. For instance:

As I’ve written before, every age has its own language and lingo that reflects the industry and conventions of the time. The information economy is no exception. The Internet has spawned any number of subdialects, as l33tspeak, marketing, PR spin, consulting boilerplate and engineering shorthand, blending together into a global conversation.

Increasingly, we’re being asked to translate language like “OMG! Did you see that comment from a spambot on your blog? LMAO. Stop tweeting and mod the trolls!” into something that approaches normal language. If you need a handy reference, BTW, make sure to bookmark and use our list of chat, text messaging and IM abbrevations.

Grammarians may be dismayed at the neologisms being spawned but usually end up accepting ‘cyberspeak’ like blog, podcast and wiki into general usage. Even “Meh” has been accepted into the dictionary. We’ll see if ‘retweet’ shows up soon, though I expect they’ll have to define ‘tweet’ first.

Now, go do me a favor and RT this post. In the meantime, I need to print it out for Mom to read over Thanksgiving.

Buzzword Alert: Craigslist criminal

Criminals haven’t exactly earned high marks in the intelligence department over the years, as both the Darwin Awards and local police blotters attest. Cybercriminals tend to be of a higher order, no doubt partly due to the literacy requirements imparted by computer operation, though phishing toolkits and cut-and-pasting script kiddies might indicate otherwise.

There are exceptions. One of the best known havens for scammers, fraudsters and Net ne’er-do-wells is Craigslist, the ubiquitous online marketplace that offers free classified advertising. Searchers can find an apartment, a job, used goods, professional services and more.

Craigslist was central to a recent heist in which the robber used a clever technique straight out of the Thomas Crown Affair. A robber used Craigslist to hire decoys for an armed truck robbery (Hat tip: Gizmodo). He duped a dozen men to show up at the site of the robbery with offers of $28.50/hour work, including the instruction to wear ‘ yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask and a blue shirt.” Dressed in the same garb, the robber doused the guard with pepper spray, grabbed a bag of cash and escaped in an inner tube down a nearby stream, leaving his unwitting accomplices to act as decoys.

Craigslist now operates in more than 450 cities worldwide, serving over 9 billion page views a month. In amongst the posts selling or offering cars, jobs, extra bedrooms and dates, there’s a vast dark underbelly of Craigslist criminal activity. In other words, the “and more” is where the story gets interesting. The dire warnings that Craigslist administrators make about scams and frauds, especially on pages offering items for sale, reflect the risks inherent in anonymous listings. The danger is real, unfortunately, as this story about a Craigslist rapist attests.

Thieves selling stolen merchandise, dealers offering illegal drugs and prostitutes proffering their own particular brand of goods and services can be found on any day of the week. Here’s a selection of some publicized incidents of Craigslist criminality, courtesy of the Wikipedia entry for Craigslist:

  • On September 12, 2007, A woman from Minneapolis pled guilty in federal court to running an underage prostitution ring through Craigslist. [ 24 ]
  • On February 8, 2008, a Michigan woman was charged with using Craigslist to hire a contract killer to murder a romantic rival. [ 25 ] [ 26 ]
  • In April 2008, a couple was charged with placing an ad on Craigslist inviting the public to take anything from a man’s home in Oregon, leading to the loss of his possessions. The couple had placed this ad to cover up their own burglary of his house [ 27 ] .
  • May 27, 2008: In Vancouver, British Columbia, a police report that a Vancouver couple attempted to sell their week-old baby on the site; the couple claims that the posting was just a joke. [ 28 ]

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster is well aware of the issues. In a statement quoted in a recent Ars Technica story, Craigslist puts a dimmer on its red-light district, he noted that:

“The incidence of crime on Craigslist is actually exceedingly low, considering the tens of millions of legitimate ads posted each month by well-intentioned users. “But no amount of criminal activity is acceptable, and as Craigslist has grown, we have become aware of instances where our free services were being misused to facilitate illegal activities. We are unequivocally committed to stamping out misuse of the site and to improving safety for Craigslist users, through preventative measures such as the ones we are announcing as part of the Joint Statement.”

The statement he refers to was a release detailing an agreement with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Attorney General’s offices in 40 US states to implement features that will reduce spam, prostitution and other criminal activity. Specifically, Craigslist is using a phone verification system for listings in the “erotic services” section that requires those creating ads to submit a real number that will be called before the posting goes live and including a fee to post in the erotic services section. The addition of the phone number is designed to reduce automatic posts from spambots. As Jacqui Cheng notes in the Ars article, however, ‘the reduction of spam postings may actually make it easier for those people to operate business through Craigslist, since customers won’t have to sift through as many fake ads before getting to the real thing.’

Buckmaster is no doubt getting ahead of some of the legal issues that Craigslist could face if it doesn’t take substantial steps to hinder Craigslist criminals. Craigslist may be the modern criminal’s best friend, as Lindsay Bass writes in the NC Journal of Law & Technology. Newspapers and magazines are liable for posting discriminatory housing ads. Pimps and madames are liable for facilitating the delivery of sexual services in exchange for money.

Craigslist however, is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 . As Bass writes, this has ‘kept operators of Internet services from being held liable for the content of third parties who used the operators’ services.’

Regardless of the law and Craigslist’s technical safeguards, if you use the site, be careful. Follow Craigslist’s safety tips and consult and for more advice on keeping clear of online criminals.

Holograms, tomograms and perceptive pixels

Besides giving us a new President, last week’s election gave America’s television networks a whole lot of new tech toys.The biggest buzz has been about CNN’s holograms. Were they actually holograms or were they tomograms, the technology used in CAT scans? Did the technology add anything to the coverage or was it just silly and expensive? Is it true that CNN actually tweaked the hologram to make it glow and look less polished and more grainy? How did the CNN technology work?

According to Chuck Hurley, the guy at CNN who managed the technology, the famed “CNN hologram” is really just beefed-up chroma-key technology.   And yes, they added the blue glow around the reporter so viewers would understand that they were seeing a projection and not a real person. It looked like a hologram, Wolf Blitzer called it a hologram, but it was really just a 3-D image taken with more than 30 high definition cameras and knitted together by over 20 computers in real time. That’s no simple task.

But perhaps  the most interesting tech to come out of this election is the popularization of Jeff Han’s Multi-Touch Collaboration Wall better known as CNN’s Magic Wall.  Not only because of the way CNN reporter John King was able to navigate the map with ninja dexterity, but also because it inspired one of the funniest SNL technology skits since the days when Jimmy Fallon played Nick Burns, your company’s computer guy.

If you haven’t seen Fred Armisen’s skit, here you go!

Buzzword Alert: vote flipping

Have you heard? There’s an election here in the US tomorrow. After years of campaigning, votes have been pouring in over the last few days as early voters hit the polls and absentee ballots begin to be tallied. If all goes well, we’ll have a President-elect by the end of Election Day. Of course, if you remember the election of 2000, it isn’t always that quick or easy.

In fact, after the fiasco presented by butterfly ballots and hanging chads in Florida, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, creating minimum election administration standards for US states and budgeting nearly 3 billion dollars to help them upgrade voting machinery and clean up registration databases.

With that kind of cash and mandate out there, you might expect polling places to be full of gleaming new machines and carefully maintained lists of voters. In fact, the state of affairs is as complicated as ever, if not more so. According to 2008 National Voting Equipment Report from Election Data Services, “40% of registered voters will experience a new voting system since the last presidential election in 2004″ and more than half of the nation’s counties and over 68 of registered voters have seen changes to their voting system.”

Can you guess what type of voting equipment nearly 56% of Americans will use tomorrow?

It’s not the most common method of voting in use world-wide. That would be the hand-counted paper ballot and ballot boxes , still employed by 55 counties around the country, along with the absentee paper ballots submitted by U.S. mail in many counties.

It’s not mechanical pull lever voting machines, introduced last century to prevent fraud. Though 62 counties will be using them, pull lever machines have largely been phased out, due in no small part to transparency issues.

It’s not electronically-tabulated punch cards, either. There will be just 11 counties still knocking out those little chads tomorrow. Punch cards have been used for large-scaled data collection since the 19th century, when the government used it for the U.S. census, Herman Hollerith’s Electric Tabulating System, of course, is the ancestor to computers as we know them today.

It’s also not Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) counting machines from Premier Election Solutions (the company formerly known as Diebold). DREs are commonly referred to as touchscreens. 34% of counties nation-wide will be using touchscreen recording systems tomorrow. According to the Washington Post, however, Maryland is junking a $65 million investment in an electronic voting system in favor of paper. Virginia passed a law that bans DRE machines. After Princeton researchers released a 158-page report detailing the insecurities and inaccuracies of Sequoia’s DRE machine, many of these machines have come under increased scrutiny.

The answer is optical scanners, which combine a paper ballot with an electronic tabulating system and maintain a record of each vote cast. That record tends to be especially handy in the case of recounts. In fact, many counties have been switching touchscreen systems over optical scanners in recent years.

Vote flipping has become the election buzzword du jour. Vote flipping has been reported in Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

What’s going on? Touchscreen voting machines have been recorded choosing the wrong side of a ballot. Sometimes the result is purely for humorous effect, as when Homer Simpson experiences vote flipping:

In real life, of course, it isn’t, as evidenced by this video where a recalibrated touchscreen machine in WV appears to record a vote inaccurately.

Kim Zetter notes that the above video was heavily edited over at Wired’s 27bstroke6 Blog, though a followup post reports that evoting machines can be maliciously calibrated to favor specific candidates in the field. Computerworld reports that most vote flipping is a result of improper calibration as well. If your county uses DRE machines, make sure to consult the list of tips and reminders about how to use touchscreen voting machines posted by the Election Technology Council at

There are widespread concerns about the security, vulnerability and reliability of e-voting systems in general. In Palm Beach, for instance, every time the votes are counted, a different vote count comes out.

So what’s the most desirable choice? According to Fortify Software, the humble hand-counted ballot is the most secure, reliable way to make sure your vote is recorded. Optical scanners rank third, after absentee ballots.

No matter which candidate you support, if you’re registered, make sure to vote!

Windows Azure: A flash of blue sheds some light on the Microsoft cloud

Is the future of computing in the clouds? Ray Ozzie, who took on the mantle as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect when Bill Gates retired, thinks that the answer may be “yes” — at least on the back end.

In his keynote speech on Monday at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference, Ozzie announced Windows Azure, a new cloud computing operating system (OS). The platform is a key component of Microsoft’s strategy, presumably one that Ozzie has been working on since 2005, when he talked about the future of Windows Live services.

Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference has been around since 1992, when, according to Wikipedia, the Win32 API was first demonstrated and “Chicago,” the codename for Windows 95, was first mentioned.

For the rest of the 1990s, if you wanted to know what new technology Microsoft would be introducing, there was no better place to be. IT industry veterans refer to it simply as “PDC,” an acronym you’ll see frequently in online shorthand. (Note: You can track hashtags for this year’s conference on Twitter under PDC08 or PDC2008, though just PDC produces plenty of hits as well.)

Now, in the late “oughts,” there are of course many other IT conferences that address technologies important to IT professionals and consumers alike. Even so, Microsoft still uses the platform afforded by PDC to introduce initiatives that will be of great interest to the Windows development community. This year was no different.

With this announcement, Redmond-based software giant now appears to be embracing the platform as a service (PaaS) paradigm similar to that deployed by Google and Amazon. While on one level, this is similar to the software as a service (SaaS) distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over the Internet, Microsoft vision is even more ambitious.

In Ozzie’s view, Azure is a massive, highly scalable service platform that will allow both individuals and corporate customers to build applications in the cloud. In fact, it’s an entire new tier of computing. If the PC was the first tier and the enterprise the second, the Web-facing tier is the third, made up of Internet-facing systems for computation, storage, networking, application hosting, etc. In other words, the sorts of things that Amazon offers through its Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

If you develop an application and need to scale it from 10,000 users to 10 million — quickly — these platforms can help.

Ozzie differentiated Azure from other PaaS precisely through its integration with the Windows ecosystem. Azure builds further upon the programming support for the Web services introduced by .NET and the synchronization of data extended to consumers through Live Mesh.

Microsoft hopes to attract developers with support for popular standards like SOAP, REST & XML, especially those already familar with Visual Studio.

The Azure Services Platform will allow developers to build applications out “in the cloud” that are available to PCs, online users and everyone in between, including thin clients like the iPhone or netPCs. Windows Azure will be the component for hosting and scalable storage, computation and networking for Web services.

Other key components of the Azure Services Platform (which I’ll avoid calling an ASP, as much as the shoe might fit) include:

  • Microsoft SQL Services
  • Microsoft .Net Services
  • Live Services,
  • Microsoft SharePoint Services
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services

The introduction of Azure is about much more than simply competing with Amazon or Google. It’s about finding a way to remain relevant in future that might not involve everyone using Windows as a desktop operating system, Office for office productivity applications or Exchange for email, at least as we recognize them.

Microsoft is now pitching a vision to businesses that resembles a pay-as-you-go model, the sort of paradigm that might make sense to, say, early adopters of IT chargeback systems. If a business wants to add on more services, liked hosted email or application storage, it can increase or add a subcription. Azure will provide a common foundation for the Live versions of its applications to be run — and businesses a means to save money by hosting services externally.

This isn’t going to happen right away — Microsoft won’t actually roll anything out until 2009. Developers are still getting acquainted with new tools for building hosted applications.

If this vision catches on, however, jokes about this cloud OS being vaporware are likely to be blown away, along with some of the concerns about Microsoft’s long-term prospects for growth in this Internet age.

Buzzword Alert: First Click Free (FCF)

I’m pinch hitting this week for the normal “designated blogger,” a useful metaphor given that the World Series is upon us. (Hats off to the Tampa Bay Rays, who defeated the hometown team in Boston, though not before enduring the biggest playoff comeback in 79 years.)

This week’s buzzword is “First Click Free.” I was tempted to go with mail goggles — but that’s so early October.

First Click Free (FCF) is a new service for webmasters and online publishers that Google launched last Friday on Google’s Webmaster Central blog. It’s a bit difficult to keep up with the number of betas rolling out of Mountain View these days — but stay with me.

This one’s important.

With First Click Free, Google has launched a pre-emptive strike on search competition from MSN, Ask, Cuil, Yahoo! or anyone else that wants to wear the search giant’s crown.

If you start your search at, you now gain a privileged view into digitally published content. Surfers, who now get instant access to pages where they were once blocked, are likely to love First Click Free. Publishers can now choose to offer teaser content or rich abstracts that pull visitors further into a site, gaining membership and generating leads.

As Nick Carr notes, however, “The web you see when you go through Google’s search engine is no longer the web you see when you don’t go through Google’s search engine.”

There’s now an even stronger incentive for every Web search to begin and end with Google. This is clearly great business. The question now is whether it’s good for the Web.

Philipp Lenssen spent some time addressing that question in his analysis of what’s good and bad about FCF at Google Blogoscoped. In a comment on to Nick Carr’s post on the cost of FCF, Google’s Matt Cutts wrote that “FCF is a pretty well-balanced way that publishers can surface content that would normally require a subscription or payment, without the risks of cloaking.”

FCF may be a great fit for digital publishers embracing a freemium model; for the rest, the costs and benefits are still emerging.

Note: As visitors to any of TechTarget’s network of more than 60 websites knows, many white papers, webcasts and tips require registration. Should our publishers choose to opt in to FCF, you’ll likely being seeing more of them.

Buzz Alert -

This week’s buzzword is In case you missed the news, a 19 year old PETA intern named Jennifer Thornburg legally changed her name to  Here’s her driver’s license.

Now, Jennifer…er CutOut…. changed her name for an altruistic reason. She wanted to bring attention to a cause — in this case, stopping animal dissection in schools.  I can understand that.  With all the 3-D software we have available today, why not have students virtually dissect a rat or frog or pig?  I applaud Jennifer for thinking of such a clever way to focus attention on a cause she believes in.

But here’s the hitch. How long do you think it will be before someone legally changes their name to  (And not for altruistic reasons, either!)  In a marketing climate where you can shrink shrink wrap your car in advertising for a few extra dollars a month or tattoo the name of a casino on your forehead for $10,000, it’s only a matter of time.

Buzzword Alert - MoSoSo and the Enterprise

What is MoSoSo?   It’s a cool, hip abbreviation for Mobile Social Software.  It’s not new, but it’s buzzworthy again because Dustin Moskovitzand (Facebook c0-founder) and Justin Rosenstein (Facebook and Google) announced they were leaving Facebook to go work on a project that’s expected to be some kind of social networking appplication for business.  According to Justin’s blog:

As our visions for how productivity software could work came into alignment, we thought about building it inside of Facebook. It was an attractive option in many ways, and neither of us was eager to exit a company that was in such an exciting phase of its development. But at some point it became clear that doing so wouldn’t be good for Facebook or for us. Facebook needs to continue its mission of making the world more open through social software, without distraction, and the new project requires a company built around it from the ground up, with the goals of efficiency and group collaboration embedded deeply into its DNA from day 1.

So we’ve decided to leave Facebook (in about a month) and start a new company, to build an extensible enterprise productivity suite, along with a high-level open-source software development toolkit, built for the Web from the ground up.

What can we expect from a business-focused social networking application? It’ll be available from both your smartphone and your desktop. It’ll have GPS and Google Maps and presence technology that offers the user choices and control. It’ll address the privacy and security concerns that have prevented many businesses from taking Facebook seriously. 

So why couldn’t Dustin and Justin stay at Facebook and build their productivity software inside? My guess is that it’s because their new product will be subscription-based —  and unlike Facebook or any other social networking app so far — it will make money.

Buzzword Alert: XOHM

This week’s buzzword is XOHM.  (It’s pronounced like the word home with the letter z in front.)

What is it? XOHM is the WiMAX service that Sprint Nextel rolled out this week in Baltimore. What’s the big deal? Well,  for one thing, it’s the first time Sprint has targeted the home broadband market. If they get the WiMAX coverage right, it could blur the lines even more between home and mobile computing.  Best of all, it could shake up how the customer pays for Internet access.

According to the Sprint Web site, users who want to have a variety of XOHM devices for home and mobile use will pay $65 a month for both mobile and home modems.  (For users who only need XOHM once in awhile, Sprint is  offering service for $10 per day.)  Even if you don’t use Sprint, this paradigm shift in billing will most likely lower connection costs for everyone as vendors compete with each other for customers. That’s good news for all of us.

So what’s the hitch? The hitch is that XOHM is WiMAX (4G) and most of us have technology that can only use Wi-fi (3G).  If you live in Baltimore and you want to take advantage of XOHM,  you’ll need to do some shopping and upgrade your modem, data card, laptop and mobile device.

The other hitch is that WiMAX won’t be the only mobile broadband game in town for long. There’s another standard backed by Verizon and AT&T that’s on the way called LTE (3GPP Long Term Evolution3GPP Long Term Evolution). 

A lot of experts predict that chip makers will eventually support both WiMAX and LTE because they’re not all that different, but until that happens I guess we’ll all just sit back and watch to see whether Sprint can make this rollout a success.