Monday, November 26

In response to the new Facebook guidelines...

I am going to post some legal mumbo-jumbo and pretend to have legal protection from Facebook.

Not really. As many people are pointing out, copy/pasting a long paragraph that invokes the Berner Convention, Rome Statute and UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 does absolutely nothing to give yourself any type of control over the content you upload to Facebook.

The actual terms of the new Facebook policy state that you do "own" all content you upload to Facebook, but your privacy settings determine who can view such content. When you sign up for Facebook, you lose certain amounts of control over your personal data. Facebook reserves the right to share and sell your information to advertisers, so they can cater ads to your interests (which still doesn't explain all the gluten free ads). Facebook is also not responsible for your lack of understanding when it comes to their privacy settings. If you don't want something online, maybe don't have a public profile (or don't even upload it)?

I don't understand why people think they have control over what they put on Facebook. I know that no one ever reads the terms of service before signing up for something, but they clearly tell you what Facebook can and cannot do.

Why is it surprising that you don't have full control over the content that you upload to Facebook's servers for free? If you don't want to lose this control, don't use this free service. No one has a gun to your head. No one forces you to tag yourself at the bar or next to your "medicinal" gardens.

You can, however  protect yourself from some of the security issues that arise with use of a social media service. Here are a few. (Thanks to Alexandra Roy for writing them)

1. Click the down arrow in the upper right corner of Facebook
2. Click Privacy settings 
3. Change your settings to "friends only" 

Also, remember that every photo you upload (even if your settings are private) automatically becomes public, so you must change each individual photo's settings as you upload them. Giving yourself a nickname on Facebook does not hide your profile. 

If you don't want to be found: Privacy settings -> How you connect -> Who can look up your timeline by name (change to friends only)

The most important rule should be most obvious. Never post anything that you would not want your boss, family, future employers, school or anyone else in public to see. In the end, you are in control of what you post. Having the sense to know what is acceptable in a world where a Google search sifts through prospective employees in nano-seconds is crucial.

By Aaron Brandt, who apparently falls in the demographic for gluten-free turkey.

Tuesday, November 20

SVSU embarasses GVSU at Battle of the Valleys

Not pictured: the spare change GVSU managed to raise...
Last Saturday, was a bad day to be a Laker. I am not talking about the football team losing to Saginaw Valley in a nail-biter, but also the outcome of the 2012 Battle of the Valleys.

Each year, GVSU and SVSU compete to see who can raise the most money for a charity. GVSU raised money for the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan and SVSU raised money for the Great Lakes Bay Miracle League. The results? SVSU raised over $30,000, while GVSU raised just $1,100. Absolutely pathetic.

GVSU is one of the fastest growing schools in the state recently, with a huge student population, great proximity to the very charitable city of Grand Rapids and a strong marketing presence. How does this happen? Yes, GVSU does not allow corporate donations and community fundraising (why?) and SVSU does, but to only raise $1,100? Get out of town.

The GVSU Student Senate is in charge of the fundraising, and wow, do they seem inept at it. A few years back, BOTV was generating over $20,000 a year, no problem. Now we are left with barely enough money to cover the cost of a class at GVSU.  A simple Google search turned up only one related page online (the rest were news articles highlighting the shortcomings). This simplistic info sheet is a drop of water in an ocean of GVSU-related information students are hit with on a daily basis.

Why not let an advertising, marketing or public relations classes and organizations handle the promotion of this event? Entire classes could pick this up as a graded project, various student organizations like AdClub, PRSSA and GrandPR could help promote this or students could even use this as a credited internship. Anything would be better then the current leadership, which is clearly in over their heads.

For the past three years, I was barely exposed to BOTV. Other than seeing a t-shirt once or twice, I had no  idea Battle of the Valleys even existed. And it's not like I am hiding in my apartment playing Call of Duty all day. There are so many great ways to raise awareness and money

 Here's a few ideas I thought of in 15 minutes.
  • Partner with off campus apartments to host fundraising events (they don't have to donate money), and put up posters in offices.
  • Work to change the fact that community fundraising is banned and corporations can't donate. Grand Rapids is an incredibly charitable area, why limit the amount of money that goes to a good cause?
  • Set up a separate Twitter to post information, set up a special hash-tag, such as #BOTV or #BeatSVSU that can be used to tag relevant posts. You can even put the hashtag on the shirts.
  • Create a separate Facebook page with events, photos of merch, updates and information.
  • Set up an official website with PayPal integration for easy donation.
  • Pair up with the athletic department to have donations at athletic events.
  • Work with Campus Housing to raise awareness in dorms.
  • Set up an easy way to donate using debit dollars at all locations that accept them.
  • Host more events, like a dance, concert of GVSU acts, student talent show, pep rally, tug of war, viral video, dunk tank, ping pong tournament, Madden Tournament, etc. Create entry fees that cover expenses and generate donations. This gives students an incentive to donate, rather than simply saying "give us money" from a table in Kirkhof. 
  • Have an online auction of merchandise and perks like getting to sit at T.Haas' desk, a custom Facebook update from Louie the Laker, designated parking space or a tour of the new library.
  • Advertise the T-shirt better. Have GVSU "celebrities" (T.Haas, athletes, famous grads) model the shirts and post pics to social media. Make it cool to wear the shirt.
  • Have donation cans at local businesses.
  • Put flyers in local businesses.
  • Get BOTV info printed on receipts from local businesses.
  • Have contests like pumpkin decorating, dorm decorating, chili cook-off and a bake-off. They would have entry fees and a small prize. 
  • Have a bake sale with the food from the bake-off.
  • Partner with GVSU Greeks. I read that over 50% of Student Senate is made up of GVSU Greeks, which would be a valuable asset when promoting any campus-wide event. 
  • Have a BOTV poster design contest and the winner gets a prize and their poster put up ALL over campus.
  • Have Campus Dining make a special BOTV dish or meal to raise awareness.
  • Study what SVSU does so well, and implement some of their ideas.
  • Put up signage on campus.
I could go on. Clearly whatever Student Senate is doing isn't working and something needs to change. Other campus organizations are able to raise a ton of money for other events; why are the results so dismal for BOTV? Every year, the total goes down more and more. Simply asking to donate money is a tough sell for college students in this economy, which seems to be the strategy from Student Senate.

Student Senate, please make some changes for next year. It is a black mark on the terrific reputation of the school and reflects very poorly on your leadership, no matter how you slice it. We can do better, and the charities we support deserve better.

By Aaron Brandt, who is more than welcome to expand on any suggestions offered above. 

Tuesday, November 13

Is DISH Network using spam tactics?

While perusing the Internet for Saturday Night live clips from the most recent episode, I came across an article about Rihanna's performance. I always read the comments of articles, and I found this one to be particularly interesting. Read it below.

"I was really surprised by both the style and content of “Stay”, but whatever it’s meaning I do know it sounded beautiful.  The green screen performance of Diamonds was really unique and incredibly psychedelic.  I was talking to a coworker at DISH about the show, and she said that her performance last night was the best singing that she has ever seen live from Rihanna.  I am definitely saving those performances, and I love being able to save everything I want without worrying about storage space on my DISH Hopper’s giant hard drive.  I am really glad that I caught it because I am sure there is going to be quite a bit of talk around what those performances mean." -Sam Brown
Seriously Sam Brown? You had to talk about your Dish Hopper's "giant hard drive" and storage space?  Now this could of course be someone who just really loves their Dish Hopper, but I have my doubts. This seems far too specific to be a random person just evoking conversation about SNL. Most people would  not capitalize "DISH" (the official spelling) when typing it, brag about the space that their cable company-provided hardware includes and say they worry about the space on their DVR in a comment section. And perfect grammar? I can barely manage that on my own blog; forget about a post about Rihanna.

I then Googled the comment, and curiously found the exact same quote from a different person named Alex Cross on a Mashable article about the performance. He also posted a pro-Hopper comment in the same vein a week earlier. Come on. Next, I Googled smaller phrases from the comment and found a plethora of extremely specific, pro-Hopper related comments on all kinds of articles about SNL. They all talk about "my co-workers at DISH," inferring that this is a company-wide objective to insert specific buzzwords and phrases into articles. So sure, they are identifying themselves as employees and avoiding legal action from anti-spam laws, but this is still downright annoying that a major company has to resort to this cheap tactic. 

In the age of the web, there are so many ways for companies to insert themselves into the conversations occurring online. This is not one of them. People are not stupid, which is what Dish assumes. They think we won't recognize fancy corporate jargon amongst normal comments. Posts like these can be sniffed out a mile away by people who are used to spam, fake websites, fake emails and fake Twitter accounts. This is called astroturfing, where companies set up fake activism and awareness with the hope that it looks like a natural reaction from the public. A company as big as DISH Network should be far above this sort of stuff.

And what does that say about your product, Dish? That you have to tell employees to login and pretend to make natural comments to hype up your goods and services? Of course, there has been a lot of negative PR recently with the Big 10 and AMC disputes. But to combat this beatable problem and build some awareness for The Hopper, you make semi-fake comments on websites? Yikes.

The public has become very aware of advertising and marketing tactics lately,which makes goofy ideas like this stand out like a color TV in 1952. Using employees to post this information is easy to spot, annoying and seemingly desperate. There is so much creativity being used by companies on the world wide web, but this falls into the same realm as Romney and Obama robo-calls. Take me to your leader.

By Aaron Brandt, who is not employed by any cable company. On this planet, at least.

Thursday, November 8

Enough with the parody accounts

One serious issue that the presidential candidates did not discuss continues to plague my existence.  I am talking about parody accounts on Twitter. Worst part of the Internet.

In no way associated with Will Ferrell! (Besides his name and picture.)
For one, I do not understand why anyone would follow a parody account. Maybe people don't realize that Will Ferrell's actual, verified Twitter doesn't exist. Or they didn't read close enough to see clever misspellings in the account name. Or they just follow a stupid account. People, Alan from the Hangover does not have a Twitter. Zach Galifinakisisisk does not operate that account. Stop re-tweeting it!

Which brings me to my next issue. Who are these sad people creating such accounts? Are you that desperate for online interaction, that you have to trick people into thinking you are a real celebrity, with something interesting to say? Why not say funny stuff with your name behind it? Of course some of the racist, sexist and arachnophobic things they tweet are not acceptable in society, so a fake name is necessary.

Enough with the fake accounts, parody accounts and various anonymous Twitters. I'm looking at you, LHNProbs. Don't be a coward, say that stuff without hiding behind a fake name. And stop piggybacking off of real people's fame, piggybackers.

UPDATE: An impostor has appeared!

By Aaron Brandt, an officially unofficial parody account of a parody of Aaron Brandt's alleged left shoe (allegedly). 

Monday, November 5

Lutheran North runner wins state meet

Over the weekend, Lutheran North Mustang Gina Patterson took first place at the State Meet in Brooklyn, Michigan. She ran a 17:43, and hasn't lost a race all season. Check out her post-race interview below.

It is so refreshing in a world of self-promotion, bragging and general lack of humility to see someone so humble. Gina is without question the best athlete in her sport. In cross country, there is nothing to blame but yourself for poor performances. No coaching decisions, referees, teammates, Spartan Bobs, bad bounces, flukes or faulty gymnasium lighting are there to make an excuse for you. It is just you, your training and the trail. That's it. No excuses.

And to perform at this level, with this amount of pressure is spectacular. Not to compare myself to a state champion (I will), but my sophomore year, I finished fifth from last in the entire state meet. Fifth from last. Worst performance of my entire running career. So I give huge props to Gina for her incredible season, clutch performance at the state meet and unbridled humility in the face of an accomplishment that is 100% worth bragging about from the mountaintops (or Twitter).

Also, congrats to both boys and girls teams on qualifying for the state meet and to the coaches who helped get them there. I loved cross-country, and I am glad to see such a positive story come from my former high school.

By Aaron Brandt, expected finisher of the 2012 Turkey Trot. But not promising anything.

P.S. What a dumb question by that reporter at the end of the video. Really, you want to compare a kid on a football team that didn't even make the playoffs to a state champion? That's a clown question, bro. I would have Terrell Owens'd that pointless comparison in a second. Playoffs? Playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?