Essena O’Neill, Social Media and Authenticity

It seems like everybody who works in communications is talking about Essena O’Neill at the moment; how she exposed the truth behind the photos she posted on Instagram, sharing what it took to get the perfect photo and how much she was paid for promoting certain products. She claims that social media is fake, and we’re all just seeking validation. essena

While many studies exist showing the negative effects of social media on self-esteem, most of the backlash against Essena has focused on three things: the fact that she’s still online and asking for money, that she’s manipulating information, and that there are many positives to social media.

I have a group of friends who I’ve known for ten years (we all met in 2005). One of them has made me and my partner godmothers to her son; another is planning to sign as a witness on my marriage certificate. Three of them live in my old hometown, and the first thing I do when I book a flight is send them a group text so we can arrange a girls’ night out. They’re my cheerleaders, my confidantes, people who I love dearly and who will drop everything just to call me on a bad day.

I met all of them online, because we joined the same private, niche interest social network.

Imagine if you were the only kid in your town who loved comic books. Imagine if you were the only person you knew with severe anxiety or depression. Imagine being transgender in the middle of the most conservative, religious city in your state. Imagine if everyone in your family just switched off when you started talking about your favorite book (again).

Maybe mass social networks are all about validation and popularity, but niche social networks are all about community. Technology isn’t inherently bad in itself; it’s how we use it.

There are several products which have been developed to try and create a more authentic social experience online. Casey Neistat created Beme, a video sharing app where you press to your chest to record, and the second you’re done, your video is uploaded (no opportunities for editing or withholding the information). Once the video has been watched, it’s gone. You can watch Neistat’s introduction to Beme below.

And of course, there’s PeepSo. Essentially, when you remove the mass market from the social networking experience, you remove the need to perform. When people join private, niche communities with a specific focus, there are no “celebrities”, there is nobody you have to impress. You’re simply there to connect with others, to have a shared experience.

The best thing Essena has done here is crack the door wide open, so we can start to have a real, informed conversation about what social media is, how it works, why we use it. We’re excited to be part of that conversation, and would love to hear your thoughts.

WordPress News: a Rise in Brute Force Password Attacks

Malware removal company Sucuri noticed a massive spike in WordPress malware “visitorTracker_isMob” in the last two weeks. The purpose of the malware is to gain access to as many computers as possible via infected websites. At the same time, they’ve noticed a spike in brute force attacks; a particularly insidious kind, where the people attacking your site aren’t restricted by a limited number of login attempts before being locked out. As described by Sucuri, this is how they work:

Instead of going against wp-login.php (which can be easily blocked or protected via .htaccess) or doing a single attempt against xmlrpc, attackers are leveraging thesystem.multicall method to attempt to guess hundreds of passwords within just one HTTP request.

Sucuri-VisitorTracker-Malware-Campaign-II

In other words – rather than getting three guesses before being locked out, they’re getting a hundred times three. This particular type of attack is called Brute Force Amplification.

So how can you protect yourself against brute force amplification attacks, and in turn, from increasingly common malware?

Sucuri suggests that you block all access to xmlrpc.php – this does break some applications’ functionality, primarily JetPack. They also suggest blocking system.multicall requests. They’re hardly ever used and this will protect you against these amplification methods.

PeepSo 1.3.0 Is Out!

In version 1.3.0, we focused on tweaking some of the features. These tweaks are important for future versions.

Groundwork Laid For One-Click Updates For All Plugins

We’ve started the process of preparing PeepSo for one-click updates. Instead of uninstalling then re-installing all the plugins, for future versions you’ll be able to just click the update link next to each plugin. Very simple.

This function will start working in the next version of PeepSo. This should be the last time you update manually. Please remember that this is still work in progress. It will look somewhat like this:

One click updates and upgrades for PeepSo and its plugins.

One click updates and upgrades for PeepSo and its plugins.

PeepSo’s Router Re-Written

Now that PeepSo has been out for a while, we have had reports of a few URLs and third party plugins not working well with PeepSo.

To improve the compatibility and stability of the plugins, we wrote the router. That should avoid issues with popular plugins like WPML which change the URL of the page by making additions like:
‘?lang=french’
This improvement is strictly under the hood. The only change you’ll see is the construction of the URLs. That’s usually just the addition of a question mark.

This is how the profile link appears in PeepSo 1.2.1:
http://sampledomain.com/profile/eric

And this is how the link appears in PeepSo 1.3.0:
http://sampledomain.com/profile/?eric

Three-State Friends Buttons

We also changed the behavior, look and feel of the action buttons on user profiles. Adding friends is now a three-state button with no modal confirmations needed. It’s all ajaxified too.

3-state friends buttons on user listings

3-state friends buttons on user listings

Those action buttons have also been added to all user listings. You can see them on members pages, user profiles, and your friend list. The design is consistent to give users a feeling of confidence and to avoid confusion.

Styling Tweaks and More Changes To Profile Pages

We made a few minor changes to the profile pages:

  • Blocking users has been moved to a ‘cog’ icon.
  • Users can be banned from the front end by clicking the cog icon.
  • To save space, we replaced the “Send Message” button with an envelope icon.
  • We improved the look and feel of the modal window for sending messages.
  • Square avatars
  • Removed gray shadow stripe and added shadow for letters
Profile view after styling tweaks.

Profile view after styling tweaks.

We’ve made sure that PeepSo styling is consistent. That’s why we went with square and sharp edges over rounded corners and round avatars. If you feel like all square is not your thing, feel free to check out our documentation on how to override PeepSo CSS.

Bug Fixes

In addition to those design and functionality tweaks, we also fixed a number of bugs. You can see the full changelog here.

What, No Chat Plugin?

The chat plugin is almost ready. It just needs a few design tweaks and some testing. It will be released next. Watch out for it!

Upgrade PeepSo Now

To update to Version 1.3.0 you’ll have to un-install and re-install all the plugins. Last time! Here’s the documentation on how to do it.

No PeepSo?

The free core version is fantastic on its own. If you want to unlock the true potential of social networking for WordPress, get the other plugins today. You can buy them by clicking the link below.

Buy Today!

If you’d like to see what’s coming up next, check out our roadmap here.

Comments? Questions?

Please leave them below.

PeepSo 1.2.0 Has Native WordPress oEmbed Support

I know what you’re thinking: “Wow! Fantastic! Superb! Awesome! Fabulous… Huh?”

You were right the first time. oEmbed in PeepSo 1.2.0 is a way of presenting a link on a website. Instead of showing blue text and an underline, you get to show the actual content you want to share. So if you wanted to show your visitors a YouTube video, instead of telling them where to go, you embed the video itself.

YouTube embeded link.

YouTube embedded link.

You’ve seen this before. All the big names online— Spotify, InstagramTwitter—they all do it. It’s a fantastic way of presenting content.

Instagram embeded image.

Instagram embedded image.

oEmbed isn’t just pretty. It also helps with usability and it keeps people on your site. Instead of sending your users to YouTube, you can show them the video inline and keep them with you.

Twitter embedded link.

Twitter embedded link.

PeepSo now supports all of the embeds that WordPress natively supports. You can see the whole list here: https://codex.wordpress.org/Embeds

And if you really want to learn oEmbed’s technical details you can take a look here: http://oembed.com/

 

PeepSo 1.2.0

PeepSo 1.2.0 Is Out!

We’re proud to announce the release of PeepSo 1.2.0. This release focuses on Core PeepSo and MsgSo. We added a bunch of new features and improved others.

Core PeepSo Improvements

Members Page

PeepSo 1.1.0 introduced a Members Page that listed community members and included a search field. This version adds sorting and filters.

You can sort users by:

  • Alphabetical order
  • Recently online
  • Latest members

You can also select members by gender and only view users who have uploaded avatars. Combining filters means you could search for “female users with avatars who were recently online.” Cool, right? You could even filter further by adding a name and looking for “female users with avatars who were recently online and called ‘Jane.’”

We used Ajax to power the search which means there are no reloads and everything is superfast. Want to see how fast? Check this out.

Members page user filtering

Members page user filtering

Twitter link fetched on PeepSo Stream

Twitter link fetched on PeepSo Stream

Native WordPress oEmbeds in PeepSo

Paste a video link or Instagram link into a Web page and you immediately get a preview of the destination. It’s very cool… so we now do the same thing in Peepso. Paste a link and those oEmbeds (that’s what they’re called) will give your audience a preview. This is how it looks.

Cool, right?

MsgSo improvements

Ajax worked so well in Search that we decided to use it to improve Messages as well. Now there’s no need to reload a page when sending a message and when someone contacts you, you’ll receive both a notification and the message itself. It works exactly like a chat.

You can even see when someone is in the process of typing to you, so no more crossed messages or wondering whether you’re being ignored.

Messages indicate when someone’s typing.

Messages indicate when someone’s typing.

We’ve added many more small improvements and fixes. You can read about all the major features of this release here. The full changelog will tell you everything we did. To see what we are planning next, check out our Roadmap here.

Don’t wait. Upgrade to the latest version today. You can find upgrade instructions here.

 

BuddyPress To PeepSo Migration Tool

PeepSo to Buddy Press Migration Tool

PeepSo to Buddy Press Migration Tool

One of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received since releasing PeepSo is whether we have an easy way to migrate BuddyPress to PeepSo.

Why, yes. Yes, we do!

PeepSo Migrate is a migrator plugin that will move your data from BuddyPress to PeepSo. It’s super-easy to use.

Just install the plugin, click the button, and watch the magic happen.

Note that the Migrator only moves the data within the same WordPress installation. So you can’t use it to migrate BuddyPress from http://sampledomain1.com to http://sampledomain2.com. But you weren’t
planning to do that anyway, were you?

If you’ve wanted to give PeepSo a try but were afraid you’d lose your BuddyPress content, you’ve got nothing to worry about. We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a video that shows how the migrator works:

Steps:

  1. Make sure that BuddyPress is installed and working.
  2. Install PeepSo and any supporting plugins you want.
  3. Install the Migrator.
  4. Open the Migrator.
  5. Click the ‘Start Migration’ button.
  6. Confirm that you want to migrate data.
  7. Stroke the cat while the data flies into PeepSo.
  8. Done!

Which Data Is Migrated?

  • Users
  • Uploaded user avatars
  • User friends
  • Notifications
  • Messages
  • Posts
  • Comments

What Data Is Not Migrated?

Data for features that PeepSo does not currently support, such as groups, cannot be migrated. Once we add those features, we will add them to the migrator as well. For the Migrator to move data such as User Friends and Messages, the FriendSo and MsgSo plugins must be installed with PeepSo.

How Long Does The Migration Take?

That depends on how much content you have on BuddyPress. We tested it with a community of over 2,500 users and more than 15,000 activities. It took us about four minutes. A larger community with about 1000 users and 60,000 activities can be migrated in about 11 minutes. That should be just enough time to make your cat purr. If you don’t have a cat, it’s enough time to make a cup of coffee.

What If I Already Have Some Content In Peepso?

The Migrator will delete all your existing PeepSo content, so don’t use it if you have anything you’ll miss.

The BuddyPress Migrator is totally free and available from the backend of WordPress. Go to Plugins > Add new and search for ‘PeepSo’.

BuddyPress To PeepSo Migration Tool listing in WP plugins directory.

BuddyPress To PeepSo Migration Tool listing in WP plugins directory.

Give it a try today and create an amazing community with PeepSo!

See the listing of the plugin on the official directory of WordPress plugins, just click here.

 

Reddit, Quarantine and the Problem with Vague Policies

Since its creation ten years ago, Reddit has been one of the most liberal social media/networking sites when it comes to moderating unacceptable content; while Facebook has very strict rules around what you can post and what you can’t, Reddit’s general approach has always been “everything except child pornography, spam and personal information is fine”. This incredibly liberal approach caused Reddit to come under fire as a hotbed for extreme racism and misogyny;  top level employees left the site in droves, as its sheer size and sprawl made the site increasingly difficult to manage and maintain.

redditJust over a month ago, new CEO and site founder Steve Huffman proposed a new content policy. This new policy bans illegal content, harassment and bullying, the publication of other people’s private information, and anything that might incite harm or violence against other people (on top of the existing ban on spam and sexual content featuring minors); anything that would be considered “adult content” must be tagged NSFW (not safe for work). On top of this, content which violates “a common sense of decency” is to be quarantined, meaning users must log in and opt-in to see the content. Quarantined and NSFW content is free from advertisements (ie, generating no revenue for Reddit) and does not show up in public search results.

While the policy sounds good in theory, allowing Reddit to maintain the freedom of speech which has made it so popular while distancing itself from transgressive content, the vague wording is already causing some problems.

Twice in his official statement, Huffman suggests that you know pornography and transgressive content “when you see it.” What comes across as explicit sexual behaviour to one culture might seem completely benign to another (eg, a couple kissing); violent, racist speech may seem acceptable (right, even) to a religious minority, even if everyone else finds it abhorrent. Given that Reddit mostly relies on unpaid moderators to keep content in check, any policy those moderators have to enforce should be clear enough to transcend cultural differences and misunderstandings. Further, they should also make sure that they have enough moderators to keep up with the enormous amount of content posted to the site every day, and apply the new policies to existing subreddits in a timely manner. While some of the most notorious offenders, like racist subreddit Chimpire, were immediately removed following the implementation of the new content policy, other incredibly disturbing subreddits which feature illegal content (like Watch People Die, which includes incredibly graphic video content from car accidents and even murder scenes) are still standing, with only an age restriction in place.

Banning “illegal” content is also mildly problematic, as different geographic regions have different laws; for example, a Redditor based in Colorado should be perfectly within their rights to promote and sell marijuana via the website, whereas a Redditor based in New York should not.

If you’re running your own private social network, you’ll need to have content policies in place to make sure it’s a safe, welcoming environment for your members; you’ll also have to be mindful that you may need more staff as your community grows (voluntary or paid). That policy may also need to evolve as your community does. PeepSo will take care of the technical side, with a fantastic admin interface that works right out of the box; it’ll be up to you to come up with a set of rules that is clear, fair, and will allow your community to run smoothly.

What Everyone Can Learn From The Ashley Madison Hack

In July this year, a group of hackers claimed that Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate affairs between married individuals, retained users’ data even after they’d paid 19 dollars to have it completely scrubbed from the database. They released a small sample of the data they claimed to have stolen, and said they would release the rest of it if Avid Life Media, the owner of the site, didn’t take it (and its companion site, Established Men) down. Avid Life Media said it was a bluff, and Ashley Madison stayed up.

ashleymadison

Today, a 10GB torrent file was released on the dark web with the following statement:

“Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men. We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.

Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95 per cent of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters.

“Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”

A number of sources have claimed the validity of the data; Per Thorsheim, a security researcher, was able to confirm the validity of some of the details included in the dump (his own, from a profile he created while researching dodgy dating sites, and that of one of his sources). He was also able to verify that other information in the file matched up to users he’d viewed while investigating the site. Microsoft MVP for Developer Security Troy Hunt said that there are too many things in the file that couldn’t have been faked – or would have required an enormous amount of effort to fabricate.

While it would be easy to see the moral of this story as “don’t cheat on your spouse”, it also highlights just how careless people can be with handing over their personal data. 73% of people admit to not reading website terms and conditions before handing over their email address, if not their full name, date of birth and other valuable data. Of those who do read the terms, only 17% say they understand them.

When you’re signing up for an online product or service, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why do they need the data I’m handing over?

2. What are they going to do with that data (including, but not limited to, how long will they be keeping it in their system)?

3. How would I feel if this data were released to the public (by the website, or one of its users)?

For the most part, handing over your credit card details to a website that’s planning to store them for future use (eg, ongoing automatic billing) isn’t a huge issue; if your card details get released, you cancel the card and hope you don’t end up out of pocket. If your name, date of birth, address and/or phone number are posted, you might run into some issues with stalkers or identity theft (the likelihood of that depends on your profession). If there’s something you don’t want your friends and family knowing about (your sexuality, gender identity, hobbies), think carefully about who’s on your friends list (because you never know who might take a screenshot), make sure you understand your intellectual property rights, and if you really don’t want anyone seeing your posts, messages or knowing you’ve bought a particular product or service…maybe it’s better to avoid it altogether.

Ashley Madison lied to its users, and asking for 19USD to completely scrub a user’s details (whether they did it or not) is very thinly veiled extortion. For the most part, asking yourself the above questions will help you keep your information safe online; particularly if you belong to a private social network, where you know the owners/moderators and can trust them to remove your data if you ask them to.

 

PeepSo 1.1.0 Is Out!

PeepSo Members Page

PeepSo Members Page

We’re proud to announce that PeepSo 1.1.0 has just been released!
A major focus of this update was the inclusion of a Members page to create a special wall for your community. Combined with real-time search, you’ll be able to filter users as you type and see how many friends you have in common for each person listed.

PeepSo Getting Started Page

PeepSo Getting Started Page

We’ve also created a ‘Getting Started’ page with a video showing the first steps you should take as you create your own community. You’ll receive a list showing the pages, the shortcodes and the official PeepSo plugins available. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll give you a free copy of The Secrets of Successful Online Communities ebook.

Photo counter on Activity Stream in PicSo 1.1.0

Photo counter on Activity Stream in PicSo 1.1.0

Another feature that was introduced in PicSo 1.1.0 is the overlay that says how many pictures there are in one post. It looks fantastic and really adds to the plugin’s usability.

This version also fixes a number of bugs and adds improvements not only to the core but also to supporting plugins. You can see the changelog here.

Don’t wait. Upgrade to the latest version today. You can find upgrade instructions here.

Social Networking Digest: What’s Making News This Week

It’s been a busy week in the world of social networking, with more and more independent, smaller networks emerging, and all the major players taking a hit on the stock exchange. If you’re thinking about starting up your own social network or work in online advertising, here’s three news items you should be aware of.

Social Networking Digest

Image via Associated Press

1. Things haven’t been looking so great for major social networks on the stock market; even Facebook, which isn’t suffering from the same drop-off in sign-ups and activity as Twitter, Yelp and Linkedin wasn’t safe, dropping 2.6 percent. Facebook’s stockholders may simply have decided to cash in after the company’s stock reached record highs a few weeks ago, but it’s also been suggested that people have been spooked by their 82% rise in expenditure (hiring new staff, and investing in technologies that will bring the internet to remote parts of the world). By contrast, smaller social networks like Migme are having a fantastic run, with their shares showing continuous growth.

2. 18 percent of social networking site users have blocked, hidden, or unfriended someone for posting political articles and opinions they disagree with or find offensive. If you want to argue about politics and religion but don’t want to stir up trouble with colleagues or family, there’s two social networks just for you. Roust is an invitation-only social network for people who want a space to talk about important, hot-button issues in a space where lively, controversial debate is welcomed (encouraged!). They’ve introduced a dislike button, and the creator thinks it works well because people go in expecting strong, potentially unpopular opinions. Sean Parker, founder of Napster, has been working hard on an app called Brigade; this social network was designed to encourage Americans to engage with current events and political news.

This is interesting because it shows that niche social networks can be as much about *how* we communicate (eg, providing a space for people who want to be able to share strong opinions or do everything via video), as they are about creating spaces for people with similar interests to come together.

3. They’re calling it “the right to wipe” – that social media users should be able to completely remove any trace of posts they made before they were 18. Social media vetting of prospective college students and employees is becoming increasingly common, and increasingly easy; some employers have even fired current employees based on what they posted on social media as a teen, years after the posts were made. It’s something that’s worth thinking about – should we be looking at encouraging teens to join smaller, less public social networks while they’re going through their formative years? It’s also important to consider, before admonishing young people for not thinking about how their posts could affect them later, that large social networks are collecting huge amounts of data about users, regardless of how careful they are about their privacy settings – and they aren’t particularly transparent about how they share that data, and who they’re sharing it with.