Tag Archives: digital

Up Periscope?

imageI’ve been road testing the Periscope app. If you are on Twitter you will know it. If you have young/teenage kids then you ought to know of it and Facebookers…don’t tune out because it’s heading your way soon in a different guise.

Periscope is a Twitter app which enables you to video broadcast to the world LIVE, in real-time using just your device and wi-fi from wherever you are.

How does it work? Periscope when downloaded gets access to your camera and mic with your permission. You can choose to broadcast yourself turning the camera on you and inviting random anybodies to ‘talk’ to you and ask you about your life/interests. That’s what I found most teenage/young adults doing as I used the map in the app to scroll around the world and zoom in on live broadcasters (or ‘Scopers’) in dozens and dozens of countries to see how they were using it. I found that the vanity culture we live in sadly draws young and adults on to the app to expose their mostly mediocre lives to anyone who logs into their broadcast to interact with them if interested.

imageThe most interesting Scopes were where people were turning the camera on to scenes or events around them, rather than on themselves. In this way I was able to watch the recent London Marathon while out and about and not in front of a TV from the point of view of racers and fans rather than TV stations. Actually, I was in church at the time but as I’m sure my Pastors don’t read my crap I’m OK to reveal that. I toured the Old City of Jerusalem through the camera lens of some random tourist there and was able to comment with knowledge on what he was seeing as I know the place well and even direct him from my room in London as to where to turn his camera or guide his steps as to what he might find if he took a left or right turn from where he was.

How do you interact with Scopers? Well, when you log on to their broadcast they get a notification on their screen that @radiogeyser (my Twitter handle) is now watching. They can’t see or hear me. I can’t vocally communicate with them but I can see them or whatever their camera is viewing. I can message them a comment or question by text in the app which appears on their screen, which they can read and respond to vocally.

I thought long about whether to post this blog or not because I’m not a social media expert and I thought by now most people will know about Periscope – only they don’t seem to or are just not wanting to use/know how to use it. I know this by my many trawls around the live global map to find Live or dormant Scopers…and the map is surprisingly sparsely populated. So if this technology has been out a couple of years and it’s not taken off, why bother with it?

imageFacebook has already hinted it will introduce live citizen broadcasting in some form to its 1.65 billion active monthly users worldwide soon and the difference for me between Periscope and Facebook is that more people I’m closely connected with are on Facebook than Twitter. It will mean more to me if my more closely connected Facebookers watch any of my livecasts if I do any as it will if I see theirs – and if any of my close friends were about to livecast something, I would watch at least initially and then choose who to keep paying attention to. One thing I forgot to mention is that Periscope saves the most recent broadcasts of those you follow for review if you miss it live for a limited period. My Twitter followers are mostly anonymous people I know little about. My Facebook community is my inner circle and so livecasting in that context will have more relevance.

imageI like the potential of Periscope despite the vastly mundane, irritating and even dangerous nature of broadcasts I have seen. Let me just open this up for a sec. I randomly found a live Scoper in Sheffield, UK where I used to live. I logged in to his broadcast for that reason only to find a young guy ranting about gay people and advocating all sorts of harm, violence and death on them. I messaged him to stop. He didn’t. I warned him I would use the facility in the app to report his broadcast (which Periscope records) and he continued. I messaged him to say I had reported him and he continued. Finally, using the map facility I geolocated the street in Sheffield he was broadcasting from (but not the house number). I messaged up his street name and if I could have had the wits to screenshot the look on his face when he saw his street name come up I’d make it my screen saver. With an “OH SHIT!” He closed his broadcast down and I have no guilt at all thinking he probably had the first of a couple of sleepless nights.

imageScopes that draw me: Little is more and I stumbled across a French girl living in Nice, a place I love. She broadcasts in short bursts though the day. She has three goals: to show off her beautiful city, to engage with those whom she attracts and to teach them how to speak French. I am now in her daily morning class on Periscope with a link to her website I can visit if I want to deepen my learning but for now, I’m learning a bit of French every day with her and others in real-time on a beach in Nice. I give her my attention, though I’ve never seen her face because she has engaged me and I enjoy those few minutes of lovely views from a place I love while learning some French before getting out of bed to start my day.

Periscope may have a limited shelf life until Facebook or others unveil their rivals but the potential of citizen broadcasting, despite the pitfalls is an intriguing new prospect to communicate with the world around us. Like it or not, the digital space is the 21st Century market square.

pc_doctor4

Cyber violated twice in one day.

It could have been in Mumbai, Bangalore, Jaipur, Chenai or any other of India’s burgeoning ‘silicone cities’. For at least 2 hours today I handed over screen and keyboard control of my Laptop to someone I have never met or spoken to called ‘Siva’ who lives in India…

That’s right:- my personal Laptop complete with my 4 private email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, iTunes, Tesco Direct, this Blog, PornULike……

(Kidding. I don’t shop at Tesco)

Why am I blogging about this?  Well I guess it was because of the weird feeling I had today of being voluntarily violated in my most personal space not once but twice in one day.  I’m still reeling from it actually, even though I now have a very healthy and fast and secure Laptop.

It all started when I felt my internet speed at home had slowed.  I’m a Virgin Media customer and they are known and proven to (so far) have the fastest broadband speeds in the UK. They have just been running a saturation level national ad campaign announcing they are boosting broadband speeds even faster.  Imagine my ire then as I can feel mine slowing.

So I go to the online help centre. It’s pretty easy to use. I look up and try some diagnostics.  Then I also note that I can ‘chat’ to a Technical Advisor – a sort of online PC Doctor and get some more advice. So I log in…and meet ‘Siva’.  Before I could ‘chat’ to Siva, I had to download the Virgin Digital Home Help app which not only enabled me to talk to Siva, but also run a ‘health’ diagnostic on my Laptop. I run it. Prognosis: not good. Virgin says I have no anti-virus protection.  But i DO. I have a fully activated McAfee account. I run a McAfee check. Green lights all round.    So how come Siva?

“Hello, I’m Siva your technical Advisor today. How can I help you?” He greets me. “I can run a complete diagnostic on your PC, clean it up and get it running faster for you and also find out why we are picking up that you have no anti-virus protection”. 

“You can?  Ummm…..ok. Wait a minute…I have no anti-virus protection???”

“There is a charge for this and we can add that to your next monthly bill. Are you authorizing me to go ahead?”

“Errm…..OK. Yes.”

“Great! in order to run the diagnostic and clean up your PC I will need to take control of it. Do I have your permission?”

Thoughts flash by.  Take over my PC? As in have a stranger peer into the very secret part of me?  My thoughts, my most recent Facebook posts…even worse my Twitter posts!  Emails in and out Things I have just bought….my payment card details for crying out loud?

“Ok. Yes”

From that moment, Siva was in control. I watched my screen lying on my bed in London while Siva took control of my most personal space from somewhere in India. I took my hands off the steering wheel and watched the cursor fly around the screen as he and not I dictated.  I watched  as he opened up programmes I never knew were there. I had already given him permission to delete anything he saw that might be a security threat to my PC or my personal details.   For nigh on 2 hours I watched his progress. Saw him open files, unclick stuff, delete stuff, refine stuff – all with my permission and all the time he was doing it I could activate the chat box to ask him stuff. OK, yes I could have been doing other things in those 2 hours as Siva suggested. But come on, a stranger in Mumbangalore is roaming around my PC at will? One thing I never saw him do was open Facebook, or Twitter, or email…

There were some impressive security measures in place covering me.  Before the diagnostic session started, Virgin Media told me that by default all such sessions were recorded to protect my privacy…so in other words, Siva’s bosses were watching him and what he was looking at on my computer. The other was that, well, I was watching Siva. I saw every move he made. I didn’t need to. I could have left him to get on with it as he suggested. I could have come back to a finished diagnostic with a summary report in the chat window an hour or 4 later and he did tell me it could take as long as that.

Of course I did not leave the screen for a minute.  My PC and all in it in the hands of a stranger?  I was impressed with what I saw and as I watched him navigate around my PC I found myself learning stuff that I afterwards went back and looked at again.

So the outcome.  A trimmer, faster, de-bugged PC but one that also revealed a problem with my McAfee security that I know I might never have otherwise discovered.  McAfee was not covering me in real-time scanning even though on my PC it was showing I was secure. There was a fault in the McAfee app on my PC

Siva completed his diagnostic and, having alerted me to the McAfee issue, even left the chat session by putting on my screen the page I needed to take the issue up with McAfee.   I clicked on the link and followed things through to……another remote online technician.

“Hello, this is Arjun. I am your technical support assistant for McAfree today. How can I help you?”

I explain the situation.

“Great! in order to run the diagnostic and clean up your PC I will need to take control of it. Do I have your permission?”

Oh yes, I kept a watch on Arjun too (at no cost), though thankfully for a much shorter time but after my session with Siva I was empowered to quiz Arjun when he told me my PC was protected when Siva had told me it was not. I ended up leading Arjun on screen  to the areas Siva told me I needed to alert him to. Once Arjun saw what I was showing him, he immediately initiated a fix, told me I needed to restart my PC and then what to do once I restarted it.

So I now have a smarter, faster and above all totally protected Laptop now.  Was it worth the extra £60 on my next Virgin Media bill?    For me yes. I’m among the IT illiterate mass millions of the world who are increasingly becoming dependent on digital media to live our lives but who have no idea how to maintain of fix it. There’s no car manual for us…only guys like Siva and Arjun who I don’t know and don’t trust but working under the Virgin and McAfee brands that I do trust. None of it is fool-proof as this post reveals but it’s all we, the IT ignorant, have to help us live our lives in this Digital Age…

(Until some rancid, spotty 13-year-old in his bedroom decides to take us all down in a hissy fit over some girl who rejected him because he’s a greasy, spotty jonny-no-mates and so hacks down the world wide web).