Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Evolution and Etiquette of Social Networking

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Vol. 2, # 61 - Mar 5, 2009 - Issue # 70 
 The Evolution and Etiquette of Social Networking

  1. Editor's Corner
    • The Evolution and Etiquette of Social Networking
    • Follow-up: Multiple Monitors
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Vista wins "Fiasco" Award
    • Vista/Windows 7 comparison
    • OneNote add-on gives "bird's eye view"
  4. How to: Using the New Vista Features
    • "Turn down the Volume!" How to make a shortcut to mute the sound in Vista
  5. Vista Security
    • Sidebar gadgets that enhance security
  6. Vista Question Corner
    • Remote Desktop from Vista Home Premium?
  7. Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Remote access clients running Vista can't access IPv6 RAS servers
  8. Windows 7 Preview Corner
    • 36 Changes to Windows 7 RC
  9. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  10. Product of the Week
    • Second Copy: Silently Protects Your Data

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Editor's Corner

The Evolution and Etiquette of Social Networking

This week I'm coming to you from the Renaissance Hotel in Seattle, where we're staying during the annual Microsoft MVP Summit. As I write this, we're halfway through the conference and it's been a good one. We spent yesterday on the Microsoft campus, attending a series of enlightening and interesting presentations. You can read the gory details on my blog at

Meanwhile, something I've noticed is how much more into social networking everyone here seems to be, compared to past years. In addition to blogging, we're all tweeting about what's going on and at any given time during a session, it's a good bet that someone in the room will be updating his/her Facebook status on a laptop. People still exchange business cards, but it's just as common to hear "look me up on LinkedIn." There is even an official Twitter page for the MVP Summit and an MVP fan page on Facebook.

A lot can change in a year. When I wrote about social networking last spring, it was from a very different point of view. I wasn't much of a fan. Of course, to some degree all networking is social - after all, the whole point of networking is to share with others. But for a long time, I didn't really see the point of sites like Facebook and MySpace - at least not for anyone other than bored teenagers who didn't have enough to do.

Well, SN is a little like the Borg; resistance proved to be futile. More and more of my friends and relatives started using social networking tools as their primary means of online communications. They stopped emailing me regularly to tell me what was going on in their lives - they expected me to find that out through their Facebook updates. And it made sense. Why repeat essentially the same bit of news in multiple email messages to different people when you could write about it once and have it automatically accessible by all those who know you? Even with cut and paste or cc: lists, it takes more time and effort to use email for those types of updates.

The social sites are also less intrusive to the recipient. All of the folks on your cc: list might or might not be interested in your acquisition of a new dog or the trophy your son won in the junior bowling league, but when it arrives in their personal mailboxes, they're likely to feel obligated to reply. When you post the same info on your social networking site, they can skip over whatever they're not interested in, with no guilt.

There's also the bandwidth issue. If you send those fourteen absolutely darling photos of the baby to all your friends and family as email attachments, it can use a lot of resources on their machines and put a strain on low speed Internet connections. If you upload the album to Facebook, those who want to see the pictures can click on it and those who don't can bypass it.

I set up my Twitter account "just for fun" - to check out the technology so I could write about it. Soon I found myself with over a hundred followers. Of course, there's a down side to that. Now I feel a nagging obligation to "tweet" something every day or two. I try to keep my tweets mostly professional - that is, I post to let people know that I've published an article, written a blog post, am attending a conference, and so forth. I figure most of them don't really care what movie I just watched or that I'm about to go to the grocery store (I do, however, understand that such information can be appropriate when the goal is to keep geographically separated family members and friends "in touch" with one another's day-to-day lives).

The benefits of Facebook proved to be even more surprising. I found myself getting to know some of my family members better in a month of being FB "friends" than I had in decades of coexisting in the "real world." For example, I "friended" a cousin whom I usually saw once or twice a year and never got to know very intimately. Through her FB posts, I learned about her likes and dislikes, how she spends her days, and get to see photos of her and her husband and friends.

I've also discovered things that I have in common with some of my business colleagues, from political viewpoints to hobbies to unusual life experiences. I now find out all sorts of tidbits of information I wouldn't know otherwise, such as the fact that one of my fellow tech authors is in Texas on business, or that someone with whom I went to high school now lives in the Netherlands. Some of these pieces of information are more useful than others, but knowledge is usually a good thing and I have no doubt that these sites bring people together.

That's not to say the phenomenon doesn't have its dark side, too. As with any technology, it can be misused. The Terms of Service for most of the sites prohibit creating a false identity - but like any other rules, the people who are out to do harm don't abide by them. It's important to be careful about whom you accept as a friend and to think carefully about what you post on the sites, even if you have your settings configured to only allow your friends access. I just recently wrote an article on social networking security threats, which will be up on the website in the near future.

But it's not just the overtly malicious that you have to worry about. Social networking can present some interesting etiquette issues, as well. What if you accept the friend request of someone you know slightly, only to find out that you really don't want to be friends with this person? Maybe he/she posts things to your Wall that are embarrassing, such as risqué pictures or messages that use profane language. It's even worse if your mom, spouse, child, minister and/or rich prudish aunt are also among your FB "friends." Sure, you can remove the offending items from your page, but do you really want to have to monitor your page that diligently?

Or maybe it's more subtle than that. You find that your new "friend's" political views differ radically from your own, and he/she uses the social site to constantly post comments and links espousing those views and denigrating those on the other side of the political aisle. You really don't feel very friendly when you open up your page every day to see those posts that bash the party to which you belong. One solution is to engage in an indirect war of words, i.e., you counter each of your "friend's" political diatribes with one of your own (not explicitly directed at the friend, of course). But that gets old after a while.

The problem is that in the "real world," if you and a new friend don't click, you can usually ease out of the relationship. You just stop hanging out where that person does, happen to be "busy" if he/she invites you to socialize, and let the mismatched friendship die a natural and relatively painless death. Even with an email or IM based relationship, you can just quit replying or set your chat status to "busy" or "away." With the social networking sites, it's not quite as easy. Once you've accepted someone into your circle, you have to take overt action to exclude the person. And that can cause hard feelings. Not being available is one thing, but explicitly "unfriending" a person carries much stronger connotations. So most of us suffer in silence, or even stop using the social networking tools altogether to avoid the friction.

I think it would help if we developed some basic rules of etiquette for posting to social sites. For instance, unless you only use your SN site to communicate with a closed group of people whose views on touchy topics are the same as yours (or whom you know enjoy lively debate and won't be offended by it), it's probably best to refrain from sounding off loudly on issues like partisan politics, religion, or sex. It's also a good idea to keep the comments, pictures and videos that you post to somebody else's Wall suitable for mixed company unless you're absolutely sure not only that your friend will appreciate your vehement rant or crude humor, but also that it won't cause trouble for your friend when his/her friends see it there.

Probably a good rule of thumb is to treat most social networking sites like the public places they are. In other words, if it's something you wouldn't show or say in a crowded restaurant or at a party with your friends' family and other people you don't know in attendance, don't post it on a Wall or as a comment on your friend's SN page.

This is not to say that you have to suppress all of the "interesting" parts of your personality or turn your online persona into a bland, boring one. You can certainly express your opinions or show your support for your pet causes - just think about how you're doing it. After all, you stand a much better chance of persuading others to your point of view if you present it in a reasonable, non-offensive way.

What do you think? How has the social networking landscape evolved for you over the last year? Have you started using - or at least thinking about using - SN tools that you may have dismissed as silly not long ago? If you've joined the SN scene, what do you like and not like about it? Do you find yourself wasting more time because of it, or has it turned out to be a valuable way to build personal and business relationships? How do you handle those uncomfortable situations unique to social networking, such as the desire to "unfriend" someone? Let us know about your experiences and opinions at

Follow-up: Multiple Monitors

In last week's feature article, I revisited the topic of multiple monitors. Even though I've replaced some of my smaller monitors with larger ones over the last couple of years, I still find it as useful as ever to have two or three monitors instead of one. Many of our readers agree.

Lou O. said, "I run XP, 2 Samsung 19" (4:3) , I love the height advantage of these. I use Nvidia cards, they have always handled 'duals' easily. I have been doing it for 6 years. I do photography and it does increase my productivity. I use Lightroom 2 and use the dual monitor setting. It is nothing short of amazing. You get to see your image full screen on one monitor and do you adjustments on the other."

And Ted H. says, "I have used Multiple Monitors w/ AutoCAD, since Matrox introduced their card. Would not be w/out. I have duals on all my units (4) that I work w/ all day long, drawing custom Home PlanSets, which I also design. I will shortly have my 81st birthday, and still work a full day!" Happy birthday to Ted!

Most who try multiple monitors love them. Dave R. wrote, "I recently added a second 17" monitor and I thought I understood what the difference would be but the reality was so much better than the theory. Before, I would ALT-TAB from application to application for copying and pasting. I thought that having two monitors would merely increase my speed by the amount of time I spent flipping back and forth. I didn't take into account that it took a fraction of a second for my brain to interpret the new screen. With that same screen in my peripheral vision, I didn't waste any time trying to adjust to the new display. Things go much faster now."

And Jim G. said, "Yes, I use dual monitors and can't live without them. Life is so much easier with dual screens. My wife has dual 24 inch monitors but for me it's to much real estate. The screens are too big and hurts my eyes to sit that close. I have dual 19 inch monitors and find it more pleasing to the eyes. By the way, Windows 7 was the first ever OS to startup with no problems in getting the dual screens to work perfectly and even got the drivers correct."

Cecil has an impressive setup: "I am reading VistaNews on all of my ten monitors (5 wide, 2 high). I can see the heading and your signature at the same time. Each paragraph fits on one line. Every time I add another monitor, I find it painful to use less."

Another (anonymous) reader sent this tip: "You can add up to 6 additional monitors using EVGA's UVPlus products that sell from $49 to $69 each using USB. This will work on Desktop or Laptop, Windows XP, Vista 32 & 64bit and is Win7 ready.... No need to open your system, which keeps your warranty intact, and setup can be done in under 5 minutes." This sounds like a good lower cost alternative to the Matrox products, and I will be checking it out. Here's the

Paul P. shares some memories of the early days of dual monitors: "In 1995-'96, we set up a 24-hour shift operation for what eventually became OPG - the Ontario Power Generation company ... I cannot say what computer setups they have now, but we were early users of dual monitors at the time. We used dual Matrox video cards which had dip switches to designate one as master and the second as slave, as I recall, and dual 17" Sony monitors (the ones where you could just barely see two horizontal shadows cast by the grid supports inside). The PCs ran Windows NT4 - SP2, I think. Matrox cards were the only ones I could find at the time that had the necessary NT drivers."

Christopher J. had this to say: "Since being obsessed with MS Flight simulator some years ago I have used three monitors for about eight years. However, I find them absolutely essential for all my other work now in Graphics, watching TV, and generally being able to spread out. I am also a writer and love to have my ongoing book on one screen with my Google research page on another and a thesaurus on a third. I couldn't do without. I saw Terry Pratchett on TV the other night with 6 screens. He was asked why he had six, and he replied 'Because I don't have room for eight screens!'" Great answer!

Thanks to all of you who wrote on this topic!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

Only the extremely ignorant or the extremely intelligent can resist change. - Socrates

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way. - Franklin P. Jones

Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. - Bill Gates

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!

Cool Tools


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Advanced Vista Optimizer does a great job tweaking Vista for Max performance.

Eliminate your online traces with CyberScrub. Privacy equals security.

Backups? We don't need no stinking backups! Synchronization isn't anything like backing up, it's better! Easy too!

Your Uninstaller! 2008 takes the place of the clunky Windows Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" and offers many other useful functions

Kill the background tasks belonging to (legitimate) software that run all day. Why? To get your speed back!

One easy to remember password gives automatic access to all my online passwords and usernames. I love the autofill feature.

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Vista wins "Fiasco" Award

Given the bias of those who bring us our information, I guess the outcome of this one was inevitable. When all the "news" tells us something is true, a majority of people tend to believe it. Thus Windows Vista was voted the biggest technological fiasco in last week's 2009 Fiasco Awards ceremony in Barcelona. Deserved or not? You tell us. Meanwhile, you can read the story here:

Vista/Windows 7 comparison

Wondering how the new OS really compares to Vista in performance? In this article from InfoWorld, Martin Heller compares the system information, Experience Index and Task Manager performance tab for Vista and Windows 7 on the same hardware. Read the results here:

OneNote add-on gives "bird's eye view"

Last Friday, Microsoft released a free add-on for OneNote (Office notetaking program) called Canvas, that allows you to see a "bird's eye view" of your content. Zoom in and out to see the entire notebook, individual pages and parts of pages. Designed for Vista and OneNote 2007. Give it a look at

How to: Using the New Vista Features

"Turn down the Volume!" How to make a shortcut to mute the sound in Vista

It's happened to most of us: you're playing a song or watching a video and the phone rings or someone comes into the room and starts talking to you. You need to get the volume down or off quickly, but if you don't have a multimedia keyboard with a Mute key, you have to go through several clicks to silence your computer. It's handy to have a one-click shortcut to mute the sound. Here's how to make one:
  1. First download the nircmd.exe tool here:
  2. Right click an empty spot on the desktop and select New | Shortcut
  3. Assuming you saved the file to a folder called Tools on the C: drive, type this in the "location of the item" box (substitute the correct path if you saved it in a different location): "C:\ Path \ To \ nircmd.exe" mutesysvolume 2
  4. Give the shortcut a name (e.g., "Mute")
  5. Right click the shortcut and select Properties
  6. Here you can assign a key combination, or you can just click the icon on the desktop to quickly mute the sound

Vista Security

Sidebar gadgets that enhance security

If you think about the Vista sidebar in relation to security, you probably think about security threats that poorly designed gadgets could present. But did you know that there are a number of sidebar gadgets that are designed to help you monitor and enhance the security of your Vista machine? See this article from Tony Bradley for a list of six security-related gadgets:

Vista Question Corner

Remote Desktop from Vista Home Premium?

I have a computer at work that runs Vista Business edition and it includes Remote Desktop so that I can run its desktop from another (XP) computer on our network. At home I have a Vista Home Premium edition desktop and an XP laptop and I would like to be able to do the same thing but it doesn't seem to have Remote Desktop. Is there a way to add it? Thanks. - Cliff K.

Unfortunately, Remote Desktop service is included only with Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate editions. There's no provision for adding it to Home Premium. The Home edition does have the Remote Desktop client (in the Programs | Accessories menu) so that you can connect to a Vista Business/Enterprise/Ultimate machine from it (or to an XP Professional computer or a Windows server's terminal services). What it doesn't have is the option to configure the computer as the Remote Desktop host (server).

You can get similar functionality for Vista Home Premium with VNC, a third party program. You install it on your Vista HP machine and install the VNC client on your XP laptop, and you can access the desktop in much the same way. There are several different implementations, including RealVNC, TightVNC and UltraVNC. Do a search for "VNC" and check them out.

Vista Configuration and Troubleshooting

Remote access clients running Vista can't access IPv6 RAS servers

If you have a Vista computer at home and you're trying to connect to your company's Remote Access Server that uses the IPv6 protocol, you might not be able to do so. KB article 947208 will tell you what you need to do to make it work.

Windows 7 Preview Corner

36 Changes to Windows 7 RC

Well, we thought the Windows 7 beta as "feature complete" but Microsoft has announced that there are at least 36 changes that will be made to the release candidate. Most are minor, but we all know sometimes it's the little things that count, especially when it comes to usability. Possibly one of the most welcome new features is native support for .mov files - that means I never have to install QuickTime (and endure Apple's endless attempts to make me install iTunes every time QT is updated) again! You can read about the new features and changes here:

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

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 About VistaNews

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