Imagine having a private conversation about relationships or work or sports with a few of your closest friends. You’re sitting at a restaurant. The people in the booth next to you might be able to hear the conversation, but they don’t participate.
Now imagine that private conversation online, on a live video stream for others to see and hear. Those people in the restaurant booth can now participate in the conversation. They can applaud when you say something poignant, they can post questions in a live message feed, and invite others to your “private” conversation.
Of course, the conversation is no longer private. Your friends and eavesdroppers are in other locations all over the world. Only you and your friends are on video, the visitors are not, but they’re all joining in the conversation to varying degrees.
This is Blab.im.
Blab.im is a new social video platform that supports casual public chats. It’s the closest equivalent to eavesdropping on those private restaurant conversations, albeit in social media.
Where some apps provide channels for private selfies and videos (e.g., Snapchat) or public, live streaming videos (e.g., Meerkat, Periscope), Blab.im takes social video a step further by encouraging users to share their private conversations with the rest of the world.
Blab.im is not for the private video conversations we want to remain private. Save those for Skype.
Blab.im’s short history began in the redevelopment of another little-known social media platform, Bebo (which stands for “blog early, blog often”). The story goes like this: Bebo’s revamp team was kicked out of the office for two weeks by their leaders, Shaan Puri and Furqan Rydhan.
Puri and Rydhan were treating their team like a start-up. Get out of the office, go to a coffee shop with good wifi, and come up with a new plan for Bebo.
The group came back with something completely different.
Do a YouTube search of “Blab Launch” to see Puri and Rydhan’s pitch for their new platform at Launch 2014. Blab.im has changed quite a bit from that introduction, but the concept is the same.
What started as a momentary video messaging service turned into a space for idea generation and sharing.
Now, before you say “there’s no way I’d let the public listen to my private conversations,” we’re not talking about the sweet-nothings you exchange on a date, although I’m sure some people would watch and listen if you streamed it live online.
Blab.im is used to connect people who may otherwise never be able to connect to have conversations about relationships, sports, politic, community service and other interesting topics. Recently, I participated in a Blab.im for #GenKind24, a virtual, 24-hour event designed to spotlight acts of kindness (see the image at the top of this blog).
This marathon brought thousands of viewers and participants from different walks of life to talk about being generous, how to be kind, and what it means to “see” people (pun intended).
You can use Blab by connecting it to your Twitter account. You can also download the Blab app in the Apple iTunes store.
It’s tough to know exactly how to talk to kids about Internet safety.
We want children to feel safe enough to go online to learn and play, but we know that there are people preying on unsuspecting users, regardless of age.
Here are some tips for starting important Internet safety conversations with children (Note: These are also good conversations to have with other adults.):
1. There are mean people online. As adults, we are fully aware of this. We know that mean people take the form of bullies, terrorists, thieves and predators.
For a kid playing in an interactive online world, the environment typically “feels” safe. It feels safe because the child is likely playing these games at home, and on devices purchased by parents or guardians.
Many of these online games feature characters that resemble other children. But the sad fact is, you can’t be sure that the real people sitting behind those characters are really children. So, add a twist to the “stranger danger” talk that your parents had with you. This talk usually happens when kids are old enough to understand (pre-kindergarten).
The twist? Include “online” stranger danger to your warning.
Starting with kindergarten students, Mary Beth Hertz, an art technology teacher in Philadelphia and blogger at mbteach.com, encourages caregivers to start these conversations by asking several questions.
“What is a stranger? What kinds of things should we not tell a stranger? What kinds of things are okay to tell a stranger?” This conversation should lead to the important online safety question: “Are there strangers online?”
Kids are pretty good at determining who a stranger could be online, but they’re not always equipped with strategies for dealing with these interactions. They’re naturally inquisitive about kids their own age.
It’s important to tell children things like “Get a parent if you’re not sure” and “Never talk to people in private chats if you’re not sure who they are.”
2. Make password creation and management fun, not tedious. Forced password reset messages are annoying, but necessary. I decided to have fun with resets, creating passwords that other people would never guess because, well, they’re strange, yet unforgettable.
Talking to children about passwords should be fun, too.
Children are well aware of passwords. They know that to gain access to someone’s mobile device or computer, or to download a new game or app, there might be a code or password that no one else can know.
Talk to children about why we use these passwords (e.g., keep private information safe, etc.).
For fun, ask them to make their own passwords.
Give them strategies for creating fun, easy-to-remember passwords, but focus on creating strong passwords. For example, if their password suggestion is “cheesepizza,” give examples for how to make it stronger (e.g., “ch33sePi22a” or “ChZp1zzAh!”).
Finally, encourage kids to make regular password updates.
Every six months (e.g., New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July) ask them to log in and reset their passwords. It teaches them to be diligent about online security, and you can keep better tabs on their accounts and passwords.
Plus, it’s a good reminder to update your passwords at the same time.
Check out my other columns in the "Connected" section of The Vindicator (Sundays).
My oldest daughter is in fifth grade, and when it came time to scheduling a music class, she had a choice: choir or band.
Much to my delight, she chose the latter, if only because of my love for jazz. I was more than happy to support the next John Coltrane. She actually picked band and the saxophone because several of her cousins were active in their marching bands.
No pressure from Dad.
She picked up the saxophone, and the “music” began. Every parent knows the sound. The squeal from the horn sounds as if someone is tugging an elephant’s trunk.
For the first few weeks, she was practicing less and less, but she claimed she was still interested. When I dug a little further, I found out she was forgetting her lesson book at school each day.
Enter social media. More specifically, enter social media video.
Truth be told, I started with Twitter and did a quick hashtag search of #learnsaxophone. Some of the first tweets were old (January, 2015). But they included links to saxhub.com, a subscription site with step-by-step instructions and instructional videos. The sample videos are great, but I wasn’t ready to commit $20 per month for my newbie.
Next I turned to Google and YouTube. Actually, I probably should have started with YouTube.
There’s a certain level of cachet that comes with YouTube for this new generation. My kids make crude videos of stuffed animals doing weird things. They do with the expectation that I will post them to YouTube.
When my wife talks about something she watched on YouTube, and the kids are nearby, it’s like watching startled meerkats pop their heads up to investigate.
My oldest children often ask what it would take to be a “YouTuber,” and “can I major in YouTube at your college?” (Note: my answer is always yes, but I always add a little caveat about needing to be good writers, and to learn math and coding).
They’re already using YouTube to learn about their favorite video games and to be entertained for hours watching “Tube Heroes” such as TDM or CaptainSparklez build amazing worlds in Minecraft.
My budding saxophonist perked up when I introduced the idea of using YouTube to learn how to play, especially on days when she leaves the lesson book behind. Don’t worry, music teachers. I was clear that she needed to have the lesson book at home to follow her teacher’s instructions, but that maybe YouTube videos could be a temporary fix.
Five minutes after I gave my YouTube tip, my iPad was missing and I heard someone tugging the elephant’s trunk. She was watching a guide for beginning saxophone.
We found many other videos. Some were old, but certainly informative.
About a week later, she was on our back deck, flowing through scales with only an occasional squeak.
John Coltrane would be proud.
Words that enter our everyday lexicon fascinate me. Over the years, our use of technology and social media has forced us to develop new words to describe our experiences and expand or redefine existing terms (e.g., “friending” on Facebook).
In the spirit of those who actively develop and promote these new words, I’m happy to introduce a few terms that you may not have heard, but that could be useful for explaining something you’re experiencing online.
I can’t take credit for all of these terms. Some have appeared on Twitter, and some are newly defined for this column. But they’re kind of clever and appropriate.
New wearable technology can measure the number of steps you walk or run each day, your heart rate and blood pressure, and other important health-related information. Fitbit, one of the more popular wearable fitness products, also helps you track sleep, weight and calories.
Although I don’t use the wristband technology, I do use the fitness apps, such as FitnessPal, that help me track some of the same information.
For me, being fitbitter is the feeling associated with entering my calorie intake into a fitness app after I’ve had a gigantic piece of cheesecake, or on a day I didn’t work out.
Used in a sentence: “I’m fitbitter because I had seconds of mom’s lasagna.”
(Note: The term fitbitter also has been used to describe a person who uses the Fitbit technology).
LinkedIn is the social networking site developed for job seekers and the business community. However, being “linkedinsecure” is the feeling that you don’t have enough links, recommendations or accomplishments, and that you’re not really active enough on LinkedIn to survive the scrutiny of someone who may be considering you for a job.
Someone once tweeted, “It makes me all linkedInsecure, as I haven’t updated my profile in ages and somehow feel inadequate.”
Emoji is the Japanese term that uses e for “picture” and moji for “letter, character.” We use emojis to serve as the nonverbal gestures we would use if we were communicating face-to-face.
Emojis also come in handy when we don’t know how to politely end online conversations. In these cases, we “emojiout” (pronounced e-MO-je-out), using an emoji or sometimes several emojis to end a seemingly infinite back-and-forth texting session.
It’s the equivalent of finding a polite way to end an endless phone conversation without simply pressing the red “hang up” icon on your phone.
Used in a sentence: “I was Facebooking with an old high school friend, and after a while I just had to emojiout of the conversation.”
This term has been around for several years, and it was used in the early days of Twitter to refer to celebrity impersonators. This led to verified accounts (i.e., small white checkmark set in a blue circle on your Twitter profile image), and several celebrities claiming to be “the real” (insert celebrity name).
Today, if you’re twitterjacked, it simply means someone has hacked your account to post inappropriate or misleading information.
Used in a sentence: “My ex-girlfriend twitterjacked my account and tweeted that I was a Cleveland Browns fan” (which, of course, could be really bad if you’re actually a Pittsburgh Steelers fan).
Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chairman of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is special assistant to the provost and professor of communication in the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes on a variety of topics including communication technologies, relationships, and sports (with an emphasis on fandom). His work has appeared in Mahoning Matters as well as The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers.