Don’t let the trolls in

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

All the hoo-hah that has erupted over the trolls invading the Southland Trader Co Facebook page is a good example of why we all should be careful about our online privacy.

If you upload photos to a social network site such as Facebook, you need to be aware of who will see those photos. And even more importantly, who can steal those photos.

I’m not singling out Facebook for criticism: all content you upload to the web is vulnerable. It’s quite simply that Facebook is one of the biggest players so is therefore one of the biggest targets.

If we, as adults, choose to post photos of ourselves on social networking sites, then that is our choice. However, if we load photos of others we should show a little consideration: don’t load images of your friends without letting them know you plan to because it’s their privacy you are compromising. And if you want to load photos of your children, perhaps it’s a good time to check your privacy options and limit access to those photos to a more select group of your closest friends and family rather than all 1000 of your internet friends, and their friends, and friends of friends, and . . . well, you get the picture.

It’s a bit like that old TV ad about the dangers of sexually-transmitted diseases: you might sleep with just one person but you are sleeping with their previous partners, and their partners’ partners, and so on. And let’s be honest, crossing paths with these online trolls is about as desirable as getting a blister on your nether regions so the analogy is quite apt.

It pays to pop into your account settings in Facebook from time to time and check if anything needs changing because it seems that every time there is a tweak or change in Facebook’s setup, it rattles your privacy settings. Click on the cog icon at the top right of your Facebook page, scroll down to “privacy settings” and have a bit of a play around until you get things just the way you want them. The ability to limit who can view every post, photo and gallery you post is something that is often overlooked, so don’t forget that you can click the dropdown at the bottom right on all content you are posting to change it from “public” (the default setting) to friends only.

It’s a shame that a small bunch of low-life bottom-dwellers can ruin what was shaping up to be a popular Facebook page but remember: don’t feed the trolls because your indignant reactions are what they thrive on.

Besides, take heart in the knowledge that anonymously bugging people online is the best thing in their lives and that much like high school bullies, this is them at their peak. They are to be pitied more than anything else.


Four-part koalatastrophe

koalaWhy did the koala bear fall out of the tree?
He had no arms.

Why did the second koala bear fall out of the tree?
He was holding onto the first koala.

Why did the third koala bear fall out of the tree?
He thought it was a game.

Why did the girl fall off her bike?
She got hit by a falling koala bear.


Left, right, left, dip!

dance lessons


Keep ‘selfie’ culture at arm’s length

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

Do we really need an app to encourage people to take more selfies?

Well, the obvious answer is no, we don’t. Unfortunately, we’ve got one anyway.

Frontback combines pictures of what a person is seeing and their reaction, using both the front and rear cameras in some devices to take both shots at the same time, before combining them into one tidy little image that can be shared on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

OK, so it is quite a clever idea but good lord, do we really to give the selfie-addicted more opportunities to overshare?

There are already far too many people out there who just can’t help but take one of those “hold-the-camera-at-arm’s- length” images to share on Facebook every time they go out with friends, go shopping, or even simply successfully leave the house with matching shoes and their underwear on the right way.

Or after spending a bomb on buying the phone with the best camera, they chuck the pictures on Instagram with trendy filters to make them look like some craptacular photo taken with a 20-year-old point-and-shoot camera.

Then they go on holiday with their fancy-schmancy mobile devices and take lots of snaps of interesting things but because they are taking a selfie instead of getting their travelling companion to take the photo like us old people do, and their arms aren’t 2m long, you can’t see the interesting things in their photos.

All you can see is the aforementioned selfie-taker, either smiling like an idiot in their perfected selfie pose or trying to look all moody and interesting (but usually looking more constipated than anything else).

According to the Mail Online, Frontback is “taking San Francisco by storm, and experts say it is set to ‘explode’ in popularity”.

I can see the usefulness of it, perhaps for getting a shot of a grandparent meeting their new grandchild for the first time, or the reaction of a groom as his bride walks up the aisle. Unfortunately, I suspect we’ll be seeing shots of a more hipster nature: brooding dudes and dude-ettes with their fashion- statement dark-rimmed glasses staring moodily at their hipster dinner plate. With a moody Instagram filter, of course.


Facebook click can cook your goose

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

I reckon the Government could have saved a lot of kerfuffle with that whole spy bill drama by just setting up a Facebook account and friending all of us.

While we’re all up in arms – and rightly so – over the possibility of our government spying on us, we’re also keen to overshare our lives with anyone and everyone via social networking: from photos of our kids to details of family rows, from endless pet photos (I’ll raise my hand to admit guilt on that one, but it’s not my fault Seymour the Wonder Cat and Norman the Naughty Cat are so incredibly photogenic) to equally endless selfies, it’s all there online, cluttering up the interwebs.

Even the Pope has been at it, posing for a selfie just last week ( Although I’m pleased to say he didn’t do the duckface.

National carrier Air New Zealand has been involved in a bit of an online privacy bunfight of late, demanding a nosy at the Facebook pages of an ex- employee.

The flight attendant was sacked earlier this year over a sick leave dispute and she went to the Employment Relations Authority, claiming unfair dismissal.

Air New Zealand had demanded to see her Facebook and bank details ( xuTBzp) because it was questioning the legitimacy of her sick leave.

While she had to hand over the information she did eventually win her case, but there’s a lesson in there for everyone who uses Facebook, Twitter or any other social media sites: don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your employer to see.

Even if you have your profile privacy set up so only your friends can sample the wondrous details of your day-to-day life, that information is no longer under your control once you put it out there.

I’m sure all those wee starlet chicky- babes who ended up starring in their own sex tapes never expected such private moments to go public, but many a disgruntled ex has cashed in on that naive belief.

The same is true for all of us: an angry friend, unscrupulous co-worker or evil ex can destroy any expectations of privacy with one click.

So next time you update your Facebook status, ask yourself if you’d be comfortable with your boss (or your Mum) reading it.


tap-tap-tap … Is this thing on?

updateI’ve been a bad, bad blogger, not posting here for months. I apologise for abandoning you (not that it’s likely anyone’s noticed) but – for a few months at least – life got in the way.

It’s been an interesting old time, with my dodgy heart actually behaving like a not-so-dodgy heart and now it’s looking more likely that I won’t need the heart surgery that had been hanging over my head since last month. I had another ECG and ultrasound done last weekend and the technician said everything looked pretty good so it will be interesting to see what my cardiologist has to say at my next appointment.

Strangely, now that I’m not working stupidly long hours I seem to constantly run out of time to blog, or do much writing in general. I’ve been hit by a bout of spring cleaning fever and have been clearing out wardrobes and cupboards, re-organising shelves, defrosting freezers and generally being a domestic goddess. Without the nice pinny or good manners. Hmm, more of a domestic biarch I guess.

Any-hoo,  I reckon once I’m finished with all the spring cleaning madness I might just get a little more organised on the writing side of things.

Stay tuned, I might be back to torment you soon.



Conspiracies made for the internet

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next tin-foil hat-wearing crackpot, and the internet has certainly made the sharing and perfecting of those conspiracy theories so much easier.

When the news broke at the weekend that Scotland Yard was having another look at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, it sped around the internet faster than a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich at an Elvis Presley convention.

It’s been nearly 16 years since Diana died in Paris but the rumours about her death being a hit ordered by the Royal family, the British military or possibly even the government have never really gone away.

Given the fact that there have been other members of the family who have caused every bit as much embarrassment in the ensuing years, you’d think that if there was any truth to those rumours, there’d be a certain bent-nosed rugby player with a taste for canoodling with sheilas they aren’t married to who might have been in line for an, ahem, unfortunate accident.

Unless, of course, it was the Queen Mother who did the hit. Then that would explain the lack of retribution.

It is quite sad that after all this time there is still so much doubt about how she died but now more than ever, it seems there is a hardcore group of people looking for the conspiracies in every high-profile death.

Barnaby JackWhen New Zealand ATM hacker Barnaby Jack (pictured) died suddenly last month, just a week before he was scheduled to speak at a Las Vegas hacking conference on how to hack into pacemakers and defibrillators, the web was awash with rumours: The death of a man who claimed to have discovered how to perform a hack hit was conspiracy theory nirvana.

While I was a bit concerned by his claims – particularly since I was told last year I’ll be needing one of those internal cardiac machines myself and had visions of being hacked by an angry Nigerian investment broker with a Hotmail address – I was also keen to hear what he had to say.

Sadly, he never made it to the conference and now the online rumour mill is busily spitting out theories on how and why he died.

He was just 35 years old and for his family, it’s a tragedy not a conspiracy.


On a brighter note, isn’t it great that we finally have marriage equality here in Godzone?

Congratulations to all those who have taken that leap into married life this week.

I reckon the whole debate was summed up beautifully by a quote I saw online a few months ago: Saying someone else’s marriage is against your religion is like getting angry at someone for eating a donut while you are on a diet.


Tweet, tweet

What’s yellow, weighs one ton and whistles?

Two half ton canaries.


Twitter nearly implodes with tiny arrival

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

There are some news stories that just take over the web and this week’s arrival of the newest royal was one of those stories.

As much as we try to pretend we are interested in serious, grown-up newsy stuff, there’s no denying most of us are suckers for a warm fuzzy story or a bit of juicy gossip. And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather hear the warm fuzzy “the baby’s here” story than some bit of tawdry celebrity dross any day.

It’s hard to believe one tiny little baby could cause so much buzz but there you have it: the royal munchkin has arrived and prompted much excitement both online and in real life.

Online news websites were taken over by baby fever, with story after story on every possible aspect of the impending arrival and on the goggle box, TV reporters struggling to fill in time as they waited for the Duchess of Cambridge to evict her little tenant.

Twitter very nearly imploded under the weight of a gazillion #royalbaby tweets and Facebook was awash with speculation on when and what gender (before his arrival) and what his name would be (after his arrival). I still think Norman has a good ring to it, and if it’s good enough for both my brother-in-law and my cat, then it’s certainly good enough for a future king.

For the most part, the feedback was positive: we were happy for a young couple about to become first-time parents. There were also plenty of good-humoured jokes and puns popping up (on Her Majesty’s secret cervix) as the world celebrated.

However, there were some negative undertones, with some posters on Facebook and Twitter having a whinge about there being so many updates about the royal baby and a few even being downright nasty.

Interestingly, you see a lot of that online and often from people who I know personally and can vouch for the fact they aren’t like that in real life.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect everyone’s right to express their own opinion but it seems that often people are far more critical and/or nasty online than they ever would be in the flesh.

I don’t have strong feelings either way about the royal family but like so many others out there, I was feeling quite chirpy when news of the wee fella’s arrival broke: you don’t have to be a staunch royalist to feel happy for the new parents and to appreciate a good news story among all the murders, job layoffs, natural disasters, wars and daily dramas.

Welcome to the world future King Norman. Hasn’t that got a nice ring to it?


Ducking hell

Why do ducks have flat feet?
For stamping out forest fires.

Why do elephants have flat feet?
For stamping out flaming ducks.

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