Thursday, November 23, 2006

Google Stops Providing Services to Consumers?

To learn some news on services provided by Google, I opened my web browser and typed "" into the addres bar. This URL was first that came to my mind and looked very reasonable until I saw the actual content of the website.

It is not a revolutional discovery, but I would recommend you to visit this hi-tek creature just to get some fun. The page looks like the leading service provider Google had stopped providing any services at all.

Mr. Google - I have to say this is an exciting marketing trick! Many of your potential customers will definitely appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dirty Email Tricks

Spammers are always looking for new ways to profit from what they do, especially taking into account the fact that almost everyone know that spam exists and trying to protect themselves as strongly as possible. As spam was mostly advertising in the beginning of Internet era, now its goal is significantly changed.

This time advertisers had turned away from spam services and no more think of them as of direct marketing tools. Thus, a lot of spam machines left unused, their owners incurred awful losses, and while they are not ready to switch to another business models, they started signing contracts with anybody just to cover their asses. The result is that spam machines are now used against people and we should keep our eyes open to efficiently protect ourselves from their pressure.

I am not talking of replying to junk emails - this is strictly prohibited. As much you write them back, as more spam you get in the result as your replies show your email address is working and active. I am talking of opening and reading the messages coming from untrusted sources, because it could also be very and very dangerous.

When junk mail comes to my e-mail box, I am following the simple and effective rules given below to get rid of this trash. Hope you can also find them useful.
  • Never open email message sent to you by someone you don't know.
  • If you were attracted by title, or not sure that you do not know the sender, never open attachments from that email. The message text could help you understand if this is worth to read and operate.
  • If you think email comes from your bank or insurance company and the message text tells you to verify your identity in that institute, I would recommend giving them a call and ask for advice. I can not recall any of the financial institutes that sends "change your password" or "validate your identity" emails. Most probably they do know nothing about that message, and it should be moved to trash w/o any excuse.
  • Verify links given in the email. Bad guys usually decorate their messages in the same way as trusted sources do, but the links they provide to click on in all cases reference to unknown web sites.
  • Do not open picture files, ZIP archives and EXE files coming as attachments to the emails. If you are not sure that message is junk, find a way to contact sender back by any other mean than replying to the email you've got.
  • The email stating that you won $1,000,000 is junk. I know, it's hard to believe but true.
  • If email sounds suspicious, ask for advice around or in internet forums - not only you get suspicious emails and they are actively discussed by internet community.
The list above does not include much details, but in general I find it very helpful to identify and sort spam messages out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Human Beings Traffic: The Lowest Price Per Item

They call you "lead". They call you "prospect". They catch you somewhere in the Internet and ask to register. They offer bonuses, discounts, specials and exclusives. However, all what they need is your personal information.

When you provide your email address and full name, all what they need at last is to know of your interests. Just let them know, in a single word, briefly, or (no need to think a lot!) just select from a pre-defined list - what do you like? What makes you happy? This? Or That? Thanks man! We will be in contact with you shortly! ... and you never hear from them... but you hear a lot(!) from their buyers.

What's going on? You were just one of hundreds thousands registered and provided their personal information in hope to get what you need. You have passed the registration process and the simple survey. You were attracted by their ad, vivid, promising. "Thank you! We will be in contact with you soon" is their reply.

Once the info is collected, you are sold to third parties. Usually, you go as one of thousands records in their Excel table or MS Access database. Buyer gets you for 2 cents or less. Do you really cost so much?

Never give out your personal information on unknown web sites even if they promise to deliver something you really need. Look for positive experience around before registering and leaving your email address on their form. Ask your friends, colleagues, or seek for advice on Internet forums to learn if the web site provides real value to its registered users. If you don't do that, expect to get your email address full of junk emails offering everything from escort service to viagra at exceptionally high rates. Illegal, dirty content and offers will make the most of emails coming to your mailbox.

As I mentioned in previous posts of this blog, your personal information is most likely to be misused if you do not take special care of why, when, and where you give it out to foreign eyes.

Trust only the resources you know, or seek for qualified advice. You will always be safe with it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Web Search Revolution 2006!

... or How To Get Most from Your Web Search.

It took me long to understand one of the deep secrets of the Web: to answer the question how to get most from my web search, how to find a piece of information that really solves my personal problem. You know, I am quite lazy in forming search queries and that is the main reason I am usually referenced to the web sites which hardly cover the topic of my interest. Did not you ever feel the same?

It took me long to understand that the most valued and interesting resources pop-up immediately if I express my desire honestly, not turning back to someone's experience or advice, just by thinking of the target in my own.

Well, how do I do that, you ask? Pretty simple. To find what you are looking for, your query to the search engine must be as specific as possible. It should be expressed by your own words, not the ones from the latest TV show. As more specific it will be - as much relevant will be the list of results bubbled from the head of the search engine.

This phenomenon could be easily explained. World Wide Web is a big and highly competitive market, and the hardest battle there goes for word, because there is nothing else than word could attract your attention on the web for more than fifteen years now. So, when you search for a generic term, say "casino", you are most likely to be shown a list of the luckiest competitors in the market rather than a list of the valuable informational or entertainment resources you seek for.

My advice here is: forget the popular words, or use them as a small part of the long specific phrase that you will most likely voice while explaining your wish to live people who can help you find what you need.

Do not hesitate to type three, four, five or even seven words to the box, it just makes your search more precise. Nowadays search engines like precise queries more than generic because they are over-spammed by hundreds thousands of competitors, and that's why the most valued part of the web is left up to longer queries, which are generally thought of as ineffective. In fact it's not true: our mind expresses thoughts in phrases, not in series of disconnected words, and that's why I find long natural queries to be even more convenient and "human-oriented" than couple keywords thrown to worry of the machine.

And it is unbelievable that finally, late year 2006, search engines can serve relevant results for human-built, fuzzy queries and leave the bloody competition out to generic, "extrahuman", robotic language terms!

Just try it, and you will see how easy it is! And after all let me know your impressions ;).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Good versus Bad Links

Link (or "hyperlink") is an essential element of the web. Every web site or a page is referenced by a link. In our life links appear everywhere: on web pages, in email and SMS messages, in newspapers and magazines, on printed ads in your favorite bar or cafe, and even on billboards on the roads and streets of your city. Links became as usual as mailing addresses and phone/fax numbers, and you may rarely see ads not specifying any internet link along with other contact information.

Hyperlinks are extremely popular, but it is always reasonable toask yourself a question if they are safe to follow. What will happen after you click on a link or type it into your web browser? Will the link get you to a desired web site, or will install a damaging software like virus, adware or spyware on your computer?

Following a "bad" link may result in:
* damage to your computer system (viruses, trojans, exploits, spyware, or adware);
* misuse of your personal or credit card information without your explicit permission.

Below are some tips I find useful to clearly identify if the link is good or bad, i.e. if it is worth to follow.
  1. Never click on links in email messages sent to you by someone you do not know.
  2. When clicking on a link from the web site, place the mouse cursor over it and look into your web browser's status bar (left bottom of the screen) to see where it actually leads to. If the status bar does not show something starting from "http://", "ftp://", or "mailto:", it is more likely a "blind" link. Blind links are widely used by spammers, distributors of virus software, and informational thiefs.
  3. Check the domain name of the link. If you did not hear of the name referenced in a link, the domain name is very long and consists of many (more than 2) popular words delimited by hyphen ("-"), it is more likely to be a "bad" link.
  4. If the link leads to HTML file (has ".html" at the end) it is more likely to be safe, especially if you trust the website containing that link.
  5. The link may be suspicious if it has an "out.cgi" or "in.cgi" in its text. Such links are widely used in "traffic exchange" networks also known as "CJ"s. You will never know where this link leads to exactly.
  6. Links containing many ","'s, or "?"'s are also suspicious. Such links are frequently used in banner networks.
  7. Be extremely selective when following links leading to Photos, Video or Audio files on the internet. Good links to photos are most likely to end with ".jpg" or ".jpeg"; videos - ".avi", ".mpg", ".mpeg", ".ram", ".ra"; audio - ".mp3", ".wav", ".ra". In general I would recommend downloading photos, video and audio files from trusted sources only (and will tell you about some of them in other posts in this blog) because most of video and audio files distributed freely over the internet contain code intended to make damage to your computer system in any way possible.
  8. Do not click on links leading to ".exe" files unless you know for sure it is safe. Exe files are most dangerous ones. If you are not sure - consult your friends or computer specialists whether it makes sense to download the specific "exe" file, or not.

I do not want to say that most of the links are bad, the Internet is full of great, trusted, extremely safe, very valuable links as well. I posted this article just in hope that you will become selective enough to enjoy your positive web experience.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Value Does Matter

Even being a very experienced web surfer, I sometimes find that I m getting to websites which bring no value to me. They always pop-up to show how much garbage the Internet contains and how much work the internet society has to do to filter them out.

Let's not speak of "why" these sites exist and what are their purpose, let's just focus on how to differentiate between good and bad websites well. This post does not pretend to be a complete guide to selecting good websites but all the very simple tips provided here greatly help me quickly determine if I should trust the content of a website or not.

The tips below are good indicators of unknown and "bad" websites. Please take into account I say "unknown" first because if the website you are going to read was recommended by your friend or colleague, there is usually no need to suspect it to be bad.

However, before opening an unknown website in your browser, please make sure that all said below is false, and you are most likely to visit a website with useful and valuable content.

* If the website contains dashes ("-") somewhere in its domain name, it is possibly aggressively marketed. The good reason of aggressive marketing is earning another penny, so I may assume the website is actively selling rather providing the useful information I am looking for.

* If the website contains an ad at the very beginning of the text on a page (left-hand side) - this usually (but not always, of course) means that the content of the page is stolen from another site(s), and maybe is "optimized" for web robots, so there is no guarantee it is readable and useful enough to spend your time studying its contents.

* If the website's content excerpt appears on a search results page as gibberish, there is no need to click on its well-formed title: it's quite clear that you will be shown that gibberish on a target page or will even be redirected to another site from which the target site tends to profit.

* Another good indicator of site's authority is its domain name. Serious brands and useful informational resources usually have shorter and more descriptive domain names than "garbage" sites. Good examples of branded sites are the website of Samsung Corp. or LG Electronics Corp. Good examples of trusted informational sources are Google News, Yahoo! News. Their domain names do not read like "", right? And that's why we trust them.

Of course, there are many other good sites having less "professionally-looking" domain name, and which we can also trust, but usually the length of the domain name is in reverse proportion to the value the website brings to its visitors.

* Of course, one of the most important differences between good and bad sites is the pop-up windows. If the site is actively trying to open a pop-up window on its home page, it means you will most likely not find anything useful there than a bunch of ads.

* Look at how the website describes its content in the title. If the title just lists popular words and phrases, it is most likely to represent a "garbage" site as you can not clearly understand the site's purpose from the headline.

To my mind, these are the main indicators of bad websites. I will collect more and update this list, but for the first time these should be quite enough to make your choice.