Patio Heaters – What Your Patio Heater Manual Doesn’t Tell You

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A patio heater, just like any other appliance needs periodic maintenance. When checking your manual, you will probably have very good instructions in how to assemble and operate your patio heater. There may even be some useful troubleshooting information, if your patio heater doesn’t operate properly. But there is something the manufacture doesn’t bother to let you to know.

The warmer seasons are ending and you get your patio heater out of storage, ready to warm up those brisk mornings and colder nights. You turn on the natural gas supply or make sure you have a full propane tank. Friends and family are eagerly waiting to stand by the patio heater, so you go to light it up. Using the outdoor heater before, you know to turn the knob to pilot and depress the ignition button… click, and it doesn’t light. Okay, you try it again, click and it doesn’t light again. Your guests continue to wait patiently, but slowly start to move indoors and out of the chill. You check the gas supply again and try the ignition process a few more times, but decide to move the party inside.

The next day you check the instructions and troubleshooting guide, but still can’t get your patio heater to light and think you may need a new outdoor heater to move the gathering outdoors once again. However, if you knew a few maintenance tips, you might be able to save yourself the cost of a new patio heater and once again be the life of the party.

What most patio heater instructions won’t tell you is that a covered or stored heater is a favorite home for spiders and other little creatures. The cool, dark and confined space makes for a perfect nesting location for our eight legged friends. The debris, nest and spider webs created during the period of non-use of your patio heater, blocks the important functioning parts, making it not to work properly or at all. Unfortunately, without dismantling a couple key parts, you would never be able to see the problem created by the web, debris or nest. If your patio heater is more than a year old, more than likely it is out of warranty and the manufacturer won’t offer much help.

So what do you do now to get your outdoor patio heater back in operation. Almost all natural gas or propane patio heaters contain the same components of a control valve, a pilot, a thermocouple and a main burner. Getting to and cleaning these components are essential to having your outdoor heater working again.

Cleaning the internal parts of your Patio Heater:

Note: Always make sure the patio heater is cool, with any gas supply disconnected.

1. Remove the hood or reflector and emitter screen. The parts are usually attached to main burner housing with four screws. Once this is remove, you will have access to the main burner, pilot and thermocouple.

2. Remove the main burner, which is usually attached to a bracket with anywhere from two to four screws. Once the main burner is removed, you will have access to the main burner orifice. The orifice a small brass fitting with a tiny hole, measured in gauges. This tiny hole can become clogged or obstructed by the debris, nest or web, left by the spider. Since very little or no gas can pass through the obstruction, the outdoor heater will not create a flame or will have a very yellow sooty flame.

3. With a wrench or socket set, remove this orifice for cleaning. To clean, use compressed air or a needle to remove any obstruction.

4. Check the pilot for any other obstructions. On occasion, the pilot orifice, like the main burner orifice, will have leftover deposits by the spiders. This brass fitting will have an even smaller hole that the main burner orifice. Removing the pilot orifice can be tricky, as different manufacturers will secure the pilot in different manners. Most pilots, however, will be connected to a bracket holding the pilot and thermocouple. Loosen this bracket so you will have free access to the pilot. The pilot orifice will be directly on top of the small copper tube and just under the pilot. Remove the pilot and then remove the pilot orifice. Clean the pilot orifice in the same manner as the main burner orifice with compressed air or a needle.

5. On the main burner, there should be two openings near the bottom of the burner, these are called the venturi. Make sure the opening are clear of any obstructions, so air can be mixed properly with the gas.

6. With all patio heater parts cleaned, reassemble all the parts in reverse order from above, but DO NOT re-attach the hood (reflector).

7. Reconnect and turn on your gas supply. Following your operation manual, light your patio heater only to the pilot position. While keeping the control knob depressed in the pilot position, check and see that the pilot is lit, with the flame touching the top of the thermocouple. After you have check this, release the control knob (about 30 – 60 seconds) and the pilot should remain lit. If it does not, wait for the heater to cool and follow the pilot orifice cleaning instructions above. Reassemble and light the pilot again.

8. Once the pilot remains lit, turn the control knob to the high position. If the main burner orifice was cleaned properly, you should see a 4 – 6 inch blue flame with orange-yellow tips. If the flame is almost all yellow, then the obstructions in the burner venturi were not cleaned properly. The venturi allow air to mix with gas to burn clean. If no air mixes with the gas, a yellow and dirty flame is produced.

9. With the pilot and main burner now in perfect operation, wait for the patio heater to cool then reassemble the emitter screen and hood back onto the housing bracket, using the same screws provided

10. Light your patio heater and your back in business and ready to have another great party, gathering or outdoor dining experience once again.

Please note that with either a natural gas or propane patio heater, if you are uncomfortable with gas appliances, contact a qualified gas technician.

Want to know more about patio heaters, visit PatioHeatingUSA.com.

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Build Your Social Capital – 28 Tips

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I am seeing a growing trend in interactive media that is bothering me. Unfortunately, user engagement from social media is on the decline. I know many industry folks will challenge me here as the registration numbers to social media services are in hockey stick growth mode (as of this post.) However, the percentage of registered users engaging in the services as measured by clicks, time spent, comments, etc. is on the decline. I understand the argument that this is a natural trend as the early adopter “geeks” have a high penetration of engagement and newer social media adopters are more lurkers and generally have less involvement.

I don’t totally buy that argument. I believe there are several reasons for this user engagement downward trend and one of which is a lack of individual social capital.

Ask yourself a simple question… when you look at your Facebook News Feed or Twitter postings – how many posting do you ignore vs. read/respond/forward?

More now than in the past? Is it one in five, one in ten, or one in twenty?

Wikipedia provides more of an academic definition of social capital. In my layman terms – it is the authority others give individuals based upon their knowledge/experience/interactions with the individual. If your social capital is high then your blog post/comments/articles are likely read and esteemed by many. If you are an unknown to some – your social capital is in heavy evaluation mode by that some. If your social capital is rated low by certain individuals – you are likely ignored by those individuals.

I think the success of your social media experience is heavily dictated by your social capital. It is my belief that significant improvements in individual social capital will improve overall social media engagement metrics. For me, this is an industry-wide issue.

Given my experiences, I’ve compiled a streaming consciousness list of 28 Things to Boost Your Social Capital:

1. Have a Unique Voice – Don’t be afraid to stand out and speak your mind. Be willing to challenge conventional thinking – just use your experiences and become the voice.

2. Be Respectful – Always remember to respect and appreciate different opinions and points of view. It’s a good thing and it challenges smart thinking. As an old boss of mine once told me, “Say what you mean – mean what you say – and don’t say it mean.”

3. Generate New Ideas – I will often say that in technology “nothing is really new, rather a novel approach to the same thing.” It’s the same in media. Novel approaches are great and allow innovation. If you are good at generating novel approaches to business problems – people will listen.

4. Talk About What You Have Experience in – Self explanatory. If you are reading this post it is highly likely you have a decent amount of experience in something. Figure it out and stick to what you know. Authenticity is critical for success in social media.

5. Create a Trusted Relationship – Social Media has done a great job enabling the development and nurturing of faceless relationships. Do the right thing to develop these relationships as there is much responsibility there. This includes distributing accurate information, enabling conversation, responsiveness, etc.

6. Be Positive – There is enough negative going on in the world and your social interactions should avoid the negatives associated with that. This doesn’t mean you should only talk about good things, rather keep the tone positive even when talking about challenges. I am a believer that giving off positive Mojo brings back positive Mojo.

7. Listen – Remember you are a focus group of one (unless of course you are referencing research data.) This is not lip service – make sure you read postings and absorb what others have to say. Everyone is busy and if someone takes the time to post – make sure you hear what they are trying to say. Social is all about different POV coming together in a conversation.

8. Be Socially Sustainable – Make the commitment to social communications right away. Too many folks get-in, get-out, and then back-in, etc. Social media is not going away anytime soon so get used to it and figure a way to sustainably incorporate that into the balance of your life.

9. It’s a Process – Building your Social Capital takes time and lots of resilient effort. Don’t give up. Do what any life coach will tell you… create a plan, set attainable goals, and make it like brushing your teeth – something you incorporate into your life. Trust me – over time you will see the benefits.

10. Be Naked – Be willing to reveal yourself to your audience, even if that means sharing your idiosyncrasies or mistakes with millions of people. Jeff Bezos did.

11. Be Honest – It will feel good.

12. Resist Unimportant Chatter – This is a big one. Many folks post too much unimportant information (Ex. my dog took a pee,) private jokes, or every turn of their life. Resist the urge to share topics or issues that are likely not to have meaning to most of your audience. The reality is that most folks don’t care about your dog going to the bathroom and if you continue to post useless information you will be ignored when you want to be heard when posting something important.

13. Be First – Being first to report industry news, an upcoming product launch, competitive information, etc. is great way to build social capital. Simple rational – if you are on top of what’s going on in an industry, others will rely on you for more of this insight in the future. A more sophisticated and sustainable approach is to provide strategic commentary on the news. If your users like your strategic commentary they will always come back for more, regardless if you are first to report it. A simple strategy here is to setup Google Alerts with industry keywords. You then find out the skinny when it happens.

14. Learn SEO Right Away – It is critical you understand the basics, have a keyword strategy, and know how to quantitatively monitor performance. Your acquisition investment in traffic from social media needs to translate into a retention strategy and growth via search engines (Google, etc.)

15. Learn the Credibility Pyramid – My favorite commentary on the topic comes from Darren Rowse at Problogger.net where the pyramid is explained in more detail. For me, the most interesting part of the pyramid is the 50% at the top attributed to your care and concern for your audience.

16. Update Your Social Profiles – Make sure your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, etc. are current and express what you want your audience to know about you. They will go there first to get an understanding of who you are.

17. Start a Blog – Among other things, starting a blog is a good way to communicate your thoughts and build an advertising-free audience via social media and SEO.

18. Don’t Let Social Media Take Over Your Life – Another big and difficult one for many. Resist the temptation to let social media take you over 24/7. Enjoy screen-free time with family and friends. It will make you a better person and, at minimum, it will provide you with more interesting things to write about. Audiences love anecdotal stories about life experiences.

19. Incorporate Offline – Even with the great Social Media tools that exist today – online relationships are limited and can feel one or two dimensional. It’s OK to start with an online relationship, yet once you’ve developed a Social Media relationship with a respected peer – meet face-to-face. Meet-ups are becoming popular and typically enhance your Social Media capital. Disclaimer: Of course, be safe and careful as there are many weirdos out there.

20. Don’t Be Too Personal – This is self-explanatory. People don’t care about your athletes foot fungus unless it is in the context of an academic health conversation. It is too much information and you will be considered a bit weird, thus lowering your Social Capital.

21. Do Posts Yourself – I know this is a controversial topic as many executives have shadow writers that write blogs/Tweets/etc. under the executives name. The argument is that the executive is too busy to write themselves. If you are not writing under your name, as yourself – my position is that it is not authentic. If you tell your audience that others are writing for you – that is OK. Although, having others write under your name can reduce your Social Capital. By nature folks are not trusting and they smell inauthentic behavior from a mile away. They will call you out and then the hammer drops – it’s a bad situation… I’ve seen it. More importantly for executives, personally writing and engaging in Social Media conversations provide the opportunity to speak directly with customers, prospects, peers, and friends. A very different experience than the Ivory Tower.

22. Include Links – When posting (via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) it is important to include links to the resulting articles, blog posts, video, etc. as users are materially more engaged when links are available. Additionally, if the links are set up correctly they are quantitatively traceable providing key metrics for you.

23. Provide FREE Value – I know this is a hard one for many professionals/consultants that expect to get paid for their grey matter. Get over it. It’s the old cliche – if you give – you will get.

24. Follow Through – If you become an active participant in Social Media you may find that folks are seeking your help and advice aside from quick comments or answers to questions. Take the time and go out of your way to answer them promptly – be helpful. The majority of folks are respectful of people’s time and effort. You will make some friends, boost your Social Capital, and the payoff will come over time.

25. Be a Good Social Media Citizen – Get out there and comment, write, post, re-tweet, and share your views with other Social Media evangelists. Don’t just spend time on your own blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account. Just like you want folks to come to you – they want the same.

26. Remember This is Networking – Be professional. Act as if you are in a face-to-face networking experience.

27. Seek Industry Leaders – Do your homework and find your niche and the associated voices there. You need to understand the conversation and challenges. Read, write, and engage other voices in your niche – it helps to build Social Capital. If you prove yourself they will quote you and want your feedback on issues.

28. Practice a Good Value System in Controversy – It’s the obvious. Expect controversy to happen – it’s just a matter of time. Deal with it with respect and good values. Lots of folks are listening to your every move so don’t let the heat of the moment change who you are. If being right compromises the integrity of others – resist explicit comments or postings and handle the situation privately. The old cliche, “treat others as you want them to treat you.”

What Social Capital tips can you share?

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How to Make Author Events Effective

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When starting out, many authors wonder how they should promote their books, and many are disappointed when they hold a book signing and no one shows up. An author might sign books at a bookstore in his or her hometown and have a dozen or so friends and family come, but then the second book signing in a neighboring town might be a flop with only one or two books sold at the most. For a long time, book marketing experts have said that a bookstore is the worst place to sell a book. I don’t think that’s true-over time, authors sell the majority of their books in bookstores-but a book signing in a bookstore usually is a colossal failure for most authors.

What makes an author event effective? Participation by the author in terms of spreading word about the event is a large factor. You can’t rely on the bookstore or organization to promote your event. You still may not get a crowd of people if you do, but the more effort you put into advertising the event yourself, the more likely you will attract a crowd. Here are just a few ways you can help to promote your event:

  • Send out invitations via Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media.
  • Send out an email invitation to your email list-remember not everyone is on Facebook, and not all your Facebook friends are on your email list so cover your bases both ways (and don’t discriminate and fail to invite friends in other states or across the country-they may not come, but they may cheer you on from afar and the positive energy helps a lot-it’s also a reminder to them to order your book.)
  • Send out postcards to people on your snail mail list-especially your older readers who may not be on Facebook or even have email.
  • Post the scheduled event on a prominent place on your website.
  • Make up posters and distribute them around the area-grocery stores, libraries, restaurants, anywhere there’s a bulletin board or a door where you can tape something-always ask the manager’s permission before doing so (and invite him or her and the staff to the event while you’re at it). Be sure to give some posters to the event planner, bookstore owner, etc. to distribute.
  • Send out an event listing, or even a press release, to local media-many television stations and newspapers have community events calendars. And you never know when the newspaper might write up the event, or the TV station might come to cover it.

Promoting your event yourself can be a lot of work, but it gives you a better chance of having an audience and selling your book than if you don’t promote it. Making posters might especially seem like a waste of time and money, especially if you can’t place them all, so I recommend making up a generic poster for all your events and then leaving a place where you can list the time, place, and location details for each specific event. Then you can later print up stickers or just handwrite that information on the posters so you always have posters available and don’t end up throwing any away.

Making an event effective also has to do with how you “sell” it to your prospective audience. Saying “John Smith will sign his new book on X day at X place” may not excite too many people, especially if they can always get the book at that place any other day of the week and don’t care if it’s signed. But spicing up the event can help a lot. Here are a few additional ways to give that bonus reason for why people should attend your author event:

  • Invite fellow authors to attend. They are not your competition. They are your greatest resource. If you get other authors to do the event with you, they can help you to promote it, and their fan base will show up and discover your book as well. People are also more likely to show up for six authors than one author. You might have to spend a little more time coordinating the event with everyone, but it also extends your chance of making the event a success, and if no one does show up, at least you’ll have other people to talk with, and network with-slow author events are often where you can get some of your best ideas for marketing your book just by talking to the other participants.
  • Have a contest or giveaway. Have a drawing-sell tickets, or give away a ticket for everyone who buys a book-you can give away free books, or it can even be non-book related items. You might even want to find a sponsor, someone who will donate an attractive or desirable item as a prize for the event-a great way to advertise for the sponsor. Don’t be afraid to get creative. I know of one author who held a contest for the chance to be named as a character in the author’s next book.
  • Entertain your audience. People may not be willing to show up just so they can buy a book, but they may show up if you are going to give a talk on a topic that interests them. If you have five or six authors, make up a schedule and each of you can give a twenty minute talk during the event. If you know anyone musical, it doesn’t hurt to have someone sing during the event or play an instrument. You can also show a short film or your book video. People want to be entertained, and they like free entertainment. Entertain them and they’ll be more likely to buy your book. And even if you don’t sell books, you planted a seed, so they might later buy the book as a Christmas gift for someone else.

No matter how hard you work, some events are going to end up being failures. But even if an event is a flop, if you are invited back to participate in the event the next year, give it a second try, and analyze what you could have done better to promote the event so you have a better chance the second time. If it still flops, then perhaps you might reconsider not participating in the future-especially if you are busy or could spend that time writing or doing something more fruitful-but if you have the time and want to keep going, the worst that can happen is you spend your time, and you never know who might show up the third time around.

Eventually, you might end up deciding not to attend certain events any longer, but also remember that sometimes it just takes the one right person showing up to make the event worthwhile. For example, I know an author who held a book signing and only one person showed up for it, but that person was the right person. She was the head of the library book club, and she liked the author and his book so much that she got the book club to read the book. The author spent two hours at the book signing and only sold one book, but it resulted in the other sixteen members of that book club buying his book a couple of months later. Not only that, but the book club invited him to their book club meeting, which included a free dinner and they paid him to come and talk. I’d say those are pretty good results from a book signing where only one person showed up.

Author events can be a success if authors are willing to make the effort and be a little creative to bring in the crowd. Don’t just show up for an event. Create the event, own the event, be the event. Then your author event can be a success.

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Novel Ideas – Six Unique Ways to Introduce a New Novel to Your Class

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There is nothing more exciting than introducing students to a great piece of literature. Conversely, there is nothing more disappointing than students’ lack of enthusiasm about a book you truly love. Unfortunately, your fervor about a novel does not always translate into cheers and applause on the part of your students. Reading a novel requires a lot of investment. Even novels with high-action plots take a while to build momentum. How can you quickly bolster students’ interest at the start of a new book? Below are six sure-fire ways to get your class excited about a new novel.

PLOT PIECES. Divide students into groups. Assign each group one page from a different part of the novel. After they have read the page, ask students to compose a paragraph that outlines the plot of the novel. To do this, students will have to use context clues gleaned from their excerpt. Ask students to elect a representative from each group to present their plot summaries. Compare plot summaries and revisit these summaries at the end of the novel. Asking students to conjecture the plot of the novel will pique their interest in the book and help them extract information from context clues.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS. Ask students to read the first page of text silently. Next, ask for a volunteer to read the first page aloud. Then, ask students to write down as many things as possible that they have learned from the first page. Next, ask students to write down three questions they have based on their reading of the first page. This activity will help students read context clues and it will teach them to site text evidence when making generalizations about a novel.

COVER UP. Read a summary of the novel from the back cover, from the inside flaps, or from an Internet source. If you prefer to leave the novel a mystery, read an excerpt from a select part of the book. You can also print out this summary or excerpt so that students can refer to it. Next, ask students to design a cover based on information gleaned from the summary or excerpt. Allow students to explain their cover design. If you are reading a novel that is divided into parts, have students design a cover at the end of each part of the novel. Revisit cover designs at the completion of the novel and ask students to write a paragraph discussing their various understandings of the novel. This activity will help students chart the ways their understanding developed throughout the reading.

FRONT MATTER. Though students read novels throughout their schooling, very few are taught the importance of the title, copyright, and acknowledgments. The pages that contain this information are called the “front matter.” In small groups, ask students to explore the front matter of the novel. Instruct students to list 10 things they learned from these pages. In a more open-ended version of this activity, you can ask students to answer the following questions: What does the front matter tell you about what will and what will not be in this novel? What does the front matter tell you about the novel’s plot and themes? A good explanation of front matter can be found at Vox Clarus Press’ website. Just search “Vox Clarus Front Matter.”

LAST LINES. Instruct students to read the last sentence or the last paragraph of the novel silently. Next, ask someone to read these last lines aloud. From these last lines, ask students to draw a comic strip that shows the plot of the novel. Each frame of the comic strip should contain narrative and dialogue. The last frame of the comic strip should be based on information gleaned from the novel’s last lines. Thinking about the ending of the novel will whet students’ appetite for the actual plot.

BEGINNING AND ENDING. Ask students to read both the first sentence and the last sentence of the novel. Next, ask the students to construct a poem, paragraph, or short story using the first and last sentences of the novel as the first and last sentences for their writing. Your students’ writing should summarize what they think will be the plot of the novel. Revisit these summaries at the middle and at the end of the reading. In a reflective paragraph, ask students to compare their initial impressions to the novel’s actual plot and themes.

When beginning a new novel, consider using one of the above activities in your classroom. These activities provide a new lens through which to view your new novel. Starting the study of your novel in a unique and unpredictable way will bolster your students’ interest and engagement.

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Impact of Social Media on Society

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“Do you have Facebook?”

“Yes, of course. But I don’t think you can find me, as there are too many people who have the same name as me. Try searching with my surname as well.”

“Hey, you celebrated your birthday in K-Box, right? I saw the photos in your Facebook.”

“Bro, I saw your comments about the YouTube video that I’ve posted in my blog. I’m happy that you are also deeply moved by the ‘Dancing Peacock Man’ as well.”

Social media or “social networking” has almost become part of our daily lives and being tossed around over the past few years. It is like any other media such as newspaper, radio and television but it is far more than just about sharing information and ideas. Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Blogs have facilitated creation and exchange of ideas so quickly and widely than the conventional media. The power of define and control a brand is shifting from corporations and institutions to individuals and communities. It is no longer on the 5Cs (e.g. condominium, credit cards and car) that Singaporeans once talked about. Today, it is about the brand new Cs: creativity, communication, connection, creation (of new ideas and products), community (of shared interests), collaboration and (changing the game of) competition.

In January 2010, InSites Consulting has conducted an online survey with 2,884 consumers from over 14 countries between the ages of 18 to 55 years old on social networking. More than 90% of participants know at least 1 social networking site and 72% of participants are members of at least 1 social networking site. On the average, people have about 195 friends and they log in twice a day to social networking sites. However, 55% of the users cannot access their social network websites at work. In the past, not many adults were able to make more than 500 friends, but with social media, even a child or teenager can get to know more than 500 people in a few days by just clicking the mouse. Social media has devalued the traditional definition of “friend” where it means trust, support, compatible values, etc. Although we get to know more people, we are not able to build strong bond with all the people whom we met as our available time is limited. Hence, there is an upcoming social trend of people with wider social circles, but weaker ties (people we don’t know very well but who provide us with useful information and ideas).

Social media also influences people’s buying behaviours. Digital Influence Group reported that 91% of the people say consumer reviews are the #1 aid to buying decisions and 87% trust a friend’s recommendation over critic’s review. It is thrice more likely to trust peer opinions over advertising for purchasing decisions. 1 word-of-mouth conversation has an impact of 200 TV ads. With the prevalence use of social media, there is numerous news related to it from the most viewed YouTube video on “Armless pianist wins ‘China’s Got Talent'” to Web-assisted suicide cases (e.g. New Jersey college student who killed himself after video of him in a sexual encounter with another man was posted online). Thus, does social networking make us better or worse off as a society?

Positive Effects of Social Media

Besides having opportunity to know a lot of people in a fast and easy way, social media also helped teenagers who have social or physical mobility restrictions to build and maintain relationships with their friends and families. Children who go overseas to study can still stay in meaningful contact with their parents. To a greater extend, there is anecdotal evidence of positive outcomes from these technologies.

In 2008, President-elected Obama won the election through the effective use of social media to reach millions of audience or voters. The Obama campaign had generated and distributed huge amount of contents and messages across email, SMS, social media platforms and their websites. Obama and his campaign team fully understood the fundamental social need that everyone shares – the need of being “who we are”. Therefore, the campaign sent the message as “Because It’s about YOU” and chose the right form of media to connect with individuals, call for actions and create community for a social movement. They encouraged citizens to share their voices, hold discussion parties in houses and run their own campaign meetings. It truly changed the delivery of political message.

Obama campaign had made 5 million “friends” on more than 15 social networking sites (3 million friends on Facebook itself) and posted nearly 2,000 YouTube videos which were watched over 80 million times. At its peak, their website, MyBarackObama.com, had 8.5 million monthly visitors and produced 400,000 blog posts. In order to ensure that their contents were found by people, the Obama campaign spent $3.5 million on Google search in October alone, $600,000 on Advertising.com, $467,000 on Facebook in 2008, etc. Currently, Obama’s Twitter account has close to 6 million followers.

In 2010, after the earthquake happened in Haiti, many of the official communication lines were down. The rest of the world was not able to grasp the full picture of the situation there. To facilitate the sharing of information and make up for the lack of information, social media came in very handy to report the news about the affected area on what happened and what help was needed. Tweets from many people provided an impressive overview of the ongoing events from the earthquake. BBC covered the event by combining tweets from the work of its reporter Matthew Price in Port-au-Prince at the ground. Guardian’s live blog also used social media together with the information from other news organisations to report about the rescue mission.

It has been two years since CNN officially launched iReport as a section of its website where people can upload video material, with contact information. During the Haiti crisis, CNN had published a range of social media material but not all the materials were verified. The editorial staff would vet the reports from the citizen journalists and labeled them differently compared to unverified contents. On Facebook, a group, named “Earthquake Haiti”, was formed to show support and share updates and news. It had more than 14,000 members and some users even pleaded for assistance to the injured Haitians in the group. Using email, Twitter and social networking sites like Facebook, thousands of volunteers as part of Project Ushahidi were able to map reports sent by people from Haiti.

The most impressive part of the social media’s impact on Haiti is the charity text-message donations that soared to over $10 million for the victims in Haiti. People interested in helping the victims are encouraged to text, tweet and publicize their support using various social networking sites. The Global Philanthropy Group had also started a campaign to ask wealthy people and celebrities, like Ben Stiller and John Legend to use Twitter and Facebook to encourage others to give to UNICEF. An aid worker, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, allowed the advice from other aid workers and donors to post on her blog regarding to choosing which charitable organisations to support. In the meantime, donors were asking questions in Twitter, Facebook and blogs about their donations and endorsements of their favourite charities. After every crisis, the social media for social cause becomes a more effective medium to spread the word.

Negative Effects of Social Media

There are always two sides of every coin. Social media is just a tool or mean for people to use. It is still up to the users on how to use this tool (just like a knife, can help you to cut food or hurt others). Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a study on “The Future of Online Socializing” from the highly engaged, diverse set of respondents to an online, opt-in survey consisted of 895 technology stakeholders and critics. The negative effects presented by the respondents included time spent online robs time from important face-to-face relationships; the internet fosters mostly shallow relationships; the act of leveraging the internet to engage in social connection exposes private information; the internet allows people to silo themselves, limiting their exposure to new ideas; and the internet is being used to engender intolerance.

Some respondents also highlighted that there will be development of some new psychological and medical syndromes that will be “variations of depression caused by the lack of meaningful quality relationships”, and a “new world society”. The term, “Social Networking”, has begun to deceive the users to believe they are social creatures. For instance, spending a couple of hours using Farmville and chatting with friends concurrently does not convert into social skills. People become dependent on the technology and forget how to socialise in face-to-face context. The online personality of a person might be totally different from his/her offline character, causing chaos when the two personalities meet. It is apparent in online dating when the couple gets together in face-to-face for the first time. Their written profiles do not clearly represent their real-life characters. It is more enticing for people to type something that others want to hear than saying the truth.

Besides the “friendship”, creators of social networking sites and users redefine the term, “privacy” in the Internet as well. The challenge in data privacy is to share data while protecting personally identifiable information. Almost any information posted on social networking sites is permanent. Whenever someone posts pictures or videos on the web, it becomes viral. When the user deletes a video from his/her social network, someone might have kept it and then posted it onto other sites like YouTube already. People post photographs and video files on social networking sites without thinking and the files can reappear at the worst possible time. In 2008, a video of a group of ACJC students hazing a female student in school on her birthday was circulated and another video of a SCDF recruit being “welcomed” (was hosed with water and tarred with shoe polish) to a local fire station made its way online.

Much news has been reported about online privacy breach in Facebook and Facebook is constantly revising their privacy policy and changing their privacy controls for the users. Interestingly, even when users delete their personal information and deactivate their Facebook account, Facebook will still keep that information and will continue to use it for data mining. A reporter asked whether the data will at least be anonymized. The Facebook representative declined to comment.

In the corporate world, human resource managers can access Facebook or MySpace to get to know about a candidate’s true colours, especially when job seekers do not set their profiles to private. Research has found that almost half of employers have rejected a potential worker after finding incriminating material on their Facebook pages. Some employers have also checked the candidates’ online details in Facebook pages to see if they are lying about their qualifications. Nowadays, younger generations have a complete disregard for their own privacy, opening doors to unwelcome predators or stalkers.

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Microsoft – Drinks Chivas, Drives Volvo

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Microsoft Corp. is facing an increasing competition in the online video realm. To boot, MSN video is currently the sixth place video destination in the United States and that spot is far behind Google’s YouTube, AOL’s Time Warner, and News Corp.’s MySpace. This is why the software giant is expanding affiliations to cover the wine maker Chivas Brothers Ltd. and the Swedish automaker Volvo Cars.

Microsoft has signed deals with Chivas and Volvo to support two new web series from Reveille, the company behind “The Office” and the “Ugly Betty” television shows. The two new shows include the “Driving School” which would be coming as a comedy about a driving instructor who shares life lessons to his students. The show will be hosted by actor Craig Robinson, who plays Darryl on NBC’s The Office.

The other show titled “This is the Life,” is about travel and adventure linked to a Chivas Regal advertising campaign. The shows will arrive on MSN Web site in the next six months, Microsoft announced Tuesday at an advertising industry conference. Microsoft did not disclose the financial or product-placement arrangements of the deals.

Last month, 11.5 million people visited MSN video, and spent an average of five and a half minutes on the site as compared with the 45 million people who each spent about 41 minutes on YouTube, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

It could be recalled that after the acquisition of Google Inc. of YouTube, an online video Web site, the same has become a white-hot topic. Advertisers and ad brokers rushed to turn the trend of web equivalent TV ads into dollars. Since then, short spots before or after a video clip online became an instant success.

According to Gayle Troberman, the general manager of branded entertainment at Microsoft, those will remain a staple of Microsoft’s video advertising inventory. But advertisers are also experimenting with original series and user-generated videos as they venture to capture even deeper connections with online purchasers.

In 2006, Microsoft and Reveille produced a handful of MSN shows that fall somewhere between advertising and programming. Troberman touted “Chef to the Rescue,” which is sponsored by Kraft Foods Inc., as one remarkable success story from the Reveille partnership. The software giant said that after the cooking show’s launch in December, over 250,000 viewers printed out related recipes featuring Kraft products.

While it is tempting to label the shows advertorials and leave it at that, Ben Silverman, Reveille’s chief executive, said that he has tried to find more elegant ways to incorporate products and entertainment. “I don’t want to be in something where you’re ruining that content by stupid, clunky choices,” said Silverman.

Microsoft said it planned to expand its commitment to developing original content built around branded entertainment opportunities, announcing during an afternoon session at the company’s Strategic Accounts Summit (SAS) in Seattle, Wash., that it will extend its current relationship with the production firm Reveille while also launching several other new Web content projects.

“We are the leader of original content creation online,” said Joanne Bradford, the corporate vice president and the chief media officer for MSN, citing the 20 plus Web series the portal has launched in the past year. Among those original series is Chef to the Rescue, a result of a partnership between it and Reveille announced at the summit last year.

While others have speculated that MSN’s partnership with Reveille has been slow to yield success, Bradford said the two companies had agreed to extend their relationship, though she forgot to say the duration. During Tuesday’s presentation, Bradford ardently greeted Reveille CEO Ben Silverman – the brains behind the TV hits The Office and The Biggest Losers – with a pair of kisses before handing him the stage.

Volvo has signed on as that show’s charter sponsor. Through the shows, the Swedish automaker could flaunt Volvo master cylinder, safety features, and other milestone innovations. As such, it is expected for this trend to plague the entire Web. Silverman said that while he still believed that TV was a great brand builder, his company’s Web creations offer advertisers much deeper access that is unheard of in the TV business. “I’m always really annoyed that I’m kept out of those conversations [with TV advertisers],” he said. “[The networks] don’t get it yet.”

Silverman was not the only partner to share the moment at SAS. Allen Shapiro, the CEO of Dick Clark Productions and president of the Mosaic   Media  Group, discussed the success of a Golden Globes content program launched earlier this year with MSN – one that  TV  partner NBC was wary of. This year, his company – which owns the rights to many early TV performances of music stars like Prince and Madonna, is exploring launching a classic rock channel with MSN, along with a potential comedy network. “We’re now determined to step this up,” said Shapiro.

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4 Different Noises Your Chinchilla Makes and What They Mean

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If you have a little chinchilla then you probably know that they aren’t silent creatures. Some chins are quieter than others, but they all make a little noise at the very least. Chinchillas make a wide variety of sounds, and each chinchilla has a unique ‘voice’ just like people do. Aside from all the noise he might make in his cage at night while you’re trying to sleep, here are four common vocal noises that most chinchillas tend to make.

Barking

If you hear your chinchilla barking, it usually means he is stressed out about something and scared. If you just got your chin, he may bark at you when you try to pick him up, warning you that he doesn’t want to be touched yet. When you hear this noise, it’s usually a good idea to check on him to make sure he’s not caught in his cage somehow, or if you have other pets that they aren’t bothering him. However, if they bark every night and wake you up, your chin may be doing that just to get attention. As long as he’s safe and comfortable, you should probably ignore it so he will stop waking you up at night.

The Chinchilla Cry

When your chinchilla cries, it is usually not a pleasant sound and you’ll automatically know something is wrong. If you take good care of your chin and make sure he’s well protected, you may not ever hear this sound. But things do happen, and if he hurts himself or you step on his tail he may yelp in pain.

Cooing

This is the most enjoyable sound that your chinchilla will make. He may make this sound when he sees you come in the door or if he is greeting or communicating with another chin. As you spend time and get to know your chinchilla you will begin to recognize that this sound means he is happy. Another common occurrence of this noise is when you walk up to his cage and he knows it’s time to get out of his cage and play.

Chattering their teeth

They do this for a variety of reasons, after you get to know your chin you’ll probably be able to tell what the occasion is. They may chatter their teeth if they are in pain or anxious about something. Then on the other hand, they have also been observed doing this when they are happy, so this one will be up to you to figure out for your chin.

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Your California Cable TV Company Missed an Appointment? The Law Protects Cable TV Subscribers

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You know the drill.

You call the cable company because you need an installation or service call. The Customer Service Representative tell you it will be a week before they can get to you, and that you have to be home all day to wait for the technician.

But as fate or bad luck would have it, the tech never shows up, and you have blown a day off of work without pay for no good reason…and you still need that service call.

You are mad. You are REALLY mad.

You call back in and a different Customer Service Representative apologies profusely, then offers to knock off $20 from your bill. Then the CSR reschedules the appointment for a few days later, and you get to plan to stay home yet another full day hoping against hope that the tech will show up this time.

There must be a better way to ensure that you don’t lose out when the cable operator misses an appointment! Well, there is.

A relatively few number of savvy California cable TV subscribers know about a little-publicized law. A law that requires the cable TV operator who misses an appointment to compensate you for your lost wages and expenses up to a cap of $600. It is California Civil Code Section 1722(b).

That very powerful law says, in essence, that if you call in for a service call and the cable company requires that you be home to meet the technician (for example, to let the tech into your home or back yard), the cable company must honor your request that the appointment occur within a fixed 4-hour period, and to work with you to determine the day and time when that 4-hour period will start.

According to the law, “If the service connection or repair is not commenced within the specified four-hour period, except for delays caused by unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences beyond the control of the company, the subscriber may bring an action in small claims court against the company for lost wages, expenses actually incurred or other actual damages not exceeding a total of six hundred dollars ($600).”

But realize that this is a two-way street. As a cable subscriber, you have a duty, too. The cable operator has to start the repairs within the specified 4-hour window, but you have the duty to be home during that entire 4-hour period.

The cable operator has an ‘out’ if it can show that unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences did happen, and they made a legitimate effort to let you know. If so, then they don’t owe you any money. However, the larger the cable operator’s technical staff, the less likely they will have convincing a judge that whatever happened was truly unforeseeable or unavoidable.

Also, if you file a complaint with your cable TV franchisor (either the local City or County, or the California PUC, depending on whether your cable operator has a local or state franchise), and the government pursues the cable operator on your behalf, the doors to the courthouse are slammed in your face. Most times, you’ll get a much greater recovery by going to small claims court.

By the way, if the contract you entered into with the cable operator says that you do not have the right to file a court action for missed appointments, do not worry. The same law makes that type of contract provision unenforceable, even if you signed the agreement.

So, how do you get the benefits of Civil Code Section 1722(b)?

First, when you call in to ask for the appointment, ask for a 4-hour window appointment. Be sure to get and write down the name of the CSR who set up the appointment. Also log the date and time you called in to request the appointment.

Second, make sure that you are home for the entire time during that 4-hour window. That is your job under the law if you want to have a chance of collecting for a missed appointment!

Third, if the 4 hours runs and no one has shown up and you have not received a phone call from the cable operator, call in to the cable company and notify them of the missed appointment. Again, get the name of the CSR, and log the date and time you called in. Under the law, the cable operator has to offer you a new 2-hour window appointment (yes, 2 hours the second time around).

Fourth, call the cable operator and ask to speak with a manager. You know the drill: Get the name and log the date and time. Request that the cable operator compensate you under the terms of Civil Code Section 1722(b) for 4-hours of your missed work, plus any expenses you incurred. Know what the dollar numbers are before you call. Expect to be told, thanks, but no thanks by the cable operator. As for a that manager’s fax number so you can fax in a letter.

Fifth, write a letter to the cable operator explaining what happened (they missed the call without an excuse), and ask to be compensated for your lost wages and expenses as required in Civil Code Section 1722(b). Give the exact dollar amount in your letter, and explain how you arrived at that figure. Tell the cable operator that if you don’t hear from them within a reasonable time (say, 10 or 14 days), that you will file a small claims action to recover under the law. Fax the letter, and mail a copy via snail-mail.

Sixth, if the cable operator doesn’t contact you, or if you they do not agree to compensate you as you have requested, then go ahead and file your small claims action. Each county in California has a small claims adviser that can help you through the process. By the way, the filing and service fees you will pay becomes part of your damages, and you will request the judge order the cable company to reimburse you for those fees, too.

Now you know most everything you will need to protect yourself against missed cable TV company appointments. You can read a deeper analysis of the law at the TelecomLawFirm.com website.

And to prove that I practice what I preach, know that I’ve used the law three times over the years to secure full compensation for missed appointments. I was even interviewed once by consumer reporter Alan Mendelson on KCAL-9 TV in Los Angeles explaining how an average person can use the powerful tools given by Civil Code Section 1722(b).

Note: This article, written by a telecommunications attorney licensed in California, is not meant to offer specific legal guidance in any particular matter, or to form an attorney-client relationship. Rather, it is intended to provide general guidance. Check with an attorney for specific guidance in your legal matter. Copyright 2008 Jonathan Kramer, Esq.

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Comcast Offers More Than You’d Expect

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Comcast is the nation’s leading provider of cable television service. Recently it has extended its high quality service to the fields of telephone service and Broadband Internet access. With innovations in technology that have blurred the boundaries between television and other telecommunications, this expansion is a very forward-thinking move. Comcast ‘s bundling of many types of telecommunications into the services of one provider offers convenient access to a whole array of entertainment and information needs for customers as well as opportunities for customers to save money.

Telephone service is the most recent addition to Comcast’s offerings and perhaps the most surprising to its customers. While Internet access and cable television have been associated with each other for quite some time, phone service has normally been though of as something separate. However, Comcast in offers higher quality service than most companies whose primary focus is telephone service, and often is much less expensive than traditional plans. For one thing, the telephone service is fully digital, which provides a high level of sound clarity. It also has the advantage of including many features in with the base price such as caller ID, call waiting, and call forwarding. A complimentary voice mail box is also included. This can be accessed over the phone or even over the Internet, for the utmost level of convenience when away from home. What is especially convenient and cost-effective is that the calling plans all include unlimited local and long distance calls in the price. That means every call to the United States or Canada will not cost any extra. For International calls, there is an extra fee, but it is competitive with that of any other phone service provider in .

Signing up for Comcast’s broadband Internet enables you to take advantage of whole new telecommunications possibilities. Especially if you have been using dial-up for your Internet connection, you will find that whole new worlds are opened up to you online. While dial up might provide you with a little over 50 Kbps in connection speed, broadband Internet can offer up to 8 Mbps. In lay terms, that means broadband is almost eighty times faster than dial up. Using broadband will eliminate the annoying waits for pictures to download and will allow you to take advantage of on-line music stores, video clips, and other media.

Because accessing the Internet can be dangerous these days, Comcast Cable also provides options for keeping both your family and your computer safe from malicious threats. When you subscribe to the broadband Internet service, you can opt to also receive a firewall that will protect your computer from spyware, malware, and a whole host of other possible threats. You can also get protection from McAfee Anti-Virus software to keep your computer virus and problem free. Plus, Comcast offers special child-friendly sites that offer safe content for children to access such as games and music.

Even with the newer services from Comcast , no discussion of the company’s services would be complete without mentioning its cable television options. Comcast offers a huge array of programming packages and channels to meet every viewer’s needs. In fact, it is now possible to receive almost 280 channels including special sports programming, high definition television, and on demand movies. For even better viewing experiences, all the channels have now been upgraded from analog to digital format, providing only the clearest pictures and highest quality sound.

The same great service that has kept Comcast as the nation’s leading cable television provider is now available for every telecommunications need. This provides customers with an unprecedented level of convenience and quality. The current Comcast offers are terrific. It is time to switch to the best cable company with the best cable offers.

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The Media: Are Films Better Than The Mainstream Media When It Comes To Conditioning People?

For quite some time now, there has been one source that people look towards to be informed and another when they want to be entertained. This is not to say that someone thinks about one of these sources when they want to be informed/entertained, as it is likely to be something that just happens.

Over The Years

There is the chance that one has been exposed to these sources from a very young age, and this is why they want need to consciously think about them. Instead, they can simply look into what is taking place in the world, or see what films are out, for instance.

If, on the other hand, they needed to think about how they can find out what is taking place or how they can amuse themselves, they would need to use more energy. Once one of these needs arises, they can soon come into contact with what they desire.

One Experience

This could mean that one spends about as much time learning about what is taking place in the world as they do being distracted from it. In this case, one could have a reasonable understanding when it comes to what is going on, and when it comes to films, they might be fairly up to date.

One way of looking at this would be to say that they have a fairly balanced approach to it all. Therefore, if someone was to talk about something that has just taken place or a film that has just come out, they might be able to have a conversation with them.

Another Way

Alternatively, one could be in a position where they have the tendency to focus more on what is going on around them. They might watch films from time to time, but that could be as far as it goes.

Yet, if this is not how they experience life, it could show that they spend more time watching films. When it comes to what is taking place in the world, it could be seen as something they haven’t got time for.

The Odd Occasion

At the same time, even if one experienced life in this way, it doesn’t mean that they will always behave in this way. There could be moments when they will take a step back from what they would usually do.

For example, if they are going through a tough time, they might feel the need to watch more films; this can then be a way to deal with the pain/stress that they are experiencing. If something catastrophic is taking place in the world, it could cause them to sit up and take notice, and to forget about being entertained for a little while.

Omnipresent

When it comes to the technology that is available in today’s world, it is not going to be difficult for one to fulfil these two needs. The only thing they will need in order for this to take place will be to have some kind of device.

Through going online with a Smartphone/tablet, they will be able to find all the news they desire and as much entertainment as they can handle. Some of this will be free, and there can be times when they will have to pay.

Two Sides

On one side, there is going to be how this benefits the average person; With them no longer having to put in as much effort to come into contact with what they need. A lot of the time they would have spent looking for the news or going to buy a DVD, for instance, can now be used in other ways.

And on the other side, there is going to be the effect this has on the mainstream media and the film companies. The first source no longer needs people to come to them; they can deliver the news to them directly.

Online

This can take through posting articles on social media, and so as long as someone ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ them, they will be able to stay up to date. Or, they can simply go onto a search engine and find out that way.

When it comes to entertainment, one can join a website that will allow them to watch a film or a series whenever they want to. It is then going to be possible for them to get their productions right in front of people.

Direct Access

In the past, the primary way for these sources to gain people’s attention was for them to watch TV. This gave the people behind these sources a lot of control over people, and it could be said that the latest technology has given them even more.

However, although the mainstream media defined how people saw the world in the past, this is no longer the case. For one thing, they can now look towards the alternative media, and this has taken a lot of their power away.

Its Over

When it came to what this source of information said in the past, it would have been difficult for people to know if it was true or not. Nowadays, they can look towards other sources to see if there is more to it.

Through being able to do this, it has been shown that the mainstream media don’t simply exist to inform people. It might be more accurate to say that their main purpose is to condition people to see the world in a certain way.

It’s not over

Even so, while the mainstream media no longer has the same amount of control as it used to have, the same can’t be said when it comes to entertainment industry. It can be normal for someone to be critical of what they hear from the mainstream media, but when they watch something they can simply take it all in.

But if they believe that films are only made to entertain people, there is going to be no reason for them to take a step back. Thus, when it comes to conditioning people, it could be said that films are going to be the best option.

Conclusion

Now, clearly there are lot of people who no longer listen to the mainstream media, but there are still plenty of people who do. And while there is an alternative when it comes to being informed, the same can’t be said when it comes to being entertainment.

After a hard day at work, one can end up sitting back and allowing everything they see to enter their mind. On the surface, they can be watching something that has been created to entertain them, but at a deeper level, there can be far more to it.