Wednesday, April 18, 2007

COM125 Assignment 12: Trust: What It All Comes Down To

Within the content of this course, Intro to the Internet (COM125), just about everything interrelates. I especially think so when the topics were covering such material as internet privacy, identity, and online community. To me, an underlying message was present communicating the similarity of these three very different, yet similar subjects.

Online communities have become more prominent with the increasing growth of the internet over the past ten to fifteen years. Whatever your interests or beliefs may be, there is an online community waiting for you to support their same ideas or be there for you when you may think you are a loner in that particular area. A sense of community and belonging is very important for an individual's mental state. It keeps them stable as well as provides them with a sense of comfort which is necessary to be in the back of someone's mind. Essentially, this is a type of 'support system' allowing the individual or individuals to express themselves freely without criticism from those closest to them. Fernback and Thompson (1995) write, "[Community] refers to a sense of common character, identity or interests." "Community becomes so thin because workplace and residence, production and consumption, identity and interests…." The internet has really done just the opposite for what Fernback and Thompson have expressed today's culture have done to community; it has brought back togetherness and common interest in people of all geographic locations of the world.

So where do the topics of identity and privacy fit into online community? Well, when exposed to an online community, in which one participates or belongs to, they essentially create their own identity which depends on their thoughts of privacy. One may create a pseudonym, or false name, to disguise their real identity. These pseudonyms are very important in the safety of online user's personal information. As discussed in an earlier blog, it is not very difficult to gain access to someone's credit card information, social security numbers, and so forth, if someone is trained in doing that sort of criminal activity. Therefore, people disguise their real information in hopes that it will better protect themselves from identity theft and other crimes. These disguises should not be harmful in the trickery and false leading of others however. Donath (1996) writes, "Some [forms of identity deception] are quite harmful to individuals or to the community; others are innocuous, benefiting the performer without injuring the group. Some are clearly deceptions, meant to provide a false impression; others are more subtle identity manipulations, similar to the adjustments in self-presentation we make in many real world situations." When someone has belonged to an online community for some time, and has become comfortable with the community itself, they may be prone to disclose more personal information than is necessary. It is important to not do this because online identity thefts can gain access to any website at any time if they want to. Wikipedia writes, "Regular Internet users with an eye to privacy may succeed in achieving a desirable level of privacy through careful disclosure of personal information and by avoiding spyware." Major challenges of maintaining privacy are heavily due to technology such as cookies, IP addresses, and spyware.

Principally, when exposed or part of an online community in which one feels comfortable with the information and population of the community, they protect their personal information, their identity, through certain types of privacy. What it all comes down to is trust. Do I trust this online community in which gives me support with my real name and so forth? Evaluation of trust vs. risk is the underlying message throughout the topics of online community, privacy, and identity.


Donath, J. S. (1996, November, 12). Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community. Communities in Cyberspace, Retrieved April 18, 2007, from

Fernback, J., & Thompson, B. (1995). Virtual Communities: Abort, Retry, Failure?. Retrieved April 18, 2007, from

Internet privacy. (2007, April 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:34, April 18, 2007, from

Thursday, April 12, 2007

COM125 Week 14: "Let It Be", According To the Beatles

The internet exists to provide anyone goods, services, or information at the click of your mouse. It has taken decades from the start of the internet and the first file sharing, to get it to the enormous giant of what most people would agree they cannot live without today. It is to my understanding that right now, the internet is not controlled by any one single person or corporation, but by everyone who uses it. Yes, of course different aspects of the internet are controlled such as the regulation of webspace use and fees for internet access, but no one single source claims the internet as 'theirs'. Net neutrality, a term I knew little about before writing this, seems to be a hot and controversial topic; its appeal received the attention of a wide range of audience members including everyone from artists to businessmen. To be net neutral means to not place any restrictions or authority on the type or content of files traveling over the internet. People arguing on the side of net neutrality believe that large corporations such as AT&T or Verizon, under conditions other than net neutrality, will start controlling and put priority over files they believe to be more important than others, slowing down the process of internet access and eventually blocking access to websites that in their eyes, are of zero importance. Is this not the very reason that many people enjoy the internet? Blogs: places where people can electronically express their feelings, give opinions, or spread general to specific information would have less authority over something such as a corporate website. K.C. Jones (2007) explains net neutrality best by saying, "The Internet now allows information to move in data packets through networks of computers and routers on a 'best efforts basis.' In other words, the system routes packets with little regard for what type of information or applications they contain or who created them."

On both sides of the debate over net neutrality, great concerns arise. Competition leads to lower prices because companies want your service so they will offer their goods at a lower price than the next guy. With internet in the United States, it does not work that way. Huge corporate giants control much of the entire United States broadband internet access which makes internet access in the U.S. expensive. "The corporate giants are also vigorously fighting to stop cities and towns from building 'Community Internet' systems -- affordable, high-speed broadband services funded in part by community groups and municipalities -- even in places where the cable and DSL companies themselves don't offer service" (S. Turner). Those in favor of net neutrality are concerned that one day, internet service may just be too expensive and they will have to make a sacrifice to not have something they have become reliant on. On the other hand, I understand the business part of the spectrum. Every business hopes that they will one day rise to the top and be the leading manufacturer of a certain product however, where I draw the line between smart business and greed is when a person with an average income in the United States cannot afford something that they know should be more affordable.
The internet essentially as it is now is a place where anyone can create something and share it will millions of people. I feel the topic of net neutrality relates somewhat to open source software. Both controversial, but have gotten some software and the internet to where they are now. I feel that although the internet may today, not be 100% net neutral, it is at a completely satisfying medium. One internet service provider does not control priority over files traveling over the internet. In a Wikipedia article Bob Kahn was quoted in saying, "If the goal is to encourage people to build new capabilities, then the party that takes the lead in building that new capability, is probably only going to have it on their net to start with and its probably not going to be on anybody else's net."

I believe in net neutrality. If it has gotten the internet to the magnificent electronic entity that it is today, I cannot imagine what it will be like in the future. One can only wonder that if the internet were to become not net neutral, if advancements would be made to better it to the degree and speed they have done so in the past.


Jones, K. (2007, March, 16). Net Neutrality Debate Remains Contentious. Information Week, Retrieved April 12, 2007, from

Network neutrality. (2007, April 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:06, April 13, 2007, from

Turner, S. (2007). Free American broadband!. Salon, Retrieved April 12, 2007, from

Monday, April 2, 2007

COM125 Week 13: Where the Greatest Imagination Can Make You Rich

I have strong opinions regarding virtual online gaming and its effects. It may seem weird at first, but I have witnessed first hand how multi-player online games can ruin and lower someone's aspirations in life. My roommate came to college last year with very high goals of one day working in the medical technology field, something that was close to his heart. He always went to class and did his homework as well as studied for days before his exams. He was then introduced into an online game called World of Warcraft. His life went downhill. He became instantly addicted and skipped class on a regular basis to play all day and all night. Literally, he would stay up for sixty hours at a time and then sleep for twenty hours; this became a cycle until he got a reality check and saw his grades for the first semester. He was failing almost everything and he needed to get a GPA of 2.2 in his second semester to stay at the University at Buffalo. When the second semester rolled around, he promised himself he would not play the game as much and would go to class more. He knew how ridiculous he sounded when he said, "I cannot stop playing the game it is so addictive." He once again, continued playing the game for hours on end and would play through the night. When the sun was starting to rise, he would get tired and go to bed and would sleep through all of his classes for that day. Reality is setting in again because he has realized that he probably wont get that 2.2 and he will be forced to move back home. This is not because my roommate does not care about school or his future, but because the game has addictive nature and many people fall into this tornado of online gaming, never to come out alive.

Online virtual worlds and real-life should have steep boundaries. I believe that computer games should be played strictly for fun and amusement and people should not be suing other online gamers because of stolen virtual merchandise. I understand that anything can be made into a business however; lines should be drawn around where and where not the business can explore. This may be hard to accomplish because of the merging virtual and real-life adventures. Jim Giles (2007) writes, "Elsewhere in cyberspace, economies are springing up that, superficially at least, seem to mirror the real world." I love in the end of this essay when Giles explains how social scientists are going to use people to demonstrate economics through a virtual reality game. He says, "To run economic experiments of interest to Castronova, Arden will need to develop an economy that features aspects of the real world, such as inflation." I believe that this in an ingenious way of looking at many aspects of the economy, such as supply and demand curves. If people are going to be playing anyway, social scientists might as well get some useful information out of the gaming. The only problem which may seem controversial is that the virtual world would need to simulate the real-world and certain aspects of it in general.
Who knew that one could make real money in exchange for virtual merchandise? Steven Levy (2007) writes, "An eight-hour day collecting game loot can yield 100 gold pieces, worth about $30 on the black market." Thirty dollars a day may not seem like much but I have read about multiple people who have gotten very far in virtual multi-player games and have accumulated millions of dollars. 'Open' virtual economies in which people are purchasing virtual merchandise for real cash is one way that online gamers get ahead in a game. If the desire to get that merchandise is strong enough, one can actually pay someone in cash for that product, whatever it may be. 'Closed' virtual economies differ in that people can not get ahead in the game through money, but through talent and time alone. Even though the games may be extremely similar, one virtual economy is not better than the other, rather they are two very separate categories.
Online gaming explores a reality of computer animated graphics and online communication. Millions of people have found this virtual gaming technology home. I believe that before someone decides to play one of these ultra popular games which seem very low risk, they should evaluate their priorities.


Giles, J. (2007, January, 4). Life's a game. Nature, 445, Retrieved April 2, 2007, from,user_id_pk1=182478,user_id_sos_id_pk2=1,one_time_token=

Levy, S. (2007). World of Warcraft: Is It a Game?. Newsweek, Retrieved April 2, 2007, from displaymode/1098/

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

COM125 Week 12: Reading Something Online Is Just More Fun

Let's face it, everyone wants to know what is going on in the lives of Hollywood's elite stars and when something happens to a celebrity, the whole world hears about it. Weather we wanted to hear about it or not, we got the news that Anna Nicole Smith was found dead in her hotel room last month. Anna was always in the celebrity news being portrayed as person who abused drugs. Last month, shortly after her death, you could not pick up a national newspaper, or get on the internet without seeing something related to her death or the after-effects of her death such as who her baby's father is, how she died, or where she was going to be buried. Many differences occur in news sources regarding this information filled topic such as presentation, attitudes, and the overall information context that is displayed. I have found through reading several print articles and several online articles relating the same topic, word choice is key in setting the mood of an article and one can express opinions through certain words, without stating them directly.

The New York Times printed an article on the cause of Anna Nicole Smith's death on March 27, 2007, almost two entire months after her passing titled, "Anna Nicole Smith’s Death Is Ruled an Accidental Drug Overdose." After reading the entire article, I found it to be fair; opinions were decided to be left out of the article and facts were the main aspect in the content of this article. Many things could have been said regarding the many prescriptions she was taking at the time of her death, but judgments were not on print. I felt that for this particular topic, death, it was probably an intelligent plan to get the story across and not get wrapped up in what 'could have happened' or who was at fault for this tragedy.

On the other hand, I read a blog regarding this topic of Anna Nicole Smith's death. It appears that the person who started the blog titled it, "Anna Nicole Smith's Death: Accidental OD." This title is almost exactly the same as the one printed on the New York Times however, the content of the material is drastically different. Throughout the blog, several people comment on how millions of people are not surprised of her death because of her history with drug abuse. Also, people accuse her family and friends of giving her these drugs to gain access to her fortune of millions of dollars. I was not surprised by the heavy opinions of this blog. Gillmor (2004) writes, "… bloggers and operators of independent news sites already do a respectable job of scanning for and sorting news for people who want it." Throughout his book, We the Media, Gillmor explains that the foundation of this country was based on many different kinds of freedom, freedom of speech contributing heavily to the United States Constitution. Resting on the very laws of this freedom of speech lies an entire online community devoted to giving their opinions (weather people want to read them or not) about topics that interest them or are in relation to current events. Part of their rights as American citizens is to be able to express themselves freely by stating where they stand on issues and events and these rights can sometimes be abused which is where lawsuits come into play.

Overall, many differences contributed to the general feel of the information being presented. In the news article, the information was professional, obviously because it was written by someone from the New York Times who has a responsibility to the reputation of themselves and their corporation. The blog entries were opinionated and lacked detail; they gave accusations when most of these people probably had no idea what they were talking about. Gillmor (2004) writes, "Call them newsmakers. Call them sources. Call them the sub-jects—and sometimes, in their view, the unwilling victims—of journalism. But however we describe them, we all must recog­nize that the rules for newsmakers, not just journalists, have changed, thanks to everyone’s ability to make the news." Most bloggers are not professionals, and you can never really trust what they write because of the fact they lack credibility, but if it wasn't for these people, I would be stuck getting my information from stuffy articles in newspapers!

Anna Nicole Smith's Death: Accidental OD . Topix, Retrieved March 27, 2007, from

Finin, Tim (2006, April, 27). Proving that blogs affect society. Ebiquity Group, Retrieved 27, March, 2007, from

Gillmor, D. (2004). We the Media. Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, Retrieved March 28, 2007, from

Goodnough, A. Anna Nicole Smith’s Death Is Ruled an Accidental Drug Overdose . (2007, March 27). The New York Times

Monday, March 26, 2007

COM125: Soon Everything Will Be Online!

When I first read this assignment, I was not sure what to think. Do politicians really blog? Well, after coming across Hillary Clinton's Blog for Hope regarding issues surrounded by the American Cancer Society, my question was answered. I guess that when I think about blogging I think about MySpace and other websites where kids leave comments about meaningless humdrum. I did not even take into consideration that blogging has its perks when it comes to a society surrounded by technology and the internet.
The blog's title is BLOG FOR HOPE by New York Senator Hillary Clinton. It was started on Sunday, August 14, 2005 at 6:49pm. When I first started reading this blog, I was inspired by Hillary Clinton because her points made sense; she came across as a caring citizen of the United States of America and appeared to strongly believe in strong health issues. The more I read on her issues, the more I was persuaded to support her in her efforts to better the health care system. When I came across comments left on this blog I was not surprised that most of them were written in a professional and respectful manner. Most of the people who commented on Hillary's issues were in support of her and people actually added their input and ideas of how her proposals could actually improve. Some, like os21llc, just left comments like "Woot woot, Hillary! I respect your opinion and you have my vote in 2008!"
Hillary stands strongly on health issues such as early detection for breast cancer. She touches on how people do not get yearly checkups because of the cost of healthcare and that these checkups are essential to cancer detection. She also talks about reducing administrative costs of healthcare which with dramatically lower the cost of healthcare and make it more affordable for the common American people.
I believe that any way you look at a blog regarding politics, it is effecting politics in a good way. Blogs raise awareness on current issues surrounding people and political based blogs are no different. If there was a blog for example surrounding Hillary Clinton and her issues and the entire blog was bashing her as a political figure, I believe that I would see that as a good thing believe it or not. Even when people do not know where political figures stand on certain issues, they may have preconceived notions about the politician. Publicity is publicity any way you look at it and if people are writing bad things regarding politics, maybe they will be curious about the issues at hand and actually research them before commenting on the blog. Blogging has revolutionized the political world; anywhere you go on the internet, you see websites where political figures let you know where they stand on certain issues so sooner or later you are bound to come across some political knowledge. Alinta Thornton (2002) states that, "Increasingly, the media has become central to political life." Blogs are no exception. Politicians need to stay afloat in the media to highly raise awareness about their standings on certain issues and I believe this is where many past candidates have fallen.
So with the daily increase in the use of the internet, will online voting become a thing of the future? With the average worker in the United States spending at least some time at a computer everyday, isn't it likely that if voting were just a click away, more people would do it? I believe that this is true and if security were not an issue, online voting would not be a thing of the future but a thing of the present. "This is seen as a way to avoid the confusion of badly designed poll papers" (Thornton, 2002). Who can forget the Florida mishap in 2000? I believe that if the government were to in the future convert to online voting, they should stick with their decision strongly and work to every year improve on the security and advertisement of the convenience. Once people are convinced that 'holy crap, this does really work and I like it', online voting will be as popular as watching videos on YouTube.


Clinton, H. (2005). Blog For Hope. Retrieved March 26, 2007, from;_ylt=Ap.h4Chl4r7PqETfF8szNExCsckF

Stross, Randall (2006, September, 24). The Big Gamble on Electronic Voting . The New York Times, Retrieved March 26, 2007, from

Thornton, Alinta (2002). Does Internet Create Democracy. Retrieved March 26, 2007, from

Sunday, March 18, 2007

COM125 Week 10: Find Anyone Online!

As human beings, it is natural to flock into certain communities or social groups. These collections of people give us a sense of belonging as well as a positive feeling of acceptance. Weather you belong to a community of craftsmen or a community of drug dealers, what is important to understand is that you belong. Fernback and Thompson (1995) state that, “Community is an important aspect of life for most people.” What brings great satisfaction to people is knowing that there are others out there that share in the same interests and thoughts and even though we are unique, we find comfort in knowing that those interests and thoughts are not so extreme that we are considered bizarre.
Starting my second semester at the University at Buffalo, I found that I was lacking a sense of community myself. I decided to gather my friends together and ask them if they wanted to play on an intramural volleyball team. Everyone was on the same page as I was and thought it was a really great idea; this would get us away from studying and the dorms a couple nights a week and would bring us closer as a group. Naturally, since I put together the group I was named the captain of the team which basically meant that I dealt with the head organizer of volleyball intramurals at Alumni Arena. I was subscribed to the listserve which was specific for my day and time of play, Tuesdays at 10:00pm. This e-mail system relayed important messages which were specific to my team and the other teams that I played on Tuesdays at 10:00. After I received these messages, I would forward them to my team. If anyone had a question I could e-mail everyone on the listserve and people who know the answers and were kind enough would e-mail me back in a promptly manner. I would then forward the responses to my teammates. When the same person kept e-mailing me back over and over I felt that I had developed a relationship with this person that was something a little bit more than senseless e-mailing. We would then see each other on Tuesdays and talk before and after the games. Eventually, I introduced this other captain to my team and he introduced his team to me and my team. I feel that our teams clicked because of all of our similar care-free personalities. I felt a sense of community with these thirty or so people because of the fact that we all played on the same night at the same time. Boyd (2006) describes that “people chose to participate based on their interest in the topic.” All of these relationships that my team and I have developed with other teams in the intramural volleyball league have been started through e-mail and the listserve system.
At the beginning of the intramural league, it was hard to develop relationships with people though. Through using the listserve e-mail system, it does not really allow for personalization of e-mail and getting to know people’s personalities. The one size fits all e-mail that is sent to hundreds of people throughout listserve did not allow me to meet people but it was that system of e-mail which was the foundation of starting relationships with people and it broke the ice in introducing myself to hundreds of people.
I feel that because of the fact that I would see these people a couple nights a week, it was easier to develop relationships with them. For example, I am on a listserve for my PSY101 class which updates the hundreds of people in that class on class cancellations, homework, etc. Because of the enormous group involved and the one sided information exchange (teacher to class), it would be difficult to develop close relationships with people in that class which started with e-mail. It was easier being in a recreational environment where everyone shared a common interest and was interested in having a good time.
Online communities develop because of common interest. Fernback and Thompson (1995) say that, “We all need a sense of place, whether it be bounded territorially or in the "placeless" realm of cyberspace.” It is because of these online communities that people are able to express themselves and open each others minds to new ideas and awareness.


Boyd, Danah (2006, December). Friends, Friendsters, and Fop 8: Writing community into being on social network sites. First Monday, 11, Retrieved March 14, 2007, from

Fernback, J, & Thompson, Brad (1995). Virtual Communities: Abort, Retry, Failure?. Retrieved March 14, 2007, from

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

COM125 Week 5: Identity: Unknown

I absolutely love when someone is setting up a new e-mail account or developing a new screen name for AOL Instant Messenger and it takes that person a good couple hours to make sure their identification name is perfect and suites them. I understand why this is a process that people often do not just dive right into. According to Masum, "Since there is no absolute objective reputation quantity stamped on people’s foreheads, measurable proxies are necessary…." Often times, people want to associate something positive or interesting about themselves into their user name that sets them apart from everyone else. A person's user name is very important; it is the first thing that someone sees when talking that person over the internet, and/or is the first name that comes up when receiving an e-mail. The internet proposes more risk to a person's identity than something off the internet does. What I mean by this is that over the internet, there are a million and one ways people can find information about you and gain access to all of your personal things, and people have certainly done this. This is the reason people create these "identification names" in the first place, to protect themselves from fraud and unnecessary information exchange.

With managing school, work, and a social life, I have developed many online user names in the past. Currently, for talking to my friends on the internet and sending e-mail to my friends and family, I use the identification of 'NooCH717'. This may not mean anything to a lot of people but to me, it is what I have been called by certain family and friends for a long time now and I like the fact that when I am on the internet chatting, it reminds me of my family and friends calling me by this nickname. I do not have a strong interest in online gaming or anything of that sort so my identification name essentially is between me, my family, and my friends. With more professional matters such as school and work, my identification name is just 'djlisi'. Keeping this plain and simple allows me to appear professional and proficient. For example, if I was at an interview for a part-time job and was asked to fill out some paperwork containing my e-mail address, name, address, etc, and in the box for e-mail I wrote: 'HotLaXPartier6969', I feel this would set me off on the wrong foot professionally and would give people reason to prejudge me or think twice about hiring me. When thinking about online user names and identification names, often times people think of reputations associated with them but also, people need to realize that before the reputation came the first impression.

Honestly, I really do not think it would be that difficult to obtain someone else's identification. Look at the number of people on MySpace and Facebook alone that reveal extremely personal information such as their phone numbers, addresses, hometowns, where they attend school, work information, and so on and so on. Plugging that information into a system I am sure people can find banking information easily with a little research, car information, etc. Let us just take one example to prove my point. Say someone knows your school e-mail address. If you have not personalized your password, it is something that is not hard to get a hold of. At Buffalo, passwords are simply the first four digits of your birthday and the last six digits of your UB card. Personally, I do not think this is a very efficient way to pass out passwords to students. Even though many students SHOULD change their passwords immediately, many do not because of various reasons. In gaining someone's UBit name and password, you have access to their grades, schedule, e-mail and many other personal accounts of a college student. According to, "New identity verification and authentication technologies will provide further security, although the rollout and networking of these devices will take time." I think many companies releasing this information technologies are learning as we are that there are always going to be new ways hackers and identity thefts can gain access to information which explains the time factor.

Creating online identities in a respectable fashion is a great way to not disclose personal information that could be picked up by anyone over the internet. One needs to be careful yet aware that their online identity however, can define a perception of how people view them.


Donath, J. (1996). Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community. Retrieved February 21, 2007, from

Forbes Inc. (April 2005). Hooked on Phishing. Retrieved February 21, 2007, from

Masum, Hassan and Zhang, Yi–Cheng. (July 2004). Manifesto for the Reputation Society First Monday, volume 9, number 7. Retrieved February 21, 2007, from