Tuesday 24 May 2011

Twimates And Their Illegal Tactics

There's a new service currently in pre-launch which is similar to Twiends that allows you to increase your Twitter followers and Facebook page likes.

This new service called Twimates (twimates(dot)com) uses hacking and other illegal tactics to harvest email addresses to send you promotional materials about their new service. They are also sending phishing emails using aliases asking for your Twiends account login information. They are doing this to harm the reputation of Twiends and to gain access to Twiends membership base.

How do I know this? Quite simply, after receiving a unsolicited email from them on the 19th May and replying to ask where they obtained my email address, their response was quite frankly, shocking. Here's a copy of their response:

"Hi Derek, I'm sorry if we sounded like spammers, but we really trying to help people out. We know twiends policies are making their users very unhappy so we want to build a better and more user friendly site. To be honest, we got your email from twiends. They have very poor security and we broke into sections of their site. Another reason why you should switch to a new and better service."

The phishing email was a bit more serious in that it was supposedly selling seeds and then asking for your Twiends account login information. The way they obtained email addresses for this was by visitors entering their email addresses on their pre-launch registration page.

I have spoken to Dave Sumter, the owner of Twiends concerning this issue and measures have been put into place to beef up account security on his system. I have also contacted the email marketing service and hosting company where the spam and phishing emails originated. Given the way they harvested the email addresses and with them posting phishing emails, this should give adequate reasons for these companies to act. In fact and while writing this post, I've had confirmation that both iContact and HostGator have already taken the necessary steps to prevent this from happening again.

So as a word of warning: Any new service that uses these kind of illegal tactics to obtain customers/members should be avoided at ALL times. Just be aware everyone.

Update 25th May 2011 at 9:34am:

I've just received an email from Twimates after they seen this blog post. Here's the contents of that email:

Dear Derek,

We know you've been contact by one of our staff. He has indeed used our email list and spammed the users that had pre-registered with his own offer of twiends seeds. This was no way affiliated with Twimates, we are a legitimate site and abide by all the TOS. He has since been sacked from the team, and we are continuing to develop twimates ready for the launch date on June 1st.

We apologize for any spamming created during this period and we want to let you know that we've put a stop to it. Please let us now if you could edit the very negative blog post you wrote about us or remove it. A proof that we are legit and we don't get our users by spamming is showing you advertising options that we've bought: http://www.twitdom.com. We are a featured app on that website and also have a banner at the top.

Best Regards,
Twimates Team

Unfortunately, whether it was one of their staff or not, they are STILL liable for this person's actions. Furthermore, advertising on twitdom only costs approximately $50...that's certainly a small amount to invest in advertising, especially if they're trying to prove their legitimacy to me. If I was in their situation, I would have provided more information to backup my claims.

Will this blog post be removed or amended as per their request? Given the hard facts, the admission of hacking into the Twiends site (which incidentally used the same vocabulary, email and IP address to the response email I received today) plus other information I cannot yet disclose, the answer is a definite no! Sorry Twimates, you've given us adequate reasons why nobody should trust you.

If you found this or any of my other posts helpful, don't forget to share the posts to your favourite networks using the toolbar on the left-side of the screen or by using the "Share" buttons located at the bottom of each post.

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Sunday 15 May 2011

Blogger Outage: Why You Should Regularly Backup Your Blog

During scheduled maintenance on Wednesday 11th May 2011, Blogger experienced some data corruption that impacted Blogger's behaviour. This resulted in all blog owners who use the blogging platform unable to publish for over 20 hours.

According to Eddie Kessler, Tech Lead/Manager on a recent post on Blogger Buzz, bloggers and readers may have experienced a variety of anomalies including intermittent outages, disappearing posts, and arriving at unintended blogs or error pages. A small subset of Blogger users (they estimate 0.16%) may have encountered additional problems specific to their accounts.

To resolve the problem and to get the service back to normal, Blogger returned their system to a pre-maintenance state on Thursday 12th (temporary removing all posts/comments since 7:37am PT Wednesday 11th May) and placed the service in read-only mode while they worked on restoring all content. This is the main reason why blog owners were unable to publish for over 20 hours.

Although now finally back online and bloggers being able to publish new content, Blogger are still hard at work restoring posts and comments which could take some time. Hopefully, all these posts and comments can be retrieved as the added dilemma of losing data could in fact, seriously impact users confidence in the blogging platform. There have been reports that some bloggers have already moved their blogs to WordPress due to this outage.

Why You Should Regularly Backup Your Blog

Given this recent outage with Blogger and the disappearance of some bloggers posts and comments (although temporary), backing up your blog regularly is more important than ever. Like all sites/services on the internet, Blogger (even WordPress) isn't immune to problems, so you really need to get into the habit of backing up your blog, especially after each post and when you receive comments.

Full details on backing up your blog on Blogger (and WordPress) can be found on following post: Have You Backed Up Your Blog?

Please Note: When you do a backup of your blog on Blogger, all your blog comments (along with your blog posts) are automatically saved in the XML file that you download. These comments can be found near the bottom of the document which can be viewed using a standard text editor such as WordPad etc.

Don't forget to regularly backup your template as well, especially if you make changes to your blog design or page elements. Full details on how to do this on Blogger are on the above post.

On a personal note, I was quite lucky as the outage didn't effect me apart from missing comments on my last post...I do have these backed up though just in case Blogger cannot retrieve them.

How did the outage effect you? Please let me know.

Related Articles:
Have You Backed Up Your Blog?

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Safe blogging everyone!

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Implications Of Microsoft's Acquisition Of Skype

As you've most probably heard, Microsoft is buying Skype for an astonishing $8.5 billion...it's biggest acquisition so far.

Given this news, here's an interesting article from Chris Crum, editor of WebProNews explaining the major implications and concerns that come with Microsoft's recent acquisition of Skype...

Can Skype Help Microsoft Beat Google?
Major Implications Come with Microsoft's Biggest Acquisition to Date.

You've probably heard by now that Microsoft is buying Skype (pending regulatory approval). This is Microsoft's biggest acquisition to date at $8.5 billion, and Skype's second acquisition (it's already been bought and sold by eBay). Since Skype's release from eBay, it has been quite busy adding features and functionalities, and even making some acquisitions of its own, such as that of live streaming video service Qik.

Skype has a reported 663 million registered users and 145 million average connected users. The company recently announced a record of 30 million users online at the same time.

The deal has enormous implications, not only for Microsoft's own offerings, but for the industry at large. There are also plenty of concerns. Let's get to those first.


Clearly, Skype has a big user base, and users have the right to be worried about what is going to become of their beloved service in the hands of a giant like Microsoft. Especially considering Microsoft's track record of acquisitions (laid out its graphic nature here).

Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb brings up some reasonable fears, such as product neglect and malware issues. "Will Skype in 14 years look like Hotmail does today?" he asks. "Malware is already an issue for Skype and of course it's a well known part of the Microsoft landscape," he also notes.

How will it affect use across various platforms? Microsoft says it will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms. Still, this is a little vague, and considering how much head butting goes on between Microsoft and Google, it wouldn't be an enormous shock to see some issues raised in this area in the future.

On reassuring the continued support of other platforms, Steve Ballmer said at the press conference, "I said it and I mean it. We will continue to support non-Microsoft platforms."

"We're one of the companies that has a track record of doing this," he added. Still, does that mean all platforms?

The fact that this is such a huge acquisition for Microsoft, however, should be an indication that the company will take it very seriously, as it has so much invested in Skype's future success.


Skype, which has more users than Twitter, should help Microsoft on numerous strategic levels. Mobile would be a major one. Skype will support Windows Phone, of course, and while it remains to be seen what kinds of integrations we can expect, there's little doubt that it will be an integral part of the Microsoft mobile strategy as it tries to gain ground against Google's Android and Apple's iOS.

Also consider that Microsoft has recently made deals with Nokia and RIM that will see Microsoft services heavily integrated on these companies' mobile devices. It stands to reason that Skype will play a major role here as well.

It doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that Microsoft would at some point create a Skype-branded phone.

The Living Room

The living room is one area where Microsoft already has a tremendous edge over competitors like Google and Apple. While the jury's still out on the future success of Google TV and Apple TV, it's been pretty well established that Microsoft's Xbox line is a smashing success. Kinect is doing pretty well too. Guess what will be integrated with both of these.

In its announcement, Microsoft points out its "long-standing focus and investment in real-time communications across its various platforms" including Xbox Live. It also says Skype will support Xbox and Kinect, and will connect Skype users with Xbox Live (in addition to Lync, Outlook and other communities).

PayPal is also coming to Xbox Live. That can't hurt either.

The Enterprise

Let's not forget about the implications for businesses. Microsoft says the acquisition will increase accessibility of real-time video and voice communications for enterprise users and generate "new business and revenue opportunities".

Plenty of businesses are already using Skype. How many are using Microsoft products? This could be a huge blow to Google, who is aggressively going after the enterprise market with Google Apps, and soon with Chrome OS. Skype may give businesses another reason to stick with MS. Of course it remains to be seen what kinds of integrations we'll see.

Competition and Google

There are plenty of areas where Microsoft and Google compete with one another, and Skype could go a long way in helping Microsoft with maybe all of them. That includes the areas we've already discussed - mobile, the living room, and the enterprise. It also includes the communication services Skype provides on its own.

Google has been doing more and more in this area, whether it be in the form of Google Voice or video chat via Google Talk and Gmail (email being another prime example of where Google and Microsoft already compete). How about live streaming video? Skype recently bought Qik for this, and YouTube recently announced its own YouTube Live (both a viewing destination and a platform for streaming live video).

YouTube is also doing plenty of other things to cement its position of being THE online video destination. This week, the company announced new partnerships with movie studios, the doubling of its catalog of movie offerings (including new releases), and increased investments in original content from partners. This comes back to the living room discussion, but I'm guessing we will continue to see overlap in the offerings from these two companies here.


And then there's Bing. What in the world could Skype possibly have to do with search? Well, everything we've talked about up until now is all about Microsoft expanding its presence and user base. The more people using Microsoft products (now including Skype), the more opportunities Microsoft has to push Bing on people. The more businesses using Microsoft products, the more opportunities for Bing integration. The more consumers using Microsoft in the living room (where Microsoft is already heavily pushing Bing via television commercials), the more opportunities for Microsoft to push Bing on users through products.

We've had the mobile conversation more than once - both when Microsoft announced its partnership with Nokia, and its partnership with RIM. They both equate to Bing search being the default search on more mobile devices, and getting Bing into more consumers' hands (literally). These things can only help Bing's continued growth.

Last week, we asked, "Will Bing catch Google?". The Skype acquisition can't hurt. Much of this is simply about opportunity. We don't know all of the details about Microsoft's plans for Skype, but there's no question that there is an incredible amount of possibilities that can help give the company some much-needed boosts.

Kirkpatrick brings up another good point about developer opportunities, making the case that "social graph and address books, presence, file sharing, Instant Messaging, (and) mobile" elements of Skype are all things developers salivate over, and that with Microsoft behind it, developers could get a great deal more access to build more useful applications and integrations on top of Skype.

The social element was played up in the press conference about the acquisition.

The Facebook Factor

As long as we're talking about how much of a strategic buy this could turn out to be for Microsoft, in its ongoing competition with Google, let's not leave out the implications for Facebook - another company that not only has a partnership with Microsoft, but increasingly competes with Google in numerous areas.

Om Malik brings up some good points about how the acquisition relates to Google's competition with Facebook, which he says could be the biggest winner of the deal.

"The Palo Alto-based social networking giant had little or no chance of buying Skype. Had it been public, it would have been a different story. With Microsoft, it gets the best of both worlds - it gets access to Skype assets (Microsoft is an investor in Facebook) and it gets to keep Skype away from Google," he says. "Facebook needs Skype badly. Among other things, it needs to use Skype's peer-to-peer network to offer video and voice services to the users of Facebook Chat. If the company had to use conventional methods and offer voice and video service to its 600 million plus customers, the cost and overhead of operating the infrastructure would be prohibitive."

"Facebook can also help Skype get more customers for its SkypeOut service, and it can have folks use Facebook Credits to pay for Skype minutes," he adds. "Skype and Facebook are working on a joint announcement and you can expect it shortly."

Also, while Google continues to struggle in social, Skype makes Microsoft more social by default, with or without Facebook (MUCH more so with any Facebook integration).

The New York Times says Microsoft analysts see the acquisition as a move to block Google from "gaining greater ground in Internet communications". Google was said to have been in talks with Skype about a potential partnership. It may or may not be the entire basis for the acquisition, but it's not hard to see this logic.

To put it simply, it's all about products that people use, and Microsoft just added another major one to its list.

Google is just kicking off its Google I/O developer event. It will be interesting to see what all news comes out of this, and how it might pertain to this discussion.

Do you think the acquisition will be good for Microsoft and for Skype? Let me know what you think.

As ever, if you want to stay up to date with the latest blog posts, don't forget to follow via Google Friend Connect (button on sidebar), on Facebook or subscribe to our feed at: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DereksHomeAndBusinessBlog

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Enjoy the rest of the week!

Friday 6 May 2011

We've Added The New Facebook Send Button

I've just added the new Facebook Send Button on the blog. You can find this new button on the horizontal toolbar at the bottom of your browser.

The Facebook Send Button will enable you, the reader, to share content from my blog with specific groups or friends in just one click.

Until now, the "like" or "share" action allowed readers such as yourself to share content with your entire Facebook community. However, the new "send" button allows you to share posts on my blog either with specific groups or by sending messages to your chosen friends.

Now, you can share the page you are viewing on my blog by sending your friends a link with an image along with a short message, all this without leaving my site. The send button also eliminates the need to look up email addresses by auto-suggesting friends and Groups you belong to.

Using the Facebook Send Button, you can choose to post the content on a Group wall you belongs to, send the content as an inbox message or create an email.

Here's a quick rundown of the features:

  • Auto-suggestion of Facebook friends and groups.
  • One-click sharing with your chosen friends.
  • Content sharing via messages, emails or group links.
  • Each message includes a link, an automatically detected image and a short message.

I hope you find the new Facebook Send Button helpful and I'll be adding new tools to the toolbar as and when they become available. Let me know what you think of this new feature.

Other News: Over the past few months, I have helped over 80 blog and website owners monetise their sites using the VigLink service. VigLink is a content monetisation company that makes affiliate marketing very easy for bloggers and website owners. More information about this service and how you can easily monetise your blog or website can be found on my post: Monetise Your Blog With VigLink.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to welcome all my new followers and thank all those who have continued to follow me and comment on my blog. I would also like to thank all the wonderful and talented members of the Bloggers Network who have made this blogging group a soaring success. With my Blog Fan Page likes and my Twitter followers tripling in the past month, you make my hard work all worthwhile....here's a BIG "Thank You" to all of you!

As ever, if you want to stay up to date with the latest blog posts, don't forget to follow via Google Friend Connect (button on sidebar), on Facebook or subscribe to our feed at: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DereksHomeAndBusinessBlog

You can also follow me on Twitter @djones1509 and on Facebook at:

Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!