Friday, March 18, 2011

Are Facebook and Google Elitist?

I was pretty shocked by some recent research from the Gallup organization that show a pretty dramatic difference in Google and Facebook usage among Americans with more than $90,000 in annual income and those with less than $90,000 in annual income.

Here are the specific statistics:

  • Among those with more than $90,000 in annual income: 85% use Google in a typical week and 55% have a Facebook page
  • Among those with less than $90,000 in annual income: 56% use Google in a typical week, while 41% have a Facebook page

You could read lots of different things into these findings, including the notion that those with less than $90,000 don't have the same sort of access, or that they use different options to these search and social networks, or that they just have better things to do. But I was surprised by the idea that income might be a factor as to who plays in your social networks. I always just figured it was who you know.

THEN I got to thinking about it a little more deeply: Facebook DID after all, start as a social network for those in university, so it figures that more educated Americans would be more likely to use it. In fact, 85% of Americans with a college degree said they use Google once a week, while 58% have a Facebook page. If you look at the responses for those with high-school or less in learning, the numbers drop to 35% and 28%, respectively.

The data is based on telephone interviews conducted by Gallup in January 2011. There were close to 1,500 U.S. adults surveyed.

So, how about it: Is Facebook elitist? I believe we'll know the answer better when all the teenagers using the site today (who were NOT included in this survey) start graduating college or entering the workforce or both. If the number of "friends" that some of these teenagers have is any indicator (one of my friend's daughters had close to 1,900 when I checked this morning), I think the numbers will shift dramatically.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Give your unwanted computer a second life

I actually shut down my coverage early last Friday because, frankly, I found it difficult to write about something as trivial as technology when so many lives had been lost in Japan. So I figured this first post post-quake, post-tsunami should be about something a bit more meaningful than how Facebook will affect your social life or why you need to watch who your kids text, and the text of those texts.

My topic, therefore, is a Houston-based non-profit group called Techs & Trainers that is both green and charitable in its thinking. It partners with another local company, Green Bank, to collect unwanted computers for overhaul. Then it turns around and reburbishes them, sprucing them up for Houston residents that have special needs. The organization's latest drive in January 2011 took in more than 300 computers, 170 monitors, 120 printers and hundreds of compuer accessories.

Barbara Rosen, executive director of Techs & Trainers, told me that 86 percent of the discarded computers in the Houston area typcially wind up in landfills. Her organization has three missions:

  1. To refurbish computers to keep them from harming the environment
  2. To provide technology to Houston residents with disabilities or other needs
  3. To help provide training and job skills to individuals with disabilities

If a computer is too old to be refurbished, then Techs & Trainers sponsors a deconstruction event -- working with volunteers and school groups to help take donated systems apart. "They learn about what makes up a computer and also learn about the necessity for these components to go to local buyers for their metal value, rather than into the garbage," says Rosen.

So, you're wondering, what does an effort in Houston have to do with me? Personally speaking, I think what Techs & Trainers is doing sets a great example for other organizations around the United States. In fact, Rosen says she encourages the development of similar programs outside her area of the world.

If every unwanted computer that still works could find a new home after you're done with it (heck, my desktop is going on 7 or 8 years now, so the three-year upgrade timeframe most people use sounds just wasteful doesn't it?), the world would be a lot greener place.  So, before you put that computer out by the curb (which is illegal in more than half the states now), check with a worthy organization to see if you can donate it. The one thing to be REALLY CAREFUL ABOUT is making sure that the organization will wipe the computer's hard drive of your personal data. And also check its credentials to ensure it is backed by a certifed electronic waste recycling organization. Sometimes, what happens to electronic components behind the scenes is strickly illegal. This site has some decent suggestions.


Friday, March 11, 2011

What your email address says about you

This one had special relevance for me, because I have FIVE (yes, that's right, FIVE) active email addresses. THREE of them are truly active, in that I receive numerous emails (and spam) in those inboxes every day. TWO are sorta active; I have them because I am part of groups on Yahoo and Google. That isn't even counting the FOUR (yep, FOUR) that certain of my clients and business partners have required me to set up and monitor from time to time.

So I disclose all of this by way of introducing this fun post about a new study that purports to reveal what your email address says about you. Turns out that people who use Gmail addresses sport more techno tendencies than those who use AOL. The "research" cited by this blog even goes so far to suggest that people who use AOL and Yahoo! email addresses are more likely to be women AND more likely to be overweight than their Gmail counterparts. I can see you rolling your eyes. Actually, what AOL addresses tell me is that someone has been on email for a longer time than someone on Gmail and hasn't bothered to try converting their address.

Still, worth a read if you use your email for work purposes, because an AOL address apparently cares some not-so-flattering stereotypes these days.

Back to my situation, which is borne of my desire to try to keep my work and personal accounts separate. Not to mention the account I use mainly for my hobby. One day, I hope to get down to just one or two, but I don't see that happening until spam filters and email filtering agents get a lot smarter.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Is a smart phone on your shopping list?

One of my friends asked me last week whether he should buy his wife a smartphone or get her an iPad and just upgrade her current mobile to a slightly newer model. My gut was that she needed a tablet, which means that she is a bit out of the average, according to some new data from market research firm Gartner.

That data found that U.S. consumers were more likely to buy a smartphone than they were to buy a personal computer, mobile phone, e-reader, media tablet or gaming device. (Not necessarily in that order.) In the United States, smartphones are supposed to hit 95 million units in 2011, compared with the 67 million units U.S. consumers snapped up in 2010.

Here's the implication: up until now, the smartphone has been mainly the tool of the technically astute, people like yours truly who are pretty much connected 24x7 and who have been relying on email and Web connectivity on their mobile device for years. I have even been known to correct blog posts via my iPhone although I wouldn't wish that on anyone. The interface still leaves much to be desired.

So, as more consumers adopt, you'll see the market start to tier out. Here's a prediction from Hugues de la Vergne, Gartner's smart phone analyst:

"Communication service providers should expand tiered data pricing to make open OS devices more affordable to the mass market. Introductory limited data plans of $10 to $15 a month will expand the market greatly for these devices, and in many cases, consumers will upgrade to higher-priced data plans over time once they get hooked on these services.

Heck, if more adopters will make my next iPhone cheaper, bring it on.