Today in Technology December 30, 2013

  • People Sext When They Don't Really Want To, Study Finds
    “Not tonight, honey, I have a headache” can spare lovers from sex. But it won’t save them from sexts.

    While headlines proclaim young adults are hooked on the joys of sexting, a forthcoming study examining the practice has found college-age sexters in committed relationships frequently engage in unwanted sexting, and will exchange explicit message or photos for reasons that have little to do with attraction or arousal.

    Call it the “requisext”: an X-rated missive sent out of a sense of necessity or obligation, but not purely for pleasure. They’re more common than many might realize, and are sent nearly as frequently by men and women.

    The research, which will be published in February in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, reveals similarities between sexual behavior online and off. Previous research on couples’ sex lives has demonstrated that partners will willingly go along with sex, even when they’re not keen on it, for reasons that range from pleasing their partner to avoiding an argument. On smartphones and over email, e-sex happens for many of the same reasons.

    Working to understand the frequency of “consensual but unwanted sexting” — scientist-speak for “sexting when you’re not in the mood” — psychologists at Indiana University-Purdue University For Wayne polled 155 undergraduates who were or had been in committed relationships on their sexting habits.

    Fifty-five percent of the female respondents said they had previously engaged in unwanted sexting, while 48 percent of men had done the same. Those numbers are surprisingly similar to previous findings on so-called “compliant sexual activity”: A 1994 report determined that 55 percent of American women and 35 percent of American men had ever engaged in consensual but unwanted sex.

    But while women have typically far outnumbered men in having unwanted sexual activity the old-fashioned way, the rates of requisexting were not drastically higher among women, the study found. In this case, equality for the sexes means near-equality in unwanted sexting.

    The authors of the article argued “gender-role expectations” could be to blame. Men might be more likely to agree to undesired sexting because doing so is “relatively easy and does not require them to invest more into the relationship.” Women in turn might be discouraged from virtual sex because it fails to help them attain their relationship “goals,” the authors hypothesized.

    So what makes people feel the need to requisext — especially when the evidence can so easily come back to haunt them?

    The survey’s respondents were asked to rate ten possible motivations for their begrudging sexts, ranging from “I was bored” to “I was taking drugs.”

    People most frequently consented to unwanted sexting because they sought to flirt, engage in foreplay, satisfy a partner’s need or foster intimacy in their relationship. The researchers also found that people who were anxious about their relationships — specifically, who feared abandonment by or alienation from their lovers — were more likely to be requisexters. Digital communication could be “especially challenging” for these anxious lovers, who might increase their sexting in an attempt to make distant lovers seem closer, the study’s authors speculated.

    On the other hand, those sick of requisexting might soon be coming up with some clever “outs.” Next time, just claim you have a thumbache.

  • 17 New Year's Eve Someecards That Will Start Your 2014 With A Laugh
    Fact: New Year’s Eve is probably the most overrated night of the year. Make it better for a friend you plan to keep around in 2014 by sending a witty Someecard. They put up with you all year; it’s the least you could do.
  • 7 Amazing Depictions Of Disney Men Without Their Beards
    Post-Christmas blues got you down? Here’s just the thing to cheer you up: hilarious depictions of some of Disney’s leading men — without their beards.

    These amazing drawings — featuring characters as varied as King Triton from “The Little Mermaid” to Zeus from “Hercules” — come courtesy of Kentucky-based comic book artist and illustrator Annie Erskine. Her hilarious re-imaginings went viral over the holidays and call to mind the lovably ludicrous drawings of Disney princesses with beards.

    You can find more of Erskine’s work on her Tumblr and Facebook pages.

    BONUS: Beard fans feeling a little left out? Here are a couple more illustrations by Erskine, re-imagining two famous Disney men with facial hair.

    (Hat tip, BuzzFeed)

  • 5 Gmail Tips Everyone Should Know

    Last week the Internet was buzzing with news of Gmail’s incredibly useful “undo send” feature. Sorry to break it to you, but that “new” feature has been around since at least 2010. The reaction was so positive though, it occurred to me there are probably lots more goodies Gmail has hidden away you may not be aware of.

    Here are five features I use all the time that have helped me save time and make me more efficient. Some are hidden away on the Gmail Labs page. This is where you’ll find products that Gmail is currently working on. Actually Gmail calls it “a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime.” In any case, it’s loaded with lots of useful features, and I’ll share a few with you.

    Undo Send

    Let’s start with the undo send feature. You first have to enable this option in Gmail Labs. To get there, click on the gear icon on the top right of your screen. Click on settings, and then click on Labs. Scroll down until you see ‘undo sent’ and click “enable.”

    Now, if your fingers are working faster than your brain and you fired off an email too early, click undo send at the top of your screen, next to where it tells you your message has been sent.

    Canned Responses

    Here’s another feature that can save you lots of time and effort. How many times have you typed the same reply over and over? Perhaps it’s directions to your office or maybe instructions for sending you something. You’re sick of typing the same thing; go enable this feature in Labs now.

    To create a new canned response open an email and type in the text you want to save as your canned response. Click the drop-down arrow right next to the trash icon on the bottom right and click ‘new canned response.’ Name your canned response with something like directions or address.

    Now, in an email draft, click the drop down again and find that named response you saved. Click it and it appears in your email. You can create and save a number of different canned responses.

    The really cool thing about canned responses is you can create a filter so that when a message arrives from a certain person or with certain keywords, you can send an automated pre-written canned response.

    Shared Calendars

    Enabling a shared calendar can be confusing to set up, but it’s totally worth it when you’re able to see the appointments and dates of people you work with, or perhaps a family member.

    You can share your calendar by making it public, or by sharing it with specific users. To share with a specific person, click the drop-down arrow on your calendar page and select ‘share this calendar.’ Enter the email address of the person you’re sharing with.

    They’ll get an email inviting them to see your calendar and it will show up in the ‘other calendars’ section on the bottom left of the page.

    Unbundle Conversations

    Gmail sorts emails into conversations, something it calls message threading. This allows you to see all the replies to an email along with the original message. Some people love this, but others absolutely hate it.

    The good news is you can unbundle your email and turn off that conversation view. On the main settings page look for the conversation view option and select the option to turn it off.

    Restore Button Labels

    Have you noticed in the new Gmail the options on top of your inbox have been changed to icons? Now, you have to hover over each one to figure out which is spam, which is delete, and which one lets you archive your emails.

    To change these back to text, go to Settings > General > Button Labels. There you can choose between icons and text. Whenever you make a change in settings always remember to scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit save.

    Have a Gmail tip I missed? Need help with something else Gmail related? Hit the comments.

    This post first appeared on ChipChick.com.

  • Stop Downloading Your Resolutions
    How many resolutions do you have on your list this year?

    How many did you have last year?

    Seems that no matter how hard we try, less than 10 percent of us seem to be able achieve success with said resolutions.

    Even worse, I’d argue… our global leadership seems equally afflicted… the proof being that despite best efforts, conferences, diplomacy, pledges and the like, our daily news — full of killing, hatred, war, terrorism, violence and such… seems never to abate — if anything it seems to spread.

    And of course in tune with our digital world there are enough New Year’s Resolution apps to ensure that as we fail to keep our self-made promises we can try and try again, leaving behind us a trail of thumbs-downs to mark our passage of trial and tribulation.

    We are all in the same boat here. We write lists, download apps, employ coaches, engage our social networks — bring all the external power we can to bear and somehow our resolutions seem so exciting and real when we make them that we see the pounds melt off in our mind’s eye; we visualize promotions and wins; we imagine being nicer or more compassionate; we picture ourselves listening more, caring more…we want to believe…we want to succeed…yet….

    So here is the thing — let’s try something new… no apps, no lists, no visualizations, conferences, coaches, Facebook and no empty promises.

    Listen:

    “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” — Abraham Lincoln

    The beauty of it all is that we are on our own here… yes, encouragement helps — always has; yes, peer pressure helps and hurts — nothing new here — but at the end of the day — it’s you…and you alone.

    Enjoy the New Year — enjoy success — be empowered… because that is the most power you will ever have.

    What do you think?

  • Woman Wastes 6 Hours Of Her Life On Hold With Target
    Think you’ve had a frustrating phone experience with a customer service rep? It was likely a breeze compared to the hell endured by Katie Johnson.

    The Arizona woman was kept on hold by Target for a mind-numbing six hours, according to local news site AZ Family.

    Katie Johnson had ordered an iPod Nano from Target.com for her boyfriend this Christmas, but after the gift never arrived Johnson reached out to UPS. It appeared that the package was stolen from her porch, and UPS said Target would need to file an insurance claim with UPS to replace the product for Johnson.

    Johnson was well aware of Target’s recent massive data breach and the hectic holidays, so she prepared herself for a lengthy wait time on the company’s customer service line. But she could never have expected the quarter-day purgatory that followed.

    “It disappoints me because Target is one of my favorite stores and it makes me not want to shop there now because of this situation,” Johnson told AZ Family. “And I even went into a Target store and asked them [for help] but they gave me the same number I was on hold with forever and I was, like, not doing that again.”

    Johnson continued to call, Tweet, and email the company but received nothing more than automated messages telling her to “please wait a few more days.” Target representatives say that they are now working directly with Johnson.

    “Following the announcement of the data breach, we experienced significantly higher than normal volume to our call centers and REDcard website, causing delays,” Molly Snyder, a Target spokesperson, wrote to HuffPost. “We are working around the clock to resolve this issue by continually adding capacity both to our call center and technical systems to meet all of our guests’ needs.”

    Target is still taking a beating over the data breach, which was the second-largest in history and likely compromised 40 million customers’ credit and debit card information. The Justice Department is investigating the incident.

    The company’s “Buzz score,” a measurement of brand popularity developed by polling site YouGov, dropped by 35 points to -9 on Dec. 20, the day after Target announced the breach.

    target brand

    Watch AZ Family’s video on the epic wait time below:

  • Zappos Does Away With Job Titles, Managers – Retailer Turns To 'holacratic' Model
    Online retailer Zappos is making a dramatic change to its company hierarchy—in fact, it’s getting rid of it.
  • JetBlue Surprises Unsuspecting People With Free Flights Home To Their Loved Ones
    “While you were online searching for a ride home, we were online searching for you.”

    That’s what JetBlue said to the unsuspecting passengers they surprised for Christmas.

    The airline had scanned Craigslist’s ‘rideshare’ section before the holidays, looking for people who wanted to go home — but needed help getting there. Then, the company reached out to a lucky few via video chat, pretending to offer them a ride. Instead, they were surprised with free flights home.

    The company just wanted “to lift up a few spirits this holiday season,” according to JetBlue’s blog. In the bargain, the rest of us end up getting a nice dose of Christmas cheer as well.

    Earlier this month, JetBlue helped entrepreneur Peter Shankman make even more people’s holiday wishes come true. When the airline heard of Shankman’s plan to donate his extra miles to those unable to get home for Christmas, it paid for 10 extra flights.

    H/T Mashable

  • Michelle Snyder, Health Official Who Oversaw Building Of Obamacare Website, To Retire
    WASHINGTON, Dec 30 (Reuters) – U.S. health official Michelle Snyder, who oversaw the building of the troubled Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, is retiring from her job as chief operating officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

    CMS chief Marilyn Tavenner announced Snyder’s departure in a statement that said Snyder had originally planned to retire at the end of 2012 but had stayed on at Tavenner’s request to “help me with the challenges facing CMS in 2013.”

    (Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
  • Official Who Oversaw Health Law's Rollout Is Retiring
    The No. 2 official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who supervised the troubled rollout of President Obama’s health care law, is retiring, administration officials said Monday.
  • Ohio University Student Accused Of Using Nude Snapchat Photos To Extort Sex
    A male Ohio University undergraduate is facing four felony charges for allegedly using nude photos sent through Snapchat to blackmail a fellow male student into performing sex acts.

    Dorian Graham, 19, is accused of posing as a female and entering into an online relationship with a 20-year-old male student. According to prosecutors, Graham convinced the other student to send nude photos through Snapchat, which allows photos to be sent for a brief viewing before being automatically deleted.

    Prosecutors said the nude photos were then made public on Instagram and the unidentified victim was told by the imaginary woman that to get the photos deleted, he had to engage in sexual activity with Graham in Adams Hall on Ohio University’s campus. Graham allegedly posed as both the nonexistent woman and the man the student had to have sexual contact with, WBNS reports.

    Still believing that a woman was blackmailing him, the unidentified student engaged in sexual activity with Graham on Sept. 23 and the encounter was allegedly recorded, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

    At some point after the sexual encounter, the male student realized there was no woman, according to the Dispatch. Court documents said Graham allegedly attempted to blackmail the student again, at which point the 20-year-old contacted campus police. Graham was indicted on Nov. 25 and charged with sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, extortion and attempted extortion.

    “It was just another instance of social media and people being too free with their thoughts and what they’re doing,” Athens County Prosecuting Attorney Keller Blackburn told WXIX. “We have to remember that when we do things involving social media, that these things are out there forever.”

    Graham pleaded not guilty on Dec. 4 and is scheduled to go to trial in February.

  • Paul Krugman Trolls Bitcoin Fans. Guess What Happens Next.
    The first rule of Bitcoin is never joke about Bitcoin. Paul Krugman learned this the hard way.

    The Nobel Prize-winning economist wrote a blog post this weekend expressing some mild doubts about the digital crypto-currency. He’s not sure it works as a store of value or a medium of exchange, but is open to arguments in favor of it. He dislikes Bitcoin’s “libertarian political agenda” — it is beloved by people who chafe at government control of money and yearn for the good old days of the gold standard — and thinks some Bitcoin fans let their political leanings blind them to Bitcoin’s flaws.

    Nothing much to get excited about, in other words.

    But! For laughs, Krugman slapped the title “Bitcoin Is Evil” on his post. Though he never actually argued that Bitcoin is evil, that was enough to uncork the wrath of the Bitcoin army, which bombarded Krugman with what he called “rage-filled missives.”

    Not satisfied, Krugman further poked the bear by calling the Bitcoinistas “humor-impaired.” He also called their mothers hamsters and declared that their fathers “smelt of elderberries”, proving once and for all that Krugman is actually French (hi, Monty Python).

    In response, the Bitcoinati began mocking Krugman with a piece he wrote in 1998 seemingly predicting that the Internet would be no big deal. Advantage Bitcoin, it would seem.

    The Bitcoinists were once again missing the joke, Krugman wrote in response to a question from Business Insider: “It was a thing for the Times magazine’s 100th anniversary, written as if by someone looking back from 2098, so the point was to be fun and provocative, not to engage in careful forecasting,” he wrote.

    Krugman also pointed out that he never claimed to be a technology expert and that he was criticizing Bitcoin from an economic, not technical, standpoint. Does it work as money or not, is what he wants to know, and he’s leaning toward “not.”

    Just to move the discussion one small inch forward (or backward, depending on your perspective): Bitcoin might eventually work as money, but not now: Speculators looking for quick profits have poured into the currency lately, leading to wild price swings that make it pretty much useless as a store of value or a stable currency.

    If and when Bitcoin settles down, it will still have one major flaw that means it can’t, or at least shouldn’t, replace fiat currencies: There is a limit to how many Bitcoins can be produced, meaning its value can only fall so low. It is a lot like gold in that respect, and we learned decades ago that basing an economy on gold is a bad idea: When a currency is too scarce, people stop spending it, leading to economic depression. That’s why we will (or should) never go back to a gold standard and why Bitcoin will (or should) forever stay on the margins.

  • Drone Testing Sites Announced In Six States
    LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six states to develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the unmanned aircraft’s march into U.S. skies.

    The FAA announced Monday the sites will be based in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia. Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding drone programs.

    The FAA does not allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015. Officials concede it may take longer.

    FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says safety is the first priority in moving drones into U.S. airspace.

  • New Yorker's First Cover Of 2014 Illustrates America's Tech Addiction
    The New Yorker revealed its first cover of 2014 on Monday. The cover, entitled, “All Together Now,” illustrates an audience of parents filming their children at a school play using various digital devices:

    digital

    It perfectly captures the tendency of current society to experience a moment on an iPad, iPhone or tablet versus simply watching and experiencing the moment live — remembering it as it actually happened.

    Artist Chris Ware, who also drew the magazine’s first cover of 2013 inspired by the Newtown shooting, described this tendency as a result of the “new touch-sensitive generation of technology.”

    “Steve Jobs, along with whatever else we’re crediting to him, should be granted the patent on converting the universal human gesture for trying to remember something from looking above one’s head to fumbling in one’s pants pocket,” Ware wrote in a blog.

    Ware said that he was inspired to create the cover after attending a showing of “Jungle Book” with his family and hearing the line, “Well, one’s own children are more important than the children of others.… Everyone knows that. The world runs on that.” He says he soon realized that many of the memories he has of his own daughter are just “memories of the photographs I took, not of the events themselves.”

    “The more we give over of ourselves to these devices, the less of our own minds it appears we exercise, and worse, perhaps even concomitantly, the more we coddle and covet the devices themselves,” Ware continued. “The gestures necessary to operate our new touch-sensitive generation of technology are disturbingly similar to caresses.”

    Read his full blog on the cover illustration here.

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