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Mac Lovers Need Love, Too

Forget Democrat or Republican — those labels have been useless for years. Now, we measure compatibility in terms of operating systems. No surprise, someone is moving in on Apple lovers.

Introducing: Cupidtino, a dating site exclusively for Apple fans. … Continue Reading

REMEMBER! Privacy Must Be Set

February 4, 2010 Culture, teh inetrwebz, web 3 Comments

Facebook — mystical place where connections are forged, friends are kept, lovers are explored, relationships are destroyed, positions are obtained, and jobs are brutally lost. Now more than ever. Let me tell you a story.

My phone rang. It was 3AM and I was home riding a deadline, but it was my friend Lindsay, so I picked up.

“OMGSHE’SONMYPROFILE,” she screamed. I could barely hear her between the slurring and the noise in the background.

“OK, calm down. Who, what, why, where, when and how.”

As she talked, I put the pieces together. The man she’s seeing has a crazy ex-girlfriend who’s devoted herself to stalking Lindsay. Lindsay had taken the appropriate measures, but hadn’t bothered to check Facebook — why should she? Facebook is supposed to be safe, right?

Wrong. Late last year, Facebook executed a privacy pullback that essentially screwed all of us. Under the guise of making privacy settings on the social network easier to set and control, Facebook — from one day to the next — made everything on our profiles public. Even those of us very involved with changes in social networks took a while to figure out how to restore order and privacy.

Hell, even Mark Zuckerberg had his embarrassing candids exposed after Facebook put on all these fabulous new privacy controls.

He’s the CEO of Facebook, people.

Why did they do this? Ryan Tate summarized it perfectly in Valleywag in December:

Facebook’s business rationale here is clear. Rival Silicon Valley startup Twitter has grown extremely quickly in the last few years, almost entirely on the back of public content — from celebrities, people’s friends and users’ professional colleagues. That has brought traffic, money from search engines and a $1 billion valuation.

Facebook wants in on that kind of growth, and more public content means more traffic. But Facebook has historically been one of the most private of the social networks, functioning as a sort of safe alcove amid the chaos of MySpace and Friendster.

So Facebook needed to give users a big shove to put its business plan into play. As startup founder Jason Calacanis puts it,

Facebook is trying to dupe hundreds of millions of users they’ve spent years attracting into exposing their data for Facebook’s personal gain: pageviews. Yes, Facebook is tricking us into exposing all our items so that those personal items get indexed in search engines–including Facebook’s–in order to drive more traffic to Facebook.

But it’s not just that Facebook is tricking its users; it’s betraying them.

Simple as that. So there I was, with a hysterical, drunken woman on the phone late one night.

“I don’t know how to change my settings on my phone!” she screamed. “I want her off, AV! GET HER OFF ME!”

“Give me your password.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I logged in and changed everything to the most restrictive setting. Better to shut everyone out than leave a door open. I even changed her profile picture (you can never make that friends-only, even if your profile picture album is).

The reason I’m telling you this is as a courtesy. There is a way to see how people can view your profile. Take a second to check it out and make sure it looks the way you’d like it to look whether it’s your boss, parents, kids, spouse, or that hottie you were talking at the bar last night.

If you have difficulty navigating the new settings, I suggest Valleywag’s Guide to Restoring Your Privacy on Facebook. They have great tips, complete with screen shots.

I know it’s a pain in the ass, my sweet flytraps of decadence and delight, but take the time to read the notices from social networks where you really share yourself. We’ve all heard the horror stories about firings and divorces as a result of inattention to our social network profiles.

Facebook and other social networks may have populations that compare to some of the biggest countries in the world, but they are not democracies. You have no rights. Nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. If it’s really incriminating, take it offline. Otherwise, be vigilant. Make sure you keep up on terms of service changes and upgrades. And every once in a while, take a look at your profiles when you’re not logged in to get a sense of what others are seeing.

It takes a few minutes but it will save you on a hell of a lot of nosebleeds. Trust me on that.

(Of course, if you’re in the mood for a nosebleed, go ahead and read this: The Facebook Privacy Settings You’ve Lost Forever.)

Social Media Is Bigger Than Porn

January 20, 2010 Culture, News, teh inetrwebz, web No Comments

I can count the number of times I accessed porn online in 2009–it’s under 50. The number of tweets I sent out, on the other hand? I’m going to guesstimate around 4,000. And that’s just Twitter. Social media is my porn.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. A few months ago Reuters reported on this phenomenon:

Bill Tancer, a self-described “data geek”, has analyzed information for over 10 million web users to conclude that we are, in fact, what we click, with Internet searches giving an up-to-date view of how society and people are changing.

Some of his findings are great trivia, such as the fact that elbows, belly button lint and ceiling fans are on the list of people’s top fears alongside social intimacy and rejection.

Others give an indication of people’s interests or emotions, with an annual spike in searches for anti-depression drugs around Thanksgiving time in the United States.

Tancer, in his new book, “Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters”, said analyzing web searches did not just reflect what was happening online but gave a wider picture of society and people’s behavior.

“There are some patterns to our Internet use that we tend to repeat very specifically and predictably, from diet searches, to prom dresses, to what we do around the holidays,” Tancer told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise, an Internet tracking company, said one of the major shifts in Internet use in the past decade had been the fall off in interest in pornography or adult entertainment sites.

He said surfing for porn had dropped to about 10 percent of searches from 20 percent a decade ago, and the hottest Internet searches now are for social networking sites.

“As social networking traffic has increased, visits to porn sites have decreased,” said Tancer, indicated that the 18-24 year old age group particularly was searching less for porn.

Although maybe I should probably disclose that I use social media as a primary screening tool for lovers and that, while porn provides great visuals, social media actually gets me some ass.

Information from Reuters, via Callie Simms.

“It’s Complicated” Gets Simple

December 15, 2009 Interview, News, teh inetrwebz 4 Comments

bbr

We all know social media can be a double-sided sword. As more people get on Twitter and Facebook, including employers and family members, it becomes harder to overshare as freely as we did three or so years ago when it was just a handful of us on there.

Facebook can’t roll out security features fast enough–many people I know have cracked under the pressure of prying eyes, trading self-expression and fun digital socializing for peace and security. Well, not all is lost. A new network is on the scene and they’re committed to letting us overshare our shenanigans as publicly or privately as we deem fit.

Introducing: Blackbox Republic, a site where “It’s complicated” gets simple.

Lowdown

Blackbox Republic takes quality seriously. They’re more interested in fostering a sex-positive environment for people to be themselves and connect than in exploding in users within hours of launching. To fight against creeps and spam, they’ve put in several safeguards in place: for starters, it’s five bucks a month to be a member. Not only that, but you need to get vouched by at least one other member of the community (who gets a limited number of vouches).

The site has launched with privacy settings in place, so you won’t be rushing around after an embarrassing incident trying to make everything private (ahem, Facebook). There are also two types of connections on the site, which work a little like Twitter: followers and friends. Your friends get to see and do a whole lot more than your followers–and just following someone who follows you does not automatically make them a friend. The choice of how to categorize them is entirely up to you.

Also, the founders are aware that people and relationships change, so crushes (called “wishbones”) on other people expire after a certain period of time, completely eliminating the awkwardness of un-wishing someone.

Background

Last week, I sat down for a phone chat with founders Sam Lawrence (@SamLawrence) and April Donato (@aprilblackbox) to talk about how the idea for this ingenious new social network came about.

“It started with 17 hour ride home from Burning Man,” Lawrence told me, chuckling. “April and I were in RV filled with dust and dirt and garbage. Burning is about self-expression, creativity. On the drive back we talked about how the most kick ass thing was people didn’t talk about work or houses or kids. It was a much more intimate conversation. We started asking ourselves why there wasn’t a walled-off place like that, where people don’t judge you and you can really be you.”

So they went online to see if something like this existed.

“We found two things,” Lawrence explained. “There were dating sites, which have a short-term value proposition, and which are splintered by a lot of labels, race, sexual orientation, age–all these classifications. Relationships are messy, the social web is messy and people don’t want the labels. They want to self-organize without the labels.”

The other thing they found were the social networks with which we’re familiar, like Facebook and MySpace.

“Facebook and networks like that don’t guarantee you connect with like-minded people,” Lawrence added. “Everyday in the news we see people dropped from jobs because they were drinking a beer.”

The founders of Blackbox Republic understand that for many of us, life is cleaved in two. We have a public persona, which goes to work and is involved in the community, and a private self, which is vibrant and expressive and rarely fits the mold.

“The problem is this culture, which cannot accept investment in our personal lives,” Lawrence said.

Although not advertised right on the site, Blackbox knows a lot of this divide has to deal with sexuality.

“We tried to communicate the sex-positive part of the message,” Lawrence explained. “Blackbox Republic is about getting people together and once you’re in a safe environment is that things like sex and dates and relationships will happen.”

As far as these relationships go, Blackbox Republic is pretty lax. As any poly friend will tell you, it’s a pain that Facebook doesn’t allow for the listing of more than one partner. The language is pretty standard, too: In A Relationship, Married To, It’s Complicated, etc.

“We allow people to add their own language,” Lawrence told me. Not only can you input whatever label you want on your entanglements, but the other person can pick something totally different. Lawrence’s relationship with Donato is “in love.” Her relationship with him? “Cuddling.”

Also in the spirit of self-expression, instead of favorite movies and songs, users get virtual corkboards, which enables you to upload pictures of things they like. This is mine:

cork

“There are a lot of things that don’t have a home,” says Lawrence. “Stuff like YouTube videos that are funny but inappropriate, for example. This is what we’re working for. That’s why it’s five bucks a month.”

Blackbox Republic also features a well developed events section that allows non-members access, while keeping the more expressive content associated with these events members-only. Currently, they’re working on creating groups. An iPhone app is due out at the beginning of the year.

I’m already there. Are you?

Images from Blackbox Republic. For more information about this exciting new space, visit their FAQ Section.

Bite-Size Sex and Love Overshares

November 24, 2009 teh inetrwebz 2 Comments

Relatious.com is social media for the oversharing sex kitten.

We all love to dish about relationships. Finally, here’s a place where you can share virtually every aspect of those sexy, messy, often complicated, but always interesting love connections. Where you can confide to friends and they confide right back. Where you swap stories from the romantic trenches and help each other claw your way out.

The site, which uses Facebook and Twitter connect (but also allows users to post anonymously), has three categories for posts: seduction, dating and breakup. You know, the natural life-cycle of a modern love affair. Only here, we get to make like Emily Gould and put it out there for all to see it.

relationus

Admit it, you already bookmarked it to scour during work.

Information from The Huffington Post.

Famous London Call Girl Identity Revealed

November 19, 2009 Culture, News, teh inetrwebz No Comments

“The first thing you should know about me is that I am a whore.”

brookemagnantiSo begins the show Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which is based on the books The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl and The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, which, in turn, are based on the blog Belle de Jour.

Belle was a call girl between 2003 and 2004, charging $500 an hour for her services, of which she got to keep a little under $350.

“The average appointment lasted two hours; she saw clients two or three times a week, ‘sometimes less, sometimes a great deal more,’” reports The Times.

Belle’s blog was so successful, so full of wit and humor, that many wondered whether she was real at all. Was she really a woman? Could a woman write this well and enjoy sex so much? Is she real at all?

Belle has come out of the closet, ladies and gentlemen. She is a London woman. She is Brooke Magnanti, a researcher specializing in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology with a a PhD. in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science.

The story recounted by India Knight for The Times of how complex it is to prove a person is a blogger is to me far more interesting than the fact that Brooke Magnanti is–OMGOMG–a call girl:

I am — as you would be — completely fascinated by meeting Belle/Brooke. She has contacted me because she’s had enough of being anonymous. There is also an ex-boyfriend with a big mouth lurking in the background; outing herself while she still has a measure of control over how it happens seems the sensible option.

“The what-ifs are what make me upset,” she says. “What if this happened; what if that happened? And I thought, well, there’s only one way to find out.”

Of course, having been anonymous for so long, she needs to prove to me that she is who she says she is before I agree to meet her. This turns out to be incredibly difficult and throws up interesting questions about authorship. I can’t very well ask to see her passport or utility bills — they may say Brooke Magnanti but they’re hardly going to say Belle de Jour.

Is she the real Belle? You or I could claim to be Belle de Jour; all we’d have to do is talk persuasively to someone about being on the game, using information that we could lift verbatim from the real Belle’s blog and books. (It’s rather odd that nobody thought of this: if you wanted to flush out the real Belle, surely all you’d have to do is produce a fake one.) We’re in e-mail contact before we meet; she tells me she’s in Croatia, but her agent tells me she’s in the West Country. Which is it? He says she’s recently told her mother about her former career; she tells me she hasn’t yet. She offers to show me her laptop, with her Belle typescripts on it, but I don’t have the time to wade through thousands of words checking for verisimilitude.

And yet I believe her — call it instinct. Brooke/Belle tells me her real name and provides details of an authoritative source that handles Belle de Jour’s cunningly concealed money trail. The Sunday Times newsdesk speaks to him; he confirms that Brooke is Belle and that the payments end up in an account belonging to Brooke Magnanti. After our interview, I ask her to post something cryptic up on her blog; this she does.

Read the whole thing–you know you want to.

Oh, and you can add @belledejour_uk on Twitter.

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Gamers Won’t Be Seduced, Will Stare At Random Cleav Instead

That Steam allows the objectification and sexualization of female characters in a variety of its games but refuses to accept a game about actually engaging with women in a more interactive fashion is astonishingly backward.

FetLife Is Not Safe for Users

That the site doesn’t take measures to protect user content and has shown incompetence or negligence in regard to user privacy, all the while prohibiting victims from warning others about predatory behavior creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for members of the community to take care of themselves and one another. By enabling FetLife to continue espousing a code of silence, allowing the spinning self-created security issues as “attacks,” and not pointing out how disingenuous FetLife statements about safety are, we are allowing our community to become a breeding ground for exploitation.

Why You Should Vote No On Prop 35

Should people who benefit (parents, siblings, children, roommates!) from the earnings of “commercial sex acts” (any sexual conduct connected to the giving or receiving of something of value) be charged with human trafficking? Should someone who creates obscene material that is deemed “deviant” be charged as with human trafficking? Should someone who profits from obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should people transporting obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should a person who engages in sex with someone claiming to be above the age of consent or furnishing a fake ID to this effect be charged with human trafficking? What if I told you the sentences for that kind of conviction were eight, 14 or 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $500,000, and life as a registered sex offender?

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

Cuddle Chemical? Moral Molecule? Not So Fast

Zak’s original field, it turns out, is economics, a far cry from the hearts and teddy bears we imagine when we consider his nickname. But after performing experiments on generosity, Zak stumbled on the importance of trust in interactions, which led him, rather inevitably, to research about oxytocin. Oxytocin, you might remember, is a hormone that has been linked previously to bonding — between mothers and children primarily, but also between partners. What Zak has done is take the research a step further, arguing in his recent book, The Moral Molecule, that oxytocin plays a role in determining whether we are good or evil.

How to Avoid Pissing off a Stripper

Let’s talk about the strippers. Whether they like to be half-naked or not, whether they enjoy turning you on or not, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re working. Whether you think that taking one’s clothes off for money is a great choice of career is really beside the point (is it a possibility for you to make $500 per hour at your job without a law degree? Just asking). These women are providing fantasy, yes, but that is their job. And as a patron of the establishment where they work, you need to treat them like you would anyone else who provides a service to you.

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Editrix-in-Command:
AV Flox

In-House Theologian:
Robert Fischer

Eros and Desire Scholar:
Dawn Kaczmar

Scientific Consultant:
Jason Goldman

East Coast Liaison:
Jackie Summers

Arch-Nemesis:
Barbie Davenporte

Read about the contributors we've had over time on our staff page.

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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...