Sure, you use Facebook, but do you own Facebook? Can you make it do anything you want it to do? And, yes, you tweet. Many tech enthusiasts do. But can you slap Twitter around like a ragdoll and bend it to your will? And what about LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+? We all use these social media tools to some degree or another—sometimes daily, sometimes hourly, and (for the truly desperate) sometimes by the minute. But like most Interweb travelers, even hardcore hardware enthusiasts suffer knowledge deficits in the social media department. We can recite CPU thermal specs as quickly as Star Trek dialogue, but we’re surprisingly lackadaisical in terms of social media mastery.
Enough is enough. It’s time to dig into the nooks, crannies, and feature-packed nether regions of today’s five hottest social media services. We’ll also reminisce over failed services in a virtual Social Media Walk of Shame, as well as dig deep into the hardware of the largest social media site online.
Social media? Yep, we dig it. Who says tech geeks can’t be fun and friendly?
So you think you're a Facebook master, eh? Maybe you've crossed the 1k friendship barrier, or perhaps you've even created a fan page dedicated to yourself for the entire Internet to quote-unquote like. Well, simmer down, young Padawan. You've only touched the surface of Facebook's power. With the tips we're about to show you, you'll rise through the ranks to Facebook Sith Lord in no time!
PICK YOUR NEW NAME
Similar to when a Sith picks his or her new name upon turning super-evil, you too can select a clever alternate name for people to search within Facebook. Go to Facebook’s home page > Account > Account Settings. On the screen that follows, click the Edit button next to the Name field. Under Alternative Name, type in whatever clever moniker you want people to be able to find you by. Please note: Darth PC is now taken.
For years, Facebook offered you no way to create an archive of everything that you’ve posted—or have been tagged in. But now you can hit up your Facebook home page > Account > Account Settings to start your trip down memory lane. When you reach the screen that follows, click the "Download a copy of your facebook data" link. Your personal Facebook archive awaits. You even get an HTML-based index of your digital life’s content!
SURF FACEBOOK SECURELY
We don’t have to tell you about the wonderfully life-shattering things that can happen when someone is using Firesheep to pilfer your Facebook login credentials over an open wireless network. Luckily, you can prevent this and other web-related security issues by surfing Facebook securely. Click Account > Account Settings > Security, then click Edit next to Secure Browsing and turn on that https option.
DOWNLOAD FRIENDS' EMAIL ADDRESSES
By default, Facebook doesn’t give you a method for downloading all your friends’ email addresses at once. To get around this, register a new account on Yahoo Mail, and then click the Contacts tab within the web app. Select Import Contacts, then Facebook, and link these two accounts together. Once completed, click Contacts > Actions > Export All to dump your Facebook friends’ email addresses info into various file formats.
Once you’ve imported your friends to your Yahoo account as new contacts, you can then import these people into a brand-new Google+ account—should you so desire.
Mice are for sissies! Real Facebook power users browse the site using nothing but their keyboards. Hold down Alt if you’re surfing in Chrome or Internet Explorer, or Alt + Shift if you’re browsing in Firefox, and then tap the following keys to jump around Facebook: “?” to warp your active cursor to Facebook’s search bar; “m” to open up a new message window; and the numbers 1 through 0 to access all sorts of pages, including your Profile, your Account Settings, and your Messages, to name a few.
POWER-DOWNLOAD PHOTOS AND VIDEOS
Want to grab all of your photos (and photos in which others have tagged you) in one big, downloadable package? First, download and install an application called Fotobounce . Fire it up and click the Login button under the Facebook heading on the app’s left-hand sidebar. Link up your Facebook account, and then select a folder for your Fotobounce library when prompted by the program’s center window. Now click the Photos option under your name in the Facebook menu within the app’s sidebar. From here, select photos in your own Facebook albums, right-click the images, and select Download to transfer them en masse to an album within Fotobounce.
It’s actually a lot easier to download your videos off of Facebook. Chrome users will want to install the extension Facebook Video Downloader to open brand-new options for saving videos to your desktop. Just be aware that you can’t download videos you’ve been tagged in—only your own. Firefox users should check out the add-on Video DownloadHelper for similar functionality.
LOCK DOWN YOUR ACCOUNT
Want to control which devices and PCs have access to your Facebook? Click Account > Account Settings > Security, and then click Edit on the Recognized Devices menu. Here you’ll find all the various digital devices that you (or others) have used to access your Facebook account. Remove anything you don’t recognize!
Once you’ve done that, click the Login Approvals menu and select the “Require me to enter a security code” option. This goes hand-in-hand with the list you just paired down: Now that you have specified exactly which devices are allowed access to your account, you can ensure that any new devices requesting access will be forced to pass through a two-way authentication system via your mobile device. So now, if you get an access request out of nowhere, you’ll be able to stop the unauthorized user dead in his or her tracks.
FIND AND BOOT UNAUTHORIZED USERS
If you’re curious as to who is currently accessing your Facebook account (and who might have recently accessed it), click the Active Sessions menu within the aforementioned Security Settings screen. Facebook will give you a list, sorted by location and device type, of the most recent places where someone logged into your account. You can use the End Activity option to sever the connection for any active sessions you don’t recognize. (And if you find yourself doing that, you’ll want to give your password a good change, as well.)
THE ULTIMATE CONTROL ZONE
Go to Facebook’s home page > Friends > Manage Friend List > Create a List to establish specific groups of friends that you want to award customized profile access to. You can then configure a list by hitting up Account > Privacy Settings > Customize Settings, and then selecting the Custom option under any of the drop-down privacy menus.
If you want to prevent friends from checking you into places (and showing random Facebook strangers where you are), uncheck the "Include me in 'People here now'" option on this screen. You can also prevent Facebook’s auto-recognition capabilities from suggesting your face in your friends’ photos. Click the Edit Settings button under the "Suggest photos of me to my friends" option, and disable this feature via the drop-down menu.
You can also use friend groups to banish annoying (or work-related!) friends from ever seeing that you’re logged into Facebook in the first place. Within the Facebook Chat sidebar, click the Settings gear icon > Limit Availability. From there, just pick the groups you want to appear invisible to on Facebook Chat. Or, conversely, pick the groups you do want to appear available to.
Your friends might be unwittingly sharing information about you when they use third-party apps. To limit the information third-party apps and websites can access about you, click Account > Privacy Settings and under Apps and Websites, click Edit Your Settings. In the next screen, click the Edit Settings button under "Info accessible through your friends." Configure as you see fit!
Twitter has managed to rock the world with just 140 characters per post. Besides teaching the value of brevity to the social media masses, Twitter can take credit for giving voice to D-list celebrities, energizing popular political revolts, and almost single-handedly creating the flash mob phenomenon—once so innocent, but now used for evil. So, yeah: Twitter demonstrates lots of power for such a stripped-down, seemingly one-dimensional social media tool. And with the tips we provide here, you can take your creation and consumption of tweets to a whole new level.
NEW FEATURES? YES!
Most people tweet from a desktop or mobile client rather than from Twitter.com. But just as we were writing this article, new features that might tempt you back to the web interface were added to the main site. A new tab called @username shows not only tweets that mention you, but also lists of who's favorited your tweets, followed you, and retweeted you. Meanwhile, the new Activity tab shows recent favorites, retweets, and follows by everyone you follow on Twitter—all mashed together. Also, you can now easily add photos to posts made from Twitter.com by clicking the tiny camera icon under the new-tweet text box.
A CLEVER USE OF FAVORITING
Adding a Favorite star is a good way to remember a tweet you want to read later (many desktop and mobile clients also integrate Instapaper or Read It Later to let you save links from Twitter to, well, read later). But favorites also rock for finding new people to follow. Simply head over to the page of your favorite tweeters and click the Favorites tab to see the tweets they have starred. If you see various users represented a lot, click their names and check ‘em out—you might want to follow them too. Ingeniously, the website Tweetorites.com combines all the favorited tweets of everyone you follow into one stream, which’ll save you a lot of clicking around.
Ever want to temporarily silence someone you follow? For example: One of your pals is at SXSW and tweeting up a storm, and you’re stuck at home with the Green Monster of Jealousy and would rather not hear about all this person’s fun. Or maybe you have a friend who posts tweetworthy stuff all day, but then signs off in the evening with a grating “Nighty night, tweeps!” DestroyTwitter is an Adobe AIR app that lets you filter keywords or hashtags—or even a user—without having to give them the permanent heave-ho.
Twitter isn’t just for chatter or link-sharing among individuals. Indeed, using Twitter’s Direct Message feature, you can interact directly with various web services. You follow an account, it automatically follows you back, and then you send it a correctly formatted DM to receive DM replies with updates. For example, if you DM a package’s tracking number and a nickname to TrackThis, you’ll receive an update every time the package moves. Xpenser.com (which goes by xpn on Twitter) has a variety of smartphone apps for capturing expenses, mileage, and time spent, but you can also use Twitter to direct-message new entries to xpn once you’ve linked your accounts. Also, because you can send tweets from any phone by SMS-messaging 40404, you don’t need a true smartphone for these pretty-smart services.
MAKE A LIST
The woefully underused Lists feature lets you follow more people without actually “following” them in your main timeline. In fact, once you put someone in a list, you can unfollow their Twitter feed in your timeline, paring down your main list to just the people whose tweets you want to see constantly and in real time. The tweets made by people in your list stay corralled in the list, allowing you to look at their microblogging on a much more controlled, deliberate basis.
You can create lists at Twitter.com under the Lists tab, adding people by username or from your Following page. You can also add accounts to lists by visiting their Twitter profile pages (twitter.com/username), clicking the icon that looks like a silhouette, and choosing Add To List. The beauty is that you don't have to follow the accounts—only your list follows them. Need some ideas for lists? Here at Maximum PC, we create lists for daily deal sites, food trucks, and work-related topics—all those Twitter feeds we want to keep up with, but not on a constant, always-on basis.
In a pantheon of chatty, casual social networks, LinkedIn stands apart as a buttoned-down, all-business destination. Whereas Facebook is all about catching up with friends, and Twitter rewards those with the largest followings, Linked-In is geared toward building your professional network and opening up business opportunities. Being a power user on LinkedIn means building a career-enhancing profile and growing your professional network by taking advantage of all the site’s community features, apps, and add-ons.
BOOST YOUR PROFILE WITH LINKEDIN ANSWERS
Of all the crowd-sourced answers sites on the web, LinkedIn Answers may be the only one where sharing your professional insight can actually yield career payoffs. When you answer a question and the asker chooses your answer as the best one, you gain an “expertise” point that will help raise your profile’s visibility within LinkedIn. As you gain expertise points on the site, your profile will appear higher on lists of experts in your field, making you more visible to prospective employers.
SPOT YOUR INSIDE CONNECTIONS
LinkedIn includes its own job-search tool, LinkedIn Jobs, but you can use the service to help you get a foot in the door of other job sites, too. The JobsInsider Toolbar is an add-on for Firefox and IE that hooks into various job sites, and then spots LinkedIn connections who work at companies you might apply to.
Once the JobsInsider Toolbar is installed in your browser, it waits for you to view a job listing on one of its supported sites, including Monster, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, Dice, and Vault. Once you view a listing, your browser will automatically open a side pane that shows you which of your LinkedIn connections work at the company in the listing. Click a contact’s name, and it will take you to his or her profile. You can then send that person a note about the position you’re looking for to ask them for information or a recommendation.
DISPLAY YOUR BLOG ON YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE
One of the easiest ways to keep your LinkedIn profile interesting and current is to link it to your blog. Provided your blog is professional, represents you well, and displays your expertise in your field, having the latest entries visible right on your LinkedIn profile can help you stand out amid a sea of plain-vanilla prospects.
There are two solid blogging apps in the LinkedIn Application Directory. If your blog is built in WordPress, add the WordPress app to your profile and make sure “Display on my profile” is checked. Just enter the URL of your blog, choose whether you’d like to display all recent posts or only those bearing the tag “linkedin.” (If your blog isn't strictly business, you should use the “linkedin” tag to make sure you’re only selecting posts that will add value to your profile.) Click Save, and you’re done.
If your blog is built in MovableType, TypePad, Blogger, or just about anything else, use the Blog Link app. Blog Link is a universal blog reader for LinkedIn that simply pulls the latest postings from blogs found in the Company Website entries on your profile.
MANAGE AND SHARE FILES FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE
You can use LinkedIn to share all kinds of files with your professional network. So if you’ve got a spiffed-out résumé that you’ve painstakingly created, or a portfolio full of your work, you can present them on your profile in all their glory.
To host a wide variety of files, use the Box.net app. Once you add it to your profile, you’ll be prompted to create a username and password, or to log in if you already have a Box account. On the next screen, you can choose which of your Box folders you’d like to share by hovering over them and clicking Share. You can create new folders and add files directly from this menu, as well. Once the Box app appears on your profile, you can use the drop-down menu in the top-right corner of the app to manage files and folders and invite people to upload or download files.
Creative pros can share interactive portfolios on their profiles with Behance's Creative Portfolio Display app, which gives your visitors a rich visual interface in which to explore your work.
EXPORT YOUR LINKEDIN CONTACTS
Want to take your LinkedIn friends with you to another social network? Export them as a CSV file. To do it, click Contacts > My Connections, and then select the contacts you’d like to export.
GET EXPERIMENTAL WITH LINKEDIN LABS
In much the same way Google deployed novel services with its now-defunct Labs program, LinkedIn offers a variety of interesting add-ons via LinkedIn Labs. The selection of cool things varies over time, but it’s well worth checking out if you’re a power user. Some of the most interesting LinkedIn Labs features currently available include SpeechIn, which reads headlines from your LinkedIn Today page via your phone; TextIn, which lets you search your LinkedIn contacts via SMS; and Resume Builder, which automatically turns your LinkedIn profile into a slick-looking résumé.
Google’s just-released social media tool poses a legitimate threat to Facebook’s pursuit of total, net-wide omnipresence. Google+ is simultaneously clutter-free and familiar-looking, and you can partition everyone you follow into “circles,” allowing you to separate, say, your true friends from your coworkers, and selectively decide who gets to see what. But even if you don’t use the Circles feature, you still may be tempted to ditch all your Facebook “friends” and start from scratch with people you actually care about. Bottom line: Google+ is a winning social media tool that isn’t so obviously laden with all the cruft, feature-creep, and privacy-sacrificing ickiness that has come to define Facebook.
FORMAT TEXT IN STREAM POSTS
G+ ostensibly lacks formatting options for stylized text, but don’t sweat it: The options are available via hidden text commands. To italicize your characters, simply place _underscores_ around them. Use *asterisks* instead of underscores if you want a word to appear in bold, and -hyphens- if you want to strike through a word. You can even use more than one formatting option. For example, typing _*test*_ will make the word test appear both bolded and italicized after you publish the comment. Craftiest of all, if you want to call out another G+ user in a Stream post, simply type “+” or “@” (without the quotes) before the person’s name, and then click the person’s name in the drop-down list that appears. Your pal’s name will appear as a link to his profile in your post, and he’ll be notified that you mentioned him.
When you send a private message to a friend, you might not want its contents broadcast across the Interwebs. Disabling resharing on a post ensures that only the people and Circles you send the message to will see it. To disable resharing, click the downward-pointing arrow in the upper-right-hand corner of your post. Then select “Disable reshare,” and you're done! The same drop-down menu contains a bunch of other useful options, including the ability to mute a post, which removes the conversation from your Stream and tells G+ to stop sending you notifications related to the thread.
CIRCLE NAMING TRICKS
In G+ parlance, a Stream is simply a flow of conversation. As Google describes it, “It centralizes all the content people have shared with you, as well as the people who are trying to share with you, but who aren't yet in your circles.” Streams may appear chaotic, but you can exert some control over the torrent of posts by using various Circle-related tricks. Plopping down a period at the beginning of a Circle’s name—.MaximumPC, for example—rockets that Circle to the top of your Stream list. Circles that start with an asterisk—*MaximumPC—show up just below those, while the default G+ Circles—Family, Friends, Following, and Acquaintances—appear after that. Custom-created Circles that don’t start with asterisks or periods bring up the rear.
EVERNOTE AND GOOGLE+
Another useful Circle trick leverages Evernote and G+’s ability to share posts with email addresses. Create an “Evernote” circle, then add the email upload address for your Evernote account as the only person in it. Then, whenever you want to save a Google+ post to Evernote, share it to your Evernote Circle. Google will email the post to your Evernote email address, which will then save the post to an Evernote notebook. You can use the same principle to turn G+ into a basic mailing list application.
Developers have unleashed a bevy of Chrome applications for folks who want a more customized G+ experience. Want to add the red Google+ notification box to your browser bar? Check out Surplus. Alternatively, Blockplus hides the Google Bar’s notification box so that you can actually get some work done in Google Docs. The extension called G+me packs lots of features, but most useful is its ability to collapse and expand threads. And there are tons more out there!
Google+’s super-long numerical user IDs make linking to your profile a PITA. Fortunately, link shorteners like gplus.to and zipl.us are available to make URLs that are much more Twitter-friendly. Just visit one of the sites, plug in your Google+ ID and pick a nickname. Bam! You’re immediately given a much shorter URL that links to your Google+ profile.
It's almost impossible to remember what life was like before YouTube. How did we survive without a massive online repository of video entertainment from every amateur videographer and professional entertainer on planet Earth? While you may already be a YouTube fanatic, you'll get more out of the site with these cool power tips. They’ll help you find and play more of the videos you love, as well as upload your own content in style.
SEARCH WITH ADVANCED OPERATORS
Tired of searching YouTube for a particular video only to find pages and pages of nonrelevant crap? Just as with Google, YouTube's search engine supports a variety of advanced search operators to help you narrow your results and find the precise videos you're looking for.
To search only for videos that have a specific word in the title (thus ignoring that word in the video description or metadata), use the intitle operator, as in intitle:windows.
Similarly, the allintitle operator will search for videos that have all of the included words in the title. Be sure to use quotation marks with this one, such as allintitle:"windows 8 demo".
You can search for videos by date with operators like today, this week, and this month. To use these, place a comma after your main search terms, and then add the operator, as in windows 8 demo, today. This is very useful for discovering breaking tech previews over YouTube.
When you're looking for an official video and want to steer clear of fan-created content, use the partner operator, as in planet of the apes, partner.
CREATE AND MANAGE PLAYLISTS
You're probably already familiar with the Watch Later playlist, which gathers all the videos you’ve added by clicking the plus (+) icon located under each video. But you can also use this feature to create your own custom playlists—simply bypass the plus symbol and choose the down arrow to open up the drop-down list. Click New Playlist to create a new list of your own, and then just type in a name for it. You can create as many playlists as you like. Any playlists you create this way will become immediately accessible under the My Videos & Playlists menu at the top of the screen.
WATCH COMFORTABLY IN LEANBACK MODE
To make your YouTube experience more TV-like, try Leanback Mode. This experimental feature replaces YouTube's normal interface with a simpler navigation scheme comprised of large thumbnails and big text that's easy to select. Choose a video, and it will play in an expanded view that fills your whole browser. It will also automatically start the next video in its category once the current video ends.
ENABLE YOUTUBE'S HTML5 VERSION
Can’t wait for the HTML5-based future of the web? Get a headstart on YouTube. You can opt in for the HTML5 version of the site at www.youtube.com/html5 . You'll need Firefox 4, Google Chrome, Opera 10, Safari 4, or IE9 in order to use it. Click Join the HTML5 Trial at the bottom of the page to opt in.
CREATE A GOOD BACKGROUND GRAPHIC FOR YOUR CHANNEL
If you’re into sharing your own videos on YouTube, you probably already know that you can tweak the look of your channel with the Themes and Colors menu at the top of your channel. You may also know that you can set custom colors using hex color codes by clicking Show Advanced Options at the bottom of that menu.
But what almost nobody seems to realize is that choosing a background image that fills the entire browser window (or even just tiling a repeating image) usually renders your whole channel unreadable. A better option is to create a single background image that's about 2,000 pixels tall and 3,000 pixels wide (so as to run off the edge of the page on nearly anybody’s browser). Give the entire image a background color that’s consistent with your theme, and then place the important image elements, like logos or photos, on the left and right edges of the image, leaving a space of 960 pixels in the center. This will ensure that your content is readable in the channel, while your custom art shows up nicely on the periphery.
Derelict husks of networks past litter the social highway. Some enjoyed relatively long success runs (at least in Internet terms), while others seemed to have the half-life of Astatine. But all share one thing in common: They failed quite miserably.
It's the site that started it all. Friendster was created to give people a more efficient and less shifty place to network online. Unfortunately for Friendster, however, the service quickly inspired the birth of MySpace and Facebook.
Sold to News Corp. for $580 million in 2005 and was valued at $12 billion in 2007, MySpace used to be the face of social media. Then Facebook happened, and people ditched MySpace's ad-bloated pages in droves. Oh yeah, high-profile sexual-predator stories didn't help, either.
This social network designed for older people lasted only a year. Apparently, older people like to talk to everybody, not just other older people.
Wal-Mart's social network for teens existed for just 10 weeks in 2006. It may be that copious amounts of advertising killed it; or maybe, you know, teens don't want their every online move emailed to their parents.
Remember Google Wave? Apparently, a real-time document collaboration tool wasn't what the world was looking for in the wake of Facebook and Twitter. Google quietly killed the project less than a year after its inception.
GOOGLE LIVELY AND GOOGLE BUZZ
We're not trying to beat a dead horse, or anything. Just saying.
Ryan Howard's second attempt at social networking (following the disastrous Dunder Mifflinfinity) started off on a high note when several of Howard's co-workers invested in the startup. The money ran out quickly, however, and the site was sold to a buyer with plans to use it for the Washington University Public Health Fund.
WHAT RUNS THE WORLD'S LARGEST SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE? A PC
It may seem odd, but data centers—how they’re designed and what hardware they run—are generally deeply guarded secrets within a corporation. Indeed, a particularly efficient data center is considered a competitive advantage.
But secrecy isn’t an objective of Facebook’s Open Compute Project. Designed to give back to (as well as benefit from) the community, the project is intended to “open source” data centers and take the mystery out of them. So when Facebook invited us to take a look at the hardware that runs its data center, we jumped at the chance and spoke with Amir Michael, manager of hardware design.
There are six basic server types at Facebook, but the two frontline machines are the web server and the memcache server. The web server is the first machine you connect with when you visit Facebook.com, and it does a lot of heavy lifting and database lookups. These boxes run Linux and Apache. Currently, the machines are fully stripped-down Intel Xeon rigs running dual 2.66GHz six-core Xeon X5650s. These boxes also have a surprisingly low amount of RAM in them: just 12GB of unregistered DDR3.
This Intel-based server is a basic Facebook building block. It features two six-core Xeons and 12GB of RAM, all housed in an extra-tall case to help aid in cooling, which can consume a lot of power in any data center.
Why not Intel’s octo-core Xeons? Simple: They’re expensive. Facebook said it’s finding the best bang for the buck with the X5650, which bears a retail price of about $1,000. This beats out, say, the Intel E7 10-core, a large-cache processor that goes for $4,600 apiece. Michael says Facebook’s code will scale across the E7 cores, but the price of the chips and boards doesn’t make sense for the company’s needs.
Once the web server has done your lookup, data is pulled from dual Opteron-based memcache servers running Memcached, an open-source memory-caching system. Like their Intel counterparts, these machines are engineered for cost-efficiency. As such, they run dual octo-core 2GHz Opteron 6128 procs in G34 sockets. The machines feature 72GB of DDR3/800 RAM to help feed your profile page as quickly as possible. Michael says the next iteration of the memcache servers will double RAM to 144GB. The RAM density of the Opteron’s quad-channel controller, as opposed to its memory bandwidth, was actually the determining factor in the processor choice.
Since neither server type performs any heavy-duty local storage functions, Facebook opted for the cheapest hard drive available—in this case, a 250GB WD Caviar Blue drive—to boot the OS and store log files.
While the machines may lack a bit in the specs department, when you gang them together, their cumulative firepower is impressive. Facebook won’t disclose how many machines has running, but Michael would share how many servers are installed every day at its Pineville, Oregon data center: Every day a truck arrives with 13 racks of new computers in it. Each rack holds 90 servers. Once that truck is unloaded, another truck will pull up with another 13 racks. Each day, four trucks arrive. This happens every day of the work week all year round, just to keep up with the demand.
The amazing thing is that Facebook’s servers are only a small part of the secret sauce in the company’s new data center. Advances in cooling, server design, and backup power make Facebook’s Pineville facility perhaps one of the most energy-efficient data centers on the planet. For more information on Facebook’s data center, visit Maximumpc.com to see our full write-up.