This site showcases the (mostly) digital work of Andrew DiFiore from both Virtual Arts Studios and answerYES Interactive as well as random thoughts and experimental projects too volatile to be contained anywhere else.

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    Use URL Shorteners

    I was going to write a Top 10 Best URL Shorteners like tinyurl,, and most recently but after a quick Google search discovered that plenty of people have done this ad nauseam. According to the there are over 1,100 URL shorteners currently online with new ones added everyday (they’ve compiled the biggest list to date). Quite frankly, I’m not sure what’s the point of creating yet another URL shortener but then again I feel the same way about Reality TV.

    So, instead, a word of caution about overdoing it with URL shorteners. These services are good for use with microblogging sites like Twitter where every character counts but that’s it. Since a URL shortener replaces the original (long) URL domain name with that shortener’s own domain name you really don’t know where that link links too. Spammers and other shady types exploit this fact to trick people into clicking a link in a tweet or an email. Some URL shorteners like Twitter’s Link Service ( do a decent job protecting users from malicious intent but it is not foolproof.

    Use a reputable URL shortener (like the ones mentioned in this post) when you have to, not every time you write a link in a blog comment and certainly not on your own website or blog. That brings me to another point; domain names are part of your branding so why would you replace it with someone else’s domain if you don’t have too. From an SEO perspective, you should use your own URLs whenever you have the opportunity (this includes social networks).

    Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Social Media Market Share

    According to StatCounter Global Stats, the real-time web analytics site by StatCounter, StumbleUpon surpassed Facebook for driving web traffic among all social networks in the US. StumbleUpon now drives 49% of traffic while Facebook dropped to 37% despite all the media stir around Facebook’s new features.

    Since the original co-founders bought back the company from eBay in April 2009, StumbleUpon has been quietly reinventing itself as the social search engine where users discover sites they would not otherwise find through traditional channels. Given that Twitter continues to slides in retention (it only drives 3.8% of traffic), focusing on infrastructure changes that serve advertisers more than the community, it is time to give StumbleUpon a second look.

    Facebook Video Calling with Skype

    Facebook today announced Video Calling powered by Skype. Currently (free) one-to-one but group video chat may be in the near future according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. This may be sooner than later given Google+ introduced video chat for up to 10 people.

    Facebook Video Calling uses a Skype plug-in that allows users to launch a video chat session in two clicks. The plug-in is downloaded on-demand so a video call can be initiated without the need to have Skype software pre-installed.

    Sarah Kessler over at Mashable put together a nice little How-To slideshow for getting started with Facebook Video Calling.

    Aside: If you have been paying attention to your stock portfolio, you’ll recall that Microsoft received FTC approval to acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in May of this year. Skype has 145 million users. No doubt the video conferencing service will now get a nice bump from Facebook’s 750 million users.

    Google+ is the search giant’s next step in Social Web and yes, it “looks” like Facebook but I don’t really care. Google is expanding its strategy and rebranding a number of popular services like Blogger (now called Google Blogs). Okay.

    I’m tempted to say that Google should stick to search.

    I’m tempted to say that Google+ is Facebook for grown ups.

    I’m tempted to post graphs that sway the argument either way.

    Truth is it is way too soon to critique or celebrate the impact Google+ will have on social media (though plenty already have from Forbes to Mashable). I welcome the obvious challenge Google poses to Facebook and other social networks. I also don’t think it matters much as an end-user if Google+ is the proverbial “killer app” or not… mainly because I like having options. So bloggers and journalists have at it and speculate until the cows come home, move into the basement, and start a public access television show. My “knee jerk” reaction is it is all good.

    Facebook announced the completion of the Photo Tagging Auto-Suggestion feature two days ago and it immediately prompted public outcry over privacy issues (perhaps Google had something to do with this… the two online rivals haven’t exactly been playing nice lately). I don’t want to spend too much time on this as I’m sure the subject will get plenty of coverage but it would seem the real privacy issue is with the friends that upload (and tag) a photo of you.

    The world has gone digital. Does anyone print photos anymore? In 2010 the last photo lab in the world stopped taking new rolls of Kodachrome film (sorry, Paul Simon). Gee, I hope my Facebook account will still be around long after I’m gone so my great-great-grandchildren can see what I looked like. Without any clear answer how to keep our binary memories safe forever, digital preservationists suggest having multiple copies in multiple places. Ouch! Sounds like I’m gonna need an organizational coach. I wonder if the Sumerians contemplated this dilemma 5,000 years ago.

    Photo uploads are one of the most popular features on Facebook and according to Mark Zuckerberg, members add over 100 millions tags to their photos everyday (roughly 2.5 billion photos are uploaded every month). Facebook using facial recognition to auto-tag photos simply saves time. Chances are your pretty mug is already in somebody’s online photo album… photo tagging just makes it easier for you to know where. In fact, when you’re tagged in a photo, Facebook sends you an email (or an on-site notification) letting you know a friend has uploaded a photo of you, giving you the opportunity to ask that friend to remove the photo or at least limit its visibility.

    If you’re really uncomfortable having photos of yourself tagged, here is a step-by-step guide on how to disable the Facebook facial recognition feature.