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.

    Auto-Renewal Sleight of Hand

    Perhaps it is a sign of the economy but lately services that I had canceled months — even years — ago are mysteriously showing up on my credit card statements.

    It started with Plimus (reseller partner of BugDigger) trying to charge my PayPal account under a credit card that had expired (fortunately) even though I had properly canceled my subscription (I have the confirmation email to prove it).

    The one that really annoyed me was Symantec charging my American Express $70.69 for an annual renewal of their Anti-Virus software. Software I haven’t used in two years and is no where to be found on my computers! Symantec tries to brush this off as a courtesy service they provide for my own protection but it seems to me if the software is so smart to auto-renew, it should be smart enough to know that it is not actually installed (paradox duly noted). This is simply a transparent ploy to filch from “sleeping” consumers or — if you do catch them — up-sell their latest version of Norton 360. I used to consider Symantec a reputable company, these tactics should be beneath them.

    Ever since credit card companies shortened their grace periods to cheat consumers out of millions in late fees, I’ve become extremely vigilant of charges on my credit card statements. Given the rise of identity theft, this is a good practice but don’t just check for fraudulent charges, keep tabs on those auto-renewals too. Print out your cancellation email or make a note for the following month on your calendar so you remember to double-check your next statement.

    BTW if you have fallen victim of the Norton annual renewal charge, call the toll-free number on your statement or 877-294-5265 and insist they refund the charge as well as deactivate their auto-renewal for good.