How to Deal With Fake News in Social Media

How to Deal With Fake News in Social Media

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These days, due to the popularity of social media apps such as Facebook, people are now able to share thing easily. Here in the Philippines, telecommunication companies are providing free (or if not cheap) Facebook usage which has caused everyone to have access to the website since majority of the users have smartphones. A major problem though is that sometimes users take this for granted and share unreliable information which become viral as well.

Just recently, Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced that they are working on a way to stop fake news. It seems that this would take a good effort in building this since machine learning would also be involved. But we don’t have to wait for this since it might take them some time and all this just needs is human intelligence which we already initially have.

Fake information has been already around the internet even on its early days. Chains mails ranging from the superstitious “spread this to your friends or die” up to some fake scientific or medical  researches to fake news that often spread in discussion boards and emails. Although the email is no longer a main source of communication these days as it is left for business and formal uses instead, sharing these types of information has leveled up to broadcasting them publicly with higher chances of being viewed.

The purpose of this is to make everyone aware from these type of scams and what to do when you encounter a fake news article.

How to Spot Fake News

Here are some ideas to determine a fake news. There are a lot more ways but these are the common things that can be spotted.

Check the Domain. Domain is the main URL of the website. Most of these fake news makers are too lazy to purchase their domain. Either they could not afford or probably they are afraid of being traced. For bloggers, it easy to spot some of these free domains. Especially for websites ending with a ‘.tumblr.com’,‘.blogspot’, or ‘.wordpress.org’. These are websites that offer free creation of blogs. Other of these are altervista.org or weebly. Once good way to know if this is a free hosting website is to access the main domain. Say we have pinoytrending.altervista.org, check the site altervista.org and you will end up on their hosting product page. Real news websites have enough budget to purchase their own domain. Of course not all fake news use free domains but this is probably your the conditions to check.
Another thing to note is that there are times that instead of a domain name, they are using an IP address. Someone probably had the idea to host using their PC or didn’t bother to create the domain.

Faking News

Check if it’s Satire. OK So maybe you might be overreacting to a new article without checking the website itself. A lot of news website are simply trying to be satire by itself and also admits to it’s readers. Either by it’s slogan or sometimes you would have to go deeper to it’s about page or terms and conditions. The point is these are news sites that parody actual news or sometimes create stories that reflect actual events only for the purpose of humor. The sad thing though is some people take these seriously. You can also tell a satire news from the amount of sarcasm it shows on other articles.

Too much ads. I’d also like to classify this as a form of click bait. These makers of fake news website are often too desperate of getting the most out of their audience, even to the point of putting all of the available advertising services they know. From pop-up, to redirections, to over use of infolinks (often appears as link but when you hover on it displays a tiny banner ad), and even provocative banners which just makes the website can be pretty messy and difficult to navigate.
Legit news websites have advertisements but most of them focus on the article and they often rely on sponsors. This just shows that individuals who make fake websites lack the knowledge in proper standards of design and rely on their ad services.

Lets you sign up first. This is also a potential danger which a lot of social media users fall into. Some fake news page claim to contain controversial articles or videos but asks the user to log in first or connect their social media account. Do not attempt to connect your facebook as it gives hackers access to post more fake news links on your account and other pages even without the user knowing . It also gives away your identity to them which they can exploit on other things.

Decent news websites never ask for log in apart from writing to the comment section. Often times if you want to participate to the comment section, you should use a different account which most people do as well. For subscription, your email address is enough and most of the time they will just prompt you to like their fan page to subscribe to their feeds so there is no excuse in connecting your social media account.

Dealing with Fake News

Now that you are able to identify a fake news website apart from a real, this is what you should do to prevent from falling into a victim and prevent others as well.

Be vigilant

Be Vigilant. The internet a vast ocean of information that is often taken for granted. Know your local news websites (or at least 5 of them ) and only get news from these websites. Seriously, like there are a ton of local websites I know to keep track of starting from the official tabloid websites. I only know the top known ones and keep track of their website addresses. A lot of scammers often try to imitate their names so it’s also important to know the real name. Like for example we know cnn.com is a news website but some fake website scammers might publish an article on a website named cnnheadlines.com which might appear convincing to some.

Speak up. It’s very hard to avoid getting someone to fall as a victim to these kind of websites. Probably the best thing you can do is to let them know that the link they are sharing is unreliable. Let them know (in a nice way of course) either privately or leave a comment that the website they are sharing is fake. As of now the best suggestion Facebook can give is talking to the person about the post.

Be Responsible. This is a problem for most users who click the share button without knowing what they are contributing to. Sometimes I even wonder if people are actually reading the article or just interested in the caption supplied at the preview and description. But if this is your case then probably the internet not for you. Though I might understand since most of these users are using free data. Meaning they can’t access other websites apart from Facebook. But this does not mean you will have to rely on information from the link preview out of ignorance. Your opinions are yours to express but be accountable in what you are sharing.

Conclusion

Whether we are aware of the things we share or not, we have to keep in mind that we should be responsible in what we post. Spreading wrong information is similar to gossip and this is very counterproductive. These fake news have always been there since the beginning and are just part of the ugly things we need to cope up with the internet. But it doesn’t mean we should support them either. Let’s make the internet a better place for our fellow netizens.

 

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Developing in Android with Xamarin Tools

Developing in Android with Xamarin Tools

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Just recently I have published my first Xamarin app. I have developed apps already before using Java and hybrid code in HTML and JS as well. This is just a simple app that retrieves data from a server that is the list of events from a scrapped data I got from a certain website. This is not for client since this is just a pet project so the purpose of this is to display all of the upcoming events or gig. Here I used the native setup or also known as Xamarin.Android. It would I have be better if I used Xamarin.Forms to be able to publish in Windows and IOS however I only have an Android phone and I don’t have a Mac. But the code is somehow similar since they both use the C# language as well.  So this is just to share my experience and recommendations in developing using these tools.

Just a little detail for those who are unfamiliar with Xamarin. Xamarin is a software company that provides tools for cross platform development using the .NET Framework. Their primary IDE is Xamarin Studio (Formerly MonoDevelop) and this installs also in Linux (although the Mobile development tools are only available in Windows and Mac). Just recently Microsoft acquired Xamarin so now they provide a plugin that would enable using Xamarin tools with Microsoft Visual Studio.

So in the development of the app, I used Microsoft Visual Studio Community Edition along with the Xamarin plugin. What’s great with this is since it is community edition, you can get it for free. Yes as in free root beer! You will just need to register the software online for both Microsoft and Xamarin which will only take for a few setups before starting.

I had a good time with using Xamarin tools, though there are still some unpleasant time but that’s part of programming since this also happens to other platforms. Here are some of the good parts and not-so-good parts.

The Good Parts

The IDE

Yes Visual Studio, despite of being a bit bloated in your compluter memory, work with a powerful award-winning IDE. This has come a long way even when it was a simple IDE of Visual Basic back in the Windows 3.1 era. You can also use Xamarin IDE as well although there are some things it lack such as the lazy property generator with just a few keystrokes.
Microsoft Visual Studio also comes with various development tools such as the NuGet, a package manager similar to npm or gem in other development platforms that enables you to download and manage 3rd party libraries. There is also an integrated version control system which is great since I don’t need to open Git to make commits. It’s like everything is there in the IDE so there is a reason for it to bloat a bit.

C# is Awesome

C# is Awesome
Yes it is (photo taken from Devcon 2016 Xamarin talks)

There are a lot of great things is C# especially in the code. Features like Linked Queries (LINQ) a high level way of searching through a collection using code similar to SQL, and properties, operator overloaded event handling (C# uses the += along with a fat arrow function approach of attaching events which is much simplier compared to Java).

What’s also great about C# is that even though I used Xamarin.android, most of the code such as syntax rules such as event handling can still be applied when developing in Xamarin.IOS or Xamarin.Forms. This minimizes the effort of learning another language just to develop for different platforms.

The Not-so-good Parts

Kind of Buggy

This is something that can be expected from a third party software rather than using tools that Android has provided. There are times when trying to deploy the app to the emulator, the process takes a long time. Which sometimes it never finishes and I have to break the operation. There seems to be a deadlock happening during the process.

I would also experience a build error that would sometimes show for no reason then disappear. And there are times when building I would need to uninstall the deployed app in the emulator then redo the process. But I think this part is also experienced by those who used Java as well.

Declining Support in Xamarin Native

Most of the community is moving to Xamarin.Forms, a much more flexible approach to developing to multiple platforms. Though this is new, and unstable, it is recommended to move there. The main reason I just used Xamarin.android as I’ve mentioned is because I don’t have any other devices to use. But if you will check some of the code is almost the same since both are using C# and Mono runtime. Even the libraries are also applicable.  I think Xamarin.Forms is Microsoft/Xamarin’s answer to React Native, a tool that allows developing native applications in both Android and IOS using the JavaScript language.

The Set up

I think most of the development time I spent for the app was trying to set up the environment. There are times that upon updating the tools, the project won’t work because you will have to do some configurations and update to the Android SDK as well.

Also there seems to be a problem when running the emulator. Whenever I am using other android IDE’s such as Intellij IDE or Android Studio, when you run the application, it automatically detects if there is already a running emulator and you can configure where to deploy the app. In Visual Studio, there is a simple configuration for selecting the emulator. However, let’s say I have a Nexus emulator running I have just executed using the Android Virtual Device manager, then I ran the project, Visual Studio will spawn another instance of the emulator even though I have selected the target. There are also times when even the emulator was launched by VS, then you terminate the deployment halfway, the next time you run the app, it will also spawn another emulator. I think the IDE needs to establish some sort of handshake with the emulator. Not much of a bug but can be a hassle sometimes.

Just a minor thing but building your app adds an additional 6MB bloat especially if you are just developing a simple app (normally it would take you about 1MB if you use Java). This is not that big if you have fast internet connection unless you target places with slow (and expensive) internet connection

Conclusion

So then I decided not to use Xamarin for my next project or perhaps for the moment. This is just a personal choice though since I would like to use Java instead. I would still recommend it for those who would like to develop their mobile apps and have solid knowledge in C#. Despite of having some problems in development, Visual studio with Xamarin tools is still a great in developing mobile applications and support is always there with the community so I might recommend using Xamarin.Forms as well if you happen to start using Xamarin.

Bandlab: Online music collaboration

Bandlab: Online music collaboration

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Got a record you like to improve a music you recorded with someone you know? Or maybe you’d just like to share it hoping someone somewhere in the world might improve your record. Or perhaps you just like to share your music for publicity and have a band page. Then you might want to give Bandlab a try.

Bandlab is a web and mobile application that let’s you collaborate with music creation. Here you can upload a recorded music, either a recorded instrument, or a voice record of you singing, or both and you need to add extra instruments without having to record together. This application comes with a multitrack editor for both mobile and web application.

Multitrack Editor
Multitrack Editor

In Bandlab, you can create a project, upload your audio then publish them either publicly or privately. If you have a band, you can invite them to collaborate with your project. what is great about this is they have a versioning system where you can track the changes made on your project and also revert back to them.

Revision History
Revision History

I mentioned in a previous article the importance of version control and it seems that the developers of Bandlab found a way to apply this concept of software development to music production.

Bandlab also comes with a feature of forking a project. Forking is a method used in version control. This technique is used in software development especially in open source. According to bandlab, “Creating a “Fork” makes a personal copy of someone else’s song – allowing you to develop it further yourself or to move it to a band and work on it with your other regular collaborators.” If you would like to edit an existing project, you can simply fork it. By doing this, a copy of the project will be created in your account. You will also get a copy of the history of changes done. This feature though is only available if the project is set to allow forking. You can turn it of if you don’t wish your music to be edited.

Probably the difference of collaboration in Bandlab with that used in software development is the ability to create branches and pull requests. But that part is a more advanced and very complicated to do in case. Personally I can consider this a flat form of version control. You work on a single branch, although all your edits with the band are still logged. When someone forks your project it is also recorded as those who are inspired from your work. You also get credited on the fork they did as the source of their music they enhanced is also included.

 Recorder in mobile application

So that’s it. You can give Bandlab a try either the web application or the mobile application by checking out on their website. This service is new and still has a lot of room for improvements but the concept they are using is great and we might expect for features to be available in the future.