Rearrange your online life

Click. Share. Like. Comment. Post. Redo. If keeping pace with your multiple virtual lives is getting too much for you, use these tools to reorganize them and get back to your real one. Believe us, you will thank us for it.



This one is for the share hogs—the ones who would like to read things from the Net and share but want to avoid hopping from site to site. Swayy, which was launched in September, is a sixth-sense curating site that reads your interests, scans the Web and then serves you the best articles, videos and infographics, also sharing them with your social networks. All you have to do is log into your Twitter, add in your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts via Swayy and let its codes work in the dark to figure out what you like and who you are. “By analysing a user’s social audience and understanding what topics his/her audience are interested in, Swayy can match the user with the most relevant and trending content to help him/her share better and grow his/her online presence,” explains Lior Degani, vice-president, marketing, Swayy. That’s not all, you also get served social analytics—clicks, likes, retweets, new followers, etc.—to share better in future and figure out which of your content worked well with the audience.

Free for two social accounts; $9 (around Rs.550) a month for a paid account, which allows for scheduled posts too.


Tired of the time they were spending on Facebook and Twitter, the founders of ThinkUp decided to build an app to connect all social networking accounts and sort out the crazy stuff that is posted on them every day. ThinkUp, which launches today, uses bots and smart code to show the most relevant information from your social networks on your screen. So you don’t have to scroll Facebook and then Twitter, and then Instagram, to find out the things that are most important. More than that, ThinkUp also tells you who your biggest online fans were per week, whether your old profile picture was better than the new one, or if your friends like it when you post quotes from famous people. It gets the delight back into the social.

A paid service that costs $60 a year.


An open-ended space, in its simplest form RebelMouse can be used to collate all your social media streams and put them together in one place for you to see. But that’s not all it does. “We are a full publishing platform that lets you simply create great content and have a beautiful site, mobile Web experience, engagement tools and an analytics suite that is actionable,” says Paul Berry, founder and CEO, in an email interview. With three simple clicks, you get your content from all over the Web on one page. After that, it’s up to you. Do you want to make a website of all the content you are constantly getting? Do you want to curate and clean up and then share it seamlessly with all your social networks? Or embed in an existing website? Or do you want to make a campaign out of it? RebelMouse lets you do all this and more. No wonder the site reached 17.5 million unique visitors in December.

Free for individuals to curate, create and share across social networks. $500 upwards a month for brands.


Instead of giving multiple LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ Ids to a stranger who wants to connect with you, give them one: your website address. As the name suggests, brings together all your myriad faces in the digital world on to one website and gives you a unique URL to print on your visiting card. The platforms they recognize include social networks (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), location-based networks (Foursquare), blogs (Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger and Typepad), photo-sharing sites (Flickr and Picasa), video-sharing sites (Vimeo and YouTube), even audio-sharing sites (SoundCloud,, 8tracks and Mixcloud). Basically, anywhere you might be present. Once you create a log-in Id, go step by step in choosing a template and finalizing how your site looks with social media streams…

Read the complete story on the site

How to be invisible online

In an age when we’re slowly losing our privacy, here’s what you can do to hide your tracks

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The days of privacy online are fast coming to an end. In April, the Union government quietly began rolling out the Central Monitoring System (CMS), a one-stop surveillance service that will monitor not only your cellphones (voice calls, SMS, MMS) but also your online activity (social networking sites, browsing content, and possibly more).

Much like the PRISM surveillance programme run by the US government (which collects the personal online information of its citizens without informing them), the CMS can bypass mobile companies and dig directly into phone calls, texts, emails and social media activity. PRISM was largely unknown to the public until a whistleblower disclosed the details recently after fleeing to Hong Kong.

“If the government wants to track certain people for the security of this country, that’s not the problem,” says Delhi-based Anja Kovacs, project director of the Internet Democracy Project, which researches on and advocates online freedom. “The problem is that there’s no clarity from the government on who can see what all of this private information about you. Who can access your information? Under what circumstances and why?”

By law, all cyber cafés in the country are already supposed to keep a log on who you are and which sites you visited while at the café. Even activity on private Internet connections is tracked by your Internet service provider (ISP), which is legally bound to share it with government agencies if requested.

“Ideally all of us should have a choice to be anonymous. What if I have some embarrassing sexually-transmitted disease on which I am talking to a doctor online? I am not doing anything illegal but it’s embarrassing for me if someone finds out about it,” says Kovacs. There are times when you don’t want anyone, be it your ISP, the government, the media, your neighbour, your spouse, or Trojan Horses to peep into what you are doing. For those times, here’s how you can become “almost” invisible online.

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Create a private network

Who doesn’t like the word free? It’s quite tempting to use free Wi-Fi on your smartphone while waiting for that flight or having a cup of coffee, but it’s far from safe. Data sent across a public Wi-Fi is usually completely unencrypted, so to spy on you, people only need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as you.

To avoid this and still use the free Wi-Fi, install Hamachi, which creates a Virtual Private Network (VPN) between two computers via the Internet. Once installed, you can connect to your always-on home computer through the public Wi-Fi and then visit any websites securely.

Hamachi is free and works for Windows, OS X and Linux.

Stash the cookies

Cookies are those tiny little logs that websites dump on your computer every time you visit them. With these on your computer, the websites can then track your activity on their pages and sometimes (as in the case of the Facebook “Like” button or the Twitter “Follow” button), even track your activity on other websites. These cookies can be blocked with a simple plug-in DoNotTrackMe.

DoNotTrackMe is free and can be used for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

Clean it all

Begin with a clean chit by deleting all the temporary files, history and cookies indices your usual Internet browser might have stored about you. All in the name of better service or quicker loading. CCleaner is the ultimate broomstick that will wipe away all the flotsam from Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari and log files from both Windows and Mac PCs.

CCleaner is available for Rs.1,593.63.

Tidy up the torrents

Every time you’re using torrents to share files, the ISP can track your name, and also track where you’re downloading the files from. If you’re downloading anything personal in nature, then it’s best to add protection by using the BTGuard, which is a proxy server and encryption service.

The BTGuard uses a virtual fake address to funnel your Internet traffic through another server, so that it cannot be traced back to you.

BTGuard costs $6.95 (around Rs.415) a month or $59.95 for 12 months.

Keep the firewall up

You might be protected and anonymous to your Internet service provider (ISP) and hide your computer’s identity, but simple Trojan Horses can grab those documents from right under your nose and send them off to someone else. The solution is a Firewall, a necessary evil for today’s connected times. Either Avast or Clamav will protect your computer from trojans, viruses, malware and malicious threats.

Avast Antivirus works for Windows and Mac and Clamav works for Windows. Both are free.

Encrypt emails

When you send an email to someone, its plain text passes through servers across countries, making copies. Which means that anyone who can access any of those servers can read the message. Companies monitor the emails sent by employees and governments monitor the emails sent by citizens. The most problematic are phishing networks which might be able to abuse private message content sent in an email.

All this can be checked if the message is an encrypted one, not plain text. The easiest email client for this is Mozilla Thunderbird—an email client like Microsoft Outlook, but with better security. With an Enigmail extension, it lets you encrypt the email by clicking a little key icon on the lower right of the Compose windows.

Mozilla Thunderbird is free and works for Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.

Use a Web-based proxy

Just like your home, your computer has a unique address called its Internet Protocol or IP address. When you log in online or open a Web page, this address goes through your Internet service provider (ISP) to the website you are trying to log in to. Both the website and the ISP use that IP to track your activity. A Web-based proxy creates a virtual address for your computer so that your real IP address remains hidden when you are online. Proxify ( is a paid, one-click install system for Windows or Mac or Firefox browsers which encrypts all communication and hides your IP address. If you don’t mind advertisements, there are many online Web-proxies you can use to get a virtual IP address.

For a list of free online services head to Free Proxy ( But do remember that any proxy website you use may be able to see and store your user names, passwords, credit information, etc. Or, in some cases, even read your email. Because of this, a paid service is generally a safer option.

Proxify is available for Rs.2,400 for three months.


First published on Jun 25, 2013 Mint. Read the complete article here.

While online, thou shalt not…

Be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, follow these 10 commandments of social networking etiquette


Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have their share of boorish people who jump into other people’s conversation, generally create a ruckus or bombard your Wall with their gaming updates—and don’t know when to stop. Here’s a list of things to avoid.

Playing games on other people’s Walls

Yes, we know that you love to play Farmville, take mid-afternoon quizzes about “Which Mahabharata character are you?” and “What kind of Ramdev follower are you?”, and dozens of other apps that come your way on Facebook. That doesn’t mean your friends should suffer from a perennial feed of your app activity. It’s not only irksome to see who you just added as a “friend” on Facebook, but also increases the silly updates on people’s Walls. Before they turn off the extra noise you are creating by un-friending you, turn off the bot updates that these apps generate.

Go to your Privacy Settings > Apps and Websites. Click on “Edit your settings”. On the Web page that follows, click on the “Edit Settings” button along with the “Apps you use” header. This will list all the apps you use and what your profile is being used for. Uncheck the feature “Post on your Wall” for every app. Believe us, your friends will thank you for it.

Saying no to your mother

No sneak peeks: Online etiquette demands that you keep your eyes off other people’s screens. Illustration by Raajan/Mint

You might dread the day your mother, or the gossipy aunt who wants you to get married to her cousin’s son, sends a friend request on Facebook or Orkut but you cannot really stop them from coming into your online social spaces. Not unless you change your cellphone number and house and shift to another planet. There are some people you just cannot avoid, but don’t despair—Facebook lets you divide your friends into different lists through which you can control who sees what on your Wall, your status updates, your photographs and even tags. Keep a list of people you couldn’t say “no” to and limit the way they see your profile. You can control the status updates they read, the photos they see and the discussions they can keep a tab on. Make Lists by clicking on Friends on the left-hand side of your Facebook profile. Now go to Edit Friends > Create a List. Once you have completed segregating your friends, simply go to Privacy Settings. Click on Customize Settings in the section “Sharing on Facebook”. You can click on each of the elements on your Facebook profile, such as your information, posts, photographs and details, and for each set which lists of people can view them.

Using all caps

Except when it’s a bank that has just used your credit card for an unauthorized payment, or when you want to make a point strongly, never ever use all caps for any communication online. In the online world, talking in all caps is not talking, but YELLING…

…Read the complete story on the Mint website here.

Waking up to your online avatar

Do you blog, check your email or tweet as soon as you wake up? A tongue-in-cheek look at what your morning Net rooster says about you. By Shweta Taneja


Traditional Private Ryan

Your first window: Your personal email

Your medium of connection to the world is your personal inbox. Every morning, at home or after you reach office, the first thing you open in that browser is your personal email client. You generally don’t have any alternative windows open in your browser. All your social networking messages first come into your inbox. You check them as emails, commenting on other people’s Facebook status messages using the reply to comment link.

What it says: You are a person of habit. You took up email and have stuck to it for the last 10 years or more. It works for you and that’s the way you want to keep it.

Tweet tattler

Your first window: Twitter, Facebook or your favourite social network

Web-locked: What is your Net persona?

As soon as am strikes, your fingers start flying on the Qwerty keyboard or its touch-screen avatar, typing thoughts, emotions and experiences in concise word lengths. It’s not one-way communication—every few minutes you also need to check for updates, tweets, links, videos or ideas that your friends, family, cousins or complete strangers are posting online. On a dinner date, you type 140 characters on the sly while ordering the lamb dish. While seeing a movie, you are constantly thinking of what you will say about it on Facebook. You are on top of the latest social network trends, be it the review of Abhishek Bachchan’s latest flop or a blood donation camp in Alaska.

What it says: You are experimental and addicted to sharing your experiences. Social networks have given you the space to constantly reveal your thoughts and experiences through minimal interface. You are completely comfortable in your online skin, much more so than meeting face to face. You are also a constant retweeter.

Hard-working Joe

Your first window: Your office email client

For you the Internet is just another medium to stay connected to your work. You have the office email client set into your smartphone and check your email as soon as you wake up. You keep checking your office mails through the day, even when you’re out for a family dinner. You need to reply to every official mail you get, be it on weekends or late at night. In fact, the best way for your spouse to communicate with you is through an official email.

What it says: You are bordering on workaholism. Even when you’re on vacation, sitting on a beach, beer mug in hand, you itch to check your office mail (and usually do) to see if there’s an emergency where you are needed.

Anti-establishment ace

Your first window: Your own blog or other people’s blog

You get to hear things that might never come into mainstream media. You most probably have your own blog. You live in the non-conformist space on the Net. Every morning, you open a list of blogs of people around the world you have come to respect and hear what they have to say. You don’t tend to go to big news sites. Your news comes from individual blogs or tweets.

What it says: You have a voice, a strong one, and an equally strong following. You will not be seen hobnobbing with the big bad wolves. You like to stay away, a lion in his own space. You also tend to be Leftist and anti-corporate.

Multitask maverick

Your first window: Facebook, Twitter, email, weather, you open them all together.

You need to do it all. You open all the windows in your browser—your email client, social networking sites, blogs, news sites—together and then toggle between windows, commenting, answering and reading.

What it says: You are a multitasker and technology, especially the online medium, is a boon for you. You like to do everything together, fast and furious.

Read the complete story here.

Meeting up Wikipedians

A lazy Sunday afternoon, I picked up my backpack and entered the relaxed office of Centre for Internet and Society. The occasion was a Wiki Meetup. My first and as I would learn, first for most of the ten people present there. The meetup officially started with a gang of boys walking in, mostly dressed in black, denims, floaters, and laptop bags. No, none of them were wearing specs (except me). Gautam, the conveyor of the meeting said hello and gave us all the wireless code to internet. Internet unfortunately was down.

No women, except me. All engineers mostly, except a couple of advocates and one motley writer (me).

All sat down, opened their respective laptops and started typing or browsing. Imagine a group of people, all casually sitting on plastic chairs, laptops in their laps, quietly typing away in their keyboards. The silence was a surprise. Always interested in group behavior and body language, I also noticed that most of the techie boys, as I was calling them in my head, had black laptops with colourful stickers on it displaying the brands they were proud to be associated with. Other than your obvious Ubuntu, one saw stickers from conferences like Open Hack, NGOs like Pratham Books and others. Their relationship with their keyboard seemed more interesting than their relationship with the person sitting next to them. A whisper in a sidebencher’s ear went through typing. Talking while you are looking on your laptop screen was not considered social suicide. It was the cool thing to do.

It was deathly quiet. As one of the seasoned Wikipedians (I didn’t introduce myself to him and was daydreaming when he introduced himself to the group) started to give an intro to most of the newbies—engineering college students and a vague writer like me. We got to know how one should contribute to Wiki, the same rules I was taught in my Masters for submission of criticism and assignments—keep a religious track of references, don’t make up things (never followed this one) and don’t believe what is said, believe what is written down somewhere. A good question asked was about oral histories and how does one write about those. Apparently, they have to be written down somewhere before they become worthy of an online entry into Wikipedia as a reference (didn’t know that). Wish this obsession with references gets over, especially when it comes to the varied, colourful, creative means of converting a fact into a story, which Indian oral histories excel it.

But then, most of us today will be uncomfortable with that. And that is an uncomfortable state of being, no? I was reminded of a story on Wikipedia I did for Digital Natives website recently where I was left wondering who the invisible writers / volunteers of articles to Wiki from India are. Now I finally met them. Was feeling good about that. If someone has a doubt that Wikipedia gets self-promoters or people with dubious designs, they should have looked at these faces. Most students, there to learn and do their bit in knowledge sharing.

Oh, well. Maybe some people would consider them clueless to write on Bharatnatyam and still double check. These same people call students the copy-paste generation. Dubious people remain dubious, don’t they?

Why Wikipedia is a threat to authority

The morning edition of Times of India got me started. It had an article on how Justice Katju made history when he made a Wikipedia page on ‘Live-in relationships’ as the basis to formulate a four-point guideline for his judgment on a case. The story goes on to say that the judicial community is shocked “For, Wikipedia, as everyone knows, is an online free-content encyclopedia that anyone — from the wisest to a vandal — can edit and contribute to.” (itals are mine).

The article goes on to quote a part of Wikipedia’s terms of conditions: “Wikipedia itself answers the question ”who is responsible for the articles on Wikipedia” by saying ”You are!”. It clarifies that articles on its web pages could have an authenticity problem. ”Given that anyone can edit any article, it is, of course, possible for biased, out of date, or incorrect information to be posted,” Wikipedia says rather candidly.’

The first phrase that gets my eye here is ‘YOU ARE’. Why is a collective anonymous community, which has no reputation/authority in the traditional media / publishing of books such a big threat to those who are in authority? Are we so cynical that we would assume that people writing/editing these pages would necessarily have an ulterior motive? If yes, then so do people who make printed versions of encyclopedias, specialized books on any topics whatsoever – be it historians, biographers, critics, scientists – everyone writes their own opinions in the story. Dead words printed on dead trees, that too by a single author cannot have more value than a regularly updated, dynamic space of knowledge.

That makes me come to the second thing which makes those in authority especially uncomfortable: The idea of knowledge. Traditionally, India has been a society in which knowledge is a source of power—political, social, religious, cultural. Knowledge about a particular dance form, a ritual, a state dinner, a political rally, a caste, a language, a culture (dead or alive)—all of these are held onto the chest, carefully guarded and religiously maintained. I think I would be right to assume that this is true world-wide as well. But in India it holds special importance because we are always told not to question those with knowledge. It is the reason why teachers are traditionally revered in our books.

Possessing knowledge about something is a source of power. When knowledge becomes collective, that power is lost. What would a teacher teach if the student has already read upon the topic on Wikipedia? How about if religious priests are replaced with a Wikipedia page which tells us stories from mythology? Why do we need that teacher or that priest who cannot add more to what we already know.

In a way, it’s a complete overhaul of our systems of how knowledge is disseminated. Internet has made it possible for knowledge to be everywhere, given by everyone, taken in by anyone. There are no specializations in this space. There are also no authorities who can write something which has to be accepted and parroted everywhere. When anyone can question and anyone can answer, it’s a much more dangerous, varied world than the linear dissemination of knowledge which has traditionally been there.

Hence the panic. There’s no herd and no shepherd anymore.

Hence the derision by the shepherds of the world for an open space like Wikipedia.

I can go on and on about this topic but would like to invite your opinions on this. Here’s a small poll to know what you think about spaces like Wikipedia.

  1. Love it. Would use it to quote in my term paper.
  2. Would read, question and then cross check from some other source.
  3. Suspicious. Who’s writing this stuff anyways?
  4. Should be banned. It’s a place to promote half-truths and biased opinions


Crossposted at the Digital Natives blog here.