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8 Uses of the @ symbol on Twitter

Ever wonder how the symbol "˜@' can mean so many different things on Twitter? I did, and spent some time poking around online to find the answers. Having stumbled upon a very well written, informative entry on the subject over on Chicago-based tech guru Len Kendall's blog,
ConstructiveGrumpiness, (or should I say @ConstructiveGrumpiness?), I asked Len to expand on the @natomy of the Twitter "@" Symbol, and these are the eight examples he came up with.

One of the core differentiators between Twitter and other social platforms is its non-reciprocal nature. That reality led to a heavy reliance on the @ symbol. From the early days of Twitter, this symbol has grown to be used in many different ways and will most likely continue to have an expanded purpose as users become more clever with its use. The following are just a few pieces of the current @natomy:

1. Want Attention from a Response

This is the originally intended purpose of the @ symbol in Twitterville. It's meant as a way to specify your response to one or a few members while inside a very cluttered space. Users are able to find messages publicly directed at them in the original Web client, as well as with popular desktop tools such as twhirl or Tweetdeck.

2. Can't DM (Not Being Followed)

As alluded to above, one of the main differentiators (for now) between Twitter and other networks is that you are able to follow another person but they don't have to necessarily follow you. Despite it being an open forum, there are often times when we need talk to someone privately via Twitter, or perhaps say something that isn't relevant to the entire group following you. In this case, we direct message or DM. The reality is that not everyone is going to follow each other back. Some people don't want to follow people outside a certain kind of industry and others don't want to manage so many people. Whatever the case may be, sometimes the only way to get a person's attention may be to @ them publicly asking them to DM or e-mail you.

3. Want to Associate with Someone

Although the intention of the @ is to get someone's attention, often many will @ famous or influential people on the Twitter network to align themselves with that person. Part of them is hoping that the person with a large influence may just @ them back and thus expose them to a large audience as well. The other part of them simply wants to associate themselves with a big name so others will think the person @'ing is somehow connected with the influential figure (and thus also somehow important).

4. Rhetorical

Not far off from the original purpose, sometimes an @ is thrown into the Twittersphere as a completely rhetorical gesture. Example: Person A says something funny. Person B says "@Name is a laugh riot..." Whether or not Person A actually sees the response, others will know they are funny.

5. Recognize/Welcome New Followers (or list favorites)

Twitter is all about making new connections and finding new people to learn from. There are many opportunities for people to recommend others to their network and when doing so they often recommend many at a time. To make it easier for one's followers to click through to recommended tweeters, putting the @ in front of their name will turn their username into a link.

6. Give Credit for a Link, News, Content

Besides communicating our thoughts, Twitter is also a great venue for sharing links to all sorts of places on the web. Sometimes we find links on our own via things like RSS feeds or general browsing, but often we'll see a link tha was tweeted that we think is so great that it needs to be shared with our own network as well. In this situation, after a link is tweeted, adding a "Via @Name" gives credit to the individual who found the link and shared it with you.

7. Mentioning a Brand or Person (The Tweet isn't directed at them)

Big brands and big people are all over Twitter now. Although not really necessary, the Twitter community has grown accustomed to mentioning brands in their @Format vs. just mention "Brand." Partly because this lets followers click easily to the brand in question, but also because there is a small chance the brand will want to somehow respond to comment being made about them.

8. Spammers Trying to Get Your Attention

As mentioned in point two, not everyone has to follow those who follow them. The beauty of that system is that we don't need to be bombarded with communication from parties that we don't want to hear from. Alas, as the popularity of Twitter grows, so does the population of spammers who want to leverage the networks user base. Given the popularity of 3rd party clients, like twhirl, that notify you every time you receive an @ message, spammers have increasingly been able to infiltrate the gated community by setting up automatic scripts to @ you when a certain keyword is mentioned. Try tweeting about a few popular categories like vacations, food, or finance and see what happens.

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In addition to his blog, you can find Len Kendall on Twitter here.

And I'm on Twitter now, too, and can be found here.

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5 Things to Know About Amazon Go, the Company's Fully Automated Convenience Store
Stephen Brashear, Getty Images
Stephen Brashear, Getty Images

In Seattle, Amazon’s latest retail experiment is offering a whole new way to buy groceries. Launched on January 22, Amazon Go is a convenience store that requires no checkout whatsoever. It’s equipped with technology that can track which items you pick up—basic food items, pre-made meals and meal kits, booze, etc.—and automatically charge you through an app on your phone. You can be sure that if this pilot store is successful, you’ll see more Amazon Go stores roll out in other cities, too. Here are five things we know about the experience, according to The New York Times’s account of visiting.

1. YOU CAN’T GET IN WITHOUT THE APP.

The store doesn’t have a typical entrance. Instead of entering an open shopping space, visitors first have to pass through automatic gates that resemble the ones that you have to pass through to get into a subway station. To enter, you need to open up the Amazon Go app on your phone and scan your unique code. Once you’re in the store, Amazon’s AI will track the items you pick up and add them to your virtual cart, charging you for them when you leave.

2. YOU WON’T FIND ANY SHOPPING CARTS—OR LINES.

Because there’s no checkout, you don’t need a cart. Instead, you put your items into whatever bag you plan to carry them out in. Since the store is a convenience store, not a full supermarket (1800 square feet compared to the usual 42,000 or so of a grocery store), you probably won’t have so many purchases that you’d need a cart, anyway. And the lack of a checkout process means that you don’t have to wait in line to leave, either. All your purchases are being tracked in the app, so you just have to walk out the door. Amazon will send you an electronic receipt a few minutes after you leave.

3. HUNDREDS OF SMALL CAMERAS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING YOU.

Amazon is staying tight-lipped on how exactly the technology that it uses to track purchases works, but it involves sensors and hundreds of small cameras that can see everything happening in the store. “Amazon’s technology can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every can of soup and bag of trail mix,” according to the Times. The machine learning and computer vision it has developed can tell not just if you’ve picked an item off the shelf, but if you’ve put the item back and decided to purchase something else.

4. YOU MIGHT FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SHOPLIFTING.

There are very few retail experiences that allow you to simply pick up an item and walk out the door without handing anyone cash or a credit card, so making purchases at Amazon Go is likely to feel super weird for most of us. As you slip items into your bag and leave, you may feel like you’re shoplifting, the Times’s Nick Wingfield notes. But that doesn’t mean that you could get away with stealing something if you wanted to. Wingfield tried to trick the cameras by covering up a pack of soda before he took it off the shelf, but the cameras still managed to notice his purchase and charge him for it. A reporter for Ars Technica also tried to fool Amazon’s technology by picking multiple items up and putting them back in different places, but was unable to trip up the app’s shopping cart.

5. YOU’LL STILL SEE EMPLOYEES.

You may not need help checking out, but you may still need to interact with a human. If you want to buy alcohol, an employee waiting in the beer and wine section must check your ID before you can take that six-pack off the shelf. There are also various Amazon employees wandering around to help sort out technical issues and restock shelves, as well as chefs that you can watch prep meals in the kitchen.

But overall, you can easily get through an entire shopping trip without ever speaking to another human—or waiting in line.

[h/t The New York Times]

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How to Spot the Convincing New Phishing Scam Targeting Netflix Users
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iStock

Netflix may send customers the occasional email, but these messages will never ask you to provide them with personal or payment info. You'll want to keep this in mind if you encounter a new phishing scam that The Daily Dot reports is targeting the video streaming service's subscribers in Australia and the UK.

MailGuard, an Australian email security company, was the first to take notice of the fraudulent emails. While similar scams have targeted Netflix users in the past, this current iteration appears to be more convincing than most. At first (and perhaps even second) glance, the messages appear to be legitimate messages from Netflix, with an authentic-looking sender email and the company’s signature red-and-white branding. The fake emails don’t contain telltale signs of a phishing attempt like misspelled words, irregular spacing, or urgent phrasing.

The subject line of the email informs recipients that their credit card info has been declined, and the body requests that customers click on a link to update their card's expiration date and CVV. Clicking leads to a portal where, in addition to the aforementioned details, individuals are prompted to provide their email address and full credit card number. After submitting this valuable info, they’re redirected to Netflix’s homepage.

So far, it’s unclear whether this phishing scheme has widely affected Netflix customers in the U.S., but thousands of people in both Australia and the U.K. have reportedly fallen prey to the effort.

To stay safe from phishing scams—Netflix-related or otherwise—remember to never, ever click on an email link unless you’re 100 percent sure it’s valid. And if you do end up getting duped, use this checklist as a guide to safeguard your compromised data.

[h/t The Daily Dot]

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