Maximizing Your Marketing Strategy with Social Media for SMBs
Why is social media important for business?
With a whopping 4.48 billion people globally on at least one social media platform, it is of little surprise that social media has become a promising space for businesses to grow. The rapid growth of this phenomenon only illustrates the magnitude of this trend - having involved up to 4.48 billion people in 2023 right up from 2.07 billion in 2015, social media, undeniably, is powerful.
Why is social media important in digital marketing for small businesses?
Marketing is especially key for the survival of small-to-medium businesses, and this is where a social media presence can be vital. In the initial stages of a company’s development, the name of the brand can be largely established online, through the busy pages of social media. If done well, solidly-planned social media marketing can stimulate a small-to-medium business to grow its client base exponentially.
Social media tools for you to use
When faced with the question of which social media tools to use, the global big names in tech – such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest, and Twitter – often spring to mind.
With these options in hand, however, it is necessary to always bear in mind that not all tools are created for the same purpose. Although Instagram does account for more than one billion monthly users, over 60% of its audience are between the ages of 18 and 34. Geography plays a significant role as well; while Snapchat is hugely popular among the American youth, it is actively used in India as well, which can be valuable information if part of your market lies in that area of the world. Knowing your target client base (i.e., their preferences for social media from an age and geography point of view) can help you craft your strategy more wisely.
How can you come up with a social media strategy?
The primary goals of social media are twofold: to raise awareness of your brand, and to turn that awareness into revenue. Any measures taken on your social media page should be planned to reach either one of these two results.
Some people may carry the illusion that social media takes mostly just ‘common sense’ to maintain. Whether it be posting images of products, writing captions under posts, or responding to clients’ questions, these may seem like tasks that can be accomplished ‘intuitively’ on the surface.
In reality, to come up with a solid social media strategy, one needs to be trained in a variety of areas. Since social media strategies are a relatively recent concept in marketing, businesses around the world are still continuously learning and concocting innovative ways to boost sales through social media.
The points below illustrate potential social media marketing strategies for your business:
1) Engaging with the audience with small contests, giveaways, or ‘friend-tagging’
On social media, the goal is to attract as much attention as possible. Through small contests (e.g., ‘the best caption for this photo wins a free jumper’), giveaways (‘share this post and you will be considered for a lucky draw’’), or friend-tagging (‘tag a friend who may enjoy this sundae this weekend’), businesses may be able to attract more traffic onto their sites.
2) Using social media management tools and analytics to the fullest
Social media management tools are key when it comes to marketing. Analytics can help you understand the demography of your follower base. This allows you to understand whether your social media page is indeed attracting the intended type of consumers.
3) Working with influencers
With influencers attracting a lot of attention on the internet, it can sometimes be beneficial to approach them to promote your product (e.g., inviting them to review your products or asking them to announce a discount code to their followers). However, it is important to choose influencers whose values and styles align with yours. Carefully analyze each potential influencer's follower base - are they the target consumers for your product? - before initiating contact. The size of an influencer's following is also an important consideration, as a larger follower count typically implies a higher chance of sales. However, larger influencers tend to be more expensive to work with, so it's essential to budget and evaluate wisely beforehand.
4) Seasonal strategies
Social media pages are a highly efficient way to advertise your promotions and seasonal strategies are often seen on businesses’ social media. This can often be reflected by an increased wave of posts around Black Friday or Singles’ Day deals in November. Many businesses would also adapt their products to the season at hand, using social media as a tool to get potential consumers to try the new products (e.g., for coffee shops, pumpkin spiced lattes in October)
5) Working with other brands
Social media also allows you to work effectively with other brands (assuming they are not your competitor, of course). For example, if your SMB sells wine, it may be a good idea to do a promotion post with another SMB that sells cheese.
6) Using social media for paid advertisements
Given the public's attention on social media, it serves as an excellent platform for marketing your products. Social media advertisements can help boost your business's outreach, and algorithms can assist in reaching your target market more efficiently. There are businesses that do not have a social media page but still opt for paid advertisements using social media platforms.
Adding on to the above, also mention-worthy is the creative and artistic aspect of social media planning (that is, the ‘appeal’). There is an entire realm of knowledge surrounding things such as ‘techniques to take “Instagrammable” shots of your product,’ or ‘how to make a multi-photo collage grid for your Instagram page.’ Writing attention-grabbing or memorable captions for an online audience also requires skill and long-term understanding of how an audience reacts to posts. As marketing largely concerns the visual sense, investing effort into the more artistic side of your social media page can really level up your game in the long run.
Has my social media strategy worked?
With social media becoming increasingly powerful in commerce worldwide, a critical question for businesses to ask is whether their strategies worked. Social media, after all, takes up time, skill, and effort - it imposes an extra cost on manpower, and it is therefore important to evaluate the revenue it brings along the way.
The tricky part, however, is that there aren’t any hard-and-fast ways to determine whether a particular strategy has worked in a company’s favor, and, if so, how much. The following are certain pointers that may provide the illusion of a brand growing, but more caution is needed to determine its validity in the longer term.
Followers and subscribers: With ‘followers’ or ‘subscribers’ being a buzzword, it is one of the indicators of the success of a social media page. However, followers on your page don’t always bring in the revenue you expect. Followers may visit your page solely to enjoy your content as a form of entertainment or to benefit from any free information you provide. Interestingly, it is often the case that followers do not end up purchasing what you have to offer.
Social traffic: Social traffic is where a potential client gets directed to your company’s website via social media. While this may seem like progress, traffic does not always result in the desired commercial outcome if visitors don’t end up purchasing anything or doing anything meaningful on your page. If the above are not always reliable milestones, then what benchmarks can you use to evaluate the outcome of your social media strategy? Here are some ideas:
Speed of growth: Try a social media tactic in a given period of time (e.g., interactions with followers on stories or ‘tag-a-friend giveaways’) and observe the growth of your page during that period. If your sales tend to rise exponentially after a certain strategy is put into place, then something may be working for you.
Coupon codes: When running promotional events on social media (e.g., having an influencer promote your product or sharing a limited-time promotion on an Instagram reel), coupon codes can suggest the results of such an approach. This helps your business understand more concretely what works and what doesn’t.
Engagements: While a high number of followers is not always meaningful, engagements (i.e., shares, likes, comments, verified reviews) can actually help build a name for your brand. How engaged is the public with your products? The whole point of social media, after all, is to ‘communicate’ your business to the public, and that needs to be a two-way street.
Visitor on-site behavior: Attracting more visitors to your company’s website? Great! But are they taking your products seriously when exploring your website? If the visitors you attract tend to bounce after clicking on merely a couple of links, then that may be a sign that your social media strategy is not attracting the most ideal group of people
Conversions: These are analytics that can help track how many visitors to your page actually end up in ‘meaningful’ commercial action. Such action can be sales revenue, or meaningful inquiries from potential customers, although it is ultimately upon you how a ‘meaningful’ action can be defined. Should your website traffic lead to an increased number of purchases, a helpful approach would be to understand, in a more ‘qualitative’ sense, how that happened (e.g., was it the first-time customer discount? The photography and marketing of the product?). At the end of the day, conversions are a highly practical benchmark and are probably the most practical way to evaluate whether your strategy worked.
Google Analytics and Google Console: For a more accurate and insightful understanding of your page's traffic, Google Search Console is an invaluable tool. Previously known as ‘Google Webmaster Tools’, Google Search Console helps users understand the interaction between search engines and their webpages. It provides a clearer picture of online traffic, such as your crawl rate (i.e., how many Google 'crawlers' scan your site) and keyword monitoring (e.g., what types of keywords lead people to your page and how you can adjust your site based on that). Google Analytics can also help you understand your potential customers by revealing information such as the demographics of your site visitors, their location, and how much time they spend viewing each product (i.e., 'engagement').
As entertaining as it is, it isn’t surprising that social media is here to stay in the long run. There is no one-size-fits-all social media strategy for any business, so it would be wise for SMBs to take social media seriously and experiment with as many strategies as financially possible.
How Small and Medium Businesses Can Make a Positive Environmental Impact
It is no secret that our living habits put intense pressure on our planet. As the environmental impact of our behavior is not felt immediately, we have continued to act in ways that are detrimental to ourselves and others, including driving short distances instead of walking, which emits toxic gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 99% of people breathe air that exceeds WHO quality standards, jeopardizing our health and burdening healthcare systems worldwide. Moreover, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American family wastes around 180 gallons of water per week through water leaks alone, adding up to almost 10,000 gallons per year.
Movements like Earth Day bring our attention to the significant impact humans have on our planet and the urgency in finding a solution. Environmental sustainability starts with taking responsibility to change our lifestyles and striving to create and regain the balance between human life and our planet’s natural environment. It urges us to conserve natural resources to benefit future generations. Although the Earth’s climate has changed dramatically since the beginning of time, current global warming levels are occurring at a pace unseen for the past 10,000 years. Many companies are reviewing their conduct and implementing sustainable business practices to reduce their impact on our irreplaceable planet.
Climate change vs. sustainability: are they the same issue?
The terms climate change and sustainability are often used interchangeably. Although the two overlap in many ways, they are separate terms in their own right.
Have you ever heard someone complain about the recent boiling hot summers or how it never used to be this warm? Or perhaps you have experienced snow later in the year than before? These shifts in weather patterns are a result of climate change. The Earth’s temperature has increased by an average of 0.14°F (0.08°C) each decade since 1880, this rate has more than doubled in the past ten years. Aside from rising temperatures and extreme weather, the impact of climate change also includes increased sea levels and land degradation. The future of our planet depends on how much carbon dioxide and other toxic gases we emit over the next few decades.
Sustainability refers to how people tackle the impact of climate change. For example, many prefer to cycle short distances instead of driving or reuse old items instead of throwing them away. Our current situation stems from the actions taken by previous generations of people and businesses who were unaware of the impact of environmentally unfriendly practices. The good news is we can now implement sustainable practices to improve our lives without endangering future generations.
Why is environmental sustainability important for SMBs?
SMBs account for 90% of businesses worldwide. However, they often lack the funding or expertise required to implement more sustainable practices and may not even be aware of their impact on our environment. Some industries, like the petrochemical industry, significantly contribute to plastic pollution, and their practices can harm local communities. Although it is impossible for a person or business to single-handedly reverse the impact of our actions on the planet, improvements are achievable by working as a global team. Plastic pollution could be eradicated by 2040 if companies and governments work together to find a feasible solution.
As SMBs ensure the functionality of international supply chains, they hold the key to creating a more sustainable supply chain network and a greener planet. As the world continues to battle rising inflation levels after the Covid-19 pandemic, and an increasing number of SMBs are prioritizing cost reduction. It is financially beneficial for companies to preserve energy by switching off lights and air conditioning systems when not in use. Creating a more sustainable business in this way reduces costs while protecting our environment.
Is being environmentally friendly beneficial for SMBs?
Sustainability in business is becoming increasingly important as people start waking up to the reality of climate change. Aside from introducing new legislation, governments around the world are offering incentives and subsidies to businesses and individuals willing to change their environmentally unfriendly ways.
For the second consecutive year, the theme for Earth Day 2023 is “Invest in Our Planet,” encouraging governments and businesses to facilitate change and create a more prosperous environment through sustainable practices. The movement aims to teach companies how to be kinder to our planet and work together to build a healthier economy for our planet. It also urges companies to make the necessary changes to protect future generations.
Here are a few ways that being environmentally friendly is beneficial for SMBs.
1. Government tax deductions for greener businesses
Governments worldwide are keen to encourage environmentally sustainable practices and decrease the impact of climate change. Although 48% of companies in a recent study said they are unlikely to take action against climate change due to a lack of funding, governments are trying to help by introducing green business grants. In 2022, President Joe Biden signed the largest climate bill in US history, the Inflation Reduction Act (RDA). The legislation helps companies combat climate change and introduce more energy-efficient practices through green energy grants for small businesses. There is also a multitude of tax incentives aimed at reducing the burden on our planet, such as tax credits for installing renewable home energy systems and purchasing eco-friendly cars.
2. Attract new customers with eco-friendly practices
Thanks to internationalization and the rise of social media, information is more accessible than ever. As such, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of company business practices and their environmental impact. A recent study showed 93% of global participants have started to take sustainability more seriously because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a separate survey conducted in February 2022, 51% of respondents said environmental sustainability is more important to them now than the year before.
Consumer demands are evolving, and going green is a way for companies to help the planet while remaining attractive to new and existing customers. Moreover, paying more for environmentally friendly products does not appear to impact consumers’ price sensitivity levels, with over half of participants in a recent survey stating they would pay more for products from a sustainable brand. Whether consumers purchase online or in a physical store, they have a plethora of products to choose from. Sustainable business practices and a green reputation help ensure customers choose your brand over others.
How can businesses be more sustainable?
There are many ways for businesses to be more sustainable. The main problem is many companies do not know where to start, and lack the budget resources to find out. Even if they understand their impact on the planet, some SMB owners simply do not wish to change their actions. Conducting an environmental impact assessment could help identify areas in which companies can improve, and the journey to becoming a more sustainable company is easier than many think.
1. Daily operations and facility management
On average, paper waste accounts for an estimated 70% of office trash. Many businesses store files and documents on a server, which saves physical space but requires a lot of energy to run, especially as they must remain cool to prevent overheating. More files means more energy is used, however some servers are powered by green energy. Moreover, it is good practice for company employees to regularly delete unnecessary files to reduce the amount of energy used.
The digital devices used by employees also significantly impact the environment. SMB owners can consider purchasing second-hand and recycle or trade in old devices once they reach the end of their lifespan. Laptops tend to use less energy than desktop computers, and purchasing efficient equipment helps to reduce wasted energy. Employees should also adopt good practices and switch off devices upon finishing their shift, noting that sleep mode or screen savers do not necessarily save energy.
2. Supply chains and procurement
According to the World Economic Forum, eight supply chains, including food, construction, and electronics, are responsible for 50% of global carbon emissions. Moreover, just a few companies bear the weight of these emissions. Companies can create sustainable supply chains by encouraging suppliers to reduce emissions through recycling and reducing the amount of waste they produce. Suppliers can also analyze their processes and find ways to decrease wasteful activities and boost efficiency.
Reducing supply chain emissions is challenging, but SMBs and suppliers can lessen their carbon footprints by working together.
3. Employee training and education
Educating staff on the impact our actions have on the planet creates awareness and promotes more sustainable practices in the office and at home. SMB owners can arrange sustainability training and encourage employees to consider how to create an environmentally friendly office. From providing reusable cutlery and going meat-free once a week to purchasing office plants and switching off lights, there are many ways for employees to get involved. Introducing eco-friendly challenges or incentives for carsharing or cycling to work can also motivate employees to help SMBs move towards their green goals.
4. Marketing and promotion
As consumers become increasingly concerned about purchasing eco-friendly products, SMBs must find ways to mark themselves as a sustainable business. SMBs should develop a green brand image and show consumers they are environmentally conscious. They can even use their position to educate consumers about the negative impact of littering and plastic pollution. Green practices and a green brand image build credibility and will attract new customers. However, SMBs should be careful to match their actions with words and not partake in greenwashing, where companies spend time and money to position themselves as green without actually implementing green practices.
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) refers to a set of standards that demonstrate a company’s environmental impact and transparency. Adopting an ESG strategy benefits SMBs as it shows customers and potential investors they are serious about protecting the environment and community and taking accountability for their actions if things go wrong. The environmental aspect shows how a company decreased its environmental impact, including developing greener products and using recycled materials. Social refers to how a company benefits the wider society, such as helping the community or funding educational initiatives. Finally, governance examines whether a company acts ethically. Promoting these aspects as part of a green marketing strategy lets companies expand their client base while helping the environment.
Love the planet with Acer TravelMate Vero
As consumers become more concerned about the state of our planet, some companies are replacing traditional plastics with Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) plastic, a process that uses recycled everyday items like plastic bottles for manufacturing. Made from recycled materials and 30% Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) plastic, Acer’s TravelMate Vero laptop is an eco-friendly PC that does not compromise quality.
The device is loaded with a high-performing processor and impressive memory, making it just as powerful as other business laptops without the negative environmental impact. Users can also switch to Eco+ mode when not in use, allowing enhanced energy efficiency with the Verosense™ smart battery management app.
Carefully made by environmentally conscious designers, TravelMate Vero laptops include no painting, printing, or plastic stickers. The laptops are made with ocean-bound plastic and 100% recyclable packaging, so SMB owners can rest assured their employees are using an environmentally friendly device while working remotely or in the office.
Whether through tax incentives or creating more sustainable business practices and supply chains, everyone has a part to play in helping the planet. While implementing a green strategy may seem overwhelming, there are many ways SMBs can decrease their environmental impact. Companies should encourage employees to walk or cycle to work and celebrate sustainable behavior that helps the environment. Furthermore, examining and identifying areas for improvement in the supply chain also contributes to greener production. Government incentives and tax deductions are designed to reward companies for sustainable conduct and can relieve the short-term burden of supply chain restructuring or purchasing environmentally friendly equipment. Movements such as Earth Day and Earth Week remind us of the urgency of changing our actions and being kinder to our planet. Acer is a pioneer in its commitment to delivering outstanding, environmentally conscious products made with our planet in mind. Read more about Acer’s steps to protect our planet and bring a positive impact on our environment. Providing employees with eco-friendly computer systems like the Acer TravelMate Vero protects the environment without sacrificing performance. The durable device is made with recycled materials and is perfect for working on the go or in the office. By choosing TravelMate Vero, you choose our planet.
Tips and Tools to Help Students with Effective Self Learning
Flipped learning is an increasingly popular classroom model offering student centered, interactive learning, aided by technology. Following the flipped learning model, students prepare for a class by studying pre-class homework, then spend class time actively engaged in a wide variety of learning activities.
Effective self learning outside of the traditional classroom environment is an integral part of the flipped classroom model of blended learning. In this article, we will share a range of tips to help students make the most of self directed learning. These tips will cover how to use Microsoft and Acer tools, as well as offering some general pointers for creating a self supervised learning environment that is conducive to effective study.
How does the flipped classroom work?
Regardless of the level, from elementary to university, a flipped class does as it says, and literally flips the traditional class structure of the teacher giving a lecture and example problems in class, followed by students completing problem sets for homework. Active pre-class reading and research materials such as online videos, lectures, and discussions maximize learner engagement during class.
Independent learning before the class creates a learner centered model by introducing topics to the students at home. In the flipped classroom, increased contact time spent in class can be used to explore topics in greater depth, through project based learning, and concept practice.
The key benefit of the flipped classroom is that the student is essentially having the lesson/lecture at home before the class, allowing more in-class time for teacher-student contact. Flipped classrooms have proven beneficial to learners, with active learning helping students to understand complex concepts, while developing valuable intrapersonal skills.
Making the most of pre-class homework time
Evidently, learners need to put in the prep hours before class so that they know what is going on when they step into the classroom. Thankfully there are ways to ensure that independent study space and habits are helping, not hindering students’ education.
Firstly, try to stick to the study schedule suggested by your teachers. If they expect 60 minutes of prep before a class, make sure that you have reserved that time to study. Ensure that you have a quiet space with a suitable table and chair where you can study without interruption from family, friends, or pets.
In an ideal world there would be a designated desk where you are able to amply prepare before class. If you need music to study, concentration music for work is a good idea and one that we will return to later, but lay off any tunes that may distract you. Speaking of distractions, during your allotted study time, put your phone on silent and make sure that it is out of arm's reach, not sitting on your desk, distracting you.
What is the Pomodoro Technique, and how will it help you to focus?
This time management method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s and uses a simple kitchen timer to help you overcome procrastination (putting things off). In fact, the Pomodoro Technique is a highly effective way to manage your time: focus on a task for 25 minutes then take a 5 minute break. The good news is, you (probably) won’t have to cook any tomatoes while studying and you don’t need a kitchen timer.
Windows 11 has a handy focus feature, essentially a built-in Pomodoro timer called a focus session to help you block out distractions while you study. When you start a focus session, a few things will happen:
* A focus timer will appear on your screen
* Do not disturb will turn on
* Apps in the taskbar won’t flash to alert you
* Badge notifications on apps in the taskbar will turn off
So, how can the focus feature help students in the flipped classroom?
1) Before class
Students can use the focus session feature to watch the video lectures assigned by their teachers. They can set a timer for the duration of the video, connect their Spotify account to listen, and select the task from their Microsoft To Do list.
To minimize distractions and stay on track with your learning goals, there are three ways to start focus on Windows 11:
* From notification center: select notification center in the taskbar. Choose the length of your focus session. Select Focus to start your session.
* From Settings: Select Start > Settings > System > Focus > Start focus session.
* From the Clock app: Select Start > All apps > Clock. In the clock app, select Start focus session.
Focus works with the Clock app, allowing you to play music and see tasks from Microsoft To Do. When starting a session, a focus timer will appear on your screen. To access additional focus tools in the Clock app, expand the focus timer. Let’s not forget the tunes, link your Spotify account to the Clock app and your music will play when you begin a focus session:
* Select Start > All apps > Clock.
* In the Clock app, select Link your Spotify. Sign in with your Spotify account. Select the playlist you want to listen to.
2) During class
Students can use the focus session feature to work on homework or projects in class. They can set a timer for a suitable amount of time, and work on a specific task from their Microsoft To Do list. After the focus session ends, they can take a short break and then start another focus session. This way, they can apply the Pomodoro Technique to divide their work into manageable chunks, improving their productivity and efficiency.
3) After class
Students can use the focus session feature to review what they have learned or prepare for exams. They can set a timer for a suitable amount of time, and work on a revision task from their Microsoft To Do list. They can also connect their Spotify account to listen to some music that enhances their memory or relaxation. After the timer is up, they can take a longer break and then start another focus session. This way, they can use spaced repetition to reinforce their learning and retention.
Before we move on to cover how Microsoft To Do can help your independent studies in more detail, it should be noted that your task list can be integrated into the Clock app. This will enable you to choose the tasks you want to to work on in each focus session.
To do, or not to do, is not an option with Microsoft To Do
If you have to do lists plastered over your wall, that’s cool, but try Microsoft To Do. This cloud-based task management application can be easily integrated with the focus session widget in the Clock app. For a more streamlined approach to organizing your day, and staying on top of everything, integrate the two:
* Start a focus session from the notification center, the Settings app, or the Clock app
* In the focus session widget, click on the Tasks icon on the right side of the screen
* Sign in with your Microsoft account and grant permission to access your Microsoft To Do tasks
* Select the task you would like to work on during your focus session and Check it off once it is done
* You can also add new tasks, edit existing tasks, or switch between different lists from the focus session widget
Take a break
Following the Pomodoro Technique, it is important to take regular breaks in order to stay focussed. It is equally important to encourage students to practice healthy computer habits from an early age and avoid getting into bad habits, including sitting for too long, straining, and getting too close to your computer. Often, students are so engrossed in their work that they sit too close to their screen for too long. This can impact eye health. Thankfully, Acer User Sensing software has some helpful features to help students avoid bad habits: a break reminder, and a screen distance reminder. These added features can help students to establish healthy computer habits from an early age. Acer TravelMate B3 11, B3 Spin 11, and B5 14 all come with Acer User Sensing software to remind users to take regular breaks in order to stay healthy!
Microsoft, Acer, and the flipped classroom
We hope that this article has been informative and that you managed to stay focused until now. Self learning requires self discipline, strategy, and the correct tools to stay on track with your study goals. The Clock app in Windows 11, along with Microsoft To Do, Acer break reminder, and Acer Screen Distance Reminder combine to help learners effectively organize their time and have productive independent study sessions. Through correct use of these tools, and energized by regular breaks, students can benefit from self learning time, effectively preparing relevant materials before class.
How 'Flipped Classrooms' Empower Students to Thrive
Thinking back to our school days, most of us were taught in a classroom environment and completed homework at home. Discussions were encouraged within the classroom and prepared us for independent studying in our own time. Flipped classrooms are a type of blended learning in which the traditional learning approach is literally flipped around. Students receive class content at home through pre-recorded videos and then attend school for further practice and questioning. In other words, students receive and preview the content at home and complete extended learning in the classroom.
Global education systems went through a severe shakeup during the Covid-19 pandemic. Once travel restrictions were implemented and country-wide lockdowns announced, children could no longer physically attend school, and teachers scrambled to grasp the world of online learning. Although flipped learning was introduced in 2007 by chemistry teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, it was helpful in soothing the educational crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite initial teething problems, many children thrived in an online learning environment. Even after the pandemic ended and in-person classes restarted, 60% of parents with K12 children would consider continuing home-learning. Despite the post-pandemic new normal, online learning and flipped classrooms remain a vital part of today’s education system.
What is a flipped classroom?
Besides flipping the emphasis of the traditional learning style from in-class to at-home, a flipped classroom model incorporates the following four pillars of learning.
* Flexible environment: educators are known for their fast-thinking and flexible attitude to classroom learning. The flexibility of a flipped classroom accommodates a range of learning styles and integrates video and online learning tools into the traditional education approach.
* Learning culture: flipped learning challenges the traditional style of making the teacher the main source of information and encourages independent learning instead. The teacher’s role is to facilitate learning rather than simply delivering instructions. As such, the learner becomes the focal point, and class time is restructured to create a more in-depth learning opportunity for students.
* Intentional content: materials and lesson content are intentionally split between what should be taught in class and what students should study at home. Time-strapped teachers can choose which information to deliver in person and allow students to conduct tasks that require more repetition or in-depth research at home.
* Professional educator: teachers adopt a less prevalent role in flipped classrooms, but their presence and guidance are still important. Without them, traditional or flipped learning cannot occur. Professional educators know their students best and can gauge which tasks are suitable for learning at home or in class.
How do students in Grades 12 and below benefit from Flipped Classrooms?
Flipped classrooms connect the dots between online and physical learning. Teachers may initially believe the most important part of flipped learning is motivating students to learn from home, however valuable class time is designed to encourage a higher understanding of materials. This learning style may seem unfamiliar at first, but there are many benefits to a flipped learning style.
1. Encourage a learner-centered approach
In movies, on TV, and even in our own lives, we are used to seeing teachers as the classroom’s main event. Traditional roles are reversed in a flipped classroom, and students are at the forefront of a learner-centered approach. With flipped learning, students are no longer seen and not heard, as they take an active role in their studies. Rather than seeing homework as a chore, students take responsibility for their classwork at home, which prepares them to manage their schedules in the working world.
2. Increase student engagement and learning
Instead of overloading students with information during a short class, flipped classrooms encourage learners to watch online videos and pre-learn at home. Students then come to class with prior knowledge of the topics and can ask structured questions, work on live problems, and partake in constructive discussions with classmates and teachers. This prior understanding helps students stay engaged throughout classes and empowers shy or less-confident students to contribute their ideas. Flipped classrooms encourage independent learning and critical thinking, helping young learners prepare for their life beyond school.
3. Create happier teachers
Teachers enter the profession to do what they love — inspire the future generation through education. However, many teachers are under immense pressure to deliver high education standards within a limited time. In traditional classroom settings, teachers may not always get enough time to cover all of the syllabus details and work before the bell rings, leaving students to take unfinished work home as homework. Although some initial preparation work is required, a flipped learning approach takes the pressure off teachers and allows students to conduct in-depth research and learning at home before attending class. Happier teachers create a stress-free learning environment and more inspired students as a result.
Which tools enhance flipped learning?
Flipped learning relies on collaboration tools to facilitate online learning. These team collaboration tools connect students while allowing them to access their school work via handy communication apps. They also hold educational videos and lectures that form the basis of class discussions. Microsoft Teams and the Learning Accelerator are examples of platforms intended to enhance flipped learning.
How to use Microsoft Teams for flipped learning
Microsoft Teams is a communication and collaboration platform packed full of features for flipped learning. In conjunction with Acer laptops, the outstanding system delivers seamless communication to students and teachers and is free for those with a valid email address. Microsoft Teams collaboration tools are trusted by over 270 thousand educational organizations worldwide. Here is how they can improve the flipped learning experience for your school, too.
1. Chat function
The integrated chat function allows students to communicate with classmates and teachers and ensures they are always up to date with the latest information. Students can use the feature to discuss class presentations, group activities, and solve problems. The chat function also supports GIFs, emojis, stickers, and polls to enhance engagement and ensure a happier learning environment.
Smooth communication is the key to successful flipped learning. The Calls feature from Microsoft Tools allows students to make audio or video calls for a more active learning experience. Students are encouraged to use screen sharing, whiteboard, and live captions to support the calls. Students should use a laptop with a good HD webcam, microphone, and speaker to ensure clear communication during learning.
The handy Meetings feature enables students to arrange and join online meetings with classmates and teachers. They can attend live class discussions or meet privately with peers to work on group projects. In addition, students can enter breakout rooms, raise their hands, or send reactions and feedback to actively participate in meetings.
One of the most crucial features for those working or studying from home is the option to share files. The Files feature from Microsoft Teams lets students access and share documents with classmates and teachers, facilitating group work and ensuring they never miss a deadline. Students can also use the OneDrive integration platform to sync files across devices and even access them offline.
The Apps feature allows users to add and use apps within Microsoft Teams to enhance their learning experience. These Apps include Kahoot! to create and join quizzes, or Flipgrid to design and share class-related videos. Moreover, students can take notes during classes and organize their work using the OneNote app.
How to use Learning Accelerators for flipped learning
If you have used Microsoft Teams, OneNote, PowerPoint, or Word, you have probably already used Learning Accelerators without even knowing. Learning Accelerators allow teachers to develop personalized learning paths for students. These learning paths may include content from popular sources like YouTube, Khan Academy, and Ted-Ed. Learning Accelerators also track students’ performance and provide constructive feedback. Here are some additional features offered by Learning Accelerators.
1. Reading Coach
The Reading Coach tool helps students practice reading using specialized exercises. Integrated reading exercises give gentle guidance through pronunciation, syllabification, reading speed, and vocabulary retention, which help students become more confident in their reading skills. The Reading Coach supports and encourages students with various learning differences, boosting literary confidence and helping them to overcome shyness.
2. Reading Progress
Learning Accelerators accumulate unique data and insight analytics to help teachers track students’ progress. Students can use the Reading Progress tool to track their reading skills and receive actionable insights. This helps readers focus on specific areas for improvement, giving targeted advice rather than a blanket approach. The Reading Progress tool streamlines the creation of the reading assignment and the review and analysis process to support students in their reading journey.
3. Search Coach
Putting queries into words is tough, but the Search Coach is here to help. The Search Coach tool teaches students how to form effective search engine prompts to find required information. After entering the prompt, NewsGuard finds trusted sites without displaying distracting or inappropriate advertisements or pop-ups. This steers students away from false or misleading information and provides high-quality data. As just 10% of K-12 students can accurately differentiate fact from opinion, it is vital they acquire information from trustworthy sources. Moreover, developing skills to find information quickly and accurately will help students in their future careers.
4. Search Progress
The Search Progress tool is integrated into the Search Coach and monitors the development of students’ literacy skills by providing insights into their search activity and behaviors. Moreover, the tool identifies ways to refine their search prompts over time, which helps students refine their queries and acquire targeted information. Search Progress also allows teachers to understand the thought processes behind students’ research by providing a detailed search history.
5. Speaker Coach
Public speaking can be overwhelming, but it can also be enjoyable with practice and the right mentor. Luckily, the Speaker Coach tool is created to do just that. Real-time coaching helps students improve their presentation skills by rounding up and evaluating key presentation points. The intelligent Coach even gives personalized feedback on areas such as pitch, pace, and the use of filler words without the pressure of performing for an audience.
6. Speaker Progress
This new tool streamlines the process of creating, reviewing, and analyzing speaking and presentation assignments. Teachers and students can view a summary of positive feedback and areas for improvement. Moreover, teachers can conveniently review students’ recordings and track progress, saving them time and effort.
7. Microsoft Reflect
The well-being of students is paramount to a safe and productive learning environment. Feeling sad, overwhelmed, or a mix of unidentifiable emotions can hurt students’ learning progress, and these feelings must be identified and addressed appropriately. The Reflect tool allows students to identify and express their feelings safely and creatively while teaching them how to communicate and navigate difficult emotions. The Feelings Monster assists in finding the right words to describe feelings and helps students recognize and communicate them before becoming overwhelmed.
Acer devices for flipped learning
Schools should equip students with high-performance technology to get the most out of flipped learning. Acer’s integrated device features deliver an engaging learning experience for students. High-quality audio effects facilitate crystal-clear calls, while upward-facing speakers provide higher-quality audio at high volumes, facilitating smooth communication. Moreover, dual microphones capture voices and make it easier for students to understand each other. This boosts the effectiveness of group discussions and is useful when multiple people speak at once.
Temporal Noise Reduction (TNR) technology improves the quality of webcam images by sensing and reducing noisy pixels and is perfect for use in low-light conditions. However, using webcams can mean students are susceptible to hackers or cybercriminals. As student safety is crucial in class and beyond, Acer has installed a camera shutter to ensure privacy even when the webcam is not being used. Alongside these features, the TravelMate B5 14 from Acer also comes with a 14” screen, for more comfortable viewing, which is perfect for student life. Combining low power consumption with high performance, the device supports nine hours of battery life to ensure students make it through a full day of classes.
Flipped classrooms bring students to the center of the learning experience. Students are expected to take an active role in their learning by conducting independent research and studying before class time. This pre-learning arms students with an overview of topics and allows them to repeat facts or words as often as needed. Students are given a range of online learning tools such as videos or presentations to strengthen their understanding. Once in the classroom, teachers will analyze their students’ comprehension by organizing presentations or group work. Microsoft Teams is the perfect flipped classroom assistant, providing coaching guidance and tailored reading help to boost students’ skills and accelerate learning. Of course, learning on a high-performance device such as an Acer TravelMate laptop will deliver an outstanding experience with enhanced audio and video quality, while keeping students safe from cybercriminals.
Acer Swift Edge 16 (2023) Review: The Edge You’ve Been Waiting For
The Acer Swift Edge 16 is a sleek and thin yet powerful laptop that boasts a large 16-inch OLED display and AMD Ryzen 7040 “Phoenix” Series processors, AMD’s new lineup of mobile chips that feature a dedicated AI engine. As Acer’s latest offering in the realm of ultrathin laptops, it is designed to provide a seamless blend of performance and portability. If you’re an on-the-go professional, photographer, or tech-savvy consumer, you can’t go wrong with how much punch the Swift Edge 16 packs into its light frame. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at its standout features:
* 16-inch, 3200 x 2000 OLED display, 120Hz
* AMD Ryzen 7 7840U with AMD Radeon 780M graphics
* 32 GB LPDDR5 RAM
* 2 TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
* 1.23 kg (2.71 pounds)
* 357.5 x 245.9 x 12.95 mm (14.07 x 9.68 x 0.5 inches)
* Two USB Type-C (USB 4 40Gbps, USB charging 5V), two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, HDMI 2.1, MicroSD slot, headphone jack
* 1440p QHD webcam
* Wi-Fi 7 powered by Qualcomm FastConnect 7800
* Olivine Black
A Visually Delightful OLED Display
One of the key highlights of the Swift Edge 16 is its stunning 16-inch 3.2K OLED display, which looks great whether you’re browsing, working, or binging your favorite shows. Acer Swift OLED panels can display over a billion colors, offering deep blacks as low as 0.0005 nits and a peak brightness of 500 nits. They cover 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which is the standard color space used in the digital cinema industry for precise color grading of content—and have received Eyesafe certification ensuring better protection for your eyes by reducing harmful blue light. On top of that, if you enjoy some light gaming on the side, the 120Hz refresh rate (coupled with AMD RDNA 3 integrated graphics) helps to achieve those coveted smooth and responsive frames.
Freedom to Unplug
Designed with mobility in mind, the Swift Edge 16 features a well-constructed magnesium-aluminum body that can be easily opened with just one hand, adding a convenient quality-of-life feature to the device. Its ultrathin profile of only 12.95 mm and lightweight chassis weighing just 1.23 kg makes it incredibly portable. While you're on the go and need the freedom to unplug for longer stretches, it offers the flexibility to be productive while traveling, working, or just taking a break. This is made possible by AMD's Zen 4 architecture, which optimizes the CPU’s power consumption for extended periods of unplugged use.
Unleashing the Power of AI
While we’re on the subject of the CPU, aside from delivering exceptional performance, the new Ryzen 7040 Series mobile processors from AMD also feature a dedicated AI engine dubbed Ryzen AI. With AI coming to the fore in 2023 as a mega-trend, it allows for better AI hardware integration into the CPU, for more powerful AI experiences while freeing up the processor for other workloads. In other words, it helps to ensure fast and efficient computing without compromising on tasks that rely on AI. With the way AI has influenced the world of tech lately, it should be a handy addition for the future.
Wi-Fi 7 and Windows Studio Effects
As one of the first laptops to feature Wi-Fi 7 and Qualcomm’s FastConnect 7800, the Swift Edge 16 ensures that you stay connected and productive, even in demanding networking environments. This means enhanced speeds of up to 5.8 Gbps and ultra-low latency of under 2 ms—along with what Qualcomm calls High Band Simultaneous Multi-Link technology, a feature that optimizes connection on 5 and 6 GHz bands, for a more reliable and seamless wireless connection.
This makes for an amazing video calling experience on the 1440p QHD webcam featuring Windows Studio Effects, which is a set of features that utilizes Ryzen AI to enhance your experience while video calling with effects such as auto-framing, gaze correction, and advanced background blur.
Equipped with the Microsoft Pluton security processor, the Swift Edge 16 enjoys extra protection against potential cyber threats. If you haven’t heard of the technology, it offers improved hardware security by guarding sensitive data like encryption keys, credentials, and user identities by isolating them from the rest of the system. Having this added layer of security means you have one less thing to worry about while on the go.
It's All in the Details
Despite its thin and light design, the Swift Edge 16 doesn't compromise on usability, featuring a full-sized backlit keyboard (with number pad) that feels firm and responsive while typing. It also has two Type-C USB 4 Ports, HDMI 2.1, a MicroSD slot, two standard USB-A ports and for you audiophiles out there, the good old headphone jack.
The Swift Edge 16 lives up to its promise of providing an edge where performance meets portability. With its stunning OLED display, powerful hardware, and intelligent features, it caters to the needs of modern professionals and tech enthusiasts on the go. Whether you're a content creator, a hybrid worker, or someone who values mobility without compromising on power, the Swift Edge 16 is a worthy companion.
Z-Library Domains Seized Again by FBI
Z-Library, the shadow library project that provided access to millions of textbooks, novels, journal articles, and magazines was shut down in November 2022 when U.S. authorities seized a number of the organization’s domain names. Despite the efforts of law enforcement, the project never fully went away. Z-Lib even staged an official comeback in early 2023 by working around the previous domain name issues. However, the project has been disrupted again by further FBI domain seizures.
Z-Library domains seized
The Z-Library site was taken down in late 2022 after it had become too popular for its own good. Earlier in the year, a Tiktok group had caused the hashtag “#zlibrary” to trend, with the hashtag eventually garnering more than 19 million views and drawing massive publicity to the site. However, law enforcement activities had in fact already been well underway prior to the #zlibrary hashtag going viral, with the Authors Guild and other copyright protection advocacy groups working together to shut down the service.
Approximately 200 domain names associated with Z-Library were seized on November 4, 2022, by the U.S. Department of Justice. Around the same time, Russian nationals Anton Napolsky (33) and Valeriia Ermakova (27) were arrested in Argentina on suspicion of running the Z-Library site, and the pair were charged with criminal copyright infringement, wire fraud, and money laundering.
Work-arounds Z-Library used to open up again
Although access to the Z-Library project was made more difficult with the shutdown of its public domains, the site continued to exist on the darkweb through the encrypted Tor and I2P networks, offering millions of pirated articles and books. For users skilled in using Tor for Z-Library or who knew how to access Z-Library via I2P, accessing content was almost as easy as before.
Additionally, in mid-February 2023, Z-Library officially staged a comeback on the public-access Internet by launching secret personal domains for users that are accessible via a universal login page.
Website administrators often take steps with their operations to mitigate disruption caused by domain name seizures. A common method is to have a list of backup domains that can be deployed when needed; this approach is known as a hydra setup. Z-Library has utilized a hydra-inspired scheme to get their website back up and running on clearnet, so that users unfamiliar with the darkweb can easily regain access to its content. The scheme involves offering a unique and private domain name to each and every user.
To access their unique domain names, users were instructed in a blog post to visit singlelogin.me, where they were able to log in to their account (with their existing Z-Library login) or create a new account and then be redirected to their personal domain. Users were requested to keep their unique personal domain names private, to ensure the domains would not be immediately seized by law enforcement.
The domain names in question are subdomains of newly registered TLDs (top-level domains; i.e., acer.com and bing.com) that each rely on different domain name registries. Each user is given two personal domains, and these are listed on each user’s personal profile page.
Z-Library domains seized again
In May of this year, several of the new domains of Z-Library were seized by U.S. authorities:
“Unfortunately, one of our primary login domains was seized today,” Z-Library wrote in a message on its Telegram account on May 5. “Therefore, we recommend using the domain singlelogin.re to log in to your account and register. Please share this domain with others.” The domain name they were referring to was singlelogin.me, which now displays an enforcement message from the U.S. Justice Department and FBI.
This marks the second time within a year that Z-Library has had its domains taken over. However, the total number of new domain names that Z-Library controls is unclear, and what we may be witnessing is a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole.
Impact of the Z-Library shutdowns
Hundreds of users welcomed the site’s return in early 2023, with people posting enthusiastic comments on Z-Library’s blog.
Scholars, researchers, and students—most of whom are financially disadvantaged—use the shadow library to obtain free books and journal articles. According to Z-Library itself, college students and professors of universities worldwide comprise the largest group of users of the service. These users are typically located in developing countries and are usually unable to afford access to all of the thousands of journals that exist. For these users, Z-Library is a lifeline to global knowledge that is crucial to completing their degrees and furthering their research.
Several Z-Library alternatives exist that offer similar features and services, such as free ebooks, audiobooks, articles, and more. We listed five sites in our previous article on Z-Library, and here are a few more worth checking out:
* Sci-hub: Sci-Hub has been estimated to contain 95% of all scholarly publications with issued DOI numbers. Sci-Hub reported in 2022 that its collection comprises 88,343,822 files.
* Library Genesis: Countless ebooks and articles are available on LibGen, which was the original source of all Z-Library content.
* Standard Ebooks: This site contains books that are in the public domain or copyright-free.
Users will be pleased in the short term with Z-Library’s creative method for bringing back clearnet access to its content. Whether its elaborate hydra scheme will be effective long-term remains to be seen and is a topic we will be keeping up-to-date on.
What is TPM?
As hackers become more sophisticated and find increasingly deceptive ways to access computers, devices must be equipped with the latest security technology. A Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is a small chip that protects a computer from malware or other cyber attacks. The TPM is found on a computer’s motherboard and is usually pre-installed onto devices with a recent version of Windows. When users switch on their devices, the TPM will quickly scan for any signs of hacking and automatically generate a cryptographic key to power up if everything is normal.
TPM 1.2 vs TPM 2.0
TPM technology is a hardware-based security approach that provides a root of trust. Its features have evolved as technology advances, protecting users by assessing and reporting the platform integrity of a device. Earlier versions of Windows are usually installed with TPM 1.2 and meet basic security specifications. TPM 1.2 is activated when a computer is switched on and provides measurements and validation of components before they can be loaded into the memory. Moreover, TPM 1.2 supports necessary cryptographic functions and can store up to 2048-bit RSA keys.
TPM 2.0 offers newer and more advanced security support designed to address the limitations of previous versions. With the ability to store up to 4096-bit RSA keys, TPM 2.0 provides enhanced flexibility and supports newer cryptographic algorithms. TPM 2.0 offers distinct security advantages over TPM 1.2 and is compatible with most major operating systems, including Windows and Linux.
How does TPM work? How to use a TPM?
TPMs are cryptographic modules that enhance the security of devices and networks. They offer numerous security features, including tamper-resistance and integrity measurement, and protect data via encryption and decryption. A TPM creates encryption codes that are stored between the TPM chip and the computer’s hard drive.
TPMs defend a computer from the get-go, running advanced checks to safeguard devices against malicious code from the second it is switched on. They also prevent unauthorized access to data: if the TPM chip is missing or there are signs the device has been tampered with, it simply will not turn on. TPMs are installed directly onto the device’s motherboard and are activated upon switching on a device. As such, they do not require any additional action from the user.
Do I already have a TPM?
Whether or not a computer already has TPM depends on when it was bought and which Windows version it uses. Devices purchased after 2016 usually come with TPM 2.0. Older devices may be equipped with TPM 1.2 or have no TPM at all.
Can I add a TPM if I do not have one?
Those comfortable with the ins and outs of a computer should be able to add a TPM 2.0 chip to its motherboard. Users should be mindful of when their device was built, as older computers may be unable to run Windows 11. Moreover, getting a TPM up and running may not be as easy as it seems.
There are generally three installation options for TPMs:
* A discrete TPM chip that comes as a separate component in a semiconductor package.
* An integrated TPM solution that uses dedicated hardware integrated into one or more semiconductor packages. This is usually separate from other components.
* A firmware TPM solution that runs the TPM in a Trusted Execution mode as part of a general computation unit.
What are the benefits of using TPM?
Although TPMs are unseen by users, they are crucial for running a secure device. Here are three ways using a TPM can benefit your computing experience.
1) Data encryption
Security is more relevant than ever before. Despite this, there are still a large number of unencrypted data transmissions that are easily readable by hackers. There is a risk of unencrypted data being intercepted during transmission, with a staggering seven million unencrypted data records compromised daily. TPM uses advanced software and hardware algorithms to protect plain-text data through encryption.
2) Protects from start-up malware
Specialized fast-acting malware can compromise computers during start-up, causing destruction before antivirus software has noticed something is wrong. TPMs establish a root of trust by verifying the boot loader first and evaluating whether or not the device has been tampered with. If something untoward is detected, the operating system will refuse to boot the system. If not, the computer will start as normal.
3) Storage safety
Studies show that 55% of people recall passwords from memory. If you have ever forgotten a password and endured a grueling reset process, you will know how frustrating memorizing passwords can be. But the alternatives are often riskier, with 20% of people stating they store passwords in their email accounts. Despite obvious vulnerabilities, these methods lack proper protection. Users can safely store encryption keys, certificates, and passwords inside a TPM, which offers more security than other methods.
What are the limitations of using TPM?
With cyber-attacks on the rise, there is no question Microsoft is doing all it can to protect users. TPM 2.0 is another effort to ramp up security in the face of rising cybercrime, however there may be some limitations.
1) Unclear installation
For those less comfortable with tinkering, finding out whether or not a computer has a pre-installed TPM could be challenging. If there is no TPM installed, users may try to install one themselves or purchase an additional TPM just in case. However, additional TPMs cannot necessarily protect against all kinds of attacks.
2) Does not prevent all attacks
TPMs may not be able to protect against so-called cold boot attacks, in which sensitive information is accessed from a computer’s random accessed memory (RAM) once the computer switches off. RAM data is usually erased when a computer shuts down. However, during cold boot attacks, criminals can quickly freeze the RAM and transfer its contents to another device. TPMs prevent keys from being loaded into memory, but they cannot prevent keys from being captured if they are already in the memory.
3) Compatibility issues
TPM 2.0 is compatible with most major operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, and macOS. However, earlier TPM versions are not compatible with non-Windows operating systems, meaning that some users may not be receiving the most recent protection.
With rising cases of cyberattacks, computers are undoubtedly more secure with a TPM. A TPM checks devices for tampering or malware even before it starts up and will simply refuse to switch on if it detects any unusual activity. Most devices purchased after 2016 already come with TPM 2.0, offering advanced protection for Windows 11 users. Devices purchased before this year may have TPM 1.2, although some have no protection at all. For maximum security, it is beneficial to check which TPM version your device has and install or upgrade it if necessary. Doing so will protect your device from malicious malware and provide ultimate password protection.
What is YouChat?
YouChat is an AI powered conversational search assistant that promises to revolutionize the way we search for information online. In this article we will discuss the origins of YouChat, how it stands out from other bots in the crowd, and what the future holds. Read on to familiarize yourself with the first large language model that actively stays up to date on current affairs. YouChat is the AI search engine that’s got people the world over asking it questions.
Searching for answers to our questions
Let’s begin by looking at how we use the internet to search for information and answers to our questions. Take a commonly searched query: “Can a cracked windscreen be repaired?” To find an answer (answers), a traditional search likely involves typing a query into your preferred search engine. The user is then presented with adverts, promoted pages, and several answers selected by the search engine. Scrolling down, there will be page after page of links to websites offering further information.
Depending on the complexity of the original question and your appetite for information, you might be able to find an answer quickly. There is always the danger of getting swamped with too much information. This is especially true if you like to get stuck in and dig deeper, comparing answers by reading multiple opinions in a discussion website or forum.
Perhaps you have used an AI search engine, one of the large language models like ChatGPT? How did your user experience compare to traditional searching? Currently, ChatGPT is still prone to “hallucinating” incorrect answers that it confidently offers as correct. YouChat is a hallucinator, too. Hallucinations aside, while both traditional searching and ChatGPT style search bots have advantages, neither of them have the conversational, personable character of YouChat.
Who are You? Who is YouChat?
The creator of YouChat is You.com, the search engine founded by former Salesforce maestros Richard Soccer and Bryan McCann. You.com offers a different approach to Google, integrating apps into search results, providing integrated results from relevant apps. The impetus is on the user: rankings are user influenced by giving a thumbs up or down, making You “The AI Search Engine You Control.”
YouChat launched in 2022, on the day before Christmas Eve. The AI powered conversational search assistant was upgraded and YouChat 2.0 was introduced on February 7th, 2023. Since then, YouChat 3.0 has landed, featuring a handy function called C-A-L (Chat, Apps, and Links), providing a wide range of results including images, videos, news, and maps. All of these can be conveniently accessed without having to open a new tab or leave the search results page.
Key to its current success and efficacy, the chat function is linked to up to the minute news and information sourced from platforms including Reddit and Wikipedia. So, even if you suspect that YouChat has given you an incorrect answer, it is easy to check: simply using the search function, without leaving the page.
As we shall discover, YouChat is a little different, and claims to be “The AI Search Engine You Control.” Let’s explore a little more. YouChat, in many ways, resembles a personal search assistant or an alternative Alexa. The chat interface, supported by AI and Natural Language Processing (NPL) power, allows human-like conversations, using its own language model. Perhaps the YouBot inhabiting YouChat will be embarrassed if I keep trying to describe it/him/her/they, so, here’s YouChat’s self introduction:
“Hello! My name is YouChat, I’m an AI that can answer general questions, explain things, suggest ideas, translate, summarize text, compose emails, and write code for you. I’m powered by artificial intelligence and natural language processing, allowing you to have human-like conversations with me. I am constantly learning from huge amounts of information on the internet, which means I sometimes may get some answers wrong. My AI is always improving, and I will often share sources for my answers."
Straight from the horse's mouth, that should give you a better idea of what YouChat is. Although it is common these days to view every AI chat tool in comparison to ChatGPT, YouChat and ChatGPT are actually quite different. While they serve a similar purpose, the tech and content are separate, and the overall user experience is not the same. Very soon, there will be many, many more chatbots in the vein of ChatGPT, Google Bard and YouChat, but for now we will focus on YouChat.
What can YouChat do for you?
YouChat can read, write, summarize, provide ideas and explain things to you. On top of this, it can be used for good old fashioned web searches, or you can enlist YouChat’s ￼￼YouBot to sort the search results for you.
YouChat can help you to complete a range of tasks, from answering questions to creating content, summarizing books, and providing sources. Logical reasoning is another of YouChat’s talents, as is explaining complex concepts in terms that you can understand. YouChat is also a linguist, functioning in any of the world’s languages and is able to translate any language you can throw at it.
While it is more up-to-date than many other large language models, YouChat is beset with similar issues to other AI search engines and hallucinates references, expresses biases and sometimes provides misinformation, and outdated or irrelevant links.
It is important to remember that we are still very much in the early days of AI chatbots. The YouChat user experience is constantly improving and the more it is used, the better it gets. YouChat can approximate human style conversations, while politely answering your questions.
What does the future hold?
While many people (this author included) who experiment with YouChat and the You.com search engine are struck by its futuristic feel, there is still plenty of room for further growth. It is hard to say what the future has in store, but further evolution of AI bots promises increased convenience, speed, and accuracy when searching with the help of a generative AI search assistant. The possibilities may well be endless.
How to Test Your Firewall
Firewalls are an essential part of cybersecurity for both individuals and businesses, especially in the current Internet landscape where ordinary users are increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks. But many users don’t know that firewall testing is a crucial part of network security. Read on to learn more about maintaining your home or work firewall in order so you can stay protected.
What is a firewall, and why should I test it?
Firewalls act as a barrier between your network and the internet. Firewalls filter both incoming and outgoing traffic based on predefined criteria that define suspicious activity. In doing so, they protect your devices from a security breach and safeguard access to your personal information. They come in several different varieties, including software, software as a service (SaaS), hardware, public cloud, and private cloud (virtual).
Some networks use multiple firewalls. Businesses whose networks involve many devices may implement firewalls for each specific device as well as a network for the entire network. That way, incoming and outgoing traffic needs to pass two separate barriers before being allowed entry.
Most people’s devices come with a network firewall already installed. If you’re not sure, go to the security settings on your device and check that your firewall is turned on. Unfortunately, however, ensuring the firewall is turned on does not guarantee that it’s providing optimal protection. For the most secure connection, you should conduct regular tests of your firewall.
You see, firewalls were not designed to be set up once and left alone. For optimal protection and performance, you should regularly test your home or business firewall and make sure that it is effective. You will need to edit and define your firewall settings regularly to make it effective. This practice ensures that your firewall responds and adapts to changing network conditions.
In a world where cybersecurity attacks are becoming more sophisticated and more frequent, firewall testing is a crucial step of any security plan. In addition, firewall testing is required in some contexts where your Internet usage is governed by compliance standards and regulations.
Luckily, firewall testing has evolved to meet the current demands of network security. Testing can be done for free and can evaluate various aspects of your firewall performance as well as its adherence to various standards, including HIPAA or NIST. Let’s take a closer look in the next section.
How do I check my firewall?
There are a lot of free network security firewall testing tools available that cater to the needs of a variety of connections, ranging from personal devices and business networks. You can check your firewall in a few different categories, including functionality, security, performance, and compliance.
A great way to test your network is from the Internet so that you can simulate incoming attacks. One of the most accessible and user-friendly tools for firewall testing is ShieldsUP from Gibson Research. Like any good firewall testing tool, ShieldsUP tests all of your device’s ports to ensure they’re not visible to hackers.
ShieldsUP and other similar online firewall testers tend to offer a few different network firewall tests. The common ports test evaluates some of the most common (and often most vulnerable) ports used by services like FTP and NetBIOS, ensuring they are in stealth mode and invisible to hackers using port scanning tools.
The file sharing test, on the other hand, checks for ports typically associated with hazardous or suspicious programs. If the test detects one of these programs, it means that your computer could have been infected with a hidden file server.
An all ports and services test involves all ports and checks their status: open, closed, or in stealth mode. This allows you to see which ports may be vulnerable to attack and react accordingly.
If you operate a large network and are looking for a more comprehensive security evaluation, you may want to consider hiring a professional to perform penetration testing. Though this option is clearly more expensive and time-consuming, it replicates real attacks much more closely, allowing you to detect and respond to any holes in your network security.
How should I interpret my results?
So, you’ve done all your tests: now what? What do the results mean, and how should I respond to them? With network security firewall testing, the tests themselves are just the beginning. Here are a few steps you can take after firewall testing for best results.
First, if your tests have revealed any open ports, evaluate whether or not those ports need to be open. The more open ports you have, the more vulnerable you are to a cyberattack, so you should aim to keep as many ports in stealth mode as possible.
Secondly, evaluate whether or not the firewall performed as you expected. You may want to consider its speed, its volume capacity, its ability to prevent attacks, and its compliance with whatever standard your network uses.
Thirdly, document the results of your test. Understanding how your firewall performed in a previous test will give you more insight into how to interpret another test.
How often should I test my firewall?
You may have noticed the mention of “previous test” in the last paragraph. This is because best network security practices indicate that you should perform regular tests. The exact frequency will depend on your network and your needs.
Do you run a business with many employees and various firewalls? You may want to implement a policy requiring firewall testing every several months. Are you a personal computer user who rarely makes changes to their network? Every six months might be sufficient. In any case, remember that the higher the frequency of testing, the more secure you can feel in your network security.
Firewall testing is an important step towards increased network security in an age of digital vulnerability. Though there are more pitfalls now than ever before, the technology we have to mitigate those risks has also evolved. By conducting regular firewall testing, we can add strength to our network security and ensure a safe browsing experience.
How to Reverse Image Search from Your Desktop or Phone
Image search is the ability to do a keyword search and find images related to what you typed. Most search engines offer image results, which can be very convenient. But what if you have an image and want to know its origin or find similar images? That is when you need a reverse image search.
What is a reverse image search?
Reverse image search is a powerful query technique used for content-based image retrieval. The technique involves providing a search system with a sample image, which serves as the basis for the search. A sample image can be incredibly useful for information retrieval purposes, as it eliminates the need for users to guess at keywords or terms that may or may not yield accurate results for what they are trying to find. The defining feature of reverse image search is the lack of a need to provide any search terms, which makes the technique simple and convenient for users to find related content, discover manipulated versions and derivative works of images, and even gauge the popularity of an image.
Why would you use a reverse image search?
Some of the use-cases where you can utilize reverse image search tools are as follows:
* Find similar pictures: If you have a certain photo that you love and want to find other similar images, a reverse image search may be more effective than a normal keyword search for locating similar images. You do not need to refine search terms when using an image for your search.
* Find out the source of an image: If you have received a picture and want to know where it came from originally, a reverse image search will give you as much information as possible about where it was first uploaded to the Internet.
* Identify a person or get a person’s contact details: If you have lost touch with someone, a reverse image search can be performed to locate information about them by finding images that match that person on various websites, social media accounts, and public forums.
* Mobile image recognition: Connect the physical world to the digital using image recognition: if you are out and about and see something that you would like to know more about, you can take a photo of it and do a reverse image search to locate similar images, and then get information about those similar images.
* Find copyrighted photos: If you are a photographer or you sell copyrighted images/photos, you can do a reverse image search to see where else on the Internet your photos are being used to make sure you get your royalties.
* Check the authenticity of a picture: Look up images of accommodation rentals to make sure that they are not listed on other sites, which is something that a scammer might do. Scammers often steal images and list them as their own rental to take your deposit.
* Perform a product search: Find products that you have seen on the Internet and are interested in buying. For example, if you see something on Pinterest, such as a product or recipe, that is not linked to a product page, you can find out where it is available for purchase by using its image in a reverse image search.
How to reverse image search on desktop
Using your web browser, open any of the major search engines, such as Google Search, Bing, or Yandex. The following instructions apply to Yandex:
* Click the “Images” icon above the search bar.
* Click on the camera icon which is in the search bar toward the right.
* A popup box will appear where you are given the option to enter an image’s URL or upload a photo from your desktop.
* Most users save a photo they have already found online and then upload it into this box.
* The search engine will then display similar images and a list of all the pages where each image is displayed.
How to do a reverse image search on iPhone or Android
On phones, websites load differently and may not automatically offer reverse image searches. For example, when you fire up images.google.com on mobile, although the camera icon does show up in the search bar, tapping it will send you to download the Chrome app (from where you can easily perform a reverse image search).
To access Google’s reverse image search without using the Chrome app, you can load the desktop version of the Google website (or any other search engine’s website) on your mobile device. In Safari, tap the aA icon on the bottom left and select Request Desktop Site. In Chrome, tap the three-dot menu, scroll down on the menu that pops up, and select Request Desktop Site. On both browsers, that will load the desktop version of Google Images, and a working camera icon will appear. Then you can upload a photo from your photo library to perform a search on.
The reverse image search by Microsoft Bing is accessed as easily on mobile as it is on desktop. Browse to bing.com on any browser app and tap the camera icon that appears in the search bar in the same way as you would on desktop. You will then be asked to provide access to your camera and photo library, and you can either take a photo or upload one to perform the reverse image search.
Apps for reverse image search
If you prefer apps over the browser, a variety of reverse image search apps have been developed that you can keep on your smartphone at all times. Two of the best reverse image search apps are:
* Reverse Image Search Tool by Liam’s Studio on Google Play Store
* Reverse Image Search by Tiemei Yan on the App Store
Tips for using reverse image search
If you want even more advice on how to reverse search an image or if your searches are coming up empty-handed, try some of these tips:
* Crop images to highlight specific details that you wish to search for.
* Compress images before upload to save on upload bandwidth and time.
* Input a specific date range into the search tool.
* A input text into the search box to refine your results (if possible).
* Flip the photo to a different orientation.
* Upgrade the quality of your source photos.
Performing a reverse image search is a quick and easy way to find additional context about images and is a vital step for many professionals who work with photos. Try out the tips provided in this article and see what results you get.
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