Monthly Archives: September 2007

activate your iphone without a social security number (ssn)

if you don’t care about the story and just came here looking for the short answer: you can bypass the social security number by using the following number instead: 141-11-1111. this is the number at&t uses internally for cases where they want to permit customers to bypass the ssn field. your phone will be registered but you have two options: either you can pay a security deposit of $90 to $1000 ( since they can’t run a credit check without a ssn) or you can register for a pre-paid plan.

for those interested in the story, a friend of mine bought an iphone last week but when he went to activate it (he didn’t want to jailbreak/sim-free it), he ran into a problem: the registration process requires a social security number but because he is an international student, he doesn’t have one. i googled around for a while and all i could find was either alarmist articles on why you shouldn’t send your social security number over to at&t (remember at&t is the company that gave unchecked, back-door access to all your information to the nsa) or articles on why you shouldn’t buy an iphone at all if you don’t have a ssn.

what will apple they do with such sensitive information? will they protect it? do they really need to collect it? these are questions that privacy advocates are demanding answers for–and rightfully so. gone are the days where consumers should just provide such sensitive information because someone asks for it and cannot imagine why apple would need this information–it just doesn’t seem necessary.

anyway, i got on the phone with a customer support agent to resolve my problem. after putting me on hold for 15 minutes, she told me that i could enter the number 141-11-1111 (a number they internally use that let’s you bypass the ssn) in the social security number field and i would be ready to go. the only catch is that if you don’t enter your ssn, you either have to pay a security deposit between $90 and $1,000 or you can sign up for a pre-paid plan.

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scoble’s 10 rules of twitter – here’s what i think

scoble just put up his 10 rules of using twitter, which needless to say he breaks (since rules are meant to be…). here’s my take on the rules.

original photo: mayr

1. never send more than 140 characters: this is an obvious one and makes sense since you’re limited to 140 characters (pownce doesn’t have this limit).

2. never tweet more than 5 times a day: i think a more appropriate rule is to not tweet more than a couple of times in a row. otherwise you risk overexposure. you can tweet more than 5 times a day, just spread them out.

3. never follow more than 300 people: this will never be a problem for most people as long as they just follow their friends and people who they think have something useful to say. just don’t follow everyone who’s following you and you’ll be fine.

4. never follow anyone who isn’t your ‘real’ friend: it’s okay to follow people who aren’t your real friends if you are actually following them and engaging with them, just don’t break rule number 3.

5. don’t assume other people are having the same experience you are: that is the beauty of social media. we all get to define our own experience.

6. don’t post thoughts across multiple tweets: it’s called ‘micro-blogging’ (and twitter has enforced a 140-character limit) for a reason. if you have something longer to say, try tumblr or blogging.

7. the twitter question is ‘what are we doing?’: this doesn’t have to be enforced. you can post a blurb on what you are doing, what’s happening, what you think about what you are doing or what’s happening. just don’t break rule number 1 or 6.

8. follow one person for every 10 who follows you: this is a stupid rule. follow anyone you want as long as you are within the bounds of rule number 3.

9. if other people are telling you you’re spamming, you should listen to them: there is a mechanism for other people to block your spam. they can de-friend you and stop following you. problem solved.

10. don’t put things into twitter that aren’t designed for twitter: that’s what tumblr is for. figure out what you want to do with a platform and use the one most suited to your needs.

some people may abide by these rules but for the most of us there are no rules and if you don’t like it, click ‘un-follow’.

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exclusive look: mixx private beta

whenever we get word of a new socially driven news site, the first thing that flashes through most people’s minds is ‘here we go again with another site that will be compared to, probably be called a clone of, and ultimately be overshadowed by digg‘. before we go ahead, let me just mention that mixx is in fact living on the edge and not in a good way.

the site offers all the usual read, submit, vote, comment, functionality but the main premise behind the it is to take the socially driven news model and personalize it for each user. you begin by choosing topics that you are interested in and organizing how you want them to be arranged on your home page and as you use the site these categories are populated to match your habits and interests. i know what you’re thinking, reddit and stumbleupon already do this and digg and propeller are scheduled to launch their own recommendation engines soon.

arrington argues that ‘entrepreneurs have been trying to crack the personalized news nut for years, with a string of failures,’ while pointing out an area mixx could capitalize on, but i think we’ve been well on our way towards personalization for a while. personalized content recommendation engines may not be perfect but a quick look at reddit shows that out of the top 25 stories recommended to me, i had already read 18 of them even before the made the front page. furthermore, the more i use stumbleupon, the more i enjoy using the site because my usage of the toolbar improves the relevancy of the content delivered to me.

the one feature that i think is well implemented on mixx (it’s not new and propeller has had it for over a year) is the local news section. if you add your location to your profile (unlike on digg, you don’t have to list a zip code) there will be an option to tag a story you’re submitting as local.

once you and other people from your area do that, you can retrieve local content by clicking the ‘local’ tab at the top of the page.

on the whole the site’s design and feature-set is not bad but it also doesn’t anything new to speak of.

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do you link in or link out?

hi, my name is muhammad saleem and i used to abuse internal linking. last november, a few months after i had started blogging, a regular reader and frequent commenter said the following to me,

as much as I enjoy reading your blog… you link back to yourself in your blog far more often than you link to outside sources.

another reader chimed in, saying,

most blogs link back to themselves more than outside links…it just makes sense. look at engadget for example… i don’t find a problem with it.

and at that time i didn’t find a problem with it either, but now i do. since then, i’ve realized certain benefits of linking out (beyond linking in or out just based on search engine algorithms and for seo purposes). by linking to other sources you can either use them to back up your own argument or provide your readers with another viewpoint to consider and come to their own conclusions. this helps your reputation as an author and makes you a more complete information source, giving your readers more of a reason to come back to you rather than someone else simply because you provide them with a more complete experience and most likely have richer conversations.

what’s surprising is that some of the most popular sites on the web right now are also the ones that most overuse/abuse internal linking. i took a few of the recent articles on techcrunch and mashable, and looked at their internal-to-outbound linking ratio and in many cases over 50% of the links were to their own previous coverage (even when they were regurgitating other people’s content). in fact, techcrunch doesn’t even link directly to the site they’re talking about anymore, rather they link to that site’s crunchbase profile.

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exclusive look: hey! nielsen private beta

with all the online digital media news we’ve recently been reading, i was glad to get an email from the hey nielsen team offering me access to the site a week in advance. here’s a look at hey nielsen, nielsen media research’s foray into the social web. the site is divided into 5 main sections which we will take a look at one by one. (click images for larger versions)


the first and most important aspect of the site is the opinions section. here people can create opinions, react to and rate opinions created by other people, comment on them, share them, and report them to the site. opinions can be created in 5 cetegories – tv, movies, music, personalities, and internet, and they can be rated on a scale of -5 to 5.

clicking on any topic from there (i clicked on jericho) will take you to all the opinions created on that topic and that topic’s resulting ranking.


although you can click on any topic to see its ranking, there is an overall rankings section on the site that ranks all activity on the site. in the default view you can see the 20 highest ranked items on the site in all 5 categories.

clicking an item from here takes you to all opinions about that item and that item’s resulting ranking trend.


hey! nielsen is still in private beta so some of the site’s features are still unavailable. the entertainment calendar will probably integrate tv-guide like functionality into the site.


member search let’s you search for other site members name and geographical proximity. by clicking on a member you can see their opinion interaction history and either message them or add them as a recommender (i.e. their preferences are used to recommend things for you).

widgets and feeds

the other feature that is unavailable in the beta is widgets and feeds. from the looks of it the widgets are really well done and would be right at home at a lot of celebrity/entertainment news sites.

even though a couple of features are disabled right now, the site is highly usable and using it is an incredibly enjoyable experience. with hey! nielsen, nielsen media research has hit the social media nail on its head.

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