Understanding Anonymous

Unless you're living under the 21st century equivalent of a rock, you've heard about the cyberactivism group known as "Anonymous."

Except: Anonymous isn't a group. It's an organization. It doesn't have a mission statement or a system of governance. It has no goals, no bylaws, no officers, and no club house. So what is it?

Even using a capitalized word to describe Anonymous is a misnomer. So instead of trying to characterize the concept as a "group" or a "movement", I am going to call it a phenomenon. In fact, I think it's a combination of two unbelievably powerful factors that have never been integrated before.

One the one hand, you have the notion of zeitgeist. From my handy dictionary:
zeitgiest - The defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
This is certainly a moment of civil unrest, and the people who are being characterized as part of this "movement" are those that feel the most disenfranchised. They see what they call injustice and want things to change.

Of course, a sensation that the world is unfair is nothing new. People have been complaining about being mistreated since complaining was invented. But today, something is different. And this time, I'm using my own definition:
social media -the appropriation of world-wide, near-instant communication propagated by individual relationships instead of traditional broadcasting.
This has always been happening, but modern technology makes it unfathomably more difficult to stop. Instead of complaining about a bad experience on a flight to your friends at the bar, you might make a viral video that garners over 10 million views.

What does the Guy Fawkes mask represent to you?
So what is Anonymous? It's people who are upset about the world being upside down and making a statement. In the same way that a dirty joke spreads through a college dormitory, particular trends such as Guy Fawkes masks and a tendency to speak in pronouncements spreads through the "community" of people who are angry.

If Anonymous is anything, it is a harbinger of the future. In the past, if you wanted to conspire to make something unfair in your favor, you only needed to convince the authorities to protect you. But today, cheaters don't just need to avoid the police. They must avoid everyone who might detect their true intentions.

Anonymous is simply democracy in it's purest form. It is rule by the people, not through election but through the wildfire of rumor.

If you're not interested in censorship or in oppression, you have nothing to fear from Anonymous.

But if you want to silence people or restrict their rights, you'll have to face the court of public opinion. And thanks to the Internet, that court and its bailiff number into the billions.

About the Author
Robby Slaughter (@robbyslaughter)

Robby Slaughter is a productivity expert and the author of Failure: The Secret to Success.

Be Proactive About Intellectual Property Protection

The wake of SOPA debates (and protest) has reignited interest in intellectual property. Do you know how to protect yours?

As technology continues to improve, thieves are finding new and more creative ways to steal data and digital property from others.

Instead of waiting around for the next SOPA to be debated (and potentially passed), I choose to be proactive and learn how to protect myself. I've done some research and unearth five useful tips to help all of us protect our intellectual property.

First things first. 

What is Intellectual Property?

According to Stopfakes.gov, intellectual property is any innovation, commercial or artistic, or any unique name, symbol, logo or design used commercially. Intellectual property is protected by:
  • patents on inventions;
  • trademarks on branding devices;
  • copyrights on music, videos, patterns and other forms of expression;
  • trade secrets for methods or formulas having economic value and used commercially
Below are four ways to protect your intellectual property. 

Be Smart about Publication
Do not publish sensitive or secret materials online where search engines and the entire world can easily find and copy it. Digital materials that are published online should, at a minimum, contain your unique watermark or other identifying markings. A watermark can be extremely useful if ownership of an item is later disputed.
  • Watermarks should be placed on anything you don't want being used without credit. That includes samples, photos, etc.
  • Watermark software (many are free and can be accessed with a Google search) easily creates watermarks that are nearly invisible to the user and are critical for resolving any infringement disputes.
  • I suggest establishing company policies and requiring all employees to sign confidentiality agreements to prohibit them from disclosing or publishing your intellectual property without permission (or watermark).

Computer and Network Security
Not publishing sensitive documents online doesn't necessarily mean you're out of the woods. Security holes in any network (hard wired or wireless) can be a hacker's dream -- and Anonymous has been on a roll lately.  Secure your wireless network, password protect your computer(s) and sensitive documents, and install anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • It's always a good idea to password protect any documents that contain sensitive material.   
  • Do not allow unknown users to connect to your network. 
  • Keep your anti-virus software updated and run checks regularly. (Or you could buy a Mac, which doesn't seem to have that pesky virus problem.)

Apply for Protection
Make the first move to protect your intellectual property by applying for protection. First and foremost, research the difference between trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Each will have different requirements and require specific documentation.
  • Clearly display any patent, copyright, or trademark notices on your website and any other legally protected documents. Make it clear that your material is not free for use, duplication, or redistribution without permission.
  • Be sure to enforce any violations. There is no point in buying a copyright if you aren't going to enforce it!
  • Copyscape is a great free tool that searches the web for duplicate content. Use it!

Be Clear about Licensing Permissions
Clearly state any licensing rights, terms, and conditions of use for your intellectual property on your website. If you choose to "lease" your intellectual property (with permission of course), state your licensing policies in your Terms of Use and get licensing agreements in writing.

Writer's block

I've been trying to publish a blog post for months -- MONTHS I tell you!

Don't get me wrong, I've sat down to write a post (or twelve) and none of them were fit to print. For one reason or another, I decided against publishing my posts.

If you can't laugh at yourself, you can always laugh at this dog.

I have GOT to stop taking myself so seriously.