Tag Archives: internet

Snowed down: Testing ISP Speeds on a Snow Day

What happens when the internet, the backbone of our high-tech economy, is down?  That’s a question recently brought to the forefront of the public’s attention, between the debate over Net Neutrality, hacking attacks, and President Obama’s recent proposal to expand broadband options.  Despite years of gains,  millions of Americans lack broadband access, and even where it is available speeds often lag other markets.  Yet we’re also more reliant on the web than ever before, constantly connected whether at home, at work, or anywhere on the go with smartphones. It’s easy to take for granted the benefits of fast, reliable broadband internet – at least until we lose our own connections.

Snow crossing signDuring the recent hurricanes and winter storms which managed to shut down major parts of the U.S. East Coast, there were numerous reports of internet service outages and website downtime for major hubs like Huffington Post and Netflix.  Some of these issues could have been caused by infrastructure damage from the storms, but at least some downtime was attributed to servers buckling under the load of millions more Americans simultaneously logging-on while stuck indoors during the inclement weather.  In fact, even during normal nights Netflix can account for as much as one-third of internet traffic during the peak evening hours, straining web servers and ISP networks.

Knowing these trends I formed a hypothesis: local ISPs would crumble during last week’s storm (Winter Storm Juno) under the heavy load of snowed-in users. To test my hypothesis, I recruited a simple network sample, emailing my friends across the New York metro area to run speed tests at the same time: around 9 PM EST on Monday, January 26th 2015. For the methodology we used SpeedOf.me to gauge speeds, while I collected details about each participant’s ISP and connection type, attempting to rule out as many variables as possible.  So here are some results from our little experiment: Continue reading Snowed down: Testing ISP Speeds on a Snow Day

Defend the web: Why I Support Net Neutrality

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: internet service providers want to create a “fast-lane” for certain websites (namely those who pay for the privilege) at the expense of effectively slowing down other websites. If it seems like we’ve Matt Hurst loadingbeen defending the principles of Net Neutrality for at least a decade you’re not far off (myself included during my early blogging days), but telecom companies continue to spend millions of dollars every year to lobby for policies designed to create an uneven playing field from which they profit but at the expense of consumers.  Today I’ve joined thousands of bloggers and websites by participating an Internet Slowdown protest, simulating the same slowdown we might experience if ISPs are able to remove Net Neutrality rules set by the FCC.

First let’s make sure we understands what Net Neutrality is: a guiding principle of the internet that the web should be open and level-playing field for all websites.   For the uninitiated, talk show John Oliver has an excellent primer on Net Neutrality and why it’s important: Continue reading Defend the web: Why I Support Net Neutrality

Nielsen’s Social Media Report

Data visualization of demographics on social media sites from Nielsen's Social Media Report
Last month Nielsen (my employer) released a new State of the Media report focused on social media use in the US and around the world. This report offers a unique snapshot overview of the social media landscape, using measurements of consumers’ behavior in their browsers rather than survey data. It reveals not only the significant growth among the population visiting social networks and blogs, but also who makes up the audience on these sites and how they use social media.  Here’s a few highlights of its key findings and takeaways:

  • More than 4 in 5 American who are active online visited Social Media websites within the last month
  • About a quarter of all time spent online is using Social Networks & Blog sites, more than twice as much as the next nearest category of websites.
  • Facebook is by far the most popular social networking website globally, and in the U.S. Tumblr is among the fastest growing
  • Growth in social media users comes from people of all ages and increasingly among those aged 55+, making social media more representative of the online population overall

As a member of Nielsen’s global communications team (full disclosure), I helped research and write this report, working together with our thoughts leaders/experts and designers to create compelling data visualizations that help convey Nielsen’s insights into consumer behavior.  The response to the report has been overwhelmingly positive, with coverage by key news media and thousands of links shared across social networks. Of course all ideas/opinions expressed on this site and in social media are my own (and are not necessarily shared by my employer), so hopefully you find the analysis and insight in this report as helpful as I do.

Visit the Nielsen’s website to read the Social Media Report and download a copy of your own.

Happy Birthday, the Internet!

@NMSosphereThis week is the 40th anniversary of the internet, when ARPAnet was created in 1969 almost no one could imagine a world of email evolving into Google and Wikipedia, much less Facebook. Last week New Media Strategies celebrated their 10th birthday as well, some small eternity of life on the internet; among good company like Google and Amazon this Word of Mouth marketing (WoMM) and online PR agency has thrived in two dotcom booms (and busts).

Coincidentally 2009 marks the first 10 years I’ve been using this network of computers we call the Internet, in many ways I could have never anticipated using. Yet somehow New Media Strategies knew where things were heading years in advance.

This summer I had the unique privilege to gain hands on experience at NMS as an intern/online analyst, learning first-hand what online brand promotion and protection mean today (and some ideas about the future). Working with corporate clients from both Fortune 500 companies and Non-profits alike, I learned how Word of Mouth marketing carries influence; I was called a “Social Media Power-User”. Working with NMS was different than any other internship I had heard of, especially since I was given all the same responsibilities they expected of their entry-level employees.

Most importantly I contributed valuable research and report writing along with my team members, using online communication as a sort of public focus-group style audit to measure opinion and perception, and on at least one occasion to avert a crisis. These experiences were my primary responsibility at NMS, and helped me understand how to identify (and sometimes create) discussion in many valuable and unexpected venues; in many cases the majority of conversation took place outside of Facebook, and most of it cannot be found using a simple Google search.

Working at New Media Strategies I also met great people, who I’m looking forward to recognizing for their work, as I will describe in upcoming case studies of our work with clients. In the meantime I would like to thank NMS for the unique opportunity they gave me, and to congratulate them on their first 10 years on the Internet.

News, Notes, and Interviews

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by a colleague (Zhamilya Gafurr) from Voice of America Russian Service about how young people in the United States use the internet.  Since I’ve been using the internet for at least half of my young life, I tried to explain why 9 out of 10 Americans expect major disruptions to their daily life without the internet. While I wanted to explain how reliant our society is on the internet, you’ll see that something must have been lost in translation back to English:

Says Matthew, “ I’m probably one of those people who panic when their smartphones sits battery, because without a mobile GPS, I can and the city lost.”  Morning of Matthew begins with checking e-mail.  Light lunch – and Mr. Hurst had to stop in anticipation of the bus.  Make sure that the site of public transport District of Columbia has no information about the delay of its route, he can afford to read the latest press.

Earlier this year I wrote about promoting my favorite non-profit cause, People To People, who also posted an interview with me. In addition to discussing my work with them in fundraising, we discussed the impact my years traveling as a student ambassador has had on me intellectually and personally. You can read the whole transcript on their Facebook fan page, where you can learn more about their work to create peace through understanding.

Thanks again to my esteemed colleague Gabe Bullard for the personal recommendation on his blog, which features his expert insight into media and culture that serve as a source of inspiration for this blogger.   I’m also looking forward to sharing interviews from my alma mater (Webster University) and the video we shot for People To People, which I’ll be happy to share here once they are both published.

American Forum

@acarvin and Katheryn Montgomery
@aCarvin and Katheryn Montgomery

Are Media Making Us Dumber?” The question may sound like an oxymoron in an age where information is instantly accessible, but ubiquity of human knowledge does not always equal individual understanding. So how are media changing the way we learn and communicate important ideas?

I went to an American Forum last night to hear different perspectives on the issue and try to get a few answers.  Although consensus was difficult to reach in this panel discussion between academics and communications professionals, I think everyone agreed that people read a website differently than a book or newspaper article. Continue reading American Forum

The Resume Website

a public, pay-per-use internet terminal

I knew it would help to build a website with my resume, but I didn’t realize how much.  Ever since publicly launching this site less than a month ago, I have been humbled by all the positive feedback from colleagues, classmates, prospective employers, and on social networks.

A few have even asked me to help build their own websites, although I haven’t decided how much to charge.  The truth is that almost anyone is able to build a website like this one. I had never learned how to buy a domain name, web hosting, or to set up the website until I tried it for myself.

I am a firm believer that blogs are capable websites for almost any purpose, so I devised my resume website as a WordPress blog (this part is free).  By hosting my own blog (not necessarily free) I needed to set up WordPress in their famous 5-minute installation.  This open-source software gives me the ability to customize by adding features and designs to my blog.  And since this is a blog, it doesn’t take any advanced knowledge of codes or programming to build it; making this website is as simple as writing with a word processor.

While I would be happy to make a few bucks helping my friends build nice looking websites, but I think they might learn some valuable skills by trying it for themselves.  At least a few of my friends have been doing just that on their own websites.   And until this site makes the first page of Google search results for my name, it’s going to take a lot more to make my own name stick out from all the other Matthew Hurst’s of the world.

Building this website has been an ongoing process, helping me to consider how it could be improved by incorporating feedback.  There is almost always a better way to do this work, so I really appreciate all the feedback so far, but I have trouble taking credit; after all it’s just another WordPress blog.

In Your Hand (an Internet)

You have seen them walking along the street with their heads down and their hands out in front of them, thumbs fidgeting on a handset that looks less like a phone and more like a mobile computer.  And you wonder what they see that could possibly be so interesting that they’re about to walk into a streetlight (or get mugged).

Although you can’t tell if they’re reading an important email or just texting their friends, there is an increasing chance they are reading a website.  In a Pew study of mobile phone use before 2008, at least 19% of Americans had already used a cellphone or PDA to access a website, and since then use of cellphones like the iPhone that can access web represent an increasing portion of any website’s visitors.   Because these devices use a smaller screen, and mobile websites might be loaded for different purposes, communicating on a mobile website is different.

Some differences seem more obvious than others: like most writing for websites, a mobile website should be succinct, with catchy hooks that make you want to click through and read the rest of the story.  Most mobile web browsers will only display around 50 to 75 words of legible text on screen at a time, so you’ll need to make the point quickly.  The screen itself promotes sites that are easy to navigate with narrow vertical scrolling, as opposed to the wide horizontal columns used on monitors for navigating most desktop web browsing.  And because people are using the web on the go, they are visiting sites for different reasons; one trend is location-based information services that take advantage of GPS and Google Maps (which should be the subject of another post on this blog of its own).

This website is specially configured for reading on mobile browsers, including the iPhone and Blackberry handhelds; simply visit the site on your mobile device and it should look a little different.  By utilizing a plugin to WordPress, you will be able to use most of the features in this site on your mobile device, including the latest blog posts, sending an me an email, leaving a comment, or just searching the site.  I would like to welcome any feedback you might have about my own mobile website, so that I can make adjustments for these rapidly changing communications tools.