Security: Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It

If there’s one thing you probably shouldn’t admit on the internet, it’s that you’re not as secure as you should be. But in today’s blog post, I find myself doing just that. This module’s information alerted me to new ideas about what security means, what I’ve been doing wrong (and right), and some ways I can address those issues.

I’ve always been afraid of three things: having my identity stolen, losing files that are important to me, and being victim to ransomware. I rarely have nightmares, but a recurring one is something happening to my computer. But as to actually protecting myself? No, I regularly commit cardinal sins in that area. I use public Wi-Fi, don’t encrypt beyond what is automatically done for me, and I frequently click the “Sign up with Facebook” option. I have put both my real birthday and place of birth on my Facebook account. However, I don’t have an Alexa and I don’t use any gadgets (beyond my phone) that could be considered part of the “internet of things”. I rarely sign up for websites, and when I do, I vet them (though clearly, that doesn’t always make a difference).

Therefore, I would say that my biggest flaws in this area are that I like convenience and I like connecting with others. I have no desire to turn off Google’s tracking because I want ads catered to my interests. I want my Facebook friends to know basic details about me, partly because I want to find things in common with others and partly because I don’t want to be one of those people who “has something to hide”. Where is the line between protecting yourself and being uptight? I continuously struggle with finding it, and therefore struggle with cyber security in general.

That being said, this module has had some excellent suggestions that I plan on following, namely:

  1. Backing up my data. I have used back-up systems in the past, but the one I had finally filled up so I haven’t been as on top of that lately. Knowing my pictures and documents are backed up is one of the ways I can sleep easier at night, so I intend to remedy that situation as soon as possible.
  2. Getting a password manager/two-factor authentication. I’m getting better at passwords, but I know I’ll never be as good as I should be. Therefore, I intend to get a password manager as well as two-factor authentication, which will not only save time (at least in the case of the passwords), but will also increase security to my accounts.
  3. Being more proactive about installing updates. As Professor Gillmor discussed, installing updates on computer and phone software is very important. I tend to be lazy and click “update later”, but I’ll try to avoid that in the future.

In the end, I agree with the title screen of the last lecture: “Security is not optional (but don’t be too paranoid)”. We can put all the security measures at our disposal into place, but if the government wants to find us, we will be found. If a very determined hacker wants to find us, we’ll probably be found. I believe in covering your tracks, using common sense, and taking precautions whenever possible. But the fact is, many of these things are out of our hands. The best we can do for ourselves is to be smart rather than cocky, to set up our own corner of the internet that we control, and to never stop educating ourselves on the threats (and benefits) of the world wide web.

Thank you for following me on this blogging journey over the past 8 weeks. Hopefully you’ve gotten something out of my posts, just as I have from writing them.

Until next time,



Law & Media

For Module 7, we studied the way the law affects the media and how people use it. It was concerning to realize that there were so many ways that the government and powerful companies could control the way we produce and share content. But it’s not just them–the individual can harm another individual just as much (or more) than those we think of as the power players.

I’d say the things that concerned me the most were the copyright issues and the concept of companies like Comcast filtering the things that we see. I don’t believe that any company should have the right to choose what people should and shouldn’t do with their internet connection. I know that many people are now getting VPNs that ensure they can hide their activity from their internet providers so they won’t get dropped from the service. I understand that internet providers don’t want to be responsible for people breaking the law under their service, but I think the most reasonable thing for them to do is simply to look away. Nobody should blame Comcast if it turns out people were illegally downloading films on the connection they provided.

Copyright is another big one. Again, I understand why it is so hotly debated–obviously, companies don’t want their content stolen. But the big ones often put a blanket ban on their content that makes fair use extremely hazy and causes copyright strikes to be placed on things that aren’t even correct. I also firmly believe in the fair use policy–most content creators are using content from big companies in a new, unique way and therefore, their activities should fall under fair use. Additionally, I think our society benefits from being much more open about copyright laws in the name of art.

For example, there’s an entire YouTube Audio Library that posts music free for anyone to use, and it’s extremely popular. Big companies are missing out on the chance for their content to receive free promotion through being used and remixed because they’re not allowing it to be used at all–rather, they punish people for using it, even if those people pay for it first.

The information I learned in this module won’t really change the way I use media. I have a YouTube channel where I occasionally post song covers, but I’m not worried about copyright because I use my own backing tracks instead of ones from the original song. When I blog about TV shows, I use screenshots that I find on the internet, which also haven’t incurred any copyright issues so far. I’ve also made it a point not to be too negative on the internet–not only would it be bad form in my opinion to antagonize people, but it could also attract a defamation lawsuit that I certainly would not want.

Overall, I believe that media law will continue to evolve and change. In some ways, it’ll probably be more scary in 10 years. But in other ways, as supply and demand changes, it may actually get better. After all, media is a business, and whatever makes the most money is what’s probably going to win out in the end. In the meantime, I’m going to keep making original content that I don’t have to worry about and try to sleep well at night.

Until next time,



Wikipedia Hands-On Project: Charlotte Brontë

In addition to allergy awareness, one of the subjects I’m passionate about is the Brontë family. Jane Eyre has been on my top 5 favorites list since I was 14 and I have written countless papers on the three Brontë sisters (much to the bemusement of my professors). To my surprise, the “Charlotte Brontë” article on Wikipedia is only a C-class according to the Article Finder tool, so I decided to contribute to that one for this assignment.

Firstly, I went through the Wikipedia training modules to prepare myself. Although I’ve browsed Wikipedia for years and even tried my hand at contributing to American Girl doll articles back in the day, I didn’t realize that so much went into the Wikipedia process. I learned about how to easily cite my work and what kind of citations were appropriate as well as the more technical side of things, such as signing my name in the “Talk” pages with “~~~~”.

After making some Sandbox edits, I was thrown out into the great big Wiki world. I read through my chosen article, looking for places that could use some improvement. There were actually several, and I intend to go back to them after this course is over. But in the end, I chose to expand upon an interesting fact that had been alluded to in the opening paragraph of the article and then abandoned:

I remembered reading about this in a recent biography of Charlotte by Claire Harman, so I went back to my copy and refreshed my memory of the events. To my surprise, the biography hadn’t been cited anywhere in the article, though the author had been given a brief shoutout.

I posted a message on the Talk page detailing my editing plans:

Nobody had responded a day later and it was such a quiet Talk page that I doubted I would get a response no matter how long I left it up, so I decided to go ahead and make the edit:

My final edit included changing the heading of the section from “Brussels” to “Brussels and Haworth” and adding the entire bottom paragraph starting with “After returning to Haworth…”. I also added a citation for the exact pages in the book that I used. As of this writing, the contribution is still on the page.

Overall, I very much enjoyed my Wikipedia experience. I was originally apprehensive about the assignment, thinking it might be confusing or stressful. But once I ‘d chosen a topic I cared about, my attitude changed and I began to have fun. There’s a real sense of accomplishment knowing that the words I wrote on this topic could give people a better understanding of such an important author. Additionally, going through this process gave me  a much better appreciation for the volunteers that work on Wikipedia every single day. I would recommend trying this yourself if you have a subject you know a lot about and want to make the internet just a little bit better.

Until next time,



The Grandmother Problem

This week, I’m breaking away from allergy information for a bit and discussing something called “The Grandmother Problem”: the tendency to post misleading but usually well-intentioned content on social media without vetting it first. Usually, this happens with older people, but it can certainly be relevant to younger ones as well. Like most, I’ve seen my fair share of “cringey” posts on social media from friends and family members that clearly came from disreputable sources and were spreading inaccurate information. The big question is, how do we talk to our friends and loved ones about this issue without causing unnecessary hurt on either side?

Firstly, it’s important to make sure the other person knows that you’re not attacking them or their character by bringing this to their attention. Assure them that you care for them and you are letting them know about your concern because you care. Go into the conversation assuming that they are doing their best and try to be respectful while educating them.

Secondly, let them know of the potential dangers of sharing false and harmful information. They might not understand the full scope of what they’re posting or they’ve been led to believe half-truths due to previous media consumption. Try to unravel this by asking them where they’re coming from and why they believe the information they’re sharing.

Third, offer them resources. If you’ve had any training in media literacy, mention it (unless you have an aunt who’s skeptical of college educations–then you might leave that out). Share some websites that have helped you in the past and, if need be, show the person how to use them.

Here is an example of an opening message you might send to this person:

Hi (name)! I saw your latest post on Facebook about the presidential candidate debate. You might not realize this, but the article came from a site that has a long history of slamming candidates that they don’t agree with and not presenting both sides of the argument fairly. It can be really challenging to vet this stuff, but I use websites like Snopes to help me out. If you have questions about an article, feel free to send it over to me and I can help you figure out if it’s legitimate or not. Hope you’re doing well! 

Hopefully these tips can get you started on sharing media literacy with others!

Until next time,



Curation of Allergy Resources

This week, we’re exploring some of my favorite resources that deal with the topic of peanut allergies (or food allergies in general). As these resources detail topics that are medical in nature, please keep in mind that you should ask your doctor and/or allergist before moving forward with any recommendations that they may offer.

  1. Netflix’s Rotten, S1Ep2: The Peanut Problem

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned the Netflix show Rotten and its excellent episode on peanut allergies in relation to social issues and the peanut industry at large. I fully recommend watching this to get an idea of the current peanut allergy landscape. (This link goes to the Rotten trailer on YouTube, as it’s more accessible to everyone than linking the episode on Netflix).

2.  The Snack Safely Guide

The Snack Safely guide, the most well-known resource to come out of, is exactly what it sounds like: a guide to all kinds of snacks that are safe for those with food allergies. The makers of the guide “work directly with manufacturers to research the products listed” and it is updated frequently.

3. Facebook Group – Peanut/Treenut Allergy Safe Food Finds

Facebook groups are informal and must be joined with caution, but they can also be full of like-minded people with solid information. This one has helped me find several new and totally safe foods that I had no idea existed. It can take a village to feed someone with a life-threatening food allergy.

4. Allergic Living Magazine – Food Allergy Anxiety Guide

The anxiety that comes with a food allergy is one of the most difficult things about having one. Allergic Living, a great site dedicated to all things allergies, has compiled a 90-page special edition of their magazine that deals with this anxiety through expert insight and positive solutions. Everyone experiencing food allergy anxiety should have a copy.

5. FARE Website

The Food Allergy Research & Education organization gives people up-to-date information about all kinds of food allergies. Their site is reliable, interesting, and easy to navigate–a great starting point for people just learning about food allergies.

I hope these resources prove useful to anyone who has food allergies themselves or an allergic loved one. If you have further suggestions for this list, comment below and share what’s helped you!

Until next time,



A Deep Dive Into an Allergy Article

Last week, I gave some examples of news vs opinion articles on the topic of food allergies. This week, I’ve chosen another article to take a closer look at: “The U.S. Health-Care System Found a Way to Make Peanuts Cost $4,200” by James Hamblin, MD. This was published by The Atlantic just yesterday. It discusses the use of peanut flour for a treatment called oral immunotherapy, or OIT, which has been touted by some as the saving grace for those with peanut allergies. However, Hamblin has some things to say about that.

In the first 3-5 paragraphs, the article gives what I like to call “backstory”. It discusses basic information about peanuts/peanut allergies, what happens during a reaction, and some of the social ramifications of said events. Additionally, it addresses the rising number of peanut allergies and the reasoning for that (people are feeding their kids fewer peanuts, so more children are developing an allergy). Introducing the topic with backstory ensures that the reader understands the nature of the issue and why it’s so important. Without information about the severity of allergies and why people are so desperate for a “cure”, the entire point of the article might be lost. In writing, context is everything.

After the introduction, Hamblin talks about OIT and how peanut flour is being used to administer the treatment, which turns it into a “drug”. The meat of the article is based in the exploration of taking something that costs almost nothing to produce and turning it into a “drug” that insurance companies must cover. In order to back up his points, Hamblin embeds a total of 13 links to other websites and studies. These include BBC News, The New England Journal of Medicine, and The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Linking information from such reputable sources suggests author transparency., as he encourages you to go directly to the source and find out more about the topic for yourself (essentially fact-checking the author). Additionally, Hamblin interviewed the chief medical adviser for the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) and a professional allergist, further supporting the notion that he has nothing to hide. Supporting your position with reliable sources is especially important when writing about such a crucial medical topic.

This article also introduces readers to concepts like OIT in an environment that discusses both the risks and potential rewards, taking most of the bias out of the equation. That being said, the article focuses mainly on the risks, the sketchy nature of charging thousands of dollars for incredibly cheap peanut protein, and the fact that OIT doesn’t really work in the long run. Hamblin also specifically points out where a study neglected to emphasize its own negative findings.

Near the end of the article, Hamblin talks in more negative terms about the drug and concludes with this statement:

“Of course, it would set the field back even more if people are harmed by a hastily approved and urgently adopted drug. Everyone I spoke with stressed the need for peanut-allergy treatment, and the demand. Patient advocates are not patient advocates if they push for approval of a drug that does more harm than good.”

This kind of phrasing/tone does suggest some bias against the drug, which places this article firmly into the category of an opinion piece (though, as I mentioned in my last blog post, this does not mean that it’s bad). The bias the writer has against the drug is clearly well-founded and backed up by multiple sources, but it can be identified as a bias nonetheless. He does include stories of patients who have had success with OIT, but he does not interview any of them and places his focus firmly on the drug industry and the fact that peanut allergy reactions have actually gone up since OIT was implemented. It would be more balanced if he gave more attention to the potential positives as well as the negatives.

Overall, I would give this story a letter grade of A-. It is very well-researched and basically includes both sides of the issue, but it has a slightly negative slant that would have to be righted in order to be called truly unbiased and transparent. If a student came to me with an article like this, I would tell them that they were absolutely on the right track but they would have to be careful to report the facts without sounding too emotionally invested in the issue by the time they get to the conclusion (assuming they are writing a news story and not an opinion piece). This will help their credibility and the overall quality of their work.

Until next time,



Allergies in the Media

Now that the number of food allergy sufferers is increasing, more and more media coverage is being devoted to the topic. Some of this coverage is positive and some is negative. Some of it is strictly news-related and some is much more opinionated. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of these pieces and why they’re so important.

Firstly, we have this article from the Science News site. As the title of the page (and the categorization of the article itself) suggests, “Liquid mouth drops could one day protect people from peanut allergies” is an example of an objective news article. It discusses the relatively new therapy for peanut allergy called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). I know I can trust this article because of three main factors:

  1. The information is available elsewhere. When I google SLIT, I see many other articles that confirm the existence of this treatment, the reasons it is different from the similar treatment OIT, and the FDA’s current stance on it.
  2. The information comes from a trustworthy source. Science News is a long-running, respected non-profit organization that puts out a magazine as well as their news and opinion articles. They are up-front about what they believe and information about their site is available on Wikipedia.
  3. Many sources are included in the article and it is free from spelling and grammatical errors. The author clearly did their research. They linked to the websites they got their information from (sites such as AAP News and The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology) and also quoted a first-hand account from a mother who gave the treatment to her son. This helps to prove that the author values transparency and desires to report the truth.

Another example of a news article is this one, “Viaskin Peanut Patch Submitted to FDA for Approval Consideration”, posted on the Allergic Living website. Although not a traditional medical website, the source is devoted to posting reliable information about allergies and those who live with them (after all, if they published unreliable information, it could cost people their lives and the site would be quickly shut down). The source can be considered news rather than opinion largely because of the things I listed above–the information can be confirmed elsewhere, it comes from a trustworthy website that has a history of similarly reliable information, and it uses objective language. However, the site could improve their reliability by citing more sources outside of their own articles, however well-researched those articles may be.

On the other hand, let’s look at an opinion/analysis article called “Why European Restaurants Are Much More Vigilant About Food Allergies” from NPR. It’s written by Alan Greenblatt, who suffers from a peanut allergy himself. NPR is a generally reliable and trusted source for good information and there’s plenty of facts in this article, but it’s not a news article because the primary purpose is to describe and analyze the author’s own experience with European restaurants and his own allergy rather than simply reporting on, say, the objective and statistical truth of specific restaurant behavior in the UK.

Not only does Greenblatt discuss his own experiences and opinions, he interviews other people who discuss their opinions. These people include a waiter at one of the restaurants he visited and an allergy specialist, straddling the line between news and analysis (but, in the end, landing on the latter side). The article’s categorization, “Food For Thought”, also suggests that this article is an opinion piece.

A second example of an opinion article is Food Dive’s “Ineffective labeling of plant-based food products leads to life-threatening allergic reactions” by Lisa Gable, the current CEO of FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). Although she has high credentials, this is an opinion article because the subject matter she is discussing can be argued. She is calling for the education of consumers (and companies) in the matter of plant-based diets being labeled poorly for allergens. This is, in her opinion, a very important topic and should be considered so by the powers that be. She backs it up with facts–many plant-based meat substitutes are made up of the top 8 allergens and are not labeled correctly. However, the level of importance of the issue and the timeline and manner in which it should be addressed falls under the category of opinion.

Of course, this is not to say that just because something is an opinion means that it’s incorrect or “bad”. Opinion articles like the two linked above are extremely welcome and important to the overall food allergy discussion. Without well-written and well-researched opinion pieces, allergy sufferers would feel much more alone and the information about these issues would not reach nearly as many people. Opinion pieces are often more powerful to the average person than totally objective news articles, as they are more personable.

The bottom line is that we need both news and opinion articles in order to fully educate the public about serious issues such as allergies. Both serve their own functions, but I find that the best articles come out of the two things merging to form a new, informative, and entertaining whole.

Until next time,



Introduction to My Blog Topic: Food Allergies

At 18 months old, I had an anaphylactic reaction to a small bite of a peanut butter and banana sandwich fed to me by my mother. Afterwards, I was confirmed severely allergic to peanuts by an allergist. Ever since then, I’ve carried two Epi-pens with me at all times. I’m not alone–since 1997, the number of people in the U.S. with food allergies has skyrocketed. Because of this, the allergy world has slowly but surely made its way into the media, and that’s what I’m going to discuss on this course blog.

The attitude of the media towards food allergies has always been a mixed bag. Many films and TV shows make fun of those with food allergies, playing up their potentially life-threatening reactions for comedy. Other media sources choose to take a more sober approach and simply report the facts or fictionalize the issue in a respectful way. Recently, Netflix’s documentary show Rotten added an episode called “The Peanut Problem”, which addressed both the scientific and social aspects of peanut allergies. It was an extremely well-done program and much of it was also applicable to allergies other than peanut.

My stance is and always has been that making fun of allergies does no good. In fact, such things trivialize the issue, which has the potential to get people killed. On the other hand, well-researched news stories and media portrayals can save lives and make everyone feel more empowered along the way. Therefore, it is my duty to share such portrayals and give them as many eyes as I can. I don’t often make recommendations on social media, but after watching “The Peanut Problem” I took to Facebook to share it with all my friends. 

As for websites, my go-tos for for allergy-related content are Snack Safely and, both of which post up to date and interesting resources for both allergic individuals and those who love them. In future blog posts, I’ll discuss this topic in more depth and really get to the heart of how allergies are treated in today’s media landscape.


students Week One

Quinlyn’s 24-hour Media Extravaganza

For this assignment, I logged my activity from 9:00 AM Friday to 9:00 AM Saturday. Usually my media usage is pretty similar day-to-day in the summer and changes during the school year, as I’m less active online due to working and school activities.

9:00 AM Friday – Woke up and picked up my phone. Went to Facebook, Gmail, and Tumblr, but didn’t click on any news content. Didn’t make any comments on social media, but got emails including advertisements for furniture and makeup.

10:00 AM to 12:00 PM – Changed from my phone to the computer. Watched YouTube videos from channels like Bon Appetit and Jenny Nicholson. Saw news on Facebook about Spiderman being transferred from Disney back to Sony.

3:30 PM – Went to see the movie Yesterday in the theater and saw media ads for other movies such as Little Women and Downton Abbey. Went to the mall afterwards and saw ads for Fenty Beauty makeup dispersed throughout the clothing racks.

8:00 PM – Browsed Instagram during dinner; my friend posted artwork she’d done which was based off of a podcast she listens to. I went out for dinner, but ordinarily I would be at home watching some form of news on TV. I often watch CNN with my family, especially the Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper hours.

11:00 PM – Saw ads for football and shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when I opened my Fire Stick menu. Watched a show called The Durrells in Corfu. My mom and I have been watching it steadily for about a week now, and we just started season 2 (because British TV shows have seasons that are much shorter than what we’re used to in the US).

12:00 AM – Went on social media again–Facebook, Gmail, and Tumblr. Didn’t click on any news articles but did see some information about the current election cycle. Liked a few of my friends’ posts but didn’t make any comments. I don’t often make comments unless someone is explicitly asking for information, as I prefer to do most of my communication privately through Messenger.

12:40 AM – Watched an episode of Frasier on Netflix with my mom and then went to bed.

9:00 AM Saturday – Woke up and read an article from The Guardian about Taylor Swift and her new album. Made a comment on a Facebook group I’m in about why I write novels. My brother sent me a YouTube video about a man from 1700s France who ate everything in sight, with an accompanying Tweet about the video.

Overall, I encountered less news content than I usually do. I was checking social media less often this weekend because I actually left my house, and when I was at home I primarily watched YouTube videos that were not news related. But if I take into account my habits over the course of a week or so, patterns start to emerge. I rarely click on news articles or go to specific news sites unless something particularly interests me and I can’t glean all of the necessary information from the title and blurb. My primary news source is CNN because it’s often on in the background at my house and we enjoy several of the programs it offers. I think CNN is a generally reliable source, but it is often left-leaning, so I have to make sure I’m supplementing it with other sources to get the most objective take on what’s happening in the world right now. Sometimes I think I should actively seek out more news content instead of waiting for it to filter in, but I also think that our nation is saturated with so much content that engaging with it too heavily can increase depression and anxiety. Therefore, it’s important to me to find a balance between staying informed and getting overwhelmed.

Site Trustworthiness Ranking: 

CNN – 8. Generally trustworthy with a goal of reporting the news accurately. Sometimes features a left-leaning slant that needs to be considered when analyzing their content.

The Guardian – 8. Similar reasons to CNN. Trustworthy reporting with a left-leaning slant. The Guardian is also a British publication, which gives Americans a different take on some of the same stories.

Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr – 1-7. The trustworthiness of the content depends entirely on who is sharing it and what their intentions are. I’ve learned a great deal from social media sources but they have to be properly vetted before they can be entirely trusted.