Socket Presents the 2nd Annual MSP Golf Invitational

For a while there, it seemed like heavy storms were a certainty – just one of the unavoidable risks of having an event in July.
Luckily, though, the rain held out yesterday for the 2nd Annual Mizzou Sports Properties Golf Invitational, presented by Socket. Even the usual heat wave was missing, with the temperature hovering around a balmy 80 degrees.
The tournament, held at the picturesque Old Kinderhook Golf Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks, started off at one in the afternoon and concluded with the announcement of winners over a light dinner. Socket representatives Dave Giles and Zeke Long are pictured here with some representatives from Columbia Insurance Group.
Hope everyone had fun, and hope to see you all next year!

How Does Pandora Work?

With over 250 million users, Pandora is by far the most popular Internet radio service in the world. However, it works differently than most other online music services, which can be confusing for new users.
Pandora is part of the “Music Genome Project” – a massive undertaking to classify thousands of tracks based on their musical attributes. Each song that Pandora plays has been analyzed by a musician (a process which takes at least 20 minutes per track), and classified using over 400 different “genes.”
For example, let’s take the song “Let It Be,” by The Beatles. The “genes” selected to represent this track include…


  • gospel influences
  • interweaving vocal harmony
  • prominent organ
  • the subtle use of a horn section
  • an electric guitar solo
  • intricate melodic phrasing
  • an emotional male lead vocal performance

…among dozens of others. So when creating a station based off of this song, Pandora isn’t necessarily playing Beatles music. Instead, it’s playing other songs that match this musical genetic profile. (Of course, the Beatles happened to record dozens of songs similar to "Let It Be," so it may seem like Pandora isn’t doing much at first).
Unlike most other online radio stations, the songs Pandora plays for you have nothing to do with what other people have liked. Instead, the “like” and “dislike” buttons on tracks just add to the genome profile of the station you’ve built.
So, let’s say our “Let It Be” station plays “Imagine” by John Lennon next. But we’re not a fan of the song. While the two tracks share many “genes”, here’s a few that “Imagine” doesn’t share with “Let It Be”:


  • mellow rock instrumentation
  • political lyrics
  • folk influences

Disliking the track removes other songs that highlight these attributes. Over time, and with enough feedback, Pandora should be able to fairly accurately pick songs you’ll enjoy.
Of course, this is a very simplified explanation - the Music Genome Project is organized by complex mathematical formulas that remain a trade secret.
Are you a Pandora listener? Has Pandora’s genome system worked for you? Let us know!

Crowdfunding - How Does It Work?

In its simplest form, crowdsourcing is simply generating ideas or work through the power of a crowd – usually enabled by the Internet. Wikipedia, for example, is one of the largest crowdsourced works in the English language, comprised of over 4.5 million articles submitted from all over the world. (See the image below for a visual representation of Wikipedia's size in printed books).
The latest evolution of crowdsourcing is crowdfunding; collecting (often small) donations from a massive number of people. Charities, naturally, have benefitted from this type of funding scheme. However, quite a few for-profit projects have gotten off the ground this way too.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo, two of the most well-known crowdfunding sites, take a small percentage fee off successful campaigns. Unsuccessful campaigns (those that do not hit their initial fundraising goal met by a deadline) have all money returned to donors. Usually campaigns also have “reach” goals – additions to the project that are dependent on how far past their fundraising goal they can go.
Here’s some fascinating examples of crowdfunding projects that worked:
Bring Reading Rainbow Back: After being cancelled after a 23 year run on PBS, host LeVar Burton brought children’s show Reading Rainbow to tablet devices as an educational app. In order to make the show available on the web, as well as creating an app for classroom use, Burton created a Kickstarter with an initial goal of one million dollars.
The Kickstarter blew through this goal in less than 12 hours, prompting Burton to set a new stretch goal to fund apps for mobile phones, video game consoles, and to provide the app for free to disadvantaged students. The campaign raised enough for this goal too – at its close, the Kickstarter had brought in $5,408,916.00. Additionally, Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) made a matching donation of one million dollars, bringing to total to over six million.
Let’s Build a Tesla Museum!: After falling into disrepair, and even being used as a hazardous waste site for a time, the former laboratory of scientist Nikola Tesla went on the market for nearly 1.6 million dollars.
Fearing a new developer might raze the building in favor of apartments or condos, a local librarian started reaching out to Tesla fans about the property. After web comic artist Matthew Inman (known as “The Oatmeal”) posted this plea to his website, donations started pouring in to an Indiegogo campaign to purchase the land. After 6 days, the campaign raised over $850,000 – enough to receive a matching grant from the state of New York to buy the property.
Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk recently made a one million dollar donation to help fund the restoration and construction of a museum on the site.
Canary Home Security: Lacking the funding for production costs, tech start-up Canary proposed their idea for a standalone home security unit on Indiegogo. The unit they envisioned was about the size of a soda can, and contained heat, movement, noise, and humidity sensors, as well as a camera, microphone and accelerometer. Anything triggering the unit would prompt a text message to the user’s phone, allowing them to ignore it, access the camera feed, or set off an alarm.
Canary asked users to preorder the unit for $200, allowing them to raise $100,000 for production. The campaign ended up raising nearly two million dollars, and the first commercial units will be shipped later this summer. That’s a lot of purchases for a product that hadn’t even been made yet.
I’m Making Potato Salad: This one is a bit of a mystery. With a campaign goal set at $10 on Kickstarter, the description reads: “Basically I'm just making potato salad. I haven't decided what kind yet.”
At the moment, over 4,500 people have donated a total of nearly $70,000. And the campaign is still going. If you’d like your name carved into a potato to be used in the salad, it’ll only cost you a $20 donation.
Know of any cool campaigns that could use some backers? Let us know in the comments!

Frank Stefanizzi - Socket's You-Make-The-Difference Award Winner for June 2014!

Congratulations to Field Services Technician Frank Stefanizzi for being named the June recipient of Socket's You-Make the-Difference Award!

Frank is originally from Guttenberg, New Jersey. (Fun fact: Steve Carrell lived in Guttenberg during his stint with The Daily Show.) In his younger days, Frank enjoyed partying it up on the Jersey Shore (before the show), renting a house every summer with 12 other guys with names like Vinnie and Tony.
Fortunately, his journeys eventually brought him to Missouri in 2001, and to Socket just a little over three years ago. Now, he's working relentlessly to keep Socket's business customers up and running. His attitude and determination have not gone unnoticed by his fellow Socketeers.
"He is always ready to tackle any job we give him," said a co-worker who nominated Frank for the award. "A team player!"
In his spare time, Frank enjoys being outdoors - hunting, camping, fishing and hiking. He also coaches Socket's employee softball team -  yet another example of his team spirit.
"I'm appreciative of the award and proud of the field services team," said Frank when he found out he won this month's award.
Congratulations, Frank!

I Have (Not) Read the Terms of Service

Remember opting in to that psychology experiment Facebook performed in early 2012? Well you did, according to their terms of service.
In January 2012, Facebook manipulated the news feed posts of approximately 700,000 users to highlight either negative or positive emotions, to see if this would influence those users’ moods and status updates. After publishing the results last week, Facebook claimed that their terms of service (which all Facebook users must agree to) include the right to use any data they collect for research.
Based on the immediate reaction that this caused, this was news to many Facebook users. Considering the terms of service would take at least 2 hours to speed-read (go on, try it), it’s doubtful many people caught that sentence nestled in the middle of the Data Usage Policy.
Facebook’s “research” clause is probably going to enter a long list of online TOS mishaps – here’s some of the highlights:

Instagram – In late 2012, Instagram attempted to add the following language to their TOS: “You agree that a business may pay Instagram to display your photos in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions without any compensation to you.”
Backlash against what was seen as Instagram selling users’ photos was immediate, and Instagram was forced to publish a clarification less than a week later (which included removing the clause from their TOS).
General Mills – In April 2014, the New York Times reported that an update to the General Mills TOS included a clause that “interacting” with the brand online would forfeit your right to sue. This included downloading coupons or posting to their Facebook page.
To make matters worse, after contacting them for the story, General Mills further implied that simply purchasing a General Mills product would bind consumers to the TOS.  It took less than 2 days after the Times published the story for General Mills to revert their terms back.
Facebook: Naturally, this isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues with their TOS. One of their first large settlements came from their “Beacon” service, which has been defunct since late 2009.
Even after logging out of Facebook, users’ data (including purchase info) from Fandango, eBay,, and other sites were collected and used in advertising by Facebook. Even after introducing an opt-out feature in December 2007, users found it hard to find.
Despite users technically “agreeing” to the service by signing up for a Facebook account, Facebook lost a class-action suit and as a result, has since had to explicitly ask permission from users before collecting their information from 3rd party sites.

Finally, here’s a happy note to end on – in 2005, a company called PC Pitstop added a clause to their TOS offering “financial compensation... to a limited number of authorized licensees.” It took 5 months – and 3000 customers – before someone called in to claim their $1000 prize for actually reading it. But at least someone did!

World Cup and the World Wide Web

With the whole world posting and searching for information about the World Cup, there's a lot of trends and cool info to check out. Google's been sharing some of that data, and you may find it surprising...
For instance, this year's World Cup has generated more interest than the ones in 2010 and 2006, at least in the United States.

In the US, excitement (and searches) for the "World Cup" seem to be mostly centered over in California.

However, searches for "USA Soccer" are a little more universally popular.

In Missouri, World Cup Fever seems to be more epidemic over on the STL side of the state...

But it still can't hold a candle to our love of baseball (looking at you, Royals fans!).

According to trending Google+ activity, the United States is feeling "nervous" about the upcoming match against Germany, while the Germans are feeling a little more "optimistic." Check out some of Google's charts, and how they're breaking down national sentiments, at their trends page.

The Coolest Tech Gadgets (That You Didn't Know You Wanted)

Some of the greatest inventions solve problems you didn’t realize you had. While you’ve probably been getting along just fine without these nifty little devices, you might just love them anyway.
Now that we know these exist, we might have to do a little shopping ourselves!

Nest Thermostat
Yes, it’s a bit pricey at $250, but it may end up saving you more than that over a year. Nest is a “smart” thermostat that can program itself based on your daily patterns and preferences. It can automatically shut off your air or heat if no one’s home, preheat the house before you get back from work, and be controlled remotely with a smartphone or tablet. You’ll also be able to access detailed energy consumption reports to show you how much you’re saving.
ZOMM Wireless Leash
Phone and keys – you don’t want to leave the house (or anywhere else) without both. ZOMM makes that much harder to do by setting off an alarm when your phone and keys get separated by more than 30 feet. Additionally, you can trigger the alarm in order to find either object if you misplace one.
The ZOMM key fob also has an “emergency button” that can make your cell phone call 911 if held in for 9 seconds. If that’s a little too fancy, though, there are many similar “leash” items that are more straightforward.
RAVPower Portable Charger

This little device, despite being the size of a smartphone, can store enough power to charge your smartphone up to 5 times. Simply plug it into the phone’s USB port, just as you would a regular charging cable. It’s a great object to bring along on roadtrips or anywhere else you won’t have access to an outlet… or just to keep with you if your phone’s constantly dying. At around $30, it’s pretty affordable too.
Having a hard time using those “bud” headphones? These little soft plastic bits snap onto the earpieces, making it much harder for them to fall out of your ear - even if you’re jogging. At $10 a pair, you can even afford to buy them in multiple colors.
Livescribe Smartpen
If you prefer taking notes on paper, this is the gadget for you. The Livescribe Smartpen looks and feels like a ballpoint pen. However, it can record and save everything you jot down, allowing you to access and preserve your notes on your computer. It also has a microphone included for recording and syncing audio. While it's an investment at $150, it’s a great tool for students, reporters, or anyone who prefers adding diagrams and doodles to their writing.

Have any neat tech gadgets that you’ve recently discovered? Let us know!

Protect Your Laptop From Summer Heat

It’s summer, and while we’re busy trying to stay cool, it’s important to remember that our laptops need climate control as well.
Keep these tips in mind for the long, hot days ahead:

Don’t leave your laptop in the car. Metal components can expand in the heat, and plastic ones can melt. If you must leave it, make sure it’s completely powered off (not just “sleeping”) and store it underneath a seat, out of direct sunlight.
Keep air circulating.
Make sure there’s a way for heat to dissipate from the machine, particularly from the bottom. Don’t use your laptop while it’s sitting on a bed or a blanket; not only will this prevent air from flowing, but it will insulate the generated heat.

If you don’t have a cooling stand for your laptop, improvise. Setting your laptop down on a few bottlecaps can make a difference.
Beware of condensation. Taking your laptop from a chilly room directly to a sweltering, humid patio can cause water to collect on the inside. Even if this doesn’t damage the laptop, it can potentially trigger the water damage sensors inside, voiding your warranty.
Make sure to let your laptop transition between temperature extremes, rather than shocking it, and try to avoid using it outdoors on extremely humid days.
Don’t trust the heat sensors.  Many laptops are equipped to automatically shut off in case of overheating. However, if it’s heating up too quickly, or unevenly, the sensors might not trigger in time to prevent damage. If you notice the bottom of your laptop is hot to the touch, turn it off.

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll help extend the life of your laptop. It’ll be Fall before you know it!

Fiber Construction and Installation - What to Expect

If you're not sure exactly what happens after you sign up for Socket Fiber, this short video will outline the process step-by-step. (Spoiler alert: It's much easier than you probably think!)
Have questions? Ready to sign up? Give us a call at 1-800-762-5383.



Who is Socket

Founded in 1994, Socket is a Missouri-based telephone and Internet service provider with the largest service area in the state.

Socket is a privately held company that provides families and businesses a choice for local and long-distance phone and Internet service. We combine the highest quality customer service with in-depth technical knowledge.

Our network serves more than 20,000 residents and businesses in more than 400 Missouri cities, and our customers enjoy simple billing and quick, friendly service.

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