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green

Greener Pastures Part 2: bringing home the green

Here we are, back again to share a love of learning. And now it’s time to discuss the topic on everyone’s mind in this economy: jobs! More specifically, green jobs. Not only is this growing atmosphere of environmental awareness creating previously nonexistent occupations, but it is largely taking old jobs and giving them a green twist. A little later, I will talk about how to green your office, but first let’s look at those new creations.

The Kansas City Business Journal on November 14, 2008, reported on the local efforts of local citizen David Crawford to connect unemployed workers with green jobs in the area. Another suggestion in the article is taking the displaced airline maintenance workers and putting them to work on wind turbines, where their skills translate well.

Another area where old skills can be translated to new jobs is in the area of emissions brokers. One of the self-proclaimed “largest and most successful energy brokers in the world” is TFS Green. Over at Forbes.com, in an article posted in July of 2007, emissions brokers are explained thusly: “In a market economy, credits to emit greenhouse gases can be traded on an exchange, and brokers facilitate the deal.” Pretty simple, right? The article also adds “[i]f the U.S. ever moves to a mandatory trading system, expect this field to boom.”

Another new position cropping up at many companies and universities is that of Sustainability Coordinator, presumably a person who would oversee the company’s environmental impact and how to make the company more “green.” To get a full run-down of the Sustainability Coordinator’s responsibilities at Duke University, just click here. Though the job description often sounds a little vague, you can go to sites like MySpace Jobs, type in “sustainability coordinator,” and get a number of hits.

Whole sites have sprung up devoted to landing a green job. Check here for green technology jobs, and for an excellent blog on where the jobs are by Joel Makower, click here. Green Career Central is another great source.

Everyday industries such as architecture and dry cleaning are also going green. Not only does having a green home or office building lessen its impact on the environment, they save us money, too! Though, admittedly, the initial investment can be high (such as with my parents’ low-flow toilets that, when flushed, sound like I imagine a black hole would, momentarily ripping through time and space), the long-term savings are equally so (ask my mother about her water bill).

Back in 2004, the World Franchising Newsletter wrote up a great introduction to franchising in the green industry, from organic lawn care to green dry cleaning. If you are thinking of opening your own business, start here. Even in these sad economic times, remember that green is growing.

So let’s say you have your own business already, or are simply looking to green your office. A good place to start is at your computer (because you are already sitting there right now reading this blog, don’t deny it). Are you as sick as I am of those wasted pieces of paper that pop out of your printer with only a web address and date or copyright information that you really couldn’t care less about? (Seriously, Yahoo, I couldn’t steal your technology if I tried.) Then you should consider downloading GreenPrint, a freeware I discovered just the other day. We haven’t had much of a chance to get to know each other, but so far, I like it! When printing a word document, it popped up with a print preview before printing and asked if I really wanted to print a page with only two lines on it. As this was a resume, no, I did not, and went back to correct the issue before attempting to print again. Ink and paper are expensive, and my poor college student mentality hates to see things go to waste, to say nothing of my hippie environmentalist upbringing.

Something else you can do with your computer to save money and energy is put it to sleep. Or, if you can do this, turn the darn thing off, then unplug it. (I switch off my power strip at the end of the night, which is as good as unplugging everything all at once.) In fact, do this with anything plugged into the wall that doesn’t need to constantly be on – TV, stereo, etc. It’s surprising what all these little steps can add up to.

I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that our future is anything but green, and 2009 seems to be quite the year of promise for us. A new era is dawning, and I don’t just mean on January 20th. Just look at what Detroit’s offering up this week! As has been said many times before over the course of human history, it’s an exciting time to be alive.

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green

Greener Pastures Part 1: looking ahead at green technology in 2009

Happy New Year! Yup, it’s that time again; time to look back at our past mistakes and triumphs, and look ahead to what the future might hold. The future is especially exciting for us in the United States with the fast approaching inauguration of our new President Barack Obama on January 20th! And one of the things that I personally find most compelling about our charismatic President-elect is his new energy plan for America. He has promised to create five million new “green collar” jobs, and work toward energy efficiency and conservation. The past year 2008 was already a pretty exciting time for green technologies, and with Obama leading the way, 2009 promises to be even better.

With eye-catching headlines like “US military funds $35M in research of algae-based jet fuel” popping up at the end of December, and “Air New Zealand tests biofuel Boeing” on January 2nd, the thing on everyone’s mind lately seems to be biofuels. And boy, is there a lot to choose from!

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of biofuels is ethanol, which, contrary to popular belief, can and is made from things other than corn. The world’s second largest producer of ethanol, Brazil, has been using sugar cane for thirty years. But the buzzword now is not simply “ethanol,” but “cellulosic ethanol,” which is defined on Wikipedia as “a biofuel produced from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants.” An article posted on CNBC’s website in March of 2007 called cellulosic ethanol “the closest to rewarding investors with solid returns in the immediate future.”

Also quoted in that article is Jerry Taylor, analyst at Washington DC’s Cato Institute, who reports that cellulosic ethanol costs approximately five times as much as corn-based ethanol, which is “several times the cost of a gallon of gasoline,” especially without subsidies. However, Jim Matheson, general partner at Flagship Ventures, counters that by insisting new technology will cut that cost within three to five years, and judging by the rate of this craze, he’s probably right. A popular choice for cellulosic ethanol is switchgrass, an inedible, drought resistant plant commonly found in the prairies of North America and used for soil conservation.

Another up-and-comer on the biofuels front is the jatropha fruit, or more specifically, the oil from its seeds, which is already being used to make biodiesel that power cars and trucks, and now that Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 mentioned above. The Boeing’s engine has been retrofitted to run on a combination of half Jet A1 fuel and half jatropha oil. Air New Zealand was not the first (Virgin Atlantic Airways flew the same plane fueled partly by a coconut oil and babassu oil concoction just shy of a year ago) and certainly won’t be the last commercial airline to mix biofuels with traditional jet fuel. Considering that a good chunk of the major automotive companies around the globe are looking at 2010 releases of their electric vehicles and plug-in electric gasoline hybrids, right now is an exciting time for alternative energy sources.

Speaking of electricity, we’re looking for new ways of generating that, too. The popular answer here is wind power, often touted as being recession proof, despite the cost of wind turbines increasing with demand. But with oil moguls like Boone Pickens investing, there must be more than a little something to it. The Cleantech Group (formerly known as the Cleantech Venture Network) reported in a CNBC article that “[w]ind energy attracted $380 million [in 2006] compared with $1.5 million in 2005.”

There are a few potential drawbacks to using wind power. A lot of the prime locations are, well, out in the middle of nowhere, for example, and power is only generated while the wind is blowing the turbines, but I agree with Jim Matheson and say that here, too, technology will quickly catch up and solve these short-comings in the very near future. Batteries to store the power from when the winds are blowing, for instance. Though the initial investment is higher than other forms of generating electricity, the pay-off is also higher, and “wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to other conventional power plants,” as pointed out at this advantages and disadvantages page by the United States Department of Energy.

In addition to the somewhat shortsighted “they’re ugly” argument (I find wind turbines to be peaceful and generally on the aesthetically pleasing side), many people express concerns about the giant blades killing birds, but according to this Wikipedia article, “studies show that the number of birds killed by wind turbines is negligible compared to the number that die as a result of other human activities such as traffic, hunting, power lines and high-rise buildings and especially the environmental impacts of using non-clean power sources.” Like power lines aren’t ugly, and I’ve noticed they’re far more popular with the birds than wind turbines.

If you’re the investing type, I hope this post has opened your eyes to some new markets. If not, don’t worry, I did promise you a two-parter, and next week I’ll be looking at those green technology jobs promised to us by so many. Learn how to green your home and business. The technology is out there, we just have to harness it.

Categories
php TechBiz

Looking For a New Web 2.0 Job? Try Shifting Your Perspective.

I spoke to a friend on Tuesday who recently received a promotion with a company he’d been employed with for just about a year out in Ohio. And the day before, on Monday, I learned that two friends had been laid off from the jobs they loved here in the Bay Area. When the Tuesday friend said he didn’t know how to feel about his promotion, I advised him to be grateful.

The Tuesday evening news informed me that if trends don’t change, California is going to run out of money for people on unemployment within a year, and will then have to borrow money from the federal government, as my home state Michigan and its neighbor Indiana are already doing. California’s unemployment rate now sits at an average of 8.2%. Layoffs are occurring left and right, and those in the tech industry can be tracked at both the TechCrunch Layoff Tracker and at CNET’s Tech layoffs: The scorecard. As was noted in October at sCommerce, “[w]hen it rains, it pours in the Tech World,” and already December has certainly seen its own fair share of downpour.

One recent victim I talked to kept shaking his head and insisting that it just didn’t make sense. But unfortunately, much as I sympathize and wish circumstances were otherwise, it does make sense. Businesses are doing the same thing the rest of us are doing, tightening their belts and hoping to survive the winter. Most people I spoke with didn’t seem to know where to begin once they’d lost their jobs.

However, while many industries are (however temporarily) very decidedly on the decline, others are thriving, growing even, and it isn’t impossible for the tech savvy to migrate over. Education, for instance. With so many people out of work, many are looking to further their educations. The Labor Department reported 9,800 jobs were created in the education industry. Additionally, the director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, Dean Baker, is quoted on CNNMoney.com as saying, “Education will be an area that governments will try to protect because there’s a lot of political support.”

But you don’t have to be a teacher at an established institution to teach. (Though that certainly isn’t a bad way to go if you can manage it. I suggest checking your local city or community college’s website, or trolling through the local paper’s want ads. That’s how I found an opening for an English teacher at my former local community college.) Freelance tutoring is a perfect opportunity for some quick money and a new addition to your resume. Lots of people are turning to private tutors when they don’t have the time or discipline for a structured class schedule.

Another industry that will always remain strong is the health industry. CNNMoney.com reports that “[e]ven in the midst of the economic fallout, healthcare employment grew by 34,000 jobs in November,” and later went on to add that “[o]ptions…abound at pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms and medical-equipment companies.” The moderator of Your Health and Tech, William Welense, urges people “to look into healthcare information systems! Seriously, HCIT [Health Care Information Technology] really really really needs some web 2.0 people, especially on the visual design part of development.” And with innovations like Google Health (blogged about here at Your Health and Tech) coming out, this could be a really exciting field to get into!

If you are already in the Bay Area, and don’t know what health care management software companies are around, I suggest you first stop by the Yahoo! Directory for San Francisco Bay Area > Health Care Management Software for a handy list of companies with links to their websites. Don’t overlook the classified ads on Craigslist either. After typing “healthcare information systems” into the search field, nineteen results popped up for me on Tuesday, December 16.

And speaking of people wanting to further their education in these times of low employment, a master of science degree in Human Computer Interaction might be a handy thing to pick up, especially when looking at the field of healthcare information systems, and can be earned entirely online at certain universities, such as Chicago-based DePaul University.

If you’re looking online for jobs, why not stop by Stephan Miller’s quick list of 11 Places to Find Tech Jobs? If you are looking for freelance work, definitely check out Elance. They have everything from “web & programming” to “writing & translation.” Other sites in this vein are Project4Hire and GoFreelance.

Most importantly when looking for a new job, don’t forget to network. Ask your friends. If they don’t know somebody, maybe they know somebody who knows somebody. I myself have connections at both Google and LucasArts that will likely never do me a damn bit of good, but could come in handy for other friends who are in those fields. I’ve found that a lot of companies offer recruitment bonuses to their employees, so don’t feel bad asking. And as pointed out in my previous post, don’t overlook even little things like the local happy hour.

The only way to get through this economic downtime and get things moving again is to persevere. Don’t lose hope, and don’t give up. If you can’t find a new job in your usual field, branch out. There really are jobs out there, we just have to know where to look. Hopefully this has offered a few launching points. Best of luck! I’m rootin’ for ya.

Categories
Social Media TechBiz

Business and Pleasure: networking the happy hour

This is now my fourth blog post on Codebelay, and I’ve already given you the tools to open yourself up to social networking online, via your cell phone, and through the old fashioned (but not yet extinct) newspaper and magazine, so you may now be asking yourself how to obtain the monies to fund the new social you. Social networking is a great start to getting out there, meeting new people, and making new connections, but when it’s a new job you want, simple social networking isn’t always enough. You need a more focused kind of networking, but you needn’t sacrifice your social life. Why not mix a little business with pleasure?

The key to any kind of networking is to be constantly aware, always looking. People can (and do) get job tips going to the dentist office or while shopping at the grocery store, they just need to keep an ear out and keep themselves open. So why not put yourself where the right people are clustered together in order to raise your chances?

So where do we find these places? I did say we are mixing business with pleasure, so here’s my suggestion: the local happy hour. You can easily do a search with Yelp or Citysearch for bars located in the same area as the place you would like to be working. Across the street and around the corner are good bets for places people like to head to after a hard day’s work.

In San Francisco, one bar that was given four out of five stars on Yelp and scored number ten on Unthirsty’s Top Ten Happy Hours in San Francisco is the Irish Bank Bar & Restaurant, located near the city’s Financial District in the Nob Hill neighborhood. With moderate prices and a boastfully authentic Irish atmosphere, the Irish Bank is sure to offer an enjoyable evening.

Mars Bar & Restaurant, which made number four on Unthirsty’s Top Ten list, is located in the South of Market district and touts itself as “the perfect place to end your workday.” A lot of reviewers on Yelp, where it averages another four out of five stars, would seem to agree. Their happy hours runs from three in the afternoon to seven in the evening, Monday through Friday. Happy hour dining is offered from five in the evening until eight Monday through Thursday, and four to nine PM on Fridays.

Another San Francisco bar that scored highly on Yelp and Citysearch is Jade Bar. Citysearch awarded Jade Bar best happy hour in both 2007 and 2008, and lists its specialty as an after-work bar. And as more than one reviewer pointed out, it is difficult to beat a two dollar drink special here in the city. Happy hour is Tuesday through Thursday, five in the evening to seven-thirty, and runs all night on Sunday. (What a way to start the week!)

The tech types might want to head down to South Bay and Pedro’s Restaurant and Cantina located in Santa Clara not far off US 101. One happy customer described it as having “free food, cheap drinks, and is an after-work place for the tech types.” Go on, make friends. Pedro’s scored four and a half stars out of five over at Citysearch. Pedro’s happy hour runs from four in the afternoon to seven at night, and features one dollar off margaritas (they won best margarita in Silicon Valley in 2005 on Citysearch) among other drink specials.

Also found not too far from US 101 in Sunnyvale is another bar that has been described as being full of “tech-professional types,” the Faultline Brewing Company Restaurant. Moderately priced, Faultline offers something I have yet to see in other bars out here in California: a duck pond. (And if you know of any, please comment and tell me how to find them. Many thanks!) In 2006 and 2007, Faultline was voted as having the Best Beer Selection in Silicon Valley on Citysearch. The wine list also seems more than adequate, which you can look over for yourself on their website. You may also check out their full food menu and a listing of their ales and lagers, as well as “meet” the brewmaster.

Now, I’m not saying that it is a good idea to go pester people in their downtime for a job, but it certainly can’t hurt to make yourself a familiar face while enjoying a nice, relaxing, inexpensive drink, can it? Make some conversation, meet some new friends, listen in one the latest gossip, and who knows? You just might find that one diamond in the rough tidbit of information that could lead you to the next job of your dreams. Good luck! And happy drinking.

Categories
TechBiz

Dirty Little Secret or a Chat Over Coffee? The Tech Industry on Drugs.

“We are all on drugs,” Weezer declared in 2005 with their second single off the Make Believe album. The LA Times seems to agree, proclaiming five years prior in an October article that “drug use is rampant in the high-tech work force” and calling it “the dirty little secret of the dot-com world.” The questions now posed are as follows: who cares and is this a problem?

California became the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana in 1996 with the passing of Proposition 215, and, as everyone knows, California is home to one of the major hubs of the tech industry, Silicon Valley. It seems an easy correlation to make between a tolerant state and a high-stress job industry. (Though for the record, and to be fair, the other “cyberstates” Texas, New York, Florida, and Virginia do not have medical or any kind of marijuana legalized.)

One source I spoke to who works in the computer gaming industry said that almost everyone he has met in the industry “smokes (or otherwise consumes) marijuana occasionally. Usually socially but some use it as a crutch due to the stressful nature of the work.”

Several have mentioned using party drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and speed recreationally but I haven’t seen it myself–definitely rarer, like on a wild night out (e.g. during conventions out of town). A lot of people have tried LSD. I’ve also met a few in the industry who have experimented with harder or more unusual drugs, including ketamine and mescaline (off the top of my head).

Two other sources felt that the usage of marijuana among coders is no different than among non-coders, one going on to say “as people age, the percentage of pot smokers lessens, as does the use of other drugs.” Another source who has never tried illegal substances himself said he did not see smoking marijuana as a “big problem.”

We often work long hours on difficult problems and you simply can’t do the work if you’re heavily under the influence. Several heavy pot smokers I’ve known have also been some of the smartest and most productive I’ve worked with. People seem to use these drugs to unwind, to blow off steam, and I’ve never seen anyone have trouble keeping it out of the workplace. If people have substance problems it’s more likely alcoholism.

With regards to “harder” substances, one of my sources told me that he’s “seen a number of coders experiment with psychedelics; maybe moreso than coke/hard drugs.” Another added that “it’s really only higher management types I’ve run in to that use cocaine, not coders.” All sources seemed to agree on this point, one phrasing it like this: “In terms of coke, I think some people may have tried it, but I don’t know any people using it on a regular basis. Seems more of a financial/biz/exec thing.” And another went on to say that he is “[n]ot sure why cocaine isn’t a bit more prevalent. Stimulants are a coder’s friend. I would imagine that speed would be more tempting. But it seems that caffeine manages to fill the need for most.”

According to TestCountry.com, drug abuse in the high tech industry is not terribly common. They put “current illicit drug use” at 3.6% among computer programmers/operators, and “current heavy alcohol use” among the same group at 2.7%. Among computer and data processors, they state 6.1% for “current illicit drug use,” and a whopping 16.2% for “current heavy alcohol use,” which would seem to back up my source in the computer gaming industry.

If some of our brightest minds are getting high, and it doesn’t seem to be affecting their work, then is this truly a problem? I would say it depends more on the individual and less on the drug. In the words of P. J. O’Rourke, “no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. “ People can become addicted to anything, after all, especially legal substances, like alcohol, or activities, like sex or video games.

So are drugs a problem for people in the tech industry more so than in any other industry? Statistics would seem to say no, not really. TestCountry scored it less than manufacturing and retail (which comes as small surprise to me, having spent the last ten years of my life in that industry). After speaking with my sources, I’d have to say that, on the whole, not a lot of people really do seem to care, as long as it doesn’t interfere with work. And can’t the same be said for anything?

Categories
gaming Social Media

Gaia Online: a new kind of Internet socializing

If you like to gamble, race cars, assemble jigsaw puzzles, go fishing, play pinball and paper dolls, all while chatting with your friends, have I got a site for you! If you haven’t heard of Gaia Online yet, you will again soon. According to an article on GigaOM posted in April of 2007, Gaia’s formidably diverse forums are “second only to Yahoo in popularity,” and this was over a year ago.

Once lumped in with websites like Neopets, Gaia is now popularly being compared to Facebook and MySpace. But while Facebook and MySpace (among others) encourage users to post actual photos of themselves, at Gaia, users create their own images, and continue to re-create them every sixty seconds if they wish, through the use of avatars (the “paper dolls” mentioned above). Only a small fraction of users include pictures of themselves in their profiles and signatures, which I see as a huge plus in a world where anonymity would seem to be the safest route.

However, having a unique, nearly fully customizable avatar represent you in the forums and world of Gaia offers users the chance to have a face and personality that other message boards and online forums do not. Most Gaians keep their avatars largely consistent (same eyes, same hairstyles, but with a few costume changes), making Gaia’s users recognizable to each other, just as people are in real life.

Sure, Gaia likes to tag itself as “the world’s fastest growing online world hangout for teens,” but to me this seems like wishful thinking, and not because Gaia isn’t growing quickly (it is!), but because out of the ten people I briefly surveyed, only one of them was under the age of twenty, and only two had never before heard of Gaia.

Back when Gaia first started in 2003, it was largely a hangout for anime fans and gamers to find each other, chat, and share links. Founder Derek Liu probably best explained Gaia’s growth when he was interviewed in the site’s early days: “It seems that the growth of Gaia relied mainly on the word of mouth from our users.” And boy, did users talk. Gaia’s popularity as an online forum spread quickly, and continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Survey says that the current largest draw for Gaia, however, is its games.

Gaia’s website currently offers its users Cards (blackjack or 21), Slots (slot machines), Rally (a car racing game), Jigsaw (puzzles), Word Bump (for word geeks like myself), Fishing (I hope this doesn’t need explanation), Pinball (see note for Fishing), and Electric Love Factory (“fast paced puzzle action” according to the site). Many of these games allow users to “share a room” and play the games not necessarily together, but at least in a single window where they can see each other’s avatars and chat, an option that my two Gaia-uninitiated said would be a draw for them. As one twenty-one year old young lady put it, “it makes it fun to communicate with others while gaming.” The other (this one twenty-two) agreed, adding, “That sounds cool.” The latter also said that she would probably post in the forums, while the former did not think she would use that feature.

Gaia’s latest foray into online gaming has to be its most ambitious draw of all time, that being into the world of MMOs (massive multiplayer online games) with the recently released zOMG!, brought to us at last by the hardest working team I’ve ever seen. (If the juvenile, netspeak title is a turn-off to you, you are not alone. Many Gaians prefer the original title of the project, Battle, and still commonly refer to it as such.)

For someone who has dumped untold amounts into other MMOs, like World of Warcraft and its expansion the Burning Crusade, the largest perquisite Gaia’s MMO offers is that it is technically 100% free. For those impatient folk with expendable income (you know who you are), Gaia offers something called Gaia cash that may be purchased with real money. Five dollars gets you 500 GC, which can then be exchanged for items used in the game (though I, personally, have yet to see a reason anyone would do so given the high level of drops in the game of those very same items).

Like the rest of Gaia, the MMO is, well, cute. Perhaps the biggest turn-off to older potential users is the site’s overall cartoonish appearance, but then, that can also be a draw to the right people. (The cool ones.) But don’t let the cute stop you from trying out an enjoyable little MMO that really costs you nothing more than your time to play. How many of you play Ragnarok Online and/or Maple Story? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

But the best thing about Gaia isn’t the games or the avatars, but the community created by both. Let me briefly share with you my little story. I joined Gaia just after it first started in 2003, and met one of my now closest friends in the writing forums. She lives in California. I lived in Michigan. At Anime Expo in 2007, I attended a gathering of Gaians where I met another user who is now not only a dear friend, but one of my roommates. In fact, four of my five roommates have accounts on Gaia, and I now reside in California. It was through Gaia that I made these connections across-country that eventually made me decide to relocate.

I guess what I am saying here really boils down to this. If you spend time on the internet visiting social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, go to gaming sites like Yahoo! Games or Games.com, or are too poor to support your MMO habit any longer, you should definitely give Gaia Online a try. You never know where it might take you.

Categories
Social Media TechBiz

Digital Cupid: How to Put Technology to Work For Your Love Life

Are you sitting alone at your PC or Mac reading this blog? That’s okay. I forgive you. In an age of overtime, job transfers, and clawing your way up the corporate ladder, no one seems to have enough free time any more for leisure activities like going out, having a drink, or, most importantly meeting new people to do these things with. But believe it or not, with the aid of modern (and not so modern) technology, we can squeeze even this into our hectic lives.

Let’s start with the obvious: computers. Not only can you check your email alerts from the comfort of your own cubicle, but there are online dating sites for everything from your own personal geekdom (SweetOnGeeks.com) to body type (LargeAndLovely.com) to any of the major religions on earth (JDate.com, ChristianSingles.com, and BuddhistOnlineDating.com just to name a few). Literally any kind of matchmaking site can be found with the right search engine. Even typing “flying spaghetti monster dating” into Google lands you a few interesting results.

Evenamong online matchmaking sites there is great variety. At a site like Plenty of Fish, users are encouraged to not only fill out profiles but actively post in the site’s forums, which range in topic from relationship and dating issues to science and philosophy. (There are even a few active anime threads for the geek in you.) OKCupid offers its users a variety of fun tests and quizzes, and awards badges, such as “more
independent,” “less old-fashioned,” and “more political,” that are displayed on a user’s profile, and can be used as conversation starters as well as a rudimentary screening process of a user’s personality. Both if these sites are free to use, as are countless others, so do not be dissuaded from joining the online dating phenomenon due to lack of funds.

Sellingyourself through online personals sites is not the only way to meet people through the internet, however. Couples are meeting and hooking up every day by posting on forums, joining newsgroups, exploring 3D virtual worlds (such as Second Life and Entropia Universe), and yes, even playing online games like World of Warcraft can help find you a mate. At least one young gamer proposed to his lovely lady at BlizzCon 2008, much to the delight and cheers of fellow congoers. (The happy couple originally met as rivals posting on RPGamer.com.)

Basically, by being active online as you would be in real life had you the time (or in some cases adequate self-confidence), you can meet a wide range of people, many of whom you would not even have the opportunity to meet offline. The internet doesn’t just offer new ways to meet people, but ways to meet new kinds of people.

But the internet isn’t your only avenue to a new and interesting social life. Due in large part to the high success rate of people meeting online, the more traditional print form of the personal ad is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and should not be overlooked by the less computer savvy. Responding to an ad over the phone, though perhaps more daunting than email, forces a connection much sooner than digital communication, and gauging another person’s reactions and emotions is much easier through hearing his or her voice than reading words on a screen. It also forces you to maintain a conversation, while email sits in your inbox awaiting your attention.

Printed personal ads offer just as much versatility as their online counterparts. Most newspapers across the country offer a personals section, which allows you to look locally, but there are also specialty magazines for various interests and religions that also run personal ads.

Personal ads also, much like Twitter over LiveJournal, force you to be short, sweet, and if you can manage it, clever in hopes of catching that special stranger’s eye. Anyone glancing through a personal ads sheet can attest to the creativity used by many of its users, but this should by no means be a deterrent to the feint of heart. Personal ads are just another tool in your arsenal.

In this on-the-go world, another old technology has come back to haunt us: the phone. More to the point, the rather passé telephone has been replaced by the more modern cell phone and text messaging. Yes, this includes the dating scene. For over fifteen years the Canadian company Teligence has offered social networking over the phone through services like Livelinks, Interactive Male, Fonochat, and a number of others.

Now, sites like Match.com are getting into the phone business, too, with services like Match.com Mobile. Many sites are now combining online and offline options. Prime examples are Crush or Flush and Zogo, both of which users can access using their cell phones or PCs.

Crush or Flush allows you to look at pictures and miniature profiles of singles in your area. If you like what you see, you “crush” them and hopefully make contact. If not, you “flush” them and move on. (People will not be notified if they are ever flushed, so you may surf guilt-free.)

Zogo is perhaps the only totally free dating service for your cell phone (though this doesn’t mean your cell phone service provider won’t add on their own fees, depending on your terms of service). After searching through available profiles, you may add people to your favorites list, or invite them to talk to you. If you both agree to talk (via semi-anonymous text messaging provided by Zogo), you each receive a call from a third number to secure the anonymity of your phone number.

Crush or Flush, Zogo, and their fellow SMS dating services are perhaps even handier than online-only sites, such as those listed in the above paragraphs, given that cell phones are more portable and get wider reception than even a laptop. Double bonus if your cell gets internet!

Much like e-trading has done for the casual investor, modern technology adds far more than serendipity and well-intentioned coupled-up friends to our dating arsenal. Much as we might sometimes wish it otherwise, there really are no longer excuses for not meeting people other than our own apathy.