Algorithm to create all combinations from a set of characters

In this post, I shall reveal an algorithm that generates all possible combinations of a given set of characters of a specified range of lengths. The algorithm is as follows:

1.    take dict as a character array of possible characters in your string combinations
take currLen as integer, startLen as integer, stopLen as integer, chars as character array,  indices as integer array

2.      initialize currLen = startLen

3.      Set length of chars array to currLen, length of indices array to currLen

4.      set working_index  = currLen – 1

5.      get string from chars array as follows

i.       set ith element of chars array to indices[i]th element of dict

ii.      Do the operation in the previous step (i) from i = 0 to i = currLen – 1

iii.     concatenate the elements of chars array to generate a string combination of characters

6.        print string in step 5

7.        if all elements of indices equal length of dict – 1

if currLen < stopLen

increment currLen by 1

go to step 3

else

quit

8.      if element of indices at position = working_index < length of dict – 1

increment element of indices at position = working_index by 1

go to Step 5

   else

if currLen > 1

decrement working_index by 1 till element of

indices at position = working_index equals length of dict – 1

if working_index equals -1

if currLen < stopLen

increment currLen by 1

go to Step 3

else

quit

else

increment element of indices at position = working_index by 1

set all elements of indices to the right of position = working_index to 0

go to Step 4

else

if currLen < stopLen

increment currLen by 1

go to Step 3

else

quit

At first glance, this algorithm may look like a brute force algorithm, but I seriously doubt that it can be used to do naughty things like cracking passwords. Of course, to unleash the full power of this algorithm, one needs to parallelize the code in his implementation of this algorithm. That way we can max out the cpu cores and enjoy a very large number of iterations per second.

It may, however, be used to create a reverse lookup database of one way cryptographic hash functions. But, with the use of salts being common nowadays, such a database of all possible plaintexts and their hashes may not be useful after all.

The best part about this algorithm is that it is non-recursive and so avoids an inordinately large number of function calls and a potential call stack overflow. This is true especially when the dictionary of characters is very large.

So, all in all, this algorithm may be used as a fun academic exercise. Or, perhaps one of you guys may come up with a practical use for this algorithm.

Social Media: Benefits and Dangers

A fairly large proportion of the global population owns computers. The internet has brought different people together, cutting across boundaries of age, race, gender, profession, social and political preferences. People can now access diverse content whether for work or entertainment, from any computing device capable of connecting to the internet. They can send email, visit sites and forums where they can post their opinions. They can chat online and even see the other person’s face.

However there has been a new revolution, particularly in the past two decades, that has brought people even closer. This is the emergence of social media.

What is meant by Social Media?

The term social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. Websites and applications dedicated to forums, micro-blogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis are among the different types of social media (Margaret Rouse  https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-media).

Some prominent examples of social networks are:

Facebook: Probably the most famous and popular social media network having hundreds of millions of active users any day. It allows registered users of the age of 13 and above to create profiles, upload photos and videos, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.

WhatsApp: It started out as a mobile social networking app and a web application version was also released a few years ago. Like Facebook, it has hundreds of millions of users. Facebook acquired WhatsApp a few years ago (TOI Tech
https://www.gadgetsnow.com/tech-news/Facebook-buys-WhatsApp-CEO-Mark-Zuckerberg-explains-why/articleshow/30714548.cms).

Twitter: It is a free micro-blogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets, limited in their number of characters. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and keep track of other users’ tweets by using multiple platforms and devices.

Google Plus: It was Google’s social networking project, designed to replicate the way people interact offline more closely than is the case with other social networking services. This website no longer allows new users to sign up and those with consumer accounts (ending in gmail.com) to use its services. It was shut down on April 2, 2019 (Google   “Frequently asked questions about the Google+ shutdown”  https://support.google.com/plus/answer/9217723?hl=en).

Wikipedia: The world’s largest content management system dedicated to recording and spreading knowledge. It is a free, open content online encyclopedia created through the collaborative effort of a community of users. Anyone registered on the site can create an article for publication; however, registration is not required to edit articles.

LinkedIn: A social network for professionals which recently snapped up an educational services provider named Lynda.com (Maya Kosoff  https://www.businessinsider.in/LinkedIn-just-bought-online-learning-company-Lynda-for-1-5-billion/articleshow/46865136.cms).

Reddit:  It is a social news website and forum where stories are socially curated and promoted by site members. The site is composed of hundreds of sub-communities, known as “subreddits.” Each subreddit has a specific topic such as technology, politics or music. Reddit site members, also known as, “redditors,” submit content which is then voted upon by other members. The goal is to send well-regarded stories to the top of the site’s main thread page (Margaret Rouse  https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-media).

Pinterest: It is a social curation website for sharing and categorizing images found online, like pinning interesting images on a board. Pinterest requires brief descriptions but the main focus of the site is visual. Clicking on an image will take you to the original source of the image. For example, clicking on a picture of a pair of shoes might redirect users to a shoe purchasing site (Margaret Rouse  https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-media).

Instagram: Instagram is a photo- and video-sharing social networking service owned by Facebook, Inc.

Blogs: Blogs are regularly updated websites or web pages, typically run by an individual or small group, which are written in an informal or conversational style. For example, https://idratherbewriting.com/ is a blog on technical communication. Blogs allow communication of ideas and facts in a personal way and create a brand for the person or people behind the blog.

Social media have a tremendous impact on society and the user or membership base of such sites and services run into billions. For example, hundreds of millions of photos and videos are shared daily on Facebook alone! The infrastructure that goes behind serving such a large user base with high performance services is mind-boggling. The user base is only going to grow according to future projections (Statista 2019 https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/) (See Figure 1 for user statistics).

Social media have recently been adversely impacted by government censorship, especially in countries with conservative regimes like China (Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_China). However, the means to circumvent such obstacles to social media access do exist. They are of two kinds: (1) accessing international sites through virtual private networks (VPNs) and (2) home-grown social media services like Weibo in China.

Figure 1. Number of social network users worldwide.                                                    Source: “Number of global social media users 2010-2021”  https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/

How are Social Media changing Socialization and society?

Social media are changing society and socialization radically. Society is becoming more open and connected. Users tend to share even the most intimate details of their daily life with the online community, bordering on exhibitionism. There is a tendency to befriend someone whom you don’t know all that well. It is as easy as a mutual exchange of messages of consent. It works even if you don’t know that person in the offline world.

Social media give you the ability to create a fake persona. Other people in contact with you will base their opinions and emotional responses on this fake persona. On the other hand, if you give genuine information about yourself, it is easier to spy on you.

You can keep track of contacts all across the world, even when you relocate from one city or country to another. You can update your new location on your profile. You can also keep your contacts posted about the happenings in your life, wherever you are.

How do Social Media Help?

You can stay in touch with contacts whenever you are online and wherever you may be located. You can share photos and keep track of the changing look of the other person or people. One can capture precious moments on video and share them with their online friends.  You can chat with contacts online whenever they are available.

You can form an online community with like-minded people. You can share your interests, hobbies and anything else with other people, reaching across geographical and social boundaries.

Social media are especially useful for staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues. You might even find your former friends, former partners and former colleagues online (See Figure 2 for benefits of social media to seniors).

In testing times like the COVID-19 pandemic, when we cannot step outside our homes and be part of a social gathering because of lockdowns, social media help us remain in touch even when we are under quarantine.

Social media lend a social aspect to entertainment like multiplayer and role-playing games. You can compete with friends or help them in difficult situations and boast of your high scores! Businesses can benefit from users playing games developed by them by introducing in-game advertising and purchases.

Social media help us keep in touch with what is trending and popular. It puts your finger on the pulse of the people. Businesses can benefit from this. They can do targeted advertising, i.e. advertising based on user preferences in things ranging from food to fashion, entertainment and even consumer electronics.

Figure 2.  Benefits of social media to individuals, especially seniors.
Source: “Benefits of social media for seniors”
https://ihps.com/benefits-social-media-seniors/

Knowledge-sharing communities like Quora and Stack Overflow are of tremendous help to people from all fields. Quora is a general-purpose question and answer site. Stack Overflow is for information technology and computer programming specifically. People can post their queries regarding any topic of choice and get answers from community members.

Social media are also helping political activists in gathering more signatories for their causes and petitions. They can post a petition on a social media site/service and tell users about it. These users can then choose to indicate that they support the petition.

Social media help businesses to communicate more with prospective clients. They drive internet traffic to the business’s website, creating more awareness about their products and services. It also helps in revenue growth through more sales.  (See Figure 3 for benefits for business.)

Figure 3. Businesses can benefit from social media marketing in numerous ways.
Source: “7 Side Effects of Social Media”
https://visual.ly/community/infographic/social-media/7-side-effects-social-media/

How do Social Media hurt?

Just as social media can help, they can also hurt. Criminals and malicious individuals can take advantage of their new contacts and commit crimes against them. These crimes include rape and murder, apart from cheating and fraud. The trouble starts when the would-be victims decide to meet their so-called online friends in the real world, not suspecting their mala fide intentions (Press Association https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/dec/27/social-media-crime-facebook-twitter). (See Figure 4 for Crimes against women in India.)

Criminal gangs spread illegal content using social media including stolen goods and services. For example, they may put up stolen credit card numbers and verification numbers for visitors to misuse them.

Figure 4.  Crimes are committed against women in India.
Source:  “7 Cyber Crimes on Social Media Against Women [India]”  https://www.slideshare.net/soravjain/7-cyber-crimes-on-social-media-against-women-india/

Social media are also used for spreading misinformation or controversial and provocative content. This can lead to communal violence because of the inflammatory nature of the content. Fake news can even influence the outcome of elections, subverting a democracy’s functioning. For example, the presidential elections in USA in 2016 were rumored to be influenced by fake news about certain candidates on sites like Facebook (Danielle Kurtzleben            https://www.npr.org/2018/04/11/601323233/6-facts-we-know-about-fake-news-in-the-2016-election).

No matter how secure creators of social networks try to make their social networking sites, hackers can always devise means to obtain personal information of users and misuse it. They can also target celebrities.

Opportunistic and unethical individuals can create fake profiles in the names of individuals or national ministries or governments. They can then get contact information of people who think they are chatting with the real person(s) (Matthew Herper https://www.forbes.com/2009/04/24/facebook-privacy-herper-business-media-facebook.html#6f99db037288).

Confidential personal data can be sold by unprincipled social networks for financial gains. It may be sold to advertisers. Your profile may be free to create on such sites but you are the product! (Julia Carrie Wong            https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/28/facebook-apple-tim-cook-zuckerberg-business-model)

Students lose out on valuable study time spending too much time on sites like Facebook. Employees of corporate organizations damage office productivity by accessing social media sites from office networks which have nothing to do with their work. Creating network access policies against such sites may become futile in certain cases where employees can use their own devices and internet dongle, known as BYOD which stands for “Bring Your Own Device”.

Social communication is becoming addictive because some services are designed for addiction using principles of psychology. Some sites are even known to cause the reward centers of the brain to be affected during usage (Haley Cummings    http://www.collegiatetimes.com/lifestyles/the-effect-of-social-media-on-the-brain/article_f27b5a1e-b999-11e7-bfc2-77d77ccdf0b1.html).

A business’s page or posts can be down-voted deliberately by users with malicious intent. On the other hand, giving businesses control over which reviews to display will give them the power to filter out negative reviews completely.

Employers can base their hiring decisions on the candidates’ social media profiles. So, a person who likes to take a walk on the wild side may not get hired at all, despite having the necessary skill-sets! (Saige Driver   https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2377-social-media-hiring.html)

There are far-reaching psychological and biological effects of social media use. Cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking have a devastating impact on the lives of the victims.  Even without the presence of a persecutor, you may feel anxious, sleepless and depressed. Night-time use of social media disrupts your sleep cycle and your body’s natural bio-rhythms. Constant bombardment of near-perfect images of celebrities and actors or models, especially on Facebook, Instagram, etc, can give you a negative body-image. You may begin to think you are too fat or thin or ugly, even if you are not! (Anya Zhukova   https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/negative-effects-social-media/)

Figure 5. Social media use can cause anxiety, sleeplessness and depression.
Source:  “7 Negative Effects of Social Media on People and Users” https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/negative-effects-social-media/

Conclusion

Social media bring people together but can also hurt the interests of those people. However, the interaction on social media cannot be a substitute for face-to-face meetings with a close group of friends. Social media can help you stay in touch but can also spread malicious misinformation. It can also put your private/confidential data up for grabs in dubious online communities.

Businesses can tap the consumer market by reaching out to users of social media. They can target users in their advertisements because they know their preferences. This is a potential privacy concern. Social media are like a double-edged sword and must be used cautiously.

You should strike a balance between your online as well as offline lives and apply the same prudence to your online life that you would apply to your life in the offline world.

References

1.      Margaret Rouse  “Social media”  https://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/social-media

2.      TOI Tech  “Facebook buys WhatsApp: CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains why”
https://www.gadgetsnow.com/tech-news/Facebook-buys-WhatsApp-CEO-Mark-Zuckerberg-explains-why/articleshow/30714548.cms

3.      Google   “Frequently asked questions about the Google+ shutdown”  https://support.google.com/plus/answer/9217723?hl=en

4.      Maya Kosoff “LinkedIn just bought online learning company Lynda for $1.5 billion”  https://www.businessinsider.in/LinkedIn-just-bought-online-learning-company-Lynda-for-1-5-billion/articleshow/46865136.cms

5.      Statista 2019  “Number of social media users worldwide from 2010 to 2021 (in billions)” https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/

6.      Wikipedia  “Internet censorship in China” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_China

7.      Press Association “Social media-related crime reports up 780% in four years” https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/dec/27/social-media-crime-facebook-twitter

8.      Danielle Kurtzleben  “Did Fake News On Facebook Help Elect Trump? Here’s What We Know”             https://www.npr.org/2018/04/11/601323233/6-facts-we-know-about-fake-news-in-the-2016-election

9.      Matthew Herper  “I Was Impersonated On Facebook”  https://www.forbes.com/2009/04/24/facebook-privacy-herper-business-media-facebook.html#6f99db037288

10.  Julia Carrie Wong    “Apple’s Tim Cook rebukes Zuckerberg over Facebook’s business model”            https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/28/facebook-apple-tim-cook-zuckerberg-business-model

11.      Haley Cummings    “The effect of social media on the brain” http://www.collegiatetimes.com/lifestyles/the-effect-of-social-media-on-the-brain/article_f27b5a1e-b999-11e7-bfc2-77d77ccdf0b1.html

12.      Saige Driver   “Keep It Clean: Social Media Screenings Gain in Popularity” https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2377-social-media-hiring.html

13.      Anya Zhukova   “7 Negative Effects of Social Media on People and Users” https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/negative-effects-social-media/

 

Why Digital Marketing Is Important For Your Business

In the digital age, it does not make good business sense for your business not to have a digital presence. This is because you will not be able to reach out to the audiences of digital platforms who are your potential customers. Using social media and search engines is now commonplace. You need to market your business to the online audience, or in other words, do digital marketing.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also on mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium. Digital marketing channels are systems based on the internet that can create, accelerate, and transmit product value from producer to the terminal consumer by digital networks.

A Brief History of Digital Marketing

The term Digital Marketing came into being in the 1990s. The first clickable banner ad went live in 1994, which was a campaign by AT&T and over the first four months of it going live, 44% of its viewers clicked on it.

In the 2000s, with more people using the internet and the advent of the iPhone, more and more people searched for products and made decisions online instead of consulting a sales person. These developments made marketers find digital ways for market development. In 2007, marketing automation came into being. Marketing automation helped companies to partition customers into segments, launch multichannel marketing campaigns and provide personalized information for customers.

Digital marketing became more sophisticated in the 2000s and the 2010s, when the proliferation of devices capable of accessing digital media witnessed a sudden growth. In the 2000s, with the advent of social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, consumers became highly dependent on digital electronics in their daily lives. They began to expect a seamless user experience across different channels for searching product information. This change in customer behavior led to the diversification of marketing technology. Digital media volume was estimated at 4.5 trillion online ads served annually with digital media spending growing at 48 percent in 2010.

Photo credit:  Avantika Monnappa at https://www.simplilearn.com/

Types of Digital Marketing

Types of online digital marketing include:

1.   Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO is the art of increasing the visibility of your business site in the organic or non-paid search results of any of the search engines according to keywords entered by the user and the algorithm employed by the search engine. You can get your company’s website to appear at the top of a user’s organic search results by optimizing your website using SEO.

2.   Search Engine Marketing and Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC): Search Engine Marketing or SEM covers paid traffic from search engines. To use SEM, you purchase advertisement space that appears on a user’s Search Engine Result Page (SERP). The search engine charges a business a certain amount to display an advertisement in a number of places on an SERP generated from specific keywords or phrases. PPC is a digital marketing method by which search engines charge a company each time their advertisement is clicked.

3.   Social Media Marketing: Using social media marketing you’ll gain more reach when you post quality content. Everything you do to increase traffic or business on your social media channels is a part of social media marketing. Whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or LinkedIn, all your efforts on these sites amount to social media marketing. Almost everyone benefits from social media marketing, but Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies stand to gain the most.

4.   Content Marketing: Content marketing is the practice of delivering a piece of high quality content to your users to generate sales and leads. This content can be live anywhere online. Tweets, a YouTube video, an Instagram post and blogs on your website, etc all comprise content marketing. Content Marketing combines exceptional content with other types of digital marketing like SEO and Social Media Marketing.

5.   Affiliate Marketing: Suppose you are a business selling products and services on your site. Now, say a blogger X posts details about your products on his own blog. When internet users click on product advertisements on X’s blog, they are directed to your business site and if users complete a purchase, X gets a commission from you according to an agreement between you and the affiliate, namely X.

6.  Influencer Marketing: Influencer marketing uses people with tremendous online popularity who are considered experts by your target market to drive traffic and sales. Influencer marketing is popular on social media channels like Instagram and Snapchat as well as behemoths like Amazon. Companies hire influencers with large followings to publicize their brand through posts.

7.   Email Marketing: Email marketing allows you to update your email subscribers on a regular basis about your company through newsletters for example. This fosters a relationship with the subscribers. Your email updates provide value to your consumer and as a result, you build trust and brand loyalty.

8.   Viral Marketing: Viral marketing involves a post that is trendy, funny, or strange enough to garner a massive number of shares online. Viral marketing causes an enormous increase in website traffic over a short period of time. B2C companies gain the most from viral marketing.

9.   Mobile Phone Advertising: Each of the types of digital advertising can target a mobile device. Some types of marketing using a mobile such as SMS advertising can prove an asset to local marketing efforts. You can prompt your consumers to use SMS to receive special offers, coupons, and updates from your company.

Why Businesses Postpone the Adoption of Digital Marketing plans

Small businesses may feel that they don’t have the time or the money to be competitive online. They think they can only face so many challenges all at once when they are still learning the ins and outs of business in general. Many of them may prefer to take things slowly and steadily. They wish to stick with one or two basic forms of advertising, assuming that their business will evolve as time passes. Since they are a small business, they may think they only need a small number of customers to begin with. This is not an effective approach. There is no guarantee that your business will attract customers just by existing and even if it does, you may not attract enough customers to make your business profitable and sustainable.

The Benefits and Importance of Digital Marketing

When small businesses get started, they often focus on how to get their first customers through the door. They often rely on traditional forms of advertising, such as print ads or road signs. They may believe that since people know that they offer a good product or service, it’s only a matter of time until customers will find their way to them. Although this strategy may bring in a trickle of business, small businesses should consider the huge marketplace of prospective customers online to improve their business prospects. Any business, no matter how new or how small, should not overlook this vast marketplace. Larger businesses, which have grown in the pre-digital era, have the potential to grow even more through digital marketing. Indeed, they may also need a digital marketing strategy to remain relevant in the face of increased competition and changing technology.

Benefits.

The group of potential customers who are found online is a much larger group of people than what you can attract locally. Using digital marketing, you can reach an enormous audience in a way that is both cost-effective and quantifiable.
Other benefits of digital marketing include:

• The ability to interact with your prospective customers and learn about their preferences. You will be able to improve customer satisfaction by iteratively modifying your product or service according to these insights.

• The ability to reach a global marketplace. This is the largest pool of potential customers.

• Reach more customers for less money than traditional marketing methods.

• Get to know your audience and allow them to know you personally which can help to build a relationship with the customers and create brand loyalty.

• Track responses to your marketing efforts in real time through means such as analytics.

• Communicate your brand identity on social media, thereby piggybacking on the popularity of those social media services.

• Reach out to users of diverse software and devices. Smartphones are a user segment that has witnessed explosive growth recently.

• Compete with larger companies. Don’t get pushed out of the marketplace!

• Get higher marketing Return On Investment (ROI) and conversion rates.

Importance.

The following are the reasons why you can ignore digital marketing only at your own peril:

Your customers are online: To tell you the truth, your customers are already online, even though you don’t know it. And so are your potential customers. If your business is not found online easily, these potential customers will flock to your competitors. At the minimum, they will expect you to have a website and a social media presence.

Your competitors may already be online: To succeed in the business world, you need to look over your shoulder at what your competitors are doing and learn from it. Regardless of your niche, your competitors have likely established a web presence already. You can learn what is working or not working from your competitors. You can study what kind of content they are using, whether they are using more graphics and video, like a YouTube channel. A sound digital marketing strategy will position you to compete in the digital world.
If your prospective customers begin to search for a business similar to yours and are able to find your competitors’ website but not yours, they can’t choose you because they don’t know about you.

You need to be accessible: In today’s digital world, the first place the average consumer looks for what they want is online. They will most likely start their search with Google, no matter what product or service they are looking for. If you have no online presence at all, you won’t be found, and you can’t compete. If you have an online presence but your competitors are easier to find and are found first, you might still go unnoticed. To remedy this, you can hire an SEO expert, for example, to make sure that when prospective customers search with certain keywords, they find your site first.

You want to make customers come to you: By creating a web presence, your business is open 24×7 even when it’s closed for the day! You can create a business environment in which your customers can come to you any time, day or night. Existing and prospective customers can send you emails with questions, make purchases and browse your inventory, at their convenience. Potential customers who have no way to physically come to you can still do business with you, whether they are limited by disability, transportation or are simply living too far away. So, with digital marketing, the scope of your business exceeds the boundaries of your shop floors!

You must get to know your target audience: Digital marketing allows you to gradually get to know your prospective customers and what they are hoping to find. You can start a conversation with them on a blog or social media, or even conduct a survey. Their responses will help you improve your business. By interacting with people digitally, you can start to get to know what they are looking for and what solutions you can offer to them. With digital marketing, there is no guesswork involved. It allows you to methodically find out who your customers are and what they really want.

Be more than just a business concern: By responding to customer feedback, by solving the consumers’ problems and building a relationship with them, you become more than a business. You become a trusted partner. Trust means that not only will more people buy from you, but also your previous customers might buy again from you. A digital presence also puts your dealings on the record.

Conclusion

In the current business environment, it is extremely important to foray into digital marketing and develop a digital marketing strategy due to its immense benefits. Digital marketing has the potential to increase your revenue. If you ignore digital marketing, you may fall behind the competition and lose your business!


REFERENCES:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_marketing

2. https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/why-digital-marketing-is-important-for-small-business

3. https://www.sparklogix.com/9-types-of-digital-marketing-and-how-to-use-them/