The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'online'

2013/10/30

The Cynictrain Manifesto, an updating of the techno-boosterist Cluetrain Manifesto fourteen years on:

1. Markets are conversations in much the same way as the school bully picking on the disabled queer kid is friendship.
5. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. But NSA wiretapping subverts hyperlinks, so we’ve got that covered.
7. The community of discourse is the market. And if a particular community of discourse doesn’t like being the market, we’ll fucking well make them into a market.
8. We’re all down with conversation and social and community. Until we make enough money that we can delete your wedding photos, get Google stock and fuck off to a private island.
14. The people who invented a service to drive rich people around San Francisco in a Mercedes should be the people who decide on global transport policy.
30. The new growth market in our industry is casual game apps. We’ve built numerous companies on pinching the pocket money of particularly stupid kids. At least apps don’t contain sugar.

(via davidgerard) cyberculture dot-com boom humour neoliberalism online tech 0

2012/12/12

Between 1975 and 1979, a number of dialogues were held between various cultural and artistic figures on the then embryonic ARPANET network, which would, in time, become the internet. Here's Dialogue IV, held in April 1976, and featuring Yoko Ono, Sidney Nolan, Jim Henson and Ayn Rand. There are few surprises in how it plays out; the characters are true to form, with Ono as the fey hippy mystic, Rand as the original chatroom troll (who starts off in characteristic form by throwing shit from her self-declared moral high ground and ends up driving everyone else out), and Henson and Nolan presenting perhaps more nuanced perspectives:

JIM HENSON: But there is always conflict.
YOKO ONO: But it does not have to be this way. Does your work Mr Henson not try to prove this?
JIM HENSON: No. Conflict is what defines my characters in many ways and how they respond to it.
JIM HENSON: I think Ms. Rand and my character Oscar the Grouch would have a lot to talk about actually. I am laughing out loud at this idea.
AYN RAND: Why would I want to talk to him. What has he achieved or trying to achieve.
JIM HENSON: He has achieved what I think is the ultimate goal of your way of thinking.

(via Zoë) arpanet arpanet dialogues ayn rand history ideas jim henson online sidney nolan trolls yoko ono 2

2010/11/16

Tomorrow is apparently National UnFriend Day: a day for purging your Facebook friend list of people who aren't actual real-world friends (you know, that guy you met at a party two years ago who's in marketing or publishing or something and really into snowboarding, or was it Korean cinema?) without the devastating anxiety non-sociopathic people feel when cutting off contact with another blameless human being, or something.

“NUD is the international day when all Facebook users shall protect the sacred nature of friendship by cutting out any ‘friend fat’ on their pages occupied by people who are not truly their friends,” according to the show’s website.
Meanwhile, the latest new social network's key feature is that you only get 50 friends, who are meant to be your closest friends and family.

While there is something to be said for periodically deleting non-relationships from social sites (i.e., anybody whom you can't remember who they are), the premise of both of these—that social software friend lists should be only for people we consider to be actual friends in real life—goes against the use cases of social software site; one of the things that makes sites like Facebook useful is because they're good at managing weak links; of keeping up with people whom one isn't sufficiently close to to individually spend time with. There is probably less call for a site that is limited to one's 50 nearest and dearest (not to mention the drama it may engender, akin to MySpace's "Top 8" ("You added him but not me; what am I: chopped liver?")) than for one for keeping up with various spheres of acquaintances, buddies, contacts and other weak links, and compartmentalising one's public identity and profile between them appropriately.

facebook online social software 1

2010/8/15

Huffington Post co-founder Johan Peretti has posted a presentation, titled "Mormons, Mullets and Maniacs", on what makes online content "viral", i.e., likely to be passed along by bored people:

One key point: content that goes viral tends to appeal to people's personality disorders, or at least gives them an opportunity to score points, laugh at/put down those they disagree with, or express their obsessions, self-identification or narcissistic attention-seeking tendencies:

marketing online psychology social software 0

2009/9/29

Read: White Barbarian, an essay by a French Wikipedia contributor, vividly defending Wikipedia's culture:

I'm ten. Every week for French class we are required to select a book from the class library. I already can't stand the classics, so I reach for a gamebook. The searing glare from my teacher confirms that just because I'm allowed to take the book does not mean I can. I take it anyway.
I'm fourteen. A colleague of my father spots me as I'm idly tapping keys on a demo synthesizer at the local department store. He takes his time to explain how this is worthless; such instruments warrant nothing but contempt and true music requires no amplifiers. I suddenly develop an interest for electronic music.
I'm twenty-eight. I discover on Wikipedia that tons of people share my unusual knowledge. Some try to convince me that the method is flawed and you can't treat all topics as equal. By nature incapable of listening to such arguments, I ignore the bores. So does everybody else, anyway. The bores get annoyed at this fact and proceed to announce they are Right and everybody else is Wrong. I'm not sure I get that logic.
And it concludes...
I am a barbarian. A well-educated barbarian, mind you, who has read and listened to all the right things, but a barbarian nonetheless. Left to my own devices I will always develop completely nonstandard interests, and experience taught me that, no matter what, people expect me to acknowledge what I like to be intrinsically inferior. Thanks to Wikipedia, I know that the world is full of people like me. I can't tell you about the rest of the universe, but to those here that expect me to give way again, I say this: go take a stroll in another encyclopedia.
Wikipedia's Rome wasn't invaded by barbarians. It was built by them. Oftentimes I go for a walk on the city's Forum and hear an orator trying to rally the crowd to his cause and explaining that the barbarians are at the city's doors. I'm still laughing.
The original French, by the way, is here.

(via David Gerard) culture diy here comes everybody online wikipedia 0

2009/6/26

Michael Jackson's death melts the internet:

Search giant Google confirmed to the BBC that when the news first broke it feared it was under attack.
Before the company's servers crashed, TweetVolume noted that "Michael Jackson" appeared in more than 66,500 Twitter updates.
And Farrah Fawcett (whom one really has to feel sorry for; what a way to go) wasn't the only one eclipsed by the "King of Pop" going supernova; the entire Iranian protest movement was as well.
That put news of Jackson's death at least on par with the Iran protests, as Twitter posts about Iran topped 100,000 per hour on June 16 and eventually climbed to 220,000 per hour.
(It's probably, in the Blairite parlance, a good day to bury bad news; I wonder whether the Iranian government has taken advantage of this to hastily machine-gun all those pesky protesters into freshly dug trenches while the world's mourning a pop star.)

Michael Jackson's death will almost certainly go down in history as one of those iconic events that everyone remembers where they were when they heard of it, like the Kennedy assassination or the passing of his erstwhile father-in-law some three decades earlier. Only, this time, it happened in a highly networked world, so the recollections will surely reflect this. I first heard of it when I saw someone log into an instant messaging service with "RIP Michael Jackson" as their status. Though one may well have found out about it by reading Wikipedia's revisions page:

(cur) (prev) 22:49, 25 June 2009 TexasAndroid (talk | contribs) m (119,637 bytes) (Removed category Living people (using HotCat))
Which is somewhat less ignominious than Wikipedia's summary judgment of non-notability on Steven Wells. (Wikipedia appears to be locked in a deletionist spiral of radicalism these days, as editors prove their hard-headedness and ideological purity by being increasingly ruthless with what is deemed "notable".)

And the Register' article on the Michael Jackson Twitter meltdown ends with some speculation about what's likely to happen in the days and weeks following his death:

We can expect floods of tributes, detailing how Jackson changed the face of pop music (a reasonable claim) was the biggest record seller in history (probably) and invented the moonwalk (absolutely not).
This will be quickly followed by floods of revelations about the singer's murky private life, now that libel restrictions no longer reply - at least in the UK.
But first of all, we can expect a flood of malware spam, likely promising post-mortem pictures of the star's body.
The spam, it seems, didn't take long.

death internet media michael jackson online spam twitter wikipedia 0

2009/5/17

A website named Double X, which seems to be a broadly feminist publication run by the Newsweek people, has a piece examining the phenomenon of women using photographs of their children as their Facebook profile photos, and what it says about their identity and social position:

These Facebook photos signal a larger and more ominous self-effacement, a narrowing of our worlds. Think of a dinner party you just attended, and your friend, who wrote her senior thesis in college on Proust, who used to stay out drinking till five in the morning in her twenties, a brilliant and accomplished woman. Think about how throughout the entire dinner party, from olives to chocolate mousse, she talks about nothing but her kids. You waited, and because you love this woman, you want her to talk about…what?…a book? A movie? A news story? True, her talk about her children is very detailed, very impressive in the rigor and analytical depth she brings to the subject; she could, you couldn’t help but think, be writing an entire dissertation on the precise effect of a certain teacher’s pedagogical style on her 4-year-old. But still. You notice at another, livelier corner of the table that the men are not talking about models of strollers. This could in fact be a 19th-century novel where the men have retired to a different room to drink brandy and talk about news and politics. You turn back to the conversation and the woman is talking about what she packs for lunch for her child. Are we all sometimes that woman? A little kid talk is fine, of course, but wasn’t there a time when we were interested, also, in something else?
Facebook, of course, traffics in exhibitionism: It is a way of presenting your life, at least those sides of it you cherry pick for the outside world, for show. One’s children are of course an important achievement, and arguably one’s most important achievement, but that doesn’t mean that they are who you are. It could, of course, be argued that the vanity of a younger generation, with their status postings on what kind of tea they are drinking, is a worse kind of narcissism. But this particular form of narcissism, these cherubs trotted out to create a picture of self is to me more disturbing for the truth it tells. The subliminal equation is clear: I am my children. And perhaps for their health and yours and ours, you should be other things as well.

(via MeFi) facebook feminism online social software society 3

2009/4/8

We haven't had a Wayne Kerr post for a while, so one is overdue. Anyway, I am Wayne Kerr, and if there's one thing I hate... it's websites attempting to coerce you into registering.

A while ago, there was an online newspaper named the International Herald Tribune. Owned by the New York Times but published in Paris, it was quite a good paper, with fairly incisive articles not too far from Economist territory. Then someone at head office decided to kill the brand and roll it into the New York Times brand, and iht.com became global.nytimes.com. And, with that, inherited the New York Times' draconian insistence on users requiring to register and log in to view their their precious content.

The New York Times, you see, is not satisfied with the standard online news business model (make their content freely viewable and linkable and sell ads to those surfing in on web links from wherever in the world they may be); that may be good enough for rabble like their London namesake, but the NYTimes' content is worth more than that. At the start, they even tried charging for online access to it. Of course, as Clay Shirky points out, this is not a viable business model for online news (current events cannot be copyrighted or monopolised, and someone can always do it cheaper), so the NYTimes soon dropped the demands for subscription. However, they have doggedly kept the other part of the equation: the insistence on users subscribing, remembering yet another username and password, and giving a valid, verified email address, as well as some juicy demographic information. Of course, there are ways around this; the most popular site on BugMeNot, a website for sharing free usernames/passwords to such sites, is the New York Times. However, such accounts usually have a very short lifespan; either they perish when the email verification period lapses or, failing that, the Times' web admins hunt them down and kill them, like an ongoing game of Whack-a-Mole.

The New York Times, however, is not the most irritating example of coercive registration; that accolade would probably go to a site named, ironically, Get Satisfaction. This is an external tech support site, used by a number of web 2.0-ish sites, including SoundCloud and ping.fm. As a web site, it is the very model of a modern website; rounded corners, quirky retro fonts (oh so San-Francisco-via-Stockholm), pastel-hued gradients, animated fades, you name it, it ticks the box; it would be perfect, but for one fatal flaw in the human interface design.

What somebody neglected to notice is the typical use case of such a site. One doesn't go to Get Satisfaction to socialise with friends, share photos or music, find a date or a flat, or do anything one does on a typical social web site; one goes there when one has gone to such a site and found that it doesn't work properly, and wants to notify somebody to fix this. Now when that happens, the last thing one wants it to have to think up another username and password, and be cheerfully invited to fill in one's profile and choose a user icon representing one's personality. As far as support forums go, less should be more, and Get Satisfaction, for all of its pretentions to being some kind of online clubhouse, falls short.

Not everything that isn't charged for is without cost; there is a cost, in time and finite mental resources, to keeping track of usernames and passwords. (Of course, you could use the same password across all sites, but that replaces a psychological/time cost with the security risk of all one's passwords being compromised.) And sites which put registration speed bumps in their users' way could find users going elsewhere where offers a smoother ride.

design media online usability wayne kerr web 12

2009/4/1

The rise of Wikipedia and its open-source, collaborative content model has claimed a scalp among its traditional, proprietary competition: Microsoft's online encyclopedia Encarta will be shut down on 31 October. Encarta was launched in the 1990s as a savvier Britannica for the CD-ROM age.

I wonder how long Britannica has left. Will it survive indefinitely, sustained by the niche market for expensive, impressive-looking leather-bound volumes, fetishised by those to whom such things still suggest wisdom more than decrepitude? Will the brand name be snapped up by a manufacturer of prestige E-paper Wikipedia browsers? Or will it just sink without a trace, as a relic of a past age of informational scarcity?

business encarta microsoft online tech wikipedia 5

2008/11/26

New York Magazine has an interesting piece on cities, living alone and the myth of endemic urban loneliness and alienation:

Of all 3,141 counties in the United States, New York County is the unrivaled leader in single-individual households, at 50.6 percent. More than three-quarters of the people in them are below the age of 65. Fifty-seven percent are female. In Brooklyn, the overall number is considerably lower, at 29.5 percent, and Queens is 26.1. But on the whole, in New York City, one in three homes contains a single dweller, just one lone man or woman who flips on the coffeemaker in the morning and switches off the lights at night.
These numbers should tell an unambiguous story. They should confirm the common belief about our city, which is that New York is an isolating, coldhearted sort of place. Mark Twain called it “a splendid desert—a domed and steepled solitude, where the stranger is lonely in the midst of a million of his race.” (This from a man who settled in Hartford, Connecticut.) In J. D. Salinger’s 1952 short story “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period,” the main character observes that wishing to be alone “is the one New York prayer that rarely gets lost or delayed in channels, and in no time at all, everything I touched turned to solid loneliness.” Modern movies and art are filled with lonesome New York characters, some so familiar they’ve become their own shorthand: Travis Bickle (in Taxi Driver, calling himself “God’s lonely man”); the forlorn patrons in Nighthawks (inspired, Edward Hopper said, “by a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue”); Ratso Rizzo (“I gotta get outta here, gotta get outta here,” he kept muttering in Midnight Cowboy … and died before he could).
There are several assumptions here: the equation of living alone (outside of a stable nuclear family) with loneliness and psychological toll is one of them. Another one is the great American myth about small-town values, one we see trotted out (often by people on the right of culture-war politics) time and time again.
In American lore, the small town is the archetypal community, a state of grace from which city dwellers have fallen (thus capitulating to all sorts of political ills like, say, socialism). Even among die-hard New Yorkers, those who could hardly imagine a life anywhere else, you’ll find people who secretly harbor nostalgia for the small village they’ve never known.
One problem with "small-town values" is that the word is often a dog whistle for a certain brand of reactionary intolerance; a strong in-group-vs.-out-group distinction, knee-jerk traditionalism, bigotry and petty authoritarianism, only painted in folksy Thomas Kincaid colours. One example of this that came around not so long ago was failed US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin approvingly quoting a fascist newspaper columnist's praise of "small-town America". If small towns stand as a symbol of intolerance and conformism, all things urban could be said to represent the opposite, cosmopolitanism and liberalism.
Cities, in other words, are the ultimate expression of our humanity, the ultimate habitat in which to be ourselves (which may explain why half the planet’s population currently lives in them). And in their present American incarnations—safe, family-friendly, pulsing with life on the street—they’re working at their optimum peak. In Cacioppo’s data, today’s city dwellers consistently rate as less lonely than their country cousins. “There’s a new sense of community in cities, an increase in social capital, an increase in trust,” he says. “It all leads to less alienation.”
Cacioppo and Patrick cite a range of studies showing that students in classes with the best rapport imitate each other’s body language; same goes for athletes on winning teams. The presence of other human beings puts a natural limit on how freakily we can behave. And where better to find them than in cities, where we have more ties? (Think about the sociopathic kids who shot other kids in Red Lake, Minnesota; at Northern Illinois University; at Virginia Tech—what do they have in common? They were living in isolated places.) Robert Sampson, paraphrasing Durkheim, puts it this way: “The tie itself provides health benefits. That’s where I started with my work on crime.”

In any case, recent research has revealed that the equation of living alone and loneliness does not follow; for one, what sociologists call "weak ties" are at least as important to psychological wellbeing as more intimate connections, and cities full of singletons are swarming with potential weak ties (and often stronger ones as well):

“In our data,” adds Lisa Berkman, the Harvard epidemiologist who discovered the importance of social networks to heart patients, “friends substitute perfectly well for family.” This finding is important. It may be true that marriage prolongs life. But so, in Berkman’s view, does friendship—and considering how important friendship is to New Yorkers (home of Friends, after all), where so many of us live on our own, this finding is blissfully reassuring. In fact, Berkman has consistently found that living alone poses no health risk, whether she’s looking at 20,000 gas and electricity workers in France or a random sample of almost 7,000 men and women in Alameda, California, so long as her subjects have intimate ties of some kind as well as a variety of weaker ones. Those who are married but don’t have any civic ties or close friends or relatives, for instance, face greater health risks than those who live alone but have lots of friends and regularly volunteer at the local soup kitchen. “Any one connection doesn’t really protect you,” she says. “You need relationships that provide love and intimacy and you need relationships that help you feel like you’re participating in society in some way.”
In fact, many Internet and city behaviors we consider antisocial have social consequences. Think of people who lug their laptops into public settings. In 2004, Hampton and his colleagues looked at just those people—at Starbucks, in fact, in Seattle and Boston—and concluded that a full third of them were basically using their laptops and interacting at the same time. (Cafés, in other words, were like dog runs, and laptops were like pugs, encouraging interaction among solitaries.) Hampton did a similar study of laptop users in Bryant Park, and the same proportion, or one-third, reported meeting someone they hadn’t before. Fifteen percent of them kept in touch with that person over time (meaning that about 5 percent made lasting ties out of a trip to Bryant Park with a laptop).
Conversely, married people—women especially—have smaller friendship-based social networks than they did as single people, according to Claude Fischer. In a recent phone conversation with the sociologist, I mentioned a related curiosity I came across in a paper about the elderly and social isolation in New York City: The neighborhoods where people were at the greatest risk, it seemed, were in neighborhoods where people seemed very married—family neighborhoods, in fact, like Borough Park and Ridgewood. “That’s not strange at all,” he says. “They’re the prime category of people to be isolated.” He explains that these people “aged in place,” as sociologists like to say, staying in the homes where they raised their own families. Then their spouses died, and so did their cohort (or it moved to a retirement community), and they’re suddenly surrounded by strange families, often of different classes or ethnic backgrounds, with whom they’re likely to have far less in common. “Unless they have children living nearby,” he says, “they’re likely to be quite isolated.”
The article concludes with the notion that the internet—another thing often pooh-poohed as alienating and antisocial—functions, in terms of facilitating weak ties, much like a city; in fact, like the ultimate city:
Think about it: Serendipitous encounters between people who know each other well, sort of well, and not at all. People of every type, and with every type of agenda, trying to meet up with others who share that same agenda. An environment that’s alive at all hours, populated by all types, and is, most of the time, pretty safe. What he was saying, really, was that New York had become the Web. Or perhaps more, even: that New York was the Web before the Web was the Web, characterized by the same free-flowing interaction, 24/7 rhythms, subgroups, and demimondes.

(via Mind Hacks) alienation bowling alone loneliness nyc online social networks society 0

2008/6/20

And Freemasonry's fightback from the brink of extinction continues; the Masons now have jumped on the social networking bandwagon with a "cool new website" named Masonic Planet. Though, curiously enough, the site itself doesn't seem to have any Masonic-specific profile features; there seems to be no entry for lodge affiliation in profiles (though it does have a "Looking for: [] Male [] Female" section; presumably they hadn't had time to customise the ex-dating-site software yet), let alone making information visible only to people above a certain degree or what have you. And, indeed, anyone can make an account without any introduction or invitation, or any proof of Masonic affiliation.

It does have some kind of "profile music" Flash applet. Perhaps this site wasn't actually created for or by Freemasons, but rather by someone who read about punks, hipsters and other members of prime youth demographics getting into Freemasonry and decided to get a piece of the action?

freemasonry online social software 0

2008/5/1

It has emerged that children in Britain are posing as paedophiles online to intimidate each other.

Officers have warned parents and children to be vigilant after as many as nine youngsters in Padstow, Cornwall, were targeted through the networking sites Bebo and MSN. Police initially believed a local man was trying to groom the children by befriending them online and arranging to meet them. But a member of the public has come forward and told them that youngsters are trying to settle playground disputes by posing as a paedophile to frighten their rivals.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said: "Information from the public has highlighted a possibility that the offenders could be children aged 10 and over, masquerading as a paedophile. The investigations are continuing and at this moment we are looking into every line of inquiry and are not ruling out any possibility. However, the language used on the social networking sites such as Bebo and MSN is at times childish. It could be youngsters playing a sick game to try and intimidate friends they have fallen out with. This will be treated seriously and we will be contacting the families of the children involved and we will try and help them by involving social services."
Granted, a lot of this is the inevitable modern variant of kids trying to scare each other with imaginary serial killers/monsters/urban myths, updated for the age of paedoterror, though it wouldn't surprise me if, in these jumpy times, some 12-year-old ended up on the sex offenders' register after pulling such a stunt.

(via Boing Boing) bullying children hoaxes irony moral panics online paedoterrorists society uk 0

2008/3/26

The LA Times tracks down Rick Astley, asks him about the unexpected second act of his 1980s pop career, this time as an internet meme. Astley seems quite cool about it:

“Listen, I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it.”

(via MeFi) culture memes online rick astley rickroll 0

2008/3/19

International Association of Time Travelers: Members' Forum Subforum: Europe – Twentieth Century – Second World War; Page 263; a fiction about time travel and online forum etiquette/politics:

At 02:21:30, SneakyPete wrote:
Vienna, 1907: after numerous attempts, have infiltrated the Academy of Fine Arts and facilitated Adolf Hitler's admission to that institution. Goodbye, Hitler the dictator; hello, Hitler the modestly successful landscape artist! Brought back a few of his paintings as well, any buyers?
At 02:29:17, SilverFox316 wrote:
All right; that's it. Having just returned from 1907 Vienna where I secured the expulsion of Hitler from the Academy by means of an elaborate prank involving the Prefect, a goat, and a substantial quantity of olive oil, I now turn my attention to our newer brethren, who, despite rules to the contrary, seem to have no intention of reading Bulletin 1147 (nor its Addendum, Alternate Means of Subverting the Hitlerian Destiny, and here I'm looking at you, SneakyPete). Permit me to sum it up and save you the trouble: no Hitler means no Third Reich, no World War II, no rocketry programs, no electronics, no computers, no time travel. Get the picture?

(via jwz) fiction forums history hitler humour online scifi time travel wiki 1

2008/3/12

The Napsterization blog (which is not about craptacular DRM-shackled music-rental services but about the social and economic implications of disruptive technologies) has a piece on the lengths Facebook application authors go to get people to install their applications, such as doing sleazy things like not only requiring users to install their application to see messages from friends, but wilfully misleading them into believing that if they don't forward a message (of a pornographic tone) to some friends, they won't get to see it. As a result, the maker of the app gets a juicy boost to their installation figures, whilst pissing all over people's social relationships and making your user experience that much crappier.

In this case, the culprit was Slide, with their popular FunWall application, though neither Slide nor Facebook will accept the blame for this:

Facebook pointed the finger at Slide (the app maker in this case), and said, "There is nothing we can do. We have no control over the apps people make or the stuff they send." Oh, and if I wanted Facebook to change the rules for apps makers? I'd have to get say, 80k of my closest Facebook friends to sign on a petition or group, and then they might look at the way they have allowed porn spam to trick people into forwarding, but until then, there would be no feature review.
Slide said that they thought Facebook was the problem, because as the "governing" body, Facebook makes the rules and "Slide wouldn't be competitive if they changed what they do, and their competitors weren't forced to as well." In other words, Slides competitors use the same features to get more users (or trick more users as the case may be) and Slide didn't want to lose out on getting more users with similar features, regardless of the effect the features have on us and our relationships.
And things aren't likely to change by much. Human psychology being what it is, people are willing to put up with a lot of annoyance in software as long as it provides a social function. (How else could you explain MySpace, with its spammy, craptacular user experience, going from strength to strength and maintaining its position as the dominant social software site?) Some people may generally amused by every piece of spam that comes in, or believe that, like billboard advertising, it brightens up people's otherwise dull lives. Others may put up with it due to the peer pressure to not seem cranky and antisocial; after all, the argument would go, that's what they do here, and if you don't like it, why did you join? (The corollary to this argument is, of course, the attrition rate as people who get sick of having three wall applications and being awash in a sea of silly surveys and chain letters stop logging in one day.)

ethics facebook irritainment online social software society spam 0

2008/2/29

Behold the Mall Ninja. Originally a shopping mall security guard, he saved the influential mayor's nephew from being sodomised by bad guys, was granted a special exemption, only given to heroes, from restrictions on weapons, and now is Sergeant of a three-man Rapid Tactical Force, covertly defending an unnamed shopping mall somewhere in America from heavily-armed gangbangers and apocalyptic hordes of neo-Nazis, in between shooting to wound shoplifters, and bragging extensively to gun forums on the internet:

If a kid picks up a candy bar and runs, you give him a warning before you cuff him. Same with those mindless teenyboppers who go to the Hickory Farms store, and then take double samples of fruitcake and cheeselog, you warn them that they will be charged with a felony(grand theft), and that if they attempt to fight and run, they will be, unfortunately, first tazered, and if they continue to resist violently with intent to maim, then wounded. Fortunately, wounding fire to suppress teenage kleptomaniacs is relatively easy, they all run in straight lines, and a hit in the knee will be relatively simple from the second floor. But they all get a warning first, we do not simply shoot shoplifters unless they resist violently.
I’m not even technically employed by the mall I’m stationed at, my orders come from “higher up”, hint, hint. Sure, most regular overweight mall security guards would not be armed, they would lose a Fullsize frame handgun in the blubber on their waistline, why arm them? The elite, however, have specail privilages, and I can assure you that my orders go far-far enough that I could go around Kennedy airport yelling “Hi Jack!”, and that a simple phone call and codeword would have me released in 5 minutes, with my weapon, be what it may. As I said, my orders go far and while my reasons for protecting this mall remain a matter of national security, if the above does not convince you that I am employed in a capacity that goes above and beyond halting shoplifters, nothing will.
You are a doofus, of course there is no anti-armor capabilities for golf carts, the UNIMOG was woth the anti-armor work though. We would never consider using any missles larger than our modified surplus Shrikes,
Also, Neonazi skinhead gangs are the most difficult thing we currently must deal with, it is not Chechin thzat we have to worry about, it is the Australian militants, and I dan’t care if they reed this, they allready know that we are onto them and we will not give up.

(via Boing Boing) bizarre guns online psychoceramics unintentionally hilarious wtf 2

2008/2/20

How To Behave On An Internet Forum, presented in the form of a retrostyled pixel-art video:

WE'RE NOT INTERESTED IN THIS SORT OF THING

(via Boing Boing) culture godwin's law howto humour netiquette online pixel art trolls video 0

2008/2/13

Libertarian Troll Bingo; print it out and cross it off the next time Randroids invade your favourite discussion site:

(via reddragdiva) anarchocapitalism ayn rand humour libertarianism objectivism online 0

2008/1/27

A piece looking at the history of five generic domain names—music.com, eat.com, car.com, meat.com and milk.com—from their origins in the quirky innocence of the pre-commercialised 1990s to their present status:

meat.com: In 1996, meat.com was a classic bit of golden age Internet whimsy called L'Industrie De Meat: an oddish logo on standard-issue mid-90s textured background, with an anti-Communications Decency Act jeremiad, links to an "Internet hall of shame" (optimized for Netscape 2.0), and information about the "Transnational Church of Life on Mars." There was also a link to the site's creator's software offering: Color Manipulation Device, which helped HTML newbies choose the colors for their Web pages. Later iterations of the site foregrounded the software development angle, offering f.search, a metasearch program that would help you get the most of the pre-Google search offerings out there.
By early 2000, though, the proprietor of L'Industrie had sold the site (hopefully at full height-of-boom prices) to a company looking to sell and promote, well meat. Promising a directory of local meat suppliers and "delicious, mouth-watering entrees," it appears to have never really gotten off the ground, and by 2004 was in the hands of a domain registrar and offered for sale. Today, the site has reached the ignominious nadir for generic Websites: it's little more than a front-end for pages of text ads, with not very well thought out photo placement
milk.com: And sometimes, they just stay the same. Milk.com was snapped up in the unheard-of ancient year of 1994 by Internet denizen Dan Bornstein, and it's remained a classic homepage in the '90s sense -- sparse background, unformatted text, easy-to-find links -- ever since.

(via /.) commercialism culture domains history internet online 0

2008/1/24

The internet, with its detachment between online and offline actions and its lack of a private register, has spawned the phenomenon of griefers, or highly organised subcultures of people (mostly young men) who delight in ruining other people's online fun:

Consider the case of the Avatar class Titan, flown by the Band of Brothers Guild in the massively multiplayer deep-space EVE Online. The vessel was far bigger and far deadlier than any other in the game. Kilometers in length and well over a million metric tons unloaded, it had never once been destroyed in combat. Only a handful of player alliances had ever acquired a Titan, and this one, in particular, had cost the players who bankrolled it in-game resources worth more than $10,000.
So, naturally, Commander Sesfan Qu'lah, chief executive of the GoonFleet Corporation and leader of the greater GoonSwarm Alliance — better known outside EVE as Isaiah Houston, senior and medieval-history major at Penn State University — led a Something Awful invasion force to attack and destroy it.
"The ability to inflict that huge amount of actual, real-life damage on someone is amazingly satisfying" says Houston. "The way that you win in EVE is you basically make life so miserable for someone else that they actually quit the game and don't come back."
To see the philosophy in action, skim the pages of Something Awful or Encyclopedia Dramatica, where it seems every pocket of the Web harbors objects of ridicule. Vampire goths with MySpace pages, white supremacist bloggers, self-diagnosed Asperger's sufferers coming out to share their struggles with the online world — all these and many others have been found guilty of taking themselves seriously and condemned to crude but hilarious derision.
Griefers defend their behaviour by claiming that they're merely giving those who take the internet far too seriously a reality check. The implied subtext is that anything that happens online is just a game and doesn't count. Though, given how the internet has become a mainstream part of many people's lives (witness, for example, the rise in social networking websites), this assertion makes about as much sense as Tom Hodgkinson's call to kill your Facebook account, throw away your email address and instead socialise in the pub with people near you. There's not a great leap from asserting that anything that happens online doesn't really count and absurdly ludditic claims like "if you don't know what someone smells like, they're a stranger".

On the other hand, there is no such thing as the right to be respected, or even to not be ridiculed. If one posts a web page detailing one's peculiar political views, conspiracy theories and/or sexual fetishes online, one can expect to be laughed at and even snidely remarked about. Though there is a distinction between demolishing someone's homepage in a blog or discussion forum and actively gathering a posse and going out to hound them off the net.

Griefing happens in the real world, though it's usually called other things, such as bullying. The difference is that the internet has democratised bullying. In the real world, in more conformistic societies, bullies can typically only be those either of or contending for alpha social status, enforcing an exaggerated version of majority values by picking on those perceived to not conform to them (witness the use of the word "gay", sometimes semi-euphemised as "ghey", as a general-purpose term of derision), and in more liberal or pluralistic environments, even that is frowned upon. Online, anyone can find a group of like-minded misfits, make up a cool-sounding name, set up a virtual clubhouse and start picking on mutually agreed targets, with little fear of social consequences.

assholes bullying culture furries griefers internet online psychology sadism society something awful the private register videogaming 1

2007/11/26

As social network websites with user-generated content become mainstream, online dating websites, as a category, are dying. Which makes sense: the only reason that online dating sites (which are like the online equivalent of leks, full of of people putting on their best dating-profile face and saying whatever they think makes them look more attractive), now look even more starkly naff than they did when they were the only game in town. Or, when there are alternatives, going anywhere specifically to pick up doesn't reflect well on oneself:

There's a reason Mulligan and Helm are above online dating. They're part of the social networking generation. Neither would admit to going on sites like Facebook or News Corp.'s MySpace (NWS) expressly looking to hook up. And that's precisely why it's such a better answer to the problem of meeting someone interesting. It's like going to a bar with your friends. Maybe you are going to meet someone special, but maybe you're just going to hang out with your friends too. You can play it cool. "MySpace and Facebook feel like going to a nature preserve, [whereas] a dating site is like walking past a bunch of animals in cages at the zoo," Helm says.
Other sites that meld user-generated content with social networking to accomplish certain tasks can be even handier. Consider Yelp, where people write reviews of their favorite restaurants, bars, and other haunts, or Digg, where users vote and post comments on their favorite online stories. You can scope out Yelp or Digg users on their profile pages, which show pictures and list basic likes and dislikes. But you can really find out about them from the locations they Yelp about or stories they Digg. Both sites have features that even let you connect with fellow users based on shared traits. It's like a version of eHarmony you don't have to opt into. And while many online dating sites charge a fee, most new Web sites are free.
And use of social web sites isn't the only thing that has gone mainstream; the Business Week article linked above signs off with:
The Web moves fast. And sorry online dating, but you just didn't keep up. In the parlance of the kids who won't use you, you got "pwned."

culture dating online sex society web 0

2007/9/9

In 2005, Olia Lialina wrote A Vernacular Web, a survey of the culture of amateur web design some years ago, cataloguing ubiquitous pheonomena like starry backgrounds, "Under Construction" signs, rainbow horizontal rules and animated "Mail Me" graphics. Now, she has returned to the subject with a look at how things have changed over the past few years in the world of non-professional web pages:

Home pages no longer exist. Instead, there are other genres: accounts, profiles, journals, personal spaces, channels, blogs and homes. I’d like to pay special attention to the latter ones.
If you look at the most viewed layouts on MySpace, you’ll notice that most of them have a big picture as a background, which repeats itself horizontally and vertically. This back-to-1996 design flaw is now forever linked to Web and amateur users, and nobody cares about eliminating it – neither services nor users themselves.
Firstly, glitter became a trademark of today’s amateur aesthetics, and I’m certain that in the future sparkly graphics will become a symbol of our times, like “Under Construction” signs for the 90’s. Glitter is everywhere (in the universe of user-generated pages), it has become a meta category. It has absorbed all other categories of ready-made graphics – people, animals, buttons, sex graphics.
Starry backgrounds represented the future, a touching relationship with the medium of tomorrow. Glitter decorates the web of today, routine and taken-for-granted.
Lialina also mentions the ubiquity of cat-themed graphics on the web of today (LOLCats and "Kitten Of The Day"), though declines to go into it, or theorise about the idiosyncratic phraseology and typography used in LOL* graphics.

culture design fashion memes online trends web 0

2007/6/7

The latest online meme: wikigroaning. This involves searching Wikipedia for pairs of thematically related articles, the first being reasonably serious, useful and somewhat minimal, and the second being frivolously trivial, usually related to some aspect of pop culture, often of a fanboyish nature, and invariably much more comprehensive and more thought out than the first, i.e.:

Modern warfare
Lightsaber combat
List of conflicts in the Middle East
List of furry role-playing games
Hammurabi
Emperor Palpatine
Women's suffrage
List of fictional gynoids and female cyborgs

(via jwz) culture fanboys online wikipedia 0

2006/7/17

Attention LiveJournal/MySpace kids: not getting enough attention? You can always try faking your death online, and watching the gushing tributes flow in:


(via hazyjayne) amusing culture emo livejournal online 0

2003/11/3

Via the newly-resurrected bOING bOING: Everything in Moderation is an online forum (run by Tom "plasticbag.org" Coates) dedicated to the management of online communities, and more specifically, to moderating comments, encouraging good behaviour, discouraging trolls and the like. There you'll find fascinating studies in social engineering and useful practical tips such as simulating technical faults to get rid of unwelcome posters without provoking them into a war, and the use of cookies to detect trolls with multiple tentacles.

And, surprisingly enough, the last one received a comment from an "avowed Slashdot troll", outlining how, against a serious troll with access to cookie-poisoning plugins, anonymous web proxies and thousands of trolling accounts (all automated, natch), such a scheme wouldn't work, and giving an outline of a determined troll's formidable arsenal of tools.

The moral of this story is: never underestimate the ingenuity of guys without girlfriends.

moderation online social engineering society trolls 0

2003/10/15

Danny O'Brien on how the pervasiveness of the internet is bringing about the end of the private register, i.e., of the sphere between public and secret. He uses as his example a private get-together of Californian technotopian types. The details were published on a private web site, where master sleuth Andrew Orlowski (the guy who heroically exposed the sinister influence of blogs and "googlewashing") dug them up and used them to pilliory this veritable Bilderberg conference on Segways on its puffed-up self-congratulatoriness.

But, the problem here is that no-one was advertising themselves as visionaries and geniuses. There was no advertising at all. The Wiki Andrew found was private: it wasn't written as publicity for the camp. Sure, the invite talked about "changing the world" and "smart people" - but these words have different meanings when you are trying to flatter and cajole your friends to come to your house for free. And when people say to one another "oh, you're all so smart", it's not a festival of mutual self-congratulation. It's what you say to people you've met who seem quite smart. Well, you do if you're not sitting fifty yards from them, arching your eyebrow significantly.
Somehow, though, that only makes things worse. Oh sure, they weren't telling the world that they were geniuses, the critics roar. They were meeting, secretly, to say it to each other. Without telling anyone.

Danny goes on to point out that on the web, things intended for a small audience of friends have a way of being exposed to the harsh light of public scorn, in exactly the way that face-to-face conversations over a few pints don't. Which is why things like britneyblogs and web journals attract so much mockery -- because they're not meant for the general public.

(Which ties in to my reason for setting up a LiveJournal, and the emerging separation of powers between this blog and the LJ; with LiveJournals, you get the very important ability to make posts which are friends-only, and invisible to anyone save for those in your list of friends (or a subset thereof), which saves you from shooting your mouth off about your small life and exposing your weaknesses/what a boring person you are to potential lovers/employers and/or millions of bored teenagers looking for "losers" to ridicule (ask Ghyslain Raza about that). Granted, it involves your friends having LJ accounts, but that's probably easier to arrange than setting up a password system on your blog and persuading them to indulge your paranoia and log in. It's still in the secret register, as Danny would say, but the secrecy is transparent to anyone who already has a LJ membership. (Btw, if you personally know me and want a LJ creation code, email/IM me.))

culture internet online privacy the private register 2

2003/3/21

A NYTimes piece looking at the culture of away messages on instant messaging services, and how many users (typically young people) treat their messages like LiveJournal mood rings. (via Techdirt)

She said her friends often use away messaging as an emotional outlet. "One friend always has up song lyrics that reflect her mood," she said. Ms. Sanders has done that, too. During reflective moments, "I would be listening to sad songs and would be, 'That would make a great away message.' "
What's more, the away message "becomes a litmus test for personal worth," said Rebecca Blatt, another sophomore at Penn. "Writing 'having an awful day,' or 'drowning in a sea of tears' clearly invites a reaction. What if no one responds?"
And when it comes to sweethearts, especially former and future ones, away messaging adds a new immediacy. Those unwilling to delete a former flame's screen name can effortlessly if painfully keep track of a life they are no longer part of.

(Even if they never were part of it in the first place except in their fevered imaginations.)

Not that this is anything new, mind you; similar things have been happening on goofey for a decade or so; and then there are .plan files (remember those?) from back in the days when people used multi-user UNIX systems. Ah, that takes me back.

away messages culture online unix 0

2002/9/5

A business model for the post-dot-com age: online begging, where people set up web sites with sob stories about dodgy spouses or crippling credit-card bills and wait for soft-hearted suckers to PayPal them money. The difference between a pockmarked junky begging on the street for heroin money and a woman in Brooklyn asking for money to pay off her Prada bills comes down to presentation; well, that and the social acceptability of the addiction.

begging culture online society 0

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