2010: Week 48 Blots

BLOT: (03 Dec 2010 - 12:37:00 AM)

The joys of customer service working, the rattling of the lungs, and a smidge of other things

I still haven't posted the rest of the bits about the weekend down with my mom, or the pow-wow, or the horrid traffic. Still haven't cleaned either, while I am mea culpaing. The reason is, for as many times in as many fortnights, I am sick. Last time, it was about 72-hours of very particular symptoms and the black death that comes in the night. This time it is the white death, I presume, because my two symptoms I have are (1) I don't feel good and (2) something is rattling in my lungs. I assume that (2) might have something to do with (1), but what do I know? IANAD*. It does not hurt, except when I cough for too long in one go, and I am not particularly weakened or nauseated. I just have moments, like tonight at dinner, where sitting upright no longer feels good or, like this afternoon, where even relatively short walks leave me wantined to punch myself in the lungs and consequences be damned.

I also had my final final today. That had things to do with it. I think it is ok. It does not really feel ok. I kind of hate it. Wish I had written it two weeks ago, just so I could have taken it out, thrown away, and started from scratch today. Neither here no there. The break down is as follows. Out of a possible 25 points, I need 6 to get a C-, and 16 to get a B-. I would need an impossible 26 to get an A, assuming my calculations are correct. This means that if I lose greater than 9 points, I have a C. If I retain more than 16, I should have a B. Either one will work, though one would make me frown a bit. :( <-- that face. I'll leave it up to your imagination which one.

Two negatives deserve a positive and so let me brag a moment about Warner Bros. They apparently distribute BBC America DVDS and Blu-Rays. Somehow 2|entertain is involved. At any rate, a year ago I bought a boxset: The Black Guardian. Had four disks covering three "episodes" of Doctor Who (actually 12 eps in three serials). Recently, upon watching, I found out that if you watch the third DVD, which is the regular edition version of "Enlightenment", it tries its best to break my DVD player. Its best, I tell you. I contacted BBC America, they told me to contact Warner Bros and gave me a specific email. First missive was sent with no reply two weeks ago. Tried again yesterday and their is a replacement disk in the works. I am one who prefers replacing just messed-up disks rather than discarding entire box-sets. It feels greener, I guess. Less "throw-away-society". At any rate, had done this with Universal Studios before, and they were a champ. If you have something from those two companies and one of the various bits doesn't work, give 'em a call or shoot them an email. Might be worth your time.

Well, taking my sick lungs to bed so I can listen to them rattle like dice in the dried out skull of a vanquished enemy. Good night, everbody!

* I only used that acronym because I brought it up in a convo with Sarah tonight. I talked about the way people will say IANAL on message boards and then dish out legal advice. Sarah asked me something about the old lung-rattle, and I went IANAD! Which, if you parse it correctly, sounds like a chant by a testicular cultist.

LABEL(s): Me in 2010

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 48
BY MONTH: December 2010

BLOT: (01 Dec 2010 - 01:21:34 PM)

On using Livejournal to talk about Facebook...our drift away from a compartmentalized Internet

Before I even begin, let me make one thing clear, I am not making fun of anyone, or attacking anyone, or jabbing at anyone (besides, you know, Facebook). This is just a trend I have noticed and it made me think of other things.

I have noticed, amongst some of my friends, a regular occurrence. They will post an entry to Livejournal that, in part or as a whole, denounces an incident that happened on Facebook. I do not have a Facebook account, not any more, so I do not know if the LJ entry is mirrored by whatever it is that Facebook calls blog entries nowadays ("Notes" when I was last there), but in some cases I am guessing not. The practice is based on a number of factors: LJ's decline in popularity along with a longer-item format leads to a place where you can speak your mind more freely. Also, LJ has a longer, more robust system of filters to keep certain people from reading certain things, and, finally, LJ has a long history as bar stool where you could come and get some bellyaches off.

Which asks the secondary question: if LJ is a place where you can speak your mind and complain about stuff, what is Facebook for? Social connections, of course. That's not actually an answer, in that all of the Internet is about networking, interacting, and sharing data; but if Facebook is anything, it is an imitation of the Internet as a whole. A macrocosm via microcosm. The big picture in one little URL. The default destination of something like 400,000,000 users (probably "+", now), it has just one primary catch: it is a catch-all. If Facebook is about sharing, it is about sharing en masse. It does not nothing particularly well outside of its mission to get you in and get you posting, a hodge-podge of technologies done better elsewhere but never quite so fulsome in the volume of response and opportunity you get. It is a so-so Flickr, a poor forum, a poorer Youtube, a worse yet blog, and a particularly noisome e-mail client. All for the price of free.

Which contrasts sharply from the Internet of just 5-10 years ago, when people were ok with being compartmentalized. Where groups hung out on IRC channels dedicated to their hobby. Where people frequented three or four newsgroups as their primary forum of online interaction and did not care that only a few hundred other people were participating. When buddy lists on AIM had fifty people arranged in buddy groups and you talked with just the same five friends every night and ignored the rest. When the forum on a band's website might be your Internet home. When people had actual websites and did their own thing without worrying too much about search engines and bookmark folders were field with urls maintained by people you knew. I remember when IGN's various gaming forums were the home of intense and constant discussion, and people tended to be members of only one board or another. I was on the Final Fantasy board, circa 2000-2002 and there were hundreds of posts a day, there, with lots of off-topic stuff and more on-topic stuff. And it was fun.

Now, I hear people cite numbers of users as though it is the only metric: more important than quality of discussion and signal to noise ratios. We have d/evolved the Internet from a series of members-only, private clubs, though a series of pubs where you could hang out with friends in a corner, to a huge marketplace (literally) where your every word is shouted into a crowd and dissected for commerce-impacting patterns. When Facebook announced its forthcoming email system, or perhaps one should say email pastiche, people chortled about how this would be the death of Google's GMail. Which was weird on two accounts. (A) If GMail is the third competitor behind both Yahoo and MSN's Hotmail, why is GMail getting beaten out indicative of anything? Do successful business models regularly attack the number three rather than aim for number one? I missed that lecture. (B) How exactly does an email set up that precludes proper attachments, proper address handling (unless it does have BCCs?), advanced event handling, and—at least from the discussions I have seen—robust features like searching and filter sorting expect to really "shut down" a system that has all those things? Are there more features there that I do not realize, because to me that's like saying the popularity of Crocs is going to kill off shoes. It's the number game without context, the idea that more users makes it a better service (Windows fanatics have cited this idea for years). How does that logic even come close to applying to email? Do these same people think that the email server at a successful bank is a failure because only a few hundred people have one at that domain? It's just more people getting protocol and provider confused.

Let's assume that this confusion will not abate, and that unique user counts will continue to be the metric of Net value (um, pun not intended). What is the outcome? Outside of jabs like the many variations of "People still use Livejournal? LOSERS!" that shows up every time some LJ post gets noticed because there are some very erudite authors and commentators and artists that still prefer its format. Outside of detailed predictions by those who claim to be well-versed in the Internet but still type all of their Google searches in the form of a question. What will the outcome be? I think we are seeing the slight edge of a tiny but full circle. These massive seas of oversharing are causing some to decide they want to have a conversation with just a few friends and so little niche sites allow that to happen. They'll take advantage of places like Livejournal or Buzz or Orkut to have these more controlled conversations. Except, unlike the old days when people looked forward to getting home from work and checking their small handful of sites to see what their online friends are up to that night, people are going to be feeling guilty and disconnected while doing this. They will end up drifting back towards the sea of noise. This will happen in tighter and tighter circles and then...I don't know. I guess we'll either move on and the Eternal September will have its own Eternal September (which I guess is having its own Eternal September at this point in time); or it will finally come full circle and people will only post the most vapid stuff to the most open sites, and honest niche sites will come back into prominence.

I am too old schooled to not look forward to the latter, though I know it isn't likely. One thing is for sure, the Internet of tomorrow will probably have just as many complaints by those who lap up the Facebook method as the Facebook method engenders complaints in old fogeys like me.

LABEL(s): Social Media

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 48
BY MONTH: December 2010

BLOT: (29 Nov 2010 - 10:32:38 AM)

On Twitter's Strange Robo-accounts...

If you have a Twitter account, one thing that might have happened to you is a friending/following by an account that seems potentialkt legit, but doesn't feel right. Sometimes, these SPAMmers are obvious. You get followed by a guy with a nick like Pr0N_deels_HOT and every single tweet is a short blurb followed by a link (and all the links are, of course, shortened). Sometimes you get complete computer gibberish disguised, badly, as fake tweets: "Gotta narm hallo fixing [insert SPAM link here]". Sometimes you get Actual Humans™, usually using phrases like "SEO" and "monetize" and, again, spouting out a ton of short links in lieu of real tweets. There is the uninivted replier, who responds to your tweets with something that seems like an actual response, except it obviously isn't and always, ALWAYS, has a link attached to it that is a mistake to click (I one time oopsed). And the Trending Topic abuser, who posts trending phrasses into tweets, or sometimes makes nothing but a tweet using trending topics, and only sometimes uses this as a way to sneak a link in (presumably they are trying to get people to friend them?). Finally, you get the robo-account.

A robo-account can be hard to spot. They don't use links in every tweet, but do sometimes use them. Half or more of the tweets are quotes, but posting quotes to a social site is nothing too weird. Most are just innocuous phrases—"Cut the grass today before it started raining." or "Started to do homework but started to play videogames."—that are so insignficant that they might as well be actual tweets. For instance, see this actual screenshot from a robo-account that started following me yesterday:

I guarantee, if you do a Google search for "site:twitter.com" with any of those tweets you would find dozens of similar accounts (for example, see the "Watching the postman wee on a tree" tweet search below). All with profile pictures. All with short phrases. All tweeting on the hour, just about every hour. Sometimes, accidentally, repeating one another. Sometimes replying to accounts, but when you follow the link, you find another almost identical account.

Now, what is this for? Some will eventually drop adverts into the tweets—"I've started using this online money manager [Insert Short URL]— and some have links in the profile, often another shortened URL. Others, though? They just spew out tons of random, presumably computer selected and slightly "voiced" tweets. Maybe this is an attempt to throw off the histograms. Actually dangerous accounts use robo-accounts to make certain IPs or phrases look mostly friendly. Maybe there are hidden words. First letter of every tweet or something even more complicated. I know that when I didn't block them, every post I would make would have a dozen bots immediately crawl it after I linked on Twitter, so this is partially some sort of SEO/meme data-diving thing trying to find key metrics without using Google Analytics or looking for particular types of servers and/or shared files.

Maybe these are actual tweets but unimaginative people...or, terrifyingly, maybe in some third world jungle rimmed sweat-shop, there are tables with banks of computers and workers typing away at nonsensical tweets...all for a quarter dollar per hour...

LABEL(s): Social Sites

BY WEEK: 2010, Week 48
BY MONTH: November 2010

Written by Doug Bolden

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