The horror, the horror, old school telephones

Wednesday, 2 July, 2014

Our children will no doubt laugh at us when we tell them what telephones – you know, those devices you Snapchat and Instagram with – used to be like in “the olden days”. I baulk when I remember how… cumbersome the old rotary dial models especially, used to be.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t fit a phone in your pocket or purse. You couldn’t use it to play music, take pictures, shoot video, or check the Internet. You couldn’t select your ringtone or customize your desktop image – because your phone didn’t have a desktop, and its tone was predetermined, for many decades, by Ma Bell, and then, after deregulation, by the manufacturers of budget-priced, cheaply-made phone sets. You could, starting in the late 1980s, speed-dial the last number you entered, and program up to seven or eight others; but your phone probably still needed a wire to work, and woe unto you if your emergency situation didn’t occur in close proximity to a wall jack.

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Might fake followers make your signal heard over the noise?

Friday, 20 June, 2014

It’s not so easy to be heard out here online anymore. Almost everyone, or so it seems, has a presence, whether it be a website or a social media channel, and maybe it is getting to the point where we’re all drowning each other out.

So what to do? Run faster? Shout louder? Or create the impression you are a true “online influencer” by buying up a stack of social media followers, and seeing if the perception of popularity garners a few retweets, or page views?

Buying your way to status on social networks has become standard practice. From Instagram likes to Twitter followers, there’s a growing number of services that promise to bump up your numbers. And they’re quite affordable! What used to be completely frowned upon, is now, effectively considered an act of social media optimization. Just like choosing the right keywords when optimizing for Google search, can the purchasing of fake followers or likes boost one’s standing in social networks?

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Giving the internet a human face, a talk by Maciej Ceglowski

Thursday, 5 June, 2014

The Internet With A Human Face, the transcript of a recent talk given by US computer engineer Maciej Ceglowski. Thought provoking to say the least.

I’d like to start with an analogy. In the 1950’s, the United States tried a collective social experiment. What would happen if every family had a car? Eisenhower had been very impressed with the German Autobahn network during the war. When he was elected President, he pushed for the creation of the Interstate Highway System, a massive network of fast roads that would connect every population center in the country. Over the next 35 years, America built 75,000 kilometers of interstate highways. If you want to be glib about it (and I do!), you can think of the Interstate as an Internet for cars, a nationwide system unifying thousands of local road networks into an overarching whole.

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The internet shall give me my opinion when I ask for it

Tuesday, 3 June, 2014

It’s probably never been so easy to form some sort of opinion on whatever is making the headlines, regardless of how little we actually know about said subject, thanks to the almost instant access we have to trending topic discussion, by way of various social media channels.

It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and then regurgitate them. Instead of watching “Mad Men” or the Super Bowl or the Oscars or a presidential debate, you can simply scroll through someone else’s live-tweeting of it, or read the recaps the next day. Our cultural canon is becoming determined by whatever gets the most clicks.

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Sorry, rolling sarcophagus is not an option

Thursday, 29 May, 2014

Sure, we shouldn’t be trying to overly accentuate the negative, but you just might find yourself in hot water as an employee of General Motors (GM), if it is found you’ve been using words such as bad, defective, failed, flawed, gruesome, horrific, mangling, never, and, wait for it, rolling sarcophagus, in official correspondences.

They are among sixty-nine words and terms some staff of the motor vehicle manufacturer have been told to avoid. Alternatives are, however, offered. For instance, rather than saying “defect”, it is suggested the phrase “does not perform to design” be used instead.

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The way the web will be used in the near future

Wednesday, 28 May, 2014

If you’re reading this then you’re probably inclined to consider the web, being the World Wide Web, or the internet, and yes, I know there’s a difference, as being ubiquitous. How else would you be viewing this web page if not?

While the web may feel like it is everywhere, especially as far as those residing in developed nations are concerned, some three billion on the planet still do not have internet access. Three billion people.

Smartphones however stand to change that state of affairs sooner rather than later, and the way many of these newcomers will use the web will differ markedly from what we’re familiar with.

Interestingly, services such as Instagram will be an integral part of many businesses, or “informal businesses” in emerging economies, or places where people are coming online for the first time, at least according to The Emerging Global Web, a slideshow presentation that explores the internet’s future.

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Awkward silences, bad for you, for me, and everyone in earshot

Thursday, 22 May, 2014

It takes just four seconds for a silent pause in a conversation to become awkward. This lumbering however is not only difficult for those directly involved, but for anyone else close by who happens to be witnessing the spectacle, or lack thereof.

A Dutch study showed that after people watched a conversation that included an uncomfortably long silence, they were more likely to feel “distressed, afraid, hurt and rejected”.

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I don’t know why I said that, and nor does anyone else it seems

Monday, 12 May, 2014

This sounds concerning… it seems people may not be aware of what they are saying until they are actually uttering the words they speak. In other words, no plan or thought goes into our discourse, it simply slips out ad lib.

The dominant model of how speech works is that it is planned in advance – speakers begin with a conscious idea of exactly what they are going to say. But some researchers think that speech is not entirely planned, and that people know what they are saying in part through hearing themselves speak.

Maybe we all need to speak using prepared scripts, or cue cards?

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Headlines that stopped the press, their own press

Thursday, 3 April, 2014

“St. John’s Erection a Miracle”, a proposed headline for a story about the on-going construction of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, is but one headline that didn’t end up making the grade, officially anyway. Maybe that was a good thing, maybe it wasn’t.

Washington, D.C. based editor Jonathan L. Fischer is putting together a collection of similar such article leaders, and I’d say it’s just as well some of those were not used…

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Twitter: we didn’t know what it was, or what it could become

Thursday, 27 March, 2014

Well I’ll be… Twitter is eight years old. And to think that some of us, back then, didn’t think it’d still be around today. Anyway, relive those early days by looking up your first tweet.

Mine, while by no means original, was at least to the point.

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