Category Archives: Internet

We are (letting them) make the Web worse

Don’t over-complicate the web. Don’t hinder it with data-munching add-ons. Please.

Some kind of brain parasite infected designers back when the iPad came out, and they haven’t recovered. Everything now has to look like a touchscreen.

Really interesting piece (or transcript of a talk, with visual examples), with funny (and flooring) examples in the beginning and great points toward the end.

The kicker is actually in the tongue-in-cheek footer for the fake (and improved, and much less memory-heavy) Google AMP site he made:

Dozens of publishers and technology companies have come together to create this unfortunate initiative. However, it is 2015, and websites should be small and fast enough to render on mobile devices rapidly using minimal resources. The only reason they are not is because we are addicted to tracking, surveillance, gratuitous animation, and bloated, inefficient frameworks. Requiring a readable version of these sites is a great idea. Let’s take it one step further and make it the only version.

Combined with this lament by Iran’s “blogfather” Hossein Derakhshan about what happened to the Web — now it’s social media- and app-driven, and the flow of ideas seems hindered — while he was in prison, and we have different aspects of the same problem: as this “democratic” medium is increasingly commercialized and dumbed down…where does it leave us?

Are we witnessing a decline of reading on the web in favour of watching and listening? The web started out by imitating books and for many years, it was heavily dominated by text, by hypertext. Search engines such as Google put huge value on these things, and entire companies – entire monopolies – were built off the back of them. But as the number of image scanners and digital photos and video cameras grows exponentially, this seems to be changing. Search tools are starting to add advanced image recognition algorithms; advertising money is flowing there.

The stream, mobile applications, and moving images all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication – nodes and networks and links – toward one that is linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.


Don’t all go away at once


According to statistics from Inside Facebook Gold analytics service … new Facebook users totaled 11.8 million people in May — an impressive number by any stretch of the imagination. But that compares to the 13.9 million who joined in April, and an average of about 20 million in the 12 months prior.

This drop is primarily due to a plunge in registered users in the US. The number of US Facebook users fell from 155.2 million to 149.4 million during the month of May alone. That’s nearly 6 million people who decided they no longer need to stay connected through the service, and is the first time Facebook has lost users in the last year.

Only 149.4 million more to go!

I’m not holding my breath. But I am holding out for the next wave: MyBrainSpaceBook. When someone even so much as thinks of me, I want it to be tagged and I wanna be notified via NeuralPoke technology.


If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest, behind only China and India. It started out as a lark, a diversion, but it has turned into something real, something that has changed the way human beings relate to one another on a species-wide scale. We are now running our social lives through a for-profit network that, on paper at least, has made Zuckerberg a billionaire six times over.

Dude, make that man Person of the Year.

Anyway, the phenomenon has me thinking of Killing Joke songs (of course), which are often filled with global apocalyptic paranoia that’s good for a thought and a laugh. This time I was struck by a funny thought: What if the unseen conspiratorial forces Jaz sings about turned out to be not the shadow government, not the oil barons or the bankers, but…the Facebook!

World population mass has reached the critical
Humanity shall function as a single cell
Machines design and clone a different race of man
Who is the architect, who is the hidden hand?

~Here Comes the Singularity

The Facebook! Facebook’s the hidden hand!

While the shadow governments are busy spending billions on their military industrial complex to carry out 007-style plots, they will be blindsided by an awkward global army of Facebookers playing Farmville, having pillow fights, and destroying human spirit with repeated (and sponsored) pokes! Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh…the true killing joke!

Your ‘Influence Project’ vanity tells me all I need to know about you

The Far Side: I gotta be me
Yep, you gotta be you.

Through the other work I do I have an online profile that is more connected than this one here.

(I keep up with the Twitters and the Facebook and the what-not via that profile, which nicely prevents undesirable acquaintances from bugging me.)

It is through that profile that I have been exposed to a publication’s — we’ll call the publication “Speedy Corporate-Whore” — stupid link-baiting spam generator they call the Influence Project.

It is both brilliant and sinister and tells me more than I wanted to know about the people who’ve tried to get me to play along so that they can feel more important.

People essentially abuse your trust — they send you a link to click, which gives them “credits” in this Influence Project, which supposedly measures your “online influence,” and the biggest “influencer” {vomits … vomits again} will get their photo on the cover of the magazine. I guess everyone who whores participates gets their photo in the issue somewhere.

To put it politely, you have got to be fucking kidding me. It’s link-baiting and a pyramid scheme and a foul little reflection of your vanity all in one tidy package. I don’t even want to send my measly little traffic to them, so I’ll share the number of quick reactions to it collected here.

I haven’t responded to anyone who’s sent me the link — remember, clicking on the one THEY send you boosts THEIR little “influence” credentials to boost their own sense of self-worth. But if I did, that’d be about all I could say: Are you fucking kidding me?

It just smacks of every desperate Twitter profile who claims to be a “social media expert.” I’m honestly stunned that anyone I trust buys into this naked vanity scheme. The notion of boosting your profile and exposure through a contest that, if won, essentially says about you: “I am willing to abuse more people’s trust than anyone else!” That’s just grand.

Of course it’s supporters describe it as a “fascinating exercise” and a “bold risk” blah blah blah, but there really isn’t anything new being divined here: A publication wants to draw online traffic, and people are so eager to be noticed they’ll dick their friends with a misleading link in the lottery-odds hope that this will make it happen.

In the grand scheme it’s nothing — and what’s a harmless click in a silly little contest? But on the other hand, it’s just one more little cut into my day to get this spam and digest someone’s faux excitement (“Isn’t this cool!” [read: Please help me feel popular]) , and it’s one more example of people’s priorities and sense of self being all whack. It’s like the social media side of the Web brings out everyone’s inner high school insecurities — a collective mental drain I thought I left behind … in high school.

(And if you’re a friend who’s taken the bait, I’m sorry. But you already knew I feel this way, which I bet is why you didn’t send it to me — and for that I thank you.)

Comment police

“Karma police, arrest this man
He talks in math, he buzzes like a fridge
He’s like a detuned radio”

–Radiohead, “Karma Police”

A nice thing about having an obscure personal site with no particular reliable focus on this big, bad, wild Internet, is that you can generally steer clear of nefarious troll commenters who need constant content and specific subject matter to feed their appetite for disharmony.

I honestly don’t know what it is about the human psyche (or its lowest capacities) that drives people to stalk popular sites and fill them with usually anonymous antagonism, or what moves people to get into comment spats, or to provoke people, or to just plain tell people off, or to be contradictory for the sake of conflict, under the umbrella of “Discuss this article”

I almost don’t want to know. But whatever that part is within humans, it is unleashed tenfold by the anonymity, informality, and lack of consequences of that “bunch of pipes and tubes.” Sometimes I tell myself, “it’s just children,” but it’s not. Maybe not. A lot of adults, too. The NY Times recently profiled a few regular “trolls” a few weeks ago — I don’t even want to link to the article — and the more they delved into each personality, the more I was struck that, at heart, they’re simply unhappy people with a lot of disposable time. Too bad.

A great case in point, though, is the inevitable bashing and fighting that happens in the comment threads of any YouTube video. To that end, someone developed a hilarious Firefox add-on that cleans the YouTube comments for you.

Ha! “YouTube Comment Snob” allows you to filter out “undesirable” comments in YouTube threads that have:

  • More than X number of spelling mistakes: The number of mistakes is customizable, and the extension uses Firefox’s built-in spell checker.
  • All capital letters
  • No capital letters
  • Doesn’t start with a capital letter
  • Excessive punctuation (!!!! ????)
  • Excessive capitalization
  • Profanity

Brilliant! The same criteria you use to evaluate a commenter’s (or coworker’s) sanity and age can be used to make their drivel completely disappear! It wouldn’t take away the pure contrarian, but it’s a start.

Truthfully, I never look at the YouTube comments anyway, unless I’m hoping they clarify the age or source of a song. But it would be ideal to have this function on sites where the discourse can actually, perhaps, teach me something. The places where comments actually add something to this wide world but are, inevitably, corrupted by weasels anyway. Maybe someday.

Of course, I’m somewhat hesitant to wish for that. In any walk of life, I like getting all the raw information (crap and all) to formulate an informed perception. So comment effluvia does help remind me, inform me, keep me from getting too naive, about just how ridiculous people can be.

Then again, I’m not sure I need the reminder.

The world amuses and baffles

Things that strike me, of no relation to one another:

‘Is This Russia?’
What a strange mix of capitalism, feudal resignation, and Communist paranoia Putin’s Russia is:

“Even the Communist Party, the only remaining opposition party in Parliament, has said that its leaders are kept off TV.

And it is not just politicians. Televizor, a rock group whose name means TV set, had its booking on a St. Petersburg station canceled in April, after its members took part in an Other Russia demonstration.

When some actors cracked a few mild jokes about Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev at Russia’s equivalent of the Academy Awards in March, they were expunged from the telecast.”

A bit over the top, no?

Happy Curmudgeon
I recognize that I am increasingly out of touch when it comes to the time-consuming energies of our chat, message board, and flaming Internet world. The silly things that get people riled up like talk-radio callers.

But usually when I peak through the crack in the door, it only affirms my status. Of this list of the “Web’s 10 Most Hated People” — people that incite message board and blog-comment ire — I’ve heard of only two of them. And one of them, I wouldn’t have heard of if her scandal hadn’t been local (apparently it made national news, because the media loves White Girl Dies/Kidnapped scandals). For the most part, all that anonymous Internet anger … over what?

American Idol, Bradifferlina’s new drama, which Nascar drivers hate each other — of these things it’s usually comforting not to know.

A Different Kind of Drama
Meanwhile — like your addicted friend who seems beyond help — the universe is tearing itself apart at an ever-increasing rate, and we’ve still no idea why. We’re more likely to be extinct before it becomes an issue, of course. But scientists would sleep a little better if they had more of an inkling.

How daunting would it be to feel fairly certain there are multiple universes — when we don’t even know how to contact other life forms within our own galaxy?

Maybe the new multi-billion-dollar particle accelerator in Geneva will unveil clues to mysterious dark matter (and the stench of hockey equipment) … and maybe it won’t.

Web party, Cruise party, woo woo woo

Wow, this is good: The Internet House Party, where eBay meets Facebook meets Digg meets Amazon meets …

Performed by a young comedy troupe, they nailed it. And they remind me why I will be an old fogey hermit very soon (some would say already), because all these Internet social networks frighten me. It’s hard enough to reach students through these different places — how does one keep up with all of one’s identities? Or does it stop once you leave the infinite time and energy of college, but the fountain of youngsters keeps feeding new members for the latest twitter-ing sites?

‘We are the authority on the mind. We are the authority on getting people off drugs.’

Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen the instantly infamous Tom Cru1se scient0l0gy video for his lifetime super-thete award, it is truly a wonder. I don’t predict much in life, but I swear I always knew he was crazy way back in the Top Gun days. The video also confirms my suspicion that he’s not acting in his films — he’s just being himself.

But anyway, the same crew created a video that inserts the missing cuts from the interview, to good effect.

When the Internet was young

Cool story in the NYT about some of the scientists who helped launched the modern Internet. They were getting together for a 20-year reunion, and they had some cool stories and thoughts to share.

Among them, vote for government support of pure science that has no immediate “market” objective:

For engineers and scientists like Mr. Medin, who went on to be a co-founder of @Home Networks and is now trying to build a national wireless data network, the NSFnet experience provides a lesson about interplay between technology and government policy.

“In that era the government said, ‘Let’s experiment and move everyone forward,’” he said. “If you had waited for a market, it would never have funded an NSFnet.”

Also, yet one more reminder to the obstinate dolts who still accuse Al Gore of claiming he “invented” the Internet, without bothering to check their history:

(His actual oft-misquoted, contest-stripped claim was about “taking the initiative in creating the Internet” and “in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection” — perfectly sensible language for what legislators are supposed to do and how government, corporations and legislation enabled the Internet to be something useful to all of us):

“Many of the scientists, engineers and technology executives who gathered here to celebrate the Web’s birth say [Gore] played a crucial role in its development, and they expressed bitterness that his vision had been so discredited.

Mr. Gore had been instrumental in introducing legislation, beginning in 1988, to finance what he originally called a “national data highway.”

“Our corporations are not taking advantage of high-performance computing to enhance their productivity,” Mr. Gore, then a senator, said in an interview at the time. “With greater access to supercomputers, virtually every business in America could achieve tremendous gains.”

Ultimately, in 1991, his bill to create a National Research and Education Network did pass. Funded by the National Science Foundation, it was instrumental in upgrading the speed of the academic and scientific network backbone leading up to the commercialized Internet.

“He is a hero in this field,” said Lawrence H. Landweber, a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin who in 1980 made the pioneering decision to use the basic TCP/IP Internet protocol for CSNET, an academic network that preceded NSFnet and laid the foundation for “internetworking.”

Sadly, that doesn’t make a good soundbite. It’s easier to repeat the campaign commercial smear and misdirect it into language “the people can understand.”