Category Archives: Gimpy internet nonsense

Blogging is dead and no-one cares?

My riot policing piece yesterday attracted 600 unique visitors in 24 hours. That isn’t exactly Perez Hilton, but is about six times my current normal run rate (I think the biggest this blog has ever been is about 1000 daily visitors, for some of the global financial crisis articles).

The fact that the piece had quite a few visitors isn’t too surprising, I suppose – it was a take on a newsworthy and important topic that dissented somewhat from the conventional wisdom, based on hours and hours of discussion with people who were on the scene across different English cities and/or who really understand counterinsurgency strategy. And it was pleasing to see strategy/COIN experts talking about it favourably.

The odd thing, though, is that whenever I’ve written a piece in the past that has gained masses of attention, it’s been through links from bigger blogs, news sources, or occasionally forums. This time, as far as I can see from my logs, there haven’t been *any* blog links to the piece. All the traffic is coming from retweets and reshares on Twitter and Facebook.

I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say that blogs are dead as a medium: the existence of a self-publishing platform with a fairly powerful off-the-shelf CMS, and that isn’t restricted to a particular social network, remains useful.

But it’s looking like the sense in which we’ve traditionally understand blogs – roughly, a community of people who link to each other’s posts, comment on them, and write pieces that track back to them – no longer really applies. Facebook and Twitter have killed it, in favour of something flatter and much less based on the blogger’s personal brand.

Have Google ever met any foreigners?

The World’s Unsurprisingly Fastest-Growing Networking Platform, Google+, is getting stick from various corners for its naming policy. This formally restricts you to “Use your full first and last name in a single language“.

The idea behind it is sensible. G+ aims to be a combination of a professional network like LinkedIn, and a personal network like Facebook, with ‘circles’ ensuring your clients can’t see your Tequila Night photos and that your girlfriend’s mates don’t get spammed with your articles on social media marketing.

In both those cases, the connections and relationships that people have become meaningful *because* they use their real names. It’s one of the reasons why Facebook, despite now having 750 million users encompassing many utter idiots, hasn’t descended into the kind of horrible pseudonymous anarchy found on MySpace or Bebo. So banning people from calling themselves thinks like HotBloke1988 or BieberFan1997 is probably a good thing.

Similarly, and also sensibly, Google wants to have proper segmentation between users, interests, brands. This is a model which Facebook took some years to implement properly, leading to the occasional whinge and/or viral petition from silly people when their inappropriately-set-up page gets taken down because it’s using a personal profile to advertise a product or political cause. Part of the reason for Google to be so hardcore about enforcing real names in the initial roll-out is to make sure that people understand from Day 1 that You Can’t Do That, and need to set up the proper sort of page for whatever you’re trying to spruik.

While I understand that this annoys some pseudonymous writers, I think they’re a sacrifice worth making in the short term to ensure that Google+ starts and continues as a place based around actual relationships and trust, like Facebook and LinkedIn. In the long term, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t adopt brand identities and share in G+ that way – there’s no real difference between ‘Skud’ and ‘TechCrunch’, in the sense that they’re both content sources defined entirely by what they publish online.

However, the real problem with this part of the G+ roll-out is the massively ham-fisted way in which it deals with anyone whose name doesn’t fit the Anglo-Saxon convention of Firstname Middlename1 Middlename2 Familyname. Which accounts for, erm, almost everyone in China, a sizeable proportion of the population of India, and everyone in Spanish-speaking and Russian-speaking countries. And would have been completely avoidable if even *one* developer from *one* of these countries had worked on the G+ project.

If you’re starting a new social network, it’s straightforward to build a database that has 12 name fields instead of 2. This allows you to account for any combination of names in any language, while also allowing your users to select which of those names are displayed in the default profile, and in which order.

So a Chinese person with a Western nickname could write their name as Lee (Familyname) Wan-Wing (Firstname) Robert (Nickname), and then choose to display their name as “Lee Wan-Wing” or “Robert Lee” depending on their preferred convention. The default to display would be Firstname Familyname, but any others would count. Similarly, a Spanish person could enter their name as Javier (Firstname) Garcia (Familyname) Lopez (Matronymic), while a Russian would be Mikhail (Firstname) Sergeyevich (Patronymic), and a South Indian would be Prashant (Name) Kumar (Patronymic). This would make all names traceable and transparent, while also ensuring that everyone gets the opportunity to pick something that’s culturally appropriate.

Given that Google employs 10,000 staff outside of the US, including many Indians and many Chinese people, it seems bizarre that this concern doesn’t appear to even have arisen during the G+ roll-out. Differences in database design formed by the use of English versus non-English users have been a massive concern in Internet circles for decades, as highlighted most obviously by the time taken to allow non-ASCII characters for domain names. Any multinational company has to deal with the “names don’t map onto English names” problem for its own staff, even if its customers are largely based in the west (surely there can’t be a software company in the world that doesn’t employ South Indians?).

The only explanation I can think of is that it simply didn’t occur to the senior managers in charge of Google+ that different people worldwide might have different naming concepts. And that none of the less senior foreigners raised the concept. God Bless America!

Baffling or flattering?

As if to add ammo to the fervent Marxists who’ve been criticising me for my slavish adherence to neoliberal economics lately [*], I’m going to admit that I’m a fan of The Economist on Facebook.

Not because it’s my favourite paper – I subscribe to the New Yorker, Private Eye and Crikey, and would subscribe to the Grauniad if it went PPV – but because it’s interesting, shapes debate, has a good Facebook presence, and the Facebook comments mechanism gives a better view of “what people think” than the “solely for ubergeeks and psychopaths” den of web comments.

One of the things that I’m looking at right now, both academically and professionally, is the challenge presented by dealing with things that have historically been marketed and customised territory-by-territory in a social media environment that’s global. The Economist provides an excellent example, since every week, it lists its covers on the Web.

Now, if you don’t commute far too often between the US and Other Places, you’re probably not aware that the Economist has covers in the plural: both in the US and outside the US, it purports to be a global newspaper (and, compared to US newspapers, it has a fair point). But it isn’t: there’s a US edition with specifically US-focused content, ads and cover, whereas the global edition only has a US cover if the most exciting thing occurring is actually in the US.

If the Economist admitted to its US readers “yes, actually, we do realise you’re a bunch of insular tits just as much as the rest of your countrymen; stop pretending you’re some kind of cosmopolitan international relations knowall just because you read a paper written by slightly-right-wing people in London instead of raging-right-wing fanatics at home; and we all know we only bother printing international news at all in the US version because otherwise we’d lose our USP; we know perfectly well – and it’s clear from our ad placings – that none of you lot read it”, then it might just about risk losing some of its mystique as an international oracle. Which would kill its whole point

So for the Economist’s Facebook presence, where discriminating between visitors from different countries is hard, it definitely wouldn’t want to show a separate “US Edition” and “World Edition”. That would break the spell.

The way it has dealt with this is ABSOLUTELY FUCKING BRILLIANT. Every week, it adds a “Worldwide Excluding the UK, Europe & Asia Edition” and a “UK, Europe & Asia Edition“. That way, Americans – who are sufficiently geographically disendowed to realise that the world, in any meaningful sense, consists of North America, Europe and Asia – can keep the illusion that they’re reading the World Edition, unlike those silly Europeans and Asians who’ve got a customised edition to suit their own parochial concerns. And we (Asia edition is sold in Aus and NZ, obviously) can work out the conceit and laugh at the Americans.

Overall, this is a great win. Except for the poor sods in Canada, South America and Africa, who presumably have to make do with the lobotomised edition containing news that’s irrelevant. Although I suppose for the South Americans it might help them understand when they’ll next be invaded by CIA-backed guerrillas.

[*] my slavish adherence consisted of making the claim that “pretending that basic economics and tax are hard, if you’re someone who purports to understand postmodernist literacy criticism, is embarrassing”. This isn’t because I rate one over the other, but simply because both neoclassical and Keynesian economics are Very Easy To Follow, whilst Derrida and Deleuze are The Opposite.

Cruel and unusual pun-ishment

Bad puns, old Internet memes, very out-of-date ‘cute animal news’ stories, and aviation references, all in one photograph. I’m spoiling you all, just like being left in the sun for a week spoils cream.

Emily the Lolcat

Yes, she really is at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle. Incidentally, this post was based on a tweet by @anattendantlord, which was itself inspired by my link to this gag. But I take full responsibility for the horror.

Not dead

Good news #1: I’m not dead; good news #2: the blog’s not dead. Rather, I’ve taken a month or so off thanks to a combination of bad things, good things and neutral things.

Bad things: major unpleasantness from commenters I respect around some of the things I’d written about Julian Assange; the realisation that some of the things I’d written about Assange – not necessarily the same ones – were not things I was wholly proud of having written; and (non-Assange-relatedly) a fairly horrible break-up in real life, which was entirely my fault and not something that’s sympathy-warranting, but which made me cut down on my online presence generally.

Good things: an awesome and amazing month being an utter tourist all over Australia [*] after some of my favourite people took time off to trek 15,000km across the world and visit; the emergence of a proper summer; the presence of paid work that needed doing.

Neutral things: the death of my router and a mild eBay failure which mean it took a fortnight to sort out a replacement.

Anyway. I’m now back for the duration, not least because my Masters degree in Digital Communication & Culture starts next month. I’m looking forward to such activities as explaining in detailed academicese why this article is an absolute load of arse, for example. Oh, and obvious digital communication joke.

Other Things To Look Forward To: why the fatuous idiocy of the NSW Liberal Party doesn’t matter as much as you might think; something about beer; something about Tim Worstall’s book. Be excited.

[*] May contain elements of lie. “All over NSW and Tas”. “All over Australia” would be more like a 5-year break…

It’s a Jolly Fun Bank Quiz

It being Sunday, or Monday, or one of those kind of days, and this being a Journal of Record [*], I thought I’d put out the kind of quiz that only my readers could answer.

What do the following UK-headquartered banks:
* HSBC
* Lloyds Banking Group
* Standard Chartered
* RBS

…have in common with no other UK-headquartered retail banks?

[*] I’m almost embarrassed to say that this blog is being archived by the British Library. I actually have no idea what the hell 25th century historians of the 21st century will do – well, I recognise half of my readers believe they’ll occasionally venture out of their caves and wonder why the outside world still makes their skin blister or similar. But right now, every humanities undergrad thesis candidate is delighted to find a neglected text to use for their work – in 2500, this crap will be (and, in terms of proportion of utter shite to “survives”, actually will be) available for an undergrad thesis. In which case, hello 2500 person, I hope they’ve genetically engineered girls to look like Natalie Portman, gizza shout if you’ve got a time machine, OK?

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-10-03

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-09-19

  • Sorry #LibDems. Having been in another country w/coalition – and having looked at the numbers on #ukvotes – you did the best thing available #
  • Directly related to last tweet – the only alliance in Aus with a mandate to govern was ALP/Green. Not Nationals/Liberals. #auspol #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-09-05

  • RT @legaleagleMHM Just opened wheelie bin and a WASP flew out. Who on earth would have put a wasp in a wheelie bin; what's world coming to? #
  • Thing which perplexes me about this TBL piece: how the hell did they find anywhere in Aus that even serves hot curry? http://bit.ly/aGAFvV #
  • I mean, if you go to a curry house, and order 'hot with extra hot', you get something that'd be a 'medium' in the UK… #
  • …and don't get me started on pizzas. Or Mexican food. Yes, I do want 'hot' sauce and jalopenos. No, it still won't taste of anything #rant #
  • Hang on – who *doesn't* sleep with their mobile by their bed? http://bit.ly/blw0WY #andImover30 #
  • Also, Arnie's nickname is the Gubernator. 'Governator' doesn't work. Eejits: http://bit.ly/d1q5eK #
  • 74% of Australians say they drink in a pub, bar or restaurant twice a month or less often than that. In other news, people lie. #
  • Sorry, did a Liberal Senator really just prank-call Rob Oakeshott's wife and pretend to be the Devil? #ausvotes #WTF #noseriouslyWTF #
  • Ok, apparently the Senator in question thought it was one of Oakeshott's kids on the line, not his wife. #sothatsOKthen #ausvotes #
  • Good work, #Kmart, for selling me a $9 toaster. Was almost tempted to buy some $10 organic bread to toast in it… #
  • Stick a report-related fork in me, I'm done. Well, apart from the bit I need to do tomorrow #ebz http://fallenlondon.com/c/234250 #
  • Ok, infinite mega-work is finished and it's a beautiful day – so I'm on a train to IKEA. Doh. At least I get to go with @chrissiem… #
  • I say "on a train", what I mean is "stuck at Town Hall for half an hour". 30 min frequency on daytime urban rail? Seriously, wtf? #cityfail #
  • JG is correct: RT @annabelcrabb: JG says this Parliament is what the people have chosen, and MPs are obliged to try to make it work. #
  • After seven months of living in this country, I've worked out why the Internet varies apparently-randomly between 'fast' and 'dreadful' #
  • Domestic or domestically-cached (i.e. popular foreign) = fast, because (even pre-NBN) it's better than UK ISPs. International is terrible. #
  • …so if I were the next govt's advisor, I'd run a new big cable to Singapore and another one to LA, rather than cocking about domestically. #
  • I love it when TV incidental music is aces (Teachers on ABC2 played out with Boy With The Arab Strap). Also, remember when C4 was good? #
  • I realise the only people who'll get the last tweet are Britpop fans who're Anglophile Aussies or Aussie Brits. That's my niche, baby. #
  • 'Unfollow' posts are tedious, but wanna note realising that 'voice of rank and file' cop World Weary Detective http://bit.ly/ajdt2z is cunt #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-08-29

  • I need to do five weeks' work in five days #betweenthisandtheeuphoriaoftheelectionresultthiswillbethebestweekever @unsungsongs #
  • RT @serafinowicz: "I hate knowing everything. It spoils films, etc." ~ God #
  • I hope Wyclef does end up as President of Haiti. I'd also like to see Dizzee Rascal as UK PM… #
  • Loads of new content on #ebz. Curses, this was supposed to be my work week… http://fallenlondon.com/c/220040 #
  • Utter genius – the election as manga video game animation: http://bit.ly/bbBUtd (via @mumbrella) #
  • Great Charlie Brooker piece on the Ground Zero mosque: http://bit.ly/9K4kZk (shorter: "it's not on G0 and it's not a mosque, you fucktards") #
  • This made me laugh a lot. I'm not quite sure why. NSFW: http://bit.ly/btAwJ1 #
  • Or Ayesha, for extra lolz RT @emeraldbile: solution for G0 mosque. Build it, but put a statue in the front of Fatima sucking Mohammed's cock #
  • RT @PreachyPreach: There are c. 70k paid jobs as journos and writers in the UK. Each year, there are 70k journalism + English grads. #
  • A good piece for non-Australians who're confused by #ausvotes http://bit.ly/9GuTyj (and probably some Australians, too) #
  • CROWDSOURCE: does anyone have any info on how Hindus/Buddhists/animists (ie non-'people of the book') were treated in Al-Andalus? #
  • Also, BBC needs chess editor says UK Chess Society RT @mediaguardian: BBC needs religion editor, says Church of England http://bit.ly/dbq5KD #
  • Enjoying the new #ebz content muchly. http://fallenlondon.com/c/222064 #
  • Haha, excellent: http://yourmotherlikesit.blogspot.com/2010/08/comic-sans.html (@chrissiem and any other typography geeks) #
  • The official tourist board account for Worcestershire, @Worchestershire_, is following me. #
  • I find this slightly odd, as I've never tweeted about Worcestershire, and indeed have only been there once. It was OK. #
  • Maybe that's their cunning strategy. "If we can get 000s of leading Twitter mavens to say 'yeah, Worcestershire's OK', people will come!. #
  • Damn you, you cunning Worcestershire marketeers. Visit Worcester. It has cunning marketeers, a Wetherspoons, and some sauce. #
  • Right, that's enough work. Well, it's not enough work really, but I'm utterly fed up and it's trivia time. TO THE PUB. #
  • RT @brappy: Fighting two simultaneous land wars in Asia? Sign me up #unfortunatewordsfromhistory #
  • Unless I've misparsed this, SMUGGEST PARENT EVER RT @RJPartington: BREAKING NEWS: One less place at Oxford/Cambridge University for 2028/29. #
  • Fuck, did just fail. I blame geography and Cameron-avoidance. Sorry @RJPartington #
  • Again, sorry to @rjpartington. Disagree, though – Blairlings ended up at non-Oxbridge institutions despite paternal importance… #
  • As ex-target schools (=make Ox less posh) rep, hope Cameronlets don't get in. *disclaimer* or if they do it's on strict academic merit…. #
  • So there's a flight aggregator site for domestic Australian flights promoting itself heavily on TV. Erm, with 3 airlines, we're OK, right? #
  • Yes, there's also Tiger, but seriously – having seen the doco, would anyone really fly with them? #
  • Quite grumpy my dad never got around to buying Monotype – by the time he'd got the (really not very many) $ together, Mr Gates outbid him. #
  • No, my dad doesn't have any *actual money* but he's a typography geek and noticed DTP was gonna make MT profitable. Am still church mouse. #
  • LIKE -> RT @dixewills: Rumour Nick Clegg introducing legislation obliging all new fathers to take 5 years' paternity leave (via @ianvisits) #
  • World Of Accurate Stereotypes FTW RT @unslugged: Polish man "did not remember being shot because he was drunk" http://bit.ly/dBrxJa #
  • Proof that having a physics degree doesn't stop you being a mad crank who believes unscientific bullshit: http://bit.ly/c7jjtx #wifi #
  • Work going tolerably. #ebz going better. http://fallenlondon.com/c/223933 #
  • No. NEXT! RT @itlt: Will Australia be 100% powered by green energy in 10 years' time? http://bit.ly/a4m0X8 #
  • Wouldn't it be delightful if everyone who supports the death penalty were executed by mistake, just as they wish on others? #happydreams #
  • RT @NathanaelB: My Tiger experience starts with lights in corridor leading to tarmac off, so descended stairs in the dark. Oops! @pdidzzy #
  • Squee! RT @nickjbarlow: BBC Four adapting Dirk Gently for TV: http://bbc.in/cHx1lW #
  • Politicians: if you make a short factual piece that could easily be in text as a video, I'm unlikely to bother viewing it. @greenjennyjones #
  • BHP Billiton definitely couldn't afford to pay any more tax at all, no, not a penny: http://bbc.in/cazBKq #poorbuggers #givethemabreak #
  • This is what happens when you're an analyst & you move to Aus… RT @punkscience: @johnb78 Fair enough. I crown you King of Coal Geekery!:~P #
  • I actually rather like the terrible Chinese Olympic sock ad – kinda mantra-like… #gruen #
  • Wow, Wednesday night ABC1 is really, really good. #somehowbeentoobusyfor6months #noshutupsarkyBritsAusTVcanbereallygood #
  • Loving the hipster from Melbourne, who's mysteriously Brett Anderson #ywc #
  • I prefer drunk mates: RT @VizTopTips: CAN't afford buckaroo? Simply pile items on a sleeping elderly relative until they wake up screaming. #
  • RT @scattermole: Jajajaja. RT @GrantStatic: http://twitpic.com/2i1ea5 #
  • Ice cream (flogged til the company's on its knees) #brettmeals @reallybanderson #
  • And its counterpart, Holding Back The Ears #bestialitysongs @duckorange #
  • RT @duckorange: #bestialitysongs Bunny's Too Tight To Mention #
  • Nothing Compares To Ewe #bestialitysongs #
  • Cum On Kids #bestialitysongs @martin_carr #
  • Trout Gimp Mask Replica #bestialityalbums #
  • Dinah-Mo Hummingbird #bestialitysongs #
  • Fuck The Penguin Away #bestialitysongs #
  • Ride The Tiger, Hard #bestialitysongs @martin_carr #
  • Chris Rea #
  • RT @hangbitch: RT @TheMightierEvo: Nowadays, the term 'sick pay' means to be on a good wage. #
  • Yay. A new AUS digital channel for US crap that's too lame for even Seven and Nine to show already. Aren't we lucky? http://bit.ly/d6Jh0B #
  • My last tweet was slightly unfair: some of the decent US shows from Ten will be moving to Eleven. Still not exactly a cultural WIN. #
  • Work progresses. UK bank holiday has bought me an extra day, which is kinda lucky. http://fallenlondon.com/c/227918 #
  • I like this piece from @chrisk27 on Bez as existentialist icon: http://bit.ly/aHApf1 #
  • My dog's got no nose. He can barely find his way around, and I should really get him put down @armyofdave @evilflea #accuratejokes #nonjokes #
  • Good news: I've written 3,000 words so far today. Bad news: I need to write another 15,000 minimum by Monday night #eek #
  • Tempted to agree with @hopisen that MPs' sexuality is their business – just cos you're gay doesn't mean you *have* to support gay marriage #
  • Going the other way is almost (not the same as, but similar to) suggesting Jewish MPs are obliged to support Israel, and so on… #
  • Just got 2 emails from @PaddyPower – one reminding me of my GBP100 world cup winnings, one of GBP40 in another account I'd forgotten. W00t! #
  • This is excellent, for all you #media types – Edinburgh lecture from the #bbc's Mark Thompson: http://bit.ly/a85T4m #
  • An essential gift for the paranoid right-wing bigot in your life: http://bit.ly/aTyd2i #
  • Rupert Murdoch (News Corp owns HarperCollins) in 'attempting to dick over the BBC' shock: http://bit.ly/9ZJmzc #
  • Quick #ebz and food break, then Back To Work. I love deadlines, me. http://fallenlondon.com/c/230067 #
  • 20,000 words. 'ave it. #
  • Love the fact that #abcnews has to put a 'this contains coarse language and is not suitable for kids' warning on its political chatshow… #
  • Have worked a lot. Brief #ebz break. http://fallenlondon.com/c/232061 #
  • Is there something inherent on TV vs movies that 'produced by Jerry Bruckheimer' implies TV will be watchable but movie will be dreadful? #
  • Single biggest factor in everything RT @mrpower: Forget the washing machine. THIS is what made the difference: http://twitpic.com/2jd02u #
  • Occasional drinkers are sweet, bless: RT @shutupcaf: is it really bad to drink on painkillers even if it's only ibruprofen? will i die? #
  • #ausmedia types – anyone know how much Ten paid to get top slot on the Freeview EPG for ONE? Non-Ausmedia types, don't worry. #
  • Why no David Mitchell this w/e? Goddamn lazy holidaying Guardian union socialists, etc… #
  • CROWDSOURCING: another whisky before bed, or just a cup of herbal tea? Note: it is very lovely whisky. #

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