Posts tagged ‘Tumblr’


A look back at 2015: a year that was harder to laugh at

20.12.2015

I’ve done this a few times now: looked through my year’s Tumblr posts to get an alternative feel for the Zeitgeist. Tumblr is where I put the less relevant junk that comes by my digital meanderings. But as I scrolled down to January 2015 in the archive, I’m not that certain the posts really reflected the world as we knew it. Nor was there much to laugh at, which was the original reason I started doing these at the close of 2009.
   January, of course, was the month of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which saw 11 murdered, including the famed cartoonist Wolinski, whose work I enjoyed over the years. Facebook was still going through a massive bot (first-world) problem, being overrun by fake accounts that had to be reported constantly. The anti-vax movement was large enough to prompt a cartoonist to do an idiot’s guide to how vaccines work. In other words, it was a pretty depressing way to end the lunar year and start the solar one.
   February: Hannah Davis made it on to the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition by pulling her knickers down as far as socially acceptable (or unacceptable, depending on your point of view), while 50 Shades of Grey hit the cinemas, with one person commenting, ‘Seriously, this book raises every red flag warning signal I learned during my Military Police training. Grey is a ****ing psycho.’ Mission: Impossible’s second man with the rubber mask, Leonard Nimoy, he of the TV movie Baffled, passed away. Apparently he did some science fiction series, too.
   Citroën celebrated the 60th anniversary of the DS, generally regarded as one of the greatest car designs of the 20th century, while Alarm für Cobra 11 returned for another half-season in March. In April, one Tweeter refused to do any Bruce Jenner jokes: ‘there are kids & adults confused/bullied/dying over their gender identity,’ said an American photographer called Spike. The devastating Nepalese earthquakes were also in April, again nothing to be joked about. There was this moment of levity:

And the Fairfax Press published a photograph of President Xi of China, although the caption reads ‘South Korea’s President Park Geun Hye’. Wrong country, wrong gender. When reposted on Weibo, this was my most viral post of the year.

   In May, we published a first-hand account of the Nepal ’quakes in Lucire, by Kayla Newhouse. It was a month for motorheads with For the Love of Cars back on Channel 4. Facebook hackers, meanwhile, started targeting Japanese, and later Korean, accounts, taking them over and turning them into bots.
   In June, rumours swirled over the death of Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, whereupon I made this image:

   In July, rape complaints against actor Bill Cosby reached fever pitch as woman after woman came out with credible and very similar stories. Staying Stateside, one writer said of the GOP primaries: ‘It will go down someday as the greatest reality show ever conceived. The concept is ingenious. Take a combustible mix of the most depraved and filterless half-wits, scam artists and asylum Napoleons America has to offer, give them all piles of money and tell them to run for president. Add Donald Trump.’ A Sydney man, who allegedly insulted then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, inspired the internet public to raise funds for him to beat the fine.
   In September, Doctor Who returned to telly for its 35th season, while Facebook continued to be overwhelmed by bots, mostly based around hacked Korean accounts. A young Briton, Connie Talbot, released a cover version of Sam Smith’s ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, the theme from the James Bond film Spectre, which I regarded as superior to the original.
   In October, US Senator Bernie Sanders answered the question, ‘Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?’ He responded, ‘Black lives matter. And the reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail. Or their kids are going to get shot. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system in which we have more people in jail than China.’
   As we neared the year’s end, I wrote a blog post, uncharacteristically published both on my Tumblr and here, on how a pharmaceutical company would release a Daraprim competitor for US$1 a pill, after the company behind Daraprim raised its price from US$13·50 to US$750. That was before Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was arrested in an investigation that began in 2014. I did one post noting what my Dad had begun forgetting because of his newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease, with the intent of following up, out of solidarity with another other caregivers of Alzheimer’s sufferers. November, too, saw Paris’s second major terrorist attack, and Astérix illustrator Albert Uderzo contributed this touching image:

Microsoft rolled out the bug-filled Windows 10, which worked differently every day.
   In December, it wasn’t quite ‘Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars’. There was, after all, Trump, Trump and more Trump, the only potential presidential candidate getting air time outside the US. Observing the primaries, 9Gag noted that the movie Idiocracy ‘started out as a comedy and is turning into a documentary’. Michael Welton wrote, meanwhile, in Counterpunch, ‘The only way we might fathom the post 9/11 American world of governmental deceit and a raw market approach to political problem solving is to assume that moral principle has been banished because the only criteria for action is whether the ends of success and profitability have been achieved. That’s all. That’s it. And since morality is the foundation of legal systems, adhering to law is abandoned as well.’ The New Zealand flag referendum didn’t make it into my Tumblr; but if it had, I wonder if we would be arguing whether the first-placed alternative by Kyle Lockwood is black and blue, or gold and white—a reference to another argument that had internauts wasting bandwidth back in February.
   It’s not an inaccurate snapshot of 2015, but it’s also a pretty depressing one. France tasted terror attacks much like other cities, but the west noticed for a change; there were serious natural disasters; and bonkers politicians got more air time than credible ones. Those moments of levity—my humorous Jon Snow image and feigned ignorance, for instance—were few and far between. It was that much harder to laugh at the year, which stresses just how much we need to do now and in 2016 to get things on a more sensible path. Can we educate and communicate sufficiently to do it, through every channel we have? Or are social media so fragmented now that you’ll only really talk into an echo chamber? And if so, how do we unite behind a set of common values and get around this?

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Posted in cars, China, culture, humour, internet, media, politics, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


A warning to those with rivers.pro tagcloud code in their Tumblr themes

31.01.2014

Does anyone have the rivers.pro tagcloud code in their Tumblr theme? If so, it’s time to remove it. The code forwards to a website which McAfee SiteAdvisor labels dodgy. It is very hard to remove from a customized theme, since every time the page loads, the forwarding takes place. You’ll have to find a way to stop the loading, then edit your templates.
   The code looks something like this:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://tumblrtags.rivers.pro/jquery.js"></script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://tumblrtags.rivers.pro/widget.js?css=default&minsize=80&maxsize=180&order=alphabetical"></script>

   I’ve advised Tumblr of this. Maybe they have some way to help Tumblr users.
   Incidentally, you may be asking, ‘Why is he warning people on his regular blog and not on Tumblr?’ The answer is simple: I am not allowed to.
   Every time I tried posting this message, this is what I got:

Tumblr warning on tagcloud code

Maybe Tumblr has already blocked the code?
   Regardless, if you have friends who use Tumblr, please get them to check.

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Posted in design, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


A look back at 2012: from an Italian Job remake to a royal pregnancy

17.12.2012

Last year, it was quite humorous looking back on 2011 and what appeared on my Tumblr. And since my decade summary in December 2009 was a bit of a hit for some of you, I thought it might be worth a review of the year. In case you thought you missed out on much from the other blog, don’t fret.

January
   My friend Rachel Russell arrives in London. She writes, ‘Walking around London last night was like being in one of those ’80s “dystopian future” science-fiction movies. Similar to a zombie apocalypse.’
   Lucire blacks out its cover image for SOPA. I say it was like the time Bill Nighy ran headline-only pages in State of Play (the original one, not the Russell Crowe remake). It would affect free speech and the economy, I argued, and urged Americans to act.
   I fly to see Players in India, the remake of the remake of The Italian Job. It’s terrible. Wellington features as itself, but it also doubles unconvincingly for Sydney in some parts.
   The Indian PM has bad news for the economy: GDP growth is forecast to be only 7 per cent this year.

February
   Hustle finishes. It’s the end of an era for silly, one-hour, self-contained, escapist British series. Bring out the Persuaders DVDs. Or Jason King.
   Katy Perry used to be a good Brand.
   The British can now read headlines such as ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’ on Sundays now as Rupert Murdoch essentially retitles The News of the World.

March
   Pinterest is buggy. Then it gets redesigned and it looks worse.
   Charlie Brooker asks on 10 O’Clock Live: ‘Do you think [Angelina Jolie]’s annoyed that Joseph Kony has abducted more African children than she has?’
   Some netizens post a picture of Carl Weathers as George Dillon from Predator; others think that’s Joseph Kony.

April
   Westpac débuts advertising which reads, ‘Mind on your money, money on your mind?’ but Snoop Dogg does not shift his accounts there.
   Skyfall buzz begins on my blog.
   The Top Gear boys work on The Sweeney remake and I can’t watch the chase scene without thinking, ‘Turn off the traction control’ in a Borat accent.
   The Avengers débuts at cinemas but Scarlett Johansson is an unconvincing Emma Peel.

May
   Mitt Romney promises ‘A better Amercia’.
   Uh oh: The G. C. This brings back Sir Robert Muldoon’s quotation, ‘New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries.’
   Fortunately, Bron or Broen, depending on which side the Øresund bridge you hail from, becomes my TV viewing for this month.
   My bad pun day, in response to a friend watching One Direction and Justin Bieber: ‘They seem like nice Bros. I’m not N’Sync with these 5ive New Kids on the Block but I’ll have to Take That as it comes. Never was in to that sort of music when I was younger, being from the East, 17. Part of the West life, I guess. It would be nice if we saw some Backstreet Boys, but they won’t be among the Wanted for viewers.’

June
   As pressure mounts in the Falklands, Sean Lock says in 8 out of 10 Cats, ‘The Falklands: it takes 14 hours to get there and it’s just a rock covered in seagull shit.’
   The Murdoch Press allegedly writes, ‘highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.’ Why one should use the Oxford comma.
   This lady is pregnant. Or not.

July
   Sue Chetwin of Consumer New Zealand is quoted as saying, ‘It’s marketing 101—[Vodafone New Zealand] seem to breach the rules quite regularly and you’d have to hope that these significant fines are a signal to them that they can’t continue to do that.’ How interesting that I would cite this a few months later.
   Campbell Live runs Miss Universe New Zealand Avianca Böhm’s recordings between her and pageant director Val Lott. Former winners rejoice.
   I Tweet, ‘There is a rumour that the Olympic closing ceremony will feature ‘Yakety Sax’ and a Benny Hill lookalike to chase the torch off-stage.’

August
   Vogue Italia’s legendary Anna Piaggi passes away.
   The Julian Assange case reaches high gear. Michael Moore and Oliver Stone write in The New York Times, ‘If Mr. Assange is extradited to the United States, the consequences will reverberate for years around the world. Mr. Assange is not an American citizen, and none of his actions have taken place on American soil. If the United States can prosecute a journalist in these circumstances, the governments of Russia or China could, by the same logic, demand that foreign reporters anywhere on earth be extradited for violating their laws. The setting of such a precedent should deeply concern everyone, admirers of WikiLeaks or not.’
   My friend John Butler writes, ‘Ten years from now, no cyclists will bother showing up at the Tour de France. It will just be a bunch of lawyers gathering in an air-conditioned building for three weeks seeing who has the most money to blow filing lawsuits and discovery motions and subpœnas.’
   Samsung loses to Apple in a California court after a jury rushes to its decision.

September
   J-Lou means Jenna Louise Coleman and her surprise début in Doctor Who.
   The Sweeney hits cinemas and Britain goes nostalgic.
   USA Today launches its redesign.
   The return of Alarm für Cobra 11 on German TV screens.
   Lucire changes its 404 page to help with locating missing persons.
   Facebook is accused of revealing private messages when in fact most were wall-to-wall ones that everyone had forgotten about.

October
   Some folks are calling Skyfall ‘the best Bond ever’. I don’t agree.
   Ford Mustang fans have a convention in Wellington.
   At Miss Africa Wellington, I say, ‘Unlike another pageant, the judges’ decision is final.’
   The Rt Hon John Key defends his Hollywood studio tour by saying, ‘There’ll always be conspiracy theorists out there but I’m interested in jobs, not people who live in Fantasyland and want to make things up.’
   Hong Kong comes to a head over its identity versus the mainlanders who are coming to the city.
   I mock up a Jack Reacher promotional image:

November
   It’s really hard to turn on ‘Do Not Track’ in Google Chrome (and it does nothing anyway).
   President Barack Obama re-elected for his second term.
   There are no Ford Falcons on sale at Capital City Ford—it really looks like Ford is trying to kill its longest-running passenger car line.

December
   Summer Rayne Oakes’s Extinction now available to the public to view on Vimeo.
   Kate loves Willy, nek minnit, pregnant.
   TV viewers get upset when the Newtown, Conn. shooting cut in to Ellen.

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Posted in business, culture, humour, interests, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


The social web is not divided by race

06.07.2012


Above: A snapshot of my Tweetdeck: people of different walks of life, avatars where race is barely determinable, and logos which are not racial at all. Does the BBC expect us to take it seriously when it says we cluster by race on social networks?

I came across this piece via Twitter, which instantly struck me as cobblers: that people in social networks congregated with their own racial groups online.
   There’s not much to the article and I risk republishing all the words, but a video goes with it if you want the full story. The write-up reads, in most part:

Micro-blogging website Twitter has seen an upsurge in traffic from Hispanic and African-American audiences. These groups now claim about 30% of the site’s user base, according to third-party statistics website Quantcast.com.
   Meanwhile, white users claim 90% of US traffic on Pinterest.com, while Tumblr.com has seen an over-representation of Asian Americans as of late.
   Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd says though experts once thought the internet would help destroy racial barriers, “all of the divisions that exist in every day life, including those by race and class, actually re-emerge online”.

   So, how many social media users have logged in to a particular platform because others of their race are there and drawn them in? No, that’s unfair. Let me reframe that: how many social media sites are used to reflect the divisions we have in life?
   I just don’t think we create these divisions. We have cultural divisions, maybe: we like having our own world-view reinforced. But that’s seldom down to the colour of your skin.
   Let’s dismiss the easiest one first: Pinterest. It’s the newest, so our recollection of its growth is probably the clearest.
   A casual stroll around Pinterest sees dresses and cakes, if my friends are anything to go by. The boom group of Pinterest users appears to be female, and usually mothers, who used the online “pin board” for its intended purpose: to put up images of their favourite things.
   This group caught on to it probably because it was one that no other network had targeted. Busy mothers probably found it easier to pin, rather than Tumblog or blog. And as Pinterest grew via invitation, it wasn’t surprising that they reached out to others who were of a similar mindset. The fact that most happened to be Caucasian is probably more a consequence of where it has grown: in countries with white majorities.
   My friend and colleague William Shepherd dug up these stats about Pinterest. As 83 per cent of the audience is female (70 per cent in the Quantcast video, so it is already heading south), might we conclude that the world is sexist, too? Yes, I realize there are sexism and glass ceilings—but just how much of this is the users’ fault, based on some innate desire to “be with their own” on a social network? It’s simply more to do with a female audience being catered to, with content being largely female for anyone who first logs in to Pinterest. Your typical male user might think, ‘There’s nothing for me here,’ leave, and the female content continues to grow.
   Twitter’s growth among US Hispanics and blacks could be down to numerous other factors, very possibly the availability of reliable apps for Twitter which appeal to these groups’ use of cellphones and smart phones for accessing the site. Given that one’s race is not something readily identified on Twitter—a look through my Tweetstream sees logos as well as unclear—and often racially indeterminable—avatars, it’s highly unlikely race is the factor that has driven blacks and Hispanics to go on to the service. Think to yourself: have you ever followed someone back because they had the same ethnicity as yourself?
   Which brings us on to Tumblr. Could its growth among Asian–Americans simply be down to its growth in Asia itself? My experience on Tumblr—and I have been there since the beginning—is that it had plenty of interest from Asia, particularly Japan. These users are posting things that appeal to the diaspora—a cultural reason, not a racial one.
   The internet has destroyed racial barriers, and continues to do so. I see people interact, engage and exchange regardless of race every day on social networks. It’s like those newspapers that always paint websites as centres of evil, where pædophiles, rioters and terrorists congregate—it appeals to a certain bias, but it might not be real. And maybe my idealism is founded on a personal bias, too, but I just can’t see, in 2012, how the best invention for bridging divides is actually used to reflect them. What I see every day is multiculturalism and a sharing across cultures, and that the internet, including the social networks, has been the best leveller that humankind has yet conceived.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, technology, TV, UK, USA | 2 Comments »


Less Tumblring, less Facebooking—are email and blogging back?

03.01.2012

I’ve been noticing my Tumblr usage drop, and judging by the count here, my updates to this blog have fallen to a bit of a low this year. But, as Tumblr drops, this blog seems to be rising. I imagine 2012 will bring with it another change in how we all share our thoughts online.
   I can’t say for sure why we change from one medium to another. Maybe it’s boredom, maybe it’s due to the things we want to share, maybe the technology has provided us something new. Maybe it’s the need to get back to business after a bit of a lull during the recession: our 2011 billings were up over a relatively quiet 2010, and success breeds success.
   Novelty was the case with Facebook Timeline when I switched over to it in September, but with all its changes recently—such as the nearly endless scrolling we have to do before we get to the month’s summary—the cleverness has worn off.
   To me, what was ingenious was seeing how Timeline chose its selection for the month. I didn’t need to scroll back eight days to see what I wrote just after Christmas. But, someone at Facebook decided we needed that function—as well as a second friends’ box that duplicates the first, but with people’s names next to their photos. Facebook: they are my friends. I know their names.
   In other words, it’s turned into the old Facebook wall, but an untidy version of it. No wonder some people hate Timeline (to the point of Facebook shutting down its own Timeline fan page?): they never got to see the ingenuity of it.
   I made this analogy before, but it’s like the first Oldsmobile Toronado: a pure design in its first year, getting more ornamented with each model year, so much so that the purity is lost. So why even bother changing?
   And, of course, there was Facebook’s predictable failure to recognize any time zone outside the US for the fourth time. In fact, as with October 1 and November 1, Facebook once again thought that its entire 800 million-strong user base resides in California. With Timeline now open to the general public, you would think that they would have remedied this very old bug, but, remember, 11 months ago you couldn’t even restrict your friend search to Paris, France. Paris, Texas, Paris, Arkansas, and Paris, Illinois, sure. Since for a while those pommes frites were called freedom fries, the geographical geniuses at Facebook saw fit to remove the French capital. Did they hire Kellie Pickler as a consultant?

Or was there an edict inside Facebook that it isn’t 2012 till Mark Zuckerberg proclaims it is 2012?
   The difference was, this time, I wasn’t the only schmuck complaining about it on Get Satisfaction. Thanks to the larger audience affected over 21 time zones on the planet, Facebook received plenty of complaints. Once January 1, 2012 hit the US east coast, the number rose even more dramatically, if Twitter is to be believed.
   So if I’ve got tired of Tumblr, and I’m not happy with Facebook forever introducing bugs on to what was quite a clever concept in Timeline, then that leaves this place.
   I’ve grown accustomed to the look since I first created this template in the mid-2000s. I forget which year it was (which is unlike me) but I believe it was 2005. This blog débuted in 2006 after I stopped blogging at Beyond Branding, and at that stage, the template was already done.
   I mentioned that I felt it had dated in a Tweet last month, and found agreement. Friends, if you think it’s dated, you are allowed to tell me earlier! The whole personal site needs a rejig, and that might be something I work on in the New Year (my one, not Pope Gregory’s one).
   On that note, ideas are welcome. I already have a few for its look and feel, and I may simplify the structure to cover my key interest areas. And if I like the new look, then it may render the other places redundant as I toy with how my future posts appear.

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Posted in design, humour, internet, marketing, USA | 5 Comments »


The minutiæ of 2011

18.12.2011

As some of you know, I have been using Tumblr since 2007, and when Vox died (at least for me) in 2009, I began using Tumblr more. It was good to record brief thoughts of little consequence, but as I hunted through the archive for 2011, I realized it was quite a good way to see what little thoughts crept up during the year.
   I had blogged less on Tumblr in the last few weeks, just out of sheer busy-ness, and because Facebook’s Timeline has been quite a compelling way to get instant gratification from posts from people I know. But Tumblr has its uses.
   In the spirit of my ‘History of the Decade’ series, here are the unimportant—and some very important—things that piqued my interest during 2011.


January: The Hustle crew is back in Brum, but without the ‘created by Tony Jordan’ credit on some episodes.

January
   Why is Tony Jordan’s name missing from these episodes of Hustle?
   We put JY&A Consulting on to the jya.co domain.
   Zen is awesome, even if the male cast largely speaks with English accents and the female cast speaks with Italian and French ones.
   John Barry dies. My favourite composer. RIP.

February
   The Christchurch earthquake and stories of tragedy and heroism.
   The fall and fall of Charlie Sheen, and if recasting Two and a Half Men, put Martin Sheen in it and set it in 2040.
   Mad Dogs begins.


February: Mad Dogs: great British telly. Philip Glenister adopts a Gene Hunt pose, but with Marc Warren instead of John Simm.

March
   Firefox 3 crashes a lot.
   Kelly Adams is off the market, boys.
   Mad Dogs finishes.
   The Americans make William & Kate with Los Angeles and Hollywood standing in for Buckingham Palace, London, Klosters, St Andrew’s and other locations.

April
   I go on telly to dis the copyright amendments in a new bill, which has been spurred on by Hollywood lobbyists. Farewell the presumption of innocence and due process.
   Elisabeth Sladen dies.
   Everyone talking about Pippa Middleton’s rear end.


April: This seems to be the enduring image of the UK Royal Wedding.

May
   Cheryl Cole goes to America for X Factor USA. Then she comes back.
   Karen Gillan films We’ll Take Manhattan with the first on-set photo released.
   More post office closures.


June: Australians unite against homophobes who pressure a billboard company to take down a safe-sex ad.

June
   Australians unite against a billboard company that takes down an ad featuring a gay couple. The CEO responds within the day, which is a contrast to how Wellington Airport conducted itself over public outcry over ‘Welly-wood’ Part II.
   MSG is evil.
   A redhead wins Miss USA.

July
   People go on to Google Plus to talk about Google Plus.
   The Murdoch Press phone-hacking scandal.
   UN: internet is a human right.

August
   I think the movie The Avengers is about John Steed and Emma Peel.

September
   The Unscripted exhibition and I get photographed with Jekyll himself, James Nesbitt. Oh, and the Mayor.
   Nigerian con-men send me a 419 scam—in hard copy.
   Facebook Timeline.
   Old School, New School exhibition has Joe Churchward and Mark Geard’s typeface designs.


October: The Russian Sam Tyler.

October
   Rugby.
   Russians remake Life on Mars.
   More ‘nek minnit’.
   Gaddafi owned a Toyota (just like bin Laden).

November
   Mongrels is back.
   Ricky Gervais will be back for the Golden Globes.
   The Sweeney will be back.

December: Britney Spears gets engaged again. A few years ago, The Times of India talked about her first marriage to Jason Alexander—and finds the wrong photo.

December
   My roses are blooming.
   Facebook Timeline gets rolled out to the public, so they make it worse.
   Occupy continues.
   Britney Spears gets engaged: remember that time she married George Costanza off Seinfeld ?

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Posted in culture, interests, internet, media, New Zealand, TV, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Facebook Timeline gets rolled out: here come the complaints

16.12.2011


Above: My Facebook Timeline, as it appeared in October.

As more of the planet gets on to Facebook Timeline, it’s been interesting to watch reactions.
   When Facebook went to a new layout three years ago, plenty of people—myself included—went to an anti-new Facebook group. Most were there because they didn’t like change, threatened to leave, and failed to carry out their threat. It was like those who said they would stop reading tabloids after the Princess of Wales died—as circulation rose the following year.
   I joined not because I disliked the change—I thought the redesign was quite good—but because Facebook never did any testing and we were the guinea pigs. The new design was about as reliable as a Wall Street banker, and given it kept failing, I joined to voice my opposition.
   No such issue with Timeline, at least not till regularly. Having been on it for two months, I haven’t come across the concerns the majority have—at all.
   Here are a few I’ve heard, including in the mainstream media.

My privacy is compromised. How? Timeline has exactly the same settings as Facebook had, prior to Timeline’s introduction. I didn’t like these new settings when they were introduced in mid-September, because I was used to shutting my wall off to certain people (e.g. those having a company name on a personal account—yes, I did want to hear from the company, but no, I don’t know who runs the account), but I could see the merit of having public posts which rendered such a setting irrelevant.
   If there was a time to complain, it was three months ago. If you’re complaining now, you’re well late. I doubt Facebook will make any changes since relatively few of us made any complaints when the privacy settings were changed last quarter. Those of us who knew were probably spending more time figuring them out and protecting ourselves.

People can now see what I posted x years ago at an instant. Among the changes was a setting that allowed you to restrict all past posts. That was a new privacy entry that wasn’t there before September. Use it and restrict them to yourself, or yourself and your closest friends. I never had this problem, since Facebook always had different classes of friends—at least since I joined in April 2007—and my statuses were always customized to different audiences.

People can now go back to a particular year and find out more about me. True, but see above.

It’s ugly. This is one I have some sympathy with. Design is subjective, and there is some merit to the argument that Timeline introduces extra elements on to the page (see below). The rule of good design, in my book, is the reduction of elements. So in some ways, I can understand this complaint, but, I rather like the idea of a “timeline” going down the middle, and I can see why Facebook used the two columns: to minimize the need to scroll.

I can’t go back to the old Facebook. I always thought it was clear that when you changed, that was it.

   As usual, my problems with Timeline seem to be different to those of the general public.

Two friends' boxes

Why two friends’ boxes? When Timeline was introduced in September, it was actually cleaner than it is now. There was one friends’ box: in the header. Last week, when it was rolled out to New Zealand, a second box was introduced that was completely superfluous.
   I joked that this was typical of American design. They start out with a clean design, like the original Buick Riviera or Oldsmobile Toronado, or even the Ford Taurus, and then they add unnecessary stuff to it and clutter it up. That’s what’s happened with Facebook.
   This second box is probably not helping people understand what Timeline is about, and it does contribute to its clumsy look. Amazing how one thing can ruin it, but that’s how design sometimes works.

The location settings. When Facebook allowed friends to tag you at a location, it also gave us the option to approve each tag. Problem: this has never worked properly if using Mobile Facebook. Even when you change the settings to allow automatic tagging, they don’t tend to stick and the tags plain disappear regardless.

Timeline doesn’t work on the 1st of each month. If you’re in New Zealand, tough luck. Your Timeline will stay frozen on the last day of the previous month for most of the day, because the new month doesn’t start until the Americans say it starts. Prior to that, the new month wouldn’t start till the Californians said it starts. Presumably, this is why the New Zealand roll-out didn’t happen on December 1. The error has been there for three months now.

You can no longer use the lists properly. This was a huge surprise, when Facebook stopped me from selecting ‘Limited Profile’ in any privacy setting, be it a status update or a photo album. This has still not been fixed. I traced the bug to Facebook’s new inability to add fan pages to your lists. It still allows you, but beware: adding a fan page to any list will render it inaccessible for your privacy settings.
   Not many people seem to care about this one, though there are complaints about Facebook’s ‘Smart Lists’ on its fan page. The majority doesn’t use them, or was unaware they even existed till this year, calling Facebook copycats for taking a Google Plus feature. As mentioned above, it’s certainly been there since the mid-2000s, so I’m unsure how Facebook in 2007 managed to copy Google in 2011.

I’ve got to scroll down a long way. At the time of writing, I have to scroll down six days before I can see my December summary. Before the roll-out, Facebook had this fixed at a number of posts. I preferred it before—again, this lengthy scrolling is contributing to the public’s concerns about Timeline’s concept and their privacy.

The Friendfeed and Tumblr plug-ins no longer work the same way. Facebook will gather up a series of posts before it puts a summary into a Timeline “box”. The Tumblr ones have totally disappeared. (Tumblr has been notified.)

   Despite my many misgivings about Facebook, especially about its privacy changes over the years and the imposed defaults that it got a lot of flak about, I have increased my usage at the expense of Tumblr and other services. I now make public posts for the subscribers—those I choose to have outside my friends’ list. When Facebook killed my Limited Profile last week, I spent some time doing a cull—I’ve cut my list down by about 80 people, including those I was on a business club with but who never shared a single Facebook post with me in two or three years. (‘I must have killed more men than Cecil B. de Mille.’) In my mind, these have all been healthy moves.
   Popping by others’ pages is a bit more enjoyable, seeing what graphics they have chosen for their headers, although I have spent very little time visiting. I have spent some time “filling in the gaps” over November with pre-2007 statuses and photographs for me, and adding locations to other statuses.
   In most of these cases, only my real friends know them: that’s the beauty of having availed myself of the privacy settings since day one—and keeping an eye on them on a very regular basis.
   Facebook never took a step back, so I’m afraid no matter what our complaints are, they’ll fall on deaf ears. Even after posting the solution to their newly introduced lists’ bug on to Facebook’s Lists’ Team page, they haven’t lifted a finger to fix the fault—but, then, since it doesn’t affect the boss, it might never get fixed.
   As long as their member numbers keep growing, Facebook might think itself impregnable, even if I like Timeline. Altavista once thought it would remain the number-one website in the world, too.

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How I’m consuming social media: the October 2011 edition

29.10.2011

I realize I’ve blogged less in general this year. Once upon a time, when I blogged less here, I was over at Vox (when it worked), writing personal, cathartic posts, sometimes directed at a limited audience. But now, and I never thought I would say this: Facebook seems to be where I’m directing some of my activity.
   The big attraction came on September 25, when I upgraded to Facebook Timeline. Since I’ve worked in visual communications for most of my life, Timeline’s look appeals to me, and, like others who favoured the revamp, I spent some time experimenting with it. Naturally, I also rechecked my privacy settings—a must whenever Facebook makes a change. And, I am sure Mr Zuckerberg will be happy to hear, I began sharing more.
   It’s that human trait of wanting instant gratification from what you’ve shared. Vox was good for that: you regularly got feedback to the limited-audience posts from your closest “friends” (many of whom have become real-life friends). Facebook, which has, since I joined in 2007, allowed us to share different things to different audiences (I’m surprised when people think that this was a recent addition to the service) offers something similar, but till recently its user interface did not appeal to me.
   Tumblr was one of the few places that was more graphically driven, but there’s such a culture of reblogging there, and I never felt too comfortable sharing anything more than a few original photos and some pithy thoughts.
   Facebook became the service between writing long blog posts (here) and pithy reblogs on Tumblr. I could share photos with select audience members. If I had queries, I could direct them to one of the circles of people that Facebook, this year, encouraged everyone to set up (my five haven’t changed since Facebook allowed us to set up groups of friends beyond ‘Limited Profile’). And the feeling of instant gratification was there for things you wanted people to know about—that strange human need of knowing that you were heard.
   I wound up putting some things on Facebook that I would have put on Tumblr a year ago, even if it was to a closed platform, and even if it was to a limited audience. It was “my” limited audience, after all, a group which I knew would appreciate the content. It wasn’t that personally knowing the audience seemed to compensate for the cowardice of not putting something out there publicly—it was the knowledge that it would be seen, and “liked”. We humans need so little to get a kick.
   I know there’s Google Plus, but it’s just not for me. That has been covered elsewhere, but the smaller contact number there has no appeal. Of the 50-odd who have added me to their circles, I have a few real friends, all of whom I can reach more easily through email.
   This seems to be a round-about way for me to advise people that you can catch me on Facebook. For non-friends, I have opened up my account to subscribers, and occasionally write public status updates, or share public photos and links. I’ve also taken the backward step of setting up a fan page, where I record some of my business and political thoughts which are a bit more in depth than the minutiæ of life that form Facebook status updates.
   Then, there is Twitter, which I found myself using a lot less of since everyone went to ‘New Twitter’. New Twitter means an extra click for everything, and it’s far slower and buggier. Only this week have I switched to Twitter Mobile, even for my desktop and laptop, just so I can make a quicker judgement about whether to follow back a follower, and Tweet more reliably without an ‘Oops! We did something wrong’ message.
   I’m not so bold as to proclaim that Facebook is “it”, given the criticisms I’ve levelled at it in the past. I still have concerns over its privacy, just as I have concerns over Google about its terrible record. But, credit where it is due, whomever was responsible for Timeline seems to have understood the needs of some of its users. I know it’s annoyed some people—I have heard of one Facebooker who has used his account less since Timeline, because it turns him off—but, for me, it seems to be one of the better thought-out changes in the nearly half-decade I have been on the service, and fattened their wallets with my private information.

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Posted in business, culture, design, internet, media, technology | 12 Comments »


Tumblr says: death to Pokémon haters

16.06.2011

There was an interesting graphic on Tumblr today:

which is an opinion. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I do not care for Pokémon, but it’s not as though it’s a reality TV show with whining contestants, the Wellywood sign, or Arial. Still, it’s not the end of the world.
   The abuse that this got was amazing. At the time of writing, there were 236 notes, including many wishing death on the creator of the graphic, accusing them of having a childhood in which they must have been abused, or simply telling them to go forth and multiply.
   Recently, I made this one, which wasn’t as unpopular, but I was surprised at the reaction:

The point: computers are tools, don’t get stuck with established thought, and use what you want.
   That’s not how Tumblr users took it. There were philosophical teenagers either saying accusing me of showing off how I use ‘the internet’ differently (how Word or Arial qualify as ‘the internet’ I am not sure) or philosophizing that the better known names were market leaders precisely because they are so good.
   The philosopher was the interesting one, given that he may be too young to have ever tried WordPerfect or Quattro Pro, while I don’t know of a single typographer or graphic designer who prefers Arial over Helvetica.
   It’s one thing to criticize from a place of knowledge, quite another to assume you know all the facts at 17. Heck, I’m more than twice that and I still don’t think I know it all. If a Linux user tells me that his OS is quick and efficient, I’m inclined to believe him (Jaklumen comes to mind), because he obviously knows something I don’t. I haven’t used Linux lately, and I’m not going to shoot down someone who has demonstrated that he’s an intelligent and courteous individual.
   The internet, ladies and gentlemen, has continued down much the same path we had before. And those of us who thought today’s teenagers might do a better job than we did are misled.
   Just as any other era, there’ll be some amazing kids who’ll come to the surface and be true leaders. They will be more internationally minded, because they have come into a world where global connectedness is a reality, not a dream. Hopefully they will be better able to reverse the growing rich–poor gap because, by the time of their adulthoods, they will either be aware of better tools or the gap will be that much more severe.
   But, there’ll also be the masses for whom being loudmouthed and opinionated is standard behaviour, just as there was in every generation before. The difference is that more people have a voice.
   Maybe this is yet another reason for Facebook’s fall: those sick of not only privacy invasions, but seeing behaviour they don’t particularly like take place on their own walls. It seldom happens to me—wall privileges are not granted lightly in my case—but the majority of people have their Facebooks wide open, not distinguishing between groups of friends.
   The sort of trolling that YouTube is infamous for is, in fact, everywhere, and I recall having a moan about this four years ago on this same blog.
   In the 1990s, when businesses first flocked to the ’net, many of us were people impressed by the telex or BBSs, and loved the idea of doing international business more efficiently. But by the turn of the century, certain people who were not schooled enough to get their poorly argued opinions publicized had the tools at their disposal.
   I don’t begrudge this, because the freedom of speech is a great thing, and if it allows us to have an accurate snapshot of where society can pick itself up, then all the better.
   If the best writers and thinkers get more followers, it could well inspire those who aren’t as well regarded to pick up our game.
   For those willing to give reasons for their disappointment about an issue, it allows those who oppose that viewpoint to get to the heart of a problem and resolve it.
   Though we’ll continue to need a strong stomach or reasonable general knowledge to look at some of the stuff on the web, where caveat lector will be increasingly the rule on free-for-all websites:

Funny, but also sad.

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