Saturday, February 27, 2010

Be Prolific

I started this blog with very little more than curiosity, and I've found it a useful platform for whatever takes my fancy. While I have greatly enjoyed ranting to an empty room, I realised that I was not living up to the new name of my redesigned blog - that of a Prolific Photographer; and so, from now on, I'll be sharing my favourite or most interesting pictures - hopefully daily or as close to daily as I can maange, because otherwise they may never see the light of day.

Starting with this one, taken in Central Park, NYC in June last year. I delight in the effect of sunlight on leaves and therefore have way too many pictures like this.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Facebook Sentiments

For a short time, Twitter seemed very close to stealing Facebook's thunder when it became known that celebrities were active on Twitter. Needless to say, many people felt that by following their favourite celebrities on Twitter they were somehow intimately connected with said celebrities, along with the hundreds of thousands of other followers.
Facebook only allowed you to interact with friends and family, which got old pretty quickly. People want more intimate contact with everyone. Enter twitter which placed friends, stalkers, random followers and celebrities all within equal and easy reach.
The folks in Palo Alto were not to be outdone though, and soon Facebook had introducted Facebook pages, a means by which businesses, organisations and - most importantly - celebrities could interact with their 'fans'. The first fan pages belonged to movies (Titanic, The Dark Knight and Dirty Dancing) and celebrities (Vin Diesel, Ashton Kutcher and God, to name a few), followed shortly by products (Nutella, Starbucks and Pizza). About a month after pages were introduced, something in my news feed caught my eye. One of my friends 'became a fan of Not being on fire' and another 'became a friend of not being mauled by a bear.' I was tickled by the way those two sentiments sounded, and quickly became a fan myself. How could I have known that that was the beginning of Facebook's descent into spam- and creeper-hell?

It started with the creation of pages expressing very broad and popular sentiments.
The most popular pages on facebook, with between 2- and 5-million fans, are
  • I ♥ SLEEP
  • I need a vacation!!!
  • I really hate slow computers
  • I don't sleep enough because I stay up late for no reason
  • Randomely(sic) laughing because you remembered something funny.
  • Random laughter when remembering something
  • Flipping the Pillow Over to Get to the Cold Side
  • Shut up, The World Won't End in 2012.
  • Laughing until it hurts and you can't breathe!
  • Texting the person next to you stuff you cant say out loud
  • I hate stupid people
  • I HATE WAKING UP FOR SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • I Hate Getting Texts That Only Say "k"
  • I Love Music!
  • Laughing when someone falls
  • That was NOT your last piece of gum stop lying
  • I Hate "Battery Low"
And those were almost bearable. But very quickly, it expanded and Facebook is now literally polluted with countless unofficial pages. My usually spotless news feed is now dominated by news of friends realising that they too "are human", "have two eyes", "sleep with their eyes closed", "Don't like unlikeable people", "Hate people who become fans of everything."
These annoying pages are only part of the problem; I find it more disturbing to consider the people who create these pages. I have no doubt that a few are genuinely creating a fan page as it was originally intended, but the majority of people are no better than those MySpace users who had thousands of 'friends' and sadly considered themselves to be 'popular'.
I myself am a page admin, for a children's home where I've volunteered, and that has given me an idea of what a page admin can and can't do. What most fans don't realise is the feature of facebook pages intended for celebrity and business page admins: Page Insights, a statistics feature that gives detailed information about the number of fans, their location, language and demographics. Considering the extraordinary measures to which Facebook goes to assuage users' concerns about privacy, the same users fall easily into the trap of Facebook pages, paying no heed to the fact that anyone can set up a facebook page and have access to this information. And anyone, and everyone who can't just be satisfied with their 200 - 800 friends can set up a page and suddenly, they're in contact with tens- or hundreds of thousands of people who would NEVER accept a direct friend request, but now happily like and comment on the same person's status updates; all because it's a page devoted to people who text with their thumbs.

A brief craze in trapping fans were pages with titles like "Can This Sexy Potato Get More Fans Than Miley Cyrus?" and "Can This Lemon Get More Fans Than This Sexy Potato", but that particular strategy didn't garner more than a few hundred thousand fans before people lost interest. The latest fan-generating strategy is the 'Become a fan to see something'. These snares have names like:
  • 1,200 engineers couldn't get this riddle. Can you??
  • I bet this guy will regret getting this tattoo once he's older!!
  • ¡¡uɐɟ ɐ ǝɯoɔǝq noʎ ɟı uʍop ǝpısdn ǝdʎʇ oʇ ʍoɥ noʎ ɥɔɐǝʇ ןן,ı  (Just use this website, by the way: 
  • Funniest Face Book Private Message leaked!!
  • 90% percent of people agree that this is the FUNNIEST JOKE EVER
  • Hardest riddle ever!!! 
  • 96% of people can't solve this riddle!!
  • What is the answer to this riddle? 99% of Harvard students got it wrong!!
  • 99% of Harvard students couldn't figure this riddle out
  • 80% of harvard students cannot answer this when 98% of second graders can!!
  • 79% Of Harvard Students Couldn't Answer This Simple Brain Teaser
  • OMG! I can't believe Megan Fox looked like this!! Become a fan to see the picture.
I've met Harvard students, they're not that dumb. And why are they being asked all these riddles anyways? This is even more devious, playing on people's curiosity, forcing people to become fans, usually for minimal pay-out. And once you've become a fan, the effort involved in removing yourself as a fan is often too much.

Facebook has been clamping down on these unofficial pages, removing admins' access, which is some consolation, but these admins still have access to their fans through the posting of pictures. Something more has to be put in place to rectify this abuse of Facebook's features.

I'm not unrealistic, I know that the time of Facebook groups has passed, Fan Pages are the new thing, but Facebook has been overrun by these numerous unofficial pages, and something must be done before Facebook dies the same death that MySpace did, as users are repulsed and annoyed by rampant pollution.
And so I propose a new Facebook Feature: Facebook Sentiments, where page admins have limited access to fan and interaction information, but where users can still express shared sentiments, because there is something to knowing that there are other people out there who go out of their way to step on a crunchy leaf.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Google Buzz

When I signed into my gmail account today, I was informed that Google has just launched their latest service, Google Buzz, and that I was now using it. At first, I was confused, not only because I couldn't remember signing up for Google Buzz, but also due to the recent launch of the similarly themed Google Wave. More on that later.
Google has so far remained detached from the social networking sphere of the internet, and has thereby missed out on one of the most significant aspects of our modern culture.; Buzz is obviously their attempt at breaking into this market.  Admittedly, their approach is slightly different, combining activity from other online sharing sites in one place, but in my opinion, that will just cause more confusion and disorder. Despite the awe-inspiring think-tank housed in the Googleplex, I don't think Buzz will work.
Although Google has imposed Buzz on all its gmail users, gaining an instant captive audience of millions, I feel that simply this lack of choice and the sudden unannounced implementation will turn many away before they even give it a try.
Anyone who already has a facebook or twitter most probably does not use their email (if it is even a gmail account for that matter) to communicate socially with the majority of the people in their lives. Their gmail contact list will therefore contain mainly non-social contacts, people in whose lives you do not wish to be intimately connected in real time. Buzz claims that it will automatically suggest those people with whom you communicate most often, a list that is also displayed on your profile. As far as I know, the unsolicited public sharing of private information such as that is a breach of privacy. Google has crossed the line between social interaction and over-connectedness and over-sharing - even by modern standards.
Buzz does allow you to combine your Twitter, Flickr and Picasa  activity in your feed, but not Facebook - I don't quite know why. For once, Google's clinical and minimal feel falls short. While Facebook is hardly overcrowded or colourful, its design is centred on facebooking and social interaction. In the same way that video-calling on Windows Live messenger could never compete with Skype's call-centric design, and yet Skype's instant messaging pales in comparison to messenger, Google Buzz will forever be tied to the functionality of gmail, a means to an end - quick communication.

Perhaps Google will be able to perform more of their magic and somehow make Buzz indispensable and commonplace, but I somehow doubt it. Barring some bizarre failure of facebook, it will reign unchallenged, even by the likes of Google.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Still Life

A moment of inspiration combined with the perfect light gave me this - one of my favourite pictures.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Age of Sex, Cellphones and Celebrity

I unearthed and dusted off my Romantic poetry book the other day, and I read and remembered. I thought about the Renaissance, a time of artistic and intellectual rebirth and rediscovery; and Classicism, the age of Enlightenment, elegance and logic; and (the best, in my opinion), Romanticism, the era of nature and beauty and freedom, an age of impractical but powerful passion and awe. I thought of these bygone times and it made me wonder:
What global ideal or consciousness moves us and inspires us to fits of creativity and expression? What do we as humans now value and cherish above all?
What will the age we're living in now be called once it self-destructs?

Our legacy...

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