Thursday 29 April 2010

Twitter madness

As part of my course I had to do an essay on a Web 2.0 app, so I chose Twitter.  I already had my own Twitter account, and (sensibly, as it turned out) I decided to setup a separate Twitter account for my university stuff - and then I decided to set up another separate Twitter account for WebSolutionZ - and then I decided to set up another separate Twitter account for another assignment that I'm currently working on, to do with web presences.  So all of a sudden I have 4 (count 'em, FOUR) Twitter accounts.  And not very much to say.

So then I decided I needed a way to manage 4 separate Twitter accounts.  So I spent a bit more time researching how people do this, and discovered TweetDeck, which is apparently one of the most popular ways to read Tweets. I duly downloaded and installed it.  The only problem was, I kept forgetting to open it, and then when I suddenly did there were 100 tweets from 4 different columns, all over the screen, and I had to scroll back a few days to catch up.  Added to that, the people on the uni account seem to use Twitter like some sort of chatroom, so there were literally pages and pages of one-line comments that I wasn't interested in, interspersed with some random things from lecturers etc. that I possibly was interested in (but couldn't easily find).

So.... then I decided to re-research.  Enter Yoono, a Firefox plug-in.  It sits on the side of your browser and a little number pops up whenever a new Tweet comes in.  You can view all at once, or individually by column.  And because I have a browser open all day every day, I don't forget it.  So, multiple-Twitter-accounts problem solved.

The problem NOW is that Twitter is a huge waste of time and I'm starting to hate it.  I have enough trouble keeping up with all the emails I get, plus kids, work, school, building a house and all the other normal stuff.  Who the frig has time to sit there reading one-liners that are mostly nonsense?  I've done an essay, I've tested, tweaked and played around and honestly... I can't see how it's adding much to my life right now.  But I can't stop....

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 8 - Content Sharing

I have to admit, I got way behind with this, mostly because I got myself into a complete tangle over Assignment 2. What a nightmare! On reflection I probably did too much research; I had about 40 tabs of "that's an interesting thing to discuss in my essay" open in Firefox, and I ended up so overwhelmed with information that I had no clue how to even start. Luckily my husband, logical straight-thinker that he is, sat down with me right at the point where I was all set to completely throw in the towel and asked me several pointed questions and offered several suggestions on how to frame it, with the end result being that I finally got the $*&#@^ thing done and submitted last Friday (and good riddance to it too).

Anyway... content sharing and the issue of copyright. I'm a fairly creative type, I run a website development business and I also run another website where I create customised photo announcement or invitation cards for customers, so digital creativity is something that interests me greatly. So you'd think that maybe I would object to people using my ideas, and from a financial perspective, I suppose I do. I spent time creating a bunch of Photoshop templates for the photo cards, and if somebody else took them and used them in exactly the same way I do, but charged a dollar less and undercut my business then yes, I'd be peeved because my efforts were making somebody else money that should rightfully have been mine, and their actions could potentially affect my income and lifestyle.

On the other hand, I think the whole copyright (and patents, trademarks, the whole "it's MINE and you can't have it" scenario) is one of those "the world has gone mad" type things. The Disney Corporation created all those epic cartoons, based mostly on legends that they DIDN'T create themselves, and have then spent most of the last century trying to stop anybody else from doing exactly what they did, to the point where they've even convinced governments to change copyright laws to accommodate them. Seriously?! Don't they have enough money by now?!

I mean, yes, I can see the point of it - people (and corporations) spend a lot of time (and money) creating something, and why should anybody else make money off somebody elses work? But that's what it all seems to boil down to now - money. And I suppose in today's capitalistic, corporate-driven world, money rules. I don't pretend to have the answer for what is a very complicated issue that is only likely to get more complicated in the future, but I do have quiet moments where I think it's a real shame. It makes me wonder what wonderful things the world could potentially be missing out on, just because Walt Disney and world governments have clamped down on creative process, right at a time when sharing things across the world is easier than it's ever been.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Brief thought of the day...

The main difference between studying in 2010 and studying in 1994:
The Internet

The best thing about studying in 2010:
The Internet (no more spending hours sitting in a library)

The worst thing about studying in 2010:
The Internet (information O-V-E-R-L-O-A-D!)

What am I studying:
Internet Communications


Back to Assignment 2 Essay... :>

Tuesday 13 April 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 7 - Social Networks

This week's topic is something that has become close to my heart - social networking. According to boyd & Ellison, social network sites are web-based services that allow people to construct a profile, display a list of other users that they share a connection with, and also enables users to view these connections. The social networks I'm most familiar with are things like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter but there are hundreds more and some are more popular in certain countries than others. For instance, I recently connected with a 2nd cousin in the Netherlands via Facebook, but she only has 2 other friends on Facebook and she told me that in the Netherlands the social networking tool of choice is Hyves. So I guess if I want to find other people from that side of the family I'll probably have to join that site - which is somewhat awkward because I don't speak Dutch!

As a rule I try to use LinkedIn for business and Facebook for personal, and I try to keep them separated. However, a quick check just now revealed several people on my Facebook list who I used to work with, who I never socialised with, some of whom used to report TO me, who I may or may not work with again one day. Who are also on my LinkedIn network, so I could contact them if I ever needed to. Who I probably never wanted to subject to my weird sense of humour and photos of my kids and new house-under-construction in the first place. Who I can't even remember adding! So I've just taken a deep breath and spent 20 minutes doing a ruthless cull of my Facebook "friends" list.

The thing is, this "friend culling" concept raises it's own issues. In Facebook at least, you can remove somebody from your Friend list, effectively "de-friending" them, and they don't get notified. The only way they can figure it out is if they know exactly who was on their own Friend list, and they notice the number of Friends decrease by 1, and they then go through their list to work out who has dumped them. Seriously - who could be bothered?

Well, I actually know people who ARE bothered, particularly those who see their Friend count as some kind of status symbol. I mean - wow! In real life, friends move away, or move on. Sometimes you can look back and think "gosh, I haven't seen Joe for... let's see... must be 2 years now". So you may try to call him, and you find out he's moved, and you don't know where he's gone. Or you may not even try to call! You probably just shrug and go and watch TV or something because, let's be honest, you haven't worked together for 2 years and it turns out you didn't really have much else in common except work, and he hasn't called you either. So you just chalk it up to one of those "natural progression" type things and move on.

The difference with "de-friending" someone on Facebook is, it's a conscious decision, and a very immediate one. One minute you're officially a Friend, the next you're not. So this begs the question about social networking - is it ALL good? Is anybody really benefitting in the long run from hanging on to all those people who, under different (non-Internet) circumstances, they probably would have lost years ago? A while ago I found people on my list that I went to school with more than 20 years ago, who I hadn't laid eyes on in all that time - was I REALLY going to get anything out of having them on my Friend list, and seeing all their updates?! Probably not. Nowadays I'm proud to say that my Facebook Friend list is more about quality than quantity. :>

Don't get me wrong - I love Facebook. A lot of my friends and family are on the other side of the world and no matter how much I used to try to keep up with their lives, it's difficult to find the time to sit down and write/email to each one individually. Being linked to them via Facebook means I can read about or watch their new baby/dog/house being built/whatever, on an ongoing basis. It makes me feel like I'm a still a part of their lives, even if I'm 8 timezones away from them. But over time I've refined the way I use Facebook, because I was spending too much time wading through status updates that I wasn't really interested in. So nowadays I've stopped adding people that I barely know, and I've learned to ignore Friend requests from people that I really don't want to see my personal information.

To finish with a funny - today a friend pointed me to the latest episode of South Park, entitled "You Have 0 Friends", which aired last week in the US. Very topical! I found a link to a small scene of that episode here on YouTube, which is a funny take on the madness that can arise from taking some of these social networking sites too seriously. If you have ways and means of accessing full episodes, you're looking for S14E04 (the ChatRoulette scene is hilarious but rude!). Enjoy. :>

Until next time,

Monday 12 April 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 6 - Wikis

Another slow start - thankfully kids are back to school today and I can start catching up!

This week (OK, last week) we covered Wikis, mostly Wikipedia but also some others. I got tragically sidetracked on this topic and ended up spending way too much time clicking on links and wandering off the track! My overriding view of Wikis after today's study is - they can be a great resource but potentially also a complete time-waster!

One of the activities we were asked to do was to edit a Wikipedia page, so I chose my suburb, Ivanhoe, and made a couple of minor changes to it. I've only just done this so I'll keep an eye on it over the next week.

I was nervous when doing this! I've got a fair bit of stuff online but it's now occurred to me that everything I've ever done has been creating or editing my own stuff - I don't think I've ever deliberately changed something somebody else has done, unless it's content for a website I'm developing and then I would advise the client why we should change it. The more I've thought about it, the more I've realised - I don't have a fundamental problem with actually participating - I'm just nervous about being wrong, and being publicly smacked on the hand for it (that would be my "perfectionist" streak)! So there's a slight amount of breath-holding going on at the moment while I wait to see if I get "reversed".

The other interesting site we looked at was, which is a whole website of Wikis (and where I got sidetracked). I spent a bit of time on Wookiepedia (I can't believe people have that much to say about Star Wars!) and the Recipes Wiki, but then I found the Heroes Wiki and realised I've already read a lot of it! It just never occurred to me that it was part of an entire site full of Wikis. NOW I've got a bigger problem because I've just found the FlashForward Wiki, so it could be several hours until I start THIS week's work!

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Defamation and freedom of speech on the Internet

Question from a tutor during Web101 discussion:
I'd be really interested to know what you (and others!) think about the cases where bloggers have been on the receiving end of legal retribution for what they've said on their blogs? There have been some cases in the news recently (but many times over the past decade, really) about bloggers being censured for defaming others online. Given that a blog is supposed to be one person's personal space on the Web, do you think that authorities should have the right to restrict bloggers from saying certain things? Do the opinions of bloggers really matter that much?

I've always found the issue of defamation and freedom of speech on the Internet to be fascinating, and my husband has a legal background so I've done some reading prior to this class and asked him questions, and I have a few things I thought I'd share:

Firstly, somebody mentioned defamation. Defamation is a really complex area of law that is constantly being updated. But basically, to defame somebody you must 1/ say something that isn't true, 2/ that impugns or diminishes their reputation and 3/ you must be published.

However you CAN legitimately report something in a factual sense, provided you don't add anything inflammatory around it. For instance, it's factual to say that Sarah Monahan made allegations of molestation against Robert Hughes on A Current Affair. If you look at the reports coming from the mainstream media, they're all very careful to just detail what's been alleged. However, it's not factual to say that Robert Hughes is guilty of pedophilia, or that he's a child molestor, or anything else like that, because this hasn't been proven in a court of law. So that could potentially be defamatory, and this is where non-traditional media, bloggers etc. can get caught out.

The concept of defamation is difficult enough to prove without the Internet, because to sue somebody and receive damages you normally have to go to court and state your case in open court, deny what's been said and prove that it has damaged your reputation (and then the media gets to "report" the entire story, thereby ensuring that anybody who missed it the first time gets to read all about it - this is often why people don't bother). But before you can even get to that point there's the issue of establishing jurisdiction, which essentially means, where is it published, where was your reputation damaged and therefore, where should the case be made?

This is why freedom of speech and defamation on the Internet is a totally different kettle of fish. Where is something on the Internet actually published? Is it where the person who wrote it lives, or where the web server it was published on is based? Or where the owner of the web server is based (think Google)? Or is it where the person who is being defamed lives? Or something else entirely?

I don't know if we cover this down the track or not but there was a famous and highly controversial Internet defamation case heard in Australia a few years ago - Dow Jones & Co. Inc. v Gutnick (Joseph Gutnick is the rich guy who pumped a lot of money into the Melbourne Football Club a few years back). For anyone who's interested, there's a brief description of the case on Wikipedia, with a link to the full court transcript at the bottom. Basically, Gutnick was referenced in a book published by Dow Jones in the USA and the case was all about jurisdiction, and if Gutnick could bring suit in Australia. Eventually Dow Jones settled.

The thing is, the jurisdiction thing has never been adequately defined and it possibly never will be. We have 6 different Crimes Acts in Australia alone (one for each state) which are all different, and any other country or state could choose to handle jurisdiction differently to how Australia handled Dow Jones vs Gutnick.

So with regard to the question about blogger's own personal space, and authorities right to restrict people from saying things - it's difficult. I don't think anybody has the right to genuinely defame anybody else. I do think that people are entitled to express an opinion and report a fact. I think where the problems start are when people don't understand the difference between the two. :>


Sunday 4 April 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 5 - Blogging

I'm a bit late with this week's reflections - school holidays plus a couple of other "life experiences" is making things a bit tough...

This week's task was about blogging which if I'm honest, I always thought was more about cluttering up the Internet than contributing anything useful. Howevever, I'm now starting to feel slightly swayed. So much so, that I've just resurrected an old personal blog, which I'm interested to see if I continue with...

OK... several hours later and I've now finished all the reading and Activities for the Blogging module... and it turns out I'm not as swayed as I thought! Here's my carefuly-considered answer to one of the Activity questions:

...with the greatest respect to blog-lovers everywhere, (and I'm probably in the minority here!) - I'm still not completely swayed by the whole blogging thing. While it's true that technology nowadays allows anybody who wants a blog to create one very easily, and to have the opportunity to have a voice, I think their usefulness is still dependent on an individual's ability to find something to say that interests at least one other person. :>

I have a couple of blogs that I've used for various purposes over the years, ultimately all personal. Truth be told though, I write carefully, always conscious that some future audience may read what I've written and view it differently to what I currently intend. Yes, I've learned about myself along the way, but I could probably have learned the same things by writing exactly what I REALLY thought in a Word document on my hard drive. What I actually feel like I'm doing by writing a blog is creating carefully-constructed cyber-clutter that isn't 100% me, that nobody else much cares about but me. It's like that old saying about "if a tree falls down in the woods and nobody hears it, has it really fallen down?". So I'm hard-pressed to say that my own blogs are contributing anything much at all!

While I acknowledge that there are some very good blogs where the cream has indeed risen to the top, I wonder just how many blogs exist that nobody has or will ever read. I think there's a reason why certain people become successful authors or journalists or even bloggers, where most other people don't - because they have a genuine ability. :>

Having said that - I do like the idea of citizen journalism and gatewatching and I can see the place that blogs play in that. I just don't think everybody needs to be doing it. :>

'nuff said :>

This week I lost a friend...

Yesterday I found out I lost a friend - someone who I probably only ever spent a week of physical time with, but who I knew for almost 15 years.

I first met laggy online, on an IRC chat channel, back in 1996 and we hit it off.  He was quite possibly the most quirky and eccentric person I've ever met online, but not in a scary way - mostly he was really funny and he made me laugh (when he wasn't being weird!) :>  He was also really technically smart and he taught me a hell of a lot about IRC commands and bots and the Internet in general, and how to do nasty stuff to people who pissed you off.  He also campaigned to get me into the channel management, which was kind of a big deal in those days, and succeeded.  Ahh, the good ol' days!

I met him IRL for the first time in 1997 during my North American backpacking extravaganza, where he kindly threw a party at his house and invited a whole bunch of other IRC folk.  A couple of years later when I visited another friend in Michigan again, he lent me his car for a few days so I could get around, even knowing that (a) I'd never driven in snow before (and there was a LOT of snow that trip) and (b) I came from a place where we drove on the "wrong" side of the road.  Whenever I got back to Michigan in the intervening years, he always made the effort to catch up.  When he discovered Facebook a year or so back, I think I was his 2nd FB Friend.  Sadly, I never managed to convince him to come visit Australia.

The last time I saw him was the last time I visited Michigan, in August 2008.  He was already quite ill by that stage and I was working so I didn't get to spend much time with him.  But there was a party, and he still made the effort to get there to see me.

I cried when I heard of his passing yesterday.  Today I read through his FB profile with all the funny, witty posts and comments, and dug out some old emails from 1996, and reminisced a bit, and got sad all over again.  It's fascinating to me, this Internet thing - it allows you to have friendships that a generation ago you wouldn't have even considered.  I can't physically be at the local bar with the Michigan-ites today, but I'm thinking of them all.

R.I.P. John Newton, 1957 - 2010