Tag Archives: twitter

And The Trail Led To Backtype.com…

Let’s face it, commenting is the very soul of the blogging business. If it’s on your own site, it provides you with direct access to your readers. On other people’s websites, it offers you an opportunity to promote your website while adding value to the articles you comment on. But what if you have a thought that is simply too small to make a full blog post, yet is too good to be relegated to the bowels of another site’s comment section?

Backtype fills the gap between blogs and the twitter search engine. It keeps a record of your comments using a combination of your name and site URL. You can even log into the site and claim comments that match your identity criteria. While it is a little spooky that your comments can be tracked this way, it’s important to keep in mind that the Internet is a public forum. If we live in a free society, and we deign to voice our opinion on that forum, shouldn’t that opinion be as public as possible?

The Story of #iranelection

iranian_protest_election_results_26

#iranelection was for many people the top news source for the aftermath of incumbent President Mahmoud Amedinejad’s so-called victory over reformer candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi last Friday. It’s not a new cable news channel, or even a news website. It’s what is known on twitter.com as a “trending topic”, a self-declared association of posts on the micro-blogging site. Every post with the word “#iranelection” self-identifies as having something to do with the Iran situation, be it opinions, links to mainstream news articles, or even first hand reports. It’s a new form of primary historical document, one that combines the intimacy of personal letters, the immediacy of video or sound recordings, and the openness of a mass media broadcast.

Twitter is by no means new technology. I find it very similar the web-based chat rooms I myself used in highschool. What is different about it is that it has repurposed current technology to be used in a unique way. Where other systems wanted to emphasize privacy and security, Twitter emphasizes publicity and openness. Most of the 140 character “tweets” are meant for the rest of the Twitter community and the internet at large. It’s easy to write it off as some kind of narcissistic toy, I’m guilty of that myself. However, Twitter’s status as a toy rather than a serious social networking site probably kept it from being blocked in Iran within the first few hours of the protests. Other aspects of the site, like the 140 character limit and interoperable architecture have allowed bloggers in Iran to deal with shoddy connectivity and the government’s attempts to block communication from within the country.

The result is a riveting stream of human emotion, rumor, and anonymous people from across the globe communicating like they never could before. Take a look at this feed from @Change_in_Iran

from the looks of it they are waiting to arrest all the students! it’s also explains the vans9:14 PM Jun 13th from web

some people are now parking their cars in middle of the street trying to block the vans. #iranelection9:16 PM Jun 13th from web

Police is trying to stop people from gathering around while Intel guys still holding a line in front of the gates #iranelection9:05 PM Jun 13th from web

police demanding people to move their cars and start crashing car windows. more people are coming. I will try to get a better view9:18 PM Jun 13th from web

Down with the dictator! Mousavi, Karoubi; support us! #iranelection9:30 PM Jun 13th from web

my eyes are burning hard to keep them open #iranelection9:46 PM Jun 13th from web

I’m dizzy but ok. some people are getting shelter in the nearby unfinished bank building. police arresting a middle aged man10:11 PM Jun 13th from web

@ahmadinejad no wonder you are OK Mr president 24.5M10:13 PM Jun 13th from TwitterFox in reply to ahmadinejad

it’s 9:54 AM -Amirabad street near Pasargad bank and to be honest I don’t have the courage to leave the roof right now #iranelection10:27 PM Jun 13th from web

There are more accounts like this on #iranelection interspersed with rumors of riot police stings disguised as Moussavi rallies and burning ballot boxes. Some tweets supply the Iranians with lists of proxies to get around the government’s internet filters. A hacker’s toolkit of programs to shut down Iranian propaganda websites is making the rounds. From the rest of the world, there are notes praying for the safety of the protesters, “retweets” of some of the more vital bits of news for fellow bloggers, and criticism of mainstream media outlets for their lack of coverage on the events. To see people communicate like this on such a personal level, the future of totalitarian regimes is doubtful. Any government that oppresses its own people on the basis of the threat of an external enemy cannot survive like this. The Great Satan has no horns or pointed tail, and he’s able to send a twitpic to prove it.

This is not to say that Twitter and services like it are going to replace more mainstream froms of news gathering. CNN doesn’t deserve its own #CNNfail channel for the coverage of the Iran Election. The network has to tread carefully to get the kind of access it has. President Obama had just recognized the USA’s involvement in the 1953 installment of the Shah only a week before. The US would do well to keep its distance and establish that it has nothing to do with the current unrest. Besides, it doesn’t matter whether True Blood is the higher trending topic or the mainstream media has to wait a few dozen hours to report on what it finds. That’s not what this is about. We all have an opportunity now to witness history. If we can’t take to the streets, if we can’t tend to the wounded, if can’t tweet from our laptops on the roof, the very least we can do is watch and pray that freedom wins out.

Stop Me Before I Twitter Again

Comedian and Wil Wheaton homeboy Shane Nickerson reveals the true face of twitter and all other social media phenomena. Behind the Venture Capital wishes and Initial Public Offering dreams of every internet sensation, there lies a twisted sea of broken dreams and invisible people. The media makes the internet sound like some kind of turn-key gold-rush, where you can make billions by typing a few keystrokes and lounging by the pool. In truth, there are armies of hard working people struggling to get a single dime or even a moment of your attention, but whether it’s a lack of Charisma, talent, or shamelessness, they just can’t get off the sidelines. Tell them, Shane. Tell the world. And for the love of God, will somebody retweet this man?
[Warning: NSFW Language]

F Twitter from Shane Nickerson on Vimeo.

The Trip Part 9: Yatta! Yatterman!

yattaman_poster

Now that I was in Japan, I would regret it if I didn’t take in some form of anime-themed entertainment that would take months to be released in Canada. Theo and Tarra invited Sara and I to the “Yatterman” movie, which had just come out the week before. It fit the bill perfectly. “Yatterman” was based off of the 1970s anime of the same name. It’s about  two mechanics, Gan-chan and his girlfriend, Ai-chan. They travel the world on a robot dog called the Yatterwan to recover the fantastic Dokuro stone from the clutches of the evil Doronbo gang. The gang consists of Tonzura, a pig-headed muscle-man, Boyakky, the lecherous evil genius, and the bossy Doronjo, who under all the bondage gear just wants to find a good man and settle down. Despite being in all Japanese, the movie was fun, campy and colorful. It made fun of the fact that it was based on a cartoon by showing how ridiculous all of the formulaic transformations would be if they were in real life. I won’t give away any spoilers, but it also teaches everyone about the evils of tea-bagging.

In addition to the lovely film, we were also treated to the little differences in Japanese theater-going. Every ticket was assigned a specific seat. There were detailed maps on the screen showing the way to the exits, which made the theater feel a bit like an airline flight. We saw previews for two American films, “Bolt” and “Marley”. I had only seen both films from their trailers, and the differences were striking. While the American previews played up the snarky humor of both films, the Japanese trailers focused more on the emotional parts of the films and, to my surprise, made me want to see them more. Are Western entertainment companies trying to hide the sad parts from the audience, or do Japanese audiences need to see more of a film before they make the decision to see it?

While we’re on the subject of Japanese entertainment, Sara and I had quite a bit of time to check out Japanese television. There is anime, although it’s not running constantly. If there is an anime cable channel, we weren’t getting it in the apartment. There was a documentary on NASA to commemorate Japan’s contribution to the International Space Station. It was interesting because they would show the stock footage, the narration, and the re-enactments (with Western actors, so this was a well-budgeted production) and then they would cut back to the studio with a couple of stalwart experts demonstrating the distance from the Earth to the Moon to a panel of celebrities. Occasionally, there would be an insert to the reactions of the celebrities to what they were seeing. For example, the actresses teared up on witnessing the funeral of the Apollo 1 astronauts. It turns out that Japanese television shows do this on a regular basis. They would show something, and have a panel of celebrities comment on it. In addition to the space program documentary, there was also a show where people would eat their dinner in a room full of puppies or pot-bellied pigs and the panel would watch what would happen. It seems almost crass to inject the opinions of celebrities into things like the space program, but do we sell ourselves short by keeping the idea of information separate from the guilty pleasures of VH1? We decry that Ashton Kutcher is getting more twitter followers than CNN, but instead of setting these two forces against each other, perhaps we should be getting them to work together.

Concerning Japanese game shows, there are many, and they are wackier than ever. My favorite of these was a show where these two guys dressed like Prince Valiant went to peoples houses offering them money if they could win a game of hide and seek.  The Prince Valiant guys would get clues on the contestants’ whereabouts via traps set near the hiding places. We watched a family win 1 million Yen (around $10,000) by hiding themselves in various places in their own house. The small daughter won by hiding in the bottom drawer of a china cabinet. The 100 million yen (million dollar) contest was much tougher. About 20 contestants hid in an electronics store, and when they were caught they would get mud, paint, and other substances thrown on them. One guy had tarantulas thrown on him, so subsequent prisoners would enter the losers circle saying stuff like, “Why is everyone stuck in the corner-OH GOD NO GET AWAY!” Suffice to say, nobody won the grand prize.

Seeing those people humiliated on national television reminded my why US shows often miss the point of Japanese game shows. They spend so much time trying to bare the souls of the contestants or checking the instant replay to realize that such shows are not about rewarding skill or knowledge, they are about hilariously punishing ignorance!

Get yourself a Job

It’s a common phrase on the front lines of class conflict: “Why don’t you just get yourself a job?” It comes up when people talk about employment, poverty, or wages. I am often surprised by the amount of glee taken when people complain not just about the homeless or the unemployed, but about people working for minimum wage. The question is often asked, “Why am I paying their tax bill?” “What do you mean I should pay for public transit? I have my own car”, “Why should they get anything more than they already have? I worked hard for what I have. I deserve it. They don’t. I’m a self made man”

I hear that and I think to myself, maybe they’re a manager who just had to fire somebody. Maybe they’ve just passed one too many strapping young panhandlers on the street. Maybe they’ve just had a look at their T4 slip. However, all the maybes in the world doesn’t make them any less wrong.

No one, not one single solitary person, “gets themselves a job”. Every job is dependent on someone else. In order to have a job, you need a company to work at. In order to have a company you need customers to sell to and suppliers to buy from. In order to keep using the labor and capital that your business depends upon, your customers will need to give you money. Money is little else but a giant confidence game we invented to distribute goods and services. Those Good and services are worth what people will pay for them, but the opposite is also true. A dollar is only worth what you’re willing to trade for it.

We’re in an economic crisis right now because a lot of financial institutions suddenly had to stop lying to themselves about how much they were worth. Pretty soon, more and more people will also have to stop lying to themselves. Companies are shutting down right now because they can’t pretend they’re making anything anybody will buy. All that is left will be thousands or even millions of people re-evaluating their place in society. I think that’s where the solution to the crisis lies. Premier Gordon Campell wrote on Twitter today that he was looking for unfiltered ideas on how to create jobs in this new economic landscape. I believe I have one. Find out what we have to offer the world, and also find out what we want from the rest of the world. If anything comes from the myriad of stimulus packages being passed in parliaments and senates all over the world, I hope that at least some of those funds go towards creating new markets. This will require us to answer this question: What are we all doing here? When North and South America were discovered, people made their fortunes creating new societies there and bringing resources back. When the industrial revolution started, we made machines that could make items like clothes and fine china at rates previously unheard of. In the 20th century, we connected the whole world with automobiles, satellites, and computers. In this new century, we must decide what the next chapter of the human endeavor is. If we can find a challenge that can speak to our souls, it is there that we will find our future.