Quotulatiousness

November 7, 2014

The psychological imbalance of Twitter follower relationships

Filed under: Media, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Several years ago, a friend of mine pointed out that because he read my blog regularly, he felt we had been in contact much more than we actually had (at that point, we hadn’t talked in nearly a year). The same phenomenon occurs in the wider world with Twitter followers who sometimes think they have a relationship with this or that person they follow. @elixabethclaire explains the situation:

September 20, 2014

Russian air activity rises significantly

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Europe, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:14

It may just be a co-incidence (or it may be that these intrusions happen all the time but are only occasionally reported), but I fired up my Twitter client this morning, these entries were almost consecutive in my Military list:

Update: CNN talks to a White House military representative about the US and Canadian intercepts.

Two Alaskan-based F-22 fighter jets intercepted two Russian IL-78 refueling tankers, two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets and two Russian Bear long-range bombers, a statement from NORAD said. The Russian planes flew in a loop and returned toward Russia.

Two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted two Russian Bear long-range bombers in the Beaufort Sea, the statement said.

Though the planes did not enter sovereign territory, the statement said, they did enter the U.S. Air Defense Identification Zone west of Alaska and the Canadian ADIZ, according to a statement.

The ADIZ is a zone of airspace which extends approximately 200 miles from the coastline and is mainly within international airspace, according to the statement. The outer limits of the ADIZ go beyond U.S. sovereign air space.

July 17, 2014

Brilliant Salon parody shut down for being too accurate

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:25

One of the funniest parody accounts on Twitter disappeared yesterday:

At approximately 5:50 P.M. EST, it became known that Twitter had shut down @Salondotcom, a hilarious parody of Salon run by The Daily Caller‘s opinion editor, Jordan Bloom, and his roommate, Rob Mariani. @Salondotcom constantly tweeted fake headlines that perfectly aped Salon‘s everyone-is-racist-and-Republicans-are-worse-than-Hitler shtick.

If anything, @Salondotcom was too good: more than once I mistook their parody tweet for the real thing. And I was far from alone in that.

It’s not clear exactly why Twitter shut down @Salondotcom, although the social media service has been known to suspend parody accounts. Still, it’s a shame.

The Twitterverse is currently standing in solidarity with @Salondotcom by using #FreeSalondotcom instead.

Update, 18 July: Tim Cavanaugh has more on the disappointing-but-legit shutdown.

The Twitter parody account @salondotcom got the Royal of the Boot Wednesday evening due to an alleged violation of the microblogging giant’s terms of service. The co-creator of the parody account tells National Review Online that Twitter, which requires such accounts to be clearly marked as parodies in order to protect the stupid, shut the account down.

“Technically we’re in violation of their terms of service for not disclaiming that it is a parody account,” Jordan Bloom, who created @salondotcom with Rob Mariani in June, writes in an e-mail. “But where’s the fun in that? We’re stubborn enough that if it takes a quota of social justice snitches reporting us or whatever, by god we’ll make ’em do it. I suppose we’ll appeal and promise that if they give it back we’ll prominently display our jailhouse tattoos.”

(Disclosure: This reporter worked with Bloom at The Daily Caller, where he is the opinion editor, and I consider Bloom to be among the most redoubtable people in Washington. He is also indefatigable and dauntless.)

June 21, 2014

ISIS displays mastery of modern social media recruiting techniques

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:09

Lara Prendergast on the successful techniques of recruiting-by-social-media being used by ISIS propagandists:

Yesterday evening, I returned home, made a cup of tea and slumped down to catch up on the day’s news. A piece on Twitter caught my eye. Posted by Channel 4, it was titled ‘#Jihad: how ISIS is using social media to win support‘. Click. Soon I was learning about how ISIS was calling for global support via a sophisticated social media campaign, branded the ‘one billion campaign’. Click, click. Onto YouTube, where I found graphic videos recorded and uploaded by ISIS members. Click, click, click. Ten minutes later, and I was on Twitter, being recruited by jihadis to come join them.

Clearly, I am not about to head to Syria or Iraq. But I was struck by how quickly I found material asking me to show support and help the cause. If I was an impressionable young Muslim man, perhaps I would have found it alluring. I came across a podcast uploaded by the British jihadi Abu Summayyah al-Britani, which suggested that fighting in Syria was better than playing Call of Duty.

The imagery ISIS promotes is also absorbing, in a dark, sinister way. The black and white flag is the new Jolly Roger; balaclavas and AK47s the new uniform. ‘Come fight with us, brother’ it screams. It looks dangerous and exciting. This belligerent propaganda has zipped round the world at an unprecedented speed. It’s a potent mix of graphic imagery and piratic behaviour blended with a fanatical message. It’s hard not to look, no matter how much you try.

May 26, 2014

It’s fair for the government to track social media activity

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:36

In what might sound like a break with his long-established credentials on surveillance and privacy issues, Michael Geist says it’s fine for the government to track social media:

For most of the past decade, many people concerned with digital rights have used the Internet and social media to raise awareness in the hope that the government might pay closer attention to their views. The Canadian experience has provided more than its fair share of success stories from copyright reform to usage based billing to the Vic Toews lawful access bill. Yet in recent weeks, there has been mounting criticism about the government’s tracking of social media. This post provides a partial defence of the government, arguing that it should be tracking social media activity provided it does so for policy-making purposes.

[…]

With those caveats, I find myself supportive of the government tracking social media activity, if for the purposes of staying current with public opinion on policy, government bills or other political issues. Facebook and Twitter are excellent sources of discussion on policy issues and government policy makers should be tracking what is said much like they monitor mainstream media reports. Too often government creates its own consultation forum that attracts little attention, while the public actively discusses the issue on social media sites. It seems to me that the public benefits when the government pays attention to this discussion. Users that tweet “at” a minister or use a searchable hashtag are surely hoping that someone pays attention to their comment. To see that government officials are tracking these tweets is a good thing, representing a win for individuals that speak out on public policy.

There certainly needs to be policies that ensure that the information is used appropriately and in compliance with the law, but if the current controversy leads to warnings against any tracking of social media, I fear that would represent a huge loss for many groups that have fought to have the government to pay more attention to their concerns.

May 18, 2014

When #hashtags don’t deter modern-day barbarians

Filed under: Africa, Asia, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:53

Victor Davis Hanson on the limitations of #hashtag activism to combat real-world evil:

Nigeria’s homegrown, al-Qaeda linked militant group, Boko Haram, brags openly that it recently kidnapped about 300 young Nigerian girls. It boasts that it will sell them into sexual slavery.

Those terrorists have a long and unapologetic history of murdering kids who dare to enroll in school, and Christians in general. For years, Western aid groups have pleaded with the State Department to at least put Boko Haram on the official list of terrorist groups. But former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s team was reluctant to come down so harshly, in apparent worry that some might interpret such condemnation as potentially offensive to Islamic sensitivities.

Instead, Western elites now flood Facebook and Twitter with angry postings about Boko Haram — either in vain hopes that public outrage might deter the terrorists, or simply to feel better by loudly condemning the perpetrators.

[…]

But if we are postmodern and sensitive, what do we say or do about premodern racists with nuclear weapons, like the North Koreans?

A recent article from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency suggested that President Obama “does not even have the basic appearances of a human being … It would be perfect for Obama to live with a group of monkeys in the world’s largest African natural zoo and lick the bread crumbs thrown by spectators.”

How does the West deal with a mentality like that, originating from a country armed with nuclear weapons? Pyongyang owns no television show that we can boycott, no sports team that we can root against.

What do we do in the face of 19th-century evil that is unapologetic, has lethal weapons at its disposal, and uses savage rhetoric to goad us? Tweet it to death?

What about the sultan of Brunei, who just enacted sharia law that orders stoning for women found “guilty” of adultery or for homosexuals engaged in sex acts? That is a different sort of war on women than that invoked by Sandra Fluke, who lamented that she did not have free birth control from the government.

April 29, 2014

Allowing freedom of speech also means allowing hate speech

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:24

Greg Lukianoff explains why free speech is so important and why attempts to restrict “hate speech” are toxic to the long term health of a culture or society:

Last month was a bittersweet seventh birthday for Twitter. The Union of Jewish French Students sued the social-media giant for $50 million in a French court in light of anti-Semitic tweets that carried the hashtag #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”). In January, Twitter agreed to delete the tweets, but the student group now wants the identities of the users who sent the anti-Semitic messages so that they can be prosecuted under French law against hate speech. Twitter is resisting. It claims that as an American company protected by the First Amendment, it does not have to aid government efforts to control offensive speech.

Internationally, America is considered radical for protecting speech that is highly offensive. But even in the U.S., Twitter should not be surprised to discover ambivalence and even outright hostility toward its principled aversion to censorship, especially in that once great institution for the open exchange of ideas: American higher education.

“Hate speech” is constitutionally protected in the United States. But the push against “hurtful” and “blasphemous” speech (primarily speech offensive to Islam) is gaining ground throughout the world. Last fall, for example, when many thought a YouTube video that satirized Mohammed caused a spontaneous attack on our consulate in Benghazi, academics across the country rushed to chide America for its expansive protections of speech. And as someone who has spent more than a decade fighting censorship on American college campuses, I run into antagonism toward free speech on a regular basis, most recently last month, when I spoke at Columbia Law School. After my speech, law professor Frederick Schauer criticized his American colleagues for not being more skeptical about the principle of free speech itself.

[…]

No doubt the open, anarchical, epistemological system that was celebrated in the Enlightenment — which Jonathan Rauch dubbed “liberal science” in his classic work on the value of freedom of speech, Kindly Inquisitors — has resulted in a flowering of creative and scientific thought. It has helped reveal what we consider to be objective facts (e.g., the Earth is an oblate spheroid; gravity is a fundamental force). But the free exchange of ideas benefits society not only by unearthing “Big T” truths; more importantly, it continually exposes mundane yet important pieces of information about the world. I will call this “Little t” truth. “Little t” truths include: who disagrees about what and why, what people feel about a particular issue, what events the newspapers think are important to report. The fact that Argo is a movie is truth, whether or not it represents an accurate view of history, as is the fact that some topics of discussion interest no one, while others are radioactive.

Twitter provides a powerful way to view the world. Never before have human beings been able to check the global zeitgeist with such immediacy and on such a massive scale. Its primary service is not to dispense the Platonic ideal of Truth (“the form of beauty = x”), but rather to provide unparalleled access to the peculiar thoughts, ideas, misconceptions, genuine wisdom, fetishes, fads, jokes, obsessions, and problems of a vast sea of people from different cultures, classes, countries, and backgrounds.

In order to be an effective mirror to global society, Twitter thinks of itself primarily as a platform and does its best to get out of the way. Therefore, we know things we simply would not know otherwise — from the trivial to the serious. The people who want to scour mass media and cleanse it of all hateful or hurtful opinions miss that their purge would deny us important knowledge. Simply put, it is far better to know that there are bigots among us than to pretend all is well. As Harvey Silverglate, co-founder of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where I serve as president), likes to say, he supports free speech because he thinks it’s important that he know if there’s an anti-Semite in the room so he can make sure not to turn his back to that person.

April 21, 2014

Toronto subway delay due to “graffiti on exterior” of one train

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:27

No, I don’t really get it either:

April 5, 2014

Chris Kluwe’s suggestions for more constructive NFLPA texts-to-players

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:16

When they’re not on the playing field or otherwise engaged in preparing for the games, NFL and other high-profile sports players lead normal-ish lives. Most of them manage to blend in to the local community, but some achieve notoriety for their off-the-field antics. Chris Kluwe is still a member of the NFLPA (the union for NFL players), so he gets their occasional communications to the membership like this text message:

Mindful of the opportunity to help out some of those players whose off-the-field activities might get them into trouble, he has a few suggestions:

April 4, 2014

Free Speech NOW!

Filed under: Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:47

Spiked - Free Speech NOW

sp!ked launches a new project:

Every man should think what he likes and say what he thinks.’ It is 350 years since Spinoza, the great Dutchman of the Enlightenment, wrote those simple but profound words. And yet every man (and woman) is still not at liberty to think what he or she likes, far less say it. It is for this reason that, today, spiked is kicking off a transatlantic liberty-loving online magazine and real-world campaign called Free Speech Now! — to put the case for unfettered freedom of thought and speech; to carry the Spinoza spirit into the modern age; to make the case anew for allowing everyone to say what he thinks, as honestly and frankly as he likes.

It is true that, unlike in Spinoza’s day, no one in the twenty-first century is dragged to ‘the scaffold’ and ‘put to death’ for saying out loud what lurks in his heart — at least not in the Western world. But right now, right here, in the apparently democratic West, people are being arrested, fined, shamed, censored, cut off, cast out of polite society, and even jailed for the supposed crime of thinking what they like and saying what they think. You might not be hanged by the neck anymore for speaking your mind, but you do risk being hung out to dry, by coppers, the courts, censorious Twittermobs and other self-elected guardians of the allegedly right way of thinking and correct way of speaking.

Ours is an age in which a pastor, in Sweden, can be sentenced to a month in jail for preaching to his own flock in his own church that homosexuality is a sin. In which British football fans can be arrested for referring to themselves as Yids. In which those who too stingingly criticise the Islamic ritual slaughter of animals can be convicted of committing a hate crime. In which Britain’s leading liberal writers and arts people can, sans shame, put their names to a letter calling for state regulation of the press, the very scourge their cultural forebears risked their heads fighting against. In which students in both Britain and America have become bizarrely ban-happy, censoring songs, newspapers and speakers that rile their minds. In which offence-taking has become the central organising principle of much of the political sphere, nurturing virtual gangs of the ostentatiously outraged who have successfully purged from public life articles, adverts and arguments that upset them — a modern-day version of what Spinoza called ‘quarrelsome mobs’, the ‘real disturbers of the peace’.

[…]

The lack of a serious, deep commitment to freedom of speech is generating new forms of intolerance. And not just religious intolerance of the blasphemous, though that undoubtedly still exists (adverts in Europe have been banned for upsetting Christians and books in Britain and America have been shelved for fear that they might offend Muslims). We also have new forms of secular intolerance, with governmental scientists calling for ‘gross intolerance’ of those who promote quackery and serious magazines proposing the imprisonment of those who ‘deny’ climate change. Just as you can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre, so you shouldn’t be free to ‘yell “balderdash” at 10,883 scientific journal articles a year, all saying the same thing’, said a hip online mag this week. In other words, thou shalt not blaspheme against the eco-gospel. Where once mankind struggled hard for the right to ridicule religious truths, now we must fight equally hard for the right to shout balderdash at climate-change theories, and any other modern orthodoxy that winds us up, makes us mad, or which we just don’t like the sound of.

March 22, 2014

Turkish Twitter users work to circumvent the government’s ban

Filed under: Europe, Government, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:00

In the Guardian, Constanze Letsch reports from Istanbul as users of Twitter actively flout the government’s peevish ban of the online service:

Turkish users of Twitter, including the country’s president, have flouted a block on the social media platform by using text messaging services or disguising the location of their computers to continue posting messages on the site.

In what many Twitter users in Turkey called a “digital coup”, Telecom regulators enforced four court orders to restrict access to Twitter on Thursday night, just hours after the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vowed to “eradicate” the microblogging platform in an election speech.

The disruption followed previous government threats to clamp down on the social media and caused widespread outrage inside and outside Turkey. In a first reaction to the ban, Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European commission, tweeted: “The Twitter ban in #Turkey is groundless, pointless, cowardly. Turkish people and intl community will see this as censorship. It is.”

Štefan Füle, EU commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said in a statement: “The ban on the social platform Twitter.com in Turkey raises grave concerns and casts doubt on Turkey’s stated commitment to European values and standards.”

The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey quickly rose to the top trending term globally. According to social media agency We Are Social the number of tweets sent from Turkey went up 138% following the ban.

January 11, 2014

Do you tweet a lot? You might just be a narcissist

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:11

I’m not sure this even rises to the level of “bleeding obvious”, but Tom Jacobs connects the dots to make the point that narcissists on Twitter send frequent tweets:

Spotting a narcissist can be tricky, but newly published research suggests a tell-tale marker: Note how often he or she tweets.

“Narcissism does appear to be a primary driver for the desire for (Twitter) followers, which in turn drives tweets,” writes a research team led by Shaun Davenport of High Point University.

It reports in the journal Computers in Human Behavior that study participants with narcissistic tendencies tended to tweet more often than others, as well as to post more Facebook status updates.

Comparing the two social media platforms, the researchers found a generational divide, noting that “narcissistic college students prefer to post content on Twitter, while narcissistic adults prefer to post content on Facebook.”

This appears to reflect a difference in Facebook usage between millennials and members of earlier generations, with millennials’ posting of status updates being more routine and less likely to reflect narcissistic motives.

H/T to David Warren, who makes the obvious point:

December 4, 2013

The essential unseriousness of the Chong parliamentary reform debate

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 17:04

October 5, 2013

The future of post-IPO Twitter from the user perspective

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:40

In Maclean’s, Jesse Brown looks at the ominous signs of change for Twitter’s users in a post-IPO world:

As a private company, Twitter prioritized the user’s experience. I would go so far to say that providing an excellent user experience was the whole point of Twitter’s existence.

I didn’t get Twitter, at first. It seemed like just a stripped-down, feature-limited version of Facebook’s News Feed. Of course, that was the whole idea. By constraining users to 140 characters of text and a few buttons for sharing, “favoriting” or replying, and by eliminating the concept of mutually accepted friendship as a requirement for network growth, Twitter provided a simple, lightweight, super-charged information machine. The initial absence of pictures and video helped it move lightly across the slower phones of the time, and the arbitrary, spartan limitation on tweet length was a stroke of brilliance, forcing brevity upon its users to prevent blabbermouths and spammers from clogging up everybody’s feeds.

[…]

They will soon be under intense pressure to bring that number up, and in preparation, Twitter is moving away from sponsored tweets and sponsored trends, investing heavily in slick, complicated new ad products like Twitter Amplify, which embeds video clips into tweets with unskippable pre-roll ads. I can’t imagine any Twitter user saying “what this service really needs is some TV commercials!”

And whereas once Twitter played nicely with other apps, welcoming other companies (like Canada’s HootSuite) to build new apps that plug into Twitter and build on its network, they’ve since been frustrating developers with increasingly restrictive changes to its API, the interface it provides to outsiders. Last year, for example, Twitter put a cap on the number of users a third-party app could support. Now, if your Twitter-based service gets too popular, you’ll have to ask Twitter for permission to grow.

September 7, 2013

The online life of the professional athlete

Filed under: Business, Humour, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

Chris Kluwe has a bit of experience as both a professional athlete and as a social media guru. Here’s some advice from him on how other professionals should handle their Twitter feeds:

When you’re a professional athlete on social media, there are certain unspoken rules (I lied, some of them are spoken in media meetings) you’re expected to abide by. The team (or company, really) wants you to be engaging, because that draws interest and boosts ticket/jersey sales, but it’s best if you’re only engaging on innocuous subjects. Teams really like it when you tweet “Rise and grind” each morning, or “gr8 day wth my tmmates, gettin that work in,” or “TEAM PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITY GOES HERE” — because it’s seen as the pinnacle of wit, you’re interacting with fans, and above all, it’s comfortably inoffensive (except, perhaps, to those with a dislike of the redundant and an appreciation of spelling and grammar, but no one really cares about those people, amirite?). Michael Jordan’s famous quote holds even more true today than it did in the ’90s:

“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

You see, we’re in the business of selling you entertainment! We’re also in the business of selling you everything that goes along with entertainment, like sneakers, and jerseys, and sweatsuits, and mini-helmets, and commemorative plates, and cars, and alcohol… well, you get the idea. The funny thing about entertainment companies is that without fail, they want to grab the biggest slice of the pie they can, and the pie is biggest when it’s watered down and spread out and so generic that anyone can stomach a bite. It might not taste like much, but it sure is easy to keep choking it down the old gullet.

What teams don’t like is spice. Flavor. Something that makes people angry, gets folks riled up. They hate to see those messages that could possibly alienate a buyer, no matter how odious that buyer’s views may be.

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