Schmaltz on wry


Posts tagged with "geekery"

May 7

a sports writer relied on words that come from Old Norse (“scary” and “crazy”) to describe a game’s windy and rainy weather conditions. “It provides a certain primal, unhinged quality to the situation,” he writes.

- Word-by-Word Pictures of the History of English - Rebecca J. Rosen - Technology - The Atlantic

But could you imagine working with two email systems today, one to communicate with internal colleagues and one for external contacts? The same will be true for collaboration tools going forward.


8 Reasons Your Social Initiative Will Fail | Fast Company

I compare having a social media strategy to having an email strategy. It makes sense early in the technology’s life, but as social becomes more and more embedded, having a standalone strategy for it becomes more counter-productive. Technologies become embedded in people’s daily interactions, and so they need to become embedded in business-as-usual (BAU) within organisations.

Danah Boyd’s talk at RMIT - Privacy in Networked Publics

My notes from danah boyd’s talk at RMIT University in Melbourne, 09/02/2012 - “Privacy in Networked Publics”

Now, these are my personal notes. Note-taking habits like FB meaning Facebook are pretty easy to decode, but there may be other things you have questions about - in which case, please ask me.

Three asterisks mean that point is particularly relevant to me and my studies. YMMV.

If this is the first you’re hearing about boyd, check her out at @zephoria and

  • "if you’re not participating, you have to have a really good reason"
  • "they go to the places which appear to them to be free" (since they don’t have access to public spaces)
  • "friendship maintenance" - older friendships
  • "friendships get formed in very social places" "social grooming … this is how friendships get formed"
  • "social media, because this is where they have access to"
  • "young people’s right to roam has been radically decreased over three generations"
  • "very much constrained, very locally, into their house"
  • "Networked Publics" - "recreate or reunderstand our public space" "publics that are restructured by networked technologies. as such, they simultaneously are (1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined commuity that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice"
  • "even though you can scale to big audiences, doesn’t mean you’re going to reach big audiences"
  • "collapsed contexts: lack of spatial, social, and temporal boundaries makes it difficult to maintain distinct social contexts" - part of networked publics
  • "an environment that is simultaneously being derived by the idea of peer norms, and what is regulated by adults"
  • ability to have agency can be undermined - figures of authority, changes in environment [e.g. FB privacy controls]
  • "public by default, private by effort" online - so it looks like young people are giving up privacy online, because they’re going default. "if it’s relevant to some of my friends, i may as well share it generally, and THEY can filter it out"
  • "it’s not that they want to be public … it’s that they want to participate in a public"
  • "they’re there to socialise … connect … build relationships"
  • "It made me feel safer just because someone was there to help me out and stuff." (Meixing, 17, TN, re sharing password with boyfriend) [came from parents demanding access as trustworthy adults]
  • "just because it’s publicly accessible doesn’t mean it was meant for you"
  • "using structural settings" - e.g. FB privacy settings
  • "structurally achieving some kind of boundary work" - using technology to create boundaries for context
  • then there are social ways to achieve this:
  • "hiding in plain sight" - because parents are already on your FB
  • ***”they make their content publicly accessible, but the meaning isn’t publicly accessible”
  • ***you can still be private in FB - adults don’t know how to decode so they don’t know what’s going on
  • bullying = “drama” in teen speak
  • concept of the flaneur - participating in public sphere to get something back - not exhibitionist, not voyeur, somewhere in between
  • "they’re going out there, they’re looking, they’re watching, they’re trying to make sense of, they’re sharing in order to be seen"
  • "you’re rendered invisible unless you share"
  • ***”you’re not there unless you participate”
  • "they’re learning to expect surveillance"
  • "they’re learning privacy in the context of surveillance"
  • privacy still important
  • ***”trying to be in a public” not “trying to be public”
Q&A session
  • 4chan: “hacking the attention economy”
  • religion as key reason for opting out of internet [family decision]
  • sports scholarship as reason for choosing not to participate in FB
  • already so marginalised in school society, choose to opt out of FB because it’ll just marginalise them further
  • starting to see “emotional exhaustion” wrt FB
  • young people & twitter, 3 main reasons: celebrities, gaming trending topics, protected accounts - private for small group of friends, used as well as FB - Twitter binary privacy & access, FB hard to know for sure [privacy controls keep changing]
  • no longer safe spaces for GLBT youth online - fear of sexual predators, don’t speak to people IRL - where do they speak??? who do they speak to? not getting support online like they were 2001 and before. it gets better campaign - youth make videos, reach out, find that there’s no-one there for them - suicides.
  • dominant activity now definitely is still existing friendships being recreated online
  • ***but too much fear mongering has turned kids off the idea of meeting strangers with the same interest
  • "they self regulate and they don’t meet strangers in the way they did previously"
  • meeting new people - dominant is “jockeying for attention of opposite sex in friends of friends”
My question
  • sites like tumblr making opportunities - kids can just push content out, but not so much with the personal - but can be a way to gauge what support is out there.
  • mmorpgs are sites where personal communication can be a safe side activity, divert attention

AdaCamp 2012

On January 14, I attended the AdaCamp unconference at the CERES Community Environment Park. Adacamp is run by the Ada Initiative, “a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing participation of women in open technology and culture”. The sessions I attended ranged in topic from a holistic view of the philosophies of open computing and culture, through to a discussion of online and offline community and event management, and how to get more young women interested in working in IT. The attendees came industry, research, and that wonderfully nebulous in-between land where their geek cred is established after hours, and their day job is as boring as Clark Kent’s. The unconference model meant the day was relaxed and people were able to be creative and inspired in interactive sessions.

I was eager to lead a discussion about my PhD research topic, girls creating media on social networking sites and personal homepages. I hoped to get inspiration for how I think and write about how girls manage their personal data on social networking sites like Facebook, and how commercial interests can be at cross-purposes with the girls’ social and emotional needs. Well, I certainly got that inspiration - and a whole lot more throughout the day. I was fascinated by the potential clashes between how open movements usually work, and methods to improve women’s participation rates in IT. I empathised in the discussions about how important mentoring is in the IT community, and how difficult it can be to obtain when people rely too heavily on a DIY mentality. I even learnt about how the radio industry works in Australia, and how learnings from it can help us think about empowering and educating young people interested in working in IT.

Adacamp was the first event of the Ada Initiative, and based on the calibre of the attendees, the quality of conversations, the extent of networking, and the amount that I learnt, I know I can’t wait til the next one.

This post will be cross-posted at my employer’s blog at

The Top Social Networks of 2006

What a wonderful blast from the past - Mashable’s summary of 2006, looking ahead to 2007.

WalMart Clones MySpace, Badly (another blast from the past)

Brilliant, somehow I missed this back in 2006 (I was still working in speech recognition, and hadn’t joined Facebook yet, so I guess I was a little slow).

Facebook introduces ads to the news feed, marking them as ads by using grey text on a grey background, and positioning the text as far away as possible from where the user’s eyes start taking in the content. Nice one, Facebook.

Facebook introduces ads to the news feed, marking them as ads by using grey text on a grey background, and positioning the text as far away as possible from where the user’s eyes start taking in the content. Nice one, Facebook.

Finally, if your solution to sexist abuse on the internet is, “Just don’t let anyone know your gender, or see a picture of you, or ever mention where you live” (as one of the first commenters on Watson’s post suggested), you are so fucking awful, I can’t even. It’s not just that you’re putting all the onus on the targets of hatred to change so that bullies won’t have to, or that you’re conveniently ignoring situations, in almost 20fucking12, where a woman might want to have her picture and contact info on the internet for, I dunno, business reasons? For example? And it’s not even that you’re representing yourself as someone who’s clearly more internet-savvy than the lady blogger in question, but you apparently don’t realize that a highly motivated person can pretty easily discover the identity behind a pseudonym. No, it’s that you’re arguing that abuse of women online would solve itself if only women disappeared from the internet. Oh, of course that’s not what you’re saying! I know, I know. In the scenario you describe, sexist shitheads would know that there were still women out there–it wouldn’t be as though around half the human race had just vanished!–but they wouldn’t know which specific screen names deserved to have their hotness assessed, their gender mocked, their ideas dismissed, and their bodies threatened. So they wouldn’t even need to bother with all that! PROBLEM SOLVED YOU’RE WELCOME. Know what, dude who thinks this? You’re probably the awfulest. That’s all.


Kate Harding, quoted by the Hoydens (again, because I love them), in Yes, you are awful too

The other part of this argument that gets under my skin is how it places no responsibility for change on the misogynists/men, and presumably because - just like rapists’ urges to rape are controlled by variable skirt lengths and cleavage display - misogynists are being controlled by their reaction to women. If women exist, misogynists will be misogynist, and so (goes the implicit insane troll logic) you can’t really fault the men for hating on the women. If you get rid of the women, you’ll get rid of the hate. Because men are creatures of urges and lusts, and the urge to hate is controlled by women, like the urge to rape is controlled by women.

I am so irritated by this, I can’t quite argue straight. But you know what I’m getting at. Misogynists are horrible hateful people not because women exist, but because misogynists are horrible hateful people. They’re the ones that need to change, and they can change, and they are not being held in thrall to women’s existence.

In Defense of Tweeting About Tea and Biscuits

The wonderful women at The Pursuit of Harpyness have published what seems like a plaintive, personal post about missing friends and using social media to reconnect with them, albeit in public. But what they’re really pointing out is that when we live our lives in public, and when there are precious few technologies which give us both that so necessary ease and ability to connect with our farflung loved ones, and the option to do so in a private group setting, someone ends up losing out. And it’s very rarely that a person decides that they will bow out of the social networking arena and lose out by cutting themselves off from their social network. Mostly, it’s that person’s audience, which may comprise workmates, casual acquaintances, childhood friends, lovers, family members, and employers - and at any given point, at least one of these types of people will not want to read what’s being written for the benefit of another group.

And the Harpies are right - the recurring scenario when someone publishes something that some of their audience has no interest in consuming is not a sign that the social networking generation is pursuing fame through publicity. Rather, it’s a sign that the social networking technologies are not adept enough at supporting the genuine complexities of our social networks. Because it is reasonable to want to post something on a personal presence, even if some audience members don’t care to read it. You can please some of the people, etc …

Dec 4

Android vs Apple

So I’m currently developing a strand of thought, trying to decide if I’m actually onto something, or if I’m totally off the mark. Please comment with your thoughts.

What I’m pondering is: Will Apple’s abilities to enmesh people emotionally in its ecosystem and create a true ubiquitous computing experience, ultimately trump Android’s ability to create a robust, sophisticated and very visible technology ecosystem?

I firmly believe in the superiority of Android’s technology and structure. Open source, hackable, non-proprietary, portable and therefore ultimately sophisticated, it speaks to me of both old skool geek cred, and a future of unlimited potential for expansion. It encourages experimentation and exploration of the technology, and it provides access to a wealth of knowledge.

But I get frustrated by Google’s lack of slick integration, and dream wistfully of a technological landscape where a new product that I want (hi there, Android tablets) fits effortlessly into my existing portfolio of tech toys. I set up my Android phone once, and then would be comfortable with only rarely ‘hacking’ around with its settings and ROM/Os. I now am dreaming of the slick Ice Cream Sandwich interface, and am less concerned with phone hardware technologies which seem to be rapidly converging into a single track race towards complacency.

In short, as an old skool PC geek, a DIY-er and wannabe coder, I am becoming engaged by the interface, and less by the underlying technology. And to be precise: I am becoming engaged by the concept of the interface becoming irrelevant. This is the ubiquitous computing we were promised back in 1988 by Mark Weiser, and this is the computing principle which explains why Apple can get away with such a primitive menu structure in their iPhones. People are content not spending brainpower on engaging with the interface - they just want to get to Angry Birds and spend their brainpower there. (But that’s a whole other debate for another day.) As the technology known as the iPhone is so effortless and simple, it essentially disappears (ubiquitous computing has also been known as ‘invisible computing’), and here lies the rub of the Apple Addiction Experience - you try living without something you depend upon but scarcely even notice is there. In the old days, we used to say ‘Try leaving your watch at home one day’. Now apparently The Kids(TM) don’t even wear watches. But I digress. 

The acres of ‘how to customise your Android tool’ content on the web (how old skool is the web, hey? Soon to be dead, according to the Wired magazine on my bookshelf - oh god, I’m dating myself) prove to me that I am not keeping up with my fellow old skoolers in how I’m starting to become disenchanted with the Android experience. But then, how strong a customer engagement approach is one which depends on a core customer base of old skool geeks who want to get into the inner workings of their phone? I’m not saying this is what Google is doing with Android, but as we wait for as sophisticated and addicting an ecosystem as Apple’s, it does feel like the current survival of Android is precariously predicated on the geek dollar rather than the everydayschlub dollar. And let’s face it - there are more everydayschlubs out there than geeks.

Although it bears mentioning that Android is currently massacring Apple with its willingness to provide reasonably priced and entry level smartphones. With Apple, the motto appears to be “spend big and get the best” (“or bugger off back to Nokia, you lower class fool”). The day Apple comes out with a sub $500 iPhone is the day the battle is lost, and the green robot is obliterated for all time. IMHO.

Meanwhile, while Android geeks keep playing with the tech (hi there, William Gibson fans), on marches Apple with its range of simple, simplified tools which obscure the hardware (and often even the software) in order to provide the content experience people are looking for. (I first wrote ‘computing experience’, but even that isn’t correct - Apple is scarcely making ‘computers’ any more, the way we used to know them. Then I wrote ‘information experience’, but, well, I doubt Norbert Wiener had Angry Birds in mind when he refined the concept of cybernetics.)

So, yes, I am looking forward to Ice Cream Sandwich (though will it be hamstrung by this same focus on technology that I believe Android suffers from?). I am looking forward to when Android tablets hook into as compelling a range of tablet apps as the iPad does. I remain hopeful that the ecosystem is coming. But in the meantime, I am becoming jealous of my iFriends with their effortless experience of ubiquitous computing, and I am wondering whether the Android trope of customisation, technological freedom, and hackery is rapidly becoming obsolete in this Appled world.