Tag Archives | Internet

iPad Crushes Net

Among the iPad’s amazing features: It can single-handledly bring the entire Internet to a crawl

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My Beef With SarcMark

Period, question mark, exclamation point — the written word has done just fine with these three sentence-ending punctuations, but Sarcasm, Inc. reckons there’s room for one more.

The SarcMark aims to make sarcasm easier to express online, essentially by beating the reader over the head with it. Add the squiggly and dot to the end of a sentence, and you’ll know your words won’t be interpreted as genuine. Make no mistake, the SarcMark is a real product, selling for $2 if you want to type it on your Mac, Windows or Blackberry keyboard by holding Ctrl and pressing “.”

If you can’t tell from the tone of my words alone, I’m not convinced the world needs a SarcMark. For that matter I’m not certain the very concept isn’t a work of sarcasm.

The problem with SarcMark is partly technical. Unless the idea catches on in the mainstream, you’ll have to explain its meaning to everyone who sees it. So you’re explaining a punctuation that’s explaining sarcasm. That’s not redundant or anything.

But the bigger issue is that sarcasm doesn’t deserve the easy pass, even if the problem it’s trying to solve is genuine. There are plenty of emotions that are tough to convey in words alone, such as dejection, skepticism, urgency and calm. Why should sarcasm, above all, get its own punctuation?

Let’s just give sarcasm an emoticon and call it a day.


Is the US Beginning to Log Off the Internet?

Data from Harris Interactive seems to indicate that weekly Internet usage may be peaking, indicating that the dire predictions of the death of interpersonal communication as predicted by some communications scholars (mine in college included!) and your Mom and Dad may be a little premature. Since 1999, when Harris first began tracking weekly Internet usage, the number has been for the most part steadily increasing from 7 hours to a peak of 14 hours last year.

The biggest jump was from 2007 to last, and this likely had a lot to do with the explosion in growth in social networking sites. Twitter and Facebook, both very time-consuming if you get heavily involved in the status update side of things, both saw dramatic growth in this period. Additionally, a very competitive presidential election probably contributed to added time online as well, Harris speculates.

No surprise that the most active age group online is those 30-39 years old, spending 18 hours a week online on average. Again no surprise that those 65+ are spending far less time connected at 8 hours. Either way you slice it, if you have a computer you’re likely online: Harris reports a 98 percent of computer users have an online connection, or about 184 million adults.

Will these numbers still go up? It’s likely they will as more services move to the Internet (video, etc.) But it does look like the rapid growth in Internet use is slowing considerably, both in the numbers logging on and time spent. There’s probably several ways one could interpret Harris’ findings.

Yes folks, it’s good to log off sometimes: I know that because I sit here in front of a computer 30+ hours a week blogging and writing. After awhile you just need to disconnect. Then again, I find myself on my iPhone if I’m not on the computer, so maybe I’m never truly disconnected…

(Image from “Wall-E,” copyright Pixar, Inc.)


Survey: Social Media Makes Kids Better Writers

The debate over whether computers are making kids dumb was reignited today with a BBC report about a survey which concluded that children who use technology may be better writers.

The survey was conducted by the UK’s National Literacy Trust with a sample size of 3,001 school children aged nine and showed that 16. 24% had their own blog, 82% sent text messages at least once a month, and 73% used instant messaging services, according to the BBC’s report.

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DARPA Offers $40,000 to Spot Ten Red Balloons

The Defense Department’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) program will be looking at how information spreads virally on the internet through a contest looking to see who can be the first to correctly spot ten red weather balloons around the country.

These balloons will be launched from “readily accessible locations and visible from nearby roads” on Saturday. Those wishing to participate in the contest must first register at DARPA’s website and would have until December 14 to complete their submissions.

The agency hopes to understand how information goes viral. Specifically, the website says the effort “will explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.”

Participants are already harnessing the social aspects of the Internet in order to compete. Websites such as ispyaredballoon.com have popped up to centralize and verify reports, and in some cases, if a team wins the winnings would be divided among those who correctly report balloon locations.

DARPA has made sure that no one person would be able to spot all of the balloons, thus they would be spread out pretty far across the entire country, according to reports. About 1,500 have signed up to participate, with another 1,000 expected to register before the contest begins.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this contest pans out, as it could have some real world implications. Obviously, the Defense Department would like to understand how information spreads — especially to assist in counterterrorism measures.

We’d like to know if you spot a balloon tomorrow. Let us know here in the comments. (Maybe we should have a Technologizer team?)


Rise. Shine. Check E-Mail.

Lady using laptop in bedThe New York Times has noticed a trend that’s been going on for…well, for decades, probably, but it’s now entirely mainstream: Folks sometimes leap online first thing in the morning, before they’ve so much as brushed their teeth. (Back in the 1990s at the height of AOL addiction, I’m sure plenty of people started their day by checking to see if They Had Mail; as a high school student in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I sometimes took the idea to its logical conclusion by staying up all night on the computer, so there was no waking up involved the next morning.)

Here’s today’s T-Poll–I’m refusing to take this one myself, but you can probably guess what my answer would be…


Craigslist is Newspapers’ Silent Killer

craigslistpeaceWith all of the newspaper industry’s huffing and puffing over Google and other news aggregators, you’d hardly suspect that print journalism has another major problem on its hands.

New research (PDF) from the Pew Internet and American Life Project solidifies what I’ve been hearing for a long time: It’s the classifieds, silly.

Over the last four years, use of online classified services such as Craigslist has more than doubled, Pew’s research found. Almost half of Internet users go online for classifieds now, compared to 22 percent in 2005. Every day, 9 percent of Internet users hit up Craigslist and other online classifieds, compared to four percent in 2005.

The cost to newspapers is immense. After reaching peak revenues of $19.5 billion in 2000, classifieds in American newspapers pulled in less than $10 billion last year. In other words, newspapers have lost half their classified revenue in the last eight years, while online classified use has doubled in half that time.

This begs the question of whether there’s any way for newspapers to stop the bleeding. Last month, I read a stirring essay by Jeff Jarvis about how the industry blew its chance to become a major player in the Internet age. Even if newspaper companies could somehow find a way to keep practicing journalism — Jarvis argues that it’s too late for that, even — I’m not sure the same could be said for classifieds. What could a newspaper offer that Craigslist cannot?

Missing from Pew’s research is any explanation for why online classifieds seem to be cannibalizing newspapers’ business, but it’s got to be that deadly mixture of (mostly) free and immediate. Want to get rid of that dresser today? No need to wait for tomorrow’s paper, and no one else will ask for a cut of the sales. Maybe hyperlocal papers could offer robust classifieds in markets too small for Craigslist to cover, but for cities, the opportunity was lost years ago.


What Happens On The Internet Stays On The Internet (Duh)

internetanonymityTo preface, on a whim I searched the above phrase in Google and was surprised by how many results came up, verbatim (minus the “duh”). There’s even a T-shirt. I guess it can never be said enough.

In an article that hits close to home, the Chronicle of Higher Education notes how former writers for their college newspapers are shocked and chagrined to see their past words coming back to haunt them. The most telling anecdotes come from an education reporter whose old essay on college hookup culture was used against her by white supremacists and a Marine who feared his comrades would discover his essays on war, politics and economic policy.

In both cases, the editors refused to take down the old articles. They also would not “hide” the essays from search engines.

Coincidentally, The Business Insider’s Dan Frommer writes that a fellow Medill alumnus is circulating a petition to “darken” offending stories.

This is not the same situation as, say, when someone posts pictures of you without your knowledge or when you get arrested and turn up in the police blotter for all to see. These people wrote for an outlet which they knew appeared online, but failed to realize that their writing would stick around forever.

I’m not totally unsympathetic. Elementary school parents reading an education reporter probably don’t want to hear her opinions on sex. Having never served in the military, I can’t comment on the culture there, but I take the Marine’s word that he potentially faces some awkward situations.

In the end, though, the Internet is far too vast for people to demand retractions for everything that doesn’t sit well in retrospect. If someone really wants to dig up dirt on you, they’ll find it anyway.

Bottom line? Whether you’re a professional writer, commenter or occasional forum poster who doesn’t use an alias, be willing to stand by your writing for as long as the Internet exists, or be ready to explain why those words are no longer relevant. Otherwise, don’t write.


Can’t Get Free Food? Blame the Internet.

kfcchickenThe other day, I was browsing through my Twitter feed and spotted a link to a free meal coupon from KFC. Needing dinner, I printed out the coupon and took it to my local restaurant for some free grilled chicken, two sides and a biscuit. I also retweeted the link and told some friends through e-mail.

To put it another way, I helped the offer go viral. As demand soared, KFC began experiencing difficulties. Not everyone was getting their chicken, and some angry would-be diners went so far as to protest en masse.

It didn’t help that the Internet made it easy to exploit the system. Getting the coupon required downloading and installing a program that ensures you’re only printing one, but it didn’t take long for people to find the PDF version, which was offered to viewers of Oprah on the night of the show. I believe this is how the promotion started, but it certainly wasn’t how it ended.

A variation on this theme occurred earlier this year, when Quizno’s decided to give away one million subs for free. Not more than a two days after the promotion began, customers reported being turned away or subjected to bait-and-switch from franchise owners. In a memo, Quizno’s corporate noted the impressive speed with which the campaign spread and increased the reimbursement level to each franchise as a result.

That information spreads quickly over the Internet is no revelation, but these examples show how quickly the Web can motivate people to get their free lunch. That leads to store owners getting overwhelmed, which leads to backlash. Fast food chains, consider yourselves warned.


Time Again to Worry About the Internet

bandwidthLast week, The Times created a minor panic by reporting that we’re on track to run out of bandwidth by 2012, pointing to a study that blames greater demand than supply.

Unfortunately, the story is peppered with inaccuracies and sensationalizes the problem, according to one of the study’s researchers who spoke with me. Let’s start with the fact that the study by Nemertes Research isn’t “to be published later this year,” as The Times says, but rather dates to late 2008. More importantly, the claim that “cyberspace is filling up” is based on faulty assumptions about the research.

So if you picked up the story via Engadget, CrunchGear or even Broadband Reports, perhaps a bit of clarification is in order.

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