Tag Archives: online

It’s time to recognize the reality of our digital lives

There’s a habit people have of referring to the offline world as “real”… as in IRL, or “in real life”. The implication is that the online world isn’t real, and that the portion of our lives spent there somehow doesn’t count.

Alex challenged this idea in a blockbuster blog post on Harvard Business Review, 10 Reasons to Stop Apologizing for Your Online Life, where she argued that this artificial division causes real harm – offline and online:

It’s not the Internet itself that leads to pathologies like cyber-bullying, spam and identity theft. Rather it’s our decision – individually and collectively – to separate the Internet from the context, norms and experience that guide human behavior. It’s our decision to engage in online interaction as if it were fundamentally different from offline conversation. It’s our decision to label the Internet as something – anything! – other than real life.

Alex was featured yesterday morning on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show, talking about this in more depth with some examples – including how she took her own advice while responding to a hostile comment on the original blog post.

The conversation continues to unfold on Twitter, on Alex’s blog, on her HBR blog and on a growing number of other blogs. Why not join in?

Great Bear Rainforest: more to the campaign

I posted here yesterday about the Great Bear Rainforest, and the coalition of environmental groups pressing for its protection. I mentioned their online petition campaign, but it turns out there’s more.

Darren Barefoot, whose company is working with the coalition, posted this appeal for online support:

If you’re keen to help beyond signing the petition, consider any of the following:

Social Signal is hiring a web services consultant/Drupal trainee and web project manager

Yep… it’s that time again: a fabulous opportunity to work alongside my favourite people. (Caveat: you also have to work alongside me.)

We’re hiring a web services consultant/Drupal trainee

You’ll have a hands-on role in developing and implementing online community projects for our diverse range of clients. We don’t need a programmer, but we do need someone who enjoys working with computers, is very web-savvy and can learn lightning fast. We’ll equip you with the tech skills you need for the job; you need to come equipped with your own communications savvy, political smarts, and love of new tech challenges. If you love the idea of launching a career in technology for social change, this is your chance. [Full posting here]

…and a Drupal web project manager:

We’re looking for a progressive, highly-organized individual who can grapple with the details without losing sight of the big picture – someone who understands technology and its power, but who always keeps our clients’ mission, goals and deadlines first and foremost. You’re a born multi-tasker who can set priorities, adapt to change and crunch budgets. You don’t need to be übergeeky, but we do need someone who enjoys working online and grasps new ideas quickly. You communicate efficiently and elegantly, with the political smarts to make sound decisions for public-facing clients. And you know how to manage both up and down in an organization to get the decisions, support, deliverables and results you need on time and under budget. [Full posting here]

And who’s Social Signal?

Social Signal puts the web to work for social change, helping organizations turn online communities into a powerful force for progress. We have extensive experience in the non-profit, public and private sectors, and a large network of local, national and international colleagues and clients that you’ll be working with on a regular basis. We’ve built ground-breaking sites like ChangeEverything.ca and NetSquared.org that demonstrate the social and strategic value of online community. While you expand your professional network and skills, we also hope you’ll enjoy being part of our personal network of technology leaders and community advocates in Vancouver and abroad.

Adobe releases Apollo… so just where does my desktop end now?

Adobe Labs has released an alpha version of its upcoming development environment, Apollo. (It replaces a higher-performance technology, Starbuck, which ran into stability problems. And that’ll be it for the cheap Battlestar Galactica references… at least in this post.)

(Alpha software is notorious for causing computers to burst into flames and run around the office while holding scissors, so download and use with caution.)

The promise is a technology to create applications that run on your desktop, but integrate your computer’s locally-stored data with content from the online world. And those applications can have interfaces that look nothing at all like the usual Windows or Macintosh application (heh- I just flashed on Kai’s Power Tools), drawing on technology such as Flash.

So just as applications traditionally associated with the desktop are migrating to the web (hello, Office 2.0), the web is putting down roots on your hard drive. And as web sites look more and more like applications, the boundary between your computer and the outside world is getting harder and harder to define.

Photoshop, it’s not about you. It’s about me.

Believe me, Photoshop, you’re amazing. The things you can do with the Curves control, with channels, with compositing, with custom filters… you still take my breath away.

But lately we’ve been getting on each other’s nerves. Come on, admit it: you feel like I don’t appreciate you when I fire up the world’s most comprehensive image editing software just to crop some logo I found on the web. And I feel like you’re being too needy when you demand so much startup time, memory and processor overhead just to adjust the contrast on a photo.

Look, you need to know: there’s… there’s someone else.

Their name? Their name doesn’t matter. What matters is… okay, fine. It’s Snipshot. Are you happy?

Yes, they’re from Vancouver. But that’s not why I’ve been using them.

It’s because Snipshot lets me do the kind of simple, nimble image manipulation I so often need… and do it without opening anything but my browser. Yeah – it’s a web application, and it’s free.

You know what? I can install a little bookmarklet in my browser bar, and any time I’m on a web page with a graphic I want to use, I click on the bookmarklet, select the image and start editing. It’s fast and easy, and free.

Imagine combining that with Flickr. Do you know how liberating that is? Do you know how young and alive that makes me feel?

I’m sorry, that was cruel.

Listen, Snipshot isn’t perfect. For instance, I’d love an easier way of taking screenshots of entire web pages, and while I can use Snipshot with a service like Browsershots, it would be a lot cooler if there was something that could automatically grab whatever was on my clipboard and edit it.

And Snipshot is fast and easy, but nowhere near as smart and sophisticated as you are. I’m not even talking about your filters, type handling, layers, channels and effects – you handle far bigger pictures, with far more file formats, with far more precision than Snipshot could ever hope to. This year, anyways.

So this isn’t goodbye, Photoshop. It’s au revoir. I’ll still be bringing you out for the big and medium-sized jobs all the time. It’s just the little stuff where I’ll be using Snipshot… although granted, it’s little stuff that comes up a whole lot. And that kind of mundane work is beneath a piece of software as big and powerful as you are.

No, I’m not being patronizing. I mean it. We can still be friends, right? Good.

What, right now? Um, actually, now isn’t good for me. I have this little GIF that needs cropping, so I thought I’d, uh, use Snipshot and…

Photoshop? Hello?

Prepare to be spun

If you have a blog, you’ve had to deal with everything from comment spammers to juvenile flame warriors. Well, brace yourself: your blog may soon pick up a new breed of online pest.

According to the folks at Blanton’s and Ashton’s, paid commenters are now cruising the blogging world and trying to skew the conversation on behalf of their clients:

Recently I have had several visits from http://arrca.netvocates.com/Default/index.cfm?, most recently to the posting on Congressman Rush Holt’s appearance on Lou Dobbs. “Who”, I wondered, “are Netvocates?” I did a little checking and now I know. Basically, Netvocates is an organization that sends people out to web logs to post propoganda in comments. They appear to be tied to conservatives and there appears to be a tie to townhall.com, the ultra-right-wing web site. Cybersoc.com spent time running down the facts on Netvocates and the man behind Netvocates. I recommend that people who read blogs check out the Cybersoc.com posting. Education is armor.

Is Google killing the smart-ass headline?

Yes, according to the New York Times:

[N]ews organizations large and small have begun experimenting with tweaking their Web sites for better search engine results. But software bots are not your ordinary readers: They are blazingly fast yet numbingly literal-minded. There are no algorithms for wit, irony, humor or stylish writing. The software is a logical, sequential, left-brain reader, while humans are often right brain.

In newspapers and magazines, for example, section titles and headlines are distilled nuggets of human brainwork, tapping context and culture. “Part of the craft of journalism for more than a century has been to think up clever titles and headlines, and Google comes along and says, ‘The heck with that,’ ” observed Ed Canale, vice president for strategy and new media at The Sacramento Bee.

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing, daddy?” Lizzie and George’s daughter repeatedly asks in Kurt Andersen’s Turn of the Century. Her inquiries often focus on some technological innovation and its side-effects, and I imagine she’d be asking it about this one, too.

The world can do with more headlines that convey a clear, pithy message. But can’t we have a little levity with our brevity?

Maybe we can… and maybe we don’t have to wait for artificial intelligence to develop a sense of humour. Back when a friend of mine was writing for the University of Ottawa’s student newspaper, The Fulcrum, he never missed a chance for a punned headline. His high-water mark came when the paper covered (if I remember the story correctly) student apathy over pornographic magazines sold at Pivik, the university’s student-run store.

The headline: “Pivik pack porn, and I don’t care”.

Which I suspect Google would have dealt with quite handily.

Meanwhile, what goes for online newspapers goes double for blogs. While papers can often rely on a large and mostly loyal online readership, blogs often have to compete for readers’ attention. And a prominent place in search engine results is one of the most likely ways you’ll get it.
My most popular pages, especially among folks coming from search engines all have something in common: headlines that clearly and unambiguously state the topic of the post. Wit, in those cases, comes a distant second.

What’s your experience? And what’s your favourite witty-yet-informative headline?