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post 29 on Wednesday 16th May 2007 at 17:30

Mamma's Got A Brand New Tablet

Ray Mallon drawn with the mouseRay Mallon drawn with the stylus and tabletBought myself a new drawing tablet today. Can you guess who it is yet? Ray Mallon of course! Now just how did Middlesbroughís favourite elected Mayor get to be on mtjt again? Can you see how the first image more accurately represents his growling, licking-piss-off-a-thistle countenance, even with Flashís lack of pressure sensitivity support? The tablet was only £20. Which is just as well - I have a zero tolerance approach to spending money on hardware. :)

tags: [ online ] [ ray mallon ]
post 30 on Thursday 17th May 2007 at 09:50

Rise Of The Mumnet

Sisters are logging on for themselvesI have just read on the BBC that young women now outnumber their male counterparts online. Theyíll be spending an estimated $22.1bn on the interweb in 2007 - no doubt on utter tat (for evidence of this please see below). Women also now account for 38% of online gamers.

But this doesnít reflect a seismic shift in women becoming more capable or tech-savvy, nor even does it have anything to do with women, men or gender. Itís to do with the web becoming more accessible, more advertised, more promoted; and is part of rise of the culture of the web. Every body with a face has a web site and women are still only into babies and handbags. I bet the games women play online help them grow, suckle and rear cyber babies.

But the difference between women and men, in real life and online, is that women are more comfortable with social networking. We gossip over coffee. We idle away hours wondering what everyone else is up to. And now we add unknowns to our "friend list" with the hope of idle chit-chat. And with the rise of Web 2.0 applications, such as Facebook, this is easily done online. Meanwhile, the men are frantically searching for women with which to engage themselves in cyber sex.

Iím starting to realise the web world is not much different to the real world. And while it used to be the domain of the technically adept, itís fast becoming a corporate breeding ground in which greedy ethics naturally entice a full societal spectrum. And so now the masses have been admitted. The women want babies, the men want sex. As above, so below. Everybody's happy.

Top Sites For Women Age 18-34 (BBC)

tags: [ culture ] [ domestics ] [ feminist rants ] [ online ]
post 35 on Friday 8th June 2007 at 11:31

How The Boro Got Its Mayor

How the Boro got its MayorFurther to a perhaps obsessive interest in Ray Mallon, Mayor of Middlesbrough; and partly triggered by a speech I received from Ray in my first year at Uni, I have created this short animation, which offers an alternative scenario to Middlesbroughís first manís arrival in this world. I was given a very loose brief for a 30 second web-based animation from my lecturer. Perhaps dangerously loose.

May I also take this opportunity to thank my kind boys who supplied support, voices, tea and audio editing - cheers sweeties! You are AMAZING!

tags: [ animation ] [ boro ] [ culture ] [ jokes ] [ online ] [ ray mallon ] [ university of teesside ]
post 37 on Sunday 24th June 2007 at 07:33

Do (Google) Machines Like Flowers?

Mahalo is Hawaiian for thank you...and it likes flowers...For the last six months or so, Google's dominance has had me worried. Just recently, Google has left me feeling like there must be something else. Anyone who has ever done even the smallest amount of search engine optimisation, submission, or following, will surely know how important it is that Google is appeased. But can you send Google a bunch of flowers and hope it takes kindly to you?

No - the machine is too big for that. And machines don't like flowers.

And that's what it is - a dirty great big shed-load of code, algorithms, and other machine-based fluff. The machine has the final say.

In 2001, when the internet was still in nappies, and search engines must surely have been the simplest of creatures, I remember thinking "so where's the front door to all this access?" Resultantly, Google has surely has been my front door since a friend introduced us way back then.

And since then, well, their interminable market dominance and the reliability of their search has had me coming back for more for six years. They have the clever search tech, they have Page Ranking, and they have Link Popularity. They no doubt have millions of search algorithm nuances to understand the content of the web.

But Google is like the supermarket of web search. It has thousands of products on its shelves. All are neatly put away and labelled. It is mass production; machine generated, and leaves me craving the taste of something human! I want the shopkeeper to point me to the product he himself tried last week and thought I would enjoy! The shopkeeper knows I don't like sifting through buckets of spam and adverts. You can't fool the shopkeeper with black hat SEO tricks.

Enter human based search: "editorialised searching" where human editors get the final say! Craving something else? Try mahalo.com, the world's first human-powered search. What with the trend for social networking and user provided content, it's a good business model on which to base a new search engine. Searches have guides, discussions, and a shed load of cool stuff. Try it!

What will Google do, then? Will the big machine-dog be fast enough to roll out out a human powered search? "I donít think weíre ideologically bound to only computers, only algorithms" they say. I'd say they're pretty much bound to computers wouldn't you?? Their aim of categorising the entire web prevents them from making their searches human-powered in any hurry: their own success prevents it. Maybe I am wrong. We will see. :) But hooray for humans!

tags: [ online ] [ search engines ]
post 38 on Wednesday 27th June 2007 at 21:34

The MySpace Facebook Divide: Class, Corporation, Or Vibe?

YOU decide!For a few weeks I've been thinking about how MySpace and Facebook differ. Last night I made a text file that outlined a post speculating how MySpace and Facebook demonstrate a definite class divide, and then my boyfriend came home and said "did you see the news about Facebook and MySpace" I said "no!", "donít tell me it was about a class divide?" he replied, "kinda, yeah!". But I have refused to let that stop me from writing my thoughts on the matter.

So, to those ubiquitous social networking sites which have become such an integral part of our lives. How do they differ logistically? Where do their origins lie? And how different are the people that use them? How are they divided and how are they united?

Obviously you can do very similar things with both sites: you maintain a list of friends and contacts; and have a host of features that facilitate and enrich contact and communication with those friends: such as groups, file sharing, blogs, video, comments, etc. Technically, the layout, and design, and especially the control over your page, are different. But above all these two omnipotent forces just feel different. Maybe itís a vibe thing? A different crowd? If you could put them in little groups, Facebookers would be the educated elite of future professionals; and MySpacers the rowdy but easy-going kids from the high school down the road. Some users (actually, a lot), of course, do not belong to such blatant and vulgar stereotypes. Take me for instance; I was not educated at a public school, instead my impoverished family shooed me off to the nearest high school (which just so happened to be eight miles away). I do however have an education and thatís how I came about Facebook about a year ago. I joined MySpace far later, although I was aware of its presence for some time before I finally enrolled myself.

I believe the difference in the two sites comes down to the networks within the networks. Historically, potential Facebookers needed to supply a valid University email address. Now? "Everyone can join", that's true. But Facebook is far more a closed network. And especially so because profileís hinge off networks within Facebook: for instance, my network is Newcastle, so only people within the Newcastle network can see my profile. Iím also in the Teesside Uni network; they can see my profile too. Anyone else has to make a friend request before they can see the unabridged content of my page. Contrastingly, anyone can view anyone's profile on MySpace. People donít belong to predetermined networks. The scope for faraway friends is far greater; yet you feel miles away from those close to you.

As for customisation you can do as you will with your MySpace page, but you must first learn how to do it Ė and they donít make it easy. You can develop applications for Facebook, but it must be through the correct channels. With this have come teething problems, but at the same time, entire sub-communities have been born thence just for Facebook developers. This concept of fraternity is not as prevalent on MySpace. Here it seems each man for him self as entrepreneurs vie for your space as much as bone-fide friends.

Facebook was started for student academe by Mark Zuckerman, but his Facebook idea was very well developed at version two before it became the Facebook we know and love. Incidentally, it originally got him kicked out of school. Schools in China had been using BBS for years before Facebook appeared. But Facebook took the BBS model and expanded it; allowing a far greater range of community driven activity and expression. It originally restricted to members with a college or university email address: so its roots clearly lie with the educated. Even the name Facebook refers to a publication in US colleges thatís distributed at the start of the academic year by administrations to help the kids get to know one another better. What a charming idea!

MySpace was founded by two people long out of University as a totally commercial venture and is now owned by corporate giants Fox.

Now I wondered the other day what will happen to poor old Friends Reunited? They must surely have reached total user saturation. Iíve seen profiles unchanged and users not logging in for three years or more. Feel pity for them: they were at the right place at the right time, but there was no infrastructure there. The networking was all wrong. And they certainly didnít have any new fangled web 2.0 technology.

As I sit here typing, Iím getting the feeling that both sites are destined for either corporate sell out, or bored-user burn out. Everyone wants a piece of the social networking phenomena and I know deep down that their corporate longevity will be curtailed.

What I do see sticking however are the sites that offer first and foremost an industry or an interest, such as video or music: take YouTube and last.fm. They too have a large base of (far quieter) users, who are concentrating on their art at the same time as having fun and networking. So while MySpace increase their content (as seen in their new video television service), YouTube are broadening their social networking tools. Convergence I hear you cry? Perhaps. In any case, watch out for greater video support on MySpace and improved user tools on YouTube.

So we know how different the sites are, we know how their users differ, and we know what ideas stick with popularity, despite hype. But where will all this end?

All it says to me is that the web will one day mirror society in its social infrastructure. Oh, and when it gets to that point, people might realise that real life is better, and go to the pub instead.

tags: [ online ] [ social networking ]
post 43 on Friday 17th August 2007 at 12:44

baby@home

Not the real Baby @Frustrated with a limited range of surnames, a Chinese couple have turned to the internet @ symbol to name their child.

Charmingly, it turns out that our English word "at" sounds just like the Chinese phrase "love him": the father is cited on Washington Post web site, "the whole world uses it to write e-mails and translated into Chinese it means 'love him'".

Wonder what it would mean if the child were a girl? Oh if only I could be bothered to look that up. This might have been doubly interesting a post.

Anyway, the parents of baby "@" are not alone; with only 129 unique surnames distributed through 87% of all surnames; this last year alone, Chinese officials examined 60 million Chinese names containing unfamiliar characters.

So it would seem Chinese people are getting bored and giving their kids a first name to remember them by. Maybe we should send our own answers on a postcard to the Chinese authorities?

If itís modern and original they want:
ASCII Ė because Americans have standards too.
Beta Ė a great name for your second born child.
Popfly Ė donít know why, but it sounds cute.

Got your own great idea? Email it!

tags: [ culture ] [ online ]
post 44 on Monday 3rd September 2007 at 07:55

How To Get Rid Of Internet Advertising

Wipe the page cleanThe first ever piece of software to effectively "wipe clean" advertisements from web pages is rapidly gaining popularity. It sounds great, with the only downside being that the product is only available free of charge to Firefox users (IE7 users have to pay Ė and arenít guaranteed equal effectiveness).

Iím actually spluttering into my cup of tea over this news. What about the foretold recent online advertising boom, and the consumer interest in interaction with online advertising? The sticky, viral, user-driven advertising that the web does so well, that an entire business model had been built upon, where big companies are falling over themselves to pour money into the online advertising revenue pot?

Will this saviour of web user sanity be able to differentiate between the adverts we enjoy to interact with, and the irritating, and oft times flashing, 2 bit advertisements of old?

With the boundaries between advertisement and entertaining interaction becoming increasingly blurred, let's hope so Ė lest millions of browsing folks miss out on a full spectrum of web offerings.

This does follow the lead of other web censoring methods so it's certainly not the first time online marketeers have been curtailed: just look at how common spam filters, net nannies, and the ubiquitous pop up blocker are for everybody nowadays. And the software does slide into the unwritten web rule of antagonist-protagonist where it comes to standards. You know, youíre in one camp or the other: Microsoft or GNU, Internet Explorer or Firefox, that kind of thing.

Regardless, it would seem the big daddies of the webnet are for now ignoring what could clearly start a potential phenomenon, and end with them rocking in the corner, sucking their thumbs over lost dollars. With 2.5 million users of Adblock Plus worldwide, itís not popular enough for Google, Microsoft, et al, to sit up and listen.

So maybe weíd better get using it then.

adblockplus.org

tags: [ advertising ] [ online ]
post 46 on Friday 21st September 2007 at 21:24

Nectar: Trick Or Treat?

Nectar, they play treek!Be wary, sweet loyalty card investors, of Nectarís recent ploy to coalesce with consumers through its recent misleading, but wonderfully inventive, promise of a free gift.

Tonight, I came home weary from work, thumped down into the seat at my desk, and saw there a bright shiny package from Nectar. Kicking off my shoes, and thinking the evening was about to get perhaps a single percentile more interesting, I hurriedly tore open the letter to be presented with not only a new card, but the promise of a free gift Ė just for being me!

Leafing through the glossy treat brochure theyíd helpfully enclosed served to heighten my sense of urgency for the kind of gratification only the words "free" and "gift" can satisfy. So my fingers eagerly scurried the required five centimetres from the shredded envelope to the keyboard, where I typed in www.nectar.com/treatme.

The brightly coloured site presented me with a range of "adventure" activities and "treat" activities, and I plumped for the latter (yes - I'd like a treat), clicking on the cucumber-eyed woman, who lead me to the free facial page: "fill in the claim form" the site persuaded Ė "we'll do our best to send you the treat you ask for, but if it's unavailable we'll send you an alternative that we're sure you'll enjoy!"

Alarm bells are already ringing. But I leave the form in the safe storage of the web site, thinking that perhaps it will be tomorrow now before a representative will spend some time hunting down a nice spa or beauty parlour just for me.

Suspiciously soon, I receive an email. Surely Nectarís representatives didnít find me a salon this quickly?

"We're very sorry but we've been unable to offer you your chosen treat. Don't worry, we thought you might like this one instead!"

Let me clarify. I asked for a free facial or, as a second choice, a free Reiki session: and I actually ended up with "Killhope Lead Mining Museum" in County Durham. The name says it all. I think this is perhaps the most devious marketing scheme Iíve ever come across.

Credit though to Loyalty Management UK Limited, the promoters of this scheme - as I bet this really works for Nectar in getting rid of all of those free venue tickets for places nobody cares to visit, whilst simultaneously increasing their exposure and their "oh thatís nice of them" factor.

As someone who takes perhaps an unhealthy over-interest in advertising and marketing practices, I am probably overly suspicious. But with no contact link anywhere to be found on the entire site, whatís a girl to think?

Call me bitter, but Iím thinking Nectar doesnít taste as sweet after all.

PS: If I do take them up on the free trip offer, I can't wait to see what the "Jigger House" is all about.

tags: [ advertising ] [ domestics ] [ nectar ] [ online ] [ rants ]
post 61 on Wednesday 10th June 2009 at 18:17

Why Twitter Beats Facebook

Twitter vs. FacebookWeb 2.0 just became the newest word in the dictionary.

Excellent. Web 3.0 is still being considered, you know - Semantic Web and all that - and yet Web 2.0 (a concept some several hundred years old) has only just poked its nose into the dictionary!

Anyway, I was talking to a friend about this today, so naturally was on the look out for any news about it. The story made me realise how shit Facebook is for mass broadcast, social-media style.

This is because you can't refer to other people in your updates (as with Twitter's @ notation). On Facebook, you can refer to friends in notes, or by tagging them in an image, but not in updates.

C'mon Facebook, this is a big limiter of Facebook's potential as far as I am concerned. Twitter for the win!

tags: [ facebook ] [ online ] [ rants ] [ twitter ]