Presented without comment #11

Is the squeeze worth the juice?‘ by Glen Fuller at New Matilda.

The hyperbolic vitriol of some of the commentators about the case currently underway is a bit disconcerting. Chief among them is Mike Masnick, CEO and editor, who has consistently represented himself as an evangelical apologist for the worst excesses of digital capitalism in his attempts to understand new business models. He does, however, isolate one crucial point:

“Can you imagine the impact on the internet as a whole if Tasini actually won? It would basically uproot the entire concept of the internet. Any site that involved user contributions would have a massive liability.”

I am sure I wasn’t the only person who laughed a little at Masnick’s suggestion that the “entire concept of the internet” was at stake (is the dream of the ARPANET creators orTim Berners-Lee under threat?). What is actually under threat is the ability to use the internet to induce users into surrendering their labour for free.

‘Chapter 6: In which Ralph is called Ralph‘ by Mark Dapin, in “Sex and Money” (2004), Allen and Uniwn, p.103.

Howard counterfeited political capital by characterising the whole Keating political culture as ‘PC’, and smeared his attempts at reconciliation with the noxious grease of commonsense racism. The subtext to the sneers was always, ‘Nobody really likes Abos/slopes/queers – so why pretend?’ The campaign against politica correctness became a One Nation policy platform.

Dark Clouds‘ by Scott Juster at Experience Points.

As more and more of our lives move into the cloud, it’s likely that outages and problems will become more crippling despite likely being less frequent. In other words…the ubiquity and reliability of on-line storage will continue to grow, but with so many more people, devices, and services relying on the Internet, any problems that do crop up will be extremely inconvenient, if not devastating.

Presented without comment #10

A journalist kicking it old school on Twitter‘ by Mark Colvin at The Punch.

The phones were the first to go, replaced first by push button models and electronic switchboards that let you do your own dialling, then gradually by mobiles and smart phones.

The trusty typewriter became electric, then in the eighties came models with a page or two of electronic memory, then desktops, the ubiquitous laptop and now the tablet.

Somewhere in there, the last of the copy-takers retired, the end of a craft which had lasted less than a century. The telex took a long time to kill, but by the early nineties was starting to fade out, killed first by the fax, then the arrival of the world wide web.

The bugger, bugged‘ by Hugh Grant at The New Satesman.

Him …It started off as fun – you know, it wasn’t against the law, so why wouldn’t you? And it was only because the MPs who were fiddling their expenses and being generally corrupt kept getting caught so much they changed the law in 2001 to make it illegal to buy and sell a digital scanner. So all we were left with was – you know – finding a blag to get your mobile [records] out of someone at Vodafone. Or, when someone’s got it, other people swap things for it.
Me So they all knew? Wade probably knew all about it all?
Him […] Cameron must have known – that’s the bigger scandal. He had to jump into bed with Murdoch as everyone had, starting with Thatcher in the Seventies . . .

Me What’s his son called?
Him James [Murdoch]. They’re all mates together. They all go horse riding. You’ve got Jeremy Clarkson lives here [in Oxfordshire]. Cameron lives here, and Rebekah Wade is married to Brooks’s son [the former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks]. Cameron gets dressed up as the Stig to go to Clarkson’s 50th birthday party [NB: it was actually to record a video message for the party]. Is that demeaning for a prime minister? It should be the other way round, shouldn’t it? So basically, Cameron is very much in debt to Rebekah Wade for helping him not quite win the election . . . So that was my submission to parliament – that Cameron’s either a liar or an idiot.
Me But don’t you think that all these prime ministers deliberately try to get the police to drag their feet about investigating the whole [phone-hacking] thing because they don’t want to upset Murdoch?
Him Yeah. There’s that . . .

Noise Chamber‘ by Leigh Alexander at SexyVideogameland.

I think I let myself be so available that some people became more interested in me — and not even me-as-a-person, but me as some kind of visible entity that could be commanded to react and share herself on command from strangers — than in my writing, even when my writing’s what made me initially visible to them.


Presented without comment #9

The Different Types of Comments People Leave‘ by Leigh Alexander at Thought Catalog.

The internet is widely perceived to be a ‘content democracy.’ whereby an equal-opportunity platform places all contributors on the same footing. Most are under the impression there is no longer much perceptible difference between an ‘online publication’ and a ‘blog,’ which is something anyone can start and which an increasing number of individuals operate or have considered beginning to operate. Most are under the impression that any opinion is a qualified opinion and that, moreover, one should express one’s opinion, qualified or otherwise, at any possible juncture as they have a platform by which to do so that is equal or near-equal in relevance and credibility to the platform once dominated by ‘the traditional media.’

Commented Out’ by Khoi Vinh at Subtraction

I’m not blind to the fact that the world is changing. First, blogging in the style that I cherish — the Blogger/MovableType/ style, you might say, where each blog is a kind of an independent publication — now feels somewhat like a niche activity practiced by relatively few, where it once seemed like a revolutionary democratization of publishing. What seems more lively, more immediate and more relevant right now is what I might call ‘network blogging’ — content publishing that’s truly integrated into a host network like Tumblr or Twitter, that’s not just on the network, it’s of the network too. It’s simpler, faster, more democratic than what came before. It’s not my preferred style of blogging, but it’s hard to acknowledge that it’s not incredibly exciting in very different ways. Commented out‘ by Marco Arment (founder of Instapaper).

Comments have always been a dysfunctional medium. They solve a real problem: authors’ need for validation, criticism, and feedback. But they solve it in a way that discourages civility and following up, and encourages hatred and spam.

To address the same problem that comments solve, I post links to my articles on Twitter, read my responses there, and react if necessary. This has most of the value of ideal comments, but with very few of the drawbacks.

Presented without comment #8

Is Twitter Biased? Yep‘ by Jonathan Oake at Spongeist.

Is Twitter biased? Of course it is. It is a self-selecting sample, and as such will always exhibit a bias. If you set up a stall offering free cupcakes, you’re going to get a sample bias towards the kind of people who like cupcakes. If you set up an online short-messaging service which integrates especially well with internet-capable mobile devices, and is particularly useful for sharing links, you’re going to get a strong bias towards:

1. People who use the internet (students, white-collar knowledge workers)

2. People who have internet-enabled mobile phones (white collar knowledge workers)

3. People who are well-read (students and white-collar knowledge workers)

Are Twitter Trends the New Barbershop?‘ by Tanner Higgin, at Gaming the System.

Recently, a friend of mine joined Twitter and the first direct message he sent me was a simple question: “Why are all the people posting on Twitter trendsblack?”

It was an intentionally exaggerated but honest and innocent question and one I had been thinking about a lot lately. In the past few months, I had unscientifically noticed there was a a new topic trending each day supported by tweets from predominantly black users. (And let me note here that my trends are geolocated and cover the LA metro area so this may be different, or perhaps not even apply, depending on where you’re living…)

The Story of #ims211‘ by Sean Duncan, at

At the time, I had around 750 followers on Twitter, with a small cluster of game developers, educators, scholars, and journalists following me. I figured we’d get maybe 10-20 tweets back at us, just saying “yo.” Then, I assumed, the class would get my point that Twitter is a simple and amiable way to connect with a variety of folks interested in games. What I didn’t expect was that my tweet would get retweeted as widely as it did — thanks to a number of folks (Darius KazemiJason McIntoshBen Abraham, among others) for getting the ball rolling. That ball kept on picking up speed, and I think entered orbit sometime mid-afternoon on Tuesday.

Why a lack of empathy is the root of all evil‘ by Clint Witchalls at The Independent.

In his latest book, Zero Degrees of Empathy: A new theory of human cruelty, Baron-Cohen, argues that the term evil is unscientific and unhelpful. “Sometimes the term evil is used as a way to stop an inquiry,” Baron-Cohen tells me. “‘This person did it because they’re evil’ – as if that were an explanation.”

“Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion,” writes Baron-Cohen. People who lack empathy see others as mere objects.


Presented without comment #7

The need to protect the internet from ‘astroturfing’ grows ever more urgent‘ by George Monbiot at The Guardian (make sure to watch the video).

As the Daily Kos has reported, the emails show that:

• Companies now use “persona management software”, which multiplies the efforts of each astroturfer, creating the impression that there’s major support for what a corporation or government is trying to do.

• This software creates all the online furniture a real person would possess: a name, email accounts, web pages and social media. In other words, it automatically generates what look like authentic profiles, making it hard to tell the difference between a virtual robot and a real commentator.

• Fake accounts can be kept updated by automatically reposting or linking to content generated elsewhere, reinforcing the impression that the account holders are real and active.

• Human astroturfers can then be assigned these “pre-aged” accounts to create a back story, suggesting that they’ve been busy linking and retweeting for months. No one would suspect that they came onto the scene for the first time a moment ago, for the sole purpose of attacking an article on climate science or arguing against new controls on salt in junk food.

• With some clever use of social media, astroturfers can, in the security firm’s words, “make it appear as if a persona was actually at a conference and introduce himself/herself to key individuals as part of the exercise … There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to fictitious personas.”

Churnalism or news? How PRs have taken over the media‘ by Paul Lewis at The Guardian.

A new website promises to shine a spotlight on “churnalism” by exposing the extent to which news articles have been directly copied from press releases.

The website,, created by charity the Media Standards Trust, allows readers to paste press releases into a “churn engine”. It then compares the text with a constantly updated database of more than 3m articles. The results, which give articles a “churn rating”, show the percentage of any given article that has been reproduced from publicity material.

4Chan Founder: Zuckerberg is “totally wrong” about online identity‘ by Anthony Ha at Social Beat.

Poole argued that anonymity allows users to reveal themselves in a “completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way.” One of the things that’s lost when you carry the same identity everywhere is “the innocence of youth.” (“Innocence” isn’t the first word that would come to mind when I think of 4chan, but okay, I’ll go with him here.) In other words, when everyone knows everything you’ve done online, you’re a lot more worried about screwing up, and you’re less willing to experiment. Poole compared this to being a kid, moving to a new neighborhood, and having the opportunity to start over. On the Internet, you don’t get that opportunity.

“The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself,” Poole said.


Presented without Comment #6

Illustration: KillScreen online editorials 003‘ by Dan Purvis at Purvis’ Perspective.

…consumer reviews are shit. They mean nothing to the world. That’s where Kill Screen reviews are different. They want to mean something to somebody. And, I believe they will.

The Very Important List of PC Games, Part 5/5‘ by Kieron Gillen at Rock Paper Shotgun:

I’m not entirely sure RPS would exist without In Memoriam, but I’ll get to that.

Anyway – brilliant little game. Its UK Publisher – Ubisoft – clearly didn’t agree. They didn’t send any review copies out to anyone. Walker only ended up playing it because I commissioned him to write it as I grabbed it from the shops when trying to fill the pages on PC Gamer. And he comes back amazed – this is actually really fucking good. Except, being John, he probably didn’t swear. This lead to us shouting how good it was to other magazines, and getting it reviewed all over the place. We’d discovered a game, and brought it to people who wouldn’t know anything about it without us shouting about it. I realised that in my time at Gamer, I’d only ever really had a chance to do that twice – once with In Memoriam, and once with Uplink. Why didn’t we get to do this more? Wouldn’t be awesome to have a venue to do this more often?

It was the final puzzle that In Memoriam presented us, but we solved it eventually.

The Complete Rebel Without A Pause Key‘ by Kieron Gillen at Rock Paper Shotgun.

Part 1: Introduction

Watch out forces of conservative oppression: I’m all hopped up on Lentils, I’ve been listening to Rage Against The Machine for the last four hours and I haven’t tidied my bedroom.

Liberal Crime Squad, as the name may suggest, places you as the sort of Terrorist organisation who spend a lot of time listening to the MC5 loudly. Its tongue is firmly in its cheek, but I suspect that wouldn’t stop some people finding it offensive. “Some” being defined as “Probably not the counter-cultural Bakunin-lovin’ readers or Rock Paper Shotgun”, or at least hopefully. In it, you’ve basically got to forward the liberal agenda by any or all means. It usually ends with your glorious Liberal hippies besieged in their safe houses by The Man.

Presented without comment #5

A special Search Engine Optimization themed selection of pieces presented without comment, for your casual perusal.

Trouble in the House of Google‘ by Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror:

Throughout my investigation I had nagging doubts that we were seeing serious cracks in the algorithmic search foundations of the house that Google built. But I was afraid to write an article about it for fear I’d be claimed an incompetent kook. I wasn’t comfortable sharing that opinion widely, because we might be doing something obviously wrong. Which we tend to do frequently and often. Gravity can’t be wrong. We’re just clumsy … right?

I can’t help noticing that we’re not the only site to have serious problems with Google search results in the last few months. In fact, the drum beat of deteriorating Google search quality has been practically deafening of late…

A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web‘ by David Segal at The New York Times:

Not only has this heap of grievances failed to deter DecorMyEyes, but as Ms. Rodriguez’s all-too-cursory Google search demonstrated, the company can show up in the most coveted place on the Internet’s most powerful site.

Which means the owner of DecorMyEyes might be more than just a combustible bully with a mean streak and a potty mouth. He might also be a pioneer of a new brand of anti-salesmanship — utterly noxious retail — that is facilitated by the quirks and shortcomings of Internet commerce and that tramples long-cherished traditions of customer service, like deference and charm.

The Dirty Little Secrets of Search‘ by (guess who) David Segal at The New York Times:

Despite the cowboy outlaw connotations, black-hat services are not illegal, but trafficking in them risks the wrath of Google. The company draws a pretty thick line between techniques it considers deceptive and “white hat” approaches, which are offered by hundreds of consulting firms and are legitimate ways to increase a site’s visibility. Penney’s results were derived from methods on the wrong side of that line, says Mr. Pierce. He described the optimization as the most ambitious attempt to game Google’s search results that he has ever seen.

Presented without comment #4

A special Leigh Alexander themed selection of pieces presented without comment, for your casual perusal.

“You” Suck’ by Leigh Alexander at Sexy Videogameland, posted Dec 14th, 2007:

Which raises a crucial points about this whole Web 2.0, user-generated content, world-building age that some rather smart people are certain is the future of games. We don’t all want to make our own stories, characters and worlds. To some, if “you” really is the “character of the year,” it’s not good news. And I’ve said I wish I’d added a “for better or for worse,” clause in there, because haven’t I just written a lot recentlyabout how, as The Plush Apocalypse tidily put it, “‘You’ is an anonymous, homophobic, misogynistic dickhead?”

Opinion: Hot Headlines and Hype Cycles — Who’s responsible?‘ by Leigh Alexander at Game Set Watch, posted Oct 26th, 2008:

Here’s another thing journalists and game developers have in common: They feel, quite a lot of the time, that they will never be able to please their audience no matter what they do. We won’t be able to make audiences happy, so we’ll stand for just being able to hang on to their attention.

SVGL’s Official Metal Gear Solid Drinking Game‘ by Leigh Alexander at Sexy VideogameLand, posted Jan 24th, 2008:

  • Whenever your commander reminds you via codec that you’re on a stealth/sneaking mission: Swill red-blooded American beer.
  • Whenever a female, on codec or otherwise, alludes to your legendary status, your mysteriousness, your quietness, your handsomeness or how otherwise impressive you are: Drink beer.
  • Whenever one of your advisory team breaks the fourth wall by instructing you to push controller buttons: Drink beer.
  • When you’re told to rescue a scientist: Drink beer.
  • When you’re told you have to pick up all your own equipment: Drink beer.
  • When the scientist you rescue pees himself: Take a cold, Russian shot.
  • When anyone else pees themselves: Take two shots.
  • When your rescue mission fails: Lick the salt and wash it down with a squirt of lemon juice. Chase it with vodka until the horrible bitter taste goes away.
  • Here it comes‘ by Leigh Alexander at SexyVideogameLand, posted on May 9th, 2008:

    Weighing methodology for game criticism against that of music and film has become the norm, regardless of whether or not the comparisons are relevant. We’re wondering how we can embrace and leverage this evolution…

    N’Gai said…

    If Pauline Kael or her editors had decided that her mandate was “more about sharing movie culture with the curious or the casual,” movie criticism would be all the poorer for it. The same would have been true of music criticism if Lester Bangs or his editors had decided that his mandate was “more about sharing music culture with the curious or the casual.” I believe that if my peers in the mainstream media and I do our jobs correctly; if we write clearly and lucidly, general interest readers are capable of absorbing far more genuine and truthful portrayals of what it’s like to experience an individual game than we are currently giving them.

    SVGL said…

    To my eyes, you have quite a fortunate situation and a really enviable opportunity at Newsweek (though I want to be clear I’m not disparaging you and calling it “luck”) and I’m glad you’re leveraging that role to try and bridge the gap a little bit at a time.

    People ask me a lot where I want to “end up” in my work — with a gig like that at a similarly sophisticated mainstream publication, probably.

    Presented without comment #3

    And so we continue our series in which relevant and timely articles are ‘Presented without comment‘, for your casual perusal:

    Could I sell my facebook account ?‘ by Christophe1700 at Black Hat SEO forum:

    Hey there,

    I have a facebook account that i used for ewhoring, i have 650 friends, mostly guys, and i didn’t use it for a couple of weeks.
    It also has sexy pics about ‘Sara’.

    Could i sell this ?
    If i could, which price ?

    I sell my facebook profile on meta-markets‘ by Burak Arikan at

    Immaterial labor, just like the spectacle (the social relations among people) is digitally measurablesince the social web services ramped up (See Trebor Scholz’s A History of the Social Web). Today with the new Facebook Social Ads, the measure of the value of my labor is even more precise for Facebook, but more ambiguous for me.

    Can you sell your Facebook account/profile to someone?‘ by GoPre at Yahoo Answers:

    I have been playing a game through facebook for over a year now, and am at a really high level because of it. I dont feel like playing the game anymore, and was wondering if I could sell my facebook account (that has my saved game stats attached to it) to someone? is it legal?

    Presented without comment #2

    And so we continue our series in which relevant and timely articles are ‘Presented without comment‘, for your casual perusal:

    The end of journalism as we know it (and other good news)‘ by Annabel Crabb at the ABC’s The Drum:

    …we are in part victims of our own excitement and impulsiveness. At the end of the last century, when newspaper editors and executives began to recognise the potential of the internet, the race was on to win eyeballs online. We piled everything we could onto the net. Over the years, we accustomed ourselves to the idea of breaking news stories online, rather than holding them back from the print edition. Build an audience, the theory went, and later on we’ll figure out a way to charge them. And 10 years later, what do we have? Leading news websites, and an audience which has been trained to expect this stuff for free.

    What if the greatest service we can offer to a reader is a reliable pointer to what’s worth a look, both in our own mastheads and others? Reliability and trust become more important, the greater the proliferation of information sources.

    [On twitter:] There’s a lovely generosity about it; millions of people, pushing little thoughts and fragments into the world, most of which disappear without trace, and some of which whip up into quite significant moments of community. Of all the new social networking phenomena, none is so routinely disparaged as the House of the 140 Characters.

    Deleuze (and Guattari) Items For Sale‘ by Robert Jackson at Algorithm and Contingency:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Twitter, more so than other social network sites, is the logic of one-upmenship par excellence. In order to engage in conversation, one must respond and summarise the previous tweet(s) in one pithy 140 character reply, which cannot help but be troll-esque and mere commentary.

    How to stop worrying and learn to love the internet‘ by Douglas Adams at

    Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do.

    Another problem with the net is that it’s still ‘technology’, and ‘technology’, as the computer scientist Bran Ferren memorably defined it, is ‘stuff that doesn’t work yet.’ We no longer think of chairs as technology, we just think of them as chairs. But there was a time when we hadn’t worked out how many legs chairs should have, how tall they should be, and they would often ‘crash’ when we tried to use them.

    We are natural villagers. For most of mankind’s history we have lived in very small communities in which we knew everybody and everybody knew us. But gradually there grew to be far too many of us, and our communities became too large and disparate for us to be able to feel a part of them, and our technologies were unequal to the task of drawing us together. But that is changing.