Facebook and ‘The Man’

The Man

This article from the Guardian seemed to be the most visible thing on the Internet round these parts yesterday: With friends like these… by Tom Hodgkinson

Facebook has 59 million users – and 2 million new ones join each week. But you won’t catch Tom Hodgkinson volunteering his personal information – not now that he knows the politics of the people behind the social networking site

I got sent it a few times by different people. And I read it and and was shocked and outraged.

Forget religion being the opium of the masses, Facebook is the CIA owned crack-cocaine of the masses! We’ve all been duped. It’s a soul-harvesting machine designed to harness the creativity and friendships of the whole world and funnel it for the forces of darkness and oppression.

Or something like that.

Anyway I was all set to shut down my Facebook account and rush to the land of hope, goodness and light, but then I had a couple of thoughts…

  1. I’m almost certain that the boards of most US companies can be shaken-down to find a couple of neo-con sympathisers with links to dark secret societies. Like it or not my friends that’s just the way the machine works. So I figured I shouldn’t be altogether that shocked about it.
  2. There’s nothing that interesting in my life that I’d be worried about the spooks seeing. I’m sure they could analyse my musical tastes and cross-tabulate them with the events that I’ve attended and figure out that I’m probably in the upper quartile of people with a likelihood of having tried recreational drugs at some point in the past.
  3. I should spend more ‘real’ quality time with people. But I know that already. And Facebook isn’t a big time drain for me, I only look at it every now and again, so it’s not replacing or getting in the way of my relationships.

But that’s not to say I wouldn’t advise getting out of Facebook right now if you are:

  1. The kind of person who wears a tin-foil hat, doesn’t own a mobile phone and doesn’t use the internet because all computers have little cameras that are beaming to the base on the dark side of the moon 24/7.
  2. Listing your interests as: political activism, evolutionary fuel-cell development or time travel.
  3. Spending more time looking at/for friends on Facebook than actually being with real people.

So I’m staying in Facebook, in a limited way. For now.

I still don’t like it all that much though.

Twitter Mobile – It’s the Little Things

Just set up Twitter to work with my mobile. And this just exemplifies the thought and smartness that have gone into the application.

twitter screengrab

And what’s so good about it? The code that you have to text in, is all made up of letters that are on the first keypress of your mobile phone. So instead of having to click your 2 button 3 times to get to letter C. They’ve made sure that they don’t use the letter C.

I’m guessing that a lot of people won’t spot it. But that’s why I love it so much. They’ve thought about it and just done it. Saving people time and effort with a tiny little touch.

Twitter developers I salute you.

Website with Semacode, Why?

Semacodes are pretty cool.

The all knowing Wikipedia with it’s dazzling array of cross-links describes a semacode thusly:

a URL can be converted into a type of barcode resembling a crossword puzzle, which is called a “tag”. Tags can be quickly captured with a mobile phone‘s camera and decoded to obtain a Web site address. This address can then be accessed via the phone’s web browser

In essence you take a photo of a thing (see top right) and your phone does something interesting.

In Japan (rumour has it) they’re very common. But they call them QR Codes. And they’ve started doing things like putting them on their business cards so that you can just photograph it and then get the contact information into your address book. Kinda Cool.


Where all of these sorts of innovation fall down is using them just for the sake of it. You’ve got to ask yourself that question, “wouldn’t it just be simpler to…?”. For example just taking a disposable photo of an address instead of bluetoothing it to my phone – see my previous post on Photonotes.

So I was puzzled to see this Nike site with a QR code on it:

I’ve sat and thought about it. In fact I’m still thinking about it….I’m sure I’m missing out on something because I don’t read Japanese. But in the best case it’s going to add something to my phone (a graphic, an application, a screensaver, a bit of video?) or, and I really hope this isn’t the case, it takes my phone to a web page. But either way surely getting someone to use their phone to do something when they’re already engaged on a website seems a bit odd.
Or even more bizarrely… If someone was accessing this website on their phone (as many people in Japan do). How are they supposed to take a photo of this QR code?!?!

Please can someone Japanese put me out of my ignorant misery, please. I’d love to know why this is there.

New MacBook Pro

I’m very lucky. I got a new computer. It’s a shiny new Intel-based MacBook Pro. I have to say I’ve not noticed that I’m getting more work done in a shorter period of time. But I’m sure I will eventually, perhaps.

My favourite feature is the built in camera and the silly little application Photo Booth. You can use the laptop like a, guess what, Photo Booth. And it’s got some hideous filters built into it that can make you look like a total freak (see below) or check out this Fickr Cluster. What fun.

Photo Booth Example

I’m sure I’ll feel the benefit of the state-of-the-art computing power at my disposal one day. But until then, bring on the easy-to-use novelty features…

There’s a serious point in here somewhere, honestly. I’m not quite sure what it is. But I think it’s something about creating easy, simple, straightforward applications on new pieces of technology: things that let people feel that they can do something new and different, that they couldn’t do with their old piece of kit.

It’s like when you get a new mobile phone. Some small part of you hopes that your world will somehow be better, different, more social. Something should improve. The adverts said so. The man in the shop said so. But typically there’s nothing noticably different – all it would take is one little application that you can fiddle with for 10 minutes and show to your mates down the pub. Then you’d feel that your investment was worth it (for a fleeting moment).

NSPCC – Dream Auction

NSPCC Dream AuctionHere’s a little (in size) project Poke have done for the NSPCC. The NSPCC Dream Auction is aiming to raise a huge amount of money to help to end cruelty to children. There’s a number of ways to get involved, from a huge gala auction at the Royal Albert Hall (that I’m sure I won’t get an invite to), 1000s of eBay lots (which I’m sure I can bid on) through to the sale of rather fetching mobile phone lanyards.