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.

Stockhausen’s Helicopters

One of the things I’m trying to do differently this year (not a resolution as such) is to avoid reading the trashy free papers that come as part of the commuting package. I’m pretty sure their particular brand of reporting-lite has infected my brain and made me much less likely to self-flagellate after reading pieces about pop-tarts’ handbags. So I’ve started reading other things, like books and newspapers that you have to pay for.

And thank heavens I have, otherwise I’d never have known about Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet. From an article called Sublime – or ridiculous? The art of noise in today’s Independent.

You can see it being performed in 1993 in Austria right here:

Karlheinz, who sadly died last year, is reported as saying:

“I had a dream: I heard and saw the four string players in four helicopters flying and playing. At the same time, people on the ground seated in an audio-visual hall, others standing outdoors on a large plaza… When I woke, I strongly felt that something had been communicated to me which I never would have thought of.”

That’s the kind of creative process I like.

I enjoyed this interview with him. But I still can’t tell if he’s a genius or a nutjob. And I still don’t think I could actually listen to any of his compositions for fun, but it’s interesting to see him composing using sketches and grids that look to the untrained eye quite a lot like modern music production software.

And if you’re still interested in Stockhausen, this remembrance piece from the Guardian from a few weeks ago has some interesting anecdotes from collaborators and friends.

Fire Video Gets Honours, But Why?

The video from yesterday of the fire got a link from the Guardian’s News Blog.

Their embedding of the video in their blog meant that the clip had over 6,000 views yesterday which meant that it got the following ‘honours’ on YouTube.

YouTube Honours

I was stunned. The most viewed UK news clip of the day. And the 10th most viewed UK clip of the day.

A couple of things worth thinking about:

  • The link from the Guardian is what ‘made’ the clip
  • It’s not the best clip of the fire on YouTube (there are superior ones that have far less views)
  • I couldn’t tell you why they picked up on my clip, but I guess I was pretty quick at getting it uploaded (but it can only have been a matter of minutes)
  • I suspect that they found the YouTube clip through my blog – otherwise they’d have just linked to the clip itself. And the indexing of YouTube is generally pretty slow so it’s not a good way to find ‘up to the minute’ clips.
  • Which leads me to believe that they might have used something like Technorati to find the entry – searching for London Fire perhaps?!?

I guess it shows the power of connectedness, searchability and speed.

Which we should all know about by now ;-)

Better than Tufte

Everyone always bangs on about Tufte and his books about displaying information. And yes, they’re very nice books. But I’ve got a new heroine: Jessica Hagy and her Indexed blog.

Never have so few well-chosen lines on so few index cards said so much.

I felt embarrassed and happy at the same time laughing out loud at graphs :-)

via The Guardian Guide a few weeks ago (I only unearthed my scribble about it today…)

Media Organisations of the Future

Faris has a good write up of a presentation by Simon Waldman of the Guardian: What is a media company?

I saw the same presentation (or a version of it) at a Microsoft day late last year. And I have to say I thought he put forward a really compelling case. I don’t want to rip-off Faris’ slides that he ripped-off from Simon ;-) So you’ll have to go here to see them.

I do share Faris’ reservation that it works for people like the Guardian, or MTV, and bits of the BBC. But I’m not sure if it holds true for De Agostini where their whole business model relies on transportation of physical stuff (binders, lord of the rings tiles, pony statuettes, etc.).

Interestingly, or not, De Agostini is one of the few things I’ve not manged to find in Wikipedia recently).

Tea for 2.0

Grazia Teabuddy

Teabuddy.com (our social web app for managing tea-making and preferences) has come to the boil again. It’s one of those odd sleeper projects. We did it ages ago and at first it got picked up by Wired, then a bit later by The Guardian. Now it’s really entered the mainstream with a mention in Grazia magazine (it was the second item in their ‘cool chart’ last week).

That’s one of the things I love about online. Things can just live on forever, getting discovered by new audiences up to years after they originally launched. It’s something that clients are often uncomfortable with, they’re used to campaigns having a launch date and a finite lifespan. Those rules just don’t apply any more. I guess that’s the long tail of advertising.

Our other big sleeper project Globalrichlist.com still has massive peaks and was mentioned in Daily Candy this weekend too.

I don’t know if there’s a sudden upsurge in female publications getting more into online stuff, but its interesting that two of our old projects have been picked up by big Womens’ publications in recent weeks…

Saturday Newspaper Graphics (1 of 2)

2 very different newspaper graphics caught my eye at the weekend when I was reading the papers in the pub. Firstly this infographic from the Guardian, it shows which European countries people Polish people are emigrating to. I looked at it for ages and after thinking it was really good and clear, I realised that the lines weren’t actually really to scale, so I was a bit put out and thought it was a bit misleading. (e.g. the German line should be almost 3 times the thickness of the UK line, and it’s not even double).

But it does get the info across quickly. The real power of this as an infographic though is when you use it as a tool to compare against other countries. If you view it alongside the graphics for Slovakia and Czech Republic you get an impression of migration patterns really quickly.