Monthly Archives: April 2009

#hubbardfail: The Real Problem With Twitter

Eric Etheridge of New York Times blog The Opinionator observed yesterday that Twitter users are experiencing rapid burnout. After only a week and a half, Oprah is already bored with Twitter, and she’s not alone. The Neilson media ratings company estimates that more than 60% of Twitter users quit tweeting in under a month. After the first wave of full-blown Twittermania, it’s beginning to seem like people just don’t know what to do with the ability to constantly express themselves in 140 characters or less.

Twitter’s apparent pointlessness has emerged as a major rile-factor for Twitter haters. Case in point: Pomona’s own Nick Hubbard, whose opinion piece “The Problem With Twitter” appeared in last week’s issue of The Student Life:

You send text messages–in Twitter lingo, these are called “tweets”–constantly updating your “followers” about what you are doing. That is it, just mindless texting and following. Absolutely nothing of practical value. This is so… awful. Twitter is making America dumber, up to 140 characters at a time.

Hubbard’s piece is problematic in a variety of ways: He’s prone to sweeping generalizations (Twitter users are “boring, talentless idiots”–that’s right, even the senators!) and facile insults: for example, targeting “teenage girls” on the Internet as a “waste of space,” or the fact that the piece originally appeared with the title “Twitter: the Jersey Shore of the Internet,” an utterly pointless low blow which TSL editors apparently saw fit to omit in the online version.

Hubbard resorts to these tactics because–despite the grand sentiment of the new, Jersey-friendly title–he can’t find a real “problem” with Twitter beyond a generic and oft-voiced critique that social networking technologies are lowering our cultural discourse. Which begs the question: are hastily-written screeds in college newspapers raising it?

There are plenty of perfectly well-reasoned arguments against Twitter out there: for instance, Nicholas Carr’s “Twitter dot dash,” which he published way back in 2007, well before the Oprahs of the world turned Twitter into the latest mainstream techno-fad. But Hubbard seems to be responding more to the fad status of Twitter than anything of substance about the service itself. Herein lies the problem with “The Problem With Twitter”: kneejerk hatred of new technology is no more productive or enlightened than kneejerk adoption. Hubbard’s heavy-handed, reactionary rhetoric only obfuscates the real issues around emerging Web technologies.

Update: My response to Hubbard’s article is also up on the Student Life website!

Web Trend Map

web trend map

International design firm Information Architects has released their fourth annual Web Trend Map.

The Web Trend Map is a yearly publication by Information Architects (iA). It maps the 333 leading web domains and the 111 most influential people onto the Tokyo Metro map.

Twitter is in Shibuya this year, while Google is in Shinjuku. Take a look at the forces that shape our world in an aesthetically pleasing and statistically inventive (yet inscrutable) form!


“Omegle is a brand-new service for meeting new friends. When you use Omegle, we pick another user at random and let you have a one-on-one chat with each other. Chats are completely anonymous, although there is nothing to stop you from revealing personal details if you would like.”

This is an interesting play off the anonymous nature of the internet. I got this link from College Humor’s hot links. I don’t think you can view comments on content without an account, but I often find their comments to be hilarious and often better than most of the site’s content itself. A couple examples from this link:

This was really awkward. talking to strangers face to face is a lot easier than this.”

I dunno, every time I said I was an under 18 female, not a cop, people kept disconnecting. I just won a rap battle by copying and pasting 8 mile lyrics, and I found my dad.”

This is a pedophiles dream.”

I told him I’m 12 and asked him if he has candy. He said he has chocolate and wanted to know my full name and address. Chris Hansen should pay a visit to that web site.”

E: “ Someone just shouted CHF?! at me then went offline. What does CHF mean? :/
“Congestive Heart Failure. You f@#$ing killed him.”
E: “
S: “
Ellie, this is serious. You’re going to have to find a lawyer.”
“I kept trying to find one but none were online D:”
D: “
Try omegle.”

There’s a number of other very funny and often very explicit comments on the site.

I like this one more…

This is a great mockery of how people and the media tend to overreact to things like this. I love it.

Some Past Projects

Some of you asked about past projects, so I thought I’d post a few examples from last year’s class. Bear in mind that the assignment was a good bit different from yours…

Election Politics: Web Video
Popular Video Analysis
Piratey O’s
(Dis)Obey the Habbo Way

Interesting Article…

From the Sunday New York Times about the struggles of Web 2.0 companies in foreign countries. (Here it is) Apparently, a lot of sites are struggling to turn a profit–or even break even–in many markets. The ad rates for countries in Africa, the Middle East and much of Asia are much lower, reflecting the economic realities of the countries themselves. But because of technological limitations, servers and bandwidth are much more expensive. Unfortunately, the grand vision of a free web for all may be in jeopardy thanks to the fact that the web is still based in the real world.

The consequences of this for a local audience are fairly minimal–the business structure of companies like YouTube and Facebook has proven to be extremely successful in America. But abroad things are more questionable, and while major sites will probably still be safe, certain companies don’t have the resources to maintain a fully international audience (the article mentioned Veoh, which is a video-sharing site). In fact, YouTube may lose over $400 million in the international market this year, and if that does happen there may indeed be severe repercussions.

We’ll have to wait and see what this will amount to. But dreams of a global, utopian internet, may be in jeopardy. We may be entering into a new kind of European priviledge, one that revolves around superior access to the web. And if these trends continue, many countries on the technological forefront may start running into some unforeseen obstacles–unless bandwidth rates decrease, the United States may have a monopoly on the creation and proliferation of user-generated sites, meaning innovation could be stifled throughout a large portion of the world.

Maybe the article paints a bleaker picture than is warranted. It’s hard to imagine Facebook making their site unavailable in markets as large as India. But even if the fears presented here are unfounded, it’s important to take this opportunity to really evaluate the realities of the situation. Internet for all may not be such an easily realized ambition after all. Disparities of wealth between nations cannot be avoided, even in the virtual realm. This should be a wake up call to let people know that the internet cannot exist independently. The Real World must be taken into account.

An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube

Sorry for posting this kinda late, but I have another suggested “reading.” If you have some free time before class tomorrow check this out (it’s about an hour long):


“An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube” is a lecture KSU professor Dr. Michael Wesch (creator of “The Machine is Us/ing Us”) presented to the Library of Congress in June 2008. It’s a great overview of the relationship between Youtube and a variety of emerging trends in today’s network culture.

Environmental effects of the digital age

I couldn’t find any articles that exactly explained what I was looking for, but I found one that gives a pretty good summary, and there is a really big dispute about the carbon cost of a google search right now.


Google article:

One of the many follow-up articles:

I don’t really think that anyone is saying we should stop doing google searches, I think it is just making people aware that when they use their computer, for whatever reason, or plug it into the wall, a lot of energy is being used that most people disregard.

I am interested in the environmental effects of the digitalization of information. Surely some resources are being saved by less copies of books or newspapers in print, among other things, but is the Kindle really a better alternative to the book if now it takes energy to read anything and nothing is permanent?

The main question is the effects of the change from an initial input as in the production of the book, to a continual energy input with no initial input, and if we throw all of our “eggs in this basket” or put all of our money and resources into the digital age, will this actually be sustainable?

As technology uses more and more energy, if we one day run out of the many sources of energy we are using right now, will we be back to ground zero, with few means of entertainment or business not directly tied to the use of the internet and technology?

some additional articles on #amazonfail

Here are some more articles on #amazonfail, one of which is a blog post by Mark Probst and the other, an article by Bill Thompson, which discusses the effects that the incident had on Amazon’s reputation.

I found the second article particularly interesting. While I assumed that #amazonfail could only be detrimental to Amazon’s reputation, this article shed light on the fact that Amazon was, in essence, making their website more family-friendly. Yes, they broke the “bond of trust” that existed between them and their consumer base, but they “aren’t violating the First Amendment or even, I suspect, breaking the terms of their agreement with publishers by doing it.” Additionally, Thompson contends that “the error was in the algorithm” which is, to him, not really a source of comfort. There is something unnerving about placing our trust in a company, and allowing online recommendation systems to dictate many of our decisions. He writes: “The consequences of living by the algorithm do not just affect Amazon, they affect all of us as we increasingly rely on recommendation systems to suggest books to buy, friends to add on social networks, emails to take notice of and places to visit. We have put our faith in Google PageRank and ‘Amazon recommends’, and found them wanting, yet we do not have an alternative.” Kind of a scary thought.

Learning Online

I just found this site called Academic Earth where you can watch lectures online.   We’ve talked a bit about learning onine via programs like Second Life, and that a lot of universities are podcasting several of their lectures so I thought this would be an intersting link to share.   I wonder if lectures will ever be produced and then aggregated on a website with the sole purpose of being an online lecture.   For the most part, I think lectures that we see online now are already being delivered to some part of the real world and thus doesn’t really require any extra work to publish them online.