social networks

Otherness watches us from the shadows


There’s a lot of bots on twitter. […] A prime example is @StealthMountain, which searches for people using the phrase “sneak peak” and replies with “I think you mean ’sneak peek’”. Effectively, a coder somehwere has used twitter to greatly leverage his ability to be a grammar Nazi. But worse, it appears that the bot exists just to rile people. While most people seem to take this correction in stride, @StealthMountain’s favorites list (which is linked from his bio line) is populated with some of the recipients’ more colorful reactions. You too, dear reader, can laugh at those victims, and their absurd, futile anger towards the machine.

At the most outrightly hostile end of the spectrum, we find the now defunct bot @EnjoyTheFilm, which searched for mentions of particular films or television shows, and replied with plot spoilers.

{ Aaron Beppu | Continue reading }

Prada, Fendi, Gucci, Toria


Shares of Internet companies are soaring again, and signs of pre-2000 exuberance can be seen in Silicon Valley and the nearby area. Home prices in San Francisco and surrounding counties rose more than 15% in the past year. Office rents in San Francisco are 23% above their 2008 peak. […]

Pinterest, an electronic-scrapbook service that began testing ads this month, said Wednesday that it had raised $225 million from venture-capital firms. Pinterest didn’t need the money; the company said it hadn’t spent any of the $200 million it raised in February when it was valued at $2.5 billion.

The new investment values the three-year-old company at $3.8 billion, a 52% jump in eight months.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

See the animals feed. Men, men, men.


We’ve all experienced the sense of being familiar with somebody without knowing their name or even having spoken to them. These so-called “familiar strangers” are the people we see everyday on the bus on the way to work, in the sandwich shop at lunchtime or in the local restaurant or supermarket in the evening.

But while many researchers have studied the network of intentional links between individuals—using mobile phone records for example—little work has been on these unintentional links which form a kind of hidden social network.

Today, that changes thanks to the work of Lijun Sun at the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore and a few pals who have analysed the passive interactions between 3 million residents on Singapore’s bus network (about 55 per cent of the city’s population). […]

Study revealed that about 85 per cent of these repeated encounters happen at the same time of day and that individuals were more likely to encounter familiar strangers in the morning than the afternoon.

{ The Physics arXiv Blog | Continue reading }

photo { Bill Owens }

Terminator X yellin’ with his hands


In Jorge Luis Borges short story, Funes el Memorioso, the titular Funes suffers a brain injury that results in an inability to forget. At first his altered status feels more gift than impairment. He is capable of fantastic mental feats. He no longer wastes time trying to learn things by repetition. Every important detail is immediately accessible to his extraordinary brain, allowing him to spend less time on drudgery. He is also able to focus and remember minutiae like he was never capable of before. The world unfolds before him in striking clarity. No data point, however inconsequential, escapes his viselike attention to detail. Alas, this becomes his downfall. He loses focus on the important. Not forced to prioritize on initial intake due to a limited storage capacity, he drowns in a sea of the irrelevant.

In his New York Times piece, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen warns of the special problem the web presents, particularly for people’s personal lives. Rosen warns: “we are only beginning to understand the costs of an age in which so much of what we say, and of what others say about us, goes into our permanent — and public — digital files.”

Although new tools like Google’s “Me on the Web” are allowing users to better monitor their personal information available on the web, there is no real means of managing this information. This article seeks to explore what it would take to have enforceable “administrative rights” to one’s personal information – the ability to edit or modify one’s online persona just as a webmaster would be able to edit or modify on an individual website.

{ Jamie R. Lund | PDF }

oil on canvas { Till Rabus }

‘The voice of the majority is no proof of justice.’ –Schiller


Yahoo didn’t just buy a company, it validated, to the tune of a billion dollars, the notion that bad business is worth pursuing. The entire concept of what makes something a good idea continues to be inverted, warped, and thrown in a gully. This is the idea economy, remember—the industry of fantasy. It doesn’t have to “make sense.” Money isn’t valuable. Success isn’t lucrative. Profit is pointless. These are the industry’s norms. All you need to do to become a billion-dollar business is make people entertained and vaguely interested.

David Karp did just that. Over 100 million entranced humans blog with Tumblr, and not a single one pays for the privilege. They’re free to swap reality show GIFs, aspirational shopping photos, and masturbate, with only the faintest whisper of marketing reaching their ears.

{ Valleywag | Continue reading }

Googley-goo where’s the gravy


One way to undermine social media monopolies is to refuse to contribute to the communicational economy they are based upon: don’t generate exploitable signals, stay quiet — and ask how this might be developed as a common response. Given the naturalized assumption that ‘more communication’ will automatically produce ‘more freedom’, suggestions, like this one, that are based on doing less of it might provoke hostility. However, in the case of the social media industries, communication is cultivated not in the interests of freedom, but in the interests of growth; social media wants to capture more of you through your transactions. Moreover, through this process communications are not made ‘more free’ but tend rather to become less open — certainly in the sense that they are commoditized.

{ First Monday | Continue reading }

photo { Hisaji Hara }

Caught you looking for the same thing, it’s a new thing


According to the studies he cited, 7 percent of people’s twitter followers are actually spambots; 30 percent of social media users are deceived by spambots and chatbots; and 20 percent of social media users accept friend requests from unknown people, 51 percent of which are not human. […] When it comes to “astroturfing” — the practice of creating fake grassroots movements to influence opinions — the hit ratio on email spams is about 12.5 million to 1. In order to create an astroturf movement on the scale of the anti-SOPA movement in 2011, every person on earth would have to receive the same spam message 8 times.

{ Gigaom | Continue reading }

photo { Todd Fisher }

She likes my tone, my cologne, and the way I roll


Click by click, Facebook users are building a surprisingly nuanced picture of themselves, even without filling out their social networking profiles. […] Researchers found that they could, for example, correctly guess a man’s sexual orientation 88 percent of the time by analyzing the kinds of TV shows and movies he liked. It also found that few gay men — less than 5 percent in the study — identify with groups that openly declare their sexual orientation, so a man’s preference for “Britney Spears” or “Desperate Housewives” was more useful in predictions.

Similarly, the researchers also found that they could figure out if a Facebook user used drugs with about 65 percent accuracy based on their expressed public preferences.

The study even included “like” predictors that could tell whether users’ parents had separated when they were young vs. whether they had not.

Researchers told the British paper that they hope this study raises users’ awareness about the kind of information they may not realize they’re sharing with a wider audience.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

Most of us thought as much


One of the increasingly famous paradoxes in science is named after the German mathematician Dietrich Braess who noted that adding extra roads to a network can lead to greater congestion. Similarly, removing roads can improve travel times.

Traffic planners have recorded many examples of Braess’ paradox in cities such as Seoul, Stuttgart, New York and London. And in recent years, physicists have begun to study how it might be applied in other areas too, such as power transmission, sporting performance where the removal of one player can sometimes improve a team’s performance and materials science where the network of forces within a material  can be modified in counterintuitive ways, to make it expand under compression, for example.

Today,  Krzysztof Apt at the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands and a couple of pals reveal an entirely new version of this paradox that occurs in social networks in which people choose products based on the decisions made by their friends. 

They show mathematically that adding extra products can reduce the outcome for everyone and that reducing product choice can lead to better outcomes for all. That’s a formal equivalent to Braess’ paradox for consumers.

{ The Physics arXiv Blog | Continue reading }

Surveiller et punir


A multinational security firm has secretly developed a software capable of tracking people’s movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites.

{ Guardian | Continue reading }

images { 1 | 2 }

To give an appearance of solidity to pure wind


The tension between experience for its own sake and experience we pursue just to put on Facebook is reaching its breaking point. That breaking point is called Snapchat. […]

The temporary photograph’s abbreviated lifespan changes how it is made and seen, and what it comes to mean. Snaps could be likened to other temporary art such as ice sculptures or decay art (e.g., Yoko Ono’s famous rotting apple) that takes seriously the process of disappearance, or the One Hour Photo project from 2010 that has as its premise to “project a photograph for one hour, then ensure that it will never be seen again.” However, whatever changes in the aesthetics of photographic vision Snapchat is effecting are difficult to assess, given that no one really knows what its self-deleting photos collectively look like. In many ways, this is exactly the point.

{ Nathan Jurgenson/TNI | Continue reading }

The secret to happiness is low expectations


A number of Instagram’s 90 million active users are in a confused panic after being locked out of their accounts over the weekend, and several seem to believe they’ve been hacked. […]

Your account has been secured and requires account validation. Please login to from your desktop computer to validate your identify.

The desktop validation process then requires the user to upload a photograph of a government-issued photo ID by February 1 — a puzzling requirement for many thread participants, who worried that a hacker was attempting to gain access to their personal information. Which is not the case.

“Instagram occasionally removes accounts due to violation of terms and, depending on the violation, may ask people to upload IDs for verification purposes,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNET. […]

Instagram, like Facebook, requires that its users are at least 13.

{ CNET | Continue reading }