Archives for the month of: July, 2010
Blog-dumps galore, commence!
Nice keyboard (from mxmcreation.com)

Where can I buy this one?

Anyways, with the vastness of the Internet, there’s bound to be something new to be discovered every time you start the browser. It might be a new meme, a new viral video hitting Facebook or a TV or book series you’ve never heard of. Chances are, if your interest is really, really piqued, you’ll start a mini-research of sorts. You know, getting to know this new discovery of yours. It often happens to me – some of my recent interests came from stumbling upon a recommendation or mention.
What I noticed is that (at least, when it comes to me) when I wanted to learn something more about a certain topic, my first stop is not Wikipedia. No, it’s not even Google. It’s TV Tropes.
Shameless plugging of my favorite site aside, I find TV Tropes to be a more ‘interesting’ site. By ‘interesting’, I mean ‘fun’.  It’s even in the site’s homepage – they are, after all, “buttloads more informal” than Wikipedia. Sure, Wikipedia might have more organized information, but TV Tropes have something which is really up there in my ‘plus points’ list: it’s very, very witty.  Or more exactly, it’s so informal that users can get away with the occasional profanity or two, all mixed with wiki magic and user wit. Since it’s a wiki-type, users are free to add content, although there are editors to make sure that most content follows grammar to make them understandable.
Then I realized this – there’s no universal law validating this, but a good chunk of the Internet’s made up of the informal. By ‘informal’, I mean the conversational, funny, witty, curt, straight-to-the-forward, memetic, multilingual, leet, grammatically disrespectful and/or profanity-ridden. It’s not, “Jin is mostly frigid to other people unless they’re Ragna”, it’s “He’s a jackass to everyone and a yandere to Ragna”. When chatting, it’s rarely “Sure, I’ll send this document via email. Is 8:30PM okay with you?” but “sure””i’ll send the doc XD””830?”. When it comes to peer reviews, it’s not surprising to find “i really, really like your fic! <33 will be faving this. pls update soon!” and “this book is nice” instead of paragraphs upon paragraphs of constructive criticism.
Sure, there’s still lots of material with proper grammar and formatting out there, even ones that sound like your undergraduate thesis, but that’s the language of formality – it seems that the human language online is full of smileys, intercultural content, shortcuts, lax grammar and formatting, alternating caps and numbers. And I think it’s not even ‘age-related’ a.k.a. ‘only the young ones type that way’: I’ve seen middle-aged people express themselves in small caps and shortcuts. The only reason I can think is because ‘it’s the Internet’. In the place where truly ‘anything goes’, even rules of grammar seem to have a loose hold.
Leet Speak (from fbtags.info)

Wonder of wonders

Reading “can i haz cheezburgers LOL” has a distinctive ‘Internet’ vibe to it – you wouldn’t really see it in real life unless you’re consciously citing it. As the Internet has also made it easier for people to find their subcultures online, it’s common to see a smorgasbord of terms and jargon. In the era of fast-paced communication with limited space for content (why hello there, Twitter), people are squeezing in as much thought as possible before hitting the character limit. What’s more, this is also the era of information overload – one’s attention is rarely pegged on the same sentence longer than, say, ten seconds, before moving on to the next tidbit. Lastly, this is also the era of the multi-tasker – between chatting with your groupmates, checking Facebook, updating Twitter, reading emails and watching videos, you can’t have the liberty of typing a paragraph for a response. In the online realm, where anything comes and goes at the speed of kilobytes per second, it’s a deluge of text and images all vying for your attention and begging to be retained in your memory. Keep it short, sweet, exciting and straight(to the)forward – this appears to be the creed of the online crowd.
The form might get choppy, run-on, too short, ‘geeky’ and look more like a barcode or Wingdings,  but it’s the thought and matter that counts – although the message might need some deciphering (unless, of course, it’s written in Cyrillic or Nihongo, and that’s another story). Simply put, the online crowd likes hearing messages that’s not going to bore them to death. If it’s a block of text like this without the cheeky, hey-what-was-that-again part – namely, it’s a boring block of text – then it’s not going to work. It doesn’t mean that we should be adopting leetspeak – it’s just that even text has to be ‘interesting’ now (and no, it’s not about font types, alternating caps or new word-number combinations). Wit has always captivated an audience, but in the online world, one has to be extra witty and curt about it. It’s becoming increasingly easier to get lost in online information content, with new things being added everyday and the tabs feature now so common among web browsers. Of course, not everyone is going to like a statement like “a boatload of weeaboos”, and “we guarantee you its awesomeness” will raise more than a few eyebrows in a clean-cut corporate site. Like I’ve said before, the “Internet likes the witty, informal and short” observation isn’t universal.
Besides, this is the Internet, right? Anything goes, and whatever it is, we would want it to be entertaining at the very least.
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Because I completely feel the need – and the pressure – to update, so there you go, blog-dumps!

I’m not much of a forum goer. Oh, I’ve tried a couple of forums before, but somehow, I simply drop out of existence after a few months, tops. I admit that forums are a nice online place to hang out though. Just think of it – several people all over the world, from different cultures and ways of life, converging in one place to discuss. It doesn’t even have to be about the forum’s ‘main topic’. Sure, there’ll be people talking about the latest Bleach episode, but in the other corners of the forum there would be threads about music, video games, food, politics – practically anything under the sun. It might not be instantaneous like YM, but the conversations are there to stay and you could always check out what had been said an hour or three days ago.

Flame War

You have no heart otherwise

Of course, where people converge – especially in large numbers – conflict arises.

Bring out the popcorn and the marshmallows, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll be talking about flame wars.

Firstly though, what’s ‘flaming’? Wikipedia defines it as the “hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users”. Also, it could happen in a discussion board, Internet Relay Chat, email, game servers and video sharing websites (I’m focused on forums though). A flame war then happens when one or more users jump into the fray, either fueling the arguments or trying to diffuse the situation. An entry in the Urban Dictionary says it best though: “Like paintball, but with flamethrowers”.

Some flame wars start innocently enough. It could be that the starting topic wasn’t even controversial – it’s only when users ‘hijack’ the thread by posting insulting, polarizing or unrelated to the original post that a flame war sparks to life. These users – called flamers (more precise and subtle) or trolls (less subtle, more insulting) – could also be deliberately setting up  a flame war with a topic sure to cause rifts large enough to drive a backhoe through.

Flame war

Because everyone could be anyone online.

I admit though, flame wars can be extremely amusing to follow. First, there could be a mundane topic, even phrased decently. Or it could be deliberate ‘flame bait’, a post which could be insulting or very polarizing. Then sooner or later a couple of forum posters would rather throw insults at each other than intelligently discuss the topic. With enough vitriol and childishness it will evolve into a magnificently messed-up verbal battle, with each participant vying for the best ad hominem. If you have the same sense of humor as I do, you will find these wars very entertaining indeed.

Here are some of the topics which may incite a flame war in the vast wilderness of the Internet:

  • The Console Wars. There’s even a PC gaming vs Console gaming.
  • Ninja vs Pirate. In the realm of anime, it translates to Naruto vs One Piece.
  • Windows vs Mac OS
  • Facebook vs Friendster (or any social networking site, for that matter)
  • Twilight (the book series)
  • Pluto’s status as a planet
  • Politics and Religion

For additional amusement, try looking at these sites.

Black hilarity aside, I think flame wars are a sign of computer-mediated communication’s shortcomings (at least, when it’s not deliberately incited in the name of shits and giggles). Since forum users come from all sorts of backgrounds, there’s no social context to base their words. How do we know if they’re already being sarcastic, or it’s just the way they express themselves and mean no harm?  Also, as every forum user is shielded by the anonymity provided by the Internet, he or she feels free to say anything without fearing social retribution. Sure, the boards could kick the flamer out, but it’s easy to get another account and return to the warpath. Then there’s the problem of non-verbal communication being nonexistent in the online setting. We can only judge these people through their words.

Flame war

Make sure you're fireproof

While I do admit that a flame war could be entertaining, it is also disruptive. Forums get swamped by negative posts and a negative rep. And yes, while sticks and stones can break bones and words don’t, flame posts could still affect the person behind the computer. While forums do have rules against flamers and trolls, maturity is still the way to go. Firstly, forum users should think of the statements to post. Secondly, don’t feed the flames and the trolls. They’re hungry for attention and want nothing more but your irritation. You don’t get paid for having high blood pressure, so why bother posting an equally childish reply?

Anyways, marshmallows still taste good without being roasted.

Source:

Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaming_(Internet)#.22Flame_wars.22)

Okay, so I had been out for the count for…an unspecified amount of days. Okay, weeks. Yes, bad. But hey, I had been busy. Swear! Honest!

Anyways, one of the things that kept me busy was online job application (see? I can chuck off procrastination at times). See, I’ve always wanted to try out some of those ‘part-time jobs’ other people have been mentioning. Since I’m one of those Internet junkies, I decided to get a job that requires online presence – at least, if my mom complains I’ve been melting my eyeballs in front of the monitor for four hours, I will have a very, very good reason (ie, “I’m being productive, Ma!”). Of course, like a true member of the Net Gen, I can also try multitasking! One tab for the job, five others for Facebook, TV Tropes, Wikipedia and some other site that suits my fancy. Win-win situation. Yep!

It’s still too early to celebrate and dream of things to buy though, since I’ve yet to finish the application process for the two companies I’ve applied to. Nevertheless, I’ve already noticed several things that required the attention and appearance of the OrCom hat.

The first company I braved was an online tutoring service. It needs English speakers who have the time and patience to tutor Japanese clients. I’ve been hearing of this job from my classmates ever since last semester and I decided to give it a try. After all, the application process is online – I only needed to fill up a form page and hit the ‘Send’ button. Then I have to wait for the email confirmation and then the real life phone call for a brief interview. If I passed that, then there’s the mock lesson to look forward to, and after that some more requirements to pass before I finally hit the official roster. Of course, the whole process cannot be accomplished in one day, but it looked pretty streamlined to me.

It sounded really easy – after all, I’ve been filling up online forms ever since, what, high school. The waiting part was fine, too. As I browsed the company web site (while filling up the app form – tabs are among the most awesome of web browser features), I hit the first novelty.

Skype.

Skype was merciful to my bandwidth and the installation wasn’t difficult either. It was simply…new. Yes, yes, I know, I’m a Net Gen, I should’ve learned about Skype the moment it started appearing in fifty thousand hits on Google. But I never had a reason to use Skype. I was content with YM and email correspondence. This whole ‘voice over the Internet’ thing sounded too similar to the telephone, and I thought, what’s the difference between the written and spoken word over the Internet? Besides, my reading skills seem to be better than my listening ones. But since Skype was a requirement, I knew I had to learn how to use the program. Thankfully the Welcome Screen proved to be helpful enough for the basics, and the interface wasn’t a headache. It seems all nice and dandy, and it worked well during the mock lesson. By well, no glitch or weird happenings whatsoever that could be attributed to faulty programming or interface that suddenly made my eyes cross. Moreover, I can use the chat box while talking at the same time. If I want to make sure I got understood, I could always type a keyword or the whole sentence.

The second company, which is in need of writers, also featured an online application of sorts – namely, the form filling thing – but it was less ‘rigid’ than the first company’s. Other than the staple ‘name, location, email’ blahs, there were questions like ‘describe yourself’. After blabbing on and on in their forms, I hit the send button. Not an hour later (or maybe not even fifteen minutes later), I’ve been alerted via email to the next step in the application process. I almost rolled my eyes – I’m willing to bet that they didn’t even read everything I’ve put in that form. The wonders of automatic reply, eh?

Anyways, what struck me about this company is that they have an official forum which they called their ‘Cyber Office’. They do have a physical, real-life office for the higher-ups, but for their pool of writers, everything can be accomplished simply by logging in their forum and doing the work online. No walls, no tables, no inter-cubicle talk – just the Internet, in all of its vastness. Want to know the rules? There’s a thread for that. Where to claim and post tasks? Go to the appropriate thread. Want to talk to your fellow writers about everything and anything? There’s an online niche for that. All the human contact one can experience in a real life office could be approximated online.

It sure is nifty, though. I don’t need to leave the house and I could do the tasks without anyone physically breathing down my neck. However, while the Internet connects me to the other person, it also serves as a barrier at the same time. We relate differently to people online. I could eat whenever I want while typing the tasks, or I could mask my irritation with a pleasant voice while talking through Skype.  There’s a lack of the ‘human touch’ in these relationships. At least in Skype, you can hear the voice behind the handle (not that it’s much, really), but with the forum-slash-cyber office, everyone is simply a name and whatever persona they conjured up. We’re slowly getting to that ‘infinite workspace’ thing, but I think that the idea of an ‘office’ as a space with cubicles, desks and real post-its is going to stick.

Okay, I think I need to explain that one. You see, in ye olde games of yore, when voice-overs were an impossibility due to technical restraints, video game characters talk with text boxes. So yes, my brain’s in video game mode today.

Tetris

Once upon a time, this game kept people up all night

Anyways, I was surfing the web as usual – checking Facebook, commenting on blogs, reading stuff in TV Tropes, the usual beat – when I remembered to check the homepage of a game which I really, really liked. Funny thing is, it was only then I realized that it was a WordPress page, just like this blog.

So, what am I getting at? The game was quite a wonder, really. See, there’s this group of people, who are most probably not even neighbors, creating a game and distributing it online – and for free too. Sure, it’s not Final Fantasy-level of technical superiority – it’s made from the application RPG XP (if I’m not mistaken, that is), which means it’s all sprites – but as anyone who has dabbled with programming, it’s hard work. Then there’s the gameplay, the music, the artwork, the promotion – you’ll need a whole team for this, and you’ll need to be in touch with each other lest the project falls into development limbo. Years ago, it meant that everyone must be in the same place, in the same building. Nowadays, you can do it with one person in Manila and the other in Armenia. It might take weeks, months, years even – but that project, that game could be finished despite the amazing geographical distances between its developers. You could thank the Internet for that.

The Mirror Lied

Such a simple-looking game...that messed up with my head

When we talk of games and the Internet, it’s certain that ‘piracy’ would come to mind at one point or another. However, the games that could be downloaded from the Net aren’t always the illegal rips. Like the game with the WordPress page I mentioned above, the Internet could be used to circulate and promote these free indie games. Maybe the authors of these games simply want to build up their credentials and experience, or they want to bring a story to life in any medium within their means, but the thing is, the Internet helped them create and finish that game.

Indeed, the Internet has integrated itself nicely to the video game industry. Several games have come up with elaborate viral marketing campaigns, such as Halo’s ilovebees and Bioshock 2’s Something in the Sea (which are sadly over). In something that’s vaguely ironic (especially with the sense that Internet promotes piracy) and controversial, Ubisoft required the PC version of their hit game Assassin’s Creed II to have an internet connection in order to combat piracy. Unfortunately for them, the smart ones of the Internet has cracked through their defenses. And of course, who could ever forget MMORPGs? Ragnarok Online is still close to my heart. Also, the Internet becomes the place where the fans of said games gather to discuss, as well as the way for them to reach the developers.

There's Something in the Sea...

When the online goes live

Let’s see what hits the Internet next…

I have a penchant for creating awfully weird titles. Yes, I’ve stated it in the previous post. And yes, I’m repeating it. Redundancy drives points home. Think of it as exercise of…okay, I was about to say creativity, but I guess that sounds real phony. Alright, just file it under the ‘Precky’s quirks’ folder.

Sir Barry, my ORCOM 152 professor, raised a couple of interesting points in his blog entry. See, according to an activity done a couple of Saturdays ago, it seems that the people in our class ranked the Internet as the most preferred communication channel, followed by television, print, mobile and radio. The communication channel we’re the most exposed to, on the other hand, appears to be the mobile phone (followed by television, internet, print and radio). His questions?

How come, seniors? Just when the world is starting to make use of mobile phones for just about everything from texting to watching TV shows, you drop it behind traditional print. I’m sure there’s a reason, right?

I have a cell phone. I mean, who doesn’t have a phone nowadays? Anyways, it’s one of the old models – it has colored display alright, but no MP3 capabilities and its camera has to be attached. I couldn’t even remember what’s the exact model number – it’s so phased out, it’s not listed in the Nokia site anymore (really, I’m expecting to see that phone model in a museum some time soon). Sure, I’ve dreamed of buying a new, snazzier phone – the type capable of high-res pictures and videos, can double as MP3 player, easy Internet capabilities, Bluetooth – but let’s face it, those types have price tags that bite (pardon the rhyming there). And that’s it. The new phones nowadays, the ones capable of doing almost everything that’s digital, have prohibitive prices. And even if my antique phone could surf the Internet, I think I’m saving my precious load for, say, texting my pals that I’m late for the meeting again.

Rolling on…

Seniors, whatever happened to the richest communication channel?

I’ve belatedly realized, like everyone else (I guess), that we completely forgot about face-to-face interaction.

Seriously, while we were doing that exercise, FtF never crossed my mind. Not even once. I was thinking of the gadgets, but not the most common communication channel ever. I guess face-to-face communication is so mundane, so ‘everyday’, so natural, that we have taken it for granted. I think it came from the fact that information comes from so many sources nowadays.

Then I got a thought. If we were so conditioned to perceive ‘communication’ as something that comes via technology, does that affect the way we perceive face-to-face communication too? For example, text messages and email. It’s reliant on words, therefore I’m focused on what’s written. There’s very little to pick up other than what the message states. When I talk with other people – which isn’t solely dependent on what is spoken, but also facial expressions, tone, body language, etc – is there a chance that I totally miss out these other signs, and completely focus on the words?

Okay, so that was a really weird thought, huh?