Showing all posts tagged: trends

Should we let micro-blogging fade away with Twitter?

19 September 2023

Threads. Mastodon. Bluesky. They’re among options for fans of micro-blogging who want to leave Twitter behind. But is seeking out alternatives to Twitter really the solution? American computer scientist and author Cal Newport, writing for The New Yorker, believes we should instead move on from what he sees as the flawed idea of a global conversation platform:

Fortunately, the original small community ethos of the early Internet seems to be mounting a comeback in forms like podcasting, e-mail newsletters, Discord groups, and TalkNats.com-style discussion sites—all of which can offer a more homegrown and personal variety of online interaction.

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All day I dream about the Roman Empire, like many others

18 September 2023

All roads, even Roman roads, lead to TikTok. Take any topic, no matter how obscure, how antiquated, and the subject will, it seems, surface, eventually, on the FYP tab of the ubiquitous video sharing app.

Last week it was the turn of the Roman Empire to trend. The Roman Empire. Antiquated: for sure. Obscure: certainly not. But the talk of TikTok it was. This after women were prompted to ask the men they knew how often they thought about the Roman Empire.

Some of the responses indicated this happened often. Several times a day, in some cases, apparently. Not bad for an institution that hasn’t existed in any real form for centuries. I myself still think about the old empire from time to time. I spent time in Europe once, and often encountered its remnants, even though I did not (somehow) visit Italy.

As a boy I was fascinated, obsessed more likely, by Rome. History teachers at school taught us about the Empire’s contribution to the world we lived in today, a contribution that was quite significant. In a sense we live, to a degree, in a scion of Rome. Of course we therefore think about Rome often: it’s very much a part of the fabric of our lives, a point Tyler Cowan underlines at Marginal Revolution:

I travel in the former Roman empire fairly often, usually at least once a year. I see pseudo-Roman architecture almost every time I go to Washington, D.C., which is maybe once every two weeks. There is a copy of the new Ovid translation sitting in the kitchen, and it has been there for a few months because I do not currently have time to read it. I see periodic Twitter updates about a Nat Friedman-Daniel Gross AI project to read ancient Roman scrolls. Christian references to ancient Rome cross my path all the time. Does it count to see Roman numerals? To write the words “per se”? To notice it is the month of August?

But I was thinking about the old Empire just the other week. In particular, the story of a short story, titled Rome, Sweet Rome, written by American writer James Erwin. In 2011, Erwin briefly serialised a story about a unit of some two thousand United States Marines who find themselves transported two thousand years back in time.

The Marines turn up in Italy with all of their munitions and equipment. Rome, Sweet Rome speculates on the outcome of a battle between the Marines, and the legions of the Roman Empire. The result seems like a foregone conclusion until it is realised the Marines have no way of replenishing their arms. Once they fire their last bullet, they’re fighting the Romans with swords and spears.

It’s no surprise — given how much Rome is still on our minds — that Rome, Sweet Rome garnered quite a bit of attention. At one point Rome, Sweet Rome was even optioned for film, with US production company Warner Bros acquiring the movie rights. Unfortunately for fans of the story, there has been little progress with a screen adaptation, following a re-write of the screenplay in 2013.

But who knows. Perhaps TikTok’s current interest in the Roman Empire might get the ball rolling again. TikTok has a certain power to open doors, if it can excite the interest of enough people.

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Survivalism is the most difficult form of survival

18 September 2023

Making it as a prepper, or survivalist, is not merely a matter of storing some canned food in dug-out somewhere, and watching a few YouTube videos on the subject, warns Jessica Wildfire:

We don’t think about where we’d go to the bathroom. We don’t think about how we’d filter our water. We don’t think about what we’d do without all these survival tools made in a factory somewhere.

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Information pollution, decision fatigue, among new dictionary words

7 September 2023

Dictionary.com has unveiled a new series of updates to its lexicon. Five hundred and sixty six new words have been added (seems a lot) along with three hundred and forty eight new definitions.

The words don’t stop coming, so we’re updating the dictionary more frequently than ever. And not just with any words: this update includes an incredibly useful concentration of terms for naming the complexities of modern life.

I haven’t looked at all five-hundred plus additions, but straight off the bat, I can tell you I like information pollution, and decision fatigue. Neologism, or terms, for the times, if ever they were.

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Paris bans rental e-scooters after accidents, injuries

6 September 2023

The French capital, Paris, has become the first European city to ban the use of electric share scooters. The move follows a referendum earlier this year, where Parisians were asked to decide whether the e-scooters should remain or be removed.

Paris will this week become one of the only cities in Europe with an outright ban on rented e-scooters — as operators plan to ramp up their e-bike fleets to replace them ahead of the 2024 Olympics. Despite previously expressing hopes for a last-minute reprieve, the three firms with e-scooter operating licenses in the French capital, Lime, Dott and Tier, all confirmed to CNBC that they will have removed their scooters, or trottinettes, by the Sept. 1 deadline.

At first glance, e-scooters seem like a low-cost, convenient, and even environmentally friendly, way to travel short distances. But the sometimes dangerous conduct of some e-scooter users, resulting in injuries, and tragically, a fatality, drew wide condemnation in Paris.

E-scooter users are also causing similar problems in parts of Australia. A number of pedestrians have been hurt in collisions, and often have little legal recourse, or access to compensation.

While the e-scooters hire companies offer insurance to users, the policies are often voided if the e-scooter driver was not wearing a helmet, or breaking the law in some other way, leaving accident victims, who were doing nothing wrong, high and dry.

It seems like a no-brainer that the use of sustainable methods of travel, such as e-scooters, should be encouraged, but laws need to be in place to ensure pedestrians, and others in public spaces, are protected in the event something goes wrong.

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Libraries, co-working spaces lending out sewing machines, iPads, and more

1 September 2023

Australian libraries are no longer quiet places to study or borrow books, writes Bec Zhuang for The Guardian. Today they are community hubs offering working spaces, meeting rooms, film screenings, art shows, and study courses, among other things. And in some places, libraries loan out more than books. Musical instruments, gaming consoles, sewing machines, bike repair tool kits, and, in the case of Waverley library, in Sydney’s east, iPads, are now potentially on offer:

In fact, libraries are transforming into “community hubs” to work, play or access outreach services — at no cost to visitors. The Australian Library and Information Association says forthcoming data from Public Libraries Victoria’s annual survey suggests that, with Covid restrictions now over, participation in free library programs increased by 95% this year.

Up until the pandemic I used to work semi-regularly at a nearby library. Looking around, I’d frequently see the same people each time, and it was apparent many were operating small businesses, or working there. Of these regulars, one often conducted meetings with clients in the library’s foyer, as there were, at the time, no dedicated meeting rooms.

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Would watching films be more fun if smartphones were banned?

10 August 2023

Photo of a person looking at smartphone

Image courtesy of Startup Stock Photos.

Blockbusters such as Barbie and Oppenheimer have been a windfall for cinemas struggling as a consequence of the Covid lockdowns of recent years, and stories of packed auditoriums are surely good news.

But the news hasn’t been all good. In staying home to watch movies over the last few years, some film-goers appear to have forgotten their cinema etiquette. Reports have emerged of people taking phone calls, scrolling social media, and, incredibly, giving their children phones to amuse themselves should the main feature not be of interest.

Cripes.

While there might be a generation of young film-watchers to whom cinema-going is a new experience, that cannot be the case for their parents. And it seems only a couple of short years of viewing movies from home have been enough to make some forget how to behave at the movies.

Perhaps though, as people begin to come re-accustomed to seeing a film in a communal setting, their conduct will improve. But I wonder. For some time, years prior to the pandemic, I’d been noticing a change in the behaviour of cinema audiences.

While it now seems to be a granted people will glaze at their phones during a film, I would have thought they’d draw the line at taking, or making, calls during the screening. Of course there have always been issues with people arriving late, going in and out of the auditorium repeatedly, along with being baffled by allocated seating.

But talking on the phone during a movie? That’s a whole other level of film-watching misery.

I wonder though, how much of the audience behaviour problems we see today can be attributed to smartphones, and our umbilical-like dependency on them? In the past I’ve been to film preview screenings where we’ve had to leave our phones outside the auditorium, in a secure locker. This to prevent a yet to be released feature being recorded, and leaked.

For sure, it seemed strange to be temporarily separated from our phones, but I wasn’t aware of anyone suffering adversely as a result. These screenings were quite the spectacle though. Everyone, for the most part, sitting still for the duration, focussed only on the film. Of course most of those present were film critics or journalists, at what was effectively a work event.

Still, it’s tempting, if futile, to conject here. Imagine if everyone had to leave their phones at the box office, prior to sitting down to watch a movie. Sure, there’d still be people turning up late, sitting in someone else’s seat, and opening bags of food in the noisiest way possible. But if music festivals can operate phone-free, why can’t cinemas?

For the benefits, and audience comfort, of phone-free movie sessions though, sadly I can’t see any cinema even dreaming of imposing such a demand on customers. After the last few difficult years, movie house owners would be reluctant to do anything that might dissuade patrons.

Over the course of the pandemic, and the lockdowns, I became quite the fan of streaming films at home. Doing so certainly has downsides, such as the waiting time for some titles to become available for streaming, but at least we can engage in all those irritating film-goer behaviours I’ve described, without annoying anyone else.

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Have film influencers killed off insightful film critique?

3 August 2023

London based film writer Manuela Lazić, writing for The Guardian:

If the internet has paved the way for the devaluation of cinema via streaming platforms, it has also done the same for film criticism. The democratising effect is undeniable, but so is the cheapening one, literally and figuratively. With so many more people writing about cinema online, fees for reviews have fallen to shockingly low levels and the expertise supposedly required of film critics has been forgotten – knowledge of the film history and good writing skills are less and less valued.

Once, many years ago, during a regrettable stint working in the corporate sector, I was called into division wide meeting by my boss. The CEO, whom my boss reported to directly, wanted to conduct a staff survey. The CEO was — so he said — keen to learn what people thought about working at the company. My boss was clearly terrified at what might be said, and sought to steer our thinking.

“I think it’s great of the CEO to offer us this opportunity to speak our minds, and accordingly, I think we should be positive,” he said, trying, but failing, to sound as matter-of-fact as possible. Whether he missed my colleagues and I side-eyeing each other, or only pretended to, I don’t know. My frazzled boss though was able to rest easy. A few days later it was announced the survey was being delayed, and that was the last anyone heard of it.

But the takeaway was clear. When asked to offer honest feedback, always be complimentary.

Ten years ago, I was being invited to film preview screenings left, right, and centre. I was, according to a marketer at one of the promotions agencies I was “partnering” with, an influencer. But I wasn’t an influencer, and I certainly wasn’t a film critic, even though I wrote a bit about some of the films I saw. What I did have though was a website, the content of which, at the time, ranked quickly and well, on certain search engines.

There it was: I was an asset. If I were to write about a film, chances were the review would be near the top of the search results. Now if only I could write positively about that film. Perhaps the excitement, the extravaganza, of being at the local premiere, where food was abundant, the alcohol flowed, and the stars were in attendance, would entice me to say something nice. Well, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the hoopla of it all.

Generally though, I heard little back from the agencies, regardless of what I wrote. It was apparent, from my web stats reports, that some of them looked, but that was all. A bad write up didn’t see me struck off the invite list. But times have changed it seems. All a would-be influencer cum film critic can expect today when being asked to review a film, is a free ticket to the show. Gone is the red carpet, the bubbly, and the assorted “free” gifts. Gone also are tickets to the next event, if a favourable social media post is not forthcoming.

An incentive, if ever there were one, to be complimentary, and positive.

And that’s it. That’s the way film reviews roll in the third decade of the twenty-first century, particularly where the big budget blockbusters are concerned. Experienced film critics seem to no longer be part of the process, or if they are, their thoughts are relegated to the fringes where few paying cinema-goers venture. Social media, and influencers, and a world where negative reviews never see the light of day: what a boon that’s been for the blockbuster film industry.

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Boost Threads engagement by making the platform more useful

31 July 2023

Photo of intertwined blue rope and threads, by Igor Ovsyannykov

Image courtesy of Igor Ovsyannykov.

The number of people using Threads, Meta’s micro-blogging app, together with the amount of time they are spending there, has continued to decline, according to Israeli web analytics company, Similarweb. It’s certainly not what a lot of people would have expected, given Threads’ awe inspiring debut in early July. Meta however maintain they are not surprised by the latest numbers, and perhaps for good reason.

While Threads signed on a record one-hundred million members in a matter of days, that could be largely attributed to the ease of joining. If you had an Instagram (IG) account, as do some two billion people, joining Threads was almost as simple as pressing a button. A person’s IG profile information was copied straight over to their Threads page, as were their followers, who had the option to follow back if and when they joined.

Aside from early adopters scrambling to score a low Threads badge number, numerous people already established on IG were keen to carry over their IG username and brand to Threads, lest someone else get in first. Threads also appealed to those disillusioned with the shenanigans of the micro-blogging platform formerly known as Twitter, who further were enticed by Threads’ ease of use, compared to alternatives such as Mastodon.

But once set up and ready to go on Threads, many Threaders were left wondering: what next? On looking more closely at Threads, members found a platform lacking not only in user options, but also a significant proportion of their friends and followers from other social networks. In addition, some users, particularly those with smaller followings, had expressed frustration at the low levels of engagement they were experiencing on Threads.

Many of these new users also had the existing social networks they were part of to consider.

Yet none of these problems are, I think, insurmountable. So long as Meta doesn’t overly Facebook-ernise Threads in the way they have IG, that is. Do we want Facebook and IG like “suggestions”, and other content we didn’t expressly opt-in for, clogging up our timelines and feeds? Not me. I’m not saying Meta shouldn’t be able to generate revenue from Threads through advertising in some form, but surely they can do so in a measured way.

What Meta needs to do is make Threads more useful. They could start by making topics of interest searchable. This was one of the highlights of Twitter/X. Finding out what’s happening elsewhere in my hometown, or why there’s a delay on the train line, was as simple as entering a phrase into the search box. Another urgently needed feature is making hashtags live. Being able to see what others are saying about the same topic was another feature that gave Twitter great value.

A list of trending topics would also be useful. As would desktop/laptop computer access to Threads. The current app-only access means I need to email posts I’ve written for other platforms to my smartphone, just to make the cross-post to Threads. And on the subject of cross-posting, how about the option to post photos and videos from IG — as we can to other Meta properties, such as Facebook — to Threads at the same time.

When it comes to boosting engagement on Threads, perhaps selected posts from users with public profiles, who are not influencers, nor have large following counts, could have more prominence in the “For you” column. At present the “For you” column seems to be the domain of the Threads rock stars, whom maybe I could refer to as the threaderati, were I to riff on that celebrated neologism from the blogosphere, bloggerati.

Threaders with modest profiles though might feel less disinclined to interact with someone closer to their level, rather than respond to an influencer who may not even see their comment. If nothing else, it might garner more interaction at grass roots level. But let’s see what eventuates. Meta have said new features are forthcoming. Now it’s a matter of waiting for them, and seeing what impact they have on the platform.

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Threads engagement declines, badges removed from Instagram

17 July 2023

The curious joined, looked around, and then returned to what they were doing before. Daily active users on Threads, Meta’s answer to Twitter’s micro-blogging platform, declined by twenty percent in the days following the app’s red-hot launch, while time spent by users on Threads fell from twenty minutes per day, to ten.

This is probably par for the course though. It’s not as if Twitter, and other social networks vanished, leaving Threads users more time to spend on the app. While not the most active on social networks, I’m on a few, and as much as I like Threads, there’s only so much time in the day that can (or should) be devoted to activity on social networks.

And although there might have been one-hundred million sign-ups for Threads, the people many of these new members follow may not be among that number, necessitating visits to wherever those followers are. And that might remain the case. For instance, Threads does not have the same news and politics focus as Twitter, meaning the platform won’t be for everyone, meaning some people will be spending their time on multiple social networks, not just one.

In other Threads news, member badge numbers, which I wrote about last week, are no longer visible on the Instagram app profile pages of those who are members of both Meta platforms. The badge, indicating what number member someone was on Threads, has been replaced by the Threads logo, linking to that person’s Threads page, and right now is only visible on the Instagram website.

How unfortunate. I had high hopes for those badge numbers, some of which were surely collectable (and subsequently worth paying good money for). It looks like I won’t be buying that villa in the north of Portugal, to summer at, after all…

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