As a general rule I take the web for granted. Although I’m old enough to remember [a lot of] life before the web, because I was aware of services like Prestel and had dialed up the local BBS years before, I merely saw the web as a natural progression.
Occassionally, however, an inconsequential event does make me stop and realise how much we really take for granted. Last night I was curled up with Erving Goffman’s Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (as I’ve mentioned before his works provide userful frameworks for understanding the social web). On page 424 he uses an example of a cat ‘frame breaking’ as it circled the bull ring whilst the bullfighters were hiding behind barriers from the bull. Despite being nearly midnight I could go over to my computer, go to http://books.google.com/ and browse or search my way to the relevant issue of Life magazine to see the full-page picture of the event.
A book published in 1974, referenced a photograph published in 1955, and I could see that photo in a matter of moments. Something that would have been impossible for the vast majority of people who have ever read Frame Analysis over the past 35 years.
My research group were recently assigned a large amount of cash for new equipment. Beyond the usual list of desktops, laptops, and netbooks, I decided to ask Twitter for more interesting suggestions.
The idea of a portable projector appealed from both a work and a social perspective. Offering the opportunity for demonstrating webometric presentations on the fly (it’s a very visual subject), as well as watching films and TV on the big screen. The best Pocket Projector I could find was the Adapt ADPP-305 Pocket Projector. Luckily it arrived on Christmas Eve, so I have had a couple of days to test it out – albeit it mostly for watching Christmas TV.
The projector promises up to 100 inches, although you’d want a very dark room for it to be a clear 100 inch image. So far I have connected my laptop and my Wii to the projector, and run it off the mains, although there is also a 4GB internal memory, and a battery if you want to leave the laptop and leads at home.
There’s no doubt it is a nice bit of kit (although one of the tripod legs is a bit lose on mine – it’s nothing a bit of glue wont sort out), providing a good picture, and is reasonably priced.
As projectors continue to improve I can imagine the traditional TV being squeezed out by computers on the one side, and projectors for the big screen experience on the other. On Christmas Day I projected the Gruffulo onto the wall at 70 inches; a 70 inch flat screen would not only cost thousands, but would continue to take up space when not being used.
It has long been recognised in the world of scientific publishing that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer as authors vie for attention: The Matthew Effect. On the social web the problem is exacerbated through a combination of greater variation in the quality of publishing, the ease of ‘citing’, and social rewards for citing first. This can result in highly cited works of very dubious quality.
Publishing has traditionally been limited by space: If you publish one article you won’t have space to publish another, therefore you should choose wisely. Online the cost of space is negligible, so sites often publish stories that are pretty worthless. A good example of this is an Econsultancy post on “What would a Tory government mean for SEO?“
As a pointless article with absolutely no substance it should attract little attention. However it is on a very popular site, so (according to Topsy) it nonetheless gets 50 retweets (admittedly one is mine). It’s a pattern that’s regularly repeated all over the web, with numbers dwarfing a mere 50 retweets. A post that may be described as “naive and lazy” by one person, can easily find itself retweeted over a thousand times if the right person is posting it and the mob want to jump on the bandwagon.
Whilst the cost of space is negligible, few online publishers (and promoters) take into consideration the cost of time to the reader. Whilst users don’t have to subscribe to a feed, many will have subscribed to feeds as the sites were working hard to build a reputation, unfortunately they remain in the feedreader when the sites are starting to coast. Maybe it’s time that I put Econsultancy in the same bin as Mashable, which tipped from being mostly useful to mostly pointless over a year ago for me.
Whilst many of the posts on this site will fall firmly in the “not worth the attention” category, my audience has little expectation of anything else
Back in September, on a trip to Walsall for a Social Media Curry, I picked up a pack of 3D SpongeBob Top Trumps. Unlike the traditional Top Trumps, the latest versions have an interactive element with 2D barcodes printed on the back of some of the cards which can be read by a web cam with special software.
Earlier this week, Top Trumps finally released the necessary SpongeBob software. Why the cards were on sale almost three months before the software I don’t know, but at last I can have my photo take with Spongebob.
The actual SpongeBob software is a bit rubbish, and really wasn’t worth a three month wait, but it does show some of the potential of 2D codes for bridging the gap between the real and virtual worlds.
With the exception of the occasional football match or Formula 1 race I have stopped watching live television, instead I ‘catch-up’ with the iPlayer, 4OD, and occasionally the ITV Player and Demand Five. Online availability has now become the most important factor in my watching of a television programmme; if a programme is not available online it doesn’t exist to me. Increasingly, however, I’m not just ‘catching-up’ with current television, I’m watching the increasing number of old series online.
The last couple of weekends have been spent/wasted watching the Day of the Triffids on the MSN Video Player, Relic Hunter on Blinkbox, and the surprisingly enjoyable Dick Van Dyke Show on Joost; whole series available for watching in one sitting. Whilst the selection of programmes freely available is currently fairly limited, these are likely to increase with the increasing number of new entrants in the market (e.g., SeeSaw) offering content providers a new revenue streams.
The big difference with watching such series, however, is the lack of a shared cultural experience. There are few in my social circle who will have watched Relic Hunter or the Dick Van Dyke Show (or who would admit to it in public), and so I’m watching them in isolation. Whilst the web offers the opportunity for discussions to occur around idiosyncratic television selections, it won’t be the same as having shared experiences with friends and colleagues.