A perfect sea urchin

The Cyberculture Corner

Welcome to where I air my wrong headed views on cyberculture and the internet. I always have a lot to say and no one tells me to shut up. To return to the regular blog page, just click here.


I'm glad I can still remember Brainstorms (Spit on the ground and don't give them a link.) I hope I have not romanticized the dim memory. Time wounds all heals. Time carries us away from damage. I do know there was a place called Life Stories where people wrote intelligently about themselves, or if not intelligently at least they wrote articulately, or if they wrote neither intelligently nor articulately, at least they had the nerve to step up to the plate and write. That has been awfully hard to replace. Facebook does not replace it. This blog does. I am glad it is here, and I still have the courage to write.

Facebook has and will always serve a different purpose. It's my platform for supporting RAOK and LOTH, both organizations with values opposed to those of Brainstorms. LOTH has doubled in size but will not grow much at Facebook because it is a closed group. RAOK has more than quadrupled in size since 2008. Many members were never members before they joined on Facebook. RAOK has become truely international. I can sing all the praises, but the day to day participation rate for both groups is low. On the other hand, so too is the drama.

A RAOK member who made suicide attempts has blocked me. Another RAOK member who has paranoid political fantasies has kept them on her own wall and out of the group space. We have had only one spamming inicident. All of this is a major relief. Sometimes negative achievements are nonetheless achievements. Does either RAOK or LOTH have much social capital (real definition, NOT Brainstorms definition)? The answer is positively no. We can't get together as a group to do anything worth talking about, which would include a move to a board that would accomodate more talk or perhaps a public are for recipes and links to self-help sites.

Real social capital (The Brainstorms definition was one of individual clout, influence, or pull.) is the ability of a group to make change or obtain things it needs. Four people crossing through eight lanes of Memorial Drive have social capital, albeit short lived. They get the cars to stop, and all make it safely to the other side. Brainstorms had less social capital than a bunch of former bus riders toughing out the traffic on a weekday morning. The reason has nothing to do with Brainstorms being good or evil in their deeds. It had to do with them being hidden. Hide your light under a bushel and it doesn't shine. Hide in a corner and have a secret group and you don't get any social capital.

Facebook is not a great place for generating social capital though the fact that new members find us and join because we look active, gives RAOK a small amount. Real social capital eludes us. Some of this is that members do not want to take risks and being known is risky. It is also rewarding, but RAOK's own Guidelines, which I wrote, specifically do not ask members to take risks. If members prefer to hide inside their Facebook profiles and applications, then that is where they stay.

Meanwhile, I have to ask myself: "What next?" I am writing more fiction, because I like fiction groups. Is that enough? Not really.

I try to make posting to RAOK and LOTH and to members' walls as interactive as possible. Sometimes this works. Sometimes this diappoints me even when it works.

I think about my Play Pretend Brainstorms and starting it again to remind me of why I am doing what I am doing. The further away I get from the memory the less the Play Pretend will resemble reality or even have motivational power. Time wounds all heals. Doesn't it?

Another depressing fact is I see the kindness made stupid suggestions. The classic ones are paying for someone's groceries or restaurant meal. This is false charity since the money used for this should go for someone in need. Someone who is on line to buy groceries or who sits down in a restaurant to eat doesn't do so if he/she can't afford it. If you do this and can't afford it, you get in terrible trouble. It's called theft. Therefore, paying for someone's groceries or meal is helping someone who does not need help. Of course you will feel like you did your part so you won't be around to help someone who is really needy. If you want to help someone, put items in the food bank. Contribute to a local charity, and let those who can buy their own groceries and food do so.

Eileen H. Kramer -- November 30, 2011

Haldis' Burnt Out Fighter

I don't know if he is burnt out or just has a permanent include or just doesn't care or what. His mother-in-law is supposedly ill. She's about my age so she's not really that sick and is probably well enough now anyway, if the story is true. Haldis smells bovine excrement. She needs BoomBoom back and in fighting form, and BoomBoom is fighting at Little Dragon Castle. That link works this week, but is of course ephemeral.

Well if his life is going well enough for him to fight at Little Dragon Castle, it's time for him to stop acting like a crooked politician and fight for Haldis' team. Haldis has only complained to him once and then it was justified. The question is how delicately to word the "I want you back" letter. The other question is does Haldis even bother. If BoomBoom had a fight with the brass whom Haldis realized long ago are not worth it, that is probably the brass' fault. If BoomBoom is tiredof working for incompetents, well he can fight for Haldis who is at least competent as a team manager. If BoomBoom wants to use a discrete excuse to bow out, well why shouldn't he?

The answer is that Haldis' team is no longer viable without a fifth fighter. I guess that's the reason she needs to use. BoomBoom can well keep his motives to himself. That still leaves Haldis to write and word the letter.

Right now she is angry with BoomBoom. She feels that by hiding behind the excuse of family, he is not just lying in a routine way but also acting in bad faith. Haldis also knows that she feels like an idiot when she asks to have BoomBoom back and asks if his sick mother-in-law has recovered. It's been weeks. She should be better or at least under a doctor's care. BoomBoom's mother-in-law and her state of health are utterly irrelevant. He's got enough time and psychological energy to field three sites at Little Dragon Castle. Haldis has to confront him to keep her self respect, but you know this is going to hurt. I'll keep all of you updated.

Eileen H. Kramer ith help from Haldis K. Guerrin -- November 22, 2010

Waiting for "the Suggestion"

It won't be a suggestion. It will be an order. Haldis' team at The Webleagues is no longer viable. She has four active fighters, most of whom sometimes self vote, and who once occasionally cheered. Morbidity and demographics have cleaned her out, and there are no new fighters. For a team to be viable at the Webleagues it needs to be able to fill four rounds (sometimes five) and provide competition in all of them. That means it needs the following numbers of fighters.

Round Number of Fighters
Glass Furnace (team round) At least 2 though fighters can fight unconstested.
League of Oceans and League of Grasslands (quarter final) Two fighters (one for each round).
Explore the Forests (semi final) One fighter.

A viable team needs at least five fighters. Seven to eight is even better. Below five fighters rounds sit empty because the team has no fighters to advance to them. This happens at the quarter finals. The team level round when it runs, runs uncontested. This is demoralizing to fighters and, do I have to say, pointless.

When a team can not run viably, there are a couple of things a competition's top brass can do. They can close it down and ask the fighters to redistribute themselves. This would be fairly easy to do since I have up to date data on all my fighters. I'd be left with nothing, but someone could reassign me a task or else we shake hands amicably. You can see why this is sticky. It is easy to take over badly run teams or teams that have collapsed or teams whose owners have fought with the brass, but when a team janitor has learned to be quiet and when the trains run on time, taking over a going team is seen as undeserved punishment.

Second, Haldis could offer to give up the team. This means she would lose the team, and quite frankly she has four lucky fighters. They aren't going to do as well elsewhere. The team that disappeared into another team recently disappeared into a team that belonged to the same owner. When the Antarcticans absorbed the Oceanics at the beginning of the Webleagues in 2005, Thadea and Haldis had taken over the Oceanics due to the disappearance and malign neglectg by their manager. She then merged the two teams that she both owned. To give up one's team is to surrender and to show incompetence. Haldis won't do this willingly.

Third, Haldis can be ordered for the good of the competition to give up her team which will be merged with another going team to keep one team viable. They can offer Haldis an upper round, or a web design job, or just cut her. They can thank her for doing a good job on the way out, but since having one's team taken is usually considered punitive, the odds of them touching Haldis' team are very slim. In the end, the team will wither away to nothing. There were be holes in the upper levels. When the holes become gaping enough that rounds often go on hold, someone may do something.

My guess is that the Webleagues will survive until the Christmas holidays and any downsizing will happen in the late winter of 2011. I think we'll be able to open in January of 2011. Beyond that, the three month summer break of 2011, will probably be the end. I will be pleasantly surprised if Haldis is still running the Art Leagues next year.

Eileen H. Kramer and Haldis K. Guerrin -- November 18, 2010

I Wonder Why

Facebook makes me feel both stupid and stupified. I don't mind reading people's personal views, but all too often it is cut and paste. There is currently a Veteran's Day cut and paste asking you to thank a veteral for your freedom. Hmmm.... in the last few wars, veterans fought to preserve the empire. Not all veterans are even deployed and many work in support positions. Most just serve out their time. A minority are hurt. A smaller minority return feet first.

And with wars before 1973, veterans were conscripts, often conscripts who could not obtain a deferment. Yes, if you were of the right class, you could get out of serving. Isn't history fun? Well, how many of those just served out their time. Yes, there is a romantic idea of the valient hero going out to do battle with the enemy, but how many fighters in our modern army do anything resembling that? If you want to thank someone, thank your local cop or FBI agent. They are the ones who catch domestic terrorists. You can even thank your CIA agent if you can find him/her. Chances are he/she is top secret, and you can thank the judges and lawyers that defend our laws by establishing them from the bench.

Then there are the latest cute videos, advertisements for personal businesses and whatnot and the games, most of which are thankfully blocked from my feed. The world of Facebook doesn't extend much further than ads and cut and paste for most people. There doesn't seem to be much worthwhile communication going on, even with my microblogging into groups. It's pleasant. It keeps down drama. A person can like it without adding one bit to the conversation.

No wonder when I get done with Facebook, I beat a path to the New York Times or The Atlantic. At least the "voices" and columnists and bloggers there have something to say besides cut and paste and games.

I'm sorry if I sound burnt out, but there comes a point where a closed loop of a network gets stultifying, and all the listening in the world does not help one understand. A few days ago, I mistook a fairy drawn by one of my friends for a soccer player. I looked back at the picture. She was kneeling with what looked like a ball between bare, thin leggs. What were her wings could just as easily have been a striped shirt blown out by the breeze. Maybe she slid into position and doubled over from exertion. The friend and I were on totally different wavelengths. When articles and videos fail to "touch my heart," it is not because my heart is made of stone.

I lost a friend last summer when I banged my head against a proverbial brick wall trying to explain why a pass-it-on post villifying a particular group for unspeakable crimes was not a good idea if one did not have solid evidence of such crimes. Accusing the innocent of unspeakable crimes they did not commit is libel and defamation. Also even if the villified group exists only in the imagination of whoever wrote the pass-it-on, there are groups with similar sounding names that are totally innocent.

Of course I'm not sure that my tales of cooking in Minds and Hands in the Ladies-of-the-Heart.org group are believable or revolting or both. Yes, I really do eat that way. I'm not sure my political articles posted to Zanmi are welcome, or if any one reads the S.W.O.T. or Governance posts I post to TheRAOKGroup group. You get the idea I hope. I'm not sure any one out there in Facebook land does, and I still owe my two groups the daily rounds.

Am I saying that Web 1.0 was better. Maybe some of it was. At least people formed groups according to interest rather than who knows who or thinks they know who. That meant you had something you could discuss and a kind of common ground. It also assured you would meet with near strangers and learn something that you did not know. It meant that you could meet others with human capital. It takes human capital (Social capital is something else entirely. It is the ability of a group to influence others. Six students crossing Memorial Drive through traffic often exhibit social capital. Their lives depend on it.) to be able to write. That means you need to be educcated (self educated is fine) and reasonably articulate or at least glob, and yes very brave. Without those qualities, it's cut and paste or Farmville for you, and I'm sorry to insult any witty and charming writers who also play Farmville. Even with easy access to Broadband and a cell phone that takes grainy movies, if you can't keep up a conversation and can't write, and you are afraid to write in public, you are a mute voice on the net, and there are times when Facebook can be a sea of mute voices. Swimming in that sea, I feel stifled.

Eileen H. Kramer -- November 10, 2010

Undeserved Compliment

Candi complimented me on how I was taking care of the RAOK Group on Facebook. The truth is, I have barely done anything in the last week or so. I have forced myself to stay engaged. I have welcomed new members, celebrated birthdays, but haven't done much else.

Our group needs an additional home. There needs to be a way to bring the old, mailing list, membership together with the newer, younger, international crowd. Facebook has been good to RAOK, but some of that is due to using it diligently and bringing the group's ethos to Facebook.

I haven't checked Diaspora in ages. They say they will have client software soon. Soon could be forever.

Meanwhile, Haldis' site fighting team is at four members, up from three at the end of last month. I'd like to have our census return to five, but BoomBoom is not ready to fight again. His middle aged mother-in-law is young enough to take care of herself, but that is not the way he sees it. Maybe it's a cultural difference. Maybe it is burnout masquerading as a cultural difference. It's time for BoomBoom to move on and that is OK with both Haldis and me.

It is really time for Haldis to move on as well. That she doesn't should give everyone pause, but there really is no way to quit without everything crashing about our ears. The Site Fights just froze in its tracks. My guess is it is not coming back. I'm not sure what to think any more. I don't want ZOID to end this way. I hope the Webleagues can end with more grace. I don't think the fighters deserved this kind of an ending.

There is nothing more to say. I'm past the point of gloating when I tour the dead web site. At least let every one know at the end. At least let everyone know why. Do I sound like I am shouting into empty space? I wish I knew the rest of the story or the story behind the story. It's the not knowing that hurts. I still have my old graphics and some of my history with the site fights on the web. I'm glad I have that stuff. It's a piece of cyberculture history that never got recorded anywhere. Those who live history need to tell the story.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Haldis K. Guerrin -- November 2, 2010