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.

Facebook and Intellectual Freedom -- Here We Go Again

I was angry at first. I was sure that the men whom I asked to befriend on Facebook did not show up in search. Had I come on too strong at a singles event? Had I asked for too much? Had the men lied by making empty promises? I believed the latter, and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. The bitter taste is still there.

Then I went to check on the two groups I care about on Facebook and I wanted to gladhand a nonfriend on RAOK. I do this every now and again. I used to and hopefully still will occasionally write to nonmembers just to say hello. Well.....most of the membership list did not show. Had Facebook's privacy controls destroyed my ability to get in contact with group members via message? Had it also blocked out searching for new friends or people I knew but had not friended? The trouble with depending on a monopoly like Facebook is that at times it can get very antisocial. Facebook makes changes unanounced. It makes them WITHOUT the best interests of its users at heart since we are not paying for ad space. Put simply, we don't count.

You've probably read this before. Even to me it's old news. The search is working today, but I guess some of the men did lie to me even inadvertantly. It's hard to think of Facebook as a place where you can't network and find people. I've commented on the walls it puts up before. Anti-social network is a good word for it. Monopolies EXPLETIVE DELETED and that's all there is to it.

I wonder what happens the day that Facebook just goes and outlaws groups they way they outlawed boxes. I guess yesterday was a false alarm, but I am still wary. RAOK always is part of my daily do. I have a birthday to announce, and two new members to welcome. It feels good to see them again and have everything working. It's working for now. I have given up on Diaspora, but something still needs to break Facebook's back and heart.

Haldis is past the point of heartbreak where the Webleagues are concerned. She finally suggested we start considering an endgame for obvious reasons (lack of engagement, inability to replace fighters, rounds on hold, meaningless competition etc...) She's right. That and two dollars plus a Breeze Card would get her on MARTA if she lived in Georgia instead of Wyoming. Poor Haldis. Oh well, even if she can't ride MARTA, she's right. So what.

The response she got back was everyone wants to keep it going. One of the brass revealed that she has been fighting for twelve years. On the net, twelve years is an eternity. I remember something my friend Rhondda said about a symphony going on strike. The union rep told them that the strike would be stressful because they so considered themselves musicians that not having a place to play professionally would be destructive. Well, when you site fight enough it becomes part of your identity. This is true of admins as well as fighters. Everyone shares the faith. To walk away...I'm not sure why Haldis or I can talk so calmly about endgames. I think because we know it is just talk and we believe in soft landings. There are no soft landings for site fighters or for admins. Ask Thadea. I think it is the tears that Thadea and I wept when the Golden Elite died. None of us wants to cry like that again. I think our fear of emotional pain is stronger than our attachment to an identity that is eroding anyway.

Walking away with grace will perhaps also save our identities. Knowing we did right and did all we could, is a sop to three very bruised egos. I know I will cry with Haldis when the Webleagues dies. The world where site fighting could have taken hold was a better world than Web 2.0. We had control over the look and feel of our sites. Privacy just wasn't there, so it was not an issue. If you didn't want people to know, you didn't post it. If you had a bad server, you could go elsewhere. What could be better. Surely what we have now is no better, but if we're not taking the time to fix the broken world, we have to live in the broken world. Haldis just wants to dock the rotten ship safely on the beach rather than let it be a wreack in the channl, and I agree with her. I did my crying last summer, or so I tell myself. I also tell myslf that I am proably deluded.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Thadea G. Myers and Haldis K. Guerrin -- February 23, 2011

Hiding from Facebook and Scoring a Comp

My life follows a regular path from day to day and week to week. Right now, I am hiding from Facebook. I am not bored with the people, but I am bored with myself. I think it is the endless soggy, cold rain that is giving me a case of wanting to put my fist through the proverbial wall. Facebook is a nice wall, but it is also an invisible wall. I know there are people who arrive there scaird. Some arrive happy. Some like me get bored, though not with the people. I am bored with myself and with the self-censorship and the sameness of my life. I don't need to play Narcissus and look down into the water. I know that below my reflection, the bottom of the pond is muddy.

I'm not sure there's any one home at Facebook, including myself. I don't mind hearing about people taking naps, fixing dinner, having colds. People do this stuff, but at the same time, I get tired of writing about the weather, my commute to work, what I am cooking etc... I would not mind a good political or even religious argument, but I am sick of myself. I hope this makes sense, because I know there are VERY GOOD reasons to participate in Facebook. I know depth is overrated.

I just get more out of being elsewhere, somewhere besides with just me, and that's really all who is there on Facebook. The others are there, but they are there only with themselves and their games which as far as Facebook is concerned are real until I hide them from my feed. Somehow the simple act of going for a walk in Second Life makes more sense, though I'm way too uncomfortably like the folks who can't wait to hit Facebook to log in to Sorority Life, Farmville, or Castle Age. Hey, talking about yourself only goes so far. This blog is a much more satisfying place for that when I think of it, and I do think of it.

Haldis scored her team at the Webleagues last night. I scored ZOID City. It is hard to compare the level of participation between the nonvote exchange side of Webleagues (or even its vote exchange side) and ZOID because Webleagues allows two votes per day, and ZOID allows one. You have to divide the numbers at Webleagues in half before they become comparable. The story the numbers tell is not good, though it's better for ZOID, since I no longer have any delusions of grandeur.

First both competitions are still in business. The Site Fights whom one can credit with starting it all is no longer in business. Little Dragon Castle may or may not be in business. I suspect they are. Inertia is a powerful force. Second, I've been able to increase engagement at ZOID. My secret is to be utterly honest. People vote. The competition survives. They walk away, I walk away some time in June. It looks like there will be a ZOID until June 2012. One year does indeed feel like forever.

By contrast, Amaranthine, at the Webleagues refuses to talk about an end game. The lack of transparency would be problematic in good times, but these are not good times. Haldis advances to Explore the Vallesy because she bothered to self vote all four days. Haldis is a "flacid fairy." She is a staff member with no campaign fighting in a vote exchanging round. Her opponents should just roll over her, and she deserves it. You can see by the numbers that this isn't so. Divide them by two to get a better perspective. Suffice it to say, her opponents neither ran campaigns nor self voted. That is disengagement. That should not be happening in an upper level vote exchanging round.

There are creative, semi-punitive ways to deal with nonself voting fighters. They usually involve the team's front page and/or voting page. First, you can publicly express your unhappiness and dismay. It's that simple. I have even made weeping ballot boxes. There is the email list for even more dismay. The trick is not to make idle threats. When you make a real threat, as I did at ZOID, you put it in positive language, NOT "If you don't vote, I'm going to close the competition." You say instead: "Your votes keep the competition alive." The difference in tone is important. Voting is voluntary. Fighters are free to walk away. I want them to feel empowered and have a reason to stay.

A more punitive approach uses the front page and ballot box to single out nonengaged fighters and have fun with them. Thadea and Haldis are masters of this At one point, Thadea created nonexistent rounds and rewarded fighters for either winning in them or advancing to them. There were only two fighters, and they never complained, because they were there as uncared for websites only. Haldis turns prizes upside down or turns the lettering on them backwards. If the fighters aren't voting, they are also not picking up their participation prizes. If they find the upside down prize, hey, they are engaged. If they find the nonexistent round, they are on their way back. If not, well let them count themselves lucky. Haldis can always apologize and ask them if they want a corrected prize. If they want the unusual one or consider themselves lucky, so much the better. None of this fun with participation prizes includes threats and none of us have to throw fighters off the team or even threaten that. Cutting disengaged fighters is nonproductive because fighters are irreplaceable. Waking them up or having fun at their expense may bring them back or amuse the rest of the team.

Right now Haldis is preoccupied with a fighter named George. He has won three times in the top round on the non vote exchange side of the Webleagues. He is due to win a fourth week in a row because his opponent...well we know about fighter engagement don't we? A fourth win retires his site until SOTY unless I can convince him to keep fighting. He is all ready fielding two sites on my team, in defiance of what once was Webleagues rules. I don't care. The sties are somewhat well made, and George like Haldis is a "flacid fairy." My feeling though is that Haldis is going to lose his very good site to retirement. That means she is back to five fighters. My thoughts re George should keep fighting. Neither Haldis nor I believe there will be a SOTY 2012. The Site Fights did not survive its summer break. I don't think the Webleagues will either. ZOID has a different schedule and the moment of truth won't be until about fourteen months from now. Everything has to end. I think Haldis and I made peace with that, but you know, you never know.

Eileen H. Kramer and Haldis K. Guerrin -- February 4, 2011

Snotty Takes on Rheingold

I wish I was shadowing one of Howard Rheingold's courses, but I'll have to do my best to have a few laughs at the soft power crowd's expense. Smart mobs don't loot neighborhoods or set themselves on fire as they did in Tunisia and a few other countries. Orderly demonstrations gather even when cell phone links go bad and access to the internet is limited as they are doing in Egypt right now. This is a very smart mob since citizens are keeping the peace to prevent looting, and to put the cherry on the cake, Here is a copy of an Egyptian protest pamphlet translated. Notice, it says don't put this on Facebook or Twitter. Social networks are public. There is nothing like having your revolution and all your moves watched.

Shelter Kitties

They capture my eyes and my heart. One of my friends on Facebook posts links to pages full of photos of shelter kitties. I'm a cat lover. Yes, I'd take one or two home with me. The pictures are so sad, especially the ones from Miami, even though the shelter staff underestimated the cats' ages. Face it, there is a grace and together attitude an adult cat has that I can spot a mile away.

There is picture after picture of kitten and adult cat. They stand in their cages, sleep in their littler box, sit in a special confinement cage which is probably good for mug shots, and are held and pointed at the camera by shelter staff, who want them adopted and who care for them, for their brief stay. You know what most shelters do to extra cats to make way for more. Enough said. There are too many cats, and they pay the price for their success.

If you want to feel small, just think that your cat is physically superior to you. She can routinely jump five times her body height, a feat that would get you in the Olympics. She is flexible enough to lick her own private parts. She enjoys walking on tiny ledges and has no fear of heights. Balancing on a toilet bowl or while you "give her a ride" even when she is quite ill, is amusing and lifts her spirits. The only reason you can overpower her to give her a pill or a bath, is that you are ten times her size.

If you really want to feel small, remember cats have been on this earth in some form (little wild cats) about ten times (or more) longer than we have. They are an utterly successful species that when introduced become invasive, hunting naive species to extinction, and posing a potent threat to prey anywhere they go. Humans in the long run may not be as successful as felis domesticus.

Yet, there they are in the shelters, a victim of their own success. It's a sad thing to watch since most of these shelters are not local, and face it, if I wanted to adopt a cat that was not a breed rescue, I would head over tothe local DeKalb County Humane Society or someone at work would be needing to place a cat who met my needs. My cats would adore a few more in the house. I don't have room and I rent. I would not adopt out of town. Still, I look at the photos and stare into the eyes. The cats on Facebook are not so different from my own. Some, I am sure have good, resilient personalities. Hertzel and Lysistrata are just lucky. Otherwise, they are no different from the Facebook kitties, and yes, spay or neuter your cats. There are more cats than there are homes. If you like adult cats who have reproduced, and I do, adopt one rather than getting a kitten and letting her have just one litter. Both of my well adjusted females, have been through puberty and been pregnant. Lysistrata had an abortion at the time of her spaying, and the vet said that Georgia had had a litter with her previous owner. My other female was spayed at eighteen months and had been in heat but not pregnant. I'm not sure why she didn't get pregnant, but she had a "silent heat." Cats like people respond to being in heat differently. Georgia screamed and was miserable. Stingie heardly felt it. I never saw Lysistrata in heat. She was pregnant when I adopted her which meant she wasn't in heat very long before she got serviced. Hertzel, my retired tom cat, was two when he was neutered and he still thinks like a tom cat minus the spraying and humping.

I'm not sure why I stare at the shelter kitties, except they are cute, and I need an antidote to the live blogging from Egypt. I have two friends from Second Life who are in Egypt. I have no idea whether they are all right. I worry about them too. Peaceful demonstrations work, until the army forgets itself and fires into a crowd. Peaceful demonstrations can't stand up to tanks once the tanks get rolling. Let's hope and pray the tanks do not roll

Eileen H. Kramer -- February 1, 2011