Tag Archives: social networking

Low-Tech/High Tech B&N

I stopped frequenting Barnes & Noble a while back because they were so determined to sell you a Nook and get you out of the store, never to return. (That, and for a while we had a great indie bookstore nearby.)

Now they’re selling vinyl records.

And holding events.

They’re doing Throwback Thursdays and a Fangirl Friday.

I don’t know if it’s a desperate attempt at relevance or a brilliant return to form.

I certainly know it’s not corporate-wide, though — or at least not evenly distributed — because a week later I went to another Barnes and Noble, one near a full-blown mall, and walked straight into the giant NOOK pavilion.

No sign of any events aside from a mention of filming during the Harper Lee book launch. Vinyl was being plugged in the music section in the back, but not right up front.

On the other hand, no one was staffing the NOOK pavilion, and half the tables were empty. So maybe it’s still being phased out?

Lessons from a Spam Attack: Moderation, Alerts, and Beware Auto-Sharing

I had to clean up a spam flood last week. A reader sent me an email that Speed Force’s Facebook feed appeared to have been hacked. TL;DR: someone had posted a couple dozen spammy pictures to the site’s Flickr group, which were then auto-shared to Facebook and Twitter. Fortunately there was no unauthorized access, just misuse of an open forum, or cleanup could have been a lot worse.

So I removed all the posts from Facebook and Twitter, replied to all the reports, posted an “oops” on each network and the blog itself, banned the spammy account, and tightened moderation on the group.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t auto-share anything that you don’t control.
  2. Moderate all the things!
  3. Maybe notification alerts aren’t such a bad idea after all.

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This Fan Used To Post Tons Of Comic-Con Coverage, Then Stopped. Can You Guess Why?

SDCC Crowd with TVs

Social media has drastically changed the online aspect of Comic-Con. So much is up instantly that you can follow the event live without setting foot in San Diego. But for those of us who are on-site, there’s a trade-off between being part of the conversation and part of the convention.

Because we can post in real time, people want to follow in real time too, and lose interest quickly afterward. No matter how interesting I think my follow-up articles might be, none of them are read anywhere near as much as the half-assed pieces that go up during or right after the con. Even interest in photos drops off steeply as soon as the event is done:

Flickr SDCC traffic graph

But it takes time to write and edit, to curate, crop and adjust, and (dare I say it) to promote — and if it’s not your job, it comes at the expense of other things you could do at the con.

There’s Far Too Much To Take In Here

I’ve been posting my con experiences and photos for over a decade now. At first I’d just post when I had time. Once I had a smartphone, Twitter, and a second blog at Speed Force, I was live-tweeting and live-blogging everything.

Then in 2011, my wife and I left our then-infant son with relatives and spent a single day immersed in the pop culture madness. It gave us a new perspective:

  • Comic-Con is gigantic.
  • Your time at Comic-Con is limited.
  • Make the most of it!

I changed the way I approached the convention. No more liveblogging; other people are doing that for their job. No presentations that will just be online by the end of the day anyway. No three-hour lines. I wanted the experience I could only get by being there.

I also cut my social media activity to a minimum:

  • Instagram when I had a minute or two of downtime, set to auto-share pictures out to Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
  • Twitter rarely, again when I had a little downtime. No more stopping in the hall to post a comment. This year I didn’t even check for conversations (which, it turns out, I should have).

Sure, I’m a little disappointed that my SDCC 2014 writeup hasn’t been read by very many people, but it’s partly to help me remember this year’s con when I look back at it later. Our photo album at least got some attention. But you know what? If I’d taken the time to write about it during the con, whether live or nightly, I wouldn’t have had as much to write about, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I think that’s a good trade-off.

P.S. Apologies for the clickbait headline. It seemed appropriate for the subject matter.

Recent Links: Geography, Internet and Comics

A few interesting links that I’ve been meaning to post for a while now.

Geography and History

Using and Building the Internet

  • Warren Ellis has given up on Facebook and Google+ because it’s just so hard to reliably reach or listen to people. Think of how many posts in your news feed you miss each day just by not being online at the right time, never mind the pre-filtering Facebook does to the firehose.
  • Page Weight Matters – an engineer at Google led an effort to cut Youtube’s bandwidth requirements by a factor of ten. Strangely enough, when they started a live test, average page load time went up. It turned out that people on low-speed connections had found out about it and started using it even though it took two minutes to load where they were…because even that was still better than the 20 minutes they’d been stuck with before. (Via Raymond Camden)
  • If you run an email newsletter, keep in mind that many of your readers will try to read it on a phone. Keep that in mind when designing your format. Giant images with no text aren’t going to be too helpful.
  • How to keep electronics going when you lose power for days: Generators, batteries, car chargers, solar or kinetic chargers, etc.

Comics

  • Some of the earliest UNIX daemon art was drawn by none other than Phil Foglio of Girl Genius fame.
  • Saturday Morning in Front of La Salle De Justice is a painting by Rey Taira in DC Comics’ gallery show, inspired by Seurat’s famous painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (the painting at the center of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George), but recast with the Justice League and other DC Comics heroes. It’s making the rounds again now, but I first saw it on Firestorm Fan a few months back.

Who Owns Your Online Profile? Thoughts on Instagram, Facebook, and Blogging

Spectrum on the Floor (Not Pink Floyd)

You’ve probably heard about Instagram’s new terms of service, which claim the right to sell your photos. [Update: Instagram has posted a “that’s not what we meant!” statement and promised to revise that section.]

To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

Monetization is one thing, but selling my creative output, using it or my likeness for advertising, without my permission? That’s stepping over the line. Add this to the recent decision to hide image previews from Twitter, and a pattern emerges of a service that was once open and free starting to close ranks.

I’m not personally worried about Instagram in particular. I’ve only really dabbled in it over the last few months, treating it most of the time as a first draft for Flickr. I have maybe 50 photos and a handful of followers, and most of the people I follow there are also on other networks. If Instagram doesn’t back down or clarify the language [Update: they did], I can easily repost the photos I want to keep online and go somewhere else.

I am worried about the trend it highlights: You can’t always rely on social media.

And I am worried about the fact that these changes were announced after the Facebook acquisition went through, and after Facebook revised their terms so that they no longer have to put new terms of service to a vote. I’ve got a lot more invested in Facebook than I have in Instagram.

Where Have All The Photos Gone?

GloomI used to blog about web browsers at Spread Firefox and Opera Watch. Both sites are long gone. Countless articles I’ve linked to have vanished as publishers restructured or went out of business.

I’ve got an extensive LiveJournal from a few years back. It’s still there, but when I let my paid account lapse, I started moving over some of the less personal, more tech- and entertainment-focused posts (like convention reports) to this site, just in case a BOFH deletes it, or they change their terms of service to something unacceptable.

The question “Who owns your data?” has been repeated so often over the years that I can’t look up the post I’m thinking about, which advocated open file formats over proprietary ones (like Microsoft Office) on the basis that you should always be able to find a reader for a text document, but if you lose access to Word, or if Microsoft decides to drop support for an older format, you’re at their mercy.

The problem with social networks as services is that, like with those proprietary file types, you’re at their mercy. Want to search for a three-year-old Tweet? Tough. Facebook changed their privacy settings again? Oops. Twitter decides they don’t want apps like yours to exist, so they close off part of their API? Bye! The site you posted all your photos to decides to close up shop? *Poof!* There go your photos.

So What’s the Alternative?

Train ArrivingWhen it comes down to it, the only way to be sure you aren’t going to be exploited or abandoned is to do it yourself.

Blogging is basically the same as social networking, except distributed:

  • People publish written posts, photos, videos, and more.
  • Other people comment on them.
  • You can “share” a post by linking to it, and pingbacks/trackbacks will let them know you’ve done so.
  • You can subscribe to someone’s updates through RSS, and services like RSSCloud and PubSubHubub can make updates appear quickly.
  • Services like OpenId make it possible to authenticate visitors, which means you can start locking down who gets to see what.

The upside is that you, not Facebook or Google or Twitter, have full control of your content. The downside is that you have to exercise that control. You have to maintain the infrastructure, you have to guard against attackers, you have to filter out spam, you have to do your own backups, and you have to know at least something about the system under the hood.

We keep going to social networks because they’re so damn convenient. They take care of all that, and make your stuff easier for people to discover as a bonus.

But when you leave the network — or when it leaves you — what happens to all your photos, status updates, rants, raves, and commentary?

Who owns your profile?