Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Social Media

Wednesday October 22 2014

Did the junk mail phenomenon always exist?  Or is it relatively new?  What I have in mind is the way that an entire category of communication becomes broken because it is overused by semi or total crooks shouting rubbish at you, thus overwhelming the actual human persons sending you individually useful messages.  Even real messages just sound like arseholes yelling at you.  The signal-to-noise ratio becomes so stupid that eventually, no genuine signals get through.

A few days ago, I received an email from something called Macmillan Distribution (MDL).  A package was due.  There were various buttons for me to press so that I could track the package, or tell them where else to deliver it, or some such thing.  I immediately assumed that this was an industrialised garbage message, the purpose of which was for me to tell crooks about myself by pressing one of the buttons.  Having received many junk messages just like this in the recent past, I assumed that this one was similarly fraudulent.

I noted that they had my name and address, and this might have supplied me with the clue that this was actually a genuine message about a genuine delivery, from a genuine enterprise, with buttons for me to press which actually did what they said they would do.  But instead, I merely thought: oh dear, now the international conglomeration of bastard junk emailer fraudsters knows my name and address.  Oh well, more crap to delete.

But this morning, the package actually arrived, at a time that the emails had been referring to.  The emails from Macmillan Distribution (MDL) (there were three emails in total) had all been genuine.  It was a book that I had already paid for and wanted to read.  So, good.

The actual delivery was a mess.  Some arsehole just smacked the door of my flat (sounding like when the cleaners vacuum the landings and bang their machines into our doors), and then just stuffed the package through my mail flap (which very luckily was big enough).  No electronic buzzing from outside and downstairs, to get my attention while I slumbered, like a proper delivery.  And how the hell did this arsehole contrive to get through the downstairs front door in the first place?  (We’ve had robberies from people claiming to be delivering things, but actually hoovering up the deliveries of others from our (unlocked and wide open) cubby holes.) So, very unsatisfactory, as home deliveries so often are.  But, the thing itself did arrive, which means the delivery scored one out of one on the one measure that really counts.

And, as I say, those emails were all for real.

No doubt there are various twenty first century, social media like methods that I could have used to track this parcel and its delivery, methods which screen out junk and preserve a benign signal-to-noise ratio.  Maybe, any decade now, I will have to get with the twenty first century and dump email completely.

I vividly recall when having email first became a necessity, when you suddenly started getting dirty looks at parties if you didn’t have it.  And when fax numbers ceased mattering.  (Remember those?)

As of now, regular twenty first century people half my age still seem to do email, or so it says on those little cards they give me.  But how long will this last?

More about package delivering from 6k, here.  “Wumdrop” sounds sort of like Uber, only for things.

Saturday October 18 2014

This funny letter posting got me googling for Viz, which has the best letters page bar none.  I found a clutch of Viz epistolatory masterpieces here, of which this is my favourite:

What is it with vegetarians and their veggie sausages and burgers?  I’m a meat eater, but I don’t go around making carrots and sprouts out of beef.

This is also a good one:

I work in a call centre in Norwich and we’ve just been told our jobs are moving to India.  I’m so excited!  I’ve always wanted to visit India and with the salary they pay me I’ll be able to live like a Maharaja over there.  Well done Aviva, keep up the good work.

Interesting piece about the rise and fall and rise of Viz, here.

Tuesday July 22 2014

I haven’t yet finished showing you photos from that Adam Smith Institute Boat Trip, that I got in on and took lots of photos of, at the beginning of this month, and which I have been showing here, now and again, ever since then.  I’m hardly even close.

For instance, it’s taken me three quarters of a month to get around to it, but, of course, there were other photographers present besides me:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

I chose these pictures simply because they fitted the bill subject matter wise, and because they look nice.  I did not choose them to illustrate any particular point about digital photography.

The result being that they do illustrate a particular point about digital photography.  Consider the stats.

There are two regular old school digital cameras to be seen snapping (1.1 and 1.3), three if you count mine.  There is also just the one big tablet being used (3.3). 

All the other photographers are using mobile phones.

Usually, when I photograph photographers, there are more regular old school dedicated digital cameras to be seen.  But this is because I am photographing lots of “photographers”, i.e. people like me, who see themselves as more photography-minded than regular people.

What this boat trip illustrates is how much regular people now use their mobiles to take photos, in among all that networking and connecting and chatting and socialising.  It isn’t so much that mobiles have replaced those tiny, cheap digital cameras, although yes it is that, a bit.  But it is more that mobiles can now take photos, so now they do.  A lot of photos are now being taken that would not have been taken at all, before mobile phones learned how to take photos, by people for whom mobile phones are essential, and photography with mobile phones began only as an extra.

And you can bet that many of the photos that the above people were taking were already flying off into the big www beyond, to work their propaganda magic, promoting the ASI, its Boat Trip, and the people who went on it, before the trip was even over.

Young people these days are quicker off the mark than I am.  That’s their job.  And being slower off the mark is mine.

Monday June 30 2014

Incoming from 6k, about a dramatic Big Things photo that he came across, via a Facebook friend.  There is also a blog posting at his place about it, and about how I might like it, which indeed I do.

I’ve done what he suggested and have thinned it for here:

image

He has the whole thing, and here it is even bigger.  Very dramatic, I think you will agree.

6k entitles his posting “Waterloo sunset”.  This is a fine Kinks song, but sunsets are defined by where you are when you see them, and this photo was taken from the other side from Waterloo of the Big Things of the City of London, which is what these Big Things are.  He has most of them identified, but his big omission (no criticism intended - he is, after all, now 6k miles away) is the tallest one, in the middle.  This is the Cheesegrater.

My first thought was that this view might have been taken from the spot I visited last January, when I took these Big Thing photos.

But that isn’t right.  However, some other photos I took that day that do point at the approximate spot where the above sunset photo was, I think, taken from.

Photos like this one, also thinned:

image

6k’s sunset photo was taken from somewhere in among those houses on the other side of the river, with the Shard sticking up behind, on the left of my photo.

Here is a slice of Google Map which shows were everyone is:

image

I was where it says “ME”.  The Big Things of the City are where it says “BIG THINGS”, and 6k’s anonymous photographer was standing somewhere very approximately where I have put “?”.  The spot I chose for “?” is something called Stave Hill Ecological Park, which sounds very promising, what with it maybe being a hill.  I have never been there and I must check it out.  But, that’s only my guess.  The photographer could have been quite a bit further south and/or west.  Don’t know.

But there is more.  While going through the photos I took last January, comparing them with 6k’s sunset photo, I came across this one, which I have again thinned:

image

Again, click to get the bigger version.

Now, in the middle there, unmistakably (with three unmistakable holes in its top), is the Strata.

But, and I only spotted this today, almost directly behind it is the equally unmistakable Spraycan, unmistakable because in the dark, that is how the Spraycan is always lit up.

Here is a close up of the two of them:

image

The Strata is at the Elephant and Castle, and the Spraycan is way over in Vauxhall.  Beyond Waterloo, in other words.  Once again, I hit google maps, to check on the alignment of these two favourite Big Things, and it all fits.  By and by, I shall return to that same spot, to take more and better versions of this photo.

Like I always say, my camera has better eyesight than I have.  On days like that one, it almost invariably sees far more than I see.

Friday June 27 2014

I am fond of saying that a consequence of how Big Thing architecture tends to be done these is that there is now a big call for highly specialised window cleaners.  (See, for instance, this piece, about One New Change.) Just hanging a shelf down from the top no longer does it, because now the walls are liable to slope every which way.

Now, you need mountaineers:

A social enterprise is looking for people with a head for heights who want to be The Shard’s window cleaners.

The unique opportunity was posted on jobs site Good People Connect, and pays up to £20,000 a year, depending on experience.

You need to have abseiled before for the role, working 6am to 2pm six days a week, and need to be unemployed and living in Southwark.

That’s from a short report by Robyn Vinter, of whom I was critical the other day.  Good to be able to be nicer this time around.

Thursday May 29 2014

If you’ve not been there before, I recommend visiting Handpicked London.  I’ve just been browsing through it, and found my way from it to Photographs of Tower Bridge being constructed are found in a skip, from December 2011, which I do not remember noticing at the time.  (The first two of those are Facebook links, and maybe they don’t last.  You have to register, is what the second one just said.)

These photographs of Tower Bridge being constructed have been unveiled after a stash of hundred-year-old photos were found in a skip. The 50 sepia pictures, the most recent of which date back to 1892, reveal in incredible detail the ingenuity behind one of the capital’s most popular tourist destinations.

One of the photos:

image

Hybrid modernism.  Modern in its manner of creation.  Ancient in appearance.  An architectural style with a lot of mileage in it.

LATER: More stuff from me about towers here.

Tuesday March 04 2014

Incoming, entitled “Request Link Removal”:

Dear Brian,

I am contacting you on behalf of Eurostar, we work with their Online Marketing team and are currently reviewing the number of links pointing to the Eurostar website. In order to comply with Google’s regulations, there are a number of links which we are required to remove or nofollow. We have identified such links from your website and would like to request that you either remove the link or add a nofollow tag to it.

The link(s) we wish to be removed can be found here:
[original link written out but it doesn’t fit properly here]

Please can you let me know once you have altered the link or if you have any questions,

Kind Regards,
Marleen Vonk
SEO Account Executive
360i | 62-70 Shorts Gardens | Covent Garden| London, WC2H 9AH

The link in the above email is to an entire month of postings here, so it took me a while to find the offending link in question.  I was half hoping I wouldn’t find it, so I could send a sarky email back saying: Be more specific.  Which posting?  No such luck.  It’s in this posting, where is says “November”.  Worth following that link because it is to one of my very best ever (I think) photos.

I don’t understand what a “nofollow tag” is or how to make such a thing work, so I just removed the link.

My link originally went “http(semicolon)//stpancras.eurostar.com/en-gb/why-we-moving” (I’ve changed “:” to “(semicolon)” there to stop this version causing more grief).  Trying StPancrasDotEurostarDotCom now gets Google saying:

Oops! Google Chrome could not find stpancras.eurostar.com.  Did you mean: www.­eurostar.­com/­stpancras

Interesting that Google omits the question mark there, I think.

So, presumably this is a case of an old Eurostar website that they no longer want anyone reading.

Or is it?  I don’t know.  Can anyone tell me more about what just happened?

To me, it all has a slightly objectionable taste to it.  The link to our site no longer works, so you must remove your link to it.  Why?  Why can’t the link just not work any more?  Does it clog up the internet, or something, with repeated attempts to make the link work?  Is that what this is about?

Monday February 10 2014

Mick Hartley links to some pictures of people forming human sculptures.  He chooses his favourite.  I choose this one:

image

One of the speculations I offered in my recent talk about the impact of digital photography was that digital photography has greatly encouraged this kind of temporary art.

Recently I heard tell of some kind of performance art event where cameras were forbidden.  My googling skills did not enable me to track down any report of such an event, but I am guessing that one of their motives was to avoid the creation of an object, which someone might later buy, and then (perhaps for a great deal more money) sell.  And I further guess that the “artists” in question were being deliberately contrary, as artists typically like to be these days, and chose to do the daft, counter-intuitive thing.  The obvious response to temporary art is to take pictures of it, to make it permanent.  So, said the artists, let’s forbid that, and be different.

But most people who do something “creative” want some kind of record or product of their efforts, something to show for it.  Literally, some thing, to show.  And the fact that it is now so totally easy to create such things, such records, and communicate them far and wide to friends and family, real and virtual, must surely increase the attraction of doing such temporary art.  Art, that is to say, that in the past would have been temporary, but which can now be made permanent.  See also: painting, sand castles, ice sculptures.

As to what these particular people are communicating with their body assemblages, what it speaks to me of is the futility of life in the world now, for young people, educated, unemployable, unneeded, probably in debt.

Temporary art made of brightly dressed people
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Nowadays a picture is no longer worth a thousand words
Antoine Clarke on life and libertarianism in Britain in 1913
You can achieve everything you want if you’re unambitious enough
The Alex Singleton blog
On the pleasure of assuming the worst
A scaffolder likes Jeremy Clarkson
Quotes of the day
“No one has to know!”
Birds
WWWhat a great afternoon!!!
A photo taken of a taken photo of the photo being taken
The politics of humour in the USA and in Britain
Out to lunch with Alex Singleton
Eye shadow
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
Everyone who shows this picture needs to add that it is not Photoshopped
One man’s intellectual theft is another man’s marketing
The US Navy photos itself
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
Graeme Swann - twitterer but no twit
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Tienanmen + Twitter = Teheran
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
It all depends on whether there is anything worth Twittering
Effing newspapers
Google and dongle
Floppy road bridge where the cars nearly get wet
Horizons
PID strikes Guido
Flickring and Googling for the AMGEN bridge
Billion Monkey lady ticks four (make that five) boxes!
The moving bridges of Chicago
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
Blogging – the end of the beginning
Democracy for sale – starting with football and beer
Facebook – not so social
Billion Monkey lady does … “Heinrich Photography”?
Socialising with the Social Media
Breaking the Left’s stranglehold on the moving image
Che Guevara was a murderer and your T-Shirt is not cool
Facebook
New Moscow road bridge
The future of music
Other people’s photos (4): Kitten on man’s head
Blogging has arrived
Other people’s photos (3): Ice storm
What next for the virtuoso violinists? - Simon Hewitt Jones has some answers
London photos by Fabio
Perry de Havilland on the thinking behind Samizdata
Adriana Media Influencer: What do you do? (the mp3s of the book)