It’s a Popularity Contest

13 06 2011

I’m sure I speak for the majority of us when I say that I hardly ever look past the first page of search results on Google, Youtube or any other search engines or websites. IT’s natural, the internet has made us so very lazy, that if we don’t find what were looking for almost immediately, we either give up or put it off for later.

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). Basically, it’s all a big popularity contest, the site or webpage that’s visited more often is the more popular one and thus generates more traffic, that eventually becomes a continuous cycle in the “highschool” of the internet.

To rake in the visits and crank up the numbers, you can compare a website to a person, for example. The way a website gets popular is through networking and making itself known in all niches and circles of the internet. By rubbing shoulders with other popular websites, they stand a chance in gaining some popularity and making themselves publicly known. Another way to do so is to perform a stunt or task, film it and then upload it on youtube. I mean, everyone’s heard of the guy that did that stunt that one time, right?

Another influencing factor to a site’s popularity is how it looks. No one is particularly keen to make friends with the creepy looking guy with greasy hair and long leather trenchcoat, right? Well, that’s the same with websites. It’s important for a website to be as user-friendly as possible to ensure that users and visitors have no problem navigating the internet waters.  Links that go where they’re supposed to go, content and news that are relevant and informative, colours that are pleasing to the eye. etc.

The next step to making a website popular is the content itself. There are literally millions of topics that you can talk about that are guaranteed to have an audience, from the different rates of drying paint to what that celebrity did this week that shocked the world. It’s not about the content, but about how you execute it. If you’re with the wrong crowd and start talking about the philosophy of life, surely, you won’t make any fans or new friends. ANd once again, we’re brought back to the issue of networking, it’s usually good to have overlapping interests between you and your network, if you don’t, it’ll be a tad harder to gain some popularity.

Lastly, this one is not a textbook step in becoming a popular website, but usually, a stroke of ingenuity or spontaneity that hits the creator. Take Youtube, Facebook and Google, for example. All these now commonplace websites were once merely ideas in someone’s mind. Their creators took a look at the resources around them, and all found ways into which they improved, revamped and altogether recreated something new that took off with the public. And naturally, made them ridiculously rich.

So with these nuggets of information, go forth and start promoting your website, start connecting with as many people as you can and show the world what you can offer. Of course, Google is always there to help you, with a quick web search, I’m sure you can find a plethora of ways to pimp out your website.





I blog therefore I am

7 06 2011

Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

Well, after all, blogs are a form of self- expression,

it is inevitable that even though we talk about all the subjects under the sun, we  always end up somehow, talking about ourselves. This is because we are programmed to talk about ourselves constantly, it’s only human nature.

On the top of my head, this is a fashion blog, which, in all means and purposes, its entire existence is to focus on oneself. Whether it’s clothes or personal entries, it’s all about the user 24/7.

Welcome to Hot chocolate and Mint fashion blog, owned and managed by Diana Rikasari, a 25 year old entrepreneur who quit her job as a financial advisor and became a full time fashion blogger with her own brand of shoes, called “Up”, as well as being a guest writer in Cosmo magazine in Indonesia. Diana Rikasari is a constant source of inspiration to the Indonesian fashion community.

Diana Rikasari injects aspects of her opinion, religion and beliefs into her posts without sounding too narcissistic or self-righteous, and that is why she has such a strong readership. She is perceived as a girl-next-door figure who isn’t too much of a celebrity that we automatically distance ourselves from, she is a smart young woman who uses the internet to display her emotions and as a way of making a mark in what she loves. That is, fashion. Through this blog, she has gained fame and recognition in both Indonesia and overseas.

 

Now, I don’t want to plug this blog too shamelessly, but my main point is that it is only human nature that we write about ourselves, but it is the way in which we execute such self-centeredness to the world that really matters. By being on the internet, we can remain anonymous in the privacy of our home. A blog, website or even facebook creates a door between us and the rest of the technological community. I’ve noticed that people are not willing to express their emotions or feelings when asked, but when given the tools of a blog and a keyboard, they will be surprisingly truthful and honest. It’s almost as if blogs are security cushion in which they can be protected yet express.

 

I’d also like to contradict Lovink and say that not all blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self. In fact, this site

Diana Rikasari injects aspects of her opinion, religion and beliefs into her posts without sounding too narcissistic or self-righteous, and that is why she has such a strong readership. She is perceived as a girl-next-door figure who isn’t too much of a celebrity that we automatically distance ourselves from, she is a smart young woman who uses the internet to display her emotions and as a way of making a mark in what she loves. That is, fashion. Through this blog, she has gained fame and recognition in both Indonesia and overseas.

 

Now, I don’t want to plug this blog too shamelessly, but my main point is that it is only human nature that we write about ourselves, but it is the way in which we execute such self-centeredness to the world that really matters. By being on the internet, we can remain anonymous in the privacy of our home. A blog, website or even facebook creates a door between us and the rest of the technological community. I’ve noticed that people are not willing to express their emotions or feelings when asked, but when given the tools of a blog and a keyboard, they will be surprisingly truthful and honest. It’s almost as if blogs are security cushion in which they can be protected yet express.

 

I’d also like to contradict Lovink and say that not all blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self. In fact, http://www.improveverywhere.com/ is an amazing example of a blog being used to congregate large crowds of people to perform incredible public acts of art/dance/pranks/chaos etc. By using their blog, they create followers and their “army” who are notified about events and information for participation are included. It’s important to know that these acts are not politically, religiously driven, nor are they used to prove a point. They are merely a distraction from every day life, and as quoted “Improv  Everywhere is a New York City-based prank collective that causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places.” With over a 100 missions under their belt, Improv Everywhere strives to add a smile to as many people’s faces as they can.

Take that Lovink.





Beauty is in the eye of the homepage

7 06 2011

What’s the first thing we see when we load a website? The Website.

Whether we like it or not, we are a generation who judge people, and in this case, websites, by their appearance. After all, appearance is everything! To me, an individual’s appearance is merely an elongation of their character.

Decisions, decisions.

YEAH. I THOUGHT SO.

The same goes for websites. Their appearance reflects their professionalism and individuality. I would rather much prefer visiting a website that’s easy to navigate, has clear directions and gets straight to the point; whether it be advertising their product or displaying information. I have no time for unnecessary graphics or bogus links that don’t take me where I want to go.

Alan Lui, as aptly demonstrated in the Reader, touched upon the subject of the influence of modernism and print in web design as well as the seperation of content and form in web design. (p. 252 and 259, respectively). A prime example of a website that keeps changing and adapting to the needs of the consumers is this one.

Facebook.

The current facebook page is a familiar sight, one that we know and love. It’s household blue-and-white combo is never a sight for sore eyes. Although facebook has gone through many revamps and alterations, it’s fundamental layout is still present and its meaning does not change.

It’s streamlined, to say the least. The news feed dominates the middle, but at the same time, it’s easy to access your profile and there is no trouble navigating the site. The ads are in a controlled space to the right and they do not obstruct the view. Everything on the page is relevant and pertaining to my interest.

Now, that is a webpage.

Now, on the opposite end of the scale, we have bad websites. A fine example is of this is the Bear Flag Wines homepage.

At first glance, this page is a complete bombardment of visual imagery. Sure, it’s artistic and colourful, and Bear Flag Wines gets points for trying to appeal to a younger market by being “hip” and “vibrant.” However, this site yields a plethora of troubles.

1) The site is too busy, and all the links are scattered all over the place.

It’s hard to differentiate between what is artwork and what is actually clickable.

2) The site, instead of working like a normal website and scrolling up/down to get information, it’s decided to be annoyingly “alternative” and make you scroll horizontally. You should never get someone to scroll your site horizontally. It’s an obscure concept that will reduce your viewer to tears and rage-quit.

3) If you click on “Find Us,” it’s impossible to get back to the home page. Even hitting the [back] button doesn’t help. Once again, it’s a labyrinth of fun.

4) The problem with offering News is that you need to update your news. The last news item was from September 22, 2009, and that’s not exactly recent. It seems like they’re confusing their wine with their web design. It’s okay for the wine to be old, and layered with different tastes that needs to be aired 30 minutes before consumption. The webpage does not.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between a good and bad website and how that affects the product that it’s trying to sell as well as the impression it’s trying to make.

References

http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/worst-websites-of-2011-Q1.html

A. Lui, Reader, page 52, 259





It’s a pirate’s life for me

18 05 2011

– Does piracy help in bridging the digital divide?

yes it does, in a sense that it eliminates the middle man: “cinemas” (sometimes) and directly links the movie to the consumer. In the olden days, there were pirated DVDs and CDs that could be determined as the predecessors of the modern development of the internet and torrents.

-Are the anti-piracy facts and arguments correct?

Whilst one cannot directly say that they are “correct”, there are legitimate reasons for anti-piracy arguments. After all, by pirating a video, you are robbing the manufacturers of said movie/tv show/music of their rightful profit. At the expense of their intellectual and monetary expense/property, piracy is illegal.

-Who are the targets of anti-piracy advertisements?

Society as a whole, technically, are the targets, but the demograpic that constitutes predominantly are young adults and easy access to technology that facilitate the easy downloading and distribution of property that isn’t rightfully theirs.

– Is anti-piracy effective? Or is it alienating consumers?

It’s effective in a sense that it polarises society between those who adamantly believe that the intellectual property should be legally acquired, and those who also believe that the information should and will be, freely accessed by all.

Can the anti-piracy movement learn anything from the ‘pirates’?

One way in which anti-piracy movements could benefit from the abundance of piracy is by mischievously and, sometimes unintentionally loading a movie/tv show/music torrent with a virus. That is, when a consumer illegally downloads the content, they also end up getting a surprise package in the form of a virus that could potentially destroy their computer/ OS. This is a somewhat effective manner in discouraging piracy as viruses are usually hard to trace back to their creator and thus, consumers have to live with the “technological” karma of their deeds.

Who are the pirates anyway?

The social perception of Pirates are usually individuals with advanced technological skill and accessibility to the internet, as well as  a lot of time and balls to continuously rip and distribute content all over the world without fear of persecution. But in reality, our image of this is probably this guy.

that lunchbox is actually a computer.

and his friends.

And because pictures speak a thousand words.

What are the side effects of ‘piracy acts’ and anti-piracy movements?

Because of the intense proliferation of anti-piracy adverts and movements in society nowadays, it’s to no surprise that we are immune to it. As soon as it plays on a (legitimate) DVD, we automatically reach for the ‘skip’ button in attempts to ignore this futile message. However, DVD manufacturers are getting sneaky; by making it ‘unstoppable’ and forcing viewers to watch it.

-Is there any such thing as a ‘good pirate’?

I suppose it’s all subjective and down to the individual, really. I mean, the swedish government does not seem to have any problem with piracy, deeming the popular downloading site; PirateBay completely legal. To some, piracy is a way for massive distribution of information that everyone is entitled to. Some might say that it could even boost the popularity of the movie. Take “The Man from Earth” by Erik Wilkinson, for example, this indie-film was made into an American cult hit thanks to the file-sharers and distributors of the internet. However, on the other side of the argument, piracy could also hurt sales of a movie. Take X Men: Wolverine for example, a few weeks before its theatrical release, a un-CGI’d version of the movie, complete with green screens and stunt wires was leaked onto the internet, and immediately, resulted in thousands of downloads from hundreds of websites around the world. However, this also boosted sales at cinemas for the actual movie, raking in over $373 million worldwide.

So, that’s to say, I’m quite pro-piracy, only last night, I downloaded a movie from PirateBay, which was in excellent quality and was very enjoyable. It’s the increase in better/ top quality downloads that are an incentive for consumers to continuing to download content. Not to mention, it’s much cheaper than actually going to a cinema.





Calling all Bloggers

17 05 2011
Habermas (1989: 27) and the (bourgeois) public sphere:
the sphere of private people that gathered in places such as salons, theatres and coffee-houses to engage in public debate about the rules of commodity exchange and social labour imposed by the public authorities.
Replace this:

Ye Olde School

With this:

Public Sphere 2.0

And them:

With:

And you end up with the modern day equivalent of a public sphere. The players have changed, but the game still remains the same. Liberated from the fear of persecution from the government, thinkers from all around the world now have the ability to voice their individuality amongst the terrabytian labyrinth of the internet and find others who share their same political/social views and ideas as they do. Blogging, in particular serves as a wonderful platform for people to rant and express whatever is on their mind under the veil of anonymity as opposed to the very daunting and scary prospect of public speaking in real life. The realm of the ‘techno’ public sphere is evident, through its proliferation and evolution into social life. With sites such as WordPress.com, Myspace, 4chan (for the more ‘speciallised’ crowd and definite NSFW), and the plethora of forums and BBS boards scattered everywhere that range from every concievable topic known to man.

However, between this intellectual mix of public sharing of knowledge, there are those who prefer to use these platforms as another form of self-expression. Lovink (Reader, pg 222) argues that ” …blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”. I choose to interpret this as a way for an individual to make their mark on the internet, and in return, gain some sense of popularity and fame merely by being themselves and showcasing their talents to the world. Youtube has long been a launching pad for such individuals, with video-blogging appearing as the most favoured way of appearing “raw and real” and a face for viewers to associate with, as opposed to blogs or websites where the viewer might not be able to connect with as easily.

I’ll include some examples on how video-bloggers have gained acclaim and sometimes, a surprisingly strong fanbase, merely by talking and acting/performing in front of their webcam or a camera, and usually in the ‘privacy’ of their own home. The term “privacy” correlating with video-blogging is somewhat ironic and contradictory, because whilst they make the videos in their private space; the fact that it’s being broadcasted on the internet immediately eliminates the ‘privacy’ of it all, and bares it wide for everyone to see.

Some of these talented individuals include JennaMarbles and charlieissocoollike who use their wit, charm and some basic video editing skills to create almost a cult following amongst youtube.

JennaMarbles and Charlie McDonald in all their glory.

I highly recommend you guys check this lass and lad out, if you’re looking for a change from all videos of cats and fails. It’s clear, from the metric f**kton of views that they have, respectively, that people nowadays prefer to watch videos on “how to avoid people” and ” how to speak english ” by what Lovink calls, “creative nihilists.”

References

Geert Lovink (2008) ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture (pp. 1-38), London: Routledge.
Habermas, Jürgen (1989) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: an Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.




would you like some fries with that?

19 04 2011

Ah blogging, it seems like eeeeverything’s being digitized now. News, music, movies, books, you name it. The internet has it.

One cannot say that the presence of blogs are either the development of social capital and democratic sphere, nor can it be labelled as a form of homegenous, biased platform of self-promotion. There are various shades of gray.

Flew declares that

“Overall, blogs are a positive factor in the development of social capital, with their mix of subjectivity, interactivity and connectivity” (Reader, page 202).”

which is certainly true, considering the immense proliferation of interconnectivity in our lives, it’s hard to distance oneself from any form of viral displays of information.

Blogs, oh how I shall analyze thee, let me count the ways.

1) As we distance ourselves more and more away from traditional forms of media; newspaper, television, radio, and stray into the realm of ‘new media’ blogs provide a suitable substitute for the once dominant media platforms. With a myriad of topics under its belt, blogs grant the ‘consumer/viewer/audience’ with an entirely fresh perspective in which they interact with news, namely, actual interaction. No longer forced to listen to a ‘one-way’ conversation, bloggers and individuals around the world now have the ability and means to project their thoughts, opinions and ideas to, practically, the entire world.

2) “Blogospheres” is another word to describe a democratic public sphere; as mentioned previously, blogs allow people to freely express their opinions without fear of persecution. It is online democracy, and is extremely successful now that people are willing to say what they feel/think behind the safety and annonyminity (usually) of the internet. This paves the way to a unprecedented amount of blogs that satisfy any cultural or social niche.

3) However, because of such worldwide anonymity and dispersion, blogs also provide the means to spread the negative, as well as positive, information quite easily. Because it is a democratic public sphere, and anyone can have a say, propagandist and biased blogs must be granted equal exposure, and some individuals/organizations/groups have abused this commodity for their own means, and we, as a society are powerless to stop it. Sure, we can ignore/delete/block various websites/comments/blogs from our digital library, but they will still be there.

4) Dilution of information appears to be a prevailing issue on the online community as well. We have no grounds on dismissing them as “bad blogs”, per se, but rather as an annoyance. Spam that we have to filter through to get to the information that we are seeking. It is all up to individual preferences, for example, I find celebrity gossip websites such as Perezhilton.com a waste of time, space and information. This is only because I have no interest in celebrities and the latest smoothie diet they’re on, or what they do in the bedroom to spice things up. I’d rather skip all that and move straight ahead to what I like.

5) This last point is somewhat balanced, in a sense that I can see both sides of the argument. Lovink believes that

“What bloggers often lack is an ability to do thorough research and investigative journalism” (Reader , page 227).”

which is definitely true in cases where people prefer to use their own opinions as basis for their information rather than doing extensive research on the matter, and that is okay, after all, a blog is predominantly a means of “self-expression” and completely acceptable in a democratic public sphere. However, on the other side of the scale, a quick Google search will also reveal numerous blogs that focus on investigative journalism and research as a means of displaying their info.

So yes, it appears that everyone wants a slice of the blogging pie, which is fine. You just gotta know which piece you want.





I blog to express my emotions

6 04 2011

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

cause i'm saaaaaaa indie

Real people use tumblr. gosh.