Link

An interesting Time article about Shawn ‘Napster’ Fanning, DVD Jon, Justin ‘WinAmp’ Frankel, Bram ‘BitTorrent’ Cohen and the entertainment industry apocalypse that never happened.

It turns out that there is something that can compete with free: easy. Napster, Gnutella and BitTorrent never attained the user-friendliness that Apple products have, and nobody vets the content on file-sharing networks, so while the number of files on offer is enormous, the files are rotten with ads, porn, spyware and other garbage. When Jobs offered us the easy way out, we took it. Freedom is overrated, apparently — at least where digital media are concerned.

via The Men Who Stole the World – time.com

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No such thing as bad publicity – for SEO

A fascinating story about a scumbag sales operation, DecorMyEyes.com, who leaned that a link is a link, and Google doesn’t care if it’s a good review or a scathing rant – so why make the effort to give good service?

“Hello, My name is Stanley with DecorMyEyes.com,” the post began. “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

It’s all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: “I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.”

[…]

The strange part is that Google is intimately familiar with the rage inspired by DecorMyEyes. If you type the company’s name in a Google Shopping search, you’ll see a collection of more than 300 reviews, many of them arias sung in the key of livid.

[…]

In short, a Google side stage — Google Shopping — is now hosting a marathon reading of DecorMyEyes horror stories. But those tales aren’t even hinted at in the company’s premier arena, its main search page.

“It’s fair to say,” Mr. Sullivan concludes, “that this is a failure on Google’s part.”

via For DecorMyEyes, Bad Publicity Is a Good Thing – nytimes.com

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Alien Technology Exploitation Division

Confirmed: The Air Force Totally Hides Aliens From Us

You don’t know how many Freedom of Information Act requests we’ve filed in the hope of finding the Alien Technology Exploitation Division, the intrepid souls who’ll soon announce a sources-sought contract to develop the Hyperspace Blaster. Alas, they don’t exist.

A former officer at Air Force Space Command tells Paglen that he and his friends had the patches made at their own expense after getting endlessly ribbed for working in a secure vault “where they kept the alien bodies.” They wore them on their flight suits for months before a one-star general asked where he could get one of his own.

Oh, and the barely-decipherable legend on the bottom? It’s Klingon for “Don’t Ask.” Paglen got it in the mail from its creator after mentioning that he knew about its existence on the Colbert Report.

Image: Courtesy Trevor Paglen

(via Secret Insignias From the ‘Black Ops’ World – wired.com)

This one’s clearly a joke, but the bigger joke is the reminder that there are certainly thousands of people working on things so secretive that no one will ever tell us that these things even happen, and they’re certainly not going to ask for our permission to continue doing these things. Vote for who you like, but some stuff is too important for democracy.

But-heads and their phrases that announce ‘I’m lying’

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there’s a whole range of phrases that aren’t doing the jobs you think they’re doing.

In fact, “I hate to be the one to tell you this” (like its cousin, “I hate to say it”) is one of them. Think back: How many times have you seen barely suppressed glee in someone who — ostensibly — couldn’t be more reluctant to be the bearer of bad news? A lack of respect from someone who starts off “With all due respect”? A stunning dearth of comprehension from someone who prefaces their cluelessness with “I hear what you’re saying”? And has “I’m not a racist, but…” ever introduced an unbiased statement?

These contrary-to-fact phrases have been dubbed (by the Twitter user GrammarHulk and others) “but-heads,” because they’re at the head of the sentence, and usually followed by but. They’ve also been dubbed “false fronts,” “wishwashers,” and, less cutely, “lying qualifiers.”

via I hate to tell you – boston.com

I like ‘lying qualifiers’ best.

(via)

IOGraphica: Make mouse movements into modern art

Here’s a fun little IOGraphica diagram showing 2.5 hours of me browsing the web, reading Twitter and using Photoshop for a bit. I also wrote the previous blog post. The black and white doodles in this gallery are what the app produces. I’ve overlayed it to a screenshot of my desktop showing the typical positions of Google Chrome and YoruFukuoru for context.

The large dots represent times when my mouse was stationary. I have a hot corner set up in the bottom right to put the display to sleep.

Though IOGraphica is only presented as a curiosity for making ‘modern art’ pieces, I imagine it could be used as a basic heat map tool for running basic usability tests on software or websites.

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Bounce rate demystified

Recently, while looking at the Google analytics for this site, I noticed that my bounce rate was very high. I wasn’t very clear on what this meant, so investigated and concluded that there wasn’t much I could do about it given the type of content I post here.

So a new infographic on Kissmetrics caught my eye today: Bounce Rate Demystified.

I’m not a big fan of this current infographic craze, partly because they lock the data into a very web-unfriendly, non-interactive format, and partly because they are usually nothing more than transparent linkbait, with little or no actual informational substance.

My previous post challenged the former complaint. In this post I’ve decided to dissect the bounce rate infographic and see how good the information really is…

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Make retro computer game sound effects with sfxr/cfxr

sfxr/cfxr

Fun!

This is a little tool I made in connection with the 10th Ludum Dare competition held in December 2007. Its original purpose was to provide a simple means of getting basic sound effects into a game for those people who were working hard to get their entries done within the 48 hours and didn’t have time to spend looking for suitable ways of doing this.

The idea was that they could just hit a few buttons in this application and get some largely randomized effects that were custom in the sense that the user could accept/reject each proposed sound.

via sfxr – drpetter.se

You can grab Windows and Linux versions of sfxr from that page. He also links through to cfxr, a Mac port (screenshot above).

I found this through a Unity video tutorial I’m watching.

F.lux: Set your screen’s colour temperature based on time of day

F.lux preferences

During the day, computer screens look good—they’re designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 10PM, or 3AM, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun.

f.lux

F.lux fixes this: it makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

It’s even possible that you’re staying up too late because of your computer. You could use f.lux because it makes you sleep better, or you could just use it just because it makes your computer look better.

via stereopsis.com/flux

My 27″ monitor throws out a lot of light, and F.lux instantly makes it much easier on my eyes. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to live with it though, as even after 15 minutes, I can still perceive a yellowish hue. It may be because I have two types of fluorescent bulbs in this room, and neither are giving the colour temperature the app expects. A fine-tuning control may help.

For someone who isn’t interested in graphics work of any kind, this free download may be a lifesaver (or at least a life-improver).

Available for Mac, Linux and Windows.

(via @randallb / Tumblr)

Down and Out in the Uncanny Valley

David from Ironic Sans has an interesting idea for a film:

Idea: The uncanny valley as a plot element

I’ve been thinking the past few days about the uncanny valley in animation. I think it could be used as a plot element in a movie. Through some bit of sci-fi magic, an all-CGI character exists in our real world, but nobody accepts him because there’s something just not right about him. He exists in the uncanny valley and so everyone has a bit of revulsion or discomfort about him.

But that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m not sure what kind of story would best make use of this idea. How does a CGI character live in our world? Is it a ToonTown kind of thing, where animated characters have always lived among us, and he’s the first CGI character to be born? Or is it magic? I don’t like the idea of magic in a story like this. I think it should either be sci-fi somehow, or just left unexplained.

via Idea: The uncanny valley as a plot element – ironicsans.com

I left a comment with my own suggestion for how it could be done:

I love it. They would have to live in California, outside LA, in an area dubbed the Uncanny Valley.

Or maybe it’s a future where pretty much everyone wears contacts that allow them to see augmented reality – 3D creations blended seamlessly into our surroundings. Mostly this is used to display flashy ads, and stuff. However, Uncanny Bob is one of the first computer generated creations to become sentient. He meets up with a group of renegade CG characters (misfits from old ad campaigns: a Coke Santa Claus, a swimsuit model, some kids cartoon characters etc) and together they find a sympathetic human hacker who agrees to break into Big Ad Company and rescue their consciousness from the local sever onto the internet at large so they won’t ever be deleted.

Posted by: Foomandoonian | November 16, 2010 1:20 PM

Could make a great short film!

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Can the art of a paedophile be celebrated?

He regularly had sex with two of his daughters, his sisters and even the family dog.

I did not know this! From a 2007 BBC News story:

Piece of work

For some of Gill’s fans, even looking at his work became impossible. Most problematically, he was a Catholic convert who created some of the most popular devotional art of his era, such as the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, where worshippers pray at each panel depicting the suffering of Jesus.

In 1998, spurred on by a cardinal’s praise for Gill, Margaret Kennedy, who campaigns for Ministers and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, called for the works to be removed.

“Survivors couldn’t pray at the Stations of the Cross. They were done by a paedophile. The very hands that carved the stations were the hands that abused.

“He abused his maids, his prostitutes, animals, he was having sex with everything that moved – a very deranged man sexually.”

But the Catholic Church would not budge an inch. The former Westminster Cathedral administrator, Bishop George Stack, retains an unequivocal view.

“There was no consideration given to taking these down. A work of art stands in its own right. Once it has been created it takes on a life of its own.”

It might be easier to make this argument for the Stations of the Cross than for nude sketches of Gill’s teenage daughter.

via Can the art of a paedophile be celebrated? – news.bbc.co.uk

The Facebook ‘super-logoff’

Mikalah uses Facebook but when she goes to log out, she deactivates her Facebook account. She knows that this doesn’t delete the account – that’s the point. She knows that when she logs back in, she’ll be able to reactivate the account and have all of her friend connections back. But when she’s not logged in, no one can post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content. But when she’s logged in, they can do all of that. And she can delete anything that she doesn’t like. Michael Ducker calls this practice “super-logoff” when he noticed a group of gay male adults doing the exact same thing.

(via Risk Reduction Strategies on Facebook – zephoria.org)

This would be a good trick to pull when you have a job interview coming up.

Lifehacker made a tip out of this practice: Use the “Super-Logoff” Technique to Exercise Tighter Control Over Your Facebook Profile

How to make half a million dollars with a virtual asteroid

Many people might balk at the idea of paying even a dollar for virtual cow in a game like Farmville. But Jon Jacobs has just sold a virtual space station he’s spent the past five years managing for a whopping $635,000 in total, making over half a million dollars. Who would devote so much time and investment into something that doesn’t exist in the real world?

via Meet The Man Who Just Made A Half Million From The Sale Of Virtual Property – blogs.forbes.com

Hmm, maybe I’m going about this all wrong…

Create strong passwords

I thought this was a good method for creating strong but easy to remember passwords.

What to do Suggestion Example
Start with a sentence or two (about 10 words total). Think of something meaningful to you. Long and complex passwords are safest. I keep mine secret. (10 words)
Turn your sentences into a row of letters. Use the first letter of each word. lacpasikms (10 characters)
Add complexity. Make only the letters in the first half of the alphabet uppercase. lACpAsIKMs (10 characters)
Add length with numbers. Put two numbers that are meaningful to you between the two sentences. lACpAs56IKMs (12 characters)
Add length with punctuation. Put a punctuation mark at the beginning. ?lACpAs56IKMs (13 characters)
Add length with symbols. Put a symbol at the end. ?lACpAs56IKMs” (14 characters)

Test your password with a password checker

A password checker evaluates your password’s strength automatically. Try our secure password checker.

via Create strong passwords – microsoft.com

To add complexity with case though, I might use vowels to select uppercase letters instead. Splitting the alphabet in half seems like it would be much trickier to remember, for me at least.

Found via Tech Radar’s 25 internet security tips, which has 24 other excellent suggestions…

Unity

Unity

Unity is an integrated authoring tool for creating 3D video games or other interactive content such as architectural visualizations or real-time 3D animations. Unity is similar to Director, Blender game engine, Virtools or Torque Game Builder in the sense that an integrated graphical environment is the primary method of development.

The editor runs on Windows and Mac OS X and can produce games for Windows, Mac, Wii, iPad, or iPhone platforms. It can also produce browser games that use the Unity web player plugin, supported on Mac and Windows. The web player is also used for deployment as Mac widgets. Support for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have recently been added.

[…]

There are two main licenses: Unity and Unity Pro. The Pro version has additional features, like render-to-texture and postprocessing effects. The Free version also displays a splash screen (in standalone games) and a watermark (in web games).

via Unity (game engine) – en.wikipedia.org

I’m adding this to my list of things to learn. The Pro version is expensive ($1500, plus $400 for iOS or another $1500 for iOS pro or Android pro), but it looks like the free version doesn’t skimp on anything really important. I already have a lot of complementary skills, so I think I could be up and running pretty quickly here.

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27b/6 jerk is jerk

Perhaps it’s no surprise to learn that David Thorne, the guy who has a website documenting hilarious email exchanges, in which he exposes the (alleged) stupidity and ignorance of certain people he encounters, is a bit of a jerk. The first example I was aware of that went viral was the brilliant 7 legged spider drawing:

Dear Jane,

I do not have any money so am sending you this drawing I did of a spider instead. I value the drawing at $233.95 so trust that this settles the matter.

Regards, David.

Spiderdrawing

via Overdue Account – 27bslash6.com
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Handy heuristics that contradict convergence

“In general, the attribution of specialization can increase the credibility of a product or any kind of object,” Sundar says. “It’s really how the human psyche works.”

For instance, the search engine providing product recommendations was labeled “wine agent,” while the general recommendation agent was named “E Agent.”

“Basically, cognitive heuristics are mental shortcuts that we use to make judgments that lead to decisions,” Sundar says. “For example, we see a long essay, we immediately think that it is a strong essay. This is the ‘length equals strength’ heuristic. Similarly, we tend to quickly believe statements made by experts or specialists because we apply the ‘expertise heuristic,’ which says that experts’ statements can be trusted.”

via Name it and webbies will buy it – futurity.org

Interesting piece of SEO psychology. There are some intelligent comments on the study too – I especially liked the kitchen knives analogy made by Chris Edwards:

It is quite common for people to buy multiple tools that do the same job. As a simple example, look in your kitchen… how many different knives do you have for specialised tasks? If you lay them all out and logically look at it, how many different types do you actually need?

We assume that something that is specialised is better, so therefore if something sounds specialised, we will probably lean toward using that one.

(via & via)

Updated 2013.01.17 to tweak the formatting and to actually quote the kitchen knives comment rather than just allude to it.

Posted in SEO

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Datamoshing is a form of glitch art which occurs when ‘the I-frames or key-frames of a temporally compressed video are removed, causing frames from different video sequences to bleed together‘.

HOW TO DATAMOSH (See also: PART 2: ENTER THE P-FRAME and PART 3: THE DATAMOSH ACTUALLY HAPPENS)

They guy behind these videos seems to have popularised the technique with a Chairlift music video for Evident Utensil, but Sony would rather you didn’t see it.

(Shh, it’s on Metacafe.)

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