Grmmr advice from Twitter

You might not think Twitter is a great place to go for grammar advice, given that every message has a maximum character count of 140, but you say that before laying eyes on FakeAPStylebook:

Bonus points for spotting the writer uses Birdhouse, the semi-ridiculous iPhone app which allows you to save your draft tweets so that you can re-read, re-read and refine your work. If you did want actual grammar advice, you could always try following ThatWhichMatter, but it’s not quite so much fun.

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Stop Safari always opening new tabs

I’ve moved away from using FireFox as my browser – it’s too slow to start, too fond of updating – and now have Google Chrome on my PCs. It’s not properly available for the Mac yet, so I’ve switched to Safari, which is reasonably quick to start, and gives you more of the web to look at than FireFox. However, it does have an annoying habit of spawning new tabs EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. YOU. CLICK.

Glims is a very useful free add-on that enables you to fix that, plus you can easily add Google UK as a search engine, and there’s a nifty full screen mode too.

Year of the Ox’s most popular internet slang

FAIL is over – especially if you’re in China. Apparently, these are the Year of the Ox’s most popular linguistic terms on the internet (although we’re only halfway through the year). Wonder how long it will take for ‘yùzháizú’ – the Chinese word for otaku – to appear in Wired or the new William Gibson novel?

Favourite term: FB = 腐败 = fǔbài. Originally the corruption of government officials, now commonly used to refer to going out to have a nice meal. Oddly close to fubar.

(via @monglor)

Virtual reality, then and now

In the 1980s and 1990s, the term ‘virtual reality’ was understood to mean the creation of reality inside the computer – and thus we would need to experience it using complex imaging and interaction systems (3D googles, cursors mapped to the movement of a glove etc.) The implication behind this was the reality itself would be untouched. The real world would simply be a home for the VR equipment: Star Trek imagines it holodeck as a big empty room, for instance. Moreover, since VR ran inside the computer, it only worked when you turned it on – and in movies such as The Lawnmower Man, the nightmare scenario was not being able to get out.

Few people imaginged that when VR came to pass, it would actually involve computers altering the way we acted in reality. The video below shows 100 dancers in central London recreating the dance from Beyonce’s music video for her song ‘Single Ladies’ (which Peter Sagal called ‘a wonderful, brilliantly performed dance number set to an irresistably catchy pop tune’). As a piece of PR in reality, it holds very little value – few people would have the chance to actually see it, as it the dancers and organisers take pains for it to appear to happen spontaneously on the street. It’s over in three minutes, and few of the people who happened to be walking by would actually be able to make sense of it because it only works if you’ve seen the original music video. Indeed, the behaviour of the dancers only really works if it’s watched as a video, passed around virally on the web. It is, essentially, VR: actions in reality that are targeted at, and only make sense when experienced virtually.

Drops wet cement on unsuspecting crippled children: Web 2.0 vandalism

Last FM vandals

By now you’ve hopefully seen Juno; it’s a wonderful film with a sharp script and well drawn characters. It uses music beautifully, too. Rather than simply whacking it down as a thudding backbeat to some flash images (CSI), or using overfamiliar tunes to prop up dead scenes, the team behind Juno make the music integral to the shots it plays over. It’s distinctive, too – rather than the familiar grab-bag of orchestral/rock/pop/mulch that many films opt for – it’s generally acoustic, scratchy, and on the surface at least, quite twee. The opening in particular, uses a tune by Barry Louis Polisar that’s extremely… sunny… as you can see from this YouTube clip of the film’s beginning.

While playing the soundtrack, I looked up some info through the Last.FM app – and found some pretty funny tags hanging around Mr Polisar, as you can see from the screenshot above.

Even better, it seems like ‘drops wet cement on unsuspecting crippled children’ is not, as you might think, a lonely furrow to plough. Nope, as you can see, it’s quite a thriving genre:

drops wet cement on unsuspecting crippled children

Title and artists for a mixtape, right there people.

I actually think this is quite a cool use of tagging – just as we’ve seen users on Flickr using somewhat abstract, emotional terms to describe their pictures, Last.FM users are using tags for opinions/reviews/jokes. Just goes to show how complex a field search is, I think – plain text search is fine, but more often than not, people plot links to things based on far more intangible criteria.

Blog not popular? No worries, just obsess over your Flickr stats instead

The Tube
I know, from careful perusal of my blog stats, that The Wired Jester appeals to a select, discerning audience: mostly people looking for information on the not-quite famous footballer who shares my name, some after information on Wolf Pillows, and every now and then my brother. Despite this, I do check the numbers quite regularly, and so am overjoyed that Flickr is introducing stats for photo streams. From the screen shots, it looks very similar to the stats screen in WordPress and will show referrers, linking sites and search engine traffic. From the sound of the FAQ, it’s a big upgrade to the current ‘sort images by most popular’ option – which gives the above photo as my top image.

You have to activate the stats to get them working, and it takes 24 hours to kick in – so I’ve not had a chance to play with them yet. Stats are only available to Pro members, and when you do activate them, you get to look at a lovely mid-90s era animated gif:

Flickr Stats

Nice to see Flickr still knows how to talk to the geek in its fanbase 🙂