The Crew that Never Rests: Crowdsourced Absurdity

In a word, their pleasures were showy, but totally unsubstantial—their activity unceasing, but fruitless and unavailing—and their condemnation appears to have consisted in the necessity of maintaining the appearance of constant industry or enjoyment, though their toil was fruitless and their pleasures shadowy and unsubstantial. Hence poets have designed them as “the crew that never rest.” Besides the unceasing and useless bustle in which these spirits seemed to live, they had propensities unfavourable and distressing to mortals.

— Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology


games without frontiers

Twitch Plays Pokemon via The Wisdom of Crowds (Metafilter). I think that Sisyphus is happy, and his name is Legion.

A new and disturbing phenomenon

Angry internet commenters have grown not only more numerous and angrier, but increasingly incoherent. YouTube comments in particular are so garbled that only an impressionistic haze of rage and sociopolitical obsession can be abstracted from the text.

I theorize that these comments are no longer mostly produced by humans. The mass of anonymous anger has in the last decade grown so heavy and compact that its own heat and pressure has begun to generate new comments in a kind of Chomskyan parthenogenesis, a volcanic language organ that spews semi-understandable confrontation. These almost unparseable chunks of language share key phrases and subject matter, and are uniformly infused with rage. However, they refer only to their own content and don’t appear to require any communication from the outside to fuel their growth.

We are dealing with a new and troubling Internet worm; a self-replicating mechanism that attacks ideas incoherently and grows at an increasing rate.

The legendary Jerkov Chain is finally here.

You’re going downtown, kid. Then we’ll all listen.

I can’t wait for journalists to discover other teen risks such as “buttsex,” “alco-hol,” and “military enlistment.” I hope Kim Komando was on vacation when someone wrote this, because I remember her as smart and funny and pretty much sane.

Web delivers new worry for parents: Digital drugs

We all know that music can alter your mood. Sad songs can make you cry. Upbeat songs may give you an energy boost. But can music create the same effects as illegal drugs?

This seems like a ridiculous question. But websites are targeting your children with so-called digital drugs. These are audio files designed to induce drug-like effects.

All your child needs is a music player and headphones.

actually, it is ridiculous. sorry

We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now: Powering the Internet Isn’t So Green

“Data centres consumed 0.6% of the world’s electricity in 2000, and 1% in 2005. Globally, they are already responsible for more carbon-dioxide emissions per year than Argentina or the Netherlands, according to a recent study by McKinsey, a consultancy, and the Uptime Institute, a think-tank. If today’s trends hold, these emissions will have grown four-fold by 2020, reaching 670m tonnes. By some estimates, the carbon footprint of cloud computing will then be larger than that of aviation.”

like a hole in the head!

Wow. If you’re in search of a high-quality internet-wide flamewar, there’s no better place to start than as I did today: looking for information about bicycle helmets.

I did find out what I needed to know, but holy cats! People who don’t want helmets REALLY REALLY don’t want them! The wikipedia article is a classic NPOV disaster, to start, and then you look elsewhere and whoa.

I mean, I don’t like a sweaty head any more than the next guy, but.

Annals of Journalism: Paper-Based Forums in 1986

I wrote once before about the strange personal ads I saw when I worked at the Los Angeles Reader years ago. One of my duties at first was typing in classifieds, partly because I was junior and partly because the classififed ad system was also used for the entertainment listings and capsule reviews I had charge of.

Reading last week in The Slacktivist about a proto-blog on paper in a college library reminded me of another oddity at the Reader: the free classifieds.

We had the usual personals and ads, but anyone could send in a card with a few sentences on it and it would be put in the free classifieds section. Nothing in the real classifieds categories could go there, and nothing commercial, but it was free and almost totally uncensored.

The result was a tiny, paper-based social network. Anonymous confessions a la Postsecret were common. “Missed connections” as seen in Craigslist also showed up.

And, inevitably, a running cast of characters turned the free classifieds into a forum. They all had nicknames. Some of them disliked each other. There were running gags and pranks. Occasionally someone would depart in a huff and return. Flame wars went on for weeks. And periodically we had to drop one of the ads because of some violation of policy, and the residents of the free zone would call us tyrants and rage for weeks.

Some members of the group met in person sometimes. I don’t think it went very well.

Working at the paper added another dimension to the experience. We could see by the postcards which people had multiple characters, for example. The same was true for personals. There was one sixtysomething couple who were regulars (as one person) on the boards, and had two other recurring ads: an appeal for a cute young woman to form a threesome with them, and an ad offering 24-hour prayer and spiritual counseling for free. Only we knew that these were all the same people.

These weirdos prepared me perfectly for my later adventures on BBS’s and the Internet. Perceived anonymity, role-playing, multiple false personae, flame wars, socially inept people forming dysfunctional communities, and outsized complaints about censorship? Nothing new! I already knew about the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, the perils of sexual encounters in a virtual world, trolls and flamewars, and the dissociative and fraudulent nature of virtual personalities.

As I was writing this I thought: hey! I wonder if our parent the Chicago Reader still has these? Our classifieds were an exact copy of their much more successful section.

It appears that they do. They’re called Bulletin Messages there, and there are definitely some similarities, and this one in particular looks very much like one of our old regulars. There are obvious differences, but something of the same character is present.

I miss the original, though. There were only 20 or so characters that recurred, and it was a little porthole into a very weird tank of fish.

And this just in from the weirdiverse:

Comment on another post of mine:

This is Elaine Moore and I am deaf hard of hearing. I want tell yu something about drugs bad your health because drug is hard for your life can’t use drug then please try resist away from drug that why you had lot pain away from drug and how you feel . Do you have plan your future. I never haven’t use drug and alcohol all my life because drug and alcohol waste time mess up my body. Yu better carefully killed from drug.