Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Online communities

A community is a very important term that really defines our society and goes back in history dating all the way back to our ancestors who formed hunter-gatherer groups that banded together. Communities exist all around us in various ways ranging from the places we live and our neighborhoods to communities based on interest or jobs we hold. The various things that bind people together really form communities.

Online communities have existed really dating way back before the world wide web was even created:

"Online communities predate the World Wide Web and other aspects of the Internet. Since the early days of Usenet (USEr NETwork), developed nearly 30 years ago for university folk to communicate among themselves, lawyers have participated in online communities, both for social as well as professional reasons. And even before that, a Bulletin Board System, or BBS, enabled users to exchange messages in the ether."

The World Wide Web simply made it so much easier and more accessible for more people to form and join existing communities online. The graphical interface allowed more freedom and content to be shared and discussed. It really opened up what was already there to be improved and accessible to the masses.

Current online communities can trace muchof their jargon and attitude to the past Usenet groups before many of us even logged on to the internet. An example of such jargon commonly used today on various online communities to label trouble makers or people who annoy the other community members are trolls:

"In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, taking place inside of small, single-topic Usenet groups."

There are various such jargon online that traces its origin from niche communities who coined and popularized these terms. Examples would be like 'laugh out loud' (lol) -- a term that can trace its origin all the way back to one of these Usenet groups or AOL when it was the biggest thingnsince slice bread.

Martin reed argues that online communities who have been the most successful have done something effective at the outset and are resistant to change:

"Don’t be fooled into thinking that successful online communities are those that continuously innovate, introduce new features on a regular basis and constantly redesign to keep up with current trends. The most successful online communities are those that are different from the outset, and stick with what works. If you want to forge a strong online community, you need to be resistant to change - your members certainly are."

I only agree to an extent. Sometimes a communities fails because lack of interest, funding, or for various reasons out there. I think that communities need to evolve and retain more of what is out there and what is popular on the web ranging form videos off Youtube to blogs. They need to take ideas from other online communities and put their own spin on them to be really effective. However, I agree that if a community builds a strong base at the beginning and gives something users to look forward to from the outset than it will in general continue being successful.

The bottom line is online communities are here to stay and will continue to bind people together from all walks of life and places around the world. People are no longer restricted to communities that are local because of what the internet and online communities accomplished. With the recent 'Facebook' film, we got to see how such a simple idea can magnify into a huge community from just a University-based and close-knit group. people are really drawn and bound by these social networks and communities that form our existence on the Internet.

Online advertising transitions

Online advertising is a huge part of the World Wide Web, and the user who browses and participates in any online activity has to deal with it. Often what we forget or do not realize advertising is being fed to us with clever methods while we don’t notice. The same holds true in other media as well. For example a boxer or athlete might have a tattoo of some company on his back or a logo on his clothing constantly feeding us. In the online world the things you search for in web browsers are being fed back to you through advertisements later.

Advertising can be a annoying to the end users when not done right. For example, if the user is constantly fed with bright banner ads and ads popping off in flash it can make someone not want to be on that site. Advertising is part of every media and has been with us since the beginning of the WWW. It is not going to just go away. There needs to be an advertising procedure however that doesn't alienate the user from the content that he is using.

Unlike previously in the history of the WWW where mass users were targeted for advertisement and advertising was easier to spot, it is becoming much more individualized now. It used to be about mass e-mail targeting, and bright banner ads but now it is much more personal and based on our interests. Often when we sign up for a message board on a site we have to fill out an inquiry asking about our hobbies and the like, and we later are fed things related to those hobbies or interests through ads. These companies figured out that we are much more likely influenced and purchase a product or service that we are interested in.

behavioral targeting is a method Google and its competitors use to target individual users with advertising based on their history of web search. Much what we do on the web is tracked, and often that information including private information about us is being sold or given to companies interested in such material. The web really opened us up to companies being able to profit off of.

I think for newspapers to be successful online, they should either work with or learn from companies such as Google -- to see what really works. Banner ads might not be enough revenue, and readers probably do not want to be spanned with e-mails or have to deal with flash pop-ups. It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out what the interests are of a person reading certain topics and discussing certain news stories. However what is also needed is the revenue from online advertisers to be enough for online news sites to be profitable as well. Thus, the readership of online articles and the use of these sites must be high -- which can be done through participation and good journalism attracting readers.

Twitter Sued Over Letting People Interact with Celebrities

Recently, a company called VS Technologies is suing Twitter because a patent was breached called “Method and system for creating an interactive virtual community of famous people”. The U.S. patent, also known as no. 6,408,309 deals specifically with Twitter allowing users and celebrities to interact online.

This is obviously true but technically can't any social networking website, even blogs, allow for such interaction? What makes Twitter different than someone requesting a Facebook friend request from Lady Gaga or Ashton Kutcher?

Twitter has been known for various scandals or rumors breaking out, and it is public information though. Meaning we can access easily the tweets of pretty much anyone using the system unlike Facebook. But everyone that tweets and uses Twitter knows this and does it on their own account, yes even celebrities love to chitchat and engage with their fans.

Twitter does not really allow for long conversations anyway. It is defined by brevity. E-mails and even online social outlets or games like World of Warcraft or Second Life (more of a system of virtual communities like the patent tries to define) allows for longer and more in-depth conversation. So why concentrate on just Twitter? It is really odd that a company would do this.

Here is what the patent defines and the lawsuit is based on:

"As it pertains to this lawsuit, very generally speaking, the ’309 Patent discloses methods and systems for creating interactive, virtual communities of people in various fields of endeavor wherein each community member has an interactive, personal profile containing information about that member."

Maybe instead of suing, VS Technologies should team up or learn something from Twitter. Often simplicity is the best method in integrating communities as Twitter showed. Twitter doesn't try to be a complicated service or even a Facebook replacement. It is based on communication and sharing information in brief segments -- not necessairly on a specific celebrity-based interaction.

I would suggest VS Technologies an acquisition but I doubt they could afford one, especially since Google is already on that path. Google realizes the communication possibilities of Twitter, and interactive environments like it. Google also understands Twitter's potential created in integrating it with the rest of the Web thus streamlining the search process for stories or feeds for example. I am talking about apps, for instance, like iPad's Flipboard that allows users to have a magazine-like navigation of tweets that often contains links to full articles and can be viewed directly from the app.

Twitter allows you to get feeds from a list of people or companies represented by someone using the service -- in an organized fashion and without having to navigate the entire website of that said company. With Flipboard, you can look at main headlines and images of subjects that you are interested in and through Twitter feeds as well. The integration of social services with online Web content like news stories is getting more streamlines.

Basically the point I am getting at is that Twitter isn't just an outlet of communication or gossip like some websites portray it. However it has it's limitations as well -- notably the brevity of the tweets you can post. I think it is silly to sue the company just because it allows celebrities and users to interact based on some patent. Any website or service online could technically allow this if the celebrities sign up and share their contact information. Speaking of Twitter, am I the only one who constantly has to find out the real spelling of the social network? I always think that the title is 'Tweeter,' due to users sending 'tweets,' and not as 'Twitter.'


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The power supply

One of the most overlooked components of a computer is the power supply, or the box that powers up the rest of your system and makes it run. When looking at computer specs for potential consumer computers people are about to buy the ram, processor speed, video card, and other aspects are listed but the psu is all but forgotten. Many people seem like they can't tell the difference or ask for that info anyway. If you are a smart computer user especially one who uses graphics or heavy duty processing power you need to worry about this.

Most manufacturers seem to give cheap psu's in stock computers like gateways. hp's, emachines, etc. unless you buy one with a video card preinstalled and it is an 800 dollar plus computer. I realized I needed to change my powewr supply to put a video card in my computer when I found out it is only a 300 watt bestec psu (the exact same one I used on my previous 4 year old computer that came with that). Not only are watts the thing to look at when buying a psu but the amps each of the 12v rails have as well, it is good to have at least one of those 12v rails with a 25 or above amps if the video card is real heavy duty. Often psu manufacturers also lie about the power of it and list the top watt output but not the peak but still very functional output as well.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Buying a good budget pc can be a pain

I recently purchased a $300 Gateway computer thinking I got a great deal because of its pretty good specs.

The Problem I realized after gettingjt is that the cd rom drive doesn't seem to work very well with blank cdr's or cdrw's and has a hard time burning them or ejecting them. On top of this, it is a low profile graphic system so I can't upgrade the pcie video card to a card that isn't anything other than 'low profile' despite the size of the case. Even my budget 4 year old emachineT3092 let me put regular cards in.

The other sad thing is the quality of the power supply not even giving me enough cables or molex's to plug in a pcie cable converted video card nor does it have a pcie specific 6 pin cable. The best card I can run for this power supply so far I figure is a 9500gt low profile edition. ANd I really hope nothing else starts going wrong. Oh and the computer (or possibly the crappy Vista is doing this) freezes sometimes when I am opening up many browisng tabs at once form a previous session. Bottom line some things on paper seem a lot better than they are in reality. But what irks me is how the specifications listed on Gateway don't say anywhere it is only a low profile compatible system.