Archive for the 'The plastic surgery game' Category

How to win friends and influence Tweeple

Qwitter’s launch last week seems to have thrown the Twittersphere (God, what a horrible world) temporarily, as plenty of the site’s users suddenly find themselves in a bit of an etiquette dilemma.

Basically, Qwitter’s an application that sends you a quick email whenever anybody unfollows you, along with your last Tweet. Kind of like one of those ridiculous exit interviews companies insist on putting you through. Or the kind of social media tool that neurotic recent singletons, who pour over every minute of a a failed relationship, would love.

So far, so pointless. But if there’s on thing the internet doesn’t need, it’s a rather useless service that feeds insecurities of online friendships. God alone knows we have enough problem with that offline, and Louis Gray has a pretty good analysis of Qwitter:

“What Qwitter has done with this unnecessary “service” (and I use that term loosely) is turn a very mundane, passive act that usually reflects more on a person’s available time than a follower’s actions into an act of aggression with some seemingly dubious “reason” behind it. I can see this turning ugly, as friends who discover that friends sometimes unfollow them take it personally. This means instead of realizing that on Twitter you can go back and forth with a kind of ebb and flow as needed, those with hurt feelings from being unfollowed proceed to email demanding logic, reasons, and possibly even threatening retaliation or repercussions. Qwitter feeds insecurity and neuroses by making something simple into some kind of seeming failure or insult.

The thing about the internet is that it has a tendency to turn aggressive in a hurry. Twitter has, until now, avoided that Internet Troll atmosphere and been a relatively happy place to connect with people online in a very low-key and self-directed way. There are a few Twitter Trolls, but not that many, thanks largely to the anonymous unfollow and anonymous block features. Qwitter changes that, and for what?”

One of the main reason to love Twitter is the free swopping of ideas and conversation between people you wouldn’t other meet, but it doesn’t matter if the following isn’t reciprocal.

I follow plenty of people on Twitter who haven’t returned the compliment, and nor would I necessarily suspect them to. Just because I find what they have to say interesting, doesn’t mean they’re going to think the same about what I say.

And vice-versa. I have a lot of random people following me, some of whom I’ve followed back, some of who seem interesting but I’m not too concerned about following them back, and some who – like some of those I follow who don’t follow me back – I’m sure are lovely people, but there’s no interest there for me. 

To any of those people reading this, sorry it’s not personal! I’m sure I’ve probably lost a fair few Twitter followers because there’s a fair bit of football chat on my feed (which I am conscious of, and have considered setting up a separate feed for) and the sheer banality of some of my Tweets.

But it’s definitely not like Facebook, where there’s a definite awkwardness about having people add you who you’d rather not add, or debating whether you should add colleagues, or ex-girlfriends, and the like. Twitter’s a lot more laid back, and is all the better forward.

Sally at Getting Ink has also been thinking among similar lines, this time in relation to the Twitter Karma application:

“I follow people on Twitter on the basis that I find what they post interesting and relevant to me. It doesn’t necessarily follow that what I say will be equally interesting and relevant to them. So, let’s imagine I’m following someone interesting, but they’re not interested in me – do they then become LESS interesting as a consequence? Should I only be listening to people to listen to me?”

Nonetheless, it feels like Twitter’s slowly moving from the childlike to the adolescent – like the acne-ridden teenager who suddenly becomes aware of the social groups and has to decide (or try) to fit in with them or not. Whether this is a good thing or not, I’m not sure.

How Twitter works best isn’t as a popularity contest or a desire to be loved, but, as Mike Butcher says:

“It quickly became apparent that this was turning into the best use of Twitter of all. Not for long, winding conversations you might have on instant messaging, but short, to the point wise-cracks between people interspersed with a little status update here, a small observation on life there. Twitter was no longer about ’status’ or ‘what are you doing’. It was about conversation, ‘what are you thinking’, ‘what are we talking about’.

The key difference is that people who say “take this conversation over into IM” don’t get it. IM can’t do what Twitter does. You can’t instant message into “the cloud”. With Twitter you can. You can shout or whisper whatever you want to say out into the ether and anyone online can hear you. And anyone following you, even if you don;t follow them, can reply – then you may well become connected.”

And Charles Arthur notes, in his typically blunt but nonetheless spot-on style, there’s only so much Twittering you can take:

“It’s simple really. In an attention economy, there’s only so much time I can listen to what colour your curtains are. Then, I’ve got to get on and earn some money. Please, no hurt feelings though. In the meantime, I’ve resolved to try to tweet useful stuff. Though the temptation to put any old rubbish in is huge, I have to admit.”

I’ve made lots of contacts and a few good friends through Twitter already, and a lot of people in my feed often stick up very interesting links (I’m probably rather bad at doing this). It’s relaxed, interesting and fun. Kind of like an online version of Central Perk, if you will.

What it doesn’t need is people suddenly starting to take it too seriously, which is what a lot of the worry and chatter around Qwitter and Twitter Karma feels like. Have a cup of tea, relax and we can Tweet about it.

***

While I’m on the topic of Twitter, a couple more examples of how the social-networking-cum-microblogging-cum-conversation site is continuing its quest for world domination rise in popularity and usefulness.

Following on from Stephen Fry, no lesser celebrity than Britney Spears has entered the Twitterverse. Or rather a mixture of of her and, possibly, the occasional Tweet from Britney herself.

It’s very different from Stephen Fry, but is a good example of how those working with a big star or somebody slightly less gadget and web-obsessed (those are good thing by the way, before Stephen Fry gets hurt) can use a Twitter feed.

There’s some nice openness and accountability – very Web 2.0, especially this Tweet – with conversation and a team (or possibly just one woman, Lauren) updating the feed reasonably regularly. It’s a good balance for a star like Britney and is a good model for any other celebrity thinking about using Twitter.

What’s more, it gives Britney devotees, of which I’m sure there are many out there (I can’t class myself as one of them, although Toxic was a great pop record) a chance to get closer to her than any celebrity magazine could offer.

Now there’s a thought. Could Twitter kill off Heat magazine?

***

The other sign that Twitter is slowly marching on came in a phone conversation today. I was in PR mode, pitching a small item to a few local papers, and rung an old university friend and colleague who worked on one of these papers.

I’d barely begun explaining what I was ringing about before he cut in to tell me that he knew what I was ringing about and had already mentioned it to his editor, all because of a couple of Tweets I’d done earlier in the week.

Now – if either as a PR or a journalist or both – if that doesn’t get you excited about the power of social media tools like Twitter for ‘traditional’ media work, then I guess nothing will.

Rewarding behaviour/Things wot I like

Lucky old Neil Clark, eh. He can now add Best UK Blogger to his cyberspace trophy cabinet in yet another somewhat pointless round of backslapping, this time of the virtual variety.

You might be shocked to hear that I’m not a particularly big fan of awards, or award ceremonies in general [1]. The free booze that invariably accompanies them is about the only decent thing that makes them worthwhile, although in one case on my part, led to an incoherent profanity-fest as an acceptance speech. That also forms part of my argument as to why I shouldn’t be put into situations that involve social interaction with people, but I digress.

In terms of judged awards, I’ve never quite understood why one set of opinions are more valid than others? Experts in their fields? Possibly, but I listen to a fair bit of music, and have a broad taste [2]. What makes my opinion any more valid than those of the Mercury Music Prize judges, say? I was slightly underwhelmed by The Klaxons. Does this mean their opinion is more relevant or valid? [3]

Then there’s the mass voting, as these ones were. If I’m not a fan of judged awards, I’m ever less of a fan of voted-for ones. Invariably, you either get a consensus vote of the least worst nominee, or a small, yet rabid/devoted [4] fanbase taking advantage of the multiple-voting rules to skew the result. Ultimately, winning voted-by-Joe-Public awards proves the winner can organise a decent PR campaign in a glorified popularity contest, and little more.

(Although, in the most recent case, choosing between Neil Clark and Iain Dale is somewhat akin to choosing between spearing your own hand or shooting yourself in the foot. Each to their own.)

Once you’ve got an award, what the hell do you do with it then? Use it as a point of small talk at dinner parties? If, in a professional setting, you’re just starting out in your career, then it has its uses for the CV, and perhaps opening a few doors that wouldn’t otherwise be opened. Other than that,there’s only so far it can get you. Trying to build your career on a couple of awards is the equivalent of John Barnes living off *that* Brazil goal for the whole of his England career.

To my mind, Matt Wardman sums up the recent set of blog awards rather nicely:

My impression of people who blog about awards they have won more than – say – twice, is that they have cut the outline of a six-foot penis from cardboard, and are waving it around vigorously in the hope that noone will take a sideways look and reveal how shallow it is in actuality.

My opinion of people who post more than – say – twice, in order to puff there own blog in votes for blog awards is to wonder why they apparently need so much help to cut a penis shape out of a piece of cardboard.

Beyond all of that, I just find people who take blog awards at all seriously rather amusing.

Perhaps, and despite me disagreeing with the majority of what he’s written, I’m taking a slightly Platonic (circa. The Republic) view of this: there’s some kind of universal idea of beauty (including music) or, erm, blogging. Or, to paraphrase Mick Jagger, a song isn’t good or bad. I either like it or I don’t [5].

Anyway, apropos of nothing, I thought this was a good enough point for me to introduce my own piece of mutual backslapping and public onanism to this blog by compiling a list of my Top 10 favourite current blogs. There’s no prize involved and anybody on the list will probably feel a sense of shame in being associated with this blog [6].

There’s also little reason for me to do this, other than I quite like lists. I’m a man. I’ve read Nick Hornby. I used to sit next to my tape player, finger poised on the record button, religiously every Sunday during the Top 40, before compiling my own, alternative Top 40. I didn’t get out much as a teenager, and it probably shows.

If this is any point to the following list, other than for my own list-like enjoyment [7] , it’ll direct all 10 regular readers, and the 250 who visited here following the Ebbsfleet post, to one or two blogs they haven’t heard of. And that, to my mind, is what lists should be about.

On with the proceedings…

1. Stumbling and Mumbling

Chris Dillow has repeatedly said he’s not a fan of being voted onto Best Blogger lists, so my apologies. But S&M (for short) is one of those rare things. A writer who is familiar with the complexities of economics, politics and ecetra, and explains them in a clear, coherent, and entertaining manner. I’ve probably learned more one the aforementioned topics from reading Chris’ blog than I ever did in school, and after every visit I feel a little more intelligent than I did before I clicked through. Occasional gratuitous pictures of cleavage also help.

2. A very clever and exciting place for words to live.

Is it the done thing to put a good friend so high up the list? Probably not, but my list: my rules. I may have worked with Matthew, gone through university with him, and exchanged random offensive text messages when drunk, but it doesn’t stop me being in awe of his writing. Arbitrary humour that’s had me in fits of giggles at the office more times than I’d care to remember. He can write absolutely nothing, and still make me laugh. The only criticism: his turbo dictionary stalled around D.

3. Bad Science

So he has a column in a national newspaper, which he reprints on his blog. So would I, if it were this good. Again, I feel I’ve actually learned more about science (a subject I was utterly useless at) after reading one of Ben Goldacre’s posts. Meticulous, intelligent, well-researched and very hard to argue again. Possibly a beacon for scientific truth and method in a headline-obsessed world.

4. Devil’s Kitchen

I disagree with vast proportions of what the Devil says. His politics are often somewhat removed from my own. We’ve had assorted bloguments [8] in the past, and will probably disagree in the future. And occasionally it does feel as if he’s trying a bit too hard to get outraged. But here’s the nub. There’s only one bloggerI can think of who fisks anywhere near as brilliantly as the Devil. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read the Kitchen, disagreed, but can’t come up with any good reasons why I disagree, as he’s lot meticulous and well-crafted in his arguments. Did I mention the fact he’s funny? And swears a lot? And is funny, while simultaneously calling somebody a jug-eared cunt. To be honest, I could disagree with everything else he ever wrote, but I’d still admire the man, not least for his wonderful, foul-mouthed deconstructions of Charles Clarke and Polly Toynbee.

5. Forever Amber

By all rights, I shouldn’t be reading this blog. I have absolutely no interest in fashion, shoes, bags, or neurotic women, and what I do know about these subjects could be written on the back of a Primark receipt. Somehow Amber manages to make these alien subjects, plus updates on her battles at the gym, and anger at those who mock her for ginger hair, absolutely hilarious. One of the few bloggers I’ll make a point of reading as soon as she has a new post. He style, while not unique, is done a thousand times better than most other writers on the same subject, and the fact she can get me laughing at a story about a gym towel puts her high up my list. It helps that I think people with ginger hair are hot.

6. Ministry of Truth

You know I said there was only one blogger who fisks as well as the Devil? This is he. I often wonder where the hell Unity finds the time to meticulously analyse, research, then produce some of the most detailed counter-arguments I have ever seen. A rare, calming, sensible voice in the shrill of the blogospheric bear fit of argument. I have no idea what he does for a living, but his posts put many professional journalists to shame.

7. Two hundred per cent

It was a tough call between this and That Magical Night, but 200% just wins. Passing comment on football is easy. Passing intelligent, and often amusing, comment on football is a lot harder. Reminds me a lot of When Saturday Comes, and as that magazine is only out once a month, and 200% blogs most days, this alone is a reason to celebrate.

8. Rachel from North London

This world needs people like Rachel North. No person deserves to go through what she’s experienced in life, yet no person deserves to be admired more for her steely resolve, her refusal to let matters drop, and her determination. Her book left me with a lump in my throat on several occasions. A fantastic writer, and a blogger I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for, and I pray she never stops blogging or keeping up the fight. If I ever get the chance to meet Rachel, I wouldn’t just offer to buy her a drink, I’d offer a whole crate of wine. No one deserve it more than her.

9. Tim Worstall

I have no idea how many posts he averages a month, but every one of them has something to say. Another blogger who I feel I learn something from after reading his posts, and also one I differ in politics from, yet still feel compelled to read and difficult to argue against. Probably one of blogging’s best-known names, and in Tim’s case it’s an accolade that’s richly deserved.

10. Doctor Vee

An admission. I occasionally skip over some of his posts. But that doesn’t stop Duncan (not a doctor. Not a Vee) being an entertaining, interesting, and down-to-earth blogger. I like the fact he doesn’t stick to one topic, and can happily switch from music to politics to Scotland to his personal life to F1 in successive posts with comparative ease. In fact, any casual F1 fan should make Doctor Vee a must-read. He’s got a huge depth of knowledge about the sport, yet never talks down or over complicates his posts on the matter, and is a great gateway to more in-depth info. I could spend a long time praising his knowledge and writings on other topics, but this post has been long enough. Suffice to say, Vee comes across as a thoroughly normal, intelligent, funny person and if I was compiling a list of Top 5 Bloggers I Don’t Know Yet Would Happily Go Down The Pub With, he’d probably be top.

[1] This is despite picking up a few gongs myself. As the majority of these were team efforts, I feel slightly less uncomfortable picking them up than I have done individual ones, but nonetheless still uncomfortable.

[2] At least, I think to think so. We’ll brush over the time I purchased a copy of Jagged Little Pill.

[3] Not that I’m angling for a music award judging panel slot here. I’d only get hideously drunk on the free booze and suggest Half Man Half Biscuit, Gogol Bordello and Showaddywaddy for every category, including Best Female Artist.

[4] Delete as appropriate.

[5] Ok, I know that’s not the exact quote. I can’t be arsed to look up the exact one at 11pm on a Sunday. Sorry.

[6] Or can shout about it. To which the correct response would be: “Gary who? Ah well, its probably better than being poked in the eye.”

[7] I once had a good 20-minute conversation drawing up The Top 5 Words Beginning With E. Ensconced came out at number one.

[8] See what I did there. I created a new word. Get me.

Tell it to hiss off…

Yes folks, it’s random reach Gary’s blog search time, and not at all a bout of navel gazing so people think I actually type something in this new fangled interweb thingumy.

My favourite so far has been the two people who’ve arrived here searching for:

“WOT SHOULD I DO IF SEE A SNAKE?”

One would assume the same thing as if you see a black widow or a crocodile. Get the hell out of there.

Note the capital letters, and bastardisation of the word what. This is clearly a gap year student using the internet to research their trip to Africa, where they’ll spend six months building huts out of old weetabix boxes for a grateful community, before boring the world about exactly how they invented a cure for malaria.

Then there’s my second favourite:

“Where have my trousers gone?”

Seriously mate. If you’ve lost your trousers and are sitting at your keyboard wearing nothing more than a T-shirt and Y-fronts, then I’d suggest Google is probably not going to be a great deal of help. This blog even less so. I suggest looking in the fridge. I’ve found some random stuff heaped in there after waking up the morning after the night before.

Finally, I’m really baffled as to why I get about 10 hits a day from somebody searching for ‘plastic surgery games’ or variations thereof. Is this some kind of botox tournament, akin to the Olympics where Jordan, Cher, and Joan Collins compete as to who can have the full nip/tuck done in the quickest time possible? If so, why aren’t Channel 5 showing it?

Oh, and while I’m here, this had me laughing like a drain for 2 minutes 27 seconds (via the ASI).

UDPATE: During the time it took me to write this post, somebody’s searched for “Plastic Surgery for Boobies Game.”

Firstly, where is this game, and how can I play. Secondly, one set of parents might want to check exactly what their teenage son is doing tonight, and get ready with the stain remover.

Farewell Seadogs

Like Spennymoor and Telford before them in previous season, Scarborough’s epitaph will probably merit a brief a brief addendum in the history of football, which would be a shame as the fate of the Seadogs says more about the state of modern football than the endless musings on the fallout between Jose and Roman.

Just a few days earlier, David Conn excellently summarised their troubles.

I can’t say I’m optimistic for Scarborough’s future, or that they’ll be saved. If this were a league club, there would be much more publicity, bucket collections and several articles in the national press, perhaps even a brief piece on one of the 24-hour news channels.

This isn’t a criticism of those clubs. God knows, fans of the likes Wrexham, Rotherham, Bradford and, yes, even Leeds has been through enough, and losing your club is the worst nightmare of any football fan. But Scarborough, with their history and troubles, are no less deserving of our support and help than any other club.

It was only last season I was chatting to a couple of Seadog fans after their trip to Exeter. Our two clubs share a rather unwelcome link. At the time of their relegation from the league, their chairman was John Russell. Mr. Russell was also in charge when the Grecians tumbled into the Conference, giving him the rather dubious honour of being the first, and hopefully last, Chairman to be at the helm of two clubs relegated from the football league.

As with most visiting supporters in the Conference, these fans were friendly, but with a tinge of melancholy about their club. They were hopeful there was light at the end of the tunnel, even if they couldn’t tell how far down that actual tunnel they were. It seems at the moment that tunnel’s got well and truly lost in the mountain.

But, as Morrissey once sang, there’s a light that never goes out. If, or when, ‘boro are wound up I hope the likes of those who braved the long trips to the likes of Exeter and Gravesend who dig together and reform the club somewhere down the pyramid and ensure the Seadogs don’t go the same way as the Dodo.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com