Is Hollywood Running on Empty? Reboot the Idea Machine…

Film Bundle by Dale Mastin
(CC BY-ND 2.0)

The idea that Hollywood is running out of ideas is not a new one, in fact as a saying it is getting old and repetitive. The saying is something that is spouted by people who are getting tired of what they would call the same old stories, unwanted sequels, reboots and remakes; although I dislike the term ‘reboot’, usually when a film series is rebooted it is obvious, new cast, setting, story. The term ‘reboot’ is insulting to the audience and redundant. If your aware of the previous movies then you know, if you are not aware then you don’t need to know.

The concept of Hollywood is running out of ideas, plays on the presumption that Hollywood is in the ideas business. When in fact they are not. Hollywood exists to make money from entertainment. People like to forget that most companies exist for one single purpose, the procurement of wealth, it is only how they go about it that makes them different. In fact many companies stated out doing something different to what they are doing now, and in the fast changing world it pays to be progressive.

Cinema by Steve Snodgrass (CC BY 2.0)

Netflix is one example of a company that changed its business model to better suit the environment. They started out as a DVD mail rental service, then progressed to video streaming and now produce some of their own content (Business Insider). Netflix started when Video Rentals were king, but they took something that people didn’t like, late fees and going in to the store, and made that their marketing goals. When you examine a company that doesn’t alter their business fast enough you end up with Blockbuster; they went from just over 9000 stores in 2004 to filling for bankruptcy in 2011, just 7 years later. Now the only remnants left are about 10 franchised stores in the US (Blockbuster LLC, Wikipedia). Blockbuster had monumentally failed to understand what consumers wanted.

That is where Hollywood is different, they understand what people want, and while their consumers may say they want something different it is not what they are paying to see. But that’s okay, it is alright to go out to watch a movie just for the entertainment. We don’t need to have thought provoking movies thrown at us all the time. Perhaps when you find yourself thinking that Hollywood has run out of ideas, it is more of an indicator that you are in need of something different, a palette cleansing film, something that engages you more than the standard fodder. This is where it can get a bit difficult, what do you start with? Exploration is the key. Go for reviews and trailers on YouTube, find a reviewer (such as, Mr Sunday Movies) that you like and follow them – all of these will give snippets and small analysis of films that you may not have considered before.

They also help you sort through the wash. I love a good run and explosion film, and when I’m watching those I’m not expecting anything new, sometimes they get a bit ridiculous but that is all a part of the fun. However, as much as I enjoy those – a movie that keeps you thinking about after you have watched it can be just perfect. Movies like, Black Swan, Birdmanand most recently Colossal. Colossal was brilliant and so much more than what the trailer made it seem – it is not a standard rom-com. All these movies are open to analysis with unambiguous endings, this makes them made to be discussed and that makes them interesting. 

Regardless of the brilliance of some movies, it is the standard action films that are the money makers. Hollywood will continue to churn them out until such time as they become unprofitable – just think when was the last time you watched a western genre film? These were the most popular film genre in the 1950’s & 60’s. Just remember when you start thinking that Hollywood has run out of ideas, maybe it is time to get out of your comfort zone.

Feature Image: Hollywood by eGuide Travel (CC BY 2.0)

Forget to Logout? The Expectation of Online Privacy

At work last week I was looking up the companies Facebook page and noticed that my boss had, at some point, forgotten to log out of his account. While many nefarious thoughts about what mischief I could cause ran through my head, in the end I clicked on log out and left it at that. I didn’t tell him or snoop around on the page – I’m not sure if that is my personal set of ethics kicking in or just a lack of interest. My boss is a reasonably casual guy and I don’t think he would have cared if I had hit him with a sneaky status update. We have all seen it before, someone has their account ‘hacked’, which is code for leaving their phone unlocked around ‘friends’. But it got me thinking, do you have the right to privacy if you leave an account logged in?

Facebook by Samantha Steele
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If the worst thing to happen was a friend writes a funny update on your status, that can be deleted as soon as you find out, then it is not really a problem. Most people that do this sort of thing would be privy to most things on your Facebook page anyway. But what about a stranger? What if you left your phone on a table for a minute and when you returned to collect it someone was casually scrolling through your Facebook page? Would you feel different or the same?

I did once find a phone at work, it was left unlocked, and we did the right thing and called a couple of her contacts to let her know that we had her phone. I have also found four wallets in my lifetime, all which were returned because I went through its contents to find information about the owner. I still felt very awkward about searching through someones private contacts. Even though on these occasion there was a reason to be searching and probing into someone’s private details.

Where does this stand with a computer, particularly one that is known to be used by other computers. So at one point my boss was in my office, most likely ‘helping’ with some paperwork – I was sick for a few days last week – and I guess at one point he checked his Facebook status and left it logged in. So if you forget to logout, do you have any rights to privacy? or is it the same as leaving a $50 note in an ATM (this happened to me once)? As soon as you walk away the expectation is that it is gone, despite what the reality may be.

Facebook by Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0)

Generally I don’t log out of Facebook at home or on my phone, it is always logged in. This is because I am lazy, I can’t be bothered to log out and back in every time I check it. However if I found someone – even a family member – casually scrolling though the page I would feel violated. I know several time sat work I leave Google signed in, which in my view is worse than Facebook as they have access to all of my emails, drive docs, and purchased entertainment – I don’t have credit card information saved, but I suspect that many people might.

The right to privacy comes down to the location. At work you should have an expectation of privacy as it is a professional place, at home absolutely, unless you are a child. However in a public place than absolutely not, if you leave a public computer logged in to Facebook, or worse, than anything that happens is your own fault. I’d like to live in a world where this doesn’t have to be the case, but the desire to see how the other is living is a core trait of humans – it is something that has been done for survival for generations. After all is this not what Facebook and other social media is all about? We are allowing others into our lives to see how we are living. A like is really nothing more than a stranger saying that you are doing things correctly.

It would be good if Facebook had a setting that caused it to logout after a predetermined time of inactivity to prevent someone from gaining access due to a forgotten logout. But that is not reality, and even in areas where general privacy is a given, in the end it is more hope and trust than a guarantee. The only way to be certain of privacy is to log out after every use, make it a habit. In Facebook click on setting, and it is the last menu item, click it to sign out and secure your online presence.

Feature Image: PRIVACY by Metro Centric (CC BY 2.0)

Removing Religion from Public Holidays

The majority of public holidays in Australia have nothing to do with being Australian. Days that are celebrated include, New Years Day, Australia Day, ANZAC Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas and Boxing Day (except SA). Other common days, although they are celebrated on different days in each state, include, Labour Day and Queen’s Birthday.

Eureka Flag and Sculpture by Takver (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With the movement to relocate Australia Day gaining intensity – it’s been an issue since 1938 – it prompted me to think about our other holidays and with the exception of ANZAC Day they hold no conclusive bearing on anything to do with our country. I agree that they did at one point, but this is no longer the case. Especially with what I call the religion holidays. In a multicultural society mandatory religious public holidays are more divisive than inclusive. I for one do not celebrate any religious holiday and while I would not support any policy that takes away a persons right to freedom of religion, I think that removing these holidays from our calendar to be a sign of a progressive nation.

What I would propose is a system where these holidays are replaced with ones that have significance to Australian Cultural events. For those in the workforce that feel the need to have certain days off in order to celebrate their chosen religion, an employer could be compelled to accept any request for time off to attend a religious gathering on nominated days. This could be limited to four days, which would cover the current public holidays and result in no change – for those without religion it could be any four days of their choosing – but the important issue is that an employer cannot say no. However an employee should nominate what religion they follow at the time of employment.

The removal of religious days as public holidays would be of benefit to companies, as some of the exorbitant penalty rates and trading restrictions applied to these days would also be removed. This is inline with the recent decision to alter the penalty rates for Sunday. Which was most likely brought in to benefit those that were asked to work on the Sabbath, which holds little bearing on today’s society.

Wall of Poppies – Rememberance Day

Of the other public holidays, only ANZAC day is a true Australian cultural holiday as it affects all Australians. Australia Day should be relocated to January 1, and replace New Years Day. Labor Day is celebrated with the Moomba Festival in Victoria, a change to Moomba Day would not be a hard push. Queen’s Birthday has ties to Australia being an English Colony, but since the signing of the Australia Act in 1986 all possibilities for British involvement in the country were ceased.

In Victoria, we have two days that celebrate sporting events, Melbourne Cup Day and AFL Grand Final Day. While I am not a supporter of either of these days, they at least have some symbolism on what it is to be Australian – as we are a sporting nation. But what of our other achievements? We have nothing to celebrate our native culture or our scientific and artistic achievements, should these not get a look in? The religious holidays have a stranglehold on how we celebrate as a nation.

In the recent Australian Census (2016) it has been made clear that the new dominant religion is no religion (30.1%), although this statistic is only dominant when the branches of Christianity are separate, but I would argue that a Catholic and an Anglican would not agree that they are the same. I believe it is time to start moving away form elements that do nothing but help divide the country and make it harder to be the true multicultural melting pot that many people, especially politicians, claim that we are.

Do you agree of disagree? What suggestions do you have for new Australian public holidays? Feel free to comment below.

Feature Image: Other Religion by Tom Rolfe (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thoughts on Entering the AI Age

The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next incarnation of our ever evolving digital landscape. But what does this mean and what impact will it have on society?

Some believe that it will have a massive impact on the employment rate, and others disagree. Personally I am on the side that it will affect the employment rate. We are already seeing jobs being affected by automation and while it may not be true AI, as they are not thinking, these changes have started and it would take a massive effort to reverse the trend. Think about self service machines that are appearing in many big box retailers, everyone one of these are doing the job that a few years ago was being completed by a person. Self-serve checkouts exist for one reason, to make the companies more money. Although it has resulted in an increase in theft, intentional or otherwise, these companies have determined that the resulting loss to profit is more cost effective than standard employment. Essentially it is a numbers game and one in which researchers are combating with interesting techniques.

Again while it is not AI, but rather a sophisticated multimedia device, the programming involved does seem to be teaching the program to ‘learn’, in that it may be able to predict what items are often bought together and perhaps suggest meal plans and so on to increase sales – this is something that a traditional server might not have been able to offer. However the ability for a program to ‘learn’ does not make it AI, a true AI machine would be capable of deciding if it wanted to be stuck somewhere selling people grapes. These machines are replacing a workforce, however it is nothing more than a progression of consistent workforce automation.

So here we have that machines are already replacing some jobs, but this is not something new. Machines have been replacing jobs since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Think about the job you currently are doing, does it have elements that are being completed by automation? Even the act of pouring your morning coffee has elements of automation, as at one point in time a person had to milk cows and this has long disappeared as an employable skill with the invention of the milking machine. How about a bank teller? When was the last time you walked into the bank for something as simple as making a withdrawal of funds? ATM’s (automated teller machine) have been doing this job since the 60’s. Ever bought a drink form a machine? These have existed since the 1860’s. So you can see it is a slow progression but it is certainly nothing new – jobs come and go, automation makes things easier in general.

AI and further development of automation will affect the workforce. But it is not something that any working person should be concerned about. Times change and probably one of the key indicators of intelligence is the ability to change and develop. I for one am looking forward to a time, where we have driver-less trucks on the road and completely automated shopping facilities. I believe with out the constraints of completing mundane tasks, the human population will become an artistic utopia where people will have more time available for self expression, and as long as it is not hurting anyone else, this will continue to be a great time to be alive.

How do you feel about AI and automation, does it make you fear the future or excited to see how far it will go?

Feature Image: robot by Jem Henderson (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

Science Fiction Tropes: Destroy the Queen!

‘…the odds are overwhelming, the [insert name] have us out numbered a million to one, but if can just [insert action] all of the others will be destroyed.’  – random movie speech.

This is a reasonably standard trope in science fiction and it is one that I detest. Most of the time these stories are build up and knock down, repeated several times, and then the aha moment comes for the characters and the viewing audience groans; its pathetic.

I love science fiction movies and the more we have the better, but endings such as these just rob the audience of any gratification, because it is a story that has been seen a hundred times before, and honestly it has no real world application. I would challenge anyone to give an example of a conflict in which one particular part of an army was targeted and all the other soldiers just gave up. Most soldiers are fighting for a cause – be it the need to prove something right or otherwise and you can’t destroy an idea in such a short amount of time.

Some examples of movies that use this trope are:

  • The Fifth Element (1997) – Corben Dallas is fighting the Mangalores, they are pinned down and clearly out numbered. Dallas states that taking out the leader and the other will give up fighting. This works because the Mangalores intelligence or lack of had already been established, so the audience understands why they stopped fighting.
  • The Phantom Menace (1999) – Young Anakin is fighting the droid ships in space. The mission, they must destroy the control ship and the droids will cease to function. This doesn’t work, as the Star Wars universe has been established as having sentient droids – even where the soldier robots make jokes with each other. Are we really expected to believe that someone was controlling their ability to make jokes and complain?
  • Independence Day (1996) – All of the opponents have force fields on their ship, that are controlled by a mother ship. They destroy the ship and the force fields fail and suddenly the tide has been turned. Ignoring the absurdity of the plot, this doesn’t work because there are still millions of ships, and soldiers available to the aliens.

The trope exists as nothing more than a short cut to an obstacles, it is almost as if there was a writer to get them to one point, and then another to write the solution. It is flat out lazy story telling.

The title image for this post is from Star Trek: Beyond, where they do use this trope, however they changed it into a much more entertaining one. I didn’t mind its use in Star Trek: Beyond because the fighters moved as one central unit other than individuals, like in Independence Day and Star Wars, and the explanation of how they operated and the way they were defeated was well developed; it went beyond the destruction of one man, ship or queen.

For this trope to be used properly writers need to establish ground rules, how things work and why they do. You can’t build a wall and then smash out a door when it becomes a necessity – that shit gets messy – you need to build the door frame first and the wall around it, for that smooth exit from the building.

Title Image: Star Trek: Beyond (screenshot)

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Using Memes in the Workplace

pity the fool
R. Williams – 2016 (created at imgflip.com)

The above image is one I created and put in a farewell card for my boss. When I did it I was really unsure how he would take it. Confidence is not my thing. I asked a few of my colleagues and they thought it was perfect. So I stuck it in, and it tuned out he thought it was hilarious. I still think it was a risky move as he is a serious about work, but chilled about social aspects of work – be on time, but a bit of a ‘havachat’ is cool.

It got me thinking about how something that is largely present online has started to creep into real life. Are they appropriate, and would you send one in an email to a colleague that you may not know very well or at all?

Recently my workplace was the recipient of large inter-store transfers of old and deleted stock, that we were going to clear out. The workload was going to be immense and create functionality problems for the store. When one store sent me their transfer list I replied with a meme:

barney
R. Williams – 2017 (created at imgflip.com)

Maybe a little context is needed… a part of the transfer consisted of eight replacement covers for an outdoor dog bed that we no longer sell, or have sold in over a year. I thought the meme was funny, and I still do. Although I never heard back from the person I sent it to so I have no idea if they thought it was or even understood it. That is one problem with memes, for it to work you need to know the character in the picture and the reference that it is alluding to:

The meaning is essentially – when an apparent impossible task is meet with unrelenting optimism. Which is how I started to view the task at hand – besides getting bothered doesn’t achieve anything.

I think that using memes in the workplace can add tone to an email, or a workplace sign. Take a look at the Mr T one again, it is not negative in any way, it’s humorous but it also conveys an important message without being preachy. The Barney one I sent was to demonstrate that there were ‘no hard feelings’ about my store being dumped with left over stock from another. If these were typed out without the image reference how would they sound then? The Mr T one would come of as threatening and the Barney one could be interpreted in many different ways, from smug to anger, it all depends on the reader.

Using memes in the workplace, as long as it doesn’t take too much time to create, is perfectly fine. I would probably think twice about sending one to a manager that I wasn’t that familiar with, but for everyday communication and if it is a part of your personality then go for it. We all need a laugh every now and then at work. They’re also a great deal of fun to create.

I’d love to hear stories about memes in your workplace, feel free to comment below.

Title Image: R. Williams – 2017 (created at imgflip.com)

Eternal Digital Living

When questioned about eternal life something that keeps surfacing is the idea that we could digitally map our brains and upload it to a cloud style server and live on in an electronic reality.

While there is nothing new about this concept, as it has been a staple of science fiction for a while, The Matrix is probably the most well known for a negative view and Black Mirror – San Junipero, for a more positive spin.

There are many other examples, such as Star Trek – Voyager where large portions of the show are dedicated to the Doctor whom is arguably a sentient digital being. On the show he is treated as an object, but as it progresses he develops a personality beyond his ‘programming’. Another example would be from Red Dwarf, where the entire crew has been digitally mind mapped and stored as back up copies in case of accident or emergency. The difference between these two is that Rimmer, from Red Dwarf, is a fully formed replica of an actual person, where the Doctor is not. Have a look at both of them – one is intelligent and insightful, and the other has fancy buttons.

This idea is well established in popular culture, almost to a point where it is an agreed upon state and we are just waiting for the technology to catch up. The point is would you do it? In the Black Mirror episode you can pick between several rooms or worlds to live in, could you see yourself living in a stylized version of a decade? Even though the world would be a total fabrication and all the things that happen to you would be the creation of a programmer just to keep you happy. Interestingly this is exactly what phone developers and gaming companies are doing right at this minute. Stimulating your brain to make you happy in order to keep signing in; one day you may go in never to come back.

As technology moves faster and faster toward artificial intelligence, surely it would become easier to digitally map our minds. Researchers would start to see the connections and how things work in order to recreate it. There is the brain in the jar thinking that because everything is a creation of our minds it is possible that we are not here at all. With that style of thinking would living in a digital reality be any different, you would still have the same wants and desires, and the same fears and phobias, but isn’t that what makes us what we are? Could I be on a space ship filled with multiple data banks sailing thought the endless void right now? I doubt it, but it’s something to think about. Knowing that there is no ‘life after death’ and if the technology could recreate the world so there appears to be no difference, I think I would sign up.

Title Image: Clever Clogs! by Piyushgiri Revagar (2016)

Attack of the Drones

Like it or not, drones are going to be standard operating equipment for many businesses in the next twenty years. Once approval is met for self-driving vehicles how soon would it be for a rival for ride sharing services to appear? As with any new technology it will take time before people are willing to accept it.

The industry is poised for a boom, with drones being investigated to complete many different tasks. In the US, retailing giant Wal-Mart is testing out the use of drones for stock inventory control. The impact of this could do many things:

  • Job losses and creation
  • Possible lower prices
  • Increase productivity
  • Safer work environment
  • Higher skilled workforce

There are many positives and negatives, however if tests prove that it will not be beneficial to the company then it most likely will not proceed. But then it seems relatively unlikely that it won’t. When you look at the unmanned checkout populating the major retailers now, these are a drone of sorts – accept that the customer is doing the work; I wonder if some sort of discount should be applied when I scan my own items? The tests completed before these were brought into operation was, will the money we save on wages override the increase in theft (intentional or otherwise)?

When drones become an accepted part of society, the job sector that will have the highest attrition rate will be the transport industry. Being a delivery driver may become a thing of the past. The first to depart would be small parcel deliveries. Imagine this, letters are delivered by hand, our streets have been mapped and global positioning satellites are near pinpoint. It wouldn’t be that hard to take posties off their bikes and into a warehouse flying drones to deliver the mail. The jobs would still be there, up until the work becomes automated and a program takes over. If this all seems a bit far fetched – sorting of mail used to be done by hand, now a machine does most of the work.

I think it will be a few years away, when we see drones delivering the mail, sorting stock inventory or acting as cab drivers – for flying drones the noise would need to be sorted out. But if I could save $20 I know I’d be the first one to jump into the driver-less car, after all that is exactly how ride sharing services are crushing the taxi industry.

Title Image: Google Self Driving Car by Ben (2013)

How to Geocache

Geocaching is a global game of hide and seek. A geocache is a hidden container with a logbook that can be found using GPS coordinates. What I find most fascinating is that many geocaches have been ‘in the wild’ for up to seventeen years, and geocaching often leads to discovering interesting places that you never knew existed!

Cement Lounge – R.Williams 2017

Geocachers generally play the game the way they want to, but there are three main rules:

  • Don’t let anyone see you retrieve the cache
  • Put it back exactly where you found it
  • Sign the logbook and log it online

That is basically it, however there are many etiquette rules with geocaching. Some of these include:

  • Practice cache in trash out (CITO)
  • The container should suit the environment
  • There should be a reason that a cache is placed in a certain location
  • Respect the environment – generally you wont need to trample anything
  • Caches are to be maintained by the cache owner (CO)
  • Cachers should report damaged or missing caches to the CO
  • If swag swaps are made, trade up and not down
  • Respect each other and have fun!

These are more guidelines rather than rules, but the more you play the more you will learn, and hopefully discover what makes it enjoyable for you. Treat caches as if they were your own. Attending an ‘event cache’ (a gathering of cachers) is another way to learn more about how to follow the hidden rules of geocaching.

Caches are ranked according to difficulty and terrain. While again there are no solid rules, generally a terrain of one is wheelchair accessible and a five requires specialist equipment, such as SCUBA gear or, for the really keen, a ticket on the next space shuttle. In difficulty ratings a one is hidden in a standard hide, such as a road side guard rail (known as a park and grab cache) and a five could be a nano (a cache about the size of ten stacked five cent pieces) hidden among a rock pile. When it comes to finding them some people search for hours, and some set themselves a time limit, its best to stick to what your most comfortable with, but generally about fifteen minutes is enough. The more you find the easier it gets, and eventually you will have what they call the ‘geocachers eye’, which means being able to spot a likely hide from a distance.

There are many different types of cache, but the three main types are:

  • Traditional – Cache located at the given coordinates
  • Multi – Information available only at the coordinates is needed to find the cache
  • Unknown – A puzzle that needs to be solved before the coordinates are available

For the others visit – Geocache types

The physical caches come in many shapes and sizes, and everyone has their nemesis and favorites. I prefer gadget caches – these are puzzle boxes that require you to solve before you can sign the logbook. I don’t dislike any cache – park and grab mint tins are my least favorite especially if there is no story or reason to take me to the location.

That’s about it – 3 simple rules, and a few guidelines just to get started. Like any hobby the more involved you get the more you will learn. The application from Groundspeak is free to find non-premium caches (CO’s decide this) and about $45 a year subscription if you want to find any cache. So grab your phone and a pen (or two) and see what is closest, with three million hidden worldwide there is bound to be one nearby.

 

Repaying the Uni Debt

I have a university debt and I work full-time. With the current cost of living, I need to work full time or I can not help support my family. I am lucky that my partner works in a well paying job. However with the lowering of the threshold to repay a HECS debt from $55000 to $42000 I will have to start paying back the government. But my university education has nothing to do with the work that I am doing, in fact I don’t even need it for my current role, but I do need it to get a better position. Why is this not taken into consideration? Why is the payback system not for after study and only when working within the field of study?

In this country, being university educated is expected by many employers, and I’d argue not as a mark of intelligence but more as a sign of dedication and willingness to achieve. Even basic jobs are being advertised as needing to have a university education. There was a time when you could work for a few years before earning over the threshold, but now it seems that the government wants to get it hands on ‘its’ money as soon as a graduate starts to work. How is this fair? It’s like life giving you a break, you can finally let out that breath that was held tight as you lived with six others in a two bedroom unit and now you have some money in he bank and along comes the government to kick you back into place! Why are we not rewarding people who pass and graduate? Do they not pay a higher tax because they earn more already? You can’t keep handing out tax cuts without getting it back somewhere, but this is looking in the wrong part of the room.

Any cuts to funding, can be seen as a sign to lower the university attendance rate. If someone does not attend then there is no debt, the government is just trying to force the vulnerable population, those on lower income, into submission. You will go out and work! No study for you!

I feel that having an education is fast becoming a privilege rather than a right. We need an educated population it is the only way to avoid our own destruction, political and environmental. Just look at what is happening in the current political climate. Don’t let Australia become a country full of mushrooms! Education doesn’t need to be free, but give us a chance!

 

Finding Something to Write About

Bulb – Trish

All discussion is the prequel to inference…

One of the biggest challenges that arrive with having a blog is finding meaningful content to write about. Previously, I wrote a short post that contained a timeline of potential blog post titles and in the time that it took to write it, about an hour and a half, I came up with many ideas. Some may flesh out and gain life on this blog, others may not, but it did provide a loaded springboard that could be used when the urge to write struck. In coming up with the ideas for the timeline I used two main questions; what do I want to learn more about and what am I interested in? Another possible question to ask yourself is; how can I help others? However, sometimes sitting in front of a screen is not the best method for extracting the creative juices. Many times I have sat down with  nothing more than a proverbial wall to smack my head against, get frustrated and give up, but there are ways around the problem of and idea drought.

To The CuckooRay Sadler

It is best to remember that ideas can occur at any time, and they usually occur when we are the least prepared, like driving or in the shower and so on. To capture these you need to have the tools at hand. If you are a dreamer have a pen and paper next to where you sleep; while driving have a voice recorder ready to go at all times; the shower is tricky, a water proof sharpie and write on the tiles? The point I’m getting at is you need to have some form of recording implement ready for when the muse slaps you on the back of the head and then darts back into her cave. Whatever your method, don’t rely on your memory as it will often not capture your passion when the idea first forms.

Other means of coming up with ideas include:

  • Reading the paper and highlighting particular stories that you feel you could comment on. This may take the form of criticism, comments, opinion or a more in depth look at a certain topic. Most newspapers are set out so that at least something on the page will appeal to the reader, skin through a select, then go back over it in more detail. Sometimes the smallest stories lead to a bigger one.
  • Facebook can be a gold mine for ideas. When someone makes a comment that is of particular interest to you instead of replying write your answer up as a blog post, but be sure to balance out you opinion so it doesn’t come across as too one sided. Recently I used this technique to write a story about saying ‘Happy Holidays’ at christmas. This is something I have strong ideas about and I didn’t wish to ‘unload’ at my mates on FB.
  • Twitter is another excellent source, probably more so than Facebook, for picking up blogging stems. Make sure you are following people that have similar interests and be ready to latch on to ideas and bust out that 140 characters into a sweet 1k blog post.
  • Study your interests and write about your experiences. I love reading YA (young adult genre) and I spend probably more than too much money on the procurement of books, but when it comes to finding a new author the world of the web can be some what lacking. Why wait for someone else to do it? Blogs are easy enough and the research is already being done when I go looking, why not help others that may be in a similar situation? The bonus is that I get something to blog about as well. Take your own hobby and explore it in more detail, you may be surprised what is out there.

One last resource is to have drafts ready that may be nothing more than a title and a brief description, something that can be built upon later. No one ever need to see drafts and you can add them or delete at anytime. It is a perfect tool to use when you have an idea but not enough time or research completed to fully flesh it out into a coherent post (currently I have seven stub drafts just waiting to get their wings).

I really hope this post has given you some new and interesting ways of finding ideas and subject to blog about, it was a part of a self learning exercise; if it any way helps others, then that’s awesome as well.

 

Using Categories and Tags in WordPress

It’s not the destination, but rather the experiences that we encounter…

A blog, or website is a location. It is one particular point on an ever expanding plane of information. How that information is navigated can be crucial. If the best and most powerful ideas are hidden in a maze of dead ends and false leads, or worse, trails of misinformation, will it ever be consumed and unpacked. It seems unlikely, after all the internet is not a rat maze leading to the juicy piece of cheese; most users get distracted on the way and start eating at the cardboard walls (we’ve all been sucked into the time vortex of YouTube). One way to solve the ever shrinking attention span of the user, is with the correct use of categories and tags. 

If a blog is thought of as a destination, then categories are the cities, towns and villages, and tags are the experiences that may be found.

A blog in itself can be as broad or as narrow themed as possible, and you may need many categories, or only a few, but that is all up to the writer. However if a blog becomes to broad it may be worthwhile to separate the content into different blogs, or countries to maintain the map analogy.

Let’s assume you are writing a blog about film, the categories could be the genres, such as animation, fantasy, action, and so on. The blog could be set up in such a way that the reader could navigate to the category that most interests them. A reader may only have one particular interest, such as science fiction, then they don’t want to be burdened by scrolling through other posts to look for content. Instead they would most likely see nothing of interest on the front page and bypass the blog all together as not being for them. One of the great things about categories is that they can be nested and a page can be placed in more than one, but overall it should fit into the general theme.

Tags operate in a different but equally important manner, they are used to find key words and ideas. In the film blog example, the name of a director could be a tag when the post is not purposefully about them; if it were, then it should be prudent to place the post under a director category. Tags are important especially if a user was researching a particular topic, it can help link pages that otherwise may not appear to be related. They are a second stage of sorting out blog posts and ideas. In the director example a reader may want to discover other works that they have made, in order to discover something new.

Categories and tags can be added to posts at any time. If you have already started a blog and if it is not too big then it is possible to start again and lay the ground work so your reader can divulge the content in a more user friendly way. It provides a mapping network and helps the reader focus their efforts and feel less lost in an unfamiliar territory.

The use of categories and tags can also be beneficial for the writer, as you may want to reflect on an older post or link back to a post or check to see what you have written about a certain topic before. There cant be something much more embarrassing and hurtful to your credibility than contradicting yourself in two separate posts. While it is true that over time a writer grows and develop and opinions may change it is best to be consistent in your writing. Doing this could potentially create a new post if you are stuck for something to write about, how had something changed your opinion. What a better way to show that you can be a trusted source, a learning writer is much better than one stuck on a treadmill.

For more information on how to change and set categories and tags:

NOTE: I haven’t exactly been following my own advice, but then we are all learning as we go…

 

Timeline of KAOSmedia Projects

Check it out! I used TimelineJS from KnightLab to create a list of all my KAOSmedia projects. Now calm down, I’m not saying I’ll do all of these; I’m certainly going to give it the good old college try!

Being an Aussie drone raised on US exports I actually have no idea what that means. Get drunk and stoned, but Daddy donates a wing so I graduate and then flash everyone at the ceremony? #80sFilmz

The Puzzle of the Profile Picture

puzzled
Puzzled by duzern (CC BY-NC 2.0)

No matter what anyone says, we are judged by our covers; often in the first few seconds

It may come as little surprise that companies are now looking at social media profiles to determine an applicant’s suitability. Even with an account set to private, when they find your account they will see a profile picture and perhaps older photos that had been your profile picture. If you log out and search for yourself, you can see what others will; it can be quite confronting.

This knowledge is what prompted a change of my profile picture. My existing photo wasn’t something that I was embarrassed about, it was more that it didn’t have much to say. It was a photo taken at my (old) workplace, and I liked the photo, which is why I had used it. On reflection it probably isn’t a good photo, in regards to conveying a message, especially because I am looking for a change in my career. Actually my LinkedIn profile photo was worse because I didn’t have anything just the anonymous grayed out silhouette – not very professional!

I’m not a member of the so called selfie generation and usually find myself behind the camera instead of in front of it. Therefore, I actually didn’t have anything that I would consider suitable. On a personal note I don’t generally like having my photo taken, but perhaps that is because most of my experience is with one shot and you’re done cameras, over the now many shot and discard digitals that are standard. So at 8pm, I decided to do a selfie photo shoot. I was looking for a natural pose and as I am lacking the self awareness of the practised selfie I took a few tentative shots and the results were less than impressive. In the end I decided to just go wild, pulling faces and trying to make myself laugh and not looking at the results until I felt that I had acheived capturing many different expressions and lighting angles with assorted backgrounds. The result was having a plethora of photos to choose from.

many-rob-t
Many Rob’s – Screenshot 2016

After viewing all of the possibilities the photo I selected was the one that I feel captured my personality the best. After selecting the photo, I decided that other aspects of my profile needed to be updated. If you haven’t updated your profile in over six months then it is most likely overdue. In the online environment freshness is key to keeping up to date and current.

The end result of this process is a much more serious and professional profile. Will it in turn result in people taking my opinions with a more weight? Only time will tell; but I certainly believe so.

 

#rainbowdashrules

Developing Divergent Identities on Socials

People are akin to a strand of copper wire; until you open them up you can’t know what is hidden under that plastic exterior.

wires
Cable Confusion – Eric (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Some people have centralist ideologies based around one main interest, but many are divergent and can’t be defined to form fit into standard ideals. I have always hated how some people feel the need to box you. They make an early judgement put you in a place and that is where you sit forever and no manner of accomplishment can shift you from this shelf; you will always be oh that person. Even worse though, as there can be an expectation of being an expert in this box they have you sealed up inside. Although it can be maddening, this personality trait can be used to your advantage especially when it comes to promoting yourself online.

One of the main components people look for when following someone online, especially with an unknown, is being consistent. For someone that has many different interests and even some that may contradict themselves, such as I enjoy novels and their film adaptions, I’m fine with dog and cats living together, but probably worst of all… Star Wars and Star Trek!

When you follow many different interests the feed can become confusing and hard to compile the individual stream into a coherent message. This can lead to missing information or worse believing something that is false to be fact. It was this type of misinformation that may have resulted in people voting certain ways in the recent US election.  It seems highly plausible that fake news was just more appealing, that it made the unaware share and promote them as though they were factual and therefore perpetuating the problem. If messages were received from one stream of collaborated consciousness it would have been easier to spot the anomalous fake message. After all it is easier to spot an orange in a bowl of apples rather than a blended smoothie.

apple-orange
Apple Puzzle – Salvatore Gerace (CC BY-SA 2.0)

To combat this, I am planning on splitting my socials into categories, and each will follow proponents of particular interests. If I pick four or five main interests, it will be easier to disseminate information and hopefully lower follower loss due to inadvertent unwanted information being provided. In the need to find work I really don’t feel that it is more beneficial to be a generalist reporter, as most fit into a category, such as: political, entertainment or scientific. While it is good to be able to provide employers with a sense of an ability to write and produce content on varied topics, I figure that having one group of social accounts themed to produce content on one major theme is the better way to get notice, rather than the scatter shot approach.

For the moment my main account will focus on my writing, which can include most of my content pieces as, despite the topic, they would all fall under a creative writing theme; these posts will be focused on the writing of the article rather than the content. In the not too distant future I hope to include new blogs and twitter accounts for my other interests.

 

Surveillance at the Royal Melbourne Show

GROUP 38 – MEMBERS LIST
Caitlyn Putt
Ellis Kolias
Robert Dean Williams

When we first began brainstorming ideas for this project, we knew we wanted to create something that had a comic flair, similar to parody newsmedia programs. Our group wanted to focus on both the utopian and dystopian views on surveillance in a real life situation and how individuals views alter between ‘the dream’ and ‘the extreme’ when discussing Big Brother.

The concept that we came to produce was our first and sole idea. Once Rob introduced it to us, we knew we wanted to do it and we were very enthusiastic about it. Our goal was to create a short news documentary on the issues surrounding a new surveillance product that would be released at the 2016 Royal Melbourne Show. The small GPS tracking device would be placed into tickets (pre-purchased and those bought on the day) and would track patrons as they moved about the show. The tracking device would additionally pair up with a fictional purpose built Royal Melbourne Show App. allowing users to track one another throughout the showgrounds and assist in the social experience of the event. We would have a news reporter presenting the bulletin (Rob), both a reporter covering the events at the show who also doubles as a guest (Ellis) and a two person interview between experts who agree and disagree on this new device (Caitlyn). We believed by all being in the video, it created an even workload and made our video more interesting to watch.

Although this video may appear as if we are falling directly into the ‘positive’ basket when it comes to video surveillance; that was not the intent. It demonstrates that while there are extreme views for either side of the argument and it probably comes down to what an individual feels. As comical as ‘Dawn’s’ tin foil hat might be, equally the high-mindedness of the ‘Caitlyn’ character is just as comical but is just more subtle. Does anyone really believe that this character is creating this thing for honest altruistic purposes? Doubtful, but it does demonstrate how specifically invasive surveillance technology is sold to the general population. Like most things, it is who sells it better that usually gets the nod.
The part of the newsreader was to very briefly introduce the topic, and represent a neutral ground for the discussion. There was also elements that showcased how news media is just one more venue for surveillance and shouldn’t really be trusted. This is demonstrated when it cuts back to the studio from the field report; even though this has been done for comedic reasons it poses well to prove a point. The lamenting comments at the end of the video are to resonate how society has come to accept the surveillance we endure daily; put simply we have accepted it.

The live broadcast from the Melbourne show was used to demonstrate (in true A Current Affair re-enactment style) how the technology will work. It presents the tracking feature from a utopian perspective and how it can actually benefit those who go to the show, as depicted in the skit by the mother being able to find her lost son who wandered off. The original idea for this part was that as all three characters were portrayed by one person it would come across as very silly, but humourous. Unfortunately, while experimenting with some new film and editing techniques, the desired effects were not exactly achieved due to issues with lighting but it is evident to see what was intended. Although presented in a very exaggerated and humorous way, it was intended to inform audiences that this new feature can assist them as well as the organisers of the show.

When preparing for this video, we made sure to keep contact with each other on a regular basis. Caitlyn made the first contact by email and we just continued to update each other on every idea we had in between. We organised to create a brainstorming document, which was initiated by Rob on Google Docs, researched for the best communication apps for messaging each other and worked out a time where we could all Skype and elaborate on ideas and delegate tasks. We found that Google Hangouts was the best way to stay in touch with each other and this application has proved beneficial to our overall communication as a group. In addition to Google Hangouts, the direct messages service in Twitter was also used. We utilised a free online project management tool called Freedcamp to make checklists of tasks we wanted to complete; creating deadlines for ourselves and the group as a whole. While it was a new media unfamiliar, it was beneficial by listing the tasks we had to complete and organising them under the level priority eg. low, medium, high. The best feature of Freedcamp is that it allowed us to assign certain tasks to certain people and this allowed for the delegation of tasks to be very precise. One of the problems encountered with Freedcamp was learning its idiosyncrasies in a short amount of time, and some of the email reminders were a tad excessive, but that is all a part of the learning process.

Some problems encountered with the online collaboration include scheduling meeting times. Often, however, there were many impromptu meetings, where a comment or suggestion would be made using Google Hangouts and then a general discussion about the tasks would follow as we happened to all online at the same time. To make the schedule more certain, we could have used something similar to Google Calendar where we could all have put the times we are free into it and then available timeslots would have been more apparent. But as everyone’s availability was quite open a scheduler such as this was not really needed.

For filming, meeting up and completing this together was not an option, due to the location of participants. It was discussed who would do the editing, and which programs we had access to; we operated more on a volunteer basis for editing and that worked well, files were shared using Google Hangout. Filming at different locations and times was reflective in the final piece; with some scenes appearing much lighter or clearer than others. As discussed earlier it was decided that we all include elements of filming, and while having one person in charge of the film may have presented a more polished video, we felt that this went against the aims of the assignment.

Gamify your Health – Running from Surveillance

2013 Mother's Day Run and Walk by Sangudo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
2013 Mother’s Day Run and Walk by Sangudo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)/

Fitness trackers are everywhere now; or about ‘1 in 5’ (Werner 2016). The little little blinky light things that have invaded people’s wrists and forced their ways into the lives of many. They have become a mark of the active class; a society of people determined to let others know that – I am healthy!

Like them or not, (and I love mine!) they are here to stay:

Incentive-based apps and websites are a growing segment of the overall health gaming market, estimated at $1.2 billion. (Shah 2013)

All fitness trackers, will count steps as a basic pedometer, but some include GPS and Bluetooth connectivity (compare Fitbit). They can link with your phone and give an unprecedented amount of information about where you have been and what you have been doing. This information can be published on the internet, sometimes without the expressed permission. When Fitbit was first launched users accounts were set to publish by default (this has changed now #lessonlearnt) and many users were not aware that this was happening (Matyszczyk 2011); resulting in some interesting – or appalling – information being made available. Even though the accounts were published without names it may be possible with some savvy searching to match the details with an actual person!

Even with the total ability to keep the information generated by this technology private, just about everyone has a few friends that share everything that it generates, Fusco describes the sharing of these events on social media platforms as:

In these spaces, institutionalized and individual practices work together to fabricate spaces that represent the healthy athletic body and a set of individuals who are deeply invested, for the most part, in reproducing themselves as executors of health. (Fusco 2006, n.p.)

Nokia Lumia 920 - Caledos Runner by N i c o l a (CC BY 2.0)
Nokia Lumia 920 – Caledos Runner by N i c o l a (CC BY 2.0)

So we can see that, through that act of sharing a person can be seen in the light that they wish to be known; this is the general basis for the self-moderated social media platform; we share the best bits and dump the junk. This is where social media can be a powerful tool, it has the capacity to incite behaviors from others, some times good and sometimes bad. Arroyo and Brunner examined the effects of seeing fitness tracker activity posts in social media and their findings were that:

…individuals who reported seeing more of their friends’ fitness posts on [Social Network Services] reported engaging in higher levels of healthy behaviors, however they also reported making higher levels of self-disparaging comments and being highly dissatisfied with their bodies as well. (Arroyo and Brunner 2016, p.244)

From this we can note that the sharing of information creates a certain image of that person, although it does create negative thoughts in the mind of the viewer. But how does all of this relate in real life? We see trackers on people wrists daily, and even if they are not actually doing anything is the fact that we have seen the posts of others and the fact that we know what they do enough to make us think better of that person? Is it just another piece of the active wear puzzle?

Ha. No, it is time for bed not time for a walk, Fitbit. by RK Bentley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Ha. No, it is time for bed not time for a walk, Fitbit. by RK Bentley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Another way to look at the act of sharing fitness tracking data, is gamification. The ability to share and compare creates competition. The sharing of data (scores) and the winning of workout goals is just about the most motivation people need to use the technology – after all what is stopping a person for just going for a walk; the fitness tracker adds the elements of a game and as such the desire to compete with others.

Is it possible that instead of just being influenced and feeling like a lesser person for not working out, that we just feel left out of the competition? Could the fitness tracker and all of its associated web sites just have become the virtual locker room?

The locker room is, spatially and discursively, a modern and disciplined space, which is imbued with discourses of power. (Fusco 2006 n.p.)

Like most things it is all in the interpretation. When looking at the fitness data generated by another, we can feel guilt, jealousy, admiration and envy. But that is the bane of the social environment – and in reality it is not something that has been created by social media; it just enhanced it.

Beyond everything the point to any fit tracker is industry and we are driven to strive for what may be considered the social normality. These companies collect data, perform analysis and possibly sell the information to others so personalised marketing can happen. Recently I purchased (was gifted) a Samsung fitness tracker, and twice in the sign up section I had to avoid ticking the receive marketing check boxes. So is it really about getting fit, or just another way to track and catalog us into marketable beings?

References

Arroyo, A, & Brunner, S R 2016, ‘Negative body talk as an outcome of friends’ fitness posts on social networking sites: body surveillance and social comparison as potential moderators’, Journal of Applied Communication Research, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 216-235.

Fusco, C 2006, ‘Inscribing healthification: governance, risk, surveillance and the subjects and spaces of fitness and health’, Health and Place, vol. 12, pp. 65-78.

Matyszczyk, C 2011, ‘TMI? Some Fitbit users’ sex stats on Google search’, CBS Interactive, retrieved 8/Sept/2016, <https://www.cnet.com/news/see-jane-go-takes-men-out-of-the-ride-hailing-equation/>.

Shah, A 2013, ‘For better health, try turning fitness into a game’, Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Nov 25. <http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/kids-health/232929501.html>.

Werner, J 2016, ‘Do fitness trackers really work?’, ABC, retrieved 14/Sept/2016, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/do-fitness-trackers-really-work/7304788>.

 

Data Filled Cookies – Online Digital Marketing

fortune cookie (365-262) by Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)
fortune cookie (365-262) by Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)

The minute you go to a website, depending if the website uses them, and look at content a cookie is saved on your computer. Generally, they do nothing – maybe hold a small amount of data that is used to remember who you are. But sometimes they can be used to construct an online image of who you are and what you like to do, and in this case they stop being harmless – depending on your point of view.


In discussing the potential of digital marketing Damien Ryan says that there is:

…an evolution in the way people are using technology. It’s about harnessing the distributed collaborative potential of the internet to connect and communicate with other like-minded people wherever they are: creating communities and sharing knowledge, thoughts, ideas and dreams. (Ryan 2014, p.14)

Sentiment Analysis for C-of-the-ACM by Charis Tsevis (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Sentiment Analysis for C-of-the-ACM by Charis Tsevis (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By this he means people are sorting themselves. They are choosing what they like and selecting things that they like to do. We are putting ourselves into the box, making it easier to sell us items. Online marketing experts do this with the collection of cookies, known as third-party cookies.

In theory, these cookies could be used to track visitor behaviour across multiple websites, building up a picture of user browsing behaviour as they surf the web. (Ryan 2014, p.74)

Searls elaborates by stating that:

Advertisers don’t have to build this capability for themselves: they rely on ad delivery networks that claim they can show relevant ads to people no matter which website they’re visiting. (2016, p.77)

Is this bad though? Is there really an impact besides what advertising we are seeing? Ramlakhan explains:

Third-party cookies are unethical and a breach of privacy because they invade one’s privacy by tracking an individual’s movement on the web, they are not consented for by the computer user nor is the user aware that their every movement on the web is being tracked, and they allow personal and private information to be used for marketing needs and possibly sold to businesses, thus treating an individual as a commodity and exploiting an individual’s personal information. (Ramlakhan 2011, p.60)

Do I feel like my privacy has been invaded when I see a targeted add pop up on Facebook? Not really, it’s more of a joke, that some company is going to pay Facebook money to advertise something to me that I have already found.

I still see ads for this, and I feel bad. I mean I like the ABC shop and perhaps constantly seeing the ads will keep it fresh in my mind. Perhaps it will eventually entice me back to the website and I will inadvertently spend my money where as otherwise it would have been forgotten.

Hang on a minute… Curse you online marketing!! #deletecookies

i like my sister. by Miriam Pittioni (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
i like my sister. by Miriam Pittioni (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tene makes a really interesting comment in that:

Every day, millions of users provide Google with unfettered access to their interests, needs, desires, fears, pleasures, and intentions. Many users do not realize that this information is logged and maintained in a form which can facilitate their identification. (Tene 2008, p.1435)

Does this mean that Google should be paying us? Are we not doing market research and not being compensated? If people were to be paid for just doing what they normally do, perhaps the data will be skewed and flawed and then not as valuable as it had once been. If we don’t want to be tracked, Google suggests using the incognito mode.

Is it all in our heads? Are the marketing guides so sophisticated that we believe we are being watched? I’m going out on a limb here and, well no. We are being tracked. Companies are sorting us based on not what we like but rather what we are viewing, even if it only for a second or two. Are we really box people instead of a mass amount of individuals? Does anyone like being placed in the marketeers box? Do we care?

I think that for most people advertising has become, the white noise of the internet – it just goes on without being noticed, occasionally something may grasp our interest and we click on it and Facebook gets paid. But then this is how services like Facebook and YouTube are free. Would you pay a monthly subscription to avoid advertising? If the demand out strips the revenue gained from advertising, I’m positive it will happen and then maybe we can browse without being constantly surveilled.

Then again there are other ways of profiling users without checking for cookies – enter the dawn of the geo-location marketing.

Perhaps there is only one way out…

References

Ryan, D 2014, Understanding digital marketing. [electronic resource]: marketing strategies for engaging the digital generation, London ; Philadelphia : Kogan Page, 2014.

Tene, O 2008, ‘What Google Knows: Privacy and Internet Search Engines’, Utah Law Review, vol. 2008, no. 4, pp. 1433-1492.

Searls, D 2016, ‘The End of Internet Advertising as We’ve Known It’, MIT Technology Review, vol. 119, no. 1, p. 76.

Ramlakhan, NE 2011, ‘Ethical Implications of Third-party Cookies’, International Journal of the Humanities, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 59-68.

Shiver Me Timbers – Surveilling the Pirates

 

Tink : Buccaneer by HyperXP.com (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Tink : Buccaneer by HyperXP.com (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Online Piracy is an interesting topic, and there are many sides to the proverbial coin; equal arguments for and against, some of my favorites are:

  • People who download, wouldn’t pay to see it anyway; so there is no loss of income.
  • People who download are destroying a fragile industry.
  • I feel cheated and want to ‘preview’ the movie before paying to go see it.
  • By downloading you are hurting the workers (i.e. people like yourself) and not the corporation that you despise.

Seeing them written down they all seem a bit pathetic; in reality most people that download just want stuff for free.

A big part of the picture is that anytime something is shared between users via the internet, it is possible to be traced and tracked. Which was the case with the recent Australian court battle between the creators of the Dallas Buyers Club movie and iiNet (an internet service provider or ISP).

Piracy! by Brandon (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Piracy! by Brandon (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Internet pirates can be tracked in many ways:

  • As detailed at torrentfreak.com is to coordinate up-loaders ‘handle’ or user name with other accounts, such as Facebook, and correlate known data to provide an online image of that handle and once enough data has been collected they can obtain contact details and then inform authorities. One way to bunk this is to have separate aliases for any site you are using.
  • An anti-piracy firm will follow a torrent ‘swarm’ and note down IP addresses, then it will try to obtain addresses from the ISP’s; the ISP may or may not pass on the users details and then you can be located and charged or threatened with action (Karlsson 2015).

For the most part the mass up loaders are being targeted, in recent news the suspected creator of Kickass Torrents has been arrested, and the websites associated with it seized.

When individuals are targeted, it can be with tracked files and information provided by an ISP. However, many ISP’s are interested in protecting the privacy of their employers and refuse to pass on the information. If a person is doing something illegal – despite what anyone may think downloading copyrighted information is against the law – should they be held accountable, or should they have the right to have their identity protected? Like most things it is a case of once the door is opened…

The Internet and Privacy by Bernard Goldbach (CC BY-2.0)
The Internet and Privacy by Bernard Goldbach (CC BY-2.0)

But then should the line be drawn somewhere? Do we really need to be anonymous on the internet? How many times is there a story over some troll slinging horrific comments about some recent tragedy. Surely if these people can be found and held accountable that is a good thing.

My personal thoughts on downloading are, when a studio has intrinsically used bullshit promotional tactics to trick people into seeing a film that they fully know is well below par, then they have lost the faith of the community and deserve for further projects to be pirated. When a company has a high value commodity but chooses to release it in a manner that forces consumers to purchase other unwanted items, then they deserve to be pirated.

How can companies combat the hydra that is online piracy? Stop trying to remove its head and give people what they want – easy access at a reasonable price.

References

Karlsson, A 2015, ‘How likely is it you will get in trouble for downloading movies via torrent sites in the USA in 2016?’, Quora.com, retrieved 30/08/2016, <https://www.quora.com/How-likely-is-it-you-will-get-in-trouble-for-downloading-movies-via-torrent-sites-in-the-USA-in-2016>.

Dead or Alive; Drones and Surveillance

robocop by Roland Molnár (CC BY-SA 2.0)
robocop by Roland Molnár
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Do we fear for the police state, that may come with overuse of drones? After all, ‘…we are rapidly moving toward a future in which a majority of aircraft will be unmanned.’ (Villasenor 2014, p.235).

Drones… they are possibly without doubt the big bad scary of the surveillance landscape in modern times. Although drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been in development since the 17th century (Villasenor 2014, p.235). Why is it though that they have become this feared icon of surveillance? Perhaps it is because they can literally be anywhere. From high in the sky armed military drones, to the miniscule.

Not only that, but the user can be anywhere – certainly true for the larger military drones, and quite possibly – with the current price tags, controlled by anyone. Which in essence is the problem, at least with a fixed camera there is a possibility of knowing where to access the footage if required, but a UAV? Without seeing the user, it is practically impossible.

Sweeping the negatives under the proverbial carpet, UAV’s do have many real world applications:

‘…search and rescue, news reporting, crop spraying, air quality monitoring, after-the-fact crime scene investigation, surveying, disaster response, wildlife tracking, research into the dynamics of violent storms, spotting wildfires, filmmaking, and traffic monitoring.’ (Villasenor 2014, p.236)

Drone/mountain rescue van by John Mills (CC BY 2.0)
Drone/mountain rescue van by John Mills (CC BY 2.0)

Even these as listed by Villasenor are not absolutes and it is worth mentioning that drones can and do go anywhere that a visual inspection is needed and which may be inaccessible by people. In fact, most articles posted about drones will list several pro-uses for drones, which demonstrates that there needs to be an understanding of how this technology can be beneficial. On the ethics of drone uses West and Bowman state:

‘Citizens doubt that the benefits of drones outweigh the risks to privacy; the deterrent effect on illegal behavior claimed by advocates may be less likely than the chilling effect on lawful activity.’ (West and Bowman 2016, p.653-4)

It seems to be a ‘not in my backyard’ scenario. However, in Australia drones are being used and trailed by the police.

Perhaps it is their use in the military that has people afraid of what may happen as they, ‘…are the signature weapon of modern warfare, as more than 90 nations use them for reconnaissance, intelligence collection, and targeting.’ (West and Bowman 2016, p.650). The key word there is ‘targeting’; if I see a drone and feel that it is too close, would I feel targeted?

NYPD Drones by Bit Boy (CC BY 2.0)
NYPD Drones by Bit Boy (CC BY 2.0)

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As drones are a relatively, in public accessibility, new technology the law has taken time to catch up, and for the most part responsibility of use relies solely on the sensibility of users.

For example, if a drone flew into your backyard, do I have the right to destroy it? If I did what would the consequences be? Should I have the relative right to privacy in my own backyard?

In a slightly different example, a family is in the park with a drone – I can see the user and I can see the drone, most likely it is recording. Do I care? Not really it is public space, I generally don’t feel the right to privacy.

In both of these scenarios privacy was the key word, a person should have the general right to some privacy and the home is usually paramount. Personally, I think it comes down to just one saying, ‘don’t be a dickhead’; and use UAV’s wisely before the government sweeps in and does it for you. Pocket Bikes anyone?

References

Villasenor, J 2014, ‘“Drones” and the Future of Domestic Aviation’, Proceedings Of The IEEE, 102, 3, pp. 235-238, Applied Science & Technology Source.

West, J, & Bowman, J 2016, ‘The Domestic Use of Drones: An Ethical Analysis of Surveillance Issues’, Public Administration Review, 76, 4, pp. 649-659, Health Business Elite.