How social networks can be used to bias votes

We know that social media is being used to try to sway elections. There have been arguments about how effective it is. Granted, this is just one study, but I’d like to “clockwork orange” every tech company CEO with the report.

For example, when just a few yellow-party zealots were deployed strategically among a larger number of undecided players in the purple party, these bots were able to sway the majority opinion towards the yellow party. This was true even when the parties had exactly the same number of members, and when each player had the same amount of influence.

Source: How social networks can be used to bias votes

The Age of Comfort TV

When I was growing up, if we were home, the TV was on. It was like the house wasn’t “on” if the TV was off. We were just passing through or were ready to leave. That was also a time when programming seemed better for all-day TV watching. Before everything was reality or scripted reality, and before news turned into people yelling at each other. Now we have more control, but we still need shows that don’t require unblinking attention for 12 hours.

It seems that, in this time of unprecedented choice and quality, the so-called golden age of prestige television, most of us still want to watch half-hour shows about vaguely likable people in which everything turns out OK. Ideally from the 90s, but maybe the 00s. And preferably something that we have seen many, many times before. Welcome to the age of non-event TV.

Source: The age of comfort TV: why people are secretly watching Friends and The Office on a loop | Television & radio | The Guardian

Plain Text FTW

I’ve been trying to get students to start writing in text files when working on their portfolio sites, rather than writing directly into Squarespace. It’s not easy to do until after they realize they’ve spent more time adjust images than writing a coherant case.

I then recommend that they try writing in plain text, in a txt file, so that they focus on getting the narrative in place before losing 48-hours to cropping jpegs or finding the right combination of font ls for headers and body.

Most of them have no idea what I’m talking about. So I show them Text Edit. They seem appreciative. Then go home and continue writing in their browser. Like an animal.

I’d like to be able to recommend a better app for writing in plain text. Something that feels modern in how it works, but doesn’t let formatting or collaboration features get in the way.

All of which is to give an excuse for why I’m playing with IA Writer over the summer. It’s become a really great app, and it’s available on just about every platform. It’s got great features for a plain text app, and it doesn’t require a recurring subscription.

And it can post to WordPress…

BTW, this post is a test and not meant for human consumption

Chuck Wendig, Wanderers, and Process

I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s new book, Wanderers, and it’s a great read. I’m really enjoying it. His writing is good but it also reads easy. The ideas are interesting. And it feels strangely of the moment for a work of speculative fiction (maybe because it came out last week).

The tension in culture. The problems with our media environment. Government in paralysis. Cynical political actors. Gender identity. Right wing lunatics with swastika tattoos.

I’m not sure I’ve seen another author capture internet culture as well as Chuck does in this book. The snips he includes, from Reddit to Twitter to Instagram, are so dead on that they could only come from someone who actively spends time in online social spaces. The way the characters refer to social media is dead on. He’s in the culture, and can speak the culture.

One character I’m unsure of so far is the rock star. Writers seem to always struggle to write musicians that aren’t wafer-thin caricatures doing drugs, spouting rock & roll platitudes, and more or less living the Nihilist Way. Not sure if Chuck will be able to pull it off. It might be necessary for the character arc…so we’ll see.

But, as I mentioned, I follow him online, and his blog is a great read. He wrote an excellent post on what it was like for him to write this book. In it, he talks about the process of writing the book, and how the book dictated what the process needed to be, defying his expectations about how it would come together:

This book just didn’t conform to the way I thought I did things.

I don’t mean to suggest we’re not, in a way, experts at what we do. And I think we do need to sometimes trust the process. But sometimes we need to go beyond that, outside that, and trust ourselves more than the process. The process is not the book, and the book is not the process.

Books are gonna be what they’re gonna be. They’re gonna be as big as they gotta be and take the time that they need to take.

We all have process. But when you’re working with ideas and creative things, process usually has to take a backseat to the work itself. Because the work itself needs to be what it needs to be. Sticking to process can prevent that from happening. Like keeping a goldfish in too small a bowl will restrict it from growing to its full potential.

Guitar Face for the Camera

A few weeks ago I went to see a band that my friend’s kid plays in. They played mostly covers, but they are all really great players and performers. The singer is off to Berklee this fall, and the guitar player is entering his sophomore year, studying music production in Nashville.

It took me back to my high school music days. We started playing out in bars when I was 15 or 16. Aside from the old dudes drinking beer and high-fiving the kids for kicking ass, a lot has changed.

Our nights were spent smoking cigerettes and trying our best to look like we weren’t kids that would be easy targets for a mugging. One bar served us when we were *extremely* underage. At the time it seemed awesome. Looking back, it’s ridiculous. What were they thinking?

One time, while loading up my 88 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais outside of a bar on Granby avenue in Norfolk, some dude tried to sell me an 8-ball. That was probably the first time I heard *8-ball* being used outside of a game of pool. I must have been 16.

Then there was another time, when the owner of a bar that had cancelled us one night showed up at a different bar where we were playing.

He was plastered. Three-sheets to the wind. Though that makes it sound classier than it was. He was freaking out, and starting throwing piles of cash on the stage to apologize for the past. It was sad, and weird, and disturbing. Were we even 18 yet? I’m not sure.

We took the money.

Now, back to the show I saw a few weeks ago.

It was at a rock club. But all of band members’ parents were there. Some of their parents’ friends were there. Every family had a camcorder set up on a tripod. It felt a little bit like the sidelines of a high school sports event. This was very different.

And so I’ve been left wondering whether we live in a different world now, with a different generation of parents that have more of an attachment to what their kids are doing outside of team sports, or whether it’s just that my friends are cooler than most parents and are the exception to the rule.

In any case, I did my “old guy at the rock show thing,” high-fiving the kids and telling them that they kicked ass. All the while knowing that they would be the old people high-fiving young musicians in the club sooner than they think.