Mr. Charlton – The Laggard

I sit on both sides of technology. One one hand, I spent my Wednesday evening ranting about how the internet has turned everyone into some sort of huckster. That Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are full of narcissists who are screaming at the top of their lungs to look in their direction. I also know that’s pretty disingenuous coming from a guy who has a website with his name as the address. The irony is not lost on Mr. Charlton. But it’s true that I’m completely clueless when it comes to social media.

On the other hand, I spent my Thursday evening creating procedurally generated terrain in JAVA. I can replace the processor in my computer, even making sure the thermite paste is properly applied. I can create 3D models and have them sent to a 3D printer. I have a number of computers. Two of these computers run Linux. I have, at one point, had a computer with three operating systems on it. Mr. Charlton has spent decades now breaking computers, and I’m at a point where I can safely be trusted with one.

The picture I’m trying to paint is I both love and hate technology. I love computers, but I hate carrying a cell phone around.  I think the internet is a wonderful, fantastic tools for communicating and sharing ideas, but I absolutely loathe Facebook, Instagram, and Google. I think new gadgets are neat, but I’m convinced that if you can’t open a device and fix it, then you don’t actually own it. I should also mention that almost all the technology I own is really old.

Which puts me in the camp of, what Kat has labeled me, the laggards. The late adopters of technology. I’m using an old Galaxy SIII for my phone. Both my little lappy and my tower PC were bought in 2009. I didn’t actually own a cell phone until 2006. The only thing I own that’s even relatively new is a laptop that Kat’s parent gave to me. Either than that, everything I own is crazy old, in terms of tech progress.

The thing is, I don’t actually need my computers and my cell phone to do more than they’re already doing. The only thing I haven’t been able to install on my phone has been Pokemon Go. My computer can’t run the newest and greatest games anymore, but everything I play is pretty old school. My computers are almost exclusively used to write and design stuff, and they do that just fine. Truthfully, I’m saving my pennies right now to upgrade the beast of a tower I have, but I’m in no rush. Until it bursts into flames, the workhorse is still sitting happy besides my desk, churning out the polygons. Why am I so damned adverse to change?

I thought about this long and hard, and it boils down to two things. I hate being pestered, and I’m a minimalist.

Let’s start with being pestered. I don’t actually like having my cell phone on me. Sure, it’s great for emergencies, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the last time there was an emergency that needed my immediate attention. For the most part, it’s an electronic invitation for someone to pester me. And it’s not a human that’s usually being a bother, it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or maybe it’s…

“Mr. Charlton! Neil DeGrass Tyson just tweeted a picture!”

… look, this is what I’m talking about. Alright, I’m turning the push notifications off. How on God’s green Earth do you…

“Hey! One of your friends just spammed a massive invite to everyone they know on Facebook! Are you able to go to their party taking place 2000 kilometers away from you tonight?”

Goddamnit! How do I turn off every one of these stupid noti….

“Man, someone from Instagram is at the gym. They want you to know they are at the gym. Here is a picture of them at the gym, in gym clothes.”

Turning off the push notifications on my phone wasn’t easy, but I managed to get it done. Still though, I don’t need to be connected to the network at every goddamn second of the day. The way apps are designed, you’d think it these programmers used to be crack dealers. The people who work at places like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest use various psychological tricks to keep you coming back to their sites. How many times have you checked Facebook today? Five times? Ten? Is it more?

On the minimalist side of things, I’ll put it bluntly. My phone, for me, isn’t a sign of status. I don’t care if you have a better phone than me, or if you have a MacBook Pro, or if your computer has way more RAM than mine (it’s important to point out that most people rarely need over 8 gigs of the stuff. Anything over that is overkill). Some people like to call it ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. I refer to it as ‘The Biggest Dick Waving Competition in the Universe’. The only time the brand name is important is if I’m working for that brand, and they are paying me to sell it. This rarely happens in my life.

I’ve caved recently, though. I’ve given up the idea that I can succeed as an adult without social media. If this is how the world is going to be, then I have to accept it. So feel free to follow me on twitter @SandyCharlton. Twitter only allows me to use 140 characters, so that might be a problem. Brevity is the soul of wit, and you’re about to find out how witty I’m not.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. LinkedIn is also a weird one for me. It’s like Facebook, except with less ignorance and racism.

p.s.s. I actually don’t have an Instagram account. Those people who are social media savvy, is this something the hip young kids are using?

p.s.s.s. Social Media Savvy is code word for narcissistic sociopath.

Meta Post – Milestone of a Thousand Pair of Eyes

So, I’ve been posting on this webzone for a little over a month now, and so far, things are going pretty hunky dory. With over forty posts, I’ve managed to get over a thousand views. To average it out, I’m batting about twenty-five views per post. That’s not bad, considering I’m not advertising it anywhere except Facebook and Twitter, and it’s not like I’m more popular online than I am offline.

All the major players on the blogging scene have a bunch of metrics and statistics that allow you to gauge how popular your blog is. I know the most popular day of my blog is Monday, for some odd reason. Also, it seems night owls enjoy my blog, as it’s usually being read at 3:00 am. I’m getting hits from all over the world; Japan, China, Germany, Malaysia, Peru, Australia, Austria and the UK have all been reading my stupid blog. Awesome!

I can tell exactly how many people have viewed each blog, I can determine where the clicks are coming from, whether it’s from Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, or when someone actually comes to my site to check it out directly. I can tag every post with buzzwords that might be trending, and then see what words are more popular than others. Not only that, but I get achievements every time I hit a milestone. The more I write, the more achievements I can earn.

As much as I love to crunch numbers and do data analysis, it can certainly make a guy question himself. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m not sure if the numbers are lining up. The first post I wrote was about Fort McMurray, and it was my most popular, according to the day I posted it. You see, the day I posted it, my site had 89 views in total. Almost a hundred! But when I check the Fort McMurray post, it’s calculated 15 views in total. That a difference of 74 views.

“Who cares, Mr. Charlton? Where’s your I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude? Where’s the laisser c’est faire spirit ? You haven’t given a flying fuck until now, what gives? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MR. CHARLTON???”

I’m not sure you were reading what I wrote above. They’re pooling raw data into my feed. I’m crunching numbers and tweaking code to try and improve the outcome. I’m learning garbage I never wanted to learn, like marketing and hashtag distributions. I’m reading how to game a system that everyone is gaming. Don’t you people get it? They’ve gamified writing!

They’re gamifying everything these days. Want to learn a new language? Level up with Duolingo, the free app for both IOS and Android. Feel like programming the next hot application? Try out Codecademy, and test your skills in a real-time environment. Are you such a dork that you will sit down and do math problems? Make that inner dork shine even brighter with Khan Academy, which hands out badges for learning calculus.

Those insidious bastards. It wasn’t enough to just write a blog, you had to put up a damn score. You know what this means? I’m not sure if you’ve ever sat down and played a video game with me. I’m not talking about something fluffy like Halo or Borderlands, where you run around and hang out and talk to each other, and share inventory, and have a grand ol’ time. I’m talking about the hardcore realm, like Ikaruga or Super Meat Boy or I Wanna be the Guy or Geometry Wars. I’m talking about gaming that’s meant to break people.

 fruitThose cherries will ruin your day

Now I’m writing like there’s a damn high score to achieve. That’s not good. Soon you’ll find me, hunched over a computer keyboard, fingers stained orange from Cheeze Pleazers. I’ll be up until four in the morning, writing about something stupid like potatoes or Pokémon. And you know what, it’s going to sneak up on me. I’m not going to notice this until it’s too late.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Took a week off last week to reflect on myself and all that jazz. I’d like to think of myself as a robot that can crank out words like an old school IBM, but I needed some me time. Lame posting of lousy articles with little research and a lack of time to resume as scheduled.

p.s.s. Schedule is one of those words that will make me judge a person in seconds. There’s the right way to pronounce it, and there’s the way where we can’t be friends anymore.

Personalized Propaganda

In an era of twenty-four hour news cycles, instant updates, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, information has never been easier to access and create. Digital cameras in all of our pockets that connect to us to both cellular networks and the internet allow everyone to participate and contribute to the sphere of political discourse. The biggest issue that arises from this ability to share is that misinformation can easily be shared and paraded as truth.

Photographs and memes have been used to sway people for generations. Typically it falls under the label of propaganda. You saw this a lot back in World War Two. Posters like this one were everywhere.

Canadian-Propoganda

What a hungry little beaver.

Image taken from WarMuseum.ca

Back then, someone was typically commissioned to create a poster like this. There was a lot of  bigotry and racism that was displayed in some of the posters. Canada was at war, we had an enemy, and many people were willing to do whatever it took to win the war, even if that meant embellishing the truth to get your point across.

We’re not at war anymore, but if you have access to social media, then you often see pictures like this one.

Rachel-Notley-meme

Going for the ‘Game of Thrones’ reference.

Or maybe this image.

Harper-Meme

For some reason, ‘temporary’ has an asterisk behind it.

Or, of course, this clever piece.

Trudeau-Meme

Right for the throat, eh?

These images weren’t commissioned by an artist, weren’t decided by a committee, there wasn’t a war room meeting with generals planning something that would stir the populace to buy war bonds. These were made by people who don’t have any ties to the political parties they’re trying to represent. None of these images were paid for by the Conservative or Liberal or New Democratic parties. Somebody, sitting at a computer, took maybe five minutes to think up a slogan and throw it over a picture. People are now generating their own propaganda.

The problem with propaganda is that, in order to be effective, it needs to be consumed quickly. It can’t be lengthy or use large words. It usually has to take a complicated problem and dumb it down into a digestible sound bite. It’s effective at getting a point across, but it cheapens the idea. You lose fidelity in order to target a larger audience. The internet, with the inherent ability to get messages out at the speed of light, has now become a bastion of poorly thought-out ideas plastered over pictures. The well thought out, researched, opinion is getting drowned out by memes and witty slogans. The rational voice is diluted by chanting and name calling.

This isn’t a left or right of the political spectrum issue. It’s happening to both sides. They applaud victories if they’re winning, and throw trash if they aren’t.

You would think that facts would get in the way of ignorance, but that hasn’t been the case. There was recently a study done at Dartmouth, which found out that when presented with facts that contradicted their own, people were less likely to change their mind. One of the major issues is the source of the facts. If a Conservative voter presents facts to a Liberal voter, the Liberal is less likely to accept those facts, as they came from a Conservative source. This is the classic Ad Hominem, in which the person presenting the argument is attacked, rather than the argument itself.

What’s the solution? People need to switch gears and reframe what an argument is. Arguments aren’t a football match, and we need to stop treating them as if there is winners and losers. An argument should be viewed as a discovery on both sides to find a solution.

In the meantime, there is a solution to meme propaganda. I’m absolutely sick to death of clever sayings put on top of pictures. Not just political propaganda, even the silly ones. I’m tired of minion quotes telling me someone is trying their best, sick of girls in yoga poses with inspiration garbage taken from Deepak Chopra, worn out by historical figures being misquoted. Social media has turned into your uncle who used to forward every email he thought was hilarious. Facebook’s ‘share’ button has littered my feed with ‘Top Ten Reasons I Prefer Dogs’ pictures and ‘Canada is a Great Country – Share if you Agree’ images. I’m going to try out an extension called F.B. Purity. It supposedly removes this sort of malarkey from your feed. I’m going to install it tomorrow morning and let you know how it goes. Until then,

Sick-Of-Meme

Wise words, Xzibit. Wise Words

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’ll probably still use memes in the blog every once in awhile. To get my point across.

p.s.s. Well, maybe not.