Posts tagged the Internet

Robin – Reddit’s Second Annual Large-Scale Social Experiment

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Many early adopters of the Internet will remember the chat rooms of the ‘90s, small group messaging “rooms”, almost like group texts on modern smartphones. But these group messaging sites paired you with complete strangers, where people from across the world could discuss whatever they like. Chat rooms on websites like AOL rose to their peak prominence in the 1990s, but then gradually faded in popularity until their eventual demise a decade later.

Some have tried to resurrect the chat room on the modern Internet without much success; the Facebook-bought app Rooms attempted such a resurrection in 2014, but ended up being removed from the App Store a year later in October of 2015 due to a lack of popularity. Chat rooms seem to have fallen out of fashion, other platforms for Internet-wide communication rising to the top such as YouTube, Snapchat and Reddit. And yet, in an interesting moment of irony, Reddit, one of the websites that helped kill off chat rooms, brought them back for a short 8-day social experiment. Called Robin, as in round robin, the experiment was Reddit’s second attempt at leveraging their site’s large user base to learn more about people’s behavior on the Internet, the power of community, and simply how people would react to an interesting chat room mechanism.

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For the uninitiated, Reddit can be fairly intimidating, a place where anyone with access to the Internet can interact and discuss any topic they please. While that may not sound all too enticing to you, the way Reddit is organized makes it much more palatable for the average person. Let’s say you’re interested in astronomy and would love to find a community of other astronomy enthusiasts. Just head over to /r/astronomy, the “subreddit” dedicated to everything to do with astronomy and astronomy news. On the astronomy subreddit, or a subreddit on any other topic, Reddit users can post links on that topic and hope they get upvoted to the front page. Every subreddit is a popular meritocracy, comprising primarily of a home page constantly updated with the newest, most popular links and/or discussions posted on that subreddit.

Robin isn’t a subreddit, or a feature on subreddits; actually, it started as just a button (not THE button, last year’s social experiment). When you clicked the button, depicting the outline of a Robin, you are brought to a page with one more button, this time saying “participate”. Upon clicking that button, you were brought into a chat room with you and one other random Reddit user. You and that Reddit user could chat for 1 minute about whatever you would like, and then you would have to vote on one of three options in the top right-hand corner of the page: stay, grow, or abandon.

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Think of Robin as creating a village. If the majority of you and your randomly-assigned village-mates vote grow, then your “village” is merged with one of the same size. If the majority chooses stay, you build a wall around your village and plan to stay there for “life,” meaning you get a private subreddit made for that group that only the group members can join. And finally, if the majority votes abandon, the village is immediately closed and you can start again from the beginning, and if a couple of individuals vote to abandon then they alone are kicked out of the village. (in case you didn’t catch on, village means chat room in this analogy)

This would seem like a pointless voting mechanism if not for the fact that Robin in based on a chat room, a place where anyone can talk to anyone else in the world. Every time your group grows, the time you get to talk to your fellow “village-mates”, from 1 minute with 2 people, 3 with 4 people, 7 with 8 people, 15 with 16 people, and 30 with any higher number of participants. This means that, despite what you may think of people on the Internet, you can actually have interesting conversations. In my experience, as I spent a fair amount of time playing Robin when it was still running from April 1st to April 8th, the conversations you have change topic very fast and yet are still very entertaining and fun.

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On top of that, the very mechanism of growing, staying, or abandoning sparks conversation, users campaigning for different votes. In one of my chats, I was part of an “ABANDON2016” campaign, as an overwhelming number of memes had flooded our chat. We were successful, to the dismay of the meme makers. In fact, for the people who vote stay, it’s not actually because they want a private subreddit with a bunch of random people who share most likely no interests; it gets boring after a day.

The conversations you have getting people to stay is the fun part, the part that makes it all worth it. The reason Robin was more than just a chat room was because it gave every single member of the chat a sense of attachment, to the people in the chat, and to the chat itself. Because it takes 30 minutes to get to the voting point of a 16 person chat, you have spent quite a while on any certain chat. Also, because of the way the chats merge, everyone feels like they had a part in starting what would later become a forum for global communication. In only a couple chats, I talked to people, usually men in their 20s, from places such as Turkey, the Netherlands, England, Israel, and more. This is the reception I got when I announced I had to leave a chat room, after participating in the election for 15-20 minutes prior:

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(my username is aaron21morgan, and the bottom half of the running chat is mostly my fellow chat-mates’ response to my parting announcement)

In the end, after about a week up and running, Robin shut down just as The Button did a year ago. The largest chat ended up having 5,000+ people, and was apparently so big that the Reddit servers were having trouble just keeping it afloat. Now that the fun is over, we can look back on Robin as an interesting experiment and an entertaining game. We don’t often think about the fact that the Internet really does connect everyone in the world, and just the act of talking to a handful of them in a chat room can make that connection feel all the more real. Robin may have been a stupid Internet chat room to outsiders, but to those participated it helped humanize the average Internet commenter we encounter on an everyday basis. It may just be me, but having a simple conversation with someone thousands of miles away, even just for a couple of minutes, brings back the sense of wonder about the capabilities of the Information Age from back when the Internet was first being brought into mainstream culture.

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TOTW: World Cup Fever! The Best Star Studded World Cup Ads

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There is no denying that the World Cup is the biggest sporting event of all. After all, football(soccer) is the world’s most loved sport. Sorry all you American football and basketball fans, but the World Cup blows both the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final out of the water by a order of magnitude. And, when the most people are watching, that can only mean one thing: ads. And lots of them. The Super Bowl is known for it’s great ads, but the World Cup once again destroys it’s Americanized equivalent, with better, more viewed and more expensive ads. Many sports companies (and non-sport) make incredibly star-studded ads to increase it’s overall amazement factor. In some it worked, in some it looked like they just added in the stars for the fun of it.

Neymar, Chicharito, Robin Van Persie, Gotze, Jozy Altidore, Schweinsteiger, Fabregas, Suarez, Demarcus Beasley, Sturridge, Rio Ferdinand, Baracry Sanga, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney, Ibrahimovic, Higuain,  Eden Hazard, Pique, David Luiz, Iniesta, Pirlo, Tim Howard, Thibaut Courtois, Thiago Silva, Landon Donovan, Messi, Aguero, Ozil and more are featured in all these ads combined. Even Nicki Minaj, Dr. Dre, Lebron James and Michael Jordan are in some. If you know anything about soccer, you know that every single one of those players I just mentioned are in the top 50 players right now. So this must have cost a fortune. If they spent this big amount of money on one ad, you would think it would be amazing right? Well, some are and some aren’t, so I’ll let you decide. Here are the best of them:

Nike’s Last Game


Out of all the World Cup ads, this one is the best done. The animated short released by Nike depicts what would happen if clones of the best soccer players took the place of the original players because of their consistency. But, lead by the old Ronaldo, the original best 11 players from this world cup take on the clones. They really nailed the players personalities and bodies, creating a fun little short, promoting their new slogan, Risk Everything.

Beats’ The Game Before The Game


The newly acquired company Beats really went all out for this world cup. Their ad, chocked full of world-class players, is mainly featured by Neymar, and his father, who is saying dramatic and inspirational words of encouragement in between shots of the best players on the planet washing their socks and listening to Beats. A little overboard, but I have to say, the whole this is very dramatic.

EA’s Always In The Game

EA went for humor for their ad, and they nailed it. Perfectly. A a promotion for their World Cup version of Fifa 14, they had Landon Donovan, who made headlines for not being picked for the USA world cup squad, winning the world cup on Fifa. That’s funny, by itself, but they topped it off by Landon muttering under his breath, “I’m not going to brazil.” in the classic chant sung by fans. Well played EA, well played.

Nike’s Winner Stays


Another ad by Nike, but this time featuring a bunch of real, top-class players. Well, not at the start. The idea of this ad is that a group if 11 on 11 ametuer players, when they decide that the winner stays, can suddenly turn into players like Neymar and Pique whenever they feel like it. Handy. The camera work in this ad is great, having foreground people walk right in from of the camera so the young player can be switched out by Rooney or Eden Hazard. Very creative, and very well done.

McDonald’s Gol!


Like usual, McDonald’s made an ad that really had nothing to do with their chain of fast food resturants. Basically, a bunch of people were doing trick shots and fancy juggling in public. Sure, it may be fun and entertaining, but the only way you know it’s for McDonald’s is the big M logo at the end. Sigh.

Adidas’ The Dream


For some reason, Adidas decides that their commerical would be another star studded ad about Messi having an nighmare/dream thing about all the other players and whether he trained hard enough. Again, like Beats’ ad, it may be dramatic, but not a great way to depict the party attitude of the Brazilian stadiums and jumbotron gatherings.

 

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Top 3 Videos Of The Week

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Here are the top 3 videos of the week:*

#1. Look Up


This thought provoking video is a spoken word poem about the downsides of the global addiction to the internet, and how you can miss so many chances is you stay on your phone rather than going outside. Although everybody can relate to this on some level, the video fails to mention all the interesting, educational, amazing, fascinating and lifesaving videos and articles on the internet. Just like in real life, you can show and release you feelings, through whatever form you choose; writing/blogging, making videos, gaming, anything. I’m not the only one who thinks that the video has an extremist point of view, and there is even two parodies of the video, in the same poetic style, that says the exactly the opposite.

#2. A Future With Superhumans

Will we eventually become superhumans, looking along the line of a mix Captain America and the Hulk? It is an interesting question, answered in this video, which is basically a animated interview with the sci-fi theorist/robot expert Daniel H. Wilson. If you have the option to become artificially super smart, super fast, super everything, would you take it, even if it means putting a chip in your brain? What would this do to society? Would the standards of intelligence be raised? By the end of this video, with all the unanswered questions and daunting problems that come with this futuristic idea will make you almost want it to not happen.

#3: Festo – BionicKangaroo

As you can probably tell, this video is of a very accurate robotic version of the complex movement of the Kangaroo. Kangaroo’s have an odd way of moving about, using their long legs with ridiculously big feet and tail to propel them along. You would think this would be impossible to replicate in a robot, as just making a humanoid walking robot is hard, but Festo did it. That’s why this robot is so awesome.

*Not all these videos were made this week. That just happens to be the time I’m featuring it.

Top 3 Videos Of The Week

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There are tons of videos out there on the web, utilizing pretty much every different aspect of technology: VFX, augmented reality, robotics, animation, smartphones, everything. Unfortunately, there is a enormous amount of technological videos out there, way too many to go through in one day, so I have brought together the top three videos for this week. And yes, there will be one next week. Here they are:

#1: Chalk Warfare 3.0

Chalk Warfare is a brilliantly made video about a group of people playing a war game, using only chalk to draw on their surroundings. Once they draw, their drawings come to life, creating weapons from bows and arrows to shotguns, and from the Halo energy sword to a full on Iron Man suit. Directed and edited by 17 year old Sam Wickert and Eric Leigh, the whole Chalk Warfare series (3 videos) is a great example of creative usage of VFX programs and Photoshop. 

#2 What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains

This great Epipheo video is about everything to do with the internet, and how our incredible dedication to our computers will affect our brains. The video goes way back to the dinosaur/caveman age to discuss why we like and are really internationally addicted to out computers, maybe even enough to in the future to give up our humanity. Along with the great content, the video is animated in a seamless way, creating a great watcher experience.

#3: Robot Band Squarepusher × Z-MACHINES

Squarepusher x Z-MACHINES is a video documenting what happened when Squarepusher (a digital music artist) teamed up with the robotic band Z-MACHINES. Z-Machines is a completely robotic band, consisting of a drummer playing 22 actual acoustic drums, and a 78-fingered guitarist, playing an actual electric guitar. Since these robots can move much faster than the average human, all the instruments (especially the drums) sounded amazing, and much more clean and consistant. (as you would expect from a robot) Add in great camera work, and you get a great video.

FastNews: Apple Store Down For WWDC

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Well, the title is sort of self-explanatory here. The online Apple Store is down due to the fact that they are updating for the new products that will be coming out in the WWDC 2013 this morning. Most likely, these products will not be software, for those will not be ready yet, but hardware. Supposedly, new Macbooks should be coming out. Check out my full rumor preview for more information!

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The Apple Store Right Now

TOTW: Electric Imp Adds Easy Internet To Anything

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Products need the Internet.  The Internet doesn’t just provide browsing capabilities, it also unlocks features like texting, email, social media like Twitter and Facebook, clocks, translation, maps, and so on.  But adding Internet functionality in small consumer devices is challenging task.  Electric Imp aims to change that.

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A Electric Imp

Electric Imp is basically a SD card, but with much greater functionality.  Their Imp includes an embedded WiFi module and an antenna, and is highly customizable. With WiFi, devices have freedom of movement: Fewer cords and less hassle means more uses.

The Founders Of Electric Imp

The Founders Of Electric Imp

What makes the Imp OS so useful?  The coding. It doesn’t look that way, does it? It’s too small to have a plug, and it has no screen.  But it’s even simpler than that: you can code straight from a browser (you code in Squirrel, a Java/Python/C/C++ type language), and send the results to your smartphone. From there, Electric Imp does the work. It has special built-in light sensors, that can record flashes of light. So all you have to do is hold Electric Imp up to the phone, and in a few seconds, it will have transferred. It does that by flashing the screen black and white in a Morse code like fashion, and the Imp interprets it and turns it into code.  Ingenious.

The Imp's Packaging

The Imp’s Packaging

Electric Imp can be used for crazy and awesome things. For instance, at this week’s Cool Product Expo held at Stanford University, Electric Imp displayed some examples of the Imp’s functionality.  One was a Piggy Bank. But not an ordinary Piggy Bank. Whenever you put change into it, it tweets how much you have (like “I’ve saved up $1.75!”). Another example is Lockitron. A crowd-funded project, Lockitron makes it possible to lock your house from anywhere in the world. It also alerts you when anyone else locks the door, for complete security.  Electric Imp makes these projects web-enabled.

With all the amazing stuff that Electric Imp can do, you’d expect it to be a bit pricey.  But it isn’t.  The Imp, along with the essential Breakout board, comes to $42.45.  That means anyone can add an amazing thing called the Internet to everything they design, making the world easier, faster and safer.

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