Vestiges of Life: Blogging and Tweeting

18 12 2010

Last week, four different people from my post-IBM world told me in person that they read my blog regularly. While tempted to reply, “do you mean that abandoned thing that’s collecting virtual dust somewhere in WordPress land?”, or “oh, you are that one weekly hit I get in the stats”, I actually feel that I’m the one missing a lot by not blogging, even if nobody else ever reads a line of it.

When I started this blog, I named it “The Bamboo Raft”, with the high hopes that the posts here would be “floating around freely through places and thoughts”. Then, as always, reality sets in, and I found myself blogging very rarely over the last 2 years. Looking back, there’s a clear pattern where the blogger in me wakes up every 6 months or so with a renewed intent of doing it more often, as you can see in “Blog, Interrupted” and “The Bamboo Raft is a submarine”. This post is probably just the latest installment of that series. In my attempt to rationalize my poor blogging and twitter efforts, I’m resorting to a common theme here at this Raft: calling Darwin to my rescue.

Darwin and gradual change
Parody of the Shepard Fairey Obama poster
by Mike Rosulek (Feb 2009)

One of the main arguments used against Darwinian evolution is that the fossil record shows no evidence of the gradual transformation that is supposed to take place according to that theory. The counter-argument, of course, is that circumstances that allow fossilization to occur are extremely rare. Thus, trying to understand the history of life on Earth based solely on the fossil record is like trying to understand the original version of “The Brothers Karamazov” when you know only a half-dozen words in Russian.

As you can see in the diagram above, the fossil record does not register every single event that took place on Earth. That’s for computer logs:


Computer logs: definitely not like the fossil record

Over the last 5 years or so, several folks referred to blogging, then Facebook, then Twitter as tools that allow people to write their autobiographies in real-time. Some people are actually very good at that. Some have even been logging actions and thoughts ages ago, using the ol’ and good pen-and-paper. Both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau kept very detailed journals that resemble to some extent Facebook status updates or tweets, and used those to feed their more formal work. I love this excerpt from “Autobiography in Real-Time: The Journals of Emerson and Thoreau”.

Emerson used his journal, as Thoreau used his, primarily as a means of facilitating more finished work. It was where he both developed ideas and stored information; it was a place where entire phrases and sentences—sometimes even entire paragraphs—were preserved until the appropriate time for their removal and transfer into essays and lectures. But that’s not to say that there aren’t moments here that are not entirely fresh. Actually, all of it’s fresh. It’s the essays that are borrowed from recyclable material, and there are, of course, plenty of readers who would prefer to receive their Emerson in this form. To call these journals unselfconscious or uninhibited would be to demonstrate a severe misunderstanding of their circumstances; but to call them spontaneous and unimpeded would not be. At their best—at their most mature and august—they are Emerson’s stated alternative to the meek young man in the library—they are “Man Thinking.” The same goes for the journals of Thoreau, too, of course. These are two men of unsurpassed perception and eloquence who made it their life’s mission to look and see, and then to record and share what it was they saw.

As I’m light-years from having “unsurpassed perception and eloquence”, my blogging and tweeting objectives had to be much more modest. Instead of running a play-by-play narrative of what I do and think, I’m settling for just capturing vestiges of life: random glimpses of what’s here, there, and everywhere. Like this Toronto scene that caught my attention Thursday morning on my way to work:

Glenn Gould statue holding a Calla Lily in front of the CBC building

Thus, I see my irregular social networking activities as the fossil record of a regular person’s real life. It’s incomplete, uneven and full of gaps, driven more by serendipity and entropy, and less than by direction and discipline. A bamboo raft may, after all, be an appropriate name for what this blog has become.





FIFA World Cup: Social Media Roundup

11 07 2010

As previously seen in Biznology:

The 2010 World Cup is not over yet (the final will start in a couple of hours), but the results for social media are already in–the World Cup has more than lived up to its billing as the biggest social media (and even Internet) event of all time, sur[passing the 2008 election of Barack Obama as U.S. President. While you wait for the big game on Sunday, you may want to check my Social Media highlights for the major sports event in the world.

Internet Buzz

So now that the 2010 FIFA World Cup, according to CNN (via Akamai), has been declared the most popular Internet event ever, let's look at a snapshot of Akamai's Net Usage Index as of this writing:

Akamai Net Usage Index

Akamai Net Usage Index

The Most-Tweeted World Cup Event

The CNN article mentioned above states that, despite the popularity of the World Cup, Twitter’s single biggest moment was still “the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory against the Boston Celtics at the NBA Championship”, which “generated a record 3,085 tweets per second as the game ended”. Naturally, a few days after, a World Cup game dethroned Kobe Bryant and friends. If you guessed that it was one of the US games against Slovenia or Ghana, you were probably close, but not quite right. That honor goes, surprisingly enough, to Japan’s win over Denmark, with 3,283 tweets per second.

Cala a Boca Galvao

For several days, a Brazilian Internet meme/prank dominated the trending topics in Twitter, requesting the lead sports commentator in Brazil to shut up. Read more about it at the New York Times and watch the video prank at YouTube.

VEJA - Cala Boca Galvao

Lead weekly news magazine in Brazil (Veja)
brings the #calabocagalvao meme to center stage
(via @dystyler)

Old Media vs. New Media

Rede Globo, the largest TV network in Brazil (and arguably the third largest in the world, behind just CBS and NBC) clashed with Brazilian coach Dunga, when he curtailed their privileges in the national team coverage. A Twitter campaign (#diasemglobo, “a day without Globo TV”) was asking Brazilians to boycott the TV station during a game and switch to the competition. Who won? It depends on who you ask. Some claim that the campaign was a success and responsible for a drop in audience, while others say that it made no difference whatsoever.

#diasemglobo

Players Using Twitter

My Twitter list of World Cup Players is updated with 56 players now. You may want to give it a try and see what the players are talking about using StreamGraph. Here’s a snapshot I took last night (just use @aaronjuliuskim/worldcup2010players as the keyword):

Twitter StreamGraphs - worldcup2010players

Visualization and Social Media

There are plenty of creative visualizations created around Social Media content especially for the World Cup, like this one based on Facebook activity, courtesy of the New York Times. You’ll find a good list at Mashable.com, but the Guardian’s World Cup 2010 Twitter replay is my favorite. It shows in a stunning way the fans’ reactions via the microblog service as the action developed for each game. You can feel all the pain in my Brazilian heart when you play the Brazil vs. Netherlands game. Here’s a snapshot of the key moment of the game: Felipe Melo (who’s in Twitter, by the way) losing his cool and getting a red card.

The Guardian - BRA vs. NED Game Visualization

Check out also the US games against Slovenia and Algeria to re-live the emotions of those two thrillers.

Finally, if you are into live visualization and have an iPad, I highly suggest you to follow the final match via LivePitch. It’s still a bit raw, but it can give you a glimpse of how we may be following the next World Cup. Hopefully Brazil can do better the next time :-)

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World Cup Fever and Social Media

9 06 2010

As previously seen at Biznology:

Fans celebrating the upcoming 2010 FIFA World ...

Image via Wikipedia

The upcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa is being touted by FIFA and Twitter representatives as the event to slash all previous records in social media traffic. That’s a tall order, considering the US elections, the Beijing Olympics, the Oscars and even the Lost series finale were nothing to sneeze at in terms of frantic online real-time activity. Regardless of whether or not that bold prediction will be realized, the next 30 days of soccer madness will certainly bring a new way of experiencing the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world.

On June 11, the ball starts rolling at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, marking the first time the World Cup is held on the African continent. It’s also the first time the popular tournament will be testing the open waters of Facebook and Twitter. Zuckerberg’s social networking service opened to the general public only in September 2006, and most people had never heard about Twitter when France’s Zinadine Zidane infamously headbutted Italy’s Materazzi in the finals four years ago. Social media was already pervasive back then, but mainly in the form of blogs, wikis, podcasts and video sharing.

Thus, most of the online impressions around that play developed not instantly, but minutes, hours, and days after it happened, and they were particularly prominent in YouTube, the big social media star at the time. My favorites–but perhaps NSFW–are the Coup de Boule song and this compilation of 114 parodies of the unusual, err, interaction.

Furthermore, most of us were still passive small screen spectators of the games, with mainstream media being the intermediaries between the athletes and the public. Now, several players have their own Twitter accounts, and are already commenting on what’s going on in the last days before the kick-off. I compiled a Twitter list of players—including some of the stars left out–in case you want to take a peek at their thoughts before and during the competition. Some teams, such as England and Spain, already banned the use of Twitter and Facebook, but others like Brazil and The Netherlands are ok with it.

Perhaps the most interesting bits won’t come from the players themselves, but from the people close to them. Shortly after the game where Real Madrid was eliminated from the UEFA Champions League on March 10, Kaká’s wife retweeted a post by one of his advisers calling Madrid’s coach a “coward”. Social media guidelines are not easy to enforce outside team boundaries.

If you are into social media, but not into soccer, you must be asking by now: why do I care about all this World Cup nonsense? You should care for at least two reasons. First, it will provide all of us a better opportunity to understand the reach and importance of Facebook and Twitter outside North America. Some reports indicate that nearly 50% of Twitter accounts and one quarter of Facebook users hail from outside the US. All the previous events driving high traffic in Twitter and Facebook were wildly popular with Americans and Canadians. As both the US and Canada have traditionally not been major soccer markets, we can for the first time observe the extent to what the rest of the world embraces the two services. Furthermore, the instantaneous nature of the play-by-play reactions and the unprecedented volumes will allow a much closer reading of regional differences in the use of social media, something that the Oscars or Lost can only give us a glimpse of. The “world game” has never been this worldly.








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