This Seems Like A Lot Of Sweden For Me


So here’s Twitter’s recommendations for who I ought to start following.

Who To Follow: Sweden.se; Radio Sweden; and @Sweden / Fredrik.
Sure, but does Sweden ever follow me? I hope not. I feel nervous enough I have like twenty people reading this on a regular basis. A whole country? My sole qualification for having a country follow me is that I’m pretty good at the Europa Universalis line of grand strategy games. Also when I play Tropico the economy is a weird swingy mess between boom and bust years but everybody feels really, really secure in their civil rights.

I don’t have anything against Sweden, since it’s almost never the problem when I play a grand strategy game. But I don’t see why Twitter is so sure I need to think about it so much suddenly. Also I feel like an account that’s called Sweden.se seems awfully on the nose. It’s like having a site that’s usa.usa.usa. At least as long as that actually is the flag of Sweden. It might be. A lot of those northern European countries have flags that are white crosses on a color, because they got to pick first. Also I don’t know who sweden/Fredrik is, or whether that’s just a joint account for everyone in Sweden who’s named Fredrik. I would hope they take turns with it. Oh, now, wouldn’t it be something if the account was really an enormous troll by Finland?

Also I figure to have only the one comic strip essay on my mathematics blog this week and yesterday’s was it. Enjoy!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose five points today as traders were all confident everyone else knew something in bidding up the index and that if they went along with it maybe someone would tell them what they’ve heard.

110

Do We Need To Get Out And Give Twitter A Push?


Among the trends: SummerSlam, OpeningCeremony, ClosingCeremony, TheNightOf (?), and LastWeekTonight.
From what was Trending on Twitter late Sunday night. I don’t even mean during the actual closing ceremonies but after that was done even in the Pacific time zone. Also I don’t need to 90s-song-my-life, because I was a nerd in college and grad school in the 90s so I’m just surrounded by this vague wash of They Might Be Giants tunes whether I want them or not. Look, “Birdhouse In Your Soul” is a fine song but it’s all right if I go the occasional day without hearing it and I’m pretty sure the Two People Named John Both Of Potentially Noteworthy Size agree with me.

Honestly, Twitter. At this point even the people who were in the Olympics Opening Ceremony aren’t talking about it. Why are you telling me it’s trending? We’ve moved on, all of us, to discussing how much all the jillions of stories of how unprepared Rio was and how big a fiasco it would be reflected the normal Unprepared Fiasco Warnings that every Olympics gets in the last few weeks, and how much they reflect a racist bias against supposing these non-English-speaking nations might be able to get a big complicated project done. That’s a discussion going almost eight percent better and nearly six percent more productively than you imagine, and we’re not even through with the people giving us statistics about concrete pouring for the Athens and Beijing games compared to the similar times before the London, Atlanta, and Sydney games. OK, we’re through with them, but they’re still droning on, and haven’t noticed.

Really Acting Like A Real Grownup For Real


So we went to the movie theater for the Rifftrax show last night. We split a bag of popcorn and I took home a refill of soda because apparently free refills is a thing movie theaters do now just like it was normal. And it was pretty late, after normal dinner time, but I didn’t figure I was hungry. And then realized I was, so I made some sandwiches. And that’s why I had a midnight dinner of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with Diet Mountain Dew. Not because I’ve suddenly become twelve years old again. In point of fact I went, according to my records, from age 11 through 27 without having any variety of Mountain Dew.

Don’t mind me. I’m just recovering from how Comics Kingdom’s Thimble Theatre reruns seem to have dropped those awful Kabibble Kabaret footers. I’m suffering from irony withdrawal. It’s a terrible problem to have because anyone being sympathetic is doing so sarcastically.

To sum up: the Olympics are like two weeks old at this point. Why is Twitter telling me “OpeningCeremony” is still a trending thing? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? That’s probably enough asking.

Bunch of trending items on Twitter as of the 18th of August, two weeks after the Olympics Opening Ceremony: OpeningCeremony.
“OpeningCeremony” was just sitting there for like two weeks no matter what I did. Then I took the screen shot of this and it’s gone since then. I understand DuckDuckGo asking every single time that I open it if I want to make it my default search engine — it is — but this is getting creepy. Oh, wait, no, it’s back today. Never mind.

Things It Is Acceptable To See Trending On Twitter


Instead of city names, especially your city name. Or the name of a beloved celebrity who’s either died or declared that the people complaining about an incredibly racist thing he said are the true racists.

  • Change a word so a title means something else.
  • Fit a pop culture thing into some other pop culture thing and maybe say it’s just like your workplace.
  • Here’s a real word given a fake definition.
  • Assonance Day Of The Week!
  • Making Something More 80s, possibly by adding that crashing-synthesizer-piano sting from Yes’s Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
  • Dogs are awesome. Look at this one!
  • A sports team has traded a person for something that seems at first odd, like the promise of a future person or the chance to name a dog or perhaps a large bowl of tapioca. Maybe some carpeting. I don’t know. Someone with more characters to explain can explain why this makes perfect sense for everybody involved and two-thirds of the people who aren’t but it’ll still sound odd.
  • Somebody found a stream of the Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling cartoon from 1985 and we can’t stop talking about that because good lord is this episode really titled Ali Bano and the 40 Geeks? Oh, this is gonna hurt.
  • There’s something in space and we know about it!
  • Yeah, dogs are great but look at this bunny! Seriously!

An Open Letter To, Really, Every Social Media Ever


Dear Twitter Master Command,

Hi there. I wasn’t away. That’s the first thing. Also, you keep promising you’re going to show me fewer tweets like that. You need to shore up that wording. Do you mean you’re going to show me fewer tweets that way, as in that form? Where it’s four days after the original post and even the guy who wrote it can’t remember what he was making a sly, snarky comment about? Or do you mean fewer tweets like “the stuff my friends wrote”? I get the feeling you’re promising me that.

Because that’s the hip thing with social media. You all start out with a simple model: you have friends. Your friends post stuff. You read it. Sometimes you post back. Sometimes they post back. Their friends post back. The friends of your friends post. They’re whack jobs. Your friends’ friends keep posting. You come to like people less. You infer that your friend honestly sees no difference in morality or intellect or human decency between these people and you. The fight takes on a new intimacy. After enough of this you go outside, resolved instead to roll down a hill all day. You see a squirrel. That fact reminds you. You go back to answering your friend’s friend. Finally you stumble across an interesting discussion about whether Cringer remembers the experience of being Battle Cat, and vice-versa, and if so how. It has an exhausting pile of citations from the ramshackle He-Man canon. You come away feeling staggered but forgetting what you were angry about. Then you see it again. It’s a simple model and one that might work forever.

Except that’s never enough. If the social media works then it gets famous. And like Ian Shoales explained, once you’re famous for doing something you don’t want to do that anymore. So the media gets fussing around with algorithms and rearrangements of timelines. Instead of showing people what they said they wanted to see, you go and show them something they didn’t say they wanted to see. Maybe something they said they didn’t want to see. It’s a weird business model. Imagine if you were flying to Albany, New York, because you had urgent business there. You had to go to Huck Finn’s Playland and yell at the amusement park for it not still being Hoffmann’s Playland, even though Hoffmann didn’t want the Playland anymore and he was just going to toss it out.

But then the pilot announces that, you know, we’re going to instead fly to Columbus, the world-renowned “Albany, New York, of Ohio”. Would you feel well-served? I guess it depends whether you could find something to berate in the Columbus area. I’m sure there are. There’s at least two creepy houses in the suburb of Worthington, for example. I seem to be making a case for this. Maybe it’s other businesses that are missing out by just giving people what they wanted. (Do not berate the Worthington creepy house the guy lives in. He’s taken enough abuse.)

But what we expect to see, or expect to not see, or who we expect not to get in bitter quarrels with, is beside the point. None of this is what we really want from social media, not even the stuff we know we want to see, like the Animals Wearing Glasses Daily Picture.

What we want is to find something that’s profound and breezy. We want to experience something insightful and whimsical. It should be eye-opening without ever entering unfamiliar intellectual and emotional territory. We want something epic while still being intimate. More, we want to be the sole true confidant of an enormous crowd. We want to say something un-improvable yet tossed off in a heartbeat. We want to go viral while being that single candle that alleviates some one person’s darkness. We want universal truths that still fit snug where we are in life. We want to do something that’s going to get put on millions of t-shirts, and we want to get a cut of each sale. We want to be reblogged by people we watched on TV when we were kids. We want transcendence with a glace at our cell phones. And then we want to hit reload and get another transcendent moment at least as good. Give us that and we’ll hit ‘like’ or ‘fave’ or whatever silly thing you want. We’ll even pretend to look at your advertisements for stuff we’ve never even known anyone who would ever want interspersed with ads for the thing we bought last week on Amazon.

And that’s what social media is all about, Twitter Master Command.

Hoping you will see to and remedy this problem swiftly I remain,

Yours truly,

Sincerely,

I mean it,

@Nebusj

PS: Do it right and we’ll even forgive you suggesting Every. Single. Day. that we follow a person we wouldn’t run over with a forklift exclusively for fear of getting repugnant-person-guts in the forklift’s machinery.

PPS: Obviously Cringer remembers the experiences he has as Battle Cat. The interesting question is whether he remembers it as a thing he, Cringer, does while affecting a character, or whether he remembers Battle Cat as a distinct entity using what is sort-of his body. Please see enclosed citations, omitted for clarity.

Statistics March: In Which I Just Have February All Over Again


Well, that’s novel. For March, I had 1,107 page views. This is just what I had for February. I guess at least the decline in readership since the end of Apartment 3-G has stopped. The visitor count crept up, in the most strict of technical senses, from 629 in February to 632 in March. (There were 1,211 page views in January, from 645 visitors.)

Clearly I need to find some hook that’s as good as reporting that Apartment 3-G doesn’t make any sense, but who’s got time for that?

Anyway, the reader-engagement measures are ambiguous as ever. March got me 201 “likes”. That’s up from February’s 178, but down from January’s 272. There were only 36 comments, though, down from February’s 52 and January’s 66. I need to do more stuff that gets people to write back, but I admit I don’t know what that might be.

I can’t fault people for not writing, though. I rarely know what to write when I read and really like someone else’s humor writing either. “That’s great!” feels shallow somehow. Trying to follow up on the original writer’s joke makes me worry I’ll sound amateurish. Worse, I might make a joke the original writer had considered and rejected not funny enough, and then I’d ruin my image in front of everyone forever and have to hide under the bed and set my socks on fire. I understand if other people get seized with the same fear writing to me, although it seems bizarre. It takes at least four lousy jokes before I think ill of a person.

So what’s been popular here? The most popular stuff for March began, of course, with Apartment 3-G and then got into stuff that wasn’t the long-form pieces I try to post on Fridays:

The United States gave me the most page viewers in March: 769 of them. The Canada gave me the next-most page viewers, 65. The Germany came in next at 43, and then the United Kingdom at 28 and the Brazil with 25, which surprised me. India sent me 15. Singapore didn’t send me any, which, aw. What’s wrong, guys?

Countries sending me only one reader were: Bulgaria, Egypt, El Salvador, Indonesia, Israel, Macedonia, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam. El Salvador, Israel, Portugal, Qatar, and Vietnam are on two-month streaks like this.

The month starts with me having 33,648 page views, from 17,291 separate viewers. I’m surprised that it hasn’t overtaken my mathematics blog in page views (it’s got about a thousand more), although the humor blog is about four thousand ahead in visitor count.

WordPress claims I have 647 followers on it, which is up from 639 at the start of March. This might not sound like much, but I made the “Follow Me On WordPress” button a lot more prominent. It should be at the upper left corner of the page, at least as long as I stick to the current theme. I forget what it’s called. I’m also on Twitter, as @Nebusj, because I got assigned that screen name by my grad school when I entered it so many years ago and I’ve stuck with it because what would I do that’s any better? Jnebus? No, that wouldn’t work at all.

When The News Photographs Twitter


Last week Twitter’s stock dropped precariously on the news that it had millions more people using it now than last year. If you read the business news this is supposed to make sense. I read the business news about this over on Reuters. My imagination was captured by the photograph they used with the article:

An illustration picture shows the log-on icon for the Website Twitter on an Ipad in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, January 30, 2013.

I copied that over because it so delighted me. If I needed to know where and when this photograph of someone’s finger hovering near an iPad screen got taken, I no longer needed to know. I knew. Also I knew I’d want to write about this.

It’s a good thing I copied the caption. I went back to the article to grab the photo so you could marvel at this. But they’d changed the photograph. The one they have now, and this time I saved it, is:

A 3D printed Twitter logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration picture made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
A 3D printed Twitter logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration picture made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A 3D printed Twitter logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration picture made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 3, 2016.

I have trouble listing all the delightful things about this. There’s that they have more than one photograph to represent the concept of Twitter. There’s that they felt the first photograph of Twitter was inadequate. They changed it to something more dynamic than a three-year-old picture of someone touching an iPad in France. They went to someone who’d not just made a block to look like Twitter’s logo but had 3D-printed it. And there’s that Reuters I guess knew someone in Bosnia and Herzegovina who had a 3D-printed Twitter logo block to set up in front of a stock market chart.

And it’s not like they just knew someone and called her up for this article. The caption dated the photograph to the 3rd of February, about a week before the big Twitter News disappointment. This implies someone at Reuters asked, “Do we have a photo to use with a Twitter stock price drop story?” And got told about this three-year-old photo of a person touching an iPad. “No, no, that won’t do! Who cares that someone had the Twitter app in Bordeaux in 2013? Get me something that’s today!” And they did. For all the troubles there are in the news business today they’re still on top of the “updating file photographs for company stories” game.

Furthermore, it can’t be just Twitter. They have to have photographs for all sorts of companies that might disappoint investors enough to be worth writing about. That means they must decide what companies are worth getting representative photographs ready for. And that implies they have staff meetings in which people debate what companies need updated logo pictures. Some discussions must get heated, with arguments going on and on. Someone argues that “Zoup” is a company prominent enough they’ll need photographic coverage for its financial prospects. Someone else argues that “Zoup” is just the first person having a slip of the tongue while talking about lunch and doubling down on the mistake rather than owning up to the fact that sometimes tongues just don’t. I understand. I’m still trying to recover my dignity from this time in 1992 I named the below-ground floor of the house the “bisement”. The arguments must be glorious.

I grant the possibility they don’t have meetings about this. There might be someone who’s wholly taken the responsibility, and decides on arbitrary grounds. Perhaps there’s someone roaming through the Business News office at Reuters Master Command, ordering: “You! Get me an image of Hasbro’s logo in front of a waterfall! You! Look lively. Get me a Kellogg’s ‘K’ in front of an early-90s cyberpunk-y logo of a bird fluttering off someone’s hand. HEY! LiveJournal! … Never mind. But I’ve got a cream-filled long john for the first person with the Scion logo on-stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, wearing a Project Gemini spacesuit and … being stolen by a raccoon!” That’s a thrilling environment in which to work, right up to the point that the person is violently overthrown. Still, there’s some process by which logo photographs are made.

We live in a world filled with wonder and stock images. Also “bisement” should be something.

Moon and Starrs


So then this came up on Twitter:

I’m not that surprised that Buzz Aldrin and Ringo Starr would happen to run into each other. Sure they mostly move in different circles, but they have got that level of super-fame where, yeah, someone prominent enough would invite the two together. It’s that apparently they’ve run into each other before, and just by accident, at the airport, and more than once. It’s so mundane. It’s like the way you’re going through O’Hare trying so hard to leave and run into that guy again, the one at the Nuts On Clark kiosk, who’s staring at a bag of Trail Mix Or Something I Guess like he’s going to punch it. Only for them, that guy is a Beatle or walked on the moon. We’re never at our best at airports. I don’t think I could process running into an astronaut or a Beatle at one. How do Beatles or astronauts do it?

Buzz Aldrin also tweeted about meeting Joe Walsh, of the Eagles. Ringo Starr went on to maybe have his account hacked or something. It’s hard to tell. He has a kind of confusing Twitter feed even normally. Peace and love.

In Which Twitter Leaves Me Confused


I put some links to it in yesterday, but let me be less cryptic. I had another review of mathematically-themed comic strips over on my other blog, where I reached my 30,000th view over the past week. That’s thanks to Apartment 3-G spillover, which is neat since I don’t think I ever had reason to review a 3-G strip for its mathematical context.

Meanwhile, I wanted to share the Twitter Trending panel that I got on Thanksgiving night, after we’d eaten so very much and had the fire go out and our pet rabbit be let back out of his hutch into the living room to sulk about the indignity of it all.

Trending topics: MacysParade, Brett Favre, Wayne, #DayNightTest, #Thanksgiving, and way down the list, Andre 3000.
Remember back when everybody was talking about Wayne? Those were good days. People seemed to laugh more then.

So why did Macy’s think it worth paying money to tell me to watch a parade that was finished twelve hours before? Or did they get a really good deal trying to make me remember the parade 365 days, nine hours from then? And you thought I was going to forget there’s a Leap Day next year, didn’t you? Or does Twitter just think I’m so unimportant that advertising tweets need an extra 16 hours to get to me? Or was I just invited in to the top-secret Macy’s Day After Thanksgiving Parade? I remember that when I was seven, I thought there was also a Macy’s Christmas Day Parade and was confused nobody else seemed to know about it, but when I was seven I thought a lot of stupid things, most of them about how good Ruby/Spears cartoons were. So what I’d like to know is why was everybody tweeting about Brett Favre on Thursday? Why would he be working for Macy’s?

Minnesota Tweeting


I’m not surprised to pick up Twitter followers who’re surprising to me. That’s part of the normal process of existing on Twitter. Every day all of us get followed by self-proclaimed “social bacon ninjas” and people who proclaim to care on behalf of companies we’re fighting with.

A couple weeks back I mentioned Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, and got followed right away by someone who tracks Minnesota stuff. I’m flattered, since my impression of Minnesota has been formed entirely from walking past the giant Snoopy statue in the airport there and from watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. So I figure the place is pretty friendly and prone to dancing and then kneeling down to make snarky comments about stuff, much like the entire Internet.

The Minnesota guy seems to have dropped me, though. I’m not offended, considering how I haven’t been talking about the airport since then. But that reminds me that I got followed by someone running for a Minnesota congressional district in 2012. His account still says he’s hoping to win his election in 2012. I don’t suppose there has to be a connection. Minnesota has to have easily more than eight people in it. But what if there is? If there’s one thing we know about social media, it’s that social bacon ninjas who care on behalf of the people at AT&T who don’t are everywhere.

Twitter Recommended


I do look at the people Twitter recommends I follow, because it’s neat seeing how radically they change every time I do add someone and Twitter Master Command desperately searches for anyone who’s even remotely like that person. Sometimes it’s even people I’ve heard of, like when it suggested I follow Billie Jean King. And then I noticed: it was a promoted recommendation that I follow Billie Jean King.

The implication is that someone working for Billie Jean King Master Command, while apparently of sound mind and probably on a Tuesday, decided that it was worth paying some amount of money to Twitter Master Command so as to increase the probability that I, Joseph Nebus, would follow Billie Jean King’s Twitter account. They probably didn’t phrase it like that. They probably phrased it more like “increasing brand-name recognition among tall, bearded men from New Jersey”, and possibly they tossed the words “monetize” or “gamify” in there somewhere, but that doesn’t actually make the decision less daft.

Twitter Roulette: Geoffrey Downes, Ferret


So, coming up one after the other in my Twitter feed this morning: Buggles/Asia/Yes keyboardist Geoffrey Downes enjoying himself while puttering around Tokyo, and a ferret sticking his tongue out, and I can offer no rational explantation for why this makes me giggle.

A selfie from Geoffrey Downes and a presumably non-selfie from a ferret sticking his tongue out.
Twitter Roulette: what does chance cause to line up in your feed?

The Modern Moral Crisis


So it started a normal enough morning, checking my social media to see what everybody on my Friends lists is upset about that I never heard of before while the e-mail gets around to loading. Before I could even form an opinion about whatever the Twitter-storm was (I still don’t know, because I’m one of those people so far back I still write e-mail with a hyphen) was the e-mail: if I didn’t send money to the below address soon, they’d have someone come in and redesign all my usual web sites.

I don’t want to give in to a protection racket, but, it’s a credible threat. There are so many weenie fonts and watery-pastel color choices with excessive whitespace that they could use to make sure I can’t find anything anymore, and I just know the next redesign is going to involve replacing all the nouns out there with blobby, circuit-board-style squiggles inside rounded squares because of the modern fad against having things like “words” look like real things such as “words”. Can I take the chance?

Baffling Compu-Toon Of The Week


I’m just going to go ahead and assume that you’ve never heard of the comic strip Compu-Toon, by Charles Boyce, because it’s one of those comic strips that somehow I’ve come to read and that other people can’t believe exists. Those people are correct. It’s a panel comic strip, the sort that gives you a picture and a caption and together they yield some sufficiently joke-like construct for the newspapers to run. I don’t know if any newspapers run this. I don’t even know who’s supposed to run it. Let me show you a couple so you can see why I’m just … confused.

`You would think this Dove soap looking logo for Twitter would prevent me from getting nasty text messages like this one' for some reason.
Charles Boyce’s baffling Compu-Toon comic strip for the 3rd of June, 2014.

There’s the Compu-Toon for the third of June: “You would think this Dove soap looking logo for Twitter would prevent me from getting nasty text messages like this one.” Part of me wants to edit that caption so that it has any kind of flow. Part of me wants to say, “You would? Why?” And another part of me wonders, “The Twitter logo looks like Dove soap? Or Dove soap’s logo? Really?” The overall effect is one of confusion and vague disquiet.

`Passwords are not just waiting around for you to call them up' for some reason.
Charles Boyce’s baffling Compu-Toon for the 4th of June, 2014.

And then the next day. “Passwords are not just waiting around for you to call them up.” I can’t dispute that, since all the passwords I know are just sitting quietly in the back of the room for me to forget them, and to find the notes that I left for myself don’t mean anything (“Amex: Tweedlioop no ? $”), but that’s got nothing to do with passwords’ social life. What does a “password party in chat room 214” even mean?

Overall, I’m pretty sure the target audience for this comic is: you know that aunt you have who’s not on the Google herself but knows other people like it, and who sometimes sends e-mails consisting of 128 kilobytes of forwarding headers? Now we have something to send her back and say, “Thanks for the mail; did you see this? Hope you like it”. Which is a valuable service, certainly. And, of course, I’m hooked.

Worse, What If They’re Not Talking About Me?


You can talk about Twitter and Facebook and somehow getting into arguments with people about the remake of V that they made like — two years ago was it? Is that still running? Did it ever run? — and for that matter the guy building the model spaceship in the break room But for my boss’s money the best way to lose productivity at work is to receive a brief e-mail addressed to everyone reminding all of the need to be understanding of one another in these difficult times. I might stay up for weeks wondering if they’re talking about me.

How the Problem of Identity is Solved in the Early 21st Century


I imagine that, like most people, I find Twitter mostly recommends I follow the feeds of actors from sitcoms I don’t watch and of fictional squirrels. But now and then it turns up someone I do want to follow and sometimes that’s an organization. I saw one that sounded interesting and I checked their profile and recent tweets to make sure they were for real and not just somebody tweeting about how I should buy something I don’t want.

Since they seemed pretty soundly to exist I clicked to start following them. But then a couple hours later I got an e-mail saying they were thinking of following me back, but they wanted some proof that I was an actual person and not just tweeting about how they should buy something they don’t want. Never mind wondering who are they to ask if I’m someone when I already figured out if they’re someone: they wanted me to prove I was for real by clicking a link to a Captcha thingy.

So how do I know their link was to a legitimate Captcha service and not someone out to subvert the whole notion of identity with fake reports? So that’s why I checked their service’s contact information and sent them a simple arithmetic problem to determine whether they’re for real, and I went on with the satisfied air of a person who’s found more reasons not to answer his e-mail.

I was less satisfied when they sent someone over to whap me with a stick. This would seem to prove they really exist, though, except the guy they sent went to the wrong house, and I bet they were wondering why I was pointing at them and snickering.