Monday, December 9, 2013

Selfie tops Twerk as Oxford's word of the Year

Selfie' has been named the word of 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries, beating 'twerk', 'binge-watch' and 'showrooming' as the most popular new term of the year. Editors from Oxford Dictionaries said selfie has evolved from a niche social media tag into a mainstream term for a self-portrait photograph. It beat terms such as 'twerk' - made famous by Miley Cyrus and her appropriation of the move during a performance of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, 'binge-watch' referring to when somebody watches a number television episodes in one sitting and 'showrooming', where a product is examined at a shop before being bought cheaper online. A selfie is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as: "A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website."
In alphabetical order, the shortlisted words for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 are:

bedroom tax, noun, informal:
(in the UK) a reduction in the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than is necessary for the number of the people in the household, according to criteria set down by the government.

binge-watch, verb:
to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming. [ORIGIN 1990s: from BINGE + WATCH, after BINGE-EAT, BINGE-DRINK.]

bitcoin, noun:
a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank. Also, a unit of bitcoin. [ORIGIN early 21st century: from BIT, in the computing sense of ‘a unit of information’ and COIN.]

olinguito, noun:
a small furry mammal found in mountain forests in Colombia and Ecuador, the smallest member of the raccoon family. (Taxonomic name Bassaricyon neblina)  [ORIGIN 2013: diminutive form of OLINGO, a South American mammal resembling the kinkajou.]

schmeat, noun, informal:
a form of meat  produced synthetically from biological tissue. [ORIGIN early 21st century: perhaps from SYNTHETIC and MEAT, influenced by the use of ‘- -, schm - -’ as a disparaging or dismissive exclamation (e.g. fancy schmancy: ‘some of the gourmet sauces you get in fancy schmancy places are just too spicy for me’).]

showrooming, noun:
the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price. [ORIGIN early 21st century: from SHOWROOM ‘a room used to display goods for sale’.]

twerk, verb:
dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance. [ORIGIN 1990s: probably an alteration of WORK.]


One of the most popular selfies of this year was arguably the first one to feature a member of the Vatican, showing Pope Francis posing with teenagers in a selfie that quickly went viral. Mr Cameron also found himself embroiled in a selfie faux pas by his wife's sister on the morning of her wedding day, showing the Prime Minister asleep on a four poster bed.Oxford Dictionaries said the earliest known usage is an Australian online forum post from 2002: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped over and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said: “Using the Oxford Dictionaries language research programme, we can see a phenomenal upward trend in the use of selfie in 2013, and this helped to cement its selection as Word of the Year.”

She added: “Social media sites helped to popularize the term, with #selfie appearing on the photo-sharing website Flickr as early as 2004, but usage wasn't widespread until around 2012, when selfie was being used commonly in mainstream media sources.” “In early examples, the word was often spelled with a -y, but the -ie form is more common today and has become the accepted spelling. The use of the diminutive -ie suffix is notable, as it helps to turn an essentially narcissistic enterprise into something rather more endearing. Australian English has something of a penchant for -ie words – barbie for barbecue, firie for firefighter, tinnie for a can of beer – so this helps to support the evidence for selfie having originated in Australia.”

The frequency of the word selfie used in the English language has increased by 17,000 per cent since this time last year. This figure is calculated by Oxford Dictionaries using a research programme which collects around 150 million English words currently in use from around the web every month. Oxford Dictionaries has been awarding this title to words that attracted a lot of interest during a particular year since 2004. Previous words of the year include "omnishambles" (2012), "squeezed middle" (2011), "refudiate" (2010) and "unfriend" (2009).

Which words have been selected as Word of the Year in recent years?

Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year
Oxford Dictionaries US Word of the Year
carbon footprint
credit crunch
big society
squeezed middle
GIF (verb)

Hashtag History

Hashtag History
Hashtag History
Hashtags are now used regularly by millions of social media users, especially among members of the largest micro-blogging community Twitter. Many are curious what the very first hashtag was and how it spread quickly across the internet. A hashtag is created by online users to discuss specific events and relevant issues. These are categorically arranged so that other online users can easily search for the topic and participate in the conversation, no matter where they are in the world. Information is updated and shared by social media users. Following in Twitter’s footsteps, Facebook incorporated the hashtag this year. And a March 2013 survey by RadiumOne found that more than half of mobile-device owners regularly use hashtags. So it’s hard to believe that at one time, hashtags weren’t a part of the Twitter lexicon. Not only that, but Twitter initially rejected the idea of hashtags.

The First Hashtag

Chris Messina, a social technology expert, is credited to have come up with the very first hashtag on Twitter.
He first posted the hashtag #barcamp in August 2007. The whole tweet appeared like this:

“how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

Messina came up with the hashtag with the purpose of gathering discussions and online exchanges regarding Barcamp, a technology unconference gathering activity that spans worldwide. His handle is @MrMessina. Since then, hashtags have spread to other social media sites and all over the internet to become one of the most widely used functions. According to reports, Evan Williams, Twitter founder, actually shared to Messina that he didn’t think that hashtags were going to be very popular because of their very technical approach. Messina said that IRC influenced this pioneering concept. Hashtags were rather common in IRC before Twitter came into existence and dominated the way people communicated online. Messina posted “Whispering Tweets” on Twitter on August 25, 2007 with the idea of creating inner circles on the website. The goal was to provide users the proper restrictions that would limit conversations to more specific ones that would only relate to a particular audience. He shared how tweets should target certain members of the inner circle so that people can easily respond to these. Creating the inner circles would also lead to targeted users and avoid random visits from individuals who may not be truly interested in a particular issue or topic. In the blog post, Messina elaborated what he wanted these “channel tags” to do:

“What’s really interesting, however, i[s] how these channels can be used as tags within Twitter to open up entirely new possibilities.

Every time someone uses a channel tag to mark a status, not only do we know something specific about that status, but others can eavesdrop on the context of it and then join in the channel and contribute as well. Rather than trying to ping-pong discussion between one or more individuals with daisy-chained @replies, using a simple #reply means that people not in the @reply queue will be able to follow along, as people do with Flickr or Delicious tags. Furthermore, topics that enter into existing channels will become visible to those who have previously joined in the discussion.”

Hashtags Today

Today, hashtags are created by several social media experts, educators, institutions and major companies from all around the world to bring in more followers and increase brand recognition. You can check how well a hashtag is doing by exposing it to analytics tools that will tell you how many tweets are being made with it, how many impressions it is making online, who are talking about it, what other hashtags are being used and what people are saying exactly. These have shown to be one of the most useful features on Twitter and other social media platforms to bring in relevant audiences that will help spread information about related products and services. Hashtags or chats are regularly held to keep targeted audiences informed and for companies to get actual feedback.

The use of hashtags became mainstream after October 2007, when citizen journalists used them to give updates about a series of forest fires in San Diego. Messina said he sent a private message to one of the men covering the fire, Nate Ritter, asking him to use the hashtag #sandiegofire.

“That was one of the really great examples of citizen journalism aided by the use of the hashtag,” Messina said. In 2008, conservative politicians in the U.S. started using the hashtag #dontgo to keep Congress in session to vote on an energy bill. Now, Twitter has a whole guide on how to use hashtags. The company doesn’t mention Messina but says the hashtag “was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” Twitter wouldn’t formally comment on hashtags.

“Maybe 20 years from now hashtags will seem quaint, but they’re solving an important problem today,” Messina said, “allowing people to express more about the content they share in order to connect with more people.”

Hashtags are now used to chronicle events from Syria to the Emmys, to the SuperBowl to the government shutdown. When Kate Middleton went into the hospital to deliver the #royalbaby, the hashtag was used more than 900,000 times, according to Twitter.They have also spread to other social networks, like Google+ and Facebook, something Messina said he is happy to see.

Facebook Love Guru

Individuals Facebook Network
Individuals Facebook Network

Facebook knows who your romantic partner is, even if you keep that information private, and can even predict if the relationship will last. It’s not in the stars after all. Instead, it seems, the shape of a person’s social network is a powerful signal that can identify one’s spouse or romantic partner — and even if a relationship is likely to break up. So says a new research paper written by Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist at Cornell University, and Lars Backstrom, a senior engineer at Facebook. The diagram picture above depicts the shape of a random individual's Facebook network. Each dot represents a friend, and the lines connecting the dots represent mutual friendships. Can you figure out which dot is this user's romantic partner, just by looking at the diagram? Well Facebook can!

The pair used a hefty data set from Facebook as their lab: 1.3 million Facebook users, selected randomly from among all users who are at least 20 years old, with from 50 to 2,000 friends, who list a spouse or relationship partner in their profile. That makes for a lot of social connections to analyze, roughly 379 million nodes and 8.6 billion links. The data was used anonymously. It found that the best indicator of romantic involvement was a network measure called high dispersion, which is what happens when a couple’s mutual friends are not well connected to one another. This might go against the grain of common intuition, but what this means is that the number of mutual friends that two people share is actually a weak predictor of whether they're in a relationship.

For example, if you look at the image at the top of the page again, you'll notice that there are two large clusters of connected friends at the top and on the right side of the diagram. The one at the top represents the user's co-workers and the one at the right is the user's old college friends. The user's spouse is contained in neither cluster. Rather, (s)he can be found in the lower left section. It's the node that appears isolated, but which connects many of the more remote dots of the diagram. This yardstick measures mutual friends, but also friends from the further-flung reaches of a person’s network neighborhood. High dispersion occurs when a couple’s mutual friends are not well connected to one another.

“A spouse or romantic partner is a bridge between a person’s different social worlds,” Mr. Kleinberg explained in an interview on Sunday.

Their dispersion algorithm was able to correctly identify a user’s spouse 60 percent of the time, or better than a 1-in-2 chance. Since everyone in the sample had at least 50 friends, merely guessing would have at best produced a 1 in 50 chance. The algorithm also did pretty well with people who declare themselves to be “in a relationship,” correctly identifying them a third of the time — a 1 in 3 chance compared with the 1 in 50 for guesswork. Particularly intriguing is that when the algorithm fails, it looks as if the relationship is in trouble. A couple in a declared relationship and without a high dispersion on the site are 50 percent more likely to break up over the next two months than a couple with a high dispersion, the researchers found. (Their research tracked the users every two months for two years.)

For Facebook, the research is part of its automated efforts to look more closely at the relationships among its users to tailor content and ads. Mr. Backstrom is the engineering manager in charge of Facebook’s News Feed, which delivers content from a user’s friends.The more Facebook knows about a user’s relationships, the more appropriately tailored the News Feed can be. Do you want to see pictures of a child’s swimming lesson yesterday? Probably yes, if it’s from a family member or close co-worker, but probably not from someone on the fringes of your network of 2,000 “friends.”

So much of social-network analysis confirms what we already know. Relationships that last are ones in which the other person widens our world? Well, yes. Still, it’s kind of nice to have it confirmed with lots of data and algorithms. “We hadn’t had this view of it before,” Mr. Kleinberg observed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pings Plings And Rings

It’s hard to know whether to thank or curse Wayne Chang. When he was 24, the Facebook engineer went home one night to his downtown Palo Alto, California, apartment, fired up his computer, pursed his lips together and recorded the popping sound he made. His colleagues made a few electronic tweaks, and just like that, the first official Facebook notification “ping” was born. The pings, plings and rings of social media have grown up along with Chang. In 2008, he was simply trying to create a human-like sound that was “not too annoying”. These days, notification sounds have become as ubiquitous as the satisfaction they promise, instant cues to our insatiable need for likes, follows and alerts. To watch the ping’s transformation is to watch our evolving love affair with instant satisfaction, sometimes healthy, sometimes not. While technology has made it effortless to bask in good vibes, it also has fueled an unlimited source of digital indulgence that competes with the rest of our life.

Consider Ajay Bhutoria, a Fremont, California, IT strategist who recently promised his wife that he would shut off his phone at night because she is so weary of being awoken by the pings that beckon her husband at all hours.

“It’s just a habit that has built up,” he said of his constant drive to look at Facebook, and check for text and calls even at 2am. “It’s a new way of showing your love and kindness,” he said of Facebook likes. “It gives you mental gratification, like someone patting you on the back, saying ‘job well done.’ ”

Humans are as vulnerable to classic conditioning as the dogs which Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov taught to expect food at the sound of a metronome. Once you start listening to the ping of the email, you can’t stop; you are actually addicted to the ping. People are staring down at their phones while hiking, even hugging. For former Facebook engineer Mark Slee, the explanation is basic: “People have been drawn to communicate for as long as we’ve been on this planet,” he said. “We don’t communicate because these things exist. Rather, these things have all come to exist because of this strong impulse to communicate.”

Indeed, in 2010, when Slee sat down in his San Francisco apartment to create a whole new round of Facebook tones, the iPhone was three years old, and auditory interruptions once seen as rude were becoming commonplace in meetings, at restaurants, on trains. The iPhone was getting more and more popular, mobile notifications were becoming a more common thing, and lots of the sounds for these actions are very iconic. Slee, who left Facebook in 2012 and now produces house music, said he was no sound expert at the time. The tones he created for Facebook were born of some basic concepts, but they were symphonic compared to Chang’s tone in the key of mouth. “To feel positive, a sound should use notes in a major key,” Slee explained. “And it should end in a rising note, rather than a falling note. The timbre of the sound is quite soft, not robotic.” In the end, Slee, who joined Facebook in early 2006, brought about 20 different variations to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, and one was selected. Both Slee’s and Chang’s notification tones are still used for various Facebook applications, a Facebook spokesman said.Facebook would soon produce tones that tapped even deeper into its users auditory catalog of memories. The sounds that Everett Katigbak, now at Pinterest, created for Facebook in 2011 with Jim McKee, an audio engineer who owns Earwax Productions in San Francisco, hark back to the doorbell, telephone, even Mum calling the kids for dinner.

By some estimates, one-third of all marriages between 2005 and 2012 were couples who met through online matchmaking sites. With crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter ready to pitch your wildest ideas, the gratification currency is real: a total of US$612 million invested in 110,000 projects so far. A study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 44 per cent of us sleep with our phones nearby, and 67 per cent of us check our phones for messages even when it does not beep. It is not only young people or men who have gone from being smitten by technology to having a full-blown affair with it. In the end, it may be a question of quantity over quality when it comes to the happiness people feel when a ping lets them know that a friend is texting or likes a photo they posted. Research by Ohio State’s Fox, a PhD who did her graduate work at Stanford University, shows that if Facebook users “post something and they do not get feedback, they feel terrible about it, and they do for a long time.”

Natasha Schull studies what happens to people when they play slot machines in Vegas, and a recent story in The Atlantic magazine compared her findings to how Facebook can hypnotize its users. Slots players get into a zone where everything else - the kid’s tuition bills, the dirty laundry piling up, the miserable boss - fades into the background, Schull’s work shows. There is only the game in front of them. Some players get annoyed even when they win because it interrupts that state of mind, according to Schull, author of Addiction by Design. We face a challenge in the coming months and years with an increase in notification based communication and learning processes yet (as the research shows us) climbing trends in attention deficits, multi-tasking crises among other personal, organizational and at times psychological issues should force us to pause for concern.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Social Media is 2,000 years Old

Marcus Tullius Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Today it's easy to assume that social media platforms are a recent development, a phenomenon unique to the Internet age. But the exchange of media along social networks of friends and acquaintances is in fact much older than Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. It could be the mantra of the Twitter/Facebook generation, but this instruction was actually written 2,000 years ago. Long before Mark Zuckerberg, there was Marcus Tullius Cicero. Back in about 51 BC, this philosopher was changing the way people shared information. His writings were passed around Rome from one person to another through a team of messengers. And as the above quote shows, like most Twitter users today, Cicero always wanted to know what was going on in the world. During one foray out of Rome to a villa in the country, he wrote in a letter to his friend Atticus back in the city: ‘I shall write to you nearly every day, for I prefer to send letters to no purpose rather than for you to have no messenger to give one to, if there should be anything you think I ought to know.’

Writing for no purpose? Cicero would have loved Facebook…

This exchange is detailed in Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years. Written by The Economist’s digital editor, Tom Standage, it puts forward the theory that Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest et al are just the latest incarnations of a tradition which dates back two millennia.Cicero was a figurehead in the first ever social network, according to Standage, who says rich Romans wrote their thoughts down on papyrus rolls and used messengers to deliver them to their counterparts. But just as social media today is tagged and shared and reshared, these letters would be copied and sent to others in the chain. ‘You say my letter has been widely published: well, I don’t care. Indeed, I myself allowed several people to take a copy of it,’ said Cicero on one occasion. For messages sent across short distances which required a quick response, words were inscribed on wax tablets in wooden frames, the precursor to the iPad.

The Romans even dabbled in abbreviations – as Standage details in his book, SPD stood for ‘salutem plurimam dicit’, or ‘sends many greetings’. No room for LOL or YOLO then.,‘Social media environments have existed for centuries and don’t require digital technology to operate,’ Standage told Metro. ‘A social media environment requires a certain amount of literacy and the Roman elite were a fairly literate bunch. Today we have computers and broadband, but the Romans had slaves, both scribes who could copy out documents and messengers to deliver them. ‘Members of the Roman elite wrote to each other constantly, recounting the latest political machinations, passing on items of interest from others and providing commentary and opinion.’ Those in Rome who were less than elite had their own social media wall. In Pompeii, graffiti let them express feelings which wouldn’t seem out of place on a Facebook timeline today – messages such as, ‘The man I am having dinner with is a barbarian,’ and ‘Atimetus got me pregnant’. Writing on the Wall explains how social media runs throughout history. In the Tudor court of Anne Boleyn, for example, the Devonshire Manuscript was a 16th century Facebook, allowing young courtiers to write and respond to each other through poetry and gossip in the pages of one single document which was passed around.

Whether it’s a Roman scroll or tweet, the effect is the same, he says. ‘All these different technologies push the same buttons in our brains. They all satisfy a timeless urge to connect and share with other people. Social media is as popular as it is because it lets us scratch a prehistoric itch.’ Standage believes the internet has let us go back to social media’s historic roots, as the one-way mass media model epitomised by the 19th century printing press has given way to something more democratic and all-inclusive. ‘The internet makes social distribution as quick and easy as broadcast, but opens it to everyone,’ he said. ‘So the rise of social media today is, in many ways, a return to the way things used to be.’ What hasn’t changed is the negative reaction to social media – the coffee houses frequented by England’s writers and scientists in the 17th century were branded dangerous and a waste of time by their detractors, for instance.

Marcus Tullius Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero

So the present has become the past, but what about the future?

‘I think wearable technologies like Google Glass will, within a decade or so, allow us to overlay our view of the world with a layer of social information,’ said Standage. ‘Imagine going into a crowded room and being able to see who you know, or who you have friends in common with. We’ll see information from social media interwoven with our experience of the real world, a process that has already begun with smartphones. I expect we’ll end up with smart contact lenses and then implants in our head.’

Examining the impact of social media systems that arose in centuries past can help us answer these questions and put today's worries in perspective. At the same time, our modern experience of social media enables us to see the past with new eyes. The deepest lesson is that when you send a tweet or share a link on Facebook, you are continuing a deep and rich tradition of person-to-person sharing that goes back to Roman times, more than 2,000 years ago. Social media does not simply link us to each other today — it also links us to the past.

Constant updates in our brain without having to do anything? Cicero would have loved it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Social Media to Curb Suicide Rates

Social Media to Curb Suicide Rates
Curb Suicide Rates

Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, in the year 2020 approximately 1.53 million people will die from suicide. Suicide is not a mere individual phenomenon, but it is influenced by social and environmental factors. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24 and every year hundreds of thousands of young people engage in self-harm incidents. Many young people display red-flag behaviors in the digital world before these incidents occur. The faceless nature of online communication often emboldens children to reveal details about their state of mind: leaving tell-tale indicators or “bread crumbs” of their well-being. If parents, educators, and mentors are aware of the risk factors and warning signs, connected technology can help them take an active role in promoting healthy behavior and intervening in dangerous situations.

Since the first documented Internet suicide pact in Japan 12 years ago, researchers have been trying to figure out what role the Web plays in suicidal behavior. On one hand, you have people genuinely concerned and taking action when someone makes an alarming or depressed comment on one of the social networks. On the other hand, you have cyber bullying that is creating a higher level of suicides in teenagers than before the Web. There are pro-suicide chat rooms and private Facebook groups and not-so-private Twitter lists. But there also are huge opportunities to use social media to identify people who are at risk. Heart-breaking accounts of cyber bullying and suicide seem all too common, but a new study offers hope that social media can become an early warning system to help prevent such tragedies. University researchers claim that social media can become an early warning system to help prevent tragedies like suicide. In this new study, researchers at Brigham Young University examined several tweets from 50 different states over a three month period. After navigating through millions of tweets their algorithms picked tweets that had direct discussion of suicide and also those tweets that included keywords and phrases linked with known risk factors such as bullying and depression.

"With social media, kids sometimes say things that they aren't saying out loud to an adult or friend in person," Christopher Giraud-Carrier, a BYU computer scientist and one of the study's seven authors, said in a press statement.

After sifting through millions of tweets they found 37,717 genuinely disturbing tweets from 28,088 unique users for whom some location information was available. They found that the ratio of suicidal tweets for each state strongly correlated with the actual suicide rate. Prior to this, researchers found that nearly 15 percent of the tweets contained at least state level location, this can help in involving state health care departments. Next, the researchers plan to develop an app for school students that will incorporate as well as analyze data that students post. The app's algorithm will notify the counselors the moment a student posts something disturbing that is a cry for help.

Social Media to Curb Suicide Rates
Curb Suicide Rates
 Also in South Korea, Social media data such as weblog contents are used to gauge the public mood. Despite the diversity of content at an individual level, the aggregate of millions of social media data is used to get a pragmatic representation of public mood. Also it is used to measure national happiness by tracking the usage of key words among users of social media services. Moreover, it has been shown that online social media data can be used to predict changes in the stock market, influenza infection rates, and box office receipts. Therefore, social media data could be a promising source for investigating the association between suicide and public mood and for the refinement of suicide prediction models.

The digital world provides a natural medium for acting out and/or expressing emotions, and warning signs often reveal themselves online. For example, plans for reckless and dangerous behavior could be posted on Twitter and Facebook, and feelings of hopelessness might be confessed on a blog. In January 2011, a woman in England posted a suicide note on her Facebook wall. She had 1,048 friends, but while her friends discussed the legitimacy of the post—no one came to her aid. She was found dead the next morning. If any of her friends had reported the message to police, it might have saved her life. Parents, educators, and mentors who are connected both offline and online with young people should carefully watch for warning signs. When witnessed, these warning signs should be taken very seriously to help young people get the support they need.

How Wires Get Tangled in your pocket?

How Wires Get Tangled in your pocket
Tangling up of Earphones

I’m sure the “tangling up of earphones” must have made it to your “the most intolerably irritating things in the world” list very easily. We keep our earphones in our bags, pockets, etc. always to find them all tangled up when checked upon later. And this leaves us with the question: Why does this happen? It seems that the problem of tangled wires is so well-established across the globe, that it has even spawned a competitive sport known as Speedcabling. Each game consists of a race against an opponent to swiftly separate cables from a purpose-made bundle, with the first person to liberate all of the tangled cables being declared the winner.

As much as it may surprise you, there is a whole mathematical discipline, which they call “the knot theory” which deals with the issue of the types of knots that get formed in storage. Studies have identified more than a 100 types of knots that happen in your pocket. In over 3400 different trials (Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string, Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith), it was found that the probability of knot formations in earphones kept in the pocket is sky-high and each time a new type of knot is formed. It’s not very probable that you would come across the same type of knot twice.

Why do wires get tangled up?
However much we'd like to believe that some creature leaps into your pockets to tamper with your wires when you're not looking, sadly, we know that's not really the case. It seems that round-bodied cables all suffer from the tangling problem thanks to their aerodynamics and friction control (or lack thereof) making the cords rotate and tangle. In theory, that means that flat cables should be less susceptible to getting knotted up. This was further researched and experimented upon by physicists Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith who explained the formation of knots when rotated in a box in their paper “Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string” which won them an Ignobel Prize in 2008. They found knot formations in DNA and umbilical cords, intriguing, and this can be related to our earphone dilemma. The same is what happens to the Christmas lights and other wires and cables.

How Wires Get Tangled in your pocket
How Wires Get Tangled in your pocket
Raymer, in his experiment, identified a number of factors that lead to entanglement, the length of the cord being the first. Cords that are 46cm or more in length are more prone to entanglement, so using earphones with shorter wire lengths might help but obviously, that would be funny. Also, cords made up of flexible materials are more entanglement-prone, reason being, lack of friction control. Flat cables could prove to be a solution. Other than this, the rotation rate, i.e., how tumbled the cords are, and the number of rotations, also increase the probability of knot formations. Instead of just dumping the earphones in bags and pockets, it would be helpful if we get a pouch of their own.
It may have occurred to you that the weight of the ear buds plays the villains in the scene. It is, indeed, true as it can be. The three lengthy strands and the weight of the ear buds do make our earphones more entanglement-prone. So no matter what we do, they are just going to end up tangled.

Scientific research
Unsurprisingly, there are only a handful of scientific researchers that have taken the time to test this one out in a lab. An article on outlines research by two physicists where they dropped pieces of string of varying lengths into a box which they then rotated. They found that knots were more likely to form as the length of the string increased (although the likelihood leveled out once it reached 5 feet) and that knots were more likely to form in larger boxes. So, presumably one way to reduce the tangle factor is to buy headphones with shorter cable and carry them around within smaller sections of our bags or, of course, better still, a small pouch of their own. The best defense, according to the scientists, is that we should take a tip from sailors, cowboys and electricians who all keep cord, string or cable tied in a coil so that it can't move. More common sense, really.

The Verdict
If your wires have room to move, then they will. So, the bottom line is to stop them doing that. Tie them up or if you really can't be bothered, keep them in as small as a compartment in your bag as possible. If you want to impress your friends and save a little cash, the under and over method is where it's at. Otherwise you might want to pick up a cable tie. If none of this sounds viable, then it's probably time to invest in some wireless headphones.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Is Social Media Ruining Your Appetite ?

Social Media Ruining Your Appetite
Social Media Ruining Your Appetite

You are in a restaurant. The waiter brings your food to the table and it looks so amazing, you upload a picture on Instagram to show your friends. No harm done, right? Simpler said, a lot of people go online to talk about the sandwich they just ate. But they’re not just talking about it, they’re photographing it. At least once a month, 52% of people take photos with their mobile phones; another 19% upload those photos to the web. There's enough of that group practicing "foodtography" to support the website Foodspotting, as well as a 2,500-member Foodtography group on Flickr. Photoblogging apps like Instagram and the latest, photo-enabled version of Foursquare are likely to further fuel the trend. The Chronicle’s Michael Bauer posts photos of his plates at restaurants to nearly 27,000 followers on Twitter, and has been recognized nationally for doing just that.

Well according to a new study, you may have just put your friends off their food. Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) and the University of Minnesota say their study, published in The Journal of Consumer Psychology, shows that looking at too many pictures of food can make it less enjoyable to eat. The reason being, you could be suffering from sensory boredom. In other words, you become tired of eating a food long before you even taste it. So if you’re on Instagram all day looking at all of the salads your friends post, you’re probably not going to enjoy your next salad quite as much.

"In a way, you're becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food," says Ryan Elder, professor at BYU and co-author of the study. "It's sensory boredom - you've kind of moved on. You don't want that taste experience anymore." The researchers recruited 232 participants who were asked to carry out experiments that involved viewing and rating pictures of various foods. In one experiment, half of the participants were asked to look at 60 pictures of sweet foods, including cake, truffles and chocolates. The other half of the participants were asked to look at 60 pictures of salty foods, including chips, pretzels and French fries. Both groups rated each food based on how appetizing they thought it was. All subjects were then required to eat a salty food, specifically, peanuts. They then rated how much they enjoyed eating the peanuts.

upload a food picture on Instagram social media
Upload a picture on Instagram
Results of the experiment showed that the participants who viewed the photos of the salty foods enjoyed the peanuts significantly less, compared with those who viewed the sweet foods, even though they had not viewed pictures of peanuts, just other salty foods. The researchers say the reason for this is that over-exposure to images of food increases a person's satiation. Satiation is defined as a reduction in enjoyment as a result of repeated consumption. For example, a person enjoys the first slice of cake more than the fourth slice, as they have become tired of eating the same food.

Jeff Larson, also a professor at BYU, notes that if a person wants to continue enjoying food consumption, it is best to avoid looking at too many food-related photos.

"Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had,"
He says. But he notes that their findings could be useful for those who want to avoid a particular unhealthy food. If a person wants to avoid eating chocolate, for example, he says they may want to look at more pictures of it. The study also didn't address what happens if you look of posts of healthy foods. I would guess the same effect would occur, so does that mean you would get tired of eating foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains? . The research data also showed that when you see an advertisement for a food item once, it triggers a craving. Multiple pictures for the same type of food will satisfy the craving for that food, and you will not want to eat the food any more. However, Prof. Elder warns that there is a stipulation: "You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects. It's not like if you look at something two or three times you'll get that satiated effect."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

If it’s on Facebook, it must be true

Update Facebook Status Update Twitter Instragram
Update Facebook Status Update

I truly fear the day; probably sometime in the very near future, when the phrase, “If it’s on Facebook, it must be true…” is used in open court as factual evidence. Not because I especially distrust this particular social networking platform, but because it would imply that social media has become a document of record. This would mean that content from Facebook and other social networks could be cited in court as evidence of information being true, of an event having occurred, or of a person (or object) actually existing.

Many commentators have explored this question of social media and “did it really happen” either in the context of existentialism (“I Instragram therefore I am”), or in respect to social media etiquette (“just because you can, doesn't mean you should”). I am more concerned with what happens when we start to place inappropriate reliance upon content and information published via social media? It took a number of years for faxes and e-signatures to be accepted in court as evidence of a document having been executed or a legally binding agreement having been created. E-mail is now admissible as evidence that a formal notice has been served between parties to a contract. In some situations, e-mails and text messages are cited in court proceedings as evidence of a person’s promises, denials, deeds, and opinions, state of mind or intent. “Smoking gun e-mails” are not uncommon in major court cases, and many organizations are required to archive e-mails and instant messaging for the very purpose of maintaining a “paper trail” in the event of future legal proceedings.

At some point Facebook became less about sharing and more about validation. Well, go out to a restaurant in the city and have a look at all the couples out for a romantic dinner who spend the night staring down at their phones. Or your Facebook news feed that is full of ‘selfies’ at this club or that bar. The answer starts to become clear; Lots and lots of people think like that.Going out to a really cool place is only half the experience now. Having your photo taken next to a celebrity or checking in is the real fun part! After all, that’s what proves once and for all you were there. Right?

I read that the ‘checking in’ process is an ingrained part of the human psyche. When a human discovers something, they plant a flag. Be it a new continent many centuries ago or the moon. Once we arrive, we feel compelled to state ‘Look. I was here!’. The Facebook Timeline enhanced this need to tell a story. Now you can travel back in time with one of the most comprehensive diaries ever kept. Within seconds you can see photos, comments, locations, thoughts, friends; and overall snapshot of your life at that time. Checking in is just one more detail in your online diary.So perhaps Checking In on Facebook or Foursquare is kind of like a new-tech cave drawing or hieroglyphics. We are telling a story. Our story.

Or perhaps it’s simply about looking cool to your friends. For the same reason you’d want a photo hugging a celebrity; it gives you social status. Checking into an expensive restaurant, sold-out concert or big sporting event builds social identity, which is a form of currency in these days where fame is regarded as the pinnacle of happiness for many. So maybe it’s all about credibility. The cooler the check-ins, the cooler you are perceived to be. Nowadays you can’t hold any event if it hasn't been put on FB somewhere along the line. If it doesn’t have an official FB event page created then party-goers will attempt to inform the World that they were there by checking in or uploading a picture of themselves with the invitee. Seriously though, if you tell people you went to an awesome party over the weekend people will generally look at you with disbelief because they think “Well if it was THAT awesome, why wasn't any mention of it on Facebook?..”

Do you have friends that share their romantic gestures through social media? I saw this spectacular proposal video soon after it was posted to YouTube. It had just over 300 views at the time. It now has five million. Guess what? It would be just as special without five million views. It would have been just as amazing if they’d never filmed it. The bride to be would still have that heart pounding moments as she thought back to her partner asking her to marry him. It would be great to keep some of the beauty in your life all to yourself. To enjoy that moment and image just for what it is and not for your peers reaction to it.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Facebook 'LIKES' won't save lives

rculate of sick children claiming to offer donations for liking or sharing the photo
Facebook Like or Share Hoax

Facebook is exploited by all sorts of spammers but it is perhaps the photos that circulate of sick children claiming to offer donations for liking or sharing the photo that are among the worst. Facebook is never going to donate to some cause based on how many times you share or like a picture or status. If you’re a regular user then you've probably seen these photos that depict injured, disadvantaged or disabled children along with a message that asserts sharing or liking the photo results in either prayers or donations for the child. Have you ever clicked 'like' on a picture of a sick or disabled child on Facebook? Sometimes there's a caption that reads "for every like, Facebook will donate money to save this child", or "please like this photo to show this child that they're beautiful." Have you clicked? 

These photos are never genuine. No entity including Facebook condition donations of any kind on the number of Likes or Shares a photo gets, at least not in this manner. But it is important to scratch past the surface of this hoax and then ask if they’re not real then why do they exist? And the widely unknown answer to that question shows exactly how these unscrupulous scams work and highlights the extent as to how depraved scammers will go to make money. It also shows why you should never share or like these photos, even if it’s “just in case they’re true”. It is first important to realize that the vast majority of these scams exploit photos that have been taken elsewhere from the Internet and used without the permission of anyone related to the photo including the families of the children depicted. Such photos are taken from news websites, stolen from public Facebook photo albums and some have been known to be taken from medical journal websites. This in itself is deplorable since it causes much anguish for the families involved to see photos of their loved ones circulating Facebook under false pretenses. In most cases the photos are old and outdated, and in at least one example the photo shows a child that had since passed away.
However it gets worse when you realize that these photos are often used to make scammers money. Scammers create Facebook pages and post consistent streams of content imploring users to like and share in order to accumulate followers. When the number of followers reaches a certain number then the Facebook Page can either be sold for financial gain or any number of other scams can be employed on the followers, such as survey scams or malware attacks. It is also worth noting that these scams promote “slacktivism” – the illusion you are helping a cause merely by pressing Like or Share when in reality this has no real world significance or benefits towards helping with an issue.

rculate of sick children claiming to offer donations for liking or sharing the photo
Facebook Hoax

 If Facebook were to ever donate money for a young boy's surgery, think for just a moment - would they really be so crass as to base it upon the number of times a message was shared? Further clues that should tell you that the story is bogus, is that there is no information to support the story of a young boy being attacked or the pay-per-share scheme. There's no link to an official Facebook blog entry, no link to a news story on a legitimate news outlet. If a friend of yours shares a message with you like this on Facebook remind them about the importance of not spreading chain letters and suggest that they inform all of their friends that they were mistaken.

To date, no hospital, charity, organization or Facebook have ever conditioned lifesaving operations, medicine or donations based on the number of times a photo, message or email is shared. Any photo or message to the contrary is just a sick hoax, either designed to waste the recipients time or scam their out of money. If you see such photos then we recommend doing the following -

1. Never Share or Like these photos. If you do you are playing right into the hoaxers hands and potentially causing great distress to the families involved, and of course you’re passing false information to all of your Facebook friends.

2. Avoid commenting on the photos. Even if you know the photo is a hoax a comment can make the post appear on the tickers of your Facebook friends and can help spread the photo.

3. Instead of a comment you can send a private message to the person who uploaded the photo and explain it is a sick hoax and ask them to remove it.

4. Report the photo. Many people who upload these photos will never take then down voluntarily, so Facebook will do it for you. Make Facebook aware of the photo by clicking the Report option

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friendships have a Seven year Expiration Date?

Gerald Mollenhorst Friendships have a Seven year Expiration Date
Friendships have a Seven year Expiration Date

Had a good chat with someone recently? Has a good friend just helped you to do up your home? Then you will be lucky if that person still does that in seven years’ time. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst investigated how the context in which we meet people influences our social network. One of his conclusions: you lose about half of your close network members every seven years. You are stuck with your family but you can choose your friends. Really? For years sociologists have argued to what extent personal networks are the results of your own preferences or the context in which you can meet someone. Would your best friend have been your best friend if you had not been in the same class for three years? You may have more Facebook friends as the years go by, but when it comes to your close friends, you lose about half and replace them with new ones after about seven years, new social research suggests.

As a result, the size of your social network stays about the same.People might like to think they have control over whom they choose as friends, but social networks could also be influenced by the context in which we meet one another. Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University in the Netherlands was interested in finding out exactly how many our networks are shaped by social context or by personal preference. He conducted a survey of 1,007 people ages 18 to 65, and then contacted the participants seven years later. From the original group, 604 people were re-interviewed. The survey contained questions such as: Who do you talk with, regarding personal issues? Who helps you with DIY in your home? Who do you pop by to see? Where did you get to know that person? And where do you meet that person now?

Many sociologists assume that our society is becoming increasingly individualistic. For example, it is held that we strictly separate work, clubs and friends. Mollenhorst established, however, that public contexts such as work or the neighbourhood and private contexts frequently overlap each other. The results showed that personal network sizes remained stable, but that many members of the network were new. About 30 percent of discussion partners and practical helpers had the same position in a typical subject's network seven years later. And only 48 percent were still part of the network. This finding goes against previous research which had showed that social network sizes are shrinking. Mollenhorst also established that networks were not formed based on personal choices alone. Our friend choices are limited by the opportunities to meet. He saw that people frequently choose friends from a context in which they have previously chosen a friend. Also, whether or not our friends know each other strongly depends on the context under which people meet.

Another recent study showed that social networks were shrinking dramatically. Scientists at Duke University, and the University of Arizona, Tuscon, published a study in 2006 claiming that social networks were not only shrinking a great deal, but that the number of people claiming to have no one with whom to discuss important issues was skyrocketing.

7 year frindship
Friendships have a Seven year Expiration Date

I've heard this figure thrown around by many friendship experts and psychologists over the years, and I think it's an interesting study. My personal opinion is that this is more factual as we get older. A fascinating component that seems to be missing from the study is the impact of the Internet in expanding the opportunities to meet new people and changing the dynamics of social context. In the end, the opportunity to meet reigns above it all, as you can’t fall in love with Mr. Right or meet Miss Best Friend if you never have the opportunity.

One take-away message: If a friendship is meaningful, it needs to be nurtured.
Do most of your relationships have a shelf life?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Unplug For A Few Hours

unplug detox internet social media
Unplug detox internet social media

Are you constantly on your smartphone, laptop, tablet or PC checking your email, Facebook, Instagram, or twitter? I’m sure we’re all guilty. But how do you feel after you've checked out or checked in all of your social media channels? When you’re constantly stalking, um, checking your friends status’, updates, tweets, etc, it can make you feel a certain way about yourself. Something in the age of connection that has so many feeling so lonely. Something that even in this instantly searchable world has so many feeling so lost. Because when we have more Likes than friends, something has to give. We’re addicted to feedback, addicted to sharing our story with our social audience. It’s almost like the event didn't happen if you don’t post about it. There is no doubt that the use of technology has increased over the past several years.  I must admit, Facebook and Twitter take over most of my time on the Internet; therefore, it was no surprise when I stumbled upon one article that shared some of the detailed statistics for how people use the “Top Social Media, Apps & Services.” And while I had a pretty good idea of how popular social media had become over the years, the use of some of the following social media sites surprised me – especially My Space. People simply cannot nurture hundreds of connections without something having to give. 

      ·         Evernote: 60 million users
·         Facebook: 1.15 billion users
·         Foursquare: 33 million users
·         Gmail: 425 million users
·         Instagram: 130 million users
·         LinkedIn: 238 milion users
·         MySpace: 32.6 million users
·         Pinterest: 70 million users
·         Twitter: 500 million users (200 million active)

With statistics such as these, it is safe to say that people spend a large part of their day on the Internet. There is a popular saying; “moderation in all things,” which simply implies that people should not do or have too much of anything. I ask the question – can people have too much of social media? It’s easy to get caught up in social media, as well as useful apps and services that seem to make our lives easier? Sites such as Skype and MeetUp allow us to connect with others; iTunes, Pandora and Spotify bring us all of the latest music. And then of course there are the social networks such as Twitter and Facebook that keep us up-to-date on all that is going on around the world almost every minute of the day.

unplug detox internet social media
Detox internet social media

 Sometimes people justify the excessive use of social media with the argument that it keeps them connected with family and friends and also allows us the opportunity to meet new people. While that may be true, we can actually do this offline. It is good to take a break from technology to rejuvenate, refresh and relax our mind.  Can you recall the feeling you have when you get home from a long work-day and finally get the chance to sit and unwind?  We can actually experience that same feeling of relaxation when we “unplug” from the Internet and detox from all of the technology we encountered throughout the day. Below are some suggestions on how to “unplug.”

 In the morning before work or school, use that time to reflect on the day's tasks

1.       During lunch break, instead of grabbing our cell phone to check Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, use that hour to rejuvenate and relax our mind. This will help us feel refreshed and recharged
2.       During morning or evening commute to and from work, leave our mobile device in the bag. Enjoy the surroundings and do some sightseeing as we walk to our destination
3.       Don’t check mail or text messages while having dinner with family and friends. Give them all of our attention; the texts and email will be there when we're done.
4.       Unplug on the weekends (at least one day). Schedule time for yourself to do an activity that brings you joy.
5.       Encourage your kids to do the same.

Try involving yourself in activities that will enrich your life. That could be picking up the phone to actually make a call to a loved one, doing some basic exercises outdoors or just reading an inspirational book. Alternatively, if you have a business connected to your use of social media, keep up your media engagement. However, you might still want to consider the basic tools of balancing work and play. After all, the best creativity often results when you’re actually living life, not just posting about it. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves staring at our computer screens and mobile devices morning, noon and night with no separation from work or play.  Well, it’s time for me to unplug for a few hours.