A world full of knee jerks

I won’t be blowing you away with this observation, but the world has gone bonkers. Completely, utterly bonkers. Beyond political correctness, I think the world’s cojones have well and truly decided to retract all the way inside the body, and given up altogether.

What makes me say that? Three stories in the past week have shown me how remarkably PC-minded we can be.

First, this morning, YouTube announced on its blog that mature content and profanity will be more heavily moderated. In order words, a quick cuss word can cause your video to disappear into oblivion. Now, as Robert Llewellyn points out this morning in his Llewtube video, I’ll be happy to see less mature content crop up randomly when I’m looking for videos of kittens. But profanity? Who sets the blacklist of what swear words are inappropriate? If religious America gets its word in, we’ll have to say “Oh sh…ugar!” as we do in front of 3 year olds? To the best of my knowledge, 3 year olds shouldn’t be left to their own devices when navigating the web.

Second story. Last week, Channel 4 decided to take the entire 4mations site down, after it got cold feet following what’s now been dubbed as “Sachsgate” – otherwise known as Brand & Ross behaving like idiots on air. (For the non-UK folks, two radio hosts made a few immature and somewhat inappropriate “I screwed your granddaughter!” calls to a guest, Andrew Sachs. He’s best known for his role as Manuel in Fawlty Towers back in the 70’s. The story snowballed from two complaints when the show was aired to nearly half a million complaints in the week that followed.)

For a project that intended to push the boundaries of creativity, I’m amazed that a pixelated gimp mask and some cartoon boobies were grounds for taking the entire site down. Clearly, a moment of panic because of some slightly bizarre content. And you know what, that’s one of the great things about the weird and wonderful world of the Internet. There’s weird material being added all the time that forces us to re-evaluate where we stand.

Finally, in the real physical world, the Terrorism Act is becoming a real pain in the proverbial. A 15 year old schoolboy was arrested near Wimbledon for taking photos of the stadium on his mobile phone. He said he was working on his GCSE project, and shoo’ed away from the site. This kind of situation was repeated time and time again.

Before anyone jumps at my throat, I by no means condone humour in bad taste or lewd content on the web. But you wouldn’t chuck out an entire bushel of apples for a single bruised one, right? So why stop everyone else from having fun because of a few bad apples?

My issue here is with the knee-jerk reaction we seem to have towards everything these days. Rather than to get a screwdriver to fix the one slightly loose screw, we just get the sledgehammer out and annihilate the whole lot!

I’m not suggesting sticking your fingers in your ears going “La la la I can’t hear you!” when you face a problem, but the reaction should be proportional to the problem. So put the sledgehammer away, will you?

Google Reader Shared Items: And what about the usability?

Everyone and their dog is complaining about Google Reader introducing the “friends’ shared items” functionality a few days ago, which enables users to share a selection of their feeds with friends. However, when introduced, Google automatically shared the existing “shared” feed, rather than letting users opt in. This caused an upheaval from people who, I suppose, had something to hide in their shared feed.

Google Reader Shared ItemsWhat has shocked me most with the crash landing arrival of this new feature is the poor usability of it. When Scoble suggested Google should add more granular control over privacy settings, he also asked readers to share feeds. I popped into my own Google Reader and looked for an easy way to find Robert’s feed and share my own with a few people. Stumped. Completely. There is no easy way to “request” a feed from someone you’d like to follow, just as there is no way to share yours with someone who isn’t already a Gmail contact.

It’s quite obvious that the Google team will improve on this as soon as they recover from their Christmas meals, but I’m honestly surprised that the feature was released as-is. Some thinking is needed on the ease with which one can share, unshare, specify what should be shared, who it should be shared with and how it should be shared.

Until then, if you’re looking for my feed, it’s right here – I’ve been on fire today and added loads to my shared items. I promise to be more reasonable with the number of stories shared in the future.

Funny Google Searches #9: The Jaded B*tch Edition

Every so often, I trawl through my blog’s search logs to find out what topics have ignited the interest of readers. There’s the top content, the usual search terms. But then there’s the dregs, the random gobshite some people search for that leaves me completely mystified HOW that landed them on my blog!

So here’s to sharing the random Google search results some people have used to find some of my posts.

  • “toby carvery nutritional information”: I dunno, what’s the nutritional information for cardboard?
  • “how the canadian girls do they look like”: How the who wha?!
  • “where to place l plates on ford ka”: Right, and they should let you pass your test why?
  • “guardian journalists rubbish web copywriters”: Hah, you said it first, mate!
  • “husband corset”: *Slips her the phone number of a good marriage therapist*
  • “imovie 08 red line when trying to drag clips”: To fix this, Step 1 – Take iMovie disc out of drive, Step 2 – Put back in packaging, Step 3 – Take back to store and demand a copy of iMovie ’06.
  • “funny & nasty domain names blog”: 😦 I don’t think my blog has a nasty name *cries* I’m hurt.
  • “tablets to get into a mood of sex”: Open email. Check spam folder. There you go, plenty of “sexy mood” tablets for ya!
  • “how do you work out if a girl fancies you” & “how to make a move to make out with a girl”: Hmm how to explain you have NO hope.
  • “where can i read the latest darwin award entries?”: Uhh let’s see DarwinAwards.com?
  • “my sister-in-law nude pictures”: Dude, that’s NEVER a good idea…
  • “thong knickers banned in schools”: Excuse my ignorance, but umm, do they check every morning?
  • “canadian pillow humping”: Buahahaha wtf?
  • “smartass”: Oh, sorry, I’ll stop now.

Previous edition: Funny Google Searches: Looking Back at 2006 Edition

Google Mail Paper now available in the UK

Lately, I’ve been getting a bit sick of staring at a screen all day. Email in, email out, do this, do that. Blergh!

But looks like Google has solved my problem, again! Gmail Paper is a new service, just arrived to the UK after some US trials, which allows you to request paper copies of your emails. These are delivered in 2-4 business days, leaving you the alternative of reading all your mail on paper.

And for those who are concerned about the environment, you needn’t worry, they thought of everything. “Gmail Paper is made out of 96% post-consumer organic soybean sputum, and thus, actually helps the environment. For every Gmail Paper we produce, the environment gets incrementally healthier.”

Can Google Hear Him?

googlehears.jpgApparently they can. Aaron Stanton started writing and posting videos on CanGoogleHearMe.com less than two weeks ago, yet he’s an overnight celebrity at the Googleplex.

Aaron had a business proposal, but his attempts to contact Google via phone or email did not work. So he decided to fly to Google, sit outside Google for several days, until someone at Google would agree to meet with him. He reportedly got that meeting and is running high right now.

He flew out on the 11th February, and had his first appointment with Google on the 14th, with some generally positive feedback leading to future meetings and NDA’s. Details of his Big Idea aren’t publicly available but Digg rumours* point to “a powerful tool for writers. By analyzing published novels and breaking them down into detailed statistics, then graphing those statistics scene-by-scene, we allow authors to better understand their craft in a way never before possible.”

Now, we have no idea whether his idea is any good, and whether it’s anything to do with the above, but Scoble deemed Aaron important enough to take his 13 year old son Patrick to meet him. He and I both love this guy’s attitude – He followed his dream, even if it took a few little online self-publicity stunts to get there.

Some have compared his overnight success to the Red Paperclip guy, Kyle MacDonald. But even if Aaron’s success compares to Kyle’s, and it doesn’t turn him into a multimillionaire for an idea he sells to Google, he’s an inspiration to all young people with an idea. Don’t sit around, and most of all, don’t use typical channels like the Google idea submission form, but instead, make noise, get yourself heard, make a video, talk to the right people to create a buzz, and then, maybe you’ll get through!

[* No, I don’t take Digg seriously, not even as a source of rumours, but thought interesting to include what some people appear to have dug up]