Brutal and Unforgiving

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Audioboo test

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Image credit: farlane via Flickr

Audioboo recording: Coyote Fight

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Switching to vacation mode

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I’ll be in California till the end of the month, so I won’t be posting about tech stuff unless it has to do with photos I take or using the iPhone on the road. I’ll be experimenting with photo apps and I’ll try to share some of the results here. What is that thing in the photo above? That’s a donut shop and car wash. Classic SoCal.

Tracing the origin of online photos with TinEye


 Photo credit: Mohammed Abed

I saw this photo on Reddit with the only description being a one-word thread title: “War.” The top commenter in the thread said it was a picture of an Israeli white phosphorous attack. I wanted to find out for myself rather than take an Internet commenter’s word as the truth. I ran the photo through TinEye, the image search engine, and got 90 results. Thankfully, one of the sources was The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. The article highlighted compelling photography from 2009. This picture was taken in Gaza and was indeed documentation of an Israeli attack:

This photograph shows white phosphorous shells being fired by the Israeli military into a school building where civilians were sheltering in classrooms.

I mentioned TinEye in my previous post, but I wanted to highlight it here. No every search is successful. More often you will simply discover that a photo is all over the Internet. But in this example, I didn’t have to rely on an anonymous commenter. Also, I wasn’t checking the background because I had an interest in whether or not it involved Israel. I was curious because it is an incredible photograph.

How to avoid Internet regurgitation

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I complained yesterday about how the same “funny” images are endlessly recirculating on the Internet. Of course, that’s how a meme develops – the photo or whatever needs to be shared over and over. When something is reblogged on Tumblr hundreds or even thousands of times, that is part of what Tumblr is about and why it is so popular. Let me refine my argument by saying that we should strive for more variety. To that end I found the photo above on MlkShk (“milkshake”) yesterday and considered sharing it elsewhere. I’d never seen it before, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been posted and reblogged dozens of times. So I used a “reverse-image” search engine called TinEye. This is what I got back:

TinEye quickly found 120 instances were the photo was used already. Now here I am with 121. Fine, let everyone share and remix to their heart’s content. TinEye is a cool service that also can serve as a helpful analytical tool. Besides the website, there are TinEye browser plugins for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. A TinEye Android app is in beta testing. Oh yeah, I also complained about being disappointed with MlkShk, which is a new image-sharing site in beta testing. I spent more time on the site and found the quality of material was much better than I encountered during my first survey. I’m also getting a better feel for how the site and community work. Request an invite and give it a spin.

The Internet is trying too hard

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 (Above) My unfunny attempt to modify the now-famous Situation Room photo.

I was going to write about how the news of Osama bin Laden’s death developed Sunday night on Twitter, especially since I happened to be browsing tweets when the first word of the “10:30 p.m.” announcement appeared. But Twitter has eliminated the time-stamp feature for tweets, so now I can’t figure out the exact sequence of events that night. I hope Twitter brings that feature back.

In the meantime, I want to complain about something: There are too many people trying to create Internet memes, including myself. On Monday, a photograph was posted on the White House Flickr account showing President Obama and others in the White House Situation room watching the bin Laden raid. Within an hour, altered versions of the image began showing up on the Internet. The first ones I saw featured the frowning flower girl from Friday’s royal wedding, a surprised cat, sad Keanu Reeves, and Rick Astley. In my opinion, none were particularly clever or funny. More

In the age of Twitter, what if we had another Sept. 11?


September 11th Memorial | 9-11-09
Credit: Dov Harrington via Flickr

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was half-watching the Today show as I was getting ready for work when Katie Couric reported that there was a big fire at the World Trade Center, possibly caused by a plane crash. I watched live as the second plane hit the south tower. I took a cab to work and heard on the radio that there was a big explosion at the Pentagon. I got on the Web at work and bounced around news sites looking for updates. I didn’t use Internet chat in the office, so my only interaction with other people online was on a bulletin board. I’d refresh the screen every few minutes to see if a new comment had been posted. That’s how we got news back then and I didn’t feel cheated. On Sunday night, the events of that day came full circle with the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. With every major news event, there is much said and written about the expanding role of social media in how we get our information. The bin Laden story is huge, but not all-consuming like the Al Qaeda attacks and aftermath nearly a decade ago. So I wonder how another Sept. 11 would play out on the Internet today. Not only could we get the news faster than the mainstream media could report it, we might even find out faster than the government. Would the passengers on those planes be on Twitter saying they had been hijacked? Would the office workers trapped on the doomed upper floors of the burning skyscrapers beg for help on Facebook? What would you do, watching the horror unfold, sitting there helplessly? The near-instantaneous sharing of social media can get a whole lot deeper than finding out that bin Laden was killed a few minutes before the president announced it on television.

PlayStation Network hacked – what does it mean?


Credit: Image via

I don’t own a PlayStation, so the PlayStation Network being down since April 20 doesn’t impact me. But it is making life suck for a huge number of other people. There are 77 million PlayStation Network registered accounts. And it has been confirmed by Sony that the multiplayer-gaming network was hacked. The company also confirmed that user data had been illegally obtained. This is a huge blow for Sony. I’m not saying disaster yet because because PlayStation gamers are invested in that system, so it would be costly for them to switch to another system. But everyday the network is down, some small fraction will jump. If users start to find their personal data are being illegally used, that will be a PR back-breaker. Sony is already being sued and subjected to regulatory inquiries. Sony is a quality company. I’d really hate to see it go down in flames. The best read on the situation is from Kevin Poulsen of Wired. He went to federal prison for hacking. He knows what he is talking about. Here are the highlights of his take on the situation: More