twitterThere’s really no doubt now that Twitter is a powerful tool for the social web. Major news oganizations totally missed out on the start of the rioting and upheaval in Iran.

Twitter did not.

It’s proven incredibly hard for the Iranian government to censor information leaving Iran simply because it’s so damned hard to shut down all the avenues of access to Twitter. So while the news outlets of the world sat on their thumbs, Twitter broadcast real time information to the world. Now there’s a drinking game where you watch CNN and take a drink every time they use the word Twitter. I think CNN just found a new source for news.

But what gets me is that, like any social medium, Twitter was invaded by advertisers. That’s fine. As much as I hate advertising, I understand you really can’t go anywhere without seeing any. But I do take harsh exception to the good people of Twitter whoring themselves out to provide free advertising to some kind of company. Orbitz, Squarespace, and on and on. No one business is guilty, there’s a lot of them.

streetwalkerThe method is simple. The business puts out a tweet with a hashtag and then says that everyone who retweets that tweet with the same hashtag will be entered into a drawing for a free widget. Orbtiz was giving away tickets. Squarespace was giving away iPhones. The list goes on. Just for giggles, I retweeted the Squarespace one with the statement that I wouldn’t know what to do with an iPhone if I won it. I sure as hell wouldn’t activate it since I can’t abide going back to AT&T.

Today, I’ve seen a slew of them, and it’s not even noon yet in Phoenix. Thing is, I’m not paid to advertise and neither are any of these people. They’re entering themselves into a contest, supposedly. Now, let me ask you something: You ever see the contest rules and legalese when McDonald’s or Best Buy holds one? It’s typically a page of 5 point font readable only by scanning electron microscope. They do that because they are required by law to make sure you’re informed of your rights under the contest rules.

See any of that with these Twitter ads and contests? I sure as hell don’t. What this means is they don’t have to award anyone a thing and they still get the advertising. Or the company could give that free widget to @SoAndSo who is actually an employee of the company but no one knows that. They can do whatever they want and get tonnes of free advertising courtesy of the masses who think they’re going to win a prize.

I’m not saying that any of these business are actually doing this, but think now… What’s to stop them from doing it?

Oh and hey, hashtags can be completely exploited for commercial gain. In my opinion, that’s even worse because I figure that’s false advertising. Crap like that wouldn’t fly on Craigslist for god’s sake, so I don’t think we should accept it on Twitter either.

Addendum: With a big shout out to the lovely and intelligent Ms. Lisa Rabey (@pnkrcklibrarian), it turns out that Squarespace was not handing out iPhones. They were handing out certificates to get an iPhone from AT&T. Folks, a prize is something you either win or earn. But if you have to work to get the prize after it’s awarded, then it’s not a prize.

If this contest were being held in meatspace, the company would have been obligated to let you know that in writing.

Edit: Added the link to Squarespace’s blog.

You ever see something that’s a pretty good idea, but with the inclusion of one more thing it’d be an even better idea?

I have mixed feelings about OCLC’s Geek The Library campaign. Jessamyn has a wonderful post which farily sums up my feelings in general, but there’s something missing. They’ve got this visually stunning campaing, and it is stunning. They’ve got these images of people and what they “geek.” Nice. But what about me?

Or more importantly, what about you?

This is supposed to be a community based library support thing. And with that, you usually offer something to spread the word, right? So what would be better than the ability to make your own “Igeek” posters? Something you could make, print out, and stick up someplace the public could see it would be really cool. The design is eye catching and would make a nifty conversation piece. Hell, you can make your own warning signs and motivational posters, surely they can do this too. Indeed, all it needs to ask for is a picture and one or two words and then some code to put it all together.

So why, might you ask, am I not working on such a thing? Well, that’s simple. I have no idea how to actually code something like that. I might be able to throw something together in PHP, but I have a feeling that the finished product will look like something I threw together in PHP. However, I do have Photoshop and Publisher at my disposal and I bet y’all have something similar. So… here:

FacelessIgeek

Oh and, for the record, just because I think the end result will look like crap doesn’t mean I’m not looking into it. But I really think it’ll be above my capabilities for programming.

Edit: Made the image clickable for the larger version.

book-seerWe’ve all had patrons who have that question “I just finished reading such and such, what should I read next?” My answer to that is usually Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but that’s a typical statement from me regardless of whatever they were reading.

A new site offers a fun and easy way to figure out what’s next on the reading list and it’s completely patron friendly. The Book Seer is nothing more than a cultured, bearded, Victorian era gentlemen asking what you just read. Then he searches through Amazon and LibraryThing to find other books like that for your patrons’ literary pleasure.

As an added bonus, it seems to work well with non-fiction too.

half-life_2_04_1024 I play a lot of video games and I’m particularly keen on the FPS style of game. For those who don’t know, FPS is short for First Person Shooter. This is a style of video game where the presentation on-screen is done right through the eyes of the character you’re playing, as if you’re in their skull, looking through their eyes. It’s particularly immersive and some of the greatest selling video games have been FPS style. Half-Life 2 (left) is one of the best and most well known of the genre.

But how do we perceive things as a first person in a world that does not exist?

Most FPS games have some kind of on-screen map so you can tell where you’re going, where enemies are, in which direction your objectives lie, and so on. There are basically two ways to display this map and I’ve become very familiar with both.

The first way is that you are a point on the map, which scrolls with you. The map itself is always oriented to the north no matter which way you are going.

The other way is that the maps spins with your perspective. So the map is oriented to the direction you’re currently looking.

So what’s better? And what does that say about our perceptions of direction in the real world and the virtual world. Researchers are working on this question, but what in the hell does it have to do with you? You don’t have some miniature map that points the way on your heads up display, do you?

Well, yes you do. And such things are becoming more and more common as handheld GPS shows up in standalone devices, phones, cars, and anything else they might think to stuff one into. Now you ask yourself a question. You’re traveling in an unfamiliar locale and you whip out your GPS. Do you want the map to rotate based on where you’re looking, or do you want to be a blip on a stationary map oriented to the north?

Just another way that the real world imposes itself on video games and vice versa.

One funny note. Many notice that Dr. Gordon Freeman, the main character of Half-Life 2 who’s sporting the glasses and crowbar in the picture above, bears an uncanny resemblance to another famous fictional doctor.

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