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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Bottles of cleaning fluid and painter's caulk usually have their own fair share of fatal warning stickers, which is why I've never been to the ER for an eating-related stunt. But that is no feat. It's normal.

    Chris Schewe, or Shoenice, has taken a different approach. The man who will eat anything to end world hunger started at the age of three by eating a pack of cigarettes and being rushed to the hospital. Through grade school he would go on to defeat the dares of his classmates and bullies. Gobbling down cups of salt and baking soda, pieces of metal, glue, grass, and piles of sawdust, he found a way to win their love. Chris was a hellraiser with an iron stomach who grew up with his brother under an alcoholic mother whom he would later discover dead (from alcohol-related issues) on the living room floor.

    As an adult, his ability to slug bag everything from car wax to motor oil has turned him into a YouTube star. After watching over a hundred of his videos, I was chomping at the bit to get in contact with him. But Shoenice is a master social media spammer, and it's hard to cut through the noise. I gave up after countless attempts. But when Motherboard producer Erin Lee Carr was able to trace Chris down via e-mail, I realized I'd soon be meeting him for the latest episode of My Life Online.

    Some are unamused by Shoenice's faults and complete lack of comprehension of online etiquette. I've watched my share of friends and acquaintances gag while watching his stunts. They shudder and ask, "Dude, what's wrong with this guy? Isn't he going to die? He's psycho, something isn't right."

    To me, Chris is a hero. While I agree that there might be something suspect about a guy that gladly chugs a bottle of rubbing alcohol, I also see in him an echo of my 14-year-old self. After spending a brisk weekend up in Lake George, NY with Schewe and his friends, feeding him a bottle of glue, and hearing his life story, from a very tough childhood to his time serving food to Gulf War soldiers–and his many musings on death–I didn't understand Chris any better, but I like him a whole lot more.

    I still don't fully comprehend the mechanics behind his campaign to end world hunger, and I don't think he really does either. There is also a stunt-loving, self-promotional aspect to his performance art, but perhaps spreading the hunger gospel through YouTube could actually work. Of course, that's assuming that his edible escapades don't get the best of him.

    By Daniel Stuckey // Produced by Erin Lee Carr and edited by Zoe Miller.


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    It was the summer of 2009, and Jess had developed an addiction.

    Slowly but surely, she amassed a stockpile of Tumblr URLs, registering new blog names and domains she had no intention of using—collecting them the way others might trading cards or autographs. She became a hoarder, sitting on prime real estate in one of the fastest growing social networks.

    "I would say that I was engulfed into this craze and I wanted a piece of it," Jess, who declined to give her name or last name, told the Daily Dot. "I started hoarding URLs because, well, other people were doing it. I guess you kind of want to join in and get as many as you can."

    For Jess, the turning point came after she joined the fandom for Homestuck, Andrew Hussie’s sprawling webcomic, which boasts more than 5,000 pages of content and and a devoted readership that creates  fanart and music inspired by the comic. It was all about the thrill of ownership— plugging in random words, phrases, and character names to see what ones were available. She ended up with more than 200 URLs under her main account.

    Jess only used five blogs regularly.

    "Oh man, I've heard of people having over 400 URLs," Jess said. "As I hoarded URLs I never really thought about what exactly I was doing. It's kind of like a race. A race to see who can get it first. And when you type that URL in and it's not taken. It's the best thing in the world because it is all yours, forever."

    ...

    In the early days of the Web, there was a gold rush for domain names, as individuals raced to register online destinations and, like flipping a house, sold them to the highest bidder The practice was commonly referred to as cybersquatting.  

    In November 1999, in middle of the dot-com bubble, the Anti Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) went into effect and allowed companies to sue people "who obtain domain names 'in bad faith' that are identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark," noted Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology.

    Since then, a handful of high-profile cases, including one including Madonna, have been litigated, most recently with the development of the porn-centric URLs .xxx. (In that case, many top universities and brands bought their domains early to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.)

    The ACPA has not, however, stopped people from snatching up vanity URLs on social networks like Facebook and Pinterest—a problem often compounded by the lack of a verification for individuals and brands. If you tried to signup for a new Twitter account after 2011, you’ve probably experienced the frustration that comes with trying to find a unique username. They go quickly, and once they’re gone, there’s no turning back.

    Tumblr directly addresses the issue of “username and URL abuse”in its company guidelines: "Tumblr's URLs (usernames) are for the use and enjoyment of our users. Don't squat, hoard, collect, trade, or sell Tumblr URLs, and don't register a URL for the purpose of impersonating an individual, organization, or brand."

    That’s easier said than enforced.

    Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Tumblr does not require users to use to have a new email when registering a new blog. Instead, users can claim new Tumblr URLs in mere seconds by using the dashboard's drop-down menu.

    "On Tumblr, once you have a 'main' blog, you can create 'child' blogs under the same account/email address without going through sign-up onboarding for each sub-domain," explained marketer and Tumblr expert Andrea Lopez. "That’s a huge difference with Tumblr, and a possible reason why any potential grab-now, use-maybe, habit exists. Way. Less. Friction."

    That ease of access has at least one perk: It helps people create timely single-serving Tumblrs, the kind of flash-in-the-pan blogs that popped up the minute after President Barack Obama mentioned bayonets and horses in last year's debates.

    But as a result of Tumblr’s frictionless user interface, a bustling URL-hoarding community has surfaced, and frustration has quickly grown from a murmur to a fever pitch.

    "URL HOARDERS ARE BITCHES," formerlyjackbenjamin wrote in July. "Some people might want to use that URL and ACTUALLY USE THEIR BLOG on that URL. ... It’s a big f**k you to the Tumblr community."

    "I’m getting really fucked off with people hoarding fucking URLs," lionsandroses echoed. "[J]ust fucking give them up you bastards."

    Those are just two of the many complaints you will find on Tumblr when searching tags like "hoarding URLs," "hoarded URLs," and "saved URLs."

    Oddly, for each complaint tagged with one of those phrases, an equal number of users flood them with offers to giveaway or trade URLs.

    "I’m literally using none of them at this point," blogged claramadesouffles in a post titled “DO ANY OF YOU WANT ANY OF MY SAVED URLS?” The list included 20 URLs, mostly related to Doctor Who and The Hunger Games. The titles included “thegirlwholivedtowait,” “pleasecomealongponds,” “the-sassy-dalek,” and “the-perks-of-being-a-time-lord.”

    ...

    Tumblr URLs don’t appear to have much in the way of monetary value, at least not without followers and content attached. So why do users horde URLs?

    Two possible answers are status and power, said Dr. John Grohol, a psychologist specializing in online behavior.

    "Now what do teens want most?” Grohol asked. “To fit in with their peers, to be accepted, and to be popular. What can increase your popularity? Power.

    "So by hoarding Tumblr domains, teens and young adults are increasing their power in the marketplace, and indirectly, they probably believe it is also increasing their popularity among people they want to impress the most (Tumblr friends and fellow Tumblr hoarders)."

    It is unclear how many Tumblr users have been banned or had IP address blocked for hoarding URLs, though at least one user has been punished for the practice. Requests for comment were unanswered, and the company does not disclose details about individual accounts. Tumblr could potentially be turning a blind eye to the issue to juice its number of registered blogs.

    "We reserve the right to enforce, or not enforce, these policies in our sole discretion, and these policies don't create a duty or contractual obligation for us to act in any particular manner," the company notes in its community guidelines.

    One things certain: With more than 95 millions blogs (and counting) already registered, it’s getting harder and harder to find an ideal, unclaimed destination on the site.

    "Everyday there's a new possibility that a hoarder released the URL and it's up for grabs,” Jess said. “You just have to keep waiting for the day to come, or to go and bargain for that beautiful URL."

    Illustration by Jason Reed


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  • 02/26/13--07:00: Why God rules on Facebook
  • Doctor Aaron Tabor spends his days selling nutritional and anti-aging products with names like Slim & Beautiful Diet Vanilla In Vogue shake and the Dramatic Rescue Anti-Aging Wrinkle Serum. On Facebook, however, he's found his true calling.

    Every day 15 million people follow Tabor's micro-sermons on Jesus Daily, the most popular landing page for God on the largest social network in the world.

    More importantly, it'sconsistentlybeen the most engaging page on Facebook. More people talk about Jesus Daily—via shares, likes, and comments—than any other page on  the social network, religious or otherwise. With anywhere around 5 million people talking about the page at any given time, it routinely trounces Facebook's own brand page, which has 87.5 million likes but only 2.3 million people talking about it, and the official page for pop star Rihanna.

    In fact, his page is so popular that, according to Tabor, Facebook has assigned a liaison to communicate with him on a regular basis.

    "This is the largest opportunity in history to tell the world about Christ," Tabor said via phone with the confidence of a born proselytizer.

    Jesus Daily isn't the exception. It's the rule. On Facebook, God is king.

    Social congregations

    For proof, one only needs to look at the numbers. The fivemostpopularreligiouspages on Facebook—including Jesus Daily—combine for more than 28.6 million likes and have 14.7 million people talking about them this particular week. These run the gamut from supporting specific ministries (like Joel Osteen's) to hugely successful, image-centered pages like Tabor's.

    The followers of God on Facebook likely have a deeper connection to their own spirituality than they might to a musician or movie star or politician.

    "For many Christians their religion is a master motive in life,” Dr. Ralph Hood, professor at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and coauthor of Psychology and Religion, told the Daily Dot via email. “Everything is placed under this concern and hence the profound interest."

    Added Dr. Peter Hill, professor at Christian school Biola University and one of Dr. Hood's coauthors: "[For many spiritual people] religious identity is solidified through their personal friendships, which now includes social media.

    "In social psychology... we call this a reference group. Reference groups may be even more important to people who feel marginalized, which is the perception of many religious people in today's secular society."

    The doctors' theories are in tune with Tabor's own explanation. But Tabor also believes that the Internet's anonymous nature— even on a platform like Facebook, which requires its users to give their real name—makes people feel safe to express their religiosity.

    "It's not openly in your face," said Tabor, pictured right. "It's not standing on a street corner and preaching. It's just a simple click of a button."

    Facebook's immediacy and passiveness makes it easy for Christians to express their faith. Clicking that button takes a lot less work than wearing your Sunday's best to church.

    But to reach this social congregation, evangelists have to cater their message to the platform. A sermon like "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by the 18th century Great Awakening pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards would never cut it. A meme, however, will most definitely get the Facebook’s proverbial thumb’s up.

    Fred Alberti recognizes this need to repackage the message. He’s the director of social media for Salem Web Networks, owner and operator of GodVine.com and its Facebook page, which has 3.3 million likes and averages a weekly engaged audience of more than 1 million.

    "As Christians we need to be aware of what's happening in the culture around us," he told me over over the phone. "Being timely and relevant to that culture is going to result in higher engagement."

    No other Facebook preacher is better at this than Tabor. The moonlighting doctor has made regulars of his fans because he knows how to tap into what people are talking about and uses it to his advantage.

    He proudly cited a post he published during the height of the supposed Mayan apocalypse as an example of how he tapped into the cultural zeitgeist. Tabor took Buddy Christ, a parody icon from Kevin Smith's decidedly anti-religion film Dogma, and repurposed it for his page.

    Photo via Jesus Daily/Facebook

    The image received 230,679 likes and was reshared 65,642 times.

    Tabor also tries his hand at popular memes. On Christmas, he posted the Success Kid meme with the superimposed  text "Back off devil, I belong to Jesus!"

    Photo via Jesus Daily/Facebook

    The repurposed meme was liked by 305,093 people and reshared 29,793 times.

    "I don't evangelize on every post because you'll otherwise burn out your base," he explained, "which is why I often put up photos of babies, animals, and puppies and add the gospel message to that."

    So how do Jesus Daily and GodVine beat out major brands in Facebook popularity? They understand how the Internet works.

    "A failure of big brands is that they're always too heavy on their message," Tabor proclaimed. "It's going to be very hard to get a lot of people to like something about a motor vehicle. You're missing a big opportunity on Facebook if you don't interweave your serious message with lighthearted content."

    He added, "Each post is essentially a popularity contest because of Edgerank."

    Edgerank is Facebook's proprietary algorithm, which decides what content makes it to a person's news feed. It's been a scourge for most Facebook pages since the company modified it in September 2012. Many claimed their audience engagement dropped considerably. Former Star Trek star and surprising Facebook celebrity George Takei wrote a scathing post on his Facebook page lambasting the social network for alienating its users to make a quick buck.

    For Tabor and his ilk, however, Edgerank has been a boon, helping their pages increase their reach instead of throttling it.

    Their reach extends beyond the United States' borders, too. Tabor estimates that 58 percent of Jesus Daily's visitors are international, and he can't wait for Facebook to be available in China, where it's been blocked since July 2008. There's an estimated 70 million Chinese Christians who attend underground churches, and he thinks Jesus Daily will help bring them closer to God.

    "I have people writing from all places of the world saying 'I didn't know there were other Christians in my area,'" he said.

    The digital collection plate

    If Tabor wanted to make money off of Jesus Daily, he easily could. There's a lot of value in having one of the most engaged communities on Facebook. Despite this, he refuses to cash in.

    In this sense, Tabor is the exception. Almost every major Christian-focused Facebook page is a money-making enterprise.

    The majority of these, like GodVine, are operated by companies who own religious Web properties.

    Jesus Loves You has over 1 million fans and has a people talking about this (PTAT) of 1.2 million. Much like Tabor's page, it publishes highly sharable content, mostly images and popular memes repurposed with a Christian bent. The majority of their posts, however, link to Jesus-loves-you.org, a site owned by Greater Good Network. It's replete with Google ads, so each time the page loads for a new visitor, the site gets some financial compensation—a small tithe from the search-engine giant that could amount to substantial earnings over time.

    Other popular Christian pages employing the same strategy—using a link that redirects users to ad-riddled sites—include I love Jesus Online (4.2 million likes and a PTAT of 1.2 million) and Jesus Christ Savior (3.8 million likes, 1.7 million PTAT). Both are owned and operated by BeliefNet. (BeliefNet declined to comment for this article.)

    To GodVine's credit, they've been are fairly open about capitalizing on people's religious beliefs.

    "We do want to make money," Alberti said. "At the end of the day I have to be able to go home and feed my family. But at the same time, there's this balance of being able to minister to a group of individuals.

    “We can build up their faith, we can make them feel better, and I can send my daughter to college while doing so."

    Alberti said he's getting paid to do what he loves, and that's it.

    "I think it's a passion that we have, a calling that we have to be able to minister to millions of people across the world."

    But where is the line between legitimate advertising and spam?

    Tre Loren, a self-proclaimed photographer and entrepreneur, runs four God-oriented Facebook pages: I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me, John 3:16, I Love Jesus, and God. Of these, only I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens me has a sizeable enough following worthy of exploitation—the others haven’t been updated in months—and he's making progress on that front.

    Much like GodVine and Jesus Loves You, Loren's page—2.1 million likes and 745,177 PTAT—is full of inspirational and highly shareable images that contain a link to an outside site littered with Google ads. But that's not all. If his sizeable audience won't go to where the ads are, he'll just bring the spam to them.

    WWJD

    Tabor might not be making a single dollar from Jesus Daily, but it has certainly opened a lot of doors for him to deliver his evangelizing message.

    Over a year ago, Tabor began assisting reality television producer Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey, in the production of The Bible, a 10-part series airing on the History Channel in March. He's also gotten members of collegiate nonprofit Campus Crusade for Christ to help with the page's administration. Tabor hopes to grow his volunteer base from a handful of people to up to 5,000. From the looks of it, Jesus Daily will only continue to grow.

    I asked Tabor if Jesus would use Facebook if he were alive today.

    He laughed. "When he was alive, Jesus would find out where the largest religious discussion were being held in any given city and would speak.

    "He would have absolutely used Facebook."

    Photo via Jesus Daily/Facebook


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    In the eternal quest of the authoritarian dummy to miss the point at every pass, the government of Bahrain has banned the Guy Fawkes mask, which protesters in the Gulf nation often wear to disguise their identity.

    Citing “public safety,” Bahrain has made importation of the “revolution masks” illegal, according to a statement released by the Bahraini Ministry of Industry and Commerce, quoted in Beirut-based Al Akhbar.

    Guy Fawkes masks have been made popular by the hacktivist collective Anonymous, assuming the role of a mascot or symbol for the group. They have proven very popular in Arab Spring protests, where participants have used them to obscure their faces while marching and taking part in other actions. 

    The ruling, signed by Industry and Commerce’s Hassan Bin-Abdallah Fakhro, ruled that it “is prohibited to import the ‘Revolution Mask’ or anything similar to it that conceals the face” and “It is up to the secretary of the Ministry of Trade as well as all who specialize in the kingdom's ports—each with their own jurisdiction—to execute this decision and to do so beginning at the date of its publication and to publish it in official newspapers.”

    Bahrain has been convulsed with Arab Spring protests for two years, much of its public protests taking place in the Pearl Roundabout traffic feature in the capital city of Manama. (The monumental pearl sculpture, honoring the country’s pearl industry, was destroyed and, soon after, the roundabout itself was removed.) 

    The Bahraini government has even imported Saudi Arabian troops to help violently suppress public expressions of dissatisfaction. 

    The Bahraini ruling family, in whom a disproportionate amount of the country’s wealth and power inhere, belongs to the Sunni branch of the Islamic faith while the majority of the population is Shia. Bahrain, like most Gulf countries, imports significant numbers of South Asian workers, whom many believe are accorded second-class status

    All of these issues have boiled up during the protests. 

    The Gulf country has seen arrests (including of doctors who have treated protesters), shootings, renewed censorship, martial law and a state of emergency.

    The mask is based on a 17th-century pro-Catholic English revolutionary who took part in the “Gunpowder Plot” to assassinate the King and restore Catholicism. Although used in the celebrations of “Guy Fawkes Night” in England, it was better known worldwide after the debut of the 2006 film V for Vendetta.

    The neighboring Gulf nation of the United Arab Emirates banned the masks last November. 

    As with all such bans, blocks, and criminalizations, it mistakes the forest for the trees. If banning one material element of a national protest that has taken root in virtually every element of a society could end that protest, there would be no protests. 

    Perhaps by banning the masks, the government officials in Bahrain are just trying to look busy, even as nothing much is done. 

    Photo by Al Jazeera English/Flickr


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    A nine-year-old rapper's salacious YouTube videos led to a child welfare probe in Massachusetts.

    Police in Brockton, Mass., alerted the Department of Children and Families after receiving a call from a concerned resident who spotted Lil Poopy, real name Luie Rivera Jr., in videos containing drug references and sexual themes. Poopy's father is facing an investigation from the department.

    No charges or court orders have been filed as yet. Poopy's father, Luis Rivera, said his son isn't doing anything wrong.

    Lawyer Joseph Krowski, Jr. insisted that a Chapter 51A complaint should only be made where a child is abused or at risk of abuse. He also said the investigation was “ridiculous and offensive and, I would add, racially tinged.”

    Just who is Lil Poopy though, and why is the Department of Children and Families taking an interest?

    The fourth grader has appeared on stage with P. Diddy and is affiliated with French Montana's collective, Coke Boys. When he was eight, he opened a show for Waka Flocka Flame. He's making around $7,500 per performance, according to his dad. Oh, and he raps about selling cocaine.

    Poopy's Twitter feed has more than 5,100 followers, while his Instagram profile also shows candid snaps of his varied lifestyle: playing shows and hanging out with older, more established performers; attending New England Patriots games; and posing with his little sister.

    But it is Poopy's YouTube videos which sparked the investigation.

    A double video of "Coke Boy" and "Coke Ain't A Bad Word," which has more than 17,000 views on YouTube, has drug references even if it does depict Poopy hitting back at critics.

    Another video sees Poopy "performing a hip hop song and emulating hip hop culture which is an art form," according to the description. Said emulation includes a woman being objectified as she washes a car, and Poopy (a nine-year-old kid, remember), spanking another woman's rear.

    While performing with Machine Gun Kelly at a Connecticut club, women bumped and grinded in full view of Poopy.

    Krowski said the videos are not exploitative, suggesting they are merely for entertainment. "It is urban authentic and it’s well done,” he claimed.

    Some who live close to the family in Brockton said Rivera Sr. is a good dad and neighbor, while they often see Poopy playing in the street.

    Rivera claimed his son goes to school and enjoys extracurricular activities like baseball and basketball. For his part, Poopy claimed school comes first, with math and English his favorite subjects. He plans to study either law or medicine when he's a little older.

    Poopy, whose family is originally from Puerto Rico, is bilingual and intends to weave Spanish into his songs. He's also shooting a Mountain Dew commercial.

    While law or medicine might be in his long-term future, it is his rap career which is under close scrutiny.

    UPDATE: YouTube has flagged Lil Poopy's video"Lil Poopy getting it in" with a content warning, saying it "may be inappropriate for some viewers." The video is now age-restricted to viewers 18 and older, meaning Lil Poopy is technically not old enough to watch his own performance.

    Photos via @lilpoopy/Instagram


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    This story was produced by Tumblr Storyboard, Tumblr's in-house editorial arm.

    Kristi Seehafer, first violinist with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, started playing the violin in the fourth grade.The reason she picked up the instrument in the first place was out of grumbling necessity: She had to get her own because her brother wouldn’t let her touch his.

    What began as sibling rivalry gave way to full-blown wonder and then, once she was older, to the discovery of her life’s calling, after she fell under the spell of a performance in her hometown by the Milwaukee Symphony. It was a night she remembers that something clicked, “and I knew I had to play in an orchestra.”

    Her telling of that story is captured in a YouTube video clip. That it’s posted to the orchestra’s Tumblr page is revelatory. Physically, symphony orchestras perform at a considerable distance from their audiences, and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra is no different. Its home is the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which includes a 30,000-square-foot concert hall. Given that size, it’s not an easy task to foster a close bond between performer and listener.

    But the orchestra’s various social media channels represent an attempt to shrink that Nashville space, compressing it so that concertgoers are welcomed into the orchestra’s wheelhouse by coming through the back door. We spoke with principal clarinetist James Zimmerman, one of the keepers of the NSO Tumblr, about how that’s working out so far.

    I think Tumblr is going to be a big part of how orchestras brand themselves going forward. One stigma that orchestras have been battling for decades is the completely false assertion that “classical music is for old people.” It’s true that the older crowd might be more likely to have developed the sophistication needed to fully appreciate what we’re doing, but engaging young people in ways that young people are familiar with is a way we can get them engaged early in their lives.

    What is the day-to-day life of a symphony musician like?

    Generally, an orchestra spends the first half of the week rehearsing and the second half performing. Things can get exciting when there’s a really high-profile guest artist—this year, some of our more exciting names are Yo-Yo Ma and Boyz II Men. Those acts really fill the hall. On our off days, most of us spend time doing other musical things, like playing for recording sessions, teaching, or repairing or dealing instruments.

    There are a lot of headlines about how the orchestra is dying these days. Does this worry you?

    It worries me a little, but I try to turn those worries into motivation to play better. We’re all aware of the challenges certain arts institutions are facing these days. I read those headlines and horror stories, and I wonder what I can do to make things better, and I keep coming back to the same thing: put my best playing forward all the time. I believe that maybe if I play a solo particularly beautifully, somebody in the audience will hear it and want to buy another ticket, or bring a friend, or make a donation, or buy our CDs. We have people in management whose job it is to raise money, market our products, and engage the community — if they succeed in those jobs, and I succeed in my job of bringing the best clarinet playing I can to our audiences, I think we’ll be okay.

    Social media is so fast, staccato almost, while an orchestra is something to be enjoyed over time. It must be interesting to balance that.

    A symphony concert is something that’s a couple hours long, requires sitting still and almost meditating as you have an imaginative journey—in a way, it couldn’t be more different than a quick Tumblr post. Trying to encapsulate our experience in a Tumblr-sized snapshot is fun to do.

    What do symphony members do for fun (other than Tumbl)?

    All kinds of stuff. At one point or another, we all did music purely for the fun of it, not because it was our jobs, and then eventually we made careers out of it. In a sense, when your hobby becomes your job, it’s not your hobby anymore — meaning you have to fill that space with something else. So, in the symphony, we’ve got people who are into all kinds of things. We’ve got a certified yoga instructor, a couple guys that restore cars, a guy who makes beautiful pottery, some sports nuts, marathon runners, a triathlete, and all kinds of other stuff. Our job might be a little unusual, but outside of work, we do lots of “normal” things!


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    For once, a college fraternity is receiving media attention for doing something non-terrible. The frat in question is the Emerson College chapter of Phi Alpha Tau, where sophomore Donnie Collins pledged earlier this year. Collins is female-to-male transgender, and until recently was having difficulty funding his physical transition. When his fraternity brothers discovered that his health insurance didn’t cover the costs of treatment, they were determined to lend their support.

    Collins had been paying for his hormone therapy out of pocket, but could not afford the surgery he required. With a goal of $2,000, his brothers at Phi Alpha Tau set up an Indiegogo campaign, which was quickly picked up by several majorLGBT rightssites. With 40 days left until the Indiegogo deadline, the campaign has already raised over six times more than they originally hoped for, leading the brothers to up their goal to the full price of surgery: $8,100.

    Since then, Collins himself has posted a video thanking his friends and fraternity brothers—a message from the other side of the It Gets Better campaign, if you will.

    As well as being heartwarmingly supportive of their brother, the members of Phi Alpha Tau are using their Indiegogo page as a platform to raise awareness about the difficulties transgender people face when trying to receive medical treatment. As they put it in their introductory video:

    “We are here less to raise money, and more to tell a story. The story of transformation, and story of self-discovery, and the story of brotherhood.”

    Because many health insurance providers classify hormone therapy and surgeries for transgender people as nonessential treatments, Collins is far from the first person to have to deal with this problem. With the Phi Alpha Tau brothers now discussing what to do with the excess money once the Indiegogo contribution period is over, it seems that their campaign has been more successful than they ever thought possible. 

    Photo via Brothers of Phi Alpha Tau


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    It’s untraceable, unregulated, and can now be used to order a Domino’s Pizza.

    Once only whispered about and exchanged in the dark corners of the Internet, Bitcoin has been touted as a boon to Internet anonymity, the salvation of online gambling in the U.S., and—having recently ballooned in value to $30 per Bitcoin—a solid investment.

    It has also been decried as an enabler of the illegal drug trade, a funding mechanism for terrorists, and an unreliable, hacking-prone place to keep your money.

    But what is Bitcoin, and how can you get your virtual hands on some of it? More importantly, why would you want to?

    The basics

    Bitcoin is an online currency. That’s not to suggest that it’s a kind of IOU bridging the Internet gap between sender and receiver. Rather, Bitcoin is a self-contained currency system.

    It is an open-source, digitally primary currency without a central bank or other regulatory or issuing authority. Strictly peer-to-peer, it is generated by a software of the same name, and according to the main site for the currency, “managing transactions and issuing money are carried out collectively by the network.”

    “Bitcoin,” according to the site, “is one of the first implementations of a concept called crypto-currency, which was first described in 1998 by Wei Dai on the cypherpunks mailing list. Building upon the notion that money is any object, or any sort of record, accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given country or socio-economic context, Bitcoin is designed around the idea of using cryptography to control the creation and transfer of money, rather than relying on central authorities.”

    Bitcoin was created in 2009 by a developer (or developers) using the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” and was first outlined on a cryptographic email list. Nakamoto divided each Bitcoin into 100 million “satoshis” and put a limit of 21 million Bitcoins on the currency, with more and more released into the economic ecosystem until about the year 2140. (This is done by a process called “Bitcoin mining.”)

    Bitcoin was not the first digital currency. But its innovation, a functional “block chain” on double-spending, was key. That is, the Bitcoin network, operational now for about three and a half years, has a built-in feature that makes virtual currency act like a physical object. With the block chain, you can’t just copy the Bitcoin and have two Bitcoins.

    A currency “ledger” and controlled currency release are distributed across the peer-to-peer network and keep the currency from degrading. In part, this artificial control maintains the currency’s value.

    Bitcoin relies on no central institution, like a bank, and has what is true nonreversibility—with no mediating institution to reverse a transaction, what is paid stays paid. Any fees are small and issued by Bitcoin exchanges, the largest of which is Mt. Gox.

    Several companies have also begun issuing physical coins and bills based on the Bitcoin currency, but most of the transactions are conducted through computers.

    How to use it (and what you can use it for)

    The first step you have to take to use Bitcoins is to buy some.

    Mt. Gox is the biggest Bitcoin exchange (but not the only one). You can start there. You sign up for an account and, as the copy on the page says, “[t]he price you buy or sell bitcoins for is up to you. If there is no one that will currently accept your offer then your offer will be saved and the trade will happen once someone comes along and accepts your offer.”

    At last glance, Mt. Gox listed the current average exchange rate as $30.85899 for one Bitcoin. (For six months after its launch, Wired notes, it never rose above $0.14. It is currently experiencing a second bubble.) That gives the current available Bitcoin currency a worth of over $275 million.

    Once signed up, you are equipped with a Mt. Gox user number, and your purchases and sales are attached to that number.

    To download your Bitcoins, you will probably want to first download a Bitcoin client, which acts as a kind of electronic wallet. Wallets are protected with passwords and hold and manage Bitcoins’ encryptions. You can host them on your computer or use a cloud-based service. The computer-hosted version takes longer to validate a transaction, but it may arguably be more secure.

    Now that you’ve got your Bitcoins, how do you spend them? And where?

    The how is fairly simple. You use your electronic wallet, the Bitcoin client mentioned above, to send payments, as well as to accept the currency. An electronic wallet will take your payment instructions and move the Bitcoins (they’re nothing more than a series of numbers), sending them down the transom to the recipient, who takes them into his or her wallet.

    Because clients or wallets are created by others, the chance of getting bilked is there. Like any other financial transaction, it is important to use a client with a good reputation both for ethical action and for security.

    As for the where, the Bitcoin economy is still pretty tautological, if this list is any indication. You can buy lots and lots of Bitcoin stuff. You can gamble for more Bitcoins, you can get “Bitcoin promotional goods,” and there are a number of services, like “Bitbrew,” where you can buy coffee or food. If you want to engage in a kind of shadow economy based on Bitcoins, then, it’s there in living color.

    Most people are probably going to have their buying patterns relatively established. They’re probably going to want to buy pizza, coffee, and even online storage. That is becoming easier, but it is not yet easy.

    Most towns above a certain size have some business or other, maybe a scattering of them, that will accept the currency. But it is still rare and there does not seem to be a clearinghouse online that lists local businesses that accept them, except for Bit Navigator’s map mashup. Searching for “New York City,” “local businesses,” and “Bitcoins” on a search engine might get you a few results. Replacing “New York City” with “Eugene” or “San Antonio” or “Burlington” will not.

    Why you would—and possibly shouldn’t—use it

    Bitcoin provides a way to skirt financial fees, which have become more extravagant even as banks have lurched from crisis to crisis (and then to record profits). Using a currency that does not have its reigns clutched and hauled on by the same bankers—whose primary job seems to many to consist of figuring out novel and confusing ways to bankrupt their clients—is obviously appealing.

    But the privacy element seems to be the most compelling to many Bitcoin enthusiasts. You can anonymously pay for a multitude of goods and services without governments and corporate data miners looking over your shoulders.

    However, with that privacy come people whose interest in it derives from practical concerns attached to illegal activities, not from cypherpunk philosophy.

    Bitcoin has become popular with drug dealers, including those attached to the Silk Road, a website that enables the sale of heroin and other drugs. Some law enforcement agencies fear the use of Bitcoin by criminals and even terrorists has the potential to dramatically increase.

    Additionally, a number of hackers have stolen Bitcoins from people’s computers and more. One incident crashed the Mt. Gox exchange, albeit temporarily, and a Poland-based exchange succeeded in overwriting its entire store of Bitcoins, which are, remember, nothing more than strings of numbers, though admittedly very complex ones.

    Because all exchanges are public, although anonymized, the information for every transaction is available and those who seek to follow that trail—intelligence agencies, for instance—could find the challenge of cracking it worthwhile. For this reason, some Bitcoin users spread their transactions across multiple wallets, making them theoretically harder to trace.

    Even within the legitimate use of Bitcoins, some have taken mining to an extreme, attempting to use processing power to find and collect more of the currency than they were designed to find in the normal use of the system. And with any popular “revolutionary” or “game-changing” technology or other cultural product, making money breaks down barriers. Already, a bank for Bitcoins and a Bitcoin-based debit card are both in the works.

    Bitcoins have experienced a bubble before, increasing in value by hundreds of percent and inspiring a kind of digital gold rush. By 2011 that bubble burst, but another has begun to build, more slowly this time, and it’s attracting attention again, both legitimate and unhealthy.

    Indicted file-sharing magnate Kim Dotcom is accepting Bitcoin for his new site, Mega. You can tip strippers on social news site Reddit with them. But you can also support the Internet Archive by donating them—some of site’s staffers even asked to be paid partially in Bitcoin.

    Anyone desiring to adopt Bitcoin due to its absolute privacy, complete disconnection from problematic financial systems and total safety should take care. Absolute, complete, and totally safe transactions may exist somewhere—but not on the Internet.

    Photos via Bit Navigator and Zach Cohen


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    Friendster was on the brink of leading a social media revolution in 2002. Three months after launching, the grandaddy of social networks had 3 million users. Myspace and Facebook didn't even exist yet. Then something went very, very wrong. One by one, users fled.

    By 2009, Friendster was effectively dead. What killed it?

    A group of Swiss researchers think they know. They've undertaken a digital autopsy and in turn created mathematical model to describe how social networks decay. They call the work a piece of "Internet Archeology" because "we analyze[d] written traces of a disappeared society, aiming at understanding the way it worked and the reasons for its demise."

    Their archaeological expedition uncovered two factors that play off one another to accelerate a social network's death.

    The first is what they call the "k-core." The researchers found that you'll be more likely to dump the network if you have a few friends and they start leaving. If you've got a few hundred friends, you might not even notice when just one ditches. But if you've got one connection, and he leaves, you've got no incentive to stick around.

    The research suggests that the ratio of users with just a few friends to those with many is a key indicator of a social network's health—that's what they call k-core. When that ratio gets high, watch out. A user exodus (or "cascade" as the researchers call it) is nigh. In graph form it looks something like this:

    Of course, that's not the only factor. Something has to motivate early quitters to jump ship in the first place. The researchers suggest this has something to do with declining cost-benefit rewards. Put simply, when the cost of using a social network—which is basically just time and energy—outweigh the benefits, people start leaving.

    If you combine a growing cost-benefit problem—like various unsuccessful Friendster redesigns—with a high number of users with a small number of friends, you're ready for a catastrophe.

    Anecdotally, you can take those two concepts and apply them to Facebook. The site seems to be buoyed by its ubiquity—not only is everyone on Facebook, most people have hundreds of friends. But at the same time, the site is ratcheting up the "cost" to users ever so slowly, with unpopular redesigns, privacy intrusions, creepy advertisements, and money grubbing schemes that add friction to the everyday user experience.

    Is Friendster's past Facebook future?

    Friendster, which refused a $30 million offer from Google in 2003, was acquired by southeast Asian Internet conglomerate MOL Global in 2009. Now it's just a platform for online games.

    You can view the full paper here.

    Photo by LIz Henry/Flickr

     


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    To understand what just happened to noted sex educator Violet Blue at Security BSides San Francisco, you have to pose this question: Are hackers well-meaning partiers or potential date rapists?


    Violet Blue. Photo by Scott Beale

    Blue, an outspoken geek journalist and published author, believes education encourages safe behavior when it comes to drugs, alcohol, and sexual practices. Hackers' social behavior and outsider status puts them at risk for unsafe sex and drug use—especially at conventions like Security BSides, a noted hacker community with conferences across North America. 

    But the Ada Initiative, an organization for women in tech and geek communities, was afraid that even talking about sex at a hacker con might make the con uncomfortable for women—and worse, that some hackers in the audience might be attending Blue's panel to learn how to use drugs—specifically, date rape drugs. 

    Blue's BSides talk had a hackerspeak title: "sex +/- drugs: known vulns and exploits." Blue designed the talk to go "underground" and educate partiers who might be at risk of dangerous behaviors while at the con. But the conference organizers agreed with the Ada Initiative that the topic could be dangerous, and yanked Blue's talk from the conference program at the last minute.

    Blue has given her talk on harm reduction in the hacker community before, as she explained early this morning when she posted about the cancellation. BSides hosted Blue's talk at Las Vegas last year.  But when the talk summary went up on the website for the San Francisco conference, it raised a number of red flags. Here's part of the description:

    In this underground talk, Violet Blue shares what sex-positive doctors, nurses, MFT’s, clinic workers and crisis counselors have learned and compiled about the interactions of drugs and sex from over three decades of unofficial curriculum for use in peer-to-peer (and emergency) counseling. Whether you’re curious about the effects of caffeine or street drugs on sex, or are the kind of person that keeps your fuzzy handcuffs next to a copy of The Pocket Pharmacopeia, this overview will help you engineer your sex life in our chemical soaked world. Or, it’ll at least give you great party conversation fodder.

    Blue wrote that shortly before the talk, she was approached by conference organizers and questioned about whether her talk contained "any rape" or information about "how to use" date rape drugs. Blue stated that her talk explained the "actions" of date rape drugs, but did not specify in her post whether her talk would cover specific uses. 

    Ada Initiative cofounder Valerie Aurora approached conference organizer @verbal about the contents of Blue's panel. @verbal stated on the BSides website only that it was the "inappropriate and alienating nature of @violetblue's talk" that prompted the cancellation.


    Photo by ario

    The Ada Initiative is not alone in their concern about making conference space safe for women. Most hacker cons are dominated by men, and most hacker communities fall within an extremely sexist, bigotedsystem of geek and coding cultures. Women in these same spaces routinely face extreme examples of sexist behavior, and geek conventions in particular are notorious for enabling and encouragingunsafeenvironmentsfor women, inappropriate behaviors, unwanted sexual advances, physical assaults, and unreported rapes. The problems of sexual harassment are so prevalent that geeks have started pushing cons to create anti-harassment policies

    The Ada Initiative explained on Tuesday that Blue's talk was "off-topic" for the conference, and that they were against any and all sexual topics not explicitly related to the conference because of the potential such discussion had to trigger rape and assault survivors. They argued that "[di]scussing sex creates a 'sexualized environment' which many people take as a signal to treat women as sexual objects rather than as fellow conference attendees, resulting in a higher incidence of harassment and assault of women."

    Blue lashed out in response, claiming that the Ada Initiative had "targeted" her and that their efforts had only hurt the cause of women in geek culture:

    These women have effectively used the subjects of rape and sexual harassment to make anyone who would question them feel uncomfortable. ... These women are not furthering the case for women in tech, and they are not making the community a better place by finding solutions for the entire community, and they are not challenging harmful behaviors by shutting down any conversation that they do not like.

    Hackers who wanted to hear Blue's talk are in luck—the version of the talk which she presented at 29c3 is available on YouTube—hopefully without date rape instructions.

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    When it comes to Wikipedia, educators are mighty hypocrites, according to a new Pew research study

    The researchers surveyed 2,462 middle and high school teachers to learn how they're using new technologies in the classrooms. By and large, the teachers had a fairly dismissive attitude toward research conducted on the Internet: 76 percent "strongly agree" that search engines have conditioned kids to believe research should be quick and easy and that they "equate research with Googling."

    Meanwhile, 60 percent also agree that "today’s digital technologies make it harder for students to find and use credible sources of information”

    That hand-wringing over digital technologies hasn't stopped teachers from using Wikipedia—a lot. The Pew study found that rates of Wikipedia usage among teachers was actually much higher than among the population at large: 87 percent versus 53 percent. And 99 percent said they used search engines.

    And who wouldn't? Search engines do make some research quick and easy. In fact, by taking the chore out of mundane queries, sites like Google and Wikipedia create a lot more opportunities for truly in-depth research, both online and off.

    Teachers should stop worrying about the fact that kids use the Internet for research, and instead just teach them how to use it well.

    Photo by msrsdkrebs/Flickr


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    Suffering from a traumatic breakup and need a rebound to console yourself? There's an app for that.

    On The Rebound, a newly released Web app that syncs with your Facebook account, scours your friends to find the most vulnerable and weakened friends who are single and ready to mingle. It uses purely scientific data distilled from the social networking site to see which of your friends recently broke up and are "primed for a hookup."

    Sleeker than its crass-sounding competitor Bang with Friends, the attractively designed site follows a similar methodology. After you log in to the site via Facebook, it trawls through your account, scoping out your friends' past relationship statuses, then serves up a list of so-called friends who probably want to sleep with you.

    Notably, it creates a list for both sexes, if you need to double your dating pool, and it also promises not to reveal any information on your wall —since that would be super embarrassing.

    After the lists are assembled, there's a "rebound rating" from 0 to 100, where all that #science is used. The app also offers stats like your friends' average time in a relationship and the time since they were last in one. Advice is also dished out in another box, offering guidance about whether the person is ready to be poached.

    And the results are... varied. Since we would never, ever want to date one of our friends, we asked @YourAwayMessage creator Caroline Moss to test the app for us. She said it found her a gay guy, her science partner from ninth grade, a dude from her hometown that is now sitting in jail, and her cousin.

    "I think it's less of a gateway app for dating," said Moss via Gchat. "And more of a way to scratch your head at whatever algorithm that determines who on Facebook can be defined as 'looking for love.'"

    That's a thought On the Rebound creator Anthony Coombs echoes. In an email to the Daily Dot, he said the site was created to be entertaining and tongue-in-cheek. But, he said, that's not to stop you from taking the site seriously since it's backed by data from Facebook's Graph Search and research.

    "We spent about three months researching and interviewing relationship experts from across the country and Canada to get an understanding as to how age, gender, sexual preference, timing in relationships, and duration of past relationships affect a person's willingness or timing to enter into a new relationship," wrote Coombs.

    Stating that the results served to users are "accurate," Coombs said the site's usage of Facebook data should be of interest.

    "We created a clever little way to extract data long since thought gone and use it in a way no one ever thought," he said.

    As for Moss, well she's never, ever getting back together with On the Rebound. "I don't think i'd ever use it as a way to 'get ideas' about who i should be dating," she reasoned.

    Photo via therealstassi/Instagram


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    Your phone and email address just gave away your bachelor party plans.

    If you have an iPhone, you're including a lot of friends. If you set up travel reservations with a work email, you're going far. And if you use an AOL account, you're the most likely to be going to a strip club. Those are some of the takeaways from some new data released by LeisureStats.com.

    The English website, run by Chillisauce.co.uk, bills itself as “your new source for the latest data and trends in the leisure industry, giving unique insights into the habits of modern consumers.” Chillisauce is an event planning agency that specializes in “stag parties” (what the British call bachelor parties), and it's analyzing the information of 97,000 customers to find trends.

    For example, a quarter of Chillisauce's customers that use an AOL email address go to strip clubs. And Yahoo users aren't that far behind. Among customers who booked their parties through a work email, one in five wound up at a strip club.

    However, it was far more likely to be further away from home. Those using a work email are traveling an average of 1,400 miles for their party. Gmail users are staying closer to home, traveling less than 400 miles (but keep in mind: 400 miles from the U.K. covers a lot of ground).

     

    And what does the device you use say about the people you're with? If you have an iPhone, it's likely you're traveling with a party of 15 or more. Nexus? You're probably rolling with five close friends.

    The data even analyzes what type of activity customers booked versus what Internet browser they used. Google Chrome users were predominantly into motor sports, whereas bookers on Firefox were more likely to enjoy a game of pool. Folks on Safari? They're going to enjoy white water rafting or jet skiing.

    For more details from the study, check out the website.

    Photo via LeisureStats.com


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    The street swindler Honey Boo Boo can do anything she wants in this world, except use the Internet to sell people boxes of Thin Mints. 

    The 6-year-old sensation (real name Alana Thompson) saw her Girl Scout cookie empire crumble under the all-enforcing arm of the Girl Scouts of the USA organization this week. 

    The way TMZ tells it, the brass within the nationwide cookie committee had a problem with the way Honey Boo Boo was going about her sales.

    That's because the uncommonly popular TLC reality star and Internet whiz kid—who says she's selling Girl Scouts cookies for a friend—has gone about selling said Samoas and Savannah Smiles via her 703,000-strong Facebook fan page.

    It's a much larger audience than the one the girl standing outside the CVS usually gets. 

    GSUSA apparently did not like the tactic. A representative told TMZ that the practice of online cookie-selling "defeats the whole purpose of selling the cookies," which is apparently a vehicle for meeting people, learning to run a business, and poking and prodding and being annoying about the way that people spend their money. 

    Honey Boo Boo had been selling packs of Girl Scouts cookies for $3.50 plus shipping each. According to a Facebook post, the girl or one of her sisters would autograph each box and also include an autographed photo of the family.

    Word has it that Honey Boo Boo gets to keep the money made off the sales she'd already orchestrated online—or her friends gets to keep the cash, whatever. Here's guessing we won't see her peddling Peanut Butter Patties outside your local supermarket any time soon.

    Photo viaAlana Thompson (Honey Boo Boo) Facebook


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    TableTop, Geek & Sundry's popular board game instructional review series starring Wil Wheaton, is taking its act on the road.

    Felicia Day has announced that in order to thank fans for their support of the show, her network is organizing the first annual International TableTop Day. On March 30, fans from all over the world will flock to their local game shops, host events in their own spaces, and celebrate the fun of board games. Fans can sign up for local events at TableTopDay.com, or create a TableTop event of their own. Follow the hashtag #TableTopDay to keep track of developments. Here's Day's announcement:

    From puzzles to chess to recent classics like Scrabble, Clue, Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit, tabletop games have never gone out of style; but over the decades, pop culture has spawned ever more inventive takes on the genre. Roleplay games like Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: the Gathering have typified fantasy and worldbuilding elements that now show up in epic strategy games like Civilization, Dominion, and Settlers of Catan. Video games like Dragon Age, and TV shows like Game of Thrones have developed board game equivalents. Expansion packs can be found for everything from Arkham to Carcassonne. And then there are card games and hybrids like Fluxx, Munchkin, and the John Green-inspired Evil Baby Orphanage.

    Now, TableTop Day will hopefully do for tabletop games what Free Comic Book Day has done for comics and graphic novels, and promote games while (re)-introducing them to even more of the mainstream public. Sponsors of TableTop Day include Steve Jackson, creator of many series including Munchkin and Ogre, and Wizards of the Coast (which owns both Magic and D&D). These along with many other major game publishers will be offering free promotional items and games to participating gaming stores, including special preview editions of unreleased games. “In the 20 years I’ve been in the game industry, nothing has moved the needle the way TableTop has,” John Zinser, president of Alderac Entertainment Group, stated in a Geek & Sundry press release.

    Photo via John Nephew/Twitter

    Famed actor and blogger Wil Wheaton created TableTop for Geek & Sundry, a move that went a long way to powering the geek culture network after Day made the controversial decision to launch her own network and relocate her hit series The Guild. In TableTop, Wheaton joins a rotating cast of famous geeks and friends in illustrating how to play games both old and new:

    The TableTop Day website hints at new games in store for TableTop fans: "If you look closely [at Day's announcement video], there are some new games on the wall behind her. Could this mean a deal for a second season of TableTop has been reached?" Given its popularity—the show routinely gets upwards of 300,000 views on YouTube—all signs point to yes. But while you're looking forward to more TableTop, you and your friends can experience the real thing at a game shop near you.

    Screengrab via Geek and Sundry/YouTube


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    At sundown today, the fourth annual National Day of Unplugging begins.

    Started in 2010, the holiday encourages people to take a break from technology by turning off all of their devices for a period of 24 hours.

    "We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and Blackberry's [sic]," the event’s  about us page says, "chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of 'silence' that our earphones create."

    The purpose of the unplugging is to encourage people to "start living a different life." What does this entail? "[Connecting] with the people in your street, neighborhood and city, [having] an uninterrupted meal or [reading] a book to your child."

    The National Day of Unplugging is an offshoot of The Sabbath Manifesto, a "creative project" started by the Jewish, New York-based non-profit Reboot that aims "to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world." One accomplishes this by following a 10-item list that instructs people to do things like avoiding commerce, lighting candles, connecting with love ones, drinking wine, and eating bread. Essentially, its asking people to observe Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest.

    Interestingly enough, Reboot is asking those participating in this year's National Day of Unplugging to share a picture of themselves holding a sign that details what they'll do instead of being on their phones or computers on various social media platforms, the very same platforms they're encouraging people to step away from.

    Like most things on the Internet, The National Day of Unplugging is not without its detractors. Caleb Garling of SFGate notes in a blog post that holidays such as these don't actually do much good, because they're not establishing a habit.

    "Asking everyone to take a day to unplug to bring balance back into our lives is like having a National Go For A Jog Day to get everyone back into shape," Garling argues. "Everyone's better off if we get everyone into a jogging routine, or a daily awareness to disengage from the wires."

    "The goal is not how to tune out for 24 hours once a year, but how to tune out for 24 minutes once a day, or 24 times for one minute every day (or, hopefully, much more than that).”

    Tanya Shevitz, Communications Coordinator for Reboot, did not return a request for comment.

    Photo via Jeramey Jannene/Flickr


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    For the first time since the recession, Goldman Sach's gaudy and self-congratulatory partner dinner has returned—fresh off reporting $2.9 billion in quarterly profits. Usually restricted to a few hundred friends and family of Goldman staff, this year's event was accidentally photographed for the world to see, thanks to one Instagram user with a penchant for hashtags.

    "The Goldman Sachs Ball last night! It was like attending the Golden Globes of investment banking!" squealed Instagram user Shannon Kelly in one of the captions to her photos, which she helpfully sorted with tags like "#goldmansachs #ball #2013."

    Perhaps thanks to that rather explicit trail, New York magazine reporter Kevin Roose was able to dig up the photos and published them in a story earlier today. Kelly also geotagged the photos—the party was at Pier 36, a swanky event spot on the lower east side that one Yelp reviewer described as "huge" (though with the caveat that the "bathroom situation is a JOKE").  Kelly has since turned her account private.

    Not everyone was as pleased with the event as Kelly. From Roose's piece:

    "It simply wasn’t appropriate," said one former Goldman partner, adding that outsiders "might have found it offensive to have a lavish party while lots of people were having their houses repossessed."

    But, hey, it looked great on Instagram, guys.

    Photos via New York magazine


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    Getting out of bed can be a Herculean task for a lot of people. Some folks, i.e. us, set up multiple alarm clocks just to tear themselves out of bed.

    Zach Curd, a musician living in Livonia, Mich., takes the cake for most ridiculous way to wake up. Curd asked his wife Erin to wake him up every morning by slapping him for 15 consecutive days.

    All 15 brutal wake up calls were recorded by Erin and edited into a hilarious 1:45 video. Even better, said footage was uploaded to YouTube, much to everyone's delight.

    Our favorite moment is Day 11, when Erin discovers a nifty little trick that causes her husband to position himself perfectly for a good slap.

    This YouTube gem is actually a year and a half old, but it only gained traction online Fridaywhen it was submitted to the Reddit subsection r/videos by user moviehousearcade, who claims to be friends with Curd.

    The video has elicited 1642 comments, making it to Reddit's front page. Since it landed on the popular social news site, the clip has jumped from 3,000 views to more than 40,000.

    Photo via Zach Curd/YouTube


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    When Tumblr staffer Mackenzie Kosut saw a Facebook post a week ago about an old blind Pomeranian slated for euthanization, he got sad and inspired.

    The engineer hopped on the Tumblr blog for his pet Tommy Pom, a fellow Pomeranian, and shared the dog’s story with his more than 100,000 followers. Within 30 minutes, Kosut's blog post had collected more than 1,000 notes, Tumblr's internal mechanism for measuring likes, comments, and reblogs.

    Within an hour, the old dog was adopted.

    That's the power of Tommy Pom, Tumblr's unofficial mascot and top pooch.

    "It's cool that with his audience, he's helping out other dogs," Mackenzie told the Daily Dot during a visit to Tumblr's New York headquarters.

    Since Kosut started bringing Tommy to the offices about six months ago, the 11-year-old dog has become one of Tumblr's most recognizable personalities, after founder David Karp and longtime staffer Chris "topherchris" Price. Tommy has been listed as one of HelloGiggles’ Kick-Ass Things From 2012, featured on Animal Planet, and named the guest of honor at the launch party for Tiffany and Co.'s official Tumblr blog.

    "I think he takes over that one niche that he was missing, that cute animal representing the company," Kosut said. "He's also one of the editors for the animals tag."

    Kosut adopted Tommy about five years ago. He found the dog when he searched "cutest Pomeranian for adoption in New York City" on Google, and stumbled upon Pomerama.com, a site filled with cheesy midi music, images of Pomeranians flying through space, and a listing of dogs for sale in New Jersey. When he saw Tommy, Kosut knew he "had to have him."

    Now Tommy travels into work every day in Kosut’s backpack. When he's not being pampered by any number of Tumblr's 164 employees, Tommy relaxes in Karp's office. Tommy is also Tumblr's favorite prop for its interview series on Storyboard, the site’s editorial homepage. Tommy has sat on the lap of rapper Macklemore and tried to dance with Jason Mewes of Jay and Silent Bob.

    "Tommy got annoyed at it and tried to take a bite of out Jason," Kosut said.

    GIFs by Mr. GIF


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    There's only one way to see Tumblr's top dog Tommy Pom lick peanut butter off its owner face and watch blogger extraordinaire Shane "LaughingAtMyNightmare" Burcaw make his first professional GIF.

    That's on a GIF-filled road trip from New York to Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest with Mr. GIF, Tumblr's premier animation duo.

    Day 2 of our trip started at Tumblr's New York headquarters where we met with engineer Mackenzie Kosut and his pooch Tommy Pom for the photoshoot to end all photoshoots. Kosut has owned Tommy for more than five years. In that time, the 11-year-old Pomeranian has collected more than 100,000 Tumblr followers and become the company's unofficial mascot.

    "I think he takes over that one niche that he was missing, that cute animal representing the company," Kosut told the Daily Dot.

    After filling our cute quota with Tommy, we filled our stomachs with some delicious grub from the renowned Hop Kee, a Cantonese restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. As we dined on pork chop Peking-style and pan fried flounder, photos of famous customers like  Bill Cosby, chef Anthony Bourdain, and Conan O'Brien looked down over us.

    That night, we crashed at the childhood home of Mr. GIF artist Mark Portillo in Lodi, N.J.. But that's after the other half of Mr. GIF, Jimmy Repeat, crashed our recreational vehicle into the neighbor’s tree... twice.

    The next morning, we left for the home of Shane Burcaw in Bethlehem, Penn.

    In just two short years, Burcaw has become a prolific Tumblr blogger who has harnessed his more than 255,000 followers to start a non-profit organization for muscular dystrophy, the same disease he suffers from. We chatted with Burcaw, who blogs as "laughingatmynightmare," about everything from his upcoming 21st birthday to a speaking tour he has planned this summer. We also found out Burcaw has been teaching himself how to GIF.

    "The reason why I love making GIFs is because it allows me to make people laugh in a short period of time," Burcaw said. "GIFs have given me the opportuning to take a random impulse in my head and put it out there for the world."

    The following GIF is one Burcaw and Mr. GIF made together at his home.

    Here are our other GIFs from the road:

    All GIFs by Mr. GIF


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