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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Online dating is a tricky business, until you do the math.

    That's what Amy Webb, a former journalist and the CEO of Webbmedia Group, a digital strategy agency, found out after she turned dating sites into databases to find her perfect match.

    Webb joined multiple dating sites at age 30 after getting out of a long-term relationship, and she took the usual advice to play the field until she found the one. She went out with a number of men, but no matter how many dates she went on, she still felt that going out with everyone who messaged her on a dating site wasn't an effective way to meet somebody.

    After several months of romantic roulette—and a particularly bad date with a man who revealed that he was still married—she just about had it.

    "It seemed as though I wasn't landing on the right person no matter what I did," Webb recalled. "And the more I thought about online dating and the way the sites are set up and because of what I know [with digital strategy], it seemed to me that the algorithms they had worked totally fine, but they're collecting the wrong data."

    The night after that terrible date, Webb made a comprehensive "Mary Poppins" list of 72 things she wanted in a man and scored them so that she could use it as a basis for rating future dates. She then made 10 male profiles on JDate using different archetypes and spent a month studying how the most popular women on dating sites described and presented themselves on their profile pages; she didn't "catfish" anyone, she clarified, and only used the profiles to collect data.

    By the end of the month, Webb had plenty of intel. She knew what words would pop out of a profile, which photos did well, and what made a profile rise to the top of the queue.

    Simply put, when it comes to online dating, you're the product, and you aren't spending enough time perfecting your pitch.

    "One of the biggest mistakes [that people are making] is that they're not treating their dating profile as a space for product marketing," Webb added. "When a lot of people create LinkedIn profiles, they take a lot of time and care in how they describe what they do. Often when people create dating profiles, they don't take that same care."

    Like a résumé or a LinkedIn page, it's all about how you present yourself and knowing your key audience on whichever dating site you use; Webb used Match.com and JDate, but she says the website doesn't matter as long as there is a good possibility of finding a person who fits your list.

    Webb originally used part of her résumé for her profile, but she noticed that the language you used to describe yourself was a big part of the algorithm.

    "It's very hard for people, myself included, to be totally objective online when you're describing yourself—or even in-person," Webb noted.

    Instead of using sarcasm that might come across better in a conversation between friends, she recommends optimistic and generic language, which the system tends to favor. Webb also found that the ideal profile was a lot shorter than one she had created by copying her résumé, roughly 100 words.

    Webb used the data to create a super profile with the information she obtained. In just one week she had the most popular profile on the site. Two months later, she met Brian, the man she would later marry—an experience that she recounts in her new book Data, A Love Story.

    More people are using dating sites than ever before. A University of Rochester study found that online dating was the second most common way for couples to meet, and over 25 million unique users used online dating every month. Since dating sites now span the entire country, Webb believes that the stigma against online dating is fading.

    "There's no reason to feel hesitant or shy about online dating as long as you have good expectations going in, you know what you're looking for, and you're using good common sense," she said.

    Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III


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    Is Facebook the new Kickstarter for babies? For a Louisiana couple, it sure is.

    On the waitlist for adopting a baby for months, Jake and Jessica Hance were given a few days’ notice that a child's birth mother was going into labor and they were eligible for the child. The soon-to-be parents were ecstatic, until they realized how much the agency was charging them for the kid: $33,000.

    So, they turned to Facebook for donations.

    The Lake Charles residents started a group that collected more than 500 likes. Culled from donations through generous friends and strangers, they hit their goal in just three days.

    "We thought why don't we build a Facebook page?" asked Jessica, titling it "Help Jake and Jessica Adopt."

    After years of emptying their wallets on doctor visits and fertility treatments, the Hances told KPLC-TV they turned to adoption in an effort to attain their dream of being parents. They began the adoption process more than two years ago, and were beginning to feel frustrated by the long wait.

    They finally heard from the agency last week after the birth mother of their new baby rejected all other candidates.

    "There's no other explanation for it, but God's hands are totally on this," said Jake. "A few days ago, we were ready to throw in the towel and a few days later, God met the need."

    On Sunday night, the couple returned to their Lake Charles home with a little girl named Eliana and thanked their friends on the Facebook group.

    Now, who wants to chip in for diapers and clothes?

    Photo via Help Jake and Jessica Adopt/Facebook


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    A troll who spread misleading and potentially dangerous information as Superstorm Sandy nailed the East Coast has returned to Twitter.

    During the storm, Shashank Tripathi erroneously told his Twitter followers that the New York Stock Exchange trading floor was underwater, reported the Coney Island Hospital was ablaze, suspected riots were imminent, and claimed Con Edison would preemptively shut off electricity as a pre-surge precaution.

    The fake news was widely spread as his followers, including members of the media, picked up on it.

    Tripathi quit his post as campaign manager for Republican Congressional candidate Christopher R. Wight once the sheen of anonymity was ripped away, and stopped using his pseudonymous Twitter account @ComfortablySmug as well.

    That is, until this weekend, when he hopped back onto the social network.

    Here's how Tripathi's triumphant return to Twitter played out. As you can see, he was definitely up to no good:

    There was a party.

    The party was at a place where people like sriracha.

    He revelled in the needs of others.

    And slapped down someone either pointing out a fact or trying to be helpful.

    On Sunday morning, what else would Tripathi do but Instagram his pulled pork pancakes?

    Later, we learned Tripathi appreciates Sufjan Stevens:

    Welcome back, Shashank! 

    Photo by cdsessums/Flickr

     


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    What on Facebook tends to really flip your lid? Is it the wedding photos, the Foodstagrams, the naked baby pictures?

    Be it those or any other of their annoying and off-putting ilk, Google Chrome now has an an app for that—or rather an extension: the decidedly lackadaisical Unwhatever.me, a new tool that will replace pesky photos of whatever—weddings, vacations, smelly dogs—with, well, whatever.

    That's right: whatever. The extension's entire purpose is to replace whatever bothers you with whatever soothes you. Babies to boobies. Cats to cash. You name it, this extension's got it—or at least the capacity to get it.

    Unwhatever.me comes to the world at the hands of New York innovators Chris Baker, Peter Marquis, and Yvonne Cheng, who first showed up in the news last August when their Unbaby.me went wild around the Internet for a few weeks. More than 50,000 people downloaded the baby-erasing extension back then, Baker told the Daily Dot Monday.

    "We had over 287 domestic TV mentions and did at least 40 interviews," he said.

    He added that the criteria this round was determined by taking copious notes on all the things about Facebook that pissed him off.

    "The behavior of wanting to shove your pictures down people's throats is as old as time itself–it's just now we're all connected and have to deal with certain things on a near constant basis," he said. "For most people, having a kid is their greatest accomplishment in life. We get it."

    Thanks to Unwhatever.me, you don't have to "get it" in your newsfeed anymore.

    Not that it's entirely foolproof. The extension uses replacement photos that derive from collections belonging to specific Instagram tags. That's a practice that's only as good as the general public's strict adherence to the tag in question. So if a spammer is overloading the #puppydog tag with a whole bunch of #kittycats, your feed will probably stay pretty messed up.

    Which means we'll have to turn to our last resort: Uneverything.me, the soon-to-be-released extension that just tells us all to go outside.

    Photo via asparagam/Instagram


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    A teenage girl received Twitter death threats from fans of pop star Justin Bieber after she posted a seemingly innocuous tweet about the singer.

    On Feb. 3, Courtney Barrasford tweeted, "Not a really a fan of Justin Bieber but his acoustic album is actually good!"

    Like most anti-Bieber sentiment posted to Twitter, the tweet would have quickly been buried under Twitter's daily assortment of Instagrammed lunches and hashtags—had Bieber himself not retweeted it to his millions of followers.

    Die-hard fans of the pop star quickly defended their idol's honor with intense vitriol.

    "I AM A BELIEBER OF HIM SINCE 2009 AND HE DIDNT NOTICE ME, AND UR NOT A FUCKING EVEN A FAN YOU GET NOTICED OMG FAIR ENOUGH" user @kidrauhltbfhh tweeted in response.

    Many fans expressed similar feelings of jealousy and resentment at Bieber's public recognition of the non-Belieber. The jealousy soon spiraled into far worse sentiments.

    "Jus tell her to die shit and fcking die and leave Justin alone!!!!!!" user @inez_jade tweeted.

    "HOW CAN U NOT BE A FAN THO R U DELUDED AND HE RTd U THIS IS Y I H8 MI LYF" @justinakamylife tweeted.

    Rumors even began to circulate that Barrasford was pregnant with Bieber's child, something the teenager was quick to dispel.

    Despite the grim nature of the reaction to her tweet, all hope is not lost for Barrasford. As her story went public, many Twitter followers—Beliebers and non-Beliebers alike—offered their well-wishes and support.

    "I am no fan of @justinbieber either, so you all want to kill me to if he retweets this.. #youresostupid@Courtney_CB wish you all the best" @Rahimns tweeted.

    "@Courtney_CB now. your. biggest. fan" @kabsxo tweeted.

    Since retweeting Barrasford's opinion, Bieber himself has not made a public comment on the matter.

    This is hardly the first time death threats have been posted to Twitter. In October 2012, Christina Applegate's fiancee was the recipient of death threats from a fan madly in love with the actress. In July 2012, film critic Marshall Fine received death threats after posting a negative review of The Dark Knight Rises.

    Photo via jake.auzzie/Flickr


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    YouTube channel Vsauce is the premier reference work for imaginative brainiacs who get drunk and start dropping wonderful questions across the Internet.

    How much would Wikipedia weigh? Is eating yourself a viable survival strategy?  If you assume the Earth is spherical and you strap a belt around the equator--then add another six inches to it--how much will it rise above the Earth's surface?  

    You may have never thought to ask these questions yourself, but if you possess even a basic human level of curiosity, you will agree that they all must be answered right now.

    Thankfully Vsauce, which (quite accurately) bills itself as a purveyor of "mind-blowing facts," is on the case. Check the video below for these answers plus a few others.

    Here's one: The English Wikipedia has about 2 billion words, which would translate into the equivalent of 1759 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Dump those on an imaginary industrial-sized scale, and it would report back 7,000 lbs. That's nearly twice as heavy as most cars.

    Photo via Vsauce/YouTube


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    Canadian pop star Carly Rae Jepsen wrote on Twitter that she's not performing at this summer's Boy Scout National Jamboree because of the organization's homophobic rules.

    The “Call Me Maybe” singer wrote that she "believes in equality for all people," triggering her decision to cancel her performance at the June event in West Virginia.

    "I always have and will continue to support the LGBT community on a global level," wrote Jepsen, "and stay informed on the ever changing landscape in the ongoing battle for gay rights in this country and across the globe.

    Jepsen joins San Francisco pop-rock band Train, who also dropped out of the annual event after criticism was launched toward them in an online petition started by gay Eagle Scout Derek Nance.

    "As a talented artists with incredibly loyal LGBT fans around the globe, I hope they will speak out quickly, and urge the Boy Scouts to end its dangerous anti-gay policy," wrote Nance. His petition gathered 65,000 signatures in a week.

    Deron Smith, the director of public relations for Boy Scouts of America (BSA), told ABC News that the organization wasn't fazed by the two singers’ decision not to perform.

    “We appreciate everyone’s right to express an opinion and remain focused on delivering a great Jamboree program for our Scouts,” said Smith, declining to add if the Jepsen or Train will be replaced.

    The BSA is currently deciding whether it will drop its anti-gay policies that prohibit gays from participating in the organization. In February, it announced that it would come to decision on the issue, but failed to reach a consensus. A vote is now scheduled for May.

    Photo by Lunchbox LP/Flickr


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    If you take one look at Darien Long at work, you might think he was dressed to fight in the zombie apocalypse.

    His bulletproof vest, handgun, taser, pepper spray, GoPro camera, and sleek Oakley sunglasses make the 45-year-old a formidable sight. But that's what's expected of him as manager of Atlanta's Metro Mall, a seedy establishment frequented by drug dealers and troublemakers.

    Instead of explaining his nearly daily routine of breaking up fights and kicking out thieves to his family, Long started posting GoPro videos on Facebook. That includes a video posted in May of Long tasering a raucous woman after three minutes worth of telling her to calm down and back away.

    The video collected about 40 likes on Long's Facebook page over the next eight months, until a World Star Hip Hop and LiveLeak user posted it on both sites and turned him into an overnight celebrity.

    The video collected more than 1 million views almost overnight, before the Reddit community quickly latched onto it. Redditors declared Long a hero and started a CrowdTilt campaign to buy him some new gear.

    The community ended up collecting $23,678.

    "It's a blessing and a curse," Long told Daily Dot during a visit to his mall on a road trip to South By Southwest with artist duo Mr. GIF. "I'm no superhero."

    Long has used the money to purchase a new X3 Taser, binoculars, a new GoPro to wear on his back, hard drives, a desk and chair to sit on in the mall, and a pepper gas gun. And all that equipment has been put to the test.

    Since the story of Reddit's charitable donations reached the site’s front page a month ago, Long has has had a gun pulled on him, his house has been broken into, a bottle was thrown at his head, and at least one person featured in one of his videos has confronted him at work.

    While I interviewed Long Monday afternoon on the sidewalk, he listed off the names of more than five drug dealers circling around the mall, waiting for our cameras to leave. Long also pointed out one man walking across the street who he had tased sometime in the past two months.

    "Once I step outside these doors, my liability goes way up," Long added.

    To date, there have been more than 30 videos uploaded to YouTube of Long confronting unruly customers at the Metro Mall. Long hopes that one day he'll no longer need to wear dual GoPro cameras to work. But in order for that to happen, Atlanta's police force must step in, Long said.

    "It's really on the city," Long said. "There are a lot of people here who have been fighting this for a lot of years. What my videos provided was something of a catalyst. What sort of catalyst? Only time for tell. It was a sort of vindication and validation to show what goes on down here."

    GIFs by Mr. GIF


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    Cody Wilson is a 25-year-old student at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Law. He's well-read, polite, and versed in literature and cinema, particularly the films canonized in the Criterion Collection.

    According to Wired's Danger Room, he's also one of the 15 most dangerous people in the world, joining the ranks of notorious figures like Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

    Wilson earned that dubious distinction by heading Defense Distributed, a libertarian collective whose end goal is to design, publish, and distribute "the wiki weapon," the world's first gun comprised entirely of parts manufactured by a 3-D printer.

    The organization also runs and operates Defcad.org, a database site dedicated to hosting and disseminating blueprint files for multiple firearm components. At last count, Defcad hosted 88 different design documents, including ones for a basic hand grenade and an inexpensive silencer dubbed the "Dirty Diane" in dishonor of Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic Senator from California and chief architect of a gun bill aimed at banning hundreds of assault weapons. On Feb. 19, 2013, Defense Distributed's Twitter account noted that more than 250,000 files had been downloaded from Defcad during the two months of its existence.

    Wilson's reasons for launching Defense Distributed are complex, to say the least.

    "[I] think armed men are free men," he stated in a Slashdot video.


    Photo via Defense Distributed

    In conversation, however, Wilson admitted that he's "not overly fascinated by firearms."

    "I own a couple, but it's not like I collect them," he told me during a nearly two-hour-long meeting. "It's its own culture, and I'm not a joiner."

    Instead, Wilson, a self-proclaimed crypto-anarchist, sees his organization as empowering people by making information freely available.

    "I think a lot of people understand the idea that we're a bastion of freedom and that we have something in common with information anarchists like Aaron Swartz and WikiLeaks," Wilson told VentureBeat last month. "The bits must be free."  

    "We believe in the Napsterization of the world," he added during our meeting.

    Wilson also believes that his frequent usage of the term “anarchist” is what prevented what he calls “Red Staters” from throwing their support behind Defense Distributed.

    "For a long time, early on, NRA types didn't like us because they saw what we were doing and were afraid that it would only mean more regulation.”

    That suspicious sentiment changed somewhat after the Sandy Hook massacre in December, which resulted in the Obama administration urging Congress to pass tighter gun control laws.

    The move shifted the tides for Defense Distributed.

    "It's that old adage of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend’,” Wilson noted.

    On Jan. 17, Glenn Beck invited Wilson to appear on his online show, BlazeTV. For nearly 11 minutes, Beck struggled to grasp what Defense Distributed is trying to accomplish.

    "I don't know if we're friend or foe," the political pundit told Wilson towards the end of their segment.

    Beck's audience, according to Wilson, didn't have as hard a time deciding. Wilson's appearance on BlazeTV led to a surge in contributions to Defense Distributed.

    "People contribute to us for a variety of reasons,” Wilson said. “The common unifier lately has been the Second Amendment, but I tell people all the time that we're not making a Second Amendment argument."


    Photo via Defense Distributed

    The libertarian collective has also earned the tenuous support of some members of the Maker community, a do-it-yourself subculture that extols various fields of interest such as robotics and 3-D printing. The movement rose to prominence in the mid 2000s thanks in large part to Make magazine and its corresponding DIY festival, Makerfaire, which is held several times a year across the globe.

    "One of the things that is most attractive to me about 3-D printing is that it causes people to rethink how something could be made without the limitations of traditional manufacturing or engineering constraints, something that Mr. Wilson appears to be trying to do," said John Biehler, a writer and 3-D printer enthusiast who's slated to talk at SXSW on the new technology.

    "People just assume it's for evil purposes because his output is a gun."

    For his part, Wilson admits that he hasn't been particularly welcoming to either the gun or Maker communities.

    "We're polarizing even in our presentation,” he acknowledged.  “We're not saying this is a good thing. We're saying, 'Push, push, push.’” It's even more offensive because we don't invite criticism or dialog. Almost every community we offend is because we don't solicit their opinion."

    While Defense Distributed excludes potential allies from voicing their opinions, the company directly antagonizes politicians. They’ve posted YouTube videos that openly mocked Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s comments after the Sandy Hook shooting and took a shot at Senator Dianne Feinstein.

    The most recent example of this is a video uploaded to their YouTube channel that opens with Wilson wielding an AR-15 rifle loaded with a magazine designed by Defense Distributed.

    "How's that national conversation going?" Wilson mockingly asks the audience, a reference to comments made by Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi days after the Sandy Hook shooting.

    In another incident, this time occurring in December 2012, Steve Israel, an anti-gun Democratic congressman representing New York's 3rd district, called a press conference to announce his intention of renewing the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 after he came across another YouTube video of Wilson firing off an AR-15 rifle built around a 3-D lower receiver.

    The plastic component only lasted six rounds before it collapsed.

    It didn't matter. Israel deemed Defense Distributed a threat.

    "We should act now to give law enforcement authorities the power to stop the development of these weapons before they are as easy to come by as a Google search," he told members of the press.

    Cody Wilson doesn't see Rep. Israel and his ilk as an obstacle. In fact, the only real challenge the crypto-anarchist and his organization face is getting approved for a federal manufacturer's license. That document will actually allow Defense Distributed to start developing the wiki weapon, something the company hasn't yet done because it would be in direct violation of the National Firearms Act.

    The NFA explicitly states that only a licensed manufacturer can produce non-traditional firearms, known as "any other weapons" or AOWs. Given that the wiki weapon would be fully undetectable, it would be considered an AOW.

    Defense Distributed submitted its application to become a licensed manufacturer in October 2012, but has yet to hear back.

    Toward the end of our two-hour-long conversation, it wasn't still clear what Defense Distributed hopes to accomplish. Much like Glenn Beck in his video, I still couldn't really pinpoint the group’s mission.

    "We want to prove to society that you don't live in a world where you can't have guns," he began. "We also don't think that this is the final stage of civic and social organization. People can't even begin to imagine what's next.”

    • SXSW Panel: Gun Printing with Defense Distributed
    • Monday, March 11, 5pm
    • Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon FGH (500 E 4th St.)

    Photo courtesy of Cody Wilson/Defense Distributed


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    If stealthily slamming your teachers was a class, one kid certainly would have gotten an F.

    The student complained on Twitter that his teacher Mr. Torrence scheduled a test for Wednesday, only to hold the test Tuesday instead. He condemned Torrence, ranting about his hatred for the educator and vitriolically demanding the teacher obtain a calendar.

    The student, however, made two key mistakes. One, the test was on Tuesday all along. And two, he posted his rant on Twitter, where Torrence spotted it and decided to take action.

    Project a tweet is a little more modern than reading out a secret note between students to the rest of the class.

    The resulting photo hit Reddit's r/funny section. The poster explained that the angry student actually got his days mixed up, and that the test was on Tuesday all along. Torrence apparently saw the tweet after another student ratted the perp out.

    The redditor who shared the photo claimed Torrence is a nice guy and uses comedy when teaching. At least this once, his student goet schooled. 

    Photo via XCoaster/Reddit


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    Hey, Facebook users: do you ever feel discouraged by the paltry few likes or comments your posts tend to get? Do you wonder if maybe your friends just aren't seeing your posts, possibly due to an annoying side effect of the latest Facebook changes du jour?

    Researchers at Stanford University say your Facebook postings reach a much larger audience than you think. In a study called Quantifying the Invisible Audience in Social Networks (released online as a 10-page .pdf document) researchers ask:

    “When you share content in an online social network, who is listening? Users have scarce information about who actually sees their content, making their audience seem invisible and difficult to estimate [….] we find that social media users consistently underestimate their audience size for their posts, guessing that their audience is just 27% of its true size.

    “Qualitative coding of survey responses reveals folk theories that attempt to reverse-engineer audience size using feedback and friend count, though none of these approaches are particularly accurate.

    In other words: the actual number of people who see your Facebook posts is almost four times larger than you think! And you probably think the number of likes and comments you get reflects the actual size of your audience—but you’re wrong.

    Assuming the study is accurate, of course. How exactly did the researchers reach their  conclusions? Facebook gave them visitor data on 220,000 accounts, to compare the number of people who saw a post with the number who “liked” or commented upon it, and concluded that on average, about 61 percent of your Facebook friends see your posts over the course of a given month (though they may not be giving you any feedback, in the form of comments or likes).

    Why does any of this matter? Because of human nature; whether we intend to or not, what we write or post is affected by our audience and what they think of it—more specifically, by what we think our audience thinks. As the study says:

    "Correct or not, these audience estimates are central to media behavior: perceptions of our audience deeply impact what we say and how we say it. We act in ways that guide the impression our audience develops of us [….] Social media users create a mental model of their imagined audience, then use that model to guide their activities on the site."

    But chances are your mental model is wrong, where the size and makeup of your Facebook audience is concerned.

    The study explains that most Facebook content comes from the news feed, where you see photos, links, updates and other postings from your friends. When you post something, Facebook distributes it to your friends, and “the feed algorithmically ranks content … based on a number of optimization criteria, including the estimated likelihood that that the viewer will interact with the content.” So not all of your friends see your posts, and chances are you’re not seeing some of your friends’ posts either.

    Even if a post does appear on a news feed, that doesn’t necessarily mean the user read it. How did researchers determine that people actually looked at a post in a feed, rather than scroll right past it? The study says “To determine audience size, we used client-side instrumentation that logs an event when a feed item remains in the active viewport for at least 900 milliseconds.”

    So if someone’s scrolling down through their Facebook feed and lingers on a post for nine-tenths of a second, that’s—significant? Not necessarily:

    "[B]eing in the audience does not guarantee that a user actually attends to a post: according to eyetracking studies, users remember 69% of posts they see.”

    The study continues for several pages more, asking Facebook users about their perceived audience and comparing the answers to the users’ actual visitor data (which ordinary Facebook users cannot see), and it reaches a potentially unflattering conclusion:

    “Why do people underestimate their audience size in social media? [….] A necessary consequence of users underestimating their audience is that they must be overestimating the probability that each audience member will choose to like or comment on the post. For those posts without feedback, it might be more comfortable to believe that nobody saw it than to believe that many saw it but nobody liked it.”

    Might this lead to changes in Facebook? Should it lead to changes in Facebook? The study does note some trends toward that end:

    “Some Facebook groups now display how many group members have seen each post, while sites such as OkCupid show who has browsed your profile. Adding audience information could certainly address the current mismatch between perceived and actual audience size.

    The study goes on to note, with great understatement:

    “Our results do not paint a clear picture as to whether audience information would be a good addition. Some measure of social translucence and plausible deniability seems helpful: audience members might not want to admit they saw each piece of content, and sharers might be disappointed to know that many people saw the post but nobody commented or ‘Liked’ it.”

    So yes: chances are your posts reach a wider audience than you think, and stay in your friends’ range of awareness for at least nine-tenths of a second; it’s just that nothing they saw during those 900 milliseconds inspired them to leave you any feedback.

    Photo via kalieye/Flickr


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    There are things to know about Matthew Inman—very few of them actually matter.

    He's 30, a resident of Seattle, Wash. He's a democrat who’s voted for Obama twice. He trains for ultra marathons, the ones that extend for 100 full miles. He has a brother, a sister, a girlfriend, and a New York Times bestseller, How To Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You, which has sold more than 450,000 print copies.

    But what matters with Inman is that on an Internet of loudmouths, he speaks for everyone.

    Since launching The Oatmeal in 2009, Inman has delivered sermons to more than 5 million fans a month on subjects like religion, the state of the music industry, and why we love our dogs. More than anyone, Inman knows what entertains us, what ignites us, what entices us, and what annoys us to the point of no return. He's mastered the art of finding that trigger detail in the dirt and zooming out until he's focused on something bigger, and he knows how to bring his readers along for the ride.

    In the years since opening The Oatmeal as little more than a comic blog, Inman has built himself an empire that's blossomed into a full-on Internet enterprise pushing everything from T-shirts and mugs to Sriracha-flavored lip balm that he sells for $11.99. The Oatmeal pulled in more than $500,000 in merchandise and advertising revenue last year, and Inman doesn't even have a manager. (His mother, who he says lives "in the middle of nowhere," helps him handle merchandise, inventory, and shipping.)

    "It's a strange profession to explain to people who work on the Web, even," Inman explained last week. "To them, being a webcomic artist means that you Best Buy and make comics on your weekends. No one sees it as a career. It's harder to get credibility, and understandably so. There are a zillion webcomics out there, and most do it as a hobby."

    On the heels of his most successful and controversial year yet—and before his keynote address at the South by Southwest Interactive conference—Inman spoke to the Daily Dot about his work, BuzzFeed, and how the Internet has changed our lives.  

    Daily Dot: You've called yourself a content creator. I was raised to read that as a dirty word. Do you wish to defend its meaning?

    I'd never heard that word in a negative light until I posted my comic, Some Thoughts and Musings About Making Things for the Web, where I talk about being a content creator. As soon as I posted it, people were like “Aw, I hate that word.” I just think it's debating semantics. I can see how being a content creator would be construed as just putting crap up on your site for marketing purposes, but I don't have much of an opinion.

    I have an impossible time describing to people what I do. People ask and I tell them I'm a cartoonist, and they think that I make stuff like Batman, or The Simpson. It's impossible. I usually settle on Internet writer.

    DD: You've had quite a year: You wrote your most popular comic. You launched the quest to save Nikola Tesla's lab. You donated a lot of money to some very worthy causes; FunnyJunk threatened to sue you for embellishment, even after the site had lifted your comics.

    This past year was the most amazing year of my career—the FunnyJunk thing and working with the National Wildlife Federation. I got to meet a bunch of grizzly bears because of that, and I got to meet Nikola Tesla's last remaining relative. It was tumultuous in a good way. The BuzzFeed thing [a reference to Jack Stuef's controversial BuzzFeed profile that Inman just as controversially responded to], I look at that like an orangutan smearing shit on a canvas in the corner. That's sort of my opinion of Mr. Stuef.

    DD: What do you make of the ethos behind sites like Reddit and Digg that the things that deserve attention will actually receive it thanks to the Internet's democratic voting methods?

    Alexis Ohanian said that site likes Reddit sort of level the playing field for everybody. Your link counts as much as my link. They both count just as much as a link from the New York Times.

    From a cartoonist's perspective, it's a nice place to be. The old way the funnys worked was that you got syndicated and then your comic would be in the paper for decades, whether somebody funnier than you came along or you became unfunny. Now, comics are rewarded by attention being showered democratically. If they're great and systematically funny, they show up on Reddit and Facebook and everywhere. If they become unfunny, they don't show up as often. That's great, and that's why our community's been able to blossom right now.

    DD: Do you consider endeavors that are definitively rooted outside of content creation—Tesla Museum support, Indiegogo campaign in response to FunnyJunk—part of your professional platform?

    I didn't do those things because of my job. The FunnyJunk deal was self-defense. I was worried that he'd prevail. With the Tesla Museum, I just thought that I could help. I was really the only individual in a situation to do that, because I have this audience of people who are Tesla fans. I never really wanted that kind of life to be my job to begin with, so unless the opportunity pops up that's perfect, I probably won't do another one anytime soon.

    I donated quite a bit of my own money to various organizations last year, and I didn't announce it. I didn't need to turn it into a career. My strength has always been making comics, not necessarily being a philanthropist.

    DD: In your State of the Web Winter 2012-2013, you include a conversation between a sucker and an Internet service provider. What kind of affect is the Internet having on our independence right now?

    I can code in a bunch of languages, and I can fix databases. I can draw, and I can do all of these amazing things on the Web. But watch me change a car tire. It's sad. If the Internet went away and I had to do real things with screwdrivers and hoses, it would be sad. But I only speak for myself.

    My brother is a physician. If you dropped him in the jungle, he'd be very useful. He could find people with spears in them and pull them out and stitch them up using bamboos or whatever. If you dropped me in the jungle, I'm pretty much the saddest, most helpless thing on earth.

    DD: What type of separation does Matthew Inman get from the Oatmeal?

    It's a mix. When I make comics that have me being grumpy or angry about something, I'm typically grumpy or angry about that thing.

    DD: What's happened to your privacy?

    I've started being more careful with it. The idea that anything I write or draw will be there forever is something that I'm more conscious of.

    We're lucky. I see these teenagers who post things on the Internet that are so stupid and so embarrassing. They don't even know that that's going to be there forever. I'm just thankful that I didn't get on YouTube and cry and say “That guy's a jerk,” and that gets 20 million views. I feel like I was spared that.

    DD: Aside from knowing how to write a slug, to what degree does your run in the SEO world benefit the work you do on-site?

    SEO is part of a holistic Web thing. For instance, properly writing your CSS code is very important. It makes your site readable. Writing the right title tags is important so that people know what they're clicking on. Using alt-tags is important because if a blind person wants to read your website, that helps them help get the gist of what's going on. These are all parts of making your website work, and SEO is one of those parts.

    The work I do that's SEO on The Oatmeal is pretty much just that. My title pages, if someone googles "The Oatmeal," people can find it. Beyond that, SEO has no bearing on The Oatmeal. In fact, my whole website is images with no alt-tags. If you wanted to google a phrase I wrote, my site probably wouldn't show up because it's based on an image. The SEO on my site is actually very bad.

    DD: You've created a nice relationship with Indiegogo. Do you harbor reservations about the rapid ascent of crowdfunding? What do we need to be wary of?

    I don't have any real reservations about it. I actually feel pretty new to it. I've only done two campaigns, and neither was very traditional. One thing I've noticed recently, which isn't a bad thing, is that people are having crowdfunding campaigns to do nothing but market their product better. It works, and it's great, but it's just an example.

    If I went to the bank and got a $20,000 loan and used it to write a book or make a video game and then took that game and put it on my website and said 'Hey everybody, I bought a game. You can buy it,' that wouldn't do very well. But if I made a Kickstarter and tried to raise $20,000, it would probably blow up and go crazy, even though it's pretty much the same exchange.

    Think about e-books. You don't need any money to write an e-book, but you can go to Kickstarter and open a campaign and it's a much more visible way of making money. This isn't a bad thing, it's just something that I've noticed.

    DD: Do you think that the standards for ownership of intellectual property should be any different on the Internet than it is offline?

    You have to lightly police and understand that it's the law of the jungle. It's so easy to copy an image and paste it somewhere else that you kind of have to learn to let go.

    The reason why I drew a line with FunnyJunk was that it was hundreds and hundreds of comics for years and years. But my comics get pasted all over the place. I'm fine with it. As long as they put my name on it and give me some sort of credit, I'm not trying to police it.

    Copyright on the Internet should be treated differently. I think it should be a lot more relaxed. I think the Internet blossomed because there wasn't any policing of copyright in the beginning.

    DD: You said that the comic about your house burning down was the most rewarding one you've ever worked on. Why did you decide to spend so much time on it?

    I didn't choose to, really. I started writing it, and it got long. When I started to draw, it got even longer. It became this thing where I sort of realized that I can't shorten the story any more than I already have. This was as small as I could get it. It ended up just taking forever.

    I don't normally do that. I try to avoid overanalyzing my writing, because when I do it strips the visceral sound out of it and makes it more neutral. But with this, I did rewrite it 10 times. I obsessed, and I wanted it to be perfect, because it was personal.

    I also stopped using Adobe Fireworks, which is a terrible program for comics. It's a Web design program, and it required that I draw everything using the mouse. I'd click a point, click another point, and draw a line that way.

    With the fire comic, I switched to Adobe Illustrator, and I started to work on a tablet. That comic was 100 hours of working on the tablet. Even though I was staying awake day and nights trying to get it done in time for the reunion of the fire, it was one of the most fun projects I'd worked on in a long time.

    DD: How was the reception for it?

    The reaction was great. It's not the kind of comic where everybody's going to share. My dog comic, anybody who's ever owned a dog is going to read that and like it. This was more of a personal story for me. The traffic was less than the big comics that I'd done, but it did well. That was really cool to see, to know that I could make a comic that wasn't titled “5 Very Good Reasons to Bacon Your Social Media Unicorn.” This was a story about my house going up in flames.

    The Oatmeal illustration courtesy of Matthew Inman


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    Look, wrangling a real-life, oxygen-breathing woman into bed has its difficulties, so a Brazilian website is making it easier for players without game.

    Sexônico (we're guessing that's Portuguese for sexytime) is auctioning off a night with Valentina, the "first real doll of Brazil." If you can top a bid of $105,000,  you can sleep with the brunette-haired doll—and you won’t even have to deal with the morning-after awkwardness.

    The price sounds daunting, but it's full-faceted package. It includes a night stay in a swanky São Paulo hotel, a special dinner delivered by candlelight, an aromatic bath doused in rose petals, flights, and "special lingerie" that the site clarifies is her gift.

    Oh, and a digital camera to document your experience and be the pride of your family.

    Bidding ends March 31, so there's still time to see whether a sex doll's virginity sells for as much online as an actual woman's.

    Catalina Migliori, also from Brazil, sold her virginity for $780,000 in October 2012, inspiring another Brazilian woman to try the same thing earlier this year. No word on whether that auction, which was advertised on YouTube, ever got off the ground.

    Photo via Sexonico


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    Actor. Governor. Tumor. Redditor.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to his fitness roots by paying a surprise visit to the r/fitness subreddit on March 6. Well before becoming famous for everything from The Terminator to Batman and Robin to the California Republican ticket, Schwarzenegger impressed international audiences by winning the Mr. Universe bodybuilding contest in 1969.

    Schwarzenegger posted an inspirational video to the subreddit, earning over 3,300 karma points in doing so.

    "This inspired me, and I bet it will inspire you" the title of Schwarzenegger's post read.

    "I am sorry I missed seeing this live at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus this weekend, but when I saw the video I was immediately inspired. There really are no excuses for not working out. I am hoping to track Derick down so I can work out with him," he wrote.

    In a later edit, he added, "I found Derick, and I will let you guys know when we get together. But I still think we can get his video to the front page. Seriously, who deserves it more? So to help, let's do a very short fitness AMA right here. I will answer five questions. And don't worry, I will be back for a full hour very soon."

    Redditors flooded the impromptu session with their questions. While brief, the chat session featured everything from Schwarzenegger's own daily routine to coaching a redditor through a dark personal period.

    As someone who does virtually no exercise, haven't run for many many years & is very unhealthy (Though only weighs 10st), limitations aren't only physical. They are mental, I don't think I'd be comfortable going to a gym or ever be seen working out. (Cubejam)

    "Start small in your own home. Maybe just do five minutes of stretching and jumping jacks or jump rope or bodyweight squats. Maybe you want to do 15 minutes, something like this: http://www.schwarzenegger.com/fitness/post/your-body-is-all-you-need-the-worlds-oldest-training-method-and-a-1-workout

    Whatever you do, I promise you won't regret it. You only need to start with a small step, and you don't even need to leave your house. And you don't need to run."

    How's your fitness routine lately? (MrBot)

    "I still work out every day, lifting and cardio. Normally morning cardio and evening lift. I don't use the monster weights anymore, I do more of a circuit with very little rest."

    When people give you training advice. Are you like, please I won mr olympia 7 times, or do you actually listen to what they have to say? (YaKoStar)

    "I will always listen. I got to where I am by listening to people like Joe Weider, Reg Park, and all of my other mentors. No reason to stop listening now. I have a great crew of the new generation of experts that write for my website, and I am always willing to steal ideas from them!"

    Mr. Schwarzenegger, I don't know if you will read this, much less respond to it, but I have been such a huge fan of yours for a very long time. I admire everything about you and I am getting goosebumps right now just thinking you might see this and take a second to respond to me.
    I am nearing my mid-20s and I work at a very prestigious financial firm. However, I know my heart is not in it and that I am just here wasting my life and time away in hopes of discovering a passion I can pursue and one day make my own business or something and be successful like you. I am scared to leave this job because it has an amazing money potential in income and it is one of the biggest firms in the world, and the prestige is a plus. If I left I know a lot of people I know will probably laugh at me and at my dreams of being significant. Can you give me some quick advice on what you would do? I have dreams of becoming a man who makes a difference in the world like you and I know I won't do it here, nor do I want to. I just dont know what I want to create or pursue yet and I am scared. Because of my lack of passion at this job, it's making me depressed.


    If you take a minute out of your day to respond, it'll make my day. Even if you don't see this or respond, I just wanted to say thanks for being such an inspiration in my life. (viCex2)

    "A: Stay with the firm until you find your passion. But stay with me here. B: How do you know right now your passion isn't something that you will need money for? Maybe you will decide you want to start a healthy burger shop. You will need money.
    So look at this as a stepping stone instead of an end. We can't always do what we are passionate about, but everything we do can move us closer to our passion. I was never passionate about construction. But I laid bricks and worked so I could support my passion when I was starting out in bodybuilding.
    The most important thing is, you need to find your passion. And once you do, put everything into it. Everything. But until then, it sounds like you are at a good stepping stone. Just remind yourself to think of it that way and don't let yourself think of it as the end point. You sound like a smart guy. I bet you will do great once you have somewhere to direct this energy."

    Should I go to the gym tonight, Arnold?
    (Please just say yes. I want to be able to tell my roomie I'm going to the gym because Arnold told me to.)
    (Buscat)

    "Is this even a question? Yes."

    Hat Tip to hypervocal / Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr


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    The Daily Dot has shown no reservations in declaring our love for R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)" or the We the People petition to make the song our national anthem.

    The story broke Monday—at which point the petition had wrangled up about 500 signees—and seemed to spread throughout the vastness of the Internet's outrageous epicenter for much of the early half of this week. For this, we're genuinely excited.

    More than 7,200 people have signed the petition to change the national anthem to the 2003 R. Kelly hit as of Thursday morning. Last night, we received an email from the petition's creator.

    We promptly responded by asking for an interview and sent him a lineup of questions. The creator, a 24-year-old screenwriter from Wilmington, N.C., named Stephen Ruiz, countered appropriately, sending a series of answers our way just before 5am PT.

    Daily Dot: Why "Ignition (Remix)"?

    I made this petition because I was bored and nobody wanted to go out on Sunday night. It's Spring Break, so a lot of people were out of town. I chose the song because everyone knew it and I thought my Tumblr followers would get a kick out of it. I almost did "I Believe I Can Fly," but I figured it would be funnier with "Ignition (Remix)."

    DD: Other than the fact that you'd like to replace it with an R. Kelly song, what do you think of our national anthem?

    Honestly, I don't care too much about the national anthem. The third verse is kind of f***ed up, but we don't generally sing that one at games. Really, this was a joke through and through. All of our national symbols, to me, represent a de facto requirement of the government to foster unity more than any actual patriotism on the part of the citizenry. I didn't think this would become as big of a deal as it has.

    DD: How are you feeling about the petition's success so far?

    I'm feeling pretty good about it. It was a joke, but the farther it goes, the funnier it is. And as a writer, the fact that more than 7,000 have signed it and likely thousands more have read it, it feels great to know that something I wrote, however silly, is getting viewed.

    DD: What's your favorite R. Kelly song besides "Ignition (Remix)?"

    "Bump and Grind." It made me profoundly uncomfortable as a child for reasons I couldn't begin to understand, but good lord, it's a good song.

    DD: What's your favorite national anthem besides "The Star Spangled Banner?"

    To be honest, as much as I'm a student of politics and history, I'm not entirely familiar with most other countries' national anthems. When I think of "God Save the Queen," I think of the Sex Pistols, not the UK's anthem from which they derived their hit song's name. "O Canada"'s pretty sweet. As a hockey fan, I know that one.

    DD: Should you reach 100,000 signees, how do you reasonably expect the Administration to respond?

    Oh, they're going to deny it immediately. It was never intended to be a genuine plea for change. And as much as I'd love to see Alicia Keys on the field singing "Ignition (Remix)" before the Super Bowl, I don't especially care that it will never happen.

    DD: What do you think could sing "Ignition (Remix)" as well as R. Kelly? Who is "Ignition (Remix)"'s Marvin Gaye?

    I could see Adele or Beyonce killing it. In an ideal world, not bound by any form of logic or reason, I'd love to see Ricky Reed of Oakland-based pop duo Wallpaper. cover it, whether before a sporting event or just for fun, but in terms of raw talent, Adele or Beyonce.

    Photo via R. Kelly/Facebook

     


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    A week ago, Pfc. Bradley Manning, the American intelligence analyst who provided WikiLeaks with secret military information, finally entered his pleas during at Ft. Meade.

    In a 35-page statement. Manning pled guilty to 10 lesser charges and not guilty to 12 others, including the most serious charge of “aiding the enemy.”

    The relationship between Manning and WikiLeaks is key to both. WikiLeaks would surely not be the heroic defender of the truth / handmaiden to terrorists that it is frequently made out to be without the load of documents Manning provided. And Manning would not be in stir for over 1,000 days of pre-trial confinement and facing 20 years in prison or more without WikiLeaks.

    Repeated requests to WikiLeaks for comments received no response. However, the Daily Dot spoke with Emma Cape, campaign organizer for the Bradley Manning Support Network, about the effects that Manning’s pleas, future sentencing and possible further convictions will have on the anonymous leaking organization.

    DD: Has WikiLeaks funded any part of Mr. Manning's defense?

    WikiLeaks gave $15,000 near the beginning of our campaign. As far as I know, they have not given since, citing concerns about their own legal expenses when asked.

    DD: What do Mr. Manning's pleas mean to WikiLeaks? How do you think will they affect what they do or think about their mission?

    I do not necessarily think it will affect WikiLeaks and their mission any more so than Bradley's arrest itself did. Bradley is a young man facing life in prison. The military already had forensic evidence showing he was likely the one who transferred the files to WikiLeaks. Bradley is at this point seeking some good favor with the judge through honesty, and an explanation that his motives at the time of acting were noble.  In the statement he read in court on Thursday, Bradley explained his views of WikiLeaks at the time were that it was an academic or media type organization, which is consistent with the fact that he had tried to contact the New York Times and Washington Post immediately before contacting WikiLeaks.

    DD: If he is found guilty of the other charges, what would that mean to the organization?

    If he is found guilty of espionage or "aiding the enemy," that could have serious ramifications for WikiLeaks, since the documents provided by Bradley are what WikiLeaks is best-known for.  

    However, I believe that Bradley being found guilty of those charges would have ramifications for all media organizations. Both the staff of the Washington Post and the New York Times wrote articles last week indicating they would have loved to accept the documents from Bradley directly, had they known about them at the time. Yet the military prosecution has also stated in court that had Bradley provided the documents to the New York Times instead of to WikiLeaks, they would be charging him the same way. So really, Bradley's case is a threat to the free press as a whole.

    DD: In the last year there have been— if I'm reading this correctly—two information releases from WikiLeaks. Any ideas what their plans are in the coming year?

    I know that WikiLeaks says they are raising money currently to release one million documents.  I do not know what those documents are, myself, although I know there have been statements in the past that they received some documents relating to Bank of America.  

    I also know that they've yet to release documents or videos pertaining to the Granai airstrike, which Bradley said last Thursday that he had provided to the organization. The airstrike has been called a massacre, and is reportedly similar to "collateral murder" but much larger in scale.  

    There has been speculation as to why WikiLeaks never released those videos, and some have suggested that they were corrupted or that when Daniel Domscheit-Berg left WikiLeaks to form OpenLeaks, he destroyed them.  However, part of me hopes WikiLeaks still has this material and is just waiting for a strategic moment to release what may be the most damning evidence of U.S. mishandling in Iraq to date.

    Assange told the Brisbane Times that WikiLeaks intends to release additional classified U.S. documents, but will wait until the conclusion of Manning’s trial, which is scheduled to begin in June, to do so.

    Manning’s pleading guilty to charges surrounding his theft of documents from the military may, in many eyes, bring him closer to earning the “civil disobedience” status many of his supporters credit him with.

    Prior to the pleas, his apparent desire to avoid arrest, to keep his actions private, made that status seem like a veneer. Getting publicly arrested, being seen as the victim of an unjust, or unjustly applied, law, is regarded by many as part and parcel of civil disobedience, without which, it devolves to simple crime.

    Photo by Chris Connelly/Flickr


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    Hampden Township in central Pennsylvania spent much of the past week protesting an apparent human rights violation at a nearby McDonald's. Thursday morning, one of the victims took his fight online, organizing a petition to demand humanitarian change.

    Jorge Rios is an Argentine student who came to the United States on a J-1 Summer Work Travel program, which charges students $4,000 in exchange for a trip to the United States and a summer spent immersed in American culture. The idea is that the wages made through part-time jobs help students like Rios recoup those expenses, and they enter fall with U.S. work experience and some savings.

    Rios's summer didn't turn out anything like he'd expected. 

    Instead, through his part-time job working at a McDonald's, he learned the harsh realities of some of America's most terrible working and housing conditions. He faced threats, stolen wages, grease burns up and down his arms, and a workload that was 10 percent as large as the one he'd been promised, he wrote.

    "The employer knew we were desperate for more hours, and he kept us on call to come in with 30 minutes notice all day and night," Rios wrote. "I didn't even have time to visit the public library."

    His employer is a man named Andy Cheung, a McDonald's franchiser who owns six different restaurants in central Pennsylvania. Rios and his fellow travelers were forced to bunker into the basement of Cheung's Hampden Township home at the cost of $300 a month. 

    "As many as eight of us lived in a single basement," Rios wrote. "We slept on bunk beds made for children that shook and squeaked. We had no privacy whatsoever."

    He spoke with his American coworkers, who he thought had it much better than he did. It turned out that they were being exploited as well: too few hours, too many threats. 

    "This is not the America we believed in," he wrote. "We believe America is a beautiful country, where everyone can have respect and fair treatment at work."

    Rios said that he's tried to speak with Cheung, but the McDonald's owner wouldn't hear him. Central Pennsylvania's Patriot-News's requests for comments went unanswered as well. 

    With no other hope, Rios and his 50-plus other foreign student workers decided to stand up for themselves, organizing a petition through Coworker.com, a workplace-centric site, to attract the attention of McDonald's CEO Don Thompson.

    Rios's petition has already racked up more than 1,6700 signatures. Coworker.com does not guarantee any change will take place, but it does promise exposure—hopefully enough to get on Thompson's radar. 

    This is not the America we believe in either, Jorge Rios. America is a beautiful country, where everyone can have respect and fair treatment at work. America is not a place for Andy Cheung.

    Photo via coworker.com


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    If you want to play the new SimCity game that came out this week, you can probably just keep on wanting.

    Electronic Arts-owned developer Maxis requires players to be connected to the Internet to play the latest version of the popular city simulation game, even in single-player mode. It's an attempt to combat piracy using digital rights management (DRM).

    However, an influx of players trying to manage their virtual cities caused servers to crumple under the pressure. That led to players complaining of crashed games, lost progress, and glitches. That is, if they were able to actually download the game in the first place.

    While trying to fix the server problems Thursday, Maxis disabled a bunch of features, meaning those who can actually play the game aren't getting the full bang for their buck.

    Amazon even yanked the downloadable game from sale, and spitting mad reviewers have granted the title a score of 1.2 stars out of five, with hundreds expressing their distaste.

    "Go up to a random stranger, preferably a musclehead, hand him your $60 and ask him to punch you in the face," commented reviewer Jonny. "You'll get more out of your money, and it'll be less painful to watch."

    Others obtained refunds from Amazon, accused Maxis and EA of a "bait and switch," and slammed the company for "corporate greed" while having some kind words for those who actually built the game.

    Fans also took to review aggregator Metacritic, posting more than 1,400 negative scores, compared with 234 positive remarks.

    As you might expect, redditors are slamming EA in the site's r/SimCity section. stvrgs shared the "best city ever!"

    Bored while waiting for the servers to come back online, vjludovico downloaded Solitaire from EA in the meantime, getting to play a really fun card ga—ah, wait a second.

    Another redditor, octopus_monocle, just wants an apology rather than the standard "thank you for your patience” message.

    Meanwhile, a change.org petition to have EA remove the always-online shackles from SimCity and future games has more than 18,000 signatures.

    Video game site Polygon lowered its review score for SimCity from 9.5 out of 10 to eight, saying the widespread server issues affected the publication's ability to recommend the game.

    Lastly, Twitter is full of complaints, because that's just what people do now.

    EA is set to make the game available in the U.K. Friday and, according to Eurogamer, the company says it's ready for the international launch. Here's hoping it won't rile up the Brits, but the damage to the game's reputation is already done.

    TL;DR: This is how many feel about EA's insistence on SimCity DRM.

    Photo via bombraissier/YouTube


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    It had to happen: in a move designed to strike terror in the hearts of every GMO producer, every mining conglomerate, every disposable consumer good corporation, the shadowy internet force known as Anonymous has aligned with Greenpeace, forming a formidable force to strike back at those who would put consumerism ahead of environmentalism.

    This action is indeed The Real Thing.

    On Monday, March 4 an alliance of pop (or soda, if you prefer) companies won a court victory against a recycling law which would have forced retailers to give consumers ten cents for each can or bottle they returned in the Northern Territory of Australia. A similar system is in force in the Southern Territory, and throughout most of North America.

    Coca-Cola spokesman Alec Wagstaff told ABC, "This decision means that we can move almost immediately to drop prices in the Northern Territory." They have, however, not announced such a reduction. In response, Greenpeace spokesman Reece Turner retorted, "The number one item that we see in rivers and oceans predominantly is bottles and cans, predominantly from Coca-Cola Amatil."

    As for Anonymous, they've sprung off the internet and into meatspace, attaching "Out of Order" signs to Coke machines across Australia. Twitpics confirm the action is spreading, although the hashtag search for #OutOfOrder is cluttered with random Anglophiles and Brits expressing concern with various points of etiquette rather than political protest. To assist protest participants in knowing which brands to target, Anonymous has been tweeting a link to the Wikipedia page of brands under the Coke umbrella.

    Photo via AnonOpsLegion/Twitter


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    On Jan. 21, four years after NASA's first Tweetup event, those who attended the in-person get togethers for NASA's fans on the Web commemorated the anniversary in style.

    Participants in the daylong celebration of Tweetups (now called NASA Social events) posted more than 21,000 tweets. A dedicated Facebook group with more than 560 members is also filled with memories. An agenda detailed the topics of conversation for the event.

    An Eventifier collection of more than 8,100 tweets reveals the participants' delight as they reminisced about their experiences and reconnected using the medium that brought them together in the first place.

    "We held the Tweetups because we wanted people to come here and meet us, meet the team members," said Veronica McGregor, news and social media manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "What really ended up happening was they met each other. That changed everything."

    Where their families and friends might not understand or share their passion for space, NASA Social participants found dozens of kindred spirits at the events.

    The January anniversary made it plain to see just what NASA Social means to fans, and it's largely thanks to the work of McGregor.

    ***

    The road to the first Tweetup began when McGregor started the first real NASA Twitter account. While @NASA did exist before @MarsPhoenix, it largely served to share NASA press releases automatically.

    McGregor changed that impersonal approach by imbuing @MarsPhoenix, which tracked the Mars rover of the same name, with a personality and a first-person perspective, partly driven by Twitter's character limit.

    It found a real following among Twitter users in 2008, ranking as one of the 10 most-followed accounts as McGregor switched from sharing news about the rover's discoveries to answering questions and becoming deeply involved with the community.

    @MarsPhoenix struck a chord with gamers, in particular, and many referenced Portal in their tweets to the account. NASA lost contact with the Phoenix in November 2008, effectively ending the mission. McGregor then sent a tweet in binary code which, when translated, read "triumph." That's a reference to the Portal theme song, and a nod to some of @MarsPhoenix's most passionate supporters.

    That self-awareness and humor spilled over into @MarsCuriosity, which announced the Mars Curiosity Rover's arrival on the Red Planet in a bombastic fashion.

    Social media specialists Stephanie L. Smith and Courtney O’Connor help run the feed, which is festooned with pop culture references, movie quotes, and song lyrics. When rumors emerged that the rover had found signs of life on Mars, the team dismissed the claims with typical charm.

    Talking to McGregor on the phone, it's easy to figure out where the @MarsPhoenix and @MarsCuriosity pep comes from: She's lively, funny, and warm. But it goes beyond the Twitter accounts themselves: Not only did the spirit of @MarsPhoenix not pass away when the rover lost contact; the end of the mission prompted the first Tweetup.

    "The Mars Phoenix mission had ended. There was an incredible wave of grief that hit Twitter and the Internet," said McGregor. "The Tweetup idea actually came about as a way of keeping in contact with the people who had followed the Mars Phoenix Twitter account."

    McGregor attended a Tweetup fans had themselves organized, but noting that there was no real theme, she decided to do a space-themed Tweetup at JPL.

    It began with a tweet.

    NASA invited 150 Twitter users from all over the country (which surprised McGregor) to meet JPL scientists and engineers, and got a chance to take a tour and learn more about the facility. They also got a chance to meet the next rover, Curiosity. Many JPL employees were excited to take part too.

    From the get-go, the Tweetups were broadcast on Ustream, letting those who were not lucky enough to attend in person get a glimpse inside JPL along with attendees.

    Since that first Tweetup, more than 4,200 fans have attended more than 50 NASA Social events at 11 locations, where people connect to NASA on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can get an inside look at a facility and talk to astronauts and scientists in person.

    ***

    One alumnus is Frank Luciano, a 27-year-old Walt Disney World concierge in Orlando, who attended the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) launch at Florida's Kennedy Space Center in January.

    Luciano, who has a lifelong passion for space, tried several times to win an invite to a NASA Social event. When he finally received the fateful email, he described it as "one of the happiest days of my life."

    Though already a passholder at the center and familiar with the sights and sounds, Luciano claimed "everything surrounding the social was exciting. Especially meeting people who were if not more just as excited as I was."

    Two things particularly stood out for Luciano on this visit: getting to within 100 feet of the rocket carrying the TDRS, which he noted was "breathtaking to be that close," and getting to step onto a mobile launch pad and see its inner workings.

    Luciano, who follows "almost every NASA Twitter account" as well as Kennedy Space Center's Instagram account, made sure to send plenty of tweets during the day and Instagram the experience.

    That inherent ambassadorship, by which NASA Social attendees spread the agency's message, is part of NASA's social media strategy.

    NASA has a strong presence on the Web, with more than 480 accounts on different social networks and services. One of the main goals of each tweet or post is to take people through to the agency's website, according to NASA social media manager John Yembrick.

    The JPL social media team strategizes each morning to determine what news will be shared each day, and they tailor snippets for each social network. They almost always include a photo, even on Twitter, and the Facebook and Google+ messages are generally similar. When some of the YouTube videos garnered complaints from some commenters who said certain concepts weren't explained well, that feedback led the team to include a little more explanation in JPL videos.

    The agency apparently broke Ustream records for live views of a stream when an asteroid sailed close by to Earth in February. The stream switched between telescopes all over the planet to track the asteroid as it sped by.

    Yembrick also noted that NASA gets involved with fan communities, helping update wikis as a contributor or sharing an upcoming event on a Facebook page as a member rather than trying to manage such supporter-driven initiatives.

    More recently, NASA has established social media accreditation, where tweeters, Facebookers, et al., can join the press corps and bloggers to cover launches and events.

    "These people are telling our story in a compelling way that reaches a different audience," Yembrick told the Daily Dot, "so we've actually opened up our media accreditation system and badging system for social media people."

    ***

    The community aspect of NASA Social may well prove NASA's lasting legacy on the Web for its attendees. It brings together people passionate about space to meet influential figures from the industry and, more importantly, one another.

    The alumni manage the NASATweet.com wiki, where they've archived all of the events so far, noting for instance the list of participants, their accounts of the events (such as blog posts, photos, and videos), and speakers. There are even guides on what to wear and bring, as well as a page dedicated to the geocache sites where attendees leave treats for others.

    Not only has NASA Social cultivated a strong community of attendees, some of whom organize non-NASA-affiliated Tweetups among themselves, it's helped some decide what they want to do with their careers.

    "We've had at least a couple of people say they've applied to be astronauts, or they've gone back to school to get a degree that'll make them able to apply," said McGregor. "We've had people who worked in engineering who didn't know what they wanted to do but now know they want to work in space and are now doing that."

    Helping people make those realizations, McGregor said, was her favorite NASA social media experience to date.

    Thanks to McGregor and her colleagues, NASA Social attendees like Luciano are part of a lasting community that's taken off into a life of its own.

    Triumph.

    Photos by Frank Luciano/Instagram


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