Archive for the ‘bizarroINTERWEB’ Category

bizarroINTERWEB: journalistic hijinx

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

* a couple of pieces I wrote recently on spec for a (censored) looking to start up a (censored) website. (I signed something that promised I wouldn’t spill the beans…I’ve said too much already)

Right now, am still not sure if they will pick up on these or if I got the job, but I had a lot of fun writing them and they were too good not to share here.

The brief was to be short (oops!), funky (whatever that means?), fun, tongue-in-cheek, borderline satirical, but with all the facts communicated to a notoriously ambivalent audience target market . Seems right to me. 

Particularly proud of my description of Samsung as ‘the Ryan Gosling of  the smartphone game’. Brief filled, mereckons. 

Hack Wars: US and China Square Off in Cyberspace

CHINA-IT-INTERNET-US-MEDIA-HACKING-SPY

The online battlefield of international cyber-espionage just got a little more serious, with reports today of increased activity by hackers attempting infiltrate a so-called “(unnamed US organisation) involved in shaping economic policy”.

Super-sleuthy cyber security company FireEye (not to be confused with the new Hunger Games movie) revealed that the group of (possibly Chinese) coffee-addicted computer propellerheads holed up in a building somewhere in Beijing and previously believed to be behind a series of 2012 malware attacks on US media companies including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, are preparing for another eminent attack.

FireEye researchers wrote in a post on the company’s blog that “the new campaigns mark the first significant stirrings from the group since it went silent in January in the wake of a detailed expose of the group and its exploits.”

The company identified suspicious malware that used a unique and almost undetectable network traffic pattern during a systems analysis of an organisation involved in shaping economic policy.

We have no idea what that means either, but it’s safe to assume your outdated version of Norton would be pretty much powerless against it if the Chinese thought you had anything significant to steal on your laptop. FireEye have deduced, somewhat cryptically, that “(hackers) appear to be mounting fresh assaults that leverage new and improved versions of malware”.

The on-going hacking scandal has led to an extended period of diplomatic awkwardness between the US and China, with some not-so-subtle accusations fired from Washington against the Chinese not playing according to the official rules of Superpower Twister.

The Chinese, naturally, have responded: Who? Us? And have even dragged infamous Whistle-blower Monthly pinup boy Edward Snowden into the furore, saying Snowden’s recent revelations about the inner workings of the US government intelligence operations reveal that the US are not playing by the rules either, adding, mockingly, ‘you really dropped ball on that one, Barry’, before delivering a shipment of 30,000 plastic coat hangers to Wal-Mart.

All’s fair in love and war, as the saying goes.

Meanwhile, in an anonymous office block somewhere in Beijing, a group of increasingly bored geeks order pizza, play Call Of Duty and discuss the subtle sexual ambiguities of the Star Wars movies, while awaiting further instructions.

Blackberry’s Juices Souring

bblogo

Blackberry, the granddaddy of smartphones – much beloved of fashionable parents, fidgety executives and other small-thumbed people – may soon find itself going the way of the dinosaur.

In an official statement released today, the company has announced that it will be seeking out “new alternatives” for its stagnating business models, product lines of diminishing degrees of success and overall survival. All of which is just fancy business-speak for “we’re just going to take a time-out over here in the corner and have a bit of cry.”

The statement comes at a time when Blackberry continues to find itself increasingly irrelevant in a market dominated by The Company Who Shall Not Be Named That Sell i-Phones and the Ryan Gosling of the smartphone game, Samsung. Blackberry share prices have fallen by almost 38% over the last six months and has seen the departure of several senior executives, which is lot like the rats on the Titanic strapping on golden parachutes and calling a taxi before the bill arrives.

Most of the blame for the current state of affairs at the company can be attributed to their product line, specifically: the very public failure of their Playbook tablet in 2011, the delay in releasing their latest Blackberry 10 handset (along with their flat-out refusal to revitalise and modernise the phone’s software) and, most inexplicably, doing away with the Blackberry’s most unique and successful selling point: the tangible keypad.

In a no-man’s-land strewn with the cadavers of also-rans like Panasonic, Motorola and Sony Ericsson, Blackberry will have to tread lightly, cap in hand, if they hope to see out the rest of the year. With statements like “there can be no assurance that this exploration process will result in any transaction,” it seems inevitable. Short of commissioning a voodoo doll of Apple CEO Tim Cook, the company could have new owners very soon.

bizarroINTERWEB: Bookmark Now! 001

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

3

Essential Alternative

South Africa News

Websites

(as endorsed by the Bizarrojerri Corporation)

In the ether of a sometimes oversaturated internet, where the choice of news and information websites is vast, varied and somewhat overwhelming, it takes a lot for specific websites to stand out above the crowd. For independent  South African news and culture websites, in particular, who not only have to vie for attention with international competition but also with large local media houses and major news organisations, it is important to approach things a little differently. Loaded with some great, original writing and different approaches to graphic style and layout, here are local websites that should be on every discerning South African news junkie’s favourites list.

Mahala

The pet project of  journalist Andy Davis, Mahala is the epitome of the South African alternative press, offering different and unique insights into South African music, film, politics and the local zeitgeist in general, through interesting writing and some off the wall ideas, from a huge pool of contributors, photographers and artists. In particular, the writings of Davis himself, and the site’s Gonzo-at-large Brandon Edmonds, stand out for their intelligent and sometimes jet-black humourous takes on South African life. In service since 2009, the site has a vast back catalogue of articles and photo/art essays for hours of reading. The site’s unique Kif or Kak section (http://www.mahala.co.za/category/kif_or_kak/), where a rogues photo gallery of found objects from everyday South African life (everything from weird, funny signs to outsider art) are passionately discussed and critiqued by readers and contributors alike is one of the site’s must-see highlights.

The Daily Maverick

Borne out of the ashes of one of South Africa’s premier print political journals, the short-lived, but lively Maverick, the online incarnation Daily Maverick does what it says on the box: A daily dose of some of the country’s best and unrestrained political and cultural writing, without apology or remorse, always with healthy doses of dry humour that colour the absurdness of the South African socio-political battlefield.

The list of contributors at the DM is enviable, spanning everything from hardnosed news reporting and analysis from the likes of Mandy De Waal and Phillip De Wet (DM’s deputy editor and probably the hardest working journalist in SA today), to some wry political insight from the popular Sipho Hlongwane and 702’s Stephen Grootes. With a simple, basic design and relatively ad-free layout, The DM is a fun, quick and easy-to-read first stop for news and views behind the news, before moving to more vanilla-flavoured news sources.

Hayibo

An altogether different animal is the madness that is Hayibo. Taking its inspiration from the template set by the classic satirical Onion news journal and website, nothing on the Hayibo site is real, it is all made up. But as the saying goes, in any form of satire there is always the smallest kernel of truth. In South African politics and life, this is amplified to the outermost extremes by the writers at Hayibo. The road for the website has been a rocky one, with the site losing sponsors and gaining critics regularly since its launch in 2008. After a brief hiatus from the web in 2010, buoyed by online support, the site returned with vengeance and headlines like “SA revealed as giant scripted TV show” and “No special Valentine’s plans for Mugabe, will probably just stay home and screw Zimbabwe” to shock and amuse the site’s loyal readers. With a content team managed by humorist Tom Eaton, the site never fails to come up with some great ideas that, by the day, seem to get a little too close for comfort with the realSouth Africapolitical and social environment.

bizarroINTERWEB: Bringing myspace Back

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Whatever Happened to..?

The Rise and Fall of Myspace

Like the memory of an old girlfriend, unceremoniously dumped for a newer, sleeker model, some older Facebook users may remember a time when they only had eyes for Myspace. While secretly Googling to see if their old Myspace profiles are still around, they may ask: “whatever happened to Myspace?”

The good news is Myspace is still around, the bad news, though, is that she’s with Justin Timberlake now.

Myspace was the first mass-populated global social network, and between 2005 and 2008, could do no wrong. Boasting over 100 million users at the height of its popularity, and a net worth of almost $12 billion, Myspace was the byword for online interaction and the spokes model for the second generation IT business boom. That is, until Mark Zuckerberg got drunk one night and changed everything.

Myspace was developed by the small IT group eUniverse, in 2003, taking elements of proto-social networks such as Friendster and livejournal, and stabilising these platforms with the Coldfusion design program. Together with an emphasis on customised graphical elements and various music and publishing applications, the Myspace model offered users an online platform to express their individuality and connect with friends and strangers alike. The site was popular with musicians and creatives in promoting their work, and for the average user, it was the first exposure to how easy and engrossing fully interactive online living could be.

In 2006 the site recorded its 100 millionth user, and a $580 million deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, in view to establishing the Myspace brand globally, particularly inChina, heralded the seriousness with which traditional business regarded the potential of online social networking. Murdoch had big plans for Myspace, even establishing Myspace runners Chris De Wolfe and Tom Anderson (the veritable face of the site) in the News Corp executive hierarchy. A billion dollar advertising deal with Google and an attempted merge with Yahoo (through News Corp) helped Myspace reach the pinnacle of its tipping point in 2008. Facebook going live that same year pushed Myspace over the edge. A reluctance to accept evolutionary change and embrace simplicity, both hallmarks of Facebook and Twitter, forced Myspace out of the game.

One of the more specific criticisms of the Myspace model was the over-customisation of profile pages, allowing users to design and tweak the look of profiles with often badly designed and buggy applications that struggled to upload into inadequate browsers on primitive internet connections. In between their Icarus-like business naivety, and some undue privacy and pornography scandals, Myspace ultimately broke the most basic rule of social networking: don’t alienate your customers with bells and whistles, especially if they don’t work properly.

Systematically, as Facebook and Twitter flourished between 2008 and 2011, Myspace, rich but riddled, haemorrhaged users, advertising, employees and the good graces of Rupert Murdoch. By the end of 2011, the company had lost $165 million, 65 million unique users, dwindled a workforce of 1,600 down to 220 and bared the shame of being pawned off by a frustrated Murdoch to Justin Timberlake’s Specific Media Group for $35 million, well below the asking price of $200 million.

Surprisingly, with that sort of pariah status, Myspace today still survives, largely in more regionally-focused sites, such as China and Russia, as well as, under the keen eye of actor/musician Timberlake, re-marketing itself as music sharing platform similar to Bandcamp.

An ever-optimistic Timberlake, no doubt inspired by some strange sense of meta-irony in his portrayal of internet prospector Sean Parker in The Social Network (a film about Facebook) is wholly committed and involved in making Myspace the go-to site for social networking in the music business, telling MTV News in January 2012, “I don’t have anything on my plate other than think-tanking a lot of different ideas for Myspace… (we’re bringing it back.)”

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