Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Communication defects

When I placed a rant and an advisory aginst MySpace, I expected more than the people that I see online to heed the warnings. Unfortunately, some have disregarded them and continue to do so. And in most of the fashions they resort, as many people in the chat room, on the mobile phone, or the instant messaging programme do, to using a language that many people like myself can't get the gist of at a glance.

A sign positively prohibits the use of the language of texters — here called '1337', or 'Leet' — within public buildings.
Texting using abbreviations has become very nostalgic for the Internet and mobile phone community. It seems ideal for people that are communicating under a time constraint or just want to disregard what the English instructor taught them for a while. Some studies condone this as a way to better communicate with others. However, I see the use of such abbreviations and slanguage as purely unessential.

Then there come those that don't use abbreviations, but use a dialect of 'txtspk' called 'Leet'. This term generally refers to any shorthand text, but more specifically so to the use of punctuation or dingbats as letter strokes. For example, |\|() /-\|_|7()5|9/-\|°|-|5 translates to 'NO AUTOGRAPHS'. The symbols used to represent letters may vary (one could use | and 1 to represent an 'I'). At any rate, however, not only is it time-consuming and used only as a display gimmick, it's also extrememly illegible from a glance. How our brains developed, we were made to interpret a | as a rod, not an 'l', 'i', or '1'.

I am very grateful, however, that people are not using this posting method when they write on their blogs. Some may include a 'pwning j00' just for rhetoric, but generally I'm glad that the use of some blogs such as Drudge Report have refrained from abusing such a system (mainly becuase many blogs are starting to assume political identities). The same cannot be said, however, for the majority of Xanga, MySpace, or Hi5 titbits that barely pass as 'blogs'. Below is a sample from a person in my Hi5 friend network:

Well it's sumemr hols..and ive never been so [expletive] bored in my life, sitting round pointlessly it is soo terrible. I think ive been on this site every 10 mins. Just to show how i have NETHIN to do.
Anyways, being depressed with fiji my baby, about how [expletive] this all issss....but we r gonna go visit Harry's hamster now yes!
Peace out, i'm gonna go swim xx

Fortunately, that is minimal use for a profile titbit.

So I should within two days rest assured that those that have the time to glance through my blog are, for once, going to take this into consideration and pass it along for others to adhere to. To me, even the 'Leet' sample I gave looks foreign to me. How we work, only the most dire computer fanatics can interpret those lines from a glance. In fact, I don't think anyone can....

Friday, February 24, 2006

Where's that Patchou?

Because Messenger 8.0 Beta is out for Hotmail users that have signed up to be invited (however oxymoronic it sounds), and it seems that Messenger Plus isn't compatible with that version. Ah, well, while we wait for Patchou to come up with an update, I might as well go into detail about what Messenger Beta is.

To me the only drastic improvement over Version 7.5 was implementing Yahoo Messenger's computer calling feature (and it also is free). However, the style in which it was made is apparently an attempt at a futuristic interface, but now the only areas in which you can change the colour in the conversation window are the writing tabs, header, and Send button. The new activity icon omits the clock and no-entry symbols that indicate whether a contact is away or busy and instead is coloured light green. A deep green indicates a person that's online and active, and silver indicates that the contact is either online or has blocked you. Blocked icons are just small sprites.

Still, if you wish to sign up for Messenger 8.0 Beta and have a Hotmail account, you can do so here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Glaring evidence


After conducting a review with a person I will not name, I finally came across a welcome thread by a former PKMN.NET member, Lorna, who renamed herself Angel-FoX-crescent. The thread was titled to bash PKMN.NET — and from how Joe and other moderators responded, the title was effective to say the least. Imperial Dragon, the same mod we probed in the rant about mistreatment of new members, was kind enough even to give the following review, having been banned himself from PKMN.NET twice before I first joined:

Ah that dutch mod dude being Joeno? You shouldn't take him so personally, Angel-FoX-crescent because he's literally the most obnoxious person I've ever met, and he always treats people like crap, that's been his main ambition in life for the last several years.

And this comment isn't intended to glorify SPP, more so to insult PUK. Basically, in the war of life for the struggle of survival, PUK is the anally abused Magikarp, and SPP the uber Deoxys on crack. You figure out who emerges victorious.

Serebii concurred with him, at first sounding sympathetic with Lorna (as she will be called hereinafter) but then turning to brand James as 'going to be selling the Big Issue'.

Now it wouldn't be fair to say that they were the only ones to hold that idea. I joined Serebii.net in April (two months before the blog was started) out of anger towards Jeroen and looking to get their assistance in a revolution. Of course, the rule page of the time prohibited talk against other sites (I wonder if that rule is holding up well?), so I decided to just sift in. Of course, we now have Lorna looking to stir up dissent among the members in the SPP forums that already have: a) had unpleasant experiences with Jeroen (seeing as Imperial Dragon was knocked out twice with one clemency), b) picked up on the rivalry, and c) accepted the fact that the site that they're on is the most socially secure.

However, I lost my chance to give proposals when TPL collapsed, but by then I wasn't willing to start a revolution anymore. I intended to go back to PKMN.NET, wipe off my former self, and start anew. And I have, and now I've been able to see more distinctly the prejudice Joe harbours toward James. Pity Joe isn't funny in the same respect as Psythor. Now I'm here writing, trying to drive the nails into the coffin before Joe can sell the site. My goal by the time I was let back into PKMN.NET was to not bash Jeroen, but now bash Joe.

And for those of you reading and having come from Serebii.net, I think you should have a bit more respect for us. You bashed PPN for being lenient and us for being too strict. Perhaps it's you that has the guise of rules intended to drive off bad members, and it's also you who conducts uneasy business under that guise.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The return of one triumvir

Bad Wolf has returned. Even though he had released a condemnation of the forums whilst leaving with Shiny Zapdos and Jamarie, and even though he was forced to change accounts after the GameFAQs plagiarism fiasco, Rich decided yesterday that he and Gogobananas — who was banned for creating duplicate accounts and causing a false spam attack on the forums but showed remorse upon being found out — were to be reinstated albeit amid anger from people that supported the bans. Indeed, Dennis ran a poll asking staff members whether the latter was to be reinstated, and all except I responded negatively.

I'm fuming over the decision to reinstate Bad Wolf, and I'm sure many others are as well. However, I'm planning to set rules to keep the former in check.

  • Bad Wolf must write and release a recantation of the views he held when he was demoted and banned on 28 December. He must also consent to all rules as posted following his ban.
  • He cannot apply for moderator positions for one month. After that period he will be reinstated to all former positions without compromise of filled positions on the forums.
  • He is not allowed to use the word 'n00b' in reference to anyone as per the 20 January regulation.
  • Failure to adhere to the above provisions or any offence of magnitude equal or superior to Epitaph or the plagiarism fiasco will result in an immediate ban without possibility of reinstatement.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Crystal Walrein as Tillmonkey

Some days don't afford me time to sit up in my room thinking of what attacks to plan, what snides to make on James, or what snubs to make on forum ills. Rather, these days — six hours of them at the very least — are spent in the world of what James calls the 'tillmonkey'. Each day I have six hours to sell off chunks amid chunks of shovels, pails, crackers, Luckies, mixed peppers, and lottery tickets.

Hectic as it may intially seem, the job I hold is surprisingly menial and complicated all at once. The Coinstar machine tells you to vouch your slips (which deduct nine cents on the cashed dollar) at the cashier, but we're told to rediret them to the front desk. Up until a few weeks ago we weren't capable of returning cash on debit cards. And even today we have to go up to the desk when our till accumulates more than $750 to extricate $500 and plunk it down for entry into the vault. And a lot of these mishaps had — and still have — caused disruptions of orders, poisoned infected food, falling chickens, and cries of 'VOID!' when a cancellation was needed.

Often I, being a particularly enthusiastic worker that has been reduced to roaming the aisles an hour before actually starting work, am called in on off-days to handle shifts emptied from people calling off for holidays or unusually high consumer volume. At least I don't have to complain about my wage of $7.00 an hour, which'll go up by a dollar in May and then become invalidated as a figure by the state income law in October.

Perhaps I shouldn't complain about the glitches involved with working for this food store chain, either. After all, not only do I get to talk to people that have flown in from all over the world to gamble in Atlantic City or enjoy the ocean views (or both, if their wallet is fat enough), but I also get to connect once more with friends that I had become estranged from upon graduation from junior high school. And as I said before, there happen to be a few girls that gawk at me as I work. It may be annoying and cause me to mutter darkly, but there are people at my age other than my co-workers and bosses who actually respect what I do.

Next to the store is a dollar store, from which some people will buy items that'll occasionally ring up on our registers. It also has a few small toys, gizmos, and colouring books that do for a long trip up the Garden State Parkway. Of course, others will prefer to cash their checks at the bank or brew coffee at Wawa. There also exist people that regularly visit other stores and actually try to use their cards for those stores (Shop-Rite and Stop 'n Shop) to get markdowns — when our policy is that they apply to everyone!

But a lot of the joys of working for such a prominent food chain are compromised, of course, by the inability to post for you or actually see people to add to my game data files. Of course, since I'm not a child anymore, I have no right to gripe on that subject. Sometimes, though, I'll bring a console and play it in the back room an hour before the shift begins.

All things that can be used to fix up the home and a banquet to boot pass through my hands, over the beams (with the exception of some Rosa packets whose barcodes are blurred), and into a plastic, paper, or hybrid bag depending on what the customer demands. Of course, there will be occasions when I have to rip out different-coloured peppers because the rates aren't the same. There will also be occasions when I have to go with a customer to investigate a mismarked item and then either have them return it and call 'VOID!' to take the item off the roster, or call 'VOID!' and have the code fixed.

Getting to the store requires that I navigate my bike or plan a walk around the lighthouse roundabout (luckily, the main street has a divide when it approaches the roundabout so that I can clear one lane at a time) and then squeeze between undermaintained sidewalks and moving sport utility vehicles that fly down the streets as if they're motorways. Often, I'll have a transport arranged for the purpose of cutting such hazards out. even with the work in the building and the intricacy of getting there, I enjoy my job very much. It's one that I intend to hold until I flee to the UK or go to college. And it least puts me at a position above James for being able to work whereas he quit to go to college and was apparently very happy that he did....

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How to manage a profile page

After seeing what Channel One did on MySpace concerning Seth Doane's experimental search on a member of that site and their eventual interview, I can say that my suspicions have been confirmed. As a result, I've thought up a bit about how the privacy of members could be bettered on such sites. Some of these measures aren't in place, but some are. Without further ado, I present a guide to keeping secure whilst showing yourself on the Internet.
  1. Use a site with a secure friend network. By default, profiles on MySpace and Xanga are wide open to people that are not included in their list or network of friends. This means that the holder of the profile is susceptible to approach from people with the intention of abusing them. To prevent this, you should restrict viewing of your profile to people on your friend list. Hi5 has this restriction set for all profiles.
  2. Dress conservatively and speak plainly. The most common mistake made by people with profile pages is setting up their profile page to exhibit flirtatiousness in the case of a female or brawn in the case of a male. The attitude harboured by the holder is evident in both the CSS of the page and the text pattern of the personal information. For example, a girl that formats her page in vibrant pink and writes in her blog in text such as 'omgz i like boyz' gives the viewer the impression that the girl is single and looking for any type of male mate irrespective of the nature or age of that mate. On the other hand, if the person refrains from using artsy text and restricts his or her CSS colour choices to soft, cohesive tones, there's less liability of that person falling prey to a predator simply because he or she seems smart.
  3. Do not use cartoons or imported images for use in your photo gallery. Not only is this against the terms of service for many social network sites, but it also brings the impression upon you that you may be a predator yourself. Posting a bona fide photo of yourself helps — but does not directly — certify that you are not a predator.
  4. Be wary of deviation or inconsistency in conversational style. Although news stories and journals suggest otherwise, it is very difficult for a predator to maintain the guise of the person that they want you to imagine them to be. Track all of their information carefully and be suspicious if their references elsewhere or in later dialogue contrast with what they told you before. For example, a person that claims to live in Liverpool, England in a conversation with you but is said elsewhere to be in a town near you may be a predator.
  5. Whenever possible, conduct a video conversation. A good way to verify the identity of a chat partner is to view them on webcam. Be sure that all participants in a video conversation have started their webcams, however.
  6. Choose your friends wisely. Anyone in your friend network that repeatedly harasses you to the extent of trying to pry open the door to more personal information than you've seen fit to reveal should be removed immediately. Similarly, anyone that tries to recruit you for illegal acts such as child pornography, cult formation, or the conveying of selective hatred should be removed from the list and, if possible, reported to authorities.
  7. Follow all directions from the terms of service. COPPA regulations state that sites with servers based in the United States — under which Hi5, Xanga, LiveJournal, and MySpace fall — are not permitted to collect personal information from children under 13 in any circumstance without notarised authorisation from the child's parent or guardian. In many cases the terms may prohibit the disclosure of school districts, street addresses, post box numbers, or telephone numbers in the profile. The profile is subject to closure if any required information is incorrect to the knowledge of the holder. All of this is in place to protect the privacy of the profile holder and/or comply with regional laws. The terms of service for social networking sites tend to vary, so you should review the site's policy before you begin creating your profile.
  8. Take personal and technical precautions whilst using a chat room. Because many chatrooms can host many users at a time, a chat room is the worst place in which to reveal any personal information unless you are using a private messaging function (which is provided by all mIRC-supported chatrooms). Be sure that the chat room is moderated regularly so that people won't have the audacity to pry you open for information. In addition to personal hazards, some users may use the chat room (if it is mIRC-compatible) to unleash bots that may carry viruses or prove to be Trojan horses, so be sure to have your antivirus programme activated whilst using a chat room.
Of course, it still may be possible for people to gain access to your information even with these precautions. If someone receives any bit of information you give, they can use that information to conduct searches through regional logs, which are required by federal law to be open to all people. If you give them enough information and maintain nonchalance in the form of your profile, expect someone scary to stop you. You should only give out delicate information such as your telephone number or address to people whose identity you have successfully verified and deem to be of an appropriate nature.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Another youth summit

Already I'm dazed from the transition from three days and two nights of fraternisation to the computer once more. Another youth summit has cropped up, and naturally I felt the need to attend this one, this time hosted by the Elks. I had to arise at 5.00am in order to get dressed, prepare a meal, and then head out to the church for the long trip up to New Brunswick. Amid the converted tollbooths (many tolls on the Garden State Parkway have been cut in half, doubling the tolls in one direction and allowing traffic to pass for free on the other side) and faulty directions, we arrived minutes early for reception at the Hyatt Regency.

This summit was slightly like the one held by Youth to Youth in Rhode Island, yet there existed several differences and contrasts. Unlike the Youth to Youth summits, we were never sifted into family groups; rather, we were left to our own devices as to whom to attend workshops with, and many sessions were held in the ballrooms anyway. Between sessions there would be long periods of free time and fraternisation; there were no organised group meetings during those times. It was like the summits, however, in that it was a very large mass of students, albeit all more accessible. There were also a few times when 'Dexterity check!' was called, but the jive ended with just 'Unh, unh, ELKS!' and the check wasn't introduced until lunch on day two. Also in the free periods were group jives, including the Ride That Pony and Bazooka Bubblegum chants that took place at mealtimes up in Rhode Island.

The first day began with the arrival at the roundabout outside the hotel amid school buses and individual cars. When we got in, we were sent to the ballroom at back for baggage storage and then to the Regency Ballroom for orientation. As soon as the long orientation and the rather interesting talk given by Paul Wichansky, we were brought out to the atrium to conduct breakfast and fraternise before lunch. It was during the first break that I came up with the idea with creating a beta map for Caerdydd, in a region that's supposed to lie to the north of Hoenn. So as I began to lay out the motorways and areas for residential developments, people began to watch. I quickly gained fame in the meeting because of this map. Then came lunch; we were called up by tables in a random order and sent to one of four buffet tables. Then came a break, this time of fifteen minutes. More people would gawk.

That day we attended the first of three workshops to be held during the summit. Unfortunately, the conference papers weren't returned, so there was no registry for attendance at the workshops, which meant people had to clamour for the one they wanted. I chose a session on methamphetamine labs. This session consisted of an extensive slideshow that included two movies that dramatised the effects of meth labs on the neighbourhood: The first movie was a documentary on a kid that had been uprooted from parents that were on meth, only to be left with an aunt and uncle who were even more desperate addicts and later killed with an overdose of meth, landing the foster parents on death row; the second movie was on the workings of a meth lab and an explosion in the home that engulfs the entire property, killing all of the occupants. The images will stay with me forever.

Then began another extended break. At this time we were given the room keys and sent to our respective suites to set up camp (I was in room 478). At this time a scavenger hunt took place, involving many of the participants. Then dinner ended the madness, followed by a longer break in which people wishing to enter the talent show had to register. At 9.00pm the dance took place in the ballroom. I entered with the map and pen in tow, and many of the people seated at the tables surrounding the dance podium looked over to examine it. When the music selection became significantly louder, I left to go outside to the Warm Fuzzy Board (which was just a mesh of Post-It notes compared to Youth-to-Youth's practice of folding papers and separating the boards by surname).

It was when I started for the board to check the notices when a girl that had just exited the dance stopped me. Thus began another infatuation. Kathy, a girl who had come from Jersey City, had said that she had been following me outside after she had heard of the map. My intention was just to discuss the map, as I usually did with people that gawked, but immediately it evolved into a full personal inquiry. The girl was an animé enthusiast and had drawn an animé girl to post on the board (it only stayed up the next day for twelve hours or so). Her school district was the largest that had come to the summit. Like me, she had not danced and had not been instructed as to how. And at dinner the following night, she would become the only recorded contact in my binder and a new person in my Yahoo! Messenger contact list.

The next day played host to two conferences. After breakfast yet another speaker walked up and urged us to stand from our seats in an attempt to defeat the adage of sitting and listening. After that we had our break and then proceeded to the ballrooms below to attend workshops. The first one I attended was a course on drinking, drugs, and driving; the presenter, a former Kentucky state police officer, made his point using the images of a gavel, body bag, and handcuffs to hit home into the heart. The second I attended was a course that attempted to defeat prejudice resulting from diversity; here we teamed up with another that was visually different from ourselves and discussed the concept with them, and then we broke into four and did the same after introducing ourselves using each other as a medium. After that we had our two-hour break before dinner and a presentation by Motivational Productions, followed by a half-hour break, two fuzzies for my map and the talent show, which we left early from when many of us were tired.

Today we were given coloured cards and told to organise in ballrooms with people holding cards of our colour. In these ballrooms we discussed possible improvements to the youth programme, which included emphasis on group activities to cut out the excessive free time and the selection of speakers that cut to the chase and bring in interaction rather than ramble on. I was very sad to leave the hotel this afternoon as I searched for people to commiserate with before the group left for Brigantine once more. Along way I was laughing for the first time other than being with Kathy when Jacob (who was envious over how I seemingly attracted girls) had the audacity to throw food out the window as we sped along the SR18 motorway out of New Brunswick.

For some reason I had the feeling that a particular person there had an account on the Pokémon Community, but that may have been my senses going haywire. It's taking me a bit of effort to get back to my normal routine after being out at this summit. It was a lot easier when I left Youth to Youth....