The End of Free Will?

winningI suppose I was kidding myself in thinking I could get away without writing about politics this year.

Last year’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union broke me.

I recovered relatively quickly by sticking to my personal philosophy and not dwelling on negativity; a part of doing that has happily led to me distancing myself from an emotional involvement in politics.

I’ve tried to force myself to be ignorant of the broken democracy that the rest of my world appears to be addicted to.

Thankfully this particular post is not loaded with personal politics; this post is more of a warning to the incurious.

TL:DR – There is evidence that big money is using NLP style techniques to control modern-day western politics.  I provide links to relevant stories and so forth.

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Troll Hunting on Twitter

This is not a troll

This is not a Troll

Earlier this month I wrote about Profanity in Social Media, being inspired by the small numbers of arrests that have been made because of offensive posts on social media sites like Twitter.

Now with the UK media embroiled in a full on pro-Olympian frenzy, the subject is back in the news.

An as yet 17 year old boy has been arrested (under the auspices of the Communications Act 2003) for tweeting Team GB athlete, Tom Daly, and telling him his Father (sadly deceased and reputedly a great inspiration to the athlete) would be disappointed in his performance…. something along the lines of:

You let your Dad down.

Granted, he’s also alleged to have threatened Tom and twitterbombed him throughout the evening.  Not really polite behaviour and certainly seeming to deserve the Olog related monicker.

As well as the discomfort of arrest, the 17 year old in question (reputedly @rileyy_69 on Twitter) has since had his Twitter account suspended and has been demonised in the news as an “Internet Troll“.

It’s difficult to judge for yourself as the tweets in question have been removed but the reports I have read state that the perpetrator tweeted his comment which was then retweeted by the victim, resulting in a great deal of support for Tom Daly and a number of accusations of idiocy for @rileyy_69.

If you scour twitter you can find references to an illusive threatening video that is alleged to be the real reason our teen-troll was arrested.  You can also find reference to a death threat that many articles neglect to mention, here.

Internet Gnoll

This is a Gnoll

The media furore since has branded the teenage tweeter “poisonous” and continued to feed the self-initiated hatestorm to the level that the original perpetrator could be said to be victim to massively multiple doses of his own medicine.

I don’t think anyone would deny that this news article has been overblown to new proportions because of the Olympics themselves and it is very easy for cynics like me to see this as an extension of the “Thou Shallt Not Befoul The Olympics” arm that seems to be slapping anyone and everyone at the moment.

It comes as no surprise to the conspiracy theorist in me that this debacle has sprung to light less than  a week after Paul Chambers won his appeal against his own tweet-related arrest in 2010.

The authorities must be over the moon that they have this opportunity to strengthen the use of the Communications Act in a scenario where the culprit is unlikely to gain popular celebrity support.

Whilst looking into Rileygate I came across this write-up that put the issues into context far better than I have here.

So, how does this latest “Twitter Arrest” effect the rest of us?

Still no trolls

Still no Trolls

Many of the Rileygate articles warn us, the general public, that we should be careful what we say online.  Whilst that may seem to be sage advice in the light of this teenage arrest, it still smacks of censorship.

Worse still, this is inconsistent censorship, that is half policed by us the public anyway. What is deemed wrong in one context may be overlooked in another and yet the search engines often neglects context when  returning their search results.

Look at the abuse piled on @Rileyy_69 since his victim brought his own friends and contacts into the mix… are they to be arrested too?

And all the while, actual trolling continues day after day unpunished; only the other day I had cause to write about the trolling and cyber-bullying that lady gamers suffer online.

So what do you think?

Do we need to be more careful in what we post online or should we take these articles in context and only worry if we’re consistently abusive to people?

Profanity in Social Media – Can We Speak Our Minds?

Rage SwearMy Father shared an interesting article on the efficacy and relevance of bloggers, tweeters and the like adding a “These views are strictly my own an do not represent the views of my employer” caveat to their blogs and profiles.

The article goes on to discuss the possible risks to those tweeters who do use their personal social media profiles to communicate on behalf of their employer.

Personally, I’ve never felt the need to cover myself in that manner. My social media activity is very clearly my own and anything I post on behalf of my employer is done so under my employer’s social media identity.

Any correlation between what I say under my personal profile and my employer is in the eye of the correlator – so to speak – but the article my Father shared is definitely food for thought.

Times are changing and it may be that my naive, monochrome view of the matter could land me in trouble in future.

What is more worrying to me though is not the risk of damaging my career but the risk of ending up in court!

We probably all recall the furore surrounding the prosecution of Paul Chambers that arose from his “joke” tweet about blowing up Robin Hood Airport.

This article in the Telegraph reminds us of the case and how the poet John Betjeman could have been prosecuted under the same logic, had he tweeted:

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough

But the risk of prosecution doesn’t end there; earlier this year, Bexley activist Olly Cromwell, was prosecuted for swearing on Twitter.

You can read about that here and here.

It looks like the Communications Act 2003, the legal act under whose auspices these prosecutions have been made, has come under scrutiny.  It clearly does not account for recent changes in media and communication – or does it?

Some people may see little difference to publishing profanity on television and writing a swear word in a 140 character microblog.

As I’ve mentioned before when I’ve discussed profanity, I abhor censorship.  No matter how hateful, or wrong something may seem to some people, I strongly believe in people’s right to speak freely over any medium.

From fictional literature to personal views, we should not be prevented from airing our thoughts.

But my personal views don’t change the fact that, under current legislation we could be prosecuted for simply voicing a point of view in jest or using an “adult” word.

XBOX Achievements

AchievementLast week there was a new panel on the Inside XBOX channel within my XBOX dashboard. This is not, in itself, newsworthy; the channels of the dashboard are often used to advertise upcoming games and movies, new panels appear every day.

This panel was mildly interesting insofar as it signified growing innovation of the Inside XBOX team’s use of Twitter. What the team were advertising with this panel was the introduction of the “Tuesday Tweetbate”, a weekly debate to be held over twitter. The topic for discussion this week is:

Are Achievements the saviour or scourge of gaming?

My repsonse on twitter was:

#IXTweetbate achievements are an essential hook to fish me into playing games I would otherwise consider complete

Although the response took a day or so to filter through to my twitter account from the XBOX, there are a few other positive responses. The problem with twitter in this case is that it is difficult to fully explore a topic in 140 character segments (128 with the hashtag).

The achievement system on XBOX 360 adds a compulsive, addictive quality to gaming. When I think back to old school XBOX gaming it seems alien to think of playing without them. I know that sounds awfully shallow and probably makes me look like the kind of achievement-whore that has simple children’s titles in their list for the extra 1000 gamerscore.

The thing is, very few games would hold me through the duration without something to trigger my inner addiction center. Games that do are usually those with some form of character progression or immersive gameplay. Morrowind kept me playing for years without the hook of achievements, as did Deus Ex.

Other games, often racers and fighting games, would unlock new areas or in game items as progress was made through the game. With this in mind it is difficult to see why achievements were introduced, other than as a gimmick.

On the other hand, not all games can have progressively unlockable content or character progression to hook players in. Achievements also add a competitive quality to games. This is an especially attractive quality for single player games to compete in an era where multiplayer games dominate the marketplace.

I might be able to test my Halo skills online against other players but I can’t do the same with Mass Effect or Oblivion. With achievements I can compare my progress with friends, often leading to competition.

Of course, I would initially argue that titles like those do not need achievements, so strong is the immersion each game – and games like them – having a massive replay value and strong character progression to hook us through to multiple completions. That argument does not stand up to scrutiny however; I’ve played both Fallout 3 and Dragon Age: Origins to completion on multiple playthroughs and would normally stop playing them now. I had two outstanding achievements on both games, before they were 100% complete through ther achievement system. This led me to load Fallout 3 and play until I had the last two. The same challenge awaits for Dragon Age, which has an expansion out this month with the promise of even more achievements!

So to conclude, I stand by my original tweet, achievements are essential to XBOX gaming and I can’t imagine gaming without them.