Friday, September 28, 2012

LinkedIn needs to tread carefully on new features or risk sullying its reputation

I appreciate that professional social networking service LinkedIn continues to innovate and add new features. But some of its newest efforts are veering toward the frivolous. 
LinkedIn has always been the serious adult to Facebook’s partying teenager in terms of sensibility. 
LinkedIn is your professional face online. It’s your modern resume. It lists your education, work history, experience and professional interests. Recruiters use it to find prospects for employment. 
By contrast, Facebook is a place where you post fun photos and personal updates on your activities. It’s an online service for sharing funny videos, news articles and photos, and playing social games. 
Some of LinkedIn’s newest features stray close to Facebook territory. This trend ultimately could damage LinkedIn’s solid reputation. 
Lately LinkedIn has been bugging me to “endorse” areas of expertise for people I’m linked with. It’s the equivalent of a Facebook “Like” button for people’s professional skills. I don’t like it. 
First off, I find the alerts intrusive. Secondly, if I wanted to recommend somebody’s work experience, I’d do that in the recommendations section. Hitting the “endorse” button is a cheap substitute. And lastly, LinkedIn has been asking me to endorse the skills of people I haven’t worked with. 
LinkedIn also sent an email saying it would notify me when people like what I’ve shared on the site. Once again, this kind of “liking” activity seems too much like frivolous Facebook stuff. 
LinkedIn needs to keep our relationship strictly professional. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

10 fun webpage error messages

Last October, I posted photos of 24 notable webpage error screens, often called 404 error messages.
Since then, I’ve stumbled upon 10 more fun or interesting examples of the art.
Here they are for your enjoyment, starting with CollegeHumor above.
How many of these have you gotten while Web surfing?

James Van Der Beek crying on “Dawson’s Creek” graces the error page for the Huffington Post.

The Rolling Stones put a video of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” on their error page. (Photo from Laughing Squid.)

This one from Lego is cute.

Here’s a cheeky 404 error message from Vanity Fair.

The error screen from Lockerz is out of this world.

The Telegraph put a cartoon on its error page.

I like the old typewriter on the Forbes error page.

Conan O’Brien parodies the Twitter Fail Whale for his error page.

And finally here’s a real Twitter error page.

Also check out, these pages from Gizmodo:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bill Maher, ‘SNL’ unfairly slam undecided voters

Last week, “Saturday Night Live” and comedian Bill Maher each branded undecided voters in the 2012 presidential election as idiots.
Their comedy bits took cheap shots at the percentage of Americans who claim they are undecided in the race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. (A recent Associated Press-GfK poll says 7% of voters are undecided. Maher put the figure at 5% and “SNL” at less than 4%.)
From their clearly partisan perspectives, Maher and the writers of “SNL” think the election is a pretty easy decision: Vote for Barack Obama. Maher and “SNL” just can’t fathom why 5% of voters haven’t come to that obvious conclusion yet.
Maher makes a good point about the media’s fixation with undecideds. I, too, hate those broadcast news panels of undecided voters called together to measure their reactions to the race.
I agree with Maher that the media is wrong to present them as “more noble and discerning than the rest of us.” But I wouldn’t call them “dipshits” either, as Maher does.
I could say the same thing about large numbers of uninformed voters who vote Democratic or Republican no matter who is running. Maher makes the same point when he points to a Pew Research study that says 40% of Democrats do not know that the Republicans are the conservative party.
Undecided voters used to be called independent or swing voters. That’s because they’re not locked into an ideology that makes them a lock for either party to count on year after year.
Romney was trying to make that point in that controversial video, surreptitiously shot in May but leaked last week. In presidential elections, Republicans can’t sway those 47% of people who are guaranteed to vote for the Democratic candidate. It’s foolish to campaign to them. You have to appeal to those swing voters who can go either way. Those are the idiots that Maher and SNL are talking about, the ones that can’t see the clear good-and-evil line separating Obama and Romney.
“If, at this point, you still can’t figure out who you like more Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, stay home,” Maher said. “Because you probably couldn’t find your polling place anyway,” Maher said. “I mean, what more information does someone need to make this choice?”
True, the public knows what they’re getting with Barack Obama. He’s been in office for four years and they can judge his record.
But even people who think Obama has done a poor job, especially with the economy, aren’t sure they want to back Romney. Obama is immensely likable, while Romney comes off as cold and arrogant.
The question isn’t “who you like more,” it’s who would do a better job as president?
Maher would prefer if we could skip the upcoming debates between Romney and Obama and head straight to the polls. No need to see the candidates side-by-side, answering (hopefully) tough questions to gauge their responses.
I can think of a lot of reasons why people are undecided.
For starters, there are those of us who are fiscally conservative and believe in smaller government, but are liberal about social issues. A choice for either candidate this year is a compromise of those principles. It’s the age-old better-of-two-evils quandary.
Some poll respondents probably aren’t comfortable voicing their support for a candidate and prefer to say they’re undecided. Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko famously used to encourage readers to lie to pollsters.
Many undecided voters are probably leaning one way or the other and are waiting to see if either candidate slips up at the debates or in the final weeks of campaigning to change their minds. But officially they’re undecided.
Still other undecided voters who dislike both candidates will cast protest votes either for trailing candidate (to rob the winner of a clear mandate) or a third-party candidate like Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. 

Photo: 7-Eleven convenience stores are holding a promotion called “7-Election 2012,” where shoppers show their support for presidential candidates through their choice of coffee cup.


America’s Undecided Voters Need Answers On ‘Saturday Night Live’ (Huffington Post)

Saturday Night Live: Undecided Voter (Hulu)

Bill Maher Slams Undecided Swing State Voters And The Media For Celebrating Them (Huffington Post)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Chicago teachers strike is finally over and so is the Hot Chicago Teachers on Strike blog

After a false alarm over the weekend, the 2012 Chicago teachers strike came to an end this evening.
The teachers will return to work tomorrow after missing seven days of school.
So, now the Hot Chicago Teachers on Strike blog on Tumblr is officially kaput. I hope you enjoyed it.

Photo from the Chicago Teachers Union Local 1.

Update (March 5, 2014): Photos moved to Flickr page called Hot Chicago Teachers on Strike.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Creating an Internet meme is hard

Taking a cue from the success of Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street, this week I created a similar website with a sexy twist on a major news story.
My site, Hot Chicago Teachers on Strike, was cut short Friday when the Chicago Teachers Union came to terms with the city’s school adminstrators. The strike is over after five days and so is the steady stream of photos of attractive female teachers out picketing. 
I hadn’t publicized the site, which was built on the Tumblr blogging platform. Frankly I thought the strike would go on a little longer. But after 26 posts, I pulled the plug on it.
It was my second attempt to create an Internet meme with Tumblr. My first, Celebrities vs. the TSA, is still going strong, but isn’t a break-out success. I just think it’s fun to needle the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, a bloated, ineffectual agency that needs to be reformed. 
The truth is that creating an Internet meme takes creativity, self-promotion, good timing and luck. It’s not easy, but maybe one day I’ll find the right recipe.

Update (Sept. 16, 2012): The Chicago Teachers Union has decided to continue striking. So hopefully more photos of hot Chicago teachers on strike will be forthcoming. 

Update (March 5, 2014): Photos moved to Flickr page called Hot Chicago Teachers on Strike.

Photo: Striking Chicago teachers (Zimbio).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The intersection of art and porn

The Overland Park Arboretum in Kansas has come under fire for a bronze statue on display that a group of citizens finds obscene.
The statue depicts a woman taking a photograph of her exposed breasts. The work, called “Choice,” is by Chinese artist Yu Chang. But the American Family Association believes the statue encourages “sexting” and violates community standards on obscenity, according to Fox 4 News in Kansas City and the Huffington Post.
The dispute comes down to a subjective judgment about the nature of art. Even art that crosses the line of good taste or depicts sexuality can still be art.
Art comments on the human condition and often provokes strong emotions. This leads to healthy discussions about societal norms and other big issues.
The controversial Overland Park Arboretum sculpture is such a work of art. Photos of the sculpture raise a lot of questions in my mind. Let me pose a couple.
Why is the sculpture headless? Perhaps it’s to show that sexting dehumanizes by focusing on body parts instead of the whole person?
Why are the torso and limbs cut and repositioned off kilter? Perhaps it’s because sexting is a sign of our fractured moral fiber. Or maybe people who text or do stupid things with their mobile devices end up in horrible accidents.
Only the artist knows for sure what he was trying to say. But the fun of artistic interpretation is in evaluating a work for its subtleties and bigger themes.
I hope that cooler heads prevail here and let the work stay put.
So what if it depicts bare breasts. Big deal. Even little kids know what boobies are.

Artists pushing boundaries with depictions of sex

The Kansas sculpture is tame compared with other artists’ works.
Last year, an art gallery in New York City caught flack from neighborhood residents for displaying a collection of works by painter Nick Weber. The oil paintings were stylized reproductions of hard-core porn scenes. (See articles by the New York Post, Gothamist, Animal and WPIX.)

British artist Jonathan Yeo has created a stir with his portraits of famous people like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Tiger Woods. Yeo creates collage-style portraits using cuttings from hard-core pornographic magazines. (See articles by The Week, Huffington Post, ArtInfo and Wooster Collective.)

South African artist Von Brandis also uses pornographic photos for his art. But he censors out the sex in white silhouettes for effect. (See articles by the Frisky and

London-based Luciano Foglia, a multidisciplinary visual artist, created a controversial app for Apple and Google Android smartphones that simulated sexual activity using geometric shapes. Apple and Google rejected the Geometric Porn app because it contained objectionable or crude content.

Photos, in descending order: “Choice” by Yu Chang (photo by John Buchan), “On the Couch” by Nick Weber, “Sarah Palin” by Jonathan Yeo, “Obscene Interiors” by Von Brandis, and “Geometric Porn” by Luciano Foglia.

Update (Sept. 19, 2015): Late artist Stephen Irwin created fascinating works of art by taking pornographic pictures and erasing much of the image, leaving suggestions of the sexual acts that are occurring. (See image below and article by Huffington Post.)

Related reading:

Porn-inspired art (March 12, 2013).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How many of my Twitter followers are fake?

Microblogging service Twitter has done a good job of getting rid of spam accounts that follow Twitter users.
After I signed up for Twitter in April 2009, I used to get a lot of questionable followers. Many of them featured photos of attractive women. If you checked out their profiles, you would find Web links that led to shady e-commerce sites like dating services and online pharmacies.
By late 2010, those types of spam followers started disappearing as Twitter cracked down on them.
Twitter still has a major problem with spam, but at least they dont follow people any more. Instead, theyll post something with your user name, along with a spam Web link. These show up in the Connect section on Twitter. Whenever I get these, I report those users for spam.
A much bigger spam problem can be found when you search Twitter, especially for trending topics or news events. These spammers will use keywords or hashtags to spread their spam Web links. has created a tool for checking out how many of your users are fake or inactive. I tried the Fake Follower Check and found out that 3% of my 530 followers are fake and 15% are inactive. That leaves 82% rated as good.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pace of change is making me feel old, nostalgic

A lot has changed in my 50 years on this rock.
I was a boy in the 1960s and came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
I remember an advertisement for McDonald’s restaurants in the early 1970s that touted “Change back from your dollar” when you ordered a hamburger, fries and small drink. And I chuckled when McDonald’s started serving breakfast in 1971 – like a hamburger joint could make eggs and pancakes.
The ’70s and ’80s were a simpler time. We grew up without self-service pay-at-the-pump gas and ATMs. And we used travel agents to book flights and hotel stays.
While in high school, I worked in the catalog department at the Sears store in Vernon Hills, Ill. (1979-80). People would order items from the catalog and pick them up at the store. Sears stopped printing its general catalog in 1993 as online sales took off. (See Sears Archives and Wall Street Journal.)
When I was in college, the federal government broke up the AT&T phone monopoly in 1984. People used to lease their phones like a cable TV box. After AT&T was split up into regional Bell operating companies, people could buy their own home phones.
From the late 1970s through the 1980s, my friends and I spent a lot of time in video game arcades. I wasted a lot of quarters on games like Space Invaders, Asteroids (see photo), Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Q-Bert. But home video game systems put an end to the arcades.
Students didn’t have personal computers when I went to college (1980-84). Many brought typewriters. The computers at my college, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, were mainframes that processed punch cards. Those machines were in high demand and were part of the coursework for science and business students.
We played music on vinyl LP records and cassette tapes in college. Compact Discs were just coming out then.
VCRs didn’t become mainstream until around the mid-1980s. Before then, if you missed a television episode, you had to wait for reruns or you were out of luck. Now VCRs are gone, replaced by digital video recorders and streaming online video.
Baby boomers like me are starting to wax nostalgic for all the things that are going away.
You can see it in the news stories about Kodak getting out of the camera and film businesses, and the disappearance of book stores.
Things on the endangered list include paper newspapers and magazines; the U.S. Postal Service; DVDs; alarm clocks and wrist watches.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Surveys helping to fund news websites

Last weekend, I followed a web link to a story on the Christian Science Monitor website. But I could read only the headline and the first paragraph. To read the rest of the story, I had to answer a simple survey question. Just one question.
In just one click, by answering a question about home video, I gained access to the rest of the article. Other websites require users to register or to be paying subscribers to access news articles. The survey question was quick and painless.
With online advertising not paying the bills, many news websites are looking for alternatives for revenue. Surveys seem like a good one.
The survey question I answered was provided by Google Consumer Surveys. Market research firms fund the surveys and content websites earn money for posting them.
Google competes with SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, Qualtrics and others in the online survey business, which generated $2.4 billion in the U.S. in 2011, USA Today reported.
By aggregating survey responses from millions of Web surfers, researchers can gather data in a timely and cost-effective manner. And news websites can benefit from the additional revenue.
Another nice thing about Google surveys is that they offer people the opportunity to respond to a different question. The first question I saw was about coffee creamers. But since I’m not a coffee drinker, I decided to select a different question.
I saw questions about vacations, smartphone apps, travel to Nevada and fast-food restaurants before I chose to answer the home video question.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Google prudish about Lingerie Football League

Google thinks my coverage of the Lingerie Football League is offensive.
Administrators of Google’s Blogger platform recently suspended all AdSense advertisements on Tech-media-tainment because of partial female nudity in seven posts about the LFL over the last four years.
The articles in question discuss wardrobe malfunctions during LFL games. I censored photos where players’ nipples were exposed. But I left photos unedited of players who flashed some butt crack.
In an e-mail on Aug. 16, Google threatened to suspend running AdSense ads on Tech-media-tainment if I didn’t do something to bring my blog into compliance.
Google classified the content as “Adult/Sexually gratifying.” Take a look for yourself, but these photos are hardly “sexually gratifying.” They are sports action photos with some comical bikini bottom failures.
Google’s suggestions for returning to compliance weren’t very helpful.
Alternatives included deleting the posts or photos, censoring the photos or finding a way not to run ads with those posts. I would have agreed to the latter suggestion if Google offered tools for doing just that. But I could not find any.
So I held my ground on principle and filed an appeal.
In my appeal to Google’s policy administrators, I argued that the butt-crack photos were no more sexual in nature than old Coppertone commercials.
My argument was that the photos were newsworthy and reinforced my argument that the LFL would not be taken seriously as a professional sport unless it had functional uniforms.
On Aug. 28, Google notified me via e-mail that it had suspended AdSense ad serving to Tech-media-tainment.
The ads on Tech-media-tainment have been mutually beneficial to me and Google, so I hope they consider my appeal. Also, it is only seven posts out of more than 900.

Photo: Italian blog Very Special Girls does a great job chronicling wardrobe malfunctions in the LFL. The above photo is from a June 12 post about multiple wardrobe malfunctions at a Lingerie Football League exhibition game in Sydney, Australia. In this shot, LFL player Lauren Ziegler is wearing tape on her nipples.