Poetry: smartphone-style

This is a guest post written by Charlotte Kertrestel, do enjoy!

“I wandered lonely as a cloud”...“texting on my new iPhone 5”. Sound familiar? Ok, so perhaps not the second line. I’m sure when Wordsworth wrote the lines of ‘Daffodils’, he imagined his sister, Dorothy, roaming through green pastures and trickling streams, marvelling at the wonders of the natural world. But now it seems that while modern poets might be getting their inspiration from alternative sources, they are also recording their innermost thoughts not with traditional pen and ink that the likes of Coleridge and Oscar Wilde, but with their mobile phones.

Not long ago I witnessed a friend recounting a rather unfortunate date that she had experienced the previous week. To top it off, she told me, with a particularly cringing look on her face, he wrote her a heartfelt love poem. Or rather he WhatsApped the said lyrical masterpiece.

Once upon a time, when mobile phones were a new and exciting phenomenon, users developed what we all will be familiar with as ‘text speak’; a new language whereby all words from the English dictionary were contracted and dissected, with letters changed for numbers, and numbers for words. The aim of this wasn’t to increase the challenge of having to decipher a text message before you could make sense of what was being said, but was ultimately due to the limited number of characters that could be sent in one message. Back in the day, you could only write 160 characters to limit a message to one single text. After all, this was before the days of unlimited text packages, when it cost you at least 10p to tell your mum what you wanted for tea, or to warn your friends that you were running late. It simply wasn’t feasible to demonstrate your finest vocabulary from the English language when a simple ‘C U l8r’ would suffice.

I for one am a firm hater of text speak- or should I say ‘txt spk’?- mainly because I’m not always brilliant at breaking the undecipherable code that some text messages can become. But I also hate it because of the fact that I actually value real words. In fact, I’ll admit that I’ve even gone as far as dumping a boyfriend due to his inability to compose a fully-fledged text message using full words that feature in the Oxford dictionary. Heartless, I know.

But while I may prefer to read a text message or email which reads as fluidly as a novel, it would seem that others are willing to celebrate works written in text speak. Back in 2001, the Guardian newspaper launched a nation-wide poetry competition especially targeted at mobile phone users. The competition limited entrants to using only one text message within which they had to compose a poem in either plain or shorthand English. The winning poem, written by a Hetty Hughes, won the prize. Courtesy of the Guardian newspaper, the poem goes as follows:

txtin iz messin,
mi headn'me englis,
try2rite essays,
they all come out txtis.
gran not plsed w/letters shes getn,
swears i wrote better
b4 comin2uni.
&she's african

Texting has changed a lot since 2001, however. With the influx of mobile phone developments over the past ten years, the majority of users now benefit from having access to unlimited text messages though pay-monthly tariffs. Also, with all smartphones featuring a QWERTY keyboard, whether physical or touchscreen, there really is no excuse not to type text messages out in full, plain English. Because of this, it’s now easier than ever to use your mobile phone to do what you would otherwise use a computer, or even a pen and paper for: to write. Whether you are sitting on the bus when you suddenly get a wave of inspiration, or whether you’re lying awake at night, pining over a lost love, the mobile phone seems to be the modern instrument to record your masterpieces.

That said, there has been a recent drop in the popularity of mobile phone poetry. Perhaps when the 160 character limit was taken away, the challenge of producing a text-style poem deemed became pointless for mobile poets. Though that is not to say that writing poetry using your smartphone is entirely a dying trend; with today’s smartphones offering users a multitude of functions, from texting, emailing and messaging on social media platforms, it is probable that modern poets are still writing pieces on their phones, but just not in the traditional text message format. In fact, Twitter poems have become the new phenomenon for modern smartphone era. With a 140 character limit, many users are typing out their ideas and emotions in tweets on the social media site, presenting their poems to the world. This can surely only be a good thing: poetry has so often been considered an art for the professionals, or for those who hide away their words on scraps of paper in bottom drawers. With the help of smartphones, poetry has now become accessible to all budding writers, or interested readers, with a simply touch of a button. For an example of Twitter poems, check out @TwitterPoetry.

Smartphones have not only enabled the pubic to write and read poetry by amateurs, though. There are numerous apps available for download which enable poetry enthusiasts to read the famous, or not so famous, words of, say, Carol Anne Duffy, Rupert Brooke, or even Edgar Allan Poe. The Poetry Foundation has released an app for both iOS and Android devices, which gives readers access to thousands of poems. Whether you’re a Literature student studying Shakespeare, or just Joe Blogs who enjoys reading good poems, the free app can make poetry accessible, in more ways than one.

So next time you’re feeling creative, you don’t necessarily have to reach for a notepad. Browse, type, tweet; with smartphone technology, the message can be firmly put out there: poetry doesn’t have to be boring.
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Watch 24 hours of internet activity around the world in 8 seconds

The animated map, from an anonymous researcher, is beautiful, mesmerizing — and made using highly illegal means, according to Peter Weber. Behold, the internet. In about eight seconds, you can watch a whole day's worth of internet activity around the world, with the higher activity in reds and yellows and the wave shape showing where it's day and night.

The map was put together by an anonymous researcher in a self-styled "Internet Census 2012." Why isn't he or she taking credit for this remarkable feat of cyber-cartography? The data came from infecting 420,000 computers with automated, web-crawling botnets — and "hacking into 420,000 computers is highly illegal," says Adam Clark Estes at Vice.

What are we actually seeing, and how sketchy is its provenance? The researcher, using the 420,000 infected devices, tried to figure out how many of the world's 3.6 billion IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) addresses are active; roughly speaking, he got responses from 1.2 billion devices around the world. The map shows the average usage of each device each half hour.

The map isn't totally comprehensive: His botnet, called Carna (after "the Roman goddess for the protection of inner organs and health"), only infected Linux-based devices with some user name–password combination of "root," "admin," or nothing. Also, the world is slowly switching to IPv6, and Carna doesn't measure those devices — in fact, he says, "with a growing number of IPv6 hosts on the internet, 2012 may have been the last time a census like this was possible." At the same time, "this looks pretty accurate," HD Moore, who used ethical and legal means to conduct a similar survey of smaller scope but larger timeframe, tells Ars Technica.

That said, it's a snapshot of 2012, with a limited shelf life. "With cheap smartphones taking off in Africa and $20 tablets popping up in India, the world is becoming more connected by the minute," says Vice's Estes. "So in a few years' time that confetti-colored map of the world above will look less like a chart of privilege and more like an acid trip of progress."

As for the ethics of this census, let's call it "interesting, amoral, and illegal," says Infosecurity Magazine.
The [botnet] binaries he developed and deployed — it's difficult to call them malware since they had no mal-intent; but it's difficult not to call them malware since they were installed without invitation — were designed to do no harm, to run at the lowest possible priority, and included a watchdog to self-destruct if anything went wrong. He also included a readme file with "a contact email address to provide feedback for security researchers, ISPs and law enforcement who may notice the project." [Infosecurity]

And if we're being charitable, you could argue that he performed a public service by highlighting how poorly protected our computers, routers, and other internet-connected devices are. Here's a "crude physical analogy" for what the researcher did, says Michael Lee at ZDNet: By himself, he would have been like "a burglar who walks from house to house in a neighborhood, checking to see whether anyone has forgotten to put a lock on their door."

With an opportunistic attack, given enough "neighborhoods" and enough time, one could potentially gain an insight into how poorly protected people are. However, with the burglar being a single person, doing so would take them a prohibitively long time — unless, theoretically, they were able to recruit vulnerable households and send them to different neighborhoods to do the same.... The Carna botnet... highlighted just how many people left their metaphorical front doors unlocked by using default passwords and user logins. [ZDNet]

Still, if this researcher were caught in the U.S., he'd "likely be slapped with one violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for every computer breached and face something like 50 consecutive life sentences for the sum total," says Vice's Estes. "(I'm being sightly facetious here but only slightly.)" So why take that risk? To see if it could be done, basically.

Building and running a gigantic botnet and then watching it as it scans nothing less than the whole internet at rates of billions of IPs per hour over and over again is really as much fun as it sounds like. I did not want to ask myself for the rest of my life how much fun it could have been or if the infrastructure I imagined in my head would have worked as expected. I saw the chance to really work on an internet scale, command hundred thousands of devices with a click of my mouse, portscan and map the whole internet in a way nobody had done before, basically have fun with computers and the internet in a way very few people ever will. I decided it would be worth my time. [Internet Census 2012]

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Yes, the Internet is making you a meaner person (so let's be nice!)

Wow, according to an article by Chris Gayomali, 80 percent of one survey's participants say we're all becoming jerks. I have to say, over the years I've seen the problem getting worse. Let's see what he found out...

Hello, Internet user! Have you witnessed anyone being mean on a website today? Chances are you have!

According to a new survey from corporate training advisers VitalSmarts, nearly 80 percent of 3,000 respondents believe that people are becoming increasingly rude on the Internet. What's more disturbing, though, is that those same folks doing the finger-wagging say they have "no qualms" about being big ol' jerkfaces themselves when they're hurling insults in comment sections or getting into shouting matches on Facebook.

Other sad-face statistics from the survey include:

* Two in five users have severed contact with a one-time pal due to a digital altercation
* One in five people try to avoid former friends IRL that they've had an online argument with

How do otherwise decent human beings with hearts and stuff suddenly transform into ALL-CAPS USING JERKS not-nice-people when they're behind a computer screen? One probable answer, says VitalSmarts co-chairman Joseph Grenny, is that a lack of peer pressure in the digital realm means people feel like they can get away with being rude. Here's what Grenny recommends doing if you want your pixelated approximation to reflect a kinder, gentler you (and really, who doesn't?):

He said three rules that could improve conversations online were to avoid monologues, replace lazy, judgmental words, and cut personal attacks particularly when emotions were high.

In other words, yeah, that 800-word knee-jerk manifesto you were going to leave on your pal's Facebook status probably isn't the best idea in the world. We can change this! The next time something you read online makes you angry (probably in the next two minutes?), close your eyes, take a deep breath, and step away from the keyboard (or just close the tab). There. That wasn't so bad, was it?

So, let's all take it upon ourselves to not be jerks on the Internet. It's the hot new thing going forward in 2013. We can do this, you guys.

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How to search like a spy: Google's secret hacks revealed

Try: "filetype:xls site:za confidential"

The National Security Agency in May of 2013 declassified a hefty 643-page research manual called Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research that, at least at first, doesn't appear all that interesting. That is, except for one section on page 73: "Google Hacking."

"Say you're a cyberspy for the NSA and you want sensitive inside information on companies in South Africa," explains Kim Zetter at Wired. "What do you do?"

Well, you could type the following advanced search into Google — "filetype:xls site:za confidential" — to uncover a trove of seemingly private spreadsheets. How about an Excel file containing Russian passwords? Try: "filetype:xls site:ru login."

These are just two examples of the numerous private files that are inadvertently uploaded to the Internet, and can be accessed if you know the right Google search terms.

Pretty neat, huh? Declassified information being what it is, though, some of the search tips can appear a little dated.

And even if keyboard espionage isn't really your thing, the document contains a number of practical tips anyone can use to become a better Googler:

* Adding a tilde (~) immediately before a term will search for its synonyms. For example: "Scary ~animals" will also search for "scary creatures," etc.

* Repeating a word will help you find more relevant hits. For example a search for "java coffee coffee coffee" will cut down on the results about the programming language.

* You can use Google wildcard (*) to replace a term in a query if you don't know exactly what you're searching for. For example: "Sacramento is the * of California."

Take a look if you're interested over here. (Via Wired)

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Why Facebook makes breaking up even worse

Don't underestimate the emotional pain of going from "In a Relationship" to "Single" says Emily Shire, oh man, is she right. Are you a deleter, a keeper, or a selective disposer? Either way, technology is messing with your personal relationships.

Before you gleefully change your status to "in a relationship" and post photos with your new love for all of Facebook to see, consider this: A new study suggests that photos, posts on Facebook, and other digital reminders of an ex-love may prolong the pain of a break-up. Corina Sas of Lancaster University in the United Kingdom and Steve Whitaker of University of California Santa Cruz have researched how having to "dispos[e] of digital possessions" — posts, blog entries, videos, photos, even songs — hinders people's ability to move on after a relationship.

The authors interviewed 24 people aged 19 to 34 about their digital-breakup habits and found that they fell into three categories: Deleters, who immediately erase all texts, untag all photos, and defriend their exes; keepers, who hold onto everything and continue to follow (let's be real... stalk) their exes on Facebook; selective disposers, who hang onto just a few special physical and digital possessions and are "more adaptive" (healthier). Unfortunately, only four of those interviewed fell into that last category.

The other two approaches come with their own emotional turmoil that is exacerbated by social media. For the deleters, their actions are often impulsive. How many of us have sat with our laptops open and a glass of Merlot and quickly de-friended an ex on Facebook or erased their texts? This is "beneficial on a short-term basis," say the authors. However, "deleters sometimes regret failing to save mementos symbolizing a chapter in their lives." Moreover, total deletion isn't even always an option on Facebook. As Nick Collins at The Telegraph writes "pictures and messages posted on social networks are not so easy to erase, especially if they have been posted online by someone else."

For the keepers, it's extra hard to say goodbye to an old boyfriend or girlfriend. One participant admitted: "I try to get his information through social networks in a quiet way." According to the authors, keepers' behavior "leads the romantic attachment to persist, which prolongs the grief process." Facebook, in particular, is "very problematic," Sas told Today. "The other person is just a click away. There's almost this continual contact which is very compelling." While we can cut people out of photographs, donate exes' sweaters to charity (or burn them), and even delete phone numbers, finding the most up-to-date info on old flames is just a matter of one tempting search on Facebook. Furthermore, since there is such an abundance of digital memories in 21st century relationships, Sas adds that locating and erasing them all is "very, very emotionally taxing."

So, what are the impulsive and weak-willed Facebook users to do? The authors suggest the creation of "Pandora's Box" software that "scours online profiles for any trace of a former loved one and stores them in one place." Then, people can later erase or keep whichever digital possessions they choose... when they're in a better state of mind.

"Deleting, defriending, and signing out of an account can be done quietly and with dignity," writes Daisy Buchanan at The Guardian. "And when you're newly single, preserving your dignity should be your top priority."
See also: cyberimmortality cyberspace cybersuicide cybersoul digital footprint digital estate management service

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