Categories
Blogging Media News Technology

Bring The Girls Back

nigerian girls

The kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls has caused outrage across the world, and thousands of websites have articles about this event. The articles are illustrated by photos of the girls, or of girls anyway, and it is the use of these photos that I want to address today.

If you do a search on the story you find many many photos, and many different stories. But the truth about these photos is that many of them are not photos of the girls in this school. Now we might say oh yes the photos are just to make the post look nice, for effect, an African school child crying to help the cause. But I think we should go further than this, they are real people and they are being exploited, it is misrepresentation.

If we start with this article from the New York Times we read an interview with a photographer who took some of the pictures that have “gone viral” in the publicity surrounding the Nigeria girls. The photographs were used for the Bring Back our Girls twitter campaign, and I am not for any moment suggesting that the campaign has anything but good motives, but the people in the photos have nothing to do with the school, the girls or even Nigeria.

The girls live in Guinea-Bissau, which is like using a school girl from London to show the degradation of inner city Milan. It is misrepresentation. These girls have families and lives of their own, suddenly they represent the horror of kidnapping and possibly slavery or forced marriage, how would you like it if it was your daughter or sister (or mum, the photos could be old)?

And also the misrepresentation goes further. The author of the images did not want to show these horrors, she wanted to show the beauty of the child, or many other aspects of the composition. She finds her photo used to depict something that it was never meant to be, and with the possible addition of a few ‘photoshopped’ tears anything is possible.

If we go to the Facebook page of the same organization we find a series of schoolgirl photos, but they are all very different. In one we see a group of girls in Muslim dress in a poor rural school, but in the next we see a well cared for classroom with a shelf full of DVD’s Christmas decorations and girls dressed in school uniforms. Which one really represents the realities that these girls live in?

If we go to this Nigerian site we see another group of once again differently dressed girls and women in a much less rural setting that that depicted in the only photo from the Facebook page that contains any information at all, a photo of the school sign that the girls were taken from. My understanding of this area of Nigeria leads me to assume that this is a completely false depiction too, just another group of girls (possibly) walking to school somewhere (maybe) in Nigeria.
And I don’t want to go on but the list is endless, hundreds of photos of African schoolgirls.

Now I don’t want to come across as too critical here, I am a blogger and writer myself as you know and I put images into my stories. I am sure NASA would not be too pleased if some jumped up blogger was using on of their images to demonstrate the problem of space junk, but is that the same as using photos of real people doing things that really are not related to the story in question, particularly when the story is as terrible as this one? I am sure that all of the people that have written these stories have done so for the right reasons, we all want to get the girls back, and the Internet is our means, but we must try not to do it at the expense of falsely depicting others.

I have another post here you might like to read about mistaken identity through the circulation of a photo via digital media, the story contains many similarities.

Categories
News Science

Asteroid Hunting

Many of you will have seen the video of the meteor that exploded into the atmosphere above Russia last week, and I would just like to offer an overview of the event from a practical scientific prespective.

The meteor was about 15 metres across, and as such too small to detect. As we all saw though a meteor of this size can do extensive damage. It weighed about 7000 metric tonnes, travelling at 18 Km per second and exploded at a height of between 15 and 20 Km. This is pretty close to the ground if you think that an aeroplane flies at about 10Km and we are certainly not dealing with somewhere where nothing happens.

The force of the explosion was about 30 times that of the Hiroshima bomb, a pretty devastating blow by all counts. We should think ourselves lucky that it did not happen over a major city.

Trees blown over after the 1908 impact
Trees blown over after the 1908 meteor impact

In 1908 in Tunguska also in Russia a much larger meteor hit. This one was about the size of the DA14 meteor that flew past Earth later on the same day last week, and it blew trees down over an area of about 2000 square Km. Once again it hit over Siberia so less damage than could have occurred, but if you think that the event of last week over Russia only threw out about 5% of the force of this one than we don’t need much imagination to envisage the possible catastrophe. Several photos are available around the net and I offer one above. There are also plenty of huge craters to see.

NASA have the Near Earth Program, and they have the mission of monitoring the many things that fly close to Earth.

It is not an easy job though as you might imagine, they use ground based telescopes so can only see something that is big enough to reflect enough light, and last week’s hit came directly in line with the sun, so practically impossible to see.

NASA has managed to identify 90% of near Earth asteroids that are more than 1 Km across, and something of this size might threaten life on Earth itself if it hit. There are more than a million near Earth asteroids however that are 20 metres across or more but  very few of these have been identified and mapped.

The B612 Project is hoping to put a telescope into Space before 2018 that will be able to spot something of that size, but until then they will go largely unseen.

Keeping on a related topic last May I put a post up about asteroid mining, and recently the BBC has carried some updates on this project.

It is currently a 2 horse race, but it seems very speculative. And I remember a song about horses of this type.

Categories
Apps Reviews Smartphones

There’s an app for that

On June the 26th 2007, smartphones didn’t exist. Mobile phones, and computers were two very different things. A day later (27/06/2007) Apple launched the iPhone.

You could argue that there were ‘smartphones’ pre-iPhone, but many in the technology industry view the iPhone as the tipping point and birth-date of the modern smartphone – no inverted commas.

With the launch of the iPhone, came the launch of apps. A few years later along came tablets – and what would a tablet be without apps?

In this post I want to explore some of those apps. Not the apps like Angry Birds, Rayman Jungle Run, Skype and Fruit Ninja though, they are what you expect from applications – games and communication. In this post I am going to explore some of the more innovative uses for apps.

Mirror

Ever desperately needed a mirror just when there are none in sight? Mirror by mmapps mobile, is a free app for Android which turns your phone into a usable mirror! The app even lets you zoom in and out and freeze the mirror, something that no mirror I have ever used does.

The app is available in many different languages, and similar apps are available for iDevices, however mmapps mobile don’t make an ‘i’ version.

Square Wallet

Square Wallet is an application which lets you fully embrace mobile payment. With Square Wallet, you can link your credit card to your phone, and then, in a surprisingly large number of retailers, pay for goods, using your phone! The app also lets you track transactions, so you can keep track of what you are buying.

Square Wallet is available for iDevices with iOS 5.0 or later, and Androids via Google Play.

Inflora Flower App

Interflora smartphone appTen years ago, who would have thought that you could be out and about, and on a device which fits in your hand, and order a bouquet of flowers? Probably not many people!

The flower delivery company Interflora has an app where you can do just that. Naturally its called Interflora, and can be download for free for iDevices – any iPod, iPhone or iPad with iOS 3.0 or later. Interflora is also available to download for Android devices. The app gives you access to a wide range of flowers, information (such as delivery details and a description) and prices; you can even order your gift using the app!

Zite Personalised Magazine

If you like to keep up to date with the latest news, and you like the news your way, then Zite is the perfect app for you.

Zite trawls through your Facebook and Twitter feeds to work out what you like to read. The application then created you your very own personalised magazine to read, and the more you use it, the cleverer it gets, and the more tailored your content become – to a point where it should only be displaying content you really want to read.

Zite is available for free for all iDevices with iOS 6.0 or later, although the developers state that is is specifically designed for the iPhone, as opposed to tablets. Zite is also available on Android.

Flow Powered

Flow Powered - NutellaAmazon have recently released an augmented reality app called Flow Power, which can identify millions of real life products (using your phones camera), and can then tell you more information about them.

The app ‘knows’ thousands of books, games and CDs, and is able to tell you about almost anything, if you scan the barcode.

Be it a novel, or a box of chocolates, the app can tell you how much it costs and what other people think of it – pretty clever huh?

Flow Powered is available for Android via Google Play and iOS 4.2 and more recent iDevices through iTunes.

It seems like there is an app for almost everything these days, be it an app to help you apply make-up, order flowers or tell you the price of a video game. There’s an app for that!

Smartphones really are smart.

Categories
Fun Internet News

JibJab’s 2012 year review

We are now in that part of the year when I like to write more general interest posts with more of a fun and festive theme.

JibJab's LogoLast year I commented on JibJab’s 2011 year review, (2011 Buh-Bye) and as in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005, JibJab have created a Year in Review video, where they take the major events of the year, and mash them together in one fast, fantastic, usually quite funny, video.

JibJab are an American based company, so the content is usually slightly more geared towards American current affairs. However, that said it usually includes lots of globally significant events too.

This years video was released on the 20th of December, a day before the world was supposed to end, topically calling this years video, The End is Here! Luckily the world didn’t end, so you can watch the video here now 🙂

%CODEYOUTUBEJIBJAB2012%

You might need to watch the video more than once to find all the years significant events references, as there are quite a few!

Some of the major references you probably picked out include: the amazing global popularity of Gangnam Style; the 2012 London Olympic games; the release of Marvel’s the Avengers; the issues Facebook had when it floated on the stock exchange; Barack Obama’s election victory; Lance Armstrong loosing his cycling titles; the growth in the number of people doing Zumba; the rapid melting of Arctic Ice; Felix Baumgartner’s 24 mile jump (from space); not forgetting the widely discussed end of the world!

I always look forward to JibJab’s Year in Review video, but it is impossible to fit everything in, so like I asked you last year, what do you think was missed out?

Categories
Charity Media News Social Media

The power of the social networks and the media

Many people take a very negative view of the media. In the UK, there has recently been a press standards enquiry, which looked into the unethical practices some media organisations (specifically newspapers) were using.

Many people also take a negative view of social networks. Twitter has been in the firing line a lot lately, helping to break super injunctions and spread rumours at amazing speed.

I think sometimes we forget that the press and social media can also be a force for good, and so in this article I am going to talk about something positive that only happened thanks to the power of the media and social networks.

The Story

Martha Payne is a nine-year-old girl from Argyll and Bute, (Scotland) who started a blog in May this year called NeverSeconds. On the blog she wrote about her school dinners, under the alias of Veg. She took a camera into school and photographed her school dinner. When she got home, she wrote about it, posted a picture, and then rated each meal.

She gave the food a rating out of ten on her ‘Food-o-meter‘ scale, detailed how many mouthfuls it took her to eat it, what courses it was (i.e. starter and main or main and dessert), how healthy (out of ten) she rated it, the price, and how many pieces of hair she found on it – and yes, one day she did find one!

Martha Payne's first blog
Martha’s first image on her blog – pizza, croquet, sweetcorn and a cake, a meal she rated 6/10 on her food-o-meter

Martha set up a link on her blog to the charity Mary’s Meals, with the aim of raising £7,000 for the charity, through donations from those who read her posts.

All was going well for Martha, until her blog featured in a local newspaper. Here’s what happened in Martha’s words:

“This morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today.

I only write my blog not newspapers and I am sad I am no longer allowed to take photos. I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners and I’ll miss seeing the dinners you send me too. I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.

Goodbye,
VEG”

So that was it. Martha Payne, a nine-year-old girl who ran a blog with the aim of raising some money for charity, and developing her language skills through writing about her school dinners, was no longer allowed to blog.

It was actually the local council that had told the school to ban Martha from posting, as they were unhappy with the coverage of the story in the local paper. It was alleged that the article had made catering staff fearful for their jobs.

The publicity generated from the local paper reporting on the blog helped Martha to reach nearly £2,000 in donations for Mary’s Meals, an amazing achievement, which is why it is such a shame that the blog had to be shut down.

A sad end to the blogging career of a little girl with good intentions.

But it didn’t end there.

The news reached the council leader who was unhappy with the action taken, and as a result instructed senior officials to lift the ban.

Martha could blog again!

This was now a big story, and national media organisations were keen to publish their account of events. The Telegraph, The Guardian and BBC news were some of the most notable media organisations to cover the story. Most notable, the BBC article received well over 1,000 comments, and tens of thousands of social shares!

Going Viral

Martha Payne from NeverSeconds
Martha Payne – NeverSeconds Author

First it was just a story. Then it hit the media. Now it was the turn of Facebook and Twitter. Within hours of the BBC publishing their article, tens of thousands of people had shared it, and the NeverSeconds blog hit counter soared from a few thousand views to over a million! Martha was soon trending on Twitter.

The story was so inspirational, many people wanted to pay tribute to Martha’s fantastic work, and did so by donating to the charity she supported – Mary’s Meals. Martha smashed her £7,000 target in a matter of hours, as donations to the charity flooded in. Overnight, Martha became the top fund raiser for Mary’s Meals on the JustGiving website.

By the end of the week, (in just 4 days) donations had topped £50,000! This prompted even more publicity, as the media reported on the remarkable story of the girl who raised tens of thousands for charity, by writing about her school meals.

The NeverSeconds site hit counter now reads in excess of eight million and the donations to Mary’s Meals are over 1750% of Martha’s £7,000 target – currently standing at £123,969.32.

Martha has since been out to Malawi to see one of the projects her fund raising efforts went to help. For more information on her trip, have a read of this BBC news article.

Martha has been named as the Human Rights Young Person of the Year, for her outstanding work, and continues to blog over at NeverSeconds to this day.

The Streisand Effect

This story is a fantastic example of how the media and social networking can be a force for good, and encourage people to think of others. It is also a good example of the Streisand effect in action, the concept whereby attempting to cover something up, thanks to the internet, leads to that very thing getting greater publicity.

Smile today for the story of NeverSeconds 🙂

Categories
Internet

Is there really that much diversity on the internet?

The internet is big right? Okay it is massive. With that massiveness one naturally associates extreme diversity. Don’t get me wrong, across the entire internet, there is amazing variation, with billions of people adding their spin to the net.

What I am going to investigate in this post though is how diverse the ‘main’ internet is. What I mean by that is the internet that we use every day. How diverse is the most regularly used/visited content? Is there really as much choice as we think, or is the majority of the internet dominated by a few firms?


In order to go about this research I am going to use Alexa, who gather statistics on websites traffic. For most sites, the data isn’t that accurate, however for really busy sites, the numbers are so great, the reliability of the data is much higher, hence why I can use it.

Alexa's Logo

Google

According to Alexa, Google.com is the most visited site on the web. How could it not be? Alexa estimates that 50% of all internet users visited Google.com in the last three months. Second on the list for most visited sites is Facebook, which is trailing with just 45% of internet users visiting the site.

Remember however that is just Google.com, Google has a massive monopoly over the internet. In the 100 most visited sites on the web, 18 of the sites are owned by Google – 16 localised sites, Google.com and GoogleUserContent.com (the site you see when there is an error finding/displaying a page).

Google undoubtedly has reduced diversity on the internet, having such a monopoly on the sites we all visit. The thing is, it isn’t just 18 sites. Google also owns YouTube and (the third most visited site on the net) Blogspot which is ranked 10th, Blogger at 47 (Blogger and Blogspot are now one) and Blogspot.in (India) ranked 73. That means 21 of the most visited sites on the net belong to Google, meaning it owns more than one fifth of the ‘main’ internet.

Googlite Logo
Google’s dominance on the web suggests that a lot of us are Googlites!

Can you call the internet diverse, when in the top one hundred sites, one firm owns more than a fifth of all sites? Maybe, what does the rest of the field look like?

Microsoft

Unsurprisingly, the company that is arguable Google’s main rival is in second place. Yahoo and Microsoft are currently in a ‘Search Alliance’ therefore restricting competition, so I am going to count them in the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences. Here is the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences which are top 100 websites:

  • Yahoo.com – Ranked 3rd
  • Live.com – Ranked 7th
  • Yahoo.co.jp – Ranked 16th
  • MSN.com – Ranked 17th
  • Bing.com – Ranked 29th
  • Microsoft.com – Ranked 30th – ironic how it is lower many of the other sites it owns!
  • Flickr.com – Ranked 53rd and Yahoo owned

Therefore Microsoft own/influence 7 of the top 100 sites. Add that to Google’s 21, and 28 of the top sites on the net are owned by two firms. More than a quarter.

I am starting to think the ‘main’ internet is not as diverse as one may first assume.

Amazon

Next on the list of internet giants comes Amazon. Amazon.com is ranked 10th, whilst Amazon Germany (Amazon.de) is ranked 91st and Amazon Japan (Amazon.co.jp) is 95th. Amazon also owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) which is the 50th most visited site. Amazon owns 4 of the top 100 sites.

Amazon's Logo32 sites gone.

Alibaba Group

The Alibaba Group is a privately owned Chinese business, which owns Alibaba.com, Tmall (tmall.com), Taobao (Taobao.com) and Sogou.com. The group therefore account for four of the sites that make up what I am calling the ‘main internet’.

36 sites taken by just 4 companies. How diverse is our internet?

eBay

Next we come to eBay.com which sits 23rd on the list of top 100 sites. eBay International AG (ebay.de) is in 80th place, followed by eBay UK (ebay.co.uk) in 86th. eBay also owns PayPal (paypal.com) which is ranked 46th.

eBay steals another 4 sites, leaving just 60 of our hundred left, and so far only 5 firms are involved.

Time Warner

CNN (cnn.com) AOL (aol.co.uk) and The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) are all sites owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is the sixth business involved now, leaving just 57 sites.

WordPress

The blogging platform WordPress (wordpress.com) is ranked 19th, and its brother, which allows users to host the content management system on their own site (wordpress.org) is ranked 83rd.

The Official WordPress LogoThere goes another two sites, meaning just 55 left, and only seven players so far.

Twitter

Ranked number 8 on the list is Twitter, however its URL shortener (t.co) is ranked 31st, meaning Twitter is also one of the big players in the top 100 sites, arguably with some form of domination over the internet.

Twitter's Logo47 sites of the top 100 accounted for and a mere eight organisations involved.

The Rest

Of the final 53 sites, 5 are adult only sites leaving 48 sites – although many of these either are a part of, or are a much bigger group.

Some familiar faces appear in the other 48 sites, Facebook (2nd), Wikipedia (6th), LinkedIn (11th), Apple (34th), Tumblr (37th),  Pinterest (47th), BBC Online (48th), Ask (54th), AVG (62nd),  Adobe Systems Incorporated (67th), About.com (81st), ESPN (82nd),  Go Daddy (85th), Netflix (89th),  The Pirate Bay (92nd) and CNET (97th).

Remove these very well known, well established, and massive brands, and we are left with 32 sites – less than a third. Of the remaining sites, around half are Chinese, showing the growing influence and usage of the internet in China.

My Verdict

In this post I have established that of the sites we visit most regularly, 47 are owned by just eight organisations. Does that really represent the freedom that we all believe the internet offers?

I was surprised by the type of content, and the limited number of different sites that there are in the global top 100. It would seem that the most visited sites consist of search engines, social media sites and news websites. Interesting statistics.

So, what is your verdict on how diverse the internet we use everyday is? I personally am not quite as convinced as I was before writing this article that the internet is quite as free and diverse as we all believe.

Please note these rankings are changing all the time, and all content was correct according to Alexa.com at the time of writing – the 6th of July 2012.

Categories
Apps News

The App Store exceeds 25 billion downloads!

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California-based tech giant Apple – a company renowned for their phenomenally successful consumer hardware – have confirmed that the number of applications downloaded from its App Store recently exceeded 25 billion worldwide.

The figures that make up this total include apps sold via the store for all of Apple’s iDevices – including the iPhone, it’s various iPods and the iPad. Apple’s iDevices are used by an estimated half a billion people world wide (500 million) a colossal amount!

A black iPhone 4S
A black iPhone 4S – one of the iDevices which Apple have sold half a billion of (globally)

The announcement by Apple follows news that the winner of the company’s App Store Countdown to 25 Billion Apps – Chunli Fu from China – will be given a gift card worth $10,000 in free gifts as a reward for being the person to download the 25 billionth app from the Apple Store.

The app that marked the 25 billion download point was the game Where’s My Water (the free version). The app is a puzzle game that tests the physics skills and knowledge of the user, and can be downloaded onto virtually all of the main Apple iDevices, including the iPhone and iPad.

The game is one of the biggest selling and most popular apps available via the Apple Store – an in-house option for downloading Apple products which has proven to be revolutionary since the company started it.

In the period since the Apple Store was launched it has grown to the point where it now has 600,000 apps available for download, to users of the iPhone, iPad and iPod. These apps are available in more that 100 countries world wide, with nearly 200,000 of the apps being created by Apple itself. The apps available cover a wide range of subject areas, such as sports, games, news, business, travel and health and fitness. Just look at the Technology Bloggers ‘apps‘ category, to see reviews of some of the great apps on offer.

Apple’s Internet Software and Services senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, said:

“We’d like to thank our customers and developers for helping us achieve this historic milestone of 25 billion apps downloaded. When we launched the App Store less than four years ago, we never imagined that mobile apps would become the phenomenon that they have, or that developers would create such an incredible selection of apps for iOS users.”

Thanks to this and other user-friendly promotions, Apple remains the company to beat in more than one field!

Categories
Fun Internet News

JibJab’s 2011 year review

As Christmas is just around the corner, I am trying to write more light hearted, fun posts, to try to get everyone in the festive spirit.

At the end of every year, JibJab publish their take on the year, in the form of a (usually very funny) video. The video tries to stuff as much news and humour into about two minutes as it possible can.

JibJab's LogoThe 2011 video has just been released, so I thought I would share it around 🙂

You have to watch the video three or four times to see how much they have included, as they really do put so much in!

This year gives mention to the Arab Spring, the collapse of the News of the World, the anti-capitalist protests, the London riots, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Americas loss of its AAA credit rating, Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, Rebecca Black, Justin Bieber, the Royal Wedding, Steve Jobs and so much more!

Here for your enjoyment is JibJab’s 2011 year review, called 2011 Buh-Bye!

%CODEYOUTUBEJIBJAB2011%

Good video isn’t it 🙂

What’s your take on the year? What have JibJab missed out, that probably should have been included?


If you really enjoyed that, head over to the JibJab originals page for more year reviews and fun 🙂