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Tag Archives: youtube

Google+ and Internet comments

Prologue
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

The Internet versus intelligence
The Internet is a black hole, sucking in anyone and everyone with the slightest curiosity about anything  – but a lot of the gold at the end of the rainbow is not gold at all. No, it’s not coal, or brass, or poisonous lead, it’s something worse: A pile of YouTube/Hacker News/TechCrunch comments.

YouTube comments in particular are a cesspool of humanity, full of gems like:

  • Can I get likes for no reason
  • check out my channel!
  • Seems legit
  • I see what you did there
  • You just went full retard. Never go full retard
  • Faith in humanity lost
  • No fucks where given that day
  • Still a better love story than twilight
  • Go home you’re drunk
  • Do you even lift?
  • Getting real tired of your shit
  • Dafuq did I just see
  • ‘Murica
  • Then suddenly a wild pokemon appears
  • Watch out bitches! coming through
  • A wild chess game appears!
  • NO.
  • Doesn’t matter, had sex
  • 10/10 would bang
  • That’s enough internet for today
  • You had ONE job
  • Jokes on you, still masturbated
  • You sir won the internetz
  • Comment with most likes is a *
  • Fuking grammer Nazi

(hat tip Verge forum user Micr0b3)

The Internet has facilitated such sentiment on an unprecedented scale. The opportunity for anyone to spew bottomless rage against Miley Cyrus, cast “doubt” on the president’s birthplace, or derail a conversation by discussing the finer points of home-brew console development…well, I’ll grant that that’s “unprecedented,” a word often applied to the Internet (damn, I did it earlier and didn’t realize it til now!)

Comments sections may be the best case against “openness” online, a vaguely defined term that nevertheless puts on the airs of “anyone can write anything with no consequences while darting between YouTube, Netflix and Reddit on a bandwidth-neutral Net.” Every commenter is an expert, or at the very least a potential conversation hijacker whose hastily gathered yet half coherent sentiments can trigger thousand-word outbursts from her faceless peers.

Popular Science and the damage to knowledge
Online commenters are not simply wailing in a vacuum – they’re frequently causing real damage to the whole of human knowledge from behind their often anonymous guises. The paradox is that the Internet’s promise of anonymity and even impersonality has resulted in the creation of countless communities that are defined almost completely by edgy personality.  Evolutionary cues like strength and appearance are worthless when anyone can feign virility from behind a screen name, and as such, anger has become the quintessential online emotion.

It would be sad enough if the Internet were just an enabler for millions of angry, sad persons. It’s worse, though, since comments sections have become news unto themselves, their poisonous din distracting from actual events and trying to erode any achievement by others as individuals try to feel better about their own narrow outlooks. Today, Popular Science (finally!) announced that it was shutting down its comments sections on news stories:

“[B]ecause comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”

The issue with comments is probably evolutionary. As if caving to some outdated instinct to follow the tribe lest they be eaten by wild animals, people easily surrender in the face of massive upvotes, agreement, and likes. Unfortunately, the comments section conventional wisdom isn’t good at much else other than estimating the weight of a bull. I mean, did you ever try to assess music albums on the old Rolling Stone forums? Anonymity made it nigh impossible to get anywhere without having to slog through some contrarian bile or irrelevant points-earning sideshow.

Google+ to the rescue?
In a happy coincidence (in many fora, someone would mistakenly call this “ironic” and receive a stupidly stern, pointless lecture from a language bully, which contributes no value to civilization and probably destroys some by making someone feel bad), Google also announced today that it would begin tying YouTube comments to Google+ accounts.

Google+ is more than a social network – more like an identity service. I have mixed feelings toward its increasingly comprehensive tracking of every online twitch or murmur,  but its commitment to real names (and who really is going to expend the effort to create many G+ personae?) means that YouTube’s comments sections will finally have accountability, which is what comments have always needed. If G+ can get YouTube under control and also remain a valuable photo backup service, it’ll have contributed more societal value than Facebook ever has/will.

Epilogue
Last!

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15 of the Best, Fastest Chrome Extensions

Looking to deck-out Chrome with useful buttons (and make your URL bar smaller)? Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular, easiest-to-use, and productivity-enhancing extensions for Google’s browser:

1. AdBlock

AdBlock blocks all ads on the Internet (although you can, during setup, opt to give Google’s display ads a pass; individual domains may be greenlighted later, too). It’s technically free (as a pay-what-you-want download), and as such I dont understand why people still complain about things like this.

2. Pocket

Pocket’s dead-simple concept (save an entire page, permanently) for viewing later) for consuming content is addictive. Simply click to save anything for later. It beautifully reformats text for reading and even saves videos.

3. PushBullet

You’ll need an Android phone/tablet with Jelly Bean and the PushBullet app in order to use this. PushBullet speedily pushes links, files, or lists to your Android devices, so that they pop-up in your notification menu or even in the enormously popular DashClock Widget (if you have enabled the PushBullet extension). From there, you can tap them to have instant access to their contents. I was skeptical at first since I could already easily save things to Google Drive or Pocket, but PushBullet is perfect for making sure that you can send things like PDFs or URLs in particular to your phone with minimal hassle and maximum speed.

4. Save to Google Drive

Self-explanatory: it saves just about anything to Google Drive.

5. Google +1 Button

This is useful not only for sharing things to G+, but for seeing how many others have already shared the same page to G+, too. It’s a neat diagnostics tool combined with a social tool.

6. AddThis

AddThis can share the current page or selected content with a variety of social networks, including Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, and others.

7. Google Dictionary

A useful in-browser dictionary, it also lets you double-click words on any page to get a popup definition.

8. Google Similar Pages

This extension fetches a list of pages similar to your current webpage.

9. PicMonkey

Saves all or some of the images on the current page so that you can edit them in the PicMonkey app for Chrome.

10. User-Agent Switcher

This lets you use different user-agent strings in Chrome. Can be especially useful for the ARM Samsung Chromebook, which some sites interpret as a mobile device.

11. Knew Tab

A great alternative to the default tab. It shows weather, unread Gmail count, RSS feed, Facebook notifications and messages, and time.

12. Missing E

This is a feature-rich extension that gives you some more options for how your Tumblr dashboard appears and operates.

13. Fabulous

A neat Facebook extension which lets you change the color scheme, block ads, style fonts, and create custom UI elements like a photo pane at the wright and a sticky pad.

14. Magic Actions for YouTube

This extension lets you run YouTube in night mode (with black background) and adds some extra controls such as volume adjustment via trackpad gestures.

15. Google Translate

Translates the entire current page.

-The ScreenGrab Team

5 Tips for Getting Started with Chrome OS

Chrome OS appears to be a hit, thanks to Acer’s workhorse $199 C7 Chromebook and Samsung’s sleek $249 model. Chromebooks are often construed as “companion” devices, meant to supplement a Mac or Windows laptop/desktop, but in my experience they feel more like companions to a tablet/phone. Their modest power, stripped-down OS, and rich ecosystems make them much like a traditional computer influxed with cutting-edge mobile-informed software.

That said, transitioning from a traditional Mac/Windows machine to a Chromebook can be jarring. After all, you can’t install any native apps, and you have to run nearly everything thru the Web browser, all the while being conscious of the machine’s limited power. Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Samsung or bust

The variety of Chromebook models is diversifying, with both Lenovo and HP now getting into the game. The trend is sure to accelerate now that OEMs seem increasingly skeptical of Windows 8.

The $249 Samsung Chromebook is currently the best value on the market. It has a sleek, much-more-expensive-than-it-looks body, and it runs totally silent and cool. Its custom ARM processor is power-efficient and gives you up to seven hours of battery life. It can also support a 3G connection. It escapes the cheap netbook look that plagues the Acer C7 and it’s lighter and better performing that the heavier Samsung 550. While HP’s Pavilion Chromebook is still to be released, its heavy body (replete with Ethernet port) and power-hungry Intel processor don’t inspire confidence.

2. Consider an Ethernet-to-USB dongle

While wifi is more than enough for more uses of the Chromebook – I enjoy playing Pandora One while cooking or exercising, or using it while watching TV -, power users may also want to think about an Ethernet-to-USB dongle for the Samsung Chromebook, which doesn’t have a native Ethernet port. The cabled connection is great for more intensive productivity tasks, such as using Google Drive/Docs or uploading/editing photos, since it gives a nice speed boost to the machine’s modest guts.

3. Customize your dock

Screenshot 2013-02-05 at 8.56.46 PM

While Chrome OS only runs Web apps (with the exception of the browser itself and the file manager), it still offers a comforting desktop metaphor that makes launching apps easy. Filling the dock with icons gives you quick access to full Web apps like Evernote or Tweetdeck, or to your favorite sties, such as the New York Times (optimized for Chrome) or Phandroid.

4. Use the Search key

IMG_20130205_210208

Chromebooks feature a novel Search key which is a great productivity enhancer. It searches all apps and files on your machine, in addition to a standard Google search.

5. Find equivalents for your Mac/PC apps – they’re out there

I often hear that Chromebooks “can’t do anything” and aren’t serious laptops. This may be true if you’re a hardcore gamer or Wall Street analyst, but otherwise a Chromebook can do almost anything a casual user or student might need to, using apps from the rich Chrome Web Store:

Productivity – Evernote, Google Drive, Write Space, and the excellent Drive-integrated Scratchpad can perform almost any writing or blogging functions

Photos and Images – PicMonkey is a nice lightweight photo editor, while Bomomo is an excellent drawing app.

Music – Pandora and Google Play Music both run flawlessly in the browser (and can be stored in the dock), and things should get even better soon once Spotify pushes out its Web app.

Video – Hulu, Internet TV, and YouTube are some of the choice options here.

-The ScreenGrab Team

Google+: No Exit

One of the only drawbacks of the Internet is that it dispels the illusion of independent thought. So, naturally, the WSJ ran a story yesterday about the increasingly intrusive advances of Google+, while I struggled to finish what I thought was a novel piece about how Mountain View’s pet social network, while struggling to match Facebook’s user numbers, could, with better execution perhaps, become both a blueprint for a truly cross-Web social experience and a chilling exemplar of how far Google would force our data thru its social portal. Well, I’ll post it anyway.

RE: the Wsj story, MG Siegler has predictably argued that Google +, like Windows 8, is the emperor’s new clothes, a lackluster project that is rarely called out (not true – it received a tongue-lashing from Farhad Manjoo at Slate). It can’t match Twitter in particular when it comes to the levels of engagement and ease of use, despite its nominally huge user base, which, while huge, obviously lags behind Facebook’s. All of this is basically right, but it misses the point because it overlooks how creepy unstoppable Google+ is. The question isn’t whether Google+ is a dud; it’s whether it can be stopped before it changes how the entire Internet works.

Do you use YouTube or Gmail? Chrome? Then get used to Google +. Like its spy movie partner in arms Google Now, it is blazing a trail toward a future (on Android at least, and that’s not nothing, what with Android accounting for 3/4ths of all smartphone activations) where your data is massaged by a free form service that know nothing about the sandboxes that separate apps a la iOS. Where does Google+ start or end? Unlike Facebook – the ultimate walled garden – Google+ is hard to define. It is a comment stream like Reddit, a reader like Flipboard or Currents, a public profile like Facebook, and a surefire steady stream of Gmail notifications if you make any sort of controversial or insightful comment.

What’s more, it is slowly creeping into the basic DNA of Android. The Nexus devices all come with Google+ preloaded, and even Samsung has begun pushing its Jelly Bean updates out with Google+ preloaded, too. Even beyond it becoming one of those dreaded uninstallable “core” apps, Google+ could become less like a traditional “app” and more like a largely unseen OS component that simply grabs info and modifies your social presence/profile. While I think that such a service would be cool, it would also be incredibly creepy

It isn’t clear whether Google+ can be avoided, especially considering how adept Google is at providing Web services. It still far outshines both Apple and Microsoft in this regard, which puts in the position of forcefully bundling its already stellar services with its perhaps less than optimal (so the conventional wisdom goes) social network. Like almost everyone I know, I rarely dabble into Google+, but I have done so more now that I use the Nexus 4 not only as my phone but as my primary computing device along with my Samsung Chromebook. It reminds me of a hybrid of Flipboard and Twitter, with lots of email spam.

That doesn’t sound so appealing, but with Google Glass on the horizon, and with the growth in mobile data speeds allowing for better video/chat apps like Tango, I feel like a truly “real-time” social Web is just around the corner, and Google+, which seems almost creepily designed to be a liaison between different apps, Google-made or not, could be one of its key pivot points. Searching with Google, or using YouTube or Gmail or Chrome or any of its other myriad services, will eventually be synonymous with signing over information and permission to Google+ and the new Web it is trying to create.

-The ScreenGrab Team