Category: internet

Findable Me

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Today I learned, quite by chance, that I appear to be the only person with my name on the UK Electoral Roll.

Now, this presents a few possibilities.

1. There are others, but they have opted out of having their names made public.
2. There are others, but for whatever reasons they are not registered to vote.
3. I really am the only one.

My name is a little unusual, but I didn’t realise that it was potentially unique. In a country of over 63 million people, I’d assumed they’d be at least one that shared my forename and surname. 1.

While there is a certain thrill to being the only one with my name in the country, it does also raise a potential problem. If someone wanted to track me down, they wouldn’t have to try especially hard. I don’t think this is very likely, but it’s interesting – and more than a little frightening – how easy I am to find just by looking online.

Obviously my case is special: I wrote for the Escapist for over three years, so my name, face, and other details are all over the internet. That said, I’m hardly the only person who has been less than cautious with my personal information. It really shows the disconnect we have between what we do online and the impact it has on the physical world. We’d never dream of giving strangers so much access to our lives if we encountered them face-to-face, but because the Internet doesn’t feel entirely real, we take much greater liberties with our privacy and security.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find of erasing myself from the world, Time Lord style.

  1. I don’t count middle names. I have one, but I still don’t count it
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Greeting the World with a Smile

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I’m a pretty upbeat guy. I get excited about things. Video games, comics, books, plays, amusing videos of cats, creepy marionettes based on Alice in Wonderland characters – Y’know, the usual stuff. I have my negative moments, but on the whole I like to think that I’m pretty positive.

Not that you’d ever know that from the part of me I show online.

I’m instituting a new policy: I can still bitch about stuff that I don’t like – and I will, trust me – but I have to balance it out by talking about stuff that I do like. I’m going for a 2:1 ratio; two positive posts for each negative one. Complaining is easy, but staying upbeat is more rewarding.

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Today I Learned…

…Not to argue with people on YouTube. This is something I already knew, but apparently needed to remind myself of.

I wanted to make a response to the guy whose video I linked to yesterday. Sadly, the cameras I have here aren’t really up to the task. So instead, I left my points as a comment on the video itself. As my comment – which was:

“I have two problems with this video, Firstly, that statistic you quote at the beginning is wrong. London’s population is about 60% White British, and around 70% White overall. Secondly, while I’m not defending what happened at Dresden, calling it genocide is disingenuous. Even if you don’t agree with the idea of a multicultural society, using such charged language would be unnecessary if your argument had more substance.”

Now, I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with me, but if they are, I’d at least like them to make at least a token effort to get their facts right. I had one guy tell me that white people were now the minority in Texas, when last year’s census shows that 70% of the state’s population is white, and another saying that according to “leading geneticists” 80% of could trace their ancestry back to the last Ice Age. Naturally, there’s no indication of who these geneticists are, and despite me asking for more information, it’s not forthcoming.

*Long sigh* I’m not actually surprised by this, but it’s still irritating.

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Viewing Kotaku Through a Different Lens

I’m finding Mattie Brice’s recent guest editorial on Kotaku pretty informative for a couple of different reasons.  The article itself is a chance for us – and by us, I mean “mainstream gaming culture” – to get a look at ourselves from a perspective that we normally ignore.  As for the comments, well, the comments show why the article was necessary in the first place.

What I find really interesting is the number of people who say that Kotaku treats everyone as gamers first and foremost, seemingly ignoring the part of the article where Mattie points out that “gamer” is essentially shorthand for “straight white male who plays videogames.”  It’s very easy to say a group is inclusive when you’re not the one being excluded.  I wish that mainstream gaming culture would stop and really think about its attitudes towards other people, especially those who are different from them.

In his TEDx talk, radio host and video blogger Jay Smooth said that too many people treat being “good” like it was a binary state:  You’re either a good person or you’re not, and there’s nothing in between.  If gamers would just realise that being a good person is an ongoing process and some days they might have to work at it harder – or indeed, work at it at all – then perhaps articles like Mattie’s wouldn’t be necessary.

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The Racists of YouTube

It makes me really sad that people like this woman exist.  I’m British – or English, as the woman would put it – and I always like to think that I live in a fairly tolerant, progressive country.  Then people like Little Miss Racist come along and prove me wrong.  I hate the fact that attitudes like this exist, in no small part because they’re the polar opposite to my own views.
What really gets my goat though, is attitudes like those espoused in the video response below.

This is someone who’s taken their racist views and tried to gussy them up with pseudo-intellectualism.  His point is ridiculous, really, but by throwing out phrases like “cultural Marxism”, he makes his argument sound smarter than it really is.  Worst still, by suggesting that the woman is speaking out against some great injustice – rather than what’s she’s actually doing, which is spouting racist abuse in a crowded train – he’s being disingenuous in the worst possible way: in the way that promotes and encourages people to reject diversity and embrace their inner racist.
This touches on the much wider issues of race and privilege, issues that I’m still learning about, but I do know this: London being more racially diverse than other capital cities is not genocide in any sense of the word.  This guy is just as much of a racist as the bigot on the train, he just has a wider vocabulary.
[UPDATE] Turns out the guy doesn’t have his facts right either.  According to the most recent census details I can find – which are admittedly from 2001 – London’s population is around 60% white and British.  The most recent estimates suggest that the percentage has decreased a little, but it’s still mainly a white, British city.  Now, I don’t know whether this guy just has his facts wrong, or is deliberately making things up, but either way he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
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Women on the Internet


I love the internet; it makes a lot of important facets of my life possible.  But in any relationship, even those we love can piss us off seemingly beyond mortal comprehension.

This week I’ve had the privilege of reading a number of articles from talented female writers that I wouldn’t have found without the internet.  Sadly, each of these articles has been about the difficulty of being a woman with an opinion online, and how people will say the most horrible things to them simply because they dared to speak.

What kicked it off was Laurie Penny’s article in the Independent, where she described a woman’s opinion to be the digital equivalent of a short skirt.  “Having [an opinion],” she wrote,  “and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill and urinate on you.”  The article goes on to describe some of the comments she’s received, included a suggestion that she should be make to fellate a row of bankers at knife point.  

Then there were these two articles by Helen Lewis-Hasteley on the New Statesmen.  In the first, Lewis-Hasteley collects testimonies from a number of female writers, including one who discovered an online advert offering her services as a sex worker, complete with her home address and decorated with pictures of sexually mutilate women.  The second was a reaction from male bloggers, most of whom said that they didn’t experience anywhere near as much abuse as their female counterparts.

Finally, there was this one by a blogger names Sady Doyle, who lamented her slide into cynicism thanks to years of online threats.  She also included a list of the most common categories of comment, including “YOU HAVE CAUGHT THE HYSTERIA, MY GOODNESS!” and “I WOULD LIKE IT IF YOU WERE DEAD RIGHT NOW.” (The capitals letters are hers, by the way.)

I had a discussion about Penny’s article with a friend on Twitter – just a short one, letting him know what her Twitter handle was – only to be pulled into a discussion with someone else who thought Penny was making too big a deal of it, and that the article was just an attempt to get attention.  According to this person, Penny was “whining” about the problem and was too thin-skinned. This is one of my least favourite responses, right up there with the “stop talking about it and it will go away” line. (It’s complete bullshit, by the way.  There are maybe a handful of problems in this world that get better by ignoring them, and online misogyny sure as hell isn’t one of them.)

I get that people don’t want to think about this stuff, let alone talk about it; it’s an ugly subject and one that I think a lot of people would prefer to either pretend doesn’t exist, or to downplay and make out like it’s not a big deal.  I even get that some people have gotten used to being abused on a daily basis that they now see it as a toll they pay to be online. But you know what?  If these people don’t have the courage or inclination to say that shit is this is wrong and we should try and stop it, then they need to get the fuck out of the way and let other people get to work.  Because that’s what this problem is going to need: a metric ton of hard work, and the sooner we get started, the better.

As a final thought, ask yourself this: Is the abuse these women describe something you would wish on a friend or relative? I suspect the answer is no, and if that is the case then please, try to extend that empathy to other people and stick up for them when you can.

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