Vintage Social Networking

23 05 2013


If ‘Lord of the Rings’ took place today…

9 04 2013


MSNBC: What makes a troll tick? You can ask Dr. Troll

14 06 2012

By Nidhi Subbaraman,

Whitney Phillips hunts trolls. For the past four years she’s watched them on forums and Facebook, studied patterns in their behavior, chatted online with a few, and even met a small handful.

It’s no small feat. These are tricksters prone to digital disruption and online hijinks for all kinds of reasons or none at all. And their dependence on anonymity makes them harder to track down than their Grimm namesakes. “You can’t just walk up to a troll and have a heart-to-heart,” Phillips says. But over the years, she’s built up relationships with trolls of all stripes and gotten as close as anyone to understanding what makes their tribe tick.

A troll once described a troll as “a normal person who does insane things on the Internet.” “Insane” could mean a whole range of different things — from mildly annoying behavior like Rickrolling to vicious attacks on Facebook memorial pages dedicated to dead children. So what, exactly, makes a troll a troll? That’s been the focus of the last few years of Phillips’s academic life, leading up to her newly earned Ph.D. She’s Dr. Troll now.

It takes one to know one
Trolling has been around in some form since the beginning of the Internet, but took on a very specific meaning by the mid-2000s. Phillips says there are four characteristics that distinguish trolls from other mischief-makers on the Internet (“I’m not responsible for assholes,” Phillips clarifies).

True trolls self-identify and think of themsleves as a troll. They mark their territory on forums with very specific references — a “trollish vernacular” — to let other trolls know that trolling is on. They seek “lulz,” “a particular sort of amoral laughter” at inappropriate jokes (think: disaster humor, racist humor or just plain cruel humor) once confined to private living rooms or clubs but now amplified by the web, Phillips says. “It’s sort of similar to schadenfreude except it’s much more pointed.” Schadenfreude would describe your glee if someone you didn’t like fell down, but with lulz, “You either participate in that misfortune or you’re living vicariously through the people who are. It’s much more active.”

And, although they’re willing to refer to themselves as trolls, they’re always anonymous, which is what makes trolls as a group hard to study — unless you’re Whitney Phillips.

4 Pillars Of Trolling Not all trolls are the same, but here are some calling cards, according to Whitney Phillips.

1. Self-ID. Trolls think of themselves as trolls and usually aren’t afraid to say it.

2. Vernacular. It’s always changing and often grammatically incorrect on purpose and has previously included terms such as “plox” (please), “fap” (masturbation), and “sauce” (asking for the source of an image).

3. Lulz. This pointed laughter is the troll reward, virtual troll food, an acknowledgement and reaction to a troll attack that is more participatory than regular laughter.

4. Anonymity. The center of a troll’s power, it’s the virtual cloak that lets a sane person acts a little insane online.

The spirit of trolling traces its roots to the beginning of the Internet, but organized itself in the online community 4Chan. “4Chan was the place where term ‘troll’ fixed itself,” Phillips says. Trolling lives on in the community today, most prolifically in the /b/ forums — a “trollspace” Phillips describes in a recent paper as “(A)n epicenter (arguably the epicenter) of online trolling activity, and consistently pumps out some of the Internet’s most recognizable, not to mention offensive, viral content.”

Of course, trolling’s come a long way since its early days on 4Chan. It’s become common enough now, though, that it’s often confused with other disruptive behavior on the Internet. In an age where laws are being crafted to define and punish behavior on the Internet, being able to understand and distinguish trolling from other behavior is all the more critical. “Knowing what you’re dealing with before you legislate is almost always a good rule,” Phillips says, and her four-pillar theory is a solid start. “It wouldn’t just be trolling speech that gets caught in that dragnet, it would be political speech, unpopular speech…. We’re going to start seeing more and more state laws that overreach.”

(Full Story)

The Future of the Classroom is Digital.

1 06 2012

I have no idea how this ended up on FAILBlog, because it’s an absolute WIN in my book. The future of the classroom is digital. Its’ only a matter of time!

– dEV

Y!: Five things to do before giving your teenager a smartphone

29 05 2012

Posted May 24, 2012 2:49pm by Brad Spirrison

For many parents, it is not a matter of if your teenager gets a smartphone but when. According to a recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, nearly 25 percent of children between the ages of 14 and 17 already have one. And ownership levels across all demographics are only going up.

Of course, there are many reasons to be skittish about giving your teenager a smartphone. Concerns can range from having strangers know where your kids are “checking-in” at any given time, to driving distractions, to voice, text and data fees from your cellular provider that are off the hook.

But if your kid just has to have a smartphone (and you’re willing to oblige), it will help to establish a few key ground rules first. Here are the five things to do before handing over a smartphone to your teenager.

Insist that you (rather than complete strangers) can keep tabs on their location

It is easy for teenagers to share where they are at any given time via Facebook or “check-in” services likefoursquare. While it is reasonable for friends and family to know if your kid is at a  concert or local hangout, do you really want this information shared with strangers? While Facebook (in theory) lets users restrict who sees a status or location update, apps like foursquare and others are often co-mingled with Twitter, where virtually everyone can follow any other user’s feed or whereabouts. The safest thing to do is put the kabosh on them checking-in to any place publicly. Short of that, insist that no location is shared beyond a tight network of friends and family that you can monitor at any time.

There is good news about location-sharing services, however. You can use them to track where your kids are regardless of whether they check-in to a place or not. All four major carriers (AT&TVerizonSprint and T-Mobile) have services that let you track where kids and family members are at all times (assuming they are with their devices). Monthly subscriptions for these services range between $5 and $10, and users can try them out for at least a couple weeks at no charge. There are also a wide variety of third-party apps available to perform similar services. The best one is called Glympse, and can be downloaded at no cost to iPhones,AndroidsBlackBerrys and Microsoft Windows-based smartphones.

Eliminate the ability to text while driving

Even though it is against the law in many places around the country, teenagers (as is the case with many of the rest of us) regularly text and speak on their phones while behind the wheel. According to a recent survey by Consumer Reports, about 30 percent of teenagers admitted to texting while driving over a one-month period of time (with about 50 percent fessing up to talking on the phone). The dangers here are indisputable and car crashes are the number one cause of death among teens. As it is difficult to legislate or explain away the inherent risks of texting while driving, parents should make it technologically difficult or impossible to do so.

Here again, most major carriers have subscription-based services that use the GPS technology found within smartphones to eliminate the ability to text once they are in motion at certain speeds. Consumer Reports recommends two different independent services that either prohibit texting or curb the desire to do so behind the wheel. For $6.99 per month, tXtBlocker reliably eliminates texting capabilities for most smartphones while in motion. Another creative option is, a free service that reads text messages and emails aloud as they are received.

(Full Story)

ClassRealm: A KickStarter Project I Can Get Behind!

21 05 2012

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this project plays out. I’m a big fan of RPGs (both online and dice-and-paper), and I’m always looking for something that will grab the attention of my students and engage them in learning. This sounds right up my alley, and I know I would use it in a heartbeat! Be sure to check out the project’s KickStarter page for full information!

– dEV

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About ClassRealm

Welcome to the Realm! Before you start throwing handfuls of money at the screen or exiting out of this tab in disgust I feel it’s only fair I explain what exactly ClassRealm is. In simplest terms ClassRealm is a customizable web-based tool that can be used by teachers, students and parents to track student achievements, provide students with entertaining and educational adventures, as well as improve their overall academic performance. ClassRealm will be accessible from any web-enabled desktop or mobile device.

The ClassRealm system is based on role playing games such as Pokémon, Final Fantasy, and even some classic table-top rulesets such as Dungeons & Dragons. Students can level up, gain achievements and even fight off enemies with their knowledge and good deeds. These gaming ideals come from years and years of video game influence. The ClassRealm team wants to bring as many gaming aspects to the system as possible, while still keeping the core educational values.

ClassRealm’s focus is showing students a path to content mastery as well as proving that learning can be an exciting journey for everyone involved. We encourage and reward students to do work they may normally find unrewarding or pointless. ClassRealm is also a way to tap into children’s creativity and harness their desire to have fun and learn at their own pace. We leverage this to encourage them to master their classroom content.

Education is an ever evolving system and it has changed rapidly with the influx of technology and social standards over the years. One of the key features of ClassRealm is that we are building it to adapt to any and every classroom, no matter the setting or current year. Curriculum, standards, and teaching styles are altered constantly, and ClassRealm will follow suit.

Here’s a little about how teachers, students, and parents can benefit from ClassRealm.

ClassRealm is an online management system built for teachers by teachers. It gives educators the ability to completely customize their own classroom world. Setting up achievements, experience points, hit points, “edventures” and character details are just a few of the customizable elements of ClassRealm. Implementing ClassRealm will motivate students, help teachers track lesson trends, and give classrooms a sense of community. Its sole purpose is to make teaching more fun and effective for both teachers and those being taught. ClassRealm is being designed from the ground up to eliminate the hassle of developing a system manually and will provide the tools to create, track, and manage your classroom’s every move.

Though students don’t have as much control over ClassRealm’s initial set up as teachers they still play the most important role. What good is a kingdom if there are no citizens? Students pick from a list of fantasy/sci-fi races and enhancers to create a ClassRealm persona. This character is their key to another world. All of the character’s information and actions are controlled by the student. Students can earn teacher-made achievements and gain experience points throughout the school day, as well as earn points and achievements online at home. Getting an A on a test is great, but earning a shiny virtual “Test Slayer” achievement is more fun. We want to push students to their full potential by offering them an entertaining and educational world that they can influence and be a part of.

Parents love to know what’s going on in the classroom. ClassRealm gives parents a chance to see what their student is up to at school on a daily basis. By checking a student’s character profile, parents can see where their students are excelling and where they need help. Parents can also create “Side Quests” specifically to motivate their student. These quests can be public or secret and are only shared with the student and the teacher.

For more info on ClassRealm visit the ClassRealm Blog, read the story that started it all on Kotaku, or follow our official mascot Sami the Samurai Yeti onTwitter!

(Full Story with Video)

‘SNOPA’ would ban employers, schools from demanding Facebook passwords

29 04 2012
By Bob Sullivan

A New York Congressman has introduced federal legislation nicknamed “SNOPA” that would make it illegal for employers and educational institutions to require a potential or current employee, or a potential or current student, to divulge personal online information as part of the hiring, enrollment or discipline process.

The bill, with a full name of the Social Networking Online Protection Act, was introduced Friday by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

“As you know, social media and networking has become such a widespread part of communications in our country, and around the globe. However, a person’s digital footprint is largely unprotected,” Engel said in a letter to Congressional colleagues asking that they support the proposal, which was obtained by from Engel’s office.

“There have been countless examples of employers requiring an applicant to divulge their user name and password as part of the hiring process. Additionally, some universities, and even secondary schools, have required the student either divulge their personal information, or grant the institution access to the personal account by ‘friending’ the student.”

The legislation would ban employers from requiring that employees or job candidates share social networking passwords or “other means of accessing a private account”; it would also ban post-secondary schools from disciplining students for failing to provide such access, or from discriminating against applicants who refuse to provide such access. Local educational agencies would also be banned from requiring login credentials.

“These coercive practices are unacceptable, and should be halted,” Engel said in the letter. “We have to draw a line between what is publicly available information, and what is personal, private content. I think we would all object to having to turn over usernames and passwords for email accounts, or even worse, to bank accounts. User-generated social media content should be no different.”

The Facebook password issue has been bubbling up for years — in 2009, a Maryland state employee complained that he was required to provide his Facebook password during a job interview. But the subject has gained much more attention in recent weeks, after several news reports, including an investigation.

(Full Story)

HuffPo: Austin Carroll, Indiana Student Expelled For Profane Tweet, Thrust Into National Free-Speech Debate

4 04 2012

Oddly enough, I was just having a conversation about this topic the other night. Specifically, we were discussing cyber-bullying, and what schools can do about it. It takes place off school grounds, and outside school hours. Very often, the situation is much more serious than the one mentioned in this article, but the idea is the same. What can we do? Or should we do anything?

– dEV

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By CHARLES WILSON 04/ 3/12 02:55 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS — Austin Carroll was fighting insomnia when the Indiana teenager turned to Twitter for relief and casually dropped the F-word multiple times, apparently to demonstrate to his followers that the expletive would fit almost anywhere in a sentence.

But his middle-of-the-night profanity quickly cost him. A few days later, Carroll was expelled from high school over his foul-mouthed lapse, even though the word wasn’t directed at anyone, and he says the tweet didn’t involve his school.

Now the 17-year-old senior is at the center of a debate over how closely school officials may monitor students’ online activities when they aren’t in class or even on school property, an issue that has frustrated administrators and confounded courts.

Carroll insists he made the tweet on his own time using his own computer, making it none of the school’s business. But school officials in the small city of Garrett, about 20 miles north of Fort Wayne, contend that the teen used either his school-issued computer or the school network. The details could spell the difference between a routine school discipline case and a broader First Amendment dispute.

School officials say they cannot discuss a student’s disciplinary record and will not say why Carroll was expelled March 19 from Garrett High School, a 600-student school where younger students are given iPads and older ones are sent home with MacBooks.

His mother, Pam Smith, believes it was in retaliation for her son’s previous misbehavior, which included a suspension earlier in March for violating the dress code by wearing a kilt to school and a suspension last fall for using the same expletive on a school computer. Then on March 16, her son tweeted the F-word again.

Carroll, who did not respond to interview requests from The Associated Press, told Fort Wayne television station WPTA that he was just trying to be funny.

“If my account is on my own personal account, I don’t think the school or anybody should be looking at it. Because it’s my own personal stuff, and it’s none of their business,” he told the station.

He posted on his Facebook page that he “shouldn’t have done it” but said the punishment was too harsh.

First Amendment and students’ rights experts agree with him. If Carroll was using his own computer and network to send the tweet, the school’s action was “an incredible overreach and overreaction that arguably raises not only First Amendment but Fourth Amendment issues,” said David Hudson, a scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures.

(Full Story)

SFChronicle: Scholarship providers vet students’ social networks

20 03 2012

Kathleen Pender

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Here’s another reason not to post photos of your high school beer bash online: They could cost you a college scholarship.

About one-fourth of scholarship providers who responded to a survey said they use sites such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter to check out applicants, primarily just finalists. Of those who do:

— About three-fourths are looking for behavior that could reflect badly on the scholarship provider, such as underage drinking, provocative pictures, illegal drug use or racial slurs.

— About one-quarter wanted to verify information on the application.

— More than half wanted to know the applicant better or were looking for positive traits such as creativity or good communication skills.

— About one-third have denied an applicant a scholarship, and a quarter have granted an applicant a scholarship, because of something they found online.

FastWeb and the National Scholarship Providers Association sent surveys to the association’s approximately 300 members in September. The 67 members who responded provide a cross-section of privately funded scholarships.

Not common yet

Although only a handful of providers – fewer than 10 – denied a scholarship based on their online sleuthing, the practice could become more common, as it has in employment.

“In the free-form comments, a couple of (scholarships providers) said they didn’t think about it until they got the survey,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and

None of the providers were doing “real extensive research or background checks on applicants,” he says. “They are looking for red flags.”

Providers “are looking at whether the individual has good sense and will reflect well on the organization. There is the recognition that kids will be kids and will occasionally cross the line,” Kantrowitz adds. “Where they have zero tolerance is if they find information online that is inconsistent with what is on the application. If you are applying for a scholarship for poor students and your home is in a ZIP code with million-dollar homes, that will raise some questions.”

Kantrowitz could not disclose which providers review online profiles. He has heard, anecdotally, that some admissions offices also do it, but he knows of no research on that subject.

Deborah Fox, who helps families devise college funding solutions, says she was at a continuing education seminar where admissions officers discussed using online resources to screen applicants for admission and financial aid based on merit (but not need).

However, none of the colleges or scholarship providers I spoke to said they do it.

(Full Story)