Category: Internet

Death on Twitter

Vilasrao Deshmukh is dead.

Oh wait! He is critical.

On second thoughts, he is stable.

This is what happened throughout the day today. For those unaware, Vilasrao Deshmukh is an Indian politician who has been the two time chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai is a part. As I write this post, he is being treated at a hospital in Chennai and is reported to be under observation but in stable condition.

On the internet however he has already been pronounced dead several times over with a small tweet enough to snowball into frenzy.

With great power comes great responsibility. This is the oft repeated corny line from the comic book Spiderman. Today it was not the media to be blamed. To be fair to them they held on to their horses. Today individuals like me and you were to be blamed.

For the smallest of reasons we take to twitter or facebook, forgetting that posting something on these sites is akin to shouting from our rooftops in physical terms.

Yes internet is liberating but where do we draw the line? Yes it is informative but how do we sift through the junk to find what really is of some consequence to us?

All I know is being one of the people to jump the gun I am red faced as I write this. Time for some social networking etiquette anyone?


Claustrophobic bubble

Internet has moved on from being a technological invention to being an entity that forms a major part of our day to day lives. No sphere of our lives, at least in the urban areas has remained untouched by it. This post is a continuation of the same thread about a TED talk which opened my eyes to things that I did not know happened when I clicked the ‘search’ tab on Google.

A friend of mine shared the link of a TED lecture with me and asked me to watch it. I did so and the talk introduced me to a new phenomenon that I had noticed on the internet but had not taken that seriously. Turns out, I should have.

Here is the link:

Answer this. How many people do you have on your Facebook list? For most of us the number exceeds 100 at the very least. Now, on a daily basis how many different faces from that list appear on your home page? I am sure that by now you already get the drift.

The talk elaborates that based on the links you click on, Facebook prioritizes who is important to you. That person shows up more often from then on. Which means in most likelihood, hundreds of your friends get left out of the updates you receive on a regular basis. This is what can be called as the information bubble and you are the creator of that bubble in a way.

What is happening on Facebook might not be as relevant to our lives but something similar is done by Google as well. Did you know that the same word typed in the search box can throw up different results for different people? These are based on where you are located, your search history and several other factors. The same information is used to determine what ad is most relevant to you. Why does Google do it? They believe that they are customizing the result for you. Then what is the problem you would ask? Well to put it simply, this way you will never be exposed to new information! You will be trapped in your own information bubble.

Even if search engines are trying to help you, it might not be the best of the things to do. Relevant and vital information might be buried deep inside the chunk of unnecessary data. Also these are things that are happening without us even knowing about it. Why should somebody else decide what I should read and watch? The reason for the popularity of the internet was the freedom it offered us.  If I really wanted censorship, I would turn to China and not Google!

The internet was meant and still is, to ‘connect’. It is the single biggest equalizer that we have. If all your search results are unique and customized, your top results will follow a similar pattern. You do not search to know about things that you are already aware of. Right?

Yes I mean it. I am not turning into a schizophrenic.  I have begun observing every search result and advertisement when I am surfing the internet and have made certain observations. I shall tell you exactly why I think I am being stalked.

A few weeks back I was looking for wallets to buy and since I did not have much time to go shopping I decided to check out a few online stores. I checked Zovi and Inkruit but did not take a fancy to any of the products available. Since then which ever website I visit, the corresponding advertisements that I get to see are of Zovi or Infruit only!

Not just is the search engine keeping a tab on what websites I visit, but also about what products I checked. All the ads that the search engine deems fit for me are those of wallets! My problem is not wallets but my problem is why ONLY wallets!

The same thing happened a few months back when I was researching about laptops as I was planning to buy one soon. Suddenly I could see laptop advertisements every where. It is convenient at times but you do reach a point where you do not want only customized information coming to you. This is something that I will be discussing in detail in my next post as well.

What if Zovi had other amazing products but since I checked the wallet section and am being bombarded with information about it I would never learn about the other products. I might however be interested in buying something else but they are losing out on me as a potential customer.

Later that day I was checking out a website called Carsingh and the advertisements that I could see again were of wallets only! Really? A car website and wallets all around! Are you kidding me! What more proof do you want reader? Now are you convinced of my claim? For the record, I do not like to be stalked at all. I am a voracious reader and my preference is to be exposed to newer information and not go around in circles with the same old stuff.

If only I had a way of letting Google know that I have indeed bought myself a wallet and next on agenda is a watch. Oh wait! There is a way to let them know. I simply have to Google search for more watch designs and I shall be bombarded with offers related to watches.

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Screwed Nuts N Bolts

"An idle engineer's mind leads to a screwed up blog."- Anonymous