To Leet Or Not To 1337 – Web Culture

C and this is communicating on the web lead speak and chat speak are you’ll eat well are you is a form of chat speak it means are you the the words are you similar to lol for laughing out loud it’s used on smartphones and text messages and abbreviated speech it’s different than leet speak so.

I’ve really kind of violated the rules by combining the two of.

Them leads be replaces letters with numbers an example is.

Replacing le et with 1 3 3 7 the L is a 1 the E’s are three and the T is a 7 it means elite all four of these words mean the same thing it was used in the 1980s on the Usenet.

Forums to have private speech in public places tip for online classes please do not use leet speak or chat speak in CCC online classes here’s an example just for fun of a Google web page a normal search engine page on the left and then of course on the right I have a.

Lead speak page did you know some of your Google pages come in different languages and cultures check it out just ask for lead speak to pull it up and hear all um and I could just say Google for the lead write or Google in any form of lead by the way and it’s the first option pops it right up that’s just for fun you’ll notice it returns the results in English have a great day I’m dr.

For more information on digital literacy bye bye.

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Charge Your Iphone With An Onion, And Other Elaborate Youtube Hoaxes

Viral videos are a lot of fun — they give us something to watch over and over, share with our friends, and talk about on Facebook. But not every video is as genuine as we first believe; sometimes we find that we’ve been the victims of elaborate hoaxes.

And even though these aren’t as potentially dangerous or damaging as other hoaxes we’ve seen 5 Internet Hoaxes That Went Viral and Almost Fooled You This Year There were a few convincing hoaxes knocking about the Internet this year; from waterproof iPhones to Christmas Dinner in a tin. Here are some of the best. Read More , it can still be a letdown. Let’s take a look at a few that caught a lot of people.

Charge an iPod with an Onion

YouTube videos detailing surprising science-y things 10 Science YouTube Channels You Can’t Miss The word science essentially means knowledge, and it is this quest for learning and understanding that has driven mankind to the height of its power. The Web offers ample opportunity to disperse that knowledge to… Read More can do really well (I especially like Smarter Every Day). But not every home science project that you see on YouTube works. The guys behind HouseholdHacker have posted a number of hoax videos. The most famous of these, posted in 2007, included instructions on how to charge an iPod using Gatorade and an onion.

Why would you want to charge an iPod with an onion? They don’t say. To show that it can be done, I suppose.

But there’s a problem: it can’t. A Gatorade-soaked onion doesn’t generate electricity. And even if it did, USB cables need to be plugged into USB ports, not jammed into the sides of vegetables. A lot of people were convinced by this hoax, with the video receiving almost 10,000,000 views.

The MythBusters video debunking the project, however, only has 197,000.

The eHarmony Cat Lady

2011 saw one of the most successful video hoaxes in recent memory, with an eHarmony video bio by “Debbie.” Debbie states that she’s making her first video for eHarmony, and proceeds to tearfully elucidate just how much she loves cats.

It’s a lot.

Turns out that Debbie is actually Phildelphia comedienne Cara Hartmann, who doesn’t (as far as we know) have an alarming degree of affection for cats. She does, however, now have a YouTube show called Debbie in LA, which follows Debbie’s move to the West Coast after her online dating profile receives 27,000,000 views (in case you’re wondering, the video actually has over 29,000,000 views at the moment).

Online dating is hard Online Dating: Men Don’t Get It And Women Don’t Understand Do online dating websites work? It’s time for a frank discussion! What I learned from interviews was that online dating is equally painful for men and for women, but for very different reasons. Read More , and fake videos of cat-obsessed singles don’t help the process. But they can be pretty funny.

Petting Zoo Hero

The Internet loves animal videos From Cute To Ferocious: 12 Animal Videos That Are Absolutely Amazing Have you ever seen a video of an animal that just left you in awe? Animal videos are a fascinating showcase of their capabilities as they interact with the wider world we all inhabit. Read More , especially when they involve more than one kind of animal. It’s even better if it involves goats.

This video has all of the elements of a viral sensation. A small pig saves a baby goat from drowning in a pond; what could be more endearing?

The Internet was much less endeared when they found out that the whole thing had been put together by Comedy Central, and some very talented animal trainers, to generate press for a show called “Nathan for You.” The video was huge — it was featured on Time, Huffington Post, Yahoo! News, Gawker, ABC News, and many other major outlets. The crew later released a video detailing how they had trained the seemingly life-saving pig:

This hoax actually generated quite a bit of discussion about news outlets’ willingness to share videos without doing any fact-checking, and whether or not this is ethical. Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at Poynter Institute, called it “embarrassing” and “almost a form of malpractice.”

Nathan Fielder, of Nathan for You, wasn’t phased. He told the New York Times that “[i]f we were trying to pull an elaborate hoax on the news, I think we could have pushed further. But we weren’t. We found it interesting that people were sharing it without us saying anything.”

Golden Eagle Snatches Kid

The heroic pig certainly isn’t the only animal that’s gone viral. This one is a bit more menacing, though. In the video below, you’ll see a golden eagle drop from the sky and attempt to nab a baby—the eagle tries to pick it up and fly away, but drops it shortly after. Considering that golden eagles can have 7-foot wingspans and have been known to kill grey wolves, this isn’t quite as far-fetched as it sounds.

Fortunately, this harrowing incident was a fake; the whole thing had been created as a part of a project for a simulation workshop at the National Animation and Design Centre in Montreal. The teacher told Buzzfeed he was trying to come up with new ways to teach the class.

Students were told that if they could get 100,000 views on YouTube, they’d get an A. One of the students discussed their strategy with the Globe and Mail: “We . . . decided to come up with something that involved animals and babies — those seemed to generate the most hits.”

He was more right than he knew. The video currently has over 44,000,000 views.

Rayman in Smash Brothers

Nintendo’s popular brawler Smash Brothers lets gamers pit popular Nintendo characters against each other in fights —so it was a big surprise when “Rayman Leak Video” hit YouTube, apparently showing that Rayman, a non-Nintendo character, would be included in a DLC pack.

Alas, Rayman fans were let down when they found out that the whole thing was a hoax. The maker of the video posted another video detailing how he created the “leak”, and the amount of work that he went through to make a very accurate menu is pretty impressive.

Twerk Fail

Love it or hate it, twerking has had a fascinating effect on pop culture over the past couple years. YouTube is full of home-twerking videos, but none got as many views as one that shows a woman twerking upside down against a door when her roommate enters, knocking her onto a coffee table and setting her on fire.

The utter ridiculousness of the video made some people suspicious, and it was revealed shortly after that the video had been made by Jimmy Kimmel and a stuntwoman, who then made an appearance on his show. (The video below shows Kimmel coming to the rescue with a fire extinguisher after the stuntwoman ignites.)

Lonelygirl15

In 2006, the world was introduced to Bree, a 16-year-old girl who posted quirky YouTube video blogs 5 YouTube Vlogs To Put On Your Web Video Watching List I know that in the mid-to-late 2000’s, vlogs ruled the Internet with the purest form of free speech in the world. However, even though we’re in a totally different decade, I’m pretty confident that vlogging… Read More and interacted with fans via MySpace under her username, lonelygirl15. There wasn’t anything particularly special about her videos; she just talked about her life, and seemed sweet.

In 2008, it was revealed that “Bree” was, in fact, a 19-year-old actress named Jessica Lee Rose, and that the video blogs were in fact episodes of a fictional show. Many people had suspicions about the videos, citing minor inconsistencies, and it became clear quickly that things were not normal in Bree’s world. Her parents disappeared, there were hints of cult involvement, and things got progressively more weird.

The show, LG15, has continued with a number of spinoffs detailing the exploits of the Order, an evil organization searching for “trait positive” girls — and now includes vlogs from a number of characters.

Facebook Friends Sleeve

Facebook tattoos aren’t super common, but they’ve definitely been done before. YouTuber susyj87 brought it to a new level with an entire sleeve made up of the profile pictures of her Facebook friends.

Of course, this one was debunked fairly quickly, as the owner of the tattoo stop stated that it was a temporary tattoo that would only last a few days. The video was organized by Pretty Social, a company that says people “are proud of [their] (large) social network online, that we carry with us every day through various media. Pretty Social also provides this in an offline format.”

Just to be clear: Pretty Social is not a social-media tattoo parlor.

Sochi Fail Wolf

The popularity of the #SochiFail hashtag brought a lot of pranksters out of the woodwork, with some hilarious — and some not-so-hilarious — results. This video, by US luger Kate Hansen, features a wolf walking through the athletes’ dorm. It was just another example of how things were going wrong in Russia.

Or was it? While this does actually show a wolf walking through the hall, it wasn’t a wild Russian one: it was a trained American wolf named Rugby. This was another video hoax by Jimmy Kimmel (Hansen was in on it),  showed on news stations around the country. Sochi security even got involved.

Don’t Trust Your Eyes

It’s long been an adage that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, especially on the Internet. The same applies to online videos, and to Instagram Stay Secure: 3 Instagram Hoaxes Too Many People Fell For Take a good look at these Instagram hoaxes and make sure you don’t fall for the next one! Read More . Next time you see a video that seems too spectacular to be true, stop and think about it for a moment. It probably is!

Were you caught by any of these hoaxes? Have others been more convincing? What are your favorites? Share your thoughts below!

Giving Away Software For Free And Staying Alive: A Meeting With The Makers Of Komodo Edit

activestate1

Tech companies often get a lot of media attention either when they’re new and shiny startups or when they sell out to a larger company in the ever-coveted exit. Today I’m writing about a company that doesn’t fall under either category: Vancouver-based ActiveState. This is a tech company that has been around for over 15 years, and does a lot of work with free software (Firefox and Cloud Foundry).

Yaara and I went for a visit to their offices, to see what it’s like and learn a bit about how giving away stuff for free works as a business model.

activestate 01

Left to right: Todd Whiteman, Komodo Technical Lead; Komodo’s monster mascot; myself; Yaara; Mike Kanasoot, Komodo Marketing Manager

What’s Free

The first thing many of you guys would want to know is what ActiveState gives away for free. In a nutshell:

  • Komodo Edit, a programmer’s text editor with lots of power.
  • Stackato, a cloud hosting product. It’s complex, but in a nutshell, it’s sort of like Heroku but on your own servers. Stackato isn’t free for commercial use, but ActiveState gives away development copies for free.
  • There’s another powerful developer product ActiveState sometimes gives away for free, but I’ll tell you more about it later on.

When you compare ActiveState with Red Hat or Ubuntu, it doesn’t look like they’re giving much away for free. That’s one thing this visit underscored, at least for me: Free stuff is great, but you also need to have a simple and solid business model to make money and survive for years. Red Hat does it with support; Komodo does it with Enterprise sales.

The Space

activestate02

ActiveState’s office isn’t flashy, but it’s certainly nice. Above you can see the space they use for developer huddles, and this is the “zen chair” developers use when they need a moment away from the screen, to contemplate a tricky problem:

activestate03

ActiveState puts coders together: Teams sit close together, there are no cubicles, and the offices are very quiet. Marketing VP Toph Whitmore was actually whispering as he showed us around the developer workspace. There’s a definite sense of real work getting done.

Free Doesn’t Mean Easy

I have a thing for text editors, which is how I originally came to know ActiveState: They make the free, and excellent, Komodo Edit. This is a programmer’s text editor with a boatload of powerful features, and it’s completely free and open-source. It is also based on Firefox, which made it even more interesting for me. ActiveState basically takes Firefox’s guts and customizes it into something completely different.

This isn’t always easy: Mozilla decides to make changes in Firefox that break Komodo features, tells us Eric Promislow, Komodo’s senior developer. ActiveState’s Komodo developers are in constant communication with Mozilla, but the teams don’t always agree on what “broken” means, really.

Free Stuff Isn’t Always An Ideology

Throughout our interview with ActiveState, one thing became clear: This is a company dead-set on the Enterprise market. 97% of all Fortune 1000 companies are clients of ActiveState, including big names like Credit Suisse, NASA, and Boeing. So why would a company trying to make money off huge corporations care about giving away stuff for free?

Talking to Mike Kanasoot, Komodo’s Marketing Manager, I got the impression that it’s about community involvement. ActiveState makes a point of attending lots of industry events, and combined with free products, this means people talk about the company. I can tell you I would not be writing this piece if Komdodo Edit wasn’t being offered for free, for example.

When I asked Toph Whitmore about this, he referred to giving away products for free as sort of a stepping stone. In other words, it’s a practical choice — it just makes business sense. So while Mozilla, upon which Komodo is based, is very ideological about being free, ActiveState is more pragmatic about it. Free just works for some things (such as word of mouth).

Another compnay that’s very pragmatic about giving away stuff for free is Google, which provides a ton of free products and services to keep as many eyeballs on their pages (and ads) as possible. That’s not the only reason Google came to mind: While Komodo is Firefox-based and ActiveState does lots of work with Mozilla, Yaara could not help but notice that ActiveState’s engineers all used Chrome to demonstrate their work during the meeting:

activestate04

… Except When It Is

All of this is not to say that ActiveState doesn’t care about free software, or just uses it for its own means. Komodo itself is open-source, which is a boon for anyone trying to build a third-party editor based on Firefox.

But that’s not the only thing: Komodo Edit has a big brother called Komodo IDE. This is a $295 IDE with some seriously cool features like pair-programming (work on the same piece of code with another coder, at the same time, using two computers), powerful debugging, and more. But as I said, it costs $295… except when it doesn’t: It turns out that if you contribute to an open-source project, you can get Komodo IDE entirely for free.

This is similar to the licensing model JetBrains uses for their excellent IDEs: It also gives away licenses for open-source contributors. JetBrains trumpets this free license option, while ActiveState doesn’t really highlight it (I did not realize it existed until it came up in the meeting). At any rate, this is one more reason to contribute to open-source projects, if you’re not already doing so.

Not All Flowers and Sunshine

So, at the end of the day, any company needs to make money — and giving away stuff for free ties into it, but can never be an end-all. Meeting with ActiveState was interesting, and sobering: It is all too easy to get wrapped up in how cool free products are and forget that the people who make them need to eat, too.

I’d like to thank ActiveState for having us — it was a fascinating meeting, and it was great seeing the developers behind one of my favorite text editors. We’ll be touring Canada in the next few months, meeting with interesting tech companies and interviewing them. Do you know of a Canadian tech company with a great story or product? Let me know in the comments, and we might visit them, too.

4 Ways To Use A Usb Or External Drive Like Your Own Mobile Computer

4 Ways To Use a USB or External Drive Like Your Own Mobile Computer screenshotThese days we all have places to go, people to see, and things to do. Life is just like that; we’re never in one place anymore!

As busy as we all are, and as much as we are always on the move, it ends up being a real pain trying to carry our laptops around with us. With our laptops, we need to make sure to bring our peripherals, including our power supplies, mouses, and possibly even our printers and such.

Today I want to share 4 methods of using a USB drive or an external hard drive to make your computing portable so that you can leave your laptop at home for once. This way, you can use any local computer you want, taking advantage of the convenience of just carrying your portable hard drive with you.

For each one of these methods, there have been previous posts written (both by myself and here on MakeUseOf) so I will link to them as I go.

(1)  File Syncing:

screenshot.18

The first option is possibly the easiest option and is done with the least effort. The basic idea is to have a copy of your most needed files saved on a portable external hard drive. This is handy because any computer you end up using these days will have USB ports so you can gain access to your files.

You also want to make sure that all of the most recent changes to those files are with you. You can do this by “syncing” (or synchronizing) them.  Here on MakeUseOf, Shankar has written an article showing how easy the process can be. Just make sure that when you return to your computer, you sync the USB files and the originals on the computer. With all of your files a portable hard drive away, your important functions will be as portable as your portable drive is.

BUT, what about those programs you leave behind on your own PC?

(2) Portable Applications:

screenshot.19

Portable applications (aka portable apps) are programs that you can install on an external hard drive to be run on almost any computer with a USB port. All parts of the program are typically located in one folder and therefore it is portable. This is very handy because you can find many useful programs (Aibek lists 100 Portable Apps in this post) that you can carry with you, feeling confident that all of your settings are staying the same. Now, any computer you come in contact with will have your favorite programs right there for your use.

Portable applications, along with your personal files synced, will make your computing experience virtually portable.  Check out a review of a cool suite containing many portable applications, including a standalone programs menu, called PortableApps Suite.

BUT, what if you enjoy having a consistent Operating System experience?

(3) Virtual Operating System:

screenshot.20

Mojopac offers a solution you may like. It’s almost like Windows XP installed on your external hard drive.  This means that you can have your OS settings, programs, and files just the way you like running on any computer that has an external hard drive (and that runs XP but most if not many still do so it shouldn’t be much of an issue).

The programs installed in the Mojopac installation are all located on your portable hard drive so it enables true portability. I did a review but if you want cool screen shots and a video, check out the 4 Ways to Carry your PC on iPod or USB Thumbdrive that was published earlier on MakeUseOf.

What if a “virtual” OS isn’t good enough?  What if you want the safety and flexibility of actually booting from your portable hard drive?

(4) Operating Systems Which Are Boot-able From An External Hard Drive:

screenshot.21

Another solution for making your computing portable is to install an operating system that can be booted straight from your thumb drive. There are several operating systems that you can use in such a case, one of which being Windows XP!

Basically if you can get a bootable live CD version, you can use an external portable hard drive instead of a CD!  Check out some of these links showing how: How to make your own Windows Live CD (check out this added help from Lifehacker), UNetbootin Creates USB-Bootable Linux the Easy Way.

There you have it, four methods for making your computing portable! Which of these do you typically use? Can you think of another method that doesn’t fit in these four categories? Let us know!

Image credit: Wheels00

The 6 Cutest Sites With Silly Pet Pics And Lol Pets

The 6 Cutest Sites with Silly Pet Pics and LOL Pets cuteness1In these ever so serious days, what better way to get a smile on your lips than with cute, furry animals.

Even the most dull and serious people can’t escape a laugh when they see a lemur getting tickled, silly pet pics, or browse lol pets pictures.

We’ve gathered the all-time cutest websites on the internet. Hakuna Matata – read on, forget about your worries and relax.

Cute Overload

Cute-hunters out there most probably know all about Cute Overload, and for those who don’t – the name says it all.

Cute Overload brings daily new cutie pictures, ranging from ninja hamsters to fat immobile cats. All pictures are based on reader suggestions, so they’ve got cuteporters all over the world, ready to make your day.

The 6 Cutest Sites with Silly Pet Pics and LOL Pets cuteoverload

If you want to have a dose of funny cute, Cute Overload is the place to go.

FurryTalk.com

Tell me, what’s cuter than furry animals? Furry Talk is a blog, focused on the cutest and furriest animals in the world. Multiple pictures are posted weekly, accompanied by a witty comment, Q&A, jokes, or inspirational motto.

The 6 Cutest Sites with Silly Pet Pics and LOL Pets furrytalk1

Walk your way through the site, and take some time to relax and smile. You can browse the site chronologically, or view pictures of the most popular animals by category.

Today’s Big Thing – Cute Animals

You might already know Today’s Big Thing from another perspective – presenting the awesomest video on the internet, every day. They’ve now opened a new subsection, entirely dedicated to cute animals.

todaysbigthing

Watch video of ninja cats, puppies learning to howl, or monkeys being tickled. On Today’s Big Thing, you can be sure to find the ever cutest animal videos, every day.

Lolcats & Loldogs

This list would not be complete without including I Can Has Cheezburger, especially being hosted on a geeky site.

This site, for those of you who don’t know it, is filled with thousands and thousands of cat and dog pictures, with hilarious captions printed over them. Where other sites might bring a tender smile on your lips, lolcats and loldogs will give you a good laugh and a tear in each eye.

cheezburger

If you’re into the LOL pets craze, browse the lolcats or loldogs section, or manufacture your own silly pet pics using the Lol Builder. I Can Has Cheezburger has a fanbase in the millions, both for the cuteness as for the lolness.

Daily Puppy

The old newspaper layout of The Daily Puppy should be enough to make your day. If not, maybe the daily added puppy pictures will hit it out of the park for you.

Each day, the site produces another Daily Puppy, a cute little dog with its own background and story. In the other sections of the site, The Daily Puppy gives the same treatment to grown-up puppies, and hosts a comprehensive database of dog-related articles.

dailypup

For any dog lovers out there who like to have a little more than a cute picture, this one is a must-try.

ZooBorns

Contrary to the other cute-sites, you won’t see any cats or dogs on ZooBorns. This site only shows the very cutest exotic animal babies, be it seals, lions, or zebras. It’s Cute Overload all over again, jungle edition.

Each picture comes with a story; a story about the animals, about what happened in the pictures, about the exotic little lives of the ZooBorns.

zooborns

If you like ‘cute’, but prefer lions over cats, and zebras over ponies, ZooBorns is the place to go.

Where do you get your fix of cuteness? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

How about playing some of the cutest games? Check out Leon’s post on Orisinal – Cute Flash Games For All.

It’s About Ethics In Stealing Games Journalism: Why Adblock Needs To Die

It’s been a rough month for games journalism.

After almost 12 years, AOL-owned games blog Joystiq shut up shop, meaning 12 people just lost their jobs. It’s a sobering story, especially for anyone who works in digital publishing. It’s a story that reminds us of the tenuous nature of the industry in which we work, and the inherent frailty of our positions within it.

Joystiq was a brilliant but hugely divisive publication – it had fans and haters in equal measures. This was, for the most part, because it was loud, confident, and wasn’t afraid to kick up a stink when need be. It was one of the few games publications I read on a regular basis, and the loss of it has left a crater-sized hole in the world of gaming journalism.

But the real story behind its closure isn’t the 18% drop in traffic in the year that lead up to its closure, although that undoubtedly was a contributing factor to its demise. Nor is it the allegation that the strong editorial stance against Gamergate resulted in it alienating its core readership, as was claimed by Milo Yiannopolous writing in Breitbart London.

No. This is about how a simple, free browser plugin killed Joystiq, and is ruining the Internet.

Meet AdBlock Plus

First, a little bit of backstory.

AdBlock Plus is a browser plugin, available for Chrome, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer and Android. When installed, it removes banner adverts from web pages before they even appear in the user’s screen. As you can imagine, it’s immensely popular, with almost 300 million installs worldwide.

It’s not the only plugin that blocks adverts, but it’s definitely the largest.

But in addition to fundamentally changing the user’s browsing experience, AdBlock Plus has had a massive impact on how online content is monetized, and the livelihoods of digital creatives. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The Economics Of The Internet

The problem with free content isn’t that it isn’t free. Not really. Every post you read on MakeUseOf, and many other websites, costs money to produce. With respect to MakeUseOf, each post written will take hours to write, edit, and package – but mere minutes to read. It will see a writer, editor, and graphics designer getting paid for their services, but will cost the reader nothing upfront.

The overwhelming majority of the editorial and writing staff on staff here live in first-world countries (you can find out more about where we live and work here), with the subsequent first-world costs of living. For us to continue writing content on a full (or even part) time basis, we need to get paid according to the cost of living where we live, or we’ll just do something else. It’s basic economics: labor has to be compensated.

adblock-wageslip

Right now, advertising is the only revenue model which can be reliably expected to work, and allows digital journalists to reasonably expect to earn a living. Most adverts aren’t directly serviced by the website itself, but through a third-party network. There are far too many of these to mention in a single, comprehensive list, but two of the biggest are Google AdSense and Tribal Fusion.

Sites are paid based upon how many people see the adverts (called impressions, and are measured in terms of thousands of visitors), or less commonly on how many people ‘click’ the adverts (known as pay per click, or cost per click). This means that the incomes of websites are directly contingent upon how many people see these adverts.

So, it’s pretty simple. People go on websites. They view the content, but also the adverts accompanying the content. Content producers get paid. It works.

But unusually, it’s also a revenue model in which people can ‘opt out’ of paying by employing technological means. This is becoming increasingly common, with almost 10% of all web traffic coming from computers with this awful plugin enabled. Given that Adblock users tend to be quite technologically adept, this has disproportionately affected tech and gaming websites.

Almost 47% of Joystiq’s user base had Adblock installed. Fellow games website Destructoid had similar numbers, with almost half of their readership using AdBlock. For ArsTechnica, it’s close to 40%.

This has meant, (as Papa Niero, founder of Destructoid pointed out) that sites are having to work twice as hard to earn the same income. But the problems with AdBlock aren’t just economic. Using it is  also deeply unethical.

Think about it. Sites offer content for free with the expectation that their readers will ‘do the right thing’ and view the ads that accompany the content. It’s just the same as going to get a haircut. The barber will happily give you a short back and sides, because he knows that once he’s put the clippers away, you’ll pay him for his services. A taxi driver is happy enough to drive you home because he knows that when he reaches your destination, you’ll pay him. And for the most part, it’s considered highly unacceptable (and illegal) to skip out on paying for your haircut, or your cab.

adblock-taxi

So, why is it somehow acceptable to skip out on paying for the content you consume, especially when there’s the same expectation of payment? I honestly don’t know. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. I’ve racked my brains, and I’ve spent hours discussing the very subject with people who completely disagree with my point of view. I still haven’t been able to think of a way in which using AdBlock is any different to stiffing a cab driver.

The ethical dilemmas of using AdBlock aside, it’s important to remember that using it is ultimately self-defeating. Paying journalists less money doesn’t result in them producing better content, in greater quantities. Rather, it puts us all on a path to a bleak, depressing world where content is thinner, less interesting, and less dangerous.

A Race To The Bottom

It’s hard to see what impact AdBlock has had on the quality of content being produced. For reasons that are entirely understandable, scant few publications are in the habit of releasing stats for each article. In fact, of all the blogs and news websites I read, Business Insider is the only one that publicly discloses how many hits each piece gets.

But there is some compelling evidence that AdBlock is having an adverse impact on what content is profitable, and not.

Game Journo Pros is a highly secretive messageboard with an exclusive membership that consists mostly of high-ranking persons in the gaming media. The contents of this were leaked by members of the GamerGate movement around 2014.

In one thread, the conversation turned to the mass layoffs at IGN and the subsequent shuttering of GameSpy, 1UP and UGO, that occurred in June of 2014. More than one person had commented what a loss 1UP would be, especially given the notable quality of their features. In gaming terms, it’s almost like what would have happened should the New York Times close its doors. William O’Neal, then editor at TechRadar who now heads Softonic, matter-of-factly responded that ‘great features don’t make money’.

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He has a point. Gaming websites that make a profit from long-form journalism are, in a word, exceptional. Believe me. Many have tried, and the vast majority have failed, with Polygon being a great example of the latter. They laid off a significant chunk of their long-form staff in 2014.

The problem is not that there’s a shortage of demand for great journalism. The problem is that there’s a shortage of people willing to pay for great journalism, even in an industry that is as booming as gaming. When half of a site’s readership is unwilling to support that site even by looking at ads, the end result is that proprietors will be more conservative with what they publish – and less willing to take risks.

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It’s not just long-form journalism that’s been hit. Across the web, there’s been a perceptible drop in standards as journalists are paid less, and are stretched further as they have to do the work of their recently laid-off colleagues.

Overwhelmingly, this has manifested itself as thin content, reworked press releases, and dishonest linkbait titles: the trifecta of everything wrong with the Internet in 2015.

But I’m not just referring to smaller, less established websites. A cursory browse through Google shows that people are getting frustrated with the likes of The Independent (an established Broadsheet paper) and even the BBC, which displays adverts to visitors from outside of the United Kingdom for using deceptive, Upworthy-style linkbait titles.

When writers continue to get squeezed, this trend will only get worse. As the old adage goes, if you pay peanuts, you only get monkeys. But surely some of the blame deserves to lie at the feet of publishers and content producers, right?

We’re Not Angels

Cards on the table: I’m biased as hell. I’ve got a dog in this fight. I find AdBlock completely and utterly distasteful. It senselessly hurts content producers, and is a contributing factor to how hard it to monetize content online, and the subsequent homogenization and attenuation of online journalism.

It’s incredibly easy to blame freeloading users for the woes of the publishing industry. Easy, but fundamentally lazy. This worldview ignores the fact that there are some glaring issues with how online advertising works. My friend and colleague Mihir Patkar wrote an incredible piece on this earlier this week, and I really recommend you check it out. But if you want to read my take on the situation, read on.

But first, let me point out that the irony of a writer complaining about advertising networks isn’t lost on me. It’s a bit like being a truck driver and having an issue with the internal combustion engine. But let’s face it: everyone agrees there’s a huge amount of room for improvement in the online advertising world, and nobody is satisfied with the status quo.

adblock-annoyed

There have been a huge number of really distasteful things done by the major advertising networks that have cost it the trust of users, and of publishers. Last year, I published a piece on Kyle and Stan, which was some particularly pernicious malware that was distributed through erstwhile legitimate advertising networks.

Advertising networks have also been accused of colluding with the NSA in their Prism program, which saw billions of Internet users come under the watchful eye of the American security services. Not to mention their entire current incarnation is based around the surveillance of people’s Internet activity in order to better customize their adverts.

And then, there’s the undeniable fact that many adverts have a real impact on how a website is experienced, and seldom for the better. From slow page load times, to pop-overs, to video adverts; each of these things serve only to annoy and alienate users.

There are a great many reasons to be angry with advertising networks. Trust me, I depend on adverts to put food on the table, and I quite often find myself resenting the fact I’m dependent upon them.

Everyone agrees that online advertising industry is in dire need of reform. But not everyone agrees where that reform should come from.

In many respects, some of that reform is being done by websites who are unhappy at how their users’ experience of their content is so deeply warped by the presence of bad advertising. Sites can vote with their feet, and can choose the kinds of advertising that they display.

You’ll be hard pressed, for example, to find an autoplaying video advert on MakeUseOf. We take a proactive approach to the adverts we display here, and in the two years I’ve worked for this site, I haven’t seen a single advert I thought was deceptive, or sexually inappropriate. If, on the off chance, we did find an unacceptable advert, we immediately will take steps to remove it.

But ultimately, the biggest change in the advertising industry will come from consumers.

It’s only a matter of time before the camel’s back breaks, and advertising networks will be forced to reform as a result of the overwhelming pressure of people installing AdBlock.

But no matter what you feel about advertising networks, it’s undeniable that content producers are disproportionately affected by the decision not to view adverts. We’re not bad people. We work hard, and we want to produce stuff that people enjoy reading and watching. But we also have to put food on the table.

Can there be a happy compromise? I think so. I think it’s possible for consumers to see good, unobtrusive adverts, without stiffing content producers. But we need to work together. Websites need to act whenever an unacceptable advert runs on their website, and refuse to work with networks that engage in underhand activity. But simultaneously, consumers need to put pressure on companies and advertising networks to respect their privacy, and their user experience.

For the sake of fairness, AdBlock Plus does allow users to permit ‘acceptable’ and ‘unobtrusive’ advertising. This can be activated and deactivated as that user sees fit. However, the cynic in me worries that AdBlock Plus have set themselves up as gatekeepers to websites earning an income. That’s an immense position of power, and one which is troublingly bereft of independent oversight.

Furthermore, my concerns about AdBlock Plus are compounded when you consider that they have an economic incentive to permit some adverts, and block others. In their own FAQ, they answer the question of how they make money with ‘We are being paid by some larger properties that serve non-intrusive advertisements that want to participate in the Acceptable Ads initiative’.

My friend, ScraperWiki CEO Francis Irving, once described the three-way conflict of interests between advertisers, users and content creators as a ‘war’. He might not be wrong. At this point, it’s worth exploring whether there are any viable alternatives to advertising.

Are There Any Alternatives?

The great thing about advertising is that it’s very much a ‘One Size Fits All’ solution like no other.

Advertising works. No matter where you are in terms of readership or your stage of development, advertising can allow you to start earning money from your content. It’s also a model that has been successfully repeated on millions of different websites. Another compelling advantage of advertising is that it’s inherently predictable. Get your total traffic, subtract those using adblock, divide by 1000 and multiply by your CPM, and you’ll have an idea of how much you’ll earn that month.

As a result, it remains the most effective and popular revenue model for the Internet. But are there any alternatives?

Well, yes. The problem is, they’re either not scalable, or not repeatable, or simply just not viable for everybody. I’ve written about these in the past with my piece on alternative ways to monetize creative content without advertising, as well as in my piece on publications that have eschewed the advertising revenue model. Overwhelmingly, they boil down to crowdfunding (I’m including Patreon here) and micro-donations.

The problem with crowdfunding is that, despite its laudable number of successes – with the $500,000 raised by Penny Arcade on KickStarter being a notable example – it’s simply not a repeatable, scalable or predictable solution.

adblock-kickstarter

If you’re not an established journalist or writer with a baying legion of fans, the odds of you getting enough money to write full-time are pretty slim. Even for larger publications or authors, it’s not guaranteed whether you’ll manage to convince enough readers to donate to keep you afloat.

Paywalls, similarly, suffer from the same problem. If you’re the London Times, or the New York Times, great. You likely have a sufficiently large readership and a strong enough brand to start charging for your content. But if you’re a small, or otherwise unknown creative, then you’re going to struggle to get people to open their wallets.

Micro-donations are even less of a viable option. These services allow viewers to ‘tip’ authors of work they enjoy, usually in amounts of just a few cents. Flattr is one of the most notable examples of these sites, with thousands of registered users. However, I’m yet to find anyone who has managed to make a living from them.

adblock-flattr

But I’m not entirely cynical. There’s a service, in Slovakia of all places, that has applied the Spotify model of consumption to web publishing. It’s called Piano Media, and it allows customers to access premium Slovak language web content from 60 properties for the fee of €3.90 per month. For sites that have signed up to Piano, this effectively nullifies the impact of adblock.

adblock-piano

But the advantage of Piano isn’t just limited to beating AdBlock at its own game. It has made it possible for people to make a living from writing in a language that has a meagre 7 million speakers. To put that into context, that’s roughly the same number of people who visit MakeUseOf in a week.

Would I like to see Piano take the leap from the Carpathians to the rest of the world? Absolutely. Would I be willing to pay $20 per month to support content creators and not see adverts, anywhere? Again, absolutely. But nobody has built that yet. So, in the interim, we’re stuck with advertising as the only scalable, repeatable and predictable model for web publishing. The only one that works.

We’re At A Fork In The Road

The Internet is at a crucial juncture in its development, and it’s up to us to decide what we want it to look like in a few years.

On one hand, we’ve got a world where content creators aren’t compensated for their work. Where it’s almost impossible to make a living from writing deep, original and dangerous journalism. Where the only people making money are those resorting to shameless link-bait tactics (a la ViralNova), and rewriting stuff they saw on Reddit (a la Mail Online). Where there’s no profit incentive to create interesting, long-form journalism, or to create awesome pieces of art.

On the other hand, we’ve got a world where people don’t cheat the people who write the Internet. Where people can make a living from challenging the status quo, and from writing well-informed, well-researched journalism. Where film makers, musicians, and writers are all adequately compensated.

I know what world I want, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. How about you?

Photo Credits: Dismissed businessman Via Shutterstock, Angry Driver With Dollar Bills (Konstantin Sutyagin – Shutterstock), Wage Slip on notepad with black pen in background (Phil.Tinkler – Shutterstock), Annoyed designer gesturing in front of her laptop in her office (wavebreakmedia)  

Are Blackberry And Windows Phone Users Discriminated Against? (no.)

Last week, Blackberry CEO John Chen wrote an op-ed on the future of net neutrality. It got…weird.

“.. if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer’s mobile operating system.

Discrimination, John Chen? I’m a longtime Blackberry user who loves the platform, but this is just ridiculous.

Discrimination is a word with a very specific meaning, and is generally understood to mean exclusion or ill-treatment of a protected group. In the majority of the West, this generally means gender, sexual orientation, color, disability, veteran status or gender identity. If you deny someone a job, or service in a place of business, as a result of one of those attributes, you will find yourself before a judge in next to no time.

Seemingly, the CEO of Blackberry would also add users of third-tier smartphone platforms to that list, as he openly stated he would like to see developers be legally compelled to make Blackberry apps.

Chen’s astonishingly tone-deaf lack of self-awareness aside, does his argument have any credence? Is he alone in wanting coders to take a more egalitarian and inclusive approach to app development, or else?

Help! Help! I’m Being Oppressed!

Of course, John Chen isn’t the only person in tech who has compared the plight of their chosen platform to the D word. Let’s face it: geeks are an evangelical bunch, many of whom are deeply passionate about their chosen smartphone platform. When fellow MakeUseOf writer Ben Stegner wrote a piece announcing our decision to stop writing about Windows Phone, he ended up dealing with 400 angry commenters. It was like he’d kicked a wasps nest, where all the wasps have crap phones.

blackberry-makeuseofisdead

It’s easy to see how smartphone use has taken a near-religious slant. Many of us pin our identity on being Android,  Blackberry, or iOS users – in a way people used to identify as Mac or PC users. Far too many people get their tech news in platform-exclusive echo chambers, where their decision to use their chosen platform is constantly reinforced as the right one, whilst the decision to use a different platform is seen as fundamentally misguided.

As a result, it’s easy to see why people can get offended when their chosen platform is slighted.

But is the lack of an Uber app for Blackberry 10, or the lack of iMessage for Windows Phone, really discrimination?

blackberry-uber

Jim Szymanski, writing for Mobility Digest, thinks so. In a piece titled ‘Is Windows Phone being discriminated against?’ he started off by saying ‘Being a Christian, Caucasian, American male, I have not dealt directly with discrimination in most any facet of my life.’

There’s a ‘but‘ coming, isn’t there?

While I don’t want to accuse the corporate world of intentionally discriminating against Windows Phone, I would suggest that neglecting the platform shows some insensitivity to a good number of their customers.

Insensitivity! Neglect! Intentional discrimination!

Thankfully, Jim has a suggestion for how to make things better.

The next time you send a snailmail letter or email to a corporate entity asking why they don’t offer a Windows Phone app, make sure you drop in the “D” words, discrimination and diversity. … Most likely, the emails will be flagged to go to the Director of Diversity Services, and who knows what may happen.

Who, indeed, knows what will happen? If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say your email will be printed out and stuck on the office notice board, so everyone can have a good laugh.

It’s not just Windows Phone users who feel downtrodden. Some posters on the Crackberry forum (the largest Blackberry forum in the world, with over ten users) feel particularly hard done by. One such poster, STV0726, has taken to the forum to defend why he uses the term ‘Blackberry Discrimination’.

BlackBerry market share in the US is almost the same as Windows Phone (within a percentage point and a half), yet BlackBerry gets almost all the severely negatively biased press, and nearly all of the point-of-sale bashing. BlackBerry discrimination is a REAL thing. And if you think I’m joking, I encourage you to take a good, hard look around.

Of course, to the credit of the Crackberry community, most pointed out that the discrimination of not having the latest Angry Birds game isn’t quite the same as not being let into a shop because of the color of your skin. User CrackedBarry responded:

Implying that your choice of cellphone opens you to persecution is offensive to everybody who’ve ever faced REAL discrimination.

Quite.

blackberry-crackedbarry

What Do Developers Say?

It’s easy to get sucked into the highly emotive facet of this debate. Whether the decision to not write apps for Windows Phone is or isn’t discrimination (it isn’t), there remain a number of practical considerations that make it unfeasible for developers to release apps for every platform. As a result, most developers I’ve spoken to are highly critical of John Chen’s remarks.

First up is Tom Willoughby, a Cornwall-based independent app developer.

It is entirely preposterous to say that it is ‘discrimination’ to not develop apps for the Blackberry. The fact is, Blackberry has a very small market share, and most small apps wouldn’t be able to recoup development costs if they were released on the platform.  That would mean that developers are working at a loss to benefit Blackberry. If the platform was better, it would naturally attract more users, and developers would have an incentive to make Blackberry apps.

It’s a good point. If Blackberry wants developers to release applications for their platform, they should ensure that development costs are recouped. This shouldn’t be a wild concept for Blackberry. They did just that in the months leading up to the release of Blackberry 10, where they offered developers a $10,000 incentive to build apps for their (then unreleased) latest operating system.

Seattle-based developer Brian Wisti was also skeptical of Chen’s thoughts, but purely from a legislative point of view.

He’s arguing for open platforms. I think that’s great. He uses clumsy phrasing, but that’s what it sounds like. I think there’s no reason for Netflix to use its resources developing for the Blackberry platform, but it would be great if they could partner with developers who did have the resources and expertise. Even better would be an API which would allow independent developers to make those services available on their preferred platforms.

I think muddling net neutrality with open platforms is a bad idea. Net Neutrality is already vague enough, but at least we know it has something to do with allowing equal access to network bandwidth for both large and small services. Service availability has many more variables than bandwidth availability.

I love the idea of nondiscriminatory service practices, but I doubt it could be enforced. Legislating service availability for all device platforms creates a legal headache. It becomes too easy for somebody to create their own Tizen fork with a few key differences, and then attempt to tie Netflix up in court for not supporting their deliberately broken fork.

Again, I’m inclined to agree with the developer here. There are countless historical examples of Governments making well-meaning attempts to legislate the Internet, and getting it horribly wrong. For example: the South Korean government mandated that all citizens use ‘digital certificates’ for online shopping. These certificates would be impossible to forge, and would help mitigate against identity theft. The only downside? The certificates depended upon the notoriously-insecure Active X, which only works with Internet Explorer. As a result, South Korea has one of the highest levels of Internet Explorer use worldwide.

Are Mobile Users Being Discriminated Against?

Are there fewer applications and accessories available for Blackberry 10, Windows Phone, and Firefox OS devices? Absolutely. But that’s not discrimination. That’s merely a byproduct of the free market, and the anemic demand for applications and accessories for Blackberry 10, Windows Phone, and FireFox OS, in relation to Android and iOS.

Are people being refused entry into restaurants for owning a Lumia? Do people get attacked for loving a physical keyboard? Absolutely not.

Google Glass, on the other hand

Image Credits: Crying young child Via Shutterstock

10 Free Mp3 Albums Exploring Shades Of A Genre [sound Sunday July 3rd]

10 Free MP3 Albums Exploring Shades of a Genre [Sound Sunday July 3rd] sound sundayLet Sound Sunday into your ears!

This Sunday I want to explore the often neglected sides of a very artistic and diverse musical genre with you. When people hear Hip Hop, they typically think of Rap, “the beat-driven rhymes of an often improvisatory nature.” For many (including myself) Rap is a turn off. But Hip Hop has evolved and expanded into sub-genres and flavors that do perfectly well without Rap. This is the other side of Hip Hop, the instrumental, beats,  soul, ambient, electronic, dubstep, trip hop, and drum’n’bass side, which I want to give you a taste of today.

Feel free to post your feedback in the comments or send me an email [tina at makeuseof dot com].

Word Is Bond – Hope for Tomorrow

Genre: beats, piano, instrumental, charity

From the album description: “Hope For Tomorrow is our humble idea to make a difference. We are reaching out to YOU to support our efforts in providing help for those struggling in the aftermath. Our friends at Kevin Nottingham have come on board to assist in the release of a charity album. We are grateful to be in a position to use the talents of some of the undergrounds most respected hip-hop artists. It is our hope that this project will continue to garner attention for the people of Japan and raise some much needed funds.

Hope for Tomorrow is a free download from Bandcamp.

Loud Mouth – Loud Mouth Compilation Volume 2

Genre: ambient, electronica, dubstep, techno

From Loud Mouth’s blog: “Sam has been a DJ for the past 8 years and has been performing since 2006. He began with a regular night in the Harbour Bar in Bray [Ireland] playing a mashup of everything and anything from 80’s to rock to electronic. He later became more involved in the electronic music scene which was his original inspiration to become a DJ. He plays regularly in clubs throughout Dublin (…)

Loud Mouth Compilation Volume 2 is a free download from Bandcamp.

Keith Charles – Before Common Era

Genre: drum’n’bass, neo hip hop, soul, electronica

Before Common Era is Keith Charles’ debut album. The Emcee from Atlanta, also known as Spacebar, embeds soft Rap lyrics in a bed of neo-soul beats. The music flows. This is how he explains his nickname: “Since I can remember, everyone has called me ‘Keithcharles’ and there was no space in between. They ran it together, so every time someone would ask me what is my last name, because they thought “Keith Charles” was my first, I told them “Spacebar”. It just kind of stuck to separate the words.

Before Common Era is a free download from Bandcamp.

Vanilla – High Life

Genre: experimental, instrumental, beat tape, soul

Vanilla is a UK-based producer. On High Life he samples soul hip hop, inspired by Dilla, Madlib, and Onra.

High Life is a free download from Mediafire.

Dainumo, Jeesh, P SUS – 3 Flavors of 8bit

Genre: trip hop, electronic, game music, pogo

The album 8 Flavors of 8bit is a collaboration between Dainumo, Jeesh, and P SUS. They have used sound bits from several video games, such as Super Mario Bros. or Pacman.

3 Flavors of 8bit is a name your price download from Bandcamp.

Master Class – Compilation Album

Genre: instrumental, turntablism, beats, electronica, jazz, lo-fi, trip hop

Master Class is an artist from Seoul, South Korea. From his Facebook profile: “Master Class started listening to Hip-Hop music when he was 10, and when he turned 15, he started to make his own music. ‘Master Class’ started with simple mixing to more delicate and complex mixes. Master Class also studied the theory of music and his albums, that Master Class had been collecting ever since he was a child, helped him to do the ‘Cut and Paste’ work after he bought his MPC.

Master Class’ Compilation Album is a name your price download from Bandcamp.

So Crates & Sour Beats – Hippie Sabotage Volume 2

Genre: electronic, instrumental, beat tape

Hippie Sabotage is a musical project of SoCrates and Sour Beats, occasionally complimented by Chase Moore. From the album introduction on Rebellious Reflection: “This album displays a variety of styles that showcase this groups excessive talents. Vol. 2 is much more mature than the last release, it’s not just a journey, it’s a roller coaster ride of ahead of it’s time music with a little bit of flavor for any and every person out there.

Hippie Sabotage Volume 2 is a free download from Bandcamp.

SOS Smooth – Truth Hurts

Genre: alternative

SOS or ‘Sound of Style’ Smooth is a Hop Hop artist from New York. Also check out his Twitter stream.

Truth Hurts is a free download from Bandcamp.

Finalsecond – Articulate

Genre: experimental, alternative, soul

From his Homepage: “Musician first, Hip hop artist second, this classically trained pianist and folk guitarist rhymes and sings over soulful and organic productions. The music entertains but there is a clear emphasis on lyricism. The over all style is textured with musical influences from many genres, the end result; a colorful blend of Hip hop and soul which lends its self to easy listening.

Articulate is a free download from Finalsecond’s Homepage.

Various Artists – Best Of Breitband Vol.3

Genre: electronic, downtempo, compilation

Best Of Breitband Vol.3 is not actually a hip hop album. It’s a selection of songs that were featured in the programme ‘Breitband’ on Deutschlandradio Kultur, a German radio station focusing on culture. This compilation also contains pop, rock, contemporary classical, and funk pieces. This is to cheer up all of those who didn’t find anything to enjoy in the hip hop centric selection above.

Best Of Breitband Vol.3 is a free download from the Free Music Archive.

New to Sound Sunday? Past editions of Sound Sunday are available here.

Feel free to get in touch with me [tina at makeuseof dot com] to share free material, suggestions, and feedback or simply add your comments below.

Give Cupid A Helping Hand: 4+ Poem Generators Perfect For Valentine’s Day

poem generatorPoetry is one of the oldest forms of art, predating literacy thanks to its use in prehistoric society. Back then poems were used in order to help the story contained within them to be memorized and passed on. These days poems are used mainly to express feelings that may otherwise remain unsaid. This is especially true when it comes to love and romance.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to write a poem for your partner. It’s a bigger gesture than sending an e-card, but one that doesn’t cost a penny. You’ll gain satisfaction from the experience and your loved one will (hopefully) appreciate the gesture. It doesn’t actually matter whether the poem you forge is good or bad, it’s the proverbial thought that counts. However, we all need a helping hand from time to time.

Thankfully the Web is awash with poems and poem generators. The latter are methods for creating poems without the need to possess the skills required to do so. Or at least that’s the general idea. Most online poem generators fail to really deliver. What follows are four that do the job just fine, though they still all require a little creative thought on the part of the poet.

Poetry Soup

poem generator

Poetry Soup offers a Love Poem Generator that does what it says on the tin, nothing more, nothing less. You’re required to input 21 words which are then placed in the poem to make it unique and personal to you. These include the name of the recipient, several nouns, and a couple of different body parts.

The result is a simple poem of just a couple of stanzas. Some of the words may not quite fit, but once you see the finished poem you can easily swap those out for words that do fit.

Computer Lab

poem generator for love

The K5 Computer Lab offers a poem generator that concentrates on a poem all about you, the sender. It’s not specifically about love, but with a little added creativity the end result can be highly romantic. Each line of the poem begins with “I” and a verb, with you deciding the actual words that are going to fit around that unchanging backbone.

The presence of words such as “want,” feel,” “hope,” and “dream” mean there is a lot of scope to create a meaningful poem for your partner. It’s also very easy to use the results as the basis for a more intricate and involved poem.

Romeo’s Magic

poem generator for love

Romeo’s Magic is a website that offers personalized poetry for those who are willing to pay for it. For those who aren’t willing, it offers a free love poem generator which is perfect for Valentine’s Day lovers. There are 16 fields that need to be completed, with names, feelings, and descriptions the basic requirements. These are then woven into the poem to create something just for you.

As with all of the poem generators on this list the end result should be considered a starting point rather than a finished piece. Take the elements you want from the poem and embellish it with your own distinct style in order to make it unique.

Electronic Poetry

poem generator for love

The Electronic Poetry Kit is just one of a handful of poem generators provided by Love Is A Virus, but it’s probably the best one. While the others generate poems randomly, this one instead provides you with the sets of words needed to forge a meaningful message. NB: Java is required for this particular poem generator, so avoid it completely if you’re not a fan.

You choose from a list of famous writers such as Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac. Words they’ve used in their works are then presented to you jumbled up on a virtual fridge door. You then move the “magnets” around testing which words work well with each other. Eventually you should, with a little luck, stumble across a line or two worthy of including in your poem.

Other Methods

If none of the above produced just the result you were looking for, don’t worry, as there’s still hope. Creating a poem doesn’t necessarily mean forging epic poems of many stanzas with lots of complicated words squeezed into rhythmic lines. There are a couple of simple styles of poetry which, once understood, can be easily created without the need of an automatic poem generator.

Haiku

love poem generator

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry which traditionally takes inspiration from nature. It features three lines of five, seven, and five syllables (the closest the English language has to ‘on’) which impart a message in a very small number of words. Leaving tradition behind means haiku can be created on all subjects, including love and romance.

There is no rhyming involved, and, apart from the need to hit the 5-7-5 hallmark, no need to stick to form. Let your imagination run wild and you’ll easily be able to create a haiku for your loved one, whether to mark the occasion of Valentine’s Day or not.

Example:-

Words of love tumble,
From mouth to ear and within.
Response required.

Acrostic

poem generator

An acrostic is a centuries-old form of a poem which uses the first letters of each word, line, or paragraph to spell out a hidden message. In its most basic form an acrostic can be written for and about a particular person without any trouble. Simply write the letters which make up the name of your loved one vertically, and then write a word or words describing them horizontally.

You can include just word for each letter, or form whole sentences instead. The words can reside separately from each other or be read as a whole to form a sentence of their own. There is huge scope to play with this form of poetry; the direction to take is up to you.

Example:-

Don’t think badly of me,
And look away eyes closed.
Versatility is a good trait,
Especially when words are involved.

Conclusions

Poems are one of the simplest ways to show someone you care. And with the above tools/tips at your disposal there really is no excuse not to give creating one a go. Think of this as your first try. The poem you create may not be unique or beautifully crafted, but those properties will arrive over time. For now its about learning the most simple methods for putting words on a page that flow and have meaning. And if your partner fails to be impressed you can always buy them a geeky Valentine’s gift instead.

If you use any of the four poem generators listed above please let us know your personal experience. Which of the four did you use? And why? Did the resulting sonnet garner the desired response? If you decided to go with a haiku or acrostic instead, how did that turn out? As always we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below, so get writing. You could even turn your comment into a poem…

Image Credit: Vijay Paul

5 Silly Ways People Try To Hide Internet Use At Work

Ever walked into someone’s office or cubicle and see them immediately switch whatever they were looking at in their browser to an innocent e-mail client? Then, you both awkwardly have a conversation – pretending that you didn’t see them make the switch, and the person acting as though nothing weird just happened.

This is an awkward office dance that takes place in workplaces all around the world. It happens so often, that flipping screens can sometimes incriminate you even when you weren’t doing anything sneaky! I once had an engineer walk into my cubicle at the very moment I was switching from writing a program over to a file explorer window so I could look up some syntax example files.

“You don’t have to hide what you were doing from me!” he said with a sly grin on his face. I grinned back and responded, “Okaaaaaay,” and flipped the screen back to my program. Of course, he didn’t buy it. So I had to show him all of my open windows before he would believe that I wasn’t slacking off and reading the news online or something. However, his reaction stemmed from how common this is!

Lots of people waste time at work. Just check out Karl’s list of 6 time-wasting websites, and Angela’s list of ideas for procrastinating on Facebook. It’s so common in fact, that I decided to put together a list of the funniest things people do to try and cover up their slacking off at work.

Fake It Through Sound Effects

It seems difficult to believe that people actually need help with innovative ways to waste time at work, but in 1995, a guy named Don Pavlish decided to provide office workers with powerful tools (okay, powerful might be a bit of an exaggeration) to trick the boss into thinking that you’re being super productive. The best of those tools in my opinion – or at least the funniest – is a web application called Sound Busy.

busy-keys

How does it work? Well basically you don’t have to install it, so even if IT has removed all of your administrative privileges, you can still run it. Just open up Don’s website and click on the link for the Sound Busy control panel. Once this small browser window opens, you’ll find a drop-down menu providing different typing sounds you can use. Click on one of the standard typing sound effects, and your computer will start making fairly realistic sound effects of someone typing on a keyboard. Now, open up a browser and start surfing, while all of your officemates think you’re typing up some big report!

Okay, it’s actually just a single 10 second sound byte that keeps repeating – so eventually, your cubicle buddy will figure out that something doesn’t seem quite right. But the web app is good for a laugh, because it has an option that includes a cracking whip sound effect every so often. Very funny.

Automate the “Quick Switch”

A popular app that people use if they haven’t lost administrative privileges at work is a free program called Don’t Panic. There are lots of settings that you can tweak to make it behave the way you like, but the bottom line is that it’ll kill specific windows the moment you click the “Don’t Panic!” button. You can customise the program to either force close or force hide the software.

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By closing the program, you’ll lose whatever you were doing, but of course there’s also no chance someone can check out your computer and see what was open. The “Close(Hide)” tab lets you configure what programs you want to instantly kill when you tap the “Don’t Panic!” button. You can choose up to three apps.

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Save your settings, and the “Don’t Panic!” button will appear on  your desktop.

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Keep it someplace that’s easy to get at with your mouse cursor, because the moment you hear footsteps coming, you’re going to want to tap the button and destroy all evidence of your extreme slacker behavior.

Resize and Camouflage Browsers Within Other Windows

While minimizing windows quickly is the traditional way people often try to hide their Internet use from the boss, a more creative approach that I recently discovered while browsing forums about this, is the tactic of resizing the browser window to fit inside a “legitimate” window, which makes it look like you’re hard at work.

For example, you might open up an email in Outlook, and then fit the browser window perfectly within the preview pane.

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To many people, at a quick glance, it just looks like you’re browsing through your email. It would require a much closer and more careful look at the screen to realize that you’re actually browsing Google News! And if anyone approaches, all you do is click somewhere in the actual email client application. This immediately moves the browser window in the background and brings the actual email preview into the front.

There’s no quick flash of a minimized window. In fact, the transition is virtually unnoticeable. This is a popular technique for news hounds that can’t go an hour during the day without checking out what’s going on in the news.

The Browser Slide

Instead of minimizing the window when someone is approaching, another really funny technique people use is grabbing the title bar of the browser window and quickly toss it off the screen, usually toward the bottom where it’s least noticeable.

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A quick glance at the screen shows the main window maximized – which would be your email, file explorer or programming application, and no one will notice the tiny title bar of the browser that’s peeking up from the bottom of the window. It may not be faster than minimizing, but it does avoid the giveaway “screen flash” that alerts someone you’ve just minimized a window.

Keyboard Shortcut Ninja

Of course, while not as creative as the techniques listed above, an article on hiding Internet browsing just wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the fastest way to minimize or hide your active browser window – keyboard shortcuts.

Most people know about Alt+Tab, which will quickly switch between all of your active programs. This is a good way to quickly switch away from your Internet browser, but it may not be fast enough when someone is approaching. Instead, you might opt for the built-in “kill-switch” keyboard shortcut of Alt-F4. This will completely close the current program you’re using.

Finally, another shortcut that might save you time if you need to quickly walk away from your computer but don’t want to close the browser page you’re on is Win+L. This instantly locks your screen without the need to use Ctrl-Alt-Del.

Final Words

So there you have it, five creative, thrifty and in some cases silly ways that people try to hide their slacking-off activities from the boss (or anyone else passing by). Some of the techniques work better than others, but one word of caution: don’t think this protects you from doing anything you aren’t supposed to do. Browsing inappropriate websites or doing illegal activities like gambling online is not something you want to do at work at all. All Internet activity is well logged and tracked, no matter what you do to hide your activity. Just something to keep in mind – you don’t want to lose your job.

However, if you’re just looking to take a quick break and read some news or play a quick online game, and you don’t have a boss who is very progressive or understanding of such “breaks”, then feel free to steal one of the techniques described above!

Do you have any other tricks up your sleeve that you’re willing to share, or funny things you’ve seen other people do to hide their browsing activities while at work? Share them in the comments section below! And if you hear the boss coming, remember to Alt-F4!