Tangled Web

From corny videos to email jokes and cutsie animal photos, Southland Times online editor and internet columnist Jillian Allison-Aitken tours the wonders of the (often) weird wide web.

Uncomfortably well informed on 'cuddle game'

05:00am 10 Jul 2014


Apparently there's some sports-like event happening in Brazil at the moment involving a game where blokes run around a paddock cuddling each other while chasing a round ball.

You might have guessed that I'm not really a fan of football/soccer/the cuddle game but I've found it interesting how much information on the World Cup I have actually absorbed simply by being online.

I guess it highlights just how pervasive the internet is, when someone like me ends up actually knowing stuff about the World Cup simply by being logged into Facebook.

I know that there have been lots of dodgy refereeing decisions, including by Kiwi Peter O'Leary.

I know that Portuguese defender Pepe - who, like Madonna, Cher and Plato goes by just the one name - is quite fond of the good old Liverpool kiss. My parents used to have a dog named Pepe many years ago, but he didn't play footy.

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Sympathy for the scammed

05:00am 03 Jul 2014


The news that someone in Cromwell fell victim to one of the many cold-calling scams doing the rounds at the moment is a timely reminder that we need keep our wits about us, both online and off.

Many online Southland Times readers weren't particularly sympathetic on reading about the victim losing a whopping $4000, but I can't help feeling sorry for them: not everyone reads or watches technology news and I'm sure we all know someone trusting enough to take the "I'm calling from Microsoft" line as gospel.

It's not that I'm an extra nice person. In fact, much of the time I'm not even an averagely nice person. However, I really can see how someone who is new to the internet, or maybe just a little naive, can be sucked in. It's not like the fake lottery/Nigerian scams where people let pure greed get in the way of good sense.

I get fairly frequent calls from the fake Microsoft representatives telling me there's a problem with my computer and requesting my credit card number to fix said problem. Sometimes, I simply hang up, often uttering a rude word or two before doing so, but I do also quite enjoy wasting their time. I figure if they are tied up on a fruitless phone call with me, they aren't targeting some other poor bugger.

The simplest method of messing with them is to just pop the phone down and let them carry on talking until they finally realise you've abandoned them. They will get the message and hang up. A variation on a theme is to ask them to hold on while you go get your credit card: I've found they will stick around for quite some time if they think you've taken the bait.

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Video: Into the abyss

12:24pm 17 Jun 2014


Some videos take your breath away because they are so stunning/picturesque/awesome. This one's all of the above, but it will take your breath away for an entirely different reason: just how long can this dude hold his breath?

Filmed at Dean's Blue Hole - the deepest blue hole in the world, measuring 202 metres to the bottom floor - world champion freediver Guillaume Nery jumps in and holds his breath as he makes his way to the bottom and back.

I think he must have a spare lung hidden away somewhere. 

Guillaume Nery base jumping at Dean's Blue Hole, filmed on breath hold by Julie Gautier from Umblu Liber on Vimeo.

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Old hat videos for tiny brains

05:00am 12 Jun 2014


They reckon there's nothing new under the sun, but it's also starting to feel like there's nothing new on the big wide world of the inter-webs, either.

Just about every time I see a news item about the "latest" online phenomenon to go viral lately, I'm struck by the fact that it's been around for quite some time. Our love of sharing cat videos and the like means the video being reported online, in print or on the telly has probably already done the rounds of Facebook and we've all already seen it, giggled at it and moved on to the next big thing. I guess that just highlights the power (and speed) of social networking.

However, it goes beyond just the speed of online sharing: I'm regularly seeing videos popping up on internet news sites that are a year or more old. Sure, sometimes there are hidden gems that fester away on YouTube for months before they suddenly find an audience, but I'm not talking about those slow-to- get-started offerings, I'm talking about videos that have already had their moment in the sun, got the publicity that comes with internet fame and then pop back into the spotlight again a year or so down the track and get to go viral all over again. Sort of like a recurrent coldsore.

I know the current trend in fashion, music and entertainment in general is for everything retro, but this just feels like deja vu all over again.

The latest of the oldies is the video of the Boeing plane turned into a home by the dude in Oregon. In fact, this one is on its third ride on the internet fame merry-go-round: it's popped up in the news just this week with a story from the Reuters news agency about his novel home, linked to a year-old video from Los Angeles-based news outlet Incredible Features, but the first time I heard about this dude and his unusual digs was a couple of years ago via video from CNN. And all three times, it's been through online sharing that I've heard about it.

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The stench of oversharing

09:48pm 02 Jun 2014


During a chat about the perils of Facebook this week, a workmate reminded me of the old saying that compares house guests and fish, but I reckon the internet has given Benjamin Franklin's famous quote even more oomph.

The United States founding father and inventor of the lightning rod and bifocals said that both fish and visitors "stink" after three days but I suspect that if @bennyF happened to be around today he would extend his range of things that stink to the pleasingly alliterative selection of families, friends and Facebook.

And perhaps he would shrink that timeline, too, because three days is a tad generous when it comes to smug status updates, drama queen moves and pointless hashtagging.

It's a strange old world we now live in, where social networking via Facebook and Twitter means we know a whole lot of stuff about almost total strangers and even more about our nearest and dearest. And that can make things more than a little uncomfortable.

There's that person you followed or friended because you met them at a friend's party or they made an interesting comment on a friend's Facebook or Twitter feed. Suddenly you are getting all their updates and know the intimate details about their life that should really be saved for those who know them well.

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