Category Archives: Social

The Most Precious Resource of Them All

I have finally figured out what is the most precious resource in Finland. It’s toilet. It’s almost ridiculous to what lengths various instances are prepared to go to stop un-worthy people of using their toilets. Even if you are a customer at a shopping centre, you’re faced with the humiliating task of asking for a token from someone so you can use the toilet. If you are not a customer, you pay!

Some even go further than that. The biggest movie theater complex in Helsinki has their toilets secured with a  keypad. The passnumber is written on all the movietickets. Although it does make you feel slightly jamesbondish, that tight a guarding of your precious toilets makes it all feel a bit weird.

You have to ask why this is the case, why lock down the toilets like that? I think it’s another form of tragedy of the commons. If everybody else doesn’t allow anyone to use their toilet, then everyone and whatever side-effects they might bring, real or imaginary, will pile up on the few that do allow it. Everybody knowing this, will just relieve themselves to the nearest gateway.

Death of Facebook

It’s always a good idea to fortell the doom of something thats just hit contemporary consciousness. It’s a good way to strike up a conversation and especially good thing to do when your blogging, since you’ll have a record of saying it well before anyone else.

I am here to cast the doom on Facebook.

I have written before about the very basic need of humans to be acknowledged by other humans. The existence of this need explains why we greet people; in the hopes that they will greet us back, it explains why people want to become famous; to have their lives be one huge acknowledgement from day-in day-out. Numerous social customs revolve around this need. We exist because other people think we do.

Not only reaching critical mass, Facebook has also tapped this basic need. They have only gone at it the wrong way. Facebook encourages you to beg for acknowledgement. That’s what constant status-updates, pokes, invites and tags are all about. The computer-network-aided extension of what has, in part, allowed humans to flourish so well. There are dozens of ways you can go about it.

But thats not how you build a long-lasting social networking platform. People get tired of being poked, novelty wears off quickly. A critical mass can be negative, when the right (amount of) people of a certain social circle leave, rest will quickly follow.

The initial chink in the armor of Facebook will be the futility of the way it enables social interaction. It goes about it the wrong way, Facebook makes it rewarding to be acknowledged (with numbers alone, e.g. how many friends do you have, how many people liked this ), not rewarding to awknowledge other people.

If you can come up with a way to achieve that with your social networking, I’d say you are on your way to riches as well as building something a bit more valuable.

I Feel for David Brent

I have been re-watching The Office. David Brent is the manager of the office and is considered to be a prime example of a bad boss.  He lies to his staff, his bosses, probably even himself. He exaggerates things, seeks blame on others and constantly offends people knowingly and unknowlingly.

But David is not a bad person. He is just totally lost on how to conduct himself in this world, either professionally, socially or with regards to women. The way things work for his asshole-but-more-attractive sales-rep friend Chris Finch is not the way it works for him. Professionally he is a living example of the Dilbert principle. Despite being somewhat inept as a boss, he has become one, probably on a fluke. Mistaking his position as his own achievement, David is simply blind to his own ineptitude. Being a success all the time is dangerous.

David doesn’t receive our sympathy until he comes aware of all this and accepts it. This is why I feel for David Brent. The world is a confusing place and people make no sense, you might as well be working in a random number factory, in charge of the sufficient value distribution.

Summer Vacation!

To my complete expectations my Summer vacation has just started. Five weeks of non-work-related activities are in store. Which means I’ll be available for all kinds of suggestions and invitations of non-work-related nature. Be proactive, don’t let me invite myself over!

Boy, Was I stupid When I was a Kid!

Memes have been all the rage since their invention some 2 million years ago. Internet memes have been even bigger rage since Al Gore invented them along with Internet itself back in the late 80’s. You don’t really exist in the web (i.e the Real World) unless you have enough eyeballs consuming your webpresence. The way to gain those is to become a part of a meme.

Usually this works by being either incredibly stupid, self-destructional or brilliant (preferably on camera). For us who don’t own a camera there’s one option left. This.

When I was a kid (4-5 years old) on one Independence day when there were fireworks displayed, I thought the Näsinneula-building, a landmark of Tampere, was a space rocket about to launch into space. Yes, I actually thought that Finland had a space program of it’s own. Boy, was I stupid!

Passive Agressiveness

My Aikido associaton has classes at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium which houses many kinds of other athletic activities. One of the things I like about the place is the feeling of history of sweating and human resolve in those halls. Some of these other arts have their classes along the corridor I take to the locker rooms. Most along that corridor are various kinds of dance-classes. I usually just walk pass them, merely glancing inside, only catching a glimpse of the dedicated female bodies sweating inside.

Today I wasn’t going to the regular practice but to see the graduation for this springs beginners class. I was early, since I didn’t have to change or anything. I decided to take a more than a mere glance on one of those dancing classes. So be it. I was set.

Only one door was invitingly open. In Aikido, all the classes are open for spectators, anyone can come around and watch the practice. I assumed this applies to other physical arts. Especially one like dance with its ungodly provocative shaking of the pelvis and… you know where it all leads to! Teen pregnancy and broken homes. I stop at the doorway, watching openly, not hiding my intentions, I’m curious to what goes inside.

Less than minute (no, I’m not exaggeratin the time even for the purposes of an anecdote) the teacher of the class approaches me and utters:”Excuse me, I’d like to close the door a bit… I can’t concentrate (with you watching)” and proceeds to close the door on my face.

Instead of approaching me directly and telling me that me standing there was bothering her, she decided to close the door “a bit”.

Passive Agressive.

From now on, when ever I pass those open doors, I will avert my eyes, being careful not to catch any glimpses inside. I won’t make any eye contact with people I see leaving or entering those rooms. I shall also scowl out load when anyone ever confesses to practicing one of those dances.

On Greeting

I have a vague feeling of déjà vu that I’ve written this post already, but the subject bears repeating.

I’m working with a few preconditions of human nature with one of them being that humans like to see that they have some kind of effect on and in the world that they live in. This explains the subtle enjoyment one gets from cracking the ice of small ponds on a cold morning or why some people build models or any of the huge number of human endeavours that exhibit this idea.

Being social creatures that we are, we also like to see that we have an effect on other humans. We like to be acknowledged by them and recognized by them. I honestly think that you could drive anyone mad by just everybody not paying any attention to him/her or engaging in any interaction with them apart from the smallest possible amount. For example, if you tried to talk to people at work, they wouldn’t respond with anything meaningful, just grunts or shrugs. No matter what you said. Any questions at the supermarket would be met with I-don’t-know’s and I-guesses.

It is exactly because of this need for recognition that makes people greet each other. It is the assumption that if I acknowledge you, you will acknowledge me in turn. It is because of this fundamental link with basic human needs and traits that makes greeting an activity in need of as little as possible of reasons. Greeting should be acceptable in any situation. You should never have to explain why you greeted someone.

For any number of reasons, listed in this post or otherwise, I genuinely think that the world would be a bit better place if people greeted each other more often.

Friday Night Ramblings

It has been far too long since I’ve rambled in my blog, which is a shame. This is a shame from the point of view of the Dinosaur media who consider Blogs the primary media for rambling. It is not the same thing to be accusing the, if I pick a random Finnish media, Helsingin sanomat for rambling, even if their editorials bare no names and are mostly collections of sentences of the form:”Every intelligent person knows that…” and “It is a well-known fact” etc.

It is not the same thing, I want to stress this well-known fact.

Blogs are a slimy medium. They resonate and interact with each other, making it, at one side, a highly un-predictable concoction and on the other side a highly-predictable entity. It is very difficult to say what will become famous for example. On the other hand, there’s the Streisand effect. There are well-known examples of this in the Finnish blogosphere. It is no suprise that something like this puzzles those who were brought up in a totally different system of conveying ideas for people.

Because the blogs form a system so big and complex, it is impossible to understand and crasp its workings. Even a well-read blog reader can only skim a small amount of everything that gets written. It is exactly this that makes it also easy to trivialize and also to rationalize the apparent unimportance of blogs. How can you understand the impact of something that you can at any given moment see only a fraction of a fraction? Why would blogs make a difference when only a handful of them get any decent amount of readership? Because theres thousands of them, millions of them, linking to each other and any and all resources you can attach a wire to, piling, adding up, slowly and continuosly re-organizing itself and most of all, being read by much more people than write them.

This is only relating to the nature of the medium. I haven’t even touched the quality of writing…

Objective Comparison Between the World Wide Web and Facebook

                        |            WWW            |       Facebook          |
Number of users:        | A couple of billions      | a few tens of millions  |
Ability to create your  |                           |                         |
own applications        |            Yes            |         Yes             |
within the system?      |                           |                         | 
Ability to let others   |  Up to users choice       |    Default option       |
earn from your work:    |                           |                         |
Available programming   | All of them really        | HTML and some zero's    | 
languages:              |                           |                         |
Ability to announce     |  Up to users choice       | Core functionality      |
who your friends are:   |                           |                         |
Ability to link         |  Up to users choice       | Why use it otherwise?   |
to your friends?        |                           |                         |
Instant messaging:      |          Yes              |         No              |
Email:                  |          Yes              |         No              |
Chat:                   |          Yes              |         No              |
Ability to annoy        |                           |                         |
others with             |    Up to users choice     |           Yes           |
announcements of        |                           |                         |
cute' applications?     |                           |                         |
User licence:           |         None              | [...] and your grannys  |
                        |                           |        bungalow.        |
Playable games:         |    Yes, wide range        |Yes, Chess and Scrabble  |
Tied to one operator?   |      No (not yet)         |         Yes             |
                        |    Free exhange of        |  To gloat how many      |
Main purpose:           |       information         |  people claim to know   |
                        |                           |  you.                   |
Porn:                   | Yes, see rule #43         |    Some (implied)       |
Causes unsexiness?      |          No               |          Yes            |
Contains meaningfull    |                           |                         |
information:            | Yes, all of it. And then  |         None            |
                        |         some.             |                         |
Typical user profile:   |  Young, vibrant, supple   | Dull, blunt, boring     |
Invites the whole       |                           |                         | 
of humanity to unite    |         Yes               |        No?! ...         |
in celebration?         |                           |                         |
Will probably be        |                           |                         |
instrumental in forming |                           |   Maybe... where is     |
a void so deep the      |          No               |      this going?!       |
whole of earth will     |                           |                         | 
be destroyed by it?     |                           |                         |
Burns your cookies?     |          No               | Right! This table of    |
                                                      comparisons ends here!  |
                                                      I will not be insulted 
                                                      here by some hack of a blogger
                                                      who can't even come up with
                                                      a proper table! Nobody calls
                                                      you because you have no friends!
                                                      Yeah! That's right! Read the manual buddy!