Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fake friends, or being someone's spam cannon fodder

This rant was prompted by people's comments on my Facebook status update today. It said:

"Defriended a Facebook "friend". It was one of those people who friend you for no good reason. He doesn't know me, lives in a different country, posts in Spanish (which I can't read), never comments on my posts, and keeps inviting me to events in another continent. I asked him to stop, but he kept doing that. I guess when you have over 1500 "friends", you don't have time to show special consideration to any one of them."

I got a range of responses to that. Some said they refuse friend requests from strangers, others said the whole point of Facebook is to meet new interesting people. Generally I agree with the latter, though I mostly use Facebook to keep in touch with people I know in real life. Nonetheless I used to accept friend requests from strangers mostly because I'm "too nice" (read spineless) to say no.

That's not to say I dislike reading strangers' updates. Not at all. I like them, if the author's personality comes through in them. This includes people's personal opinions, and observations about their life. However, there is a type of people -- unfortunately this is fairly common among atheists on Facebook -- who friend pretty much everyone with vaguely similar interests or views. Those people have 1000 - 2000+ "friends". They can't possibly read everyone's posts. And if they don't, what's the point of being "friends"? What's worse, people with the greatest number of impersonal friends are also the noisiest posters. They post 10-15 items every day. If those were updates on their personal life, it wouldn't be so bad. It could even be interesting. But they usually post news headlines, and those are typically headlines I've already seen elsewhere. I read the internet as avidly as anyone else, so I don't need news to be pushed on me. It's like those people have decided that I don't pay enough attention to the news, so they've taken it upon themselves to educate me and thousands of others. I resent that attitude.

Some of those people have admitted they have hooked up their Google Reader to automatically dump all their feeds into Facebook. So they don't even hand-pick their news! They don't even need to login into Facebook to set up this kind of automatic broadcasting. They can fill up your stream with their newsfeed crap without ever logging in and reading other people's posts!

Is that a "friend" relationship? No. If those folks think everyone should use them as a news portal, they should set up a fan page for themselves on Facebook. A fan page is the right model for broadcasting *at* people, as opposed to having conversations *with* people.

Funny thing is, I might be alone in my distaste for this kind of fake friendship. Many people actually comment on those posts, and get involved in long debates. Myself, I usually hide those hyper-logorrheic posters from my friends' stream. And if they pester me with invites to irrelevant events, I might even unfriend them, as I did today.

That said, I like reading updates, strangers' or not, if I can tell their author has put thought into them. It's impersonal broadcasting that I dislike.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

ArmadilloCon: Stump the Panel

Panelists at this event are supposed to come up with mundane and science-fictional uses for objects supplied by the audience. They can also use objects they brought themselves. This year's team is C. J. Mills, Steve Wilson, and Chris Roberson.

Below, left-to-right, are:

1. A pez dispenser in the shape of a character from Ratatouille. Chris Roberson thinks it's an oracle. You ask it a question, and its head tilts back to reveal an answer comes from its neck. The answer will be yes, no, or pez. So you have to formulate the question really carefully.

2. Chris Roberson thinks this neti pot may play a role in fertility rituals. Steve Wilson thinks it extracts something from your brain through your nose.

3. A metallic squirrel that cracks nuts with its tail. Someone in the audience thinks this is a robotic squirrel designed to teach aliens not to molest the local wildlife.







This pez dispenser is an oracle. You ask it a question, and its head tilts back to reveal an answer coming from its neck.A neti pot that extracts something from your brain through your nose.Someone in the audience thinks this is metallic squirrel nutracker is designed to teach aliens not to molest the local wildlife.


4. Munchkin game pieces. C. J. Mills thinks they are lumberjacks that you rehydrate when you come to the forest. A woman from the audience says they are snacks for a gnome-eating alien.

5. This ethernet hub... You'll just have to click on the image to find out what Chris Roberson thought it was. Beware of a gross-out factor. :-)

6. A cell phone with an cute / evil face on it. It is unanimously decided that this phone isn't really evil, it's just charmingly possessed. It loses your messages, and texts your boyfriend at inappropriate times. C. J. Mills thinks it's a psychic phone that lets you know exactly when opportunity is.







C. J. Mills thinks these Munchkin game pieces are lumberjacks that you rehydrate when you come to the forest.Chris Roberson holding an ethernet hubA not-quite-evil, charmingly possessed cell phone


7. C. J. Mills and Steve Wilson hold a cable reel, which, as someone suggested, might be a prayer box for an orthodox giant.

C. J. Mills and Steve Wilson hold a cable reel, which, as someone suggested, might be a prayer box for an orthodox giant.

Here is an article about a "Stump the Panel" from the ArmadilloCon 2008, with Rhonda Eudaly, S. Andrew Swann, and Lou Antonelli. And here is an article about a "Stump the Panel" from the ArmadilloCon 2006, with James P. Hogan on it.

Pictures from ArmadilloCon 2009 are in my photo gallery.