The Walrus Blog

Category Archive: Web 2.0 Museum

Back From The Dead?

I spent the summer underground. Hysterically and metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m back before the summer is over because of the Russian denial of service attacks that have taken Twitter down I’m scared.

So I twittered more vaguely. I didn’t blog from my global outposts in Edmonton, Estonia and Finland. Instead, I hunkered down to reconsider my passion for writing about social media. It is the hottest game in town. Social media experts, sanctified and not, are a hideous and fearsome lot. They mindlessly pounce on and suck the retweets out of any clump of words they can. Could I really be one of them?


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Last night I broke into Steve Jobs’ house on Waverley Street in Palo Alto. I got a cheap flight out of Buffalo at 6 am on United to LAX for only $262 return. The wonder of flexible dates! Flying out of Buffalo is a breeze – literally. They make you go through one of those bomb-sniffing blow-up-your skirt-like-you-are-Marilyn-Monroe things. I always forget to wear pants (it is springtime) and everyone in line gets an upskirt view from me.

I rented a 2010 Camaro from Avis. I insisted that I get a shifter car but they had none in stock. Americans are entirely addicted to luxury cars and I don’t really blame them. (more…)

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Free Estonia, As In Wifi

ISTANBUL, TURKEY-Canada is tyrannized by the telcos. Everywhere I travel abroad has better, freer wifi access than Toronto and the rest of Canada. It makes me scared about the future.

Here in Nisantasi area of Istanbul (the rich-people area) free wifi is everywhere. Even the airport has free wifi! It is not state driven but commercial. Cafes, restaurants, stores have free wifi so you stay and spend. Flowing from that, the cafes are equipped with power outlets a-plenty. In Toronto I have often had to ask to share one meager power outlet with the other users huddled around it like homeless people at a burning barrel. People who have free wifi and power will stay and drink your expensive coffee, eat your expensive pastries all day long or go to a place that does have it. Like the roll out of air conditioning in movie theaters in the 1920s to entice a sweltering public in bad times, free wifi makes good business sense. Once one place offers free wifi, competition drives the process forwards.

Estonia, aka E-stonia, is a perfect example of how free wifi can happen. For over a year, every inch of Estonia has been blanketed by free wifi including suburban and rural areas. When you travel, even to the sticks and on the train, you are connected. The majority of it has been set up by small businesses and not the government because it made good business sense to them.

But free wifi doesn’t make good business sense in Canada. Due to the influence of the Telcos on the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commision (CRTC) expensive, capped and economically protectionist internet service is all we have. Instead of many little businesses thriving Rogers and Bell thrive and divert attention from what is at stake. Net neutrality and bandwith caps are their smokescreens. Their days could be numbered in the game of forcing down our throats bloated cable and satellite packages when we can choose for ourselves online and they know it. But it all hinges upon unlimited bandwith service to provide the image quality we expect.

Why does this matter? It’s not about being entertained by the idiot box or choking on information overload. Estonia’s Economy Minister Juhan Parts put it best:

If the 19th century was the era of railways, and the 20th century saw the development of electricity grids, the 21st century is the era of development of communications networks,” said Economy Minister Juhan Parts.

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How To Fake It

I wish I was a scientist
But I never did well in school
I’d like to talk for hours about
The problems with time travel


LONDON, ONTARIO—Right now I’m pretending to be a scientist. Sadly, I don’t even have the excuse of never having been good in school. Top of the class, baby. Nonetheless, I plummeted headlong into the humanities. I cowered there, too insecure to rub brains with fellow geniuses. I’ve squandered my intellect: I’m a godforsaken Twitter Historian sitting in a math department posing.

I can hardly keep track of all my fellow fakers. Here is my list of favourite fakers for summer 2009: (more…)

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The Only Future of Canadian Identity

Definition of nation: it is an imagined political community…imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, even meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.
-Benedict Anderson*

Right now the only thing I know I share with other Canadians is perpetual anxiety over what it means to be Canadian.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commision (CRTC) was concocted to regulate and supervise Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications thereby fomenting a Canadian culture and thus identity.

The CRTC has never been very good at making me feel Canadian. They sure did help sustain myriad mediocre bands and television shows. Where would I be without having heard Kim Mitchell and Blue Rodeo ad nauseam? What would I have done on Sundays without the franchised version Bowling for Dollars and the sinister host on Big Top Talent? I guess I would have been entirely Americanized by the music and television that I actually enjoyed most of the rest of the time. (more…)

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Twitter Buys Google!

I have the gift. I am not talking psychic Sylvia Browne phoney-baloneyness here. And please don’t compare me with these weak-kneed pundit soothsayers like Micahel Arrington or Ray Kurweil who make predictions that everyone already knows, or worse, nobody cares about. Automatic house-cleaning robots will be common in the near future. Really? I’ve seen the Jetson’s too! Myspace is going to come out with an email competitor to Gmail and Hotmail? Big deal. Did you know you can get an email right now? Equally boring and uninspired.

There’s no soothsayer like me. I’m a boss psychic. I make predictions that obliterate all doubts and even reason.

Here we go! (more…)

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Open Letter To Tech Bloggers: Jarred Subjectivity

I’m taking my subjectivity and putting it into a jar.


Well, I’m saving other tech bloggers a lot of work. Left unleashed on the world my subjectivity is highly problematic. Instead of doing the pole dance between technology evangelist or technophobe I make ugly assertions. For example:

There is more old than new in new electronic communication technologies!

Electronic communication technologies are like the blush brush and the lever – something none of us Westerners can live without!

The online/offline dichotomy is as phony as any nation-state border!

And so on. It’s much easier to conduct reviews of Alltop (the online magazine rack)  like @guykawasaki (aka Annie Colbert) with billions of subjectivities in jars. It’s how journalism, democracy and western culture has been practiced for a century. As long as you have a strong rationalizing metanarrative (we do!) nothing can stand in your way. (more…)

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Welcome to the Neighbourhood

My whole life is online. Pictures of me. My obsessions and disasters. It hasn’t happened overnight. Over the past 17 years I have emerged piecemeal online. Beginning with intimate stories published when I was in high school, my life online began as a genuflection to a medium I was in awe of and erratically evolved into what it is today: home.

Just last week a friend bemoaned the unfortunate condition of me living my life online. The concern was that I was afforded no privacy about various details of my life. Between my blog, Twitter and the butterfly effect as my life is linked and retweeted, I could not dispute the facts of his concern.

But my so-called unfortunate condition only appears unfortunate because I am that rarefied elite known as the vanguard. According to Neilsen’s Twitter had a 1382% growth rate in February 2009. According to me, the way I live my life online is merely trendsetting and not exactly unfortunate. Each passing month a new army of people are broadening their contexts for communication and evolving too by tweeting their ideas, photos and pithy commentary. Soon, sadly, I will be nothing more than another average person with only this blog to evidence my past vanguardism. All I will be left with are my fantastic cutting-edge blouses. (more…)

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Length, Interrupted

Twitter has hit the tipping point, and may now even threaten Google. The search function possibilities

WARNING: This blog post is so long you won’t be able to read it all in under 96 seconds!

The 140 character communication technology Twitter has hit the tipping point. It has real-time search functions that might even threaten Google.

I blog for The Walrus. A publication committed to long-form journalism. Blogs should ideally be readable in 96 seconds or less, which is the average length of time your eyes will rest upon my page. Uh-oh. Even worse, I blog about Twitter and the bleeding edges of electronic communication technologies. The viability of which can be boiled down to one thing: being short.

Lucky for me, length isn’t what it used to be. (more…)

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Failure Is Popular

The economy is in shambles Warren Buffet says so. If you are a success you are doomed.

But there is no need to panic! Failure is totally popular.

Go ahead. Watch the Today Show, Good Morning America or any morning program. You will learn how to eat cheaply in the failing economy by eating frozen vegetables. Or how to decorate with wrapping papers to make your home seasonally appropriate while unemployed. Every story, from the Oscars to Obama’s First 100 Days is run through the rubric of economic collapse. It’s replaced the weather as topical for the lady I just rode the elevator with. In between Skittle chatter, Twitter’s chemosensitive hairs are aquiver with the triumphant popularity of economic failure. Slowly but surely the economic failure is becoming entertainment gold. Depression Chic has infiltrated everything from fashion to Ebay. (more…)

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Date With David Lynch

MYRTLE BEACH, SC—I met him yesterday at 1 pm at Plantation Pancake House near Myrtle Beach. I got there early and a strawberry blonde Russian woman ordered me to sit.  Faded plastic flowers in pink and purple pastels infect every level surface. The carpet was right out of the Glitter Gulch. My leather jacket squeaked as I slid into a mauve sunlit booth.

He was younger perhaps and probably quite a bit taller. But my date was a dead ringer for David Lynch. Hair. Eyes. That’s why I agreed to it. Oh, and also because he had a boring job and an education at a liberal arts college. I wanted to learn about the history of Myrtle Beach. Not Nascar. I was saving that for my cousin’s visit.

Pleased, he drawled, to meet you. He held out a giant hand. My iphone began ringing:

I like to kill deer I like to kill deer  I like to kill deer

It is a David Lynch ringtone that I’m quite fond of. I gripped my iphone and shrugged. It was someone I didn’t want to talk to. So I let it keep, uh, kill-deer-ringing.

Plantation Pancakes serves lunch. Somehow it also closes at 2pm. So the staff shut off the lights and began vacuuming around us as soon as we sat down. We were the only customers amidst the now shadowy plastic foliage.

I stared at this David Lynch. He stared back. A tiny waitress appeared and yelled up to me. (more…)

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New Twitter Tool: Self-Twarm

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, VA—Have you ever gone back in time?

This weekend I went back to 1776. I thought if I went back far enough in time I could fix all the things I wish had happened differently. Then, ideally, when I came back to the future I’d become the successful McFly instead of the loser McFly I am now.

When I got to Colonial Williamsburg, though, it wasn’t the past I expected and needed it to be. Instead of revolutionary spirit, the colonialists were merely distracted by their economic realities. Undaunted, I found a private corner of the Public Gaol and scribbled my name, phone number and a warning message for my future self:

Global Depression 2008! Avoid love! (more…)

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