Monthly Archives: July 2006

Father, I want to kill you…

Apparently, in the universe I inhabit, “very, very soon” refers to two and a half weeks later.

Well, my summer class kicked into gear as it drew to a close. Yesterday, thankfully, was the last class. If you are Stockton student I suggest approaching Energy & Ethics, if you ever consider taking it, with a degree of caution. Yes, the class does kill two birds with one stone, being both a GIS and a Q2, but I would hardly describe my experience as “positive.”

Adding to my lack of presence was the commotion of my move. Elise and I now share an apartment that is getting damn close to being organized. If only Ikea sold bookshelves that manifested extra-dimensional space to actually allow all of our books to fit, we’d be set. Mind you, her books alone were fine. Elise owns what I would describe as a healthy number of books. By healthy, I mean sizable. I, on the other hand, own an unhealthy number of books. By unhealthy, I mean sizable.

My comic strip has suffered from these particular roadblocks as well, and I hope to rectify that situation next week.

So what have I been killing my time with whilst my brain was too fried to post? Mostly continuing my descent into ever increasing internerdery through social networking. The concept of the social networking service is not exactly a new one, but the momentum gathered by such services in the last couple years is astounding. While I maintain a MySpace page and do a bit more to personalize it than the most disinterested of users, I’m still not exactly an aficionado. I do appreciate the convenience it provides for organizing large social events, but for the most part I view the site as the mutant child of an e-mail address and a “Hi, my name is…” sticker. It is something convenient to link to from other sites where communication of your basic personality is desired, but not something to spend hours on, pouring over the comments listed on the sites of myriad friends trying to glean the subtext of drama contained therein. Those who do so can enjoy themselves; I’m simply not among their number.

However, when the same social networking principles are applied to a more focused concept, my interest and obsessions rise. Enter LibraryThing, an online catalog for your book collection. This site really hits the mark. There is some thing deep in the brain of a geek like me that feels the need to catalog and organize things. Not all things, mind you, only those cultural objects that I have a sort of fetishistic reverence for. My former living room was in a frequent state of disaster, adorned with ancient pizza boxes, fossilized carry-out bags, and half-full cups of soda and beer in which prismatic colonies of mold flourished. Yet in the midst of that stood a DVD shelf divided first into the broad categories of movies and television series, then organized alphabetically within those groupings, with the obvious exception of sequels being situated in their respective series. LibraryThing is the perfect bookshelf, self-organizing and never disarrayed. With a few clicks, one can get a notion of new books to read by viewing the libraries of other users who own some of the same books as you. On any given book’s profile a bar graph displays the distribution of ratings users have given it. Plus, the permalink to your personal catalog provides a convenient way to shorten the “Books” entry in the sidebar of your MySpace profile.

Another new service along similar lines is MOG, social networking focused on music. Yes, I’m aware that MySpace started out with the intention of being just that. But MOG is structured to be much more focused on the music, so there’s every reason to believe it will stay that way. MOG actually features a related program called MOG-O-Matic, which I have yet to install. This program catalogs your entire digital music collection, automatically posting it to your profile. It also functions to auto-update fields for “Most Recently Played Songs” and “Most Listened To Artists.” In principle it’s a great idea, but the service just went to open beta testing a month a go, so they are still working out a lot of bugs in the MOG-O-Matic program. But when the forums indicate that it’s getting more stable I’ll be right on board. The program is really fundamental to the idea of the site, because it allows you to browse other MOGs that are listed in order of similarity to your own music collection. This way, you can see what new stuff people who already share tastes with you are listening to. The philosophy is that humans are better at recommending new music than a computer algorithm, like the ones behind Pandora (which I still love), last.fm, or MusicIP (credit to Sean Landis for that last one). Again, linking to your profile from other sites is convenient.

I view this last entry as less of a social network and more of a cool toy. StumbleUpon adds a toolbar to your browser that you can toggle on or off easily. On this toolbar is the “Stumble” button, which sends you to a random website that that has been tagged positively by other users. The site will come from a list of categories you choose and be filtered by the different settings of your profile. You can give the sites a thumbs up or thumbs down, effecting the chance the site will show up for other users stumbling through the same categories. You can also give a thumbs to any site you visit in your regular web travels, and if it is not already in the database it gets added. This is lots of fun and just plain neat.

The Mars Volta has a new album out in August. If you do not know why this is great news, you should learn.

Coming soon (for real this time): summer movies and a video game that needs to be made.

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