Dancing The Facebook Hornpipe

Yesterday I got a message from the WordPress people saying that the current links between the weblog columns I write and Facebook was in peril – FB apparently change their play today for some arcane reason. The explanation was suitably vague, but the end result was another three hours of computer churning to create a ” page ” as well as a ” profile “.

Well, the electrons flowed back and forth and eventually it settled into the new pattern – but with all the old people and pictures. I suspect it is a ploy to make another platform to sell advertising in sidebars and pop “suggested posts ” into my stream of consciousness. As long as I can throw ’em out as fast as they appear, I’m happy. I need all the consciousness I can get here at home.

The all-pervasive nature of FB and the sudden peremptory announcements – caged sometimes in gobbledygook – are starting to make me nervous. I recognise the follies of some of my friends on the service by the memes and propaganda they push – they can recognise mine by the weblog posts that drift over. As long as we do not engage in arguments, all is well.

But must everything be the province of Facebook?

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I Talk And We Listen

I’ve been taken somewhat to task recently by a reader of another weblog column who complained that I did not write what he wished to read. I suspect that what he wanted to read was what he had written – and that if I had written to his mind I should equally have displeased him…for I should have stolen his story and portrayed it as my own.

And there it is for many authors…if they write their story they risk the wrath. And yet, in the end, their own story is the only one they can honestly tell.

This is no bad thing. Consider – if I tell something I know to you, you are not required to hear it – you can turn away unheeding. But I can’t tell you without telling myself, and in many cases I am the person who needs to hear that story. I need to get something straight in my own mind…to remember or to understand. The rehearsal of the facts helps me where it might just bore you.

The WordPress weblog columns can be therapeutic instruments for many people and I am impressed that they are made available to so many for such a little cost. I think mine have done me a world of good in the last six years and I would readily recommend the writing of one to anyone upon a trial basis. There may be no more Hemingways out there, but there are certainly writers who can toll their own bells.

 

” Hello – Put Me Through To Spell – Check, Please…”

Okay. Then put me thru to spelchek, plz.

Look, just go get the goober in your office with the dictionary and put them on the phone.

Okay, now listen. I’m an author of four daily weblog columns and I use your service all the time. It’s the one up at the top of the WordPress dashboard with the ABC and the checkmark, right? Well, I want to know why you are objecting to my grammar and spelling and then letting glaring errors creep through unchallenged.

Like hl. I just typed that and pressed the ABC button and it came out approved. At the same time you red-lined WordPress and goober. WordPress is your own name and a goober is a peanut. The word hl isn’t a word at all – it might have been a typo for ” hole ” or ” hale ” or anything.

I accept the fact that my fingers and sticky keyboard will put out rubbish at times. I welcome your caution about most things and assiduously correct what you flag for me. But you let some howlers through nevertheless, and I’m starting to become worried about he stuff you do approve.

Is there a way that I can register my own style with you – my age, history, and likely speech patterns? Then when I end a sentence with ” eh? ” or use the phrase ” my own whatever ” you need not scold me for it. That’s who I am and that’s how I speak.

I promise not to use bad words – not because I am moral, but because I do not know many of them. I cannot promise to use gender-neutral words and phrases because I have observed for a long time that this has more to do with politics and power than it does with effective communication. Plus I like genders – they can be soothing on cold nights.

 

 

The Experiments – Part Four – Final

The heading image placed on this last experimental page is a conventional representation of a one of the flags of the Confederate States of America in the 1860’s. Recently it has become the centrepiece in a storm of controversy in the United States and has been used in a number of deplorable political and criminal acts, as well as for theatrical presentations.

It was also an extremely small part of an image on a weblog column dealing with die-cast toy cars – fuzzy and pixellated though it was, I suspect it triggered a mechanism in Facebook that blanked the image. I determined to see how that mechanism operated. The previous three posts on this column ( go back and read them ) detail the experimental means I employed to see if the thing could be set off again.

If we don’t see an image up there on Facebook today – or if it’s a generalized image of my studio card – we’ll know the trigger mechanism is the entire, coloured, detailed pattern. Every other combination has been ignored. If you do see the flag pattern, then the whole episode was just a flash in the social media pan.

The flag pattern won’t be shown again – not for political or moral reasons – but because it is just not relevant to life and thought here in Australia. And that may be a hard thing for anyone in North America to accept…that this is another part of the world with people who lead other lives. The distresses that the North Americans encounter or engender within their own borders are theirs to deal with amongst themselves. To put it succinctly – it’s none of my business.

Readers can be as proud or as ashamed – as busy or as idle – as high or as low as they wish. No need to howl at me with either rage or approval – my opinion on North American matters is not relevant. The only thing you might care to do is to share some thoughts:

If you can’t see an 1860’s flag on the top of a Facebook post…what other things are you not permitted to see? What price constitutional amendments or bills of rights ? Who decides the let and hindrance of your life?

 

The Experiments – Part Three

The second week saw the reposting of the initial experiments in graphics repeated but with the Photoshop inversion turned off – the colours of the experimental panel are the red, white, and blue of the original flag image.

This may, or may not be the actual colours of the Confederate flag – I’ve never seen an original relic. Logic tells me that cloth dyes of that time would have a lot less purity and the intervening years – plus Yankee shot and shell will have dimmed the things. Even a few years’ flying for a modern flag will show considerable wear on it, and maritime flags worst of all.

Note that there are many modern flags – including Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Russia, France, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United States of America to list a few –  that use red, white, and blue in their flags. The reason I mention this is that if the censor is electronic and dependent upon pure colour recognition, last week would have gotten a pass-through. This week would start the circuits.

A.SIze, aspect ratio, colour all correct. No response.

B.

There’s the cross again but in pure white. Is this St. Patrick’s cross? Like on the Union Jack? I think it might be. No response.

C.An addition of the blue bars to the cross. No response. Is it too close to the Norwegian flag to get an alarm buzzer? Or is there a real person looking at the experiment – possibly with finger poised?

The last part – the entire flag placed prominently on Facebook with a post underneath disclaiming any political or racial bias – will prove the pudding.

The reaction of Facebook could be several things:

a. No reaction. It was all a gas bubble. I can go back to playing Candy Crush and looking for pictures of cats.

b. Enormous reaction. Immediate removal of all Facebook accounts. Howls of rage from civic groups and all the consequent social furore that can be sustained. I should be sad to lose the facility that Facebook provides, but then I have the example of several friends who deliberately avoid it – they live full intellectual lives nonetheless.

c. A polite wigging from the administrators done by automatic posting a scolding communication. Inviting an equally polite rebuttal, of course. Written by hand…

d. Virtuous unfriending or blocking by Facebook friends who have not read and will not read the actual articles. The one-line judges and the keyboard warriors are the most likely for this. I shall be sad to lose them, but the world is full of consolation.

The Experiments – Part Two

Remember I said I tried out a number of graphic components to see the point at which the Facebook robot censor or real person triggered? I secured an image of the Confederate flag and cleaned it up. Then I deconstructed it and changed the colour in Photoshop. Each day I popped one image on the screen:

A.

Reverse of red. No reaction. But a nice colour for a GM car of the 1950’s. This has the proportions of the flag.

B. 

Addition of the PS-inversed blue field of the flag. Rather similar to St. Andrew’s cross on the Scottish flag, though they have a better blue and a clear white. That central colour is the inverse of a deep blue. No reaction

C.

Well, there you go – the PS inverse of the Stars And Bars straight out. If the circuit was going to be triggered by the size, shape and pattern, this should do it. But no reaction.

Note that at no point did I use the comments section of Facebook to mention politics, flags, Confederates, or censorship. I just threw out the images to see what would occur. And I tried to keep myself from coming to premature conclusions about what was happening. Some of my Facebook friends knew what the pattern looked like but at this stage of the  experiment they also drew no final conclusions.

After one week, I switched the colours…

The Experiments – Part One

My friends on Facebook have seen a little graphic experimentation conducted on that social media site over the last couple of weeks. It’s time to explain what they saw and why it was there.

It started here on WordPress a few weeks ago when I posted a column about a collection of toys at a model car club. They were tiny replicas of the Dodge that featured in the ” Dukes Of Hazard ” television show. It’s the orange one with the Confederate flag on the top and ” General Lee ” on the side. The column was headed by this image:

Pretty small and awfully fuzzy – I forgot to focus – but sharp enough to trigger some sort of response in the Facebook machinery*. When the column was automatically shared to Facebook the image was replaced with a generic picture of my studio card.

I was pretty sure it was the blobs of pixels representing that flag, as it is so controversial in America. But I was amazed that such a small and innocent picture could get banned. And it raised the question of whether someone sits in an office somewhere tut-tutting and blue penciling everything that comes by  – or if there is a computer program that searches pixel by pixel.

And further – if there is a magic eye censor peering all the time, what exactly is it peering at? Colour? Shape? Pattern? Position? Is it looking at all the faces on Facebook and censoring out the ones it doesn’t like? I determined to experiment by posting a patch of colour or a pattern each day on their main site to see when and if it would be removed. And I didn’t just use the colours of the flag – I used colours that had been chromatically reversed in the Photoshop palette as well.

Note for the virtuous: I do not condone the use of the Confederate flag for nastiness in North America at all – I think it is abhorrent. Outside of that continent it is irrelevant – and I note that nearly everywhere has some graphic design that might be historic but is liable to be used for politics and social behaviour. We’ve got one that’s been seized upon down here:

That’s a Wikipedia image of the Eureka flag first flown in Ballarat during a 19th century gold-digger’s rebellion. It was a small flag and a small rebellion, but recently it has been used for a lot of union politics and pressure groups. It’s not a myth – you can actually go see the real thing in the museum there.

*  Note: If this panel of this WordPress posting is blank on Facebook, we’ll know the graphic censorship extends into the body of the essays as well as the header.