20 October 2009

My favourite waste of time

I am a creature of habit, and those habits are becoming more time consuming.

I've long since given up the far too time devouring World of Warcraft, and the equally disruptive, and wasteful habit of sitting around in a boozer most evenings, puffing away on tabs.

At least the latter two were not mutually restrictive, and with even the alleged mans inability to multi task, I could do both, and talk shite at the same time. I could even drink, smoke and play WOW together, but now that of the 3, all that I succumb to is the occasional glass of wine or G&T, I should have loads of time on my hands, but it would seem this is not the case..

I get up with the best of intentions to start work at a respectable time, but by the time I have made a cup of coffee and turned on the laptop to 'catch up on the news', all of a sudden its 2 hours later and I am still sat on the sofa wrapped in a towel, bath gone cold, and I won't be in the office before 10.30 again.

Because catching up on the news has become so fucking labour intensive, because there is just so damned much of the stuff that I need to read.

The news used to just mean logging onto BBC online and clicking through the World, UK, Health, Science, Entertainment and Sport sections. All done in 20 minutes.

Now I have to open multiple tabs for all the news I can't live without.

First comes Facebook. A notorious time waste, but relatively quick to get through. Amongst the usual bollocks of peoples updates on Farmville, Mafia Wars and such like, there just may be some news of significance from a real friend - not just someone who knows me, but I couldn't really care for, and yet was to polite to turn down the friend request.

As fast as new applications are added, I turn those fuckers off. I don't want to know what you just scored on Boggle, or that you just got a new virtual cow. I want see pictures of friends new children, and hear how they're coping with parenthood when in my mind they're still the boys from school who couldn't even take care of themselves. Five minutes is all I need for Facebook, then its its onto Twitter...

I've covered Twitter before. I now 'follow' 150 people. For all the media would have you believe, we are not part of Stephen Frys private army of nerds. It's a collective consciousness for passing on idle thoughts, or spreading news before the 'real' news gets hold of it. Passing links to stories that may never have got exposure otherwise. One prime example is the vile reporting of Steven Gatelys death in the Daily Mail. A paper that most right minded people would not normally even wipe their arse with was suddenly hit with 'an orchestrated campaign' to vilify one of it's reporters.

This from a paper that bayed for the blood of Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand, whipping it's readers into a frenzy over something they had never heard, but should none the less be outraged. What Twitter did was more like Chinese Whispers. Someone read the article online, was offended, and 'tweeted' a "fuck me - have you read this" with a link to the article. People following this person read it, thought "fuck me - the woman's clearly mad", and retweeted it, meaning all the people that followed them saw it too. Within the hour, probably everyone on Twitter had recieved the link, and so many had tried to register a complaint with the PCC, that it brought their website down.

That's not an orchestrated hate campaign - that's the public thinking for themselves, and thinking that Jan Moir is nothing but an ill educated homophobic cunt.

Not every day on Twitter is full of controversy, but amongst the ramblings, amusing links to videos and photos, there's also the breaking news that the networks can't or won't show you. I was following the chase for 'Balloon Boy' an hour before the BBC or Sky News had it as a story, and Trifigura would probably not have got the attention it did without the Twitterati passing it on. It can take a good 20 minutes to catch up on all the updates from overnight, before moving onto Google Reader.

Google Reader is a Web based aggregator of RSS and Atom feed. That is it takes the websites that you look at often, and whenever they are updated, it pulls them into one place to read.

See those little orange buttons at the bottom right of this page under 'Subscribe'? That's an RSS feed. If you have Google account, it means that if you click on that, every time I post a new blog, it goes to your Google reader page, along with any other websites that you subscribe to.

My problem is, I think I may subscribe to too many. Not all of the websites are updated daily. Charlie Brookers Guardian column is once a week, but Scaryducks excellent blog is most days. Star Wars, Fail blog, and Dinosaurs and Robots may post a couple of stories a day. Den of Geek and Boing Boing may post several stories. All in all I currently subscribe to over 60 RSS feeds, with can mean over a hundred links, stories, Youtube videos, weird photos and blogs to trawl through every morning.

I don't have time, but I have to do it. I can't miss the latest information on anything. And it's also come to my attention that some stories get duplicated, and there's no way of really knowing what is newest and hottest. So then I have to go to Reddit.

Reddit is a social news website. Here fellow Redditers post links to stories, photo's etc, and they are rated by users as to how interesting/cool/cute/fluffy/weird they are. It's real time updating shows what the World is looking at. If it's new I have to see it.

This mornings Reddit story is this afternoons Boing Boing, and tonights Twitter, and then next weeks Facebook link. In a month someone who'se only undestanding of the internet is their work email will send it to you, no matter how much in breach of your workplaces diversity and respect rules it is.

And when I get home from work - late because I didn't rock in until nearly 11 o'clock - the cycle begins again.

Where am I going with this?

Why does it matter?

It's because yesterday I remembered a book I read in my teens by E.M Forster.

Not 'Howards End' or 'A Passage to India', nor 'A Room with a View'. I don't yearn for a tech free society with under butlers and tea wallahs.

100 years ago this month (spooky timing), Forster published a short story called 'The Machine Stopped', which I read in a sci-fi anthology.

Set in a dystopian future (is there any other sort?)where humans can no longer live on the surface of the earth, it couldn't be more different than his more famous works.

People live in isolation, communicating via a global communication device called 'The Machine', which caters for all their social and spiritual needs. People communicate through a video conferencing/messaging system, where their sole existence is the seeking and passing of new ideas.

A society who never go outside, never see other people. Just sitting around, plugged into some global conscious, passing the same rubbish back and forth having long forgotten what real life is all about.

The internet machine breaks down, and suddenly nobody knows what to do with themselves.

Forster should have stuck to stuffy melodramas. His sci-fi is bollocks, and could never happen. It may have been written in 1909, but it's just preposterous.

Anywho, maybe I'll just pop out for a bit and stretch my legs. Get some fresh air. Talk to some real people.

Just as soon as I've checked Twitter.

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