Monday, June 24, 2013

Network of Networks

What would a map of the Internet look like? Others have already asked this question, and some have already given us an answer.

Apparently, kinda gross looking? Maybe I should find a different map.

The above map was generated using IP address information (well actually, it's a bit more complicated than that), but other maps exist. There's one that monitors online activity much like a heat map. Here's another that uses traffic rankings and statistics to lay out a map of websites.

You'll notice that there are hills and valleys that naturally arise within the maps that are based off online content. You've got your brightly lit areas, which represent places of high traffic. You can also find smaller, less-ventured corners of the Internet among these larger hubs.

But even these maps don't cover everything there is to see about the Internet. There are parts of the Internet that are impossible to map by conventional means. There are even parts of the Internet that arguably might not really be part of the proper "Internet" at all. Today, we're going to take a look at these hidden areas of the network.

Monday, June 17, 2013


If you've been following the news lately, then you've likely heard about the NSA's substantial phone records collection. The leaker of this information, Edward Snowden, had been involved with government functions since 2007, and even allegedly had considered going public with the information back then.

Reading through Snowden's profile, one gets the image of a more introverted sort of person. A man in his late 20s, he's part of the generation of people who grew up around the Internet's rise to prominence. He's gone on record to say that he's spent a lot of time online during his adolescent years, being exposed to people with experiences completely foreign to his own.


One reporter wrote a piece bringing up the similarity between Snowden and Bradley Manning, the man behind the 2010 leaks of classified information to Wikileaks. Manning was also very much a part of the growing Internet, having been seen as a computer whiz and maintaining a website devoted to game and music downloads. Snowden and Manning have very different backgrounds, but they were both people with an apparent appreciation for the early frontier-like days of the online. The reporter of the article makes an interesting comment about this common link:
"Maybe the type of person recruited was more committed to a technology that has gone hand in hand with a vaguely libertarian ethos than a commitment to national security, whatever the implications for privacy and freedom." - BBC
There's an interesting notion here that is worth exploring. Does the Internet promote libertarian ideology? Has a historically minor group been able to rise in influence by finding a mouthpiece on an open platform?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gamer Culture

Let's say you're a kid from the '90s (even though they weren't that great). It might be the case that you grew up on video game consoles and - if you were lucky - you knew other kids in your area that you could play video games with. If that doesn't fit a description of you, then maybe you knew somebody like this.

Well, uh, maybe not like this.

But with video game products being expensive and the game industry still being fairly young, video games in the '90s were still fairly underground, primarily seen as children's playthings. Since sitting inside all day pushing pixels around was antithetical to running around outside, video games got a very strong "nerdy" association with them, too.

Fast forward to today, and 67% of American households play video games, with the average age being above the age of 30 and with the gender split being about 60-40 male to female. Gaming is certainly a prevalent hobby in our culture today, and the Internet was a driving force behind that happening. Not only did the Internet allow for gaming to become increasingly sophisticated, it also allowed fans of gaming to discover one another and shape the concept of a 'gamer'.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fighting the Terrible Internet Comment

The Internet is a platform with minimal content regulation. This is a mixed blessing - the medium presents near-limitless creative opportunities, as well as the opportunity to squander all of them. It seems like for every bit of novel content made on the Internet, there are ten bits of content that are useless or even toxic.

what no go away all I wanted was a cooking recipe

Finding quality material among the noisy posts of the Internet is a problem that some people might take for granted. It is difficult to imagine a version of popular websites without some degree of "noise" in content. One might argue that the useless contributions are a necessary evil of the open platform.

I would argue that this is not the case. In fact, I assert that stronger top-down regulation could benefit the platform. Today, I want to explore three online website groups - YouTube comments, Reddit, and SomethingAwful - and how their management styles have dictated the quality of their content creation.