Pandora is an internet radio station that offers automated music recommendation. You can type in a song or artist that you like and Pandora will generate a continuous playlist for you. During a song, you can click whether or not you like it. If you like that song, Pandora will play more songs that are similar in style. If you do not like that song, then Pandora will not pick that type of songs. It was brilliant. Everybody at my work listened to Pandora. You can also listen to Pandora on your smartphone. Pandora relies on ads and the ad-free subscriptions for its revenue.
The downside? You can only skip a certain number of songs per hour and playback is not allowed. The most important downside of Pandora is that it only available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. I missed Pandora a lot when I moved away and Pandora was no longer available. But then, along came Spotify.
Spotify is a commercial music streaming service. You can download the player and listen to the music on your computer, tablet and smartphone and it is free, or, at least, in the Netherlands. On Spotify, you can search for your favorite songs and artists and listen to the whole album or create your own playlist. The coolest thing is that it also offers the exact same service as Pandora, except on Spotify you can do much more. Since I have Spotify, I stop using iTunes on my computer. The annoying thing about Spotify is that if you use the free version, you have audio ads and the visual ads on the player but you can pay a premium package to have the ad-free version. Spotify is available in Europe, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and a few countries in Asia and South America. It also looks like Spotify plans to expand its service to many more countries.
Continue reading Pandora vs Spotify
Craigslist is an internet-based platform where people can sell their personal stuff. Not only that, but you can also share news, post a photo of your lost pet, look for a partner/a house/a job, find a ride to somewhere, advertise the service you offer or advertise that you need one, participate on a discussion board and much more. If you go to the Craigslist website, you will see that it keep things very simple. There are no ads on the website. It earns revenue by charging for job classifies in some cities. Craigslist encourages that users deal locally to prevent scams and frauds.
Nevertheless, we still hear about the horrifying stories happened via this platform. In October 2007, Micheal John Anderson killed a woman who answered his ad for a baby sitter on Craigslist. This was the first murder case involving Craigslist since it was found in 1995. In April 2009, Philip Markoff was charged with first-degree murder of a masseuse who advertised her service on Craigslist. In June of 2011, a woman bought a car on Craigslist for her daughter. After the money was transferred, she found out that the deal was a scam. The woman lost $2,900. In the same month, a woman in California who worked as a housekeeper was raped by a man. They came in contact through Craigslist. Another example of Craigslist-related crime: a man agreed to buy a cellphone from someone and when they met up, the man was robbed at gunpoint.
Continue reading The Craigslist Incidences
Online communities are platforms where like-minded can converse with each other and share things. We are undoubtedly all part of one or more of these platforms, take for example Facebook, YouTube or even this blog you are reading right now! Usually online communities form around a certain hobby or fanpage where you can find fellow fans and get in contact with each other. One of these platforms was formed in 1998 among fans of the then running tv show The X-Files, named the X-Filesaholics. This platform shows that sometimes, boundaries between real life and the virtual world can become extremely vague, and that people online can participate in situations that even in real life are not considered pleasant.
More precisely, I am talking about the concept of hazing: something that is still very alive in student fraternities in the Netherlands. Hazing a practice meant to show the freshmen, or newbies, that there is a set hierarchy within the fraternity and that they should obey those with more power. This includes doing chores, public embarassment and often verbal abuse. Not very fun now is it?
So how does an online platform for X-Files fans relate to this? An extended study (Honeycutt, 2006) of the community shows how the users of this site are using hazing techniques to maintain boundaries and excert power onto newcomers of the platform to maintain the inequality inherent between dominant and subordinate groups.On the message board, also referred to as “Mulders Apartment”, many things are discussed unrelated to the X-Files whatsoever. Newcomers are expected to go through an intitiation ritual, part of which is the so called “toothbrush/ice block welcoming ritual”. According to this ritual newcomers are assigned a room inside the apartment that they then need to scrub using only a toothbrush.
Continue reading Hazing with the X-Files fans
We all heard about Crowdsourcing, the popular business practice fostering innovation. We know it is useful for ideating products that satisfy unmatched needs, or to vote for existing business ideas. Surprisingly it was applied to bimolecular design. Even more interestingly, participants were not scientists, but just game players.
Let’s make it clearer. Crowdsourcing is defined as “ a type of participative online activity in which an individual, an institution, a non-profit organization, or company proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task” (1). What this definition says is that internal expertise can be triggered by the help of outside knowledge, more diverse even if less skilled. And maybe sometimes, outside brains can see the bigger picture better than experts. That’s what happened with Foldit.
One day David Baker, a leading protein scientist of the Washington University, thought that crowdsourcing could have helped him in his struggle with Protein Engineering. The understanding of proteins’ structures is of paramount importance for science, due to the vital tasks they perform: they facilitate biochemical reactions, they copy DNA, they help to recognize viruses. What is also important is to create new proteins, non existing in nature. By creating new sequences of amino-acids with functions needed yet still unmatched in nature, researchers could even help fighting HIV through vaccines.
However, this is not an easy task. That’s the where the idea of Baker comes from.
Continue reading Science needs your help!