China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work [guardian.co.uk] – Chinese prisons used as gold farms (ie playing games to earn virtual gold to sale): “As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells. Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for “illegally petitioning” the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.”
Better Facebook – Browser Extension – Nifty browser extension that makes Facebook more useful – including tracking comments, far more detailed filtering options, unfriend tracking, themes and so forth. Works on most browsers except IE.
“Literally Unbelievable” – The extremely odd, disheartening and worrying Tumblr blog which captures people’s reactions to stories in The Onion without realising they’re parody and satire. All a little worrying.
The Tunnel – The Tunnel is an Australian horror film released in May 2011 which took the unique approach of officially and legally releasing the entire film exclusively as a Bittorrent file, while offering other ways to support the film (buy stills and various types of DVDs and extras), betting that working with p2p communities rather than against them would win fans and financial support in the long run. There’s a quick write-up in the SMH and some fascinating background: IMDb initially refused to let the film be listed since it wasn’t using any recognised channels for release (eventually IMDb bowed to fan pressure and it’s listed there now).
Thanks, YouTube community, for two BIG gifts on our sixth birthday! [YouTube Blog] – YouTube turns six with some amazing stats: “Today, more than 48 hours (two days worth) of video are uploaded to the site every minute, a 37% increase over the last six months and 100% over last year. […] We’re amazed that over this last weekend, you drove YouTube past the 3 billion views a day mark, a 50% increase over last year. That’s the equivalent of nearly half the world’s population watching a YouTube video each day, or every U.S. resident watching at least nine videos a day.”Last year YouTube celebrated their 5th birthday with a dedicated channel page and a 5-year YouTube timeline which are still useful, too.
Tories 'distressed' Facebook blew MI6 cover [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – "Opposition politicians in Britain have raised concerns about security after a newspaper revealed that personal information about the newly-appointed head of Foreign Intelligence Service MI6 had been posted on Facebook. Sir John Sawers' wife's Facebook page had no privacy protection, allowing anyone to see photos of him playing frisbee on a beach or posing dressed as Santa. Also exposed was information about the couple's children, their flat and high profile-friendships." (Could their be a more timely reminder about the importance of using privacy settings carefully, even with Facebook's immensely confusing privacy controls?)
Twitter your Flickr [Flickr Blog] – You can now Twitter your Flickr pictures with one click. Really, is there anything you can't put in your Twitterstream these days?
China cracks down on virtual cash [BBC NEWS | Technology] – "Cash earned in games in China can no longer be spent on real world goods. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce policy aims to limit the impact of game currencies on real-world markets. In the future, any cash earned by Chinese gamers can only be spent to acquire items or equipment in that particular game. The move is widely seen as a crackdown on so-called "gold farming" in which players amass virtual money and then sell it to other players for real cash."
Links for February 2nd 2009 through February 4th 2009:
How Natalie became Australia’s queen of YouTube [The Age] – “From her parents’ home in western Sydney, Natalie Tran, Australia’s queen of YouTube, has proven time and again that titillation is not a prerequisite to internet fame. With more than 150,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, Tran, 22, is easily the most subscribed YouTube user in Australia, while globally she ranks 37th. The 118 videos she’s created over two years have amassed 64 million views, making her also the most viewed Australian YouTube user of all time – more popular on the site than even AC/DC, whose videos have attracted 53 million views. But while some female web stars such as Obama Girl have used their sexuality to amass scores of drooling fanboys, Tran has eschewed titillation in favour of comedic skits about her everyday life.” (She’s very funny and has impressive production values for this sort of talking-from-my-bedroom cam style.)
MySpace purges 90,000 sex offenders [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – “MySpace has identified and barred some 90,000 registered sex offenders from using the site over the last two years, the online networking site revealed to a US investigative task force on Tuesday. The “shocking” number was 40,000 more than MySpace had previously acknowledged, according to Connecticut Attorney-General Richard Blumenthal, a co-chairman of the task force of state attorneys-general looking into sex offenders’ use of social networking. MySpace disclosed the figures to the task force in response to a subpoena. “This shocking revelation, resulting from our subpoena, provides compelling proof that social networking sites remain rife with sexual predators,” Mr Blumenthal said in a statement.” (Blumenthal sees this figure as evidence that MySpace should only allow “real” identities and use age-verification; I see this as evidence that we should be educating young people from an early age about how to deal with unwanted attention, predators and so forth, whatever the medium!)
Virtual gold broker “sells” for $10 million [Boing Boing] – Cory Doctorow: “My MMO Inc., has purchased MyMMOShop.com for $10,000,000 — MyMMOShop being a company that buys and sells virtual gold, prestige items, and other virtual wealth. My MMO is a privately held company, so it’s impossible to say whether 10 million actual dollars left one bank account and entered another (as opposed to a stock swap or other “sale”), but this is still pretty whacky news. I’m working on a novel about gold farming and I spent most of the last year talking to farmers, brokers, players, academics, game-runners, moderators and others who follow the field, and I’ve concluded that it’s possibly the weirdest grey market in the world.”
Interesting links for August 21st 2008 through August 22nd 2008:
Monkey Magic – Karen Lury / University of Glasgow [Flow TV, 8.06] – Playful and engaging reading of the BBC Monkey-style BBC Opening for the Olympic Games: “A playful, irreverent choice then: a trailer that reverses a mythic journey (from West to East) and which pays overt homage to a cult TV series that was never – in any coherent sense – an ‘authentic’ reflection or interpretation of Chinese culture or mythology. … The animation itself reproduces certain static poses and a colour scheme that may have been inspired by Chinese illustration and Japanese Manga; but for Hewlett fans, this is recognisably a Hewlett world – a world that is both menacing and cute (and where ‘cute’ is revealingly close to its roots in the freakish world of the side-show). It is funny and slightly unsettling as Pigsy smirks provocatively or when Monkey opens his mouth to reveal his dirty and surprisingly sharp teeth.”
Digital futures report: the internet in Australia [CCI] – “This report provides an overview of our work, presenting results for each of the questions asked. We will also be publishing work that examines relationships between our key variables exploring, for example, differences between users with broadband access at home and those on dial-up connections and the differences that age, gender and education levels make to people’s use and experience of the internet. Analysis we have already conducted shows that broadband does make a substantial difference to peoples’ use of the internet. The internet is more highly valued by those with broadband connections and they use the internet for longer and for a greater variety of purposes. Younger people have been quick to integrate the internet into their lives, they use the internet more and particularly for entertainment.” [Full Report PDF]
Few lives left for Second Life [The Age] – “Separately, figures released by the virtual world’s creator Linden Lab in April show there are only 12,245 active Australian Second Life users, down from highs of 16,000 towards the end of last year. … Australians appear to have lost interest in Second Life and the users still there appear to be shying away from the big corporate brands. Kim MacKenzie, a PhD student at the Queensland University of Technology, centred her honours year thesis around the business applications of Second Life. She studied the Second Life bases of 20 international brands over three months last year, including Dell, Toyota, Coca-Cola, BMW, AOL and Vodafone. “They were like ghost towns,” said MacKenzie, adding that many of the users she saw on the company islands appeared to be staff members.” (A significant rebuttal of the information and argument in this article can be found at Personalize Media.
For YouTube videos, a ‘fair use’ boost [News.com] – “Copyright owners, such as NBC Universal, Warner Bros., and Viacom, were put on notice Wednesday when U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that they must not order video be removed from Web sites indiscriminately. Before taking action against a clip, copyright owners, must form a “good-faith belief ” that a video is infringing, according to Corynne McSherry, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “
Poor earning virtual gaming gold [BBC NEWS | Technology] – “Nearly half a million people are employed in developing countries earning virtual goods in online games to sell to players, a study has found. Research by Manchester University shows that the practice, known as gold-farming, is growing rapidly. Researchers say the industry, which is largely based in China, currently employs about 400,000 young people who earn £80 per month on average.” (Good article, but really, “playbourers”?)
Up, Up, and Away? Separating Fact from Fiction in the Comic Book Business [Alisa Perren / Georgia State University – Flow TV 8.06] – A timely look at the relationship between comic book sales and the blockbuster movies they’ve been driving so successfully this year: “Myth #1: Comic-Con is all about comics. From its inception in 1970 well into the 1990s, this was largely the case. However, in recent years, the Hollywood studios increasingly have focused their energies on using the annual event as a means of promoting upcoming films and television programs. … Myth #2: Since movies based on comics are all the rage, comic books must be selling like crazy.”
iTunes blocked in China after protest stunt [WA Today] – “Access to Apple’s online iTunes Store has been blocked in China after it emerged that Olympic athletes have been downloading and possibly listening to a pro-Tibetan music album in a subtle act of protest against China’s rule over the province. The album, called Songs for Tibet, was produced by an a group called The Art of Peace Foundation, and features 20 tracks from well-known singers and songwriters including Sting, Moby, Suzanne Vega and Alanis Morissette. It was released as a download on the iTunes Store on August 5 – three days before the start of the Olympics – with the physical CD launched on Tuesday this week. The Foundation provided free downloads of the album to Olympic athletes, urging them to play the songs on their iPods during the Games as a show of support.”
Interesting links for August 5th 2008 through August 6th 2008:
Thailand bans Grand Theft Auto IV [BBC] – “Copies of Grand Theft Auto IV have been pulled in Thailand after a teenager confessed to murdering a taxi driver. The 18-year-old high school student is accused of stabbing the cab driver to death by trying to copy a scene from the game. The biggest video game publisher in the south-east Asian country, New Era Interactive Media, has told retailers to stop selling GTA IV. “
Trees die as first iPhone bills released [SMH] – Australian “Environmentalists have railed against mobile carriers for sending iPhone bills to customers that, depending on the plan, could contain more than 100 pages of non-recycled paper. The high page count stems from Optus and Telstra unnecessarily itemising each individual piece of web data downloaded using the phone, instead of having a single usage figure for each day.”
When Google Owns You [chrisbrogan.com] – A cautionary tale about Google, power and losing your life in the cloud: “Nick Saber isn’t happy now. Monday afternoon, after lunch, Nick came back from lunch to find out that he couldn’t get into his Gmail account. Further, he couldn’t get into anything that Google made (beside search) where his account credentials once worked. When attempting to log in, Nick got a single line message: Sorry, your account has been disabled. [?] That’s it. ” (After much drama, Nick’s account was eventually restored after he managed to accurately complete this insane form.)
Current Analysis and Future Research Agenda on “Gold Farming”: Real-World Production in Developing Countries for the Virtual Economies of Online Games [ Development Informatics Working Paper No. 32 ] – Abstract: “…a new form of employment has emerged in developing countries. It employs hundreds of thousands of people and earns hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Yet it has been almost invisible to both the academic and development communities. It is the phenomenon of “gold farming”: the production of virtual goods and services for players of online games. China is the employment epicentre but the sub-sector has spread to other Asian nations and will spread further as online games-playing grows. It is the first example of a likely future development trend in online employment. It is also one of a few emerging examples in developing countries of “liminal ICT work”; jobs associated with digital technologies that are around or just below the threshold of what is deemed socially-acceptable and/or formally-legal. This paper reviews what we know so far about gold farming, seeking to provide the first systematic analysis of the sub-sector. …”