Beautiful Art, Created With Code

Video available at: http://vimeo.com/21932876.

Over the past 10 years, Processing has become the programming language of choice for anyone making technology art, whether it’s at NYU’s ITP program or the more adventurous corners of the New York Times. We talked with Casey Reas — half of the Processing team and a reknowned computer artist in his own right — about his favorite UI tricks and the upcoming release of Processing 2.0.

How much work do you and Ben Fry do to maintain Processing?

We’re working on it more or less every day. Frequently we go full-time on it for a stage too. The good news is, the community is largely running itself these days. After years of putting a lot of energy and effort into that, we have a small core group of people who are doing a great job moderating the forum and their work’s very essential. What Ben and I are doing continually still is working with key members of the community for developing out different parts of the software as well as doing the core development. Ben has always been the core software architect for the project, so all the code passes through him, even when it’s contributed code.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve seen Processing used for recently?

Some of the things that are more interesting to me are aspects that involve the physical environment as well, so using sensing and using motors to both affect what software is doing or using software to drive actuation or movement in the world. The space in between the physical world and software is a really exciting place to explore. And that’s become possible through things like Arduino and the ease of use in working with electronics, as well as easier software interfaces for speaking back and forth.

What kind of projects are working in that space?

Well, one thing I saw in the Processing exhibition…it’s not a big idea but I think it points to the potential. Someone has their studio in a very public window, so in order to give themselves some privacy, they had this small curtain that they would actually move left and right controlled by a motor across the window. So if somebody walked across the window, the curtain would literally follow them across the window to give [the artist] constant privacy. It’s a more playful way of thinking about it than just putting up a big curtain.

Video available at: http://vimeo.com/22955812.

Process works by Casey Reas, 2004-2010

How long has a project like that been possible?

In labs people have been experimenting with computer vision for a long time, like being able to track a body. We can go back almost 20 years and find examples of that at the MIT video lab, designing interfaces that track someone’s arm or hand. It’s really only with the release of the Sony iToy where that became something that was more public. And now with the Kinect, it’s become massively public. So that’s an example of the technology changing. And then the tools around them have changed, so that instead of needing a Computer Science degree to do a prototype that has face detection, now with Processing and with other tools you can use an existing codebase to do that in a few weeks.

Why do you think we’ve seen these tools pop up in the last decade, when personal computers have been around for much longer?

There’s a number of reasons. One is that people who grew up using personal computers, people who grew up in the 1970s and the 1980s, are now of the age where they are acting and practicing artists and designers and they have this desire to expore these areas of interest and make these tools. And then you also have the internet, which i think has been extremely important for shipping around code and really allowing these projects to grow and people to communicate. And then we have things like Source Forge and Google Code and GitHub as ways that allow people to really easily collaborate, share code and work across distances. So I think these three things together have fed into this current moment of experimentation.

Via v2.nl

Casey Reas, gaffta.org

What’s in store for processing 2.0?

It will be much faster at working with HD video. There’s also these 3D graphics features that were created by Andres Colubri and are now being added into the core of Processing. The other thing for Processing 2.0 is this idea of modes, so within the same environment you can work with different programming languages and export to different platforms like Javascript or Android.

Do you have any plans for iOS development tools?

We’re not going to be doing that personally, but we really encourage other people to explore it. The nature of Processing is very open source. It’s all about access. And the way that iOS is very locked down and access is limited doesn’t encourage us to put work into developing for it.

When is the 2.0 release going to be ready?

[Laughs] We’ve learned not to talk about that.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/tommywilhelm/beautiful-art-created-with-code

How Google And Bing Maps Control What You Can See

In early February, Wired published a satellite photo of a desert structure in southern Saudi Arabia. The image, screencapped from Bing Maps, corresponded with a report that the CIA had built secret drone bases in the region. The site was available on any computer with a web browser, but appeared to be legit — Bing Maps, which is owned by Microsoft, had effectively outed a closely guarded intelligence secret.

If you went to the same location in Google Maps, however, you’d find nothing but desert.

A few months before, Bing Maps (as well as Apple Maps) had revealed a temporary replica of the compound in which Bin Laden was killed. The training facility was located thousands of miles away from the Arabian Peninsula, in North Carolina, but didn’t show up on Google Maps either.

In both cases, Google and Microsoft were using imagery collected by the same satellites. Yet one reflected the reality on the ground, and the other didn’t.

“Does anyone know,” asked writer Adrian Chen shortly after the Wired post went up, “why Bing maps often shows sensitive satellite images censored by Google?”

It’s a good question, but one we may never get a clear answer to — Microsoft, in fact, admits that it censors map data while Google vehemently — though narrowly — denies it.

But it’s a question that also gets at a bigger problem with how digital maps get made, and who controls what makes it into your web browser. Maps censorship, it turns out, is very real — just not in the ways you think.

***

Asked directly if Microsoft censors satellite images, a spokesperson declined to offer specifics: “Microsoft follows a complex process for blurring that aligns with legal requirements for various countries,” a spokesperson tells BuzzFeed. “Based on where, when, and how we acquire imagery the blurring procedure occurs at different points in our production pipelines. Due to various agreements with governments, Microsoft cannot comment on the specifics of blurring processes, algorithms, or procedures.”

The spokesperson appeared to be referring to streetside imagery — that is, imagery collected on the ground, that might capture identifying information such as faces or license plates. But she clarified: “Yes, the [policy] applies to satellite imagery as well.”

Google, on the other hand, officially denies that it censors map data, telling BuzzFeed, “in occasional instances in which we receive government requests to blur portions of our imagery, we are always open to discussing those requests with public agencies and local officials. To date, none of these conversations has resulted in our blurring any imagery.”

But there’s a serious caveat: “Google Earth is built from a broad range of imagery providers, including public, government, commercial and private sector sources — some of which may blur images before they supply it to us.”

Google owns the rights to what may be the most comprehensive and wide-ranging database of the Earth’s surface ever recorded, but the company doesn’t own a single satellite. To build its maps, Google licenses imagery from a handful of commercial satellite operators, the largest of which is Longmont, Colorado’s DigitalGlobe. DigitalGlobe currently operates four satellites, with a fifth coming online next year, and submits new imagery to Google on a frequent basis; Bing, too, re-ups its data almost constantly, though its contract specifics and update demands are likely different from Google’s, and unknown to its competitor .

Stefan Geens, technologist and longtime Google Earth expert, has been writing about commercial satellite imagery at his site, OgleEarth, for over five years. It’s these differing contracts, he suspects, that account for Google’s exclusion of the the drone base in Saudi Arabia.

It’s most probably, he says, that “they have different update schedules, and Microsoft got the data a little bit earlier.”

“It will be interesting to see if Google Earth updates in the next few weeks,” he notes. Using the Google Mapmaker project, a Saudi Arabian citizen has already updated Google Maps’ metadata to include an official placename for the base:

Screenshot snapped by Stefan Geens

Yet there is a second, far more intriguing possibility — to Google, rather than blurring imagery of a secret base at the behest of the U.S. or Saudi Arabian government, simply declined to update it. The base, which is in the middle of the desert, is just a few kilometers outside of a high resolution zone.

This, says Geens, is not a smoking gun. But it wouldn’t be unprecedented. One of the few concrete examples of censorship-by-exclusion committed by Google was documented in 2007, when Google rolled back imagery in Basra, Iraq, after reports that insurgents had used it to attack British troops. Numerous tiles were rolled back to 2002-era, pre-war imagery, as documented extensively here.

At the time, a Google spokesperson was less defensive: “We have opened channels with the military in Iraq but we are not prepared to discuss what we have discussed with them. But we do listen and we are sensitive to requests.”

Since then, evidence of an unofficial policy at Google has slowly mounted: “Ever since [Basra],” says Geens, “it’s very difficult to find recent satellite imagery in Afghanistan and Iraq.” This problem has been echoed elsewhere on multiple occasions.

One strangely poetic post on Google’s support forums, dated 2011, reads “Google please update Iraq’s Satellite images. They are 7 years old and a lot has changed.”

***

There are clear, well-documented cases censorship in both Google and Bing’s maps. For example, take this royal palace in Amsterdam:

The line between electing to use maps that come pre-censored and censoring maps yourself is, shall we say, a blurry one. Google’s choice to use imagery from UK-based GeoInformation Group, which in turn gets its imagery from the Netherlands’ TerraImaging, nets it sharper imagery of Amsterdam than other sources could provide. In fact, much of what Google Maps and Bing users see at higher zoom levels isn’t actually satellite imagery but aerial imagery. Governments might not be able to control foreign satellites in space, but they can control planes in their airspace.

This desire for higher-res imagery brings with it censorship: government buildings, and buildings owned by the royal family, are blurred from view — a request fulfilled by TerraImaging before Google even had the option to license its imagery. And one that Google can maintain a distance from. (Update: It’s worth noting that users can overlay imagery from different sources, some uncensored, in the Google Earth app. But Google Maps, the far more popular and location-dependent web interface, only serves the censored imagery.)

Observers have made a hobby of collecting examples of blurred or obscured imagery in Google Earth. International examples abound, and most can be ascribed to domestic imagery suppliers bending to requests by their own governments. Most of the examples in the U.S., however, are dubious. “There’s a non-conspiratorial explanation for almost every one of those,” says Geens — usually poor or outdated imagery or a stitching error. A majority of the domestic locations in this list of places “You’re Not Allowed To See” in Google maps, written in early 2012, are already visible through updated imagery.

But there have been real examples — the vice president’s home, for example, was censored for a number of years. This was the result of direct control by the government over the way map imagery was collected.

According to the Washington Post, the Secret Service asked for final sign-off on imagery taken during a Geological Survey flyover of Washington D.C. in 2005. As soon as the plane landed, sensitive images would be deleted or edited. At the time, a USGS spokesperson said, “When you think about it from a military perspective or a terrorist perspective, you don’t want to put that information out there.”

The results were apparent in Google Maps, earlier versions of which depended heavily on imagery provided by the Geological Survey. D.C. in particular was a patchwork. (A USGS spokeperson clarifies with regards to satellite imagery, which is lower-resolution but used by many major mapping services: “USGS does not revise or edit Landsat imagery nor is USGS satellite imagery (Landsat) subject to external review. This was the case even in the aftermath of 9/11.”)

In the early days of commercially available satellite imagery — the first commercial imaging satellite launched in 1999 — the National Imagery and Mapping Agency purchased exclusive rights to all imagery for two months in the lead-up to the war in Afghanistan. The agreement, which was legal according to international space law, likely had little effect; at the time, satellite imagery was extremely expensive and there were no consumer-facing Google Maps-style service. (Keyhole, the CIA-funded startup that became Google Maps, wasn’t acquired by Google until 2004).

Today, commercial aerial and satellite imagery is both far more detailed and easier to obtain. As such, services such as Google are less dependent on the USGS — instead, their most important suppliers are large satellite-operating corporations such as DigitalGlobe. At least anecdotally, this has resulted in more clarity and less censorship — Google’s D.C. map is now much clearer than it was, and almost completely unobscured.

The Naval Observatory

But to say that the government has relinquished control over imagery would be incorrect. In a statement issued in 2007, in response to a request by a New York State Assemblyman to be able to obscure imagery, a la the Naval Observatory, Google noted that the government still has the ultimate say as to when and where commercially operated US satellites can gather imagery. “[W]e expect security concerns to be addressed primarily by the companies and governmental agencies that gather and distribute the images,” the company said. “The government has the power to limit the capturing of satellite images whenever appropriate.”

This is accurate: Joanna Gabrynowicz, editor of the Space Law Review, published a paper in 2010 outlining the government’s power to prevent the collection of satellite data:

[T]he government can prevent a licensed operator from acquiring or distributing data. This issue is addressed in a 2000 interagency Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Licensing of Private Remote Sensing Satellite Systems.

Normal commercial operations can be interrupted for national security or other national interests through a complex decision-making process called “shutter control,” which may require a final determination by the President.

(The aforementioned pre-Afghanistan-war example avoided formal shutter control by using “checkbook shutter control” — that is, purchasing exclusive rights to imagery rather than preventing its capture.)

Additionally, in 1997, before commercial satellite imagery was available, congress passed a law regarding the “Prohibition on collection and release of detailed satellite imagery relating to Israel,” which has been applied in such a way that includes disputed territories.

As an American company, DigitalGlobe is subject to specific US laws and, more broadly, shutter control. But the company’s relationship with the government is more than just regulatory: while it provides high resolution imagery to commercial clients, its highest resolution imagery, which will come from the forthcoming WorldView-3 satellite, will be supplied exclusively to the US government. Legally, however, commercial satellite providers cannot sell imagery with higher than .5 meter resolution (that’s .5 meters per pixel), so the WorldView-3 isn’t denying consumers something they would otherwise be able to get.

But the contract has a secondary effect: the government reportedly accounts for a majority of DigitalGlobe’s business — more than all its consumer mapping clients combined. This leaves the company vulnerable to a potentially awkward situation. If it hasn’t already, it may one day face a request for censorship not just from the government of the country it operates in, but its most important client, too.

(A spokesperson for DigitalGlobe suggested the company would respond to a BuzzFeed request for comment on whether it blurs or censors images, but as of publication time only offered the following: “We’ve been attempting to secure an answer for this specific question, but have not been able to.”)

***

To focus on the imagery that Google and Microsoft collect, however, would be to miss the most effective form of censorship in digital mapping. What you can see in a given mapping service depends much more on where you are than what you’re looking at — in South Korea, for example, Google Maps employs imagery from high-resolution suppliers but doesn’t allow users to zoom in very far. The limit keeps Google from running afoul of South Korea’s rules about displaying satellite imagery of military installations. But it also applies to the entire map, even places where said rules don’t apply. Google avoids having to admit censorship, the theory goes, while in fact committing it. (South Korean alternatives choose to blur borders and military installations rather than reducing their zoom levels overall. Users can also access the U.S. version of Google Maps, which does not limit zoom.)

Visitors from China get high resolution imagery in Google Maps but can’t see any user-submitted content, such as place names or reviews. “It’s only official,” says Geens. “They acquiesce to the letter of the law, and tell people, maybe with a nudge and wink, to check out [U.S.] Google Maps.”

What’s most remarkable about these mapping services is the lack of transparency in how they work, who regulates them, and how the maps are built. Every major mapping service draws from many sources for its imagery and metadata, but their processes for combining the information are proprietary and guarded — the public gets statements along the lines of the one provided by Google, whose spokeperson told BuzzFeed: “We strive to publish the most useful imagery possible, and take into account many factors when determining which imagery is optimal, such as its date, resolution and clarity. If the updates we receive from data providers improve the overall imagery of an area, we may elect to publish the imagery even if the provider has blurred certain portions.”

This makes straight omission — the purest form of censorship — very hard to identify. And even if it is identified, its causes are even harder to suss out.

“The data set that Google owns became some kind of de facto gold standard,” says Geens. It is, to an extent never seen in human history, the map of record — not just of relative locations on the Earth’s surface, but of geopolitical reality. To casual users, these maps give an impression of completeness and infallibly — they appear on your screen with an instantaneousness and ease that belies their complexity, and conceals a long and complex information supply chain.

The reality of digital mapping is less comforting: the tools that provide us with unprecedented transparency are controlled in deeply opaque ways.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/how-google-and-bing-maps-control-the-world

This Font Is Impossible

The Penrose Triangle is what’s known as an “impossible object.” You’ve probably seen some of these before (Penrose is second from left):

Now, designer Martzi Hegedűs has designed a typeface in which every character is an impossible object. It’s beautiful, but it’ll give you a headache in 20 seconds flat. Via JeannieJeanni:

The font’s special characters are like aneurysm delivery mechanisms.

Pretty good way to spice up the PTA bulletin, I think.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/this-font-is-impossible

Instagram Buries Ad Announcement Amid Twitter IPO News

This afternoon Instagram formally announced its move to bring ads to the network, in the form of high-quality photos and videos (Burberry’s slow-mo ads were only the beginning!) from brands that are already on Instagram.

The rollout, according to Instagram, will be slow at first:

We have big ideas for the future, and part of making them happen is building Instagram into a sustainable business. In the next couple months, you may begin seeing an occasional ad in your Instagram feed if you’re in the United States. Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow. We’ll focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community.

The blog post aims to soften the blow of the announcement by framing the move as the next step for “Instagram as a Growing Business.” Yet the most clever bit of the announcement seems to be in the timing, as it comes possibly only minutes before Twitter releases its S-1 IPO filing to the hordes of ravenous tech, media, and finance journalists.

While the news dump is a tried-and-true tactic, it’s still notable that the announcement — which will most likely ruffle the feathers of its ad-weary users, and attract ample media speculation and Facebook comparisons — precedes what could be the biggest tech information dump in well over a year.

Just for good measure, here’s a very small sampling of the quick comment reactions from Instagram’s blog post.

Update: It’s working! Twitter publicly filed its S-1 just after 5 p.m. ET, and, as you might imagine, nobody is talking about Instagram’s new ad push.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/instagram-buries-ad-announcement-amid-twitter-ipo-news

25 Suggestions For How To Improve Tumblr From Tumblr Users

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on at Tumblr…

Is this satire or a real life tumblr change?

Ok, it’s satire. But admit it, you had to think about it.

And this news about Yahoo acquiring Tumblr has everyone nervous

But there are some things Yahoo can do to improve Tumblr if they take some time to listen to the community.

2. A re-evaluation of what’s actually used might be useful.

3. Fix whatever is going on with audio.

4. A post-limit warning would be cool.

5. A BETTER SEARCH FUNCTION. Plus some Febreeze.

6. A way to get back to where you last were on your dash.

“Infinite scroll + page number.

I often find myself scrolling when all of a sudden I accidentally hit refresh or my browser freezes (with all those posts to reblog in hundreds of tabs). It’d be nice to hit backspace (or the back button) and land on the page I was last on (starting at that page again).”

7. A serious look at the block feature.

8. Themes you can actually navigate might be nice.

10. A way to avoid NSFW things popping up on your dash at the least opportune times.

“Truly safe mode when using Tumblr dashboard. Don’t miss out on all the NSFW blogs’ posts. Customize what time you want safe mode to be enabled.”

11. Letting people know about random features that already exist.

12. A messaging system where you can actually see what you sent someone.

13. Relatedly, being able to search by media

14. Improving the creepy faux smile thing Tumblr does as they deliver bad news…

Seriously, Tumblr. It’s “incredibly” creepy.

15. A way to order your followers.

16. An “Omni post” – Create photo/video/audio posts with titles all in one tool rather than 7 different tools.

17. Create photosets using URLs as well as uploads.

18. Pause/resume your entire queue with one click.

19. Sharing to specific audiences.

“Exclusivity. Make posts for everyone, your followers, people you follow, both or just yourself.”

20. In addition to all these very important things, an “I feel your pain” button would be awesome.

21. Unnecessary letters should be looked at.

22. Tumblr should also be more vigilant about the hate that’s in the Doritos tag

23. A reconfiguration of the QWERTY keyboard for optimized derping.

24. Tumblr not passive aggressively dismissing you even though all you do is love it.

25. And most importantly: an optimal selfie posting time detector.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/25-suggestions-on-how-to-improve-tumblr-from-tumblr-users

The New Gmail And The Return Of Inbox Zero

At some point, my inbox ceased to be a mailbox and became a feed.

I’m not sure when it happened, exactly, but I know this: Five years ago, I could keep up with my inbox, and I read everything in it that wasn’t spam. Every message was dealt with. Today, my inbox is sitting at 6,785 unread messages. I’m behind, sure, but not 6,785 messages behind — most of those emails aren’t really emails, but ambient information. They’re updates from Twitter and Facebook, newsletters, and pitches mailed to multiple people. Messages that I need to see but don’t really need to read.

Another way to frame this is that a new type of information had begun to crowd my inbox: feeds. Feeds from companies, from services, and even from people. This, despite the new Gmail’s four categories, is the division that Google is trying to address. Feeds killed Inbox Zero as we knew it.

The new Gmail will roll out over the next few weeks, and it separates feeds and emails in an explicit way. Previous attempts to deal with this issue, such as Gmail’s Priority Inbox, were helpful but interfered with the feed messages a bit too much; the new Gmail inbox demotes feed messages without breaking up their flow.

It also suggests the possibility of the return of Inbox Zero — at least, for the “Primary” tab. Those, presumably, are just the emails that need to be dealt with, a sort of pre-2007 version of the inbox. And this quote from Google’s announcement is promising:

In the Gmail for Android 4.0+ and Gmail for iPhone and iPad apps, you’ll see your Primary mail when you open the app and you can easily navigate to the other tabs.

In my ideal world, this default setting would extend to the notification systems of both Android and iPhone. The small red “Unread” indicator on my iPhone, or the messages in my Android tray, would only tell me about my Primary inbox.

After all, I rarely actually read messages sent to my inbox by Twitter — scan in list view, more like — so why should they be counted against me?

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/the-new-gmail-and-the-return-of-inbox-zero

Dutch Artists Celebrate George Orwell’s Birthday By Putting Party Hats On Surveillance Cameras

1. On Tuesday, surveillance cameras in the center of the city of Utrecht were decorated with colorful party hats to celebrate the 110th birthday of George Orwell, Dutch art duo Front404 explained on their website.

3. “George Orwell is best known for his book ‘1984’, in which he describes a dystopian future society where the populace is constantly watched by the surveillance state of Big Brother.”

5. “By putting these happy party hats on the surveillance cameras we don’t just celebrate Orwell’s birthday.”

7. “By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays.”

8. “And [how] the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality.”

Front404 is the collaborative work of artists Thomas voor ‘t Hekke and Bas van Oerle. You can see the rest of these images on the artists’ webpage or on the Front404 Facebook page.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/dutch-artists-celebrate-george-orwells-birthday-by-adorning

The Two Types Of Social Network

Robert Galbraith / Reuters

There are more social networks than ever, and more people using them. The sheer variety in social networking, though, has left us with an increasingly narrow definition of what a social network is. Perhaps the only one that applies to all of them, from Twitter to Facebook to Snapchat, is this: a social network is a communications service based on your identity.

It follows, then, that a social network’s ability to affect your identity should be considered its most important trait — and that therefore there are two types of social network:

1) Those that simulate social mobility
2) Those that don’t

Mobility provides a handy lens through which to judge the networks we use every day — and to understand why we like, or don’t like, using them. It also brings them into one of the internet’s longest running and most important conversations, from which they’ve been oddly absent: is the internet a place for opportunity, or a place for reproduction of existing social orders?

Another way to describe this distinction might be to say that some social networks are aspirational, while some replicate what already exists in your life. Some give you a way to become something your aren’t, or, more accurately, to alter how people see you, while others, over time, insist on creating a more accurate portrait of who you are.

Twitter is one of the largest, and purest, aspirational social networks. This is built into the site’s “Follow”-centric vocabulary. Twitter is a place where you have followers, not friends; a place where following fewer people than follow you is a sign of status; a place where the verification of your real identity is really an acknowledgment that you’ve become something other than yourself — something better, in Twitter’s abstracted terms. Fleeting interaction with celebrities and the powerful fuels users’ hopes, giving them the sense, at least, of a level playing field. And while social mobility on Twitter may be overemphasized (it’s telling that it’s usually defined in terms of celebrity), its algorithms — the closest thing it has to a societal framework — aren’t much of a mystery. Famous people in real life are famous on Twitter. You see tweets from people you follow, and people they want to introduce you to. Regular people who post and share tweets people like accrue Twitter fame.

Facebook, the first major social network to require real identities, sits at the other end of the spectrum. If Twitter is the place you go to remake yourself (albeit in a way that very likely will be contained entirely within Twitter), Facebook is the place that won’t stop reminding you of who you really are (or were). In a post this week, Cliff Watson wrote of his experience on Facebook:

What is Facebook to most people over the age of 25? It’s a never-ending class reunion mixed with an eternal late-night dorm room gossip session mixed with a nightly check-in on what coworkers are doing after leaving the office. In other words, it’s a place where you go to keep tabs on your friends and acquaintances.

You know what kids call that? School.

Facebook, to users who joined years ago, can even feel like an engine of downward mobility — at best, visiting is a metaphorical trip home to “the block,” where you try to find ways of explaining what your life is like, how it’s changed, and how it’s gotten better, or how it’s gotten worse, without sounding like a jerk, or pathetic, or like you’re talking too much about yourself. It’s appropriate that, in the year since going public, Facebook has been reminded repeatedly by its new context — the public market — of its own inescapable identity as an ad platform. Its recent experiments in self-expression have been fraught.

Facebook’s lack of mobility is sewn into the fabric of the site. Connections for users are symmetrical — a crude digital equivalent to establishing a relationship or an acquaintanceship in real life. If it feels like a popularity contest, it’s only in an antiquated sense; it encourages none of the self-as-a-minor-celebrity illusions that Twitter does.

But the overall effect, despite (or because of) its realism, can be grim. Facebook is a place where posts, not people, find mobility. If something you do gets noticed, you get little in the way of lasting benefit — it’s a place where users share content, and content doesn’t share back. Facebook is a place where brands, not users, can become famous. On Facebook, “followers” are for people who have them in real life.

The other large social networks fall into these categories, too. Tumblr, a space that values performance over all else, and which lets people be both successful and unrecognizable, is an aspirational network, a place where you’re encouraged to be who you want to be rather than who you are. Google Plus’s ultimate goal, like Facebook’s, is to progressively recreate your real-world identity online — it’s just starting with a different (private, and arguably therefore more relevant) set of data. LinkedIn is an aspirational service wrapped in realist mechanics. In a much more significant way than Twitter, it’s a place that promises to make you into someone else. When that doesn’t pan out, the mechanics overwhelm the experience. An impotent LinkedIn profile is the most depressing real estate on social media.

In the context of near-constant Facebook doomsaying, the future may seem to favor upwardly mobile networks. But in reality, it may favor neither. As Watson claims in his piece, the next generation of social networks — message-heavy services like Snapchat, Kik and Whatsapp — are more “social” and less “network” than what came before. They have no outwardly visible social structures and little in the way of profiles. Twitter brought texting to the public internet; these services are taking it back off.

While they don’t fit most pundits’ ideas of what a social network is, they fit our stripped-down, broad one: they are services based, in a simple way, on identity. Instead, though, they manifest users’ identities not as public profiles, but as private handles — a refreshing throwback that also happens to preclude most discussion of discrete mobililty (these services join in on real life more than they mirror it; they create hidden parallel channels rather than online simulacra).

They have less in common with Facebook and Twitter than they do with the social network I’ve used longer than any other: AIM.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/the-two-types-of-social-network

How To Get Alerted The Second “Arrested Development” Shows Up On Netflix

Netflix’s Arrested Development revival is scheduled for May 26th. Maybe the episodes will show up just after midnight. Maybe they’lll show up in the morning. Maybe they’ll show up at lunch. Nobody’s sure!

It won’t be hard to find out after it happens, and Netflix may release an expected time closer to the stream date. But AD fans Jonathan Gottfried and Michael Selvidge (the Callin’ Oates guy) have made a tool that will text you the moment the show hits Netflix’s servers.

3. Just text ANN to 619-EGG-VEAL (619-344-8325), and you’ll get this:

The creators, both of whom work for a phone/text app company called Twilio, assured BuzzFeed that the service will only send the one message — no spam or marketing. Calling the number does something, too, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/get-alerted-the-second-arrested-development-shows-up-on-netf

How Anybody Can Secretly Save Your Snapchat Videos Forever

The entire allure of Snapchat is that a photo or video sent through the service completely disappears after a few seconds; it’s even quickly deleted off of the company’s servers. And its ephemeral nature means it’s great for sending silly and unflattering images or videos of yourself that you’d otherwise never send. Or sexting. On the heels of Snapchat’s popularity, Facebook recently introduced a “Poke” app that functions almost identically.

But it turns out there’s a straightforward way to save videos sent with either service, breaking part of their promise: Both Snapchat and Poke locally store copies of videos sent to users, which are easily accessible with a free iPhone file browser. Here’s how it works:

Receive a video in Snapchat or Poke. Don’t open it!

Just tap to load it. Again, don’t open it.

Plug your iPhone into your computer, and open up an iPhone file browser like iFunBox.

Navigate to the Snapchat folder. Open up the folder called “tmp.” For Facebook’s Poke, videos are stored a little deeper in the app’s files, in library/caches/fbstore/mediacard. Copy the videos to your computer. Critically, Snapchat’s videos remain in this folder even after they’re viewed; Poke videos appear to be deleted as soon as they’re viewed. Photos don’t show up, at least not in any place we checked.

For Poke, there are a few more folders you have to open to get your videos:

Look at the all videos you’ve received, over and over and over again.

While screenshots of photos and videos can be taken in both Poke and Snapchat, the sender is alerted if the recipient takes one — but the sender has no such warning if their videos are copied.

When I asked Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel if Snapchat is aware of this exploit and plans on fixing it, he said, “The people who most enjoy using Snapchat are those who embrace the spirit and intent of the service. There will always be ways to reverse engineer technology products — but that spoils the fun!” [Ed. note: I’d point out that using a free iPhone file browser that doesn’t even require jailbreaking is hardly “reverse engineering.”] Snapchat recently patched a much more obvious exploit in Android that saved unwatched videos in the phone’s gallery application. Facebook has not responded to a request for comment as of publication time.

Of course, the average user of Snapchat or Poke isn’t going to use this method to save videos. However, users should be aware that their data on services like Snapchat and Poke isn’t as private as they think it might be. And a few motivated users will certainly take advantage of the loophole that’ll let them save the kind of videos that were never intended to last more than a few seconds.

Update: Facebook tells BuzzFeed FWD: “Thanks for reaching out, and we are addressing this issue now. We should have a fix pushed shortly.

Keep in mind, not only does Snapchat have similar issues but also, similar to screenshots, for the time being cached video files can be captured while using Poke before the receiver views the file.”

The company also provided this statement:

Poke is a fun and easy way to communicate with your friends and is not designed to be a secure messaging system. While Pokes disappear after they are read, there are still ways that people can potentially save them. For example, you could take a screenshot of a photo, in which case the sender is notified. People could also take a photo of a photo you sent them, or a video of a video, with another camera. Because of this, people should think about what they are sending and share responsibly.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/how-anybody-can-secretly-save-your-snapchat-videos