Posts Tagged ‘wikipedia’

The World Wide Web, a Wonderland of Words

September 23, 2009

cookiesThe Web was built for conversation. Kind of funny, then, it can be so tricky to talk about.

Its lexicon is a mish-mash of new words, repurposed words, and, well, mish-mashed words.

Year after year, Web-related terms highlight updates to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Vlog and webisode are new for 2009. In next year’s update? Who knows? I’m still rooting for specticipants.

Such a fluid vocabulary can be difficult to keep up with.

Why do those things that keep track of what’s in your online shopping cart have such a tasty name? Cookies, Wikipedia tells us, were named such because, like fortune cookies, they have hidden information inside.

How did unsolicited messages, Hormel Foods implores, get to be known as spam? Internet entrepreneur Brad Templeton traces it back to a Monty Python sketch. I’ll let him explain.

Sometimes netizens don’t even need words. This makes them : ) and maybe even LOL.

Like the government, the Web’s good at making alphabet soup. HTML, URL, CSS, P2P, MMORPG — acronyms are everywhere.

Inevitably, celebrities get involved. Or, the Web involves them. If your business conference gets Rickrolled and you don’t have a sense of humor about it, watch out for the Streisand effect.

Of course, Web vocab isn’t always so cryptic. Browse, scroll and jump, among the many words carried over from print, should be familiar to even the greenest users.

The Web breeds laziness, we often hear. It sure does. E-book, e-commute, e-commerce, e-mail, e-marketing. E-nough.

We’ll forgive Apple for iMac, iPod and iPhone, because, repetition is good for branding. Not to mention, the products themselves rock. Plus, the iPod inspired podcast. What an elegant blend of new- and old-media terms.

Words fall in and out of favor. Here are two whose days could be (should be?) numbered: Audience, I’ve mentioned before, seems too passive to describe the modern Web user, who, on his lunch break, is ranking, commenting on and retweeting content from five different sites. Lurking seems too pejorative for what is an accepted and even encouraged online behavior. To avoid being flamed for uninformed content, it can be wise to lurk.

Speaking of flamed, fire comes up a lot: Once I’m done this post, think I’ll launch Firefox, fire off a message on Hotmail and burn some downloaded music to a CD. Makes sense, I guess. Fire was man’s first great tool. And, if the doomsdayers are right, it’s only a matter of time before the robots take over and the Internet becomes man’s last great tool. How poetic.

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Don’t Blame the Media. Blame Yourself.

September 14, 2009

pointWhen the you know what hits the fan, somehow it’s always the media who threw it there.

School violence? Blame the media. Disputed election? Blame the media. Economic collapse? Blame the media. Natural disasters? Blame the media. OK, the last one’s from a 1999 Onion classic, but, you get the point. The media are the world’s go-to scapegoats.

Well, world, start looking for a new scapegoat. I don’t know, El Niño maybe?

Audiences’ power to choose and shape content is growing by the day. It’s reached the point where academics have begun looking for a new word to describe media consumers. “Audience” just seems way too passive. A few of my classmates offered “specticipants” as an alternative. There. It’s published now. We’ll see whether it catches on.

With great power, comic book fans, comes great responsibility. Interactive media give audiences a say in whether content promotes violence, treats candidates fairly or unmasks financial misbehavior. And to the extent they don’t, they enable audiences to call out publishers when content isn’t up to their standards.

The hyperlinked Web was built for media criticism. Sites like FactCheck.org correct the record when media distort information or regurgitate the misinformation of others and have inspired news organizations to fold similar models into their own coverage.

To media critics of the armchair variety: you can’t have it both ways. Newspaper readers routinely flame a publication for running allegedly sensaltionst stories while clicking on them in droves. Taking a stand? Vote with your clicks, not just your comments. Click on content that upholds your ideals. Don’t click on content that doesn’t. Hop on Digg and thumbs up content you like. Thumbs down content you don’t.

Self-policing communities like Wikipedia and Second Life, although not perfect, embody the right spirit. There, if users don’t like what’s going on, they don’t assign blame, they fix it. So, all those complainers out there, get a fixin’.