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The Changing Definition of "Flash Mob"

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When most of us think of a flash mob, it's a big impromptu dance party, a spontaneous pillow fight or hundreds of people freezing in Grand Central Station. But lately, the media has been using the term to describe some much less enjoyable activities.

Consider this headline from USA Today: "'Flash mobs' pose challenge to police tactics." Or this one from the Philadelphia Inquirer last week: "Flash-mob violence raises weighty questions."

It's a big change for a term that was defined in the Oxford Concise Dictionary as an "unusual and pointless act," separate from the "smart mobs" that generally had more of a purpose. Gawker was among the blogs that seized on the use of the term, calling out the media for misusing a phrase that actually means "when several dozen aspiring standup comics use the internet to meet in a certain place to do a funky collaborative dance."

Lately, the term has been used to describe escalating violence in cities, especially Philadelphia.

After a series of violent attacks -- including some numbering in the hundreds -- Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter had to impose a 9 p.m. weekend curfew for the city's youth. In cities such as Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Chicago, groups organized online have flooded convenience stores and robbed them en masse. The term is even being used in London, where social media and texting played a large role in this summer's riots.

In an interview on Southern California's KPCC, author Howard Rheingold, who has written about smart mobs and other collective action, spoke to the changing nature of the flash mob. He pointed to collective action in Iran or Korea as a positive use of social media, while also acknowledging that it could be misused in some cases. But he stopped short of saying that the social media was at fault for the violence.

I think it's important to keep in mind that this new tool is kind of an accelerant, the way gasoline is an accelerant. if you can harness that ... and put your gasoline in an auto's engine then it can be beneficial. If you're going to splash it on a building and light a match, it's a problem. But it's not the fire itself, it's an accelerant.

Of course, the larger question for law enforcement officials is actually linking the violence to social media flash mobs. There is evidence that some of the so-called flash mobs were arranged over text or on a city bus, rather than being coordinated through the Internet. Regardless, Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said in a chat with Philly.com that he's most concerned with stopping the violence. As to the use of "flash mob," he said succinctly, "I prefer the term 'rampaging thugs.'"

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Samsung’s Star Wars Vacuums Offer Everything You Want in a Droid
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Hate housecleaning but love Star Wars? Samsung’s got the solution. In anticipation of December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the newest film in the Star Wars saga, Samsung has transformed a limited number of its VR7000 POWERbot robot vacuum cleaners into two familiar faces from George Lucas’s legendary space opera: a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader (which comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and a remote control).

In order to create a unique device that would truly thrill Star Wars aficionados, Samsung consulted with fans of the film throughout each stage of the process. The result is a pair of custom-crafted robo-vacuums that fill your home with the sounds of a galaxy far, far away as they clean (when you turn Darth Vader on, for example, you'll hear his iconic breathing).

“We are very pleased to be part of the excitement leading up to the release of The Last Jedi and to be launching our limited edition POWERbot in partnership with Star Wars fans,” B.S. Suh, Samsung’s executive vice president, said in a press statement. “From its industry-leading suction power, slim design, and smart features, to the wonderful character-themed voice feedback and sound effects, we are confident the Star Wars limited edition of the VR7000 will be a big hit.”

Be warned that this kind of power suction doesn’t come cheap: while the Stormtrooper POWERbot will set you back $696, the Darth Vader vacuum retails for $798. Who knew the Dark Side was so sparkling clean?


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22 Emojis That Look Completely Different on Different Phones
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Emojis are a great addition to our communication toolbox. Without saying a word, we can talk about people, places, things, and emotions. But different platforms sometimes display the same emoji specification in different ways. An eye roll might come across as petulant or cheerful. A snake might look threatening or adorable. To help you navigate some potentially confusing cross-platform interactions, here are 22 emojis (referred to by their programming code names) that come out with important differences on Apple (iOS 11.1), Google (Android 8), and Samsung (Galaxy S8).

1. FACE WITH ROLLING EYES

3 different face with rolling eyes emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Way to miss the point.
Google: Ugh. Oh boy. Nice one. NOT!
Samsung: Heh, heh. Neato.

2. SNAKE

3 different snake emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Beware!
Google: Beware?
Samsung: Aww. Snakey-poo.

3. NERD FACE

Three different nerd face emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Nerdy cuteness.
Google: Nerdy excitement!
Samsung: Nerdy astonishment!

4. COOKIE

Three different cookie emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Mmm. Delicious chocolate chips…
Google: Raisins? Nuts?
Samsung: Uh, thanks for the cookie?

5. LOUDLY CRYING FACE

Three different loudly crying face emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: River of tears.
Google: Waterfall of tears.
Samsung: Cast adrift on a lake of tears.

6. GHOST

Three different ghost emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Ready for a goofy good scare?!
Google: Me scary! (*wink*)
Samsung: (*clears throat*) Um, boo.

7. COUCH AND LAMP

Three different couch and lamp emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Midcentury modern pad.
Google: Office waiting room.
Samsung: Haunted Victorian hotel.

8. CHIPMUNK

Three different chipmunk emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Cute? No. Please allow me my dignity.
Google: Tee hee. Cute!
Samsung: Where did I put those nuts…

9. OCTOPUS

Three different octopus emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Oh. You surprised me there.
Google: Boo! I surprise YOU!
Samsung: Hellooooooo, over there.

10. CAT FACE

Three different cat emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Always identified more with the mice, actually.
Google: On the internet, everyone loves a cat!
Samsung: Your texts are tedious.

11. PIZZA

Three different pizza emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Pepperoni.
Google: Pepperoni and olives.
Samsung: Pepperoni, olives, and extra cheese.

12. MAN DANCING

Three different man dancing emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung
Apple/Google/Samsung

Apple: Disco in the '70s.
Google: Miami Vice in the '80s.
Samsung: Dabbing, whipping, and nae-naeing at the middle school.

13. OLD MAN

Three different old man emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: More like middle-aged.
Google: Old and yet somehow babyish.
Samsung: Very prematurely grey kid.

14. RUNNING SHOE

Three different running shoe emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Ready for the 5K.
Google: Ready for some stickball.
Samsung: Ready for the playground.

15. DETECTIVE

Three different detective emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Experienced and ready to assist.
Google: No experience yet, but can’t wait to start!
Samsung: Seen too much.

16. PERSON SURFING

Three different person surfing emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Awesome!
Google: Pretty fun.
Samsung: Whoa. Help.

17. FRAMED PICTURE

Three different framed picture emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: For the nursery.
Google: For the den.
Samsung: For the great hall.

18. DROOLING FACE

Three different drooling face emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Sooo delicious…
Google: Sooo incomprehensible…
Samsung: Sooo disturbing…

19. CLAPPING HANDS

Three different clapping emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Pay attention!
Google: Polite applause.
Samsung: Hushed appreciation.

20. T-SHIRT

Three different t-shirt emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Casual Friday at the office.
Google: Saturday at the gym.
Samsung: Sunday on the couch.

21. PERSON FROWNING

Three different person frowning emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Hurt and disappointed.
Google: Crushed and disappointed.
Samsung: Not gonna stand for it anymore.

22. FEARFUL FACE

Three different fearful face emojis from Apple, Google, and Samsung

Apple: Yikes! Aaack! No way!
Google: Oh dear! Why! I feel sick!
Samsung: Bzzzt! Yoinks!

Check the platform differences for all the emojis at Emojipedia.

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