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we want plates
we want plates

8 Decidedly Different Twitter Feeds

we want plates
we want plates

Twitter is a social network and microblogging platform that lends itself to some imaginative purposes besides communication. A Twitter account can be a single-subject blog or a single joke. It can be an experiment in what software can do, or what people will believe. It can be a medium for social protest. It can even be a webcomic site. Here are some strange and different Twitter feeds that you might get a laugh out of once, or you might want to follow long-term.

1. FACES IN THINGS 

Humans have a tendency to perceive patterns in seemingly random data. That’s our brains making sense of the world, and we tend to see human faces more than anything else. This phenomenon is called pareidolia. The Twitter account Faces in Things gives us example after example. All you need are two dots, circles, or really any two things for eyes, and maybe a shape for a mouth, and we can even see expressions in those shapes.

2. CATS OF DISNEYLAND

Disneyland is home to an extensive colony of feral cats. They stay mostly hidden during the day, and come out at night to prowl the premises. Park staff tend to the cats by feeding, neutering, and providing veterinary services when needed, and the cats return the favor by keeping rodents away from the park. Spotting one of the cats is a treat for visitors, but they can also follow the cats on Twitter at Cats of Disneyland. The tweets are cat-centric, and usually pretty funny. There are also plenty of contributions of pictures from visitors who spotted a cat at Disneyland. The Twitter feed was created to support the blog of the same name, but the Twitter feed is much more active.

3. INTERESTING.JPG

We hear ominous warnings about the rise of artificial intelligence, but then we see real experiments that show we have quite a way to go before Skynet takes over. INTERESTING.JPG is an experimental Twitter feed generated by artificial intelligence. An AI software program was trained in photo captioning by having it analyze photographs with human-written captions. On Twitter, it tries to caption news photographs itself, as best it can. Sometimes the generated captions are almost accurate, although not particularly enlightening. Other times, they are hilariously wrong.

4. WE WANT PLATES

There seems to be an epidemic of restaurants that are dispensing with regular dishes in favor of something “creative” to set them apart from other restaurants, particularly in the UK. The Twitter account We Want Plates collects incidents of food being served on weird substitutes like wooden cutting boards, flat caps, flower pots, wicker baskets, marble slabs, and shovels. If there weren’t photographs, you’d think I was making that up.

I’ve seen hot dinners served in skillets (cold food would be weird), and of course you expect a barbecue sandwich to come in a plastic basket lined with paper. But I’ve never been to a restaurant where they just made up stuff to use instead of plates. Have you?

5. INTERNETDIR95

Jeff Thompson created a Twitter account that links us to various websites from the “Internet International Directory,” published in 1995. InternetDir95 Tweets one URL out every hour. Most are dead, because keeping a website active for 20 years is asking a lot. Finding one that is still active is like finding a piece of treasure. Thompson has created several other experimental Twitterbots, some more successful than others.

6. MEDIEVAL REACTIONS

The Twitter feed Medieval Reactions marries medieval imagery with modern problems. It’s funny, but either or both the art and the text can be NSFW.

7. NIHILIST ARBY'S 

Nihilist Arby's is not connected to Arby’s sandwich shop at all, except for the subject matter. This Arby’s has a thin veneer of promotion for the brand, but underneath all that is a soul who is obviously going through an ongoing existential crisis. Contains NSFW language.

8. KYRZBEKISTAN 

Back in January, the New York Times did a profile of rock climber Tommy Caldwell. They referred to his trip to Kyrgyzstan, but in the print edition and initially in the web story, the country was spelled Kyrzbekistan. The internet version was corrected, but not before the fictional Kyrzbekistan became an internet sensation. Eight months later, Kyrzbekistan’s Twitter feed is still educating people about the culture, history, and government of the nation. However, the updates are slowing down, so you may as well enjoy them while they last.

See more in our previous post 12 Strange and Different Twitter Feeds.

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#TBT
Before Bitcoin: The Rise and Fall of Flooz E-Currency
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In the late 1990s, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Spencer Waxman was in Morocco on holiday when he heard an Arabic slang term for money—flooz—that stuck with him. In the dot-com boom taking place back in the United States, URLs with obscure etymology were popular. When Waxman and partner Robert Levitan decided to co-found a novel way of disrupting the online commerce industry, calling it Flooz.com was almost a foregone conclusion.

What Levitan and Waxman envisioned was a virtual gift certificate that would drive business to participating online retailers, give consumers some sense of security over their private information, and make shopping for stubbornly gift-resistant recipients easy. Rather than merely offering cyber currency, this was a service with purpose.

Unfortunately, it was also one that was doomed to fail.

A screen capture of Flooz.com
Flooz.com

Non-cash currency has been with us since the Chinese used cowry shells to sort out debt for goods and services more than 3000 years ago. In the 1960s, credit cards became an alluring alternative to saving and carrying paper bills. When online retailing exploded in the 1990s, it was only natural that startups would begin to explore virtual payment methods.

At the time, digital transactions were perceived by many consumers to be a near-guarantee of identity theft. Handing a card to a vendor in a closed-loop retail environment was one thing, but the thought of hackers seizing their information once it was entered into the borderless environment of the internet kept many away from online shopping.

As it turns out, that paranoia would turn out to be justified in our current climate of constant data breaches. It was also good for businesses hoping to turn their apprehension over credit card security into a monetized solution. Flooz.com debuted in 1999, just one year after another currency-based URL, Beanz.com, had garnered press. Beanz were a kind of earned points system, with approved transactions gifting customers with redeemable gift vouchers. Flooz took a different approach: Customers would sign up to Flooz.com and purchase gift certificates for specific retailers, which they could then use themselves or pass along to a gift recipient via email.

For businesses, it was a way of driving traffic to sites; for consumers, it was a way to keep credit card transactions limited to one vendor; for Flooz.com, being the intermediary meant taking a 15 to 20 percent cut of completed transactions on the selected retail sites, which ranged from Godiva Chocolates to Barnes & Noble and Tower Records.

To help Flooz.com cut through online marketing noise, Levitan enlisted actress Whoopi Goldberg to be their spokesperson. In exchange for company shares and Flooz.com money, Goldberg led an $8 million ad campaign for radio, television, and print that extolled the benefits of using Flooz.com.

Whether it was Goldberg’s pitch or the concept itself, Flooz.com met with a receptive audience. The company debuted in the fall of 1999, and had opened 125,000 accounts by January 2000. That year, roughly $25 million in Flooz.com money was purchased and used. (In a nod to the impenetrable vocabulary of the internet at the time, the media loved to point out that Beanz could be used to purchase Flooz.)

Bolstered by the attention and early success, Flooz.com was eventually able to raise $35 million in venture capital. Consumers could meet their gifting obligations by emailing a code to their gift recipient without having to waste time shopping. For a time, it appeared Flooz.com would become a leading method of payment for online transactions.

Actress and Flooz.com spokesperson Whoopi Goldberg is photographed during a public appearance
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But it didn’t take long for the seams in the Flooz.com model to show. While gifting vouchers to family and friends was convenient for the gifter, the giftee was stuck with a very limited number of vendors that took Flooz.com as payment. If Amazon, for example, had a deal on a DVD or book that Barnes & Noble didn’t, Flooz users were out of luck. Shopping for a bargain wasn’t possible.

The second and most crippling detail was one Flooz.com was forced to make in order to strike deals with vendors. The company guaranteed its transactions, meaning that it would make good on orders even if Flooz dollars had been purchased via fraudulent means. By the summer of 2001, that commitment became a tipping point. Agents from the FBI informed Levitan that they suspected a ring of Russian hackers had purchased $300,000 worth of Flooz in order to launder funds from stolen credit cards.

This created a paralyzing cash flow problem: As their credit card processor withheld funds until Flooz.com could secure the transaction, people were still busy redeeming Flooz dollars they had already spent. Retailers then looked for Flooz.com to reimburse them. Suddenly, customers trying to pay with Flooz were greeted with error messages that the site was down.

Those issues, coupled with the fact that corporate clients had already started to move away from gifting employees with Flooz dollars, forced Flooz.com to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 2001. Court papers cited almost $14 million in liability. (Beanz.com was also a casualty of the dot-com bust, when participating retailers processing the points steadily went out of business.)

Levitan rebounded, founding the Pando file sharing network and selling it to Microsoft in 2011 for $11 million. Meanwhile, Flooz.com remains a barely-remembered footnote in e-currency, though it would be hard to chart the rise of digital funds like Bitcoin without it. Like with so many other good ideas, timing is everything.

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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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