Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Text Your Heart Out - Emotion in Text

It is a seemingly controversial concept, that there can exist emotion in nothing more than text.  However, between those that grow up in the era of texting, blogs, instant messages and email, it is not only possible, but something happening everyday.
Emotional texting is the idea that, word choice, slang dialect, incorrect or excessive capitalization, purposeful misspellings, excessive punctuation and sentence fragmentation timing all come into play when trying to convey and comprehend text.  When using the term “text message”, it does not simply refer to cell phone SMS, but all forms of textual messaging including, but not limited to; SMS, email, instant messaging, online comments and social network status messages.
In a generation that grew up in the internet age and the instant feedback of SMS texting age, I believe people have started to adapt communication needs to portray their emotion via stylistic changes in text.

The theory of LOL.
LOL is loosely an acronym for “Laugh out Loud”.  Which, when it was first used, actually meant “that is really funny”.  However, a lot of people will use LOL as a substitute for acknowledgment. It is widely accepted that if someone says something even slightly humorous, the response might be “lol”.  This isn’t to say the receiving party is laughing, it’s more of an acknowledgment that the message was received.  it’s also becoming something we are unaware of.  Some people tend to use LOL way more often responses, even if they offer a more detailed response right there after.  For some, it is second nature to respond with LOL.  Why?  LOL is a term that is associated with a positive connotation, because in it’s original use, humor is generally positive.  So as a response, the sender feels good about the comment they have made.  LOL has many more meanings, which will be discussed in a minute.

I’m Being Sarcastic.
Sarcasm is something normally easy to pickup when talking in person, or even on the phone.  Voice inflection is used, and certain words are changed.  Say to your self sarcastically “Oh, that’s what you mean”. As if you are rolling your eyes at the same time.  You make the “Oh” sound longer, the word “that’s” is also drawn out, and then the rest of the sentence is said rather quickly as your tone lowers. Then you world normally look at the person a bit longer so they could see your eyes rolling.  So, in text, how would you portray sarcasm?  Identifying how you would say it like we just did gives us insight.  When grammar is not as important we can apply new rules.  So, if I was needing to portray sarcasm without first telling you I’m being sarcastic, I would write something similar to “Ohh, THAT’S what you mean...  Reading this, one should be able to actually say this in their head differently.  There are 3 techniques applied above.  “Ohh” is using excessive “Hs” to depict extending the sound as it’s said. The comma is overused here to show a pause.  “That’s” is fully capitalized in order to bring the most emphasis in the sentence to that word.  The ellipses at the end denotes trailing off, which can be seen as looking at the person after the phrase has been said.  This concept is similar to spelling a word phonetically, in that you are changing the grammar of the phrase to depict what you mean. In phonetics, you change the spelling of a word to tell the reader how it’s meant to be pronounced.

Don’t YELL at me.
Another emotional portrayal often used in text is the idea of yelling, or raising your voice.  Using all capital letters is often the way most choose to show that they are raising their “voice”.  But capitalization alone is not enough.  We can again utilize punctuation, albeit incorrectly, to show levels of yelling.  In normal speech, we have the ability to yell, scream, slowly raise our voice, and even use body language to show an even greater rage. So, with text, how can we achieve the same effect?  The mildest form of yelling is all capital letters with no punctuation.  DONT TOUCH THE STOVE.  Adding an exclamation point ramps up the energy. DONT TOUCH THE STOVE!  One might add multiple exclamation points now to really tell the reader they are infuriated.  DONT TUOCH THE STOVE!!!!!  This doesn’t only apply to negative commands like these.  WHAT!? Is a very disturbed and anxious way of saying “what”.  The mild form of that expressive “what” would be to not use capital letters. what!?  You get a smiler sense of urgency, but not nearly as urgent as all capital letters.  That’s because in speech you might say “What” and have a serious look on your face, or scream out loud “what” as if you really need people to feel that energy.

No, no nope, nah
In text there are many ways to say “no”.  This is very similar to speech when talking informally.  If you are with friends, and someone asks if you want the last piece of pizza, you don’t say outright “No” and leave it there. It’s impolite, and the friend will sense that.  The same is true for text.  Let’s say they asked if you wanted the last slice of pizza over text.  Responding simply with No, would come across as rude.  You could say “no thanks”.  Or if it’s in your slang, you could say “nah I’m good” or something similar to that respect.  You are basically being polite through text.  The same applies to other forms of “no”.  “Do you have any cheese sticks left?”  “Nope.”  That is a gentle, nice way of saying no.  If the conversation went as follows: “Do you have any cheese sticks left?”.  “No.” That will be read with a harsher tone.  Because the word is short, and there are no modifiers, the tone feels short. Being ‘short’ is generally considered rude, thus the dad-like statement “Don’t get short with me”.
The same applies to yes as well. However, in my opinion, The Yes’ are measured in terms of their negativity, not their positivity.  “Did you take out the trash?” Yes.  Again, this is short, and thus a short tone of voice.  Simply taking the capitalization and the period off however, results in a much softer answer.  “Did you take out the trash?” “yes”.  The lack of punctuation in this case results in a less serious tone, therefore less rude.  Alternatively, one might say “yea” which is always a nicer way of saying yes.  Form’s of yes can be interesting.  The term “yep”, is happy and energetic.  The same kind of positive feel good energy “nope” had.  That’s mostly due the “pe” at the end.  It’s hard to say Yep and Nope with an angry or upsetting tone.  Therefore when someone reads those back in their head, its more positive.

Smart phones require more work.
when cell phone texting hit it’s booming phase, cell phones had 9 key 3 letter type pads.  Each of the 9 keys had 3 letters and you had to hit a number 1 to 3 times to get a letter, then move on.  Some users trusted T9, and ‘intelligent’ guessing engine that would try to guess what letter you wanted based on the context of the surrounding letters, but it was not accurate if you had a large vocabulary.  So for a while, teenager’s fingers wired new motor maps to type out words in a binary-like pattern. 1, 33, 555, 22, 11.  If you talk to a teenager or 20 something that texted with a “flip phone” (as they were called) for many years, they could probably type words without even looking.  I can still type on those keyboards without looking, just because of the sheer volume I used to text with those phones, my brain has made a lovely neural connection to make it easier.
The nice thing about flip phones, is that they never gave you any punctuation.  So it was very easy to depict emotion, since you had to put the effort into your punctuation.  I even feel that, because this was the case for so long, that is what allowed this emotional texting to form. Not to mention that in all online forms of typing, you are responsible for punctuation.
Now we have smart phones with full querty keyboards and intelligent, automatic grammar engines.  This actually makes it harder to text with emotion, and slowly is changing how it works.  Any sentence I start on my phone has a capital letter.  As we learned sometimes that capital letters gives the wrong impression, so it needs to be changed.  The phone also fixes misspellings.  Which, again, is not what I want at times.  I want it to fix the words I misspelled, but didn’t mean to misspell. One big problem I have with the iPhone autocorrect is how it changes LOL.  I normally don’t say LOL, because nothing is ever THAT funny.  (notice how I capitalized “that” so that you would read it differently).  LOL means “seriously funny”.  lol, is the space filler that one normally means to type, not LOL that the iPhone often changes it to.
There is still a place for writers style, such as blogs, stories, essays, anything scholastic, research papers, business friendly email messages, email in general, long messages and any other kind of formal media.  NOTE: none of this refers to the tweens constant omitting of vowels in words or no-use misspellings. (Ex. Rly = Really” or wut = what) But in the world of peer to peer text, “kids” have developed this new “dialect” similar to phonetical spelling that allows them to portray emotion in their text.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

SOPA - How to Deal with Piracy

If you don't know what SOPA is, basically, it's the government trying to pass laws that allow them to block websites that distribute copy written content. That includes sites like youtube, blogger, reddit etc..

SOPA is trying to help the "piracy" problem on the internet.  Content providers might agree that there is a piracy problem, and users might disagree saying the internet is free, and if I can get my hands on your content it should be mine.

This isn't about SOPA though, this is about how to stop piracy.  However, when I say stop piracy, I'm not talking about a technical solution to physically stop a pirate from stealing your content.

I believe the real way to stop piracy is to offer a product that is far beyond better than the raw content itself.  Most of the time with digital content, it is not JUST the raw content that is important.  For example, If I run a video training website, My website allows users to view videos in multiple sizes, create bookmarks, save my last watch position, embedded chapter data, language translations, on screen sub titles and more.  So now, if someone steals my video file, and puts it online for the world to steal, the person who illegally downloads a copy will get none of my features.  All they get is the content.

Apple & iTunes
Let's take a look at how Apple solved the music piracy problem.  If you can remember back in the days of bearshare, kazaa, morpheus, limewire and other peer-to-peer file sharing programs, mainly used for music, they were the main headache to the music industry.  Sure an individual artist may have lost a little bit of money, but in total this was really hurting the music industry.  Then Apple comes in with iTunes and solves the problem.  We will give users a free application for mac and pc, where they can very easily, and graphically find all of their music, download high quality versions as many times as needed, and even sync all that directly with their iPod.  To top it all off, a song will cost a mere 99 cents.  That solution was huge.  Years later, iTunes is the number 1 online reseller of music, and you don't hear the music industry complaining like they did in the past.

So how did it work?
iTunes identified the pains of peer to peer file sharing.  They were ad supported, virus ridden programs.  The songs were generally crappy quality, and searching was not that easy.  Searching for 1 song could yield 40 results, which one was good? Which has a virus?  iTunes is a very fast, easy to use application, offered by a trusted company, for free with out ads, that is also aesthetically pleasing. Couple that with a little bit of money, most people that would have stolen before, now have their solution. Of course there are those that don't care and will still steal the songs, but those numbers are not significant, and would steal no matter what you do.

How can this solution be applied to other digital content?
The answer is to offer a FAR BETTER experience around your content than the content alone can offer.  This works with blogs, news, video, audio, any type of media.  If you have text based content, offer more site features for that text.  Ability to share, save the text, create a feed from it, more articles like the one your reading on the page, save for later, bring the content to mobile.  All of this your site can offer, that a pirate can't.

This doen't solve all kinds of piracy problems, but it does shed light on how a site can cut down on stolen content. There are 2 types of pirates.  Those that will steal no matter what, and those that steal because you're not better.  If you offer a good product around your content, your users will stay, and will pay.  People want to pay for good work.  You will always have people that steal, and you will never be able to stop them, but they will not hurt you.