Twitter Block

I had some time this weekend to idly look at Twitter.  After I had read the content of those who I follow and then browsed the interesting Twitter Trending topics I started to look for a promising subject to interact with.

The Twitter Trending topics are generally mature discussions by the time they are aired and most angles are covered by then.  Twitter is very much a now thing and subject matter is quickly outdated so getting involved on anything here is mostly futile.

My next point of call may be Twitter’s own selected suggestions.  However these are rarely useful.  With only three suggestions made and each from an algorithm that is too narrow so I usually find these pointless.

If I’m in the mood for discussion I don’t want a viewpoint that is just like my own and I certainly don’t think a conversation with someone who mostly re-tweets other people’s material would be satisfactory.  I appreciate an original thinker, someone prepared to do a little bit of writing.

Finally, in the absence of a genuine random Twitter Feed I look to the suggestions the service makes based on my perceived likes.  In my case these subjects are cars and comedians.  Naturally my tastes are wider than this of course but not according to Twitter.

So I read these offerings and often chip in with comments on the subjects that most interest me.

And, if I have some time, I seek to increase my options by looking at who else is commenting on these subjects and then possibly delve deeper into their feeds as well.

It was during a search like this that I happened upon a user who had themselves commented on a celebrity Tweet.  One that is irrelevant to this tale and now long forgotten.

I checked a little deeper and discovered that this person appeared to use the service in the way that I do.  That is to say original written content, not merely a lazy bunch of re-tweets, pictures of their food/cats or tiresome religious style quotations.  And  I noticed that they had pinned an interesting Tweet to the top of their feed which was a survey about whether a particular, named comedian was funny.

In the way the survey question was set out I immediately anticipated that the author didn’t actually want to know the answer but really wanted to take an opportunity to gather like minded dislikes.

But I noticed the survey was flawed as it offered up three options – Funny, Not Funny or Irrelevant.  You can probably already see why I jumped to the conclusion about the bias of the survey.

Anyway, in a bid to encourage this member I opened a discussion suggesting the flaw in such a survey, positing that one could conclude two answers were correct and a conversation followed.   The Tweeter even posted a ‘like’ on my comment.

They then explained it was only an attempt to measure respondents to see what sort of people they were and I replied with the point that a respondent’s Twitter avatar was not necessarily an indication of who was making the choice.

The author then clarified a point about their original Tweet and them actually seeking an Echo Chamber Effect, which is, to quote Wikipedia, ‘a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system’.  They then clearly pointed out that they wanted respondents to think like they did and agree that the comedian was clearly not funny.

In actual fact, although often controversial, the comedian is highly popular so on the spectrum of comedians should generally be classed as funny given such limited choices.

So I took the survey and marked them as funny.  At which point I was able to note that I was the only one who had done this.  Twitter surveys do not let you know the trend or votes until a vote is cast, which prevents forced bias toward a less popular choice.

I wasn’t really such an outlier.  In fairness only eight others had bothered with the survey, a very low, statistically unreliable number, mostly voting for Not Funny.  This contravened an earlier claim by the author that the option Irrelevant was trending.

Then I re-engaged with the author noting this skew towards the idea that the comedian was Not Funny and added a comment that this was a typical response to a comedian’s work in general.  To reinforce the point, I also suggested that, as opposed to comics, poor actors don’t suffer from surveys about the quality of their work.

It appears that this hit a nerve.  A reply came back stating that the survey was over a week old and as I was now responding they assumed that I had actively sought out the Tweet just to be a ‘spoilsport’, along with a suggestion that I desist being such a person and a ending the message with a firm invite to leave the conversation.

A few points to note:

  • The survey was still active and had another day and some hours to finish
  • I found it because it was pinned to the top of the user’s feed.  A place Twitter users can ensure they get maximum attention
  • Twitter doesn’t work that way.  People can join and leave when they wish to.  It is a public forum
  • I could even claim it was my own conversation topic that I was being strongly invited to leave

I felt I had been unfairly libelled about the motive for my conversation and unfairly called a name.  So I decided, as is my right, to politely reply once more.

I noted that they had misinterpreted my intention, that I didn’t seek the tweet but came across it and thought it interesting so started the conversation.  I added that they now choose to terminate it, rather impolitely.  And suggested that I seemingly didn’t fit their narrative.  However I did finally note that I will leave them to it and finished off with a simple message – Be kind.

I had no intention of continuing a conversation that appeared to have reached an impasse.

However curiosity led to me checking to see if a response came and as I was reading the rude comments that were being fired back by the author to their followers, without including me, the feed suddenly disappeared.

I had been blocked.

Unable to see the rest of the continued libel and unable to respond.

It was the Twitter equivalent of someone steaming out of the room whilst shouting back abuse and slamming the door.

Let me be clear.  I do not object to being blocked.  If you can’t handle a conversation that is not feeding your own bias then that is fine.  Everybody has a right to be who they choose to be.

I find it sad, however, that this person does not wish to open their mind at all to a reasoned, alternative point of view.

And downright rude to be libellous without being subject to recourse.

After all, when all is said and done, I took some time to carefully craft an interesting conversation with a low level user of a system where my only expressed opinion was that comedian’s generally get a raw deal and I had taken some of my valuable time to take part in that person’s public survey expressing an honest opinion.  A survey which had hardly received any other traction from a person who I initially thought might deserve more than their handful of followers.  Generally I try to support those with less followers and initially thought I may have discovered another interesting person to follow.

In continuation of my polite attitude towards this exchange I have not sought to belittle the Twitterer on this platform who I had the conversation with so will not advertise their details here.

Nor will I name the comedian who was being subjected to the initial attempted trolling.  In fact it is interesting that although named in the original survey no attempt was made to involve them as no hashtag or Twitter handle was included by the original author.

However, as can be rightly conferred throughout this article I am interested in thoughts about this exchange, the merits and disadvantages of being a comedian and of learning alternative opinions.  So please feel free to comment.

And I promise you, no matter what you think I will not block you.  Because that way I am really blocking myself.

Plus, I know, it does hurt a little.

Be kind.

Author: Vince Poynter

An original article, published here first on WordPress, 26 Mar 2018

Water Opinion

I don’t want to appear to be a bit of a wet fortnight but don’t you just hate the privatisation of essential services such as power, gas, telecommunications, water and hamburger joints.

Well perhaps the last one would be a good idea but that is an entirely new subject for a rant.  Here I want to bemoan the hypocrisy of privatised water companies.

Since privatisation the water companies have been taking the p1ss in more ways than they were obliged to do.

Why have we been subject to increasing restrictions, poorer supply and inflated bills?

Why, for instance, in our green and pleasant land [read wet] do we suffer hosepipe bans as soon as there are three sunny days in a row?

And why is the water mains pressure so weak you can no longer take a shower standing up?

The answer is ‘fat-cat’ profits.

Consider for a moment that you are that fat-cat executive on the board of one of the water companies.

What do you think the biggest priority is? – Fuelling your customers.

Nah, bleeding them dry is a much better business proposition and doing it is easy.

Firstly, you create an image that water is more precious than gold.  Just wash over the fact that the product you sell for profit actually falls free from the sky.

Feed stories about drought and waste then try adding a bit of guilt about the environment for good measure and soon everyone will start to use less.

It would also be wise to shift blame firmly onto your customers claiming that their desire to live in cities makes it difficult to serve them.  Gloss over the fact that when packed together it is cheaper to serve their collective needs, or the fact that most cities are built on rivers.

This all saves the cost of new reservoirs you see.  In fact you may be able to sell off some existing ones for prime building plot charges.

And whatever you do don’t invest too much in desalination plant technology, that will just remind your customers that the damn stuff floats all around their country in huge quantities.

Of course a few will try to persuade you that it is your leaky old network that wastes the most and you may consider doing something about that.  Or you could reduce pressure to the absolute minimum – as set by your colleagues in the watchdog that your own industry set up.  That should delay expenditure for a few more years whilst your valuable stocks and shares mature.

You might even suggest ‘fun’ items like sharing a bath, or play on your customer’s basic laziness by suggesting it is good not washing the car or tending to the five-hundred pounds worth of shrubs in their garden.

You could even encourage the manufacturing industry that sells loos that only partly flushing is a good idea and that to add a brick in the cistern is a sensible measure.  That should make the customers use less of your liquid gold.

Finally up the ante so much that government, or as you see it your old mates who got you the job in the first place, raise legislation to put a water meter in every property.

Obviously, the metered supply will have to reflect, on average, the non-metered rates, but as no one but you know how much the average is you can easily charge more than the average for everyone, no matter how frugal they are.

The downside may be disease and pestilence but it won’t affect you, unless the proletariat happen to brush up against you in Harrods.

Another small problem will be that occasionally you will have to flush some water down the drains just to free them up as the network was designed with actual use in mind.

Then, as a piece-de-resistance, you could drop the quality of processing – just enough to not kill or poison too many but persuade the rest to buy bottled water instead of the ‘free’ stuff from the tap.  If you are really good you could even bottle the stuff yourself and make even more cash.  After all the fool in the street is happy to pay more for water than petrol and water doesn’t even have the excuse of 85% tax.

Mind you the most surprising thing about all this is why you ‘fat-cats’ are involved at all.  I always thought cats hated water.

Author: Vince Poynter

From the Opinions section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 6 Mar 2018 but first published in the website in Mar 2005.
The image is of the author as a young boy swimming into the distance off The Isle Of Wight and was originally added in Version 3 of the website in Mar 2010.  This amount of water still exists today, 20 years later.  OK, forty years.

Fame

A True Fifeteen Minutes Story

[Updated]

I’m a big fan of internet auction sites, or rather one in particular, namely eBay.  I use it to sell on all my unwanted items and am rewarded with an above average financial return.

So I always read with interest any stories of unusual sales.  The sort where someone offers two pounds for a pound coin or when a wife tries to sell her husband.

To this end I always wanted to do a spoof of my own.  I figured that I’d try to get a definitive answer to the perennial question – What’s the price of fame?

I set up an auction offering, to the highest bidder, a news story submission to their local and national media about the bid.

I envisaged the story tagged with ‘At last, we know the price of fame.  Mr. Winningbidder bid £x to have his name in the papers and get his 15 minutes of fame’.

So I set it up on the ubiquitous site and waited for a reply.

The auction would last ten days so that there was plenty of time for the world’s media to find it.  Unfortunately, not one picked up on the story.

I tried to excite interest by emailing eBay and notifying them of the opportunity of free advertising but the chap in a garage that runs the whole site was having a burger at the time, or counting his profits (I presume).

A few souls found the site and in the end I think about 150 people actually visited to see what it was all about.  Probably mostly geeks not actually getting a life.

And one of these actually started the bidding.  I was in business.

Now anyone who has used these auction sites knows that the bids come fast and thick toward the end of the auction particularly if one person has taken the plunge.  I prepared for an auction battle.

I said prepared but this was more in the mental rather than physical way.  There is little one can do whilst the auction is live, other than answer the dumb questions that the viewers think of, such as; “Can you tell me how many of these single items you have please?” Or, “What colour is the red post box?” Or “You say the postage to the USA is £6.00 so how much is it to Texas?”

None of these questions were asked during this auction though, unsurprisingly.

Finally the auction ended and I was left with a winner.

I emailed him straight away congratulating him on his impressive auctioneering skills and requesting the winning pound.  I explained that all I needed was his name and location so that I could honour the auction promise and contact his local rag as well as the nationals.

I had a reply.

Only it wasn’t of the nature you expect from someone who just won an auction whose prize was fame.

He asked how I was to maintain confidentiality, refusing to tell me his real name, even after assurances that I wasn’t out to belittle his achievement or pass on his details.  He was adamant and asked; “Can I do it anonymously?”

So there you have it.

The price of fame is one pound.  And the winner is anonymous.

Not that I ever received the pound, he still had reservations about his fame being made public.  But I didn’t give him a negative comment on the auction site.  After all, why mock the afflicted?

Of course, all this got me thinking about other auctions I could devise.  Some might say that they are nothing more than a scam on the gullible but my motives would be purer – Entertainment.  After all we all enjoy the newspaper snippets and forwarded emails about these silly auctions.

So my next idea would be to advertise ‘Absolutely Nothing’.  Yes, this ten-day auction would lead to the biggest anti-climax in the history of auctions with the winner getting Sod All.

Or if that idea proves unpopular I could run an auction advertising ‘A Little Piece of History’. This time the winner would get something but the reward may not meet the hype I would imply.  The winner will be sent a copy of yesterday’s newspaper.

Finally, I could offer ‘The Chance to be Completely Ignored’.  I would send a message to all those who placed a bid but will completely and utterly ignore the winner.  No acknowledgement, no invoice and no replies to any correspondance whatsoever.  Certainly not any comments.  I figured this may be of interest to Captains of Industry or Prima-Donna rock and movie stars who are fed up to their back teeth with sycophants.

As far as I know the above suggested auctions have never been tried.

I will not try them myself but anyone is welcome to use the ideas providing that it is done at your own risk and under an understanding that no responsibility is accepted by me.  It would be courteous for you to acknowledge source with a phrase such as ‘From a suggestion by the inventive wit of the vinceunlimited website’ and to send me at least ten percent of anything significant made.

Incidently I define significant as anything over three quid!

Anyway the original idea is now passing to you readers.  I’m offering to extend the auction for fame indefinitely.  Do you want your 15 minutes?  Email me an offer, over £1.00 please.  Every time the bid increases I’ll carry out my first promise, updating details on my website as well, just as long as you pay up.

Just please don’t do it anonymously!

And as they say – Send no money now!

Author: Vince Poynter
From the blog section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 5 Mar 2018
First Published on the website in version 1.03 in Feb 2005

This update first Published on the website in version 1.04 in Mar 2005

Top Ten Musical Acts

Aural affections from 2005/6

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on music and much can be discerned from the aural choices of an individual.

No doubt that many will view my list with distain and never speak to me again as I didn’t highlight a Goth artist or because a particular band are in the list. But it is my list and at least you don’t have to listen to them here.

And thank your lucky stars that you are not subjected to the song that my partner and I share as ‘our song’. Sadly, it is Leo Sayer’s ‘Have You Ever Been In Love?’ Well, it was in the charts at the time.

Below I have listed out my favourite artists, rather than favourite songs.

I know that as soon as I finish a list of songs a radio or CD play reminds me of one that I had ‘forgotten’, such is the quality of good music available. Because of this bands and groups are easier to list.

Plus the list cannot be dominated by one or two artists which would have the effect of making me look like a fan. Or stalker.

The less drunk and more observant will notice a complete lack of Folk, Jazz or Country artists and suggest this list is from the mind of a philistine.

Others may cite the lack of Hard Rock, Rap or Grunge and suggest this is the list of an impassionate bore.

Some may even ask why Christian music isn’t featured. At least that group should forgive me.


 

ABBA

Often dismissed as simple pop this band’s work is starting to become recognised for its true genius.

If producing sounds that seem so simple is so easy then why were they not copied and re-invented by countless others?

The reason is that these melodic songs are actually crafted by really talented musicians and performed by artists that knew the extra delight that can be had when the lyrics are actually comprehensible.

Simplicity has never been so complex.

And, because you just need to know – the blonde in the seventies, now the redhead (no, I’m not talking Bjorn and Benny).


 

The Beautiful South

Although there are at least three principle voices that take turns in leading the vocals it is still possible to discern a Beautiful South song from others because of their unique style.

Crystal clear, smooth, well matched vocals bringing life to interestingly written lyrics make the middle of the road a great place to listen.


 

The Carpenters

The excellent sounding voices of Melanie Chisholm and Dido are knocked off this list as they cannot compete with the great female voice in The Carpenters.

The more I hear about them the more I actually notice the genius behind the beautiful, soulful seventies music.

Brother Richard was instrumental in the instrumentals and gave direction to sister Karen’s dreamy, mellow voice.

Sounds good when played on any source but mesmerising when played by a quality system.


 

Dire Straits

I pity the younger generation.

They have Busted and McFly, who although make excellent guitar-based music, can hardly compare to the greats of the seventies and Dire Straits are one band whose work immediately came to mind.


 

Elton John

Elton John has been writing and performing excellent songs with his lyricist Bernie Taupin for as long as I have been listening and he continues to provide top class albums, both singly and branching out into collabrations with new bands plus different genres such as film and theatre scores.

Importantly, unlike other seventies superstars his greatest hits do not all come from one era.

Yes, that includes you Cliff.

As a prediction I think his best work is yet to come and it will be stunning.

In case there is any doubt I mean Elton – not Cliff.


 

Meatloaf

With the exception of Status Quo Meatloaf would probably be the most embarassing artist to admit to liking in my list.

Many would baulk at the idea and see him as an overweight has-been rocker but I think he would enjoy that thought.

After decades of collecting enough LPs, CDs, DVDs, attending concerts and taking an interest in his other work I might be accused of actually being a fan.

So why? – The answer probably lies in a fairly unknown man called Jim Steinman who writes all of his hits with an expressive passion I can only admire.

All coupled with Meat’s humourous, tongue in cheek, theatrical delivery.

And ’cause I’m a biker all revved up with no place to go.


 

Queen

Again, showing my age as well as appreciation for the era Queen is selected for their classic tracks.

Like so many it has taken me some time to really appreciate their work, so long that their main man, Freddie Mercury, has now departed.

I don’t harbour regrets but if I did the most prominent would be that I didn’t go to one of their live shows in the seventies ‘because it was a bit expensive.’

What price now?


 

Robbie Williams

Most true superstars come from the sixties, seventies and eighties.

These were eras before the modern concept of manufactured fame (before you bore me with that story about The Monkees, name another).

Robbie Williams however has broken the mould.

The fat kid from the most famous manufactured band has risen like an erupting super-volcano and shown the world how it used to be done.

As I can hardly name more than three Robbie tracks his inclusion in this list is down to superstardom alone and I bow to it.


 

Status Quo

People dismiss them as a one-chord wonder but what a chord.

Toe-tapping enough to feature over many decades.

So famous now that they have featured on Coronation Street.

The Quo were my favourites when I cared about the colour of my Denim and grew my hair long.

To be honest not a lot has changed since.


 

Tchaikovsky

I thought I might elevate the list somewhat with my final choice.

I have never been a big fan of classical music as I find it too involving to become entwined in my soul.

However I love a good rousing crescendo and Tchaikovsky does it best.

Author: Vince Poynter
Updated as the Top Tens section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 7 Jun 18
First published on the website in Mar 2005