Twitch Streaming and Human Connection

I’m a little behind the times, and so I’ve only really just figured out what Twitch is. I’ve always known it to be a streaming platform for gamers, but I’ve never really had a reason to tune in to anyone’s channel.

This autumn has seen the release of many games that have peaked my interest, and so YouTube clips eventually lead me to streams from dedicated full-time gamers. Most are working for tips, as any live performer would, with the more established streamers making a living from subscribers (patrons) and sponsorships.

I remember Twitch being criticised last year for allowing non-gaming streamers on the website, largely because this came in the form of “hot girls” in low-cut tops talking to their camera for tips. It was thought that these streams would take audiences away from the gaming streamers, but the website appears to be as popular as ever.

These non-gaming streams spawned sub-genres such as Music & Arts, Just Talking and Game Shows. Also ASMR — Gently crafted soundscapes to help you relax and sleep.

As someone who dabbled with live streaming around ten years ago, I completely understand the appeal of performing and reaching out to an audience.

Back then it was basic webcams and cheap USB microphones on a now-defunct platform called Blog TV. I never tried to make any extra pocket money from it, but my friends and I put together a 48-hour long livestream to raise money for charity.

Even though huge pockets of that were broadcast were unplanned, I remember having so much fun scheduling segments from various artists, performers and guests — All talented friends who, like me, just wanted to be noticed for a moment whilst doing something to help others.

We switched between webcams to different areas of my attic bedroom that had been converted into an amateur studio. It felt like a reverse Wayne’s World for the digital age.

Life happened, as it always does, and so I stopped streaming — But it was fun while it lasted.

During our two-day livestream we were featured on the front page and peaked at around five-hundred viewers, which is a drop in the online ocean compared to the number of viewers that top Twitch streamers get nowadays.

As I type these words, the two most watched channels in the world right now have 50,000 and 25,000 viewers each. They’re playing the games Fortnite and a little game you may have heard of, called Chess.

The most beautiful thing about this is that twice as many people are watching masters play chess than are watching a Fortnite streamer. I guess you can’t beat the classics.

twitchchess.jpg

The overall Twitch community doesn’t seem to be too healthy, but like all digital social circles it’s hard to pin-down exactly who the average Twitch user is. Some streamers will have an obscene chat, filled with memes and bigotry — Whereas others will have a positive chat, filled with memes and love.

So I guess memes are probably the common trend, and you cultivate a community that reflects your personality.

I find it difficult to keep the chat open whenever I’m watching a stream, because it’s usually a barrage of nonsensical noise, with people looking to connect to the host.

That’s the really interesting thing about live-streaming — The connections people are looking to make.

In the digital age we’re all just looking to connect to others. Every time we post a Tweet, photo or update, we’re asking for people to notice us. We want to be recognised, seen and heard in an increasingly loud world.

As much as I keep this daily blog for personal reasons, I can’t deny that my heart is warmed whenever someone likes a post or comments on some nonsense I’ve written.

Social media induced endorphins man; The real drug that’ll get you.

Streaming though, particularly on Twitch, is a raw and extreme version of that connection. Sure you can glam yourself up, change how you behave and even adopt a persona, but ultimately you’re putting more of yourself out there for the world to see than in, say, a photo on Instagram.

You’re live, you’re unfiltered and you’re asking to be noticed.

I think it takes a dash of ego to be a successful streamer — To plug away for so long in order to gain an audience. But I also think that bravery is a crucial trait, just because of how exposed you leave yourself to a faceless crowd.

I’ve seen explicit and inappropriate things in Twitch chats, largely directed at female streamers who’re just trying to play a video game and, presumably, not looking for men to describe how they would get into her pants.

But I’ve also seen the uplifting — The harmless communities formed around a shared interest and personality, the stories told to each other, and the games played together.

The most interesting part of this platform, for me, is the new streamers. The people who’re playing to an audience of less than five, but are still trying just as hard to gain a following.

This next bit is going to sound a little creepy, but imagine me approaching this with Louis Theroux levels of inquisitiveness and it’ll seem a little better.

louisquote.gif

I’ve found myself scrolling to the least-viewed streams of a game and tuning in. In some cases I’m the only viewer, and the person is just sat there, playing their game. Then, after a few moments they notice they have someone watching (me), and so they begin a performance.

They start to commentate themselves, and make a few forced jokes. You watch them transition from someone practicing a routine at home, to performing that same routine on a stage, as they shift from one version of themselves to another.

It’s fascinating to watch, but I don’t linger for too long, as the interaction is all one-sided. They talk into a microphone and I watch, both of us gaining some kind of distant human connection for a moment before parting ways for good.

As I said, a little creepy, but it’s so intriguing to witness a live version of someone looking to fill that basic human need of connection. And not only that, but at its very root.

Watching someone stream to an audience of two is like noticing that someone in the room wants to say something — The connection isn’t fully formed yet, but they’re trying, in order to connect to others. And in that seed for potential interaction you see a familiar struggle — You see yourself and everyone you’ve ever known.


Today is Wednesday, November 28th and my cat jumps at windows to get the bird, but she never gets the bird.

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A List of Lists

Writing clickbait is something I can never bring myself to do. In the age of attention, we should only devote precious online energy to those who have taken the time to pique and hold our interest. These come in the form of YouTube channels, well-written blogs (not this one), news outlets who’re still fighting the good fight, podcasts and dedicated personalities.

Something that shouldn’t grab our attention, are headlines such as:

8 WAYS TO GET BOYS TO LIKE YOU, NUMBER SIX WILL MAKE YOU CRY TEARS OF LIQUID DIAMONDS

You see, why display one number numerically and the other as a word? Why promote a topic that prays on the anxieties of being a teenager? And why promise tears made of liquid diamonds when we all know that emeralds are the most precious stone one can squeeze from tear ducts?

These list articles are usually the digital equivalent of woman-hating, women’s magazines. The sort that say you’re hideous just because Chris Hemsworth wouldn’t date you, and so you should buy these specific beauty products in order to bag yourself a Marvel superhero.

They’re exactly the same because adverts relating to the topic they’re talking about are often strewed around the page, or even hidden in plain sight within the article itself.

These lists are the most basic-form of CONSUME-based advertising, and don’t deserve our attention. They make young people hate themselves, even more than they already do, and peddle cheaply made products as a solution to all of your problems. A more honest clickbait headline on these websites would be — 8 Things You Should Buy or Our Shareholders Will Throw Sacks of Diamonds at Our Heads Until Death

Why are they always going on about diamonds in these list titles?

TOP 50 STAR WARS MOVIES, RANKED!!! YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT WE HAVE AT NUMBER ONE!

It’s Empire Strikes Back. It’s always Empire Strikes Back. These lists would genuinely be more interesting if they went with something like The Phantom Menace or Dexter Jettster: The Animated Adventures.

Media is subjective, one person’s Fantastic Four is another person’s Thor: Ragnarok. Nothing is gained by one individual ranking 25+ media products in a list, with a single sentence following each entry.

Opinions of reviewers and critics do matter, as they can help judge if we should spend time/money/energy on something.

However, if you’re deciding whether or not to watch something based off of one line in a list of RANKED media texts, then you should just consumer all of them. You don’t care about how good something is, clearly, so you should guzzle them all down like a greedy little media goblin.

That sounds mean, maybe I deserve some backlash for that comment. Like 10 Times Matt Went Too Far With His Words: RANKED, or something — A real sick burn.

I’m only being mean because you deserve better. Find a reviewer you like, or even better, find several. Find someone who will at least analyse the film in a 10+ minute YouTube video, or have the decency to write a 1,000 word review.

Sure, it takes time, but far less time than you’ll spend endlessly scrolling through a timeline that’s 50% advertisements and 50% Becky complaining that her fourth engagement has been called off. Maybe it’s not them Becky, maybe it’s not them.

dexter

NINE TIPS FOR GETTING MORE LIKES ON YOUR INSTAGRAM: HOW TO BE RELEVANT IN 9 EASY STEPS

These are the preaching to the choir advice lists. The blind leading the blind in a race to the bottom of the attention tree.

While there’s nothing wrong with a blog being about blogging tips and advice, you should always be adding something new to the conversation, and not just the same regurgitated methods that are second-nature at this point. 

Follow people, like things, engage, interact, make yourself famous by sheer distant connection kid, and you’ll go far in this digital playground.

So many blogs I see are about blogging, and made entirely of lists about how to blog and use social media. Surely they’re just a network of people who’re following and liking each other’s content, even though it’s virtually identical.

If you want genuine advice, you should find successful blogs and see what it is you like about them, what it is they do well and what can be improved on. It’s the whole “do as I do, not as I say” thing.

Very few people will give you decent blogging advice, because it’s all been said before. You should check out popular, focused bloggers, as they’ll be leading by example.

This is not a popular or focused blog.

Stock-Instagram-02-shutt

FOUR THINGS EVERY SELF-RESPECTING INTERNET USER SHOULD HATE

Finally there’s the hate-filled, holier-than-thou lists. The people who think they’re so smart because they’ve figured out the structure of a successful format and yet fail to fully capitalise on the medium. They tell themselves it’s because they’re principled, when in reality they know very little about pop culture, and so can’t write a list worthy enough of attention.

I’m talking about the people who will write lists about lists because they think they’re being “meta” or “edgy” by pointing out what everyone already knows anyway — The facts of the internet that people choose to ignore so they don’t go completely crazy with modern, digital living.

He’s probably sat somewhere right now, typing out another one of these so-called “lists”. I bet he’s getting pretty close to the end as well, and is trying to think of a big finish that strikes a balance between humerous and poignant.

He’s probably worrying if Chris Hemsworth was a good example of a popular attractive male, because he doesn’t have a clue what people like or want.

He’s now thinking that he can’t finish with something like that, because a simple call-back doesn’t cut it anymore and every single reader has already figured out that he’s talking about himself, so the twist has been and gone.

I suppose I could just end it by saying that writing clickbait is hard, and even though there are far better ways to spend our time, the people who write it are probably just like you, only without the plague of neurosis.

Yeah, that’ll do.


Today is Monday, November 19th and don’t you dare give that yellow-haired, ex-wrestler the time of day.

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Jacob Wohl, and Should We Be Talking About Him?

Has anyone else read about the Jacob Wohl story?

This is the guy who tried to fake accusations against Robert Mueller, but was found out due to the most inept faked-conspiracy theory in recent memory. He made hundreds of fake social media profiles, that he used to attempt to corroborate information relayed from his fake “consultancy firm”. Only, most of the profile photos were registered models, and one was actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

I know Superbad was a long time ago, but people don’t forget the Mintz-Plasse. Not with a name like Mintz-Plasse, and a face like McLovin.

mclovin
Wohl’s new head of PR

Yesterday he (Jacob Wohl, not McLovin) held a press conference, before which he said he would pay any woman $20,000 to come forward with information about Robert Mueller in regards to sexual assault. Obviously, nobody came forward. It appears as though women won’t just come forward about sexual assault in exchange for money and fame, as some Republicans seem to believe.

Turns out they’re people who’ve been through harrowing experiences seeking to tell the truth, who would have guessed?

His conspiracy and fake network started to unravel when one of his “associates” office phones lead back to his own mother’s cell phone voicemail! I kid you not, HBO will have a TV movie about this guy out by next summer. Probably starring Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Jacob Wohl, for no reason other than the delicious irony.

Wohl’s associate/maybe lawyer, Jack Burkman, even co-led the entire press conference with his fly down. That’s not as relevant, but it really ads to the colour of the situation. I think it might be a metaphor for the entire attempt at fraud that, in a just world, would land Wohl with a couple of years in prison.

Wohl, who looks like a seventy-year-old man who made a deal with the devil to be young again, has been on the fringes of the far-right movement for the last two years. He has been a vocal Trump supporter who peddles the grossest of conspiracy theories, hoping that the President will one day recognise him as a reputable news source.

Which in 2018, that’s the most obvious symptom of unresolved daddy-issues.

Just yesterday he tweeted that Beto O’Rourke is financially supporting the migrant caravan. He made this claim without a source and just threw it out into the world in the form of a selectively edited video. Most of us know this to be ridiculous, but some will buy into it, as we’ve seen with other conspiracy theories in recent years.

At aged twenty, he has already been blacklisted from almost all financial institutions in New York, for lying and claiming to be a hedge-fund manager. He still claims to be a businessman, but the only business he is currently in is misinformation. One that, unfortunately, in 2018 is rather lucrative.

He’s sort-of a cross between Steve Bannon now and Donald Trump at age twenty. He’s a living example of the Trump effect on young people, and surprise surprise it’s in the form of an upper-class brat with delusions of grandeur.

The way he delivered his press conference was even in the style of the Trump administration’s upper rank. He pushed questions away like Sanders, had all the slime-ball anti-charm of a Trump Jr, and the train-of-thought arrogance of the satsuma God-King himself.

wohl2.png

The Trump Presidency has given people like Wohl a platform of legitimacy, because even though we’re laughing at him, we’re still talking about him.

And that’s the recurring problem, isn’t it? Many people argue that left-wing and centrist media continually covering the Trump campaign is what ultimately lead to his victory in 2016, and it’s a perfectly valid argument.

Even though we, the public majority, were stood on the sidelines and laughing at the ridiculous claims of “build that wall” and “lock her up”, we helped to perpetuate these slogans by participating in the mocking. Which, in turn, made his supporters double-down, because they didn’t like being laughed at.

So should the media even be talking about Wohl? Should I even be writing these words? Does it do him more good than it does harm? And is the old adage of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” actually true?

These are a lot of big questions considering the fact that I’ll only be writing for another three-hundred words. And perhaps I’ve done that intentionally, because it’s a complex issue with no correct answer.

Good journalism, true journalism, will try to best inform citizens on the current events of the world. Their job is to present the facts, the data, and to let the crazy speak for itself. I think if these things (Trump campaign, conspiracy theories) are going to happen, then the people need to be made aware of them. It would be even more terrifying if they operated in the dark, and if we couldn’t explain how or why Trump happened.

They definitely need to shift their approach, however. I was impressed by the level of questioning directed at Jacob Wohl at his “press conference”, as they asked about his credentials, his experience as either an investigator or prosecutor (the roles he’s attempting to take on), as well as calling into question the credibility of his claims.

One reporter closed the conference by asking if Wohl and Burkman were ready for federal prison. Which may seem like a flippant question, but fraud and attempting to defame using self-created conspiracy, well, that can land you some serious jail time. You know, if you weren’t a rich white man from New York.

If reporters managed to ask these questions to Sarah Sanders, and if they demanded that she back up the President’s claims with data, facts and statistics, then maybe it wouldn’t be an us vs them shouting match that serves no purpose beyond fuelling Trump’s long-held media mandate.

Maybe it’s because I grew up on him, but I always refer to documentarian Louis Theroux when it comes to getting the truth of a situation from someone. Point a camera, let the crazy speak for itself, spend time with the crazy to show the motives, and then ask questions that reveal just how deep the crazy goes.

I don’t think a continued mocking coverage of situations like Wohl, or the Trump administration are the right answer, but to not cover them at all would also be a mistake. Insects work best when they’re under a rock, and nobody is shining a spotlight on them. Although lately, these cockroaches have appeared immune to rays of truth.


Today is Friday, November 2nd and I’d love to talk, in person, to the sorts of people who blindly believe the words of people like Wohl. I bet they need a hug.

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The NPC Meme

Over the last few days a meme perpetuated by the far-right has been circling social media. The origins of the meme are 4Chan and the r/the_donald subreddit, and it has taken on many forms.

The idea of the meme is to label and brand any non-Trump supporter as an NPC. The far-right has been using this term for a while now, to describe anyone who doesn’t think the same way that they do. NPC is a video-game term and stands for Non-Player Character. The far-right are using this term because they believe anyone anti-Trump to be a brainwashed sheep, who is incapable of independent thought.

Last week they began making Twitter accounts that were “parodies” of anti-Trump folk. They started operating them individually, and used them to spread misinformation about left-leaning people, centrists, independents and moderate conservatives — Basically anyone who isn’t aboard the Trump train.

Over the weekend, many of these accounts were suspended by Twitter, largely for breaching the policy of you needing to be a real person or business. As well as rules they have against trolling, bot-accounts and misinformation (or “fake news”).

The New York Times put together a little collage of some of the hundreds of accounts. I’ve included it below, for some clarity.

NPCcollage

This was an interesting subject to research. Especially as, just this week, Twitter released many of the account transcripts from its crackdown on state-sponsored Russian “bot-farms”. It’s important to point out that these bots come from “both sides”, in that some were anti-Trump and some pro-Trump.

It has been clear for a long time that Russia don’t really mind who is in power in the US, just that the American people are fighting against one another. They’ve started a war of misinformation without having to build a single, physical weapon. Sure, Russia stand to gain more with the Putin-sympathetic President in power. But even if Hillary had won, America would be just as divided, meaning a Russian victory.

I’m generally okay with people on the right poking fun at my political ideologies, as I also have the liberty to poke fun at theirs. I can see how each side believes that the other is living in a “hive mind” of identical opinions, because many of us do remain in our familiar echo chambers. So the far-right branding the left as NPC’s, actually makes a lot of sense from their perspective.

I would argue that the majority of the people making and using the NPC accounts spend their time on 4chan’s /pol/ and Reddit’s r/the_donald, and very little time anywhere else. Neither of these are news sources, as they’re simply message boards on which people can perpetuate the exact same thoughts, on repetition, forever.

Even my conservative relatives (I love them), have the common sense to watch Fox News. It might be a single news source, but it has a duty to report on a variety of subjects, and the world at large. Here are the current front pages of the far-right message boards, and the sorts of things that non-NPC, “free-thinkers” are consuming on an hourly basis:

FPTheDonaldFP4chanpol

I get my news from a variety of sources, and I even try to keep myself engaged with other voices when topics like this arise. For example, I watched a Paul Joseph Watson video to research this subject. I still can’t decide if he believes the things he says and just fails to see the irony, OR if he knows exactly what he needs to say in order to make a living from the far-right. Either way, it’s dangerous.

He used this voice-changing effect throughout his video to simulate the voice of a hive-mind NPC, but then used the same effect at the end of his video to ask his viewers to subscribe, follow and like all of his content. I almost spat out my coffee. And again, if he knows he’s doing it then it’s sort-of clever, but if he doesn’t then he’s a f***ing idiot, who probably thinks in his deluded mind that he’s the John Oliver of the far-right.

Even if you only get your news from ONE credible source, that’s still preferable to reading the comments of anonymous users and taking it as established fact. Reading through some of those threads on /pol/ was a bit of a nightmare, and I feel as though I need some lab-grade eye-bleach, but it proved something to me — The people who made the NPC accounts aren’t consuming any information beyond each other’s comments. It’s all just repeated statements, back and forth.

Yeah, we might all be living in our own echo chambers, but I think I know where the buzziest of hive-minds are. And ironically it’s the people who’re pointing the finger elsewhere. Please far-right, go watch some Fox News or something — Never thought I’d say that.

npcmeme2.jpg

The other interesting aspect of this story is the Russian-bot element. We know they exist in the form of state-sponsored farms, and we also know that far-right message-boards independently created the accounts of hundreds of NPC “bots”. They used these accounts to spread misinformation, and generally troll the electorate. Here’s a source.

I put it to you that the far-right edge-lords on /pol/ and r/the_donald, are doing Russia’s job for them. I’m not saying that they’re being paid by Russia, or that they aren’t Americans — Enough evidence suggests that the far-right acted on their own here. But I am saying that if Americans start making fake accounts in order to influence the opinions of those in the centre, or of vulnerable young people online, then further division will happen. Meaning that Russia get what they want, with even less effort.

The far-right (and I say far-right because I’m not talking about your average conservative voter) have become what they accuse others to be — A hive-mind of bot-accounts who’re seeking to change the views of others by repeating the same phrases over and over.

At least I, and many others (including, unfortunately PJW) have the stomach to put our names and faces to our opinions. We’re individual protagonists or antagonists (depending on your worldview) in a giant, massively-multiplayer online role-playing game called Earth. Anyone who hides on message-boards, who refuses to put a name to their face as they operate a bot account — Well they’re almost the very definition of an NPC.

Pot. Kettle. Black.


Today is Thursday, October 18th and does anybody have any eye-bleach? I need some very strong, weapons-grade, eye-bleach.

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Types of Pokemon GO Players

You can’t put people into boxes. If you do so metaphorically then you’re oversimplifying a person’s individual traits in order to type them for your convenience, and if you do it literally then you’re probably a serial killer trying to dispose of a body, which is equally bad.

My better half and I have spent many hours this summer playing Pokemon GO. We had both put the game down in 2016 (like most others), due to the lack of things to do or accomplish. When we heard they’d introduced a trading aspect, we jumped back in, figuring that we might now stand a chance of finishing a Pokedex or two.

A major part of the game in 2018 are the “Community Days”, where thousands of people flood the streets in order to catch a specific Pokemon and enjoy various bonuses. These “days” usually last for around three hours, and for that time a city, park or shopping mall becomes Pokemad.

That’s not an official Pokemon word by the way, but if you use the prefix of “Poke” with any word, you can pretty much brand anything. For example — I’m currently enjoying some Pokecoffee, whilst sitting on my Pokechair and fending off Pokeexistentialdread.

I’ve found on these Community Days that you can very much see the different types of people who play the game, and so I’ll now present them to you in listicle form, and you can decide for yourself what kind of player you are. Because my word is law and you can definitely just sort people into neat little boxes…

1. The Self-Proclaimed Leader

charizard

Likely Team: Valor

Favourite Type: Dragon

Which Pokemon Are They: Charazard

As one of the few extroverted types playing the game, this loud and outspoken player naturally becomes the leader for any raids. He’s always a he, and you can find him on your local Discord server, delegating detailed instructions to the rest of the community. He’ll be at the start-point six hours before Community Day begins, ready to lead his band of players across the dangerous landscape of a well-maintained city park.

If you join his train, be prepared to listen to every order for maximum efficiency, or you will be kicked out of the group for making jokes about this just being a game. Not that I’m speaking from experience…

“Look if we don’t hit this gym now, then we won’t have time to catch the potentially shiny Pidgey on that street corner before we head to the next one!”

2. The Young Parents

kang

Likely Team: Instinct

Favourite Type: Normal

Which Pokemon Are They: Kangaskhan

Don’t let the two strollers and three infants fool you, these guys are the most hardcore of any Pokemon Go player. Despite the fact that their children are all under the age of four, each of them has a device and an account, all controlled by the parents of course. The six-month old is currently Level 37, and has caught over twenty shiny legendaries.

Multiple strollers make for natural storage space, where they can keep wires and extra battery packs. They also act as battering rams to remove any pedestrians from their path, so they have no need to take their attention away from the five screens. They make for excellent raid allies, but don’t expect to take a gym from them any time soon.

“But I thought you were watching the kids, Sharon?!”

3. The OAP (Older Age Player)

alakazam

Likely Team: Mystic

Favourite Type: Grass

Which Pokemon Are They: Alakazam

An OAP doesn’t need to be a pensioner, just someone who wasn’t young when Pokemon was around for the first time in the late 90s. This can be anyone over the age of forty-five, but the best players are pushing sixty or seventy. Often the most relaxed members of the community, they’re always up for a conversation and excited to geek-out over the Pokemon they’ve caught.

They may not be as efficient when it comes to raids and gym battles, but they’re having a lot of fun, so don’t preach at them. Also, due to an increased amount of free time and disposable income, they’re likely already Level 40 and have nine super incubators going at any given moment.

“This Pokeman looks like a blue radish, what will they think of next?”

4. The Lone Master

mewtwo

Likely Team: Mystic

Favourite Type: Water/Ice

Which Pokemon Are They: MewTwo

This player just wants to get out and enjoy the benefits of the day without actually talking to anyone else, if possible. They’ll follow small groups from a distance and then mysteriously help them with a raid. Headphones are this players must-have item, as they silently yet efficiently move through the city without the need for a Train Leader.

They’re probably technically the best player, in that they see an efficient way of playing whilst remaining casual and disconnected from the wider community. I always want to talk to these people, as they’re who I’d want to raid with, but I also respect their commitments to public privacy.

“…”

5. The Pokemaniac

eevvee

Likely Team: Instinct

Favourite Type: Fairy

Which Pokemon Are They: Eevee

Pokemaniacs will be the first players you see as you arrive at the Community Day event, as they treat it as an opportunity for cosplay and convention-based fun. They may not be in full costume (although some are), but they’ll likely be wearing a lot of official Pokemon merchandise.

They’re often overly friendly (one of them once said “yiff?” to me and I’m not sure what that was about) and eager to show-off their digital collection, even though it’s less impressive than your own mediocre one. They don’t make for very good teammates on raids and you worry that their appropriation of Japanese culture is borderline offensive, but they seem like they’re having the most fun of anyone at the day.

“Eek! That’s my one-hundredth tiny Pikachu! uwu!”

6. The Troll

250px-089Muk

Likely Team: Rocket (If it were possible)

Favourite Type: Dark

Which Pokemon Are They: Muk

You’ll never see this player at a Community Day as they’re likely “spoofing” from back home in their mother’s basement. Ever take a gym in the middle of nowhere, only for it to be immediately taken back by the exact same six players who definitely aren’t stood in the empty field you’re in? That’s the work of The Troll.

For whatever reason, this person uses six devices for six separate accounts in an attempt to play the game to maximum efficiency — No matter how many rules they break, or how many other player’s days they ruin. If they add you as a friend, you’ll receive gifts from Japan one day and France the next, as they spoof to Pokestops all around the world. Stay away from these players, they see themselves as a Giovanni when they’re actually just a Gary.

“Mom! I need more Mountain Dew! Now!”

So there you have it, an absolute definitive guide to the only types of people who play this game, with no room for debate or discussion.

I’m joking, of course, a huge variety of people play Pokemon GO and it seems like the game is more popular now than it was in 2016. It may look strange to see thousands of people looking down at their phones like zombies as they walk the streets, but it’s better to be playing a game outside than it is indoors. At least as far as vitamin D levels are concerned.


Today is Wednesday, September 26th and the hearing of Professor Ford tomorrow is going to be a mess that brings out the absolute worst in old men everywhere.

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VK and Yandex

I do not posses the investigative-journalism skills needed to write something genuinely insightful on what I’ll be rambling about today. However I couldn’t find any written pieces about it, but if anyone does I’d very much appreciate the link.

I was browsing the Alexa rankings in the US — as you do from time to time, just to see how the old internet is doing — and something really stood out to me. VK.com (VKontakte) is currently the 30th most frequented website in the US, ahead of the New York Times, Hulu and Apple. Yandex.ru is the 33rd most visited site in the US, ahead of Yelp, Walmart and Dropbox.

These are both Russian websites, with VK being a massive social media network often equated to Facebook, and Yandex largely serving as a search engine akin to Google.

Now, before I continue with my disconnected thoughts over a rather large morning mug of coffee, I want to say that the following words are purely speculation. Someone a lot smarter than me, with an extensive knowledge of online media, will be able to swiftly explain why these two websites have been trending upwards on the US Alexa rankings for the last two years. What I’m doing is nothing more than emptying my thoughts onto a blank internet page.

I can’t be clear enough — This is not journalism.

Okay, here I go *clears throat*

Yeah but… Pretty weird thing, isn’t it?


Today is Friday, September 14th and I hope everyone has a great weekend!


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No? I can’t just do that? Okay, fine. I’ll write this properly — If I absolutely bloody must.

Obviously we all know about the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and various other democratic votes in the West, including Brexit. Putin denies it on a weekly basis, asking people to show him the evidence. When people then show evidence that Russia (at the very least) “meddled”, he shrugs his shoulders and says that it’s fake evidence.

The ongoing Mueller investigation seeks to find links between the campaigns of the 2016 presidential race and Russian influence. So far plenty of links  (including meetings, memos, offers and state-sponsored agents) have been found among the Trump campaign. But I have to ask — wHat abOUt the eMaiLs!?

In all seriousness, I trust the investigation. Mueller is a Republican who appears to put his country before his party. If he had any special interest it would be to protect Trump, but he obviously isn’t doing that. If Mueller comes out in a year with his report and says that there was no collusion, I’ll believe him. I can’t speak for other filthy lefties, but I think we have to believe in the process of justice and accept the outcome no matter what — Otherwise we sound like O J. Trump.

That was meant to be like “Orange J. Trump” but I now realise it looks like an OJ Simpson reference, and in no way am I saying that Donald has killed someone.

Damn it… Also, in no way am I saying that OJ Simpson killed anyone.

See, this is how you can tell this isn’t real journalism.

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In the past I’ve written about Russian collusion not being for or against any political party, but that alleged state-sponsored “troll farms” are seeking to sew discord across Western democracies in general. Putin has found a way to win a war with America without deploying any troops, simply by getting Americans to turn on each other.

If you use Twitter or Facebook you’ll see that when someone gives an opinion that’s textbook right or left-wing, they’re accused of being a Russian bot. You can usually tell if they really are with a quick profile check, as the account is probably less than a month old and yet has 5,000+ followers. The profile picture is either not an image of a person, or is a stock photo of some kind. However, because it parrots their personal opinions and people don’t check before they “endorse”, thousands still like and retweet the content of the bot.

There’s proof that these troll farms exist, and that they exist in Russia, but to be convincing enough as genuine concerned US citizens, they’ll need to use a US IP address, right?

This is where the conspiracy seeps in, and I wish I’d checked out of this morning blog post three minutes ago, because I loathe speculation.

What if workers at these (alleged) state-sponsored Russian troll-farms are using American IPs to spread discord and distrust on social media, but they’re then checking their own personal social media (VK) and searching the web (Yandex) from the same device? It would be kind-of sloppy of them, but what if these websites are the home-pages on the devices they use? So it’s what automatically pops up whenever they change their IP.

I don’t know, I just find it hard to believe that more Americans are using Russian social media and search engines, than are watching The Handmaids Tale or ordering groceries online or buying the iPhone 15.X. Mainly because I’ve had conversations about these things with Americans, sometimes even strangers, but never have we discussed the benefits of using VK over Facebook, or how Yandex is a really rad search engine.

Maybe because nobody says rad anymore — But they should dammit!

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You can look up the Alexa rankings for yourself, a service powered by Amazon that tracks web-usage country by country. If it were rigged they’d probably put Amazon at the top, so I’m inclined to believe the data is legitimate.

As I said at the beginning, I would love nothing more than for someone to educate me on why these two websites are so popular in the US. It’s not as though China’s top search engine and social media are big-hitters on this side of the world, so why are Russia’s? It all just seems a little suspicious given the current climate.

If there’s one takeaway from all of this, that holds true regardless of whether or not this is all just conspiratorial thinking, it’s that you should be vigilant online.

I’ve written and preached on multiple occasions that you should always check your sources, so that you know where and who your news is coming from. But you should also critically examine anything you see on social media when it comes from someone you don’t know.

If your Facebook friend goes off on a racist rant then you know that’s just Jerry being Jerry, he’s an arse but you know him and you know he’s not a Russian troll. But if John America with 5,000 followers says:

“Interesting how we’re looking at Trump when IN FACT Hilary has managed to escape prison on several occasions for running pedophile rings below pizza parlours??? #lockherup #MAGA”

Then you should maybe be suspicious about where that information comes from.


Today is Friday, September 14th and I really do hope you all have great weekends. Stay safe and be kind.

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If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

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