140 Characters and More

Hello, my name is Tyler Magruder.  Welcome to my blog!

For the next few paragraphs, I will be taking a look at Twitter and how it has been presented in the media within the last few weeks, specifically as it relates to its block feature and its use as a writing form.  I will look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of how media views Twitter’s uses, applications, limitations, and shortfalls, and what that means for the social media platform and its users.

Before I begin talking about the media, I will explain what Twitter is for those that do not use the social media platform.

Twitter is a popular social media site founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams.  While it shares a few similarities with Facebook, Twitter is completely different in most respects.  The basis of Twitter interaction is the Tweet, a status update of sorts that can be viewed by anyone that decides to follow you.  However, what sets a Tweet apart from a Facebook status update or any other social media is that a single Tweet is limited to 140 characters or less.  While this may seem to limit the practical applications of Twitter, it encourages brevity and strategic word choice.  A user can Tweet as frequently as they wish, so if they have something that cannot be said in 140 characters or less, they can simply split it into two or more Tweets.

Another feature of Twitter is the Twitter handle.  When someone makes a Twitter account, they choose both a user name and a Twitter handle.  The user name can be anything they want within 20 characters.  For example, my user name is just my name, Tyler Magruder.  Whenever someone sees your Tweets, your user name will be displayed above them.  However, the Twitter handle is what forms the basis of Twitter conversations.  Twitter handles begin with the @ sign, and are followed by a string of characters without spaces (though underscores are acceptable).  For example, my Twitter handle is @sorryjzargo.  If someone wanted to post a Tweet directed at me, they would include “@sorryjzargo” somewhere in the Tweet, and it would show up in my notifications.  Users can include as many Twitter handles in their Tweets as can fit the 140 characters, but it does limit the amount of information they can exchange in the Tweet.

Other features of Twitter include:

favorites

favorites,

retweeting

retweeting,

direct messaging,

discovering trends

discovering trends,

and blocking.

and blocking.

It is this last feature that has been in the media’s attention recently.  Since the early days of Twitter, users have been able to block other Twitter users from mentioning them in their Tweets or interacting with them in any other way.  With the recent update to Twitter, the functionality of the block feature has become more substantial.  Now, blocked Twitter users will no longer be able to view the user’s profile and users can manage blocked users from a simple interface, like mine.

As you can see, I don’t block many people, but a few people have left me with no other choice.

As you can see, I don’t block many people, but a few people have left me with no other choice.

There has been a lot of media response to the block feature in recent weeks.  I collected a corpus of articles about Twitter relating to its block feature from Time, PC Magazine, Mashable, Wired, Washington Post, NPR, and The Mary Sue.  After reading the articles, I compared which articles expressed a positive outlook on the block features and which expressed a negative outlook on the block features.  The majority appreciate the ability to remove harassers, trolls, and abusers from their social interaction in a quick, convenient fashion.  They praise Twitter for taking action after they received many criticisms of their old blocking system.  A few are uncertain how effective the tools will be, but they all agree that it is a step in the right direction.  However, The Mary Sue, while itself supporting the block features, points out an argument from members of the #GamerGate movement that the added block features allow for mass blocking based on impersonal criteria, such as the popular and infamous #GamerGate AutoBlocker bot that automatically blocks users based on their involvement in the #GamerGate movement.  While I do not support #GamerGate, they have a few points worth addressing.

The first point was brought up by Roberto Rosario, or @siloraptor, who claimed to be wrongfully included on the list.

The first point was brought up by Roberto Rosario, or @siloraptor, who claimed to be wrongfully included on the list.

While he did contribute some Tweets involving #GamerGate, he appears to be largely removed from the overall scandal and actually in charge of a pro-women game development team.  He argues that by creating such an arbitrary list, it limits the communication that individuals can have over Twitter.  However, as the article points out, the creator of the block list, Randi Harper, or @freebsdgirl, included several ways for blocked members to get whitelisted in the instance of wrongful auto-bans.  While it does create an annoyance for people wrongfully banned, it is an easily surmountable problem.

Their other claim is that the block features limits, or even censors the conversation.  While some people may prematurely block people that they think are potential harassers, in the vast majority of instances, removing harassment from conversations only allows for deeper, safer conversations.  People limit conversations every day, from closing a door so outside people do not hear, to leaving the room when the conversation grows boring.  The people that claim that blocking individuals is censorship have a fundamental misunderstanding of censorship.  Everyone has the right to say what they want, but everyone also has the right to ignore what they say.  Blocking someone on Twitter is not removing their ability or right to say what they want.  Instead, it just removes the harmful voices from an individual’s feed.  It has some potential for abuse.  For example, I have seen conversations where a user will jump into a conversation, usually with a derogatory or misguided statement, and then promptly block everyone involved in the conversation.  This leaves no chance for those involved to contest the statement, though ignoring these individuals is often for the best.  As they say, don’t feed the trolls.

As a writing tool, Twitter has certain limitations, but it has many features that make it preferable to many of the other social media platforms available.  With the improved blocking features, Twitter is a safer environment for the discussion of all things, both mundane and profound.  Hopefully these new tools will prove useful in the eternal battle against internet trolls, allowing for uninterrupted discourse between two willing participants rather than between two participants and dozens of screaming voices.

The articles describe Twitter as a troubled place, full of trolls, harassers, and radicals.  I have certainly experienced this element of Twitter, though mostly secondhand.  I have not received any serious threats or harassments, but I have seen it happen to others dozens of times.  The articles also describe Twitter as a place of hope, where the new block features mute the harmful voices and allow civil conversation to exist.  It is this hopeful outlook that dominates the majority of the news articles, but the hope is evidence of the problems that plague it.  Without the trolls and harassers, the block features would not be necessary.  However, Twitter is open for anyone to use, so trolls are sadly unavoidable, though, thanks to the new block features, easily ignorable.

And, for @Sakaerion, I am now pointlessly mentioning “waifu” for your amusement.  Are you happy now?

A note to my readers: This essay was for a school assignment, so I had to follow certain guidelines while writing it.  My assignment was to collect a corpus of news discourse about an electronic writing technology of my choice, then analyze the corpus and draw a conclusions on how the technology is presented, all in a multimodal presentation.

News Sources

Chappell, Bill. “Twitter Targets Trolls With New Rules On Abuse.” The Two-Way. NPR. 2 December 2014. Web. 9 December 2014. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/02/368056945/twitter-targets-trolls-with-new-rules-on-abuse

Frizell, Sam. “Twitter Just Made It Easier to Block Haters.” Time.com. 3 December 2014. Web. 3 December 2014. http://time.com/3615775/twitter-block-users-trolls/

Honan, Mat. “Twitter Beefs Up Its Anti-Troll Tools.” Gadget Lab. Wired. 2 December 2014. Web. 9 December 2014. http://www.wired.com/2014/12/twitter-beefs-anti-troll-tools/

Kelly, Samantha Murphy. “Twitter is making it easier to report harassment and block users.” Mashable.com. Mashable. 2 December 2014. Web. 9 December 2014. http://mashable.com/2014/12/02/twitter-harassment-reporting/

Mlot, Stephanie. “Twitter Makes It Easier to Block Abusers.” pcmag.com. PC Magazine. 2 December 2014. Web. 9 December 2014. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2473014,00.asp

Peterson, Andrea. “The Switchboard: Twitter is making it easier to block harassment.” washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. 3 December 2014. Web. 9 December 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/12/03/the-switchboard-twitter-is-making-it-easier-to-block-harassment/

Winkle, David Van. “Some Twitter Users Are Mad About Gamergate Block Bots. Too Bad We Can’t Hear Them.” themarysue.com. The Mary Sue. 26 November 2014. Web. 9 December 2014. http://www.themarysue.com/twitter-users-mad-about-gamergate-block-bots/

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Recap: Log Horizon 2 Episode 9- The Changing Battlefield

Just a word in advance: this contains spoilers for the episode.  It should be obvious by the title, but I’m warning you just in case.

Title Screen 09

Watch it on Crunchyroll for free!

This episode continues Shiroe’s story as he battles through the raid with Naotsugu, Tetra, William and Demikas, among others.  It is refreshing to return to the raid party after the lengthy Akatsuki-centered story.  While that story certainly picked up towards the end, it had its weak points and was growing stale.

Also, going into this episode from Akatsuki’s story, you know that Shiroe is due to die.

Back at the raid, they discover the next raid boss.

Raid Boss

Luseat of the Seventh Garden

After a short discussion, Shiroe reveals that the chances of beating it are fifty-fifty, and they attack.

After the opening credits, the episode jumps right into the action.  This episode is very heavy on MMO technical speak, so for those that enjoy that (like me) it’s a plus and for those that don’t, I’m not sure how you’ve stuck with the series, though if you’ve struggled through that then there shouldn’t be anything new in this episode.  The raid party sticks with their traditional strategy for defeating a raid boss: tanks draw the boss’s fire, strikers deal heavy damage, and healers make sure that nobody dies.  It is a delicate balance, and it is quickly broken by the boss’s first special attack.  With a swing of its mighty scythe, Luseat insta-kills two of the raid party and deals serious damage to many others.  While they scramble to recover, they count the cooldown of the boss’s special attack.  While they’re counting, the boss lets loose a different special attack, and though it misses they calculate that it could one-hit anyone in its path.

Like any good raiding party, they learn the boss’s pattern quickly, and with a little preparation the next special attack does not insta-kill any of the raiding party.  But this boss is not out of tricks yet.  Some of the strikers deal too much DPS and aggro the boss, and it roots everyone in place for its next attack.  It floats into the air and starts spinning its scythe, eventually lashing out like a disk and striking in an arc, avoiding aggro.  This devastating attack killed eleven of the raiders.  However, the party refuses to quit and licks their wounds.

William

Recovering

As the fight continues, Demikas notices that Shiroe is buffing his damage output.  This only furthers the anger he feels for Shiroe, but he keeps fighting.

With their dead revived and their strategy sound, they seem to finally have made some progress when the boss’s dark armor shatters, leaving him in a bright white suit of armor.  When Elder Tales was just a game, this transformation only happened when certain events happened on the map, but he can now apparently shift forms at will, making some of the raiding party nervous.

That's not sinister at all...

That’s not sinister at all…

While the party focuses on the giant, floating knight, the shattered pieces of Luseat’s armor melt and form into shadow monsters.  The party has to adjust their strategy, letting some of the attackers kill the shadow monsters while the majority focus on Luseat.  Unfortunately, they quickly discover that killing the shadow monsters restores Luseat’s health, leaving them with dilemma of choosing between taking the damage the monsters deal or healing the boss to prevent taking damage.  After some of the shadow monsters had been destroyed, Luseat returns to his dark form.  After he deals massive damage by striking the raiders distracted by the shadow monsters, the party decides to deal with the shadow monsters and deal enough damage against Luseat to make up for it.  Luseat shatters again, and the party is overwhelmed by shadow monsters.

In this moment of crisis, Shiroe realized that Luseat creates a number of shadow monsters equal to the number of people attacking it.  They adjusted their strategy and only had the high damagers attack Luseat while the rest dealt with buffing and dealing with the shadow creatures.

Demikas notices Shiroe buffing him again, and he swears revenge for his defeat.  He plans to publicly defeat Shiroe and humiliate him in front of everyone, but he can’t do that during the raid.

With Luseat’s health down to fifty percent, the raiding party begins to feel the hope of victory.  Demikas begins lusting after the raid rewards and the levels he will use to defeat Shiroe.  They are so focused on their approaching victory that they fail to notice the gates around them opening, letting in another raid boss.

The fight was fun while it lasted.

The fight was fun while it lasted.

One raid boss on its own is a challenge to the best players.  Two are virtually impossible!

Wait, did I say two raid bosses?  Sorry, I meant three!

Game over, man!

Game over, man!

That’s right!  Three raid bosses in one zone!  If one is a challenge and two are virtually impossible, three are beyond the shadow of hope.

The three raid bosses steamroll the raiding party, and with the majority of the party dead, Demikas sees his opportunity.  He lashes out at Shiroe, knocking him down, but he is smashed by one of the raid bosses.  Shiroe fares no better, and for the first time since the Apocalypse, Shiroe dies.

TPK.

This doesn't look like Elder Tales.

This doesn’t look like Elder Tales.

Shiroe awakes in the snow.  Memories of his real life, before the Apocalypse, flash through.  He sees Christmas shopping and Santa Claus.  You see the real Shiroe, which, although he is similar to his online avatar, he looks more real.  Shiroe walks through his hometown, and small memories flash before him.  He realizes that he is losing some of his memories, though most of them are still intact.  Shiroe sees himself as a kid and reminisces about his childhood.  It doesn’t sound very pleasant, but it was how he first started playing Elder Tales.  He remembers the conversation with William where he was told that dying teaches you that you are a failure, and the flashback to his childhood certainly reinforced that.  This whole segment felt rather somber, but it was a nice change of pace from the overdramatic Akatsuki and the action-focused first half of the episode.

While reminiscing, Shiroe realized that he is dishonest with those he cares about.  He reveals that he is deceptive because he wants to use the people he knows to find whoever it was that brought them into the game.  With Shiroe’s obsession with the magic of the world, this isn’t particularly surprising, but it helps clarify some of his prior actions.  All of his inquiries about flavor text, monsters, plants and literature were to find some sort of clue about whoever brought them into the world during the Apocalypse.  None of the evidence seemed to support that there was someone responsible for it, but then he reveals that he found some evidence, though he doesn’t say what it is (so infuriating!).  He realizes that he was only making excuses by not telling his friends about his plans.  With this realization, Shiroe realizes that it is time to leave.  As soon as he stands up, he appears on the game’s version of the moon, the same place seen a few episode prior when Akatsuki died (in fact this is the same scene, just from Shiroe’s perspective).

Earth

According to the game’s data, Shiroe is on the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon.  He recalls a test server that was rumored to be on the moon.  He is perplexed by the location, but quickly snaps out of his daze by the arrival of Akatsuki.  By now, this is the third time I’ve seen this scene, but it’s still interesting and adorable.  Akatsuki and Shiroe share a moment without words while strings play and Akatsuki dances.  It’s strangely mesmerizing and charming and shows the bond the two have.  They finally speak, and the memories leave both Akatsuki and Shiroe.  They both cut a lock of their hair and place it in the ocean.  I’m somewhat confused by this, but it’s clearly important to them by their solemnity.  They talk about the snow, which is really memories offered by players to be resurrected.  Shiroe remarks that Akatsuki was defeated, then reveals that he was too.  Shiroe comforts Akatsuki, and tells her that he was naive.  Akatsuki says that she isn’t worried that she failed, and Shiroe imposes that she didn’t do her best.  He closes with the comfort that even though she failed, she can still try again, and succeed.  He expresses his confidence in her, something she had been struggling with throughout her entire storyarc, then mentally says that he will do his best too.  He remarks that it’s strange to see her there, and she agrees.  She gets up and decides to try again.  Shiroe does too, and they return to consciousness.

Merry Understatement-mas!

Merry Understatement-mas!

Overall, this episode had a good balance of action and introspection, and I feel like Shiroe actually grew as a character, something that’s been somewhat lacking from the beginning.  Shiroe has always been a constant, but it’s good to see that they’re not content with him growing stale.  The boss fight was suitably epic, and the traumatizing ending to the raiding party showed how harsh the world had become.

What are your thoughts?  Feel free to comment!