Using Facebook Timelines to teach history

How cool is this? Not only can we use a personal timeline page to keep track of our personal history, but now many of the offical pages of the US Government have updated their pages to make a virtual history book of sorts!



“We are the generation of nostalgia. We grew up in the age of transition. From hand-written letters to electronic mails. From film to digital. We were fascinated by new things, neglecting the way we spend our afternoons. Cupcakes and tea. Play-Doh and Polly Pockets. Young and naive. Technology completely changed the way we waited and we grew up too fast. The simple things in life seems more meaningful now. We grew up in the age of transition and have become the generation of nostalgia (original blog post here).”


My name is Brandon, and I suffer from #instacurity

 I stumbled upon this fake (although it should be real) PSA tonight.  We talk a lot in this class about the issues surrounding social media, and these guys sum it up really well.  They even started an entire website and tumblr blog to bring awareness to the problem of instacurity   I caught myself laughing at this video because I myself have fallen into its trap.  One of the posts on their blog was the quote at the top of the post.  I’m not trying to excuse my generations behavior, but I do find the quote to be the most simplistic explanation as to why my generation became so infatuated with social media so quickly.  Take a look at the video embedded below, and even the website linked in the logo above.  I’m curious to hear what you think!


Confession time: I LOVE watching important moments in history through the lens of social media.  There is nothing better than seeing what people all over the world are thinking as the events unfold before each of us at the same time.  At around 6:56 PM, I popped in my headphones, found a live feed of the speech and waited for the fun to begin.  I opened up my twitter feed and decided to see what the trending topics were at the moment, hoping people cared enough about the events that something of meaning would be trending.  My hopes were in vain, as I was greeted with the following:

Out of 9 organic trending topics, only one had to do with presidential address.  The rest had to do with blaming Obama, Pop Culture (Miley Cyrus still?  Really?) Sports, and television.
After seeing what was trending nationally, I decided to see what was trending on a more local scale, hoping that we here in Utah would be better citizens and more informed.
About the same as the national trends, although interestingly enough #PresidentialAddress was at the top of the trending topics in SLC.  A few of the topics were the same as the national ones and of course we here in Utah were all still talking about the new iphone that was announced this morning.
Surely if Utah cared about things, other cities with different political makeup and demographics should feel similar, right?  I decided to look up a three other major cities to see what was trending there, and found some interesting things.  These cities were New York, Los Angeles and Houston.
#PresidentialAddress was not trending in NY, however #Syria was at the top of the list.  More on that particular hashtag later.  We still see that pop culture trends (including Miley Cyrus) still populated the rest of the list here.
On the other end of the country, not even one of the trending topics had to do with the presidential address which was about to being.  Ironically Miley Cyrus continued to top the list along with Sons of Anarchy.  The bottom two topics had to do with the soccer game currently being played.
Hoping to find some patriotic americans who would be interested in the affairs of their great country, I turned to Texas.  What I found was that not one of the trending topics in this city was related to the speech.  Instead, it was populated with sports posts, movies and consumerism. 

My brief examination of trending topics across the nation was not even close to comprehensive, but it did provide a little bit of context for what I would see for the next hour or so.

I went back to the twitter search box and decided to dive right into the good stuff and searched for the feed for #Syria.  The first post in the feed was this:

I clicked on their link, and what I found was trove of information that was incredibly pertinent to this assignment.  The linked page looked like this:
I couldn’t have been happier.  When I took this screenshot, it was 6:58 PM, two minutes before the speech was about to begin. Sidenote, remember the number above; later I’ll post a screenshot of the amount of tweets at the end of the speech. 

I scrolled down the page, hoping to see more awesome stuff to screencap and follow during the speech.
The map of the US was a live visual which placed a red dot in the location when someone discussed Syria.  They only stayed a few seconds before fading away, but grew bigger as people in a close geographical area discussed at the same time.  I was hoping to see this map just go crazy.  The pace picked up a little bit, but not very much.  Most of the dots also tended to appear in the same geographical regions.  I took a few screenshots throughout and after the speech to show as a comparison:

What were people saying?  After all, that is kind of the point of this analysis, right?

Just before the speech started, I pulled up my personal facebook page and posted a question, hoping to gather how my circle of “friends” felt about the speech and situation as a whole.  I hadn’t seen any chatter on my facebook feed about the speech, so I decided to instigate some myself.  I didn’t want it to turn into a philosophical debate (and was prepared to delete the post if it snowballed into that), but I was hoping that people who read and commented on the post would be genuine and understand my purpose in asking.  I was pleased with the discussion that resulted.  

The first reply simply stated “I wish I knew the solution.”  Sometimes the most powerful words are those which cannot be spoken.

Other replies were comical: 

Kuwait a minute. Yemen if Iraq up this war debt then Iran into Syria’s trouble? Oman can someone tell me if this Israel?”“Syriasly?”

The majority of the replies, however came from those people most directly connected to the consequences of the situation: those with direct ties to the military.  I found their commentary to be very powerful, almost being able to feel their worry as I read their words: 

US needs to just hang tight and not react to this. It’s silly in my opinion.”
“My soldiers need a break from fighting the bad guys. Can’t we all just get along?!”

My post was the only thing I saw about Syria on my facebook feed all night.  Interesting how quickly we can be lulled into apathy.  I guess all it takes is a new, disgusting Miley Cyrus video of her naked on a wrecking ball to distract us from having truly meaningful discussions.

Anyways, back to twitter.  Here are some screenshots of tweets throughout (and after) the speech using the official hashtag #syria:

Here’s my brief analysis of what I saw on twitter.  People don’t want another war. People do not trust our elected leaders. People are sick of hypocrisy and arbitrary “red lines”

The entire purpose of tonight’s speech to the nation was to convince a skeptical public about why we need to do something we don’t want to do.  Unfortunately, it seemed that the publics mind was made up long before this speech actually began (at least the public who post in the twittersphere).

Just before the 7 PM hour ended, I took another screenshot of the tweet count at the top of the page.  Here’s how much it had grown in 60 minutes time:

I still don’t know what the best thing for us to do is as a country. I honestly can see both sides of the argument, with all of their flaws.  I hope that no more innocent lives will be lost due to military action or chemical weapons usage.  I think I agree with @carleebrian (who I’ve never met):

Response to "Pull your head out of your iAss"

NOTE: The original post/video to which I’m responding to is located at this link.

“What the hell does a girl “twerking” and catching on fire have to do with this class?”  I had heard earlier today that this video was staged, but didn’t have time to watch the video where the hoax was revealed.  What I discovered after watching it was that not only was this video comically very funny, but it was a really sly, clever social commentary on our society today.

“Good thing nothing is happening in Syria right now”

This comment by Jimmy Kimmel was probably missed by most people; possibly by their laughter or the audiences rousing applause over the top of him speaking.  But that comment was the phrase that turned this entire situation from a simple comical hoax to a brilliant criticism our how disconnected we are in a “connected” world.  His comment came directly after a 60 second montage of news stations (both local and national) covering the story of the girl whose yoga pants caught on fire.

Was this social criticism intentional?  I doubt it; at least initially.  Kimmel himself says that he posted the video almost 2 months ago.  Yes, Syria was happening then, but it hadn’t really escalated to the level it stands currently.  The way his comment was quipped seemed very off the cuff; almost like he didn’t know the weight his words would carry.

But then again, maybe that’s what he wanted to happen all along.

Good vs. Bad Design

In the never-ending battle of soft drinks, there are really only two main competitors: Coke vs. Pepsi.  In all reality however, there isn’t any competition or comparison between the Colas because Coca-Cola will always win in branding and taste.

There is a significant difference when you begin to examine the visual styles of these brands sports beverages.  Pepsi’s Gatorade brand is much more successful at creating a successful collateral packaging design than Coke’s Powerade brand.
In the packaging of the above, the first thing that is apparent is the red, lightning bolt-esque design on each of the packages.  The Gestalt principle of continuity is apparent in this design, showing us a smooth path from bottom left to the top right.

The use of color and contrast also should not be ignored when examining why this packaging works.  The only color used on each of the bottles is the color of the beverage (in this case, red) and the orange used in the lightning bolt and lid.  This use (or lack of) color makes the bold “G” trademark stand out, identifying the brand.

The shape of the bottles is important to the effectiveness of the design.  The sleek curves of the bottles scream sporty, like the curves on an expensive sports car.  

In the case of Powerade, a few design ideas are shared with Gatorade, but to a lesser degree of effectiveness.  Powerade also attempts to use a single color focus, but with a black label and stark, white text.  This works okay; however spelling out an entire word doesn’t have the same visual power as the large white letter G on the Gatorade bottles.

The shape of these bottles is not as effective.  While a bottle of powerade and gatorade are pretty much the same volume, the handgrip on the powerade bottle makes the bottle seem bulky, a far cry from the sleek, race car lines of the gatorade.

When looking at these two ads, there is a distinct difference in appearance.  The Gatorade ad is balanced; placing the largest bottle in the middle.  The Powerade ad has an asymmetrical balance and just feels off; the text on the left is to high, and everything on the ad is shifted upwards which feels weird, making the negative space unbalanced and empty.