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intheventofire

The collected works of Mr Neil D Campbell

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Just the cogs’a’turning…

How to spot a fake news story…

The internet has become the world’s most important resource for news. It has overtaken press groups and stock libraries to become the go-to destination for anyone wishing to know anything. Seconds after a world changing event, tweeted pictures and live streams bounce around the globe at the speed of fibre optic and nothing and no one is sacred.

Information Utopia at last?  …if only

The problem with this sudden availability of info is that it doesn’t serve those who seek to control the flow of news and those who have this power have a hidden ace… namely us.

The media only needs to let us poison our well and the sudden powerful access we currently share will be worthless… in short, we need to stop sharing crap.

I am writing this article because of the sheer volume of spin, nonsense and disinformation I have come across on the internet recently and we really need to sort out how we are using our new super power.

So how do you spot a fake news story?

The answer is surprisingly simple and here are some tips to prevent the flow of crud.

1. Google it – Yep crazy as it sounds typing the baby eating story into Google is often enough to separate the fact from the fiction. For deeper analysis use Snopes and hoaxslayer too.

2. Check the date – This year I’ve seen pictures from the 1960’s Woodstock festival masquerading as peaceful pipeline protests in Aug 2016 and four-year-old war reports from Syria pretending to be tales from the front line. Human beings have been around for a long time and if you look hard enough you can find an image or a headline to fit pretty much any idea.

3. The devil is in the details – Beware of sensational headlines with vague details. If atrocities occur at least allow the victims to be remembered. Don’t fall for ‘a man from a village was eaten by ISIS.’ People like Donald Trump need people to be scared of ISIS and by spreading these awful tales you are only helping him and others like him. When terrible things happen records will exist. Name, age and location or it probably didn’t happen.

4. Check the source – This can be tricky for a number of reasons.  For one it’s very easy for anyone to own a domain name and put up a slick looking news site and secondly, the state of the UK press means they are capable of just about anything. As a rule, crossreference the story. It’s unlikely that everyone bought it, so even if the BBC was daft enough to share it, Channel four or Reuters might have had some reservation.

5. Use your commonsense – We all have a built in bulls*it detector. If something is worrying you about a story, go with your gut and apply tips 1-4 until you discover the truth.

That’s it, go tell the world… the truth

*pic above creative commons

How fast are Clichés?

Faster than a speeding bullet? Do they spread like Wildfire?

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I suppose it took some time once, as the phrase seeped from page to page and then from mouth to mouth…

Nowadays, what was witty in the morning can be passé by the end of the day…

I hate clichés and when the planet is mine their deaths will be quirky and helpful with a twst of melon.

We’re heading for a bad spell – The Rise of The Typo

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There was a time when making the front page really took something. I mean sure Jimmy The tap Dancing Squirrel might have had a look in on the slower of news days, but for the rest of us it would take something spectacular to make the headlines. Saving lives perhaps or more likely taking them, war, plague, and the other two horsemen would generally be enough and these days being Simon Cowell seems to count too.

Of course the front page that matters has changed and so too has the rite of ascension.  It’s no longer the front of the broadsheets and tabloid that we covet it’s the front page of Google that matters now and to claim your place in the highest ranks of the hallowed search engines you have to be clever.

Take the word internet, it only takes search engine royalty Google 0.15 seconds to find over 6,580,000,000 references…However misspell it, even by a fraction, and the odds may surprise you… Try Intrenet for example and Google will find just 620,000 and it has to think about it. Curiously it doesn’t even ask me if I meant the other word, it seems to know.

So what does it mean? Well it used to annoy me when bands misspelt their names or went all street and urban with Phat dis and sic that… but now it seems in the future we’ll all be at it…

I’m terrible for typos, only today I sent a nid to a friend and I am constantly saying sory for my typoing. But the real truth of it is we’re just more casual about our writing on the internet I mean FFS in my humble opinion we’re too busy laughing out loud to pay attention to spelling and even grammar.

The dyslexic in me rejoices a little at the thought of people unashamedly communicating without fear of either, but I also know that if there is to be a use for the typo, then the people who’ll use it most are the same folks that always find a use for such things first.  The marketing men…Soon my glitchy spelling and creative grammar could be the difference between page one and page five on Google and in the future that difference could be everything.  Let’s be honest we’re not known for our patience, in fact I’ll wager good money I don’t have, that somewhere on Google there’s stats from some psychologist or marketing mage to explain how many of you I have already lost by this paragraph.

I have no idea where we go from here but I predict that the typos that we were once so terrified about are not only going to be forgiven, one day they are going to be essential…

So enjoy what we have… before the AD men open their bottles of Shampain and tuck into their CavyR.

Captcha 22

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So I guess this is an open Letter to the folks that make these captcha landmines…

Before I start I want to say I understand why these things exist and I appreciate the work they do in saving me from Online Pharmacies, penis enlargers, Russian brides, and (never really) free I pads…

I just wish there were more ways round them for us special kids…

I have been stuck behind these diagrammatic nightmares for ten or twenty minutes before and the last thing you need after 30 minutes of data entry is a freaking hurdle. I don’t know what it is about these things.  In theory they are just simple pictorial puzzles, but in my mind they mostly look like those stupid 3d magic eye puzzles that were big in the 90’s and they only ever gave me headaches…

Now, I applaud the clever boffins who have added the Audio Captcha option, but some of us have been forced to learn our spelling phonetically, hidden away in our bedrooms terrified that someone will find out that we have problems reading… at least I did when I was younger.

My English teacher, who was what can only be described as a heartless black blooded witch, was completely unable to comprehend the fact that some words are not spelt the way they sound and therefore those of us forced to try fit the square peg in the round hole could never have used a dictionary to spell a word. She once belted me for my inability to  complete this simple task… I kept my head down after that…

The problem lies with phonemic awareness and if you have a problem with that then you’ll understand my issue….They call it a weakness, but come round my house for a game of scrabble or read any of my work and you’ll soon see that it can lead to a unique and interesting style and an unusually high vocabulary.  (Basically to avoid using words that we are unsure of how to spell, people like me will write themselves out of the corner in a thesauric display of literal splendidness.)

Anyway I’m getting off the track here… My point today is that as most of the world moves away from paper and on to the crystal clear retinal displays, we the dyslexics and co are going to get stuck behind these bloody indecypherable minefields… or worse yet we’ll just give up.

So… Dear Captcha, please can you make something on your devices that allows us left brainers to sneak past your little anagrammatical digital doors… Why not do little pictures? I could even draw you some. I mean sure eventually one’s mac book pro is going to get the logic to recognise a stick cow, but that’s years off. So until then, can we please have some indication that you are listening and want to help us get our downloads,  join those forums, or pay our bills. We’re not stupid, in fact think of us as Supermen and your little gatekeepers as kryptonite.*

*mental note funny how I can spell kryptonite first time, but I can never work out how many R’s there are in around…

PS. Please consider putting a little button on your captchas along the lines of…  “Having Problems with this Captcha? Are you dyslexic?” and then maybe a relevant link?

Anyway rant over…

Look Mr and Mrs Captcha my own version and you can use it for free!

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p.p.s. it’s a cow

If this site has an A to Z… Then you are looking at an aardvark…

So… I suppose here I’ll have a chat about what to expect….

Well this blog’s a great big glossy back page and a celebrity endorsement…

And the message is simple if you want some one to put words in some kind of order. then not even Carly Simon could do it better…

So welcome to the writings and ravings of Mr Neil D Campbell… Journalist, writer, photographer, and songwriter…

Have a nose and if you see something you like send me a telegram

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