Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pinterest 5: the Clone Invasion

Predictably, the Pinterest clones have begun emerging:
  • Clipix, the life-organizer with a private option
  • Fa Xian, China's version built by Alibaba
  • Dart It Up, the male-oriented alternative
  • Snatchly, for sharing favorite porn images
You can tell you have a good idea when other, lesser "entrepreneurs" spend all their creative effort on imitating you.

Myself, I started early with Pinterest but left after a few weeks when a certain legal issue arose with their Terms of Service, namely: 1) Pinterest willfully assumes images you link to are your property, 2) Pinterest gives itself the right to sell your images without your acknowledgment, and 3) if the original artist/photographer presses a lawsuit, Pinterest holds itself blameless and forwards all the trouble directly to you. Despite this, and even confronted with this, people cling to ignorance-as-defense: "I thought it was like a bulletin board or a bookmarks list. I don't see anything wrong with that."

[UPDATE: April 1, 2012 - Pinterest intends to revise its Terms of Service, in effect: 1) only discouraging blatant self-promotion, with a function to report copyright violation, and 2) removing its clause about selling images users post. These changes will go into effect April 6, 2012. The inadvertent comedy behind this is that Pinterest insists it's trying to disable exploitation of its service as free advertising, while mainstream media is full of how-to articles for individuals, organizations (Army, White House), and corporations to use Pinterest for exactly this end.]

Dart It Up: toys, cars, sports, and misogyny.
Clipix sounds like what I was using Pinterest for, anyway: a folder for stuff I wanted to keep track of. I started following people who had links to really interesting jackets and clothes, so one folder was like a shopping list for that time in the future when I'll have discretionary funds. I will miss it for that: someone had access to these amazing Asian distributors I never would've heard of on my own.

The only difference between Dart It Up and Snatchly is that the former will also include sports, cars, gadgets, and firearms (or the latter lacks those). Snatchly will feature out-and-out nudity, while Dart It Up posts only show bikinis and... I don't get why anyone finds the Olson Twins attractive, when every picture makes them look like they were dug out of rubble after a week of rescue attempts. Maybe these guys get off on tragedy. Each of these services, ultimately, will succeed by reinforcing negative male stereotypes, a trend men don't fight very hard against. The lesson here: cynicism is profitable.

Dart It Up's mission statement is that it is a reaction to Pinterest's trending: manly-men didn't feel secure about posting their interests (man-cave accouterments, soft-core porn, &c.) in a gallery of women's interests: dresses, fingernail designs, hairstyles, dresses, shoes, make-up, accessories, and more dresses. Which is strange, because you can make your posts private or share them with friends. Why would someone be ashamed to post their interests unless they acknowledge they are shameful? What Dart It Up provides, then, is permission to be an asshole, just as Pinterest reinforces women being materialistic, shallow girly-girls: in fact, they're starting to address their problem with the pro-anorexia/bulimia movement known, among other facades, as "Thinspiration."

So clearly Pinterest answered a need. I don't think it created a need, I think it presented an elegant solution to something people wanted to do, something that had been touched on by other social media. People want to group these things and they want to show off their prizes. Is that a hunting instinct? A sense of accomplishment, in a surplus society where priorities have shifted from things you do to things you own?

Friday, March 30, 2012

"Flash Mob" Assaults on Cyclists in Minneapolis

In February and March there have been six incidents of a group of "young men" who emerge in force to attack Minneapolitans on bicycles. Police have noted these assaults do not seem to be motivated by theft: they are simply attacking cyclists for the sake of violence.

Cyclists: be on alert for any large group of "young men" emerging from a bus shelter along Nicollet Mall. These attacks have occurred as early as 8 PM, and at least one developed right in front of police.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Researching HSAs: an Outsider's Tale

My task today is to research HSAs. I know nothing about these so I'm going to track my learnin' here.

A health savings account is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the U.S. who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The funds contributed to an account are not subjected to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), funds roll over and accumulate year to year if not spent.
It seems Minnesota HSA law differed from federal standards prior to January 1, 2007, so our current form of HSA is a relatively new governance. Tax-advantaged means accounts and investments that are tax-deferred, -reduced, or -free. All of this is clear enough, I think. What are my options as a U.S. citizen living in Minnesota?

IRS Publication 969 [PDF]: Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans (Table of Contents [HTML]) - This is the authoritative document intended to help for tax purposes, but it doesn't tell me where I could participate in or qualify for an HSA.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

All Good Minneapolitans, Hie

Being unemployed, I have a lot of time on my hands. More than I know what to do with: I know with great confidence, once I do get a job I'm going to have all sorts of busywork for myself in my free time, and I will curse my past-self bitterly for squandering the riches of my free time so brazenly. I've done it before and I'm sure I'll do it again.

Hennepin History Museum,
Minneapolis, MN
On this clear and relatively warm day (it was 31° F when I went for a walk), I decided to take in a museum. It turned out to be two, but that wasn't my fault, unless "failing to check museum times" counts as my fault. I'd intended to hit the Hennepin History Museum, but I arrived half an hour before they started business, so I simply tripped kitty-corner over to the MIA. I like the MIA, it's a tremendous mansion stuffed full of the treasures of the world, the treasures of the past. It's astonishing, and it's free, and it was open so I wandered around through the Asian exhibits. I'd seen them before but how can you look at an ancient funerary statuette collection and be done with it?