Instagram is currently one of the world’s most popular social networks by usage and membership. Owned by Facebook, and lovingly known by its fans as simply ‘Insta’, the site is a valuable treasure trove of pictures and memories and offers a glimpse into the lives of its 600 million or so active users. While Instagram has developed a reputation as a bit of a narcissist’s heaven with many users flooding it with selfies, posing like there is no tomorrow, it also has become a valuable resource for creatives such as photographers and graphic designers to showcase their work, and many celebrities use it to give their fanbase a way of keeping up to date with their daily goings-on. And of course, if you ever feel hungry or have no idea what’s for supper tonight, then Instagram’s impressive collection of food photos is the ideal place for culinary inspiration. Not to mention those awesome filters.
With the help of content, social media and online marketing blog The Social Ms, here are twenty facts and statistics about the photo-sharing network you probably had no idea about.
By the end of 2016, Instagram reported it had 600 million active users, that is, people who use their accounts and upload photos or images. This is an additional 100 million shutterbugs joining the service since September 2015
Instagram has a rapidly increasingly ‘growth base’ with rises of 15 per cent, and there is no sign of it slowing down. In the United States alone (its biggest market), the number of users is expected to hit 116.3 million (34.8 per cent of the then population) and become the second-most popular social network, overtaking Twitter, fellow photo social network Pinterest and micro-blog Tumblr, according to recent figures by eMarketer.
Not surprisingly, just like all social networks, Insta is a hit with the young ‘uns. For all age groups of Internet users, 28 per cent use it, 55 per cent of people between the ages of 18-29 are Insta-fanatics, forming its largest demographic, according to the Pew Research Center in the US. The centre also reported that 52 per cent of teens aged between 13 and 17 were also fans of Instagram.
Instagram has good product loyalty. Fifty-nine per cent of its users post daily, and another 17 per cent use it at least once weekly, according to the Pew Research Center.
The site has enjoyed massive growth rates in some subjects, according to MediaPost. Beauty (74% growth rate), ‘big box’ (128%) and household goods (149%) have been some of the most popular topics, at least for businesses using their Instagram accounts to promote their goods to private users. For the rest of us, I assume selfies probably have a growth rate of 100,000 per cent (I kid).
Instagram is big money for marketers. In 2015, it netted advertising revenue of USD $500 million (GBP £407 million). It is expected that this year, Insta will make more money from its advertising platform on American mobile handsets than Google and Twitter, claims eMarketer.
Although Instagram is US-founded and run by a big American tech company, most of its success has been from outside. Eighty per cent of its users are non-American.
Over 80 million photos are uploaded per day. There is believed to be more than 40 billion images crammed into Insta’s servers and users generate an astonishing 3.5 billion likes per day, says ClickZ.
The most prestigious account, going by popularity and celebrity anyway, is the one owned by U.S. singer Selena Gomez. She has 99.5 million followers allegedly.
The most liked photo over all of Insta was one by reality show star Kendall Jenner. The picture of her lying on her back, eyes closed with her hair spread out and arranged into hearts got 3.5 million likes.
If you post a photo, fifty per cent of comments will appear within six hours, meaning a good post will stick around and not get lost in the noise.
Instagram is quite secure, with only eight per cent of its accounts said to be fake, according to an unnamed Italian security firm.
Like any social network, people sometimes do get bored of posting or other things happen in their life that pull them away. The same Italian firm discovered that nearly 30 per cent of account are rarely used or inactive, usually posting one post per month or less, according to Business Insider.
For businesses, Insta is marketing gold. Forrester published stats that suggest people engage with brands ten times more on Insta than they do on Facebook. Facebook ads are annoying, I grant you that.
One-third of Instagram users have used their mobile to purchase a product online.
Fifty-three per cent of Instagrammers, as fans are sometimes called, are following brands.
As humans love seeing faces, this fact is probably not surprising, but selfies and group photos on average are 38 per cent more likely to get liked, than other kinds of pictures, such as inanimate objects.
Accomplished Baltimore rapper Sullee J returns with a new single as he recently announced his new signing with Bogish Brand Ent. in the United States. This new track is entitled ‘Bad Habits’ and sees Sullee J pay homage to his Pakistani heritage by dropping a bilingual flow in English and Urdu, the national langauge of Pakistan, of which Sullee is a fluent speaker.
Bad Habits, also called ‘Old Habits’, or in Urdu ‘Jiyu Kaise’ speaks on the battles between culture and politics. Produced by AnnoDominiBeats, the music video starts off with the sights of the once-glorious city of Detroit, the erstwhile ‘Motor City‘ of the Americas. Sullee J appears near some cool street art and immediately drops some Urdu lyrics with his unmistakable delivery and raw emotion, before moving onto English. It is a powerful song, which speaks of the bad and good of human society and the struggle of existence in an international theatre of hate and war, interspersed with video and news footage of the tragedies unfolding in the Middle East, some of which is raw and unsettling for some viewers.
Some words extracted from the hook which Sullee J has translated especially are “How can I live like this? am I also suppose to break hearts, or help join them? Everywhere I look, it always seems corrupt, it feels like this whole life is a game, and people will do whatever to win in it, How can I live like this?”
Bad Habits is now out on YouTube and you can download the MP3 version on SoundCloud.
The small Indian Oceanisland of Mauritius may not have the clout of many other much larger countries when it comes to producing people that can be defined as ‘great’ and ‘multitalented’, but that does not mean that Mauritians are not capable of reaching those dizzy heights.
Enter Bagooaduth Kallooa. He has been described by Le Defi, one of Mauritius’ most widely read newspapers, as ‘a man of many talents’. He began his working life as a nurse working in patient care on the west coast of Mauritius, inspired by his humble origins, and his desire to help the poorer parts of society who rely on the island republic’s government-run hospitals. Kallooa’s talent and professionalism was quickly noticed by the health managers of Flacq Hospital, who readily promoted Kallooa to the position of head nurse, a role he still holds.
Bagooaduth Kallooa also became keenly involved in the local trade union movement, as he understood the importance and hard work of looking after patients, where there is a major requirement of patience, sacrifice and a good dose of determination to heal the sick. He also understood, as a nurse himself, that he and his colleagues worked tirelessly and selflessly under very trying conditions, and he personally felt saddened by the negative and abusive attitude shown by some members of the public towards caregivers and other medical professionals just trying to do their job. Kallooa began organising trade union activities to protest against the difficult conditions nurses endure, as well as trying to build unions that are there “24/7” for their members and at the same time avoid the militant unionism that has annoyed many ordinary Mauritians in the past.
More than thirty years after Kallooa began his nursing journey, things have gone full circle for the multi-talented health professional, who also a keen photographer, sculptor and painter. He is the first Mauritian to be elected as Second Vice President of the International Council of Nurses (ICN). The ICN, founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1899 is a non-governmental organisation made up of worldwide national nursing organisations. It works to promote and guarantee the quality of patient care, lobbies for sound healthcare policies and to make strides in improving and developing the teaching of the profession. It currently has 16 million members in 137. Kallooa will have joint responsibility for the ICN’s activities in the Africa region, according to Le Défi.
Despite his keen involvement in a busy career and his new promotion to the ICN, Kallooa finds time to draw on his many creative talents. He practices painting, sculpture and photography, receiving several international awards for his photo work alone, including one memorable gong from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Corporation, relating to a photography project he did on the theme of communication . He has exhibited his creations all over Mauritius and the world alongside the Alliance Française, often based on his observations of everyday mundane life, and in 2015, Kallooa travelled to China to showcase a photo exhibition of children he took pictures of in different countries over a span of 25 years. He donated the proceeds of the Chinese exhibition to the Girls Child Education Fund (GCEF), a charity that promotes the education of orphans internationally.
Kallooa is a shining example of not only the talents and determinations of Mauritius’ people, but also a solid lesson in how working hard and using your skills and talents to benefit others is in itself a blessing.
Baltimore‘s very own illustrious MC and one of its finest multilingual lyrical class behind the studio glass, Sullee J, has announced the launch of his latest album “The Undefined Soul (Andrew Slayer)” and today the Half-Eaten Mind features a single from this album, the tantalising “Do For You”.
Produced by Andrew Bayer and Dinero Films, the song and accompanying video, which was filmed on site in Chicago, is a love song from the gritty streets, of making dreams come true and being by each other’s sides. Having broken all the barriers of hip-hop, Sullee J’s performance in Do For You, not only challenges your mind when he recites those unmistakably powerful verses, but his words seem to pierce through the listeners’ hearts with raw emotion. This mixtape has been one of Sullee J’s favourite projects to date, and his passion and determination is clear to see.
Gaining nationwide acclaim over the years through major collaborations with artists such as Young Buck, Crooked I, Royce Da 5’9, Project Pat & more, Sullee J continues to bring solid music for his supporters. You can check out the new single by Sullee J and Andrew Bayer right now on YouTube and Bandcamp (free single download).
Since October 2012, all British workplaces have been required to offer a ‘workplace pension’ to all their permanent employees. The rule was first applied to large companies, but now all employers, even those run by one person with one staff member, must have pension provisions in place by law. Until then, employers varied wildly in their pensions packages or whether they even offered them.
The UK’s Department for Work and Pensions, in collaboration with the Pensions Regulator have a useful website which aims to demystify the regulations surrounding compulsory pension schemes, a scheme known officially as ‘Automatic Enrollment’. As millions of people now have workplace pensions that both they and their employer pay into, the website explains to businesses how this will affect them, their businesses and their clients’ businesses.
Even if a company has only a single employee, that employee still needs to have a pension to help secure their staff’s income post-retirement. This includes cleaners, nannies, PAs and other personal care assistants. Employers are defined by the DWP as those who pay wages and deduct tax and National Insurance contributions from their salaries. If a company employs agency staff however, then responsibility for automatic enrolment lies with the agency, not the company using the workers. So far, around 79,000 employers have already signed up.
So far, 5.4 million employees have already been automatically enrolled, where they will see their pensions topped up by the employer and get these contributions paid into their pension pot tax free. The employee also benefits as this means they can start saving for retirement early. The earlier someone starts putting money aside for their later years, the better financial circumstances they will have when that time comes. Until AE was phased in, many employees had no pension plan put in place, which would have meant them relying on the basic State Pension. Many companies simply did not offer pensions, and many workers had not given any thought to what would happen once they no longer need to work. Employees who have retirement plans already in place or who do not plan to retire in the UK, for example, can opt out of the pension scheme if they wish. Under the scheme, employees can only be enrolled if they are not now with a pension, are aged between 22 and the ‘state pension age’ (65 for men and women currently) and work in Britain on a salary of £10,000 or more a year.
Using the catchy hashtag #DontIgnoreIt, the DWP and the Pensions Regulator are promoting the site with the help of a brightly coloured and furry mascot named Workie, a ‘larger-than-life’ character created to help remind employers of their pension responsibilities. The site also features a video starring millionaire businessman and panel member of the Dragon’s Den show Theo Paphitis, explaining the benefits of workplace pensions for employees.
A recent survey among UK cinemagoers has revealed that the Seventies musical Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, is the most popular film of all time, SWNS news service reported recently. The romance between high school exchange student Sandy and her beau Danny, set in the 1950s with an iconic soundtrack from the era of fast Harleys and milk bars topped the most popular movie of choice in the poll amongst 2,000 British adults commissioned by www.OnePoll.com. On its release in 1978, Grease blew up the box office, receiving record numbers of cinemagoers thanks to its catchy songs and memorable performances, and it has been lauded by movie critics to this day, with review site Rotten Tomatoes, giving the film a four star rating of 78 per cent.
It’s sequel, Grease 2, as well as its numerous stage show spin-offs still continue to pull in audiences nearly forty years after its initial release.
Second place in the OnePoll survey went to time travelling caper, Back to the Future, closely followed by Eighties kitsch romance Dirty Dancing and Christmas favourites Home Alone and Love Actually.
Remarkably – despite being one of the highest grossing films of all time, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, is far down the list in 24th place – behind the likes of Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz.
A spokesman for www.OnePoll.com, said: “The results suggest Brits have a particular fondness for feel-good movies.
“Interestingly, the most popular films are relatively old – perhaps because evoke a sense of nostalgia, reminding respondents of their childhoods.
“This might explain why movie studios invest so much money in remakes and sequels as seen with the new Star Wars movie and the forthcoming Ghostbusters reboot.”
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark came fifth, followed by Nineties favourite Titanic, which catapulted stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio into the limelight. Jurassic Park, the classic UK-made song and dance ditty Mary Poppins and children’s film series Toy Story completed the top ten of most adored films in UK cinemas.
Other popular films to feature in the top 50 include The Shawshank Redemption (11), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (17), Jaws (21) and The Lion King (25). Finding Nemo (27), Avatar (35) and Mean Girls (48) also made the list.The most popular film among men is Back to the Future, followed by Steven Spielberg’s classic swashbuckling tale, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The Jurassic Park movies and their latest released sequel, Jurassic World, about a prehistoric theme park off the coast of central America, and which were also directed by Spielberg, came third among male cinema fans, with the Star Wars series coming off a respectable seventh.
Grease is solidly first place for women while Dirty Dancing is second. Third place belongs to Richard Curtis’ Christmas romance, Love Actually.
Action and adventure was found to be the most popular genre, followed by comedy and sci-fi. Romance only came sixth.
Despite recent box office misfires Johnny Depp, most famous for starring as the titular character of Edward Scissorhands, and the affable rogue Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, is Britain’s most favourite actor followed by Tom Hanks and western movie legend and archetypal gunslinger, Clint Eastwood.
Dames Helen Mirren and Judy Dench are the most popular actresses among those polled, with multi Oscar winner Meryl Streep in third place.
When Iyad Al-Baghdadi, an author and Arab democracy activist, recently tweeted about leaders of Daesh (so-called Islamic State) putting out an audio release calling for more fighters to join them in Iraq and Syria, as you would probably would not expect, the response from the Twittersphere was quite hilarious and served to ridicule the very nature of that organisation. Daesh, which has taken over large parts of the two Middle Eastern states have become notorious for their violence, sadism and religious and racial discrimination. This fightback by ordinary tweeters of the Muslim faith is especially relevant considering the strong presence of Daesh and other terrorist groups of all persuasions on Twitter, where accounts are used to disseminate propaganda and appeal for finances and fighters. The actions of Daesh and their supporters have led to a backlash against the everyday Muslim, many whom are resolutely against IS. A small victory against both Islamic State and Islamophobes by the wits of Twitter.
The following are the original comment from Al-Baghdadi and the amusing responses that followed:
Iyad Al-Baghdadi – ISIS leaders: We urgently call upon every Muslim to join the fight, especially those in the land of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia), rise.
Saladin Ahmed – Sorry, busy eating pie and playing video games with my kids.
Mohamed Djingo – Sorry, I am busy watching Netflix.
Idris – Sorry bruh it’s leg day tomorrow and I’ll be sore.
Tayyib ‘T’ Nawaz – Is ISIS going to help me with my assignments due in next week ?
Subhi – I’m behind in college credits as it is and I would rather drink bleach tbh (to be honest)
Ismail – Sorry lads, got a decent Football Manager save going atm (at the moment)
Saadat Ali Zia – I’ve got Star Wars on Sunday. Maybe later.
Sychlops – Sorry gotta see Twitter react to LVG (Louis van Gaal – Manchester United FC manager’s) sacking and Mourinho’s appointment.
RasheedAB – gotta do the dishes bruv
Mohamed Martell – Mate Chelsea are currently 3 pts above relegation and I have grad school applications due soon. Maybe next time?
In between the colourful pages of comics or the viewing recommendations on Netflix, there are many fictional towns plagued by baddies, criminals and no-gooders of all sorts, terrorising the inhabitants and making everyone’s life a sodding misery. Crime is rampant, evil prevails and no-one is foolish enough to walk the streets at night.
But, where there is bad, there must be good to put it in its place. A vigilante to right wrongs, put baddies behind bars and fight evil while living for another day. Gotham City has Batman, Smallville has Superman, and New York has Spiderman. Although these are fictional examples, does having a vigilante who takes it upon his or her self to protect decent and upstanding citizens make the difference to a huge, bustling and crowded city like our London?
London is a cool place to live. It is brimming with culture, history, trends, fun, entertainment, and the everyday trappings of life. With a population of eight million, it is a hard city to police. The Met, the British Transport Police and the City of London Police do a fantastic job keeping our streets safe and managing Londoners’ welfare, but even before the current wave of Tory cutbacks and tougher rules for recruitment of new police officers, it is an obvious fact that the days of the ‘bobby on the beat’ are long dead, and logistically it would be impossible to have a cop patrolling each and every street, road, avenue, drive, cul-de-sac and alleyway. London has more than 60,000 streets. It’s a tall order and an impossible one at that.
As much as London is a fun and vibrant place to live, let’s not kid ourselves. Like in any big city or town even, crime is a fact. People do get robbed, murdered, assaulted and conned. According to the latest crime figures published by the Met Police and other sources, crimes number in their tens of thousands. Since 1990, an average of 171 homicides takes place across the 32 London boroughs every year. In 2008–09 alone, there were 70,962 assault with injury offences. London is also home to many gangs involved with everything from guns and drugs to prostitution and illegal immigration. Gang members have no qualms about wandering the streets tooled and ready to main and kill. In 2009 alone, 3,295 gun-related offences were reported to crime-fighting authorities. At about the same time, 12,611 offences were reported where a knife was involved. Even teenagers are not safe, with around 13-15 fatally stabbed or shot every year in our city. Add to that, 35,857 robberies, and thousands of other crimes such as assaults, muggings, vandalism, shoplifting. Figures reported by London newspaper The Evening Standard in January this year suggest the violent crime has increased by 22 per cent, with Haringey borough alone seeing a 38 per cent jump.
Now don’t get me wrong, London isn’t some crim-infested hellhole where you are fleeced (or as we say, rinsed) of your worldly possessions the moment you step out of your front door. I am a born and bred Londoner who has lived here all of his thirty-one years of life. I have been mugged only twice, saw one opportunistic attempt at a burglary (someone had opened the back door of my houseshare while us housemates were out) and once had someone point a knife at me years ago in school. I live in one of the roughest and poorest parts of London.
Back to our main question, does London need a vigilante?. There are a lot of criminals in this city and having a vigilante around to mop up crime would be a huge help to the police with their stretched and shrinking resources. The British media have been awash lately with stories of ordinary people who have taken on superhero-like personas and even got themselves kitted out in costumes to boot. In March 2015, the Mirror reported on the appearance of 200 ‘superheroes’ in cities across America, all ordinary people with day jobs and family responsibilities who don masks and capes (and maybe underpants over Spandex bottoms) and protect their communities. In Seattle, Phoenix Jones dresses in a superhero outfit of his own design and tackles car theft, street fights and change the car wheels of distressed motorists five days a week. The American capital, Washington, DC, has its ‘Guardian’ who wears a full-body stars-and-stripes outfit and wanders the troubled areas behind the Capitol building. Then there’s RazorHawk, from Minneapolis, who was a professional wrestler for fifteen years before joining the Real Life Super Hero movement. Some even come equipped with a sense of witty humour that would make the Fantastic Four beam with pride. New York, home of the fictional Spiderman and Superman/Clark Kent, does actually have a real-life superhero fighting against its troublesome trade in narcotics. The Big Apple’s ‘Dark Guardian‘ approaches drug dealers making sales in cannabis in the city’s Washington Square Park at night, shines a light in their faces, and sends the pot merchants scurrying with the firm words “This is a drug-free park!”. American real-life superheroes and city vigilantes also carry out community services such as helping the homeless and elderly people and giving advice to schoolkids.
London, too, has its guardian of the streets and protector of the innocent. Step forward The Shadow. Wearing a bandana and keeping his identity well-hidden as a superhero should, he has been credited with saving a woman from a pervert who attempted to assault her in Greenwich. The crook had tried to grope her, The Shadow appeared from the shadows, and put the octopus fingered creep in a hold lock, while telling the woman to flee to safety. “If anyone thinks they can get away with this sort of thing then they are mistaken,” the Shadow told the Evening Standard. “I live in hope that one day people who cause fear through crime to others will fear me enough to think twice about their actions,” he added. The unknown hero was previously called the Bromley Batman, after an area of south Greater London near to Kent and he has been fighting crime for three years. Some people however had dismissed the existence of The Shadow as a mere urban legend.
It’s not just London, mind you. The UK’s other big metropolises also have their iconic crime-fighting legends. Head to Salford, near Manchester and you may have a chance encounter with Knight Warrior, a youngish lad in blue and black with some tough biking gloves. His real name is Roger Hayhurst, a 19-year-old gardener by day, who possesses the superpower of a “supernatural desire to make the world a better place.”. He mainly tackles the drunk hooligans that regularly pour out of Salford’s pubs, kicking off ‘cos someone looked at their ‘bird’. He also distributes food to the city’s street dwellers. Yeovil, a charming seaside resort in Somerset, southern England, can lay claim to having its very own ninja, 33-year-old Ken Andre, whose alter-ego is Shadow. Wearing the mysterious black suit of a true master of the dark ninja arts, Andre’s approach to vigilante justice includes stopping drug dealers and muggers. He is well-versed in the sacred martial art of ninjutsu to which he was inducted as a child and once caught a carjacker in his tracks by hurling nunchuks at him. In his own words, “I tied him to the lamppost using his own legs and called the police.”
Does London need a superhero dispensing vigilante justice? In many ways yes. Vigilantes can help the police with tackling crime, assisting them and reaching out to the community, a badly needed thing in a city notorious for its individualistic mentality, where people mind their own business and not everyone is helpful or considerate. Vigilantes can be the best option in places where the police are simply not there, due to their falling numbers and strained resources, such as on housing estates or tourist areas late at night, when most police patrols end. They are more personable and relatable, particularly as many people feel uncomfortable or downright dismissive of the police, and let’s face it, superheroes are pretty cool, right? Vigilantes can be tolerated by the police and community, even encouraged, provided they stick by the rules of the law and don’t take things too far, for example by shooting dead a rapist. Having a vigilante around your area can also do wonders for people’s perception of crime and their safety too. Knowing that there is someone around making crims feel tetchy and always looking over their shoulder means you don’t have to worry about constantly looking over yours. Having a vigilante around means we can feel safe, knowing there is a good guy out there, selflessly giving up their time to make our homes safer and more secure. Being such a massive sprawl of a city, London has more than enough room for different kinds of vigilantes, and with common goals, they could easily form a Justice League of their own.
There are some cons to having vigilantes that should be mentioned. London is a massive city, with hundreds of communities and peculiarities. Unless he or she had real superpowers, it would be nigh on impossible to tackle every crime and stop every crook. Even the police can’t be everywhere at once. Vigilantes can put their lives at risk should criminals be armed. Use your imagination as much as you like, but it is highly unlikely that your rented Superman costume can actually stop a bullet or a jab from a flick-knife. Vigilantes, with or without the superhero costume, are only human. There is always the risk of a vigilante getting too ‘drunk’ on their power, and taking things into their own hands. There are also moral implications of vigilante justice, not to mention legal ones.
Everyone loves superheroes and superheroines, whether real or imagined. They are larger-than-life personifications of the best bits of humanity, putting their own lives at risk to help others. But while we can salute one-man crime fighters and their special brand of vigilante justice, we shouldn’t forget the many unsung heroes who make London a better and safer place – neighbours looking out for each other, people who give to charities, ambulance staff, police officers, doctors, nurses, social workers, foster parents, and many others who may not wear capes or tie up criminals with webs, but are just as valuable for our London.
A major city, a former industrial metropolis, with a population of eight million, London has become famous for its high-rise buildings filling the air. The Shard, the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie, it is a hangglider’s veritable nightmare. But less of a thought is given to the city’s growth in the opposite direction. Famed for its Underground trains, many of which run deep below the busy roads, homes, offices and tourist attractions of the city, London has plenty of other subterranean secrets too, as explored recently by local online magazineLondonist.
The clay and soil beneath London’s mean streets are home to a bewildering number of tunnels, obsolete Tube stations, bunkers and basements of all sorts. It is pretty much a subterranean maze below Londoners’ feet, and enough to rival the mass of roads, walkways and cycle paths above ground. The average London sewer is only four feet under our feet, while the Lee Tunnel, which runs under East Ham and Stratford in east London and stores and runs out effluent and sewage from the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, is the deepest at around 60-70 metres. There is even a mail rail for letters used by Royal Mail which moves parcels and birthday cards around unhindered at a depth of 21 metres. Probably too much for Postman Pat. His cat would turn out completely black from all the soot, we reckon.
Other down-below surprises include deep-level emergency shelters (30m down), the London Power Tunnels, which help keep the capital’s electricity flowing at 35m, and the new Crossrail service, which chugs around happily at a depth of 25 metres. The city is also home to secret tunnels, underground passageways and bunkers, many built by the government during the war years. Add to that the forty or so disused Underground stations such as Down Street, Aldwych and others, some which may be converted into underground shopping centres if plans get the go-ahead.
Sadly, as much as London is a city of firsts, the deepest human-made structure is not directly underneath your local boozer or primary school. If you consider true depth, then that accolade goes to the SG-3 borehole in Russia, part of the greater Kola Superdeep borehole. SG-3 was excavated by the Soviets in the far eastern Kola peninsula between 1970-1989 in a test to see how far humans could go beneath the surface.
Londonist writer and illustrator Matt Brown has produced a special infographic with a distinct city vibe, that visually explains the different underground features, and has also assembled an informative guide to many of these earthly delights, featuring Wikipedia articles, official websites and the magazine’s own exclusive video ‘Secrets’ of many of London’s grandest tunnels. You can view all these at the Londonist article in the Sources section of this blogpost.
If you’re a Twitter user like me, you’ll know that the social media network with the cute blue bird is full of great advantages. A cool interface, brevity of messages, lots of photos and now videos to comb through, and the level of interaction with other users is second to none. You can keep updated on things that matter to you, whether your favourite sports teams, celebrities, artists, politicians etc. as well as your family and friends closer to home. And of course block or mute anyone who does your head in.
But nothing is perfect in life. Not even Twitter. Aside from the occasional and mildly annoying drunken tweet or unsolicited direct message (DM) ….not withstanding the recent controversies surrounding racist and sexist trolls abusing people on Twitter…there is also the scourge of bots. Fake accounts with dodgy names and quotes clearly slurped off a website somewhere, gift-wrapped with a stolen display picture (usually some random meme or woman), or that God-forsaken egg that usually is served up as default, sadly not with some sausages or bacon as well.
These bad eggs are the bane of the Twitterati. Although the admin behind the site are very good at obliterating most of the fake followers, new ones take their place with the speed and intensity of mushrooms on the forest floor after a long rainy spell. Talk about putting too many eggs in one basket.
According to a filing made by Twitter with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2014, it is believed that bots and spam bots account for 14% of Twitter’s active user base. That is around 23 million accounts out of the 271 active users on there. Many of these bots are programmed to retweet garbage or clickbait articles. Not all bots are bad, indeed some are fun (such as the Wiener Schnitzel bot that retweets you every time you mention that phrase) but there are concerns that some may be a gateway for hackers or data miners. Other bots are created to boost up follower numbers in that never ending popularity contest of ‘Who has the most followers?’. There are some companies that will for a small fee get fake accounts to follow your every move and tweet, and inflate not only your follower count but also presumably your ego as well. They do a relatively roaring trade despite Twitter rules of usage prohibiting tweeters from enlisting the services of such ‘follower farms’.
No-one, and I mean no-one is safe from the attention of the bots. Not even celebrities or politicians. United States presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton is said to have once had 2 million fake or inactive followers and that only 44% of her followers are real, living, breathing people. She has also been accused of plumping up her 3 million follower figures with fake accounts, according to British newspaper The Daily Mail. Over here in the UK, former Member of Parliament Louise Mensch found herself in a bit of bother after a Twitter statistics and auditing website determined that 97% of her followers are counterfeits. Several other ministers and low-level politicians in her party, the Conservatives, also found their accounts’ popularity called into question amid flying accusations of wholesale fake follower shopping to boost party morale.
Personally I’ve seen more than my fair share of bots and dodgy Tweeters. On both my individual and blog accounts, I often receive up to five add requests from suspicious looking accounts. They are either accounts with Russian names and bios written in the Cyrillic alphabet or English language accounts with really strange names combining different ethnic origins. For example, recently I’ve been befriended by a Yuriko Dille, a Manika Boag, a Eustachius Knowler… other with half Arab or Indian or Japanese names affixed to Anglo-Saxon, Scottish or German surnames. They must shred up phone directories and randomly piece the names together like some sort of hellish Yellow Pages puzzle.
You can usually pick them off because their feeds are full of spammy retweets and their bio is some sort of quote. Other bots have nonsensical handles like @fnerit_elephantfartunicorn which is one of the main things I look out for when evading bots and fake accounts.
Last weekend I was having a Twitter conversation with a fellow blogger and keen writer, SD Cadman (a.k.a Sarika and Luna Elektra). Since we met on WordPress, we often have little chats of 140 characters or less, but this time there was a serious topic on hand. The conversation was inspired by an article I posted on @halfeatenmind about obtaining quality followers rather than just breaking numbers. We then got talking about fake followers, and how Sarika mentioned that they may well be bots sniffing out data for possibly nefarious purposes. We agreed that the worst bots were, in Sarika’s words, those that “act bloody human” or the “nonsense Factoid accounts”. We joked that we needed a weed whacker (a nice sharp blade) to remove these bots from Twitter like those pesky dandelions that never seem to give up sprouting over your smart well-manicured lawn.
Here’s a GIF she sent me to illustrate the frustration with these meddling dregs of AI….
In a nutshell, what Sarika proposed is that Twitter should have some kind of ‘Weed Whacker Award’ for the person who culls the most bots. That can mean ignoring them when they coming knocking at your account’s door, reporting them to Twitter, but most importantly of all, not adding them, as that gives them legitimacy and access to your followers list. Twitter does often undertake regular purges of fake followers, exterminating them like the filthy rats they are, but new ones keep cropping up. The winner of the bot wipeout can receive a certificate in the post or possibly a badge to go on their header or sidebar et cetera on Twitter. A sort of virtual Neighbourhood Watch against the fraudulent and fake. This would be a bit of fun, but also encourage people to look out for each other and protect against malicious hackers and other cyber-criminals and general online trouble makers.
Inspired by Sarika (SM Cadman), I’d thought I’d come up with a couple of designs for a ‘Weed Whacker Award’ badge if Twitter did such badges. If Dick Costolo, the Twitter CEO, is reading this, you can hire me and Sarika as your ‘creative consultancy team’ or whatever they call them in Silicon Valley. Free lunches and Segways would be a bonus.