Monday, 14 March 2011

Is Twitter the new Facebook?

A few years ago the craze that is ‘Facebook’ had ‘Twitter’ in its back pocket, but are times changing? Does Twitter now have the edge in this social-networking war?

You don’t have to know the name of the blue twitter bird in the company logo to see why Twitter has become so popular over the last five years since its launch in 2006. With more than 200 million users sharing over 100 million messages or ‘tweets’ a day, many have been affected by ‘tweetaholism’.

Twitter was largely involved in the recent resignation of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, with many protestors and anti-government groups choosing to use the micro-blogging site in order to arouse support for the former president to step down. But in 2008 Egyptian youths used Facebook rather than Twitter when organising a rally of support for striking textile workers. Why has the tide now changed to Twitter rather than Facebook?

In mass-media reports e.g. those of the Middle East crisis, and in broadcasting in general Twitter is becoming much more of trend. In fact every day it does just that in publishing ‘trends’ in the UK and USA. These are hash tags at the end of ‘tweets’ which may define a topic or add humour e.g. #BlueMonday. Twitter doesn’t give away as much personal information as Facebook of course, many protests and other anti-government rallies organised via Facebook have resulted in the culprits being located or demonstrations intervened. Twitter on the other hand is much more undercover, more than 60% of its users use English. Therefore ‘tweeters’ that are not using English are very much cloak and dagger.

It even has its own language, though not literally; the site does offer many words that the average non-tweeterer wouldn’t understand. A ‘Twoosh’ for instance is a ‘tweet’ containing the maximum 140 characters allowed. Expressing yourself in only 140 characters also gives Twitter another edge on Facebook, meaning ‘tweeple’ who are ‘tweeting’ have to do so with some wittiness.

From the Mumbai attacks in 2008 to the recent earthquake in Japan, Twitter was there first to lead the media and blogosphere in breaking news. Companies are also making millions of pounds from Twitter. Not so long ago Facebook was the best way for companies to advertise their business, however now Twitter is making a splash too. Computer brand ‘Dell’ claims that Twitter helps it sell millions of pounds of gear every year via promoted tweets and trends.

And I haven’t even mentioned celebrities yet! Because that is what Twitter is all about isn’t it? Yeah, right. For the celeb-stalkers out there wanting to ‘follow’ their favourite celebrity there is a whole array of A-Z list celebrities to shake your sticks at, from Stephen Fry to Lady Gaga. And if you’re lucky they might even ‘Retweet’ your ‘tweet’ so you get a ‘mention’. Footballer Ryan Babel was fined recently for criticising a Premier League referee on Twitter – Proof that even the Football Association think Twitter is twit-tastic!

And who can forget Charlie Sheen? His demise and drug addiction has been well documented through the site with him breaking the world record of ‘the fastest person to reach a million followers’. He did so in just one day.

Twitter not only played a huge part in the Anti-government protests in Egypt but also those of Tunisia which began the initial surge within Egypt. Within months it has become an integral weapon as the Middle East dominoes into uproar. Libya could be next then maybe Bahrain and Twitter is playing a bigger part than many politicians might think.

Obviously many people can and will argue that Facebook has features that Twitter doesn’t but visa-versa. Why ‘like’ something when you can ‘trend’ something? Why waste all your time going on all your friends ‘walls’ to see their latest updates you may have missed when you can create a RSS feed or ‘list’ to see just those ‘tweets’ of your friends and family. Why have only 5000 friends when you can have unlimited? Twitter is the next big thing, the real big society, and a bloggers dream.

Why tag people in photos when you can tag the world in a revolution?

Spread and learn news the quicker way and get trending.

Join the twittersphere!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Newark MP says 'No to AV'

LOCAL MP for Newark, Patrick Mercer has hit out at the prospect of a
new alternative voting system in Britain which he says will destroy the
Conservative party. 

The former army officer claims the mood amongst tory back benchers 
in Westminster is already very fragile following the coalition and he
believes the national referendum on AV, which will be held on the 5th
May has only heightened this tension.
He said: “The Alternative Vote system would be a dagger to the heart 
of the Conservative Party. If it got through we may never hold outright
power again.” 

Both Labour and Liberal Democrat ministers have pledged support for
the new system. The Lib Dems will push strongly for a “yes’’ to AV
at the referendum in May which they were promised by Gordon Brown
in the coalition agreements.

Mr Mercer, who regained his seat at the last election with a majority of
over 16,000 is urging his voters to say no to AV. Like many
Conservatives and David Cameron himself he sees the current First
Past The Post system as a tried a tested system which provides stable

The new AV system would give voters the chance to rank candidates in
order of preference meaning parties can gain more votes. It would
offer rounds of voting which will ensure no candidate can be elected
initially unless they have more than 50% of the vote. In the current
system hopefuls with the most votes win. However it would also mean
that second or even third preference votes could become influential.

Mr Mercer has been a member of parliament for the Newark 
constituency since 2001 and is very experienced within parliament.
He has previously held front bench positions as Shadow Defence
Secretary and Homeland Security Shadow Minister. After turning a
Labour held majority of 3,000 to a Conservative majority of 4,000
which has gradually rose, son of a Anglican Bishop, Mr Mercer has
worked to rejuvenate industry and service sectors within Newark.

Whether or not the Alternative Vote system is a fairer system than the
current First Past The Post one will of course be the choice of the great
British public.

What has the Northern League ever done for us?

Speaking about David Platt, a great man once said: “He’s learned more about football management than he ever imagined. Some people think you can take football boots off and put a suit on. You can’t do that.” That great man was Brian Howard Clough.

Cloughie is without doubt the most worthy man of making such a statement. Old Big ‘Ead himself had done just that. Son of a sweet shop worker from a Middlesbrough council estate he would go on to become the greatest football manager England never had. But what people sometimes overlook is where it all began for Brian. “Mr Clough”, as he insisted his players call him, began his playing career at Northern League side Billingham Synthonia in 1953.

Clough played with the Synners at their old Belasis Lane ground which they left in 1958. It was there he attracted envious glances from a number of professional clubs through his performances as a young striker. This led to Clough eventually returning to Middlesbrough where he had a brief stint as a youth, and for whom he signed in 1955 after a spell in the RAF.

At the time the Northern League was breaking out quickly in popularity within its local communities, and players like Clough ensure that legacy remains intact even today. Like many Football League clubs, Nottingham Forest have a lot of gratitude for grass roots clubs such as Billingham Synthonia for giving greats like Clough a stage to display their talents to the footballing world on. And Cloughie certainly used his stage brilliantly.

Brian Clough is not the only Reds player to have come from the Northern League, however. Nottingham Forest star turned manager Frank Clark also started his career in the Northern League, at Crook Town. The full back went on to play under Clough in the 1979 European Cup final and then manage Forest from 1993-1996. We can only thank these great clubs for what they have produced.

Clough went on to win two European Cups with Nottingham Forest, the First Division title in the 1977-78 season and four League Cups. And let’s not forget he also helped re-build Forest’s arch rivals Derby County, taking them from Second Division strugglers to First Division champions in the 1971-72 season.

The prestige and long routed establishment of the Northern League will keep football fans entertained for decades to come. The foundations are in place for more and more talent to shine through in the seasons to follow. It represents what can only be described as a magnificent showcase of local North East football.

Forest legends like Brian Clough and Frank Clark ensure I will always have the upmost respect for North East amateur football, and I sincerely hope it has every success in the years to come.

My Team & I: Nottingham Forest

Why Forest?

When I was younger, like many teenagers I wanted to make the big time as a professional footballer - football represented the picture-perfect career for me. That of course never quite materialised. However if there was one team I would have wanted to play for, forget Manchester United, Arsenal or even Real Madrid – it was always Nottingham Forest, but why?

Being born and bred in Nottinghamshire, if I was following the agreements of close proximity, then I would be a Nottingham Forest fan anyway. But, confusingly, that is not why I follow the reds.

Conventional rationale had made me a Forest fan in a way; my dad had always supported Forest. Although he never pushed me to support them, he simply raved about them on a regular basis to me and my brother. I was only 6 or 7 at the time, a European Cup or even two meant nothing to me. ‘Pearce’, ‘Chettle’ and ‘McGovern’ were all stars I recall him speaking of, although I can never quite remember what he said about them.

Then in 2003 my world collapsed when he passed away and all of a sudden Nottingham Forest became much more than a football team to me. They stood as a way for me to always remember my dad. The club, and everything embodied within it was now of emotional significance to me. And it always has been ever since. When I don the red and white strip of Nottingham Forest, when I watch the tricky trees win, lose or draw, I do so with every passion I can conjure. The great Brian Clough summed up the way I feel about Nottingham Forest perfectly when he said: 'The River Trent is lovely, I know because I have walked on it for 18 years.'

Favourite Player?

As a young forest fan I am not fortunate enough to be blessed with the memories of the sights of greats such as John McGovern, Archie Gemmill and Trevor Francis. But I am old enough to remember the legend that was Stuart Pearce. For me, he is the greatest player to ever pull on the Forest jersey and an ultimate icon for club and country throughout his illustrious career.

Affectionately known to Forest fans as ‘Psycho’, a name which brings connotations of his performances on the pitch directly to mind. Heart and soul behind every tackle, sheer determination and fist-clenching stamina, in 12 years at Forest, most served as club captain, Pearce epitomised what Brian Clough wanted this Nottingham Forest side to be all about. His passion and hunger were always second to none, and his no-nonsense style of play led many strikers to fear him.

His ‘welcome to the City Ground tackle’ is often reminisced by forest fans and other football fans alike. But Psycho was much more than just a great tackler, he was a dead-ball and goal scoring man too. Forest may have lost the 1991 FA Cup final against Spurs but Stuart Pearce’s free kick will live long in the memory of many a football enthusiast.

Winning numerous trophies with the reds and scoring many vital goals Psycho’s trademark clenched fist salute will always be welcome at The City Ground. If any footballer as given more to his club than this man gave to Nottingham Forest then I for one would like to meet them.

NB: If I had to choose a favourite from the current crop, it would probably be Chris Cohen. A player that has always given his everything since his first match back in League One. When heads fall Chris is always on call to give the team a lift, whether that be with a rigid tackle or a pin-point cross. His growing maturity rubs off on the youngsters, and as he has shown, he can take a knock in the eye for the team when necessary too. He is a player that can only improve, his work rate is tremendous and it is not surprising he has been tipped for the top.

Favourite Game?

My favourite game was unquestionably when we secured promotion back to the Championship in May 2008. The pitch invasion, ecstatic celebrations and relief to be back in the 2nd tier of English football all made for a brilliant day to remember – not to mention McGugan’s fine free-kick.

It wasn’t just the promotion though, it was much deeper than that, League One is such a hard league to get out of and you can only really appreciate that once you are in it. The long and grovelling away trips were often hard, especially when a defeat came out of them so promotion made it all worthwhile.

Of course though, Cheltenham Town will always have a place in the heart of every forest fan. The Robins (Now in League Two) grabbed a late winner which secured our automatic place ahead of Doncaster. Cue merriments and champagne in the City Ground dressing room.

Favourite Kit?

Not only is this shirt one of the best renderings of the famous Garibaldi, it is also the shirt that Nottingham Forest lifted two European Cups wearing. The vintage v neck shirt would not look out of place in today’s fast moving football fashion world. And no big sponsor splashed across the front to deflate it either. Top kit.

Worst thing about being a Nottingham Forest fan?

The worst thing about being a forest fan has to be the elusive Premier League return that we are waiting upon. Ever since the relegation from the top-flight in 1993 and again in 1997 that is the aim in the mind of everyone associated with the club, and the road there is proving to be a treacherous one. Obviously the Megson failures and David Platt’s era also come to mind, if I could go back and change things that would be where I would start.

Favourite Moment?

I’m going to have to cheat on this one and tell you about two of my favourite moments, both pretty recent coincidently.

The first was seeing the mighty reds put 5 past Derby at home this season and the ominous chants towards ex forest player Kris Commons, who was surely swayed to leave Derby after the mauling he got from the forest fans that day. Bragging rights aside, we ripped them apart on the pitch that day and thoroughly deserved to win.

Secondly, no apologies to Derby fans I have to say, was seeing Nathan Tyson adorn a corner flag and wave it in front of 4,000 travelling Derby fans following a 3-2 win. Ill-timed I admit, but he definitely wrote himself into forest folk law with that brace. And Billy Davies was even on hand to claim Tyson did nothing wrong pushing blame on to the Derby players… classic moment.

Moments change games, and every one of them on the road to greatness will be a favourite for me. I hope Forest create a new favourite moment for me very soon, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what I would like that to be.

Why being GREEN is the latest craze!

Earlier this month I went down to the Queens building to meet the ‘DMU Green Initiatives’ group to find out more and get involved in their ‘Green Light Festival’. Who are they? I hear you cry… Well they are a student-led group of staff, students and local environmental groups that provide opportunities for students to get involved in green projects and offer individuals the chance to pilot their own campaigns.

Having a ‘carbon footprint’ the size of King Kong, I am probably the worst person in the whole of Leicester to talk about light bulbs and being energy efficient, but I’m doing it. Why?

Because like many other people and businesses worldwide, I’m starting to realise that this band-wagon is on a trail to success which can change the world. You need only look around DMU campus to see the growing importance of ‘being green’. The coffee shop, now converted into a Starbucks outside the student union is a primary example of a business that has got greener over the last five years. The giant coffee chain was criticised in 2008 after claims it wasted millions of litres of water every day by leaving taps running. Since then, the company has been committed to new environmental initiatives and as not only turned off the taps but also uses 100% recyclable cups.

However it’s not just Starbucks that is holding the green beacon. All across Europe and in countries such as America, China and Mexico, huge money deals are being struck for the rapid transport of hundreds of millions of energy-saving devices – e.g. bulbs that, once installed all over the home, can cut overall household emissions by 8 per cent. The environment has become an even bigger issue since the millennium and it gets bigger by the day.

It is for reasons like these that The Green Light Festival took place, and was such a success. The white electric powered Smart car that was parked outside the Queens Building on the day epitomised the whole festival. The festival was bursting with practical workshops, music, art and local food – all boasting a green initiative. I spoke to co-founder of the DMU Green Initiatives, Eve Carter; Eve is a second year student at DMU and is studying Design Crafts.

She said: “The biggest incentive for students to be greener is that it saves money.” Eve and the green initiatives group are urging students to sign up or get involved in any way they can, even if that be by just trying to be greener in their everyday lives.

She said: “The easiest way students can get involved is by doing simple things like switching off lights, recycling more and walking instead of using a car”.

The event was a huge success and everyone attending was invited to get involved in some hands-on activities. Cyclemagic were on hand to help visitors make wristbands out of old tyres while the DMU Green Initiatives group were making wallets and purses out of old fruit juice cartons. Leicester interfaith youth group HUB were present with some very useful ways of saving the planet, for example signing up to ‘say no to junk mail’ here. Groups such as Bikes 4 All who sell refurbished bikes from around £40 were outside the building and are keen to encourage students to bike rather than drive or use public transport.

I for one, used to think that being green was just a bore, something that wasn’t worth the time. However the green light festival really did open my eyes. Such little effort is needed to be green it thoroughly surprised me. If you think it’s not easy being Green, think again. An energy saving light bulb lasts 10,000 hours compared to the normal 1,500 hours of a standard bulb. 10,000 hours! Just imagine what you could do in that time, that is 416 days! Put in that bulb my friend and you need not come back to change it for a very long time, well another 13.6676431 months to be precise.

How many DMU students does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two. One to go and buy alcohol and one to call the electrician.

Unplugging things that glow saves more money than you would think. Did you know that LED light on your TV, mobile phone charger or printer that you leave on standby burns around £125.00 a year! You could buy a new mobile phone with that money, and a pretty decent one too.

Next time you go to the sink to fill up that glass with water, consider this. In the next five years countries across the world, including the UK could face a serious water crisis and that dripping tap wastes 336 litres of water a day! In ‘cans of pop terms’, that is 1018 cans, that is some water! Household water consumption has increased by 200% since the 1950s and with the ever-growing population this number will only go up. So let’s save water now and help the world as well as ourselves.

But the greatest way to save energy for us students has to be this next one. Leave the washing up as long as possible! That’s right, let the pots and pans accumulate forever, well not quite, but at least until you have a full sink of dishes to use water for. The average student household does around 150 loads of dishes per year using an astonishing 6819 litres of water, that is in ‘cans of pop terms’, wait for it… 20,663 cans!

All DMU accommodation is in walking distance to University and to frankly, anywhere a student’s desire may take them. So WALK! Why waste the money on cars or buses when you can wake yourself up after that hard night out with a blast of beautiful fresh air.

Green issues are at the fore front of everything right now whether that be political, commercial or in business. Profit margins are being decided by how green a company is and individuals must follow suit to decrease the severe dangers to the planet. As students we are the people this will affect, and we are the ones that can put a halt to it. Let’s get green.

P.S. Turn the light off behind me.

Why Inception for me and many others isn’t just a fantasy...

The subconscious world of lucid dreaming as highlighted in Christopher Nolan’s Inception last year is for many a desire, a hope, or a fantasy. But for me, it is very much a real phenomenon. Clambering into my duvet, pulling it over myself and resting my head into a soft pillow, takes me away to a whole new world… and a world that can look however I envision it to look.

For years I was unaware of the concept of ‘lucid dreaming’, all I knew was that I was, for some unbeknown reason able to control myself in dreams. I instinctively thought that everyone had this ability, but research taught me that the mind has to learn how to dream lucidly. WikiHow even has a section on ‘How to Lucid Dream’, which I am led to believe many people wanting to develop their dreams have used effectively. But of course explaining dreaming is almost impossible.

When I explain the ability of lucid dreaming to others they are often overwhelmed, seeing is of course believing, and it is pretty difficult to show someone else inside your mind. When I wake into a lucid dream I find myself in one of two places, a place I am familiar with, or a place I’ve never seen before - the latter being the most worrying. Much like in the film Inception, my mind re-creates scenes from my memory and can only depict the parts it can vividly remember. There may be mistakes sometimes, for instance a window placed incorrectly or an object missing from the room which I know should be there. These mistakes are often what trigger me to the realisation point, or the moment when I know I am dreaming. I often lift my arm to pinch it and feel no pain, I am then aware I have entered a lucid dream. The first few times this occurred, I immediately woke myself up, but as it occurred more often I built up more and more courage to go deeper into my dream world.

People often say to me ‘that must be amazing’ but the simple answer is ‘not always’. Granted, at times a lucid dream can be fantastic and gives me the ability to do things I have always wanted to do provided I have woken up in the correct setting. However on the other end of the spectrum when I wake in an unknown place, the thought of where to go brings fear. The scene is often dark and gloomy, seemingly on a street in the middle of nowhere. I often have people chasing me in these kinds of dreams and the feeling in that moment until you wake is so real it is incomparable. Although subconsciously you are aware you are in this dream it doesn’t make it any less tangible, the physical and mental feelings are astoundingly accurate. I can feel every feeling I feel when I am awake, the fear is more real than ever.

The easiest way to wake for me as always been to imagine the action of opening my eyes, this often takes a few tries but usually is successful eventually. However sometimes I can open my eyes into another dream (mind boggling, I know), for instance a dream that I am waking up, at first I may not be aware it is a dream, but much like before I will look around for objects or design of the room that is incorrect or missing, as soon as I find a floor I know I am in another dream and can again begin the waking process.

Although these dreams only come every few weeks, when they do I am always left with something to dwell on. Where does this ability come from? And how does my mind create them? Luckily, I enjoy them enough not to wonder for too long. Lucid dreaming is something I would recommend to anyone, like some sort of uncanny hobby if you will. Inducing lucid dreams can only lead to excitement and a world in which the imagination can run wild. Dreaming is such an unknown world, and one which is so close to home you can almost touch it. Only in my dreams can I fly off the Eiffel Tower, grant myself superhuman strength or float down a mountain. The imagination may truly be the limit where lucid dreaming is concerned.

So next time you fall asleep, if at any one moment you realise you’re dreaming – do not try to wake up, have the courage to continue and let your imagination do the work. I can promise you won’t regret it.