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All posts by Niel Bekker

Niel studies games, media and music in all their 21st-century guises. Currently, he is the social products editor at The Huffington Post in New York. His perfect weekend is made of Arsenal, basil pesto and meme humour. His perfect weekend is made of Arsenal, basil pesto and meme humour.
  • A return to honesty: grappling with the future of online porn [SXSW]

    Everyone on the internet looks at porn. You do, I do, but more worryingly, so do children of very young ages. Given the unchecked proliferation of extreme porn genres on the internet, this is not a particularly good thing. On the other hand, sex is an incredibly taboo subject in polite society (much like international cricketer AB De Villiers’ musical career). Cindy Gallop, CEO and founder of new porn startup Make Love Not Porn (NSFW), says this is a recipe for disaster. Since there is a vacuum of honest discussion about sex in society, she told a packed auditorium at...

  • The internet is an extreme sport, so expect injuries

    It's a funny moment when you realise that the internet has changed your body. I was burning through another late night session of League of Legends last year when I noticed a dull pain in my right arm. The next morning, I was at a computer again for work and the dull pain had developed into full-on searing agony. I have been living with this pain, on and off like some hellish velcro girlfriend, for about six months. There isn’t a lot of data available about computer injuries, or as the professionals now call them, “work-related upper limb disorders”. A...

  • Solving the problem of social discovery, lessons from SxSW

    The web people are better dressed than the music people this year, futurist Bruce Sterling remarked in his SxSW closing remarks. Not just better dressed but wealthier, hungrier, more optimistic, I thought. Austin, Texas is where thousands of representatives and enthusiasts of technology, film and music gather every year to talk about their craft and make a dent in the global tequila supply. I attended in 2012 for the second time and these are...

  • The game layer and what it will look like

    "The game layer is coming," he said, and everyone in the room believed him. At SxSW 2011, the young CEO of SCVNGR, Seth Priebatsch, expressed what was arguably the most important prediction of the illustrious tech conference: that the experience of real-life would more and more be organised around game-like structures and technologies. It sounds as confusing as it does inevitable. After all, what does a world look like in which we use games to solve real problems, the kind you can’t zap with a virtual gun? And how could anyone make money from this? But first of all… what’s so special...

  • Why journalists could (and should) become professional explainers

    Information is cheap. It has to be, if a fourteen year old with no security clearance can learn state secrets with a regular dial-up connection. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we all can. But as more and more information is liberated on the internet – by everyone – the piles of it we are left to sort through are overwhelming. If it no longer falls to journalists to discover, or even publish that information,...

  • Is Gawker Media’s hydra-like content network ‘death of the blog’??

    Gawker Media launched a redesigned version of its hydra-like content network this week, bringing with it talk of the "death of the blog". Its most controversial move has been to de-emphasise "what’s new" in favour of "what’s hot". Gawker sites no longer punt their most recent articles at the top of each page, but instead feature the most viewed or exclusive stories more prominently. Content is navigated on the right side of a new two-panel layout, leaving acres of space for a single article (with large visuals) on the left. The reaction (so far) has been overwhelmingly negative, but it's unlikely...

  • 6 ways gaming could change forever in 2011

    While it's fun to comment on which new shooter will capture the imagination of hardcore gamers this year, there are wider trends and factors which are impacting the gaming environement in 2011, making it one of the most innovative and exciting arenas of the digital landscape. Here are six areas where gaming is undertaking a quantum leap. Smartphone gaming This goes for all app developers out there, not just in the gaming industry: Wake up and smell the Android! Smaller gaming franchises are welcome to pick one category of smartphone and play to its particular strengths (and consumer spending patterns), but...

  • Where good ideas come from

    It is often claimed that Cape Town’s Table Mountain contains a greater number of plant species than the entire British Isles. So what is it, exactly, that causes certain environments to flourish with biodiversity and rapid evolutionary specialisation, while others lag behind? Steven Johnson’s latest book, Where Good Ideas Come From, offers several theories. What’s more, it argues that the majority of technological innovations exhibit the same patterns that are successful in natural ecosystems. Traditionally, any discussion about what is “natural” in human progress will begin and end with Darwin’s idea of the “survival of the fittest”. You can’t have innovation...

  • Hey Internet, where’s my cultural interface?

    When you think about things the internet doesn’t do particularly well, it’s easy to imagine that someone out there is working on a platform to remedy the situation, probably in their parents’ basement. The fact is there are still many areas where the internet does not provide a perfect solution. For example, I believe that the internet is not a great mediator between communities. Yes, we have fantastic tools to assemble crowds of like-minded netizens, of that there is no doubt. And on a more granular level, a service like ChatRoulette is bringing people of vastly different backgrounds together daily,...

  • Qwiki and Storify: Disruptive storytelling comes of age

    On October 26, Qwiki, a new "information experience" platform, opened its doors to pre-invited users as an Alpha web product. As this year’s winning startup of TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, a lot of expectation is riding on co-founder and CEO, Doug Imbruce, who is promising to do nothing less than change the way we receive information. In its current form, Qwiki trawls the API’s of the web (including Wikipedia, Google Maps, LinkedIn, Yelp and others) to assemble (mostly) coherent, interactive videos on over 2- million topics, from the French Revolution to The Godfather movies and Thabo Mbeki. Every slice...

  • What online publishers can learn from gaming

    The demise of mainstream print media is now taken as gospel by many leading editors and media thinkers, while an even more radical idea -- that there may not be any online future for existing newsrooms -- is also being put forward. Whether or not you believe in that nightmare scenario is not important right now. What everyone in the news media does seem to agree about, is that engaging their online audiences is stupendously important. Online publishers are still finding answers to the question: how would people like to interact with the media? One bold answer may...