Friday, July 24, 2015

On cashing in on personal information

For several months now I've been experimenting with a few methods of earning what's known online as "beer money".  I've tried a few things out, but so far the most success I've seen has come from the website known as SwagBucks (referral).  The concept is simple enough: watch videos, search using their special search bar, complete special offers, and fill out surveys.  In exchange for all of that, you get SwagBucks, which you can exchange for a variety of gift cards (including Paypal, which basically amounts to cash).

So to recap, you're exchanging personal information and getting paid at most $1-$2 a day.  To some, this might seem like a heck of a lot of effort for maybe $20-$30 a month.  And to that I're right.  At the start, I was putting a lot of time into it, and was getting good results.  These days, I'm just putting in the amount of time I feel like giving - it's no skin off my back if I don't log in for a few days.  Where my goal used to be to reach 2,500 Swagbucks in order to cash out $25 in Paypal gift cards, it's now my goal to use it to fill time.  Currently I'm waiting on another $3 gift card so that I can buy this little gadget.

When I first started collecting "SB's", there was a set of apps you could use to run videos and earn SB's.  The idea for the /r/SwagBucks community is you run the videos while you're doing something else.  You could mark short videos as favourites, and just run those as a loop until you max out your earnings for each app.  Great deal, right?

Except lately the people at SwagBucks have reduced the max amount you can earn with each app (while increasing the amount of videos you need to "watch" before earning any SB's), and removed the ability to mark videos as favourites.  Understandably, the SwagBucks community is up in arms.  What was once an easy side money earner is now "totally unusable" in the eyes of some.

Maybe the reason I'm not so upset about all of these changes is because of my attitude toward the website in the first place.  They need to make money, and the way they do that is by collecting your personal information in various forms, the biggest being surveys.  I am OK with this.  Surveys are fun!  That's how I earn the most SwagBucks (when I'm not disqualified for working in radio).

But I find it interesting how invested some of the users have become, and I'm certain it's all because SwagBucks is disguising $0.01 as 100 SwagBucks.  It's all the same as loyalty program rewards - what looks more impressive, 1 point = $1, or 1,000 points = $10?  By giving you such high point values as a reward, you feel like you're earning more when you're really trading away information that has a much higher value.  Think about it: the Reddit SwagBucks community is upset over not being able to easily earn 138 points a day anymore.  That's only $1.38 a day.  They probably spend more time earning SwagBucks than they do at work, and they're not even getting minimum wage doing it!

Whether or not they're going in the right direction, SwagBucks has definitely put their claws into people and are getting the information their clients want to buy.  Like I said - I knew up front what I was trading, and how much (or little) I was getting in return.  I'm okay with that.  If it means that I get a few Amazon gift cards and can buy neat little gadgets here and there, without spending my own money?  I'm happy.

If you want to join in on the party, feel free to use my referral link.  I would love to help you trade in your own personal information to get free stuff.

Friday, July 17, 2015

ReBoot - Season 3 + Podcast Review

I binged through ReBoot season 3 last weekend to finish it off, and prepare for sitting through season 4 (which is actually two movies but was split into episodes for TV).  I probably would have taken longer to get through the season, but the third season is actually quite compelling.  I can't remember the last time I watched the season in full, from start to finish (let alone watching the series start to finish!); I feel like the last time this happened, I was 13 and watching it week-to-week when it was freshly released.

I remember that the third season was highly serialized, but I forgot how much it veered into this direction.  A few of the episodes could be watched on their own, but you'd lose out on so much of the story (which, I suppose, is a good reason to have the musical recap).  The season is broken down into three very well-defined arcs: Enzo's struggles to become a Guardian; Matrix and AndrAIa's search for Bob and Mainframe; and the final fight to save Mainframe.  Each arc is 4 episodes long, and are identified via the episode number (for example, 3.1.3 or 3.2.1 - Season 3, Arc 1, Episode 3, etc).

By far my favourite episode is "The Episode With No Name", mainly for the stand-off between AndrAIa and the female guardian.  A close second would be "Showdown", for the extended fight sequence between Matrix and Megabyte.  The whole season was very cinematic, and had parody-after-parody.  I mentioned that season 2 shed the cartoon quality of season 1, but season 3 takes that to another level entirely.

Lastly, I'm glad I stuck with the Mainframe Chronicle podcast and gave them a chance to get better.  The chemistry between the hosts improved a lot, and they both feel a little looser.  There is still a lot of recitation of wikipedia factoids, but the hosts actually bring some personality to the episodes and relate some of their own stories.  Their best episode was Episode 10 - The Visitor, where they had a guest from another podcast join them.  I think it helped to loosen up the regular hosts quite a bit and made an impact for the following episodes.

As I said, I've still got season 4 to watch, but I've started working my way through Beast Wars (or Beasties, as it's better known in Canada).  There's another podcast running that I'll be listening to as well - it's called the Transformers Beast Wars Podcast.   It looks like they're still releasing new episodes, as the latest was out June 2nd.  So far after listening to 1 episode, they're doing what I hoped a ReBoot podcast would have done.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Few Reviews

In the last week, I got a lot of show watching done, plus some reading.  Read as for some reviews...

Specifically, I binged through two seasons of ReBoot, which sounds like a lot, but actually the first two seasons are each only 10 episodes long.  At roughly 22 minutes per episode, that's 3 hours and 40 minutes. It didn't feel that long though, and was quite enjoyable to watch through.  

It's amazing to note the vast differences between seasons 1 and 2; at the most basic, season 1 was purely a cartoon with some references for the older viewers.  Season 2 took on a more serial nature and expanded the universe, and did away with some of the more cartoon-y aspects (zany sound effects and the like).

After watching, I then listened to a podcast called Mainframe Chronicle. The podcast has long since ended so I don't feel too bad giving it a bad review; but still a little bad, because I could tell the hosts were trying hard to make something enjoyable.
I find it's very similar to Futurama Pedia in terms of basic structure - the hosts (Daniel and Joey) would watch episodes and talk about them.  Unfortunately, this is where the show fell flat.

While Joey sounds a little more loose and comfortable, host Daniel just sounds very boring and monotonous.  It also sounds like they're reading straight from the ReBoot wiki, which I will admit, I might not have noticed had I not gone in and read a few articles before hearing about the podcast.  They don't really offer anything new to the discussion (granted, I'm only 7 episodes in), though they did receive feedback at some point that asked them to do some more research.  I have noticed that they've loosened up quite a bit compared to their first episode, so it's possible they'll get better for season 3 and the movies.  There are points where I've found them hard to relate to but it could be because they're both at least 6 years younger than me and don't quite remember what the world was like in 1994-1995.

I'll give a final review when I finish the series, to be fair.

I finally got some comic books read; first up is ChronoNauts #1, by Mark Millar and Sean Murphy.  I bought a re-issued edition that had a comic paying homage to the Back to the Future poster, thinking that there might be some sort of tie-in.  I was wrong, but definitely NOT disappointed.  The basic premise is a couple of scientists invent a time machine, and something goes horribly wrong at the end to kick off the story.  The art is beautiful, and although I found the pacing to be a little off, I really enjoyed it.  I'll probably give it another read, and try to track down more issues.  

I also re-read some old Star Trek comics, most of them missing their covers.  I had a TNG comic which featured Q turning the Enterprise D crew into Klingons, which was fun, ends on a "to be continued" note.  As I don't have the cover, I don't know if I'll ever be able to find the follow-up books to find out how it ends.

I then read two TOS era books, called The Modala Imperative.  These ones were fresh to me, because I never really got into them as a kid.  Another case where I'm missing the conclusion to these books, because I really enjoyed them and want to see the outcome.  Apparently the story line is continued in the TNG era, so there's another set of books to look for.  I guess I have some specific books to look out for at the next ComicCon!

Lastly, I've been watching a lot more Dark Matter, setting Killjoys aside for the time being.  Initially I felt that Dark Matter was a little predictable - and it still is, in some ways - but in the last couple of episodes, I feel that its tone has changed to something a little more mature.  It's still trying very hard to be the next Firefly, but it is at least standing on its own.  The latest episode I watched - Episode Four - was set on a space station and it looked fantastic.  Without blatantly telegraphing everything, you get a good feel for how this universe operates.  Also, TIL that the episode names are given numbers, akin to how the crew refer to themselves by numbers.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Round-Up

Not this kind of round-up.

I thought I'd check in based on my post last week, and make Thursdays my official day for posting here.  Or maybe Fridays.  I wrote all of this on Thursday but didn't finish editing (to add links).

I guess technically Im in my second weekdoing this new plan.  I think it's going petty well!  As I write this, Im watching some episodes of ReBoot (yes, I'm re-watching the show).  My schedule was thrown for a loop this week, but that's what happens when you get a day off work in the middle of the week.

I've found the hardest day to stay intrested is Magazine Monday.  I guess I'm just not that into magazines. But I did and some new TV Shows to follow!  On Thursdays only of course.

- Dark Matter - I first leared of this show via Wil Wheaton.  The basic premise of the show is 6 people wake up from stasis to discover they know basic skills but don't remember who they are. Already that's a great premise that hooked me. The series is created by the same people behind the Stargate TV shows.

It's interesting to think of them as "auteurs" because you can certainly pick up on the Stargate-like aspects. It's hard to define, but it's definitely noticeable and can make it easier to predict plot points. Overall, I like it.  The title text makes me think of the N64 game Perfect Dark.  TIL it's based on a comic book series!

- Killjoys - It's about bounty hunters, set in the future. A killjoy is a hunter with clearance to go after kill contracts. I don't want to give too much away, because it is a great show. It's visually stunning as well.  I actually like this show better than Dark Matter.

Other things going on? We got a new camera, and I'm photographing anything and everything.
I've been a lot more productive these last two weeks as well.  I released a podcast last weekend, the second in two weeks. That's really good for me! Usually I don't get more than one done in a month.

Good start for now!