What will you see here? Stuff. Probably worthless stuff. Maybe funny stuff. Maybe stuff that will make you mad, or make you think, or make you share it on social media...

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Heartbleed

I suppose you've heard about the latest and greatest internet hack.

“Heartbleed”? Who comes up with these virus names, anyway?* The Bad Guys need a better marketing department… perhaps something like “Web of Doom” or “ElectroKill” or “Password Pilferer” or "End Game” would be more menacing. And marketable. Or maybe even...AssassinWare.

And, don’t you think that if you had the computer programming chops to be able to exploit the vulnerabilities of a half million websites, including many bank and financial sites, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Dropbox, Twitter, Yahoo and Tumblr, that you’d be able to use that genius to make much more money as a legit IT guru than you could ever hope to steal via some virus?

And are virus dudes the most successful criminals EVER? I mean, who has ever heard of one of these guys getting caught? Are there virus dudes sitting in virus jail somewhere? Or did they all escape after exploiting the holes in the prison’s security system?

What’s the low-down on hackers, anyway? I think they belong in the same sociopathic category as vandals, graffiti "artists," and people who throw broken glass onto the bike path near my house (I hate that!). Oh, and those miserable subhuman scum who stick razor blades on playground equipment, or poison Halloween candy. Sick people, all of them.

Heartbleed. *smh*

Gotta go change my passwords now...idiots.

*I know, I know, Codenomicon named the virus. Still.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bubblicious

Back when I was a kid, and still liked gum, I preferred Hubba Bubba over Bubblicious. My eyes would zero in on that brand at the grocery store, because that's what I liked. Now, computers can do the zeroing in for us, placing us in our own custom-crafted information bubble.

I recently read this interesting article about the way the web (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, etc.) use automated algorithms to filter what we see, based on our personal web use history. This is nothing we didn't already know - we've all seen how well Amazon shows us suggestions based on other stuff we've bought (or even looked at).


Although the retailer algorithms can be handy, we have also all seen how they can be stupid. For example, last week I searched pretty extensively for a new backpack for work - a purchase my employer would eventually make on my behalf. For many days after, I kept seeing ads for backpacks, even though I had never intended to make the purchase myself, and even though I already had a new backpack now. Obviously, automation has its flaws.


But, as the above-linked article (and the embedded TED Talk at that link) suggest, the flaws of a personalized web go far beyond mere retail annoyances. The customized internet experience actually has a perspective-narrowing effect, and may in fact cause us to be more polarized because we exist in more and more of a philosophical echo-chamber.


This is also something I have noticed as I've perused my Facebook feed, as I am in the habit of paying attention to trends and consciously seeking out opposing viewpoints. I call it competitor research. I need to know what kind of crazy things the opposition is saying, just to get a better contextual analysis of the big picture. I'm not afraid of hearing their ridiculous opinions, even if they are often so aggravating. It's useful information, for the most part, and I want to at least have the option to be exposed to it.


That's something I've noticed about my Twitter feed - I intentionally have a much more diverse set of people I follow there than I do on Facebook. It's easier to take the drivel in 140-character chunks, I guess. And Twitter seems so much more impersonal. I can lurk a-plenty without engaging very much (at least, that's the way I use it...YMMV).


That said, I endorse the general tenor of the link above, with the following minor disagreement: the author laments the decline of TV news viewership and newspaper readership, while I applaud it. Google "spoon-feeding" me personalized results is preferable to being spoon-fed a bunch of crap from a handful of MSM sources. At least with the web, I can still find opposing viewpoints if I search hard enough. Not so much the case with the legacy media.


Anyway, I find this all very interesting, and in some ways, a little scary for those not paying attention to the big picture. After all, ones and zeros cannot think, and should not be given free-reign to do all our thinking for us. Nor should the programmers behind those ones and zeroes, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be.









Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The 7 Most Annoying Blog Post Features Ever

Have you noticed how many blog posts these days have a click-bait headline that fails to deliver? There's always some number of incredible things that will help you succeed at something or other. It's usually 14 shocking things, or 22 amazing pictures, or perhaps even "17 videos banned from the internet" - whatever that means. It may be a series of images that are promised to be the funniest thing you have ever seen, or be guaranteed to give you "all the feels." They might be 16 essential do's or 9 absolute don'ts. Perhaps it's the 25 best this or the 20 worst thats. And so often, the list is somewhat lame, or woefully incomplete.

Well, this list is not full of shocking facts, nor is it complete, and you are certain to be able to live without it. It won't change your life, get you a better job, or even get you more "likes." But this list does contain some of the most annoying blog post features around:

1) A headline that fails to deliver on its promise. As I said above, nobody likes to be oversold and under-delivered to. After a while, people will get fed up with your crying wolf and stop linking to your pathetic waste of time blog posts (I'm looking at you, LinkedIn community). Tell them what they'll get; be honest about it. If the content can't stand on its own without an overblown, fake, hyped-up headline, maybe it's not really worth posting about. Yeah, I know, you have a quota. But you can do better than that. Isn't that what makes blogging cooler than the MSM?

2) Stating the obvious. So many of these hyped-up blog posts just end up telling you what you already knew. With the incredible glut of information readily available these days, why add to all that noise? Before you post, think about it: does my blog post really contribute in a unique and meaningful way to the topic, or am I just posting to add my voice to the chorus because I like my own voice?

3) Stating the obvious in a boring way. Okay, fine, so maybe your content has been said before, and maybe it is common sense, but maybe your particular audience if full of young, innocent, naive noobs who could actually benefit from your not-so profound wisdom. Great. At least say it in an interesting way. Rehashing old knowledge in a dull way is a great way to make people regret clicking on your miserable link and wasting their precious six minutes. And it's a great way to ensure you don't get your blog post shared.

4) Offering a list of 30 things that require you to click through 30 pages. These slide show things that make the page reload every time you advance to the next slide make me want to claw at the screen like a rabid animal. I don't care that your advertisers want to get on the refresh rotation with every item on your list. Stop it! I do not have the time or the patience for it. Give me everything upfront on the same page, or forget it.

5) Ads with audio and pop-ups. If I open your page, and some little video on the side bar starts automatically playing, with sound, it's unlikely I will bother reading your blog post. Same goes for pop-ups. I didn't open your site to get assaulted with an audio-visual message; I came to read. Knock it off with the intrusive ads. I get that you need revenue; do it without attacking me, please.

6) Unexpected profanity. How many times have I happily started reading a blog post, only to be suddenly hit with f-bombs and the like? Yes, I understand you have a grown-up vocabulary and you like to use all of the words in it, because you're so tough and sophisticated and enlightened. Fine. But how about an up-front warning? In a world where we are kind enough to post spoiler alerts and MPAA ratings and "explicit content" labels, can't we have the decency to let someone know what kind of language they're in for if they keep reading your blog post? Despite your fashionable worldview, there are still many, many people who do not appreciate vulgarity. Giving a heads up is just good etiquette.

7) What would you add to this list? (See what I did there?)