Tag Archives: internet

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

About a month ago, I ordered some team gear from the Manchester City website.  I’ve followed the club for long enough; I figured it was time to get a shirt or two.  Plus, the offer of free worldwide shipping didn’t hurt.  Two days before Thanksgiving, my order arrived.

Of course, every day in between, I was reminded of its impending arrival.  Not by package-tracking emails or anything like that; no, I was reminded by advertisements for the mcfc.co.uk suddenly showing up all over web pages I was visiting.

This in and of itself is no big deal, except for the fact that I had never seen an ad for the website, ever, until after I ordered the shirts.

This may have happened to some of you, and it may be no big deal.  But it certainly weirded me out.  I started noticing it with other places I had ordered from as well (although, at the moment, the specifics escape me; I just know that I saw another one and yelled “GET OUT OF MY HEAD” at no one in particular).

I get it; nothing is truly private or safe on the internet.  It’s designed to connect us and bring us closer together.  And I can see why companies would want to target their ads towards folks they know are interested in the product.  Still, it’s strange, and in my case, counterproductive.

I spend a lot of time on the internet, both at work and at home (the blog doesn’t write itself, you know).  When someone needs to contact me for work, I tell them that email is the best way to reach me.  It follows that the best way to reach me in order to sell me something would also be via the internet.  Well, when you’re taking up ad space by showing me ads for places you know I already like, you’re preventing me from seeing new things.  I’m not going to constantly buy more Man City gear just because I see an ad.  However, if I see a different ad for, I don’t know, a new type of indoor portable grill, I’m not going to suddenly stop being interested in City, you know?  You’re missing out on an opportunity to bring new things to my attention, and you’re also just plain old creeping me out.

So, anyway, internet marketers…GET OUT OF MY BROWSER.  And my head.

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Maybe I’m Out of My Mind

I read this little blurb today.  My response was, in a word…well, it’s not a word, but remember the noise Tim Allen used to make on Home Improvement?  “Aah-uuugh?”  That.  That was my response.

First of all, as a so-called “Millennial,” I find it impossible that anyone between 18 and 35, let alone enough people to generate a 10th-most-searched item, doesn’t know who Robin Thicke is.  I mean, who the heck is making “Blurred Lines” the number-one song in America if not for them (er, us)?

And while “what is hummus?” and “what is a ratchet makeover?” are legitimate questions that I’m not completely sure I know the answer to, I think we all know how to twerk at this point.  Unfortunately so.

The thing that gets me even more than those may be the number-two entry: “how to boil an egg.”  THE PROCESS IS DEFINED IN THE WORDS.  Step one: find an egg.  Any old egg will do.  Step two: BOIL IT.

When I was younger, my mother always told me that I couldn’t use a word if I didn’t know what it meant.  I’ve clearly broken that rule since (like two paragraphs up, when I wrote “ratchet makeover”), but that’s not important.  When I used a word that I clearly didn’t know the meaning of, she often asked me to define it, and I would almost inevitably slip into that trap of defining a word by using that word in the definition.  But in this case, I mean…who doesn’t know what boiling is?

“Boil” is a pretty simple word.  Put water into a pot.  Turn on the burner.  Wait for bubbles.  Now, that’s not the scientific definition, but I doubt anyone who is searching “how to boil an egg” on Yahoo is going to whip out a thermometer and wait until the water has reached 212 degrees, so it will do.

Those idiots (and again, remember, this is the second-most-searched question by people who are legally considered adults and are using a fairly major search engine) obviously don’t know what “boil” means, so why do they want to do it?  How do they know that’s what they want to do?  I think if they knew for sure, they’d probably know how to do it.

Now that I’ve mentioned “how to boil an egg” this many times, maybe this post will show up in the search results.  In case it does, and it made you feel bad…good.

Watch Out, It’s Dog Eat Dog

I read an interesting little piece today from ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil.  She is a member of the advisory board at the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State, and she shared her contribution to the center’s monthly commentary via her Twitter account.

The gist of her entry is that journalism’s worst enemy these days is journalists.  On the surface, that doesn’t make any sense, but the truth is, she has a point.

In today’s climate, everyone rushes to have a story first as opposed to having a story right.  If you visit O’Neil’s employer on any given weekday afternoon, you will see the headlines box on the right side of the page.  Most of the stories begin with the same words: “Sources” or “Report.”  Rarely is there a story that makes its first appearance as confirmed fact and not a report from a source.

Twitter, for all its positives, is probably the genesis of this.  While the 24-hour-news cycle brought on by the spreading of the internet started the ball rolling, Twitter is the oil slick that sent it careening down the mountain.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s true: the more easily someone is able to share something they’ve “learned” or “heard,” the more likely they are to share incorrect information in a rush to be the first one to share anything at all.

And it’s not malicious; it’s not like these respected journalists are lying to people, they’re just sharing what they know as soon as they know it.  The difference is that Walter Cronkite wouldn’t break into your television show unless he knew something; 2013’s writers just have to type a few sentences into their phone and thousands of people will do the disseminating for them.

O’Neil talks about writers tearing each other down.  It sounds to me like she’s accusing her fellow journalists of turning into your standard, run-of-the-mill message board trolls who fire up their computers with the sole purpose of insulting someone who disagrees with them.  It’s a shame, but that’s another pitfall of the internet age: just because you can fire off a snarky tweet or blog post, doesn’t mean you have to.  Not that journalists have anonymity on the web, but the detachment provided by the internet serves sort of like “beer muscles” that lower their inhibitions; I guarantee that the kind of in-fighting and airing of “dirty laundry” O’Neil mentions would never happen in a face-to-face setting, but online, with social media, it’s as easy as type-and-click.

I know it sounds hypocritical for some nobody to write a blog post about the dangers of blogs and social media, but hey, I’m allowed to have an opinion.  As is everyone else.  But it’s also everyone’s responsibility to present it in the most civil and constructive way possible.

There’s an adage that says, “with great power comes great responsibility.”  In the internet age, that saying is outdated; nowadays, with even the slightest bit of access should come great patience.  And, of course, that whole “responsibility” thing.

I Hear the Secrets That You Keep

At the risk of drawing the notice of the government’s computers…I had a thought about the recent revelations about the “PRISM” program:

So what?

I mean I get why people would be upset at the government being able to read their communications, but at the same time, don’t we hear all the time about how we should be careful what we put online, because nothing there is truly private?  If I’m assuming that someone can find everything anyway, I’d rather it be the U.S. government than someone who will use the information to steal my identity or make charges to my bank account.

Besides, in our politically-charged climate, it’s almost refreshing to see the Obama Administration continue a controversial, top-secret program started by the Bush administration.  It’s bipartisanism at its finest.

Of course, my lack of shock probably comes from being more cynical and jaded than I should be.  I know how things work.  I understand that you can be as safe and secure as possible, or you can have complete and total privacy, but not both, as the President alluded to during remarks earlier today (I think; I saw them on the news today).  I also save my law-breaking for behind the wheel on empty streets, as I mentioned before.  It follows that if I’m not doing anything wrong, per se, I won’t have anything to worry about.

The one problem I have with this is the criteria that communications being observed are “foreign.”  I understand that a majority of terrorist threats develop overseas, but at the same time, how do we determine with “51% certainty” that something is foreign?  Are we going off of names?  Language?  What kind of stereotypes are we relying on to make the determination of what needs further study?  I guarantee that Facebook messages written in Arabic aren’t always between two terrorists, but I guarantee that they are always flagged by the PRISM system.  That seems unfair.

So yeah, it seems rather untoward that something like this would exist.  But are you really surprised?  Is it really worth getting all worked up over?  I don’t think so.  If you don’t mind, I’ll wait for the next “destruction of our liberty” to consider getting riled up.