Tag Archives: Facebook

Keep your eye on the ball

The last two weeks have been anything but boring. The pace of news seems designed to keep us off-balance. It can make it difficult to find what is worth our attention. If a story is from a few days ago, it can feel like it’s already old news and not part of the conversation we’re having now. Often we gravitate to the things that are easily digestible, that we already are inclined to care about, and that don’t challenge us to do more than give the post a like.

In this post-election season we need to fight this tendency.

Take this weekend for example. On Friday the President-elect settled three lawsuits that were brought against him over the fraudulent practices at Trump University, to the tune of $25 million. Trump did not admit to any wrong-doing in the settlement. Despite his tweet that “The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U.” the settlement figure (as well as the instructor’s handbook) suggest the case was not a slam-dunk for the President-elect. The settlement also spares Trump the embarrassment of showing up in court, giving him time to “focus on our country.

And this would have been an embarrassing case. Instructors at Trump U were told to encourage students to put themselves in substantial credit-card debt to pay for courses containing information you could easily find on the internet. This is also the case where Trump questioned the abilities of a US born judge to try the case fairly because he had Mexican heritage. Burrito bowls aside we know Trump’s comments about Mexicans have been a bit… controversial to say the least. This situation is unprecedented for a President-elect, and this is not the only lawsuit Trump will likely have to settle. So you’d think that this story would be the top trending topic in my news-feed all weekend.

But as it turns out, Mike Pence got booed at the theater.

Now don’t get me wrong. Both the audience’s reaction to Pence, and the cast’s later words to him were deeply satisfying. There was a throwaway joke on SNL that Pence is the reason Trump will never be impeached, and any democrat who’s taken a closer look at Pence would be forced to agree. Hamilton has a diverse cast and they rightly called out the inconsistency of his views with his attending the show. And Trump’s reaction to the whole kerfuffle shows that he has not abandoned his reactionary twitter habits. The other trending story this weekend were some Trump supporters making Starbucks employees write “Trump” on their cups. This was accompanied by some footage of one such supporter being a dick. Personally, I think it’s nice that Trump supporters like this self-identify. I mean, a barista would never do something to your coffee after you’ve been a jerk … right?

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Both of these stories tickle me in one way or another. But they’re dessert, and you need to finish your meal before you get dessert.

Here’s what I mean. There’s nothing wrong with clicking the links to the Hamilton footage, and smiling at the video. You can spend some time thinking of Pence musicals and share your favorites on Twitter. But that can’t be all you do. There are cabinet appointments being made, there are policy directions being discussed, and there events that continue to speak to the character of the man we just elected. I know we all need a laugh, and I love the Joe memes too. But as John Oliver said last week, we can’t let any of this seem normal. We need to do a little digging to see what’s passing us by in favor of what is shiny and easy to understand.

Here’s an example from my own backyard. The day after I attended the rally in Clintonville, a seeming Trump supporter tackled a speaker at an anti-Trump rally. The tackler was quickly led away in handcuffs to a crowd of people chanting “shame shame.” This clip made me angry. I still think of OSU as my home in a lot of ways, and after the encouraging night I’d had the day before, this felt like we were backsliding. But a few days later we found out that the tackler has aspergers syndrome, that the tackle wasn’t even politically motivated, and that the speaker wanted the police to drop any charges of assault. I could have let the incident play as just fuel on the fire, as a way to get myself mad at Trump supporters, but that would have been missing a larger part of the truth.

We can’t afford to get distracted, and we can’t afford to just take fleeting looks at events. We’re in this for the next four years.  Seeing something that bugs us or delight us and sharing it on social media isn’t going to be enough. It certainly wasn’t before the election and it’s not going to be in two or four years.

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Squirrel Rant: Group Rules

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Turns out I haven’t done one of these since 2012, though I’ve probably written a few posts that qualify.

Here’s the basic rules for reading this:

  1. Read this entire post in a high-pitched chipmunk like voice a la Foamy. Here is a relatively SFW outing from Foamy to demonstrate the format.
  2. Assume the contents are due to a particular bout of crankiness and are not directed at individuals unless specifically mentioned.

So I’ve been joining a lot of Facebook groups lately as a way to broaden my circle, make new writing connections, get advice, and do a little *shudder* self-promotion.

Now at the outset I’m going to say that I HATE spam. One of the reasons I don’t love my twitter feed, and need to make adjustments to it, is that I feel like I’m being barraged with book ads. Twitter is particularly aggravating because I get little context other than the picture, and many of the ads are pretty badly constructed.

But this rant isn’t about Twitter, it’s about Facebook.

Now I’ve been trying to read the rules of these groups pretty carefully. I don’t like to step on toes, and I don’t want to do something spammy. If a group doesn’t like self-promotion, or isn’t geared to selling things, then I won’t try to sell there. That’s a good way to get banned.

Some groups broaden promotion out to anybody who is selling anything.

Here’s the context. I was answering a question about self-publishing and the need for freelance editors. I stressed some rules for choosing good editors (i.e. Make sure they give you a free sample edit, and see if they’ll work with you on price or edit a smaller portion of your book). At the very end of my post I shared a link to an editor friend of mine who edits my books and who I know does a good job (and is willing to work with at least some self-publishers). A few minutes later somebody commented that the link was probably not allowed. Not being a fan of how Facebook does previews, I cut it, but left the pertinent details to find said editor in the post.

Later on somebody said I should remove the editor’s name because any mention would still be promotion. Since I’m not on Facebook all the time, I didn’t do this till this morning, but I did remove the pertinent part of the post (sorry Brian). At the same time I made the comment that I draw a distinction between SPAM (i.e. trying to sell you something) and NETWORKING (i.e. trying to help you get in touch with somebody who will help you professionally). In this particular group, however, there is no such distinction.

Here’s the thing. I get the idea of groups that don’t want to be sold to, and I’m largely in favor of it. In fact, even as someone with several things to sell, I find self-promotion tacky. Marketing is the hardest thing any writer needs to learn how to do. At the same time I feel like intent should be taken into consideration. My post did several things:

  1. It addressed the actual question in detail and from experience.
  2. It suggested someone who might be a good editor at the very end.

If me promoting someone bothered you, you can just ignore it. Since I was able to remove it from the post without subsequent editing, obviously it wasn’t content critical. And as a self-published author it can be hard to find a freelance editor who does good work and is willing to work with you, especially without paying the big upfront costs. My intent was to help someone out, and yes, maybe throw my friend some work. I fundamentally feel like there’s a difference between that and just someone who posts their services without engaging with the discussion.

As someone who is trying to advance in the business and craft of writing I want to meet actual people. I want to build connections and get advice from people farther down the road. Again, I get the idea of rules, but fundamentally I’m against legalism. Intent matters.

I realize I’m letting myself get bent out of shape about a largely peaceful Facebook discussion (hence the title Squirrel rant). But the takeaway for me is I want to find groups who can have substantive discussions, and will also make some suggestions on who does a good cover, or an edit, or who they’ve used for marketing that’s helped, and will not get worried that people are promoting or being sold to.

Know any groups like that?

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My Social Media Experiment

By now many of you will have heard about the Facebook study that manipulated the moods of 700,000 of its users. While most people may feel outraged or violated that their feeds were massaged to give you an optimistic or pessimistic view of the world, I had a different reaction.

Why does Facebook get to be the only one who toys with your emotions?

So here’s a little story that’s sure to send you on an emotional roller coaster. You did agree to this in the terms of service, so I don’t want to hear any complaining.

———————-

Lisa loves her cat, Snowball II.

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But Dr. Hibbert ran over Snowball II with his car.

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Bart: “I know how you feel Lise. No kid wants to outlive their pet.”

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It was difficult but Lisa moved on. And in an animal rescue shelter she found the perfect kitty. She named him Snowball III.

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He didn’t last long.

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Marge: “Oh, Lisa. Honey, it’s okay. You’re a Buddhist. So you know your cats are now reincarnated as a higher form of life.”

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Lisa wasn’t sure about replacing yet another kitty. But her love of jazz, and an aptly named cat convinced her to love again.

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When she got him home, she decided to play him some music from his namesake.

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He didn’t care for it.

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So much so, he jumped out the window.

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Marge: “Lord, if you think I’m making lemon bars for your bake sale Sunday, you better stop killing our cats.”

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Lisa had almost given up hope, but then the lord sent her an angel.

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Or a crazy cat lady. Whatever.

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Lisa: “Look, you don’t want to get involved with a girl like me. My cats have a nasty habit of waking up dead. Now go. Cough me out of your life like a bad fur ball.”

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Things weren’t looking good for this cat either.

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But at the last second the car swerved and ran into a tree.

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Lisa named her lucky cat Snowball V, but to save money on a new bowl, she calls her Snowball II.

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But it’s okay. At least Gil’s gonna have food tonight.

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Or maybe not.

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So how does this make you feel?

 

All stills from Season 15 Episode 9 of The Simpsons – “I (annoyed grunt)-bot”. Thanks to Springfield! Springfield! for episode scripts to check the quotes.

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Take a beat

I’ve been sitting on the sidelines of this one for a few days.

The tragedy in Sandy Hook has elicited every kind of response from the supportive and caring, to the vitriolic and callous. All of us want to find a way to express our anger, our frustration, our grief, and our love. Many of us want to do so publicly, but I’d ask us to reflect for a moment on what’s helpful and thoughtful, and what’s not.

As I’ve stated before, I’m not a fan of sound-byte sized opinions. But if I was to have one on this situation it would be; Take a beat. Think before you speak and especially before you write something permanent.

There’s a time and a place for the gun control debate, but both sides seem a little late to the party during a tragedy such as this. There’s a time for thinking about the violence in our culture, from video games to TV, but with an understanding that no two things are the same, and a whole genre or medium can’t be judged by a few bad apples. Both video games and guns are like alcohol, most of us know how to drink and use responsibly, and some of us are drunks, or maniacs. That doesn’t mean we should ban any of these things. We tried it with alcohol and it didn’t go so well.

And specifically to those of you using Israel as an example for why we should have guns in schools, I’d ask that you think for a moment about how their situation is just a little bit different than ours. Perspective is something sorely needed by people sharing this view. The daily threats of destruction and violence in Israel are something America has no experience with, and we’re arrogant if we think we have the same thing here.

During times of tragedy like this we often accuse our politicians of exploiting the situation for political gain. Democrats enact tougher gun control and Republicans fight back. But what do the rest of us actually have to gain? What do we gain by reaching into the deepest, darkest recesses of ourselves, and showing our true nature to the world? Or worse, what do we gain by having a knee-jerk reaction, of jumping on a sharing, liking, tweeting bandwagon, without a thought as to why, associating our names, our reputations permanently.

Frankly, I’m disappointed in some of my Facebook friends, my friends. These are people I know who think deeply, and who care deeply, allowing themselves to distill it all to putrid sludge. You’re better than this! Maybe rather than typing something five seconds after you hear it, go to sleep, reflect, pray, think for God’s sake. Discuss it with family, with friends, on the phone or in person where you have time to make a real argument, and where your words can be forgotten if they weren’t worth speaking.

It’s free speech, but can we all agree that all that is permissible is not all good? We all want to help those in grief, and to make this a better nation, but we accomplish more by faith, and prayer, and thought, than we do by a lack of thinking. Rather than saying we need guns in the schools, talk to your friends, your neighbors, and your PTA about how you can make your school safer. We can use this tragedy to make things better. Unspeakable evil can be countered, can be used for good.

Let’s remember a little old wisdom, think before you speak. And tweet, and meme, and like, and share. And let’s take the time to make real change, in our nation  and in ourselves.

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Five Reasons It’s Good The Internet Knows Everything About You

A technology company is developing texts that will self destruct after you read them (delete themselves after a fixed amount of time from 5 seconds to 6 days). It’s part of an effort to make the web impermanent  In other words they are trying to keep the internet from logging every text/picture/post/tweet you make.

Normally I would argue about why this is good, but you’ve read that post. Actually, you probably have read dozens of them. So instead I’m going to argue for why it’s good the internet knows everything about you.

1. You buy stuff and we want to sell it to you: Like it or not every purchase and every “like” on Facebook is being stored and analyzed to determine what you might want to buy next. Your e-mails are trolled and tailor made text ads are served up for you (including many delightful spam recipes . Amazon tracks your recently viewed products and serves up things people bought after looking at that item, as well as trying to predict from your wish lists, your previous purchases, and your data everywhere else what you’ve really got your heart set on. This seems creepy but it’s not. Buying is still a discretionary choice. You can ignore ads, you can skip over recommendations, but there might be times you won’t want to. If the algorithms are good enough, maybe Amazon knows about something you don’t. You might buy more than you need, but that’s not the internet’s fault.

2. You might be a criminal: Even if you’re not right now you may become one someday. Don’t you want the police to know where your favorite hangouts are and be able to gather evidence about you swiftly so you can get through the fuss of a trial and start paying back your debt to society? Okay, maybe not you, but there are plenty of criminals out there who are caught because of what they leave on the net. There are YouTube videos showing people’s real faces bragging about a robbery they just pulled off. The head of the CIA was felled by e-mail. The internet is a valuable crime fighting resource.

3. You haven’t changed that much: Yes, you might be embarrassed that 14 year old you liked N’Sync. But let’s face it, Justin if anything has gotten more awesome (from SNL appearances to wearing NPR shirts). And a good algorithm will know your current tastes probably inform your choices more than the ancient past. Actually the internet might want to clear your taste preferences older than 7 years, but on the other hand all of us get nostalgic from time to time.

4. The more you put out there, the harder you are to know: This runs a little afoul of my previous points but data glut can actually serve to defend you. You are currently reading a guy who likes soapy K-Dramas, Star Trek, The West Wing and was actually a little sad Partners was canceled. I collect Star Trek comic books, Bone, Sandman, Batman Graphic Novels and Manga (of huge variety from Oh My Goddess to Rurouni Kenshin). I play games from Raving Rabbids to Max Payne. So what do you know about me? Well, he likes Star Trek, but otherwise it might be a little hard to draw general conclusions besides “he’s a man of eclectic tastes”. He’ll watch Love Actually but not Hope Floats.

5. Without you I wouldn’t have a job: Seriously folks. Data and I are a thing. No data-centers without data. No monitoring without data-centers. Just sayin’.

Have a pleasant day. Let me know how it’s going in blog comments, facebook posts and tweets.

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Another [expletive deleted] post

Does social media cause us to self censor?

Charlotte Higgins of the Guardian thinks it might.

I think there are two elements to this question:

1) Do we hold back on giving our opinions?
2) Do we stiifle ourselves creatively in favor of what the majority will like?

As for the first, frankly I wish some of us practiced more self control before spewing whatever nonsense pops into our heads (myself included). I’ve tried for the most part to keep my political opinions to myself, stepping in only for needed calls for civility or common sense. I’ve contemplated doing a My “Controversial” Views post, but frankly I don’t think that would be very interesting to all of you, especially those who come mainly for the writing.

About the second I’m not really sure. Since my audience includes my dad, my mother in law, and several coworkers, there probably are some topics and stories I don’t write. But I have tried to mettle with some dark subject matter, particularly with regard to Foxconn. I can’t say I can think of a story I’ve left out because of audience response, but I do try to play to what people like, sometimes resulting in too much sentimentality.

I do agree with the writer’s frustration at people who comment without reading. Fortunately I don’t see it all that often here (because you guys are a special bunch), but I do see this all too often on news forums or Facebook.

I do think we should always take care with what we say, and realize some topics are bound to cause disagreement (I’m looking at you Adam 🙂 ). But fear that someone won’t like what we write is no reason not to.

In fact it’s all the more reason we should.

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One More Gun. Really?!

A number of my (now former) Facebook friends have been expressing sentiments like this one:

“The shooting in Aurora would have gone a lot differently if people had been allowed to concealed carry. There would be only one death, the perpetrator.”

Just as those in favor of gun control tend to come out of the woodwork during a violent tragedy, so too come the gun supporters. I don’t necessarily think our national policy on gun control should be decided by our visceral reactions to tragedy, but by the same token thoughts like the one above need a reality check.

He was in full body armor

If someone had been concealed carrying and had tried to take James Holmes down they would have had a difficult time of it. His chest, head and neck were protected by SWAT grade body armor.

Who is the criminal?

It took a trained eye by the officers on scene to recognize discrepancies in Holmes’ armor and identify him as not part of their team. In a tense chaotic situation like the one in that theater, is it not reasonable to assume that anyone firing a gun might be assumed to be the cause and not the solution? Our vigilante hero might get a bullet for their trouble.

You’re not Rambo

I think what really gets to me about people who make this remark is that they are not the sort of people I would count on in a real crisis situation. They like to think that they’d be a hero, that they could take the criminal down, but it’s all talk. Until you’ve been in a tough situation you have no idea how you’d react, if you’d be able to assess the situation correctly and shoot the right target without hurting anyone else. We watch action movies and we think we can be part of them. I don’t care how much time you’ve spent on the range, how much training you’ve had, if you’ve never been tested in real life, then I don’t want you to have a gun.

It dishonors real heroes

There were heroes in that theater. Boyfriends who protected their loved ones by shielding them with their bodies. Best friends who gave life saving first aid, and carried their friends out of the fray. They weren’t armed, but they saved lives, sometimes by sacrificing their own. Anyone who fantasizes about saving those people through more violence dishonors the memory of the dead and the living.

It’s not a constitutional issue

You know what, the constitution was written more than 200 years ago. Maybe, just maybe, parts of it need to be revisited in the light of modern day. The 2nd ammendment back in colonial times would be like having the right to buy computers in modern times. Guns were tools, and tools far less capable of dealing mass death as the automatic weapons Holmes was legally able to get his hands on.

It’s not alright to disagree

In reply to my comment that statements like the one above were incorrect and insulting one former facebook friend said that he’s sorry I feel the way I do. He said that it’s okay that we disagree and that he would fight for my right to say what I want just as he’d fight for the right to keep his gun. Thanks, but no thanks. My first amendment rights are doing fine without your help. And sometimes ignorant and arrogant sentiments like this one need to be called for what they are. I support your right to be foolish, but that doesn’t make you any less of a fool.

As you can tell I’m a bit angry. Ultimately it’s Facebook. I can just unfriend this person and they’ll disappear from my life forever. But reality is there are plenty more who think the way he did. It’s not okay. We need to think more about the things we say (that’s why it took me a week to decide to even write this post). Maybe our twitter and 24 hour news based society has causes us to “shoot from the hip” (if you’ll parson the expression), but that’s never been a particularly good way to discuss anything. Whether you agree with me or not on gun rights, you can see how comments like the one above do nothing to help the current situation. We should be better than this.

Thankfully, many of us are. There have been more posts with prayers and thoughts going out to the families then I’ve seen for any recent tragedy. Christian Bale visited victims. It’s not all a bad world.

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