Tag Archives: Facebook

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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I Just Can’t Take It Any More

Facebook might try to save your life.

In the current issue of PC Magazine are “10 Things You Should Know About Facebook’s New Privacy Policy“. Most of them are pretty straightforward. Facebook is archiving every like, friend request and message you send and letting advertisers use that information on and off Facebook. If your messages or statuses seem to indicate that you intend to do harm to yourself or others, Facebook might intervene. In other words, if I post that I am depressed and want to kill myself, Facebook might put me in contact with agencies for Suicide prevention. If I say I plan to commit a crime, they might send someone to arrest me.

I’m not sure what to think about that.

I think the crime thing won’t be all that effective. It will catch roughly the same amount of criminals as the “are you a terrorist?” question. If anything, it may lead to situations where someone making a joke is taken a little too seriously (as profiled on This American Life a few years ago).

But suicide isn’t a joke.

Last Christmas a 42 year old woman posted that she had taken an overdose and would be dead soon. None of her 1048 Facebook friends helped her, called the police, called her, called anyone. Some chose to mock her online.

This woman is not alone.

In response to these and other incidents, and calls from people in the industry, Facebook has formed a partnership with the Samaritans to Prevent Suicide, and also actively takes down pro-suicide Facebook groups.

I think these are both good things, but it disturbs me that they are necessary. How close are we really to our friends, to anybody? Are we keeping track of what’s going on in each other’s lives, are we encouraging each other when we’re down? Or are we just voyeuristic, checking up on old girlfriends, trying to figure out who’s married, successful, or not?

We were talking about the Good Samaritan in church this Sunday, and the number of people who passed by without stopping to help. In the case of the 42 year old woman, not only did 1048 people pass by, some stopped to point and laugh.

What are we doing?

It shouldn’t be up to Facebook to step in to save people who are lost like this. It should be up to us. And if we’re not really ready to care about what’s going on with our hundreds of ‘friends’, then maybe we shouldn’t be friends anymore.

Maybe all 1048 friends thought someone else had stepped in, and that they didn’t need to. Maybe they didn’t think she was serious. It’s understandable, and it’s sad. We’re sharing more of ourselves than ever, but more and more we’re doing it in a crowded room, where no one will really hear us. I’ve joked a lot about not being worried about what I put out on the net because there’s too much information glut for anyone to really take notice of me.

It’s probably true.

It’s a good thing Facebook is doing, but maybe part of “loving our neighbors” is seeing what they’re up to online.

NOTE: I didn’t know about any of these stories until doing a little research. Is this something I just missed, or have other people never heard about these cases?

Oh, and just so we’re clear, I’m fine. 

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