Friday, April 26, 2013

Where's Waldo? Or...can you spot the ad?

   To be clear, there's nothing I find offensive in the content and feel free to "Like, Share, Favorite, Subscribe and Bookmark" if you're into that sort of thing. But before you do, ask yourself, "What exactly is Rollie trying to accomplish?".
   I also encourage you to ask the same thing of that "BlueTrooth" guy, by the way. But let's take a look at what Rollie has got goin' here. When I clicked on the link from one of my Twitter friends, the website took a full 15 seconds to load. I assumed it was due to a spike in traffic following an "all points bulletin" link-fest encouraged by the source. No biggie, I patiently (ha! Fifteen seconds is my limit!) waited as the page loaded. My first impression was "Great! No cumbersome ads!" and I watched the embedded video. Jon Stewart at his finest, doesn't get much better than that. As an afterthought I read the brief intro from Rollie, a witty one at that. And then I see the bold Facebook and Twitter tabs, along with a couple more by his image, along with even more choices at the bottom of the screen (I apologize for the abbreviated screen snip, but it's not really necessary for the point).
   The point being, I realized I am really looking at one big ad for Rollie's Facebook and Twitter feed. Obviously, nothing wrong with that, but awareness is important in everything we do on the internet. The internet began as an educational "tool". It was once a mysterious and "fabled" entity in the 80's, often described as the "ultimate electronic bulletin board system" (commonly referred to as "BBS"). But it has evolved into the ultimate market of commerce, selling everything from ant farms to personal web browsing data. I decided I would try a little test and I reloaded the web page. To my surprise, it took the same excruciatingly long 15 seconds which indicates a few cookies might be busy. I'm not saying we should outlaw analytics, but I am saying your browser offers clues regarding which data-mining programs are active. Again, it's about awareness. So where is the ad? It's the entire page. And it's not an ad selling Comedy Central, it just might be selling you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Don't Troll On Me

   April Fools Day...after a relaxing 3 months of blissful immersion in self-indulgent and, some might say, juvenile fun, I'm breaking my "silence". I power up the "black box" (my matte black PC designated for politics only) and after the brief boot-up, my eyes are fixed on the all-too-familiar Tweetdeck columns. Familiar by their titles and yes, the great friends with which I've shared so many "convos" and sarcastic quips. Bear in mind, "great friends" can also mean "complete strangers" in this day and age of virtual reality. But also remember, friendship is a trust built on fond memories and I personally have no shortage of those. Without much fanfair or forethought, I compose a simple tweet.

   "No April Fools...". Now, I'll be honest, I don't remember the exact words following "No April Fools" and I'm sure not going to review my tweets. The rest of the tweet went something like "starting tomorrow I'm back on Twitter. We've got work to do!". Heh, in hindsight that seems a bit of a presumption, bordering on absurdly arrogant and overly dramatic...Twitter "gold". But the tweet was really meant for me, myself and I. Trust me when I say that a swift kick in the butt and a public tweet demanding follow-through are quite necessary before plunging back into the shark-infested waters of political junkies, conspiracy theorists, the willfully ignorant and the skillfully exploitative. To drive that point home, I will note that the following day I repeatedly debated with myself whether I should open Tweetdeck, distracting myself with small projects around the house and even firing up the Xbox a few times. Why am I so hesitant? It's certainly not for lack of conviction, compassion or concern. But there's something else I was wrestling with and that something was, and still is in some ways, my "jaded" perspective. You see, I've experienced "life without hashtags".

   Please understand the light sarcasm I've employed in the writing of this essay. But also recognize that I'm relating my true experience, an experience that is shared with more than one "IRL" friend. That said, I'm tempted to go through a long laundry list of justifications to leave the politics behind. To lament the online politics of Twitter as a poor substitute for the real politics of daily life. An annoying obstruction to real activism. A virtual marketplace of trolling for dollars using the most insidious, despicable and destructive tactics imaginable. THAT is the "jaded perspective". There is certainly some truth in those criticisms, but I've only described the worst of Twitter, the seamy sideshow that exists only to steal your money as they push you out the door. All the more reason to push my way back in...

   To be clear, I left Twitter on my own terms. It was time for a break. I'm slowly getting back "in the groove" and visiting my friends at the usual places like The Obama Diary or The Peoples View, Crooks and Liars and PoliticusUSA to name just a few. And you can expect more "shoutouts" when I write some thoughts here in the future. As many of my friends know, and the archives surely attest, I haven't been a frequent blogger or accumulated a lot of frequent blogger miles, but that will likely change. You see, we DO have a lot of work to do. We must "keep it real" on Twitter and confront the exploitative on both sides of any particular issue. I will never suggest that monetization is inherently exploitative or a "bad thing", but we must employ a healthy skepticism toward any blog or organization that requires or even requests anything more than a username and a password. It's common sense and it's a topic I'll likely cover in more depth by relating my experiences. And that's what you can expect from me in the future. Experiences on the interwebs, some policy opinion and the obligatory rant, some questions for discussion and some community building. Thanks for stopping by, it's good to be back and hope to see you again soon.