The Blogging Affairs Desk

When It’s Good, It’s Good, When It’s BAD, It’s Better…

Fuck Comcast 2

After spending literally an entire afternoon on the phone between Comcast and their third party contracted E911 people, I finally got our landline set up.

To put it another way, I spent roughly 6 hours attempting to outfit our new apartment with a technology that’s been around since 1880-something, can be replicated with two soup cans and a string, all to save myself 30 dollars.

Yeah, I’d have killed myself too.

The drama starts here:  I fucking hate Comcast.  If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area where you have another cable/internet/phone provider, good for you- you don’t know the levels of aggravation myself and nearly 5 million other Comcast subscribers are subjected to nearly every day.

By talking to my neighbors and co-workers, all of which HAVE to be Comcast subscribers (we do have the option for DirectTv and Fios – Verizon’s DSL service, but Comcast is the only service available on Cape Cod that provides high-speed internet access through coaxial cable) our experiences are shared; frustratingly confusing and hard to navigate automated menus when calling into customer support, inattentive customer support reps with a habit of buck-passing the customer once they realize there’s it’s not their department’s problem, tech service that usually leaves things more messed up than before they showed up, etc.

“It’s like dealing with a company manned by 14 year olds,” spoke a co-worker who also has felt the strain of having to deal with Comcast.  “I’ve had them for five years, and no matter what, they’ll fuck something up as soon as I call them,” he explained.

All I wanted to do was set up a landline at our apartment.  Because of some sort of geographic anomaly, we can’t get cell service where we just moved to, so we need a dedicated phone line that works.  Ang is on the job hunt again and it makes things a little hard if potential employers can’t reach her by conventional means.  I work in a field that requires me to be “on-call” 24/7.   I pitched the idea to my bosses that I could be reached at home via email instead of by phone, but my bosses felt that the “old ways” were better.  So a phone line was what I got.

First I called Comcast’s shitty customer service hotline and was greeted by a pre-recorded message from Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Stein, two people who have probably the most annoying, mouth breathing voices on the planet, each welcoming and thanking me for calling Comcast.  After five minutes of verifying certain information, like the last four digits of my cell phone’s number and pressing a bunch of buttons to talk to a human being, I finally get a hold of someone in the phone department.

I explain my case and site how apprehensive I am about taking on the service, given my and Comcast’s track record/rocky relationship.  I tell them that I’ve had numerous experiences where I’ve received sub-par treatment on both ends of the service, both from the office folks I speak to on the phone and from the techs in the field (I made sure I brought up the fact that the last tech that came out to do our cable/internet install completely fucked up our internet).  I shrewdly asked if there was any way to get a better deal on the price of adding a phone line.

“Well,” this woman starts.  “Right now you’re paying 120 dollars a month for just cable and internet, adding the phone service will bring you to 140 and change.  You’d be paying 20 dollars more a month for a 40 dollar a month service,”

“A phone line is a 40 dollar a month service?”  I hear my father’s voice coming out of my mouth.

“Yes sir,”

“Says who?”  I ask.  There’s a pause.

“Well, says Comcast, sir.”

So according to Comcast, they’re going to charge me 40 dollars a month for a technology that’s widely available ANYWHERE.  They say they’re going to “save” me 20 dollars a month if I bundle the cable and internet together with a dedicated phone line.  How the hell is a phone line 40 dollars a month?

I asked this, in polite terms.

“Well sir, you get unlimited long distance in the domestic US and Canada,” great, so I’m going to be paying for “unlimited” long distance that I’ll never use (I plan on prank calling Canada at least twice a week now -ed).

Granted I have one parent in Maine and another in Florida, I talk to them mostly from my cell phone, which I’d do from work if I really needed to chat with them.  Mom uses email just as extensively as I do, and 9/10s the time that’s how we communicate.  My father, still uses a phone for most of his communication, but even then, I call him once every two weeks for a 30 minute phone call from my cell phone.

“Ok, so, what if I don’t want unlimited long distance?”  I ask.  The woman seems baffled by this.

“Well, you could opt for the local only service, but that’s only going to cover you for your own town; any calls made outside of ________ will cost you 5 cents a minute.”

“Ok, that’s fine,” I say.  I really only need the device to receive in-coming calls, and really, what’s 5 cents a minute if Ang needs to reach me to tell me to bring home milk?  She starts to back pedal.

“Sir, um, it can get costly…”

“Do you think it’ll run me more than 40 dollars a month?”  I ask.  She corrects me and tells me that I’d only be paying 20 dollars a month, on top of my cable and internet.  “Ok, well do you think it’ll run me more than 20 bucks a month?”

“I don’t know sir.  But we’d have to send out a technician to set up the phone system in your house for that service, and since it’s an analog install, we’d have to charge you a technician’s fee, which is by the hour.”

“What’s the tech fee?”

“Twenty-five dollars an hour,” Jesus!

In the end, I opted for a self-install with their stupid unlimited long distance.  I don’t see myself carrying on like the babbling idiots in the commercials for Comcast’s unlimited long distance plan; some woman jabbering into a phone as she walks around her house.  I see an old, battered table top model from Kmart sitting on the counter, receiver tethered to its base by some tangled plastic chord.  I see the thing ringing once or twice a month, maybe.  Ang and I have already discussed that we’re not handing out this number to anyone other than my work, her work, and select few other people.

So with the little phone modem thing on order, and committing myself to paying out the ass for something I hopefully won’t need in the foreseeable future, I get a voice mail about an hour later.

“Mr. N, we’re from Comcast and we see you have an order in for our dedicated phone line service,” says the cheery foreign call center worker.  “We need you to call in and activate the device for E911 service before we can ship it out to you.  Please call us back at 1-800….”

Ok, not unreasonable, but I’m just curious as to why the woman whom I spoke to on the phone earlier couldn’t have handled this when I ordered the goddamn thing.  Plus I have to listen to the message again because the person who left the message sputtered out the number to call so quickly in a mushy-mouth way, that it’s hard to hear.

What I find out is that the number given is the central Comcast customer service number.  Awesome.

Back to navigating around Shaq and Ben Stein’s voices, back to another maze of automated options.  I finally get a hold of someone and explain the message I got.  They seem just as baffled by it as I was.

“Well sir,” some black college kid says, “let me put you on hold so I can figure out what’s going on here… did they give you a confirmation number?”  And they did, and given my past experiences with Comcast, I know to write this number down.  If you ever have the unfortunate experience of dealing with Comcast, WRITE DOWN YOUR CONFIRMATION NUMBERS!  Believe me, it’s the only way you’ll get anything done in a timely manner.  I was once on hold for 35 minutes just so the fucking idiot on the other end of the phone could look something up for me.  I nearly bled out from my wrist wounds.

So he comes back from putting me on hold and instructs me to call an 866 number that will take me through an automated process in setting up the E911 system.  I balk.

Being a cop in my former life, I know all about the E911 service.  It was introduced pretty extensively right at the end of the last decade by local police so that if you should call 911, and not be able to talk into the phone (sick and dying, hostage taking, etc) they can instantly see where you’re calling from.

Yes, it’s exactly like Caller ID, and half the time it doesn’t work or will fault and send out a signal to the police station if there’s a power surge, causing the cops to show up unexpectedly at your front door.  This is highly problematic if it’s Geisha Night.

So I ask if it’s necessary that I go through this step.  The gentleman I speak with says that not only is the E911 service an FCC regulation, but they can’t ship me the modem until I go through with the task of setting it up.

He assures me it takes less than 5 minutes and they only want to confirm my address.  He says it’s just pushing buttons on my phone and he’ll be happy to transfer me.

Sigh, ok, fine.

I sit on hold and here a few clicks.  I’m disconnected.  Apparently Leroy doesn’t know how to transfer calls.

If I had been holding a gun, I probably would’ve fired it into the ceiling by now.

I call back, hi Shaq, hi Ben; I know the number combination to navigate back to a human being by heart now (2-1-2-2-4-0).  I get a different service rep on the line now and explain the situation, AGAIN, asking if I can just get the number to the place I need to call to set this shit up.

“I’d be happy to transfer you,”

NO NO NO NO….. just the number please.

I get it, hang up.  My brow is drenched in sweat.

I call and get some fucking mish-mash of instructions that I guess are for technicians and not for an average Joe like myself to hear.  I’m confused so I just start picking options blindly, including mashing the ‘0’ key to talk to an operator.

“Sorry, we cannot provide that service at this time,” says the computer.

I finally wade through a bunch of bullshit and get to an option that will let me speak to a human.  I excitedly press the button.

I get some bored sounding housewife who starts reading through a script, prompting me to say “yes” in certain fields.  I stop her, and start to ask a question about the install, because I was unsure if I was pressing the right options and if she could confirm what I had done and make changes if something was really fucked up.

This of course takes her for a loop.

She stutters, there’s a long “uhhhh”

Long story short, I was worried that I might have tied my cell phone number to the account as well, which could result in me not being able to make calls with my cell, which is kinda a big deal to me.  I ask if she can go back in there and see if I tethered the two numbers inadvertently.

“Uh, I can’t do that, I’m not authorized.  I’m going to have to send this back to Comcast and have a service rep remove that information for you,” wait what?

“No no, no, its fine, don’t worry about it, let’s just move forward with this, and if it’s a big deal, I’ll deal with Comcast later,” I say.

“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t go forward with this install, if there’s a chance we could be cutting off 911 services from a cell phone it’s a big deal.”

“But I don’t think I screwed up that bad, let’s just get this over with so I can get my fancy modem and we’ll all just have a great day after that,”

“I’m sorry, I can’t, hold please,” and the line cuts out.  Suddenly there’s Shaq and Ben Stein again.  Motherfucker.

I hang up.  At this point I’m so mad that I nearly want to chop a tree down with my bare hands.

I wish I weren’t so dependent on Comcast for everything – like some sort of battered wife with no one else to turn to, so she keeps going back to the abuse.  I could opt for DirectTv but if we can’t even get cell service, what makes me think I’ll be able to get a satellite feed where we’re at?  We’re literally surrounded by trees and lobster gear.  There’s Verizon, but I don’t want to use DSL, and from what I understand the service isn’t that great either.

Then I read this article in the NYT this morning. 

I got half a chub.

In short, this guy and his hot wife dropped about five bones on a Mac Mini, a wireless mouse, keyboard and some extra cables and gave their cable company the fucking heave-ho.  They get all their television and movies through the computer and internet connection, circumventing the cable company (except for the internet access, which by itself is roughly 40 bucks a month.

He justifies the largely one time expense as being a cure-all to subscribing to a cable company for 140 bucks a month with not much to show for it except for a bunch of unwatched channels.

He gets the shows he wants and pipes in his Netflix feed seamlessly over WiFi.

It’s a little something to get used to, he explains in the article, but well worth it.  He ends up freeing about 1600 dollars a year.

Though, I’m sure he’s not stuck in a hole in the middle of the woods with no cell reception, either.  Another problem, this option isn’t really viable for sports enthusiasts who have to watch the game.  The writer’s solution:  Head to the bar.

This option echoes conversations regarding cable television (and subsequently its service) for years:  why is the customer paying out the ass for a bunch of shit he doesn’t need?  On one of my old blogs, I suggested that cable companies perhaps start custom-tailoring customer’s channel options, allowing the customer to purchase unlimited access to whatever and however many channels they wanted, for a low price, say, a dollar a channel, 5 dollars for a premium channel like HBO.  Being that local channels are all digital now this idea is even more advantageous to the cable companies, because it’s nearly guaranteed that people will want at least the local channels, plus grab up a few of the other channels too (for me it’d be Discovery, Vh1, NatGeo, AMC and Food Network, plus the locals).

But using the internet to get around the cable company is a do-able plan with the right materials, anyway.  Ang is by far a bigger proponent to watching television online, as she watches a few of her favorite shows (Dexter, Desperate Housewives, Family Guy) on sites like and Hulu.  As for myself, I’m more into purchasing stand alone episodes of my favorite programs (American Dad, 24, Sunny) on iTunes.  My argument is that there’s better picture quality, though sidereel – which is largely ad-free oppose to Hulu – isn’t bad, it’s just smaller.  Either way, even a season’s pass to one of my favorite shows on iTunes will run me maybe 40 bucks, which is a fraction of the cost of my cable bill.

In the end, I called back the third party E911 service number and followed the fully automated maze without talking to a human and without entering my cell phone’s number.  I completed the process in just fewer than 15 confusing minutes.

I let about a half an hour go by and I called back Comcast.  I got through to a service rep and asked if he could confirm that the device is now being shipped since I completed my end of the deal with the third party service.  The rep on the phone said that the unit was shipped earlier this afternoon and I should be getting it at my office’s address by Tuesday.

I breathed out.  Ok.

Hell, maybe the next place we move to, we’ll just cut out tv, cable and internet all together.  …I know, big talk, right?


December 12, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Hate, The Great Indoors | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

350 Million People CAN be wrong….

So I restarted my Facebook account over the weekend, but only out of necessity.  You see, when we moved into our new digs, we neglected to check our cell phones to see what kind of reception we would be getting with the place until after we signed all the paper work and checks, etc.

Turns out, we’re lucky to get one bar, by the windows.  Usually it’s no bars or the dreaded ‘no signal’.  However, both those options are better than “searching….” being displayed, because while ‘searching’ for a signal, your phone traditionally uses more battery power, as it tries to boost it’s internal antenna to grab a signal it thinks is just out of its reach.

We’ve been getting by just on internet alone.  Thankfully having wifi enabled phones allows us to connect to our internet connection at home, so our iPhones aren’t just expensive paper weights that I drop 175 bucks on a month.

The problem becomes when one of us is home and the other is out and about running errands or working.  There’s no way to make a phone call or send a text to the person who’s away because there’s no cell reception.  We found this out relatively quickly on one of our first nights at the new apt when I ran out to the store to get milk, and Ang wanted me to pick up Nilla Wafers and paper towels as well.

Without ‘Push’ notification, email on the iPhone only updates every 15 minutes, meaning I could’ve gone to the store and came back in the amount of time it would’ve taken me to get the message if I wasn’t constantly refreshing my gmail (Apple offers MobileMe, which for a subscription price of 100 bucks a year, you get Push and Cloud features)

There’s the option of getting a traditional landline, an option I’m still giving deep consideration to.  My job somewhat dictates that I be accessible at all hours, and if I don’t have a working phone, it’s an issue.  My company actually provides free (1980s era) cell phones to employees who don’t have or can’t afford a cell phone, they’re that serious.

The problem with a landline is that it’s going to cost an arm and a leg down the line.  Comcast (our cable and internet monopoly provider) offers a deal where if you get cable, internet and a phone line you only pay like 100 bucks a month, oppose to just having cable and internet (like we do) and paying 110-120 bucks a month (like we do).

The rub is that after 6 months, Comcast jacks the price of the service up to 140 clams, leaving you either with the option to get rid of something, or pay out the ass.

I spoke with the installation tech who hooked up our cable and internet at the new apartment about the offer and this is what he said:

Call and speak to a customer service rep,” he suggested while speaking in an Irish brogue.  “They can sometimes set up deals with customers, like extended contacts for a certain price per month, that sort of thing,”

“But, what if I don’t want to pay the corporation, … maybe I’d rather just deal with the man on the street?”  I hinted.  He grinned a gnarled grin that only someone with a knowledge of the British Isles could love and brushed off the obvious attempted bribe.

Sorry, it’s not the same as it used to be, where we could just program the box to give you free HBO or Pay-Per-View, it’s all monitored and regulated by dispatchers now, sorry.  But seriously, give them a call, and see if they’ll work with you.  They’re more inclined to make a deal, because it’s money in their pocket in the long run,” and he has a point.

Though, he did fuck up the install, requiring me to call Comcast later that night from the end of the driveway.  While some phone jockey gave me instructions on rebooting our modem and changing out the signal to our wifi, I had to place my phone in the dirt and run back and forth from our apartment to take the necessary steps in ensuring our computers had proper internet connection.  So what does he know, really?

The next option we briefly explored was using Skype, the Voice Over Internet Protocol service that let’s people video chat for free around the world.

Skype would’ve been a great fix-it option if it weren’t for the fact you need wifi to make it work.  Due to AT&T’s business practices, apps and services like Skype can’t make calls on the infamously bogged down 3G Network.  Calling out from home would be no problem, since there’s wifi there; it would be making calls to home where we’d need to find a hotspot someplace.

I found this out while at work all weekend, where I desperately ran around my office’s property in the dead of night with my phone out in front of me, trying to locate the strongest unlocked wifi signal from the surrounding houses so I could steal some bandwidth and call my wife.

Hint:  If your wireless network is named ‘linksys’, I’m pretty sure it’s being abused by some dude parked out front of your house right now with a laptop full of porn.

So, tired of emailing back and forth, which in this day-n-age without Push Notification is similar to communicating by message in a bottle, Ang suggested I open the dusty crypt that held my old Facebook account, reactivate it, and use the chat on there.

The Facebook iPhone App isn’t bad, and I don’t have a real beef with it.  Its minimalist, like how Facebook used to be, easy to navigate and its chat feature is similar to the iPhone’s SMS/MMS screen.

It was a gut wrenching decision, honestly, because I wanted to leave Facebook behind me.  I’m 28 years old, and in my humble opinion, I’m in the waning years of online social networking.  I use Twitter extensively, because there’s no real bells or whistles to it; I post something that’s on my mind, or post a link to this blog, and let it ride from there.

With Facebook, there’s too much required involvement.  I have to ‘poke’ back everyone that pokes me, even if I don’t want to.  Someone’s bound to send me some virtual gift that I sure as hell don’t want, but will have to comment on, lest I look like a fucking Scrooge.

There are too many people for me to keep in touch with as ‘friends’ only because they’re associated with people I interact with.  I don’t want to get status updates (and subsequently the notifications regarding a status I commented on from people I don’t even know) from the wife of a guy I work with, because she decided to ‘friend’  me after raiding her husband’s friend’s list and wanted to pad her own numbers.

I can’t reject her request, because then I’ll hear about it from the guy:

“Dude, be friends with my wife,” I don’t even know her name!  I just have the unsolicited knowledge that you two like to ‘do it’ doggystyle!

And speaking of  the people I work with,  I’d like to keep most of them at an arm’s reach distance.  I can’t unfriend them, because again, I’ll fucking hear about it in real life.

And that’s really the point: when I got rid of Facebook, the biggest reason of all was to reduce the amount of ridiculous , unnecessary drama that was bleeding into my life.  With anyone with a set of ovaries who posted on my wall, I’d be grilled by my wife and her Spetznas-like interrogation tactics.

Have you ever been waterboarded while trying to make pancakes for breakfast?  It sucks.

But wanting to be able to at least text with my wife meant more to me than dealing with Facebook and the bullshit associated with it.  Fuck it, I thought, who cares?

Within 24 hours I was back to checking my News Feed every twenty minutes.

Fuck you Facebook.  Fuck you.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Around The Office, Blogging Couple, Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Hate, People I Love, The Great Indoors | , , , , | 2 Comments

@Recant: Tweet?

@Recant:  Tweet?

A while back I posted an article where I pretty much took a match and a can of gas to Twitter.  For those of you who somehow still haven’t heard of Twitter, it’s the “microblogging” website that allows it’s users to post “status updates” in 140 character increments that are broadcast around the web to all those who mindlessly “follow” you.  In turn, you “follow” other people’s “tweets” – what it’s called when you “Twitter” but no one calls it “Twittering” because that just sounds like something a gay would do.

I’ve been largely conflicted as of late about Twitter.  Initially I was a huge naysayer of the service mainly because I had no real need for it; I updated my status regularly on my Facebook page which in essence is the same thing that Twitter does, so I saw no need to be redundant, even though you can link the two together.

But then one night, Ang and I had a friend over for drinking and bullshitting around the living room and the subject of Twitter came up.  I, being two beers in, loudly and quickly made my opinions known that Twitter was crap, that it was “simple blogging” or something to that affect, as from Twitter we get the lovely term “Microblogging” as seen above.

My argument was that Twitter makes blogging easy, so easy in fact, that my mom can do it, not that she does, thank god.  My stance was largely based around the fact that I work my ass off to maintain my blog, put out fresh article ideas, and try to promote the shit out of my site.  Twitter pretty much opened the door even wider for Civilian Journalism – a market with an expanding waist line and no foreseeable over-saturation point in sight.

Which brought up my wife’s point:  During our discussion, it came to light that she had a Twitter account (I was actually shocked and maybe a little pissed), which she says she created in light of the political protests in Iran regarding the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The Iranian Government pretty much shut down cell phones and internet access across the country, but a few people were able to “Tweet” what was happening at ground zero, which made for invaluable journalism.

I had to admit that she had a point, that Twitter, in that case at least, served a purpose, oppose to allowing Ashton Kutcher to post pictures of Demi Moore in granny panties.

So fast forward a few weeks and with Twitter all over the news, everyone talking about the service, a million fucking Apps for the iPhone related to Twitter, it kind of dawned on me that I was fighting against the tide.

I could easily stay the course I am now and just try to ignore the inevitable; I could be the technology resistant North Korea of sorts and try to keep myself in the dark regarding Twitter’s presence in the world, or I could make it work for me.

I regularly will post a weekly update of this blog on my Facebook page complete with a primer, a picture I found on the web that somewhat ties together my general thesis, a funny caption, and tag all of my friends who I think might be interested in the article.  I try to keep it as non-intrusive/abrasive as possible by not establishing a link to the article but rather just writing out the web address telling people they can “read more” at my site.

But these little “notes” only reach maybe twenty people because of the security settings I have in place on my Facebook page (see also: Fort Knox).  So of the 20 people I ‘tag’ in the note, maybe two or three will wander over to my site and glance over the whole article.

By the way, these notes on Facebook are the only real advertising I can do for my site, aside from handing out flyers to people on the street.

With Twitter I can potentially raise my readership exponentially, as I use it as a catalyst for my own brand of advertising.  In the same sense that I blogsurf and leave a few thoughtful comments on some random guy’s blog (which tends to prove futile half the time because … well I’ll get into that in a minute) I can do the same on Twitter by “following” people and getting them to “follow” me in turn.  I can post links directly to freshly written articles and keep updates hot and fresh from my phone throughout the day without feeling like too big of a douche bag for flooding my friend’s News Feeds on Facebook.  With my Facebook only being about 40 people in size, I could grow my Twitter account to ten times the size, and see ten times the readership with little cost to any real friendships I have.

(We)B-logging (remember when it was still called that, circa like, 2000?) is becoming somewhat of a lost art on the internet anyway, as everyone a few years ago jumped on the bandwagon and soon the internet was a flood with people thinking they were special enough to post a few pictures of their cat and write a few half hearted articles in relation.  Soon they’d lose interest and move on to some other fad.  Now the tubes are messy with discarded blogs which lay in the middle of the road like a splattered squirrel.

In relation to blogsurfing, the waves, you could say, have died down to nothing.

Twitter seems to be the next logical step in order for me to get my name (and this site) out there.  I hate to admit when I’m wrong, and I hate to succumb to a fad so trendy, but to survive is to adapt.

You can follow me on Twitter at

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Gonzo Journalism, Shameless Self Promotion, The Great Indoors, World Wide Events | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is our love affair with Facebook over?

If you’re like me, which half of my readers are, socially, you’re tethered to the social networking site like some sort of umbilical chord to the outside word.  You’re literally given information about the people you know and the things you like through what is called a “feed”, an ever rolling, self updating ticker that keeps you abreast of everything from your friend’s status updates to free Wendy’s coupons.

However, is it time we say good bye?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought because I, like roughly over two hundred million people world wide, use Facebook constantly.  And by “constantly” I mean since I started writing this article, some 150 words in, I’ve checked my Facebook twice.  It’s similar to drug addiction where in our culture we need to be kept aware of everything going on around us, like we’re a herd of Impalas on some Serengeti plain, and we just heard a twig snap three hundred yards to our left.

Our lust for information, especially easily digestible information in the form of side or top scrolling text is a product of 9/11 actually.  Shortly after the terrorist attacks every major news network started rolling out updates on happenings as they were happening.  The moment some Taliban asshole was getting a JDAM stuffed down his throat, Americans were being made aware.

Then we got Social Networking Sites.

First there was Friendster, which I know absolutely nothing about.  From Friendster we got Myspace and Facebook.  Myspace was cool for about two years, or until enough people got tired of their so-called friends’ .gif laden pages crashing their computers every time they logged on.  The mass exodus landed everyone at Facebook which appealed to people because of its minimalist (see also “impossible to customize with html scripting”) design.  It also had a slightly more professional appeal as young hip business types were supplanting their resumes with links to their actual Facebooks.

This soon became problematic as potential employers were seeing tagged photos of prospective employees doing keg stands and body shots during a weekend trip back to their alma mater.

So as Myspace has atrophied Facebook has gorged itself to the point of self collapse (the following is going to get a little technical, so if you don’t have a Facebook page or have no idea what one is, just, skip to the next blog or something, I dunno).

Have you recently become infuriated with how difficult it is to find anything on Facebook?  Take a second, right now, and try to find pictures of yourself, that you yourself have uploaded, and see how many clicks to different pages it takes you before you get to where you want to be?

I’ll even break it down for you:

If you’re like me, you keep your Facebook on the “home” page so you get the scrolling news feed.  From there, you’re going to have to click on your profile’s page, because if you click on “photos” from your home screen you’re going to be brought to a screen that contains all your friend’s photo albums, not any of yours.  So once you’ve gotten to your actual profile page, then click “photos” and you’ll see your own albums.

That’s entirely too much work for the second or third most visited website, in order to get to my own property.

Also, the “recent news” side bar is anything but recent.  There’s no rhyme or reason to it as well, as information will pop up on it that has very little to do with whatever I have going on in my tight little network of friends.  Oh, I see that a friend of mine apparently “likes” Tide.  Ok… or, here’s one random photo of a friend of mine tagged from someone I don’t know.

The point I’m trying to make is that Facebook needs to take some responsibility with it’s content, ie, make it a little more user friendly.  In the past year, Facebook has rolled out with a few less than welcomed site and policy updates which have spurred a lot of groups or online petitions, which have gone mostly unnoticed.

The site needs to be streamlined and have controls put into the user’s hands.  How hard would it be to create some sort of filter where I could chose what news enters my feed and how often a “recent news” item sorts itself through my page?  How about a one-click option to see the stuff I’ve posted, whether it’s photos, notes, posts, links, etc?

How about simply allowing me to sort my inbox messages?  That’s only been around since email first went mainstream, about twenty years ago now.

It almost seems that Facebook has grown lethargic under it’s own gross weight.

But like any relationship that seems almost too stable, the jilted half is only waiting for a chance for something better, sleeker, newer to come along.  This is what happened with Myspace and could potentially happen to Facebook, should some other Social Networking site be developed.

If Facebook wants to hold on to its share of internet browsing traffic, it has to clean itself up.  It needs to peel itself off of the proverbial couch, get the Dorito crumbs off of it’s chin, change it’s shirt, and get some sunlight on itself if it wants us to still find it attractive.

Once it manages to get a hold of its main site, then maybe someone over there can get a hold of the mobile site and do a total overhaul over there.  Facebook’s mobile application, whether you’re using it for your Blackberry or iPhone, is terrible, anyway you slice it.  I won’t go into how god-awful and laughably backwards it is, just take for granted that for a company as big as Facebook, you’d almost expect a little more.

I mean, at least Microsoft is TRYING.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, The Great Indoors | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Social Networking OPSEC

From the Miltionary:

OPSEC:  Abbrv. for Operational Security.  Keeping the details or specifics of a mission secret as to not give away vital information to an enemy or undesirable group or person.

From the Jimtionary:

OPSEC:  Abbrv. for Operational Security. Not allowing everyone to know everything about you, until you’re dead and someone writes your biography.

The idea of the social networking site, such as Facebook, or if you’re a 15 year old girl, Myspace, caters to everyone’s inner attention whore.  At its very root, it’s an outlet for self promotion, whether it’s for the individual or a product or conglomerate.  One of the bigger downsides, however, is with pouring out so much promotional information, it can turn around and hurt you.

Obviously I’m not a corporation or product; I’m not a jug of Tide with Bleach, nor McDonalds.  I’m just a regular guy with a Facebook page that I use to keep in touch with a very small circle of people that 90% of which I know or at least have met, in person.

My problem is that when I do hang out with these people in the real world, oppose to the digital one, I’m not the same person.  That’s not to say I ‘m not the person in the picture or am lying about the stuff on the page but the key difference is the amount of information I’m putting out there.

Take for instance this party I went to at the beginning of the summer.  I had a good time and talked to a lot of people about different things.  However the things I spoke about at that party would never in a million years appear on my Facebook page or even this blog.  That’s because when I’m speaking with people in person, face to face, I have a certain degree of “spin control” on what I say or how I say it.

Ever hear how sarcasm translates poorly into text?  Information works closely along those lines.

If I put something into words, you the reader can take it in various ways depending on how you perceive me.  Or how you’re feeling emotionally; however you want it is how you’re going to get it – you get the idea.  Even if I’m talking to you on the phone, slight inflections in my voice can dictate how you receive the information I’m giving you.

But when you talk to someone face to face, you can use your entire body to convey a message.  Getting behind your message in such a way typically will lead to clear(er) understanding for whom is receiving that information.

Not so much on Facebook.

I can’t get into particulars, because it would somewhat defeat the purpose of this article’s main idea, but understand that I confided in some people certain information pertaining to my work and private life.  If you go on my Facebook page itself (which is set to very private), you’ll see where it is I work, and even pictures I’ve taken or had taken of me there.  It’s no big secret to the people who have access to my Facebook page what I do.

But, similar to this blog, I try to keep my activities at work, or relating to my work, to a minimum.  So imagine my aghast when someone posted a comment on my page relating to some personal issues in my life and work.  Things I didn’t really want announced to the public, even if that “public” was a select grouping of people I know professionally and personally.

I didn’t know about the breach in Social Networking (SN) OPSEC until I got a text from my wife stating that so-and-so let the cat out of the bag pertaining to some going-ons around my work.  I was pissed and immediately checked my Facebook page and saw the offense.  I quickly added a comment to try to soften the blow of the potentially hazardous leak of information.

Of course a buddy of mine who used to serve in the US Army picked up on it right away and commented in the same thread.

I understand that part of it’s my fault for offering such information out to people to begin with, especially information that probably shouldn’t be shared.  But again, when you figure you have control of that information when you release it you don’t think of how it can be used against you.

I guess you don’t really ever have control of any information, yours or others, ever.

So, within 24 hours (actually closer to two) I posted a status update which resulted in someone else putting some somewhat personal information about me into a comment thread.  Again, can’t go into the details, but it’s like, come on dude, seriously?  Like, how much harder can you blow a brother’s spot up?

Not everyone knows the same information about me that you do, and conversely, you don’t know everything that someone else already knows.  My wife is probably the one person who knows the most about me, only because we’re attached at the hip and she’s my resilient sounding board.

Regardless, I spoke with the offending individuals separately in private email messages explaining how I didn’t want that information shared.  Both were very understanding and apologetic, recoiling for their offenses, one so much as crying about it.  Like a little girl.

That being said, people need to think before posting on anyone’s, mine or otherwise, SN page.  Do you really want to air out their dirty laundry?  And just because you think something’s common knowledge (especially something related to a medical condition) don’t go talking about it in an open forum.  Would you want someone with a bullhorn letting all your friends and family know about your private life?

Do this:  Next time you’re about to click “post” ask yourself “if this were me, would I want someone posting this on my page?”

August 1, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Future In The Palms Of Your Hands

Do you remember being a child and watching television shows like “The Jetsons” and uh.. I dunno, “Lost In Space” or any other Sci-Fi shit?  You wished that you had your own Wookie and light saber if you were a nerd or Tricorder if you were a bigger nerd.

All that technology at those people’s fingertips, in a galaxy far, far away.

No more.

I just picked up the iPhone 3GS, and the ads you see on television are honestly no lie.  There is an App(lication, a third party DLC that ranges from calorie counters to animated guns) for everything, all at the tips of your fingers.


When the iPhone first rolled out like, three years ago, I scoffed at the hordes of nerds who waited in multiple hours-long lines that stretched for city blocks as far as the eyes could see.  I even blogged about people being trend whores, who had to race out and get the newest, latest thing.

And while I still feel that those who would take off days (plural) off from work to sit in a lawn chair on some Manhattan sidewalk to wait to spend 300 dollars on a new gadget, the new iPhone makes me a big fucking hypocrite.

For the last year and a half I’ve had the pleasure of having a Blackberry Curve 8830, a hand set that was a touch bulky and a lot slower, but was a good instrument to teach me the ways of navigating the internet (or whatever the hell you’d call the “internet” on a Blackberry) while simultaneously answering phone calls and text messages.  It also gave me pause to think that now, I was literally reachable at all hours, at any given time, and that privacy was forever diminished to the period of time when I would actually shut the damn thing off, which was never.

But my Curve was a lumbering ox pulling a hay wagon compared to the Lamborghini that is the iPhone 3GS.  Hell, according to Apple’s website, the “S” stands for “Speed.”

But the iPhone isn’t exactly perfect – at least for someone coming from the world of Blackberry, who’s used to pressing on buttons to type, oppose to touching a screen.

I had heard stories that the iPhone’s touch screen required some getting used to, especially for those of us who were used to the tiny blackberry-seed-esque keys found on Blackberry phones (hence the name).  The typing isn’t that bad, but I notice I have nearly 50% spelling errors as I try to type one handed, as my thick clumsy thumb will hit between two “keys” at once.

Texting while driving?  Forget it.
However, Apple’s software is intuitive enough to recognize potential spelling hazards and will often auto-correct on the fly without you really even noticing.  For instance, while sending a text to Ang, I literally typed “I dound a new one” or something to that effect.  The auto-correct changed “dound” to “found” because it was the most logical word that would replace a nonsense word like ‘dound” according to the sentence’s context.

Though I’ve seen the auto-correct overstep it’s boundaries and correct a word that I meant to type, often acting like an overzealous-yet-polite butler waiting in the background for his master to make some sort of boorish statement at his own dinner party and vomit all over himself at the table.

With the new 3.0 OS software, Apple added the long-awaited cut-and-paste feature, which to me is a tad less intuitive so far in the last few days.  I’ve been confounded as to moving the cursor from the end of a type sentence to the middle of a sentence to correct a spelling mistake that auto-correct failed to correct itself.  In the process of this, I’ll tap the sentence and get prompted as to whether or not I wanted to cut, copy or paste the selection, when all I want to do is delete one too many spaces between words or correct a punctuation.

If the auto-correct is a dedicated butler, the cut-copy-paste feature is your overactive nephew.

Another thing I’m getting used to is the fact that I don’t get email and text message alerts as fast as I’d like, or at all for the matter until I adjusted how often my phone would go and check the digital mailbox (the default was set to “manual” meaning I had to go in on my own if I wanted to see if I had mail.).

My one other criticism is that the battery life is less than expected.  Even at the end of it’s service to me, my old Blackberry would be able to go at least two or even three days without a visit to the wall charger.  Since picking up my iPhone on Monday, I’ve charged it three times, and it’s Wednesday as I’m writing this.  In it’s defense however, it was once that I really felt that it needed to be charged, whereas the other two times I found the battery to be half empty.

But for the few detractors (the battery life and tying being the biggest so far) I’m in love with this fucking gadget.  The picture and video quality (see below) rival, if not surpass our Nikon point-and-shoot digital camera.  When I’m at home, it automatically sync’s with our wireless network, so I get twice as fast surfing speeds as I do on the lackluster AT&T 3G network.  The new internal compass makes my truck’s GPS almost inadequate, if I could figure out a way to mount my phone to my windshield.

I had a chance to sit down briefly with a friend of my wife’s who works in the tech field and has experienced the evolution of the iPhone from it’s infancy to the latest, newest model.

Over a few beers and a glass or two of wine I asked him what his favorite aspect of the new 3GS was, to which he replied:  “Oh, the digital compass by far, only because now you have turn-by-turn navigation,” which is awesome to behold.  The other day while looking for a dry cleaners closer to home than the one I used to go to all the time, I simply did a Google Map search from my phone’s desktop of “dry cleaners, _______, MA” and found one in somewhat close proximity.  I simply touched the “directions to” button, followed by “use current location” as a start point, and I was literally watching myself, on this tiny screen, maneuvering through town in real time.

I then asked the lanky hipster if the next generation of iPhones could improve on anything, what would it be?

“Blow jobs,” he said without hesitation, meaning that the only thing that could make this gadget any better is if it started fellating it’s customer, which I admit, wouldn’t be that bad of an upgrade next time around, Mr. Jobs.

All an’ all my interviewee was beyond impressed with the latest version of the device, and had the same hang ups as I did, especially regarding the tactlessness of the cut-and-paste, but encouraging in regards to typing.

“You’ll get it, it takes time,” he said as he finished his first Hoegaarden.

July 26, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, The Great Indoors, World Wide Events | , , | 2 Comments