A perfect sea urchin

The Cyberculture Corner

Welcome to where I air my wrong headed views on cyberculture and the internet. I always have a lot to say and no one tells me to shut up. To return to the regular blog page, just click here.

I Must be On Strike

I haven't been near Facebook today. I just do not have the stomach for it. I don't know why it turned into a chore. Sometimes it just gets that way. I answered one message and I have left no messages. I know I have to crawl off the edge of the earth and drag myself back to that pit, and Facebook is a total pit. The expected privacy update will now take a week to percolate through the system and result in more walls for those who need to keep in touch with group members to promote groups. That's me in case you are wondering.

I'm tired of the friends, some of whom are missing a few cards from their decks. They really do. Fortunately, they are harmless. More importantly, they do not harm the groups to which they belong. They're not asking for money. One of them has his news feeds hidden. I've never had to block any one.

I did get another chapter of Kor&ecric; in New York written. The plot is about to wrench. I can't give it away. Suffice it to say that Young Achievers' legal team did their homework. I feel bad for Ivanna. That's as much of a spoiler as you are going to get. I also think there is a new wildcard in the deck, Kwaata. Yes, you want to read it now, don't you?

In other news, I put Haldis' Team to bed at the Webleagues last night and put my own compeition to bed as well. I have a liberty week and I have not yet began to clean out that rat's nest of a ZOID mailing list. I am going to unsubscribe all the throw away addresses. That will leave a smaller group of people with whom I have to check for activity or interest. This is going to be a serious purge, but it starts with a gigantic pile of scut work. If you have read any of the posts in other areas of this blog you will know that I have been just too needy to take a look outside my shell and see how absolutely bleak and empty and messed up ZOID is.

I am also disgusted with the fact that Haldis' newest team member is not self voting, and he is a competition co-owner. Staff should be good examples. Self voting is not that hard. By the way, Haldis and I glitched all the awards. They have the wrong date on them. I should check Gmail and see if any one noticed. I remember one thime when Thadea created a nonexistent round at the Golden Elite and awarded a fighter for winning it. None of the small group of fighters on her dwindling team noticed and more importantly, none of the top brass, not even the competition owner, knew it or cared. I guess I get to see if the folks at the Webleagues are as vigilant.

The answer is that no one cares what I write on the participation prizes. I do care what they look like since they make the team look inviting. I don't think outsiders care which date is there. That is more something that would upset an actual member. The prizes are up as much for outsiders as any one else.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/28/10

Not Quite the Black Hole

I have yet to hear back from Diaspora and I don't think I ever will. I think they just want my money and are not ready to "sell" their product to even ordinary power users. I guess I am a power user.

I did hear back from one of my RAOK acquaintances thanking me that RAOK was still around. Another acquaintance friended me. RAOK is presently holding steady at a hundred and twenty-two members. That is a good size for a group. I remember when it was a third that size. Mostly I just continue threads on the board. I had to message a member today who is unreachable via private message. Well, it's nice to add a wall post.

One of the new members regularly posts to the wall instead of the discussions. Her posts are front-worthy by the guidelines. I don't care if she flouts convention. I like that she is active.

I finish with RAOK and LOTH so quickly now, they are nearly second nature. In a way that feels wonderful. In a way that feels sort of sad. I think this blog is a lot more extensive. I think microblogging spoils one for more intensive writing. Still, I want to keep both groups going. Perhaps our lack of drama and glurge-free nature will make us attractive in the long run. I can always dream.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/24/10

Just Quick Updates

I sent out the letter about the ZOID endgame. We will have fighting this weekend. Haldis put her Webleagues team to bed. One of the admins threw in a site to keep the team barely viable. Webleagues has one more week before a summer break. Haldis and I both wonder how it is going to restart in the fall.

I expected it to hurt a lot when I sent out the notice today. It didn't. I have a full emotional plate. One more item just doesn't get any new emotion. I wish I could say more, but I won't. I have a health crisis going on and I'm in that weird place beyond scaird. There is no more safe space in which to write anything. I want to write fiction, but I can't make the space for it. I long to disappear into the metaverse and just have Iyoba walk around.

I'm here though....The folks from Diaspora haven't responded. I don't think they care about ordinary users like me. They should treat potential customers better. I may check their site regularly just in case. I think some cash would grease the wheels of communication as well, but my venture capitalist days are through. Thsse folks are still out there, but they never delivered on the product, and I've moved on to a new job and forgotten all about them.

My mom sent me this URL. It's a total feast of shadenfreude. Facebook behaved itself today. I now have four new friends, and I was able to be mainly interactive when making the daily rounds. I constantly look for new things to add to the discussion boards at RAOK and LOTH. I guess group stimulation agrees with me after all.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/21/10

Triple Play and a New Record

RAOK on Facebook broke the 120 member mark. Three new members signed on. I welcomed them last night. It felt impressive and a bit scarely. One of new members is now my friend. This feels good though I wonder what will happen when RAOK gets too big for me to handle. I tell myself we are growing too slowly for that. Keeping the group well behaved and the drama level turned down is going to get to be a bigger job with a bigger group though.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/18/10

Standing on the Brink

I haven't brought up the endgame strategy to my membership at ZOID. It is not because I am afraid. Of course I am afraid. This is going to be some hard writing. My excuse is sleep deprivation. I want to be rested and safe. I want to leave nothing out. I also want them to know the endgame is not immediate. It's long range. It also might not be an endgame. We might end up on the brink of viability which because of the way ZOID is structured is small. We'll still be small and vulnerable. If Daum in Korea pulls the plug on Tripod and Angelfire, it's over. If John or Rabino can't pay their bills, it's over, but if we end up with three fighters besides me and at least six sites in play, I'm going to have one very tough decision next spring.

Second, there is what I think might be a real threat to Facebook out there. It's called Diaspora. I am going to write to them to learn more. Basicly, it's decentralized social networking. It means that you won't need a monopolistic server like Facebook to share with a close circle of friends and keep the spammers out. It means enhanced privacy for what you do share, but it could also mean you can again have a public web site, with the private material safely locked away, something you could only do with password protection before. I'm not sure how Diaspora works. I'm going to have to write to the creators and get a simple explanation, even I can understand.

It's never good to hope that others can save you, but sometimes it happens. Others, bseides the fighters themselves, have destroyed site fighting. Haldis has to put an admin on her team. Dummying up nonviable teams with admins is bad strategy. Having an admin with his/her hand in here and there is OK. Filling up dwindling ranks when there is no other way to do it, means it's time to think about quitting. I'm sorry. It's over, and the only question is to think of how to get out.

Haldis will process the admin's page. He will NOT fight in a qualifying round. The team is not larger enough to support one and he is an experienced fighter. Otherwise, she will go through the motions for the sake of her good fighters who do need a place where they get treated well.

Eileen H. Kramer and Haldis K. Guerrin -- 5/18/10

"Don't be Evil!" and the End of Site Fighting

Scroogle Scraper is working again. That is a major relief. It really has its uses. I enjoy introducing others to it. I guess I really do care about my privacy even if I blog a lot of my life here.

I made it to the first page of the RAOK membership list, but am still not among friends. That doesn't really bother me. I've occasionally had to post to RAOK's wall when a member was not messageable or only allowed messages for friends. Any one who ever calls Facebook a social network, has never tried to communicate wtih acquaintances on it. I have gotten very used to routing around damage. It is even almost fun.

There is talk of building open source networks to rival Facebook. There are lots of social networks out there, but Facebook looks, acts, and smells (stinks) like a monopoly. I'd love someone to break Facebook's back. I remember when the Site Fights was the only comopetition around. That did not last long, but this is a different century.

And speaking of site fights, I hope someone gets this fixed. I hope it is fixed by the time you click on it. I hope that Haldis at least hears some news about it. Art by Old Rabbit is a fighter on her team. She can't roster him if she doesn't know if he is advancing or returning to the team. Also any one trying to learn to site fight is bound to get discouraged when they don't get scored. We can't really recruit new fighters since a lot of people never build personal web pages and free places to do just that are drying up, but among the few we might get, not scoring them is a sure way to drive them out.

When a competition can't handle routine administrative tasks that keep it running, such as scoring, it is a very bad sign. It means the staff are overstretched. It pretty much means the competition is in for some rough times if not the end. Haldis' team is now too small to be viable. There I said it. She won't but I can. She can't fill all the upper level rounds and have fighters at team level fight as anything but unopposed. Team level requires three fighters for competition to exist. When competition ceases, you don't have a competition any more, or you have fighters sidelined which is almost as bad as unscored.

If others and I are not going to make the time, money, or technical investment needed to keep site fighting alive, we need a graceful end game for our competitions. This is hard. Site fighting is a way of life. I will miss it.

I all ready have an endgame planned for ZOID. First, I will pay for another year of server space. There is just not enough time to give the kind of notice I would want to give. What I will do, however, is an activity check. I know who does not self-vote. Turnout makes it pretty self evident. I know who does not speak up on the email list when a Call for Fighters goes out. I know who is all ready gone. I am going to announce the check and then write to the inactive fighters to see if they even care. If I don't see a lot of response, I am going to start pulling sites and shrinking the ballot page. When we reach six to eight sites and/or three or fewer real competitors, that is the end. I'll suspend competition and give notice. It's going to hurt. The end game is current set for early June 2011.

Eileen H. Kramer and Haldis K. Guerrin -- 5/14/10

"Don't be Evil!" Yeah Sure!

As of right now, Scroogle Scraper is gone, and may never come back. Google changed its interface, and so if you search it now, who knows what it does with your results. I have no problem sharing what I write with genuine human beings, and I do a lot of public writing, but sharing with unknown software developers and advertisers is another matter. I just said "NO" to Facebook's personalization program and moved my interests out of my "Likes" area on my profile. I need a substitute for Google. I may return to Ask.com and Altavista. Sorry, I just don't feel like putting in links. I don't know if they are any more honest. I'm also a bit angry over Blogger dropping FTP support. This was an FTP blog. Now it is an updatable web page.

If people remember basic html, it is possible we may all return to a world of simple pages, built using flash drives and uploaded via browsers or just sent as email attachments. Who needs a server messing with your privacy? I don't have much to hide. What I hide, you don't see because I don't write it down.

Oh well, I can dream. Meanwhile, I hope Scroogle Scraper returns. I spread the word to my Facebook groups on how to protect privacy there. I wish a competitor would come along and give Facebook a run for its money. They feel way too much like an arrogant monopoly and they act that way too!

I'm still working my way up from the bottom of the RAOK membership list. I found two message protected people and gave them their messages on the group wall. If they visit the group, they will see them since they haven't blocked me. I'm still on the second page of members. I won't be among "friends" again until I'm about a quarter to a third of the way up the first page and that takes time. I try to interact with group members who actively post. This slows the climb back into friendly territory.

On another note, I got back a thankyou letter for my touch base message from an acquaintance. I have to keep reminding myself: "There are no strangers at RAOK."

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/11/10

Blocked on Facebook

Yes, this is the long awaited rant. No, you didn't wait for it. You did not even want to read it. I did not even want to write it, and I probably would not even write it, except I got blocked and I was blocked for no good reason. Now you are going to say to me and you should if you have any critical faculties: "No one gets blocked for 'no good reason.'" In fact, given my internet history, chances are very good I had to do something to get blocked.

Well, you're right. I sent Arlene (That's not her real name. Her real name if I know it doesn't matter.) a message. Arlene is not my friend, but the message was sent only to her. In that message I wished her a good week, told her to keep spreading kindness, and suggested she stop by the RAOK group site on Facebook "when you get the chance." I write a lot of these letters which are close kin to "bread and butter notes" and other polite forms of correspondence. I write them individually though many of them are similar since they are fairly light on content. They are advertising in a very good sense of the world. They remind RAOK's less active members that we exist.

They are personal correspondence between strangers and thus not spam. RAOK is not commercial and I never do mass mailings. When I member makes herself un-messageable (Facebook may call itself a social network but it is more about walls, barriers, and third party applications) I put a message for her on RAOK's wall. Yes, this is fairly aggressive, but there is a difference between being aggressive and being intrusive. Put another way I have a right to knock on doors and say "Hello."

Arlene also has a right to block me even if I feel it was undeserved. By the way, if you are an acquaintance (I really do believe there are no strangers in RAOK) and a member of RAOK, I message you once every four to six weeks so we are not talking about a mass bombardment of messages. I often get the feeling that Facebook is more about walls, blocks, and anger than it is about anything social.

Of course, Arlene is now a member of what is essentially an empty group. By blocking me, she sees neither wall messages nor most discussion board entries at RAOK because you know who write most of those. I'm not sure she can see comments on my entries either. Deleting an unwanted message unread would probably have been a smarter thing for her to do. Why she has stayed in an empty group is beyond me?

I suspect Arlene can not tell the difference between a personal and bland message from an acquaintance, unwanted commercial advertising, and invites to third party applications or invites to events she can't possibly attend. Her solution is to block senders. It's a panicked solution and it blurs the line between individual and organization and person and program. That is sad. Knowing these differences is part of being a competent social citizen online. Oh well, I will not be the one to teach Arlene. Maybe someone else will.

On another note, I asked someone who recently unfriended me for their friendship. I am hoping she will be merciful or at least explain herself. In the universe of Facebook, a person can throw up walls and walk away with no explanation. In the real world doing this kind of thing is much harder.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/7/10

Bottoming Up on Facebook

Every day except Shabbos I make the rounds of the two groups to which I am devoted on Facebook, RAOK and LOTH. I post three posts to the wall or discussion board. Usually it's the discussion board, and I contact three members of RAOK every day and one member of LOTH, which is much smaller on Facebook, every other day.

Notice, I said "member," NOT friend. That means that eventually if I start out at the top of the list, I reach the bottom of the list where friends turn into acquaintances; for there are no strangers at RAOK, and none at LOTH either. If I start at the bottom, I eventually return there, so no matter where I start, I bottom out. I finished the top of the list (I work from the bottom up at RAOK) on Sunday.

I dreaded making the rounds today. There is something counterintuitive about sending innoccuous messages to strangers, and Facebook makes you know in no uncertain terms that you are not wanted on those profiles. "XYZ only shares certain information with people who are not her friend" is Facebook's ever so welcoming message. I have guts to ignore, and I make my pleasant cold call.

I don't say much. I don't have much to say. I wish the person a good week or weekend or holiday. I'm not sure some of the members who languish at the bottom of the list have been on Facebook in months, weeks, or years. I wonder what their response will be when they find their message boxes full of letters three to six weeks apart, all left by me. At least someone hasn't forgotten them even if it is only to promote the group and hope that the silent ones will come out of the shadhows some day.

Sending messages to nonfriends, feels an awful lot like rejection. That is why it hurts. It also takes work. I have to find RAOK, find the membership list and click to get to the very bottom. Facebook does not want you to have contact with these people. I don't give a flying you know what what Facebook wants.

The strange thing was that making the rounds was utterly painless. I whipped off my three messages and was a free girl. The nonmembers had their kind words and I was none the worse for wear. I guess it pays not to listen to social engineering.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/3/10