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.

Gun Shy

Haldis hasn't touched her team in more than a month. I'll be putting out a Call For Fighters in a couple of days. Site Fighting dies hard. No, I do not have the nerve to send out a "Are you there and do you care" letter to the thirty or so inactive members at ZOID. I don't want to know the reaction though I all ready know it. Apologies mixed with silence with silence predoominating is what I am going to get back. I don't know which is worse, the fake apologies or just getting out of the way.

Haldis did help one of her fighters who thought his site had disappeared. Apparently Tripod/Angelfire/Daum had a crash and then recovered. Haldis told him to check to see if any new work was lost. Finding the fighter's sites still there is a reliefe. Tripod/Angelfire/Daum is the last no questions asked, very stable, free, traditional web space provider out there. If they go, well the damage is all ready done.

One of my new Facebook friends has turned out to be active and most of my reaching out to members was interactive. Zanmi has no active posters but me, but it is a young group. I talked to the friend for whom I founded the group and found he hadn't touched his email in ten days. How can he live like that? I pointed out that there wree Kinko's. I never trave without a Kinko's card. My friend probably arrived in Israel by now. I will miss him. I wish I could write more.

This made going the rounds almost painless. I still have a bit to do which I'll tend to before heading in world. I wanted sandbox time, but in a way blogging is more important. I have a LOTHling who is adding to one of the discussion threads. This week is turning out very well indeed for social media.

And I haven't been back to the Diaspora site. They put up a FAQ, but I don't think they have a release date yet. That is going to be one big time sink, but I think Diaspora can sink Facebook. I just hope.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 6/28/10

More than Just a Chore

I have two new friends on Facebook. That makes me feel pretty good. They are both RAOKsters. Posting to groups and stimulating a new page as a "daily do" gets old even when you know it's important. There I said it. Now what?

I write about the weather. I write about things I see outside. I store up little experiences knowing I'll be able to put them on the various pages. LOTH tends to the dramatic and emotional and is more nature based. It also has a thread on cooking and programming. Zanmi concentrates more on current events and also the weather and food. It doesn't have its full personality yet. RAOK came with a ready made theme. I notice prosocial behavior, my own and others, and write about it. That sounds easy. Sometimes it is.

I used to post a lot more Second Life photos to Facebook. Having a Second Life related section for this blog kind of stopped that. I'd rather blog than write Facebook notes. I'd rather blog than play Facebook games. I am still a great believer in self expression. I still believe that having your say is more important than being a part of the community. Voices may sing the same tune all the time, but one's own voice is never dull.

That said, I wish I were writing more fiction. Lately I've been reading, Bikes, Kites, and All Good Stuff which I was writing a while ago and am surprised at how much of myself I put into fiction. I have trouble with Korê and think I am spread too thin. Of course Kore&ecric; has made it to May first of 2010 which is farther into the school year than any of my adolescent stories have gone. Koreê is not as ordinary as Oisin Renjyi. She lacks his charm. Her tongue can be pure acid at times. She also is a ball of hurt without really being a ball of drama. I'll probably write at least one episode this weekend, but I'd like to do more than once a week.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 6/25/10

A Clean Well Lighted Place

I built zanmi, chevarim, todomachi, amis, amigos, and friends on Facebook to give a friend who is moving back to Israel, a comfortable way to get used to using Facebook. I thought that would be a better going away present than anything money could buy, and in some ways a lot less awkward for me to give. So far, the friend has not shown up. Now I don't expect him for several weeks.

I'm not really all that irritated with all this. Time is on my side I tell myself. The group which is really a page, has a profile photo, by laws, and sixteen members. I beat the bushes for members. I got a good response. I guess I have some social capital after all.

I am struggling to figure out what to post every day. I kind of expected that as well. I tell myself that Zanmi, my new page, makes sense. Israel is eight time zones east of Atlanta. Mail is slow. Phone calls are prohibitive and inconvenient because of the time zone distance. Not all communication is confidential or has to be. Sometimes a public cafe is the right place for conversation. With the right attention, one can build a safe, attractive, and friendly enviornment. Most of my friends mind their manners. They are a natural for pairing with my real life friends.

Now I've built it. Sixteen have come, but the guest of honor is still hiding from the party. Some time in the next day or so, he will be in transit via El Al and then on to.... There are some things you just aren't going to read here. My job now is to build a page culture. That means plenty of patter, interesing links, and some creative use of FBML, and yes, possibly PHP.

Some day, if I actually become a Facebook developer, we'll even have our own widgets. Now that would be interesting. Maybe this experiment will succeed without my friend who left for Israel, but it would be much better for both of us if he remains part of the action. One can only hope and keep working. Onward and upward.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 6/21/10

Get it Right!

I am female and of "childbearing age." I am female, with a working uterus and ovaries, and a working wallet. I saw the very spiffy display of U by Kotex in the drug store and bought some of the overnight pads. They are fantastic! They're thinner and more comfortable than anything I've ever used, and come wrapped flat to discreetly fit in a pocket or purse, palm, or armpit. In short, this is a great product.

So naturally, I had to visit their web site. I kind of felt disappointed and left out. First the site is aimed at girls. I'm a woman. Even a high school student with her period is on the way to womanhood. A middle schooler might feel a bit differently, but she's in with teh women now whether she likes it or not.

Second, the site is factually inaccurate. The vagina may be the site for "product placement" but as far as menstruation is concerned, it's quite literally the end of the line. The uterus and the ovaries are where the real action is. There is a reason one refers to women's health as reproductive health, rather than vaginal health, and it's vulva rather than vaginal area. If you're going to use correct anatomical term, use them. I realize there was a play called The Vagina Monologues but that was Broadway or maybe off Broadway. Health is scientific, and if you want to help young women with their health, you need to speak the language of medicine.

Also, not everyone attracted to your product is going to be a teenager. I liked the display in the CVS, thought the product looked different thanks to a window in the packaging, and bought it. How many older women are using this product? We can switch brands too.

Also if you're going to teach younger people to talk cleanly about their private parts (Euphemisms have their place), then you have to mention sex and profanity. That after all is the reason those parts exist and gutter talk/potty mouth gets mixed up in it somewhere. With a willing boyfriend and a humorous attitude, it is sexy. With the wrong person or as an insult, graphic profanity is downright gross. Leaving it unmentioned and attacking euphemisms is not the greatest idea. It's easier asking a boyfriend or husband to buy you "supplies." When the kitty's tail is up, she shows you her "privates." On the other hands, obscenities and profanity can really be degrading and insulting.

Worse yet, the site tiptoes around the issue of Planned Parenthood, insurance, and parental consent. If indeed this site is pitched at adolescents, these are issues. Planned Parenthood provides free gynecological care as well as birth control. Not every kid has insurance. Though abortion in some states reequires parental consent, having a pelvic, being treated for dysmenoria (cramps), or obtaining birth control falls under medical confidentiality and informed consent. Saying "consult your health care providor," really skirts the issue.

I guess advertising any product connected with sex is a public relations minefield. On the other hand if you say you've created your product to educate, then you ought to do a good job of it. If you just want to sell a decent product that's attractive and comfortable, then stick with that. Either way, get it right!

Eileen H. Kramer -- 6/14/10

Get out the Broom

I have often said that any group leader, mailing list owner, has as her main job sweeping the dead files and broken glass off the porch. That was what I did with the ZC2ZC3 Yahoogroup which is the backbone of ZOID. A mailing list of seventy-five became a mailing list of thirty-seven. That is not as awful as it sounds. Most of the members I unsubscribed had been bouncing for years. They obviously didn't care. I bounced one member with a healthy email address because a search showed it linked to Russian spam sites. I don't think he'll miss ZOID and vice versa.

I need to get rid of the pending members. The only way into ZOID is through our form mail on the web site. Any one who joins up through Yahoo is looking to spam the group. We haven't had a new member in over a year, and it doesn't look like we're getting any new members any time soon, but I've told that sad tale before.

Then the really hard part comes. I don't want any one to think I'm doing a classic activity purge. I'm not asking for activity, simply a confirmation of existence. ZOID like RAOK never had an activity requirement. Activity requirements are a bloodless way of ejecting those who don't fit in. I've never wanted to throw any body out for that reason. I still don't.

The weird part about going through the mailing list last night was that I expected it to be larger, but Yahoo must have weeded out a lot of bouncing members for me. I just got the ones who somehow slipped through or whose accounts were so old they did NOT have new style profiles. That apparently, is how one slips through the cracks at Yahoo. I also recognized a lot of the email addresses. Many had belonged to teenagers. In the days before COPPA, site fighting was a haven for sixth and seventh graders, who do not have a broad range of extracurriculars and a very limited after school job market. Sometimes, as I have tirelessly explained and still do, there just aren't good alternatives to playing online.

Many of those young, adolescents had joined ZOID between 2000 and 2003. That makes them nineteen to twenty year old adults now. Those email addresses are relics of a long forgotten past, like butterflies shed, pupal casings. I felt sad unsubscribing them, but then again they were bouncing. I did not have to unsubscribe Demitria Monde Thraam or Drew Schiel. Both were long gone, and had left of their own accord.

I predict that the "Are you still there?" purge will drop ZOID's membership from thirty-seven to between twelve and twenty individuals. Given the fact that many of us run multiple sites in competition, that is more than enough for us to stay viable.

By the way, I hope that all of you know that what I am trying to do with ZOID is absolutely impossible. There is no such thing as a soft landing for site fighters. My career as a fighter only and Thadea's ended with a thunk. I got sick. I got burned out. I dropped everything, leaving loose ends all over teh place. I can still see the shape of burnout, because it hurt so much to fight toward the end of Thadea's last career. It is turquoise and brown. It is a jagged continent. I am not burnt out this time. I am a much better admin than I am a fighter. I just know there are no soft landings, yet I'd like the end for ZOID to be graceful. I've seen too many thunks on the administrative side of the house. ZOID came close to thunking for five months in 2006, but we revived and went on. More often, comps die by being unable to score, ceasing unpredictably, taking long periods of time off, and then just going. Often family and illness are the excuses. Ever hear of a contingency plan? I don't want ZOID to end in this way. I tell myself I can think one to two years into the future. Time is on my side, and on the side of the active membership. Let's enjoy the time we have and when it is over, let's know we ended it the right way.

Eileen H. Kramer/ZOIDRubashov 6/7/10

Loose Ends

This is not Facebook it is me. I've had a rough week, and sometimes going out to make the rounds in Facebook is just not where I want to put my brains or my heart. That has happened the past few days, and it has happened hearbreakingly. I get half done or three quarters done and just collapse in my tracks. Fortunately, I do the birthdays for RAOK first. I don't get my own birthday celebrated because I refuse to divulge it. This is a relief since I don't have to thank people for writing on my wall. I'd thank them anyway, but having a whole bunch of thanks to do, especially this year with my current health crisis, just feels burdensome. Let's just say I escaped.

I like Facebook's new privacy settings, even though the list of blocked applications is hidden way at the bottom, and you have to choose custom to simply not divulge stuff. That is the purpose of setting, "Only Me." I've told others how to set up "Only Mes" for sensitive information. You have a right to share what you want and to pick your communities by opt-in, not by where Facebook drags you, but you have to exercise that right. I guess Facebook is quite a lot like the real world.

RAOK dropped back to 124 members, or one member concealed herself. I'm not sure which it is. The concealed member has befriended me. That ought to feel good.

The leader of Walk the Walk, another Facebook group, is trying to instigate conversation. Even with all the known techniques besides sending group emails, she can't do it. The truth is, and it's a truth that puts the lie to talk about "democritization of media" is that most people just don't have much to say or a way to figure out how to say it. I'm not talking about controversial political views or deep personal secrets. I'm talking about simple light conversation that's a bit more than a status report. There is nothing wrong with talking about finding a bargain at Wal-Mart, or your kid learning to count to ten, or the really honest mechanic who fixed your car.

Contrary to what you read in the media, real people's real life news is not dull. People who promote their businesses are usually interesting though sometimes irritating. Invites from third party applications are blockable. News about games is hide-worthy and drives me nuts. Most people though would rather play social games than make social talk. That is sad, but it makes it hard for most groups.

I can easily post into the air because my Play Pretend Brainstorms and earlier similar projects gave me the skill of making patter. I also blog quite happily. Most people don't find this sort of stuff gratifying or doable. I wish I knew if I had a different wiring than most people, more skill with the written word, or exposure to busy, civilized list serves nearly twenty years ago, that is responsible for what I can do now. All I know is tha tI have it and most other people don't. I'm not sure how to teach it except by leading by example. Every so often someone follows. Every so often there is conversation.

I've even reached the point where I realized a lot of RAOK conversation is lateral and not down through the groups. It takes place on walls or on comments on photos. I can handle that. One takes conversation where one can find it.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 6/4/10

Loose Screws

Sometimes you just want to know and sometimes you learn it anyway. Facebook is a hard teacher and the downsizing at ZOID when that begins will be even worse. I haven't had the nerve to start the latter task. I have health issues. When those get resolved or at least when I learn what is going on, I'll get on to cleaning up ZOID. This ought to be an optimistic post. RAOK reached the 125 member mark, and appears to be holding. I have several new friends. All that ought to feel good.

It doesn't, and the reason, is that my online life is haunted by the fallen. The dead are genuinely dead. Spirit contact is not real life contact. The dead don't haunt. They are invited. The ones who haunt are the ones whose tales are interesting because at least in part they are not true in the conventional sense or if they are true, there is a lot of wounding, pain, and illness. Over the weekend, I learned that Demitria Monde Thramm has fallen off the net. Her site that competed at ZOID no longer exists and her Choronzon (not sure of the spelling) site hasn't received an update in several years.

I don't know what happened to Monde. Physical or mental illness or more optimistically, a real life full time job, may be the culprits in her disappearance. It's the not knowing that makes her story sad for me.

I know of at least one outright fraud. He is who he is. He's harmless. Then we have at least one member of RAOK who shall go nameless and detail-less who has a genuine screw loose. He shares his fantasies freely. They are paranoid and white collar.

One very crazy RAOKster (who is now gone), left Facebook, after threatening twice to take her own life. I got in touch with various authorities on both occasions. I've lost a real online friend to real suicide. Sorry, I'm not losing any one else that way if I can help it. Mixed in with all these are the usual cases of poor judgement on Facebook. There is a friend who poses using the "Hook 'em Horns" symbol. She must be an avid Texas Aggie fan. There's another who poses semi nude. The camera angle acts like Lady Godiva. There's the one with a genetic defect that inherits as a dominant and who wants a child and may have had one. She has a fifty percent chance of passing this defect on. Then there are the idiots who send out Jewish religious material as links to MP3's. That makes them utterly useless for Shabbos when a person might want to read such stuff.

I know once I start cleaning out ZOID, I'm going to see a lot more lost friends or those long gone or moved on to other things. That is really going to hurt. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. I can deal with the usual silliness in Facebook, but I'm going to have my nose rubbed in it when I start cleaning the throw away emails out of ZOID. They won't all be throw away. I know that much now. I think if Monde is still there, I'm going to leave her, just for old time sake.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 6/1/10