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.

Celebrate with Tears

Confessions on a Redesign

I want to tell you straight.
I know that you can take it.
Quite simply this team won't make it,
All of you just wait,
One year, until it meets its fate.
And no one will have to break it.
And it makes my heart ache,
Because we're still first rate,
But sometimes life is rough.
There are no more fighters to be had.
Which means this team will be gone.
Being fantastic is not enough,
It's our moment to be sad,
And then play on.

Haldis K. Guerrin 3/30/10

In Celebration of the Redesign

Arise, arise small flame
Grow, glow and shine.
Now is your very own time.
It will never be the same
In heat and light untamed
We begin with new design.
A bead is born so fine.
It's time to proclaim.
At the Weblesgues
They all know that we're here
They'll see what we can do.
The Artleagues,
Clear as glass beads this year.
With spirit's shining through.

Haldis K. Guerin 3/25/10

And that is the difference between a cheer and a real poem. Haldis wrote both and they capture what we did this weekend. I am proud of it and so is Haldis, but both of us know this is the last time. This one is for the archives. This is what people will see when they go back to look at the artifacts that site fighting left behind. This team tells a story of reasonably good design, perseverence, and administrative skill.

It is, however, only a question of how long it will be until it is over. Last cycle, ZOID tottered over the abyss of nonviability. Only I voted. This cycle is much better. The way down is tortuous. No one who has worked as a fighter or an admin really wants to stop. The world and the internet would have been a better place if site fighting had caught on and become a mass phenomenon. That didn't happen for a whole host of reasons that I have discussed ad nauseum on this blog.

Web 2.0 was not part of site fighting's downfall except to choke off new blood. That's one big EXCEPT. All of us in the site fighting world made several crucial and tragic mistakes six to ten years ago. It's over now. I'm not sure we can fix it. I don't have the money and time to do it on my own, and I have no army of lke minded souls.

RAOK's census this afternoon stands at 155. There are a hundred and fifty-five of us in the wrong place. It is such a wrong place that people just accept it. Nobody, at least nobody in polite circles, talks about how wrong it is that advertisers, private individuals, institutions, nonprofits attach themselves to a single, nearly monopolistic behemoth that is trying to control an electronic meeting ground. It is as if we, all of us, have forgotten what it is like to have the meeting ground that is afe and reasonably well lighted controlled by a commercial entity. Think of your shopping mall. Think of what would happen if you went to sign political petitions there, or as an online example, for the under eighteen crowd there is Neopets. No, they don't get a link. The problem with putting a private entity in charge of the public square is that it can do a job on intellectual freedom. Note, I didn't say freedom of speech. The government gives you freedom of speech, but Facebook, Neopets, and the private shopping mall are all private property.

Now prior to Facebook none of this mattered all that much. If you didn't like Geocities, there was Tripod, and a host of other providers of free, ad-supported web space. Competition and a portable format for your expression kept things honest. If you didn't like it you went elsewhere. Now there really isn't anywhere else to go. There is Yuku and MySpace and perhaps Eons, but if your friends don't follow you, you are trapped.

Worse still, Facebook's privacy policies are just plain awful. I don't care if the world knows I am a Democrat. I'll tell anyone pretty much that I'm a President Obama fan. I don't want Facebook or some anonymous developer collecting that data. With Facebook, too many users are happily becoming shils for businesses and Facebook sells their "likes" to advertisers. This is a bit too much like a panopticon.

A big piece of me wants out for both of the above reasons. A big piece of me wants to take both RAOK and LOTH with me, but fat chance either of my groups is cohesive enough to follow me. Where would we go. We'd pass the hat and pay for Caucus. Owning the pass key is very important. Put another way, freedom of the press, goes to those who own the press. Sure someone could packet sniff us, but there wouldn't be any one waiting to sell our words to advertisers, and we could decide what was appropriate speech, not some distant company.

To tell the truth, Facebook's itellectual freedom policies have so far been decent, but will that always be so? There are no guarantees and a captive audience is just there waiting to be abused. Do you feel helpless. I feel sad. I'm not sure what to do next. Diaspora is bogged down. There have been no new entries on the site since July 1. I just hope and pray someone puts a sling shot stone between Facebook's beedy eyes.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Haldis K. Guerrin -- 8/30/10

What I Wanted to Tell You

I wanted to tell everyone that Haldis has completed eight pages of her update of the Artleagues. She has indeed done that, despite the fact that she ran into a huge and baffling browser compatiblity error on Saturday night. The new pages kept vanishing and stretching out in IE6. We finall7y figured out that it was a style sheet issue causing all the problems. Internet Explorer (version 6 and earlier) does not handle percnetile width padding. Live and learn. I also simplified the breadcrumb trails. That was nothing but a good thing. Then we went on to revise six more pages.

That's not what I am here to tell you about. Facebook presented a perfect storm this morning. There were two birthdays in RAOK and there were ten new members. I welcomed them all and wished the celebrants a happy birthday. Most of the new members are from Bahrain or Kuwait as far as I can tell. They speak some English too which is good. Two befriended me and one dropped me. I wished them all a happy Ramadan. Can you have a happy Ramadan. You can have an easy fast. Maybe twenty-eight days of all day not eating and all night feasting can bring blessings as well.

I don't believe the newcomers are spam. I'd give my right eye teeth to learn how they found our group. I wish that one of them hadn't unfriended me. They really mean that RAOK is international, but RAOK has always been that way. We've had members in Canada, the Philipines, and Australia, but members from the Middle East are a new development.

As of today RAOK's membership census stands at a hundred and forty-five and I have six new members to welcome. I feel overwhelmed. I also am at my wits end what to do. Sometimes it never rains but it pours.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 8/24/10

Fits and Starts

Haldis has started the redesign for her team. The link leads to the first page. What is blocking efforts now are nine new beads. Then she can try with the template to buld the other pages. It should go pretty fast, except it's stalled. I hate that. It takes real work to do a good redesign. I'm not sure why I can't give Haldis the energy she needs to finish the job. I'm confident I will find it somehow.

Actually, I do know why Haldis is dragging her heels. First, the bead we have is too small so we'll have to try making another one in GIMP, but I am impulsive, preferring to make Second Life clothes to making web goodies. Second, neither of us is sure whether the Webleagues can last another full year. I know ZOID can last another year because the rent is paid. I don't have to make a decision about continuing beyond early June of 2011 for six months. That is a major relief.

Webleagues paid their rent I think so the site will exist as a site until next summer. Staff exhaustion is what will claim the competition. That is the usual way competitions die. I learned that with Thadea and the now gone and missed Golden Elite.

Competitions don't die when teams shrink up to nothing. Thadea experienced that. The teams at the Webleagues are just too large for this, though they are full of filler sites provided by staff to plump them up a bit. Haldis and I both find this distressing. I know we have to work on those beads. I tell myself, I want Haldis' competition career, which is has been a good one as has my own, to end with a beautiful site left behind in the Internet Archive. That is a fine goal, but it hurts when we think about it too much. We need to get those beads done.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Haldis K. Guerrin -- 8/17/10

Message on a Wall

In the past several weeks I have run across several RAOK members who have blocked me. One blocks me totally, and with good reason. In her position, I would do the same. Twice this young woman has posted about a desire to take her own life, and twice I have gone to the authorities. This time around she leaves me out of her dramatic games. Fine.... One member has blocked me for no reason I can see except she doesn't like what I write. It's not personal, but people get offended. Too bad. The other two blocks, are simply people who don't let nonfriends sendt hem messages. This is a Facebook option.

All this leaves me with the delicate task of what to do with group members who have blocked me in one way or another. I have decided to take the issue in a forthright way. It's my job as admin to stay in touch with everybody. We share a group. I can not stop the blocks, but I also can not let the blocks stop me. When I encounter a blocked member, I post to the wall that I have a message for them. If the block is only a message block (I can tell this because the member's name appears in blue and I can view the usual partial profile that acquaintances see.), I leave a message on the group wall. I also ask the person's friends to let them know the message is there. I can't say much to a blocked member, but I can say as much as I can say to any inactive acquaintance. I can wish them a good week, summer, weekend, holiday etc... It's pretty vapid, but depth is overrated if you ask me.

For a total block (Name in black and no partial profile access) the procedure is a bit different. I leave the wall message, but I know that with a full block, the blocking member can't read it. Now I can hope God at least shoulder surfs me and I believe he does, but I want more than the proverbial A for effort. Therefore, I ask if any of this person's friends can relay the message and that the person for whom I am leaving the message has blocked me. No one has complained about this, and I think cut and paste is a wonderful thing.

I think the wall routine is a great way to knock down Facebook's anti-social walls. If you join a group, you should expect casual conversation and well wishes with members who are NOT your freinds. As I have said before: "There are no strangers at RAOK." And more to the point, we share real life and even Second Life with people who are not our friends and not even really acquaintances. It really is not such an imposition to allow contact with other members when you are in a Facebook group and to expect a wall message if you don't allow that contact.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 8/13/10

Bottoming Out

Today I began the long journey back up from the bottom of the RAOK membership list. The goal, which I seldom reach because RAOKsters are active on the newsfeed and it is more fun to talk to active people than silent ones, is to reach out to three membrs a day from the list, but as I said, I usually use the list only to fill in after talking to more active voices or voices in need. It feels strange, not really scarey. There are two RAOKsters who have blocked me. One blocked me for no reason. I just haven't been offensive to her since she resurfaced. She just blocked me. I think it was pre-emptive because I have been to the authorities twice and would go a third time if she publicly threatened to take her life. Sorry, I've lost two contemporaries to suicide. My losses always come in pairs, but I'm about as gun shy around suicide as any one. It's not the blocking member's fault, and if she wants to play those kind of drama games, I'm glad she's leaving me out.

I find that Facebook is actively discouraging me and other members from visiting and liking Zanmi. It rates us as zero because we have no new fans and because for some reason my post quality is poor. My posts are no worse than most, and just because people don't want to disturb their privacy by hitting the thumbs up....well, who cares. I'm not out to win any popularity contests, but I suspect other fans and visitors see the goose eggs and figure that Zanmi is a piece of excrement. I hope there is a way to turn this off, but I know there isn't, so I put a brave face on it and brag about how cool it is to be in the group cellar. I'm not fooling anybody.

Meanwhile, my friend who moved to Israel at the beginning of the summer has vanished. I hope some crazy rabbi in Israel hasn't told him that the internet is the root of all evil. It would be the perfect excuse for someone who is computer phobic to stay away.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 8/5/10

Dropping the Bomb

Announcing a bereavement in any online social or chat fora or any ladies' group is effectively dropping the bomb. It is a bomb because it effectively drowns out and stops most other conversation, if there is such conversation, though this seems less the case than I thought, since groups on Facebook are out of the way locations. A bomb hogs attention. A bereavement has to hog the spotlight.

This was the second bereavement in my ladies' groups in six or seven weeks. The last one was in LOTH. Neither group is particularly large or cohesive. I wondered how LOTH could handle a bereavement. I did not wonder when I dropped my own bomb on RAOK except after the fact. A sixteen year old boys who worshipped up near Toco Hills, but whom I later found out lived in Marietta and who went to an independent school rather than a Hebrew Day School. Still a death like this rips a hole in a community. I remembered from middle school and college. I lost a contemporary when I was thirteen and when I was eighteen. This bomb hurt too much not to drop.

Of course I fully knew the downside of dropping a bomb. Not everybody believes you. This happened with a RAOK member who lost a distant relative more or less weekly. On a mailing list that was NOT no-crit (which RAOK is by the way. No-crit stands for no criticism permitted.), someone could have written the following: "Gee XYZ, you must be having a terrible run of luck. I'm so sorry. I hope you are seeing a counselor for all that loss."

Grievers can also go in for secondary gain. One of two Raging P's, on the Ladies Retreat mailing list, raged at me when I informed her that I could understand why shoppers were not buying the overpriced CD's she was trying to sell for a charity she had set up to memorialize her dead daughter.

Still, I dropped the bomb. I made sure I was not going for drama. I labeled it as an "External Support Need" I prefer this to prayer request, because not everybody prays or feels prayer is appropriate in all situations. The need was external because even though I was hurting, the boy and his family are NOT RAOK or LOTH members. "Support Need" also keeps the language cool and calm.

I made sure I was not straining credibility by posting a link to the obituary. This has been my first bomb ever, and hopefully it will be my last for a long time.

By the way, I was pleasantly surprised to see supportive comments on my bomb at RAOK. I did not think there would be any comments. I was surpised that RAOK functioned well enough to support someone in need, and yes, I did need support. Hopefully, both RAOK and LOTH will be able to deal successfully with more bombs in the future.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 8/1/10