Saturday, October 14, 2017

Howling At the Moon

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

[Boggaramians: Blogarama renders the links in my columns useless. Please click on View original (above) to solve the problem/access lotsa columns.]

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My sublime, drop-dead gorgeous muse (right shoulder)
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)


"You have to fight for your privacy or you lose it." -Eric Schmidt


Dear (eventual) Stickies & Great-Grandstickies,

According to Wikipedia: "The mass media is a diversified collection of media technologies that reach a large audience via mass communication. The technologies through which this communication takes place include a variety of outlets."

I'm old enough and historically literate enough (just) to confidently declare that the media has been massive, and growing, for quite some time. However, once the internet took over the world it was like last seasons batboy batperson injecting massive amounts of steroids over the winter and returning as this seasons home run king.

Everything changed, and quickly, and not always for the better.

[I insincerely apologize if I've inadvertently offended any of my readers, Sticky or gentleperson, who identifies with identity politics. When I composed the simile above I was thinking of Major League Baseball, pinky swear. And MLB, for now at least, only has home run kings. However, this does not preclude the fact that some of them may also be queens, at least on Saturday nights in the offseason.]

For example, Good Housekeeping or TV Guide, formerly banal examples of mass media, both have websites. Both subscribe to Dizzinformation Age orthodoxy, to wit, planting tiny little bits of code on your computer to keep an eye on you (cookies).

[Muted, POP! sound. And that's an invasion of privacy! ]

Oh, hello Dana. Well, yeah, but it's also good customer service. They keep track of your preferences so you don't have to start from scratch everytime you visit their websites. And after all, you agreed to it, and you can opt out.

[But what about the ads that stalk us around the web offering up products based on bits (and bytes) of information about us stored here, there, over there, and who knows where the hell where?]

Well hey, all that advertising pays for an awful lot of "free" content (including my feeble scribbles actually, and I don't run ads -- thanks, Google!). And of course, you can always run an ad blocker. Amazingly, I've heard that the Goog will soon offer a chrome setting that will let you turn on an adblocker.

[Quick note: Although I can't prove it, 'cause I didn't click on it, and it was gone when I backed up to look for it, I saw an ad for -- an adblocker. I'm certain that if I went a-googling for ad blockers and clicked on a bunch of hits I'd see one again, repeatedly. But this is the only time it's ever happened at random, and I spend a lot of time web surfing. 

It served to remind me of the one and only time I saw a tow truck towing a tow truck. There's a certain cosmic, transcendent message in these two experiences but trying to express it in mere words could not possibly capture it. Sorry...as you were.]

Without targeted ads -- which are much more likely to be effective (and more relevant) than old fashion one size fits all advertising -- revenues will drop, the volume of free content will drop, and, no doubt, some employees will be dropped (look out below!).

[Whatever, hey, another thing that really...]

Wait,wait,wait -- I know,I know,I know. Just about everyone of a, um, certain age is concerned, to one degree or another, with the dramatic decline of privacy in the Dizzinformation Age. Most of the slightly younger people in my life, from meatspace to cyberspace, are also concerned.

However, their focus is on what sort of electronic trail/trash/record they're leaving behind and (hopefully) acting accordingly. They take for granted privacy ain't what it used to be.

They're right, it ain't isn't. The cliche holds, all you can do is all you can do. My version is all you can do is all you're prepared to do. While I occasionally long for a hermit's cave, I'm inordinately fond of indoor plumbing -- and climate control, and refrigerators, and microwaves, and...well, all sorts of energy consuming devices that the Cult of the Algore would see me burned at the (electric) stake for.

Perhaps my love fondness for my computer (the Algore really was important in the development of the internet by the way) will serve to mitigate my sentence after the Alt-Red Guard drags me off to a Re-education Center.


And we're back. Sorry, where I was headed, before Dana's interruption (see! it's not my fault for a change) was to posit a few thoughts on an aspect of the web that I don't much care for. To wit, it's turned the mass media into the Data Dragon.

Now, I'm a veritable web Silver Surfer (I am a "silver fox" --  from my distinguished widow's peak on up at least), and I stand by my comments above. But, being a somewhat introverted and privacy-loving old crank, I'm not crazy about the fact that there's no such thing as easily maintained privacy in the modern world -- ya' really got work at it.

As my conversation with Dana implies, I believe the Dizzinformation Age, and the web, generate numerous entries in both the pro and con columns. It's not the tool, it's how it's used. And unless you plan on doing something like taking up residence in a remote mountain monastery to seek enlightenment, you still have to share the playground with the other kids, even the often annoying mobile rectangle addicts (smartphone junkies).

BIG BUT

What I mean by the Data Dragon is that the mass media is everywhere and all the time and always keeping track and always tweaking the black boxed algorithms that determine the content of your highly individualized dizzinformation stream that is always coming at you at the velocity of water from a firehose.

[Dana: Woohoo! a point and a rant!
Ziggy: Whadayamean, Poppa?
Marie-Louise begins gently scratching]

Don't worry about it right now, Ziggy. You've never known a different way. Ooh, a little harder Marie-Louise, and to the left, ooooh! that's it!


Warning: Cultural Reference Ahead That May Indicate You're Even Older and More Out Of It Than You Thought You Were

The phrase customer service is often a euphemism for malevolent, constant customer surveillance by...

[Iiggy, what are the bad guy Transformers called again? You mean Decepticons, Poppa?]

Cue thunderous highly familiar voiceover artist that you've repeatedly heard but have never heard of:

The Data Dragon, the incorporeal Decepticon that lives in the Cloud. Data Dragon, assembled by a loosely affiliated group of sexually frustrated heterosexual white males without girlfriends in the basements of their unsuspecting parents homes. Data Dragon, built at the behest of the evil ADICC, the Association of Data Interchange Control Companies. Data Dragon...


Look, there's a fine line between world-class customer service and constant customer surveillance by people prepared to use each and every freakin' technological/psychological/sociological/etceteralogical trick in the book to
close the deal/keep us watching/keep us reading/keep us etcetering.

"You gotta FIGHT - for your RIGHT -- to paaarty." -the Beastie Boys
"You have to fight for your privacy or you lose it." -Eric Schmidt
"...there has to be a trade-off between privacy concerns and functionality."
-Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt is Grand Imperial Poobah of the Goog, and according to Forbes, has a net worth of 11,200,000,000 bucks. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.



[P.S. Gentlereaders, I've experimented and will continue to experiment with various formats, column lengths, and the like. While my primary motivation was/is developing my writing style, I've always given (minimal) consideration to what I thought a potential publisher and/or advertiser might want to see. 

One of the reasons I don't run ads on my website anymore is the fact I've decided to just let the column happen and go where it (and Marie-Louise) wishes it to go. 


If there are some readers out there that think my shtuff is worth sharing and/or worth a buck or three, fine. If not, so be it -- you cheap, philistinish...

[Oh mon Dieu!]

Relax, Marie-Louise, they know I'm just kidding (said the arthritic old crank, with a smile that could be misperceived as gritted teeth).


©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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