Exit Facebook, Stage Left

This afternoon I lost my temper with Facebook and announced, to the dismay of some readers and friends, that I was gonna close my account, and that would be THAT.

After one person said “don’t do it,” I reconsidered. But not for long.

The issue is that Facebook has found a way to override Adblock Plus, a fine piece of software I use to clear away the chaff and debris that gets in the way of smooth web surfing. All of a sudden, every third post — literally every third post — is a goddamn ad.

Do a little Web search to see if there’s anything you can do about this latest little outrage, and you find advice both from Facebook itself and from various users on adjusting ad preferences. So beside your FB page, you put up a web page explaining, step by step, how to do this. Nary a word of this advice works.

Okay, so the problem with trying to adjust ad preferences by way of minimizing the new Facebook intrusions is apparently that I don’t have a regular user account with Facebook. My account was set up by a marketing agent whom I hired when I was trying to publicize my books and my sideline businesses. The result was just hilarious. Any of you who might be thinking of advertising on Facebook might enjoy the tale:

So she sets up this account for me, and she’s very proud. I have several books for sale at Amazon, where their track record ranges from poor to abysmal. We pick a title. She asks me to keep an eye on Amazon’s sales reports and let her know, day by day, how the thing does. And voilà! She launches an ad campaign on Facebook.

The book had been selling, BTW. Just very feebly. A copy every few days.

When the ad came online? Sales…collapsed. They dropped from almost nothing to nothing at all.

When I reported this to her, she was floored. She actually DIDN’T BELIEVE ME. So I sent her a PDF of the Amazon report, over the three weeks following our launch. She was even more floored. We might say: subfloored.

After several more weeks of assiduous thrashing around — she did a sincere job of trying to make this work — we had sold NOTHING. Not. One. F**king. Copy.

“This has never happened before!” quoth she.

“I’ll bet,” I thought.

Finally we had to give up. But I was left with the account. And so I’ve used it to socialize. It’s been wonderful to reconnect with old friends. And wonderful to stay connected with current friends. But it doesn’t sell much of anything.

And that is why I find the new advertising blitz SO, SOOOO OFFENSIVE. Either Facebook has found some way to override AdBlock Plus, a Firefox extension which in general works very effectively, or Adblock itself has failed. If the latter were the case, though, ads would appear on other sites. Because they do not, I surmise this mess is peculiar to Facebook and presumably engineered by Facebook.

I would not have installed AdBlock if I enjoyed having ads shoved in my face. I do not go to FB to buy stuff. If I could afford to buy random junk, I wouldn’t seek the random junk on Facebook while I’m trying to focus on something else. Thus an annoying ad popping up between every three posts is annoying first because it’s an intrusive distraction and second because it reminds me of the considerable amount of money I wasted on FaceBook Ads myself.

On reflection, I will not shut down my FB account, but neither will I continue to spend hours here. Instead, I’ll continue to post links to new posts here at Funny, and hope any friends who care will come on over and join the circus. Maybe some will even subscribe.

With less time diddled away over coffee at Facebook…and over another cup of coffee at Facebook…and over ANOTHER cup of coffee at Facebook, maybe I’ll have time and energy to get back to writing books. Got to finish Ella’s Story. Got to get the bathroom reading collection in print and on a few local news-stands. Got to find new things to do!

And so, away! Perchance to waste less time. 😀

So Much for Amazon…

LOL! If this tale weren’t so pathetic, it would be hilarious. Wait…maybe it is hilarious!

You’ll recall that a week or so ago I discovered that the latest casualty to the Third-Worldization of America is non-chlorine laundry bleach. To my astonishment, I couldn’t find a bottle of it for love nor money, not even at the Albertson’s — a large purveyor of grocery and household goods.

So what do I do? Naturally, order it up from Amazon. Not only can I get my hands on this newly endangered species, I don’t even have to drive around the city in search of it. Yay! Especially since I’m too freaking sick to drive around the city. 😀

Okay. Couple days go by and I get a message that this fine product is to be delivered to my doorstep on thus & such a day…by 9 p.m.

Say what? You’re planning to deliver this thing after freaking DARK, here in Porch Pirate Central? Seriously? Well…yeah. As the appointed delivery draws nigh, the “track your package” function indicates the delivery dude will be along, sometime around 9 p.m.

As you’ll recall, I’m at Death’s Door here. Visited the ER four times over the past week. And absolutely positively am NOT of a mind to lurk by the front door till nine o’clock at night. Or later.

Certainly not for a delivery guy who can’t tell north from south. And who has yet to figure out that Erewhon LANE is not the same as Erewhon WAY, or that odd-numbered properties are on the south side of the streets in Phoenix and even-numbered houses are on the north side. That latter probably wouldn’t help, since the poor soul doesn’t know which way is north.

This is the guy who keeps leaving my neighbors’ stuff on my doorstep. DIFFERENT neighbors’ stuff. Sometimes it’s Josie’s stuff. Sometimes it’s Melissa’s stuff. What the heck: they both live on the next street to the north of me. How hard is this to figure out?

It must be said, in fairness to the hapless underpaid overworked delivery guy (What kind of company makes its workers run around the city until freaking NINE O’CLOCK AT NIGHT?), that the local porch pirates watch for Amazon and UPS guys, actually tail them around the neighborhood, and when a package is delivered to someone’s door, they drive right up to the front sidewalk, stroll up to the house, grab the package, toss it in the back of their car, and continue on in pursuit of the delivery guy. One of our neighbors, a techie by trade and by hobby, has rigged his entire front yard and street with a security camera system…every now and again, he’ll post a video showing exactly that M.O.

But that notwithstanding: having your employee deliver merchandise at 9:00 at night? Hiring drivers who can’t tell north from south and Avenue from Street or Lane from Way? Not even in broad daylight, to say nothing of by the dark of night… What is wrong with that picture?

So this fine product never shows up, not surprisingly.

I get an Amazon CSR on the phone — a very nice lady who lives in Jamaica — and explain that I would like not to be billed for a package that never showed up.

Ohhh, noo, says she. We can fix that! So she arranges for another bottle of Oxi-Clean to be delivered post-haste. She is exceptionally charming, and it’s hard to stay miffed with Amazon after chatting with this lovely person.

Now I get more messages of the track-your-package variety. This one says — incredibly! — that they plan to deliver it by 9 p.m. tonight. That’s NINE P.M. ON HALLOWE’EN NIGHT!

😀 😮 😀 😮 😀 😮 😀 😮 😀 😮

Ha haaaahhh! I have to ask: how hilarious is it possible to get?

Well, I’ll be perched in the neighbor’s driveway most of the evening tonight (it being Hallowe’en), partying and handing out Costco candy to the kiddies. So if I see the Amazon guy cruise up, I can grab the package before anyone else does. With any luck.

This assumes the Amazon guy can find my house, for a change.

So I’m sitting here coughing, when along comes this amazing email:

Hi, Funny–

We won’t be able to deliver your package as it’s been damaged.

The package is now being returned. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience.

A full refund will be processed within the next 24 hours and should appear on your bank account within 3-5 business days. * We will notify you when your refund has been processed. If you don’t receive a notification about your refund, please contact us.

Now I ask you: how ludicrous is that?

What on earth do you suppose this absurd message means? How do you “damage” a plastic gallon of non-chlorine laundry bleach, packed in a sturdy cardboard box? Run over it with your truck? 😀 And how do they propose to work a “full refund” when a refund was already issued for the first effort to deliver this package?

It’s disappointing. Amazon’s delivery service has been a big help to me as I’ve become busier and also more reluctant to navigate the city’s increasingly insane traffic, and so I’d begun ordering more and more incidental items. But evidently, that is not a good idea. One would do much better to resign oneself to driving from pillar to post to find products that are going off the market (to some degree, no doubt, because of competitive pressure from Amazon) than to be run through a silly circus like this.

BTW, next time I have to deliver my neighbor’s packages that were misdelivered to my front door, I’m going to charge Amazon for my time: $60/hour.

Pace Facebook, Pace Twitter!

That’s pace, as in the Latin word for peace. Lordie, can those platforms be NUISANCEY!

The constant tide of “notifications” from Facebook and Twitter has taken to filling up my email inbox. Derailing these junk messages (“Olivia Boxankle commented on your comment to her comment!” “Wish Julia Neverheardofher a happy birthday!”) has turned into a BIG, time-consuming job.

Apple’s mail program has an inscrutably complicated method (if “method” it is) of dealing with nuisance mail. Instead of consigning suspect messages and messages from senders you’ve already flagged to one junk mail folder, it has a “Junk” folder and also a “Trash” folder. Exactly why some incoming goes to “Junk” while others go to “Trash” is opaque, and as far as I can tell, there’s no consistent way to clue MacMail as to where you want which flak messages to go. You can tag certain senders or subject matter as junk or trash, but the result isn’t reliable: it doesn’t always work the way you think it’s going to.

The result is that every few days, you get hundreds of messages consigned more or less randomly to these two folders.

And, just like Gmail and Outlook, MacMail often relegates legitimate messages from real, live senders — friends and clients and vendors — to “Junk.”

This means messages that you need or want to see often get submerged in the tsunami of incoming debris. And that means you have to scroll tediously through scores and scores of meaningless emails — in not one but two mailboxes — trying to catch one or two messages that matter.

Every few days I shovel out these mailboxes, confronting something over 200 messages in one and something over 100 in the other — not counting the ones that get through to the legitimate inbox. That’s THREE TO FOUR HUNDRED messages to have to review!

You wanna talk about time sucks?

Sick and tired of combing through this monumental nuisance, I realized that about 98% of the debris comes from Facebook or Twitter in the form of “notifications” flagging incoming comments or messages.

I use Facebook and Twitter primarily to publicize my blogs and try to peddle my books. Some years ago, a very clever Web guru — since retired — set up Facebook so that posts at Funny about Money (which was monetized at the time) would automatically post to Facebook. FB figured this out and brought a stop to it, so you can no longer do that — you have to jump through a series of third-party hoops, a process that’s rather too ditzily techie and annoying for me to be bothered with. So these days I manually link to FaM at Facebook.

Physically going there for that purpose leads me to browse through friends’ and enemies’ posts — amusing enough, but still: a time suck of the first water.

The appeal of Twitter escapes me. I cannot think of anything more boring or stupid than Twaddle posts. So it wastes less of my time…but still, it does take time to go there, post a link, find and post an image, and dream up a “tweet” to try to lure readers over…probably fruitlessly, if they find the platform as meaningful as I do.

It’s pretty easy to turn off “notifications” from Facebook and from Twitter. In both cases, it involves hoop-jumps. And in neither case is the “off” function 100% effective. But it cuts off most of the flow of electronic chatter the two platforms dump into your in-box. Facebook’s “off” function seems to be a little more effective than Twitter’s — I’m still getting some trash from Twaddle, but effectively none from FB.

So. At this point I’ve made myself kind of semi-demi-off those two platforms. To some degree, I’ll be able to view friends’ posts and comments at my convenience, not at some machine’s.

And one aspect of the intrusive dystopia we occupy these days is rendered partially under control.

Computer Spoofed…we think…

So I got an email, apparently mailed to my Mac inbox from one of my Gmail addresses, from some jerk claiming he’d seeded my computer with ransomware and demanding a fistful of bitcoins.

Heh. Apparently hadn’t noticed what’s happened to bitcoins. Oh well.

The reason I spend top dollar to buy Apple hardware is Apple’s customer support. So it was on the phone again to Apple, this time to seek advice. James, the guy who answered the phone this time, said he thought it was spam nonsense. However, we changed everything in sight and then some, deleting stuff I’d never heard of and updating others. And of course I had to change my gmail password, another PITA.

We never had to do this stuff with an IBM Selectric… 😉

DropBox supposedly provides some protection against ransomware. Unclear exactly how reliable or thorough that is…but it’s better than nothing. It doesn’t back up your programs, though it’ll hold most or all of your data and images. However, Time Machine does copy your programs.

So anyway, James didn’t believe the threat was real, but even if it was, we apparently addressed it.

Yet another tedious techno-time-waste.

In that department, I’ve made a couple of moves to cut some of the endless time suck.

Earlier this week, I dropped a particularly active Facebook group. That was too bad in a way, because I kind of enjoy that group. But as a practical matter, I diddle away altogether too much time on Facebook, and the various “notifications” the site sends out create huge logjams in my email inbox, even though I set the thing as best as I can to divert incoming FB messages to “Junk” or “Trash.” All that does, really, is simplify the opportunity to kill even more time deleting literally hundreds of pieces of email detritus. The other day when I cleaned out the email I had to delete well over 600 useless, redundant messages.

So this will help save some time on two fronts.

Meanwhile, another diffuse time-suck went away when I decided to post the rest of The Complete Writer chapters waiting to go up at Plain & Simple Press and set WordPress to schedule them for publication into the future. Then did the same with enough If You’d Asked Me squibs to last until the end of 2019, publishing one chapter or squib per bookoid every three weeks. This, then, creates three weeks in which to write Ella’s Story chapters, rather than trying (unsuccessfully, of late) to crank out one a week.

This will provide at least a shot at making some progress on Ella.

But of course having to dork around with protecting my computing empire from a real or spurious threat creates still more time suck: Every-goddamn-where I go on the Internet, I have to sign back in with passwords I can’t remember and so have to look up, or with passwords that no longer work and so have to be reinvented. GOD, how I hate this stuff! Like there isn’t enough to waste your time on…

Deleting all the cookies on both computers kindly caused the Washington Post to forget me on my two favorite time-wasting online games. I was aiming for 100,000 points and had just reached 95,000. So that’s discouraging enough to bring a stop to diddling away more time on that stuff.

And this will free up some more time for another 2019 goal: to send the “Drugging of America” proposal around to a bunch of publishers. Or an agent…really, you don’t need an agent to sell nonfiction. I had no trouble selling the three books I have in print through real publishers. But times have changed. Unfortunately, my agent passed away some time back, and my editor at Columbia UP disappeared awhile back. But…the woman who was senior editor when I was holding forth is still there, only as a much higher muckity-muck. She just sent a request for a donation (university presses are de jure if not de facto nonprofits). So I may send her a reminder of my existence and see if she or one of her underlings will agree to see a proposal.

Meanwhile, word just came down that Quora has given up some 100 million users’ data. Went there to try to change my password. I can’t find the original PW, so I must have failed to write it into the 20 goddamn pages of single-spaced passwords that resides, coded within code, on my hard drive. Godlmighty. Another time suck. Unless, o’course, I decide to just let that one go, too.

How to Reduce Facebook Ads

I hate Facebook Ads. I especially  hate the ones disguised as posts forwarded from or recommended by my friends. As soon as Facebook figured out how to defeat Adblocker, my FB feed was swamped with annoyances —  about one ad for every three messages from friends or acquaintances. Then I figured this out: though you can’t get rid of the damn things, you can vastly reduce the number of Facebook Ads you see, at least temporarily.

Here’s the trick. When an annoyance comes up, click on the down arrow that appears in the ad’s upper right-hand corner.

1-adkill-arrowA menu with several choices will appear:

2-adkillSelect “Hide ad.” Another menu will come up:

3-adkill

Click on the circle next to “It’s not relevant to me”; then click “Continue.”

4-adkillFinally you will see the annoying message above. Of course, you do not want Facebook to show you “better” ads, because there’s no such thing as a “good” intrusion.

Now, here’s the thing: you can rid  your feed of almost 100% of Facebook Ads — temporarily — if you run down the page  (whatever it’s called in Facebook-babble: the page that comes up when you click on “Home”) and do this for every single ad that comes up. If you tag every ad as “it’s not relevant to me,” you’ll find that almost no ads will appear while you’re visiting Facebook.

This lasts for about a week to ten days. Then you’ll start having to “hide” ads again — but there’ll be a lot fewer of them.

Will this eventually get rid of Facebook Ads in your feed? I don’t know. Could be. Or…sooner or later, Facebook may tumble to this and negate your option to “hide” ads. That, I suggest, is the time to quit patronizing Facebook altogether.

This strategy does not get rid of the ads that appear in the right-hand sidebar. However, if you’re like me, you’ve already learned to mentally filter out sidebar ads, thanks to the nuisance that is Google Adsense. I don’t even see ads (or much of anything else) in a website’s sidebar. You can train yourself to do this by focusing solely on the content that interests you, which usually appears in the center column.

What will happen if you click “I keep seeing this” or “It’s offensive or inappropriate”? I don’t know.

Facebook claims it will quash content that you find “offensive,” whatever that means. But most FB ads are not naughty in any way — they’re just intrusive. Repeatedly labeling ads for fabric softener or some such offering as “offensive” may get YOU in trouble. As for “I keep seeing this”: Suuurre! Facebook and its advertisers give a damn whether you don’t like seeing some ad over and over. Elephants are pink, too. 🙄

Facebook tells its advertisers that if a user clicks “it’s not relevant to me,” the ad’s “relevancy score” drops:

If a user submits feedback on your ad and reports It’s Not Relevant to Me, your relevancy score will go down. Conversely, people who engage with your ad cause the relevancy score to go up. If your ad’s relevance score is high (with 10 being the highest), your ad is more likely to be served than other ads targeting the same audience.

This suggests that by labeling an ad as irrelevant, you’re likely to cause it to appear less often in your feed. It also is less likely to appear to other people that Facebook deems are “like you.” So with any luck, maybe the damn thing will appear less frequently in everybody else’s feed, too.

Take a little time to make your FB experience more enjoyable. Who knows? Maybe it’ll help do the same for all of us.

🙂

Why Do I Dislike Social Networks? Am I a Curmudgeon?

So the church has obtained this social network thing called “Realm,” a proprietary platform available to nonprofit groups. They want everyone on the choir to join up. Just now they have a campaign going to have everyone in the parish get photographed so your picture can be posted on the system.

The other morning while we were lining up to process, I ran into a very charming young marketing type, a greeter, who urged me to hurry and join Realm. I said I’d tried to do so but was unable to get it to accept any credentials or allow me to create a username and ID. She suggested I needed to download Chrome, install it, learn to use it, and try to get in with that browser — though she allowed that FireFox (the browser of choice) should work.

Others around me really started to apply a lot of pressure to get on Realm. That I said I do not want to join yet another social media platform nor do I enjoy the platforms I have to use in my business was irrelevant. Nothing would do but what I have to join up this thing.

Well. I think not, thank you very much.

I find myself wondering why I dislike and distrust social media so much. Twitter? God, I hate it! Facebook? Okay, so friends post a few photos of their trips or their kittens or whatever and that’s nice, but I can take it or leave it. Google+? Total mystification.

But what IS the problem?

I think the problem is that in my mind, a computer is not a toy. It’s a tool. It’s something you use to do work. And you know, I feel I , do quite enough work, starting at around 5 a.m. and grinding through till 6, 7, 8, or 9 at night: all of it on computers.

I don’t want to socialize on the computer. I just want to get the damn work done and get OFF the computer! Far from making me feel “connected,” the social networks feel like just another component of something that keeps me from having a life. Twitter, with its torrent of spam; Facebook, with its unending stream of trivia, false wisdom, and sappy sentimentality; Google+, whose reason for existing at all is inscrutable:

Here’s a post by an employee of Constant Contact plumping in favor of Twitter. And yeah, I get it: she finds an expensive doodad — a cell phone — that she’d lost in an airline’s overhead compartment; she figures out how to escape a traffic jam; she gets the very LATEST latest news; she asks a credit bureau to correct an error; she apologizes to some famous guy for offending him.

But…really? Are there not more direct, less time-sucking, less “social” ways of accomplishing these things? For example…

  • Don’t put your cell phone in an overhead compartment — take it out of your jacket pocket and put it in your purse or your pants pocket. Listen to the local radio traffic reports, or simply avoid routes prone to traffic jams.
  • Recognize that most of what we think of as “news” today is trivia, and that you can do nothing about 99.999% of any news that really matters. You don’t need to have instantaneous Tweets about any of it.
  • Email or snail-mail the credit bureau; it’s a lot more private…and again, does that error really need to be fixed right this very minute?
  • Don’t insult celebrities (or anyone else) in public (or in private).

When you consider what the writer’s saying, you’re inclined to think that over time her growing dependency on Twitter surely must erode her problem-solving skills. What does she do if she can’t Tweet up her lost phone? If she stumbles across a news report that really does concern something important and urgent, how does she find out all the details, and how does she get a fully reported, credibly accurate accounting of events? And how does she (or her husband) ever learn common courtesy?

Last year Lifehacker posted an article by Alan Henry that offered a number of very good suggestions for keeping the social media plague more or less under control. I like his ideas…but again: t.i.m.e…s.u.c.k!!!! The amount of time it would take to clean up your accounts and organize them in the ways he suggests: oh, ugh! Once you got the mess under control, though, these strategies probably would help cut the amount of time you then continue to waste on Twitter and waypoints.

If I follow the guy’s suggestions, I’ll have to “unfollow” about 600 Twits. That could be even more time-consuming than luring them to follow me in the first place. To say nothing off pissing off a lot of Twits. Organize them by “Lists”? I know Twitter Lists exist, but I also know finding out what they are, figuring out how to work them, and deploying them in any meaningful way represents yet another huge time-suck. Is that really what I want to do with the shrinking number of minutes, hours, and days left to me on this earth?

Well, no.

Therein lies the problem. And I don’t want to spend any of those fast-dwindling minutes, hours, and days on learning a new social media platform, either.