Yes, By All Means Let’s Put a Stop to Internet Petitions!
Let me begin by saying that, in Britain, “barking” is short for “barking mad.” There are thousands of petitions on the Internet. Even the ones that are well intentioned could have repercussions far different from your goals in signing them.
For one thing, the creator of the petition has your name and e-mail address to sell to whatever nefarious operators are in the spamming business. If you absolutely must sign an Internet petition, give them a throwaway e-mail address that you don’t care to check on a regular basis. Don’t expect your signature to have any effect at all.
Online petitions are in the news today because of the San Jose judge who sentenced a rapist to only six months in prison, with time off for good behavior. Some one million Internet users have signed petitions to remove Judge Aaron Persky. It’s a waste of time, unfortunately, because that’s not how one influences a judge.
Even more interesting—and much more effective in my opinion—was a protest by ten members of the San Jose jury pool who refuse to serve on any case in which Judge Persky is involved. That could be devastating to a jurist and force him to resign.
Clicktivism, also referred to as slacktivism, is the lazy man’s way to try to effect social change.
In the meantime, I suggest you send a tub of lubricant preferably mixed with gravel to Brock Turner’s cellmate. That’ll work, too.
Several months ago, I started signing up for Twitter. When I was asked to name three Twitter accounts I was interested in following, I couldn’t think of a single one. I just wasn’t that interested in following anyone. And what would I tweet? There was that 140-character limitation that encouraged users to murder the English language. And when Twitter and tweets were in the news, they were usually from political or entertainment figures like Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian—on whom I do not care to waste my time.
What is more, that whole hashtag convention struck me as forcing one’s thoughts into other people’s channels. Nope, not for me.
Trash Reigns Supreme
Tarnmoor’s First Law of the Internet is very much like Gresham’s Law: Bad money drives out good, except in this case news is driven out by dross. In the end, the Internet tends to resemble that garbage dump the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. In terms of websites that purport to concentrate on informative news, I see this trash as being of five different types:
- Outright clickbait, usually hinting at something surprising or earth-shattering and featuring a picture of an attractive thirty or forty year old model.
- Articles about television series on news sites, not surprising considering that news sites frequently own production companies.
- References to “viral videos” usually featuring cute animals or spectacular fails.
- Links to videos where the video adds nothing to the story and consists of a few seconds buried within a boring talking head sequence.
- Articles about dumb things that wingnuts on all sides of the political spectrum say.
Places where I turn expecting to find something I can sink my teeth into, yield instead a kind of digital styrofoam containing no intellectual nourishment. Instead, one finds what I call WABAW (WAste of BAndWidth). Look what I found on CNN’s website today:
- Odd houses come straight out of ‘Flintstones.’
- Reason #1 not to pose for a selfie with a rattlesnake.
- Mother duck guides her ducklings past swerving cars. (Awww!)
- Water balloon explodes with man inside.
- See Paula Abdul recreate ‘Opposites Attract’ video.
- What ‘Back to the Future’ got right about 2015.
- ‘Sharknado 3’: the tweets, the cameos, the crazy.
If you want to see even a more determined effort to send you down a brainless rathole, go to Weather.Com. My eyes glazed over when I saw “Ever put coins in dry ice?’ and ‘WATCH: He dropped a basketball of a dam and didn’t expect what happened.’ I presume that if you are reading this, you do not go hunting through multiple windows following an attractive woman who promises to show you something that would really make the IRS, TSA, Catholic Church, or your beloved Lhasa Apso furious.
Go On, Believe It! Be Stupid!
It appears that one of my e-mail addresses has made the Numero Uno suckerbait list. Here’s a selection of just some of the garbage offers that ended up in my mailbox:
- Interest too high? Find the perfect card—from “Zero Interest Cards.” Yeah, well, did you ever hear of fees?
- Uncover your ancestors and your family tree. Try it – 14 days no/cost. Give us your e-mail address so we can send you even more clickbait.
- Most Wanted summer-slim-down – ready for delivery! You, too, can experiment with your health by using expensive and untested meds.
- Final Notice: Your gift card is about to expire. Why would Chilis Bar & Grill, which I’ve never heard of, send me a gift card?
- 10-second trick makes Diabetes go away. This is from Harvard Research Dept (whatever that is), so it must be true.
- Do you want to Improvement your hearing in 1-7 days? No, but I’d love to Improvement your English!
- Cover all of your Appliances with Choice Home Warranty. Whaddaya mean you won’t reimburse me $1,000 for my bum toaster?
- You have been selected for inclusion. This is from Eddie Lopez, who sent the same e-mail twice, so he must want me real bad.
- Fabulous and wonderful in your kitchen. Why thank you: I didn’t think you knew!
- Avoid the Hassles of Home Repair. Get Your First Month Free! It’s those Choice Home Warranty (CHW) people again. In essence: Pay us and say goodbye to your money.
- When you lose something finding it fast with this! What about that quarter that fell through a hole in my pocket in 1956?
- (Wow!) Satellite photos make amazing discovery. That’s nice….
This is just a small selection of what parades through my mailbox every day, sometimes as many as several hundred in one twenty-four hour period.
Solve the Mysteries of Aluminium Foil
Today I’ll be adding to new link to this website: It is the British site called TodayIFoundOut.Com. I have always been a sucker for interesting facts, such as the following items that have appeared on the website this week:
- Why aluminium (the way the Brits spell it) foil is shiny on one side and matte on the other
- The story of the Library of Congress
- Where mosquitoes go during he daytime, and why only female mosquitoes are after your blood
- Why you’re not supposed to remove tags from pillows and mattresses
- All about legendary pin-up girl Bettie Page
- In the days before Internet crowdfunding, how one teen financed his college education by asking people to send him pennies
There’s always a lot of good stuff that will make you the star of any party you choose to attend (except, perhaps, the Republican Party, which is illiterate).
You Can Also Stop Autoplay Videos in I.E.
Here, from the February 2015 issue of PC World, are Lincoln Spector’s instructions for suppressing autoplay videos in Internet Explorer:
- From the menus at the top of the window, select: Tools>Manage add-ons.
- In the resulting Manage Add-ons dialog box, make sure that Toolbars and Extensions is selected on the left. Wait for the list to appear.
- Find and double-click Shockwave Flash Object on the right. (It’s listed under Adobe and will likely be near or at the top.)
- In the resulting More Information dialog box, click the Remove all sites button. Then close the dialog boxes.
According to Spector, the Flash windows may not appear at all, or they may appear blank. A bar at the bottom of the window will offer options to allow Flash to play. Click the x on the right to indicate No.
Yes, You Can Retain Control Over Videos
Last summer, I wrote a blog posting entitled Streaming Agony in which I bewailed the tendency of websites to push streaming videos in your face when you open websites—particularly prevalent among news websites. Most of these streaming videos are controlled by Adobe Shockwave. Using your Internet browser, you could request that the video be grayed out, as in the three examples in the above screen shot from the Buenos Aires Herald, and activated only when you specifically request it. By clicking on “Activate Adobe Flash,” you can see the video once, or grant blanket permission to the website.
Because I use Mozilla Firefox as my browser, I will reprint the instructions by Lincoln Spector from the February 2015 issue of PC World on “How to Stop Autoplay Videos” using this browser. If you should be a user of Google Chrome or Internet Explorer, reply at the bottom of this post and I will post the equivalent instructions for your browser. If you use Safari, you are out of luck.
Here are the instructions for suppressing autoplay videos on Firefox:
- Press Ctrl-L to go to the address bar and type in the local URL field: about:addons.
- Click Plugins in the left pane.
- Find Shockwave Flash in the list of plug-ins.
- Click the Always Activate pop-up menu on the right, and select Ask to Activate.
The article in PC World continues:
When you visit a page with an embedded Flash video, the video window will be in a box, but this time it will be white with Adobe’s Flash logo (a stylized letter ‘f’ in the center). A gray bar at the top of the page will give you options to continue blocking or allow the flash.
If you click Allow, you’ll get options to Allow Now or Allow and Remember. If you want to allow it at all, I recommend Allow Now.
Hopefully this will protect you from loud NSFW (Not Safe for Work) loud ads and most autoplay videos.