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social commentary

Veterans for Trump waited months for Facebook to help after their page was hijacked by a North Macedonian businessman

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/09/17/popular-facebook-page-vets-trump-seemed-be-place-former-military-months-macedonians-controlled-it/

In case there’s a pay wall in the way of the article: Essentially a Facebook page started by patriotic veterans in the USA was taken over by some business guy in Macedonia and it took months for the Americans to get Facebook, an American company, to hear their plea for help.

It’s interesting that even in this era of heightened awareness of foreign disinformation efforts to meddle with US politics it took months for these people to get Facebook’s attention – and that only really happened after they said they’d buy advertising.

I’ve read in other places about how hard it is to get the attention of a human being at Amazon or YouTube. Even after your Amazon marketplace business has been hijacked or scuppered by bad actors you have to spend thousands of dollars and months of time to ‘correct’ the situation with Amazon.

It appears that these digital Titans are loathe to employ real humans to do customer service and support because that would bite into their profits too much. So they appear to think they can get away with automation as much as possible. And there’s a never ending series of tales of woe that result from this no matter if it’s customer, vendor or employee relations involved.

Categories
social commentary tech gripes

Daring or Dangerous?

This is the last lost draft I’m dredging up to publish. (it’s not that old)

I’ve been involved with computers for a long time. And have picked up a lot of bits of knowledge about a lot of things along the way. Human psychology seems to pervade most industries and affect how they work – computers are similar in that every industry that adopts them changes forever in ways incomprehensible to those who were in it before.

I’ve been in the position of deciding whether or not I wanted to allow public postings on sites I manage and am therefore legally responsible for. And I’ve watched as sites such as Napster, YouTube, and Facebook took decisions opposite to what I’d make regarding open-ness and allowing the public to decide on the content.

It appears that the credo of ‘move fast and break things’ that Facebook had works to grow your business enormously. Leaving the inevitable work to rein in rampant abuse to a time down the road when you’re better equipped financially and experiential-ly to deal with it.

It also appears that the problem with (not) actually doing it that way is also a human psychology one – by the time you’re in a position to need to do something about it you’re focused on other things like growth, marketing, trying to please the investors, trying to appear your best for your IPO.

So the hard work on these issues that needs to get done gets short shrift.

Being tech companies they all seem to think that they can throw tech resources at it to manage the problem better. Better Data to make Better Decisions and Plans. Meaning more code to monitor and analyze human / system interactions. And lately that means an AI.

If you become embroiled in a dispute on YouTube or Amazon you find yourself in a system that doesn’t appear to care that you’re an honest producer / seller / broker because you almost never get to hear from a human. The system can be gamed by those who know how its done and that can be painful for those victims who don’t.

For some reason they seem to be averse to actually deploying more people to handling people problems. Possibly because they are technology oriented rather than people oriented. Even the vanguard ‘social network’ Facebook appears to be using humans in ways that make them appear like replaceable modules. By that I mean they took a while to get around to deploying more humans to monitor content and then didn’t back those staff up with proper support for when they suffered repercussions from what they were exposed to in their jobs.

This article in the Verge “Prime and Punishment” shows how the online marketplace that is Amazon has evolved into a nasty jungle rife with dirty dealing denizens if you’re a seller.

Rivals can engage in dirty tricks, various versions of identity theft of your trademark, product or company name and it can cost you lots of time, money and anguish to fix something that a half hour conversation with a human being could solve.

Considering that this anguish might entail a number of people who work for you losing their jobs and you losing your company this behaviour is problematic at best and dangerous at worst.

If this was a government people could petition to get things changed. They could express their displeasure at the voting booths. Politicians would be bending over backwards to let voters know that they will not stand for this and will do their best to fix it.

Because it’s a commercial concern there’s not much that can be done. You can bitch and complain to Amazon but until a human being hears your plea nothing will get done. Just having reached a human is still not enough to get things changed however. To do that you’d have to get someone high up, like Jeff Bezos, to make changes happen. From everything I’ve heard about Jeff he’s not all that inclined to get involved with human beings with problems. And that’s not likely to change until something comes along that does listen to humans and threatens Amazon’s monopolistic position in the online marketplace.

So don’t hold your breath . . . until that happens you have to daring to bet your future on the dangerous marketplace that Amazon has become. And if you’re thinking of ever running for public office you have to be wary of being daring in your public postings and comments because those have a dangerous way of coming home to roost later on when you least expect them.

Categories
humour Uncategorized

Irony with Facebook

oh facebook I said no more

Categories
social commentary

Why do people care so much about the wrapper and not the contents?

It’s election time in my little town. And looney time on FaceBook.

We have less than 5000 people, no partisan political machinery, and the city bank account isn’t bursting with cash to attract fat cats. But this year saw the fruition of a long term infrastructure project – residential water meters. And that became such a controversial thing that it became a distraction for city council.

For 15 years there’s been forward motion towards a future that has these things. For the two previous years they had spoken openly about them, mentioned them in public meetings and documents. Then last February somebody out there in the public noticed they were talking about water meters this year. And they began talking to anyone that would listen. And it all kind of mushroomed from there. People who never came out to city council all of a sudden had to come to every meeting. And of course because they never came before they had weird ideas about how it worked …

All kinds of issues were brought into the discussion.

Water is a ‘God Given Right’ was a common refrain. When I ask people to leave God out of the discussion I get accused of attacking their religion.

Water shouldn’t have a price they cry. You can’t legally sell water that way in the province of British Columbia. Sure you can bottle it up and sell it that way but you can’t pump it out of the ground and sell it by the cubic meter. Not until the province changes the law. But all the infrastructure that it takes to get that water out of the ground and into your house does have a price. And maintaining it has a price.

The population already pays a charge for water, another for sewer and yet another for garbage. One of the reasons for the water meters is so that those who use more water pay more for the infrastructure. But even though some people are told that it doesn’t seem to sink in. Or they don’t appear to believe it. Nope, they can’t seem to get off the idea that the city is going to be putting a price on the actual water.

These meters are going to be digital, wireless communicating, meters. Meaning by radio.
This collection of features seem to get absorbed by people like this:

It’s  a digital electronic meter. A computer meter. A Smart meter! It communicates using radio. It’s a wireless meter. That means RF! And EMF! Bad news for people with EHF. Cancer around the corner.

In this province there has been a lot of vocal push back against so-called Smart Electrical meters. That fight has generated a lot of material, much of it a bunch of woo promoted by scare mongering agents of fear.

Well I see an awful lot of people here conflating these water meters with those electrical meters. When Saskatchewan Power decided to replace all the new ‘smart’ electrical meters they had already installed due to a rash of post replacement fires this news was latched onto by the anti-water meter crowd and waved in the faces of everyone to show that there are problems and someone somewhere is doing something about it. Um, not quite: They aren’t the same thing AT ALL! Electrical meters not water meters. If your electrical meter overloads it might catch fire, ok. What happens if your water meter sees too much water? If might spring a leak but it won’t burn your house down.

Then there’s the RF is Bad crowd. Making wild ‘scientific’ claims while they have limited knowledge of the science they quote. Or little to no understanding of the reality behind the mathematics and statistics they throw at you. These people expect small government to eschew the guidelines of the federal government health ministry and adopt the advice and guidelines of their favourite anti-RF groups instead. And while they are there they espouse these ideas but later on you see some of them talking on their cell phones.

Then the city decided that the most economical way to do this was to put the meters inside peoples houses, for free … unless they don’t want them in there. In which case they get them in a pit out in the yard and have to split the cost with the city. Well many people have taken to voicing various ideas about how to prevent or stop this. They cite rights when they don’t have that right. They voice worries that their house insurance will become voided – not so. On and on they do not end.

The latest interesting twist goes like this: It now comes to light that one of the candidates for Mayor who has publicly lambasted the city for this program was one of the 3 companies bidding on the contract to do the meter installation.

I was told this early in the morning and had it confirmed by mid afternoon. Multiple people confirmed this. I posted about it on the local election related Facebook group. A link to the city web page and a verbatim extract. And ended up with the question who owns this third named company? (the one with the same name as this candidate) Then I posted that the neither phone was working  at the two company listings I found online with different phone numbers. Then I posted a video of my phone conversation with the candidate where I asked and he answered. Affirmatively and unabashedly.

I posted all of that and for the next few hours the topic of conversation was not the candidate, it was me and my way of releasing the information. Information which up until today was an open secret. This candidate is well entrenched with the anti-water-meter crowd but as far as anyone knows this little bit of knowledge was unknown. But I’m the topic for mentioning it …?

It goes along with the rest of the limited discussion happening. Instead of real issues people want to divert into things that are more character oriented. Bring up controversial aspects that everyone knows about but are always good for a bit of character assassination. One denizen of this area uses a pseudonym and does not let on their gender. Their posts are so obvious in their outrageous biases that a friend thinks they are an agent provocateur. Which I also suspect but for whom I do not know.

And the ones that bleat the most I want to award a special award to: Parrot Of Doom. Because that’s what they are, people who Parrot things that they read (but do not understand) that are all about Doom and gloom. Their missives are P.O.D. casts.

What about the real issues? Why care so much about the BS?

I see every council meeting. And who comes to watch and listen. Almost no one. And how many people watch online. Hardly any. Yet when they want to complain they almost always seem to think they know how it all works. But most of the time it’s clear they do not. But they get adamant that council must listen and do something. Often they find out it is nothing that this level of government can do anything about. If they’d been paying attention they would know that but apparently everything else is more important … until it’s not. Then whatever it is they are upset about is more important than anything else council might have going on. Ok, most aren’t that bad – just the strident ones.

And then there’s the guy whose favourite hobby horse is Agenda 21 and the UN’s plan for world domination. And how every one and every organization has to made to beware … oi!

Categories
social commentary

Is FaceBook Engaging In IP Theft?

Here I go posting past midnight again …

Besides this blog I run a local media site in my small town. It’s using WordPress for the site engine. You can see it at gftv.ca

I run local news stories, city council, local events and have a community events calendar. I shoot a fair amount of video in the community and post that to YouTube and it ends up in article postings on my site. The community events calendar portion predates the rest of the site. if you go to whatsupgf.com you end up on a page at gftv.ca

Between 2008 and now I’ve put up hundreds of videos shot here in town and about things going on in the town.

I also have a Facebook group associated with the events calendar identity of the site.

Last spring I thought I saw behaviour on Facebook, by Facebook itself, that I found rather disturbing … it had to do with what happens when I, or someone else, posts a link to an article on a site like mine.

Before I get into that I’d like to backtrack and point out that for a few years Google was in a rather large argument with a number of news organizations regarding Google’s news aggregator. If you look at the Google News page you see a lot of headlines with a small abstract and thumbnail. When you click on the link you go into the target website to the particular article. Some news websites complained that this bypassing of their web site’s front pages was bad form. Denying them revenue because you didn’t have to go clicking through links on ad laden pages on their sites to find the article.

Personally I never agreed with them – if I had to do that then I’d likely not visit their site all that much but if I was already in their site I’d be more likely to take a look around to see if there might be something else of interest. And it’s not as if google was stealing their website content and keeping the visitor from ever going to the site – the idea is to get them to do that.

Now let’s get back to what I thought I saw Facebook do some time ago …

I had just posted a video to YouTube, written an article on gftv.ca with the YT video embedded inside it and then created a post on the group wall in Facebook that contained a link to the gftv.ca article. After I posted to Facebook it sure looked like Facebook made it possible for someone to watch the video from my article without visiting my website … effectively ripping the video out of my article and embedding it in a Facebook page. What that means is a casual viewer who did not follow the link, they did preserve the link, that casual viewer might not even visit the article – would never read my words. And, if I did have ads on the page on my site, I would see zero revenue from the consumption of my media but it would enhance Facebook’s product offering to it’s customers.

If someone takes your Property and uses it in a way you do not agree to that denies you revenue but generates revenue for them then is that not some form of theft?

Have I agreed to this by signing on with Facebook?

Even if I as a person have actually agreed to it I would point out that if this happens when someone not associated with my website posts a link to an article on the site then it is NOT something that they have my permission to give away.

When I first noticed this it didn’t appear to stick – the Facebook post appeard to go back to ‘normal’ right away. Lat night I noticed it again as I posted another time. And the chain of events followed the same pattern: youtube -> gftv.ca – facebook which ends up YT-video-embedded-in-Facebook.

This time I got a screen grab facebook media theft article_edited

I don’t claim to be a lawyer so I cannot say for sure if FaceBook is violating any laws. But I am a creator of Intellectual Property and I reserve the right to control how and where that IP is shared, used, exploited or loaned. It is MY RIGHT NOT FACEBOOK’S.

My rights are my rights regardless of how small I am and large Facebook is.

Categories
social commentary

Is Facebook Stealing moving media from web pages?

I recently has occasion to make a whiny, complaining, post on FaceBook about something I suspected FB of trying to do. Seeing as it was my post I feel no compunction about repeating (and maybe expounding on) it here.

The posting (from July 11, 2014):

Most interesting (and worrying):
I posted a link to a posting on my news blogging site. The post has a YouTube video in it as well as some textual and pictorial content.

After I posted I see FaceBook has given the link a sort of video playback graphic. Click on it and you get an embedded (in FB) video playback window … but nothing happens inside it.

Below I can see the reference to the two FB group feeds I posted the link to and it’s just a hyperlink. But above those two references is this not-quite-functional video window.

Aside from wondering why it doesn’t work (and how that negatively reflects on me / my site) I’m more worried another aspect about it.
It looks like FB is trying to make the video I’ve got in my off-site posting playable in FB without you having to visit my web site at all.

IF that’s what I wanted I’d do that myself.

BUT that’s not why I posted the link to the site and post. I want you to visit the site and read whatever there is on the page supporting the video.
I don’t have any advertising on my site right now, but if I DO try to have it pay for itself by having ads then an action like this on FaceBook’s part of this would mean I’d get NO site visit and NO ad revenue.
There is No possibility of someone clicking on an Advert they cannot see.

In the last few years many news organizations have been pissed at Google because their news aggregator allows visitors to jump right into the middle of a news site to the story they are reading without going through the ‘front door’ and having to visit at least one or two revenue generating pages. I’m not in that crowd – at least Google got you a visitor.
(when you see YouTube videos embedded in the Google News page that you can watch without leaving the page you have to remember that Google owns YouTube and the ad revenue gets shared)

BUT if FaceBook is trying to filch the media content from my page without the viewer ever visiting … that’s something to be upset about. On my part anyway.

Some of you might not care OR feel that I’m just whining sour grapes BUT when shit like this happens it makes us independent producers think twice about participating in social networks like FB or even trying to do whatever it is we are about.

Furthermore … IF this is what FB is trying to achieve then I’d be screwed no matter whether I’m a FB user or not since anyone posting a link to a story on my site that contained playable media might see the same result: FB filching the media content without any other part of the site.

There was a time when I transitioned from posting my videos to FB as well as YouTube or AWS to mostly posting links on FB. Because I felt that I was helping Zukerberg and company in some small way like an unpaid employee or volunteer. And I put in volunteer time with local groups that need it but NOT freely for multi-billion dollar corporations. And I don’t want to be involuntarily drafted into a volunteer for FB either.

IF I find this is what’s going on then I’ll have to see how much it would cost to have my site recognize FB’s spiders and bots and keep them out. Which would be a cost I’d incur to protect my Intellectual Property from FaceBook …

I hope this is all just a bad guess on my part. I really do … but what I’ve seen tonight smells wrong.

Well that was the original post. Unfortunately I didn’t think to do a screen grab of the failed video playback window …. but I did think about it in this next part.

Part 2 – Facebook’s different behaviour regarding Animated GIFs.

The FB post:

Somewhere along its history Facebook decided animated GIFs were a bad thing not to be allowed on FB. So people try workarounds with flash movies in SWF format.
I just responded in a private message to someone who was asking where my coverage of the Canada Day celebrations was. I found the posting on my site and passed them the link in a private message. FB then looks into the page and finds two pieces of pictorial media embedded in the text of the page. One of them is an animated GIF and the other a YouTube video. Facebook shows the animated GIF as the link’s thumbnail image. AND its animated!
Let’s see what it does here:
http://www.gftv.ca/?p=4198

And the link followed normal FB behaviour – the thumbnail WAS taken from the animated GIF BUT it was a still picture.

To prove the point I got the Private Message up on the same screen and grabbed the screen as a video. Which you can watch below:

Ok, Google has settled in the attacks it got from European news organizations. You can read about that here at the Guardian.

As I mentioned above IF FaceBook is trying out what I think they are it’s a far more egregious violation that Google was accused of. Because of the wealth or material out there related to words in a search it is kind of difficult to find out if this is going on and if someone else has remarked on it.