Friday, June 28, 2013

Things the Internet Needs to Lose

No point in railing here about pop-ups, slide shows, and the like. Those are driven by ad revenue, for which my cure is to tax the bejeebers out of advertising. These are stupid things web sites do for which there is no excuse. They're simply annoying and are the result of dumb design.

User Accounts

They're not keeping out trolls. They're not keeping out spam. Those bot catchers have merely led to paid trolls posting ads on their personal accounts. They're not keeping the discourse civil. So what's the point?

Oh, yeah, selling those precious demographics.

This is doubly inexcusable on government sites. I paid for the information with my tax dollars. There is no valid reason for me to have to set up a user account with, say, the U.S, Geological Survey (a major offender).

Bait and Switch

"Log in with your favorite social account." So you do. Then, at the end, you get shunted to "One last thing, now create an account with us."

Better idea: Don't tell us we can log in with a social account unless we actually can without any additional steps.

Even worse are sites where there's nothing to indicate there's a login. You have a bare comments box. So all those sites with "hello" for a comment? Well, that's me, checking on whether or not I need to jump through hoops before writing something lengthy.

Identity Crisis

So you actually do go to the trouble of creating an account just to make one lousy post. Then you see "That e-mail is already in use."

That's because it's me, you idiots! If I already have an account there (because I posted something six months ago), let me in! Especially if you already have my identity from a social account.

Do It All Over Again

"We've changed our log-in procedures so we need to have you re-enter your account information."

The only change worthwhile is to junk the log-in. But if you must switch things around, don't ask me to do your housekeeping for youYou export the account data to your new system.

This also applies to sites that mysteriously and spontaneously lose your login info. So I create a user account and a password, and dutifully store it in a password manager. And it works. Then mysteriously, it stops working, even if I logged in an hour earlier. Even if I have my browser remember and input the password automatically. If you can't store my password in a stable fashion, how about scrapping the whole process?

Hidden Paywalls

So you click on a link to a story, only to find the story hidden  by a paywall pop-up, or faded out after a couple of paragraphs.

You have nothing I'm willing to pay for. Raise your advertising rates by a factor of ten. A New York Times opinion piece? You have to be kidding. This is the Internet. I can read all the stupid opinions I can stomach for free.

Vertical Video Complaints

I have no problem with vertical video. For some subjects it's appropriate. How about web site managers get off their lazy butts and create pages that accept vertical video? You detect the format of the video, and if it's vertical, you scale it to fit on screen, and rearrange page elements to fit alongside. That wasn't so hard, was it? I'll get a high school kid to help you.

Talking Head

Don't expect me to care about your story if you don't care enough to write out a transcript. This means you, too, Upworthy. Video is to show things that are in motion, and that does not include a reporter's lips.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Few Simple Questions

Since I'm asking questions here, Comments on this page are enabled.

However, this is not a page on urinalysis. Specifically, "your analysis" of the issues. You can set up your own blog for that. The only comments that will be accepted are those strictly limited to the specific questions posed.

For Foodies

There are many articles on line describing how the food industry analyzes the way people respond to sugar, salt and fat, and use that information to make their products more attractive. The information is open and nobody is making the slightest effort to conceal it.

So why don't healthy food advocates, instead of criticizing peoples' tastes or the food industry, devote similar efforts to devising healthy foods with the same attractiveness? Instead of telling us that we need to learn to like healthy food or "re-educate" our palates, why not develop stuff that tastes better than, say, potato chips or Big Macs, as determined by people who actually eat potato chips and Big Macs? (You can get beet chips, which are very good, but between the sugar content of beets, the deep frying, and the salt, they're probably not much better for you than potato chips.)

(This is a bit unfair because, however appetizing healthy food is, you can always add fat, salt or sugar to it. But there's also the idea of "good enough." I love fruit but I don't put sugar on pineapple.)

Also, if vegan living is so good, why are so many vegan dishes meat surrogates? If you come up with something that looks and feels as much like meat as possible, why not just eat meat?

For Libertarians

I consider anybody who has the power to curtail my liberty a threat, whether they're government or private. Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose. Your right to use your money ends at my rights.  You have no right to use your money to gain an advantage over me in any political or legal proceeding.

So, libertarians, tell me what you plan to do to curb abuses of private power. And since this doesn't require any significant restructuring of the government, there is no reason at all not to do it right now. So tell me what you're doing.

For Conspiracy Believers

You believe 9/11 was an inside job, JFK was killed by a conspiracy, the global economy is run by secret organizations, and FDR knew about Pearl Harbor before it happened.

Okay, tell me exactly what first hand knowledge you have to justify those beliefs. Not what you read on line, or someone told you, but things you have seen or experienced first hand. If the facts just "don't fit," you must have had some experience to convince you the world works that way. So what was it?

I've asked this question in numerous forums and so far I have no responses. All the evidence I've been able to collect indicates that nobody who believes in conspiracies actually has a real basis in personal experience to justify it. Most of them have never faced a moment of real danger or discomfort in their whole lives.

For Climate Denialists

You claim that remedial measures to curb carbon emissions will cost vast amounts of money and wreck the economy.

Okay, prove it.

Show me the math. Show me your computer code that models the U.S. economy as well as any climate modeling software, and show me that it has successfully predicted changes in the economy. 

Oh, and if the atmosphere is so vast that humans can't possibly affect it, as some denialists claim, why can't we say the same for the U.S. economy?

And is global warming happening, or not? Some people say it is but it's purely natural, driven by solar cycles, some people deny any change at all, some people say it's actually cooling. So which is it?

For Believers in "Rights"

You believe that gay marriage, Internet access, food, and health care are rights.

Okay, prove it.

"Proof" does not mean using the Caps Lock key and lots of exclamation points, or calling names or using invective. Anyway, "Fascist" proves nothing except your emotional response to an issue.

No, proof means starting from basic axioms and reasoning, step by step, using logic that can be demonstrated to be valid. See an old-time geometry text for how it's done.

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" Well, that's the Declaration of Independence and those rights exist because they are "endowed by their Creator." That, by the way, is the only theory of rights in any of our founding documents. So those sentiments have been nullified by separation of Church and State. Talk about your law of unintended consequences.

For Pro-Lifers

Psalm 139: 13-15 (NKJV):
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
There it is: a favorite quote to show that unborn babies in the womb are human beings. Only.... what comes next?

And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
How come we never hear this part? If "day" in Genesis means a literal 24-hour day, how come Psalm 139 doesn't mean babies form in the ground?

For Democrats

We hear endlessly the question "why do conservative voters vote against their best interests?"

So why do you vote against your best interests? Why do you speak on behalf of criminals and alienate the 90% of the population that avoids crime? Why do you side with atheists' petulant attacks on religious gestures and alienate the 90% of the population that either supports public religious gestures or sees no harm in them? 

If you believe abortion or gay marriage are important enough to promote, despite the blowback, why is it a surprise that opponents feel they're important enough to oppose despite the costs?

On Productivity

"Worker productivity has tripled in he last few decades but wages have remained flat."

The machines we use produce things three times faster. But that's the owner's productivity, and the people who invented and built the machines. Tell us exactly how your productivity has tripled. Can you work three times as fast? Do you speak three times as many languages? Can you use three times as many software packages? Do you have three times as many college credits? Do you have three times as much knowledge as you did twenty years ago? Are you skilled in three times as many occupations?

For Pot Advocates

Can you produce anyone, who is not a user himself, that is willing to testify that using pot makes you a better, more responsible, more creative person?

If pot had the beneficial effects its advocates claim, I'd suspect at least a few employers would have caught on and would be actively recruiting pot smokers. Are they?

For Gun Control Advocates

After the latest mass shooting, an editorial asked "Now will the NRA talk to gun-control advocates?"


Now here's a question for you. Tell me one concession you'd make to gun owners to get them to agree to gun control. An end to court challenges to the death penalty? Limiting appeals strictly to matters of factual guilt or innocence? A ban on criminals suing for harm as a result of their criminal act? Is there anything you're willing to give up to persuade gun owners to give up some of their rights?