Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Sickness of Constant Distraction

Even a cat with cancer will still chase a laser pointer.

I am probably a more horrible person having said that, but having cats and having had a cat with cancer I feel I can speak to this.

We do not have news channels anymore, we have opinion channels. We don't have newspapers anymore, we have opinion papers.

Whatever side you are on, we have a news channel for you and a news paper that conforms to your views. Step right up and be fed news and views which conform to your unique outlook upon the world. We don't inform you, we reinforce what you already think you know.

And we have our social media partners right alongside, each with their own tailored, carefully controlled point of view. What causes outrage there is going to be headlines tomorrow, and what will be in the headlines tomorrow will cause outrage the next day.

So where does the sick cat come in?

Like that laser pointer, each side distracts its audience with carefully chosen fluff stories and things tailor-made to distract and get our minds off of the headline we should honestly be angry about and demand change. Your typical news day, on both sides, goes like this:

First up is the 'breaking news outrage' story meant to get you angry and your blood pressure up a couple dozen points. Some politician said something stupid, or some scandal refuses to go away. The anchors hem and haw and tell you how incredibly awful this thing is, and  you are right there with them demanding blood and thinking 'this will be it'. This is something so bad that something has to be done, and you are probably right, if something was done this issue would probably go away and it would be solved. The world could move on. This something is so awful something needs to be done.

This is the sick cat.

We need to get it to the vet, to get some treatment, and to do something about this poor thing suffering. If something is done now-

And then bam, the news 'changes gears' and does a fluff piece. Something pulled from social media. Some athlete did something stupid. Some celebrity broke the Internet. Some nobody who cares anyways said something stupid on social media, and their social media partners hope you rush online right now to find out what. Here's a video you need to see. Here's something that will brighten your day pulled from a photo-sharing site. Cue the 'aww' sound effect!

The laser pointer.

We are distracted. The outrage is gone. On both sides you see this, they tease you with insane rantings and anger, and then they pull it away. Take your anger, if you still have any, and vent it on social media where nothing gets solved, thank you! At least social media will have your eyes for a while so you can respond to their advertisers, and then you can watch your flavor of news tomorrow to repeat the cycle.

Nothing gets done, the cat never gets taken to the vet, and tomorrow and the next week it is a new outrage followed by a new distraction. Those professing to keep you informed never want the outrage to be resolved, as they want to keep you outraged at a certain level and then pull it back so nothing gets done. Please come back tomorrow to get your view of the world reinforced, some anger fed to you, and no solutions acted upon.

We will even have plenty of paid talking heads that may or may not agree with you, but honestly they neither have the power to do anything or fix anything that we feed to you, day after day. They are just there to get you through the middle of the hour, fill in time, and argue like they have the power to get something but never will.

They are just paid to yell at each other for your entertainment.

Another distraction.

That's it.

We need to get the cat to the vet. I do not care about views and opinions anymore. I don't need anymore distractions. I know how I need to live and what I need to do. It frustrates me our sources of news are so biased and so beholden to the official line of each side. I pick through the news like I pick through garbage, just to find the few bits of truth that are facts and not opinions.

Because sooner or later, that cat will be so sick it won't chase.

I could end it there, but that is a negative ending to this without direction. To be hopeful, turn off shows which push views and opinion. Uninstall the 'news' apps from your phone that push viewpoints and not facts. Never watch those channels. Press those who can act for solutions. Act yourself and do your part for the issues and things in which you believe in. Vote. Make your voice heard. Never let those who would drag your outrage along get you into that addiction cycle of outrage and distraction.

Hold on to the issues in which you believe, and force others to do something.

Let yourself be heard.

Be that person who takes the cat to the vet.

Act.

Don't react.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dear Internet, Your Internet Sucks

"Consider white-listing the site to help support us."

You know what, I am feeling very progressive and altruistic today, and I love the site and its content, so maybe I will white-list this one and take it off my ad-blocker.

WE HAVE DETECTED A VIRUS! CLICK HERE!

PLEASE DOWNLOAD THIS CRITICAL BROWSER UPDATE NOW.js!

 WINDOWS UPDATE NEEDS PERMISSION TO RUN A CRITICAL FILE!

You know what, fuck this. Fuck ads. Fuck me for trusting your site. Every time I try to help out, I get screwed while random and uncontrolled ad-networks randomly try to deliver malware to my computer.

Ad-revenue is really, really important, and I like to read them every once and a while and check out the things in them I am interested in. Ads serve a valid purpose in life, and they also help pay people for the hard work they put into blogs and review sites. Ads help support the things I do.

But lately?

No. I block ads like I block viruses, because within five minutes of white-listing a site I get attacked by one of their "partners." Just for trying to be nice and help out, you know, a be a part of the ecosystem thing.

Because ads help pay for my time when I write blog posts, and even someone seeing an ad helps support some of the things I do. But now, I am one of the blockers, and it scares me because it means the traditional ad-supported model of delivering free content is breaking down. People won't be able to share as much, the good stuff will be locked up behind paywalls, and the walled gardens of social media become the safe spaces where content is created and shared.

Which means we all lose because most social media is one of the most restrictive, regressive, censored, and anti-free speech zones ever created. Want to share a nude photograph, a mature book, or something which is defined as 'adult content'? Good luck with those filters and ever being seen in search. And even better luck running ads or boosting your posts for that 'adult content' that no one wants to see, and in most places will be reported and taken down by lynch-mobs of those easily offended.

So Internet, get your shit together. Ads do not need to run Javascript in my browser. I remember the days when an image and a link were good enough.

Fix this or I keep blocking everything.

I won't see ads, nor will I see things which may interest me. I won't be a part of the paying ecosystem for free content. Because I can't, my security is more important to me than giving my page view a fractional cent to the content creator. I know this will cause sites to close and fold up shop, but so be it. My security is more important to me than ad-supported free content and the things in which I enjoy. I can live without it and get by, trust me.

Maybe I will go back to reading books.

Offline.

And don't ever bug me to white-list your site, and then three minutes later let a partner I know you have no responsibility for deliver malware to me. You do have a responsibility to know who you are dealing with and what ads they are delivering to your visitors.

And especially the ones who trusted you enough to go through all the steps to white-list your site.

Dear Internet, fix your shit. Dear browser companies, fix these malware delivery routes and auto-download functions. Dear OS companies, fix your shit. Dear ad-networks, if you allow malware on your ad-networks, I certainly won't see any of the ads you serve - because I will be blocking them all. Good luck with that business model of attacking your best customers, all of you.

And the part that hurts the most is that the ad-supported system was one I believed in. I bought into the hype. I thought I could support my 'free' content with ad-supported revenue. Well, it is not going to work if ad-blockers are as needed as virus scanners, and everyone blocks everything by default. I am seriously reconsidering this whole 'free content' thing.

And I don't blame people that use ad blockers at all, because I am one of them.

I feel this is really a situation where we all lose.