Random musings on whatever subject strikes my fancy, published every other day.

Tag: facebook

Is It Possible to Get Off Facebook?

I am about to try again to get off Facebook.

I have checked out most of the major social media sites — sorry, but I cannot even imagine liking Pinterest — and I have found all but Google+ lacking in major ways.

At the time I wrote this post, I had been deactivated for some months on Facebook.  Shortly thereafter, I got involved in the Ride For Pride, and also as a volunteer for the Recovering From Religion hotline.  Ride For Pride was clearly going to be difficult without a Facebook presence… but not impossible.  But  Recovering From Religion told me flat out, I needed to be on Facebook.  So, reluctantly, I reactivated my Facebook account.

Knowing that study after study shows that Facebook is no positive force in almost anyone’s life, I did what I could to minimize its effects.  I whitewalled.  I locked down my privacy and sharing settings to the bare minimum.  To keep Facebook’s evil javascript and tracking cookies out of my business, I configured my system with a separate browser install into which I isolated my Facebook presence.  All my Facebook activity in this browser.  Everything else — but NO Facebook — in that browser.

I forbade my “regular”, non-Facebook browser from storing any Facebook cookies or executing any Facebook scripts.  I had to do this because of the dozens of times a week I seem to get tricked.  It’s like being Rickrolled but you get taken to Facebook pages when you don’t expect to be.  I’d rather get Rickrolled, thanks anyway.  I find it truly obnoxious how many small businesses think they don’t need a web page, but a Facebook page will do.

photo by Jack Anthony

There’s a house under that kudzu

So here I go again, trying to extricate myself from this kudzu patch of the Internet.  As soon as I can get some kind of workaround into place for Recovering From Religion, I will be out of there.  Again.

Maybe I will make it a year, this time.

X minds discuss Y

A quote that floats around the Internet from time to time goes,

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

Now from time to time you see quotes on the Internet attributed to people that you wish said them, but alas they did not.  For example, Abraham Lincoln did not really say, “Do not trust quotes you see on the Internet.”  This quote has almost as shaky a provenance.  Like most places I have seen it, BrainyQuote attributes it to Eleanor Roosevelt.  WikiQuote, however, has it firmly in Disputed territory.

Regardless of where it comes from, and heedless of the risk of seeming elitist, I think this lines up well to the big three social media networks.  (If you think those are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you are off by one: I consider LinkedIn equivalent to Facebook, only for business not personal matters.  So to me the big three are Facebook/LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Facebook is all about people.  Who you went to school with, who you’re related to, who you’re dating, which artists you’re a fan of.  Twitter is a raw news feed.  Only Google+ organizes itself by design around ideas (Communities) and finds you connections based on mutually interesting topics.

And while I don’t consider myself a “great mind”, those are definitely the ones I want to hang out with.

h/t to +Sakari Maaranen.

Security Tools I Wish Existed

  • A way to create strongly encrypted zip files the way we can now using a secret key.  (For which, 7Zip rocks.  In case you didn’t know.)  Only the difference is, these zips would be encrypted using a public key algorithm.  This would remove the need to include the secret keys in the scripts that handle the zip files.  (Yes, I know that you can awkwardly bolt together 7Zip with GPG… but see the next item.)

  • Public-key infrastructure made smoothly-functioning enough for home users, with interfaces that include the top web-mail providers.  People have insisted to me that this is fundamentally impossible, that PKI is for some reason theoretically required to be difficult to use.  But I remember the blinking 12:00 VCRs, and I see TiVo now, so I call BS on that.  If Facebook, Microsoft and Google decided to roll this out together, the matter would be settled in a month.

  • Truly universal two-factor authentication based on smartphone apps or grid-cards for people who don’t have smartphones — or who just don’t want the privacy complications of using a smartphone for 2FA.  Again, if Facebook, Microsoft and Google decided to roll this out together, the matter would be settled in a month.

  • A tool that would audit the root certificates and CA signatures on a given set of systems and cross-check them against the content of news feeds.  This sounds like a relatively simple plugin for Nessus.

    These make me almost (almost!) feel like knocking the rust off of my developer skills and getting to it.  Which one would get you motivated?

    How to Find Me on Social Media

    It’s easy.  To the right of this post (assuming you’re reading it here) is a link to my Google+ profile. And there you have it: my entire social media presence, as of this writing.

    Wait… what about Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Valid questions. Everyone Knows™ that Everyone Who Is Anyone™ is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Well, for the most part, I am not on any of those. My opinion of almost all social media is summed up in this cartoon:

    Facebook may be the worst of this bunch. It’s Facebook that motivated the truism, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer. You’re the product being sold.” Although this applies to all social media, Facebook seems to be the most shameless at it, and is by far also the most successful. So while I have a Facebook account, it spends most of its time in the Disabled state. It is in that state now and has been since mid-November of 2014. “Disabled” is a wonderful thing for a Facebook account to be. It’s the one state where you have absolute control over what others can do to the account. Because what they can do is: nothing! Not until you log in and thus re-enable it. You maintain an unused Facebook account as Disabled so that your name remains associated with an account you control. This makes it a little more difficult for someone to impersonate you.

    Twitter: I sort-of lied about not being on Twitter. I have two or three Twitter accounts. I can’t remember because my Twitter accounts tend to get created and then abandoned or deleted for throwaway purposes. Every now and then I encounter a link to something worth gawking at for 3 seconds, and that something happens to be located on Twitter. So I have one that I keep logged in. It’s just easier to be logged in so as not to be hassled to log in. The popovers get more aggressive by the week, don’t they? Anyway, I think the last time I tweeted from any of my accounts was in a month beginning with ‘J’. June, perhaps?

    I was an avid user of LinkedIn until they got more insistent on having a look at my contacts in GMail. In fact they got extremely insistent on this, and would not take “No” for an answer. One day the suggestions for people I should invite started including lots of email addresses that looked really familiar to me. There were people I hadn’t been in touch with for years, some of them over ten years. There were some email addresses in domains that no longer exist. There were email addresses with obvious typos that replicated my own errors. There were, in fact, addresses that LinkedIn could only have gotten from my contacts file in GMail.

    Did LinkedIn simply take them without permission? Or did I have click-fatigue from responding NO to yet another beg from LinkedIn for my contacts? I may have accidentally clicked something worded like, “I do not refuse you permission to not demur from scraping my GMail address book; now please leave me the f* alone.” I don’t know for sure. So I am not accusing LinkedIn of not demurring from scraping my GMail address book without my not refusing it permission to not decline to do so.

    I have, however, almost succeeded it in persuading it to leave me the f* alone. I deleted my account as thoroughly as I could in October 2013. Just recently a friend helped me check that LinkedIn does not in fact admit to knowing of me. This doesn’t keep me from getting LinkedIn “I would like to add you to my professional network” spam. But that is either pure spam, or it’s from people who know me from maybe one meeting. They are abusing my easy-to-figure-out email address.After reading all this rant about how awful social media sites are, you are more than justified in wondering, David, why are you on Google+? Well, from the negative side: if Google is abusing all the information they have on me, they are damned subtle about it. At least so far, it appears that the worst abuse of Google is to feed you targeted ads based on what it knows. Um, OK.  I run a couple of ad-blockers and Google is (again, so far) uncomplaining about them. As for all the information I am giving Google by partaking of G+? Look: I have had an Android phone for five years and a GMail account for ten. Does anyone seriously think Google needs my G+ stream to learn about me?

    On a positive note, I find that Google+ has a unique approach to social networking. You organize your presence based not on who you work with or went to high school with, but on what you’re interested in. Then, people with similar interests find each other naturally. In exact opposition to how I react to any of the others, I find this stimulating and energizing.

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