Should I Stay? Or Should I Go? (Part 1)


A Facebook friend of mine posted an interesting request recently, “Give me two reasons to stay on Facebook and also give me two reasons to leave Facebook.”

Now, my friend’s post prompted quite a number of thoughtful responses from people who obviously took time to consider the request carefully. Many of them pointed to really good reasons to stay on Facebook.

With its large number of users and the fact that many (though certainly not all) of our friends and family are on the platform, it is a convenient and reasonably reliable tool for communications. Let’s be honest, Facebook is convenient, generally easy to use, and has integrated itself into the social fabric of our existence.

With our highly mobile culture and, in my friend’s case, a job that could have him moving completely across the country numerous times throughout his career, loosing all of these social contacts by changing to a platform with many fewer users is a daunting prospect. Very few of us live in the community in which we grew up, but we still maintain contacts and relationships.

Facebook also allows users to have access at a glance to what’s going on in the lives and thoughts of others. It’s an opportunity to connect and interact. As happens with in-person conversations, some people are better and more thoughtful conversationalists than others. Some people listen (read) more closely, others simply are waiting to tell you what’s on THEIR mind. But we are social creatures. We desire and crave interaction. While we are around other people in our flesh and blood life, the reality is we are not often around the SAME people on a regular basis which is needed to foster friendship and community.

But as with anything, there is not only the good, but the bad. Facebook in 2014 was caught doing social experiments that psychologically manipulate the emotions of over 600,000 users. In an era where society at large has stopped thinking and now makes decisions based on feelings, this should certainly concern us. Their algorithms are secret and since the 2016 election there are accusations of ‘Shadow Banning’ people and reducing their reach or “deplatforming” them outright if their speech doesn’t conform to the popular orthodoxy.

And of course, it isn’t only Facebook themselves doing the manipulation and controlling speech. Advertisers, bot networks, “Fake News,” and accounts run by foreign nations or their actors seeking to shape opinion and thought or inadvertently doing so to make a quick buck all are dangers of the platform that have come to light in recent months.

Add to this the privacy concerns and personal data security concerns with such a platform, being inundated with advertisements and tracked no matter where you happen to “travel” on the internet whether you are logged into Facebook or not and the concerns mount.

FACEBOOK IS A (Social) MEDIA TOOL
(AND IT’S GOOD AT IT!)

People talk about Facebook as “Social Media” and emphasize the adjective instead of the noun. Once it is realized that first and foremost, Facebook is a MEDIA platform, it becomes easier to see the issues that are causing so many to become discontent with the platform.

Facebook began as a platform that allowed anyone with an account to begin broadcasting pictures of cats, breakfast, and “selfies” as well as their thoughts, ideas, and feelings to the world. While there was the ability to comment and interact from the beginning, It was over 3 years before the “Like” button made it’s debut.

While Facebook seemed to have it’s beginnings as a platform for socialization, that wasn’t the reality. Yes, it makes a certain forms of social activity easier, but most of them are centered around you getting your message out to the masses. It was an early and accessible tool for “micro-blogging.” From 2004 – 2011, status update posts were limited to 500 characters, hardly enough to even begin a meaningful conversation. During that time, forums, email lists, and various interactive chat services as well as other electronic socialization tools were still the primary way people communicated online.

While other features have been added over time, the primary model of Facebook is to encourage its users to contribute media to them which they can mix with other media and present as a “feed” that is intended to be consumed. The purpose of this constant broadcasting of text and images onto the screen in front of you is to cause you to take an action that will bring them revenue (or, if you believe some of the conspiracy theorists, to alter your thinking and change your behavior accordingly).

It is this fact more than any other that leads most people to (sometimes reluctantly) agree with the assertion that for all it’s benefits, Facebook is a “time-waster.”

While many users interact, it is still an overwhelming minority of those who have “seen” a post who will “Like” or comment. Just consider how often you simply scroll through your news feed looking for something interesting enough to take the time to read or comment on. That isn’t by accident.

In their 14 year existence, Facebook has studied human behavior and learned how to manipulate our attention span and have perfected the art and science of addicting us to their platform to consume the media presented. This is why it’s so easy to get caught up looking at your feed just to “catch up” and find yourself looking up at the clock an hour later wondering where the time went.

Facebook knows their business. (And it is a business!) They make money by knowing what we want, what we’re interested in, and showing us just enough to keep us on the platform – all so they can show ads that will lead us to pay their advertisers who pay them to advertise on their platform. And they aren’t beyond selling directly to their users. Boosted posts and other incentives that exchange money or your attention to extend your “reach” and the size of your audience is how they make their money.

The “bait” that they use to get you connected is the promise of posts by your friends and family and others. But that’s not really the content they want you to consume. Yet, everything you publish, comment on, even linger and read is VERY helpful to build a psychological profile so that your newsfeed can be manipulated and tweaked so that you consume more media on their “social” platform.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

Realizing that Facebook is a MEDIA platform that uses your social connections and interactions as fodder to broadcast their advertising to you is a great help in navigating this question. The more thoughtful answers to my friend’s post point this out.

As social creatures, we want to have a window into the lives of those we care about. Facebook provides a means to do that. It is unlikely that any platform will be able to do it any better in the forseeable future.

As people living in this world, we also want to interact with and impact the thoughts and lives of others. Like the musician in the subway who takes joy in knowing that they have brightened someone’s day with music, having a “stage” or a large table in a busy place where others may happen by and overhear our rantings and ravings and discussions and engage with us is a good thing in a society built upon mutual understanding, tolerance, and an acknowledgement of our shared humanity.

Facebook provides an online space for these things to occur. And if you find it enjoyable to socially interact as you consume the media that others produce in this manner and/or you desire to socialize with others and provide media for them to consume, then Facebook is a good place to be.

But nobody wants this sort of thing to happen with every conversation or in every context. Most of our conversations do not happen in public with others overhearing, nor should they! There is a need to have conversations and interactions among a more close knit group of people. It allows us to seek out people who we trust but will also challenge our assertions and our presuppositions and keep us honest. We need to have safe places without the spectre of someone constantly eavesdropping and monitoring our words. We need places where our conversations won’t be scoured for key words and phrases and alter what we read and see and hear in order to customise our experience of life for us. And we need spaces free from the possibility of the next Billy Mays popping up in our face to peddle his latest “once in a lifetime special offer.”

But Facebook is not that space. Facebook was created and designed to facilitate our communication with a global audience. As originally designed, it was intended to democratize content production so that it was no longer in the hand of a few elite broadcasters. It’s aims and purposes were to be a global platform that placed everyone on an equal footing. It was designed as a MEDIA outlet that was socially accessible and interactive.

Once we understand this, it becomes easier to place Facebook in it’s proper place and decide what the appropriate role of the platform is in our life.

(In part 2, we will consider whether the social factors and tools of Facebook make it a place where productive work can be done.)

AnotherSteempress: Now Supports Per-User Publishing

Continued incremental progress to help users of WordPress post original content to the STEEM blockchain.

Until now, there was only ONE KEY TO RULE THEM ALL.  There would be a single STEEM account programmed in the plugin settings – and all posts would be posted to that user.

Now, WordPress sites users of your wordpress installation who have the ability to “publish” posts and pages now have options!   Each user can add their STEEM posting-key to their WordPress user profile and once the post or page is published on WordPress, users with the “publish_pages” or “publish_posts” permission will have the ability to publish to STEEM either using their own STEEM account or use the blog’s main STEEM account.

The settings related to curation rewards and reward distribution (Steempower or SBD or 50/50) for each user are all independent for each user.  What’s more, each user can have their own STEEM posting template independent of the blog’s posting template.

It just keeps getting better!

Get the AnotherSteempress WordPress Plugin at the WordPress Plugin Directory!

Refresh cached pages in NGINX

Here’s a quick tidbit for forcing individual pages to refresh on an nginx reverse caching server.

In your SERVER block put:


if ($request_uri ~* "^/cache-refresh/(.*)") {
set $cache_bypass 1;
rewrite ^(/cache-refresh/)(.*)$ /$2 last;
}

and in your LOCATION block(s), add:


location / {
proxy_cache_bypass $cache_bypass; # Do not serve response from cache.
proxy_cache staticfilecache;
proxy_pass http://backendsite;
}

There are numerous other helpful directives as well. But if you’re looking for a way to refresh your cached pages individually, this should be enough to help you in the right direction.

Contacts in Android not Saving or Syncing Properly

I recently had difficulty syncronizing my contacts between Google and my Android tablet. The symptoms were actually pretty strange. I could change contacts, I could add them in Google and they would show up on my tablet. But, contacts created on the tablet would not only never make it to Google, but they wouldn’t even save on the tablet.

After some work and searching around, I found the solution was to reset the Android contact database.

WARNING!!!! YOU MUST DELETE YOUR CONTACTS FROM YOUR ANDROID TO RESET THE DATABASE. MAKE SURE TO BACK YOUR CONTACTS UP TO REMOVABLE STORAGE (SD Card) BEFORE BEGINNING THIS PROCESS!

After backing up your contacts to a removable storage device, follow this procedure:

From your main Android apps screen, click your menu button and select “settings”.

Click on “Accounts & sync” and uncheck “background sync”.

Return to your “settings” page (click the back key) and click “Applications”.

Select “Manage Applications” then choose “ALL”.

Find the “Contacts Storage” application and open it.

Click the “clear data” button.

Return to the main Android apps screen, click “menu” then select “settings” again.

Click on “Accounts & sync” and recheck “background sync”.

Then reload contacts from backup and select Google to syncronize with.

This resolved my issues, hopefully it may help someone else as well! Comments or questions? List them below!

Minecraft ModLoader Install in Linux

Being a computer geek is kind of fun… unless it’s a holiday weekend and family members continually use you for free technical support.  Of course, when it’s your son, it’s hard to say, “No!”  Besides, I live for technical challenges that need solving with very scant information.

So, on New Years Day, my son was attempting to install ModLoader for Minecraft.  When he had asked, he had already struggled to follow the instructions for some time, and things were NOT going well.

Anyway, it appears that the way that some of the “make-it-easy-to-do-stuff” tools don’t actually do everything right.  Specifically, using “Archive Manager” in Ubuntu Linux to add files to a Java .jar file doesn’t properly work.

So, if you’re trying to follow the install instructions for ModLoader on Linux and your program freezes on the Mojang splash-screen, the .jar file it is likely that your jar file is somehow corrupted.  The best way to add the appropriate files to your minecraft.jar file is to create a new directory and unzip the minecraft.jar file into that directory.  Add the appropriate files.  Zip up the directory again and rename it minecraft.jar.

Make sure to use the -r (recurse subdirectories) when zipping up the jar file again.  Otherwise, the .jar file will still be incomplete.

Here’s a quick transcript of what we did to recreate the minecraft.jar file with the proper files from ModLoader 1.0.0:

A couple of notes – ModLoader.zip was placed in the .minecraft/Downloads directory (a directory specifically created to store minecraft download files like mods and others).

#cd ~/.minecraft/Downloads
#mkdir ModLoader
#cd ModLoader
#cp ../ModLoader.zip .
#unzip ModLoader.zip
#cd ~/.minecraft/bin
#cp minecraft.jar minecraft.orig.jar               #NOTE: Make a backup copy – just in case
#mkdir modloader-workdir
#cd modloader-workdir
#cp ../minecraft.jar .
#unzip minecraft.jar
#rm minecraft.jar
#cp ../../Downloads/ModLoader/* .
#rm -r META-INF #NOTE: This REQUIRED STEP missed in original posting
#zip -r minecraft.zip *
#mv minecraft.zip ../minecraft.jar
#cd ..
#rm -rf modloader-workdir

That will create a new minecraft.jar file with the ModLoader classfiles.  NOTE: You will need to follow these instructions any time MineCraft updates (even if it’s a forced update) – so make sure to keep the ModLoader.zip file around.

Hopefully this will help others, but more importantly, it’ll help me remember what the heck I did when Minecraft gets updated and I need to redo this.

LINKS:

MOD_FCGID ignores directives in VirtualHost block

Hopefully the following will help some people from wasting a lot of time chasing their tail.

There are many “How-To” documents describing how to use mod_fcgid in Apache with PHP and almost all of them are absolutely WRONG!

If you run across a document which directs you to place process limiting directives for mod_fcgid in the <VirtualHost> block, don’t listen to it. Although the documentation for mod_fcgid says you can place these directives there (up until version 2.3.2), you need to be aware that they will be ignored!

Here’s a note from the latest and greatest readme:

Some directives which could be placed inside <VirtualHost> but were
ignored before now result in configuration errors. As before, these
directives must be set at global scope to have the desired effect.
(emphasis added)

If you are attempting to use any of these directives, you MUST use them in a global scope (which means they can NOT be set per virtual host even though the documentation says they are allowable in that context).

The following is a list of previously ignored – now causing an error if placed in VirtualHost – directives for mod_fcgid:

FcgidBusyScanInterval, FcgidBusyTimeout, FcgidMaxProcessesPerClass, FcgidDefaultMinProcessCount, FcgidErrorScanInterval, FcgidIdleScanInterval, FcgidIdleTimeout, FcgidMaxProcesses, FcgidFixPathinfo, FcgidProcessLifetime, FcgidProcessTableFile, FcgidIPCDir, FcgidSpawnScore, FcgidSpawnScoreUpLimit, FcgidTerminationScore, FcgidTimeScore, and FcgidZombieScanInterval

If you are having trouble with your MaxProcesses, ProcessLifetime, MaxProcessesPerClass or MinProcessCount being ignored, try moving them to the global context.

Google Blacklisting WordPress Websites over Old Vulnerability

Keeping your software updated is part of keeping your website secure. Most sites are hacked using old vulnerabilities that simply haven’t been fixed yet.

The recent spike in malware (bad software) infecting thousands of WordPress websites is a case in point.

The fix has been out for some time, but many website owners have not made the required changes.

If your site has been blocked – or if your site has not YET been blocked and you would like to keep it that way, email us. We offer affordable rates for WordPress Support to deal with your WordPress problems.

Sites who have not been compromised can be innoculated for as little as $50! That’s a small price to pay for a little peace of mind. If your WordPress site uses TimThumb, email us or call us at (586)779-3242 about making sure it is up to date so you don’t find your site blacklisted by Google!