Posts Tagged 'Facebook.com'

Facebook: The Great Debate

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An awesome friend of mine recently posted to Facebook:

I have to see the world to understand it.

I replied:

And I have to understand the world in order to see it.

Who is right or wrong here? Many times, there will be a black and a white, a clear distinction between the truth and a falsehood. Other times, it may not be so neat and easy to distinguish correctness between ideas. Sometimes neither side is an appropriate view, and a middle-ground must be sought.

Here is another example. A friend of mine recently struggled with the following two ideas:

I pay for the game because I can’t stop playing it.

I can’t stop playing the game because I pay for it.

Turns out, when he quit paying the monthly fee to a game that he was addicted to, he quit playing easily. Having already paid for a month he made extra time to play the game because he didn’t want the money to go to waste. Removing the obligation, in this case, removed the addiction.

Sure, it won’t always work that way. Sometimes these two-way arguments have a clear right and wrong, like this one:

I poop because I eat.

I eat because I poop.

Sure, one could go into long philosophical arguments and biological and physiological explanations of how the second condition could also be true, but essentially this is a simple cause and effect situation. Trying to make the second one true only obscures the fact that poop is a byproduct of the body’s system of removing nutrients from the food. Pooping happens because of our need to eat, not the other way around.

Other times there is no clear right or wrong. Sometimes the right or wrong will lie in the eye of the beholder, other times it will vary by circumstance. Many times both sides will have some validity and it will be up to the individual to find their own balance between the two.

A battle has raged for years in my head around Facebook. There are two main camps in this war:

I have it because I need it. Keep the account.

I need it because I have it. Close the account.

There was, at one time, a third position that existed in my mind, one that proposed a middle-ground truce between the two, but that one is dying a slow and painful death. I’ll explain that one after I’ve explained the positions of the main arguments.

Before going too far into this, there is something you should know about me. Most people might casually define socializing as having and interacting with friends and acquaintances. Mostly, I agree. However, socializing is work for me. It is hard work. I feel that having close, reliable friends is of paramount importance, but unnecessary socializing is difficult and should be avoided at all costs. Good friends are both chosen and come to you on their own. I could write an entire supplementary article on good friends (and I might one day) but for now just know that I see Facebook friends as belonging to one of four categories:

  1. Family
  2. Good, Close Friends
  3. Acquaintances & Associates
  4. People I don’t really know or care much about

Now, here are both sides of the battle in my head over Facebook. I encourage you to join in the internal discussion with your comments below.

Argument One: I Have It Because I Need It

Every time I think the other argument might win, this one has pulled through and kept me from closing my account. Facebook has become ubiquitous and prominent in our society. Growing up I made phone calls to friends who were not physically near, or we exchanged letters in the mail. The Internet came along and made long-distance communication an integral part of our lives, and changed everything.

I have another good friend who recently dropped his text messaging plan. He downgraded his iPhone to one of the most basic models of cell phone available, and told AT&T to block all incoming text messages. He says he’s doing it to save $10 a month and because he was relying on it too much. Now, when I want to text him to ask him something simple, I have to call him. I might be interrupting something, I usually end up wasting more time than if I had just fired off a text, and we often wind up having a pleasant conversation that leaves me wondering if maybe it wasn’t so bad to drop texting after all. I mean, I make fun of him a lot for not having texting, but how much damage has he really done by dropping it? There are numerous pros and cons, and in the end this is clearly something that he sees as the right thing to do.

We’re not here to debate on whether texting is necessary or not though. Personally, my wife and I rely on texting far too heavily, as do most of my coworkers, family and friends. I’ll be keeping my texting plan. Even if it didn’t start out this way, I definitely have it because I need it.

It’s entirely possible that Facebook has graduated to the same status as texting. Without Facebook there are several people I know I would lose contact with, some of them being family members or really close friends. I could say we’ll exchange emails, subscribe to each other’s blogs, and text each other, but I know that won’t happen with a few of them. In a sense, if I wish to keep all of the social ties and connections that I currently have, I need Facebook. That’s the way the world is now.

Argument Two: I Need It Because I Have It

And this is the way it begins, right? Before something like Facebook exists, nobody needs it. Sure, some relationships weren’t happening before it existed, and one could argue that those relationships need Facebook (and they do), but how badly do I need Facebook?

Let’s face it, Facebook is just a giant online socializing arena. If I loved socializing, I would love Facebook. The fact is, I like having connections with people, but socializing is work. Sometimes, socializing is painful and annoying. Some people who I would absolutely love to spend time with face to face can be downright annoying on Facebook. Anyone else have that friend who never uses Facebook for anything but advertising for things that they are passionate about? I would remove that friend, but they are close to me and I want to keep my tie with them in Facebook because of that closeness. I would block them from the feed, but what if they have a bad day and post a non-advertising status message and I miss an opportunity to be there for them? So instead, because I love them, I endure their many posts about things that I should buy. Multiply this times the sixty friends I have on Facebook, and you can see how it starts to wear on me.

It’s not that all of my friends are marketers, but many of them try me in other ways. I love them all, but I don’t want to have any part in immature dramas or “he said, she said” communication melt-downs. What about that person that I go to church with and they post a nasty status update filled with cursing and nasty things about their neighbor? Does anyone else have that one friend who seems to post nothing but complaints all the time?

There are many alternatives to Facebook style social networking. I love typing emails and reading blogs. I only wish more of my friends would make the time and do the work to have a more traditional correspondence with me. If I close my Facebook account I will be cutting off many good social ties with people. Then again, before Facebook I wouldn’t have had those ties, and I would have been perfectly happy without them. So, do I really need to keep in touch with those people who wouldn’t keep in touch without Facebook?

Argument Three: The Best of Both Worlds?

Of course, both of the above arguments have quite a bit of truth to them, so finding a balance becomes necessary, right?

Categorizing each and every one of my friends by priority (see the priorities above, numbered 1-4) and deleting all who fell into the lowest priority brought my number of friends down below fifty. It felt good. Checking Facebook took less time, and it was nice not having to worry about those people I didn’t really care about.

However, now that I’ve lived and worked where I do for a little longer, I’ve begun to add acquaintances and associates from work, a category that I feel is important due to the fact that Facebook is often where people disseminate work-related information, and my friends list now numbers over 65. For someone like me, that is a lot. Still, not a single person in my friends list can be trimmed out. They are all in the top three priority categories.

This is where Argument Three fails. This is why the battle is primarily between the first two arguments. I am doing everything I can to ensure that I do not have excess in my friends list, and still it grows uncontrollably. If I get even more discriminate with who stays in my friends list, I know that it will be bad. Even if Facebook isn’t important to me, it has become such an integral part of our society that the act of removing a coworker from your friend list can be considered offensive. I do not wish to hurt relationships, I only wish to be relieved of the strain that Facebook puts on my life.

Final Thoughts

If I keep Facebook and simply endure its rough spots, just like everything else in life, then I am keeping a tool that is an important part of our modern society. If I delete my Facebook account like so many have done, then I am removing a heap of heartache and stress from my life and may find that I can live without it just fine. Either way, with either decision, regrets are sure to creep up from time to time, and I will likely revisit this argument at some point in the future.

For some people, one of the three arguments will be the correct answer. For other people, there may be no clear answer. For me, I feel that a decision needs to be made. While I seriously consider closing my Facebook account almost daily, I have talked myself out of it or neglected to make any changes due to apathy every time. On several occasions I have “reenacted” the third argument, harshly reevaluating each and every friend on my friends list, sometimes making a cut or two, other times walking away with a sigh of defeat having realized that, like my waistline, a few inches have been added and there is nothing I can do to shed them.

Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely love all of the friends and family that I have on Facebook, and I enjoy the interactions I have with them as well as my esteemed coworkers and acquaintances. However, not all of my interactions with Facebook are pleasant, and I often feel that I might be better off without Facebook.

While this decision is mine and mine alone, I do enjoy hearing what other people have to say about things. So, for fun, I have a little poll here that I would like you to vote on, and I encourage discussion in the comments.

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Writing Today

I didn’t actually plan on writing today, but when I got online and checked Facebook and my feed reader, it turns out I just couldn’t stop writing.

So, I thought I’d share my thoughts with everyone.

The first item that sparked a slew of written thought was this:

This is a good comic, you should subscribe to it.

This is from a webcomic I subscribe to in Google Reader. Usually, this sort of comic doesn’t elicit a very strong reaction from me (I didn’t even laugh at this one, it wasn’t very funny). However, the author’s commentary below the comic brought back some memories:

In junior high I took one of those future career tests. I was really hoping the result would be cartoonist, but instead it was screenwriter or artist. I later found out that cartoonist wasn’t in the database, so that must have been the closest it could find since cartooning is a little of both.

Anyone else take one of those tests?

Yes, I did take one of those kinds of tests, and I wanted to share my thoughts. So I went to the post’s page and left a comment:

True story – In early grade school I took one of those career aptitude tests on an Apple IIe computer with a green and black screen. Taking the test I felt inspired, like there were so many possibilities out there for me to go out and enjoy after my long, arduous but essential years in the education system, which would ultimately prepare me to be a successful member of a highly qualified working force.
It asked questions about my hobbies, my interests, my skills, and so much more. By the time I finished the test, I felt as though the software and I had formed a bond that would last a lifetime. I eagerly waited while the computer calculated my scores and searched through an endlessly fascinating list of exciting jobs. My heart skipped beats every time I giddily considered a possible career – astronaut, fighter jet pilot, robotics engineer… The list seemed endless.
At the end of a grueling wait, the result popped up on the screen:
ELEVATOR OPERATOR
My heart sunk, and twenty years later it hasn’t risen. That test killed my hopes and dreams.

OK. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I wandered over to Facebook where I had a message waiting for me. Here is an edited, summarized and fabricated version of the message (to protect the privacy of the involved parties):

Brian,

I recently had something change in my extended family. This change resulted in the separation of two parties which left me with Facebook friends that I no longer have any reason to keep in touch with. Facebook has changed a lot recently, and I am unable to find how to break my connection with these individuals. Could you please help?

So, in response I went crazy on my keyboard:

Hey. Sorry it took me a little while to check my messages because I’ve been in class all week (preparing to get A+ certification).

If you haven’t yet had your question answered by someone quicker than I am, I think you will find the following helpful.

They seem to be making it more and more difficult to get rid of friends these days. I understand it’s something they don’t want to make too easy or people would be doing it accidentally all the time, causing a lot of very awkward situations.

Anyhow, the fastest, easiest way I could find to get to my list of friends (for editing) was to go up to the upper right-hand corner where it says “Home | Profile | Account.”  The “Account” link has a little down arrow next to it, and when you click on it you’ll see a little menu pop up, and at the top of those options you’ll see “Edit Friends.”

Of course, clicking on “Edit Friends” and finding an editable list of your friends would be too easy, right? So they had to hide your friends under one more layer of security (as if hiding this in the corner wasn’t enough).

On the left-hand menu area you’ll see “Lists,” and at the top of the lists (if you’ve created any, they will help you find the people you’re trying to remove easier) you can click on “Friends” to pull up your complete list of friends.

Each friend has their photo, their name, their network, then a little drop-down menu for managing which lists they appear in. Beside all of that, on the far right there is an “X.” Clicking on that “X” removes your connection to them – deleting them from your list of friends.

Oddly enough, I don’t think they get any kind of notification that you’ve removed them (or, as the new generation is calling it, “unfriended”). So, you can do this without worrying about them becoming offended (if that’s a concern of yours, thought I don’t think you believe they will even notice).

I hope that helps. If you need more instructions or even step-by-step screen captures to guide you, I’d be happy to email you (I have this neat tool in Windows 7 that can capture every step I take to do something, record in text what I do, then create a webpage type file that I can send to other people or edit and post to the web).

Any time you have any technical questions, do not hesitate to contact me. I’m always happy to help, and sometimes, when I’ve heard a question enough times, it prompts me to write a detailed instructional article and post it to my blog. So keep them coming!

Your friend,

Brian Haddad

I hope this post was somewhat entertaining. I regret not writing more, but I’ve been extremely busy and somewhat stressed about several things that have spiraled out of control in my life, and I will resume regular writing when I feel able. Until then, watch for random posts like this one.

Official Book Giveaway 2

crap_contest_banner_01

This contest has ended. Thank you to all who entered. See the post-contest analysis post.

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Book Giveaway Sweepstakes (round 2)

Official Rules

1. Eligibility

This drawing is open to anyone in the U.S. with a brain except:

  • Anyone who is Brian Haddad (the author of the book to be given away), his wife, children or pets.
  • The winners of the previous sweepstakes of the same title (you already have one of my books, I’m not giving you another one).
  • People who have mailing addresses outside of the United States of America.
  • Non U.S. citizens. This is mostly just to cover myself. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, I’m sorry. Maybe next time?

If you don’t meet any of those criteria, you are eligible to enter and win this drawing. Just to be clear: zombies do not have brains, so if you are a zombie please do not enter the contest.

2. Prizes

There are a total of ten (10) copies of Facebook Drives Me Nuts that will be signed by the author, defaced inside with a page full of doodles and mailed to five lucky winners. The prize is valued at over one million dollars ($1,000,000), but the actual monetary value of the prize is none of your business. The book retails for $12.99 in case you are interested.

The losers will be notified that they lost by way of a personal email or message from Brian Haddad, along with a consolation prize consisting of a group of seemingly random characters that serve as a discount code that can be used at https://www.createspace.com/3422240 when checking out to receive almost a full $3.50 off the price of the book.

3. How to Enter

Go to the official entry form and fill it out after the contest begins on Wednesday, January 27th.

Because Brian Haddad is a generous administrator of awesome contests, here are the elements of the form and how they affect your chances of winning:

Name, Email and Mailing Address

Seriously, do you need me to explain why these are necessary to win? Your information will only be used for this contest. I promise not to sell, disclose or lose your information to any person, business or other entity. If you have any questions, please post a comment on this page and I will address them.

Reading Habits (1 & 2), and Reviewing Habits (1 & 2)

People who lie to me here will not win. It’s plain and simple. I want people who are honest about how much they read and how they review what they read.

Write a Review

A link to three of my short stories is provided in the application form, and you are expected to review one of them. If you won’t even read a single short story that I wrote, I’m not sending you a whole book. Plus, I want people who can review what they read, even if they hate it. Loving or hating the short story you read will not alter your odds of winning, so don’t suck up thinking you’ll get a free book out of it. Just write a good review, clearly stating your opinion. A good sense of humor will be rewarded.

Dedication and Essay

These are your last chances, so make a good effort here. Convince me to send you a free copy of my book. Make me smile, chuckle, laugh or wet my pants, and I’ll throw some super-fun doodles in your prize in unexpected places. Please remember to keep it clean and mostly appropriate though. My wife will be helping me judge these, and if my six-year-old sees any dirty responses, I’ll take video of him crying himself to sleep and send it to you.

Beyond the official entry form, no other purchase, comment, communication or bribe will increase your odds of winning. Love letters in the comments on this page, on Facebook or by email couldn’t hurt though.

4. Deadline

Brian Haddad will stop taking entries after Saturday, March 20th, at which point the official application form will be taken down. If it is not taken down, and you submit an application, you still can’t win after the deadline.

5. Winning

The winner will be chosen from among qualifying applications that meet the criteria above. If more than ten (10) applicants meet the criteria, the author’s daughter will be handed a dowsing rod which she will use to select the winners. Winners will be selected and notified no later than one week after the close of the contest, or by Saturday, March 27th, 2010.

6. Other Details

Brian Haddad and his spouse are not eligible to enter the drawing. Neither are their past, present or future children or pets.

To ensure fair consideration, those entries that do not adhere to the rules and submission standards will be disqualified.

Brian reserves the right to use a winner’s partial name, quote, likeness or descriptive essence for publicity and promotional purposes. In fact, after you’ve read his book, he would appreciate if you wrote some kind of review or testimonial that he can use to promote the book. Rating and reviewing the book on Amazon.com would be rewarded with one thousand (1,000) rainbow unicorn kisses.

This contest and drawing is void where prohibited. There is no purchase necessary to enter or win. Not only that, but there is nothing that you could possibly buy that would help you win. Money does not buy happiness. Late or incomplete entries will not be accepted. Brian Haddad is not responsible for lost, stolen, late or misdirected entries. In the event that a user submits more than one entry, the author will chose which ever entry he sees fit. It is in your best interest to submit only one (1) entry.

Any Last Words?

Once you have read and understood these instructions and rules, please proceed to the entry form and fill it out completely. Good luck!

Official Book Giveaway 1

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

This contest has ended. Thank you to all who participated. The Official Book Giveaway 2 is now live.

For those who are interested (namely, the people in the list below), here were the rules for round one. I tried to make them as entertaining to read as possible, so I recommend reading them through to the end.

Facebook Drives Me Nuts

Book Giveaway Sweepstakes

Official Rules

1. Eligibility

This drawing is open to a specific list of individuals. To see if you are eligible, please look for your Facebook name on this list:

  • Amber Napoleon
  • Annie H
  • Autumn Flynn
  • Basia Opalska
  • Becky Fletcher
  • Chalyn Elking
  • Christopher Johnson
  • Jacob Haddad
  • Jennifer Bernarducci
  • Jessica Johnson
  • Jocelyn Udall
  • Jon N Hannah Moses
  • Katie Hill Anderson
  • Kelsey Hunter
  • Keturah Wojtanowski
  • Luke Haddad
  • Melodie Brooke Hammett
  • Pascale Koys
  • Rachel Jones
  • Rob Shively
  • Rudolph Oosthuizen
  • Russell Roberts
  • Spencer Bawden
  • Tony Leonhardt
  • Victoria Scott

If you did not find your name, never fear. A future drawing is being planned that will be open to anyone who sees the contest rules. Be patient and watch my Facebook notes and https://mereman.wordpress.com for future contest announcements.

2. Prizes

There are a total of three (3) copies of Facebook Drives Me Nuts that will be signed by the author, defaced inside with a page full of doodles and mailed to three lucky winners. If more than ten enthusiastic entries are received, the number of winners may increase, at the discretion of Brian Haddad, to a maximum of five (5). The prize is valued at over one million dollars ($1,000,000), but the actual monetary value of the prize is none of your business. The book retails for $12.99 in case you are interested.

The losers will be notified that they lost by way of a personal email or message from Brian Haddad, along with a consolation prize consisting of a group of seemingly random characters that serve as a discount code that can be used at https://www.createspace.com/3422240 when checking out to receive almost a full $3.50 off the price of the book.

3. How to Enter

For this contest, send Brian Haddad a Facebook message with your mailing address somewhere in the body. People posting their mailing addresses on Brian’s wall or as comments on this note or Brian’s status will not be entered into the contest. They will, in stead, be ridiculed, laughed at, and possibly sent junk mail after making their addresses publicly viewable.

While this is a random drawing, there is also an element of competition. Those who apply first and those who express the greatest interest in winning will be preferred. After entering, writing love notes to Brian, posting enthusiastic comments about how great the book must be and how excited you are to read it, and generally sucking up to Brian Haddad will increase your odds of winning.

4. Deadline

Brian Haddad will stop taking entries after Saturday, February 6th, but those wishing to improve their odds may continue sucking up to him until the shipment of books arrives (expected to be sometime around the middle of February, but could be much sooner).

In the event that the shipment of books arrives early, if Brian Haddad has already decided who he will pick as the winners, he will stop taking entries, even if February 6th has not arrived.

5. Winning

The winner will be chosen at random from among the entries. OK, that’s a lie. The winner will be chosen from among the entries, but Brian Haddad will essentially decide who to send the prizes to based on the sincerity of their interest in the book, the enthusiasm with which they have engaged in showing him that they want to read his book, and how well he thinks they will be able to entice others to read the book. More than three individual entries may meet this criteria, in which case Brian will select the winners randomly.

6. Other Details

Brian Haddad and his spouse are not eligible to enter the drawing. Neither are their children or pets.

To ensure fair consideration, those entries that do not adhere to the rules and submission standards will be disqualified.

Brian reserves the right to use a winner’s partial name, quote, likeness or descriptive essence for publicity and promotional purposes. In fact, after you’ve read his book, he would appreciate if you wrote some kind of review or testimonial that he can use to promote the book. Rating and reviewing the book on Amazon.com would be rewarded with one thousand (1,000) rainbow unicorn kisses.

The drawing is void where prohibited. Late or incomplete entries will not be accepted. Brian Haddad is not responsible for lost, stolen, late or misdirected entries.

Winning or losing does not in any way imply that you are a good or bad friend. Losing does not imply that you are loved less than the winners. Anyone suggesting or attempting to imply that their status as a winner or loser in this contest is indicative of the strength of their relationship to Brian Haddad will be banned from future contests and may lose their Facebook Friend status with Brian Haddad.

A Couple of Great Films

I had, in the last week, the delightful opportunity to see two wonderful, awe-inspiring movies. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.

First, I saw Avatar with my wife and brothers.

Avatar Movie Poster

Avatar

This movie was nothing short of magnificent. I did see the film in 3D, and aside from a few small gripes I have with today’s 3D film showing technology, the 3D added more than just another dimension to the movie.

What made this movie outstanding for me can be illustrated in just two solid points.

First, I went in to the movie knowing full well that the plot was essentially ripped off from Pocahontas (though I don’t believe Cameron did it on purpose), and still James Cameron’s storytelling kept me engaged and entertained to the end. If you can go into a movie knowing how it ends and what will happen around every turn, and still enjoy it thoroughly, then it is a good movie.

Second, as someone who loves movie special effects, I am familiar with a tendency in Hollywood to allow the special effects to steal the show. Many a good movie has been nearly or entirely ruined because the effects were too good for the viewer to allow them to fade into the background of the story. In Avatar, the effects perfectly faded into their rightful place as a storytelling mechanism. They were nearly perfect in every way (and where they did not excel, they receded even further into the back of the viewer’s mind).

I had no problem believing that the world of Pandora was a very real place to the characters I saw on screen, and at no time did I feel like I was experiencing another Jar-Jar-esque CGI character while watching the Na’vi. For some, the world was not only real and beautiful, but it was so much better and alluring than Earth, that they are dying to visit.

After such an epic movie (and “epic” is my favorite word to describe Avatar), I was hesitant to watch anything else for a while.

Later the same week, though, my wife and I went on a date to see Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes Movie Poster

Sherlock Holmes

This Sherlock Holmes installment was the most beautifully rendered of any I have ever seen. As a huge fan of the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I have always been looking for a suitable film adaptation of his original characters. Unfortunately, most of the previous Holmes films I had seen had failed miserably.

Shortly after watching this new Sherlock Holmes movie, I was in a rental store and saw the cover of a Sherlock Holmes movie I had never heard of: Murder By Decree.

Murder By Decree Poster

Murder By Decree

On the cover you can see that someone once considered it the “Best Sherlock Holmes Movie Ever Made.” That statement is attributed to Rex Reed, of the New York Daily News. The movie was released early in 1979, just over thirty years prior to the newest movie staring the master sleuth. The cover certainly makes the movie look quite appealing, and it currently resides at the top of my Netflix queue. I will then report on if that film remains the “best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made.”

As for my current belief, Robert Downey Jr. played Sherlock Holmes better than any man before him, and Jude Law made a singularly perfect Dr. Watson companion to him. The two played very nicely together, and the depiction of their characters was precisely as I had envisioned it during my reading of the stories. For me, Sherlock Holmes staring Robert Downey Jr. will always be the definitive Sherlock Holmes movie.

Finally, before I let you go, I have to apologize for getting ahead of myself earlier. I rushed to offer my new book (Facebook Drives Me Nuts) for sale before it was ready. So, the first edition, which nobody bought, is immediately discontinued, and the second edition, which is currently undergoing review, will be offered for sale before the end of the month (if all goes well). I am thinking of sending out a few signed copies to my closest friends and family, in hopes that they will read the book and spread the word. Of course, if they don’t like the book, such an act could backfire on me most horrendously. I shall have to proceed with caution.

Watch for an announcement here followed by copious amounts of self promotion through all of my available channels once the book is approved for sale.

No Way to Make Friends

I'm Not Here to Make Friends

I'm Not Here to Make Friends

Sometimes I do or say things that remind me just how differently I see friends and friendship from the rest of the world.

On Facebook today a friend had the following status:

Well, I’m trying to think of New Year’s Resolutions. I want y’all to help me though. Please leave a comment with a trait that I need to work on and a trait that I am good at. The first so that I can get ideas for my resolutions, and the second so that I have something to feel goood about. Thanks.

I decided to be brutally honest and replied with this:

Hum. I’m digging deep here for some honesty. First off, you’re a great guy and a lot of people just adore you which means you’re doing a lot of things right. That’s excellent.

Now… About your resolution. How about making it your resolution to never ask others for their opinion of your strengths/weaknesses? Look inside yourself and find the courage and confidence to be your own critic and leave others out of your personal matters. 😀 If you need a second opinion outside your own, look no further than the Lord. Through prayer and scripture study He can more accurately point out your flaws and strengths better than anyone else I know.

And I mean that with the greatest love and friendship I can convey via the Facebook platform. Have a happy new years!

Am I wrong to be honest when people ask me questions like this? I’m half expecting to find that he has revoked my friendship status on Facebook after this. Of course, I believe the advice is sound, though imperfectly worded.

Internet Security (in my view)

This is a lengthy response to a friend who wrote me with the following inquiry (to protect her privacy, her name does not appear):

Hey Brian,

You guys have a channel on YouTube, right? I was just curious about what you think about it. I would like to do one (all kid videos) for the convenience, but I’m worried about weirdos watching videos of my kid. I’ve tried to do a private video before, but it’s such a pain. What’s your advice?

Thanks!

Here is my long answer:

Warning: You asked. Don’t blame me for the long response. 😀

Disclaimer: I didn’t take the time to edit this that I should have. I didn’t edit for sensitivity, so please don’t be offended if I come off as insensitive. I didn’t edit for perfection. Perfection is not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. This letter is long because I lack the time to make it shorter. It is, however, full of good, important, and heartfelt information related to sharing YouTube videos publicly, and Internet security (keeping things private versus making them public).

In a nutshell, I love having a public YouTube channel. 😛 You should totally go for it.

I used to go to great lengths to keep all of my Internet presence private and secret. A Google search once upon a time would have revealed nothing about me, I never received any spam, and there was no possible way for anyone to stalk me by online information alone. Then I got into website design and began to learn more about online security.

The truth is that nothing is truly private on the Internet unless you have either done the research and designed the security protocol yourself, or you are paying money to have a security firm protect your data for you. Sure, services like Blogger, YouTube, and Picasa offer settings to keep things “private” (meaning unlisted, non-public), but if someone had a reason to get information about you and they were going to dig around in the Internet to do so, having a private blog or private videos wouldn’t stop them.

Blogs, social networking sites and content sharing sites have “private” settings that lull us into a false sense of security, but they offer little more protection than a sticker in your window claiming your home is protected by a high tech, expensive security system; and a deadbolt. Small time and unmotivated criminals will often turn around and go home (in fact, this is a proven method that I heard can prevent something like 60 to 90 percent of all break-ins), but anyone with an objective or strong motive will likely be undeterred.

Most passwords you use to protect your data can be revealed to any tech-savvy twelve year old with a Play Station 2. That’s right, Play Station 2 machines are being employed by amateur and professional hackers all over the world to crack passwords online due to their ability to do thousands of floating point calculations every second. Your WEP password protected WiFi signal? I can hack that in ten to twenty minutes using a laptop running software that reconstructs your password just based on your wireless traffic. (By the way, NEVER use WEP for a wireless Internet connection – always use WPA or WPA II – WPA takes a little longer to crack, unless the FBI is hacking in, they can do it in three minutes.) Oh, and passwords are the strongest when they are at least 12 to 20+ characters long. It doesn’t matter if it’s all special characters, length alone can protect you from these hackers.

The point being, I realized several years ago that if anyone were truly interested in getting in on my private life, my setting things up as “private” wasn’t going to stop them. So I gave up and made everything public.

The easiest way to keep things secure is to monitor what you share. On our family blog I have our phone number posted. It’s a Google Voice number. It’s not associated with my address, it’s not associated with my social security number or any of my financial information. If people dial it, it goes through a simple, mostly convenient screening process before my phone rings. When I pick up, I hear “You have a call from [it plays a recording of them stating their name here]. To pick up press one, to send to voice mail, press two,” … etc. I can share my phone number anywhere because it’s secure. If someone who calls is already in my address book, they aren’t screened. I can define certain behaviors for when they call. When my family calls, they hear a specialized greeting while my phone rings, then when I pick up it tells me who they are. I can still send them straight to voice mail if I want, but why would I do that? 😉

The basic idea is to only publish things that aren’t a vulnerability (like my secure telephone number, which doesn’t create a vulnerability).

My YouTube videos are all public. Sure, a few random people may have seen some of them (in fact, my first and only comment was left by a complete stranger earlier this week – I’ve been posting my family videos there for over a year now). But most of the views are from family and friends that I direct there myself (I just wish THEY would leave comments o_O). The fact that those videos are public just makes it easier for my friends and family to enjoy them without having to go through an annoying screening process.

Some people who choose the public route choose not to put full names online (like omitting their last name, or only posting their last name) while I’ve known some people who only use nicknames on their website. You can take that route if you like, but it’s just another silly sticker. I just throw it all out there.

To quote your reason for writing:

“I would like to do [a YouTube channel] (all kid videos) for the convenience, but I’m worried about weirdos watching videos of my kid. I’ve tried to do a private video before, but it’s such a pain. What’s your advice?”

In the security profession, there is a saying. I don’t know it word for word, but it comes down to the fact that you can’t have both convenience and security. They are polar opposites and arch enemies. Any security you add will take away from convenience and convenience is not secure. So you have to weigh whether you want more security or more convenience. In this case, which is of more value? The security that you are considering implementing (private videos) is weak and cannot deliver the level of security that you believe you will be getting. So you can chose to implement it, but for what? To make it a pain for your friends and family to share in your fun family moments?

You state that your primary concern is weirdos watching videos of your kid. So you don’t take your child out in public? Sure, it may seem that the ratio of weirdos to normals on the Internet is scary, but it’s no different from when you’re at the mall. Besides, most of those weirdos who you don’t want watching videos of your kid are using torrent file sharing networks to distribute and view illegal, disturbing images of children that are much more entertaining to them than watching your child burp and giggle. The odds of them locating you online or in a mall and tracking you to your home to do you evil are relatively low.

My advice specific to your inquiry? Go for the convenience and quit worrying about implementing useless security features. To take it just a small step further, drop the private settings from your blog too. I guarantee you have at least one family member somewhere who isn’t reading your blog because they don’t want to deal with the complicated security settings you’ve set up. Even Rochelle doesn’t keep up with your blog regularly because she can’t subscribe with her RSS feeder due to your security settings.

The question remains, well if that sticker in the window really does deter crime, why drop the security settings even if they are weak? Should I just publish my passwords everywhere too? Here are a few simple things you should do that provide a greater level of security than keeping your blog and videos “private” in public:

  1. Never ever ever ever post your full address anywhere where just anyone can read what you wrote. Keep in mind that a lot of things these days are being automatically tagged with geological meta data (translation: some kind of GPS coordinates or location information collected by the device that recorded the data). So if someone wanted to know your physical location it wouldn’t be hard to track you down, but if they aren’t planning on paying you a visit and they need your address for financial reasons, you’ll have thwarted them by not posting your city, state, zip or street anywhere online (unless you’re making a secure payment or transaction, in which case you NEED to see some kind of “secure” symbol on the page and in the browser interface AND the web address should start with “HTTPS” not “HTTP” alone).
  2. Going along with the first tip, the names of schools, work places, etc. give easy ways to track down where they can find you. Don’t share that stuff online. If your family needs to know where John is working, call them. Don’t put the name of the company online.
  3. Obviously, keep all financial information private. Even how much you make should be kept extremely vague if you must share (certain income brackets represent prime targets for some criminals, you don’t want to call their attention). Something like, “John got a raise and now we don’t have to buy gas with the change we collect under vending machines anymore,” is perfect.
  4. Be smart. If you wouldn’t walk up to a total stranger and share it, your family doesn’t care either. And I’m talking about when you’re in a giddy mood about something when you tend to share things with strangers anyhow. Like when your kid does something cool and you just want to tell the world. That’s the stuff your friends and family are interested in. Share that.

I’m fairly certain you knew most of that. Just keep in mind there are only two kinds of criminals on the Internet you need to worry about. Perverts and Identity Theives.

Let’s say you open everything up to the public today (your blog, your YouTube videos, your photos, EVERYTHING online except your Facebook profile which should retain the highest level of security you can live with). Here are the two worst case scenarios, one from each type of bad guy.

Pervert. He sees a video of your kid and decides he needs to steal him from you. He is able to pay a twelve year old to hack into YouTube and provide him with some location meta data attached to the video by your computer when you uploaded it from your home Internet connection. The guy flies out to your city from San Francisco (there are a ton of nuts there, he’s likely from the city of nuts and fruit) and spends the next month trying to track you down from the vague location data the kid sold him for fifty dollars. Eventually, he finds your home and begins the process of trying to abduct the boy the same way any pervert would without the use of the Internet. Hopefully you guys would be prepared to handle that. The Internet pervert won’t be armed with any additional information that a street stalker couldn’t get without the Internet. Think about all the information you’ve opened up to the public. Is the key to your front door online? No. Public videos don’t give the online pervert any extra ammo.

Identity Thief. He finds your videos, watches your child, and doesn’t care. In the video though he sees that you have a new forty inch flat screen tv (a group of kids walking around in your neighborhood is just as likely to notice your tv and either do the heist themselves or sell your address as a target to some other thief). You must have some money. Not a lot, but who cares? He is able to link you YouTube channel to your blog by reverse following the links. He reads up on you, gets your physical location, etc. So what? In the end he doesn’t have anything more than a person digging through your garbage would have (unless you’re someone who throws credit card numbers away in tact by accident, in which case your trash can is a much bigger security problem to you than having a public blog would be!).

Obviously this is pretty watered down. There are a lot more threats out there on the Internet, but most of them you are already safe from (you stay out of the shady parts of the Internet, right?). In truth though, worrying about the threats won’t do any good. Keep your home secure like you always should, teach your children about the dangers on the outside, and you will have completely thwarted all perverts, online and off line. Monitor your credit, keep your financial information private, and just be smart, and you’ll be safe from all the other ones. Finally, I recommend passwords that are as long as you can make them (don’t go for complicated, just long – a password doesn’t have to be just one word, do a sentence), and DON’T use Internet Explorer. Use Firefox or Google Chrome (Rochelle and I love Chrome – it’s fast, super secure and gets information about how safe a website is from Google, and they know everything).

Those are my thoughts on Internet security. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but once you get the basic, truly secure ideas in practice, you can relax and quit worrying about everything. OK?

I just have to say it one more time though (since I only mentioned it in passing before). Your Facebook page is the one place you do need to worry about security. Keep that as secure as possible. Don’t let Facebook share things about you that you don’t want shared. You are in control of what you share on your blog, but you have things on Facebook that you might think Facebook is only sharing with your friends, and if you don’t correctly adjust your security settings Facebook might share that information with other sites or people. Look online for help keeping your social networking sites secure, but look to your heart and your brain about what to put on your blog and YouTube channel.

Thanks for reading!

Your friend,

Brian



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