Tag Archives: Facebook

Customer service?

27 Jul

Almost all big stores, especially with chains, are going to have a customer service desk.

Well, that’s what they call it anyhow.  They really should call it the customer annoyance counter.

Why is customer service so hard?  Why is it so hard for companies to find employees that will honestly try to do their jobs to the best of their abilities while remaining courteous to customers?

I have a few ideas on the subject.

The first is that good old bottom line.  Most companies are not particularly concerned about the quality of employee they hire and retain, but rather how cheaply they can hire and retain someone that does what they are told.  Even retention of employees isn’t a huge concern for most companies anymore–it’s cheaper to rehire than retain, especially if there is a possibility of having to pay for benefits or retirement somewhere down the road.

Employees who really try to do their job are even apt to be penalized for doing so.  We’ve all seen articles about employees who did a good deed of some kind while at work, ones that didn’t cost their employers a penny, and yet they were terminated for some technicality.  Many of us have been the employee who was taken advantage of repeatedly by unethical co-workers and employers because we did try to do our jobs well, only to end up missing out on promotions, overworked to the point of burn out, failed to get promised raises, or had some other less-than-wonderful result from our hard work.  Immediate supervisors will often even deliver disciplinary action or termination as a result of trying too hard, simply because it makes other employees or the supervisor themselves look bad.

Corporations may have a lot of power in the political world, but they are also incredibly powerful in everyday life.  Everyone either works for one or is forced to do business with these large corporations because of the monopolies they have in many areas of our live in America.  Telephone, natural gas, cable television & internet providers, and electric companies are all privileged to have monopolies in most communities.    Other companies have apparently coordinated their needs with their so-called competitors, resulting in contracts that prevent customers from terminating service with them for a prescribed length of time, typically from 12-36 months.  In these situations, the corporations have very little motivation to try and please their current customers.  After all, if they don’t like the service or the customer service, what can the customer do about it?

Manufacturing companies have moved many of their production facilities overseas for cheaper labor and fewer regulations, and quality control seems to have become random in how stringent it is.  Companies that were once known for high quality products no longer can boast of that same quality.  Unfortunately, they have also often moved their customer service centers overseas too.

Then, the American consumer is inflicted with a customer service representative that may not understand their particular dialect of American English, and it is just as likely that the customer is going to have a great deal of difficulty understanding the representative’s  version of English.  A number of people have claimed (unverified by me) that these representatives are judged by how often they have “successfully resolved” the customer complaints, and that disconnecting the call is one way to successfully resolve the issue.  I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that with certain companies, disconnections are frequent as soon as it is apparent that the issue is not going to be resolved easily or if the customer asks to speak with a supervisor.

Even with American based customer service call centers, there is the “wrong department” issue.  It’s always that you have called the wrong department and then you will have to be transferred.  These transfers usually occur after an extended wait time for a human to begin with.  (I’ve waited as long as an hour.)  Then, without a number to skip the wrong department and go to where you are supposed to call, you end up disconnected.  How many hours do you want to spend on the telephone to get a warranty replacement of a $50 small appliance?

For businesses, the latest buzz has all been how to use social media to engage their customer base.  It’s gotten to the point of more annoyance than engagement, however, as they follow some plan dreamed up by a guy who didn’t shop there to begin with.  Do you really want to “like” that company or follow them on Pinterest to enter that contest or get that coupon?  The end result is that customers feel like they are being coerced, and it does little to endear the company or product with their potential customers, especially if they are using the current customer disservice model that most seem to be using.

So what is the real reason that companies no longer bother with good quality customer service?

It still boils down to that bottom line, folks.  It’s the fault of the consumer.

Accepting crappy customer service from any company, whether they have a monopoly  or not is allowing their bottom line to show that they don’t have to supply customer service.

So what can you do?

Complain.  Loudly.  Repeatedly.

  • Use the normal channels, whether it is a call to their call center or via their website.  Don’t scream or use profanity-that’s always counter productive and provides a good reason for your call to not be taken seriously.  Don’t use threats either.
  • Use promises.  Promise that you will never, ever shut up about how unhappy you are!
  • Record the calls.  If you get an exceptionally bad one, post it to YouTube. Keep the calls on file–you may need them later.
  • Write down names, phone numbers, dates and times.  It’s a great reference as your complaining becomes more prolific too.
  • If you are a blogger, blog about it.  Even years after I tossed my Tassimo machine, I still get hits daily on my experience with their crappy customer service.  It’s a great way to spread the word.
  • Review the product everywhere you can, including the customer service experience.  Many retailers will accept reviews on products even if you did not purchase it from them, such as Amazon and Walmart.  If you are reviewing the retailer or service provider, post those reviews anywhere and everywhere you can find as well.  Sure, it takes time, but what else do you have to do while you are sitting on hold?  I actually put my phone on speaker and then I can type with both hands.
  • Got Face Book? Twitter? Pinterest?  Speak up.  Tell everyone about your experience.  They may not be shopping for that item or service or company now, but they will remember what you said about them later too.  You may be surprised at how quickly someone from the company in question makes contact with you as well.  They may try and resolve the situation, which will make you happier than if you are ignored.  Some corporations often ignore social media complaints (yes, I’m talking about you,  Tassimo, Microsoft & Comcast!)  Smarter companies do monitor social media to engage dissatisfied customers and attempt to improve the customer service experience.
  • Post reviews to review sites such as Viewpoints.com as well.  For local companies and services, there are sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List (they require membership with a substantial fee,) Yahoo, etc.   Even lawyers, dentists, doctors, and medical facilities are reviewed!
  • Write the company an email.  Often, the corporate office is separated enough from customer service that they may not be aware of the type of experience you have endured.  Typically, the corporate website will have a “contact” tab at the bottom of the page.  Some have it in a bar at the top as well.  Be polite and explain the problem(s) clearly, along with your customer service experience, using dates, times, and names when possible.  Don’t forget to add what you expect the company to do to resolve your complaint as part of the letter.  Be reasonable with your expectations!

On the flip side of that coin is the excellent customer service experience.  When you have one of these, be just as vocal about your compliments, and use the same venues that you would use for complaints to voice your positive experience.   I had a terrible experience with Overstock.com once, and complained about it via Twitter.  Their representative on Twitter contacted me, we resolved the situation, and since then, I have enjoyed great customer service as usual with Overstock and would not hesitate to purchase from them again.  I also love shopping with Zappos.com and Penderys.com for the same reason–they provide good, dependable customer service.  I wish my representative and senators to Washington were as responsive to me as they are!

Expect reasonable and efficient customer service to be delivered with courtesy, and when you don’t get it–do something about it.  Do not ever accept it as just the price of doing business because it is not.  Make companies accountable!  That’s your job as a consumer!

Solution is advertising!

23 Aug

I’ve made some posts lately about the struggles of keeping an internet radio program up and running, as well as free for listeners by pleading for donations.  I really hate doing that, and while I greatly appreciate the handful of people that have responded, we felt we needed a better solution, especially since we’ve had some equipment failures lately too.

So what did we come up with?

Advertising.  But, it’s still advertising with a difference, as well as with a look back to old time (pre-television) radio programs.  Remember how the old time hosts would say something about their sponsor’s products during the program?  It’s the same concept.

We’ve just modernized it.  It’s low cost, we’re debuting the concept at just $20 per “mention”, making it affordable for everyone from new independent authors that want to get the word out about a book launch to someone sponsoring a program segment in lieu of a traditional (and somewhat mundane) birthday card.  It’s also a bargain, considering that the Dawn of Shades has over 250,000 logged in listeners each week, with the numbers steadily increasing.

This way, instead of just getting a thank  you for donating, it becomes a totally different beast as an actual purchase of advertising.  For businesses, it then becomes an actual business expense too.

It’s just a short piece that will be read by the host (almost always me!) on the air, and there are only four slots per program available, so once they are gone…they are gone.  There is also only one discount available, and to receive that, you would have to be a member of the group on Facebook.  (It’s a closed group, but all legitimate appearing accounts are granted membership.)  The group is found here, if you are interested.

The same program is available for Greg’s show, the Voice of the People, on Saturdays too.

There are a few rules.  We won’t lie and say we use/endorse something if we really don’t have a clue.  We can’t advertise illegal items. We also cannot advertise porn websites or shady commercial ventures with offshore businesses.  You can only advertise a website if you own the domain too, except for a few exceptions such as Amazon & other familiar retailers selling books, audio recordings, videos, etc.  (Indie authors & artists, as well as more traditional writers/musicians, all use these sellers.)  You can promote a cause, but we also will not accept one that advocates illegal actions, such as overthrow of the government, etc.

We will only accept payment via PayPal.  It’s easy and secure for both parties, as well as a minimally difficult process for everyone.  There are deadlines too–we can’t arrange for an ad during the last hour before we go on the air!  We have to agree on the message, vet the website, etc. before the advertisement is accepted.  A particular slot is never guaranteed before payment is received either.

Want more information or to buy a slot for yourself?  It’s easy–just email me at giascott at exogenynetwork.com!

The Facebook Bubble

18 Apr

There are rumors flying that the Facebook bubble is about to burst, that it has exceeded its own growth potential, resulting in a speedy demise.

Maybe it has, and maybe it hasn’t.  I’m not an expert, but…I am smart enough to learn from the past.  That’s what history is for, isn’t it?

We have had a lot of bubbles related to the internet.  The dot com bubble burst some time ago.  MySpace, once the king of social networking, is pretty much history.  I have an account, but I have logged into it about twice in the last three years.  Even then, it was just to connect with someone who hadn’t moved on to Facebook, not because I cared about my own account.  I didn’t like it much, and I found it awkward and with an excessively youthful nature.  Facebook suited me better, with a more run of the mill air about it as Every Man and Every Woman took to it like ducks to water.  Now, I actually know some people who think the internet IS Facebook, never leaving its comforting pages to wander unfettered through the digital universe we have collectively created.

At the same time, people aren’t going to magically abandon Facebook unless something better comes along.  Google presented us with Google Plus, then disappointed many users as it adopted more and more features that resembled those of Facebook.  We hadn’t flocked to it for a Facebook replacement, we had flocked there to find something DIFFERENT.  Somehow, I think it may have failed to deliver what we were craving, although it does have some of the features people seek.

So what do people want?

That is the million dollar question really.  In general, among the people I have approached , they want some specific things:

Ability to connect with others with similar ideas/interests.

Ability to control how much information is made public.

Ability to integrate and yet separate their private and public personas.  (Yes, they are different!  We all have our pro side, and then we have the side who gets depressed, eats a quart of ice cream, a whole bag of chips, and vegs on the sofa for an entire weekend in their pajamas…featuring My Little Pony on the bodice.  Do we really want our co-worker and clients s to see our angst?)

The ability to share things, especially cute kittens and political  memes.  Oh, and their opinions, of course.  Often.  Without.  Thinking.

The real kicker is that it is hard to keep public and private separate, and yet it is very important.  More and more companies want to take a look at who you are on Facebook before..and after….hiring you.  There have been cases where they wanted the passwords as well, even before hiring you.  (Not sure how legal that really is, and I would object strongly, but desperation in this job market probably inspired many applicants to just give in.)  Law enforcement is looking harder at this information as well, and many people suspect that the government spies on us all continually through social media.  If so, I hope they enjoy the recipes and cute animal pictures  that litter my posts.  Oh, and MouseHunt, the one game that I keep on playing.

So, that big mysterious agency, which is called Big Undercover Liberty Limiting Special Host of Investigating Technicians (BULLSHIT for short) is watching our every tweet and post, whether its on Google Plus, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or Secret Text Updating Data Inside Technology (aka STUPID) status update in search of covert, illegal, or terrorist activities.  That’s a big job, and it’s an important one.  After all, not even the super snooping capabilities of the latest CARNIVORE government spyware program can detect and analyze the language used inside of a cute kitten meme.  They have even found it necessary to put undercover agents into the dating sites in search of terrorists and anarchists who are using these sites to find women to marry and then obtain legal status to continue their illegal activities in the United States.

Sure they are.

The US is notorious, world wide, for their strong stance against illegal entry compared to other countries.

And I have a couple of bridges for sale, one on each coast of the USA, been in the family for a long time…

Go try sneaking into Mexico, China, North Korea, or heck, even sneak into Iraq while  you are at it.  After you have your “vacation” they’ll send you home, free of charge, right?

Wrong.

But that’s okay, we’re okay with that.  Just like we’re okay with the way Facebook is going.  Never mind that we’re already suspicious of their marketing techniques and desires to use our names and images to promote other goods and services.  We’ll happily go along with it, until the rats all find another ship to jump to.  All we have to do is figure out which ship will be the one they choose, so we’re riding along with our own cheese store, right?

At least  we know what it won’t be.  It won’t be Yahoo, MSN, AOL, MySpace, or G+.  Will it simply fracture apart, as people opt to leave the ultra populated space for smaller, more intimate and more user-responsive versions of social media?

Actually, I think that’s what I would place my bet on.  As shifts occur in how we interact, obtain our information and entertainment, how we shop, and where we work, we’re going to see that continual evolution.  Chat programs, while now usually subscription based, are becoming increasingly popular, and often oriented to topic or demographic data oriented.  We want our information and written entertainment also delivered digitally, and that creates another mode of connection.

That makes me wonder.  What if Amazon introduced a social media program, one that allowed people to discuss types of products, literary works by genre, etc.?  Would we see the rise of that type of social media connection, one provided by the seller of goods as a way to encourage people to continue shopping via their website rather than to venture into the “real world” with all of its inconveniences, expenses and dangers?

Or maybe we’ll see the right wing control factor coming into play, and instead of corporations operating the social media, it will become a government sponsored, controlled, and monitored environment.  We’ll all be tagged with our personal data, preventing any more mysterious encounters, as well as encounters of the really dangerous sort that we’ve all heard about.

The ancient Chinese may have regarded “May you live in interesting times” as a curse, but it’s our mantra.  We do live in interesting times, and who knows how they’ll be regarded in the future.  Are we going to be immortalized in unrealistic works of fiction that equate this era to the Wild Wild West that really never was what the movies portray it as?

That could be too.  All I know is that we’re going to see changes, some from evolution, others from reactionary governments.  We’ll see how our data is delivered and censored change, as well as who delivers what will change.  The wild and utterly independent voices of today’s internet radio may be silenced in the coming years, as expenses continue to rise as economies continue to struggle.  We don’t know.

But, it will definitely be interesting to watch and find out, won’t it?

 

Almost there…

18 Apr

Today is the last day of the year for me.

No, it’s not some new calendar that I’m advocating.  It’s my own personal calendar.  Tomorrow is my birthday, which makes today the last day that I am this age.  I’ll never be this age again.

While it’s easy to beat yourself up as you critically examine your past year, sometimes, it’s a good thing to look back on what exactly you did accomplish that was good.  So, here are my highlights for the year, the things that made me feel the best about accomplishing.

  1. I published my first novel.  This may seem silly, it isn’t like I’ve hit anybody’s best seller list, but…for me it IS a big deal.  I’m proud of that accomplishment, I’m proud that I conquered the fear that releasing it into the public was accompanied by.  (If you want to take a look at it and maybe even buy it…go to http://bit.ly/timeofchaos)
  2. I have been able to promote my “fan” page as an author and radio personality.  This too may seem like such a little thing, but self promotion is something that comes very, very hard to me.  I guess it goes all the way back to when I was a little girl and told “nice young ladies do not brag”.  I’m not really bragging, and I’m far from what I’d call “nice”, but any form of self-promotion is a big bite to chew for me.  I have been promoting it like crazy this week, with a goal of 100 “likes” on Facebook by tomorrow.  I’m a long ways from achieving it, so…if you want to help me out, go to the page right here and then click “like” at the top of the page.
  3. Greg and I bought a house.  A very small, very old, and very cheap house that very much needs a lot of work and updating, but it is ours anyhow!  We love it, we’re happy here, and while our lives aren’t fairy-tale perfect, that’s okay too.
  4. I’m learning how to ask for help.  It’s not easy, and the lesson has been agonizing, but I’m learning to let go of my own arrogance and accept help gracefully (or sort of gracefully anyhow)  We have been confronted with physical and financial issues that have left us spinning and unable to cope.
  5. I’ve learned about the friends and family that I can count on when our entire world seems to be situated on shifting sands.  I hope I never, ever take them for granted.
  6. I’ve learned to be very thankful for my small slice of serenity and contentment.  It’s not always easy, but that’s okay too.  It’s part of my lesson.
  7. I’m learning to let go.  That too may sound silly and small, but I want to hold all that I remember and love close to me…forever.  Sometimes, by letting go, we see something even more glorious and amazing.  By hanging on, we are faced with chaos and clutter armed only with a memory.

That’s the good stuff, I suppose.  The highlights anyhow are listed.  I’m thankful for a lot of stuff, and probably the memories that stand out the clearest are just two.

  • Greg telling me he loved me after his heart attack and angioplasty to put in stents.
  • Our granddaughter’s face when she sees us arrive.  She lights up the universe with her smile.

So, like my Facebook author’s page, then go home and tell someone you love how much they mean to you.  You never know, you might hit that short list of highlights of the year with such a simple act, because after all, all we have at the end is the love.  The rest…doesn’t matter one bit.

Sneak peek? The sequel to the Time of Chaos

31 Mar

I have had a lot of people asking me about the next book in The Survivors.  Yes, it’s in the works.  I’ve been working on it since I finished The Time of Chaos.    I’ve been using a different “technique” for the process, and while it’s working, it also didn’t work.  Yeah, I know…that doesn’t make sense, but in order to know exactly what I mean, you’d have to see the story as it developed and then at the point when I said no, this isn’t growing right, we need to replant this story.  So…since that’s not exactly what I want to spend a lot of days doing, we’re going to skip it.  You will have to take my word for it.  My current goal is to have the story ready for editing by the end of May.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t know a whole lot about the story and its characters.  They are telling me a LOT about what is going to happen.  (Yes, that’s weird, but my characters do talk to me and tell me the story first, then I write it.)  I’ll have the story done, I think, without any trouble by Memorial Weekend.  But in the meantime…

I do know the title.  We are in the works for getting the cover made.  I love the rough design that was proposed, it’s absolutely perfect.  The cover, hopefully, will be finished this month.

So, as a treat for those who “like” my Facebook page…I’m going to tell them what the title of the next book will be…before it is released, or even finished, for that matter.  It’s easy to find out what it’s going to be.  (Click here)

All I ask is that 100 people “like” that Facebook page first, and I’ll release the next title’s name.  Very simple.  Nothing complicated.  I’ll post it right there on the fan page.  Now I’m dying of curiosity as to how long it will take…

Stupidity of Daylight Savings time and election mania?

4 Nov

I’ve ranted about it before, and I will rant about it again today…and twice a year for as long as the idiocy continues.  Daylight savings time is an idiotic concept, dreamed up and perpetuated by ridiculous propaganda that far too many people buy into.  If it saves so much energy…why don’t we just STAY on that time?  What do people really think they are saving?

But speaking about ridiculous propaganda, have  you paid much attention to the stuff circulating on the social media sites as people wave the figurative flag of their favored candidate?

It’s made me realize, with a two party system, we really are given a choice.

Between a rock and a hard place.

That’s about all the difference I really see between the parties.  The parties and their candidates are so far out of touch with what life is like for Average Joe and Average Jane that we may as well elect Brad Pitt for president.

Heck, he might even do a better job.  If not, well, at least he’d make interesting photo ops, right?

Neither party represents what we’ll call the “working man” of American society.  They don’t have a clue what our lives are like.

Like Mitt Romney’s wife, featured in an article about how she went shopping at Sam’s Club.  She was immensely proud of her ability to feed a large gathering of family for only $4.50 per person for the meal.  I don’t think she’d be too happy with my food budget, capped at $5 per person per day.  Some months, if there are extra bills to pay, well…the food budget gives up a portion of it’s funding to cover the deficit.  She’d even be more horrified to discover that if I’m serving guests, it comes out of the monthly budget, not an extra slush fund.  So does holiday cooking, as a matter of fact.  While the Romneys might not be concerned at the reports of higher prices for serving up the traditional turkey dinner later this month, for the rest of us, that IS a concern.  We can’t spend what we’re not earning, and there are still not enough jobs to get everyone back to work that has been looking for work since this recession started.  It’s unfortunate that with each passing year, we’ve seen more jobs going overseas too.

For those of us struggling to make ends meet, to pay our bills, and to just get by, while family members are unemployed or underemployed…having to deal with an English-is-a-second-language customer service rep in some foreign country is really a slap in the face.  It’s another reminder of how many jobs we’ve lost to countries with lower standards of living and more relaxed workplace laws.

In the stores, it’s hard to buy American made goods.  It’s harder yet to buy from companies that have American based customer service.  I don’t think it’s an unrealistic expectation that if I buy an item or service with American money while I am in the United States, that customer service will be provided in the United States as well.

Then, there is health care.  I’ll admit, I am not thrilled with the Obamacare package, but…I wasn’t thrilled with nothing either.  Do I think that it’s the best that our government could come up with?  No…and it shouldn’t be so long that nobody can possibly read it and understand what it says either.  That’s the problem with these bills–they are excessively complicated and too often contain unrelated stuff.  Each bill should be one thing, written in a manner that any average person can understand it, but they aren’t.  Washington has become a place of bureaucrats worried about perpetuating their own existence, whether elected or appointed or hired.

The part that I think stinks is the idea that people are to be forced to buy health insurance.  Seriously, I don’t know anyone who can afford health insurance and opts to just not buy it for some reason.  I’ve priced it, long before Obama was ever heard of, and there was no way I could afford it, even just major medical was about 30% of my monthly take home pay, and there wasn’t any way I could give up that much of my monthly income and survive.  Utilities, rent, and automobile insurance already took care of about 80% of my net pay!  That left very little for luxuries such as food, gasoline, clothing, medical expenses, and assorted sundries.  Taking a second job wasn’t an option, really–my job required extensive overtime already, and while I was paid for it…that extra overtime is what was used for those “luxuries” I bought.

So I read the things that the candidates say, I read the things that their opponents say about them.  I read the things their supporters say about them.  I read the “fact checker” articles.

I’ve concluded that I was right.  We do have a choice between a rock and a hard place.  It then comes down to specific issues that are…or are not…supported by the two parties.

What concerns me?

  1. Women’s rights, including reproductive rights.  I’m pro-choice, and before anyone gets their underwear in a wad over that…let me clarify that statement.  I am pro-choice, not pro-abortion.  There is a very clear difference.  While I don’t think that abortion is the right choice for me, in any circumstances that I have actually faced, I also don’t think that it is the government’s job to make that decision for me…or any other woman.   I don’t think my boss should be able to decide if my insurance is going to cover birth control either.  There are many reasons and many circumstances for a woman’s choice, and few women are going to choose to use abortion as birth control if they have any conscience or concept of right and wrong.  If they don’t have those things, well, do we really want her reproducing anyhow?  Morality cannot be legislated, and there should not be an attempt to do so.  Laws are to protect society as a whole, and allow individuals to not have their personal rights infringed upon by others.  While that includes freedom of religion, it does not give anyone the right to impose their religious standards and expectations on others.  Period.
  2. Right to bear arms.  Okay, these mass murders we’ve had at schools and theaters have been horrific and shouldn’t have happened.  Yes, I know many other civilized countries have banned weapons of all kinds.  That doesn’t mean I support weapons being banned in this country.  Regulated and restricted perhaps, but not banned.  Assault rifles aren’t needed for hunting or self-protection.  Automatic rifles and handguns aren’t either.  Armor penetrating ammunition and weapons are also not particularly appealing to think of my neighbor having and using for target practice.  I think we need to address the underlying causes of these incredible acts of violence more than act on restricting gun ownership excessively.  Do we ban bathtubs for the accidents they cause?  Have pools been banned due to the high numbers of children that have drowned in them?  Do we still allow downhill skiing after people die in skiing accidents?  How about cars and car accidents and their fatalities?
  3. Same sex marriage.  I’m not gay, and I never was.  I’m not even bi-sexual.  I am in a traditional marriage, even if our wedding was far from traditional.  My parents weren’t gay, neither is my daughter.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t support the concept of equality among all Americans.  While I don’t deny that states can allow or forbid same sex marriage according to their citizens’ wishes, I don’t think that the federal government should be able to override those states’ rights to choose either.  Currently, federal law does not allow federal employees in a legal same sex marriage to enjoy the same benefits for their spouses that someone in a so-called traditional marriage enjoys.  I think this is wrong.  I have little hope of Mississippi, my current home state, is going to legalize same sex marriages anytime soon.  It’s got far too high of a percentage of ultra conservative citizens for that to happen.  But, if it was allowed…I don’t think the federal government should deny benefits to those people’s spouses because they don’t agree with it.
  4. Education.  It wasn’t working, so they tried “No Child Left Behind.”  That’s working about as well as new math did.  It’s absolutely not working, instead of educating kids and preparing them for the real world, whether that includes college or a job, kids are spending the year prepping for their standardized test.  Something else needs to be done, and this ineffective method of measuring both school and teacher performance needs replaced with something a bit more effective.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you went to a fast food restaurant, local store, or other location with staff that needs nothing beyond high school to get a job…and they actually could SPEAK American Standard English?  How many high school students can actually write down a coherent telephone message that anyone could read and understand, let alone write an essay for a college class?
  5. Jobs/Industry.  Face it.  We lack an industrial base and we’re importing too many goods.  We need jobs, we have willing workers.  We need to figure out how to get people back to work, back to creating the things that made America into what it was.  We need factories running, producing goods that are high quality and reliable.  We’ve all had enough of cheap, shoddy, imported garbage.
  6. National Transit System.  We rebuilt Europe’s trains after World War II, or so I’m told, but we can’t get trains to cover the USA in anything resembling efficient and cost effective.  It costs more to ride a train than it does to take a plane or even drive, and Amtrak is subsidized by the federal government.  Few cities have train stations where passengers and small freight can be economically transported to the next city, county, state, or anywhere.  In addition, the transit times when trains are used are utterly ridiculous.  We need efficient mass transportation beyond the urban bus and subway systems.  We need it both within states and to other cities and states, providing efficient and low cost transportation coast to coast.  Putting such a rail system into place would employ thousands of people, from creating the infrastructure to service jobs when it is up and running.  It would appeal to foreign tourists as well, especially since most industrialized countries have train systems already.
  7. Legalization of hemp & medical marijuana.  Hemp is a good crop, and it’s good for a lot of applications.  It can be used for making rope, paper, and clothing, as well as a host of other things.  It’s a good fiber, and more durable than cotton.  Medical marijuana is a good product too, when properly used.  Even recreational marijuana is less of a problem with the users than those people using alcohol.  Taxed and regulated, it would remove marijuana from the hands of drug cartels, reducing their income and clout not only in the United States, but in the countries where their supplies of marijuana are grown and prepared for smuggling into the United States.  The tax revenue would enhance the American budget, maybe even bringing the annual deficit down a notch, especially if recreational use was legalized.
  8. Energy.  We’re going to have to bite the bullet and come up with alternative energy plans.  We’ve seen the disasters nuclear reactors can deliver.  We’re seeing the disaster of the oil industry, each and every day.  We need inexpensive and efficient energy to recreate a strong economy.  We don’t have it, therefore, we need to figure out how to get it.  If we got a man to the moon, not once, but several times, and did it with computers that had less power than the old Nintendo 64…surely we can figure this problem out.  Quit subsidizing the oil industry and let them struggle on their own, they’ve been milking America too long.  Devote attention to alternative energy that is less costly, both to the consumer and the environment, and put America at the forefront again.
  9. Taxes.  Corporations.  Okay, taxes are something nobody wants to pay.  We’re all a bit tired of corporate entities making huge profits while paying little in terms of taxes, and then adding to the insult by outsourcing portions of their business to foreign countries.  We’re sick of them lobbying Congress for favoritism.  We’re tired of paying the bill, you might say.  It’s time to start taking a good hard look at how corporations are affecting the way we elect politicians, and how they affect the bills that go through Congress to become laws.  It’s a form of corruption, folks.  Plain and simple.  These corporations are doing nothing more than paying politicians for favors, no matter how it is sugar coated.
  10. Foreign aid.  I really do not understand why we are borrowing money only to give it away to other countries.  That makes no sense to me.  If I am unable to pay my bills without borrowing money, it would be foolish to give my money to other people after I borrowed it.  Why is the federal government continuing to do something that any of us would look askance at a private individual doing?  I think it’s time that foreign aid is cut back, if not eliminated, and there should be more accountability as to why we’re giving it to anyone.

There are a lot more issues too, more than I could possibly put in here, but those are the top ten ones.  Neither party is very concerned about all of them.  None of the candidates are either.  So who do I vote for?

I’ll cast a vote in less than forty eight hours now.

I have no idea who I’m going to vote for right now.  Just when I think one candidate or another has trumped finally, they show signs of obviously reneging.  I was never a fan of Obama, so I have to admit that he has done better than I thought he would.  At the same time, the Romney/Ryan ticket isn’t exactly thrilling either.  I’m not a Romney fan, and the idea of something happening that would catapult Ryan into the Oval Office makes me gag.  Biden’s not a rocket scientist either though, and I actually had someone crack a joke about Biden being Obama’s “insurance policy” so that no one would assassinate him–they were afraid that Biden would then become president.

Once again, it seems that I’m faced with a choice of who I am going to vote against rather than who I am going to go vote for.  Which candidate has the most potential to cause harm?  Are we better off with the devil we know…or a new devil?

Oh will I be glad when Tuesday is over.  I’ll have my mind back, as well as cease to see the endless parade of pro-this candidate or anti-that candidate on my Facebook wall!

The Games we play: Google Plus versus Facebook

3 May

Games.  I must confess that I do play some games.  Not as many as I used to, but I do play games on both Facebook and Google Plus.  Or maybe I should say did play them in both locations.

I recently stopped playing actively on Google Plus.

I played some of the same games on both sites.  Some were different too.  Now while I avoid playing Zynga games, there is still a lot of others to try playing.  So what was the difference?  After all, if the games are the same, they are the same, right?

Wrong.

There is actually a big difference.  Facebook has already had their growing pains with the addition of the games.  Games run smoothly, on the average, and have few problems loading.  The same isn’t true for Google Plus.  Games would frequently freeze, refuse to load, or have numerous other glitches that made playing difficult at times.

Facebook games not only run smoother with fewer glitches, they often have extra features not found on the Google Plus games.  They seem more finished and less “beta” than G+ games.  It may be easier to circle other players on G+, but…adding them as “neighbors” may not be so easy, as that is a common glitch in the games.  In addition, games have been leaving the Google Plus platform.

So why is there the differences?  Only a game company insider could really answer that question, but the most obvious answer is that Facebook requires some kind of exclusive feature added to the games playing there.  Game companies are probably willing to comply with few complaints too, after all, Facebook as a portal has fewer overall problems than Google Plus does.

I really like Google Plus as a social network.  I use it often in doing research, finding interesting people and information through G+.  (That’s not to say my Facebook friends are boring though!)  It is just easier to find topic specific posts and their advocates through G+ than with Facebook.  I can then circle them or not, without worrying about whether I will offend anyone.  I don’t have to know them to do that–it’s the whole concept behind the circles that makes it so easy to use for research on a topic.  Those features are not available on Facebook at all.

At one point, I thought I may largely abandon Facebook in favor of the more dynamic interface on Google Plus, but in reality, it would be like choosing to only eat bananas rather than bananas AND strawberries!  They are different, but they both have a very useful purpose for me.  On the other hand, if merely interacting with others to play games was my goal, Google Plus wouldn’t have much of my attention.  It’s just too aggravating to try and play the games, especially knowing that many of them are fleeing as fast as they flocked on board.

So what are my favorite games? 

My long term favorite has been Hit Grab’s MouseHunt.  I love the imagery, and I love the play and go nature of the game.  I can be active without devoting hours and hours of attention to it.

Other games seem to come and go over time with me, but I do like Zuma Blitz, Bejeweled Blitz, Monster World, and Township currently.  The blitz games have been favored for some time, although the other two are relatively new to my list of games I play.  I don’t like games that require extensive “begging” from friends for bits and pieces to “build” things, and while Township has some of those features, it hasn’t annoyed me excessively yet.  I also don’t like games that require me to recruit friends to play–being a game evangelist doesn’t appeal to me!

Too many of the games on social networks seem to occupy excessive amounts of time and attention.  I want a game to play for a few minutes, and then go on to other things.  I don’t want it to take over my life–the whole point of a game is that it should be FUN, not a new occupation.  Sometimes, I enjoy competing with friends, other times, I prefer something I can just do in my solitary fashion too.

So why are social network games free?

Plain and simple, they are paid for via advertisements that players click on.  Game developers hope that players buy the extra features, whether they are special powers or game-specific “play money.”  That’s how they earn money, not by being paid by the social network to provide the games to them.  If you ever wondered why so many games have these pay-only extra features, you can stop wondering now.  One of the biggest phenomena in the modern marketplace is the amount of money traded for fictional goods in games.

That means that you can also vote with your dollars too.  Don’t spend money on games or with game companies that you dislike, and you are casting a vote that IS counted.  By spending money with your favorites, you are casting a positive vote as well.

So enjoy, and see which you prefer for your gaming entertainment.

Twitter versus Google Plus versus Facebook: War or apples & oranges?

3 Feb

Social media has become an integral part of our society today.  It’s used by everyone, from kids to grandparents, non profits and corporations.  It sells, it gives, it takes, it talks…and it’s the most efficient grapevine invented too.  It’s a contributing factor to the demise of newspapers, the shift in governments, and even in how we are being spied upon.  We live with it, and don’t think we can live without it.  It’s on our computers and on our cell phones too.  It’s everywhere, and even churches will often post signs encouraging people to “like” them on Facebook.  Now, we have Google Plus in the fray as well.

It’s no secret, I use Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook.  With the whole scene involving user privacy, marketing, and so forth…people are considering whether or not these forums are for them.  Some regard it as a case of one or the other.  What is it, really?

First, they aren’t the same thing, not by a long shot.  So let’s define the spaces themselves.

Twitter is like a perpetually scrolling billboard, with short messages and short links.  It doesn’t say a lot, and real conversations aren’t easy to have on this forum.  That doesn’t mean it’s without merit either.  I’ve found some web gems via Twitter postings that I would have never found otherwise.  I post things to Twitter, but it’s the least used of my “Big Three”.

Facebook is a big one.  Many people never leave Facebook, regarding it as the ultimate portal to the world wide web.  I’m not one of those people, thank goodness, but I do use it a lot.  For many people, it delivers information, entertainment, and even interaction with their families.  It really IS for friends and family, and a more intimate look at who we are.

Google Plus is a different breed entirely.  In talking about it with Greg today, I said it is as though they have taken Twitter and Facebook features and blended them together with Google efficiency.  It is truly becoming my connection with the entire world in a very manageable way, as the ability to manage my circles and thus my feed, makes it easy to see and learn about the things that interest me, when they interest me.  It also allows me to play my “silly games” without having to inflict it on everyone in my list or that is following me.  I like that too.  Like all social media, it takes an investment of time and attention to get it to a manageable level, as well as to learn how to tweak it to the way you want it.  It’s taken me months of slowly learning how to use it, but I like it more and more over the past week.  It also doesn’t have any Zynga games on G+,  a feature I love!  (Yes, I boycott Zynga and have for a long time.)

To regard these three social media forums as a case of you-can-only-use-one is to revert to junior high social interaction.  We can have multiple “friends” in social media too.  Each of these forums offers a completely different way of interacting, and yes, we’re likely to spend more time on one or the other in a given day.  That doesn’t mean that the others are not worthy of our attention too, though.

Now…if I can just figure out how to get blog entries and other such things to automatically post to G+, like I do with Facebook and Twitter…I’ll be another step ahead of the manual entry of such things!

Gossip, rumors, and maybe even slander

15 Jan

People talk about other people.  We have this huge fascination with the things other people do, and for some reason, we’re even more enthralled by the negative things than we are by the positive things.

We’ve been that way for our entire recorded history, it seems.

You think I’m wrong?  Think again.  Try to think of some good things that happened in ancient history.  We don’t remember them–we remember the murders, the kidnappings, the horrible acts…not the acts of kindness and all the other things we consider wonderful.  It’s these horrible acts done by one person to another that fascinate us, that make for “classic drama” and stories.

Maybe it’s time we start to evaluate this tendency and perhaps tone it down.

I’m not saying that we need to start burying our heads in the sand, but seriously…wouldn’t it be nice to sit down after work and turn on the television to see the news, and see how someone has done something wonderful rather than the latest grisly crime scene?  To get up in the morning, put on the coffee and your robe, stroll out to get the newspaper, and open it up…to see how someone has planted a beautiful garden somewhere right on the front page, and the latest murder is relegated to the “Crime and Horror” section, third inside from the front?

Heck I’d rather read about Betty Sue Boudreaux’ third wedding and the gorgeous white lace dress she had custom made rather than about how Bobby Joe Devereaux has gotten drunk, had a wreck, killed someone and then ran from the cops before kidnapping someone else and stole their car and before robbing a bank.

But no, we have the gruesome and grisly, the illegal and immoral right in the front section of the newspaper, and reading about the wonderful new program for kids in the community is buried somewhere deep in the paper, where we’re apt to miss it if we’re short on time.   We sure don’t want to miss that negative stuff.

It’s not just mass media either.  We do it in conversations too.  That’s where the gossip and rumors are.  We also don’t gossip about what a wonderful person Miss Emily Ransome is, no we’re going to talk about something immoral or negative she’s done or said instead.  It doesn’t even have to be true–in fact, it’s probably far juicier and more desirable if it isn’t!  It’s as though many people have lives so incredibly boring and nondescript that they are forced to start creating a mental fiction about what other people are doing, and then tell someone else what they THINK is happening.

It’s easy to laugh and shrug most of it off.  I have often been highly amused by the things that I had supposedly done, at least according to rumors and gossip.  It seems that this fantasy life was far more interesting than the one I was actually leading.  But every once in a while, that rumor or tidbit of gossip can hurt, and hurt in ways that it never should have been able to.  I’ve been challenged in job interviews about things that were nothing more than rumors or gossip too, and asked to explain them.  Illegal?  Maybe…but in a small town, legal technicalities often don’t matter.

Rumors and gossip can destroy friendships and even families too.  More than one divorce has started with a rumor or bit of gossip, and unfortunately…it is rarely true.  Maybe in an ideal world, that rumor couldn’t have caused such a thing, but most relationships have an “Achilles heel” or crack in them somewhere…and sometime.  The gossip finds it, and begins the process of bringing the whole relationship down.

Did the person who first passed on that juicy tidbit have that as an intention?  Probably not, but there have been more than one occasion that I’ve noted that someone was motivated…by one thing or another…to cause havoc.  Usually it’s a case of an innocent remark, and by the time it’s passed through a dozen hands, it’s grown even bigger and totally out of proportion.  Remarking about how “Susan and Johnny seem to work very well together” has been more than one occasion ultimately delivered as “Susan and Johnny are having an affair at work together.”  The original comment contained neither an accusation nor malice, but ultimate delivery may have well done so.

It’s also funny how in the case of rumors and gossip, we aren’t “innocent until proven guilty” but rather “guilty until absolute proof of innocence can be produced.”

In the past, rumors and gossip were managed via that proverbial grapevine, passed from one person to another by word of mouth either in person or by telephone, occasionally by letters.  Today, with the advent of Twitter and Facebook, along with the 101 other flavors of social media…we can have a rumor hit the international waves within minutes of someone typing it into their screen and hitting enter, and it passes at  a rate that makes a flu epidemic look slow.  There is no incubation period, it’s just gone!

It also never goes away.  It can be traced.  You can’t deny it, even if you delete it, because somewhere, someone has a copy of what you originally said.

And often, it crosses the line of legality too, from just speculation to things such as slander and defamation of character.  Granted, no one is charged each and every time that this occurs, but…

What if you are the next one that IS?

  • Think before you accuse someone of something.
  • Think again before clicking “share” or “repost”
  • Try verifying things–a lot of things are already known to be untrue or an actual hoax.
  • Try being a little bit kind.  We don’t have to display each tidbit of dirty laundry we discover about someone else.  Believe me, your dirty laundry can come out just as quickly.
  • And maybe, just maybe, your mother was right when she said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Facebook and us

19 Nov

Almost everyone uses Facebook.  I use it too.  My mother uses it.  A lot of my other relatives use it.  A lot of other relatives have stopped using it, as a result of a hacking incident or because of someone else being hacked, as well as news reports about the lack of security.

It’s probably true, it’s not the most secure of sites on the world-wide web.  It’s also one of the biggest sites to ever be created, with more users every day.  Hacking, phishing, and other breaches of security are almost inevitable.  It’s a gold mine for the criminal set, offering access to credit cards, personal information and potential victims.

Yes, it is used by criminals and child molesters.  It’s also used by law enforcement, bill collectors, and private investigators.  It’s a window into people’s lives and illustrates what they are really doing in a way that most people don’t even realize.  It shows more than whether you are home or not, it shows your state of mind and what is important to you too.

Future and current employers are understandably concerned about what is posted on your Facebook wall.  It can reflect on them, good or bad.  It can illustrate whether you are a desirable employee too.  Often your inner feelings and real work ethics are also illustrated there, as well as that day you took off from work so you could stay home to play Farmville and Mafia Wars.

Many people have now set their computers with Facebook as their “home page.”  They only see/do/read things on the internet that is connected with Facebook for whatever reasons they do so.  I find that mystifying.

It’s not like Facebook guarantees content or safety of a website.  What good is a Facebook link to a web page?  Only as good as the link itself is, recently illustrated by last weekend’s heisting of people’s accounts to post gory or sexually explicit photos on their walls with an accompanying link. The photos were not appreciated by the long list of victims’ friends either, and days passed before Facebook was able to put an end to the problem.  It further illustrated the lack of security of the website.

In addition, there are privacy concerns.  It seems that Facebook thinks it has a right to track its users even when their users are no longer logged in.  That’s not exactly thrilling, and I’ve become more diligent about creating a wall between Facebook and my use of the computer for surfing and shopping–I actively work to clean out their cookies, which never expire, as well as barricade my Facebook page into a browser with nothing else happening.  I don’t like the invasion of my privacy, and because of this, I am one of the many users that is considering dropping my active use of Facebook.

What would that mean?

Dropping my active use of Facebook would mean no longer logging in daily, but rather logging in just a few times a week.  I’d no longer instantly post something interesting to my wall, nor respond to other people’s postings in anything resembling real time.  I’m probably a heavier-than-average user, and if I dropped my active use of the site, I’d be a more average to low usage user.  In time, it would probably go the way of MySpace for me–I have an account, and I probably remember the password, but typically I log in a few times a year.

I have no illusions that Facebook would notice my absence.  Facebook is not known for being very concerned about it’s users.  It’s just there, kind of like a street.  The street doesn’t care about us either, but we use it anyhow.  Facebook is more like an international highway, through which information can be spread in a viral form. That viral spreading of information is amazing and probably the most important facet of Facebook.

Facebook is also likely to be the place that heralds protest movements, not only in the USA, but world wide.  It coordinates, spreads information in real time, and detours around a less-than-responsive press and mass media.  It allows venues that once upon a time would have had to spread the word of their existence slowly through word of mouth to spread the news in minutes and hours rather than months and years.  That makes Facebook important, no matter how greedy the company itself is or isn’t.

I will admit, I’ve also bought products as a result of a Facebook ad too.  So it’s advertising, while sometimes annoying and poorly tailored to the user, (I am always getting ads for Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Houston…and I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, closer to Mobile than New Orleans too) can be accurately targeted.  In my case, it was outdoors equipment.  (Rain garments, life jacket, and a waterproof camera bag)  Advertising is a big revenue product, and that’s part of how  Facebook makes the money it makes, resulting in a massive and yet free social networking website.

Facebook might be the monster we all love to hate, but it is becoming an increasingly relevant component to our modern lives.  We need it, or so we think, to connect with others for work, play and family ties.  It changes so fast that it’s hard to keep up with the changes, and any book that comes out that answers the questions for us is likely to be outdated and lose it’s abilities within a few short months at best.

Whether its a devil or a wonderful addition to our lives depends on a lot of variables.  We’re stuck with the changes in our lives, and I’m not sure anything is ever going to replace the whole Facebook thing, and it is quite an amazing phenomenon.  The speed and high percentage of adoption means even those who aren’t thrilled with it are somewhat stuck with dealing with it too.

Maybe it’s what we love to hate, can’t do without, and are truly addicted to.  But it does look like Facebook, just like Microsoft’s operating systems, is a standard.  We’re somewhat forced into a position of using it, no matter how devious its privacy policies are.  Sure we can boycott it, and cut our noses off to spite our faces too.  The sole option is to figure out how to contain the monster, keeping it useful without divulging excessive amounts of personal data.

That’s the user’s problem.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,254 other followers