Category Archives: Complaint Department

Facebook and Google

I’ve bitched a lot about Facebook the past year, primarily because I disagree with the way that Facebook assumes that everything you do wants to be public information.

You’re opted by default into Facebook Places, allowing people to broadcast to anyone where you are.
Photos, people can tag you doing stupid things, all without your permission unless your carefull modify your settings.
Facebook started using your name and photo in ads, unless you opted out.
Facebook has been found to be publicly sharing user data with advertisers and other developers.

You post everything on Facebook. You tell it what you like. What you’re doing. Where you’re doing it and who with. This is your life. It is your timeline (I love the design, for the record).  Now, don’t you think you should be able to choose which information you share and with whom (including developers, partners, advertisers,etc.)

Let me explain why this gets me so worked up…

I work at Google. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that all of the advertisers running on our AdSense partner sites (the Google Display Network) are respecting your right to Internet privacy. The team I manage ensures that  our advertisers are not storing any data about you and that they fully declare how they use it by way of the advertiser’s privacy policy. We ensure that advertisers are not stealing your online identity, allowing them to thus target you without your express knowledge and agreement.

We review every ad that is served on our network to ensure that it is not dropping any tracking cookies from shady advertisers, ad networks or other online entities. For the select vendor tracking cookies we allow, we carefully screen them for data collection practices, malware protection and require that they each include a method in their privacy policy to allow you to opt out from being tracked.

Google collects behavioral data about which sites you visit, to put them into categories for advertisers to target. We tell you this information up front and allow you to delete or change what we know about you. Hmmm.. Google thinks I’m 35-44 years old. I’m kind of offended.

We tell you exactly what we know about you and how we use it.

Now let’s talk about Facebook. You tell Facebook everything. Facebook is your online identity. If an someone could take a snapshot of your life (your books, conversations, interests) and put it in one massive database, it’d be Facebook. All this information is then shared with advertisers, research companies its partners.  For example, the marketing research company Nielsen has a new product known as OCR, which will report back to advertisers which ads you’ve seen, on which pages of the internet, how you responded to the ad and compare that with your Facebook profile. You can’t choose what information is shared with Nielsen and what’s not. But that’s ok, right?

They’ve now allowing applications and partners to post directly to your stream and share everything you do, with or without your permission. I’m not sure how you feel about that, but I’d rather not tell everyone what movies I’m watching, reading, or listening to without me saying so. Do I want people to know that I a closet Real Housewives fan (I’m not)? Or that I’ve been listening to an unhealthy amount of Vitamin String Orchestra? I’d rather choose tell that to people, not assume that what I do in my private life is up for public consumption.

Spotify! I love it. Greatest app ever. I am a paying user for $9.99 a month. I get an email from them last week, with the subject line “Ron Bailer is listening to ____.” I open it up and it’s a promotional email from Spotify, who has a list of all my friends and is allowing the use of their names in promotional emails. I don’t want my name showing up in anyone else’s promotional email. Even if I love a product, I don’t want them to assume they can use my name in their advertisements. What is Ron hates Spotify?  I asked Spotify about this, and they told me:

The email you are referring too comes from Spotify Social and occurs when you link your Spotify account to Facebook. It will send out these emails occasionally to other users within your social network, so it is possible that from time to time your Facebook friends who have also linked their accounts to Spotify will receive similar emails with your information in.

There is no “opt in” or “opt out” option for this as it is part of the social experience. If you do not wish for information to be shared in this way you will need to disconnect your Facebook account from Spotify.

I like using Spotify and I want to share my playlists with other people. Why must I give up my right to privacy in order to get the convenience of sharing a song or a playlist with someone else. I know what you’re going to say.. this is Spotify’s problem (not Facebook’s). I disagree.

Google would never allow a partner or advertiser to do this to you, without your permission (or at least a way to opt out).

Advertisers on Facebook can target any demographic or profile term they want and hit you with a display ad. These ads can then drop cookies (and flash cookies) on you that can tag you as having specific qualities. You can’t opt out of it. You don’t even know it’s happening or when. The Facebook Privacy policy doesn’t offer any opt-outs for these sorts of things.

The information you share online is information about you. Think about it this way. If you have a secret or a personal story that you want to tell someone in real life. Who would you rather trust? The person that will keep your secret and allow you to say with whom they can and cannot share it? Or someone who thinks that “the age of privacy is over” and is willing to tell it to anyone that’s willing to listen?

Extra Strength

While at work yesterday, I went to our medicine cabinet (yes, we have a medicine cabinets on each floor filled with an assortment of medical supplies) in search of a pain reliever for my headache. Looking through my options, I was faced with the choice of:

  • Extra Strength Acetominaphen (Tylenol)
  • Extra Strength Naproxen Sodium (Aleve)
  • Advanced Strength Ibuprofen (Advil)

I grabbed a small packet of the Aleve and began to ask myself why everything is labeled extra strength — if that’s become the standard. I understand that this is just a small sampling of the world’s drug supplies (being my office medicine cabinet and all) but the OTC medicine aisle at your local drug store is really no different.

Thinking about it even more, I thought it was some kind of ploy to charge more for the extra strength pills. Price the original strength pills at $5.00 and then tack on an additional dollar if you want the extra strength variety. This leaves the decision up to the shopper to ask “Why would I buy the original strength, if the stronger ones are just a dollar more?” But in reality, they don’t sell an original strength for a lot of the pain relievers.

Take Tylenol for example. A quick search at CVS.com shows that every single package is marked “Extra Strength.” Wouldn’t this indicate that they should perhaps upgrade the strength threshold?

At the end of the day, I still think it’s some kind of marketing ploy — to make their product look stronger or more effective. If you ask me, it’s a little silly. Especially when it comes to the sample size generic medicinal offerings in my medicine cabinet.

Snipes get Sniped

I think I completely missed this story and to be honest, probably never would have heard about it if I hadn’t been listening to BBC news this evening in the shower.

Did you catch this? Wesley Snipes has been sentenced to 3 years in prison for failing to pay taxes. It’s not just the fact that he “failed” to file taxes — it’s not as if he forgot.

He defied filing taxes.

He felt that he was not obligated to pay taxes for some reason. If you ask me, someone who makes that much money deserves to pay taxes more than anyone. I mean, seriously. You’re a success as far as the public is concerned — and yet of all people — you feel that you don’t need to contribute to the country that helped make you famous?

C’mon. Wake me up when you wise up, Willie Mays Hayes.

Articles

I have a lot of pet peeves.  Grammar mistakes, both spoken and written, are among the worst in my book.  Someone taped a note up in my building stating that “…the carpets are going to be ripped up and replaced with the week.”  Well, that sign went up at the beginning of this week.  It’s now Friday evening.  The old carpets are still out there in the common areas.  There seems to be an epidemic of people using “within the week” rather than “within a week.”  There’s a big difference between the two and most people seem to neither notice nor care.  Within the week would have meant that the carpets should be ripped up by now.  Within a week means that the management company still has a few days to make good on their claim.  This type of sloppiness comes into play in my job once in a while, too.  If someone requests something of me “within a week,” then I make damn sure to clarify their timeframe because the people that use both terms interchangably are the same people that will nail me for not reading their mind and not doing something within the (five-business-day) week instead of within a (seven-day) week. 

After a long layoff, it feels good to be back at the old complaint department.

Non Smoking Rooms

Based solely on brand recognition, I have always thought that Radisson Hotels were a step above a Holiday Inn or a Courtyard Marriott. I’m not quite sure where I have developed this perception of the brand but that’s how I’ve felt.. until last night.

For mere logistical reasons, Miss Possible and I stayed at a Radisson Hotel last evening and were very disgusted. The room was denoted as Non-Smoking on the placard outside the room, but upon entering you can smell the remnants of nicotine and cigarette smoke. Even looking around, there were two ashtrays with matches… how is this supposed to be a non-smoking room? The sheets and pillowcases were even worse — absolutely disgusting.

Overall, it looked like the room was out of the 50’s — with the world’s very first Microwave and a shoe polishing machine that I’ve only seen in the movies. At the very least, bathroom looked nicely remodeled — much like the lobby, which only further led me to believe that Radissons were classy.

I had complained to the front desk in the morning, and the man behind the counter seemed slightly apologetic offering to take something off our bill but, oh wait, “you booked this through Travelocity? Oh, I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do.” At this point, it didn’t really matter.. I just wanted out of this oceanic time warp. Looks like Radisson is now on my $hit list, much like .

Where the hell are the singing cats?

I never knew much about the musical Cats.  I remember how it took Broadway by storm when I was a little kid and soon enough the Boston and Providence theater scenes each welcomed various Cats productions.  As a kid, it seemed strange to me, but so did all musicals.  As I grew up, I came to enjoy Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Phantom of the OperaCats always remained a mystery and when it bade farewell to Broadway a few years ago, I figured it was all for the best.  Fast forward to January of this year and Swedish Girl informed me that she bought tickets to see Cats.  It’s in Boston for just one week on its 25th anniversary tour.  I wouldn’t say I was excited at the news, but I thought it would be interesting.

That was an overstatement.  I thought it was horrible.  Actually, more frivolous and foolish, than horrible.  As I was crammed into my 1928 era balcony seat at the Boston Opera House before the show, I read the playbil and discovered that Cats is based on a book of poems by T.S. Eliot.  That was pretty cool, I thought.  It lends the musical instant credibility.  Well, by the time I saw nearly two dozen adults prancing around dressed as cats, all credibility was shot.  I haven’t done any research pre or post, so I have no idea what, if any, allegory Eliot was shooting for.  Who are the jellicles?  Who is Old Deuteronomy?  What is the deal with that cat ascending skyward in the deus ex machina?

It was all lost on me.  I honestly tried to pay close attention and look for the inner meaning, but all I could see was a group of silly adults licking themselves and dancing around.  It was torture.  Two college-aged ladies three rows in front of us (who had also been at the Hyatt Hotel bar, as we were, before the show) left halfway through Act 1.  Around that time, Swedish Girl asked me if I liked it.  I rejoiced because I thought this meant that she also hated it.  I was already thinking ahead to which bar we could visit while the rest of those suckers were languishing through Act 2. 

No dice.  She loved it.  She couldn’t find the allegory, either, but she loved the costumes, the music, and the lighting.  I pleaded my case and tried to get an early release for good behavior by asking if I could leave and head to a bar.  Nope.  I had to sit through Act 2.  The only reprieve I got was that Swedish Girl said I could take a nap.  But the half-pot of strong coffee I drank earlier was keeping me wide awake.  I flipped through the playbill and found some minor solace in the fact that Act 2 was one scene shorter than Act 1. 

Three parting shots:

(1) Why the hell does Old Deuteronomy just sit there on stage during the entire intermission?  Is this what was done in the London and New York productions, or did this actor just not have anything better to do?

(2) One thing that put a smile on my face during this debacle was the memory from David Letterman’s very first episode of his CBS Late Show in 1993.  The camera cut to Paul Newman in the audience and he angrily yelled out, “Where the hell are the singing cats?”  Classic TV moment.  I’ll have to look for it on youtube.  It’s almost 14 years later and that still cracks me up.

(3) Take my word for it and avoid Cats.  It may be coming to a city near you.  If it does, you’d be better off going to the cinema to see Road Hogs (which looks like it could surpass Gigli and Glitter as the worst film ever made).

One happy family

I don’t like my neighbors.  On one side of me is a married couple a little older than Swedish Girl and me.  On the other side of me is a man?  A woman?  One of each?  I have no idea, as their shades and blinds are always closed and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them.  They/he/she is (are?) quiet, so that’s good.  The pricks on the floor above me are loud.  I swear on one Sunday morning a few weeks ago, it sounded as if they had some friends over and were bowling with both bowling balls and each other.  These neighbors were kind enough to rip up their wall-to-wall carpeting some time ago, so we can hear every footstep, every dropped beer bottle, and every bowled ball or human.  The old lady across the hall is quiet, but I get the feeling she’s keeping an eye on my comings and goings through her peep hole.

It’s mostly the married couple next door that bug me.  Just this morning, they were leaving their apartment just as I was leaving mine.  The wife went out of her way to ignore me.  The husband and I exchanged cordial good mornings, but then he let the outer door slam on me moments later.  Lovely.  His wife apparently thinks I’m a serial rapist or something, because other times that I’ve held the door for her, she’s dashed through with nary a ‘thank you’ or a nod.  I have come to the conclusion that, contrary to the typical fiber of my being, I’m going to turn up the faux charm and really kill that couple with kindness. 

There is one really friendly neighbor with whom I wish I shared a wall.  I call him Detergent Guy because one late night as Swedish Girl and I were watching TV in our pajamas, he loudly knocked on our door.  It was such a forceful knock, that we thought the RA was coming to bust us for something.  Turns out, he was drunk and doing some laundry, but he couldn’t carry everything and spilled laundry detergent on our door and floor mat.  Since then, he’s been cool with us.  I hope that event (and subsequent hallway exchanges of pleasantries) helped erase the image in his mind of Cool Jesus as slayer of old ladies. 

But that’s a tale for tomorrow…

Snowclone (A phrase must die)

Over the past year I’ve noticed that one phrase in particular has grown out of control. I’ll admit I’ve used it, I enjoyed it, but now it’s time to put it to rest. While the actual phrase itself may vary, it bears the same meaning.

The phrase is:

X is the new Y.

Or more commonly:
X is the new black.

Doing a quick search on , I found the phrase’s origins:

The phrase is commonly attributed to Gloria Vanderbilt, who upon visiting India in the 1960s noted the prevalence of pink in the native garb. She declared that “Pink is the new black”, meaning that the color pink seemed to be the foundation of the attire there, much like black was the base color of most ensembles in New York.

This led me to find out that this specific phrase is also known as a “:”

Snowclone is a neologism used to describe a type of formula-based cliché which uses an old idiom in a new context. The term emphasizes the use of a familiar (and often particular) formula and previous cultural knowledge of the reader to express information about an idea. The idea being discussed is usually contextually different in meaning from the original use of that formula, but can be understood using the same trope as the original formulation.[citation needed]
A common example of a snowclone is “X is the new Y

I don’t quite grasp what this means, and I never intended for this diatribe to become a hodgepodge of technical terms. I just wanted to discuss a cease and desist order for a specific phrase in the English language.

What did it in for me was something I saw on the ‘Today Show’ this past Monday. It was a fluff piece called ’10 is the new 15,’ discussing how girls are starting to act like teenagers at a much younger age. At this point, I thought to myself that there is no end in sight for this phrase, unless it be stopped immediately. Therefore at 8:17 a.m. on Monday, December 10, 2006 December 11, 2006, I officially announced that this phrase has died.

Now let’s all rally around and stop this ridiculous phrase before it spirals out of control, if it’s not too late. Who’s with me?

Technorati Tags: ,

Checkout Lane

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty set in my ways regarding the way things should be done and how people should behave, etc. For instance, I’m real big on personal space. That isn’t abnormal or one of my peculiarities, though. I know lots of people who value varying sized spheres of personal space. Which leads me to the supermarket checkout lane.

Sometimes we have to bag our own groceries and I’m fine with that (I cannot stand the uppity snobs who refuse to bag their own groceries even when there is no bagger. They just let their items pile up and wait for the poor cashier to bag everything. This isn’t akin to a restaurant where we expect to be served by a waiter or waitress. Otherwise, we’d all tip the grocery bagger, and I don’t see that going on), so I slide down to the end and get busy. When done, I slide back to the cashier area to pay and find that the customer behind me has entered my personal space. This happens more than half the time. Since I’m not about to lean and stretch to give the cashier my money, I have to make sure I get my message across to the offending customer. This entails an aggravated what the fuck are you doing, moron? look with palms raised upward, and a crisp, no-nonsense “excuse me.”

However, that diatribe wasn’t the meaning for this entry; I just started thinking about supermarkets and my mind wandered to that gigantic pet peeve. I’m taking an informal poll about supermarket checkout lane etiquette. Yesterday, while in line, the woman ahead of me saw that my hands were full and placed the plastic divider on the conveyor belt after her items. First question: Is this an action that expressly benefits me and, thus, requires a ‘thank you?’ A minute or two later, after I had drifted off into my thoughts, the man behind me grabbed a divider and placed it on the conveyor after my items. Second question: Was it my duty to be the one to place the divider on the belt?