Tag Archives: web

“Via”

If I ruled the internet, I’d exterminate everyone who says “via” when they mean “by”.

Via
1. by way of; by a route that passes through:
go to Italy via Singapore.
2. by means of: to reach a conclusion via three logical steps.
(Latin: way)
– Macquarie Concise Dictionary, 4th ed.

When you say “via”, it should mean that the place or person you’re linking to is a secondary source – a conduit, a republisher, a Tumblr.

If you’ve managed to find the original, primary, source yourself, the item doesn’t come to you “via” anything. There are no intermediaries – you’re looking at the original item, the original author. The item is “by” the author or site, not “via” them.

A feed advertisement

A first: I clicked on a link in my feed-reader (clicking on the article’s title so I could go to its web page) and was taken to an advertising page first. I’ve seen that happen within a web site before, but not from a feed.

I use Adblock Plus in my Firefox, and thus couldn’t see the ad, but here’s what the mostly-blank page looked like:

screenshot showing lots of white space plus a link in different languages through to the article

Appearances

I hate seeing what online people look like.

Twice in the last few days I’ve seen a photo of a writer who I’d admired and felt some sort of kinship with, but seeing their photo has ended my fellow-feeling.

They were just public people whose writing I admired. I never expected to meet them or to know anything personal about them; I didn’t imagine any sort of relationship with them – because I’m not, you know, completely deluded. But I suppose that when reading something I like, in the back of my head I’m thinking that if I like what the author is saying, I’d like them as a person too; and if I like them, they’d like me.

That’s ridiculous. But I suppose that’s what’s happening in my head. I hadn’t realised it till now.

Having set up this cosy feeling of kinship based on liking what the person says or thinks or likes, when I then see the writer’s photo, suddenly I see who they are instead of only what they’re saying. And invariably – if they’re volunteering their photo – they’re young and good-looking, dressed well, with perfect skin, perfect teeth, perfect hair, with friends everywhere they go, and they do go everywhere, and do everything, and suddenly it’s painfully obvious that we have absolutely nothing in common.

Until seeing what they look like, I think everything they say and think is the most important thing. Then I see their appearance and realise we’re worlds apart, and then everything else is nothing.

Privacy

Sometimes I think I worry too much about privacy. Maybe I should learn to let go. Notions of what is private and what is public are changing, and maybe I’m stuck in the pre-internet way of thinking.

But I don’t know. I can’t decide. The idea of privacy seems really important to me and I think I need it to feel safe. But maybe I’m only thinking that because I’m being stupid. I don’t know. I can’t decide.

It still seems like a new phenomenon, the era of self exposure (and there’s probably a better term for it than that, but I can’t think of one). I remember seeing a television program years ago, before the internet arrived – the first of the American chat shows that was shown in Australia, I think: Donahue. People on the show were talking about themselves and their relationships as though talking to their closest friends – except, they were on television, in public, across the world. There seemed to be no reason for them to expose themselves so openly, so voluntarily, and I couldn’t believe they were doing it. It was fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

It’s not fascinating and horrifying any more, of course, because now self-exposure is everywhere, all over the internet, on every service where people can publish something.

But I still haven’t gotten used to it. I see people revealing their entire lives online and feel scared for them. Names, photos, addresses, family, workplaces – they put it all out there, maybe not thinking about what “out there” really means. “Out there” is the entire internet world: all the people you know and like and respect, and all the ones you’d be terrified to meet in a dark alley, along with their bots and scrapers or whatever it is they use to turn your personal life story into fodder or to use your personal information against you.

What I’m dreading is the arrival of facial recognition software. I’m guessing that before long it’ll be possible to identify people by simply photographing them with a phone app. And the people like me who have been careful to never attach their name to their photo online will find that it makes no difference: some idiot somewhere will have tagged them in a photo in a gesture of friendliness, and we private types will be just as findable as everybody else.

That’s coming. And maybe I should be preparing for it somehow – getting used to the idea that there’s nowhere to hide. And why do I want to hide, anyway? Wouldn’t it be better to be open? Maybe the safest people are the ones who can live in a spotlight.

I don’t think so. And I don’t think I could live that way. I like being private. I like being hidden away. And if I thought it was possible that anybody anywhere could know everything I think or care about, I’d never say another word. I only feel safe talking online if my real name and other details aren’t associated with it. But maybe one day the option of being unnamed and unknown will disappear – software will take it away – and there’s nothing I can do about that.

As an example of what can be done with phone apps already, take a look at this:
John Brownlee, This creepy app isn’t just stalking women without their knowledge, it’s a wake-up call about Facebook privacy, Cult of Mac, 30 March 2012

The app is probably just automating what anybody could do on their own: checking Foursquare locations and Facebook profiles (public ones). But it’s the ease and speed with which it does this that is scary: the app owner can find out who is in a certain location and then check personal information about them immediately. It’s the facial-recognition thing happening already, just without the facial-recognition.

So, I’m thinking about privacy. Or, at some time I will need to think about privacy (this post has taken so damn long to write and edit, I’ve run out of enthusiasm). The world is changing. There’s nothing I can do about it. So, should I keep up and change too, or fall back to staying safe in my own little world of one, or something else? This is what I need to decide.

Feeds

I love RSS and Atom feeds. They make it so much easier to keep up with what’s going on, and, for people on slow connections, it’s much quicker to load a feed than it is to visit a site: you only need to load the latest updates, not the whole page with all its widgets and photos and advertisements and crapdeedoodar.

But lately I’ve noticed that lots of sites don’t show a link for their feeds, and I’m worried that RSS and Atom might disappear from use. It’d be a tragedy if that happened. I expect we’d fall into separate worlds: WordPress users only “following” other WordPress blogs; Blogger users only “following” other Blogger blogs; independent sites disappearing altogether. This “following” thing already happens at Pinterest, which (as far as I can see) doesn’t offer feeds. I can only check what’s happening there by going there, and, as each page takes roughly 5,000 hours to load, I’ll probably soon give up on doing that.

One good thing about WordPress blogs (and I’m only presuming this works for all of the WordPress .com sites, I don’t know): even if the site doesn’t show a feed link, you can guess what it is: just add “feed/” (for posts) or “comments/feed/” to the end of the URL.

For example (I’ve added a gap so they won’t try to turn into real links):
http:// rubbishexample.wordpress.com/
http:// rubbishexample.wordpress.com/feed/
http:// rubbishexample.wordpress.com/comments/feed

It’s one of the treasures of WordPress. Bravo!

UPDATE:
Another treasure (can’t remember where I found it): you can get feeds for Twitter accounts. Replace username in the following URL with the actual username, close the gap before the “//”, and add the URL to your feed reader:
http: //api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=username