Category Archives: My soap box

Aussie Authors! Don’t pay for an ABN!

I can’t name any names as I’m still hoping I’ll receive the promised refund, but I couldn’t let this go without sounding some kind of a warning. 😦

So here it is. If you want or need an Australian Business Number [ABN], do NOT be fooled by any internet companies that charge for this service.

The only place to get an ABN is the official government website:

https://abr.gov.au/

Unfortunately this website is not the first one that comes up on an internet search. Chances are, you’ll see something that looks official, but in the fine print you’ll find that the company is actually a tax agent and the fee is for their services, not for the ABN.

I know this because I paid my money despite feeling uneasy. Only afterwards did I look up the real government agency. I rang and asked if there is a fee for reactivating an ABN. They said no…

I haven’t been ‘scammed’ exactly. I’ve been mislead. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. 😦

Meeks

 


How Social Media misuses Behaviour Modification techniques

I’ve just read an article that is so important, I’m posting about it here and on Medium. The article is entitled:

How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the bit about the writer being a magician that caught my attention, it was the label of ‘Google Design Ethicist’ that made me start reading. Having just learned how Google invades our privacy, I was primed to be interested.

Almost immediately, I recognized the term ‘intermittent rewards’ as one of the  ‘behaviour mod[ification]’ techniques I’d studied at university. The course was Behavioural Sciences, and back then I’d wanted to become a psychologist.

In a nutshell, behaviour mod. started out as a therapy for:

Inducing positive change in an individual’s behavior through such techniques as positive and negative reinforcement, or punishment for poor behavior. This therapy method is based off of the experiments by B.F. Skinner and his theory of operant conditioning.

https://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/behavior-modification/

My interest in psychology was sidelined by my introduction to computers, so I never ‘used’ my studies for anything, but apparently industry had. Intermittent rewards are used to make people addicted to all sorts of things, including slot machines and…social media. When you see people obsessively checking their phones, or computers, for messages, emails, or ‘Likes’ on social media platforms like Facebook, it’s because they’ve been conditioned to do so by the technique of intermittent rewards.

You can see exactly how intermittent rewards work on social media by reading the article:

https://journal.thriveglobal.com/how-technology-hijacks-peoples-minds-from-a-magician-and-google-s-design-ethicist-56d62ef5edf3

We’ve been turned into Pavlov’s Dogs by ‘social engineers’ who either never question the ethics of what they’re doing, or simply don’t care. The only way to turn social media into something that benefits us is to:

a) become aware of how we’re being manipulated and

b) kick up such a stink that companies benefiting from this manipulation are forced to change, or go under.

I’m so angry, I’d be happy to see them all crash and burn.

Meeks

 


The price of integrity

I’ve been thinking about this all day, trying to find a way of doing the right thing without sticking my neck out. But there isn’t one. I can’t stay silent and not feel ashamed of myself.

So here is the response I received this morning from the WordPress/Automatic representative:

‘….For your site the ads placement is correct for the double sidebar option you have enabled under Settings > Theme options
There is an issue I see though where the the first ad in the sidebar is appearing blank. I have reported this to our ads team as well as the “asian girl chat” ad.
I will remove the ads from your site for the above reasons. Like I mentioned though, the ads do appear in their expected places on the site.
Write back to me here with any further questions/concerns about this. I will not be able to disable ads for every report in that forum thread. The thread will be closed once I’ve reached everyone by email.
Take care,
Liz
Happiness Engineer
WordPress.com’

If you stop receiving notifications of blog posts from me, it may be because Meeka’s Mind is no longer here. Should that happen, I would dearly love to hear from all of you on my gmail email:

meekasmind@gmail.com

-massive hugs-

Meeks


#WordPress – do you know what your blog really looks like to visitors?

When the ongoing saga of the sidebar adverts. began [here, here and here], I started a thread about it on the WordPress forum. In the days since then, more and more WordPress bloggers have left comments about the same thing happening to their own blogs. This is what one of the commenters said today:

‘I only by chance even found this out by going to my blog on another browser that I wasn’t logged into at the time. Many (most) bloggers have no idea that these new and multiple ads are on their blogs. If they were aware, there would be far more outrage on the Forums. ‘

That got me thinking. Many of my blogging friends can’t see the ad at all because they run adblocker software, but what of everyone else on WordPress? Surely we are not the only ones being targetted by these ads?

And then the penny dropped: the reason more bloggers aren’t screaming is because they only ever see their blogs from the inside, and from there, everything looks fine. What the…?

When I’m logged in to WordPress and click the button to ‘view my site’, I only ever see what’s meant to be there. I never see the ads so if I didn’t have my blog set as the home page of my Firefox browser, I probably wouldn’t know what visitors are seeing either.

But wait…it gets worse. When I write a post and preview it, the ads don’t show. I know because I just checked the preview for this post – no ad. Then I hopped on Chrome and checked my site – ADVERTISEMENT! So the ‘Preview’ function doesn’t show your blog from the outside either.

So how could this happen? Do the ‘view site’ and ‘preview’ functions only display setup choices, not real time information? Or is there a deliberate deception going on?

I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s just one of those programming over-sights and not an attempt to hide the ads, but I’m asking all WordPress bloggers who don’t have adblocker active to check their blogs from the outside. To see how their blog appears to a stranger. And don’t just use your normal browser. If at all possible, use a variety of browsers to see exactly what kind of ads are being displayed on your blog.

These two screenshots were taken within moments of each other. The first one shows what appears on the IE browser. The second displays the ad. on the Chrome browser:

Yes, that Chrome ad is all about chatting…right…and that pretty young thing is showing all that boob because it’s a hot day…of course. No way is this an ad. for a dating site. And of course it isn’t an ad. for a porn site. Silly me.

Even if you think I’m a crazy old prude, check your blog from the outside just in case all your free content is being used to advertise something you really, really don’t like.

If you see your blog from the outside and don’t like what you see, please join the discussion here:

https://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/expoitative-advertising/page/2?replies=36#post-3073849

The forum thread is on to its second page so click on page 1 to get a complete picture of what’s been happening. If you’re logged into your WordPress blog you will be able to add a comment without the need to register or sign up for the forum.

Not happy,

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 


Automatic – the power behind #WordPress…and those ads.

While doing some research on WordPress, I discovered that the parent, if you will, is actually a company called Automatic. Ring a bell? Yes, I was surprised too. Automatic is the name on the advert I’m fighting.

I’ve been calling the placement of that one, particular advert coercive and the intent of forcing us to pay to be free of ads, stand-over tactics. Yet, lo and behold, Automatic think they’re the best, most honourable thing since Sir Galahad:

‘Howdy! We’re the people behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Jetpack, and a bunch of other products for WordPress.’

‘We are passionate about making the web a better place. We don’t build software for free –– we build it for freedom. Our goal is to democratize publishing and commerce so that anyone with a story or idea can share it with the world regardless of income, gender, politics, language, or location.’

‘Your feedback is how we learn, and we treasure it. This year we’re proud to have delivered happiness to 85% of the users who contacted us.’

‘We’re constantly learning from our users and each other about how we can improve our products and make the web a better place. Our community holds us accountable to our purpose and we wouldn’t have it any other way.’

There’s more, about how nice they are to their employees blah blah, all the current buzz words, and they may well be all those things, but here’s a reality check for Automatic:

  1. The WordPress.com platform is not a charity. In exchange for providing bloggers with a ‘home’, WordPress, and by extension Automatic, receives billions of words of free content. Think about it. Do readers come to your blog because they’re enamoured of the way it functions? Because they like the colour scheme? No, they come for the content you have written.
  2. Once the popularity of our content reached a sort of critical mass, it encouraged businesses and people who wanted to monetize their blogs to pay for WordPress.org. WordPress.org is a way of building your own website with your own domain name by using the WordPress engine. This is money coming in to Automatic because of our content.
  3. All the free bloggers on WordPress.com are guinea pigs for the changes WordPress introduces. We are never informed in advance. We are never given a choice. We are given the changes and then WordPress sits back to see what will happen. If most of its users [us] don’t complain too loudly, they keep the changes which then go on to grace the websites of paid users. If the free bloggers kick up too much of a stink, certain ‘innovations’ are quietly withdrawn and replaced with less obnoxious alternatives. But we have to yell pretty loudly for the developers to decide that something isn’t worth the effort.
  4. Now we’re into a new phase of experiments in which Automatic/Wordpress place adverts in different, more visible positions on our blogs. Some people have had their actual content obscured. Others, like me, have simply had our ability to attract new followers curtailed. In all cases, however, the aim of the experiment is to see how far the guinea pigs can be pushed before they react.
  5. As far as Automatic is concerned, no matter which way we guinea pigs jump is going to be a win-win situation. If we upgrade our free acounts to paid accounts – just to be free of these intrusive adverts – they win by gaining an ongoing ‘subscription’ from people who were just ‘freeloaders’. If we accept the situation without much complaint, they get to place paid advertisements where they will be most visible to visitors – on the best parts of our blogs. On the other hand, if we scream loudly enough, they will simply go back to placing adverts after our blog posts while they think of some other way of squeezing blood from a stone.
  6. The one thing Automatic is not worried about is losing market share. Why? Because they believe the WordPress platform is too popular to fail.

On this last point, Automatic may be right, at least in the short term. Bloggers who have been on WordPress for years, like me, have built a brand here. Search engines know where to find us. Our community knows where to find us. Moving now would mean that most of us would have to start again from scratch. Not a pleasant prospect.

But, nothing online lasts forever. Geo Cities? My Space? Remember them? Those are the only two I can think of from way back when, but at the time, they were huge. What made them fade away? I suspect it was a combination of user boredom, mismanagement and the rise of newer, more exciting, more user-friendly platforms.

Will WordPress fade away like those other platforms? Absolutely. The only unknown is when, and that depends a lot on how greedy Automatic become. You see, if Automatic push too hard they’ll cross that fine line between too-much-to-lose and anything-is-better-than-this.

It can happen with any relationship: inertia holds us in place until misery, and the lure of something better finally galvanises us into action. Bottom line, there are a lot of blogging platforms out there, and they all need our content. Our.  Free. Content.

I’m not ready for divorce yet, but the point of no return is getting closer. And no, I’m not a modern-day Donna Quixote. I am stubborn, but the truth is that I simply can’t afford to pay even the base cost of an upgrade package. Thanks to my late parents, I have a roof over my head, but the only income I have is from the ‘Dole’. To earn the Dole, I work over 15 hours a week as a volunteer. For my efforts I ‘earn’ about $270-ish per week [not sure what the conversion rate is to USD, but it’s less]. If I were paid for my teaching, I’d be earning between 35 and 40 dollars per hour. Taking the lower rate, that would be $525 per week. But I can’t get a paid job so I’m trapped below the poverty line, hanging on by my teeth until I qualify for the pension. At the moment, a pensioner receives approximately $100 more a week, plus they can earn over $6000 per year before their pension is reduced.

I hate displaying my financial situation like this, but sometimes only the truth will do, and the truth is that paying WordPress is simply not an option.

I intend to spam this post on Twitter, but I don’t want my blogging friends to feel like the meat in the sandwich, so I’ve turned comments off. If anyone wants to contact me directly, you can find me on:

-hugs-

Meeks


#WordPress…what the…? 1:32pm update

 

Okay, this time I’ve been taking screenshots to prove I’m not going nuts. The timestamp of the first one shows 12:47 pm – i.e. just before lunch here in Oz:

The second one is timestamped 1:36 pm   – i.e. just after lunch in Oz. The advert in the sidebar is not the same, but it does duplicate the one below my post:

Something, or perhaps someone, is playing funny buggers, and I’m not impressed. I left a complaint on the WordPress.com forum, but until I receive a proper resolution to this issue, I’m going to keep posting updates about it.

Apologies, everyone, but I’m so angry there’s steam coming out of my ears.

Meeks

 

 

Sunday, February 4, 2016. This is beyond a joke. When I logged into my blog ten minutes ago, the advert was back, even longer than before. I started updating this post and decided I needed a screenshot. Viewed my site again, and the advert gone, again.

Am I going mad?

If anyone viewed my blog in the last 8 hours, could you please let me know whether there was a long, blue advert in the sidebar?

Honestly, I am starting to feel as if WordPress has it in for me. Am I too outspoken? Have I been too critical? Or am I being not-so-subtly pushed to upgrade from free to paid?

I don’t want to think so. I would really like to think there is a reasonable explanation. I would really, really like to think that WordPress is a company with too much integrity to play underhand tricks like this, because just at the moment it feels a lot like…coercion? standover tactics?…blackmail?

Meeks

I’m not sure how it happened, but that advert I was complaining about has disappeared, and I have my sidebar back. -dance-

When you run a free blog, you have to accept some advertising.

After all, the company that runs the platform that makes that free blog possible have to recoup their costs somewhere.

Until very recently, that ‘somewhere’ was just after my blog posts.

Now, I have this:

Right at the top of the page, taking up PRIME realestate in my no.1 sidebar. That’s the spot where I put all my important widgets, the ones I want visitors to see, even if they don’t see anything else. That is my critical spot. Now it has a great big advert. in it.

But that’s not all. The same advert. also appears at the bottom of the post, along with a second one for some other company so visitors to my blog are hit with three adverts, coming at them from all sides. Nothing discreet about this!

I was furious and clicked the ‘Report this ad’ button’ which is why it now has just a placeholder. But is this enough? Or will this disgusting placement simply return tomorrow or the day after?

What the hell were you thinking, Workpress?

Fair use is one thing. Blatant exploitation of my blog, to the detriment of my blog, is another. This is a step too far.

Soooooo not happy WordPress. 😦

Meeks


Sam Dastyari – one rotten apple or just the tip of the iceberg?

I’ve been having a conversation over on The Passive Voice that has disturbed me greatly. Not because it was unpleasant or rude, but because it has made me feel terribly naive at the ripe old age of 65.

To backtrack a little, the conversation began as a discussion about Amazon. We’re all pretty much Indie writers on TPV so Amazon features rather often in our conversations. Anyway, these are the relevant bits of a recent conversation between myself and Felix J Torres:

FJT: ..They [Amazon] are definitely being demonized like Microsoft ca 1995.
Hopefully, unlike MS in those days, they have more than one part time lobbyist in DC and have a few bought and paid for politicians in their pocket.

Me: ..So cynical! I most sincerely hope Bezos is smart enough not to have to do business like that.

FJT: ..If he doesn’t Amazon will get the same treatment Microsoft got for not contributing enough corporate funds to the politicians….

All that is a matter of record.

As is the fact that MS now has one of the larger contingents in DC and regularly provide PCs and free software to Congress people…

Me: ..I’m not denying it happens under the label of ‘lobbying’, but Amazon succeeded despite not doing what all the other companies were doing. If Bezos caves to the soft-corruption game of ‘gifting’ politicians, the ones to suffer long term will be /us/.
Apologies but Amazon is the /only/ large company that I admire. [I am so cringing now]

FJT: ..Well, of course consumers suffer.
The cost added by the politicians and bureaucrats gets added to the sale price….

Once one player alerts the politicians there is money to be had in a market they don’t back off. Rather they descend en masse…

Bezos would have to be an idiot to hear all the baying dogs calling for a lynching of Amazon and do nothing despite of what happened to Microsoft.

And he isn’t.
Amazon’s publicly reported lobbying has been growing steadily. Even faster than their online sales are growing…

Me: ..So there is open corruption that everybody knows about and accepts as normal?
In certain much maligned countries that might be known as ‘baksheesh’.

FJT: ..

Oh, just because it’s common knowledge doesn’t mean it’s accepted.

But every once in a while a congressman gets caught and arrested with a brown bag with $30K. (Seems to be the going rate in the House. Senators are a lot more expensive.)

Most politicians aren’t that blatant and merely call it “serving their constituents”. And many wrap themselves in principle like “protecting competition” or “looking out for the little people”.

Me: ..A member of the Labor party here in Australia – Sam Dastyari – was caught getting cosy with some Chinese business man, twice. He was finally kicked out but now I wonder whether he wasn’t just the tip of the iceberg, the one blatant idiot who got caught.
Could I get any more disillusioned?
I will never understand why so many Americans picked a certain person to be their ‘champion’ against the swamp, but I’m starting to understand why they need a champion in the first place.

I have only quoted what I thought were the relevant parts of the conversation, but if you’re interested, you can find the whole thing here:

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2018/01/why-amazon-is-the-new-microsoft/#comment-408446

Just scroll down a bit.

So, is this something everyone else already knew except me?

I would like to think that Australia is less caught up in this nudge-nudge-wink-wink epidemic of greed, but I’m not a complete fool. How many more Sam Dastyari’s are there amongst our politicians? Do they all take bribes of one sort or another? Is that why, once the politics dies down, nothing is ever done to change this bloody situation?

I’ve long thought the  concept of lobbying was wrong: in a democracy, the only people influencing politicians should be the voters. And yes, I know lobbyists are voters too, as are CEO’s of huge corporations blah blah, but if this bribery is as rampant as it appears, then our democracy is just a great big off-colour joke. 😦

Not happy Jan.

Meeks


Politics – do we really care?

I’ve always had a problem with ‘-isms’ – communism, socialism, facism, capitalism, republicanism, you name it – because they all seem to miss the point about people. Homo Sapiens doesn’t give a flying fruit bat about politics until things go wrong.

I was a kid in the late Menzies era of Australia [1949-1966], and I remember hearing some adults moan about elections while others moaned about the general apathy of the Australian voter. You see, in Australia, we have compulsory voting…and the times were good.

In fact, by the early 60’s, the populations of the Western world were better off, generally, than they had ever been before. Not quite the age of surplus envisioned by Marx, but close, and some of us really were able to live ‘…from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’ That’s what the Age of Aquarius, Flower Power and Free Love were really all about.

Yet, on an individual level, despite the lack of scarcity, we still suffered from greed and envy and other ‘first world’ problems as we see-sawed between co-operation and competition. Because that is how the human animal is made – neither saint nor sinner but a combination of both.

And in a roundabout way, our dual nature is exactly why compulsory voting should be mandatory in all representational democracies. Voters are human and apathetic…and the silent majority doesn’t give a shit. That is why we have to be forced into protecting democracy, because democracy only works if the apathetic majority moderates the extremes on both the Right and the Left.

If I had my way, I would do away with all career politicians entirely. Instead, I would replace them with ordinary people, plucked off the street as for jury duty. These reluctant amateurs would bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the table, but their very reluctance might result in some genuine ‘…government of the people, for the people, by the people’.

Human beings won’t change, ever. That’s why we have to devise better systems to make it possible for this disparate tribe to live together in mutual protection and safety.

Only by understanding and working around our own weaknesses can we avoid going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.

May 2018 be a better year than 2017.

Meeks


Lest I forget – Thursday, December 7, 2017

I’m hopeless with dates so I wanted to commemorate the day on which marriage equality became law, here in Australia. I’m so proud. 🙂

-hugs-

Meeks


A Proud Australian

Yesterday marked a special day in Australia. We voted ‘Yes’ to equality and a fair go. And we voted ‘no’ to bigotry.

As a nation, that’s cause for celebration, but the moment would have tasted even sweeter if it had marked the day marriage equality came into law.

Because it’s not there yet. This postal vote was not compulsory. It was also not binding. That means the politicians in Canberra can dick about forever and a day, delaying the inevitable just to pander to party factions. The result of the vote had barely been made public and already a Rabid Right politician was spruiking a marriage equality bill that would grant the right to marriage but would also water down anti-discrimination laws already in place!

I hope the Rabid Right enjoys its moment in the sun, because if they mess this up, none of the Liberals will stay in power for much longer. That is the one lesson none of our politicians seem to have learned. I guess they still think the political see-saw of the last few years is just an abberation. But it’s not. Parliament is full of Independents because we, the people, no longer trust the two major parties.

Malcolm Turnbull, our PM, has said he will make marriage equality a reality by Christmas. I hope that reality does not include the right for others to discriminate against gay couples, because reneging on the clear wishes of we, the people, will sound the death knell for his whole party.

cheers

Meeks

 


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