Aloha Friday: Taking Instant Communication For Granted

Telefon,_Nordisk_familjebokYesterday, I wrote about how I was worried about my friends and families post-Sandy.  This day and age, we’re used to being able to contact anyone we want to whenever we want to.  In some ways, this leads to procrastinating communication.  After all, why make that phone call now when you can do it an hour later or send a text or tweet them?

When people lost power during Sandy, however, the instant communication vanished.  Suddenly, since I couldn’t instantly communicate with friends and family, I found that what I wanted more than anything was to speak with them.  It really is true that you don’t realize how important something is until it’s gone.

My Aloha Friday question for today is: Did you have friends or family in Sandy’s path?  If so, how long did it take you to reach them?

NOTE: The phone image above is Public Domain and comes from Wikimedia Commons.

P.S. If you haven’t already, try out my Twitter applications: FollowerHQ and Rout.

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the linky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #163

How To Deal With A Content Thief

It is almost inevitable if you put content online.  At one point or another, someone will steal it.  Sometimes, it is someone stealing your words and claiming they are your own.  Sometimes, it is a company taking the photo you posted, stripping any watermark off of it, and using it for their brochure.  Usually these people will claim "the web is considered ‘public domain’" – a total falsehood.

In my mind, though, the most annoying content thieves are the spammer/scrappers.  These people troll the Internet looking for content to grab.  They gobble it up and repost it on their own sites/blogs with varying levels of attribution.  They use this content to gain Google ranking so that either 1) they get more money from ads, 2) their links to other sites get better ranking, and/or 3) their domain name becomes more valuable when they sell it.

While they are grabbing your content, they are doing much more damage than simple copyright infringement.  The duplicate text could not only help the thieves raise their Google ranking, but could also drag yours down.  In most of these cases, you are powerless to actually get the content removed.  You can send a cease and desist notice, mentioning that the copying is a DMCA violation that can result in a $750 – $150,000 fine per infringement.

Sadly, there are some content thieves who are stationed overseas and either ignore or laugh off any legal threats.  When you encounter a situation like this, you can’t do anything.

Well, unless they hotlink your photos.

Like the thieves we discovered on Sunday who stole B’s entire blog post.

Then, you can replace the photos with something "fun."

It’s a simple matter of editing your ".htaccess" file.  This file is very powerful and can tell the web server just who to allow to access content and who not to allow.  You can prevent hot-linking altogether, but I wouldn’t recommend this.  Blocking all hot-linking might make your posts show incorrect images when they are linked to on Pinterest, Facebook, and/or Google+.

However, if you know that has put your post online, you can put this code in your .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://(www\.)? [NC]
RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|gif|bmp|png)$ [NC,R,L]

This basically says that any images being requested by will be replaced with "do-not-steal.jpe".  (Note: It isn’t ".jpg" because all jpg files will be blocked.)  With this code in place, the following image, when linked to from


will look like this:


Of course, that link could contain anything, not just a bunch of text.  You could put a shot of an angry face, someone collating papers, or even something highly crude.

Will this get your content taken down?  No, it won’t.  But at least you will get the satisfaction of seeing the thief’s site "defaced" with your message proclaiming to all that stumble upon them that this site is a dirty, rotten content thief.

Faith in Humanity

Last week news broke of a horrible situation.  Some teens on a bus apparently thought that it would be fun to harass a bus monitor, a senior citizen named Karen H Klein.  They called her fat, poor and a bunch of other mean, and hurtful things.  While they were doing this, one recorded the entire event and uploaded it to Facebook to mock the bus monitor even more.

This could have been just another in the long list of horrible bully stories that you hear of which results in a lot of anguish but nothing substantial.  Or, even worse, it could have stayed hidden with the bullies getting nothing to dissuade them from bullying again and with the bullied feeling like they were alone in the world.

It could have been, but then a man by the name of Max Sidorov intervened.  First, he noticed the video on Facebook and decided that the whole world needed to see this.  So he reposted the video on YouTube.  Here’s the video, if you can watch the whole thing.  Personally, I was only able to make it about a minute in.

Secondly, he decided that Karen deserved a vacation.  He opened a fundraiser on Indiegogo.  His goal was to hit $5,000 in about 30 days.  As I’m writing this (on Sunday night), there are 26 days to go and the fundraiser is at $641,196.  No, there isn’t a missing decimal point.  They have raised over SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars for Karen.  This isn’t just "take a vacation" money or even ""take a really nice vacation" money.  This is "retire and never have to deal with these horrid teens ever again" money.

There were (as of this writing), 29,606 contributors.  That’s almost thirty thousand people who gave over $20 each because Karen’s story touched them and they wanted to throw some support behind her.  Beyond that, there was a groundswell of emotional support as well.  I haven’t seen any comments saying "Oh this lady’s so old and fat, she deserved it."  I haven’t seen any comments saying "Meh, kids will be kids.  This is just part of kids growing up.  Ignore it any it’ll go away."  Instead, I’ve seen questions asking how the kids could be so cruel, asking how the kids could be allowed to do this, asking why didn’t anyone intervene, and asking what role do the parents have in this.  Emotional support was thrown behind Karen big time.

This overwhelming support shows that there *are* people out there who care.  There *are* people out there who will see bullying happen and will say "this is wrong."  It sends a clear message to bullyings that their activities will be exposed and will *NOT* be tolerated.

Moreover, I was impressed by Karen’s response to the kids who were bullying them.  During the bullying, she could have lost her temper.  She could have yelled, screamed, and threatened the boys.  She didn’t, though.  She kept her cool and stayed calm.  Yes, she cried, but so would most people subjected to such emotional torture.  (It didn’t help that they said she was so ugly that her family probably killed themselves… when her son killed himself when he was ten.  The kids hit a big emotional trigger there, purely by mistake but still in a malicious manner.)

Instead of screaming, Karen took the abuse and tried to respond calmly.  She showed more grace and restraint than those teens deserved.  She took the high road and rose higher than those teens could ever hope to soar.  Not unless they have some serious attitude adjustments.

When I hear about these bullying incidents, the bullies make me sad for humanity.  Especially the "mob bullies" who band together to take on a victim but would be too scared to do anything by themselves.  However, Karen’s reactions and the legions of people who came to her defense once the video was posted leave me with renewed faith in humanity.  Perhaps we can band together and defeat bullying after all.

Aloha Friday: Social Media Time

The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration was filled with memorable moments.  During one of these, a speaker asked if anyone wasn’t on Pinterest.  I tentatively raised my hand, but could see nobody else doing the same.  Was I the only one who wasn’t yet on Pinterest?  Or were the other people just not brave enough to admit it?

The thing is, Pinterest just doesn’t interest me.  Neither does Facebook, which I’m also not on.  I used to use Google+, but have even scaled that back to the point that I haven’t checked in there in about a month.  There are a ton of social media platforms out there, but I’m not on a lot of them.  Why?  Simple.  I just don’t have the time.

I work a day job from 8am to 5pm (approximately).  Then, I come home, make dinner, spend some time with the boys and get them to bed.  After this, I have about three hours to blog, catch up on social media, read online article/blogs, do some programming, etc.  I sometimes use social media during my work day, but I keep that to a minimum.  (Mainly, I’ll check in during lunch.  Work, of course, always comes first.)

Given my limited "social media time", I feel I have two options.  I can use Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, etc.  However, if I split my time in so many directions, I’ll likely be unable to use any of them effectively.  In fact, I’d likely get burned out from trying to keep up with it all and would begin to neglect other responsibilities.

Alternatively, I can ignore many popular social media networks and focus my efforts on the ones that suit me best.  In this case: Blogging and Twitter.

My Aloha Friday question for today is: How many social media networks do you use?

P.S. If you haven’t already, try out my Twitter applications: FollowerHQ and Rout.

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the linky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #140

Speaking Anonymously

Freedom_Of_SpeechYesterday, an article came to my attention.  It would seem that two New York State legislators, Assemblyman Jim Conte and Senator Thomas O’Mara came out with a bill that they claimed would fight cyberbullying.  How did it intend to do this?  Simple: Anonymous speech would be banned from the Internet.  Problem solved and two thumbs up, right?  After all, I’m a big opponent of bullying and a big fan of stopping bullying.  But before we schedule the parade in their honor, perhaps we should look a little closer at the bill, it’s unintended consequences, and some possibly intended side effects.

The bill wouldn’t exactly prohibit someone from posting something anonymously.  Instead, sites that allowed anonymous comments (and that includes sites that use pseudonyms… you know, like "TechyDad") would be required to clearly post a phone number or e-mail address where people could demand anonymous comments be removed.  If a comment complaint is received, the site owner would then need to verify the anonymous commenter’s name, home address, and IP Address.  The commenter would be forced to choose: Reveal their real name to the world or have the comment be taken down.  (If you want to read the exact text of the bill, it is right here.)

Right away, problems arise.  First of all, there is no requirement on the complainer to reveal their real name to the world.  So this becomes a sort of "heckler’s veto."  Anyone that doesn’t like someone’s comment, someone’s opinion on an issue, or even just doesn’t like someone for any reason whatsoever would be able to submit a takedown notice without revealing who they were.

Secondly, there is no guide as to which comments are vulnerable to takedown requests.  In fact, the bill explicitly states that site operators must "upon request shall remove any comments posted on his or her web site by an anonymous poster."  So any comment would be at risk.  If someone didn’t like where a debate on a site was veering, they could request takedown of the opposing argument’s comments.  Or, perhaps, if someone took a dislike to a blogger, they could demand that they take down every comment unless they first verified each person’s home address.

That home address verification is the third item.  Exactly how would one do this?  Take your typical WordPress blog, like this one, as an example.  To comment here, you need to type in a name.  Not your real name, mind you.  It could be a pseudonym, "Anonymous", a nickname, a completely made up name, or anything that enters into your head.  You could also enter an e-mail address (which doesn’t display on posts but is saved in the database) and a URL, but these aren’t required.  In addition, all commenters automatically have their IP Address recorded.

If I’m told to take down the comment by "ProThisTopic12345", and the person didn’t leave an e-mail address, how do I contact them?  If I required e-mail addresses, I’d get a rash of comments from ""  If I required and verified e-mail addresses, fewer people would comment in the first place.

Let’s assume that I’m requiring and verifying commenters’ e-mail addresses.  Now, someone tells me to remove the comment from "ProThisTopic12345."  I e-mail them and they e-mail back that their name is "Herman Jones" and they live at "26 Mockin’ Byrd Street" in the town of "Munsey, NY."  How do I know they’re telling me the truth?  I could look them up in an online phone listing, but what if they are unlisted.  Would I need to pay a service to verify names/addresses for me?  And what if it is valid?  How do I know that "ProThisTopic12345" really *IS* "Herman Jones"?  Maybe Herman is the commenter’s neighbor or co-worker.

The reaction to this would be the removal of online comment abilities in New York.  Of course, the Internet is bigger than just New York.  How would this law apply to someone whose site is hosted in New Jersey with the site administrator living in Connecticut?  Even if the commenter was in New York, the person complaining would have a tough time getting the comment removed.  All this would do would be to negatively impact New York businesses and free speech.

And there’s the final nail in this bill’s coffin.  Freedom of Speech.  The First Amendment states (in part) that "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech."  Though it states "Congress", the courts have repeatedly held that this applies to state governments also.  This bill would definitely have a chilling effect on free speech.

One can’t even argue that free speech doesn’t include anonymous speech.  The United States has a rich history of anonymous speech.  When the debate was raging as to whether or not to ratify the United States Constitution, a series of essays were published supporting it.  These essays, collectively known as The Federalist Papers, were published anonymously.  (Though later on it was figured out that they were penned by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay.)  If anonymous speech was good enough for the Founding Fathers, how could we declare it to be wrong?

If this bill is so wrong, then why pass it?  It was billed as fighting cyberbullying, but somehow I doubt that it would combat that effectively.  Wired states that this bill would combat cyberbullying and "baseless political attacks."  Perhaps that last item is the real reason.  Right now, anyone can post an attack on a politician and the politician can’t prevent this.  Some politicians, with an inflated sense of personal power and a thin skin, might have decided that they needed to pass a law to protect themselves from these citizens.  Of course, a "protect us from the people" law would never fly, so they tacked on "cyberbullying" to fool people who want to stop bullying.

Don’t be fooled.  This is a horrible bill that would be impossible to enforce, at best, and would chill online speech, at worst.  With luck, it will die without ever being passed.  Still, there’s no reason to sit around waiting for it to die on its own.  If you are a New York State resident, you should contact your state representatives to let them know about this bill and why you oppose it.  If you don’t live in New York, make sure your state legislators know that you value your right to free speech online.

Disclaimer: The "Freedom of Speech" image above comes from

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