Passing Along Info

This is a short piece about a recent experience I had online. I am thinking about using it as part of my curriculum for assessing internet information information. I knew from the start, before clicking on the link, that it was bogus, but since my audience will be thirteen-year-olds, I took a step-by-step approach as if each little discovery slowly confirmed my suspicions.


I recently saw a link in social media to an article that made me raise my eyebrows considerably.

NASA Admits Spraying Lithium into the Atmosphere

I’ve heard about conn trails and the suggestion that it’s some government agency spraying chemicals on a hapless population, but I wondered: In what context did NASA admit this? Was it a news conference? Will there be a video in the article with an official NASA spokesperson admitting this? Will there be a document from NASA?

I read the article and found it lacking from the opening paragraph.

New evidence emerged this week regarding NASA spraying unusual substances into the atmosphere. Officials state these chemicals are “harmless to the environment”. But the real question we need to be asking is, are these substances safe for humans?

Notice: the article cites “new evidence” but never supplies that evidence. Instead it simply summarizes the purported evidence. There’s a quote that lacks any attribution whatsoever: these chemicals are “harmless to the environment.” The quotation marks indicate that it is a direct quote from some source, but that source is never named or even explained. A search of the exact phrase “harmless to the environment” provides “about 2,230,000 results” from Google (source) and 306,000,000 results from Bing (source). So even if this is a direct quote, there’s no telling where it came from.

Next, the paragraph lists as their authority unnamed “officials.” Who are these officials? Are they insiders acting as whistle blowers? How many officials exactly are there?

The rest of the article continues in a similar vein, without listing a single source or providing anything beyond commentary.

But truth be told, I had my doubts from the beginning. The moment the page loaded, I was suspicious.

Three ads in the top fourth of the page? I immediately began thinking that this was a web site set up by one individual simply to earn money from ads. The fact that this is a WordPress.com site (See the WP logo in the clipped fragment at the top? WordPress, which also runs this site, automatically adds that if it is a site it hosts.) also makes me wonder that this might just be an ad-farm site set up by one individual. Whois confirmed this:

The domain is registered by one Bill McIntosh. he’s also the admin contact and the tech contact. I know from personal experience that when one registers a domain name, there is an option to include as admin contact and tech contact the same data supplied for the registrant contact. Most news organizations have very different data for this.

Here’s CNN’s registration information.

And here’s Fox News’s registration information:

Very different indeed.

Who is this “Bill McIntosh” behind Truth and Action? It’s not immediately obvious, and it’s not very easy to find out. What are his credentials? Who has he hired to work for him?

This too is questionable because there is a link suggesting that readers themselves can “report for” the web site. This suggests that just about anyone can write something for this site.

Finally, there’s the other content on the site itself. Articles include

  • “The Nazi Origins of Renewable Energy and Global Warming”
  • “The Most Secretive Treasury in History…Meet the Rothschilds”
  • “Who Really Owns, Controls the Military Industrial Complex?”

Applying a little background knowledge, it becomes clear that this is a site that peddles conspiracy theories as its main fare.

I commented to the original poster,

And the source? A document? A press conference? What about the web site itself? Who’s saying this? Do they have any credentials at all or is it Joe Blow in his basement making money off the ads for this site?

The poster replied that she was “just passing info” and pointed out that she “did not voice an opinion.” Pointing out that “person is free to do their own research” she encouraged me to “research for yourself please.” And so I did. What I found was confirmation of my initial suspicions: nothing but nonsense.

The question, though, is whether or not this is “info.” If its on the internet, is it automatically “info”?

Quick Note to Scam Sites

If you’re going to pop up warnings that say “Windows Security 2011 has found critical process activity on your PC and will perform a fast scan of system files!!”

and then popup a Javascripted “scan” of my PC

and finally ask me if I’m sure I want to leave because my PC is at risk of infection, saying, “Your system is at risk of crash. Press CANCEL to prevent it,”

here’s a suggested addition to your script: check the computer’s operating system. If it’s running Linux, why are you even bothering?

Additionally, check your grammar.

Numa Numa III

An idiosyncrasy of turning relatively high in Google searches for a “hot query” is that you receive this kind of email:

Dear Publisher,

Hello! I came across your site while browsing google for sites with content related to “Numa Numa”. My name is Henri Duong and I am the Sr. Media Buyer for the (ASN) Ad Serving Network and we are looking for an elite group of publishers that can deliver quality US traffic.

Out of curiosity we are currently looking for these minimum requirements and would like to know if your site qualifies to be a part of our network opportunity in remainding Quarter of 2005 and ongoing.

  1. Alexa rankings under 100K or can maintain a minimum of over 30K US impressions a day with at least 5K unique visitor traffic.
  2. Current creative ad sizes that we are buying include: 720×300 pops/ 300×250 cubes/ 728×90 banners other banners can be served on a case by case basis.
  3. We pay a CPM basis for creatives with net 30 payment terms.

Please contact me for further details if you are interested and fall in these categories. We look forward to serving you with the Ad Serving Network.

Best regards,
Henri Duong

With an average lately of about 1,500 hits a month, I certainly don’t qualify. But since I was sent a generic “Dear Publisher” letter, I didn’t write back to tell Mr. Duong how flattered I was.

Numa Numa II

America, it seems, is lagging behind Europe in the Numa Numa video craze.

The song it’s based on, O-Zone’s “Dragostea Din Tei,” was the hit of the summer in Europe, but largely unknown in the States, I think.

I wrote about playing the Numa video at a party and as the comment invitation asked, “Who in the States has heard this nonsense?” It turns out that a friend had heard the song because she’s dating…a Frenchman.

My friend Gruby (Polish for “fat,” though he’s not) in Warsaw sent me the link to a Hungarian site that had the video in early January. My first reaction: “Gruby’s brother!” Indeed, they do look similar, but Gruby assured me that it wasn’t.

Since the song had been popular here in Europe, I didn’t need to make any assumptions about the music. The boy in the video, though, I assumed to be Hungarian.

I wasn’t the only one to make such a connection: Bob at I Am A Christian Too thought it was Hungarian techno.

The upshot of all this is that because the lad in the video is in fact not Hungarian but a Jersey boy named Gary, I’m getting hundreds of hits from Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.

So — a Romanian pop group makes a song that a Jersey boy named Gary lip-syncs to, which a Warsaw-Pole sends to an American living in southern Poland, who in turn ends up getting tons of hits from the States because America has finally discovered the Numa video…because his name too is Gary.

Metablogging

CW Fisher wrote about the proliferation of “I” in blogs, then amended those thoughts with one of the best pieces I’ve read about blogging. In a comment, Isaac: wrote,

Fascinating stuff… this whole blog phenom just hasn’t straightened itself out yet, so who knows what kind of writing to call it? And remember – rules for writing should increase accessibility and help convey messages; not serve as prescriptive left-over remnants of the past.

Isaac is right – this is an entirely new form of writing. It’s certainly spawned its fair share of vocabulary. Blog, blogger, blogging, blogosphere, blog rolling and many others have in a short period of time gone from oblivion to cliche. I hate all those words – they sound almost obscene, but I’m too lazy to go about re-inventing vocabulary.

I’m new to the web log scene, and before then, I’d never even really read that many of them. I started writing online because a friend bought me the domain name and, already having a web site, I had to so something with it. I’m not new to daily writing, though, as I’ve kept a journal for over twelve years, amassing close to two million words in that time.

Yet blogging is not journaling.

Nor, as Isaac implied, is it like any other form of writing.

Privacy issues and instant, world-wide accessibility aside, there is one thing about blogging that makes it different from almost all other forms of writing. It’s the activity I’m engaged in right now – metablogging. Blogging about blogging.

Since I’ve been exploring the blog world, I’ve found that we tend to write an amazing amount about what we and others are doing to the blogosphere. Of course it is a world of pundits musing, rambling, ranting, and a host of other blog-clichés about anything from seeing Star Wars trailers online to grieving the loss of a wife, but what I see more often than anything else is blogging about blogging.

The blogging world is a giant printer cable swallowing its own tail, very often publishing about publishing.

How boring.

He says in self-indictment.

So why do we all do it? We’re all enamored with this new technology we’re creating–writing about blogging is standing before a mirror. It’s preening. And it’s the one thing all bloggers have in common. That’s why the post I’ve written on blog-related topics have gotten the most comments. Not everyone cares about Poland or religion (my two favorite topics, truth be told), but most people who bump through care about blogging.

Yet this is somewhat logical, this metablogging, because blogs cannot exist in a vacuum. How many blogs, after all, are there which have no links to other blogs? Before the advent of Blog Explosion and similar sites, blogging was a more organic activity. Manually inserting links, then blog rolling was how everyone kept track of blogs, and how everyone else discovered new ones. Blog Explosion tends to make it a bit more commercial, especially given the fact that we can buy credits. This explains why we see “Pro-Life Blogs” appear time and time again on Blog Explosion. Throw together a banner and we all can have our cyber billboards.

Yet despite Blog Explosion and similar tools, checking out your favorite blogs’ links is still the best way to find interesting reading, and so we’re all still dependent on each other, which goes some way in explaining why we love to blog about blogging.

The question of why we blog about blogging is overshadowed by the larger, more blog-existential question: Why do we even keep a blog at all? If you’re reading this, chances are you keep a blog. Why? Most people blog like they live: without thinking.

I’m not well-read on blogs (probably never will be–there’s too much crap out there), but among all those I’ve ready, only once have I found an expression of the philosophy behind the blogging, an answer to the question, “Why am I doing this?”

Fr. Thomas Dowd, keeper of the blog Waiting in Joyful Hope writes that the philosophy behind his blog is simple:

One item, once per day, inspired by something that happened that day. [. . .] Sometimes my blog will have a direct reflection on my day, other times it will seem to be a more “theoretical” reflection, but I can guarantee that it is (almost) always inspired by something from that day.

A philosophy – why I’m doing this. It’s a great idea. When I ask myself, I’ve no answer.

Because I got the domain name? Hardly a reason.

I must come up with some better reason to continue.

Vindictive Voting II

Quite a response I’ve gotten here. To be honest, I don’t put much stock in what people think of many anyway. Yeah, whatever.

It seems I’ve been VR’ed (trying to coin a new cyber term here) again by two more who I gave low scores. I’ll try to get some traffic their way now:

I gave them “one’s” for design alone. But with one, I couldn’t leave a comment to explain why, because there’s a limit on the number of comments you can leave in the first place.

Not good.

My initial impression of BE is steadily going downhill.

For now, BE has a lot of work to do, I think.

But as “Sunshine put it,

Regardless of how it started, the intended result–reading another’s blog–was successful, no?

Who can argue with that?!

Vindictive Voting

I joined Blogexplosion from sheer curiosity as to what this would do for this stupid site of mine. Thud mentioned it once and I though, “Why not give it a try.”

I got an account, looked through some blogs, and that’s about it. I don’t know if my traffic went up or not. To some degree I guess it did.

One of the things you can do with BE is you can rate other people’s work. And you can see who rated you, and more importantly (for some I guess), what rating they gave you.

Which gives rise to vindictive voting. For example, I gave this blog by one Lewis Moten a low rating. A one, in fact. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. It wasn’t that bad. But the content and the design annoyed me.

The first thing I saw was this entry about the Star Wars trailer, which includes nothing but a screen shot and the comment,

I just watched the trailer to Star Wars Episode III — Revent [sic] of the Sith. Pretty cool, and I didn’t have to buy a Hyperspace account to see it.

Fairly lame, I thought.

Worse, the design is a little annoying, with all those frames and scroll bars. As I commented (admittedly later):

The embedded frames with the off-color scroll bars makes it visually unattractive. The floating link list on the right adds a distracting element, and partially obscures the site title.

So I gave it a low mark and moved on.

Well, it appears that Lewis, angered by my low rating, decided to give me a low rating.

Ah, the joys and pains of the cyber experience…