Raining on parades

raining on parades2To compliment someone, say that she loves everyone, she never met a stranger, or her smile would light up a room. The world loves cheery, trusting, optimistic people.

Sadly, the Internet provides a vehicle for infinite ways to prey on those day-brighteners. People who always see the best in others. Who always believe the sun will come out tomorrow. If you’re one of those, I’m going to drop some precipitation on your parade.

Often, no harm will come to you if you believe a scammer. Well, unless you count snickering from your friends and family. But some tricksters draw you in and then they go after your money or information.

Examples:

  • I saw the most heartwarming/scary/simply AMAZING video clip!

Some are true, but many are staged. Did you ever wonder how someone just happened to be there with a camera to capture it? (Especially if it’s shot inside a car?) Harmless, unless you’re invited to contribute to some “cause.” Clicking or sharing can place you on a targeted list for other scams.

  • Statistics show that my new blog/music video/website has views from all over the world!

Most likely spiders, bots, and web crawlers used for indexing. Or cybercriminals after your identity or credit card information. Your web stats just record total hits, not necessarily instant worldwide fame. Do you honestly think Russia and Eastern Europe constitute your fan base?

  • Congratulations! You’ve been named one of the Top Hundred Excellent [fill in the profession] in your state!

For $19.95, you can purchase a plaque with your name on it, and for $39.95 you can buy a book listing the Top Hundreds for every state in the country. Buy one for each of your children! Who nominated you? What is the “organization” conferring this honor?

If you point out that the emperor has no clothes, you risk being perceived as negative and pessimistic. But if you have any sort of Internet presence that tracks comments, you know how much spam and other deceptive communication is out there.

Most (spam) comments I receive involve cheap knock-off sunglasses, fake designer handbags, and SEO services. The subject line is eye-catching, but the message is gibberish. Some are unintentionally, but genuinely, hilarious. The goal is simply to get you to open the message.

So enjoy your parade, but take an umbrella. And remember that this message, like many others I deleted, appeared in the stats for this blog:

This system helps cat owners understand their cats better by discussing reasons why cats urinate outside their litter box.

I don’t even have a cat.

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗  Dear readers  ∗∗∗∗∗∗∗

amazon coverThe last weekly post to this blog will be July 3, 2016. After that, see TextCPR on Facebook for occasional new posts. Thanks for nearly four years of readership and engaging comments.

The spirit of this blog is now captured in a book: From the Errors of Others, available online at these links:

Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble

Archway Bookstore

Richard Nordquist, Grammar and Composition expert for About.com, says:

From the Errors of Others is a refreshing alternative to those heavy handbooks we never opened in school…. Imagine that: a smart book about writing and speaking effectively that people will actually enjoy reading.”

Endorse me, you sweet endorsable you

endorsements2Sometimes it’s hard to find the line between social media for business and social media for personal interaction. Business sites take a dim view of users stalking each other or commenting, “I like your smile.” Unless you’re casting models for a toothpaste ad, that message is inappropriate in business communication.

But if you’re looking for a new job or a better one, you probably need contacts, networking possibilities, sales prospects, and endorsements wherever you can find them.

Although you can set your profile preferences to ignore them, you probably get requests to endorse people you know. The requests can seem outrageous. A co-worker, for example, has less-than-zero skill in the area claimed in the request. When the question window pops up and asks, “Does ____ know about ____?” I’ve been known to say aloud, “Oh HELL no!” She appears to claim skill in what is, in fact, a major deficiency. But wait—there’s another possibility.

Business sites, like other social media (and that includes Facebook and online dating sites) make money by increasing participation. They send messages that hint, or outright claim, that you’re reaching out to someone or claiming a skill – without your knowledge. When a reply or the endorsement hits your Inbox, it seems unsolicited. You think, “Hmmm. Nice.” So you reply or endorse them in return, and so on and so on. More clicks, more ad exposure, more membership signups.

A key word in your profile can trigger an unsolicited endorsement request. You might have designed the cover for a book on Java, but would never seek endorsement as an expert programmer. How do you protect yourself from the appearance of unjustifiable boasting?

  1. Don’t list skills in your profile or resume that you don’t have.
  2. Go to your profile and turn off endorsement requests.
  3. If you don’t want to turn them off completely, see if your profile allows you to control the skills you claim.

Finally, don’t judge people too harshly for endorsement requests that seem out of line. It’s entirely possible the person in the request has no knowledge of it and never claimed that skill.

Just to be on the safe side, I’m warning everyone. Even if you receive a notification, you may consider bogus any request to endorse me for:

  • Cooking
  • Sense of direction
  • Anything remotely athletic

Trust me – the software did it.

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Negative options

opt outDid you ever receive a credit card charge for something you didn’t (knowingly) buy? You have to follow up, dispute the charge, call Customer Service, exchange emails, and generally spend time and effort to resolve it.

If you can’t resolve it, sometimes you just pay the charge to make it go away. That, of course, is what the perpetrators of this evil practice are counting on.

Maybe you purchased or subscribed to something online and failed to click the tiny checkbox , following the unreadable disclaimer text, that said No Thanks. To your horror, that unreadable text obligated you to ongoing charges on the credit card you had just supplied.

Here’s the negative option at work:

If you don’t actively say NO, we’re going to take that as a YES.

An even more insidious version of the negative option is at work on social media. It appeared on email a few years ago, and has since infected Facebook, Twitter, et al., ad nauseam. (OK, enough Latin.) The point is that it’s everywhere. The goal is apparently not money. It purports to be participation or endorsement. The underlying purpose is not clear, and that’s the problem. Its message is:

If you don’t actively say YES, we’re going to take that as a NO.

Here are some examples:

  • Photo of a dying child. “Can I get an AMEN?”
  • Photo of person with shocking deformity: “LIKE if you think I’m beautiful.”
  • Sad animal: “SHARE if you’re against animal cruelty.”
  • Photo of wounded veteran: “COPY AND PASTE if you support our veterans.”

The implication is that if you don’t respond as they ask, you are a heartless, cruel, sub-human, awful person. There is no room for these responses:

  • I don’t know the source of that photo.
  • I don’t even know if that photo is real.
  • Where do you send my personal information if I respond?
  • Does this put me on some list?
  • Is there a legitimate charity involved?
  • I don’t have time to research this.

It’s a new form of emotional blackmail even more intrusive than those unwarranted charges on your credit card. If you have to depend on negative-option responses to make a point, maybe your real point is not so legitimate.

I have book coming out in the spring. If you don’t buy it, read it, and give me a great Amazon review, I will assume you have no taste and that you probably can’t read anyway. I will never speak to you again.

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