Category Archives: bee in my bonnet

How to remove crap from your Facebook stream

I love Facebook.  I love reading up on the details of people’s daily lives what they’re doing at work, stuff about their kids, even the stupid cute things that that their pets do.  I like how it kind of captures what’s going on in my hometown and among college friends and London friends and my far flung family and how I’ve picked up important personal news through that channel.

And although I do like games,  I don’t like games in Facebook.   I hate Farmville.  I hate Mafia Wars. I hate the fish game, too.  I don’t want to receive invites. I don’t want to receive a gift of two rusty horseshoes or whatever it might be.  And I because I’m a crusty ol’ curmudgeon I don’t even like seeing it in my Facebook activity stream.   But really that’s my problem, not the problem of people who are playing and enjoying these games.  And if Farmville keeps them coming back into Facebook and telling me about their kids, pets and what they had for dinner, then I’m grateful to Farmville – but just keep it out of my sight.

Fortunately, I don’t have to see it. And you can get rid of it, too.  Here’s how.

OK.  First find the offending article.  I’m choosing Sondra’s automatic update of a fortune cookie from the Daily Horoscope app.  And I’d like to say, that this particular app never really annoyed me and Sondra is not an offender in terms of putting a bunch of rubbish content into my stream. But the fact is, I’d just spent a few minutes getting rid of the stuff that really annoys me before I thought of doing this post and this was the first example I could find in my stream which I could get rid of using the same process.  So thanks, Sondra for being an example.  The irony of removing this particular fortune was not unappreciated.

Now, hover your cursor over the top right hand corner of the status update.  An X will appear.  Click it.

You can choose between removing all the status updates from a particular person or just this app.   Note that hiding someone does not mean that you’re unfriending them – just that you’re, well – ignoring them. You’ll never see their boring old drivel ever again.  And they’ll never, ever know.  Ace.  By the way, I’ve only done this to one person.  And it wasn’t you.  No really, not you.  I promise.

Just get rid of the offending app, not your friend.

Now, no more fortune cookies. And this hides ALL instances of this appearing in your time line, no matter which friend has generated them.

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The betrayal of Scooby

Lego Scooby Gang

When I was child, I enjoyed childish things.  Like Scooby Doo and The Monkeys.  I loved Scooby, it introduced me to the concept of mysteries and crime fiction, something I love to this day.  I liked Velma’s irrepressible nature and her insistence on the rational.  There are no ghosts.  There must be something behind all this.  A man in a mask.  And through hard work and improbable traps, you can get to the bottom of it.  Oh, and we would have got away with it, too if it weren’t for you meddling kids.  Meddling kids and their triumph over conniving adults.

But when I became a woman, I put away childish things.  Until my own child became big enough to demand television.  And it was to my great delight that Scooby Doo is played endlessly on certain satellite channels and my even greater delight that my son loves to watch Scooby, too.  The original Scooby shows are still fantastic and one of the few cartoons that I can sit through without becoming annoyed.  Sometimes I watch them.  And sometimes I just let them flow over me, as comforting as a cradle song, while I do something else. There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about watching episodes about a man in a mask with an impossibly contrived scheme to bootleg records. Yes, actual LPs which were copied laboriously in a secret, creepy cave studio and then smuggled across a river by a henchman in  ghost pterodactyl hang glider contraption.   Oh, the days before peer to peer file sharing. If  you wanted a copy of Dixie Chicken live, you’d have to make a shady deal with a man who talked pterodactyl – Veek! Veek!

But these kids channels don’t just show the original Scooby and the series that followed in the original format. They show new modern Scooby, where Fred no longer sports a cravat.  They show a bizarre and poorly drawn spin-off which features only Shaggy and Scooby living in the home of their rich uncle with a robot butler that’s forever getting them out of scrapes.  And they show Scooby movies with complicated plots and commissioned soundtracks. 

Yes, they show those originals and they also show – on occasion – the ones with Scrappy Doo.

It sends a shiver down my spine.

Yesterday, there was a Scooby marathon and after they’d run out of the original and the next series and the movies, they showed some Scrappy Doo episodes as well.  Like every Gen-Xer, I hate Scrappy.  Scrappy is evil.  Scrappy is symbol of all things rotten.  And so Scrappy cannot be shown.  My son did not understand, but the channel was changed.

But watching Scrappy again as an adult as I did on one occasion not too long ago, I realise it’s not Scrappy’s fault.  Scrappy’s introduction to the show coincided with a complete change in format.  Instead of mysteries, it was random running around with ‘real’ supernatural elements.  No more looking for clues.  No more solving puzzles using ‘logic’.  No more nuance of personality from Fred and Velma and Daphne.  It might as well have been a different show.  And we Gen-Xers, only being young’uns at the time, didn’t see that they were dumbing the show down in a misplaced effort to salvage the ratings – instead we blamed Scrappy – who from an adult perspective isn’t as annoying as I remember.  It’s the whole show that’s annoying.  It’s a betrayal of Scooby and a betrayal of us as the audience.  There was no mystery to engage with, we were only being served up dross in the form of Scooby snacks to consume passively.   It was perhaps the first time we were aware of the entertainment industry treating us like morons – and we could never forgive the messenger. The live action Scooby movie even played on this – casting Scrappy as the ultimate villain (sorry for the spoiler, but honestly the film is pretty wretched).

The boy is only 3, so he screamed and wailed when I insisted that no further Scrappy shows can be watched in my house.  So long as I pay for the roof which shelters the tv that I bought receiving the satellite signal that I subscribe to there will be no Scrappy.

(Photo credit: fallentomato )

Secrecy, surveillance and slime in the ice machine

Disclaimer: although I do work on some of these issues – this is a personal post, on my personal blog and done in my own time and does not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

In a hotel in central Doncaster five or six years ago, I was sharing a meal with a colleague. He had an environmental health background, you know, restaurant inspections and the like. We were discussing that I’d just seen restaurant hygiene ratings online for Lawrenceburg, my hometown. (I’d link to them, but time passes and it’s not as easy as it used to be to find them. But you can still look up scores under any zip code) He didn’t think that was such a good idea. It put the restaurants’ business in jeopardy for what a snapshot inspection. People might not understand what the scores meant. He was pretty much appalled by the regular feature on Houston local television from Marvin Zindler (of Best Little Whore House in Texas investigative journalism fame) where he focused on local eateries that had failed health inspections with detailed accounts of dead flies and rat droppings and he reported with particular glee on slime in the ice machine. Here’s his last every restaurant report, the whole thing is good, but the money shot begins at 1 minute 28 seconds.

So essentially, we were eating a meal and we had no way of knowing whether they had consistent violations or a spic and span kitchen. Personally, I want to know whether there’s slime in ice machine. He’s not a bad guy, I really like him. But essentially he was part of culture of bureaucracy which meant that he didn’t trust the rest of us to understand what environmental health officers do. But he expected us to trust that restaurant inspections were going well and keeping us safe.

Time has moved on there, too. There’s now a scores on the door programme in the UK.

I was reminded of this today when I saw Heather Brooke speaking at the RSA about her book The Silent State: secrets, surveillance and the myth of British democracy. She was the muckraking campaigner who did much to expose the parliamentary expenses scandal. In her talk today she focused on the rise of data base government. And I stress that while she’s not opposed to the government collecting data, obviously data and information are critical to effective governance and service delivery, she is opposed to the ceaseless gathering of personal data on all of us, to which we often have no access, no right of correction and which can be passed from agency to agency. She blames the faceless and unaccountable bureaucrats for this data pack-rattery and I think she blames as well much of the British public who complacently allow this to happen.

I’m in a bit of an odd position in that I am one of those faceless British bureaucrats and I’m an American citizen with a healthy distrust of government (or paranoia, you be the judge).  When I expressed my doubts about the national child data base (ContactPoint) – colleagues could not believe that I didn’t want my child on it – though in fact, I don’t have a choice about this. I don’t really know who has access to it or what information it will hold, despite having read the fact sheet. I don’t even know if my son yet has a record (it hasn’t been fully implemented yet). In the fact sheet, I’m told I can ask to see the record, but I’m not given any information about who I’d ask to get it.

It’s not that I think someone will misuse the information about my son, there‘s a certain safety in numbers, I guess, I mean why would my son’s data in particular be misused. But someone could do it. It’s not that I don’t think that most people who work in the UK public sector aren’t fantastically dedicated or at least perfectly OK. But there are just so gosh darned many of us, that some of us have got to be bad/lazy/corrupt. And some of them have access to information about you and me.

Another point she covered is that all this data may not actually be solving the problems. I’m a technocrat of the first order, so naturally I think that more data is better. But I also know that even perfect data won’t help you if you don’t make the right decisions with it. What’s rarely been mentioned in the light of Baby Peter case or Victoria Climbie is that although some information wasn’t shared, often it was.  Part of the problem was simply professionals making the wrong decision or using poor judgment or apparently not being bothered enough or too overworked to follow up. It’s easier to say that we need more information than to look at the culture of decision making.

Things are getting better

Heather Brooke was a bit dismissive to Matthew Taylor’s (head of the RSA and event chair and former Number 10 policy chief) suggestion that the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act was a step in the right direction. I do think that it’s important if imperfect. I think the open data movement is even more important, putting non-personal data owned by the government in the hands of anyone. (data.gov and data.gov.uk) Of course, that’s all non-personal data. But it is a big step toward greater transparency and accountability.

But at the same time that the government is getting on the bandwagon of open and linked data, the government is using linked data principles (essentially standards which help you to link a data point in one set to a corresponding data point in another set – e.g. information about my health and my employment) to make it even easier to share both personal and non-personal data between agencies. Some of that’s good, it’s more efficient, it could avoid information mismatching and help agencies get on the same page.  But some of that may be a bit worrying. As it gets easier for you to connect up information about government, you can bet that it’s going to be even easier for government to connect up information about you.

You can't play with us

I just made my very first complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency.  I feel like rolling my eyes at myself  and muttering “You’re some kinda crazy outraged moral guardian complaining about something that doesn’t even directly affect you.”  But then I say to myself “Well, somebody has to stand up for standards and decency.”  And then rolling my eyes at myself once again.  I appear to be entering middle age with a fair bit of internal conflict.

Anyway… the ad itself is appalling and plays on the worst, worst, worst aspect of little girls tormenting each other over “fashionable” clothing.  My outrage is over a jingle which has played in the background of many LelliKelly shoe campaigns – advertising a number of different products.  In the current case it’s for some shoes plus makeup kit bag.  I don’t particularly like that they’re pitching makeup at young girls, but c’est la vie.  What I can’t stand is the line:

You can’t play with us, we are too cool, oh yeah

Argghh.

As someone who was once tortured at school for not having enough pairs of designer jeans or the right pair of trainers (Harpeth Valley School) or OshKosh overalls and a down jacket (Webb School), it brings back some horrible memories.  But it also means that I know these things happen.  There will be lots of girls whose parents can’t afford £43 (c. $70) for a pair of fancy shoes that they generally wouldn’t even be allowed to wear to school – and they will be sneered at by those girls whose parents have bought the shoes.  And while I think I would find it a bit distasteful if that was in the subtext of the ad, I think it’s wholly inappropriate for it to be in the text of the ad.  It’s just saying “Hey girls, BULLY, BULLY, BULLY! Torment and tease each other over material items.  We know you want to – here’s the overt permission!”  And it puts parents in the position of abetting this nasty message or “allowing” their little girl to become a victim of being LelliKelly-less.

Offending lyrics start just after second 18

The funny thing is I think LelliKelly shoes are really cute.  I’m a big fan of the shiny.  See.  Here’s my most recent shoe purchase.

Bejewelled

I think you’ll agree they really are too cool. You can’t play with me, oh yeah.