Monday, January 05, 2009

Love/Hate Transmission*

I’ve got sort of a love/hate relationship with the Internet.
Shortly after I moved to Virginia I bought an appliance called a “Kitchen Kettle.” It’s a versatile product that can be used for boiling, steaming, slow cooking, and deep frying.
I’ve never actually used it for deep frying since I’ve had it, but lately, since I made that tortilla soup a while back and fried up some tortillas (in a frying pan), I’ve had something of a yen for homemade tortilla chips. The frying pan method limited the size of the batches I could fry up, so I decided to make use of my Kitchen Kettle.
Of course, the problem was that I’ve never used it for that purpose, so I didn’t know what temperature I was supposed to set it for, and I couldn’t find the manual.
At that point I thought, “Aha! The Internet!” So I did a search, and while the manual wasn’t among the first few results – that position was reserved, of course, for the people who paid to be in that position – but a quick scan of the results showed me what I was looking for, and soon I was well on my way to further clogging my arteries.
It’s at times like that I love the Internet.
Of course, shortly after the page loaded my antivirus software popped up to tell me that it had detected a Trojan.
Stupid Internet.
Sure, the Trojan was detected and removed, and the Internet itself isn’t responsible for the stupid, irritating things that people like Trojan and Virus writers do, but it’s all part of the complex tapestry that is my love/hate relationship with the Internet.
Hell, even the paid search results and the whole “monetize everything” mentality behind it are a big part of the hatred side of the relationship. Just show me what I’m looking for; your paid results can go screw. Seriously, what the hell does Intercourse, PA, have to do with “Kitchen Kettle Manual?” And why would you name your town – or keep the name after the naming – Intercourse? But I digress.
The best thing about the Internet is that you can find almost anything you’re looking for. The worst thing is that “almost” qualifier.
That’s certainly the source of most of my acrimony. More often than not – and increasingly, it seems – the things I’m looking for fall outside of the boundaries of “almost.”
There shouldn’t be any sort of qualifier: you should be able to find anything you’re looking for on the Internet. Period.
I’m perfectly willing to sift through the useless, irrelevant results brought to me by paid searches and Search Engine Optimization strategies just so long as I can find what I’m actually looking for eventually. But eventually doesn’t seem to come often enough.
The whole monetization aspect is responsible for a lot of this, as is, I suspect, laziness, and laziness tied to the monetization aspect. Too many people look at the Internet and see a get rich quick scheme in which they try to get the maximum return for the minimum investment.
As a result there are too many sites that are utterly lacking in original content that have simply copied and pasted content from another site, and often the site that it’s copied from is itself a copy of another site, which is a copy of yet another site, and on and on and on.
One area in which I especially notice this laziness and re-presenting of others’ content is in my picture searches.
Back in, say, 1996, I could be at my job at the grocery store and see a new issue of, for example, Cosmopolitan, with a great picture of Cindy Crawford on the cover, and know that when I got home I could hop on the Web and find a scan of that picture already posted at a fan site.
(Put aside the issue of the scanned picture not actually being “original” content; that’s not the point.)
Last year there was an issue of Fit, or something like that, with a great picture of Angie Harmon on the cover. For weeks the picture was nowhere to be found online. It finally got to the point that I realized that if I wanted that picture I would have to actually *gasp!* buy the magazine (which I did).
Again, intellectual property rights, not original content, blah blah blah. The point is, there once was a time when people could be relied on to engage in intellectual property theft in a timely manner.
That’s just not so anymore.
The other day I was in a pictures newsgroup and saw a bunch of posts that were labeled as “oldies.” I said, “That’s pretty much a given; I can guarantee you that not one of the pictures in this group, even among the ones not listed as oldies, is from after 2002.” I was right.
Most of the people in the pictures were models and actresses who haven’t been especially active since the 1990s. Forget about finding someone current, or a current picture of someone who is current. Even the pictures of Jessica Alba, for example, were from before Dark Angel.
I still occasionally find pictures that were originally culled from an old BBS.
Quit living in the past, Internet!
So yeah, the lack of new content/recycling of existing content is one of my major problems with the Internet.
And don’t me started on trying to find answers to a technical problem in any sort of user forum. Inevitably you’ll find that someone else has/had the exact same problem that you have and has asked for help, but either no one answered, or the answer was “Get a Mac,” or something equally useless.
Or the inanity (no offense Scott) and sheer soul-rending stupidity of most of the comments found in user forums, blog comments, YouTube video comments and so forth...
But when it does deliver on its potential, it’s a wondrous thing, and it’s why I love it, even though I hate it.
(And yes, my picture example is, of course, a trivial example, but it’s still a valid illustration of the problem.)
And of course the fact of the matter is that if it weren’t for the Internet I wouldn’t be where I am today, as I’ve been working in the Internet industry for going on seven years now, which, depending on what my day is like, can be tallied in either the love or the hate column.
Sometimes it’s in both.

The Oral Apocalypse Rages On Department:
Not content with simply breaking one of my teeth, The Universe had to take things a step further.
This morning after I ate something I noticed something sharp stuck under my bottom plate. I couldn’t pry it out with my tongue, so I took my plate out to clean it off. I discovered that the sharpness wasn’t from something stuck under my plate, but rather was the jagged edge where a piece of the plate had broken off.
I’m not sure when or how that happened, but I suspect it was the other night when I was trying to put my plates soaking overnight and my fingers – as they so often do – said, “Screw this,” and decided they weren’t going to maintain their grip and both plates went flying to the bathroom floor, skittering their way behind the toilet.
(So many of my problems in life stem from the fact that my fingers just don’t work properly.)
I’m sure that some morning an unsuspecting Jon will be on his way to take a shower and will find a piece of his “gum” embedded in the bottom of his bare foot.
So I imagine that I’ll have to get that plate replaced, as the missing piece of “gum” undermines the structural integrity of the “molar” above it, though I’m holding on to the vain hope that my dentist can just grind it down so that it’s not so jagged and call it good.
Speaking of which, I have an appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning. It’s early enough in the morning that it would be foolish to drive in to work then turn around and drive to the dentist, so I get to sleep in a bit.
Of course, we’re apparently going to get some nasty** ice storm, so who knows if that will actually happen.

*Taken from the title of a Liz Phair song.
**For a Northern Virginia value of “nasty.”


Merlin T Wizard said...

No offense taken. I just ran into the technical support problem yesterday. My phone has stopped giving me audible alarms for calendar appointments. Good luck in finding anything useful about that online.

lbugsh2 said...

I feel your pain my fingers randomly drop/throw things it bites.