I don’t want to see yours, either.

So, from what I hear, Facebook is introducing a feature called ‘timeline’, which displays your Internet activities pretty much in real time. Other people can see what (participating) Web sites you visit, as you visit them.

I don’t know all the details, but this seems to me like a terrible idea. I will not be participating, and please don’t take it personally when I reject your invitation to follow your aimless drifting through cyberspace. Tedious at best and embarrassing at worst, this is a level of personal intimacy with the general world that I will not be embracing. Call me an old fuddy-duddy.

Then there’s Incapsula

I’ve written about CloudFlare in the past. I think it’s a no-brainer for small-time bloggers like me who control their own domain name registry. My writing has attracted the attention of another company, Incapsula, who offer a similar service.

Incapsula would love for me to give them a try, so I can write about them, too. They’re under the impression that I have some sort of influence in the world. Ha! They’ve even offered me a free upgrade to the ‘pro’ level of the service. One really cool thing about the upgrade: out-of-the-box SSL, which means you don’t have to get your own certificate to handle commerce. Certificates can be a real hassle, and a considerable expense.

The thing is, I’m pretty happy with CloudFlare. As of today, people on IPv6 can read these words. (Much like telephone numbers in some areas, the world is running out of IP addresses.) I’ve worked out one kink with the system and things are running smoothly. Does Incapsula have code to install on the server to make it play well with others? I don’t know.

Also, I don’t really need any of the advanced services of either system. I don’t do e-commerce, which could be a compelling reason to switch and grab my free upgrade.

I have a couple of terrifically minor quibbles about CloudFlare’s user interface and flexibility blocking IP ranges, but nothing worth even mentioning here. Logically, I should just stick with CloudFlare and leave it at that.


That guy they think I am? The one whose words can shift the balance of power in an emerging new market? I’m not that guy. I’ll never be that guy unless I devote myself to the task, and I’ve got other things to write about that are probably more interesting to most of you. But still I want to be the guy they think I am. I want to write the CloudFlare vs. Incapsula smackdown article to which all the pundits refer.

To do something like that, I’d have to set up a site to use Incapsula, but I don’t want to rock the Muddled Boat. I have jerryseeger.com, but what sort of test do I get out of a site that no one ever visits? It’s a site where acceleration hardly matters because the whole thing is so simple, and there’s no sign of e-commerce on the horizon. The thing barely even gets spammed.

Still, I have to think of something… the public demands it!


A Show of Hands, Please

How many of you out there can ask your significant other, “What day does hockey season begin again?” and fully expect him/her/it to know the answer? Because I totally can.

Note: My sweetie is not so fortunate — I’m not so good with facts — but she doesn’t need anyone to tell her when the first puck drops.


The Illusion of Helping

Recently I vowed to cut off my considerable hair for charity. Thanks tons to the people who have stepped up to help. You guys are awesome! We made 5% of the goal in the first day. Hooray!…? Now we’re at 6% (the widget in the sidebar is bad at math) and it looks like my hair will reach the ground before the target is reached.

Marketing is a big factor, of course, and I have some observations about that below. First I’d like to share some thoughts about the culture of Facebook as it relates to fundraising. In a nutshell, Facebook has created a culture that allows people to feel like they’ve helped out when in fact they’ve done pretty much nothing. I don’t really think this is bad (pretty much nothing is better than nothing), but it exposes a way that Facebook could change the economics of fundraising for the better.

When I set up Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, I went through a site that makes fundraising easier, and that site allows you to automatically pimp out your fundraiser on Facebook. Naturally I used this option.

I don’t have a huge circle on Facebook, but right away people responded. They ‘liked’ the post. They passed on the link. Strangers liked it. With two exceptions (who would have donated anyway), the post-likers and link-passers didn’t donate, yet I’m sure those folks felt like they had helped. “I won’t donate, but if I pass this on, maybe someone else will.”

Of course, calling attention to a cause you think is worthy is a good thing to do. Certainly better than nothing. Alas, in the Facebook universe, it’s only a tiny bit better than nothing. Almost not measurably better than nothing. About a dollar less in value than donating a buck.

I don’t think it’s cheapness that creates these not-so-helpful helpers. If it were as easy to donate a buck as it is to ‘like’ a post, I bet 5% of the likers would make that gesture. As it stands, you have to click a link and fill out a form. If you’re planning on making a large donation, the hassle is pretty insignificant, but it’s a lot to go through when your beneficiary is only going to get a small amount.

If it was as easy to make a small donation as it is to like a post, and there was a “54 people have tossed in a buck” message, with a list of the buck-tossers, fundraising might be fundamentally altered.

In the meantime, when you pass on a link to a cause you believe in, how about starting with “I tossed in five bucks! How ’bout you?” If it’s worth passing on, it’s worth taking a little of your own time to back it up.

I have now promoted my fundraiser in three different ways (the fourth will launch Monday), and I’ve learned a few things.

  1. The most effective marketing method by far has been direct email. Spam makes a little more sense to me now.
  2. Facebook and this blog are terrible marketing tools.
  3. Some folks I thought would have a strong opinion about my aging-hippie look (pro or con) haven’t weighed in. Perhaps I misjudged the Q Score of my Fabio-crushing man-mane.

The next leg of the campaign will be called “Match this, Tim!” The new Apple CEO has announced a pretty generous charity matching program, and I’ll be twisting arms around the office. I don’t think Tim’s going to be able to match my flowing tresses, however.

But seriously, tresses aside, if you haven’t already, pitch in to make a young chemo patient’s life a little less awful. It’s worth doing, and it’s not an illusion.


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

The hair is going to someone who needs it more than I do. Please join me in supporting Locks of Love.

Fairly often I turn to you, the Muddled Horde™ for favors. Usually it’s a request to take a few seconds and vote for a photo I took, or some other frivolity.

Welp, this is the big one. This is the call for help that could change someone’s life. This is your moment to give a smile to someone who has nothing to look forward to but shitty days on and on. You can be a shining star.

There are kids out there taking drugs so toxic the kids almost die. They do this hoping to live. The idea is that the drugs will kill the cancer in the children before the children themselves succumb. You can’t do chemo half-assed. It’s not fun.

No matter how well the therapy goes, hair is a victim. The shiny dome becomes a beacon that something is wrong. It’s impossible to feel normal. You may as well walk around with a klaxon shouting “Cancer! Cancer!” Some days, it would be nice to just blend in.

I have a lot of hair, and there’s someone out there who needs it more than I do. I’m asking everyone around me who has half a heart to step up as well, and support Locks of Love. When the total donations reach $2500, my hair goes. Hopefully that will be before my hair reaches my knees.

Times are hard, I know. You gotta take care of the ones close to you first. That’s only right and proper. But maybe you could make a little gesture, a few bucks to say, “right on, Rambler, I’m with you.” Or maybe, like me, you find that you live in a really expensive place that seems to suck your paycheck into a black hole. In that case, what’s another fifty bucks? Nothing, really.

Apple colleagues: Our favorite fruit-flavored gadget company is matching all charitable donations by employees, up to $10,000 per employee(!). Happily, Locks of Love qualifies. Wherever you work, check to see if there’s a charity matching program. They’re actually pretty common, if your employer doesn’t suck.

No more thinking! Click the link! Let’s give these kids something to smile about.


At Last, the Recognition I’ve Sought all these Years

Tonight I was named Top Rambler of the Day by not once, but twice! Wow!

Yep, Top Rambler. Second to none. There are many who aspire to these heights, but out of the millions of blogs out there that do little more than ramble, none compares to this one. Bow down before me, those who would ramble, and learn from the master! I AM TRoD!

For some reason my spam software blocked both notifications of my major awards (from two different places), hiding them from the eyes of the general public — along with a comment that said, “Why’s presently there this kind of fine publish!”

Why’s indeed?


Your Most Important Password

I’ve mentioned passwords before, but today I’d like to tell you about the most important password in your possession, the single password that keeps the hordes at bay.

Take a moment to think about the passwords you use for your various secret stuff. If you’re like me, you have your ordinary password for unimportant stuff, then you ratchet up the entropy for sites that involve money. For a long time I had two passwords, my ‘secure’ one and my ‘other’ one. Now I’ve started taking my passwords a lot more seriously, which means keeping a file of all my passwords, itself protected with massive encryption and the most awesome passphrase ever. No one’s getting into that file.

But here’s the thing: they don’t have to. There’s another password I have that’s just as powerful and easier for a bad guy to use. My primary email password.

How does that password drop my trousers universally? Simple: if someone had access to my email, they could click “I forgot my password” on every site in the world and harvest the responses. If the evil robot cleared out the emails before I read them, I’d be none the wiser. And I’d be fucked.

You might think your online banking password is the one you must protect most diligently, but your email password will hand them your bank account along with everything else. This is the password to protect and change regularly.

As an aside, you can make things a little tougher for bad guys by modifying your email address when you register for stuff. For instance, if I register at xyz.com, I might use [email protected] for my email address. The cool thing about ‘+’ is that it doesn’t change the delivery (the above will go to [email protected]) but you can sort your email based on the suffix, and you can track who gave your email address away. Most significantly, if some wrongdoer has your email password, they still have to guess the +suffix part for each site before they can use the “I forgot my password” feature. If your email password gets out, that second line of defense could really save your ass.*

Also, know that if your email provider gets hacked, you could be hosed. There is one major company (rhymes with achoo!**) that seems to have a hard time keeping the wrong guys out of your account (although I think it’s the address book that has been compromised, and not direct access to your emails). There are likely others that do a better job keeping their names out of the press when they spill your information.

So, to flog the horse: If bad guys gets access to your email, they own you. Protect that password diligently. Change it fairly often. Use [email protected] when you sign up for stuff. In databases around the globe, your email is quite literally your entire identity.

* I read somewhere that hotmail and some others don’t support the + in emails. I haven’t tested personally, but if your provider is one of those, drop them immediately and find a better service.

** I’m pretty sure I have stock in a company that ends oo!, so I’m not just slinging mud here.