Crappy Geofencing

A friend claimed geofencing is the solution to the problem of minor league baseball players clocking in and out for work. (Sure, I had other issues with the plan, but this is specifically about how if all that other stuff is wonderful, how geofencing would fail.)

The concept is that when one arrives at a destination, then a phone undertakes certain behaviors. Across a few phones over the past 4 years, I have been very, very underwhelmed.

  • Hit or miss: Location services are often inaccurate. Not like the wrong city inaccurate, but they often indicate I am at the wrong address which is just enough the action does not trigger. For example, a reminder app will trigger when I visit the grocery store to get things on the list. Except, it doesn’t half the time because it thinks I am at a business next door.
  • Battery drain: They usually demand one have GPS enabled. They also demand that you not be in a battery saving mode. So, you better have a great device with a huge battery or frequent access to recharging it.

I will admit this generally works much better today than it did 4 years ago. So, there is hope for the future. And the optimistic view is it probably just a couple years away, so the pessimistic view is more like a decade, so splitting the difference: 6 years.

Lying to Big Data

The reaction people have towards social media companies is to lie. This amuses me because self-reporting is well known as the worst data. The data scientists expect people to lie.[1] Which is why they ignore what you say about yourself and focus on your behavior.

So, you need to start having intentionally deceptive behavior. The problem is: if people like you all deceive in the same patterns, then the data points to the same place anyway. You have to deceive in novel ways others like you would never think of doing.

Good luck with that.

1. Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) is about how as a data scientist for OKCupid, a dating website, he cannot depend on the honesty of people. He has data on what they say and compares it to what they do.

Fake News

There is an article floating around with a title, “Fake news sharing in US is a rightwing thing, says study.” I have not clicked on it because it sounds like fake news. The Guardian typically has clickbait titles.

Also, I am annoyed because if I wanted to do a study on how susceptible liberals are to fake news, then putting out a fake study like this is exactly how I would gauge how much they share because it would go super viral.

On This Day & Friendship

The image that a specific friend failed to like

When I look through Facebook’s On This Day feature, sometimes I am startled to see that someone I expected to like a specific post did not.

This reminded me that what I post often is targeted. There are a handful of people who I know follow my posts and will appreciate them.

Friends are people who have shared experiences and/or interests. Those I target with a post are not usually tagged or named even when I intend for them to see it. The game is for them to see it as an inside joke. So for them to fail to like the post, I feel like I failed the friendship. It is like saying something that is an inside joke and get no smile.

Are we even still friends? (Sorry, just being melodramatic.) Probably. It is just a single data point. There would need to be a consistent pattern of misses.

Weird addressing

Email addresses are weird.

Web addresses run from broadest to most narrow scope, which makes total sense to me. http is the protocol basically informing the computer how to handle the request. (Back in the 90s, we more commonly also saw ftp and mailto and gopher as protocols in links.) Next is the computer address which ideally would have been ordered Top Level Domain (TLD), site domain, hostname, so for example this site would have been com.ezrasf.www. Next is the folder tree down to the file location. Finally, is the file name.

Similarly, email addresses should have been designed as protocol, TLD, site domain, username. So, you could reach me at mailto:com.ezrasf/blog. Instead, the username at server address is what we got. It works, but it has bothered me that it does for a decade and a half.

Unsticky Likes

Like Stamp 1
Credit: Joy Powers

Of late, I have been featured in some posts that generate many comments on Facebook. Naturally, I like these comments.

So when a new one comes in and old ones I thought I previously liked no longer show them being liked, it was noticeable. Over the past few months, I have seen the behavior over and over.

My primary hunch is that I am just a bad person and did not actually like them as I thought. Human memory is fallible. It is easily feasible that I in seeing them not liked assumed that I would have taken action to like them. The memory of having done so could actually be the recollection of doing so with others conflated to this incident.

Hypothetically, it is possible that I like a post and the action never gets updated in the database without telling me it failed. If the UI is designed to show the like whether or not the database took it, then I could see it liked and when I return later to see it not liked. Maybe because these posts have such a large dataset collected into a single place I more easily notice when this happens. It would be disturbing if we go to all the trouble of responding and others are never getting that feedback.

WP Maintenance Nightmare

Discovered this blog was showing:

Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.

Any time it upgrades, this gets thrown up during the process. However, it goes away once the process is completed. It showing is not an error so much as a notification and should as it says go away in a minute. The problem is that if the upgrade hangs, it does not go away.

To manually fix it, go to the directory on the server with the files and remove the .maintenance file. (I rename them to .maintenance_YYYYMMDD so as to track how often they happen.)

I noticed that a particular plugin stated it needed an update. Even better, that plugin was set to automatically update, which suggested it was the cause. Kicking off the update hung the site again. Deleting the plugin also failed.

Eventually, I found myself looking at the wp-content/upgrade folder and noticed there was a folder named for the plugin that was the only content of the folder. I renamed that folder to prepend the name with zzz- and tried the upgrade again. The upgrade worked this time.

My guess is something was bad with the contents of the downloaded plugin upgrade temporary folder, but instead of deleting the contents of the folder as the first step the upgrade process, it just used the existing folder and hit the error each time until I removed it. Weird.

Facebook Feature Request: Privacy and Tags

This is essentially the issue of the Friends of Friends post. In this case, I am not really interested in expanding the audience.

Say I publish a friends only post. Victor, my friend, makes a comment tagging Roberta, not my friend, and asks a question directed at her. She is not notified about the tag. Nor can she see the comment or post.

Therefore, in my mind, allowing the tag to be done is counterproductive. Facebook should warn Victor that Roberta cannot see it. Ideally it would be ahead of time and prevent it. Less acceptable, but I would be happier is after the fact having a “Roberta cannot see this” notice. (The “Who can see this?” thing is vague and not generally very helpful clarifying exactly who can see it.)

Search Standard

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) worked together to create standards for the technology that powers web sites. Acronyms dear to my heart like CSS, HTML, and HTTP came from their defining how web browsers and web servers should behave in various situations. It made the Web a better place.

Every time I find myself extremely frustrated searching for something and failing because the methods I know are not working really annoy me. I wish the W3C or companies that specialize in search would come together and establish minimum standards.

That said, I think 97% of my searching would be successful if places would consistently honor:

  1. Double quotes: The ” symbol surrounding a phrase should make the interior honored as a single phrase. We use it because the terms individually are relatively common and bring up false positives. Combining them in this way narrows the search to what we seek. In my opinion, this is a must have feature.
  2. Boolean: The AND, OR, and NOT commands along with parentheses () are powerful means of finding relevant results. Searching Twitter is easy because the search company they bought did such a great job leveraging Boolean.

Confuzzled Exchange

I check accounts from two different Exchange domains with Outlook. Check might be a bit of an overstatement for one as it is maybe once a month and more like every couple. Both require me to periodically change the passwords. And both send daily email warnings leading up to the deadline.

Because I might miss the week of daily warnings for one, I set up a rule in Outlook to forward the message to myself. Thankfully I set it up to send to more than one email account. I got the warnings in just one place which bothered me.

The missing messages had bounced. The address listed in the error looks nothing like the address in the rule. (I would post it, but I have no idea if that would compromise the account.) My guess is Outlook does not firewall the contacts in rules. So if I enter an address for the cross domain and it recognizes the address, then it shows me in the UI the human friendly but the backend uses the Exchange friendly one.

My solution ironically was to leverage a third party. My web hosting provider allows me to create unlimited email addresses, which I use to set forwarding accounts. I created one for this purpose and replaced the problem one in the rule. It works now.

Also: CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS!!