Taking on the transit trolls

Check out my op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen, Taking on the transit trolls.

 

Break the chain

When I was regularly singing with a chamber music choir, my bio in the program used to include the line “so old her first recording was on vinyl.”  And it’s true!

I’m also so old that I remember my first chain letter, when they were written out by (nervous pre-adolescent) hand, addressed and stamped and everything.  Even then, it was something I was compelled to do, for fear of not having three wishes come true and having my new ten-speed bike stolen (or whatever other wreck and ruin the letter threatened).

And then, like another two or three per cent of the population, I grew up and never forwarded that kind of crap again.

AND THEN the internet happened.

… hand-written chain letters became e-mail forwards (see snopes.com’s Inboxer Rebellion for the mother list of these things).

… e-mail scams morphed into bogus social media campaigns (Facebook is rife with this garbage; I police my own friends list with diminshing good will).

… and of course there’s money in it (read Daylan Pearce’s excellent explanation of Facebook “like” scams).

… even blogging is not immune, with the proliferation of “best blogger” awards/memes/linkfests (I don’t participate personally and am not going to name specific awards; the gist is that you get nominated, answer some questions, nominate a bunch of others, and so and and so on, as the shampoo commercial says.  Some folks play along, others, like me, just say no.).

Going back to my policing comment for a moment: it’s really hard to tactfully explain to someone that they’ve forwarded an illegitimate request for help.  Firstly, because I think we really ought to encourage more kindness, decency and concern and telling someone they’ve been duped might ratchet the cynicism up into “well screw it then” territory.  Secondly, you’re sort of telling someone that they’re … how to put this … unsavvy.  No one likes to hear this; it’s less fun than you’d think to point it out.

Your best course of action, if you have to be polite about it — and you do have to be polite if it’s, say, your boss — is to spend ten seconds sleuthing on snopes.com or other “debunking” sites, and forward the link with a sheepish kind of “Oh, it looks like this is the latest one going around!”

Your most direct — and, I think, funniest — course of action is to break the chain.

Here’s how:

  1. Download a copy of David Seah’s printable certificate for breaking chain letters.
  2. Distribute.

You can send the certificate via email (perfect if that’s where you’re getting hit hardest by these kinds of senseless pixel-wasters), you can post it on your Facebook profile, you can even print it out and mail it (this is really my favourite option because the physical manipulation required to interact with the message might drive it home, plus for the cost of a stamp you can make your point while protecting your anonymity).

The brilliant copy from the Certificate of Chain Letter Nullification:

There are times when the forces of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt conspire to coerce Good People to aid the propogation of Certain Letters of Ambiguous Benefit or Misfortune. Such Letters are conceived to Frighten people into serving the Ego of a Master Jerk. We can not, as free men and women, allow such Threats to bound our Happiness.

By signing and dating this certificate, you declare that you are a Creator of Positive Energies. Together, we break the Tyranny of the Chain. We declare that we are defined by our Actions, not our Fears.

Also by David Seah: genius productivity tools and the Re-Gift Receipt (the perfect addition to all the crappy presents you’re going to buy for near-strangers this holiday season).

Lather, rinse, repeat

I have a hard time believing it, but according to the internet, there are people in this crazy, mixed-up world who actually run out of conditioner before they run out of shampoo.

These are probably the same people who hang their toilet paper with the tail on the wall side, and put toothpaste straight onto their toothbrush without wetting it first.

I’m not saying that these people deserve a lifetime filled with dandruff, skidmarks and cavities, but I am guaranteeing that that’s what they’ll get.

Graphakery: an occasional series of fake graphs based on semi-real statistics.

It’s not me, it’s you

In mathematics, this phenomenon is known as disjoint sets.

In relationships, it’s known as the truth.

Graphakery: an occasional series of fake graphs based on semi-real statistics.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.