Category: notes

Pimping the blog

Last week I received an email from one Taylor Dardan:

I wanted to send you a quick message, and see if I would be able to write a guest blog on your site. I am very passionate the health concerns that can endanger first responders. I am trying to raise the awareness of the many environmental toxins that first responders can come into contact with on a regular basis. I feel that I could write a compelling article that would be of great interest to the readers of Notes from Mosquito Hill (http://notesfrommosquitohill.com/).

Please feel free to email me back if this interests you.

I don’t publish a bare email address on this blog; this person (or bot?) took the time to fill out my contact form.  A few of the other bloggers I read have been approached by various people offering to create *fabulous* content for them, but this is a first for me.

As usual when something seems odd, my first stop was Google. I found articles by this Taylor Dardan person on multiple websites.  Mr. Dardan is alternately identified as he/she, and is described as “a cancer treatment advocate and extremely interested in insuring [sic] that cancer patients’ medical privacy is fully protected in our current healthcare system,” “a dedicated advocate of veteran’s benefits,” and “a brave soul that is bringing awareness to those that are unaware of the sacrifices that not only a soldier makes away at war but those they endure most times with the families upon their return home.” You will note that above he identifies himself as “very passionate the health concerns that can endanger first responders.”

Whoever this person is, he seems very dedicated to multiple causes including HIPAA, veterans’ benefits, “chemotherapy and natural forms of treatment,” and public safety among others.

Each article begins with a paragraph or two devoted to the core interests of the blog in question.  In paragraph three, we reach the dreaded (wait for it. . . . . . . . . . . )

MESOTHELIOMA.

All of the articles contain one link to the same website dedicated to information about the disease.  A brief bit of digging reveals that it is owned and operated by a major law firm, of the type most commonly seen on mid-afternoon TV commercials.

I was curious to see how far I could push it, so I sent the following reply:

I’m interested in your proposal, but I have a few questions first.

1.  Who are you?  What is your background?
2.  What is your message?
3.  Why not just start your own blog?  It’s cheap (free!) and easy.  I started with blogger.com years ago, and I often post links to other people’s work which I feel worthy of notice.
4.  Why me?  What can you tell me about me to prove you’re not a spambot?
and finally
5.  Not to sound crass, but what’s in it for me?  You seem interested in reaching my legions of fans with your message.  Where’s my benefit?
Awaiting your reply. . .
–James
The silence has been deafening.  I guess my legions of fans will just have to keep waiting for the miraculous message.

Sleep, friends, and the World Wide Web

I received an email the other morning from a friend and fellow blogger of some note, asking me to review a draft of an article for publication. I noted that it was received at 02:58. I realized quickly that he is in an earlier time zone than I, and he could in fact have sent it over his morning coffee (tea?).

The first reply, however, was time-stamped 03:07. It was from another friend in a time zone behind me.

And I was reading it in my bunk at work at 04:55 EDT. Ah, the EMS lifestyle. At least I was IN my bunk and not the cab of an Econoline somewhere.

For the record, it looks like a great article. When it’s published I will be sure to link it for your enjoyment.

Gettng my head (and my data) out of the Clouds

I’m a bit of an early adopter.  I’m not on the bleeding edge of technology, but I’m out in front of many people.

I’ve been into Gmail for years, since back when you needed an invitation to get an account.  I know the dangers of cloud computing; namely that your data is at the mercy of someone else.  In Google’s case, that someone has no direct financial incentive to keep me happy.  Their advertisers pay for my service, not me.

Google enticed me with other value-added services which made my daily life easier.  All for the low price of ‘free’ and paid for by advertisers who mine my data in hopes of convincing me to buy something.  I let it happen.

The Hydra slowly crept into my life.  Gmail, Calendar, Documents, Reader, Picasa, Voice, Blogger – it all worked together seamlessly.

Until last night, when it ALL crashed and burned.  Seamlessly. Years of email, software licenses, all my appointments, all my documents, and all of Project 365 — GONE. This blog would be gone if I hadn’t moved it to a self-hosted domain.  The Blogspot account is gone.

Google had a small problem with Gmail yesterday, which only affected 150,000 or so accounts.  They have been disabled ‘pending repairs.’  Google is being very tight lipped about when or if they will return, and  they won’t say anything about potential data loss.  All I get is an error message stating something about violating their Terms of Service.

I’m no spammer, I don’t file share, and all of my photos are my own work.  I highly doubt I’ve violated their ToS.  Buried deep in their ToS, however, is this ominous line:

Google reserves the right to terminate your account at any time, for any reason, with or without notice.

And without compensation, of course.

So I’m scrambling.  I’ve set up a new email address on a domain I own.  As long as I pay the server bills, it shouldn’t get shut down.  (If you correspond with me, please drop me a line via the Contact Form.  It has my new address, and I need yours again.)  I’m beginning to seriously question the wisdom of setting up a business on a Google Voice phone line, but there’s little I can do about it for now.  At least I can still forward it to my cell phone and use AT&T’s voicemail.  I can find alternatives for most everything else, but I will miss Google Reader.

I will probably still find ways to use the Cloud for data backup, but it will never again be my primary storage.  You can say, “I told you so,” and I’m saying this to you now:  Get out while you can.

Even if my account were fixed tonight, I’d have a hard time trusting it again.  It’s too easy for a mistake or a hacker to take out my entire digital identity.  So goodbye, Google, it was nice knowing you.