Careful what you post online

So it began innocently with this Tweet/Foursquare check in.

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.09.43 AM

I checked in with Foursquare which is something I do on a regular basis. I do this every time I visit the store. It’s a form of advertising in my not so humble opinion.

The store then got a call from someone named “James” asking for me. When I picked up the phone I was asked if I’d locked my key in the car. Naturally I asked who is this and a short game of “Don’t you know?” which ended with Lily saying “That’s nice, everything is fine now, goodbye.” and hanging up.

I thought the call was from a customer so I gave the phone to Lily. “James” claimed to have met her yesterday.

Here’s what happened: either the Tweet or the Foursquare check in matched a search. Somone saw that the store has a web site, the phone number is there and the rest is history. Or it could have been one of my followers (I’d like to think that’s not the case) or I’m on a Twitter list.

Now as stories go this is creepy and definitely stalkerish but it could have gone much worse. There was no swearing, no shouting and we didn’t get a call back (the number was marked private of course). But that really was my own personalized PSA about casually posting some details online.

I’ve been using social media (that’s a great term isn’t it? It beats “online extrovert”) and I am always aware of the risks. We’ve all read about or even know someone who has been harassed and stalked. I’ll try and be more circumspect about details like that in the future. It’s unfortunate but it’s the reality of this media. The world is more connected and that fellow could have been calling from anywhere.

If someone’s reading this and getting a chuckle then thanks for the wake up call. I’ll adjust accordingly.

What really irks me is that I’ve been trying to get Lily to use Twitter. This little episode really cements her opposition to that. It’s not that she has anything against Twitter it’s just that that medium doesn’t interest her. This small event pretty much means her social interactions will remain squarely in the real world.

I’ll always be a transplant from Queens

Queens globe photoPhoto by Mr.TinDC

You think of a lot of things during a 15 minute drive to the train station. I will never be mistaken for a native Long Islander.

I grew up in Queens, attended high school in Brooklyn, went to City College on 136 street in Manhattan and eventually Queens College (very long story). I didn’t get my first car until I was 24 or so. I lived in the 5 boroughs and I liked taking the subway and trains to anywhere I wanted in NYC.

We moved to Long Island because we needed a bigger house and wanted to send our kids to a better school district than the one in our Queens neighborhood. It’s a great house in a good neighborhood.

That said, I will never get used to Long Island.

There’s no sidewalks anywhere

Part of my weekend routine was having breakfast at the Dunkin’ Donuts near St. John’s University. We lived just a few blocks from there and we were just a little more than across the street from the school. I like being able to walk to shopping for groceries and things.

There’s not anywhere I can walk to. Everything is at least a 10 minute drive. If I was feeling brave I might use my bicycle but less than mile away a cyclist was left as the victim of a hit and run. That pretty much rules that idea out.

Some of the drivers are the worst

Not all of them of course but a lot of them. My biggest pet peeve is the yellow line is perceived as a suggestion. I always drive on my side as I don’t think getting in to a car wreck is a good way to meet new people.

A fun example: I come out of my side street and head to the light. Another driver rounds the corner and is almost half his car width into my lane. I stop my car and put on my least offending “What are you doing?” face and the other driver swerves out of my lane. Usually I get the “What? I didn’t do nothing wrong!” look but on one occasion I got flipped the bird. Maybe he was from NYC too?

People who drive by their own rules irk me too. I’m at a light, it turns green and I advance into the intersection signaling a left turn. I’m waiting in the intersection* for the opposite car to either turn or go straight. That gets me a blank stare and the other driver eventually makes hand motions indicating I should turn in front of him. I usually make my own hand motions right after that.

The grass really isn’t greener and I’m not moving anytime soon

I do like the privacy and it’s a great house on a great property. Also I’ve met some amazing Long Islanders and our friends are the best. Lily and I do like living here.

But I’m typing this on a LIRR train. This leg of the commute is long enough that I can draft up a 600 word blog post from scratch. It’s an adjustment and after almost 10 years I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to do this commute. But I’ll still miss some of the convenience of living in Queens.

*NOTE: Yes, I invented my own intersection driving rules. In NY you are not supposed to enter the intersection until you can successfully make the left turn. It’s my blog and I can complain about what I want. 😉

 

Favorite new WordPress 3.9 feature

Copying and pasting from Microsoft Word directly into the Visual Editor is my new favorite thing in 3.9 beta. I just tried it on Lily’s store WordPress site and it worked alright. This is a fortunate side effect of 3.9 getting a new version of TinyMCE.

I know, that sounds anti-climatic even a little mundane given the great enhancements that 3.9 will be delivering. But I occasionally (once a month) have this conversation.

Them: How can I copy this Word document into WordPress?

Me: First select the text and paste that into notepad. I like notepad++ myself.

Me: Then you take the text you just copied into notepad select and copy it into the Visual Editor. Again.

Me: Make sure you copy from notepad. Bad things will happen if you paste that into the Visual Editor directly from Word.

Me: Then you apply the styling such as bold, underline, etc. To that text. For titles I like to use the <h3> tag myself.

Me: No, that layout thing you did in Word won’t work.

Me: Images? If you use the Snipping Tool then you can save that image to your hard disk.

Me: Once you’ve done that, upload that into the media library.

Me: Then you can insert it into the WordPress post. The image I mean, I usually go with centered and no link.

Them: Zzzzzz Wha-? What we’re we talking about??

I myself don’t like the idea of users creating content for WordPress outside of WordPress but I’m told I’m special. Apparently “regular” users (yes I’m doing the “air quotes”) such as my wife and some siblings use Word that way.

Lily creates flyers for wine tastings once a week. Right now she has to wait for me to create the event on the WordPress site (thank you Modern Tribe! that’s a great plugin) then cross post it to the company Facebook page. If I can show her how to just paste the content into WordPress to create the event then she can deliver the post sooner.

Also that means I’ll have one less thing to do each week.

Next I have got to test out dragging images into the Visual Editor to upload them that way. That’s got to improve “regular” users workflow too.

Let’s play a game called SERP

On the support forums occasionally (OK today) someone will ask that a post be edited to remove a link or company name for SEO reasons. Unless there’s a good reason for that (and SEO isn’t) then it just isn’t done. There are millions of posts on those forums; can you imagine if a small percentage of members asked for posts to be edited that way?

It’s not always necessary to edit The Interwebz

I am not a web front end developer. I don’t do “SEO”, I don’t at this time have any advertisements on my site. I post to my self-hosted WordPress blog for my own amusement and occasionally the amusement of my friends.

But just for giggles, let’s do a search on Google for my name. I wonder what comes up?

seo-games-jan-dembowski

Huh. That’s weird.

The first hit is my Twitter page, followed by my Make/Support author page, a Polish biologist then a general who both died before I was born (no relation). Then there’s some images (hey, 3 of those are me!) and then my WordPress site. Ah, there’s my Flickr page. I was worried about that not being there.

There is nothing on that search engine results page pointing to the WordPress forums. That’s a shame. I’ve got *looks WOW* 10,772 posts in the forums. That’s not necessarily a lot by the way.

How did that happen?

Again I am not into “SEO” and I haven’t done anything to impact that SERP. I even had to look up what SERP meant to make sure I’m using the term correctly.

But my guess is that the results happened that way because those links are pertinent and each of those links have content that is updated. That’s all there is to it.

  • I tweet everyday non-stop so it’s no wonder that popped up as the first hit.
  • I post to make/support at least once a week so there’s that.
  • Links 3 and 4 are cool and I like that my name is notable (even if the original spelling was Dębowski, ę is pronounced /ɛm/, w is a v sound, look it up).

The important thing is that I produce content and that’s why when someone looks up my name you get sites that I actually update.

So “SEO” magic isn’t real?

There are people who advertise and I assume make a living on SEO work and I am sure they know what they are doing.

If I had a site that I was selling something then I may be concerned that my actual site is 6th down from the top (skipping the images). If I were selling something then perhaps I’d use an SEO plugin. I’d also update my actual site more frequently.

Even without my doing anything special a search for my name shows the links that I expected to see.

My advice to people who want links removed from the forums or anywhere remains the same: if you don’t like your search engine results then change them. Produce original content on your own site. That’s really all there is to it.

Some journalists still inspire you

miles-obrien

Miles O’Brien has always been one of my favorite science reporters and I was sorry to hear about the loss of his left arm.

You know he’s going to get through it but it’s horrific that this could happen to him. Give a few minutes and see his interview on PBS NewsHour. It’s great to see him moving forward and explain his phantom pain and what he’s going through.

His Contaminated Waters report is informative and I look forward to seeing what he produces next.

I’ll take “Find a new radio station” for $100 Alex

On the short ride to the train station just now I just heard this stupidity.

“If you were a single woman what would you prefer your ex-boyfriend tell people about you and why you broke up?

  1. You’re a bitch
  2. You’re a slut
  3. You’re crazy

What do you think?”

The two women on the show liked options 2 and 3. The guy who asked the question thought option 1 was best. I’d have paid money to hear one of women say something like “Really? Are you out of your mind? I don’t date lowlifes.” That may have happened, I switched to another station before I could listen to more.

Yes, it’s FM morning radio and not NPR but seriously? I mean pre-teens tune into that station. I don’t think my 12 and 10 year-olds listen to that station but I’m going to check.

Jan looks for coffee on the train and find none. That’s a pity.

I tend to jump around the radio looking for music and often settle on the current “they’re not WLIR from the 80s but they’ll do today” station. At least not-WLIR plays a lot of Green Day and Foo Fighters. They’re not really better but the music selection is alright.

Normally the first station is all about yucks and phone pranks. There’s another Long Island FM station that has insane reality TV type setup morning nonsense and I don’t even bother with them anymore. I get the appeal of low brow humor (insert fart joke HERE) but that’s just too stupid.

There’s low brow and then there’s misogyny and that’s not funny at all.

Yes, I “want” a new backpack

I’ve 2 backpacks, one that is just a laptop sleeve from 2002 and really is falling apart and the other is a camera backpack.

Me: I need a new backpack. *Starts looking online*

Lily: You mean you “want” one, you don’t “need” a new one. Use the one from Costco. I’m not using it anymore.

It’s this one BTW. I think it’s a little large and doesn’t have padding for a DSLR camera.

nasa-backpack

In 2008 the whole family went to Disney World and I purchased a Lowepro Fastpack 200 backpack.

At the time I got it for it’s quick access to the camera; you swing the bag off of one shoulder, do a triple somersault, perform a mid-air unzipping of the bag and poof you have your DLSR in your hand before you’ve put your feet back on the ground.

Thinking about it, that’s not a feature I’ve ever used…

That bag went with the family on a cruise, to China (that was an awesome trip) and has seen thousands of miles. It’s a bit small for non-camera related items and doesn’t have a laptop sleeve. My 11″ MacBook Air fits barely but without padding every impact risks breaking it and I do bump into things. One of the zipper straps broke and I replaced it with a keychain ring.

At the moment I’m leaning towards the Tamrac Aero 80 but I need to see it in person. It’s got enough space for my laptop and camera but if I can’t fit the other stuff (salad Tupperware, small assorted junk I carry with me everyday) then it won’t work.

There’s two really big camera stores near me at work so by the end of the week I may get what I need. I mean “want”.

Kids? The no snow today is my doing

This is something that’s bugged me since yesterday and I figured I’d post a public apology to my children. You see, they really wanted a snow day today or at least a delayed opening.

I’m going to take the chance and hope that my kids can someday forgive me and understand this mighty burden that fate has placed on my shoulders.

Letter to my kids

Dear kids,

I know you were looking forward to not going to school today but you are old enough to learn the truth. Your father has the super power of being able to prevent things from happening merely by preparing for them.

I’ll pause for a moment while you take that in.

I know. Right now that your eyes are wide open in shock and you may even yell out “I knew it!” but please think of your Grandmother. It’s too early for that sort of outburst.

I discovered I had this ability when I habitually carried my umbrella everywhere I went. It was tied to my backpack and I would forget I even had it. It never rained those days or if it did it would stop as soon as I hit the street.

But the day came that I switched bags and left the umbrella at home. That day on the way to Penn station we suddenly got 11 inches of rain in 30 minutes and I was soaked to the bone.

Seriously, I was wet for a week.

Now, your mother may tell you something like “Some people never learn to stay out of the rain” but please understand that she’s only trying to protect you from the truth.

Yesterday, fully armed with the knowledge of the Impending Snow Apocalypse™, I went to the gas station and filled up the portable tank. We now have enough gas for the snow thrower for the next 2 years at least. I moved the car in and put the snow thrower in right at the garage entrance.

I did this not out of malice nor did I intend to rob you of your cherished snow day. But I’m told the older generation has had it with snow and I’ve learned with enough Adult Supervision™ you have no choice but to be “grown up” about these things.

As a result of my actions we got almost half an inch of snow. If I had merely not done anything then I am sure we’d have had easily 14 inches.

So now you know the truth. When I prepare for something it is a hard guarantee that it will not occur. I hope you can forgive your father someday for robbing you of that snow day.

Your father,

Jan Dembowski

P.S. This may be the last communication from me for a while. I switched bags today and noticed that I left the umbrella home today.

Afterwards

I hope they take this letter well. It’s really cold enough today and I hope that Lily doesn’t mind my revealing myself like that to them. Or the world! She’s always concerned about what other grown ups may think about what I reveal about myself.