Tee's Blog

The Adventures of an American in Belfast

Lessons From The Not Quite 5 Year Old…

“What did you do today mummy?”

“Well, I walked you to school and then I went to the GP’s office for prescriptions and then to the chemist to get them filled and then to the supermarket for bread and pancakes and cereal bars. And then I came home and had a coffee and did some knitting and then had some lunch and then came to meet your bus. So, really, I did nothing today because I’m not feeling well. Again.”

“But you took me to school and then went to the chemist and the supermarket!”

“True, but I meant I didn’t do any housework today, like I had wanted to.”

“But you knitted! That’s housework!”

“Is it?”

“Yes.” With nearly 5 year old conviction. “You did lots today.”

I Am Wondering if Facebook Staff Actually Use The Site

So today I was reading my news feed and there were several times friends of mine posted on various groups they belong to. These groups hold no interest for me, so I selected to hide the group’s notifications.

And Facebook wanted to know why. So I clicked on the link to be asked if I wanted to stop seeing my friends feed altogether, you know, if I didn’t want to see every group they belong to.

No. I don’t.

You see I have lots of friends. And, guess what? Some of them don’t have all of the same interests as me! Shocking, I know. Completely.

Or, you know, only to Facebook.

I mean, you probably know lots of people, right? And you know them from different places. Some are from your child’s school or your work or maybe another web site you belong to. So you have that one point of connection.

That doesn’t mean you don’t want to see them talk about themselves, or their child or what have you. But it might mean you have no interest in their underwater basket weaving group. I’m sure it’s something that is totally thrilling to them. But that doesn’t mean it’s thrilling to me.

And I can’t believe it’s thrilling to Facebook staff, either. Surely, if they use Facebook, they’ll know how incredibly frustrating it is to have someone say ‘Hey, I was hoping you’d comment on my question about X Y Z on Facebook, since it’s your area.’ and you have to respond ‘I never saw it. Probably because Facebook thought it was more important that I saw B’s comment on her underwater basket weaving group.’

Yes yes, I don’t pay for Facebook. They get money through advertising, they don’t have to keep anyone happy but their advertisers.

But how happy will those advertisers be when more and more people go to Twitter or G+ because they get to see what they actually want to see?

Who Am I If I’m Not In Pain?

So due to an incredible set of circumstances, I am remarkably pain free.

First I took up knitting to help my arthritic hands. And it worked. My hands are much looser and practically pain free. I still get twinges and opening jars is beyond me, but day to day activity is so much improved I am actually thinking about trying to draw by hand again.

Then the chemist couldn’t get me any Xanax. It’s not a drug that is prescribed in the UK, since the NHS doesn’t cover it (I’ve been paying private ‘script charges on it for years), so the European distributors haven’t been keeping it in the country. So I am in the process of switching to Zoloft. Guess what else Zoloft is good for, along with anxiety? Fibro pain.

So despite the fact that the med switch has given me some insomnia, I’m not really in fibro pain at the moment. I have nearly a full range of movement in my arms and the new pains that had started in my upper legs has totally gone. I’m still getting the fatigue and fibro brain, but I can deal with all of that, if there’s no pain.

Finally, I have been working with a podiatrist to pinpoint why my left leg hurts so badly, even with having had cortisone and exercise and losing weight and all those things. And for the first time someone looked at me and said ‘Your left leg is shorter than your right.’ Around 30 years my left leg has hurt in one way or another and this is the first time someone has noticed that. And that is skews the way I walk and the way I stand.

So I have a temporary thing for my left shoe that I am to try different thicknesses on, using, belive it or not, beer mats to raise or lower it as feels comfortable. And in four weeks I go back to report and have casts made of my feet and custom shoe inserts created. Just one day of having this temp thing in my left shoe and my leg feels better.

So how does it feel to not be in constant never ending pain?

Fucking terrifying.

I am trying so hard to not get my hopes up that this is how I will feel all the time now. I am trying to treat each day as a gift of painlessness.

And I’m not sure who to be any more. I’ve been Tee, the woman with three chronic pain conditions for a long time. I can’t even imagine what I might get done if I’m not spending days on the sofa just trying to get from one minute to the next.

But I am going to find out!

The Part of Heart Bleed No One Seems To Be Explaining

I’m sure, by now, you’ve heard all about Heartbleed and that you should change your passwords as soon as the websites you have accounts on confirm they are patched.

But I keep hearing from non-technical people ‘Why would anyone want into my Facebook/Twitter/other non-financial/credit card link account? For what purpose?’ And no one seems to be explaining!

So why should you worry?

Because hackers think you are dumb. They assume, rightly in a lot of cases, that you use the same username and password for all your logins. This is bad practice, of course, but lots and lots of people do it.

So the hacker harvests hundreds or thousands or millions of usernames and passwords from, say, Facebook, and then puts them into a programme that sends those username and passwords across the web. It automatically tries the username/password combinations it has saved and, if it gets lucky, gets into your bank, or your email (for phishing or replicating) or some other useful thing. And they have you.

So how do you remember unique passwords for all of the things you access?

There are three really easy ways to create secure and memorable passwords:

1. Think of a sentence that you will remember on a specific site, like Facebook Sucks But Everyone Uses It So I Do. Then take the first letter of each word: FSBEUISID and then add some symbols or numbers rather than letters: FSB3U1S!D. Appears totally random to someone else, but you will remember it!

2. Create a code of numbers, letters and symbols: 123&^324. For each website, add 2 or 3 characters to that code: FB123&^324. Now you only have to remember your random code and your website code.

3. Create a pattern on the keyboard. You look at the keyboard and imagine shapes on top of the keys. Trace those shapes with the keys and a totally random string of characters will be chosen, but all you have to remember is the pattern.

So wait until you get the all clear on your sites (there’s lists all over the web) and then get to strong password creation!

When I was a child, I had a friend named Gail

She was my best friend in the whole world for years and years.

Gail’s house wasn’t like my house.

Her mom was always home. My mom worked.

Gail’s kitchen table always had butter on it in a pretty dish. We used margarine in a tub.

Gail had 2 sisters, one older, one younger. When we met, I just had an older brother.

Gail’s mom was crafty. My mom wasn’t.

I used to wonder at the odd things in Gail’s house. Not just the old fashion rug beaters her mom would hang on the wall,  but the tree branches that came out at Easter that had coloured hollow egg shells hanging from it and the giant pine tree that would appear in their living room every December.

Gail was Christian. We were Jewish.

But the thing that always fascinated me, was how Gail’s mom sewed. I don’t remember if she actually made all of her girls’ clothes, or if she just sewed some things, but her sewing machine was always busy. And always nearby was her pin cushion. It was shaped like a tomato and the strawberry looking thing hanging off it was crunchy when I would pinch it with my fingers.

I never asked what that squishy thing was for, just accepted that it was part of this odd object that people used to hold their pins when they sewed. And I used to sit and play with the pins and crunch the strawberry while sitting at their kitchen table chatting with Gail.

I have never forgotten Gail or her mom or her house or that pin cushion.

And today, I bought this: pincushion

In many ways I am more like Gail’s mom than mine. I am mostly a housewife with some freelance thrown in. I knit. I cook. I bake.

And now I know that the squishy crunchy strawberry on the pin cushion is for sharpening pins.

Because I own a tomato shaped pin cushion all my own. Just like I always wanted.

There’s A Difference Between Being Bossy and Being Boss

I keep hearing, over and over, various places, that it is no longer okay to tell someone, girl or boy, that they are being bossy. Especially girls.

“Let them be bossy then they can be leaders!”

Yeah. No.

I have never ever in a working life that spans close to 30 years at this point had a good boss who was bossy.

Bossy is bad. And it’s not being a boss.

Bossy is telling people what to do, with no compromise or room for their interpretation. Bossy it pushing someone to do something they may not want to do because you want them to do it, even if it’s not the best thing for them or your company or what have you.

Being boss is not that. Being a leader is not that. Being a good boss, or leader, is guiding and listening and compromising and surrounding yourself with good people who disagree with you in a way that makes you think and change your mind and make you a better boss.

Oh sure, bosses have to be bossy sometimes. No one wants to be told to do something that they really don’t want to do and sometimes employees have to be told that something has to be done for the good of the company or what have you whether they want to do it or not. But being bossy does not make you a boss.

So, yes. Call that little girl or boy who is dictating like, well, a dictator, that they are being bossy.

And then teach them how to be a boss instead.

Yes, Okay, I’m Going On About This A Bit

But the more I use the new Facebook, the worse the design becomes.

I thought I was growing used to the badly chosen colours, and then I opened it this morning and it was like having a bucket of water thrown over my head. GOOD MORNING TEE, LOOK AT HOW BRIGHT AND UNFORGIVING YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE IS NOW is what it said to me.

And then I realized something else. I said yesterday that moving the notifications etc to the right served no purpose but I could live with it.

I lied.

Moving the notifications etc to the right did something that only occurred to me this morning: it breaks the first rule of page layout: Upper Left To Lower Right.

Like it or not, Facebook and others who think they are being ‘radical’, but the English language reads from left to right. And that means that, by training from the first moment we are taught to read or the first time we open a book even before we can read, if we learn in a left to right written language, we automatically look to the upper left corner of anything we look at to find the beginning or the most interesting information.

Facebook has apparently convinced themselves that the most interesting information on their page is…their logo and the search box. Really?

So, in fine Facebook form, they have continued to not think about their users and continue to think only about themselves.

Yes, okay, we don’t pay for Facebook. They have advertisers who do. I get that, I really do.

But why alienate people? Because if people stop using Facebook?

Advertisers will go away.

The Design Trend That Gives Me A Headache

First it was Google Reader: glaring white with a bit of grey. So I moved to NetVibes.

Guess what? Then it was NetVibes: glaring grey with a bit of white and some black. Although not quite as bad as Google Reader. I can still use NetVibes.

Now? It’s Facebook. Grey boxes on a light grey background and, let’s not forget, the Facebook Blue upper menu bar.

Why?

Has the internet run out of colours? Did I miss a memo that said ‘Sorry, only grey, black and white will be allowed from now on’?

It, seriously, gives me a headache. It glares. It doesn’t flow. The eye gets stuck trying to figure out where on post ends and the next begins, never mind the columns.

It is bad design.

I can live with Facebook moving the various alert, notification and message icons to the right. I don’t really get the point, but I can live with it.

I’m not sure I can live with the grey on grey.

It really is giving me a headache.

UPDATE: Just after I posted this I updated to WP 3.8.1. And look at that! Black! Lots of black! The posting box is grey on grey, true. But the edges? A nice soothing black. Well done WP.

Why I’ve Left Mumsnet and Will Never Go Back

This is the thread I’d like to start on Mumsnet, but I don’t want it deleted. I want it out there, on the internet, for anyone who wants to know what’s happened to a place that was once the best place for advice, a laugh, friends and fun.

Some will say this is sour grapes. It may be. I don’t really care. I need to say it. It’s my blog. I’m going to say it.

The destruction of Mumsnet as a good place started last year. Three things happened in rapid succession: their Head Community Manager left, #PenisBeaker exploded across the ‘net, their best and most experienced Community Manager went on Maternity Leave.

When Head Community Manager (HCM, I’ll not use her name here, but if you were/are a Mumsnetter, you’ll know who I mean) left, Mumsnet did not appoint a replacement. Instead they split the job between two other sitting Community Managers. And things started slipping. Trolls and other horrors were allowed to stand much longer than they should have because they were, quite obviously, short staffed.

And then came #PenisBeaker. Some day, I swear, a PhD candidate with get their doctorate studying this incredible Social Media phenomenon. But what it meant specifically for Mumsnet was the boards were, literally, brought to their knees both via tech issues and trolls. Their servers, never too steady to begin with, crashed repeatedly as hundreds or even thousands of more people headed to Mumsnet to see what was going on. It spread like wildfire from Mumsnet to The Metro to Twitter to Facebook to who knows where next. And, naturally, Mumsnet rode the wave and even encouraged it. Views equals pounds and no one, I think, can begrudge them taking advantage of this organic chance to spread the word and up their revenue.

The problem was, though, that they didn’t care who they were bringing to the site or what they had to say. You see, Mumsnet has had minor #PenisBeakers before. Press coverage that has brought the trolls, the lookyloos and the new posters in droves. The difference in the past is that when it happened? They tightened up their Community Manager coverage and they allowed the boards to self moderate.  They let their regular posters do what they’ve always done best, call a cunt a cunt and a dick a dick and keep the boards ticking.

When #PenisBeaker struck, it was like they were asleep at the switch. Between site outages and troll attacks, the few Managers they had around couldn’t keep up. And instead of hiring more or even shutting down registration, which they’ve done before (Mumsnet had a DDOS last year that shut registration down for about 2 days while they cleared it) they just let horrible posts stand.

Around this same time the site owner and members of the Community team had an open chat to talk about what had happened and what they could do better in the future. And then did none of it. So it was all lip service to shut people up.

And then, everyone’s favourite, most experienced and best Community Manager went to have her baby. And that was the end of Mumsnet as it had been.

Things could have been okay at this point if Mumsnet Staff had allowed the boards to really self moderate, they way they had in the past. They deny it now, but there was a time when you were allowed to say, on site, “I think you’re a lying cunt” and “No way did that happen, you dick”. Now anything like that is labelled a personal attack and troll hunting and deleted. No matter what it’s about or who.

Everything finally and completely came to an end on New Years Eve. Mumsnet, in their infinite wisdom (insert pause for laughter), decided to not only have only one Community Manager on duty, but have it be a new one. Someone who had barely been on the boards, never mind on the boards on a night when everyone was drinking. And then it started. Some regular posters decided to play Mumsnet Bingo, which they decided meant posting the often most controversial subjects as if they were serious. Everything from parking spaces (don’t ask if you don’t know) to using offensive language deliberately. And the Community Moderator actually turned off the boards for posting. Not just shut down registration, but shut down the entire site.

One of the Co-head Managers came along at some point, turned it back on, edited some posts and apologized. But the damage was done.

That was the last day I posted on Mumsnet. The day they left a newbie in charge who shut the boards down because she was overwhelmed. I get being overwhelmed, I do. And I get being new. We’ve all been new. But surely her first move should have been to call for back up? Call for someone else with  more experience to decide how to handle a board gone mad? Or maybe she was told to not contact anyone no matter what. I’ll never know.

What I do know is that from then to now? Things have gotten worse. The Professionally Offended, the Goady Fuckers and the Out and Out Trolls have taken over. To the point that most of who have been regular posters for years? Refuse to post anything serious any more or post at all. I’m not the only one who left New Years and has never gone back.

I haven’t deregistered, it’s true.  That’s for one reason only: I made a commitment last year to the Chocolate Panel as part of their Insight Panel. I will finish that and then I will close my Mumsnet account for good. I had already stepped down as Mumsnet Belfast late last year and I have stepped down from the Mumsnet Bloggers network.

I was asked, by the way, why I was leaving the BN. I told them it was because I no  longer believed in Mumsnet or what it stood for. Their response? “Okay. Good luck in the future.” Alrighty then.

Mumsnet’s owners and, by default, their staff just don’t care any more. All they can see are the pounds stacking up and their own salaries and bonuses or what have you increasing.

It is no longer a place to go for true help or encouragement or even a good laugh.

And I can’t even believe or begin to tell you how sad that makes me.

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