Category Archives: consumer warfare



Required Online Etiquette for Businesses 101

We make a lot of fuss about when a commenter or blogger is violating some spoken or unspoken rule of conduct, but MAN do we let companies off the hook for some obvious things that are just terribly rude and inconsiderate!  Here are some of the worst, IMO:

  • If you take an order / allow sign up online, you must allow canceling an order or unsubscribing online.  Giving someone a convenient way to give you money and making them switch to a less convenient one to get it back is just pure shady.  And don't give me shit about how it costs *you* more money somehow — no it doesn't.  If you have the infra to take an order, you have it to cancel one, and if you won't cancel it the same way you took it, you're just a jerk.
  • If you allow customers to deal with you online, and they contact you online, do not ever ever call them, but most especially do not call them a) during business hours, when you know damn well you're interrupting their work, or b) over any simple or easy question that could easily be resolved by using the email address you almost certainly have.  We know it's rude when you call to ask a company a question and the next day a door-to-door salesman shows up uninvited at your house; why don't we ream companies for forcing conversations onto the phone for no good reason?  My phone is on in case people who know me want to use it to reach me, thank you; and even they know better than to call me when I'm working unless it's important.
  • Your security measures should be as obnoxious as needed and no more; if in doubt, let your customers pick the level of protection they want. If one more little retail site forces me to create a hardened 16-digit two-factor-auth password, I'm going to seriously slap a techie.  (Might be any techie, so look out.)
  • And for gods' sakes treat online customer service like customer service.  It's fine if Billy Teenpunk turns into a raging shithead when given a difficult email to answer, but he's not being paid to do it.  The number of snide, terse, flippant, or outright rude online exhanges I've been subjected to from various companies is truly shocking.  You know you'd fire any employee who acted like that to a customer's face…so what's the deal?  Not paying attention, perhaps?  THEN SELL YOUR COMPUTERS and stick to business you're actually willing to do the work for.

…Yes, I'm having a tough day, but come on, all of that needed to be said.  ;)

Here's to relaxing times later!  (It's underwater hockey night!  That usually beats all the tension out of me pretty well.)

Give Me A DRM-Free World

Lulu Blog » Living in a DRM-Free World.

Count me among the authors who feel that DRM did nothing to benefit us, and who're frankly relieved that it's on the way out.

Has the book been torrented?  Yup.  Does this upset me?  HELL no.

Think of it this way:  The Internet is the biggest communications medium in the world.  If you were an author and you went to the biggest public library in existence, where everyone was talking about and handing around books 24/7, and you found that yours hadn't been mentioned or shared at all, what would you think?  That it must suck, right?  

As an author, or really any kind of artist, you get attention and money and rewards for your work when people like it and tell other people about it.  Being that they're talking to each other in the real world, they have a much better idea how much of your work should be shared, and what should be said about it, to interest the person in front of them, than you and a zillion marketers could ever have.  If they think loaning a copy to their friend is the best way to make you a new fan — or that thumbing through it themselves is the best way to determine if they want to be your fan — then who the heck are you to argue?  

It's a sort of Taoist truth of sales:  Let people do their thing, and only intervene when needed.  I intervene, usually by being nice about it, when I run into someone who's borrowed by not bought my book, and almost always they turn into a buyer.  If I intervened by being a jerk, or prevented them from getting ahold of my work in the first place, guess what they'd be?  Yeah, not a fan, for sure.

Fortunately we're not alone, we authors-who-pay-attention; as this article demonstrates, publishers like Tor and distributors like Lulu are catching on that penalizing readers – especially penalizing all readers for something a tiny percentage of them do — is just plain stupid, and a world without DRM is hopefully right around the corner.


Spend Wisely: Buying vs. DRMRenting

It's yet another example of the kind of imprecise language that gives me hives: Companies and their customers refer to purchasing rights to controlled content as "buying", when it's emphatically not. A perfect example showed up in the news today:

Did she violate any terms? Amazon will not tell. Perhaps by accident? Amazon does not care. The conclusion so far is clear: Amazon closed her account, wiped her Kindle and refuses to tell her why. End of discussion.

Outlawed by Amazon DRM « Martin Bekkelund.

So remember — and this doesn't apply to just Amazon, but to any case where you're DRMRenting instead of buying something:

If the retailer, in this case Amazon, thinks you’re a crook, they will throw you out and take away everything that you bought. And if you disagree, you’re totally outlawed. Not only is your account closed, all your books that you paid for are gone. With DRM, you don’t buy and own books, you merely rent them for as long as the retailer finds it convenient.

Pay attention!

[EDIT:  BoingBoing nails it in more detail here.]

The TSA: actually *worse* than you thought

Completely awesome infographic:

Image Source: FloorGem

…And two things to say about it:

1.  When people get frothy about "government spending", wastefulness, and inefficiency, why do they never seem to be talking about things like the TSA?  Why is it almost always things that support our civil rights (like universal health care and social safety-nets), or fix known problems (green energy, research programs, infrastructure initiatives) that are the targets of fiscal-conservative rage, while vastly more expensive and inefficient things that suppress rights (TSA, unnecessary foreign wars) or make problems worse (corporate welfare, oil subsidies) get a strangely free pass?  WTF???

2.  The "infographic" is such a strange animal, isn't it?  The concept that truth should be well-designed strikes me as equal parts hopeful and eerie.  It also makes me edgily excited to see what's next in the evolution of human self-education.  I do heartily approve how many/most of them seem to include a bibliography, too.

And I’m a lucky one

Mine is brief, because I felt weird sharing more of my story that that.  I also feel that the details of how we're different matter less than the many broad ways in which we're the same:  We are ALL suffering because our government, in spite of claiming status as the biggest and best democracy in the world, won't provide us decent health care, reasonable safety-nets, and protection from the people who, before we had a strong socialist* government, had no problem treating the 99% as straight-up slaves, including withholding access to education and weapons as a way to control us. 

The answer is not "less government" — but it's not surprising that the supporters of the 1% want it to be.  They've lamed the horse, and now they want us to let them shoot it, so they can go back to being lords and having serfs and never having to worry that "the rabble" will have any real influence.  These are people who want to use most of humanity as their own personal cattle, to buy and sell and work and kill as they see fit.  A government they don't own gets in their way.  So first they own it, then break it, then try to get people cheering for abolishing it altogether. 

But the 1% should fear the 99%, not the other way around.  Maybe it's been too long since we reminded them why.


*Socialist = with public works, public health, public schools, public emergency services and public courts that enforce the law evenly among everyone.  All things that level the playing field, and which the 1% are of course eager to do away with (except when they can work it so the public pays for those services, but the 1% benefit most from them).

Class warfare > Class massacre

Those complaining about the Occupy protests being Class Warfare are right.  Finally, it's turning to a war, with both sides aware that they're fighting it.

Thus far, it's been Class Genocide, with one side pooling their immense resources to safely corral and eradicate the 99% from afar.  By controlling the media, they've managed to keep the people they're attacking — depriving of food, shelter, education and rights — from ever realizing or acknowledging that they're under attack.  Like "safari hunters" who shoot caged lions, with enough money the 1% can make it cheap and easy to pick off their opponents like fish in a barrel.  It's been war-without-ever-leaving-your-mansion, winning without risking so much as a profit-margin. 

Until now.  Now the jig is up, and though they've been under attack for at least a decade already, the 99% are grabbing some weapons and getting ready to make this a real, honest fight.

Of course those who've been winning effortlessly for so long don't like it when their prey starts fighting back, turning the easy massacre into a real battle in which, oh yeah, they're massively outnumbered.  Now they might lose something; now, if they want their protected status and special privileges, they may actually have to pay for them.  It's not nearly as profitable to mug a person to their face as it is to sneak into their house while they're out working two jobs and swipe everything, is it?  When someone is facing you and the deal is open on the table, they might fight back, and they might even win. 

Cowards don't like warfare.  They prefer psyops.  They like missions that involve keeping people too scared and hungry to fight back, and "battles" where you can shoot everyone while they sleep.  But the cowards are in for it, if the 99% have woken up.

I'm not a fan of battles in general.  But Class Warfare beats the heck out of Class Massacre.

When the Law is on Your Side

U.S. Federal Statue

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.

Acts under "color of any law" include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under "color of any law," the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.

Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, and if bodily injury results or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall be fined or imprisoned up to ten years or both, and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.


…Furthermore, not part of the statute, but FYI most police officers sued for violation of Federal law can't be defended (have their legal defense paid for by) the tax payer (i.e. their department). 

Hey, they have no problem using the rules against you.  In light of some of the crap going on lately, it's important to know how to use them in your own favor.

(Can anybody tell I'm writing a story with an anarchist character in it?  ;)

Emphasis Not Mine

Word-clouds made of transcriptions of toy commercials aimed at boys and girls, respectively.  Click pic to go to article.

But the reasoning behind all the women-must-do-this-work and men-are-excused-from-this-behavior talk is that we're born with those differences, you know.  "Girls" are "naturally" interested in homemaking and relationships and superficial beauty, and "boys" "naturally" want to go off to war and compete with each other. 

Surely these messages being delivered 24/7 from birth couldn't have anything to do with our tendencies.  It's all inborn, and therefore morally neutral!



Ultimate Battle Power Transform Girl

ZEO FTW: Free new app sees polyphasic naps, improves privacy

We don’t believe folks like Steve Jobs who claim “Open systems don’t always win.” We don’t believe that it’s ethical for body measuring companies to block users access to their information.  We don’t believe that Zeo shouldn’t be ripped open and hacked–hell, do that and we may just give you a job.

We do believe that you own your data, can take your data with you, and get to decide what to do with it.  We believe that you should be able to hack your SD Card data and get at your raw brainwaves. We believe in the power of open source software that anyone can modify to their own needs.  And we believe in our users ability to set us straight when we go off course.

From "Privacy Activists Rejoice, ZeoDecoderViewer is in Alpha!"

Yaaaaay, Zeo!  I love when a company I've raved about does rave-worthy things after the fact, thus making me look either smart or psychic. 

To clarify all the ways in which this is awesome:

  • The ZeoDecoderViewer can process & show polyphasic nap data!
  • It's free!
  • It lets you see your sleep data on your own computer, without uploading it to the Zeo website!
  • It's exactly the kind of thing most electronics companies refuse to do, because they want to "lock customers in" instead of giving them what they want!

Nice work, Zeo!  I really hope I get time to try this soon…if any of you do, please drop a comment & let me know what you think?