Online Life Archives
No Looking Back
My business plan for True predicted I'd be able to quit my Day Job two years after launch and work online full time.
Sure enough, almost to the day, I did that -- I've left my great job at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
I was chuffed (as one of my Australian subscribers would put it) this weekend to meet Cathie Walker, formerly the Head Honcho of the Centre for the Easily Amused web site (later SillyBuddies.com), who was in Denver briefly on business. I met her at the airport, and there was an "incident" that kind of sets the tone for my life.
I was apparently the first "Guest Columnist" on the interesting web-site-quality-really-needs-improvement site, "Fork in the Head" ("Because flawed web sites deserve a fork in the head"), which offers lessons in improvement called, yep, "Fork University". I (let's hope) supplied some words of wisdom about appealing to a wide audience.
The site, ForkInTheHead.com, is now defunct. Thanks to the miracle of good hard disk storage, I can still present what I wrote:
Speaking of People Doing Dumb Things
I absolutely cannot believe how fast the "sircam" virus is spreading. Why is that dumb? Let's put it this way: people still run MS LookOut! (er... I guess it's called "Outlook", isn't it?) as their mail program despite that it again and again and again proves to be too week to avoid trojan horses like sircam (and "I love you" and "Snow White" And... AND...!! How many more until people dump it?!)
A Truly Heartwarming Story
In doing my research every week, I've been noticing more and more stories about spammers. They're lately trying to come "out of the closet" to defend what they're doing (you know: pump incredible amounts of vile garbage into your e-mail inbox). They go to huge efforts to mask the true source of their mail and do everything possible to get past filters set up to stop them. Meaning, of course, that they absolutely disregard your clear desire to not get their junk mail. How disgustingly arrogant!
I've added a new weekly feature to True: the "Bonzer Web Site of the Week" has been added just above the Honorary Unsubscribe. I accept site suggestions for this feature only from Premium subscribers (yes, I'll be checking).
It's a GOOHFy World
"You've caused a notable effect on cultural consciousness." -- that's what one of True's readers said, one of hundreds and hundreds of you who wrote to say that Mike Peters' popular Mother Goose & Grimm comic strip featured a "Get Out of Hell Free" card.
Hit Squad on Spammers?
I've been clamoring for action on the spam front since 1996. I've even dedicated a web site to a primer on what spam is, how spammers get your address, and other topics (which recently got some minor updates).
No Really: I Want the Leather
In 1999, after I had been working full-time on True for awhile, I found I really missed having peers to chat with, as I did when I had a Day Job. So I started a little group of online entrepreneurs to network with. One of them, Anne Holland, the publisher of MarketingSherpa, which issues interesting marketing and advertising case studies to more than 147,000 readers (more than True? Hey!), shared a story with the group which she has graciously allowed me to repeat here:
How to Deal With Spammers
Less spam? For the first time ever (in my experience, at least), I'm getting noticeably less spam. My spam load -- the vast majority of which my server catches for me and reports in a nightly e-mail -- is down to a "mere" 350 to 450/day.
That sounds like a lot (and it is), but it's about half of what was coming in just weeks ago. What do I attribute this to? Well, last month police in Spain raided a spam scam operation in Malaga ...and arrested 310 people in the operation!
Story Subject Demands Deletion
For the first time in years, someone featured in a This is True story has complained about it
It took Samuel Saraiva nine years(!) to learn about the story where he's featured and call me on the phone with the complaint; he demanded I remove the story from the archive. I told him no; he threatened to sue. I offered to publish any reply he'd like to make without me editing it in any way. He again demanded I remove the story from my site. I told him no again, so he cursed me and slammed the phone down.
Are You Responsible for Spam?
So if True's readers are the "Cream of the Crop" (as I have said many times), what does that make the rest of the online population? About as scary as the Waterbury School Board. This week the online security firm Sophos threw up its corporate arms in disgust over the continued proliferation of viruses and "worms" online.
Identity Theft: Protect Yourself
They Really Are Out To Get You
I've been warning about spam in True since 1996 -- ten long years. My warnings have been summarized in my Spam Primer, which is now on its own site. As I predicted more than 10 years ago, it's gotten worse -- much worse. And the stakes are much higher than just clogging your inbox: your life savings are at risk.
The NFL's Copyright: Round Two
The NFL Gives In! -- see Update Below
There's an interesting update on the story and discussion last week about the NFL's fight against churches -- the NFL warned churches not to show the Super Bowl game to parishioners due to copyright restrictions. Wendy Seltzer is a visiting assistant professor at Brooklyn Law School, where she teaches Internet Law, Information Privacy, and Copyright. She's also a fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and was previously an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She also founded the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, which studies and combats the unwarranted legal threats that "chill" free speech online. "Chilling Effects offers resources for Internet users who face legal threats, and, through its collection of data, we hope to analyze the out-of-court effects of those threats to chill legitimate activity, or, conversely, the extent to which unlawful activity on the Net proves resistant to legal action." In short, she knows copyright law very well.
Internet Security: Have you Checked Your System Lately?
Last week I was chatting with a friend about online security. Not just dealing with spam, but just basic online security: can your computer be hacked? Is there really anyone interested in hacking your computer? The answer might surprise you.
Public Humiliation vs. Real Punishment
See Update on this story
Well of course I have the photos of the bikini-clad fireman. But first things first — here's the story:
Today I got a copy of the new book Be Unreasonable: the Unconventional Way to Extraordinary Business Results by small business coach Paul Lemberg. In the book, Lemberg uses me and True as an example of starting a business in an "unreasonable" way (in his chapter on "Unreasonable Thinking").
There's a group of friends I hang out with online, all of us online entrepreneurs. One sent a URL around urging us all to "take 8 minutes to watch the video," adding "if you care about such things, please consider blogging about it and/or passing it on." What things? Our kids. Or, more accurately, the education of our kids. The world is a very, very different place than it was when we were kids.
Verizon: We Know Better than You
Verizon subscribers have had quite the go of it the past few weeks. Three weeks ago their spam filter tripped on a single word in the issue, so the Premium edition was blocked from everyone at Verizon (and their subsidiaries, like GTE.net) -- even if you had followed my recommendation and put thisistrue.com and lyris.net in your personal "whitelist".
Verizon decided that one word was "bad" and bounced every issue. Since there are quite a few Premium subscribers at Verizon, that meant quite a few bounces. That, in turn, "proved" the issues you paid to get are spam, and thus the next week, they bounced it again. And then the third week, last week, again. So many of you complained to them that they called me that second week, and promised they'd fix it. (You saw how well they did!) Last week, I jumped through their stupid "Please unblock me, I'm not a spammer" hoop, and this week's issue will supposedly get through; they insist they're no longer blocking. We'll see.
Funny YouTube Irony
Something fairly funny happened with my latest video, which was about a homophobe politician running for re-election while under the cloud of felony indictments over his first election.
Yahoo Alert: True's Biggest Crisis Ever
I've given up trying to work with Yahoo, which represents the largest domain subscribed to True. There are more than 20,000 addresses within the Yahoo.com domain on True's distribution (plus a couple thousand more on variants such as yahoo.co.uk, yahoo.ca, etc.)
Yahoo Debacle Update
Last week I announced a major disaster, and asked for your help in getting the word out about True to help reverse the problem. A good number of you listened, and helped. Thank you. While the threat isn't gone, this newsletter will be able to continue.
Another Independent Content Site: RIP?
When I talk about how independent sites like True need your direct and ongoing support, I'll often emphasize that all independent sites need such support; if you like "them" (whoever "they" might be), you need to support them so they can continue. And indeed one of the oldest, most venerable content sites has stopped publishing and is in very real danger of failing completely.
What's Your I.Q.?
I got a note from a Premium subscriber saying he had clicked on an ad on my Jumbo Joke site. He noted, "I used a throwaway email address to access the site and now get between 100 and 300 spam messages per day (my 'real' email gets 5-10 spam messages per day). I'm so glad it's not my primary email address, but how many of your readers don't know any better?"
Twitter: Why You Should Care
Chris in Washington asks:
Randy: you've mentioned Twitter a couple of times, and I see you have a link on TRUE's home page to your Twitter page. I've looked at Twitter a couple of times, and I just don't get it. Do people really care that their friends (or favorite celebrities) are "Waking up to face the day." or "Eating a bologna sandwich for lunch."? Why?
Laugh, or the World Laughs At You
It's so sad to see how people just can't take an obvious joke. (Say, like on a site called Jumbo Joke!) There was a political item today, and it resulted in a lot of whining -- and protest unsubscribes.
Very often readers ask me for advice about starting an online business -- when I started in 1994, there wasn't anyone to ask, and I've learned a lot in the nearly 15 years since. Obviously one can learn some things by watching what I do, but there are others who are in the business of teaching such things, and that's faster (and more generic). The problem is, a lot of those in the business are fly-by-night know-nothings who will gladly take a lot of money from you, and may or may not deliver actual value for your investment.
Crash Boom Bang
I've been using computers for many, many years now, and finally had something happen to me that has never happened before: a disk crash. It happened yesterday. "But you have backups, right?" you might wonder. But of course! I back up to a network disk system every night. And that's what crashed: my backup disk!
The Future of Newspapers
When I started True back in 1994, there weren't too many people online — especially compared to now. Once I quit my Day Job to pursue online publishing full time, I was constantly looking for peers — people to talk with that would understand what it was I was doing. It was hard going at first, but I eventually found several communities of people using e-mail discussion lists to communicate. I joined several, and was able to find a number of interesting people to help keep me stimulated and learning new things.
How I Beat Spam
...Without Having to Change My E-mail Address
My e-mail address has been around online for many, many years, and it gets a lot of spam -- many hundreds per day. For most users, spam far outstrips legitimate mail. It was 1996 that I realized that spam would become a huge problem, which is why I wrote my Spam Primer to educate my readers about it. And sadly I was right: it's estimated that more than 90 percent of all e-mail transmitted is spam. And how many of them get to my inbox? Lately, I'm averaging less than one a day.
Dell Hell and Dumb People
I know This is True is about people doing dumb things, but it still amazes me when people do dumb things to me. (But no, this is not about a dumb reader.)
A Picture Worth 1,000 Anytime Minutes
...or, The Birth and Death of a Spinoff Web Site
Sure: a picture is "worth 1,000 words." Sometimes it's worth 1,000 minutes on your cell phone plan, as in this case. The story, from True's 27 December 2009 issue:
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
A few weeks ago I grumbled in a newsletter about the lousy ads I was getting on one of my sites, which were bringing a whopping 4.8 cents per click. I said "I may try Bing ads instead if Google doesn't get me better [ads] soon."
OK, I'm a crank. I like Facebook. I really do. But one of the things I hate about it is how all up-in-arms people get about nothing. Today, I got Yet Another "invitation" to join a group to protest Facebook's plans to start charging for using the service -- the variant I got was "NO! I WILL NOT PAY $3.99/MONTH TO USE FACEBOOK STARTING JULY 9, 2010! JOIN." Again.
This is True List Break-in
From True's 17 October 2010 issue.
On the whole, This is True readers are a pretty technically savvy bunch: many of you use "tracking" e-mail addresses -- addresses which readers have used only to subscribe to my newsletter(s) -- and I've had a number of reports this week from readers who have received spam to those unique addresses. That's obviously a big concern to me.
Infinite Monkey Theorem
My geek buddy Leo runs a site where you can ask him computer questions. This set-up is important: geek, computer. Got it?
I noted in Friday's free edition that I received a "take-down" demand from an attorney about an article. The letter was dated August 4, but I didn't get it until Thursday, August 18.
Rural Electrification, Meet the Rural Internet
Back in the early years of the 20th century, as cities were starting to get electrical power, that was the problem: only cities were getting electrical power. City clustering of homes and multi-family dwellings made for a lot of customers per mile of wire strung, and the payback to the electric companies came quickly.
YAIBB — Yet Another Internet Business Book — arrived here on Friday, sent to me because it's YAIBB that mentions me, This is True, and the GOOHF cards.
Looking at its Amazon reviews elicited a chuckle.
Keep the X in Xmas
This week on Facebook, I've posted several provocative graphics -- funny visual puns that lead up to ...what? Today was the Big Reveal: the point.
Let's start with the visual puns.
Keep Your Head Up
On Sunday I saw my wife had posted something on Facebook that really struck me. It was a "Share" of another friend's "meme" graphic, and here it is:
Bashing the "Lamestream Media"
A good friend “shared” something on social media not too long ago that really made me roll my eyes. It was about the wanna-be terrorist “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid. Just before Christmas in 2001, Reid, a Brit, got on an American Airlines plane from Paris to Florida, and while in-flight he tried to light a bomb in his shoe. Other passengers subdued him, and his airplane bombing fizzled. He’s now in prison in the U.S., serving a life sentence without parole.
Part of the posting that my friend copied (he didn’t write it, he just shared it) was this:
Band of Brothers
A story in this week’s True absolutely demands that I include the video mentioned in the story, so it’s being published here (with the video) rather than in the newsletter. From True’s 29 September 2013 issue:
Facebook: Starting to Circle the Drain?
Facebook is about to get worse — a lot worse — and I think my days there are numbered. I can’t be the only publisher getting ready to give up.
20 Years ...and Counting
This Week Marks a Huge Milestone for This is True: the end of its 20th year. It started as a bulletin board item outside my office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The first one, dated 26 June 1994, was written to go into my business plan. I hadn’t actually gotten distribution set up. As I was working on that, though, I kept writing a new column each week and, when it went online in July 1994, it was an instant hit, quickly ramping up in circulation.
The Pomplamoose Problem
An Interesting Article on the site Artist Empathy (yeah, I hadn’t heard of it before either) discusses “The Pomplamoose Problem”...
Facebook: What Are They Selling?
To answer the very important question of the title, you need a little background, which is illustrated by a question from reader Steve in Texas:
Some time ago, I “Liked” the This is True Facebook page, but almost never see any posts. I figured you weren’t active until I went back to the page, and saw a ton of stuff I thought was great! How come I’m not seeing it regularly? I see most posts from my friends.
Webby Come Lately
In June, This is True finishes 21 years online — a pioneer in online publishing that predates Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the vast majority of other web sites you can find online today.
The Biggest Mistake People Make Online
The threat from criminals online continues to grow. It’s not just “hackers” but actual criminal activity, backed by organized crime, and perhaps even some governments. They want your passwords, especially for bank and other financial accounts, so they can drain them for you, and they use some pretty tricky and often sophisticated means to get them, either from you, or from sites they break into.
Hillary vs. Trump: The Votes are In!
I Really Hate to Keep sending traffic to Facebook, since they’re eating the Internet already, but man, have I been having fun there lately. Baiting the political partisans is like shooting fish in a barrel: easy and hella fun.