Category Archives: The Internets

Trail Mix

Plenty of talk about the Albany County Rail Trail on social media recently.

On Facebook, a group called Bethlehem Resident News claims that thieves are using the trail as an express lane into Delmar from Albany. There have been a rash of car break-ins, so according to them, the perpetrators must be from Albany. They call the path the “Ho Chi Min Trail,” but I don’t think they’re suggesting it’s the Vietcong breaking into cars, do you? No, they’re saying it’s blacks from the South End.

Over on Twitter, there was a lively argument over whether these rail trails should remain unpaved green space, instead of developed into slick super highways for speeding bicyclists.

There may be something to that.

If you’ve been on the paved section between Albany and Slingerlands, you know how fast people ride. I made the mistake of running on the trail a few times, very early in the morning, and had to dodge careless cyclists who were ignorant of the common courtesies of sharing a trail with pedestrians.

The extreme end of the trail is in Voorheesville where I live. I’ve been running on the rough, unpaved surface recently, early in the morning when my only company have been deer. There are puddles and ruts, but I hope it’s never paved over.

Let’s not forget that bicycles are vehicles and they’re going to be on these trails they should travel at a reasonable speed — and if that means we don’t pave the paths, so be it.

Some Mother’s Son

Facebook: it’s America’s favorite place for heaping ridicule on people — especially those accused of crimes. But when you combine that with the irresistible urge to make fun of someone different? Well, that’s when you truly get online magic.

All the local news outlets posted this story about Carlos Rodriguez, a Florida man arrested for attempted murder. This is not something that would normally get national exposure, if not for this: Mr. Rodriguez’s lost part of his skull in an automobile accident, leaving him with a profound deformity.

So what do we have here? News outlets posting a story with no local significance, just for the shock value of the mug shot. Then their audience has the opportunity to make cruel remarks about the man’s appearance.

That’s a sick and sad state of affairs.

Maybe before people write stupid shit about Carlos Rodriguez on Facebook they should consider that he is someone’s son or brother. He’s clearly a guy that’s had some trouble, things that most of us can’t even imagine. Empathy, anyone?

I’ve discussed here before how TV stations and newspapers don’t bother trying to moderate comments on their Facebook pages. And why should they? All those little clicks add up.

Going Viral

what's trending in your life and in mine

Smudge Report

A co-worker suggested I check out a new website, saying it’s like The Onion, except local. I set my expectations on low. I’ve spent enough time reading Times Union blogs to know that when people try being funny, it usually sucks.

But I went to Albany Smudge anyway – and I was pleasantly surprised.

At Albany Smudge you’ll find satirical news stories that are both funny and dead on target. Many of the pieces use references that display a deep knowledge of local culture and the stereotypes we have of area towns. For example, this jab at snooty Bethlehem:

“The Town of Bethlehem is even a little less friendly now that it has announced it will remove all “welcome” signs by the end of the summer. The move, said one local official, is being made so that area signage “conforms more accurately to the evolving views of our residents toward outsiders.”

The writer knows Bethlehem, right down to the annoying hyphenated last names.

People will be curious to know the author’s identity. Whoever is behind this is a real writer — not some hack like me who bangs out silly blog posts — and he or she deserves credit.

My only critique is a tiny one: some stories might play better using the names of real local figures and politicians, but that’s easy for me to say; I’m not the one responsible in case someone gets angry — and the fake names are pretty good.

Chalk up this one up as a winner. A bright spot on an increasingly bleak and depressing internet.

A Nation Divided

Americans were so outraged with the Ferguson grand jury decision that many of them actually tweeted about it.

If only we’d had Twitter during the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. Who knows what would have been possible with so many people sitting on their couches blurting out their opinions to nobody in particular.

FLASH Newspaper Website Publishes News

Most people would sooner stick their tongue in an electrical outlet than pay for news online. That’s why it’s so damn exciting that the Daily Gazette has dropped its paywall.

According to All Over Albany, it’s only temporary. Editor Judy Patrick told AOA that the Gazette is upgrading their paywall technology; no word on whether this upgrade will fix the “Free Gazette” trick long used by those in the know to access stories.

Anyway, I’ve noticed something odd while reading the Gazette online: it’s full of news. I keep scrolling down the page expecting to find fluffy, inconsequential content and all I see are freakin’ news stories.

Hey, Gazette! Where are the endless snapshot galleries from local events? Why no silly wire service stories about dogs? What’s this with burying the entertainment news?

The page is so full of news that it looks suspiciously like it was organized by an editor. WTF?

So, Gazette, I rarely give advice, but here’s some for you: have a look at the Times Union and learn a thing or two about what a newspaper website should look like. Then you might have something I’d pay for. Or not.

Say What?

The Times Union launched reader comments for news stories and other content this week. Some people think comments are pointless, but if it’s good enough for the New York Times, it’s probably good enough for your local paper.

Unlike the paper’s blog comment system, users must register for an account — and their registration actually requires quite a bit of personal information. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an alter ego, just that your alter ego will need a working email address and some other details attached.

Paul Block, the TU’s online executive producer, said in response to a reader’s feisty jabs, “Let’s hope for some positive discourse on our stories in the days to come.”

That’s an interesting statement from the people who built the area’s most abusive and corrosive online community. For years, the Times Union’s blogs were polluted with terrible comments — and the worst of all showed up in the blogs run by Times Union employees.

Recently they seem to have started weeding out the worst comments, which is encouraging. This is especially interesting since they’ve also stopped warning readers that comments with profanity or personal attacks will be rejected. Could it be that they are finally walking the walk, not just talking the talk?

Well, included in the item about the new commenting policy is this juicy tidbit: “Previously, commenting was limited to our blogs, and for now that system will remain unchanged and separate from the new website system. In time we plan to merge the two.”

Requiring registration will not fix blog comments completely, but would go a long way toward putting the cover back on the cesspool.

Poll Position

Quicky web polls are everywhere these days — particularly on blogs. You know the ones I’m talking about, and I’m sure you’ve taken them. They ask some topical question and seem to have no actionable purpose.

So why all the polls? Because it’s cheap, mindless content? Writers have run out of things to say? It gives the appearance of being interactive with your audience? All of the above?

I think it may be because somebody read that they’re popular with readers; since I have no research to back that up, I offer you this quicky online poll:

 

Thinning the Herd

As of this morning I had 283 Facebook friends. Next week at this time I’ll have fewer.

Facebook has value and provides some good things. I’m genuinely interested in much of what my Friends post, but lately I’ve noticed there are lot of people on there that I was never really friends with — and honestly, I can’t imagine they’re very interested in what I post there.

So, one by one I’m picking people who have to go. It’s not personal, just that I don’t care much about them and they seem not to care much about me, so why not?

For the others, I make it a habit to hit the Like button  a few times a day. It’s important for people to know that you’re interested in what they’re posting, especially is you want to carry the title Friend.

If not, it’s like that guy you meet for coffee who can’t stop talking about himself. You say something interesting and they act as if they didn’t even hear you. That’s what Facebook can be like, as hundreds of people go on about their favorite subject: themselves.

This century’s existential crisis is posting things online and wondering if anyone has bothered to read it. If you’re going to take the time to fool around with Twitter and Facebook, spend a moment to let people know that you’re not just talking, you’re listening.