What’s the best thing about the internet? The bottomless pit of news? The endless shopping? Porno for every taste, no matter how obscure and perverse? Yes, those are all wonderful, but for my money, the best thing about the internet might be how-to videos.
It used to be that if you wanted to fix something you needed some special knowledge or training, but today you just need YouTube.
An example: Over the weekend our clothes dryer crapped out. The drum was spinning just fine and it was getting warm, but there was no air blowing out the vent and the clothes wouldn’t dry. What to do? Consult the internet.
My search results brought a flood of answers that pointed to a single problem: an issue with the blower belt. After watching several videos, I learned how to take the front panel off the machine and what to look for. As promised in one of the videos, the belt was laying loose and next to it was a pulley which had come free. Replace and tighten the pulley, re-attach the belt, put it all back together and we were in business.
What would it have cost to pay someone to do this job? Even for a minor repair, you’re looking at a minimum fee just to have the guy show up, so I’m guessing $150 or more for the whole thing.
I spent more time watching videos than actually doing the work. Some of these are slick productions — sometimes posted by companies who sell parts — but more often it’s just Joe Handyman. There might be some money in these videos considering how popular they are. Here’s a low-end example; it’s rough, but helpful:
The bottom line? Instead of picking up the phone to call someone, pick up the phone and watch a few videos. You might be surprised at how simple and easy it is to fix a problem yourself. It feels good to repair something and will impress your loved ones. If the Maytag repairman was bored thirty years ago, today he’d absolutely lose his mind.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: