Far From The Madding
I would first like to express my apologies
Thomas Hardy for borrowing a title from one of his novels.
Thomas has been departed for quite some time. Still, however, I like to
give credit where credit is due. Actually, I didn't care much for the
book Far From The Madding Crowd.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles is actually my favorite Hardy book.
Anyway, I borrowed the title of this Rant from Thomas Hardy and I just
wanted to thank him, albeit posthumously. So, there you go, Thomas. Rest
I subscribe to many newsletters: technical,
software, anti-spyware, and that sort of thing. Last week I received an
email newsletter from an anti-spyware site, which I shall,
magnanimously, not name here. To me it appeared that the author of this
particular newsletter has gone insane. Seriously. I mean I'm all for
privacy. Most of you that read this newsletter each week or know
anything about Cloudeight are (or should be) well aware of our stance
against spyware, adware, malware, slimeware, and trickware. We're avid
proponents of the rights of individuals to make informed decisions and
even more vigorous in our support of the individual's right to privacy.
And we've written dozens, perhaps hundreds, of articles over the years
intended to keep our readers informed and therefore well-armed against
the ever-advancing crush of spyware, adware, and other potential threats
to individual privacy.
In recent weeks, I have chortled, however,
as I read one particular anti-spyware newsletter which I once respected
and considered credible. He's way too serious and, it appears, too
enamored with his own "importance". I think he's gone a bit off his
rocker. And yes, I can hear the snickers from any number of you reading
this who already think I'm not only off-my-rocker but have been for a
long time. He's gotten off into topics like governments spying on its
citizens (particularly the U.S. government), deriding the U.S. Congress
for being stupid (don't we all already know that?) and blowing thing way
out of proportion. I think he's going for a job with The Globe.
Heck, he even had me checking my phone lines for wiretaps and my closets
for secret agents hiding behind boxes of old, useless, cob-webby
computer-related junk. I wanted to sleep with the light on and a shotgun
by my side (just kidding folks!).
Last week, in his newsletter, he described
the Internet as (and I quote) "a gangland war zone and your computer is
the street corner being fought over." A gangland war zone? Oh really?
And my computer is THE street corner that's being "fought over"? Wow.
All these gangsters want my computer? Wow.
All these gangsters want my computer?
imagine a surly, husky dude with a huge cigar protruding from his mouth (named Al
Computerpone?) watching me from some remote location, submachine gun at his side,
expelling huge puffs of
thick, gray, smelly cigar smoke at his HP, slugging down whiskey straight out of
the bottle and salivating at the thought of turning my computer into a zombie in his
ever-growing network of zombies. Maybe he wants to make my computer a
speakeasy? It seems "Big Al" Computerpone seeks to wrest control of
the Internet from rival Bugsy 'Spyware" Malone. Gee, maybe we should build a Cyber
Alcatraz and lock them up. Then wait and see if they can escape on cyber rafts made of
cyber raincoats. What a movie that would make. Ya think?
Being informative is one thing and using hyperbole to get
people all riled up is another. I hate to see a once-decent newsletter turning itself into
a tabloid. We sure don't need a cyber version of the "National Enquirer". And I
really have a hard time believing the Internet is comparable to Chicago in the 1920's. I
don't know of anyone whose life and physical well-being is in grave danger because of some
spyware or adware program running in the background on his or her computer. While it may
well be sending his or her private surfing data back to its home server that's not quite
the same as having your body riddled with bullets from a submachine gun on a street corner
in Chicago in the "Roaring 20's". Is it?
There is a fine line between responsible journalism and
sensationalistic journalism. I might have crossed that line a time or two meself :) But,
you know, keeping a sense a humor is important, I think, to keeping things in perspective.
When one drones on and on as if a computer were actually a human body and all these
detestable things are being done to it - and we have to stop it before the Martians turn
our computers into mounds of green, flesh-eating slime - it gets a little old. Calling the
Internet a "gangland" where mobsters plot to divvy up our computers amongst
themselves to form some kind of vile, information-stealing ethereal monster network is
just going off the deep in in my admittedly bizarre mind.
I hope he gets real before real people start really
become alarmed by some of the really exaggerated stuff he writes. (My English professor would have
"really" liked that last sentence). Face it, the computer is a machine. It can
bring frustration and anger when it doesn't work right. But so can an automobile. Any of
you living where winters are cold know this. What's more aggravating than going out on a
minus twenty-degree morning and turning the key and having the car sound like a frog
croaking its final death croak (if frogs really do have a final death croak). Machines
break. And machines, when they're not working can make you very angry - but
still they're just machines. Yes, yes, I know, people don't attach spyware to your car to steal your private
information. Well, actually, you drive around with a license plate on your care (I hope)
and that little number can provide a lot of information about you and I'm sure if one
tried hard enough one could discover lots of information about a car's owner just using
that license plate number. It was just a simple example, folks. You get
Digressing. Your computer is not an organ in your body (yet)
and if it becomes "diseased" you can just kill it and bring it back to life.
If something goes awry with your liver you can't just expunge it and
start over. At least not easily. But, if your computer becomes infected,
it's not going cause your house to blow away or some secret agent man to come and haul you
away (oh, well, maybe if you're a really bad boy or girl he might).
Seriously, there is way to present information so that it is
informative and not sensational. You can present serious things to people and still keep
them smiling. We're all on this earth for a very limited engagement and I think we really
need to smile more - even when we're discussing some computer issues that can be serious.
I don't think presenting computer information in a stodgy, holier-than-thou, or slightly
condescending way, filled with hyperbolic rhetoric is the right way to do it. I could be be wrong. I know one thing for
sure - sensationalistic statements like the "the Internet has become a gangland war
zone" is rhetoric designed to incite you and nothing but an
I really do hate to criticize a guy who really has done
a lot of good for the anti-spyware cause. But, I don't agree with using far-fetched
metaphors or analogies to "shock" the reader. That's best served by newspapers
like The National Enquirer and other tabloids - and not by a once
well-respected writer who seems to be changing course and reducing his
newsletter to tabloid-like filled with "shock" journalism. Is he trying
to increase his subscriber base by using statements like "gangland war
I think people learn better when they're happy - not scared
And since computers are not your life or your family and almost anything that goes wrong
with them can be fixed - why not teach and help people learn while making them smile? I
mean really - a gangland war zone? Get real!
Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm the one who's lost it. Am I
that far from the Madding Crowd?
"Yo, Bonnie! Bring me my submachine gun. We're
gonna hit granny Smith's computer tonight at 10:00. She won't know what hit her!"
"OK Clyde, nice shirt too by-the-way!".