Social Enterprise

Why you should never trust Facebook

Millions of people trust Facebook with their privacy. Find out why they shouldn't -- and why you shouldn't, either.

Facebook has a dismal reputation when it comes to privacy issues. This is evidently a problem that starts at the top, with Facebook co-founder, President, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Nick Bilton summed it up neatly in a Tweet:

Off record chat w/ Facebook employee. Me: How does Zuck feel about privacy? Response: [laughter] He doesn't believe in it.

This does not appear to be a new development, either. In 2003, when Facebook was called "The Facebook" and Zuckerberg operated it from his Harvard dorm room, he said some regrettable things in an IM conversation about users of the fledgling social networking site, according to a SocialMediaNews article:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard.

Just ask. I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

(Friend): What? How'd you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it. I don't know why.

They "trust me"

Dumb f**ks.

This has manifested in a number of ways that show significant negligence, sometimes to the point of appearing to be hostility, toward issues of Facebook users' privacy. Lifehacker reported that "Facebook 'Delete' Can Take 16 Embarrassing Months," for instance.

It gets bigger than that. The Wall Street Journal reports, in its article, Facebook in Privacy Breach, that many of the most popular Facebook apps have been giving users' identifying information -- and that of their Facebook friends -- to advertising and Internet data mining companies:

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook's strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook's rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users' activities secure.

It has gotten so bad that, as ClickZ puts it, "Congressmen Question Facebook About Alleged Privacy Breach."

The way Facebook is insinuating itself into everything else on the Web, from other sites' login mechanisms to the now-ubiquitous "Like button", the problem seems destined to grow worse. Arnab Nandi explains that "Deceiving Users with the Facebook Like Button" is easy:

Users can be tricked into "Like"ing pages they're not at.

He goes on to elaborate on some of the issues with Facebook and its Like buttons in "Reputation, Misrepresentation, Trail Paranoia and other side effects of Liking the World." He offers some "solutions" to problems he raises. He puts "solutions" in scare quotes to address the fact that some people do not think there is a problem in need of solving; this article does so because his "solutions" do not really address the root of the problem, and are prone to being undermined -- and thus do not solve the real problem at all.

Even supposedly improved privacy settings at Facebook are a mixed bag at best. In the EFF's report of December 2009, "Facebook's New Privacy Changes: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," we learned:

Facebook is finally rolling out a new set of revamped privacy settings for its 350 million users. ...Unfortunately, several of the claimed privacy "improvements" have created new and serious privacy problems for users of the popular social network service.

The total result of the change was to clarify privacy settings for users so it is more obvious what they are allowing and disallowing, but otherwise to actually reduce the effective privacy that can be achieved. The EFF article takes issue with Facebook's recommendations for privacy settings as well, correctly pointing out that those recommendations are actually designed to convince people to share more about themselves publicly rather than less. The EFF offers some alternative recommendations that do seem better designed for purposes of protecting user privacy.

Why don't Zuckerberg and Facebook respect privacy?

All indications are that Zuckerberg is actually on the right side of a lot of issues important to the EFF and the kind of people who like the EFF. He seems to really believe in the importance of openness -- open source software, openness about policies, and so on.

At the same time, however, the evidence clearly points to Zuckerberg having a distinct lack of respect for privacy. It seems likely, if one speculates freely, that Zuckerberg simply does not believe in privacy -- believes it effectively does not exist, and in some respects may even conflict with an ethical approach to the issues important to him. It would seem, given his reputed interest in openness, that he extends the healthy concern for openness represented by organizations like the EFF to unreasonable extremes, including a complete disregard for anyone's desires to keep some information private. He may be merely misguided, rather than malicious.

That is cold comfort for those of us who care about our privacy, however. Someone with such a dismissive attitude toward privacy as to believe it simply does not exist as a meaningful, valid concept is likely to do things that violate privacy expectations in an underhanded manner. So, too, is a company that person controls. This is, at it turns out, exactly what happens with Facebook; marketing rhetoric suggests that the social networking corporation respects privacy while its policies in practice directly contradict that image.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Facebook has developed a reputation for resetting privacy settings to more-open configurations, on the sly. A number of times, people have discovered that after they have tightened up their privacy settings, Facebook reset them to a less protective configuration. It has gotten bad enough that there is now a Facebook group called "Facebook reset my privacy settings."

Are Zuckerberg and Facebook misguided? Perhaps.

Is Facebook's handling of privacy issues underhanded, deceptive, and generally bad? Certainly.

If Facebook was simply more forthcoming about its effective attitude toward privacy -- that it is an illusion, or at least an unimportant concern that the company will do its best to circumvent -- things would not be so bad. If there were no privacy settings at all, and Facebook very clearly and obviously conveyed to its users that it would share their information with any and all, the situation would not appear so dire.

It is not so much the fact that Facebook does not provide effective privacy to its users that gives it the image of a seedy, deceitful back-alley dealer in private information, worthy of the hate it attracts. It is the fact that Facebook implies concern for the privacy and security of its users in policies, in the presentation of configuration options and marketing rhetoric, then undermines those expectations with a will. Even if privacy itself is not "real", the violated trust placed in Facebook is very real.

What should I do about it?

There are a number of software tools one can use to monitor and manage privacy settings at Facebook. That such tools are needed -- that they exist at all -- is indicative of the breadth and depth of the problem.

The EFF's recommendations for privacy settings may help, in conjunction with some of those third-party tools. The end result is still of running the risk of information you wish to keep private being passed on to parties you would not want to see it, however. That Facebook allows people (your Facebook "friends") who can see your private information to automatically share that information with others is a significant problem with the idea that the right privacy settings on Facebook can ever solve its privacy problems for you. There is no reasonable option for changing your mind in the Facebook world, either; "deleting" something from Facebook, in reality, often results in nothing more than hiding from you the fact that it is still on Facebook and publicly accessible.

There are, in essence, only two ways to ensure any real privacy on Facebook:

  1. Never use Facebook. Never create an account in the first place. If you must use a social networking Web application similar to Facebook, use a competitor -- maybe even use a new service called Diaspora that is currently in development, whenever it becomes fully usable. Unfortunately, for those of us who have already created Facebook accounts, the best we can do in this regard is delete the account, which Facebook tries to discourage, and hope that the deletion actually works. It may be a vain hope.
  2. Never share anything with Facebook that divulges any information at all that you would prefer to keep private. This includes email addresses as part of your supposedly private account data that you would not want shared with spammers, or authentication information (usernames and passwords) you use anywhere else. There are cases where Facebook provides a significant benefit to companies and other organizations that need to be able to reach out to members and customers in social networks, but using an email address created solely for a Facebook account is a reasonable step. Similarly obscuring any actually private, or otherwise sensitive, data is only good sense when dealing with something like Facebook.

This is good advice not only for Facebook, but for any Website that is in a position to abuse your trust. That means most of them. We all tend to make some decisions to try trusting people who we do not actually know well enough to trust. Are you using an email address you use for anything else to log in here at TechRepublic? Have you ever sent anyone (including me) a peer mail here at TechRepublic that included any information you would not want shared with others?

The majority of such people and Websites we trust to some minor degree like that may not violate our expectations of privacy, but it is difficult to be sure that we are selecting the right people to trust. This is why, of those we choose to trust, only the majority do not violate it; those who do end up violating our trust represent the cases where we guessed wrong.

It is not reasonable to never trust anyone at all, but there are times when we should definitely not give someone our trust. One of those times is the case of Facebook and privacy. The corporation has proven over and over again that it does not care about our privacy, and is in some respects actively hostile to it. When its founder, president, and CEO has stated his complete disregard for issues of privacy, too, the evidence that Facebook should not be trusted for reasons of privacy only grows.

It has been said that to keep certain information private, one should never post it to the Internet. That seems obvious -- but even people who believe that do not effectively live by it. The truth of the matter is that to be sure something remains private you should not even include it in your login information, let alone in your public profile, or even a "private" profile.

Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac informed us that three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. That may seem a bit extreme at first glance, but it is worth keeping in mind when considering whether you can trust any Website to protect your private information. Even worse, Facebook has effectively declared that it will never respect your privacy.

About

Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

162 comments
joshua_keefer
joshua_keefer

I was going to click "like" at the bottom of this, but now after reading this, I'm too afraid to. haha. I love this article.

ggeo99
ggeo99

How ironic: A like button below the article...

vaughanm
vaughanm

I have a facepalm oops I ment facebook account that I have used to see what its all about. I was not impressed, what a load of dribble facebook is. So I tried to delete my account and it is still there so today I have decided to get banned from facebook that way they will have to remove my account faster xD

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Except Zuck is using the 15 minutes of fame promised to all - and using it, in advance, to apply the "public person" precedents - thus removing right of privacy protections to a large degree... so far only for people on his network.

jkiernan
jkiernan

I still don't see why this is a popular site/tool in the first place.

john3347
john3347

I don't understand why so much attention is being paid to Facebook when they are not even the biggest offender. I am not, and never have been, a Facebook member nor do I knowingly and intentionally use Google for anything. To the best of my understanding, Facebook only "harvests" information that the user volunteers to a public forum. Google, in addition to their other rumored clandestine information collection, has specially equipped cars driving up and down city streets collecting Wifi information from unsuspecting users. Why does Facebook get all the publicity when the greater intrusions by Google are universally accepted and not generating public outrage?

jimmeq
jimmeq

So far it has been a great tool for finding old acquaintances from years past. I've dropped a lot of information from view. (Will have to test it now.) It's good to see TechRepublic print this article as they have a FB page. Now I wonder . . . should I "Like" TR on FB?

cutting
cutting

Diaspora is not friendly with color blind folks. I note that they use the color green (in many shades) all over their pages. If web pages can be developed without the use of reds and greens, about 7% of men in the world, who are color blind, would be able to read their pages easily.

tomde61
tomde61

I am not to sure it is just Facebook that a person should not trust. As mentioned in this article, all web sites on the internet, have the potential to ruin a persons privacy if the right information is there. Taking precautions when using a social web site is a good practice for anyone. By not offering certain information about yourself, this eliminates the possibility of losing any privacy of such information. There is a certain amount of risk when going into any site on the Internet, for the world to possibly see, use, and utilize information about any individual. As far as trusting any site on the internet, I don't believe I would, even if I grew up with such people, (hint), you can't trust anybody.

CG IT
CG IT

Facebook is the advertisers dream and advertisers do not want privacy at all because then they can't collect demographic information and create advertising specific to the demographics. They also won't be able to collect information on just what the demo groups consider the "latest and greatest" or next "big thing"/ "must have" item, nor try to influence what the "latest and greatest" is or the next "big thing"/"must have" through advertising. Advertisers are big money [really big amounts of money] and they will fight against any privacy for the reason stated above..they can't create taylored advertising to specific demographic groups. TV advertising is blanket advertising because for the most part, [cable TV is somewhat excluded] no one knows who really is sitting there watching the TV. Could be grandma whoists that's 85 or the Sessame Street aged kid. Facebook gives advertisers an "in" on specific demographic groups and what they are saying, what they like, dislike, what they think is the "latest and greatest" and advertsiers can then craft advertising for them.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Its not bad enough that they freely give away peoples personal information, but now they are going to give away our email contents as well?

pcr5791-tr
pcr5791-tr

What is EFF ? Why use terms that you do not define ?

apotheon
apotheon

That's the perfect follow-up to ggeo99's comment.

apotheon
apotheon

Alas, CBS Interactive does not consult with the contributing writers when deciding what widgets and buttons to add to the site. At least this means the article will get seen by those who need it most: Facebook users.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I tried twice to close the account. When NeoSam mentioned it above, I decided to take yet another look. I was flabbergasted to find my account still active two years after I asked to have it closed. Does any 'social' site actually close / delete an account?

pgit
pgit

Discussing this article this morning my wife and concluded that in 5-10 years the internet is going to be a mandatory "positive identity" censored, limited dead zone that will not only resemble facebook, but may actually be facebook, or it's successors and assigns. Like in THX 1138 when the woman opens the medicine cabinet at an inappropriate time, the 'net responds audibly asking "what's wrong?" The medicine cabinet is watching and listening automatically, too, and flagging for further 'eyes on' review if algorithms indicate...

wendygoerl
wendygoerl

Why do teens have to wake up in the middle of the night to answer a text message? There's a cultural pressure towards hypersocializing, and Facebook provides a more efficient way to do it.

seanferd
seanferd

Or, conversely, how did you find this particular article and not notice the electronic tonnage of similar articles on Google and other players, and their EULAs/TOS? For years.

apotheon
apotheon

I have written a fair number of articles for TechRepublic about Google's privacy violations. This is my first article taking Facebook to task on the same subject. When my Google articles were being published, I was attacked as some kind of shill, an unreasoning enemy of a good Web-based service provider, and even a China-sympathizing communist, and why I was not writing articles about Facebook as well was questioned in terms that implied I had dishonest, ulterior motives. Now that I finally get around to writing a couple of Facebook articles on subjects that I have been meaning to address for a couple of years now -- but just never got around to it -- I am being accused of biases, dishonesty, sensationalism, whatever exactly it is that you think I am doing wrong, because the article is not about Google. Y'know what? You're an ignoramus whose biases blind him to the realities of the situation. Otherwise, you would not take this asinine leap-before-you-look accusatory approach to responding to this article. Please, learn something from your mistake. Have a nice day.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Google has specially equipped cars driving up and down streets with the proclaimed intent of capturing images for their Maps app. Supposedly the gathering of private Wifi connections was an inadvertent side effect, one they've supposedly stopped. Google and the others may be doing nothing more than giving lip service to privacy, but at least their willingness to lie indicates they're aware they're doing something wrong. Zuckerburg, on the other hand, has repeatedly stated his disdain for and incomprehension of the very concept of privacy.

seanferd
seanferd

Any particular form of color blindness? There will be color problems for people always, and if everything aside from blue looks like mud to you, you either need to get used to it (because non-colorblind people aren't going to change everything), or get a browser extension for changing the appearance of sites, or ask websites to provide alternate CSS for their sites which will help people with various types of color blindness (because there is no one solution that will be easy on every type of color blindness). Actually, if you can get someone to write a generic style for an extension like Stylish, it would probably go a long way in helping folks like you. One of the biggest issues is that advocacy groups for web-accessibility can't even agree among themselves what good answers might be. Your best bet may be to make all web pages follow your preferences over site design - text color, size, font - whatever. Text and background settings have been available in browsers for at least 15 years, probably longer. Just set the preference to always use your settings, not the page settings. (A couple of my friends do this, and set everything to be black text on a white background, links underlined.)

apotheon
apotheon

It's no wonder nobody knows how to spell any longer, if this kind of lazy, entitlement culture demand to have everything served up on a silver platter is the norm now -- and it really does seem to be the norm. Five words after the first appearance of "EFF" in the article is the start of the link to an EFF article. Clicking on that to see why it was important to include in the article would have provided an answer to your question. Also . . . four out of the first five Google search results for "eff" say "Electronic Frontier Foundation" without even having to click through to the relevant page, and the other is a link to the EFF's Twitter account, which has a background image that says "Electronic Frontier Foundation" on the page. Your laziness and self-centered sense of entitlement are impressive, as is your ability to blame others for your shortcomings.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The link referenced in Chad's original post explains the organization.

zefficace
zefficace

Are you being sarcastic? But just in case... www.eff.org

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I remember a website poping up that claimed it did unsubscribe from a crapload of websites. It was a kind of Internet suicide machine to delete you off Facebook and such. But in general I expect such places to be as much a pack-rat as I am; why delete things when we have space available to store them - we'll come back and delete these if we run out of storage. ("promise...")

apotheon
apotheon

Maybe when you request an account deletion your account just gets added to a "to be deleted" queue, and will get deleted as soon as they get around to implementing a deletion feature. . . . if they get around to it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

when it laises with the airline booking system and says "Something for the weekend sir?" It could log one to an overseas drug seller and get the viagra ready and everything. Then it could facebook all the young ladies who've been contacting you that you'll be in the area on Saturday. Patent it quick!

apotheon
apotheon

Maybe your wife should write dystopian science fiction novels.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

We're all lazy in some way so that's not the grief but rather the passive way Facebook manages one's social interaction. You don't keep your friends updated anymore. You don't pickup the phone and call around to see how's free. You post that you are free and expect your friends to monitor your life. "what, you didn't see my facebook invite about Saturday night? But everyone else was there. We missed you.." It's a passive way to celebrate "me" without the egregious effort of having to actively reach out to friends. And on the other side, you now have to be monitoring Facebook or become a non-entity.. that friend that used to hang out all the time but is now always busy or something.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Every English teacher I ever had, every instructor that required me to turn in a paper, stressed you should always explain an abbreviation the first time you use it. Granted, it wasn't any problem to search for it. It a question of the evolution of the mechanics.

apotheon
apotheon

> Democracy destroys itself as soon as the majority discovers they can vote themselves largess from the "public" coffers... That depends on how you define "democracy". If you define it in a manner that actually includes what we have in the US right now, it's turning out to be a very slow, lingering, painful death, rather than self-destruction the moment the public learns it can vote itself handouts. If you define it a little more like I do, where a vote actually means something, then yeah -- democracy has been dead and rotting for quite a long time here. I like your speculations about sci-fi plots. I just don't have a specific comment to make right now.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

At least, that's what they said when I went through their deletion process over two years ago. I checked earlier this week and was able to log into the same account without any problem.

ITOdeed
ITOdeed

I think Facebook is so convoluted that no one actually knows how to delete a member. They send an email to you indicating that it will take 14 days for the deletion to take place, but I think they actually meant 14 decades.

pgit
pgit

they were hanging on to "deleted" data in case some "authority" wanted it. These 'identities' appear to take on a life of their own, not unlike the legal fiction you are assumed to be by government and other commercial entities. Next thing you know the "deleted" facebook accounts will be demanding constitutional rights. ...there's another sci-fi short story in that. Imagine all these abandoned facebook entities getting the right to vote, and facebook is charged with facilitating it. They'd vote across the board for anyone who promised to help make facebook richer and more powerful. Democracy destroys itself as soon as the majority discovers they can vote themselves largess from the "public" coffers... Facebook destroyed by greedy "cyber people" sucking too much out of it, especially once they start to retire in droves and demand the server bandwidth increasing be applied to maintaining their shuffle-board courts. I must have too much time on my hands. :\

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

don't seem to be over picky, given they try to hit on a thousand guys at a time, I should think a bit of help would be welcome. :D

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I really suck at being a cinephile... I see like three films a year. Counting TV-movies, but not counting childrens' stuff watched alongside my daughters in case of scary witches (there's always one). I did just see Alice in Wonderland and Inventing Lying though... Dizzying!

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... to insure that the encounters with each young lady did not overlap -- except for those who were willing.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I see you've watched this find sci fi fil'im. ;D

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

When it senses imminent suicide attempt, it can alert organ donorage harvesters!

apotheon
apotheon

Maybe that should have been an episode of something like the Twilight Zone. No, I haven't been to Long Island, but I've heard about it.

pgit
pgit

Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised and find a more complete draft of the one sort of good one. I do suck as a writer of fiction. I read a ton of Asimov and other writers and could see what they were doing that I wasn't, but could never figure how they did it. It might help if I had a little formal training. Those things probably ended up in boxes on the rafters in the garage during the "great shucking of 2004." 2/3 of the contents of the house at the time got lofted into the garage, so we could begin slowly remodeling the place. I might need a psychic, or a specially trained dog to seek out #2 pencil lead in order to find the stories. I just recalled another, wherein a guy publicizes his pictures of horrific litter and trash ruining the landscape, which people misinterpret to end up embracing trash everywhere as a form of high art. Garbage is picked up in specially designed trucks that spread it around evenly. Malls hold "artsy" events where people bring trash to toss about the parking lots. (one is the "organic-only" Leaflitter Mall) When the protagonist takes to a platform on a huge chipper-shredder to shout down the reveling crowd, that they've got it all wrong... he slips into the maw of the thing and is deposited across the scene in a pink mist. The people interpret this to be this most famous artist's brilliant move into an even higher form of art. After a quiet moment to fathom what has just happened, a nearby woman pulls her infant out of a stroller and tosses her into the shredder. Then people start clamoring up the ladder and jumping it, clawing at one another to get ahead in the line. The whole time there's no mistaking the man's point is that he despised the trash, that it's ugly, unsanitary, a sign of moral decay. But the entirety of mankind misses the mark entirely. Ever been to Long Island?

apotheon
apotheon

If you ever come up with one you care about, let me know. I'd be interested in reading some of your work.

pgit
pgit

I don't have any copy of the final, which I mailed to a publisher and of course didn't get back. I was sure I had a copy, but when looking for it a couple years ago all I found were parts of it in early draft form. What really stinks is I had computers at the time, Corel word perfect 8, more than enough storage... but when this period of frantic writing hit me I took to the fields with pencil and paper and scribbled away. One story I wrote in a single day, it ended up a bizarre stream of consciousness thing. It foretold the concept of "going viral" on the internet. It starts off with a guy living in permanent, severe pain. His discussions with his co-worker, who is holding down the fort while the main guy tries to recover enough to get back to work, are sucked up by "the ears," which is now know as echelon/TIA. His simple explanations of how the world really works, and that it's a rip-off (eg federal reserve) that is stupid-simple to see through, gets the attention of "the ears." Enough so that the systems flag him for "the eyes" to have a look at his on line communications, a few yahoo groups and email, which seemed immense in the day... But this guy's simple truth starts to spread, slowly, then like wildfire thanks to this newfangled internet. It's a race for the powers that be to try to extinguish the message before their bogus money-changer game is up. They end up killing the fellow, actually that's the opening scene of the story. He falls over dead out back with a frozen CO2 bullet in the back of the head, landing near one of his cats he'd gone out back to walk with. "The cats were right," I put it. He'd walk with a different mix of his 10 or so cats, some were weird, darting around and fighting among themselves, but this walk was going to be "perfect," he had just the one cat, Bob, who was the sounding board for this guy as he was figuring "it all" out on these pain filled walks. At one point I thought of calling the story "the apostle Bob." Never really did have a name. BTW once the guy is gone, the simple truth that had gone viral fades as the next wave of whatever "culture" comes along the wire, the eyes and ears have done their job, keeping the lid on the truth. It was a touch call, they worried that they might make things worse, "martyr" the guy. He was gunned down by "the Italians" who'd cased the guy's house for a week or so before taking the shot. The were in a silver Caprice station wagon. I wrote the story set here at my home, and when I was in the midst of my writing fit, for a few months I would see this short Italian couple driving by slowly in that car, the woman driving and the guy, wearing a hat, always staring at a 90 degree angle straight out the side of the car. It looked very much like casing for a hit. I recall there were a "hands" as well. And yes, I was in immense pain at the time, and out of work temporarily (as a pilot) and my partner was carrying the load. And yes we were discussing the way this world really works. And there was a Bob, and walking out back alone with him was much like walking among the apostles... Big, snow white fluffy guy. The neighborhood loved him. Had like 12 toes on each front paw, looked like catcher's mitts. Funny what a lot of inexplicable pain will do to you. I had been assessed, and a surgeon in Pittsburgh told me he was ready to open up my brain stem and sever the nerve running into my right lower jaw, all I had to do was "drop a dime" when I'd had enough. Fortunately... sort of... a medication not indicated for the condition actually worked. Took about 6 months, this after 6 months of bouncing from one malpractice to another until someone finally got the diagnosis right. Pain is my middle name. I've been in "traction" the last couple of days, I have no disks in my spine, bone on bone in spots, and stenosis. One wrong move can drop me like a stone, and maybe leave me immobilized for up to 2 weeks. I don't complain. Of all the stories I wrote, "wrong thinking," the one you've asked for, was hands down the best, though the one I describe herein is much better from the base construct perspective, it's highly unusual. I was told my writing 'style' was "too accessible," that I explained too much rather than developed characters and let them do the talking. Very true. It was the concept I was trying to put across that they missed. I wonder if I could contact any of the publishers now that rejected me then, and ask them to have another look at my stories and ask if they aren't sorry they didn't publish at least the one. doubt it. By the way, as steeped in getting at the truth as I was back then, I knew 9/11 was coming. Didn't know what or when, but I started having a bad feeling around April, 2001, I was telling people something terrible was going to happen, I would say they'd set it up such that "they're GOING to have to pull the trigger soon..." People thought I was a whack job. I have a witness to this: my son's girl friend called us the morning of 9/11/01 and simply said "turn on the TV." Smoking north tower. I said: "well, my only regret now is I probably won't live to see 'em try to pull off the 'space alien scenario...'" and went on to curse the utter lack of imagination among the globalist control freaks that pulled this off; that they were resorting to plain old mass murder and war. Figure that one out. Read "the stars are too high" for a clue. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2405719.The_Stars_Are_Too_High I should add that at one point I did type some of my stories into word perfect, including "wrong thinking." But the last time I went looking, the file existed but it was empty. It had the by line, and the stuff the publishers want, # of words, synopsis etc, but right where the story started it was blank. It actually stored like 45 blank pages, a ton of CRs but no text. I haven't seen any of those files in years. I still have hand written copies of most, but none that I really care about in retrospect.

apotheon
apotheon

What happened to that story? Is there any chance I could get you to send me a copy? If you "peer mail" me (as they insist on calling private messages here at TR), or hit me up via my contact page at blogstrapping, I'll email you back so you have a place to send the story if you have it in digital form.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... must insure that their obsolete and unpredictable carbon-based creators stay safely protected -- from themselves. Oh wait, "machines" has been deprecated in favor of "caretakers".

pgit
pgit

Because I had written a bunch of sci-fi short stories about 12-15 years ago that look alarmingly like what's going on out there today. The best was "wrong thinking" wherein everyone has a chip embedded that monitors the chemistry of the brain and reports results (along with a lot of other data) automatically to receivers in just about every door frame. If anyone had a mood outside of prescribed "legal limits" it would show in the chemistry and the perp would be neutralized. They have chemical analysis factories on silicon chips now. You can get one you pee on and plug into your iphone to see if you or a potential partner have a sexually transmitted disease. My protagonist basically had a patented thought without permission.

seanferd
seanferd

We, without all the glass.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

"THOKK" is the best approximation of the sound. It depends on hairstyle of the person on the receiving end ;)

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

There's a Dictionary....er....er...ffffrrrthththththththththtth (pages turning noise?)

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

@Ansu: My suggestion to use "Google define:" was in response to the onelook.com/dictionary.com suggestion. I don't think anyone suggests that you get encyclopedic knowledge of a complex subject from a dictionary, and I don't think your carburetor information came from Webster's. @pgit: I too love meandering through the definitions in a print dictionary (even 1923).

pgit
pgit

I'll check out the other names, too. Thanks for sharing this. I got what you were talking about but didn't see anyone else bothering to reply, so I jumped into the fray. See what happens? Your mind gets bent into a bigger arc!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Which is perhaps seldom said of long-time career academics :p In general the Max Planck Institute hosts all the people I admire the most in linguistics: Michael Tomasello rocked my views on Language Acquisition and Stephen C Levinson wrote the awesome, awesome, awesome book - "Space in Language and Cognition" ... that's meant to be cross-disciplinary, so it's not something only Linguists can reasonably read. It's a mind-expander.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

is, that your google-lookup-definition of carburetor, if successful, will work on the basis of calls to other distilled meanings, like, "device", "fuel", "engine", etc. It's a wicked web we weave, indeed.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Does doing so tell you, what means "carburetor"? [i]"A carburetor (American spelling), carburettor, or carburetter (Commonwealth spelling) is a device that blends air and fuel for an internal combustion engine. It is colloquially called a carb (in North America and the United Kingdom)." [/i] Really? Compare the above to the following: [i] "The carburetor works on Bernoulli's principle: the faster air moves, the lower its static pressure, and the higher its dynamic pressure. The throttle (accelerator) linkage does not directly control the flow of liquid fuel. Instead, it actuates carburetor mechanisms which meter the flow of air being pulled into the engine. The speed of this flow, and therefore its pressure, determines the amount of fuel drawn into the airstream. When carburetors are used in aircraft with piston engines, special designs and features are needed to prevent fuel starvation during inverted flight. Later engines used an early form of fuel injection known as a pressure carburetor. Most production carbureted (as opposed to fuel-injected) engines have a single carburetor and a matching intake manifolds that divides and transports the air fuel mixture to the intake valves, though some engines (like motorcycle engines) use multiple carburetors on split heads. Multiple carburetor engines were also common enhancements for modifying engines in America from the 1950s to mid-1960s, as well as during the following decade of high-performance American muscle cars fueling different chambers of the engines intake manifold. Older engines used updraft carburetors, where the air enters from below the carburetor and exits through the top. This had the advantage of never "flooding" the engine, as any liquid fuel droplets would fall out of the carburetor instead of into the intake manifold; it also lent itself to use of an oil bath air cleaner, where a pool of oil below a mesh element below the carburetor is sucked up into the mesh and the air is drawn through the oil-covered mesh; this was an effective system in a time when paper air filters did not exist. Beginning in the late 1930s, downdraft carburetors were the most popular type for automotive use in the United States. In Europe, the sidedraft carburetors replaced downdraft as free space in the engine bay decreased and the use of the SU-type carburetor (and similar units from other manufacturers) increased. Some small propeller-driven aircraft engines still use the updraft carburetor design."[/i] And then to this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Annotated_rude_carb.JPG/220px-Annotated_rude_carb.JPG How much of that is understood as contrasted to simply "heard" or "read"? How much of it remains with you to be called upon later? If you just take the "explanation" undigested, you're not likely to remember it. Try it with a term from a more unfamiliar field if you're too adept at car mechanics: say, "fortization" or "Quipu".

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

@pgit: Love the way you refer to school "daze" after extolling the merits of Webster's 1923.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Glad to have been of help. Sounds like it may save you and others a lot of time ;) The idea of using "carburetor" as an example for difficult-to-learn meanings isn't my own, I encountered the use of "carburetor" as part of a critique of a pro-chomskian model of semantics acquisition (one that supposes that all meanings are innate, just waiting for a phonetic/contextual cue for connecting to the right word). I think the critique was written by Bernard Comrie, he's got a brutally dry way of dealing with the nonsensical.

pgit
pgit

Interesting stuff you got me pondering here this morning. Thank you. Great example with the carburetor, too. Makes the concepts crystal clear. These concepts seem like they'd be interdisciplinary, involving human development, learning and nature, logic and philosophy, and would have application in just about any discipline. For instance I can see through this filter the reason I should not explain the inner workings of a computer to the typical end user. My knowledge involves years of hands-on and experiences both good and bad. Ostension wouldn't cut it in this example, not by a long shot. So why would I bother? In the past I have had people tell me to stop, their brain was full. I've also had a boss/partner tell me not to explain the things I attempted to do. My reasoning had been that if you know what's going on under the hood you have a better chance of understanding problems and fixing them yourself. I pick complex thing up pretty fast. I had a hard time imagining the inside of that average end user's head. But the shortcoming of ostension in the matter of how a computer operates down to the hardware gives me a scientific definition that prescribes my behavior. And it's Friday!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

[pointing, saying] "That's a dog. Dog. Woof woof." The meaning of dictionary can be also learned from it's perusal alone. It's not a complex concept. Carburetor is a different matter, in which ostension falls short too... seeing it is not enough, is it? That's a distilled meaning, it distills out of all the instances of carburetor a person has ever heard, and their contexts (textual as well as spatial and temporal), same as with the first words. Instructive images can help too.

pgit
pgit

At some point someone with the knowledge has to impart it to you. They show you a web site or a book, tell you "this is called a dictionary..." define "dictionary verbally for them , that is tell them what it is and how it is used. (and why) You are correct, someone who doesn't know what a dictionary is certainly isn't going to use a dictionary to find out. Just as with basic reading and comprehension, someone with the knowledge has to impart it to you. As monetary realist Merrill Jenkins said; "those who don't know, don't know that they don't know."

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Without knowing what dictionary means how do you intend to look up one to find its meaning? Or if you visit onelook.com know what an American Heritage Dictionary is as you still have to find out what dictionary means first to understand the phrase.

pgit
pgit

I still hike over to my 40 pound Webster's 1923 dictionary. It sits on it's own stand with a dedicate light. You can't beat the definitions. Often # 7 or some other lost-to-modernity definition is the best by far. Really gives you a deeper understanding of things. In fact if you use a dictionary from 1950-ish and later as an authority in a court of law you're going to get hosed. When I bought dictionaries for my boys back in their school daze I selected them by comparing the definitions of "fascism." You can see some publishers' agenda pretty clearly through that word.

apotheon
apotheon

My favorite online resource these days is onelook.com though I know a lot of people like dictionary.com (probably because of the name). When checking onelook.com I recommend going with the American Heritage Dictionary definition first. It tends to have the highest quality definitions in terms of both accuracy and precision. Avoid the Macmillan dictionary like the plague; it's vague, often only addresses some narrow aspect of a definition, dumbed down, and written in a condescending tone. Any netizen should be able to figure out the function and value of a dictionary shortly after visiting a site like onelook.com.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Anybody older than that should probably be watched very carefully to ensure they do not take an honor guard when they self-destruct.

apotheon
apotheon

Every teacher I had that was worth a damn, in my early school years, would not tell me what a word meant when the teacher used it. He or she would point me at a dictionary. Meanwhile, I do explain or expand abbreviations when it is appropriate. A handful of words before a link to the source, however, is not really somewhere that it is appropriate. Rather, that is a situation where the problem is essentially addressed for all but the most willfully ignorant. . . . and, frankly, they aren't my target audience.

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