old timey snake oil label

E-mail Marketing Services do not improve deliverability

Origin of the myth

There is a misconception on the internet that services like Constant Contact, Mailchimp, and Sendgrid will improve deliverability of your E-mail marketing materials. However that is simply not true. The misconception was created by the marketing and advertising efforts of those same corporations. If you repeat a lie enough times people will start to believe it.

Mailing List Services Reduce Deliverability

In fact, using any of those services increases the chance that your E-mails will be blacklisted. All E-mail server operators know that those services are used exclusively for sending out E-mail marketing material. Sendgrid has a very poor reputation for handling spam, and is auto-blacklisted from all of my personal E-mail servers.

This means if your business uses one of these services you could be blacklisted even if you never send out spam. Simply associating with these spam giants will cause you reduced deliverability.

Your Business E-mail should be 100% private.

In the meantime you can install free mailing list software such as phpList and others, and send your marketing material directly from your own private and properly configured E-mail server. Operating your own private services is the only way to ensure that other people’s behavior cannot negatively impact your own business. The total costs of this are very low, even the smallest of businesses can afford it.

There’s No Such Thing As Free Services

Many open source software applications are free, but internet services are not. Anyone who offers “Free service” is doing so as a marketing trick so they can eventually turn you into a paying customer, at best. And chances are they are getting value from your patronage in other ways even while you use their “free” plan.

Proof small animals are self aware

In the 1980s or 1990s someone told me a story about how scientists tested various animals to discover if they are “Self-Aware“. This test involved placing some kind of visible mark on the outside of the animal’s body, typically ink, and then using mirrors to see if the animal notices the mark.

Apparently, most animals failed this test, including dogs and cats. The conclusion then was if the animal doesn’t show any interest or concern in it’s reflection or the mark on it’s body that it must not be “Self-Aware” and this has been used as an excuse ever since to justify animal abuse.

Well here is proof then, that small animals do recognize their reflection and do show interest in unusual visual “marks”. In this video, a cat has a piece of paper stuck to it’s head that it can feel, it can just barely see, but it can’t quite reach. Near the end of the video the cat looks down at it’s own shadow, to locate the object.

So when the cats failed the mirror test, it does not mean they lack intellect, or that they are not self aware. Something else is going on. Perhaps they’re so self-aware as to be indifferent toward the humans’ experiments. Or perhaps the environment was too overwhelming for their senses and brain to handle.

The MPAA and RIAA are still losing the war on digital piracy.

Canary in the Coal Mine

“Online piracy is also the proverbial canary in a coal mine. The same pervasive theft that my industry faces is part of a continuum of toxic developments that harm all of us in this ecosystem – consumers, creators, and commercial operators alike,”

Charlie Rivkin, MPAA CEO –
https://www.mpaa.org/speeches_and_op_eds/a-declaration-of-accountability-for-cyberspace/

This man “Charlie Rivkin” is a fool. There’s a canary in the coal mine for sure, and it’s Rivkin. He doesn’t understand piracy. There is no way in hell this man could lead publishers and creators to a brighter future.

I understand piracy. I’ve understood piracy since the 1980s when I was introduced to it. I’ve been close enough to the scene ever since to grasp it’s motivations in ways that “corporate suits” like Mr. Rivkin will never understand. His words are empty, because they come not from a well of knowledge on the subject, they come from his responsibility to champion the public message of the MPAA. The problem is the pirates all know he’s full of shit, and they’re the ones you need to win over.

Your audience feeds, shelters, and clothes your family. Not you.

If publishers and creators want to reduce piracy and increase profits, you need to make peace with your audience. These are people who want to consume the art that you are all producing. These are people who have been abused for decades by capitalists. These are people who cannot earn enough money working two jobs to raise their families, how the hell are they going to pay for the latest movies or music, which they’re forced to hear about in conversations and commercials every day?

Corporations are thieves.

“Inflation”, which is a completely fabricated form of theft by you corporate fucks, has increased the costs of living to the point that nobody can afford it anymore. Wages have not increased to match inflation. This is all your faults. And you presume to turn the victims of your greed into the bad guys? That’s insanity, and all of you know it.

You’ve turned shitty $11 hollywood vomit into the ferrarris and convertibles for this generation. Always desired, always out of reach. In the immortal words of George Carlin, we know what you want. You want more for you and less for everyone else. The food is sweeter when we can’t have it. The films are better when we can’t watch.

You will only lose this war.

WAKE UP HOLLYWOOD, you can’t stop piracy. Pirates have been “stealing” your creations for decades, and none of your efforts to stop this have ever worked. Pirates adapt. Pirates evolve. Two things your corporations have serious problems keeping up with. This is survival of the fittest. Pirates are the predators and content is the prey. You’re never going to win. Piracy is a victimless crime which connects the less fortunate to the rest of the society through our shared experience of art and creation.

The future is about US.

The smartest publishers are embracing the free distribution of art. Musicians who allow their hits to spread on video sites like YouTube, increasing the buzz for their product. Embracing fans who create their own videos using scenes from their favorite films or music. Those are the people winning this fight. People still like to buy products like DVDs and CDs. People still enjoy supporting the artists’ whose creations they love. What people don’t like is when you turn this relationship into some kind of fucking business agreement where you can just sue your audience for breach of contract.

You don’t have any say.

We don’t have a god damned contract with you people. You put your works into the world and we have a god damned RIGHT to share in the social experience. Stop treating your audience like the bad guys, and stop talking secret wars behind our backs like we’re too stupid to see what you’re up to. Guys like Rivkin need to go. They’re the old dying model.

Adapt or die.

The Hacker Manifesto – 1986

Re-published here, without permission.

WordPress: Relocate ‘Menus’ & ‘Widgets’

Content Management System

WordPress is a Content Management System, or ‘CMS’. Content Management Systems were invented as a sort of expansion on stylesheets. The primary purpose of a CMS is to simplify the organization of website content, and it’s relationship to your website’s styling or “theme”.

Separating Content from Design

WordPress does a pretty good job of organizing your content. Theme configuration options are under Appearance, and Content is under Pages and Posts, but there is a catch.

If you want to edit the navigation menu on your site, or change the address in your footer widget, those are also located under Appearance. But those are content!

Solution: Relocate Menus & Widgets

The solution is a relatively simple one, Menus and Widgets should be moved out of Appearance. Each should be treated separately, or perhaps grouped together in a “Secondary Content” sub-menu.

Do you like this idea? Feel free to comment with your suggestions and share the idea with others.

No more Discus

I’ve been forced to remove Discus comments from tailpuff.net. They have taken the same approach to the GDPR that Facebook has taken, and while I think the GDPR sucks, I think this kind of corporate sleaze sucks worse. I won’t support people who treat the public as if we’re too stupid to see their crimes for what they are.

So from now on, or until I find a superior alternative, comments on tailpuff.net will require you to register for an account. I thought about offering guest commenting but unfortunately the maturity level of the human public has not reached a point where that can work.

Alternatives?

If you know of a similar service that respects it’s users privacy, please let me know. I do like the Single-Sign-On aspect of Discus but no feature is worth sacrificing privacy or the privacy of my visitors.

coiled snake with words "don't tread on me"

Upwork is a fraud. Here is proof

I received this E-mail from Upwork recently, suspiciously soon after I switched back to their “Free” tier:


Hi Simba,

We noticed you haven’t been working through Upwork lately.

To improve client’s search results and show them more freelancers who are available, we’ve changed your profile to “private” until you’re ready to start taking on new projects.

Here are three ways to switch your profile back to “public”:

  • Resume earning through Upwork. Apply to projects and start getting paid.
  • Sign up for a Freelancer Plus membership. Keep your profile public when you aren’t regularly earning.
  • Contact customer service. Keep your profile public by earning on Upwork within 30 days.

Currently, your profile won’t be discoverable to clients unless you submit a proposal for their job.


I haven’t been less active in recent days, the only difference is I stopped paying them. And this E-mail arrived at the precise moment when my $10 payment would have been billed.

Previously Upwork refused to accept legal government issued ID as proof of identification, despite federal laws requiring them to. They believe themselves above our nation’s laws.

Upwork is a scam. Don’t give them 20% of your pay.

Gutenberg Test

I am writing this post to test the new Gutenberg editor. This is my first hands-on experiment with this “new editing experience“. Starting with the basics, here is a left-justified block of text.

Here is a second paragraph, this time right-justified. I am running out of meaningless things to say, and so I am going to resort to Lorem Ipsum. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Here we will insert a header block.

Hakuna Matata…

This paragraph is center-justified. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Now it’s time to experiment with other block types. How about a list

  • Item one
  • Item two
  • Item three

Gallery Test:

Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.

Ozzy Osborn
broken telephone and the hammer which smashed it

Tracking Cookies, Analytics, and the GDPR. Or “How I learned to stop worrying and FUCK the European Union”

General Data Protection Regulation

Wikipedia: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679 is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU. The GDPR aims primarily to give control to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.

The General Data Protection Regulation, often referred to as the GDPR for short, is a European Union law taking effect in 2018. This law was crafted to address the problem of corporations exploiting the data they gather from consumers using their internet products, which has gotten completely out of hand.

Enter: The Problems

GDPR was rushed. This is most blatantly evident in the huge number of obvious per-use-cases where it simply does not apply. There’s a whole lot of exemptions made to allow for conflicts with other laws. They wanted to punish Facebook, and they did not take the time required to craft a thoughtful solution that will survive long term. I will try to address some of the more damaging issues introduced by this regulation.

WHOIS: A necessary public tool for the Internet to function

The first casualty in this story is the WHOIS service. When you register a domain name you are leasing a public resource from a limited pool of similar resources. For this reason it is absolutely necessary to ensure that every domain name registered is a real person, who is using their domain for real legitimate purposes. In cases where they are not, the domain is released back into the public pool so that someone more deserving can utilize it.

WHOIS not only provides a means of contacting the owner or maintainer for a particular domain, it also provides an important tool for diagnosing security problems such as being attacked from specific networks. It is necessary to use WHOIS to contact the appropriate administrator handling security on those networks.

Because of the terrible way in which GDPR has been executed, there has been a rushed effort to “fix” WHOIS to be compliant with GDPR. But WHOIS doesn’t need fixing, it works exactly the way it’s supposed to already. The problem is ignorance among the users, period.

Analytics, a god given right.

Another huge problem area is website analytics. GDPR places restrictions on the kinds of data that can be gathered using tracking and reporting software. But this is insanity, you can’t restrict what methods I use to monitor and police the activity of those accessing MY networks. I am 100% within my rights to scan and record 100% of your requests against my server, all of your page-viewing habits, and anything else I can think of. It’s my toy, and you’re touching it. You damn well better believe I’m recording your fingerprints and there is nothing anyone can do about that. When you are visiting my website you are not entitled to privacy. (I do respect your privacy, you just aren’t entitled to it). One nation cannot change this with some bullshit law, it’s a fundamental concept of property ownership, it’s older than the EU and more important.

The EU is Disintegrating. Why do their laws matter?

This is a contentious item to be sure but no less important. With the removal of Greece and then the United Kingdom, it is reasonable to assume that the European Union is already dead. It is too soon to assume that they will recover from the loss of two significant member nations. We don’t have a lot of historical precedent, but typically when a “union” starts losing members it is no longer a union. Why should the global marketplace conform to the laws of a failed nation? What gives the EU more authority on this subject than say, a collection of Third World nations? Nothing. It’s favoritism from “Western” nations. That’d be fine, if the EU weren’t crumbling, but all of the indications are that it is. Maybe we shouldn’t be betting on the losers.

So what’s the right answer?

FUCK man, how the hell should I know? The internet was not invented with privacy in mind. Encryption was an after-thought. Here’s a suggestion, why don’t we spend the next 5 to 10 years brainstorming and crafting an INTELLIGENT and BUG-FREE privacy protection treaty? The Internet is a global environment, and laws which regulate behavior on the Internet should only be those which all of us living on this planet can agree upon. This is really common sense that any properly educated adult could only conclude.

Why are you down on privacy rights?

I’m not. You probably realize if you’ve spent time on my blog I’m a die-hard privacy advocate. I also hate poorly crafted regulations, which is what the GDPR is. I wish they would have spent more time on it. I wish they would have consulted with more qualified experts. Maybe if they’d crafted the law on github and allowed the public to submit issues, the result would have been better. Heck all laws should be written this way.

Some Tips

There is a classic saying well known amongst grey-bearded hackers: “If you don’t want it known, don’t use the phone”. You should firstly assume that whatever you’re doing on the Internet, someone is watching it. If you want to protect your data you should encrypt it, and secure your computer against unauthorized spying. Visit ssd.eff.org for a lot of excellent tutorials on how to achieve this.

This Post is a Work In Progress

The consequences and fallout of the GDPR are still unfolding. I will be updating this post as I find more things to complain about which would surely have been caught if they’d spent a bit more time on the bill.

care bears holding paws

How to socialize on the internet

Preface

It occurs to me many internet users maybe don’t have a Free and Open Source guide to the socializing options available to everyone. We all know about large social media corporations but perhaps you’re tired of the limitations they place on your content, or the invasions into your property rights or privacy. So this guide will be a signpost to a few great (and free!) choices.

The Blog – WordPress

WordPress is currently the best choice for blogging. It’s a great choice for a lot of other purposes too, which makes it a solid leader for “best website software”. Your family photo album, your small business, your personal opinions, and many other capabilities. I suggest starting with free themes, and low cost private hosting that offers you E-mail with your website’s domain name.

How will my friends follow me?

All the best blogging softwares, including WordPress, include support for publishing content “feeds”, including rss, rss2, atom, and so on. This is usually built in and enabled by default, allowing anyone to use various free RSS feed reader applications to follow their friends’ updates.

Link to WordPress: https://wordpress.org/.
Link to RSS Readers: Wikipedia.
Link to Hosting: Pride Tech Design.

The BBS – phpBB

A somewhat underappreciated feature of social computer networks is the bulletin boards, these days called forums. It’s a slow and thoughtful way to communicate and an excellent method to meet new friends with similar interests. I recommend the phpBB software, it’s extremely mature. It’s not as easy to install or administer as WordPress but there is documentation and with a little effort anyone can do it.

Link to phpBB: https://www.phpbb.com/.

The MicroBlog – Mastodon

Twitter is a corporate giant and your satisfaction as a user is second place to their return on investment. An excellent choice of alternatives is Mastodon, which is a diversified and federated network of private and community “instances”. You can join one or many, you can create your own, and everyone can participate together.

Link to Mastodon: https://joinmastodon.org/.

Simba as a cartoon tornadoUPDATE: After years of watching how people socialize on microblogs I’ve determined they are a terrible thing. They start out fine, but they do not scale. Eventually nobody is paying attention to anyone anymore, and it’s like trying to socialize in a tornado.

The Chat – Matrix

You’ve got a lot of options for chat softwares.. that is any app aimed at instant response conversations with support for group conversations. I recommend Matrix.org, for a number of reasons. It’s free, it’s open source, it’s distributed, it’s disowned from any corporate masters, and it’s ambitious. You’ll need to be patient with it, it is brand new software and they are trying to do a lot of very modern and exciting features. It’s a great opportunity for new programmers to cut their teeth on something exciting too.

Link to Matrix.org: https://matrix.org/.
Link to Riot.im (Leading client): https://riot.im/.