An internet dinosaur spits in extinction's eye
Larry Kim is a successful online advertiser. Kim founded WordStream, which promises "online advertising made easy." In an April 11, 2017, post on Medium, Kim asks an interesting question: "Why do you blog?" For Kim, there's only one answer: To get your "content" discovered by as many people as possible.
Exposure: That's what the internet is all about. Numbers are all that matter. Kim's 11 "hacks" to get your content more exposure on LinkedIn Pulse include how to "sell yourself to potential connections." He also suggests paying for placement on popular LinkedIn channels, which will give your social-media ads a big boost. You know you've succeeded when your post is "trending."
After nearly 10 years of blogging, the best answer I can muster to Kim's question is that I blog to help people benefit from the technology in their lives, and to point out to them common tech-induced pitfalls. I'm certainly not in it for the money.
Which Kim and nearly every other expert will say is my first mistake. I need to market myself, get trending, go viral, attract a following, and then subject them to online ads so I can keep trending, going viral, and attracting even more followers.
In the mega-mall that the internet has become, this site is a closet-sized boutique, tucked in a forgotten corner surrounded by papered-over storefronts that once contained someone's dream. I measure the site's success not by page views or ad sales, but by readers responding positively to something I've written. That actually happens on occasion.
The site has devolved into the internet equivalent of a Renaissance Faire. It has none of the modern web accoutrements: no ads, no commenting, no requests that you share-share-share. Just me writing in the hope that someone will not only discover the posts, but like what they read, and maybe find some of the information useful.
(I picture Mr. Kim reading that last paragraph and laughing so hard he chokes on his power smoothie.)
Without further ado, here's this Weekly's rundown on what new perils await us beleaguered netizens:
Toner cartridges and the end of ownership
You buy a car. A few years later, the car needs a new muffler. A third-party muffler that works perfectly well with your vehicle costs $100. The car maker's own replacement muffler costs $200. You buy the third-party product, and the car manufacturer responds by remotely activating a kill switch that renders the vehicle useless.
Don't laugh. It could happen if the Supreme Court's decision in Impression Products v. Lexmark International finds for printer maker Lexmark. Julia Claire Kaltenbach of Williams Venker & Sanders writes in an April 12, 2017, post on JD Supra Business Advisor that a Lexmark win would mean patent holders would be able to control the use of a product long after its sale.
Impression Products is a small company that sells replacement cartridges for printers. Because the refilled cartridges are not authorized by Lexmark, Impression Products disables a chip in the printer to allow the refills to work on the device. Consumers save money, but Lexmark loses out because Lexmark generates a lot of revenue from printer cartridge sales, just as razor makers profit by giving away razors and jacking up the price of razor blades.
Lexmark's rationale for wanting to control how its products are used after they are sold is that doing so protects consumers and "the patentee's reputation," according to an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the company filed by the Intellectual Property Owners Association. A group of law professors writing in support of Impression Products pointed out that a ruling in Lexmark's favor could lead to "no-resale" conditions being applied to automobiles, which would eliminate the market for used cars.
A ruling on the case is expected in June. That's plenty of time to stock up on third-party printer cartridges. The fact that Lexmark even filed the suit is a big red warning sign about buying any product that automatically connects to the internet so it can phone home to the manufacturer. You might have paid for it, but you don't own it.
Airline-passenger apocalypse: Fingers pointing in every direction
United Airlines drags a paying passenger off a plane to make room for its own employees. The company stock nosedives. Longtime customers cut up their UA credit cards and swear never to fly the airline again. Bad United! Bad airline! No treat for you!
Everybody's got their own favorite scapegoat for the deplorable condition of air travel. In an article back on October 16, 2016, ProPublica's Justin Elliott blamed President Obama and the Democrats, who caved to lobbyists for the airline industry when they backed off their objection to the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.
Elliott points out that one of the airlines' top expenses, the cost of fuel, has declined by 70 percent in recent years, yet the companies have not lowered fares. This after having recorded profits of nearly $26 billion in 2015. Contrast that with the airline market in Europe, where there is more competition, resulting in lower fares and happier flyers.
Then you have Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones writing in an April 12, 2017, article that the sad state of airline affairs is all the fault of Congressional Republicans. Harkinson claims Republicans in Congress continually delay enhanced protections for airline passengers: reimbursement for lost bags, notice of extra fees on airline websites, and topically, compensation for passengers who are bumped off flights.
It comes as no surprise that airlines contribute much more to Republican Congress members than to their Democratic counterparts. According to Harkinson, Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), the chair of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, was even dating an executive for the airlines' lobbyists, Airlines for America, named Shelly Rubino.
Yes, Congress was literally in bed with the airlines.
If you're wondering which of the four remaining airlines is most likely to boot you off a flight, Mother Jones's Kevin Drum provides a "no flight for you" graph based on the latest monthly report from the Department of Transportation. While Delta is the overbooking king, the airline actually has fewer "involuntary" passenger removals than its three competitors because Delta's "Coasion auction system" persuades people to give up their seats before they board.
According to the DoT report, Southwest and American had more involuntary passenger removals than United in the most recent period for which numbers are available. On Southwest, your chances of being involuntarily removed from your cramped, uncomfortable airline seat are about one in 10,000. That's slightly more than twice the rate of United's forced passenger ousters.
Drum writes that 40,000 people are bumped from U.S. flights against their will each year, although many of these are standby passengers. As Drum points out, the degree of overbooking by airlines makes it surprising that we haven't seen more videos of paid passengers being dragged off airplanes.
Last call for net neutrality
Now that internet privacy protections have been swept away, the Republican FCC has set its sights on removal of the Open Internet/net neutrality rules implemented by the Obama Administration. The regulations are intended to block internet services from creating a "fast lane" for internet traffic that gets priority over other data transmissions. They also prevent the services from blocking access to legal content and resources, and from "throttling" data sent to some customers to give the traffic of other customers more bandwidth.
A Reddit thread started on April 12, 2017, by Evan Greer of the digital rights nonprofit Fight for the Future warns that the FCC has met with cable industry lobbyists about dismantling the Open Internet policy to allow internet services to speed up, limit, or eliminate data transfers as they wish. Hello, censorship!
Greer provides information for people who would like to join the battle against the corporate takeover of the internet. The Battle for the Net that Greer and other internet advocates initiated in 2016 helped fight back a previous assault on net neutrality.
Personally, I don't think our corporate-financed politicians will be happy until they've rendered the internet completely useless. Then it will be just me and my little boutique website, tucked away in that dusty, cobwebby corner of the internet, dutifully recording the endtimes. Look for me at the coffee kiosk, hunting for day-old baked goods.