Archive for April, 2014

Anonymity is freedom

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

It is my theory that mob mentality has less of an effect on social media when the forum is based heavily on anonymity of the users.  Therefore to foster a more pure base of free thinking we need to promote anonymity on the web.

I’ll start by explaining how anonymity within a group is helpful to free thought.  People online run the gamut of personas when they believe there are no consequences to the words they speak.  This lowering of inhibitions finds itself as an incubator for a person’s “true self” to be born.  Be it good, or be it bad or even a little of both, you can often find a person’s true feelings on a subject when they feel secure enough that they won’t be held publically accountable for what they say.  This removes most of the peer pressure. 

An anonymous person is liable to lie in a lot of social situations; their looks, their weight, their income… but faced with an issue they feel strongly about, and they’ll revert back to their basic need to be Right, or Validated.  The need to be accepted has seemingly faded away, or has taken a back seat to the need of establishing dominance over the others in a forum.  The sense of self-righteousness takes a stronger lead in the social field of play, and it is used to establish a higher value on ones self-worth, over the other forum members. 

This is similar to normal social situations except that in this case you are dealing with a room full of megalomaniacs.  With a normal group of people, you would have a person establishing their dominance over the others… he/she would be the loudest, most pushy…  Alpha in the room.  But in the case of a completely anonymous room, you find people are more willing to push back… and in fact, you’ll find a greater amount of dissent amongst the group, each individual more likely to not be “shut down” by the Alpha.  Almost as if bushing back was the only means to validate one’s existence within a room full of unknowns.  On the internet, the Alpha loses his major attributes; the booming voice, the perceived size posturing, the intimidating looks.  Everything that the more timid would have normally bowed too, is no longer in play.  Even when you have the same online forum, but without the anonymity, you can still feel the pressure of “they know who I am.”  And that can affect your consciousness and prevent you from saying what’s on your mind.

It is this absence of reprisal that can prevent a “mob mentality” from steering everyone in the room down a certain direction.  When people aren’t afraid to use a voice of dissent, that’s when mobs lose their steam.  More often than not, the group as a whole knows when they are being taken in the wrong direction, but everyone is afraid of everyone else… and being the odd-man-out.  Remove that fear, and the mob is finished.  Maybe, just maybe, rational thought may even be introduced.

The pros are not without their cons, however. As we all know the world is filled with liars, and masses of idiots waiting to believe them.  That’s why I think it’s so important to have anonymity on the world wide web.  Because without it, we may lose the voice of dissent to the consummate asshole.

A question/open letter to the FDOT and the Expressway Authority

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

To whom it may concern,
I’m not sure I completely understand your billing procedures.  I have an account set up through you, where in that account you automatically deduct funds from my bank account to replenish my Sunpass account as the Sunpass account gets low.

It’s a simple system, or so I believe, I use the toll roads and you take the money you need to cover my tolls.  I use your equipment to count the times and places where tolls are being taken.  Then you charge my Sunpass account the appropriate amount for each toll charged.  That about sums it up.

Somewhere along the way, this seemingly simple concept becomes completely befuddled.  Somehow these UNPAID TOLL VIOLATIONS keep ending up in my mail.  Now, I know that there’s money in the account…  You take it out of my bank account, all the time.  Plus I have it set up so that if the funds in that account ever dip below $20.00, you take an additional $20.00 to fill the account.  The account is always funded.

So where is the problem?

First, before we answer that, let me take you through a brief description of the issues that accompany an UNPAID TOLL VIOLATION.  

  1. There’s the problem of the violation itself.
  2. There are added fees to the violation.
  3. There is a possibility (for whatever reason) of legal repercussions.
  4. This is an unwanted, unneeded, unjustified, and completely unwarranted added hassle.

In short, YOU are costing me Time, Money, and Undue Stress.

“How is that?” you ask.

Well that brings us back to our first question, “Where is the problem?”

The problem seems to be stemming from your equipment.  To come to this conclusion I had to eliminate any possible errors that could have originated from my side that would contribute to a violation.  I’ve checked and rechecked the placement of your transponder on my windshield, and it completely coincides with the directions you’ve sent with it.  So, my next point of contention is car placement.  Fortunately you send a convenient photo of my vehicle that shows the cars positioning well within the correct lane of choice.  So that’s not it.  Next we move to the insufficient funds argument.   This could have been a viable answer, had these violations all been at the END of a distance traveled and between days.  However, you’ll find a great many of these violation exist in the MIDDLE of the start and end points of a single trip. Then I replaced the transponders with (you guessed it) new transponders that you provided. That, combined with the Auto Debit system being in place, and that removes the insufficient funds line of reasoning.   So if it’s not me, then the fault lies with you.

Now that we’ve established that these toll violations are not my fault, we then need to consider what is going on with your end?

I have two theories as to what is going on with your end.   Theory one is, that your equipment is malfunctioning, and causing false positives for toll running.  My second theory is of a much more sinister plot to overcharge your customers.  Although the first theory is much more plausible, due to recent events within the Expressway Authority’s Board of Directors, I’m leaning toward theory two.  But then, who could say for sure?

This does bring up a question though.  Why, if you know my account information, are you sending me UNPAID TOLL VIOLATIONS, when all you have to do is charge my account that fee of the toll that I supposedly “missed”?  I could only come to the conclusion/assumption that you would prefer to generate extra revenue by tacking on service charges and added fees?   Which of course, is somehow still legal?

Please respond.

The fact of the matter is this; You (FDOT/Sunpass/Expressway Authority), are costing me money and undue amounts of stress.   Regardless of your personal involvement in this matter, you (the above named entities) are directly responsible for a continued practice of what amounts to highway robbery.

Thank you in advance for your quick response.

Chris

UPDATE  04.15.14
After a lengthy set of emails and the eventual phone dialog, I have finally gotten the SunPass/Epass entities to admit that they have been over charging me.  That the unpaid violations were in fact errors on their part.  One thing they refuse to do is come to some satisfying response as to WHY it is happening.   Further more, I must now take MORE time out of my schedule to research just how far back this misconduct has been going on.  Or how wide spread it is.   I can’t be the only person to be experiencing this issue.

Short attention spans

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

We’re constantly complaining about short attention spans in today’s society.    I’ve heard a lot of reasons for the shortness of attention, with blame being thrown at video games and texting, and even at, “kids are just lazy.”

But as I was thinking about it, I thought about some other changes as well.  I don’t doubt that the other reasons I mentioned are partially to blame, but what about other factors?   As I thought about the changes, it occurred to me that most of them had to do with technology (with the exception of laziness, but then perhaps the laziness was also a side effect of tech).

So what else has changed that might have also contributed to this sudden lack of attention?  Media.  Think of the world before the internet.  That’s not that long ago. Information; You’d receive information such as news, through your TV and before CNN, it was only thrown at you twice a day. Once at 6pm, and again (usually same news) at 11pm.  Before that, you had only the newspaper. Even  with  Basic cable, you still only had 36 channels to choose from.  That’s not that many.  But now, things have changed dramatically.

Now you are being bombarded with information.  It no longer comes at you once or twice a day.  Back then,  school was as much information as one person could stand for a day.  You could soak up a chapter of a math book, dive into a brief section of history, and still finish that book report by Friday.  You’d skip the evening news and still feel like you couldn’t absorb anything else for the day.  But not today.  You still have those things, but now you’re completely submerged in information, constantly.  News headlines, Sports scores, comics, Facebook updates, chat windows, stock tickers, temperatures (outside your house and outside your friend’s houses), Alerts, Notifications, Aps screaming at you to feed your farm animals!!!!   AHHHHH!!!   That’s within the first 10 seconds of you waking up. 

Your life revolves around instantaneous information being thrown at you from all angles.  You no longer have the luxury of being slowly filtered the information at designated times of your day.  Our attention span has had to adapt to this constant flow of information.  And for good reason, well over half the information you receive is of absolutely of no use to you.  Sure some of it is amusing, and some of it is interesting, but the majority is completely worthless.  And that’s where your attention span saves you from most of it.  You skim right over everything, and don’t waste too much time on the worthless garbage.  

Your brain tries to compensate for this information overload by quickly assessing the information, retaining its key points, and discarding further interest to avoid wasting time so it may move on to something that MAY be more important.  This of course is not without its drawbacks. A lesser understanding of what you are reading is sacrificed for the number of subjects you flip through.  A simple case of quantity of quality. 

I have yet to decide how this affects the ability to judge what is important and what isn’t. The constant skimming over subjects doesn’t limit itself to just the media on your cellphone, tablet, TV, computer… It continues to your every-day interactions.  You lose interest in conversation, or the ability to listen beyond the first ten seconds of conversation.  This is bad, because you are now conditioned to expect the person you are talking to, to give you a Flash Headline of what that conversation is going to be about, before you have the chance to truly dive into the details.  Details are what we are losing these days.  Worse yet, is that conversations in general are going to be melted down into brief synopses and the art of detailing is going to be lost.  Each person fearing that in order to be heard they have to blurt out the most outrageous headline or point of interest in order to be heard for ten seconds.  There is already much more truth to this than we know.  Even before technology came to pass, we would have to go above and beyond, just to be heard.  But now… Now the struggle to keep someone’s attention is all but lost, where it was once an art form.

Our brains comprehend more these days.  We’re able to accept and then expand upon knowledge that was once completely inconceivable to generations before us. But, we are losing the race at keeping up with technology.  As we train our brains, not to retain information but how to access it from the world wide web, we are slowly losing the ability to analyze the details of the information we are accessing.  Yes, I can find you information on just about anything in about ten seconds or less.  But I doubt I’ll be able to retain anything more than its basic headline or the search criteria I used to find it.

So yeah, our attention spans are short. Why? Because we cannot handle the amount of information we’re gobbling up at record pace.  The good information, the bad information, and the ugly information, it doesn’t matter, as long as it grabs us for the first ten seconds, we’ll skip the fine print.  This isn’t going away any time soon and sadly we’re losing our thirst for details. It’s not an even trade.