Monday, May 22, 2006 and Content Locking

I have two petty annoyances to report on. Sharing them will in no way enlighten you, but neither will these problems continue to weigh on me like lead sinkers in my pants pockets.

The first problem I have is with represents the worst of the worst of social networking apps. The site and its heavily constrained database are engorged with advertising and fees. a poster child for frame-jacking. The site is, at its best, un-navigable; at its worst, an e-robber baron donning "social networking" clothing. Why should I care?

All the way back in 1991, the year of my high school commencement, I was class prez. Quite an honor at the time, of course, and I had a hand in the post-H.S. leadership, cheering on the many admirable folks far more dedicated than me (D. included) who orchestrated the five- and ten-year reunions. Today, an email came from "Thus-n-such has sent you a Classmates Email." Cool. I remembered the sender. Classmates stood as an interceptor, an intermediary, walling apart the participants in the interchange, but the message has links leading me to think I could retrieve the message. And I could. For 15 bucks.... (the fee for signing on with a three month gold membership). The subject line, however, came across clearly: "Class Reunion."

I get it. Cryptic, but at least I knew the email message concerned our impending reunion, the reunion I've done absolutely nothing to plan. Rather than pay the moolah, I used the system to send a response. It's filtered, but maybe J., the sender, has fronted a few bucks for a membership (hey, I'm a grad student; many former classmates, no doubt, are collecting a bigger bag of chips each year than my TA stipend).

Later in the afternoon, another message from J. Again, I couldn't access the content, but I could tell, because he hadn't emailed me directly the way I asked him to, that he didn't have access to the body of my message. Like me, he lacks the much coveted Gold Membership and the many social advantages that come with full access to (post a bio about yourself! post photos! search!). Oy. Okay, so what else is there? A few minutes ago I typed up one final message, this time using the subject line as the message space. has plugged many of the gaps that would allow information to stream freely through its toll-burdened sluices, but not this one. The subject line is the only space that shows up, the only space that is readable. I may as well try to use it to communicate. One more thought: an improvement to the site would be just the thing I need: a Teflon membership or, that is, one email for $.05.

Whether or not I get in touch with J. is less the point than that is distressingly obtuse. For the cost of an annual membership, I can host a site that floats my name well into the top ten for Google queries searching my name. I'd google J., but his name is among the most generic combos possible (59.9 million results). Maybe it will work to use the subject line; maybe it won't. Maybe a few minutes on is all the cosmological force I need to warrant resigning my esteemed post. It's not as though I have the faintest thought about getting involved with 15-year reunion, after all.

The second issue is somewhat less perturbing, but I still rate its annoyance quotient quite high--above the peace and calm that should characterize these last few days of my May break (before a June of exam reading, teaching online and so on). Here's the thing: I developed a few courses for Former U., and I continue to occupy the developer's role. It requires a small amount of work from me: updates when book editions change, minor adjustments to assignments, etc. There's a place in the CMS for developer's notes. That's good; I'd like to put the space to use. Fill it in with rationale for the design of the course, add comments about how I imagine the course moving along. But each time I log into the developer's section of the course, where the basic or stable content is kept, I find the developer's notes locked, uneditable. Did I mention that I'm the developer? Yes, I did. For the bazillionth time, I sent a request to the folks who have access to the settings. And I heard back from them. The developer's notes have been unlocked temporarily. Apparently unlocking that area of the course means that instructors can edit the developer's notes, too. Once I'm finished with the developer's notes, they'll be locked again so that nobody can tamper with them, "notes" being so refined and permanent, I guess. And this confounding loop will complete its cycle, only to recur again and again.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at May 22, 2006 8:30 PM to Slouching Toward

Great idea with the subject line. I hope it works--one small step toward sticking it to the man. (It occurs to me that this is an internet-age analogue to the old move where just receiving a collect call sent a message, so the receiver could get the info and still refuse the charges.)

Posted by: Lance at May 22, 2006 9:59 PM

I'm wondering if caught on to people sending e-mail addresses and further dialed back the accessibility. Earlier this year an old friend sent me a message through that site, and I asked him to reach me on my regular e-mail rather than pay the fee, and he did. But maybe that just means he was actually a member.

I do agree with you about the site in general. It sucks at just about every possible level.

Posted by: Chris Geyer at May 23, 2006 8:39 AM

Right, Lance, very much like the pay phone hang-up trick. I relied on that one many times, calling home after practices (before I had a driver's license) and tapping the cradle a few times in a random string of clicks roughly translated to "Can I catch a ride home?" Always worked.

My method worked, so I'm much less angry with today than I was yesterday. J. reached me at my email and, well, even though the reunion is not yet planned, my reasons for giving it very little thought are out in the open. I think should be charged with digital extortion: "We have a message for you, but you have to pay us first." Fine business model, that. Neither of us had anything more than the free membership, so classmates was allowing us to send marketing bait back and forth. "Sucks" is putting it nicely, Chris. ;)

Posted by: Derek at May 23, 2006 10:20 AM****ing annoying pop ups.

Posted by: Chris at May 23, 2006 11:32 PM

Annoying, yes. Every time I see a popup, I have to wonder whether any user *ever* has expressed satisfaction with them. Can you imagine someone exclaiming how much they love popups or how rewarding they find the surprise of having the thing they were looking at blotted out by a desperate market grab?

Posted by: Derek at May 24, 2006 6:40 AM