Category Archives: Internet

In Which I Worry About My Attention Span

I started this blog—ages ago, in internet time—to get my brain working, force myself to react to what I read, and put my thoughts in order. But I’ve never kept it up for very long at a stretch, and longer essays—“longer” in blog terms, anyway—are rare.

I feel like my attention span has atrophied. I’ve noticed I’m not as good a reader as I used to be. Not that I don’t still read quite a lot compared to most people—I finished 83 books last year, more than one a week. And have no problem with reading comprehension. But I read in bits. I’ve always had more than one book going at any given time, but these days I have several, and I rarely sit down with them for sustained periods: I sit through ten or twenty pages and my brain is off on something else.

Mind you, that’s still healthier than the voracious-but-stupid way I read when I was 12 or 13. Often I’d get through a book in a day, but I didn’t retain much. There are books I know I read around that time that left no trace in my memory. I suspect there are others I no longer recall having read at all. These days I remember what I read. But I suspect I’d absorb it even better if I could get back to the middle path I took in my late teens and early twenties: more than a couple of days, less than a couple of weeks.

Continue reading In Which I Worry About My Attention Span

The Rich are Different From Other Suckers

I guess the guys sending out all those fake PayPal and eBay emails aren’t satisfied with the take they’re getting from the general public. According to the New York Times phishers are trolling for a bigger class of seafood. Some operation is specifically targeting the wealthy and powerful. What’s interesting is the tack they’re taking:

>Thousands of high-ranking executives across the country have been receiving e-mail messages this week that appear to be official subpoenas from the United States District Court in San Diego. Each message includes the executive’s name, company and phone number, and commands the recipient to appear before a grand jury in a civil case.

I guess these guys know their audience.

Searching for Imaginary People

Sometimes I wonder about people searches.

This is, for some people, the entire purpose of the internet. Made a date with someone? Google him. Someone apply for a job? Google her. Have you even, y’know, just met somebody? Google. It sure beats trusting people!

I wonder how many of these searches are successful.

Google searching is an awkward way to get to know people. It’s easy to confuse them with someone else. There are way too many people out there with similar names. Sometimes even “official” sources—public records, credit reports—get biographies crossed. When that information filters out to phone directories and marketing lists things get hairy.

Even if you’re sure you’ve found the right people, their internet references are not likely to portray the full and complete human beings… and what you’ve got probably includes at least a little outdated, misleading or just plain wrong information.

Which brings me to the next big thing: imaginary facts compiled by bots. Sites like ZoomInfo send bots–automatic web spiders, like the search engines use–to suck up disjointed facts from a hundred different websites and, somehow, smoosh them together into personal profiles. This does not work so well. Time magazine quotes ZoomInfo’s COO:

“We’re the first to admit that they are not 100% accurate,” says ZoomInfo COO Bryan Burdick, who estimates that only 500,0000 — just 1% — of the profiles have been verified by the person they claim to identify.

You’ve got to be cautious when looking for people. Bots can’t be cautious. They can’t think. People can, but sometimes they don’t. I wonder sometimes how many people Googling potential friends, relations and employees stop to evaluate what they find… and how many people make bad decisions because they haven’t.

And if you meet any of those guys, and they’re coming from some kind of speculative social science/xenobiology background, could you get them to make me a job offer? Because ZoomInfo thinks I’m an alien anthropologist. And while I’m not totally sure what that means, I’ll bet it’s a lot more interesting than what I’m doing now.