Stay Healthy and Mentally Sharp: Celebrate Old Age
INTERESTING STUFF – 23 April 2016

Crabby Old Lady and the Internet of Junk

You've heard of the Internet of Things? Well, forget that.

This once-wonderful means of electronic communication that has become essential to our financial, health, family, civic, educational and social lives has deteriorated into such a deep morass of crap, it can only be called the Internet of Junk.

Crabby Old Lady has sung praises of the internet since she got her first 2400 dialup modem sometime in the mid- or late-1980s.

When the World Wide Web came along a few years later with the first, primitive, graphical browsers and Crabby saw her first webpage, she was hooked.

In 1996, she left behind decades of work in television, signed on as managing editor of cbsnews.com, helping to build one of the first two U.S. news websites ever to exist.

Now, 20 years later, the internet of junk is fraught with scams, viruses, identity theft, malware, data and privacy breaches, spam, stolen bank accounts, spyware, phishing, trojan horses, worms, keylogging, ransomware – shall Crabby go on?

Maybe it should be called the Internet of Scary Junk. But although privacy and security breaches can screw up people's lives for years, that's not what has pushed Crabby Old Lady into rage territory.

What has done that is the day in, day out, page by page, minute by minute onslaught against her eyes, ears and, most crucially, her brain. She is fond of her brain, relies on its proper functioning in old age more than ever and has become convinced that the internet is harming it.

Let Crabby count the ways for you:

Dozens, nay hundreds, of websites Crabby visits interrupt their text with moving gifs – those six- or seven-second repetitive videos going round and round and round - some supposedly "enhancing" the text, others advertising. Often there are even more on the same page flickering in the right column, a constant distraction to eye and mind.

Crabby can barely control her fury when within one or two seconds of arriving on a page, before she's even figured out what to do first, a pop-up covers most of the screen asking her opinion of the website. Let's be clear: this happens before she has even had a chance to glance at the page. Irritating to Crabby but from a business point of view, it's stupid.

Sometimes Crabby tells them what she thinks – in the most colorful language as she can muster.

Equally maddening are pop-ups breaking Crabby's concentration asking her to sign up for a newsletter which is - wait for it - how she got to the site in the first place.

Crabby has come close to putting her fist through the computer screen over this one: she is comfortably settled into reading, maybe three paragraphs in and getting a good feel for the story when suddenly an advertising pop-up covers exactly the paragraph she's reading.

Wait. It gets worse. Every one of the websites that do this - many - are experts at obscuring the X that allows the pop-up to be closed.

By the time Crabby can find the X hidden in a new corner or blending into the background color so it is almost invisible, she has forgotten not only where she was in the story, but even what the damned thing is about.

There was a time, back when Crabby worked on the internet, that it was verboten to assault readers' eyes and ears with autostart video. Now, it's ubiquitous. Every day, additional sites add this aggravation to their growing list of interruptions to one's mental health.

And here is the sneakiest part: sometimes a video, usually unrelated to the story Crabby is reading, buried miles down at the bottom of a page among a blizzard of unrelated images, blasts to life a minute or two into her reading and fries her brain before she can find it.

This is not to say that one or two of these abominations happens now and then. It is dozens, dozens of times every day from the best-known, otherwise most professional websites in existence as well as the shoddy ones. (For many good reasons - see above - Crabby Old Lady doesn't go far afield from generally secure websites so we're not talking sleaze, porn or ripoff webpages.)

The irritation factor is beyond tolerable now. Further, although Crabby is obviously not a neuroscientist or psychiatrist, she doesn't believe she needs to be one to know that constant audio and visual distraction damages the ability to think and reason.

As the The Telegraph reported earlier this year:

"According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

"Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

"The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

"Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds."

Did you get that? Goldfish for god's sake.

This is not the only study to show vastly reduced attention spans. It cannot be good for humankind and it is certainly not good for Crabby Old Lady's mind.

Comments

I agree with everything Crabby said.
Those opinion and signup boxes are so irritating. Remember when we could set our computer to block pop-ups? What happened to that?

I find myself "surfing the web" less and less, although it's something I used to enjoy. Rarely click on links these days either.

Let me add the sites that make you use arrows to get to the next page but the only arrow you can find turns out to be for an ad! NO!!! I've gotten to where if it's going to be a slide show I just move on. I really don't need to know what they're sharing bad enough to plod through it.

It's like you have read my mind on this topic. Something interferes with me like that and I go straight out of the site. No second chances.

Amen! to all the raging. And, let's add TV to the mix. I often forget what show I was watching while the commercial break has become longer than the program I was watching, whatever it was.

AND, add to that the overlay in at least one corner of the screen that advertises an upcoming program and that is sometimes overrun by one (often there are two of these, now) of those running updates on all the news of the day for the entire world.

It has become COMMERCE OVER ALL. No rest for the eyes, ears, or mind. Sell, Sell, Sell. Economic growth--yeah, for the investors who cry when they lose a penny while they pocket billions.

The less attentive you are, the more they can take from you. Kinda reminds me of thieves working together to distract you. One cozies up to you, or bumps into you and the other takes your wallet.

Our only defenses are the mute button on TV and turning off the speakers on computer. I used to only abandon a blog friend's offerings when the captchas got too obnoxious/hard to read or I had to sign in (with any service - I care not which) to enable leaving a comment. Now...some have been abandoned because they nag me to sign up for their emails/newsletters/whatever.

Thank you, Ronni, for sparing us the nagging - and - for practicing what you preach. I'm with you on the whole posting!

I hear ya, Ronni (Crabby) loud and clear. All the irritations you mention are becoming more and more frequent. As a means of coping, sometimes I'll turn off the volume when one of those videos (hidden) starts in rather than search high and low for the culprit, but in the long run it's all headache producing. What a treat when locating a calm place like TGB.

Have to agree too with S. C. Jones (above) who refers to television annoyances and the mantra of SELL, SELL, SELL above all. That seems to be it anymore.

It all used to be fun!

Have you tried installing an Ad-Blocker on your browser? It wont address all of the issues you mention, but it certainly helps in removing a lot of the distracting ad clutter from a lot of the sites I visit.
I use Mozilla Firefox as my browser and AdBlock Plus is wonderful addition in removing distractions.

Yes, we've come a long way when lines of type would proceed across my screen faster than I could type! Sometimes I do wish for the days of the Hayes MicroModem and sedate copy at dial up speeds.
But it's been a challenge I like to meet to find the "x" boxes and remove them (something like a free video game). By sticking to the story, and ignoring all distractions I can usually wend my way to find the info I want. And yes, the sound is firmly off on my computer until/unless I want it on for one particular article or story.
Nevertheless, yes, like "Crabby" I would like to have a clean, easy and worthwhile browsing experience.
But (sigh) there's money to be made, and product to sell, etc, etc. so we are stuck with the intrusive interruptions.
My way is to make a game of it. And never, never click on a link unless I am triple sure it is real.

Amen to that! I thought it was me-or my old pc when I couldn't find that obscure "x", and I question the intelligence behind the request of subscription while reading the newsletter I obviously subscribed to... both are maddening.

Who knew that my "WebTv" would be on my list of the things from the good old days. I had a lot more fun and could do more with it than my technically advanced computer.

Totally agree with you Ronni...it's all so very frustrating! There are many websites I used to enjoy visiting, but the constant bombardment has turned me off...I wonder if there's a correlation between increase in addictions with the increase in advertising easy fixes!?!

Yes Yes Yes. I keep my laptop speaker off until I want to hear music or listen to a program. And, yes I have an ad blocker with Firefox. Like many of the folks who've chimed in I use internet less and less - especially now in garden season.
We need John Oliver to address this and to set up one of his "websites" for us to attack back!

Derek...
Of course I use Adblock Plus. But not a single one of my complaints are improved by it and I have strong ethical objections to ad blockers even though I use one.

Almost all the internet is free to readers, paid for by advertising. Yet the people who do the work to produce those websites do need to eat and these days are paid hardly anything.

I get plenty of notices on web pages saying, "I see you're using an ad blocker..." asking me to white list them and sometimes I do if I think the site is particularly good in its advertising display.

What I hope over time is that enough people will use ad blockers, will complain as I have in this post and will tell websites why they refuse to visit them anymore to convince the industry (web, news, advertising) to clean up the miscreants that are frying Crabby Old Lady's brain. We really do need to return to the sane use of advertising that existed when Crabby first worked on websites.

It's most annoying to me that our local "newspaper" Internet site (we don't have a newspaper any more) actually includes, in its listing of headlines numerous "stories" a line in small print saying "sponsored content." It's advertising presented as news. Drives me wild. I've written to the editor with no response. They trick me into reading at least the header of these inserts, and I really hate that.

Amen! And it gets worse by the day. Soon it will impossible to read anything.

You touched a nerve, Ronnie! What an outpouring of anger and grief! I wouldn't have joined, but yesterday I was reading Facebook, clicked on a video that looked interesting (it just sucked me in), when a loud screeching sound erupted, and the screen turned blue, blocking the whole screen! I was given some dreadful choices, one of which was to calla number to have a "specialist" fix it. Of course I didn't. I turned the computer off at the power bar, and phoned my step son, who eventually talked me through to getting my computer back. Two hours later, I was able to work. It's madness!

AdBlock still works fine for static ads on the page. But it doesn't stop the maddening pop-ups.

Currently I'm most irritated by the sites that are free ... but first a pop-up blocks your view and demands you supply your personal info before they'll let you on to the site. And this comes before you've seen enough to know if you want to read it or not. (Bad enough that most of the really good medical information is behind paywalls.)

The autostart videos are the next most irritating element for me. I once found a way to block them, but was left with a blank rectangular placeholders, so had no way to see if they were something I wanted to see or not.

I can't think of one time I've thought or referred to any of those annoyances after being assaulted by their intrusion.

Having sound off helps, as does the vigorous stream of name-calling as I search for that elusive X.

My guess is that some outfit will eventually come up with an optional ad-free program, but it'll cost ya. Good grief, that sounds like relief.

Good comments describing the annoying frustration we experience constantly. When not playing the game of "hunt the x's" try pressing Alt + F4 and it will usually close the intrusion. This also works when the X icon is off the screen.

Perhaps this is the price if living in a capitalist society OR perhaps just another manifestation of the increase of greediness that strikes me as more prevalent these days OR just another dumbing down of the population. We observe evidence of this many ways!

I'm glad you wrote about this junk. There is going to come a point where it's just too frustrating to bounce around the internet if they don't put a limit on the pop-up ads and other stuff that slows down our computers and annoys the heck out of us.

All true! I got my PC in the early 80's too. Often all you could see was military communications. My office gathered together to listen to the Marine rescue of Scott O'Grady in 1995. None of that now for good reason.

I'd love it if I never saw a gif again. I keep my mute button on too. I do shop online especially since we live in somewhat remote area but when I get elsewhere online there is often an ad for the company I just shopped and often the with item I just purchased?? It absolutely isn't the fun it used to be.

I completely agree with S.C. Jones' comment about the ads on TV--so constant, so loud.

Those are two big reasons my husband and I don't watch TV shows any more. We subscribe to NetFlix so we can watch what we want when we want. And set the volume where we want.

Another great advantage is that we can back up an episode is we don't finish watching it at one sitting.

Yes, soon it will be impossible to read anything--on the computer. Wonder if that might mean a resurgence of reading books, magazines and newspapers (those that still exist)? At least these can be READ, and readers can choose which stories are of particular interest to them. Y-a-ay for the printed page. Unfortunately, young people born with a "smartphone" in their ear may not have developed the ability to pay attention long enough to read an entire story. Goldfish, indeed!

I agree about TV, too. In a so-called one hour show, there's about 37 minutes of content (if we're lucky) and 23 minutes of ads--often for stuff people don't need that will eventually end up in a landfill. Ugh!

Celia, thank you! You inspired me to search "stop animated gif". It turns out there is a way. I followed the WkiHow instructions for Firefox, then visited the webcomic where I'd almost been driven away by one particular animation. It worked!

Of course that's only one small annoyance crossed off a very long list.

As for the ads reflecting what I just searched for online... my searches tend to be pretty eclectic, so the ads I'm served up look more like hilarious 'your algorithm didn't get it -- AGAIN!' misunderstandings than anything else. Also, we're talking 'no common sense'. I'm still occasionally seeing ads for a brand of mattress that I didn't buy, though I have been happily sleeping on the mattress I did buy (offline, in a store) for more than two years. Whenever I see that I click my tongue at the programmer who forgot to put in a time limit.

I guess my internet usage is of three kinds. One is "I need an answer to a specific question that I bet lots of people have had." As, for instance, how do I stop animated gifs in my browser, or how do I fix this stupid thing that's gone wrong with my husband's iPad, or, what does this drug my doctor just prescribed really do, and are there things I should know about it that he didn't have time to mention? That's always short-term. My interest ends when I get a good enough answer -- one that makes sense, and (especially in the case of anything medical) comes from more than one reasonably respectable website.

The second is online shopping. I do buy online sometimes, but much more often I'm only looking to see what the options are, what price range I should expect, and what things to look out for when making a purchase. Those searches usually include the word "reviews". Any site that throws popups at me when I'm in that mode has lost my business. I don't care what they have to say. I'm gone.

The last, though... that's me hanging out to talk with and listen to congenial people in a few forums and comment sections like this one. There are good places on the Internet. Many thanks to Ronni for creating one of them!

A new annoyance is going to a website, e.g. the online New York Times and having it preceded by an ad--in this case for the NY Times shop. And, commercials now precede the previews in a movie theater. All this in addition to the above complaints.

Also, the internet is watching YOU! I recently set up a trip to the Faroes, just off Iceland. I did it all online and in one day. I hadn't gone anywhere significant for several years, and after this task--air tickets, airbnb, etc., I've been bombarded by ads from travel sites and stores. I hate to think what would happen if I signed on to a porn site!

Is there an AdBlock for iPad?

Yes, the internet is watching YOU -- but getting it wrong most of the time! Even Amazon, with its deep knowledge of what you looked at vs. what you actually bought, gets it wrong a lot. The time to worry, I suppose, is when they start getting smart enough to post ads you DO want to see.

Netflix, I've found, can do a half-decent job of recommending other shows you might also want to see only if you actively train it.

Heh. Imagine what would happen if advertisers started letting you click a Like/Dislike button on their ads. They'd get such a flood of Dislikes! At the moment, they all seem to be having a spammers' mindset:: "Throw enough stuff at people enough times and even though they hate you they'll remember your brand and... [miracle happens here] ...and enough people will buy it to make the ad worthwhile."

Everybody's doing it. Nobody wins. But they're all scared that if they don't do it, they'll be the ones who lose. Eventually I suppose it will have to sort itself out.

Perhaps, er... by the time our youngest grandchildren reach our age?

I'm such an optimist about human nature!

I hate the constant interference of ads too. But has anyone got a better way to pay for content? There are a few sites that charge for a no ad experience, and I am wondering if that is a good way to go for me. I have decided that I am not taking those stupid "tests" that I see everywhere. They can't really be free--I suspect the sites are collecting something. And they are a waste of time.

ne of the reason I choose to subscribe to Crabbys blog..I mean Ronni's blog of course..is because it's just a simple blog I can read and enjoy..no animated gifs, no ads, nothing but good content. Thank you for that, Ronni.

I also realize that ads are the only way some blogs have of supporting themselves and I feel for them..but not to the point that I'l subscribe unless I really want to read the content regularly.

I've become a 'read only' subscriber to FaceBook and have noticed that without MY input I no longer receive updates on the families doings...which is fine with me..I now go directly to their FB pages, look at niece and nephews pictures, at my brothers and sisters doings-then I post directly to them via messenger. FB can jump in the lake as far as I'm concerned

Ronni..my first modem was a 300 baud dial up for my Commodore 64. I installed the phone lines for Portland's first computer show..what a trip that was..I asked "What do I need this thing for" to Steve Jobs-who told me I could put my recipes on the computer and "Someday you will be able to share recipes with other computer users." The man was speaking to a woman who was doing a technical job and the only what he could relate was to talk about exchanging recipes.

Well I now do look for recipes online-but only if the site is one minus all the garbage. I'm not interested in the Hollywood glitteratti so I seldom go to those obnoxious sites-which are the worse when it comes to blasting garbage into my brain.

Godpost Ronni..and thanks again for asking for help maintaining an ad free site...now you know who your friends are!

Elle in Beaverton

Installing an ad blocker in your browser can do wonders for your peace of mind and your enjoyment of the things you actually want to read.

One of my pet peeves (in addition to the ones listed) is when you click on a interesting headline and the page shifts in a nanosecond so that you now have clicked on an ad. It feels like a bait and switch.

I write for an on-line newspaper which started out pretty good. But several owners later, it's full of ads and my readers (fewer and fewer all the time) complain to me about the ads. I forward the ads to the only e-mail address I have but know it's not doing any good. I now save my more thoughtful reviews and images for my blog and do the simple stuff for the paper - few people stick around to read something good when they are bombarded by garbage. I keep on writing because as an arts reviewer, I get invited to all the press previews (free coffee) but it's a shame to see what could have been a decent paper destroyed by greed, indifference and lazy, stupid owners. Plus greed. Lots and lots of greed.

Ever try to download an app you might want to try.
Good luck finding the correct "DOWNLOAD" button on a page filled with erroneous download buttons.

I agree. How on earth can I have an opinion when I have not had a nanosecond to see the page?

Adblockers are essential. I run two on Firefox: Adguard and uBlock. Stops *most* of this. If a site messes with my ability to read it, it's dead to me.

Two more things that annoy me - the way Facebook is "attached" to everything, and the way you now have to have a log-in and password to buy anything. One example ties these together: About eight years ago I bought a couple of items from Argos (a UK store selling mostly household stuff. Just before Christmas last year I was searching for a particular present, looked at one on the Argos website, and stuck it in the basket so I could come back to it. Two days later I had an email, "Hi Rhoda, we see you've left something in your basket!" I thought this was a bit odd, because this is the third computer I've had since I bought those things eight years ago, but figured maybe Google Chrome had remembered it. But when I did decide to buy something from Argos, and asked for a password reminder, I was told there was no account associated with the email address I've had since 2004. So eight years ago I was able to simply buy something with my name and address and card details, and it was Facebook that had "told" the Argos website who I was. ARGH!

I recently left a"store" site that I had gone to to buy a product, because I couldn't find the fricking x to close a screen asking me to sign up for a newsletter I didn't want. They lost a large sale and permanently lost a customer.

I've pretty much retired my laptop. .I use my IPhone for everything. ..it's faster and perfect for my needs. I can quickly exit for any unwanted item.

I agree with everything you said. And, I will take this opportunity to add how much I enjoy the rantings of Crabby Old Woman, as I am one as well. Discovered your website recently and I love it. Rant away!

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