UPDATE: As Mark Smith notes in the Comments section below, and much to Crabby's chagrin after all her bitching, her own site has mandated a name and email address to leave a comment. She has remedied that and anonymous posts are now allowed. However, Crabby has made a nice group of new cyber-friends by responding to some of her commenters and she hopes readers who want to will leave their addresses.
The tune for today, friends and neighbors, is the Sins of the World Wide Web and you may sing along if you know what Crabby Old Lady is talking about. This is the verse about stealing time.
Crabby’s home has two sets of sliding glass doors. They are 20 years old and one set does not slide very well anymore. On Sunday, Crabby clicked over to homedepot.com to see what they have that might fix her problem. She navigated to the appropriate section, found an item on the list worth reading about further and clicked on it.
Instead of a page explaining the workings of sliding glass door rollers, Crabby got a long registration form asking many personal questions. Crabby was not ready to buy yet. Crabby didn’t even know yet if Home Depot had the information or the products she needs. But that didn’t bother Home Depot. No more product info for you, you silly old lady, until you give us your life story.
Crabby ignored their rude request and typed l-o-w-e-s into her browser’s Google tool bar, then clicked on over to that other home repair behemoth. Again, Crabby found the correct department and clicked on what appeared to be an item that might be useful in solving her problem. Lowe’s is not as snoopy before a purchase as Home Depot, but they did want a Zip Code.
Crabby sighed deeply. It is not possible to travel the Web today without being stopped at every Website border. Why, just two days ago, Crabby saw a note on a low-traffic blog (she checked; 0 links at Technorati) that said: “Please register to leave a comment.” Who do you think you are, you twit. You should beg for comments, thought Crabby as she closed the browser window without reading further.
Having a stroll around the Web these days is increasingly like driving a surburban neighborhood with speed bumps every 50 feet. Sign in here. Register to proceed. Tell us about yourself. Help us make this site more useful for you. Oh, right, and Crabby’s got this bridge you might be interested in buying…
Crabby can’t post on cyber-friends’ LiveJournal blogs with her name inserted because the software allows only LiveJournal users to do that. Anyone else must post as “anonymous” or remember to put their name in the body of the comment. What genius, Crabby asks, thought up that irritation? Do they believe it is in the best interests of their business and their users to make it hard to pursue the interplay that gives blogging a large measure of its satisfaction?
Crabby subscribes to a number of Google news alerts. Each day, a list of latest stories related to her keywords drops into her email box so she can easily follow her topics of interest. She likes that the alerts search newspapers all around the U.S. and the globe so she is as likely to find an interesting story from the Butler (PA) Eagle – not a paper she would otherwise seek out – as The Guardian, the South China Morning Post or the Washington Post or the New York Times.
As often as not, however, when Crabby clicks the link to a story she wants to read, she instead gets a registration page. All these small-town newspapers seem to subscribe to the same registration service, and except for differing logos at the top, the forms are identical. They don’t want just an ID and password. Oh, no. They want first name, last name, snailmail address, telephone number, email address and sundry questions about how often Crabby reads the paper, how she subscribes, who her favorite columnists are and what she had for breakfast.
It is not a fair exchange to require more information from a reader than reporters or newspapers are willing to give about themselves - just try to find an email address to complain. This is particularly so for information that takes longer to enter than it does to read the story that may not be worth the effort after all. Crabby may quote them and she always links to them when she does, but it is with the disheartening knowledge that her readers, if they follow the link, will be confronted with the same tedious form.
Crabby had stopped following links to small-town papers no matter how intriguing the headline and blurb in the alert email. Stopped, that is, until she was introduced to a new service created to thwart these nasty newspaper forms. Thanks to JD's New Media Musings, Crabby has found bugmenot.com and you should know about it too.
Type in the URL of the site that’s bugging you about personal information and it will serve up a plain vanilla ID and password someone else has posted for everyone’s use. If there isn’t one yet for the site that’s badgering you, it’s your turn to contribute. Make one up to use then and to share with others.
It’s not ideal. Surfing is still interrupted. But there’s some small pleasure to be had in not typing in the same information for the hundredth time and in foiling the idiots who gain nothing from their questions anyway because Crabby, as thousands of other Web denizens, always lies.
At Crabby's age, her most precious possession is time. Stealing that makes Crabby angry and you don't want to do that. There is a reason she is called Crabby.
Crabby's follow-up: Tilting At Windmills