What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. As I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, I couldn’t help but observe one of my fellow patients, a full gown adult woman, who had kicked off her shoes and was “sitting” with her feet all over the damned chair. Maybe it shouldn’t have filled me with absolute burning rage, but it did. I don’t appear out in the world very often so I can’t exactly pinpoint when adult humans completely lost the thread about how to behave in public, but I’m sure this small incident was just a symptom of a broader problem both with the individual and with the wider society. I’m trying to imagine a situation where I’d be comfortable taking off my shoes and putting my feet all over God knows what. Maybe I should just be happy she managed to change out of her pajamas before she left her house. I’d question whether I could set the bar for decent behavior any lower, but we all know there’s obviously no lower limit to what people will do if they have no personal sense of dignity, decorum nor propriety and there are no obvious consequences for shit behavior.

2. Spam texts. My phone is currently being overrun with spam text messages. I’m getting a dozen or more of them a day. Is it the Russians trying to do a bit of fundraising? Don’t know. Don’t care. The first person to devise a way to get it to stop and keep it stopped should get $1 Billion tax free and the chance to sleep with the damned prom queen.

3. Gutters. I have them cleaned religiously every year. I have leaf guards installed. I’ve even had the pitch corrected on a couple of sections. Somehow, they continue to clog on what I can only call a regular basis. Two or three times a year I can count on water shooting off the roof and cascading down the outside of the house. It happens almost invariable after spending hundreds of dollars doing spring prep and therefore has the added perk of washing out some significant section of fresh mulch. Short of hiring someone to clean the gutters as often as some people hire people to clean their homes, I’m quickly running out of good ideas to mitigate this particular joy of home ownership.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. At least twice this week, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought of something and noted that it would be a good blog topic. Yep. I’ll write about that tomorrow. Of course by morning the thought had completely evaporated without hope of recovery. All I’m left with is the ghost of an interesting idea and no ink on the page.  I’m going to need the ideas to start coming before that instant when consciousness blinks out of the night while I’ve still got a fighting chance of making some notes.

2. There’s a day next week I wasn’t scheduled to be in the office. Now I am. Not because of some bureaucratic fuckery, but because I opened my own stupid mouth and volunteered. After almost 19 years you’d think I would know better. Sure, it’s one of my few “high profile” projects, but there’s absolutely nothing I can add in person that I couldn’t have added in a video call. But there I’ll be, failing to strike a blow for the power or remote work. Let the record show I’m able to annoy myself just as much if not more than other people can manage to achieve.

3. I’ve been using my original Gmail address since back in the olden days when the service was “by invitation only.” Yes, I’m well aware of how much of my “personal information” Google is sweeping up in their net by providing this otherwise free service, but it has been an absolute workhorse over the years. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone to check my email and found it unavailable. I’ve been using the account for everything, for so long now, that it’s almost starting to choke on the not-quite-spam – or the random marketing emails sent by companies I legitimately do business with. They’re companies I don’t necessarily want caught in the spam filter because I like getting receipts, bills, and  the other bits of information I need,.. but getting 20-30 messages a day that are close to but not quite spam feels like way too much. I could probably spend a little while tightening up my filters, but I definitely wanted to bitch about it first.

Unmoved by the email…

It’s “Giving Tuesday.” What I’d usually be doing right now is sitting down and making donations to the four or five organizations I wanted to throw my support behind this year – Usually it’s some combination of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, the SPCA in Maryland and Delaware, the Cecil County Animal Services office, and BARCS in Baltimore.

What I am doing right now instead of that is sitting here looking at 45 emails asking for money from every organization I’ve ever donated to and several that I haven’t. A number of the emails are from the same couple of groups.

Look, I was planning to give to some of these guys today anyway, but right now I’m throughly agitated by the amount of pointless spam they’ve launched at me. Some might say that’s a petty reason for withholding donations. That’s fine. Call me petty. I don’t need to see an email from some of them every 60-75 minutes to know they’re doing good work.

So instead of this media blitz opening my wallet, all they’ve managed to do is make sure mine stays shut today. Maybe I’ll swing back to them in a few days. Maybe I won’t. That’s going to depend entirely on how many more emails they dump into my box over the next week or so. The couple who spam me least are fairly likely to win the day.

For the love of all things good and right please help these folks with better marketing ideas than “hey, let’s send out a shit ton of email?”

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The 80/20 rule. The reward for good work is more work. The reward for bad work is less work. Other than a sense of personal satisfaction of doing a job well, there’s damned little incentive to do top notch work in an environment that doesn’t really reward anything above the baseline or punish anything below the baseline. Things just slide along while everyone hopes equilibrium is maintained and no one makes too many waves. Meanwhile we’ll just keep throwing stuff at those that can instead of demanding performance from those who should.

2. Puppy energy. Folding a new dog into the routine is has been challenging – probably in large part because the resident dog is old and happy to spend most of her day sleeping. By contrast, the now 7-month old pup, is still full of teenaged asshole dog energy and requires constant oversight. It’s no so bad on the days when I’m home with ample time to wear his fuzzy little ass, but God help us on the days when I’m working and he gets to rest up. We were all a decade younger the last time there was a puppy in the house. I don’t remember being better rested at 30 than I am at 40, but maybe I was. Who knows. Maybe I was even energetic myself way back when. Somehow I doubt that. Jorah is going to be a fantastic dog… just as soon as I get him through the stage where he’s a total pain in the ass.

3. The FCC. The FCC has spent decades chasing “crude and rude” broadcasters across the airwaves – levying fines and trying to make sure all the poor sensitive souls don’t accidentally get offended by something. If the honorable commissioners of the FCC want to do something even remotely beneficial to actual people, they’d dragoon the Special Operations Command into hunting down and killingly the people responsible for spam and scam cell phone calls and text messages. Slap a bounty on the scammers heads and pay out dead or alive for every one drug across the threshold of their glass and steal headquarters building lobby. That’s the kind of proactive service I want to see them providing instead of page after page of tips on how to not get scammed.

Reply all…

If you work in a giant bureaucracy for any amount of time at all, sooner rather than later you’re going to receive a mass email blasted out to the entire workforce with information that is of dubious value to more that five or six people. When that happens, what I’m going to need you to do is resist the temptation to click that ever-so tempting reply-to-all button and blast back a request to be removed from the distribution. You don’t want to be that guy.

You don’t want to be that guy because as annoying as getting one over the world email is, getting the second one within ten seconds is what really triggers the most unfortunately string of events. It’s this second email that gives people permission to respond themselves demanding to be removed from this mythical distribution list. Before you know it, because you couldn’t keep your filthy booger picker off the reply all button, there are dozens or hundreds of response generated that we all then have to delete.

Whatever smartass comment you’ve included in the 124th response to this problematic email just isn’t funny. In fact it should be a completely valid reason for your colleagues to hunt you down and beat you bloody with a three-hole punch.

Please. I’m begging you with tears in my eyes, don’t reply all unless you personally know everyone on the reply line and honestly believe you have something of merit to add to the conversation. If those conditions aren’t met, just operate from the assumption that what you’re about to send is spam at best and your own little denial of service attack at worst.

On the other hand, it lets me know that 124 people I have no need to ever talk to in the future. Their rapidity to reply all and get their two cents in tells me everything I need to know about them as human beings.

The spamming of WordPress…

I’ve been using WordPress as my blog platform since 2010. It’s been a good, feature-rich home that is about as straightforward to use as anyone could reasonably expect. There have been a few hiccups along the way, but overall it’s the kind of happy technology that just works and lets itself fade into the background so you can focus on content instead of the nuts and bolts of how the website itself functions. I’m just not geek enough anymore to be particularly interested in that side of running things.

The last couple of weeks, though, I’ve found myself inundated by an unexpected and unprecedented amount of spam message traffic making its way past the WordPress filters. Each and every post on jeffreytharp.com seems to generated a responding barrage of dozens of likes and follows from click bait sites filled with brilliant marketing strategies and tips for monetizing your page. For the purposes of my writing here, each and every one of them is both pointless and annoying – spam messages in their most pure form.

Until now, the filters provided by WordPress were sufficient to hold this onslaught of wasted electrons at bay. Since that is true no longer, I’m trying to manually enforce some kind of discipline on what makes it through to my inbox. That being the case, I’ve had to impose rather draconian restrictions on what notifications I’m receiving from WordPress. The free and easy days of letting everything flow through to my inbox and sorting through one or two messages a day seem to be over.

So look, if you are trying to reach me through the blog for some reason, chances are I haven’t seen your message. Feel free to leave a comment, though, because for the moment I am seeing those notifications without undue amounts of spam getting in the way. It feels like there should be a better way to manage this sort of thing but it’s the best I was able to implement on short notice. Frankly, though, any option that stops the flow of this junk to my inbox is more than welcome so I don’t see any major changes in the foreseeable future.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Infinite Capacity. There’s an decade old Dilbert comic in which he says “I have infinite capacity to do more work as long as you don’t mind that my quality approaches zero.” Like Dilbert, my capacity to do work is infinite, my time however is not. I’ve got eight hours a day, five days a week. No matter how fine you slice and dice the list of things to do, I’ll never get more than 40 hours worth of work done… and while my capacity to work may be infinite, my capacity to give a shit surely has a far more limited range.

2. Email. I think it may be time to switch email addresses. My venerable old gmail address is currently swamped with messages from my vet, receipts from online orders, the NRA, Starbucks, my health insurer, Outback Steakhouse, and the dozen or so blogs I follow on a daily basis. It’s possible that I’ve hit the point where I might actually be trying to take in too much information… and that’s sort of new territory for a guy who would generally be happy enough jacking into the internet Matrix style with a port in the back of his head. Somehow I’m going to have to cull the thundering herd of email that lands in my inbox demanding attention, because right now, I’m studiously ignoring it even as the counter keeps ticking upwards. That’s probably not an indication of a healthy, working information management plan.

3. Change. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it just makes sense. Sometimes, however, it’s done for no apparent reason or simply to change for the sake of change. That’s stupid. Especially when what you’re doing already works and what you want to do is untried. There are plenty of ways to get your feet wet that don’t include jumping head first into the barrel and hoping for the best. But hey. I’m just a guy sitting here watching the ebb and flow and pondering how much easier life got when I stopped worrying about making rank.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Color commentary. I hate people who feel the need to share at every opportunity… and nothing fills me with more homicidal rage than listening to a nonstop stream of running commentary about how the day is going from a few desks away. This didn’t work. That didn’t work. I just had to reboot for the 100th time. AnnoyingYes, look, we all know the network is in a bit of a snit. Most people are experiencing the same issues… and rest assured, those few who aren’t experiencing your issues are having issues of their own. In times of crisis, my best advice is to sit down, STFU, and try not to aggravate the ever-loving hell out of those around you. John Madden’s commentary may have been obnoxious, but at least that meathead came with a mute button.

2. Spam (the electronic kind, not the gelatinous potted meat or the song). If you’re a business and you have my email address – my real address and not a junk account I set up to catch wayward marketers – you already have products or services that I like and use on a regular basis. The best way in all the world to convince me to never purchase anything from your business ever again is to flood my inbox with “helpful” email. I’m already a customer. I don’t need to be reminded. When I need a refill, a reorder, or a new product, I know where to find you… and even if I forget, there’s a better than average chance Google will be able to track you down.

3. Sleep. Every now and then I convince myself that I’ll get along perfectly fine on four hours of sleep. Usually those occasions revolve not being in a good place to stop reading or wanting to “catch the end” of some 50 year old move I’ve seen dozens of times already. Very rarely they’re the result of just plain old not being able to fall asleep on schedule. Regardless of the cause, the result is always the same – by 2:30 the next afternoon, I’m poring coffee down my throat in Big Gulp sized quantities and still barely manage to keep my head from slamming into the keyboard. I’ve grudgingly accepted that sleep is an inconvenient necessity. I think in fairness sleep should concede to me at least one day a week where I can get less than five hours of it and still feel mostly like a human being.

The great leveler…

Email, like death, is one of life’s great levelers. From the high and the mighty down to the lowest of the low, we all get entirely too much email. Shoving electrons through the network make it so easy to moving information from here to there that most of us never stop to ask if the people on the receiving end actually need the information we’re pushing at them. Because the most important thing the average bureaucrat does on a daily basis is cover his or her ass, we end up in a seemingly endless do-loop of email and instant messages.

The ability to generate an instant distribution list is possibly the worst thing to ever happen to the average office drone… because let’s face it, if the email is addressed “To” more than one or two people, no one is going to take on the individual responsibility of answering it. If you address it to 20 people, no one is even going to bother reading it at all. The only thing four pages of addressees gets you is the merciless ridicule of your colleagues and the tears of a God disappointed that you’ve used your free will for such douchebaggery.

I wish I was making this up, but four pages of recipients for a message that needs to go to three people is, politely put, a bit much. I’m the first to say that if something’s worth killing, it’s probably worth overkilling, but sheesh, even I have limits. I’m not saying an email addressed to +/-700 people makes you look like an asshat; I’m saying that by actually sending that email out into the world you are, in fact, an asshat. It’s a fine distinction, but an important one… kind of like the distinction between covering your ass and becoming an object of loathsome contempt.

Closing the door on June (2007)…

Well, with this morning’s update from the archive, we can finally close the door on June 2007. I have to admit, there’s at least one pretty good rant in there. It’s always reassuring to find that my opinions about people and life haven’t really changed that much in the last six years. I’m a big fan of consistency and I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been nothing if not consistant over the intervening years. Seriously, if I’d have posted it as “new,” I’m pretty sure no one reading would know the difference. Maybe my style has improved slightly with lots and lots of practice, but other than that, the sentiment is right on target.

I did notice that one of the archive updates slipped through into my “regular” feed and is showing up on Facebook and Twitter. I usually try to avoid that so you’re not getting spammed with six “new post” notices every Sunday morning, but in this case, I think I’ll let it stand. If you have any love for Johnny Cash, the Army, America, or some combination of the three, it’s worth a watch. And with that, I now return you to your previously scheduled Sunday activities already in progress.