Word Games

July 31, 2017 – Do people still play Words with Friends?

The popular word game that ripped off Scrabble disappeared in my circles, and I can’t say that I miss it. Scrabble is the original game that holds my loyalty and has stood the test of time.

Other classic word games not likely to disappear soon include crossword puzzles and cryptograms. These games have fed my love of words and helped me with my writing skills, so I partake whenever I get the chance. I’m not the best with crosswords; I am much better with cryptograms, and can challenge the best of them.

Last night I discovered another word game on Facebook that I thought was fun. Granted, it was 4 a.m. and in the battle with insomnia, it kept me occupied until I felt drowsy enough give sleep another try. Word Connect has a simple concept. When letters appear on screen, you build various word combinations and earn coins that allow you to continue to play. It’s a great way to keep your brain active and it’s more challenging than you might think.

Player feedback has been positive so far, earning 4.6 out of five stars. Perhaps it won’t be around as long as Scrabble or crosswords and cryptograms, but for now, it’s an entertaining way to spend your time.

Word Connect is a product of Zentertain. It’s available on Facebook, and as an app on Google Play, Android and the iTunes store.

Dear Facebook Friend:

political humorMarch 18, 2016 – I’m not sure I can make it through the 2016 presidential election without deleting you from my friends’ list. You may not think it’s a big deal to be deleted, but I do. Once the election is over, I will miss you!

Perhaps you believe you are doing civic duty by spewing forth your political opinions on Facebook, hoping to change the error of my ways and  set me on the right path. However, it’s impolite to bombard me with your opinions and then react like a spoiled child if I disagree with you.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. I respect yours, even though I may not agree with it. I’m proud to live in a country with freedom of speech, and I enjoy a good political debate now and then. However, when you post your opinions and then defend them with negativity, it’s TOO much. Everyone on your friends’ list knows how you feel by now, and you’ve turned my guilty pleasure of social media lurking into a negative experience.

Politics is an ugly business, and one with results that only about half of us are happy with at any given time. It works that way. In my opinion, the better candidate doesn’t always win, but we usually get the one we deserve – not necessarily the one we need!

Let’s forego the political labels we love to pin on ourselves and show respect to each other, even when we disagree. It’s what divides us and makes us intolerant. I don’t think we can afford any more of that right now.

Sincerely,

Your Facebook friend, Jane

The new PI in town

private_investigationJune 10, 2013 – Will the privacy rights of American citizens eventually disappear altogether?

More and more that seems to be our reality, with the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collecting data from tens of thousands of calls from the communication giants such as Verizon and AT&T.

This situation is far from new; it began after 9/11 and was first reported in 2006, yet many Americans don’t seem to care that they are under surveillance. We’re already used to street cameras recording activity in high crime areas, and getting thoroughly examined in airport security lines all in the name of safety. I suppose worrying about how we will retire or finding a job that pays the bills is enough to stress over right now.

Other countries have maintained higher security standards than the U.S. for years, but Americans always felt safe in our cocoon. Until 9/11, that is. We were targeted, we got hit, and we had to make changes so it wouldn’t happen again. All because crime is running rampant in our own streets, and there are groups here and around the world out to kill as many people as possible in the name of religion.

The privacy issue makes me feel torn. On one hand, the government believes it is best for our national security. We want to feel safe and depend on them to keep us out of danger. On the other hand, it makes me worry. How far will they go? This kind of power in the wrong hands is frightening.

Yet the government isn’t even the scariest threat to our freedom. In many ways, we are our own worst enemies, and how we use technology adds to the problem. It is the age of cell phone photos and videos that expose the activities of average citizens. We have Google glass, 3D printers, Facebook and other social media, and the latest gadget popping up in the technology field, whatever it is. Surely, it will be our eventual downfall. With technology advancing so quickly, common people can become as dangerous as criminals, or their own private investigators.

It’s almost as if we don’t value our privacy, so why does this matter. We overhear and sometimes participate in private conversations on cell phones while sitting next to strangers on trains and buses, while standing in busy checkout lines, and walking down the street. In addition, we share intimate secrets of our lives on Facebook and other social media sites without a second thought. It’s not that much different from the type of information the NSA gathers.

Facebook is often targeted for possible violations of privacy issues, yet millions (including me) still use it. Facebook may think they’re being clever about privacy, but they know what you do when you leave the site; how else would they determine I was shopping for handbags on Macys.com last night? I realize it’s the same with search engines like Google, but it seems more prominent on Facebook. When I logged on this morning, for example, there were plenty of ads for Macy’s handbags nicely framing my news feed. They also resort to trickery to get you to “like” certain ads. For example, they may disguise a photo of a beautiful sunset as something you should “like”, but it is actually a hidden ad for Wal-Mart or another retailer. It’s not surprising that their demise is predicted for a few years down the road.

What is surprising is that the other night my news feed contained a picture of a man on a train, most likely taken by a cell phone user and without his knowledge. The caption read: “If this is your husband, I have just endured a two-hour train ride from Philadelphia listening to this loser and his friends bragging about their affairs and how their wives are too stupid to catch on. Please repost.” Now, that’s one interesting way to expose a cheater. Is the woman who posted this a hero for calling out a cheater, or someone who should have respected the privacy of this man and the people on the train, even if he didn’t?

Part of me wants to applaud the woman who posted it; she is a friend of my cousin, and that is how I saw the post, but I don’t know her. And I thought about sharing it. But what if it’s not true? What if he made it up just to impress his friends? That makes him an idiot, but not necessarily a cheater. And what if this post embarrasses his wife? Perhaps she already knows — most spouses do unless they don’t care — and doesn’t want to make this public knowledge.

Last I checked that post had over 238,000 shares. It’s simply one more example that our right to privacy – quite possibly due to our own foolish actions – is disappearing.

Dear social media friends:

November 7, 2012 – Yay! I did it. I made it through Election 2012 without losing my mind.

Even though many of you believed it was your obligation to spew forth your political opinions at a rapid pace on Facebook every ten minutes, I was able to take a deep breath let it go. And I know you weren’t purposely trying to drive me batty, but you did.

Don’t get me wrong. I whole heartedly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I respect your opinion, as well, even though I may not agree with it. And I’m proud to live in a country with freedom of speech. But it was all TOO much.

Not only did I have to put up with negative political ads on radio and television, but many of you had to turn my guilty pleasure of social media lurking a negative experience, too. Perhaps you believed you were only doing your civic duty, but didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s impolite to jam your political (and religious) opinions down other people’s throats?

Thankfully, it’s over, and I’m happy to report that I still like you. It’s just a shame that only half of you are happy with the results of the presidential election, but unfortunately that’s the way the cookie crumbles in the world of politics. The better candidate doesn’t always win, and we usually get the one we deserve.

Starting today, let’s focus on something really important. Let’s forego the republican and democrat labels we all love to pin on ourselves, the very ones that only seem to separate us more even more while breeding hatred, and join together as Americans. This country, and the world, really needs that right now.

Sincerely,

Your Facebook friend Jane

P.S. This is not an endorsement for any candidate or an indication that I am happy with the results. I am just glad it is over.

Is Facebook resorting to trickery?

September 28, 2012 – While scrolling through my news feed on Facebook yesterday, I noticed something surprising about some of my friends.

No, it wasn’t their political views, although they can completely shock me and make me wish this election was history.

It was this little tidbit: they “like” Walmart.

The revelation may not seem odd, but knowing these people as I do, and knowing that they don’t shop at Walmart in protest of their poor treatment of employees, and use of child labor in China, I knew it wasn’t true. They would never willingly say they “like” Walmart.

That’s when I noticed an image of a beat up tennis ball chewed by a dog that lay in the background that was captioned, “Like if you will miss summer”. I realized the image itself is what they probably liked. And then I began to wonder if it was actually a misleading Walmart ad in disguise?

More and more, I’ve noticed friends “liking” retail sponsors, like Amazon.com, Duracell batteries, Macys, and more. There’s nothing wrong with liking a retail store or product, it just doesn’t strike me as something I would go out of my way to do. Could those companies be deceiving us too, drawing us in with something that we “like” and hiding behind the scenes until it becomes part of the news feed?

This may be common practice, and one that I am late discovering, but if it is what is happening, it is deceptive.

I‘ve also noticed that by downloading an updated Facebook app on my iPhone, all of my friends and their information were added as contacts. I honestly don’t remember approving that – that many contacts are way too much to page through. It does concern me, though that Facebook gave me the cell phone numbers of people I only know casually through a social media platform.

Like millions of others, I have a Facebook page, and I post on the rare occasion. I’ve always been more of a lurker. However, the more I learn about their practices, the more leery I become. I never worried about privacy issues before because I thought I was safe; I wouldn’t put anything on Facebook that would compromise me. But now they have my attention.

With Facebook making headlines about their privacy issues, and their stock not living up to expectations, could we be witnessing the beginning of the end for the social media giant?

E-mail gets a reprieve

May 11, 2012 – Communicating via text and instant message through cell phones and social media outlets such as Facebook seems to become more popular each day.

Sort of makes you believe that e-mail is a dying technology.

I know you’ve heard the theory before. Having been around for 40 plus years, e-mail is outdated, dying a slow painful death, and is waiting to be replaced by social media or whatever new and successful technology comes down the pike.

Many of my friends tell me they’re less inclined to check e-mail and appreciate text messages sent to their cell phones instead. And more and more of my co-workers are opting to use Office Communicator, an instant messaging tool, to avoid the e-mail clutter.

Aside from spam, which I do a good job of avoiding, I like e-mail and still use it as a primary communication tool for personal and professional messages. I’m prone to think of sending an e-mail instead of using that impossibly small QWERTY keyboard on my cell phone. And by trade, I’m a corporate communicator who freely sends business updates, announcements and executive messages to the e-mail boxes of my co-workers.

So, you can imagine my delight when I read a recent report that claims e-mail is still the main driver when it comes to reaching people, beating out Facebook and texting – at least when it comes to online shopping. The report comes from Exact Target, an Indianapolis-based leader in e-mail marketing. They claim that about 66 percent of Americans who routinely go online have purchased items either directly through e-mail or because they found a product or service via e-mail.

It’s nice to know I’m not quite the dinosaur I thought I was, although I’ve never – not once — purchased something because of an e-mail, and I am an online shopper. Clearly, I see these survey results at face value, and choose to believe they were not skewed in any way because they were ordered by a company specializing in reaching customers through they very method they promote — e-mail.

For now it seems e-mail has received a last minute call from the governor. If it’s replaced by new technology down the road – and chances are good that it will in our ever-changing technological world – I will adapt.

Until then, I will persist and stay in my comfort zone.