8.01.2014

When clickbait isn't even interesting at all

Ohhhh, Who What Wear. You tried.

Let me start this post by saying: I absolutely love Who What Wear. I've even applied to work there a few times. But they're being sucked into the world of clickbait and it's making me so sad.

Let's talk about an article I saw yesterday.

This article, called "This genius fitting room trick will change how you shop," (which like, OMG, drowning in clickbait) tells us the trick to avoiding buyer's remorse is to answer these three questions in the fitting room:

1. Does this truly fit me?
2. Can (and will) I pair this with at least three other items in my closet?
3. Am I financially able to purchase this?

Now, first of all, this is just the normal thought process everyone should have before they buy clothes anyway, so there's nothing about this that is groundbreaking or "genius."

But I digress. Toward the bottom, it says:

"Scroll down for 10 pieces everyone can say a resounding yes to!"

Now, I get that they're likely making the majority of their money from affiliate sales, which is why they have to include ten links to different items of clothing in every single post, even when the post doesn't lend itself to it, like in this case. I get it. But let's try to not be completely unhelpful, yes?

The problem here is that after teaching us that three-part question, one of which is basically, "Can I afford this?" they choose to show multiple pieces that cost more than $500 and spin them as pieces "everyone" will be able to answer yes to. This implies "everyone" should be able to answer those three questions with a yes, right?

In case Who What Wear's editors are so far out of touch with reality that they actually believe this, let me just clear something up for you: The vast majority of people can't afford that. We can't afford the $380 ring, we can't afford the $540 dress, we can't afford the $845 backpack, we can't afford the $258 blouse. We can't afford it in a tree, we can't afford it by the sea.

So if you're going to clickbait-ify your headline, at least make your article helpful and relevant enough that I won't be insulted by it.

7.31.2014

StumbleUpon is sexist

I was signing up for StumbleUpon for a thing at work the other day. I've belonged to that website for a long time personally, and honestly don't remember the signup process at all, but I was paying a little more attention this time and noticed something that really annoyed me. 

In case you don't know, StumbleUpon is a website to use when you're bored and want to explore the internet. You tell it what you like, click stumble, and it takes you to a site it thinks you'll like. You can click thumbs up or thumbs down and the site learns what you like based on how you rate sites.

During signup, they have you select at least five interests so the site knows what to show you. The site has more than 500 interests you can select to follow, but during signup, they only show you 60. And that's fine, just show the top 60 or whatever, but I do think it's a little weird that they don't let you type in interests or even scroll through all of them if you want to. You can, of course, add interests later, but if someone wants to follow more interests during the signup process, why wouldn't you let them?

Okay. So during signup, they also make you choose a gender. The only options are the binary ones -- male and female. I chose female and continued. This is when I came to the interests page. It looked like this:
So I'm looking for a few specific categories, because it's work-related. Technology, computers, internet ... none. I'm wondering why in the world technology isn't an option, at least. I mean, the other ones are maybe a little too specific to be in the top 60 interests. Maybe. 

Then I start looking into it a little further, and it strikes me that a lot of these interests are things that might be considered more stereotypically girly. Women's issues, jewelry, dancing, crafts, etc. I think about it a little more and realize there are some things I would certainly expect to be in the top 60 that aren't shown here, like sports and science.

So of course, I signed up for a fake account as a guy to see what happened, and here is that list:


The lists are as pictured, but just for funsies, let's see what doesn't overlap. (Note: I made these lists very unscientifically and only checked them once, so feel free to let me know if I missed something.)

Interests on the female list but not on the male list:
  • Alternative news
  • Bargains/Coupons
  • Beauty
  • Celebrities
  • Coffee
  • Culture/Ethnicity
  • Dancing
  • Dogs
  • Facebook
  • Family
  • Fashion
  • Fine arts
  • Health
  • Interior design
  • Jewelry
  • Literature
  • Nutrition
  • Painting
  • Pets
  • Photoshop
  • Puzzles
  • Quizzes
  • Relationships
  • Restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Weddings
  • Weight loss
  • Wine
  • Women's issues


Interests on the male list but not on the female list:
  • Action movies
  • American football
  • Ancient history
  • Astronomy
  • Babes
  • Beer
  • Cars
  • Cartoons
  • Cell phones
  • Chaos/complexity
  • Conspiracies
  • Electronic devices
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Extreme sports
  • Futurism
  • HipHop/rap
  • Internet
  • Ipod
  • Logic
  • Men's issues
  • Online games
  • Philosophy
  • Rock music
  • Science
  • Science fiction
  • Space exploration
  • Sports (general)
  • Survivalist
  • Technology
  • Video games
So once you get past your absolute indignation at the fact that these lists are the epitome of sexism (it took me about six minutes), let's talk about this rationally. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here in that they are probably just trying to give the people what they want. I'm sure these interests are based on what people of each gender have selected for themselves, on a large scale. But I still have a few problems with it.

First of all, even if these divisions were created based on what people were choosing at the time you made these lists, it has probably devolved by now into people just picking what's in front of them. So now you're looking at your numbers and women overwhelmingly aren't interested in the internet, but how do you know if that's necessarily the case? I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people, after signing up, never go back in to add other interests, mostly because a lot of people probably don't even know they can. So the people that sign up are stuck with what they're being shown, even though I'm sure tons of women are interested in the internet and rock music, and tons of men are probably interested in family and restaurants.

My further problem -- and this is the main one -- is that they don't give you the option to refresh the interests you're seeing, or dismiss options you aren't interested in, or search for the options you want to see. A simple, "Don't see what you're looking for?" option that did any of those three things would be great. What if I'm absolutely not interested in any of the 60 options you're showing me?

I'm also very bothered by the binary options on the signup process. There's not even a "decline to state" option or anything. Like you absolutely have to pick either male or female, even if you don't identify as either of those option or if you just don't feel like a website needs to know. I'll give them this: I also signed up without specifying a gender (I just left it blank) and it did work. Though that's good, it wasn't obvious that this was an option, which I think is problematic. (By the way, it gave me a mashup of both of the original lists when I didn't specify. For instance, the list included Babes, Beer and Women's issues.)

Thank goodness I'm not the first person to notice this. I googled a bit and found that a couple of people have written about it before. The author of that second link, Jo Birdie, mentions that the categories aren't exactly the same each time. So someone could sign up twice as a male and still get slightly different categories. But I bet they never include shopping.

7.30.2014

Businesses that won't let you flush tampons

Warning: Don't read any further if you're not comfortable with some really specific tampon talk.

This is a thing that has bothered me for quite some time, but I've never thought to blog about it before because it's a topic that is generally considered somewhat icky. But I got mad enough about it the other day to take a picture, and having the picture in my phone has reminded me how mad it makes me, so I'm going for it.

If you are a business with a restroom that isn't able to accommodate tampons being flushed down the toilet, you are RUDE.

Ready? Let's talk about it.

First of all, let's go over the basics of tampons for anyone who doesn't know the details about them, yet still decided to read this post. Tampons are pretty much just concentrated wads of cotton with a string hanging out of them. Some people who have periods use them to soak up the blood from said period. They have to be changed every six to eight hours or so, or sometimes more frequently if the person is bleeding heavily.

Okay, have we got that? Let's move on.

Standard operating procedure for using tampons is as follows: You open the (paper or plastic) wrapper and throw the wrapper away. You are then left with the (paper or plastic) applicator, which has the tampon inside. You insert the tampon. You then wrap the applicator in toilet paper and throw it away. Now, if you already had a tampon in before you inserted this one, that changes things a little in that you first have to remove the original tampon before inserting the new one. Standard operating procedure for that is: Pull the tampon out by its string and drop it into the toilet.

So if you're counting, the only thing you actually put into the toilet is your used tampon. Everything else is thrown in the garbage. (By the way, this is why you are a monster if you don't have a trash can in your bathroom.) I have heard of people flushing the paper applicators, but I've never done it myself, and I normally use the plastic ones, so I don't know.

Okay. Now that all that is said: IT IS SO RUDE to make people throw away their bloody, used tampons instead of flushing them.

Now, when I explained this to Matt, he asked, "Wait, someone has actually asked you to do that?"

Why yes, Matthew. And yes, everyone else probably also asking that question. There are businesses and establishments that have signs up lamely apologizing for having an old septic system or whatever and asking if we could please avoid flushing "feminine products," thank you very much.

For instance:

Hi. Your cutesy script font at the bottom is not making your rude all-caps message seem any nicer, so please stop trying.

Moving on, though, let's talk about the types of places I've seen these. The one that stands out most in my mind is the dorm I was in my senior year of college. Yakeley is one of the older dorms on MSU's campus, and the poor old system couldn't handle tampons. The powers that be were constantly on our cases about flushing tampons. I remember one email (I wish I still had it!) that talked about how terrible it had gotten and how the janitor had to snake the drain and pulled out like a hundred tampons.

And you know, ew, yes, and I'm sorry he had to go through that, but you are a residence hall for college-age women. It is rude to expect them not to flush tampons. Update your system.

The picture above was taken at the Fonda theatre in Hollywood last week. You are a business that was recently renovated. Update your system.

The only one I kind of understand was the Blue Dress Barn, a wedding venue I went to recently that is quite literally a barn. But even then it's like, you host weddings and events all the time, full of women needing to use the restroom. Update your system.

These are three examples, but this has happened countless times in my life.

Now that we're past all that, let's talk about why this is unacceptable and rude. As we discussed above, you generally just pull tampons out by their string and drop them right into the toilet. This is normal. This is what people are used to, so it's basically muscle memory.

Here is the real purpose of this post, because if this was not the case, not flushing wouldn't be an issue: The process of not flushing a tampon is gross and terrible. You are pulling a blood-soaked wad of cotton out of your body and trying not to let it touch anything while you awkwardly wrap it in enough toilet paper that it won't soak through. This is in addition to the fact that you're either holding a dress up or having your legs restricted by half-down pants (or, you know, both). It is an awkward, terrible experience that we shouldn't have to deal with.

There are people who don't know that these signs are in reference to actual tampons and think it's just a polite reminder not to flush pads and applicators. They are sadly mistaken. In fact, I was one of those people until the dorm situation, but after that and how specific they were, I now know what they meant. There are also some people who completely ignore these signs and just flush anyway. I am jealous of those people. I'm such a rule-follower and natural worrier that I pretty much can't flush a tampon if I'm being specifically instructed not to. What if the toilet overflows? (Worst thing ever!) What if it seriously just doesn't flush and I have to fish it out? (So gross!)

So I'll keep throwing away my tampons instead of flushing them if you ask me to, but I'm definitely going to think less of you for it.

6.18.2014

Oh yeah, that's a known problem.

Let me tell you about some terrible customer service I received recently.

Neither of our Sallie Mae accounts have been updating in Mint for a few days. I figure because it's both of them it's probably an issue with Sallie Mae in general and not my account, but I decide to check anyway because I really like for everything to be up to date.

I check the Mint forums to see if it's a known problem. There's no mention of it there.

Since I'm pretty sure it's not a specific-to-me problem, I don't want to fill out a contact form, but I also don't want to just let it die, because I want my accounts updated! So I go to Twitter. Mint has an entire Twitter account specifically for support. It's called, surprisingly enough, Mint Support. (@mintsupport)

I scroll through Mint Support's recent tweets and don't see anything, so then I go check the main account and don't see anything there.

So I decide to tweet at Mint Support. I ask, "Is there a known problem with Sallie Mae accounts right now? I have two different Sallie Mae accounts, neither has updated in 4 days." (I fixed a couple of things I had to abbreviate in the original tweet, so it's not an exact quote.)

I don't hear anything for 22 hours. Now, that's not thaaaaat long, but it's longer than it should take to answer a very simple yes or no question.

So I follow up. In a linked tweet, I ask, "Anything?" and cc the main Mint account.

Twenty minutes later -- yes, twenty minutes, so they definitely should have been able to answer my first tweet in less than 22 hours -- I get a response. And awesome, it's a completely unhelpful one. They answered, "Pls complete our Contact Mint form so our support team can take a look: [URL] Thx!"

Okay, a couple of things here.

First of all, I asked a yes or no question. Answer yes or no. "Is there a known problem?" is one of the easiest things to answer because it requires basically zero research. It's either a problem you know about or it's not. So why can't you include that in your answer?

Secondly, because they were telling me to fill out a form, I assume it's not a known problem. I think that should have been a safe assumption, because if it had been a known problem, they could have just said yes. I mean, right?

Well, no.

I go on and fill out the form because, as I mentioned, I'm assuming from their answer that it isn't a known problem and is, therefore, a problem with my account.

About a day later, I get an email saying "Yeah, that's a known problem," and get this -- directing me (a little condescendingly) to the forum. YUP. The forum. The first place I checked.

Oh, okay. Thanks for letting me know.

4.30.2014

The Tinashé concert that never was

I was inadvertently taken on an emotional journey this morning, and I want you guys to experience it with me.

I use a website called Songkick to track music artists I want to see live. The site sends you an email when an artist you like has a show in your area.

So I got an email today that Tinashé was playing in West Hollywood next week and I was SO PUMPED. Matt and I have loved Tinashé for years and he's never toured anywhere near us.

This is the email I received.
So I obviously click the "Buy tickets" button right away, to see how much the concert costs.

As it loads (the internet at work is a little slow) I am getting more and more excited. We've wanted to see him for so long, and he's so great and pleasant and still relatively unknown, so there probably won't even be that much of a crowd, and it's just going to be the BEST CONCERT EVER. (Clearly, I was a little too excited.)

So the page finally loads.
This is the page on Songkick telling me Tinashé is going to be in town.
I click the button at the bottom to buy tickets through Ticketweb, getting more excited by the second, and then this is what comes up:
This is the actual event page through the ticketing website.
In case you can't tell, that's not the Tinashé we wanted. That's Tinashe, with no accent mark, the female R&B / urban soul vocalist (apparently) that sort of shares a name with the one we like.

"Sad" is a feeling I felt, but it's not really a strong enough word.

The worst part is that this is absolutely nobody's fault. Songkick is an automated service that picks up event listings from ticketing websites. "Tinashé" and "Tinashe" are obviously close enough to be considered a match most of the time, and Songkick didn't differentiate between them.

I still love Songkick, I still love Tinashé and I am completely ambivalent about Tinashe. But I'm not paying any money to go see her. Not even when the tickets are only $10.

2.18.2014

People who can't commit to a 30-minute game

This blog post is going to be about video games, so buckle up.

I've been playing League of Legends lately, so I'm starting to get a little insight into #gamerprobz. Now, before I say anything, please note that I am neither good at nor very knowledgeable about gaming in general or League of Legends specifically.

If you don't know anything about League of Legends, here is all you need to know for the purposes of this post. Games can last anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour, but the average seems to be around 30-45 minutes. That, however, is only the game itself. It can also take five minutes or so to set up your team and load into the game.

Furthermore, the team aspect is very important. There are a few different game styles, but the most popular one is a 10-player game, with two teams of five. Your team is very much counting on you and when a team is down a player, it becomes significantly more difficult for that team to win. 

So basically, unless you have an hour or so to commit, you shouldn't be starting a game of League of Legends, because if you back out before the game is over, you greatly hurt your team's chances of winning.

So, in League, you can chat with the other players inside the game. Every once in a while, someone will chat, "BRB," go back to base and go AWOL for a few minutes. This is pretty rude, because any sort of absence can put your lane or your whole team behind. But even better, sometimes people will share the reason they need to be gone, and goodness gracious, people leave for the dumbest reasons!

Let's look at a few of them.

Last night, in a game Matt was playing, someone said, "BRB, I have to go take my medication." Okay. Obviously, if there's some sort of medical emergency, like my friend whose fiancee had to quit a game because of kidney stones, that's fine, and people will be perfectly reasonable about it. But if it's a normal, routine medicine, either take it before or after the game or, if it needs to be taken right on time, check the clock and don't start a game that you might still be in when it becomes time to take your medicine!

Parents are another frequent reason for people quitting. As with most video games, a lot of people who play this game are pretty young and therefore live with their parents. Sometimes they have to quit because their mom is calling them for dinner. Obviously, the solution to this is to check with her beforehand to see when dinner is going to be, then not start a game within an hour of that time.

A friend of mine played with someone whose dad came into his room during the game and unplugged his computer. I would assume the kid wasn't supposed to be playing, because most reasonable parents don't shut down their children's computers with zero warning. So the solution here is to not play a game when you've been explicitly told not to by the person or people in charge of you.

I also heard from some friends who played with people who left for slightly more legitimate reasons, among them house fires and attacking pets. Of course, they could have been making it up or exaggerating, but I almost feel like this is a situation where that's a little better than the truth.

The moral of the story is this: Don't start a cooperative team game if you can't dedicate the necessary amount of time to it. It's rude, and everyone hates you.
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