You may have difficulty accessing this site over the past couple of days due to a move to a new server. There will be a couple more short down times for software upgrades. Back to normal by the weekend.
And, as long as we’re talking about policies, here’s the latest version of my long-standing Blog Policies.
After five years of the same look, I’m finally updating this blog. The new appearance is the most obvious change, but I’m also gradually updating some of the static pages as well.
For several years now, I have linked my blog posts to Facebook. I’ve decided to end that arrangement.
I’m not doing this because Facebook helped Cambridge Analytica meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. There is nothing new in that ongoing news story. We have long known that Facebook steals information about us and uses that information to make money. We have long known that as a corporation, Facebook has no moral scruples; if corporations were really persons, as the U.S. Supreme Court asserts, Facebook would be a psychopath. Psychologist Michael Tompkins of the Sacramento County Mental Treatment Center describes psychopaths as “skilled actors whose sole mission is to manipulate people for personal gain”; a phrase that accurately describes Facebook. Facebook lost 14% of its capital value in the last couple of weeks, astonishing that psychopathic corporate entity; and now that entity is trying to figure out how to pretend to be moral, thus allaying our fears so that it can continue to lie and cheat and steal even more from us. But this is a long-standing pattern of behavior; the Cambridge Analytica debacle is nothing new, and there’s nothing in that debacle to make my change my ideas about Facebook.
What has changed for me is I’m beginning to see clearly how Facebook makes its users mean-spirited, unreasonable, and rigid. Facebook reduces public discourse to meme graphics, rage porn, and incestuous conversations among people who already agree, worsening the political and social polarization of the United States. I’m particularly troubled by the effect Facebook has had on the thought processes of Unitarian Universalists.
In particular, I’ve watched Unitarian Universalist ministers re-post meme graphics that play fast and loose with facts; these are ministers who are careful to fact-check their sermons, and it troubles me that they won’t fact-check re-posted meme graphics. I’ve watched Unitarian Universalist ministers re-post rage porn — graphics, videos, or text designed to induce rage, rather than to promote dialogue — these are ministers who would actively resist inciting rage in committee meetings, or in sermons, or in pastoral counseling sessions, and again I am troubled that they feel it is acceptable to induce rage through a social media platform. And I have watched as Unitarian Universalist ministers expel from their Facebook “conversations” anyone who disagrees with whatever narrow conception of “truth” that prevails in that particular conversation; by so doing, they erase nuance, leaving behind only binary, either-or thinking.
It’s not just Unitarian Universalist ministers who do this. Unitarian Universalist lay people are just as bad. I don’t like what Facebook is doing to Unitarian Universalism. To me, one of the strengths of Unitarian Universalism is that it encourages tolerance of other people’s thoughts and feelings, even if I happen to disagree with them. Another strength of Unitarian Universalism is the insistence of the importance of reason, a human faculty that is disengaged by rage porn. Facebook is designed to get you to spend as much time as possible staring at it — that’s how they sell advertising — and to do that, Facebook disengages your reason and erases your sense of tolerance.
There are other horrible aspects of Facebook: it induces feelings of isolation; it is addictive, and interferes with other activities; it is destroying public discourse, and thus directly attacks democracy. These results are not side effects of Facebook; these are direct results of the way Facebook is designed. Obviously, other social media platforms, with socially-manipulative designs similar to Facebook, produce similar results. I abandoned Twitter some time ago. I stay away from Snapchat. And now it’s time to pull back from Facebook.
I’ll still use Facebook to find Sacred Harp singing events. But I no longer want to link my blog directly to what I can only describe as a psychopathic corporate “person” that turns otherwise reasonable people into mean-spirited, unreasonable, intolerant, ill-mannered destroyers of democracy. If you want to read my blog, from now on you’ll have to go directly to my blog.
(Something I should make clear: Amy, the Unitarian Universalist minister I work with, is a responsible user of Facebook.)
Even though I don’t play tennis, I have a painful case of tennis elbow, which is limiting the time I spend sitting in front of a computer. Will be back soon….
My hosting service let me know that evil hackers are attacking various parts of my blog. To address this, I’ve implemented “captcha” forms on various parts of the blog. Sorry for the inconvenience, but you’ll have to do some simple math before you post a comment. I’m also implementing other security measures — please email me if you run into problems.
My Web host is having problems with a new php upgrade. Things may be a little wonky around here for a day or two. Please bear with me!
This site, as is true of many Web sites, has been experiencing attacks for some years now; one such attack took down this site in early 2011. Believe me, having your Web site go down definitely sucks. Since 2011, with the expert help and advice of my Web hosting service, the security on this site has been continually upgraded. Among other measures, Wordfence has been installed on the WordPress installations, Cloudflare is in use, and the site was moved to servers optimized for WordPress.
Some things to look out for:
1. Dennis writes: “I have purposely limited the cipher suites available to deliver the site. Analysis and specifics here. Some people will and do disagree with doing that. Some visitors will not be able to see your site. I’ve looked at the stats and the numbers are very low, to the point where calling these cases very rare is accurate.” If you can’t see the site, you obviously won’t be reading this. But this is still a reminder to use up-to-date software. Also, one possible browser upgrade you might be interested in is the “HTTPS Everywhere” plugin for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, available from the Electronic Frontier Foundation here.
2. This Web site should automatically redirect an “http” link to an “https” link, but there may be occasional problems. If you find such a problem, please let me know (so far I’ve heard from one Web manager who found this problem).
3. In a similar vein, I am updating internal links. Until I have finished doing so, some internal links may not work. Please let me know if you find one, and I will fix it ASAP.
4. Web geeks will be interested to know that Dennis also switched this site to HTTP/2. He writes: “Your site is now among the first sites on the Internet to employ HTTP/2, the successor to HTTP/1.1. Only about 2% of sites have this distinction. One of the advantages is faster site delivery. Page components are requested and delivered asynchronously over a single connection. More information here.”
Finally, I can’t thank Dennis at Deerfield Hosting enough. Most Web hosts these days just provide a commodity, and it’s great to be with a Web host that still provides actual customer service.
To clarify a little, software which will be unable to establish a secure connection with this site includes:
— Android 4.3 and earlier
— Internet Explorer 6-9
— Safari 5-6
If you’re reading this, your browsing software is reasonably up-to-date. Yay, you!
At the suggestion of my Internet service provider, I’m improving security on WordPress. It will take a day or so for these changes to take effect, and until then I am closing comments, and there will be no new posts.
Everything will be back to normal by Saturday, November 16. See you then!
I’ve revamped the appearance of the blog. It will display equally on well on tablets and smart phones as on a desktop or laptop. I’ve cleaned up the navigation, and moved it to the header. Links have been moved to a separate page.
These changes in appearance has mostly been prompted by outside factors. Tablets are rising in popularity, and I should have long since optimized this site for tablet users. WordPress has greatly improved its menu management, so I no longer have to rely on sidebar navigation. And search engines don’t like to see a blogroll on every page of your blog (because that’s what spammers do), so all links have been moved to a single page.
I hope you find the new design easy to use. As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions for improvement.