This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Moms’ Stories Told in Six Words

In the 1920s Ernest Hemmingway was offered a bet. Write a full story in just six words. He won the bet with: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

A few years back, inspired by this story, Smith, an online magazine, challenged its readers to submit their life story in just six words.

Reader submissions poured in and before long, a collection of six-word memoirs was published. “Not Quite What I Was Planning” was full of poignant, funny, sad, and moving short – very short pieces. Smith published several more versions, which included the work of well known authors, artists, musicians, as well as unknown people. Some favorites: “MISSING: One backbone. Reward if found.” “Internal compass spinning, mid-life crash imminent.” “Love my cake. Eat it too.”

A new phenomenon was born. Soon everyone was trying to sum up their lives in just six words.

Can we be honest? The mother of the six-word memoir is, in fact, mothers. We have been speaking in six-word phrases since long before Ernest Hemmingway or Smith magazine. Somehow we missed our opportunity for a book deal.

Take for example, the time honored, “Don’t make me stop this car.” Or “Were you born in a barn?” Six words each.

It’s time we take the credit we’re due. Here’s a list of some of the six-word memoirs coined by moms. Each one stands alone as its own story. And together they are a collective story that mothers everywhere share:

Where did you last see it?

Put that down. Wash your hands.

Does anyone know how to flush?

Am I talking to a wall?

Did anyone feed the dog today?

I don’t care who started it.

No means no. Don’t ask again.

Who left the milk carton out?

Not until your laundry’s put away.

Let your brother play with you.

Santa won’t come until you’re asleep.

Clean up this mess. Right now!

Find a different place to sit.

(from an email sent to me by Claire).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No Substitute for Experience

An art teacher ran an experiment in his ceramics class. He divided the class into two groups. One would receive their final grade based on the quantity of pots they were able to make: for example, 50 pounds was worth an A, 40 pounds a B, and so forth. The other half of the class would be graded on the quality of only one pot; it had to be exquisite.

And the experiment began...

The first group made pot after pot, some small, some large, more, more, more.

The second group strategized, studied the ceramics of the masters, sketched and plotted, calculated, planned, and finally each made his one pot.

So which group won?

Interestingly, the group that was judged on quantity also ended up with the highest quality pots. The second, strategizing, group found their pots beset with mistakes that they hadn't anticipated. As the first group made pot after pot, they also learned to better produce works of art.*

*a story from John Ortberg's If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat.

The moral of this story is that if you want to accomplish something, you must do it! Don't talk, don't take classes, don't read books about it, unless you also start producing attempts. Yes, your attempts may stink, and they are hard and impinge on your schedule, but they are also the only way to become better. If you want to write a novel, then start by writing: emails, grocery lists, little scenes, anything. If you compose beautiful music, then write a million songs and record the best.

Don't be someone who in ten years looks back on today and says, "Oh, if only I'd done this..."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lemon Meringue Cake

This cake works out fabulously! It's perfect for summer.

Lemon Meringue Cake

Bake an angel food cake in a round tube pan and let it cool upside-down for a few hours. Remove the cake and put on an oven-proof plate (I use a pizza pan covered with foil). With a bread knife cut the cake into three horizontal layers.

Filling: combine 3/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch in a pan. Heat to boiling, stirring often. Lemon sauce will thicken. Let it cool for half an hour or so, then spoon half the filling onto the bottom cake layer. Put on the second cake layer and spoon rest of sauce on that. Top with final cake layer.

Meringue: in metal or glass bowl, grease-free, combine four egg whites and 1/8 tsp cream of tartar (to stabilize). Beat at high speed until foamy. Keep beating on high and add 1 1/3 cups sugar a little at a time so that it dissolves. Beat meringue until stiff peaks form and it holds its shape (beat about ten minutes). Be careful not to overbeat, though.

Spread meringue over cake. Put cake in oven at 400F for about 10 minutes, until meringue is lightly browned.

That's it! Let the cake cool a bit, then eat and enjoy. You should probably refrigerate this puppy if you don't eat it right away.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

All the Good Things

I was trolling Snopes.com for an interesting story, and found this one here. Snopes certified this as verified. The point is something I really believe: we don't know how our actions, good or bad, can affect people. Remember always to encourage, to be kind to the people around you. And teachers and parents, remember that you hold such great power in your hands.


He was in the first third grade class I taught at Saint Mary's School in Morris, Minnesota. All 34 of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million. [He was] very neat in appearance but had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional mischieviousness delightful.

Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again that talking without permission was not acceptable. What impressed me so much, though, was his sincere response every time I had to correct him for misbehaving: "Thank you for correcting me, Sister!" I didn't know what to make of it at first, but before long I became accustomed to hearing it many times a day.

One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often, and then I made a novice teacher's mistake. I looked at him and said, "If you say one more word, I am going to tape your mouth shut!"

It wasn't ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out, "Mark is talking again." I hadn't asked any of the students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class I had to act on it.

I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room. As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me. That did it! I started laughing. The class cheered as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape and shrugged my shoulders. His first words were, "Thank you for correcting me, Sister."

At the end of the year I was asked to teach junion high math. The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since he had to listen carefully to my instructions in the "new math," he did not talk as much in ninth grade as he had in third.

One Friday, things just didn't feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves -- and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish the assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed me the papers. Charlie smiled. Mark said, "Thank you for teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend."

That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each students on a separate sheet of paper, and I listed what everyone else had said about that individual. On Monday I gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. "Really?" I heard whispered. "I never knew that meant anything to anyone!" "I didn't know others liked me so much!" No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. I never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another again.

That group of students moved on. Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents met me at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me the usual questions about the trip -- the weather, my experiences in general. There was a light lull in the conversation. Mother gave Dad a sideways glance and simply said, "Dad?"

My father cleared his throat as he usually did before something important. "The Eklunds called last night," he began.

"Really?" I said. "I haven't heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is."

Dad responded quietly. "Mark was killed in Vietnam," he said. "The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you could attend." To this day I can still point to the exact spot on I-494 where Dad told me about Mark.

I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. Mark looked so handsome, so mature. All I could think at that moment was, Mark, I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you would talk to me. The church was packed with Mark's friends. Chuck's sister sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral? It was difficult enough at the graveside. The pastor said the usual prayers, and the bugler played taps. One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with holy water.

I was the last one to bless the coffin. As I stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as pallbearer came up to me. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin. "Mark talked about you a lot," he said.

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates headed to Chuck's farmhouse for lunch. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me. "We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

"Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it."

Mark's classmates started to gather around us.

Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home."

Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put this in our wedding album."

"I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's in my diary."

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said, without batting an eyelash. "I think we all saved our lists."

That's when I finally sat down and cried. I cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

By: Sister Helen P. Mrosla


Here's the Snopes commentary:

Sister Helen Mrosla, a Franciscan nun, submitted "All the Good Things" to Proteus, A Journal of Ideas in 1991. Her article also appeared in Reader's Digest that same year, was reprinted in the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book in 1993, and was offered yet again in 1996's Stories for the Heart.

Sister Mrosla first met Mark Eklund in her third-grade classroom at St. Mary's School in Morris, Minnesota, in 1959, and she encountered him again in 1965 when she served as his junion high math teacher. In April 1971, Mark was sent to Vietnam as assigned to the 585th Transportation Company in Phu Bai where he worked in a truck parts depot, and he kept in touch with his family and friends (including Sister Mrosla) through letters. In August 1971, as she was returning from a vacation, Sister Mrosla learned of Mark's death from her parents. (Although he died in Vietnam, Mark Eklund was not killed in combat -- he died in his sleep of a pulmonary and cerebral edema).

Sister Mrosla corresponded with Mark throughout his tour. He told her about nightmares and listening to a firefight while lying in his bunk. She told him stories about her classroom, and that she was praying for him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Secret Sacrifices

I boiled a pot of water yesterday, and then realized I didn't need it for cooking after all. What a waste. I sighed as I let it cool on the stove.

Doesn't it seem like life is like that pot of water? You try to do something good, and no one notices that you've done it -- or worse, there's a negative consequence! One of my favorite sayings is *No good deed goes unpunished.* :-) It's discouraging, and you may wonder why you bother when it won't make a difference.

And yet... As I finished preparing dinner, I started thinking about that pot of water. Once it had cooled, the water looked just the same in the pot as before it had boiled, but it was now sterile -- in a mysterious and invisible way, that water was now *superior* to unboiled water. Similarly I believe that those secret sacrifices we make may make more of a difference than we realize. Those sacrifices honor God, if nothing else, and may even be seen by that *great cloud of witnesses* (Hebrews 12:1-2).

I believe that everything we do for right motives, no matter how insignificant or seemingly without result, is accepted -- no effort is ever wasted. Those secret scars of the heart, that no one sees, that bleed without ceasing -- they are all observed and counted.

I was reminded of the line *they also serve who only stand and wait,* and looked this up on google. This line comes from John Milton's poem "On His Blindness," and seems fitting for this discussion. We serve God, not because God needs to be served, but because He is worthy, and we take pleasure in acknowledging this.


On His Blindness

WHEN I consider how my light is spent
E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State

Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

John Milton (1608–1674)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Funny Edits

Funny Edits

Here are some fun headlines --


Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter


Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says


Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers


Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over


Miners Refuse to Work after Death


Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant


War Dims Hope for Peace


If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile


Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures


Enfield ( London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide


Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges


Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge


New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group


Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft


Kids Make Nutritious Snacks


Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half


Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors


Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Monday, August 8, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

If you've already heard this one, sorry. I'm still agog.

Earlier this summer an 11 year old girl from Fredericksburg Virginia found a cat about to pounce on a baby woodpecker, so she scooped it up, looked for the mother bird, then when she couldn't find it brought the bird to her own mom. They put the baby woodpecker in a cage and got into the car, stopping at a store on the way home. So it wouldn't overheat in the car they brought the bird into the store. A customer who happened to work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service was also in the store, and told them the woodpecker is protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Furthermore, capturing and/or transporting a protected species is illegal.

The mom and her daughter released the baby woodpecker when they got home, then reported the incident to the US Fish and Wildlife Services.

Two weeks later, the customer/US Fish and Wildlife Service agent and a state trooper knocked on their door to deliver a $535 fine for taking the bird. If convicted of violating the law the mom could face up to a year in jail.

Some public outcry is thought to have contributed to the end of this story: the fine was dropped, and there is no risk now for the mom to go to jail.

I'm wondering if maybe the little girl should have just let the cat eat the bird? It would be tougher to get a conviction on the cat.

I don't know motives or much more of the story than I've related here, so can't make more than some general observations. Let me put it this way: as related here, this story seems to be yet one more example of the insatiable drive for humans to control other humans. You see this trait ranging from a couple's interactions all the way to the most repressive of governments.

The genesis of the United States of America was a unique event in history because, for the first time, autonomy and freedom were recognized to be natural rights and not granted by a ruling body. Over the course of 200 years our country has grown strong and an amazing source for good in the world, through this idea of Freedom.

Sadly, lately it has seemed as if there are too many rules and regulations. I can't even drive down my street without worrying that a speed camera may photograph my license plate: to whom do I complain if I disagree that I was going too quickly? Kids can't set up lemonade stands without first applying for multiple licenses that verify the lemonade is healthful. And what does one do if one doesn't like more widely applicable laws or restrictions on businesses? There are always elections, although change with new faces doesn't necessarily seem to follow. When yet more money must be found to pay for questionable solutions to predictable problems, we the people are told just how greedy we are, and how we don't care, and how we must give yet more money to make it right since it's our fault. Then we watch the stored wealth of millions of people fall with housing prices and the stock market, and current disposable incomes diminish through skyrocketing food and gas prices. An unemployment rate over 9% (!) doesn't help.

Another problem: social security. I'm not a fan of this idea: I believe people can invest their own money for retirement better than a leviathan. However, this is the bargain the government has set with people, and it's taken the money over years to fund this program. Now we hear that "maybe" the government won't be able to pay out the money, or "maybe" those who make more money won't get as much money back. Yes, it's a Ponzi scheme, but still millions have paid for this. It's THEIR money, for Pete's sake, that has been invested in the government. Shouldn't they get it back? What happened to Al Gore's "Lock Box"?

It's not all bad of course, and people have complained about the government since the Sumerians. I'd still rather live in the USA than anywhere else. I'm not a libertarian: there are good and important reasons for the existence of government. It does seem to keep growing, though, doesn't it? I heard the tongue in cheek definition of a politician: he doesn't care what you do, as long as you're mandated to do it. Our founding fathers must be turning over in their graves.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Last Words

Time can seem to move slowly, until you look back and are shocked at how much has passed by. The fact is, 70 years is about 25,567 days -- not an infinite number by any means. King David writes "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalms 90:12, NIV). Good advice.

I was thinking about this brevity of time, and what people have said when they come to the end of this world. Following are some last words, in no particular chronology. Some are funny, some sad, some thoughtful.


I'll be in Hell before you start breakfast!
"Black Jack" Ketchum, notorious train robber

Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.
Voltaire (attributed), when asked by a priest to renounce Satan

Voltaire died a terrible death. His nurse said: "For all the money in Europe I wouldn’t want to see another unbeliever die! All night long he cried for forgiveness."

Don't worry...it's not loaded...
Terry Kath, rock musician in the band Chicago Transit Authority as he put the gun he was cleaning to his head and pulled the trigger.

Is someone hurt?
Robert F. Kennedy

Die, my dear? Why, that's the last thing I'll do!
Groucho Marx

Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!
Karl Marx

I have a terrific headache.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I have not told half of what I saw.
Marco Polo

Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking towards me, without hurrying.
Jean Cocteau

Dammit... Don't you dare ask God to help me.
Joan Crawford

Lord help my poor soul.
Edgar Allan Poe

I don't have the passion anymore, and so remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, Love, Empathy.
Kurt Cobain. Kurt Cobain (in his suicide note)

It's very beautiful over there.
Thomas Edison

Now why did I do that?
General William Erskine, after he jumped from a window in Lisbon, Portugal in 1813

Don't worry, relax!
Rajiv Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister, to his security staff minutes before being killed by a suicide bomber attack.

LSD, 100 micrograms I.M.
Aldous Huxley
To his wife. She obliged and he was injected twice before his death.

Let me go to the Father's house.
Pope John Paul II

Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you.
Mother Teresa

Don't disturb my circles!

They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance.
General John Sedgwick, Union Commander in the U.S. Civil War, who was hit by sniper fire a few minutes after saying it

Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius. Will you remember to pay the debt?

My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.
Oscar Wilde

There are no more other worlds to conquer!
Alexander the Great

So, now all is gone—Empire, Body and Soul!
Henry the Eighth

Let us pass over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.
Stonewall Jackson

I don't know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Sir Isaac Newton

I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.
Leonardo Da Vinci

I desire to go to Hell and not to Heaven. In the former I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, while in the latter are only beggars, monks and apostles.
Niccolo Machiavelli

Why, yes! A bulletproof vest.
James Rodges, a murderer on being asked for a final request before a firing squad

On a wall in Austria a graffiti said,
"God is dead, --Nietzsche!"
Someone else wrote under it, "Nietzsche is dead! --God."

Go away...I'm all right.
H.G. Wells

I am about to, or I am going to, die; either expression is used.
Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian

I failed!
Jean Paul Sartre

O Allah! Pardon my sins. Yes, I come.
Mohammed the prophet

Now comes the mystery.
Henry Ward Beecher

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
Crowfoot, American Blackfoot Indian Orator

I have taken care of everything in the course of my life, only not for death, and now I have to die completely unprepared.
Cesare Borgia

I am in flames!
David Hume

It is very beautiful over there.
Thomas Edison

I am still in the land of the dying; I shall be in the land of the living soon.
John Newton, author of the hymn "Amazing Grace"

Up until this time, I thought that there was no God neither Hell. Now I know and feel that there are both, and I am delivered to perdition by the righteous judgment of the Almighty.
Sir Thomas Scott

A Chinese Communist, who delivered many Christians to their execution, came to a pastor and said: "I’ve seen many of you die. The Christians die differently. What is their secret?"

Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!
Stephen, the first Christian martyr


In childhood's days our thoughts of Heaven
Are pearly gates and streets of gold,
And all so very far away;
A place whose portals may unfold
To us, some far-off distant day.

But in the gathering of the years,
When life is in the fading leaf,
With eyes perchance bedimmed by tears,
And hearts oft overwhelmed with grief,
We look beyond the pearly gate,
Beyond the clouds of grief's dark night,
And see a place where loved ones wait,
Where all is blessedness and light.

And over all we see the face
Of Him who'll bring us to our own
Not to a far-off distant place,
For Heaven is, after all, just Home!

--Sue H. McLane

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guest Column: Why Facebook Won't Remain Dominant

I found this column on Eddie Snipes' blog at http://www.eddiesnipes.com/2011/07/why-facebook-wont-remain-dominant/ and thought it was interesting. I don't know how "true" this may be, although it sounds reasonable. Eddie kindly gave me permission to repost this on my blog.

By the way,Eddie's written a great book, I Called Him Dancer. Here's the summary:  
For a moment, Michael danced on top of the world, but one bad choice turned his life upside down. The once promising Broadway star now washes windshields for tips and lives among the homeless. When his former dance partner recognizes him behind the fray of whiskers, shame drives him away from her. Angry at God and the world, the Dancer refuses to allow anyone into his life. When everything is stripped away, three things remain: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.
Why Facebook Won't Remain Dominant
Written By: Eddie Snipes - Jul• 15•11
I originally posted this on May 14, 2011. Now that Google is launching Google Plus, this almost looks prophetic.

Before the Internet was available, we pre-web surfers used what was called a BBS (bulletin board service).

In the BBS era, there were lists of phone numbers we could call via modem and play games, exchange email, interact with other surfers, etc. Many were free, but some of the more elaborate sites were subscription based. One of the more popular boards in the Atlanta area had hundreds of paid subscribers. We even held a weekly meeting at a local restaurant so we could meet each other in person.

It was a great social network. But then something changed. The board owner became arrogant. Who knows why this happened, but success created a god-syndrome. The board began making strict rules and treating everyone as though they were subjugates. There was no real competition for this board, for no one offered services quite as well as this BBS. Perhaps this is why they felt empowered to treat subscribers like peasants.
They over estimated their value. As things grew hard on users, people held on for a while, but eventually decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. When it became work to appease the cybergods, the fun was gone. And people came because they enjoyed it. One by one we cancelled our subscriptions and the company went out of business.

I see the same thing occurring in Facebook today. Each change the company implements creates more restrictions, fewer benefits, and more banned subscribers. The founders have forgotten what drew users to the site. Consider the changes that have occurred within the last year.

Privacy abuse.
Every few months Facebook quietly implements a new change that exposes users to privacy concerns. It gives great advantage to those who pay to look at your private information, but it always appears under the table. Anyone who keeps a close eye on the mutating user agreements discovers the change, but it is never made in a way that’s transparent to every user. It’s hard to trust a company when users find out they’ve been exposed without their knowledge. We find out that marketing companies are harvesting our information at will. Buried deep in Facebook’s documentation is a list of instructions for protecting your info. It’s usually convoluted and requires multiple steps to opt out of each piece of information you don’t want exposed. Unfortunately, by the time most users find out about the change, countless marketers have already gathered their information.

It seems that each week a new virus makes the rounds on Facebook. They usually come in the form of a note promising pictures or a news article to anyone who clicks. Those who click become spammers for the hacker. Sometimes the hacker is someone who paid for advertisement on Facebook. Often, these applications or scripts compromise user’s computers or Facebook accounts. It amazes me that Facebook has no virus protection nor do they police these rogue sites and messages. Viruses run for weeks, being posted with known viruses on user’s walls and sending baited messages to all friends of the infected user. Why doesn’t Facebook stop rogue posts? Once they become known, they should be able to have a spam guard watching for future posts. The rest of corporate America is able to do this. Why not a company that is based on cutting edge technology? It gives the impression that there is no concern for user safety.

Paid advertisement is often given to disreputable companies. A year ago, my wife saw an ad for a ‘free CD’ for something that seemed relevant. I went to the site and saw that in the fine print, buried deep in the user agreement was a statement that ordering the ‘free CD’ created a $79 charge for their services. She had to pay for shipping of the CD, so they had her credit card. I immediately canceled the service, but they still charged us. Not only that, we started getting other charges from daughter companies. We had three charges for more than $200 because we got a ‘free’ CD. Then a week later, more charges began appearing for unknown services and under various company names connected with the ‘free’ offer. It was a nightmare getting these charges reversed and stopping the company.
Doesn’t Facebook know that the ads they approve are a reflection on their company? Facebook has an approval process, so scammers can’t place ads without the knowledge of the FB staff. Without taking precautions to protect their customers, it gives me the impression that the only concern is profit – not Facebook users.

Periodically, FB makes changes to their user agreements that restrict users. Recently, they’ve quietly put restrictions in place that have seriously impaired the way users can utilize their accounts. Most recently, they’ve began shutting down user accounts for self-promotion. For example, if an author releases a book and wants to host a giveaway on Facebook, this is no longer possible. At least not without paying one of Facebook’s third party applications to host it for you.

Several companies have made news when their company site was shut down for violating Facebook’s new rules. While most companies send notices out when their agreements change, Facebook does not do this. I once thought my bank was dishonest for burying a change along with advertisements sent with my bank statement, but at least they send out notifications. In Facebook’s world, it is your responsibility to watch over their documentation and identify changes.

Users are no longer permitted to ask visitors to ‘Like’ a page, or post a comment to enter a contest. Not only this, Facebook also doesn’t permit users to announce winners via Facebook. According to Facebook’s promotional guidelines, any contest must be used through Apps on Facebook.

There are several problems with requiring an app. To me, the foremost issue is that in order to utilize an app, Facebook users are required to give the company sponsoring the app access to their personal information. When you click on the app, you are prompted with the following message:

Company Widget is requesting permission to do the following:

Access my basic information
Includes name, profile picture, gender, user ID, list of friends, and any other information I’ve shared with everyone.

I don’t know about you, but I’m unwilling to give my account information and access to my contacts to anyone that I don’t know and trust. I’ve turned away from many contests and applications because of the above. In fact, clicking on ‘Allow’ is exactly how the viruses and rogue sites manage to propagate. When you see someone post something on their wall like, “Can you believe a father did this to his children,” or, “Pictures of Osama’s death,” or any other similar viral post, you know they clicked to allow.

How can Facebook expect users to trust third party companies when they offer little protection to users? Known viruses and spammers continue to propagate long after Facebook should have intervened. Allowing companies access is how users become spammers for unscrupulous companies, yet it is now a requirement for companies who want users to participate according to the new rules. Sadly, I have no way of knowing if a company is legitimate unless I already trust them and know this app isn’t an imposter. And yes, some imposters pretend to be legitimate companies on Facebook.

Any time you are prompted to allow or install something through Facebook (or any other site for that matter), think carefully before you approve. If it’s not a company you can trust, you may be permitting your account to be the bait for someone else. Then they will have your info for marketing, and will take aim for your friends.
It’s for these reasons above and a few more that I’m convinced Facebook is existing on borrowed time. Opportunities arise when big companies think customers need them, and forget that they need customers. Once a company becomes arrogant, and thinks of themselves as something irreplaceable in the lives of their customers, a fall is on the horizon. Many companies have fallen prey to this problem. Some reinvent themselves in time to recover while others fall hard. Some will stay in denial until it’s too late.

As users become more and more frustrated and distrust grows, the door will be opened for someone to step in and become the next Facebook. Right now, Facebook has no real competition. Without competition, companies have no incentive to maintain customer service. It’s hard to lure away a happy customer, but as anger grows, any average company will look good. Facebook is only a good company away from falling. It’s only a matter of time before that good company steps up to the plate.

Originally Posted 5/14/2011
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marketing blogEddie Snipes 
Author of I Called Him Dancer
President of the Christian Authors Guild

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