The Filter Bubble: Putting You in a World of Isolation

May 16, 2012

By Terry Smiljanich:

When you search on Google for something you want to know more about, your search results reflect those sites that everyone on the internet has collectively decided are the most useful sites regarding that subject – right?  Wrong. Your search results are instead personalized for you, showing you what you are most likely to click on. Another person searching on the same term may very well get completely different search results.

At first glance, that might seem helpful, but truly what’s happening is that you are being isolated from information that may not fit your current beliefs and interests. These filters, based on your past habits, are making your world smaller and in the process promoting the polarization of society.

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Don’t be fooled by “1st One’s Free!”

May 12, 2012

Have you ever wanted to buy one of those precious, gotta-have, collector’s items?  You know.  The kind that advertise: “First one free!! No obligation!!”?  Well, before you do, click here to watch CWN’s Terry Smiljanich explain why you should be careful.

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Thanks for Sharing: The Facebook Invasion

May 8, 2012

By Darrin Clouse:

Imagine filling out a job application and coming across the following demand: “Please provide your Facebook username and password,” or “Please accept Human Resources Director Jane Smith as a ‘friend’ on Facebook.”

The ever-growing presence of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter has influenced corporations, as well as college admissions to boldly request such information.

If that sounds a bit invasive to you,  Congressman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) would agree. That’s why he recently introduced a bill to Congress called the Social Networking Online Protection Act, or SNOPA.

Legislation would ban requirement

The legislation would ban employers from requiring that employees or job candidates share social networking passwords. It would also ban post-secondary schools from disciplining students for failing to provide such access or from discriminating against applicants who refuse to provide such access.

Maryland passed a similar bill last month making the practice illegal; Engel is now introducing it on the national level.

But the legislation has a long way to go, and most likely needs similar bills to pass at the state level before gaining enough strength to pass as a national act.

What to do if it happens to you?

If this effort is a little too late , and you’ve already relinquished the precious key to your Facebook privacy, don’t worry…there is an answer.

If you provided your password, of course, you can always change it later, to prevent further access. If you were forced to ‘friend ‘ a supervisor, you can take action to limit their access.

Facebook offers you the opportunity to limit your audience for all future posts, allowing you to keep someone from seeing your activity without dropping them as a friend.

Go to your privacy settings page, and under “control your default privacy”, click on “custom.”

On the tab marked “hide this from,”  just type in the friend’s name you wish to block and then click on “save changes”.

It’s that easy. Your so-called friend will be none the wiser.

To them, it will appear that you’ve just been inactive.  Meanwhile, you’ll still be able to share all your comic musings about American Idol and the pictures of the lasagna you’re eating for dinner with all of your real friends.

Edible Arrangements Causes Indigestion

May 7, 2012

By Angie Moreschi:

Consumers are always searching for something other than flowers to give as a gift, especially with holidays like Mother’s Day here.  If you’re thinking of sending something from Edible Arrangements, the company that sends fresh fruit packages, be sure to do your research, first, or you could end up with indigestion.

I recently experienced some of the worst customer service I’ve seen in a long time from a Tampa store. While one bad experience, may not be conclusive, a quick internet search of “Edible Arrangements Complaints,” bares out the fact that I was not alone.

A family member wanted to send me a nice Mother’s Day gift and ordered a package from Edible Arrangements.  She lives in Pittsburgh and called her local store, which then sent the order to a store here in Tampa, to be filled and delivered.  Apparently, that seemingly simple process fell apart when the Tampa store failed to follow the simple guideline of “calling first” before trying to deliver.

Calling First – Too Much Trouble

Twice, the company tried to deliver to my home during the middle of the day, when, of course, I am at work.  They never called the contact number provided to arrange a location or time.  Finally, on the third day, they called. I told them I would be home after 5:30pm, which remarkably, prompted the delivery coordinator to snap at me for their wasted time.  He barked that he’d already tried to deliver twice, and that they “can’t guarantee what time we deliver.” I suggested that they should not promise customers they can deliver if they can’t accommodate delivery at a later time or to a different location.

Speak Up When the Gift goes Bust

It kind of digressed from there, but in the end, I told them to cancel the order.  They did not deserve my relative’s business.  I had to call and tell her how much I appreciated the gesture, but that it wasn’t worth the aggravation the company was causing. As hard as that is to do, consumers do need to stand up and tell a loved one when a gift turns out to be a bust.  Otherwise, they will never know they wasted their money and may use the company again.

Unfortunately, the old adage holds true all too often.  “No good deed goes unpunished,” especially with the epidemic of poor customer service in society today.  But I must say, Edible Arrangements in Tampa, takes the cake… or the fruit.. as it may be… for being obnoxious and discourteous to a customer.

Top Gripes of People while Driving

February 28, 2012

What annoys you when you drive?

Texting while driving.  Going too slow in the left lane.  Drivers who cut you off.  Tailing too closely.  Taking too long to go when the light turns green… and the list goes on and on.

The top gripes that drive you crazy when you’re on the road are revealed in a new survey by Consumer Reports.  The annual auto issue is just out and in addition to the always interesting car rankings is this story on what bugs people when they drive.

Consumer Reports asked 895 Americans to score 20 common driver gripes on a 1-to-10 scale, with 1 meaning a behavior “does not annoy you at all” and 10 means it “annoys you tremendously.” About two-thirds of respondents rated two things in particular as most annoying giving both a 10:  people who text while they drive and able bodied people parking in handicapped spaces.  Tailgaters (who follow too closely behind your car), drivers who cut you off, and speeding drivers who swerve in and out of traffic filled out the top five spots.

Here are the top 10 gripes, starting with the most annoying:

1. Texting on a cell phone while driving

2. Able-bodied drivers parking in handicapped spaces

3. Tailgaters

4. Drivers who cut you off

5. Speeding and swerving in and out of traffic

6. Taking up two parking spaces

7. Talking on a cell phone while driving

8.  Not letting you merge into a lane

9. Not using turn signals

10. Slow drivers dawdling in the passing lane

Click here to read more.

Don’t Be the Victim of Cramming on Your Phone Bill

February 22, 2012

You probably didn’t realize your telephone bills may contain charges for products or services other than telephone service, much like charges on a credit card. It’s called “cramming.” Perpetrators hack the telephone billing system and place unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. As a result, you could be paying for goods or services you never ordered or received.

The scammers who pull this off tend to keep crammed charges small, to increase the likelihood that you will pay your bill without noticing the false charges. They do this on both consumer and business telephone bills, on landline and wireless bills.

The Consumer Protection Branch in the Justice Department’s Civil Division is working on trying to catch these crooks, but in the meantime, here are a few things you can do if you notice a problem on your bill:

If you see unfamiliar or suspicious charges on your telephone bill, you should:

  1. Contact your local telephone company, tell the telephone company of the cramming, and instruct the company to remove the false charge and give a credit for false charges on any previous bills, and
  2. Submit a complaint summarizing the false charges to the Federal Trade Commission.

Many telephone companies will, upon request, exclude third-party billing from a customer’s telephone bill. Doing so may prevent crammed charges from appearing on telephone bills in the future.

Click here to read more on The Justice Blog.

Shedding Some Light On Congress

September 6, 2011

This past summer we witnessed a true exercise in nonsense by our hard working members of Congress. While our nation drifted toward potential default on the federal debt, the House of Representatives struggled to overturn a Republican sponsored, bipartisan law enacted in 2007 and signed by President Bush, which mandated increased energy saving standards for the common light bulb. In four short years, the energy conservation law went from being a good idea Republicans and Democrats could embrace to becoming a Tea Party example of unwarranted government intrusion into our lives.

Thus, Representative Joe Barton (R., Texas) this year introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB, get it?) Act, repealing any such energy efficiency standards, on the grounds that the former Act “bans” normal light bulbs and requires use of CFL’s (Compact Fluorescent Lights), those spiral shaped bulbs we’re seeing more and more often.

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“None of the Above” – Getting America Out of a Two Party Stalemate

August 31, 2011

By Terry Smiljanich:

It comes as no surprise that the latest polls show Congress’s approval rating at an all time low of 14%. If we disapprove of the job Congress is doing, why do we keep voting incumbents back into office, as we do year in and year out?

Our Two Party System

A big part of the problem with our system is the two party politics that have infected this country from almost its beginning. Come national election day, no matter what the issues are or what we think about them, we are always faced with the same three choices: vote for the Republican nominee, vote for the Democratic nominee, or stay home. This is the case despite the fact that the Constitution makes no mention of political parties, two or otherwise. Only our first President George Washington, however, was elected without an affiliation with one of two major parties.

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Legalized Corruption – The Comcast Merger and the FCC

May 31, 2011

By Terry Smiljanich:

In one of the most blatant examples of just how corrupt politics has become in Washington, D.C., the head of the Federal Communications Commission, just a few months after voting to allow one of the largest corporate mergers in history, has accepted a high paying job at the new giant NBC/Comcast media company. This raises an interesting question: can we call it corruption, if it’s all perfectly legal under current rules?

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When Did the Consumer Become the Enemy?

May 24, 2011

By Angie Moreschi:

Why is it that every time you turn around these days, you find a lawmaker up on Capitol Hill trying to stick it to the consumer?  Of course, it’s very important to protect multi-million dollar corporations from those pesky people who buy stuff from them; we all know that.  But gosh, isn’t this going a bit far.  First, we must ensure our oil companies continue to get their tax breaks, and now Republican Congressman from North Carolina Patrick McHenry is taking cheap shots at the person trying to set up a Consumer Protection Bureau.

Consumer Advocate and Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren came up with the crazy idea that there should be someone looking out for consumers these days, since they’re getting ripped off so much.

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