Social Networks and Spam Friend Requests

I use social networks. Doesn’t everybody? I have a page on MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Facebook and LinkedIn both require you to have a membership to view my page, so I can’t link to an external URL for them. I have found a good use for these social networking sites: friends finding me. I’ve had several high school friends find me through MySpace. An exchange student that my family hosted my senior year in high school found me on Facebook. I noticed that my mortgage broker is on LinkedIn. I think these sites are useful in many ways. I also belong to some military sites and old shipmates have contacted me that way. I am actually happy with social networking sites in that regard.

I hate them in another regard. I used to have so much trouble keeping up with spam friend requests on MySpace until my wife set my profile to private, but I still get a few rogue friend requests. As you can tell from my picture, I have a family. I’m honestly not in the market to be friends with any 21 year old single females, and yet those are the friend requests I get. Most I expect are spam for porn sites but I have no way to tell. I check the profile of anyone who sends me a friend request just in case I know them from somewhere. I almost denied one friend request who happened to be a girl who went to my church.

This is where I’m not so sure how this friend stuff is supposed to work. It seems to me that we should send friend requests to people that we know, but some people seem to collect them like trading cards. I can understand celebrities like Kevin Rose having more than 10,000 friends, but do I really need that many? I actually don’t.

I’ll admit I’m not completely immune. I do have one A-list friend, although it’s not for social benefit, at least, I’m not likely to meet this person. Robert Scoble wrote in his blog that he posts exclusive content on Facebook and only people on his friends list can see it. I sent him a friend request only to find that I don’t really have time to watch his exclusive content. Doh!

One way you can tell that a friend request is bogus is if it refers you to a profile on another site. I recently got one of these through Yahoo! 360, where I have an unused site. Unless the person (single female) gives a reason why I know her, I will probably just leave this request hanging.

Social networks do have some very useful benefits as long as spammers and other assorted dregs of society leave me alone.

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iPaq hx4700 AKU 3.5 Update

A while back, I posted an entry about the Windows Mobile AKU 3.5.2 update for the HP iPaq hx4700. The 4700 must be a popular model. Unfortunately, the non-phone Pocket PC is a dying platform, but the 4700 has a large screen and a decent battery life and was worthy of Russian hackers producing an updated ROM since Hewlet-Packard has no intention of updating this model.

When I bought the original Windows Mobile 5 update last October, I was grossly disappointed. I was happy to have Word Mobile so that the few Microsoft Word documents that I carry with me won’t be reformatted into Pocket Word (previous WM versions), and I looked forward to better stability. I was, as I said, disappointed. File compactions slowed my device down badly and for the most part it wasn’t usable for much. I was ready to format back to WM2003SE (in fact, I had) when I read about the updated ROM.

I’ve been running the update for a while, and here are some brief observations concerning it:

  • Pocket Internet Explorer has High Resolution Mode, which is introduced in Windows Mobile 6.
  • The device doesn’t suffer from file compactions, so in normal usage it performs well.
  • For some reason, I really have to wrestle with my device to get connected wirelessly. Sometimes I have to reboot several times, and try both PIE and Minimo in order to get a page to load.
  • Like Windows Vista, most programs run fine but there are occasional incompatibilities. The biggest one that comes to mind is Delorme Street Atlas 2008 Pocket PC Edition.
  • The HP foldable keyboard that I got with this model only works about half the time, which is better than under the original WM5 in which the assignments of several keys were wrong. I don’t know what changed because I’m using the same driver, but with this release the keys are all assigned correctly, but I never know if it will work or not.

I also discovered that the HP utility cannot restore either the original WM5 or 2003SE ROM after upgrading to this version. I’m sure a ROM Flash utility exists somewhere, but I haven’t come across one yet.

Hopefully the next time my cell contract comes up for renewal, I can finally get a Pocket PC phone.

 

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Darn it Jim III: Why Do I Have To Do Aetna’s Job For Them?

The saga of my battle to get Aetna to perform the service that I’m paying them for continues. On Thursday, I realized that the seven to ten business days have long since passed from August 2 when I was told that my claim would be resubmitted. I wanted to find out if the claim would be approved or denied. If denied, I guess I’m stuck paying a bill by the crappy medical system (no, I don’t advocate a socialized system, but this corporatized system has got to STOP!)

After giving the customer service representative several minutes to review the notes on my claim (they are getting very extensive) I waited on hold for several more minutes while she tried to track down the status of the claim. Here is what happened this time:

The claims department sent the claim back to the representative that I talked to last time to add some more data. She added the data, AND THEN DID NOT SEND IT BACK TO CLAIMS! It has been sitting in her cue for weeks! The representative that I talked to on Thursday said that she would route it back to claims.

This is getting ridiculous. Here is a large, national billion dollar company and yet a simple claim can’t go through unless I have to keep calling and calling and calling to stand over the shoulders of the call center every step of the way.

Have you ever had a customer service issue that didn’t seem to go anywhere without your direct and constant intervention?

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Dvorak Uncensored » Islam In Europe — It Has to Go!

I found this on John C. Dvorak’s blog and thought it might be worth linking. Islam is on the rise in western society and although we’re not hearing about many of the issues raised in this video yet, we very well may at some point. This video is of a British comedian presenting a commentary on the issue of Islam in Europe.

I made a slip the last time I linked to John C. Dvorak’s blog. I misattributed a blog entry to Mr. Dvorak, when in fact many of the posts on that blog are user or editorial staff generated content.

Dvorak Uncensored » Islam In Europe — It Has to Go!

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The Top Ten Reasons Star Trek Sucks

I can’t resist linking to this: 10 things i hate about star trek.

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When Designing, Consider Your User

I’ve written before about how much of a pain in the neck it is to deal with HSBC Mortgage for anything outside of regularly scheduled monthly payments. If a payment gets hung up in the mail somewhere and is up to 15 days late, a computer calls you demanding a payment be made right then and there. No option is given to talk to a person and explain that the payment was sent so just sit tight and you’ll get it you greedy impatient bastards. Lately all of our payments have reached them in plenty of time not to have to deal with this junk. My wife and I have different bill paying philosophies. When I used to pay the bills, I would send them out as soon as possible. She likes to wait until closer to the due date so the money stays in our account collecting interest, and with bills like the mortgage that have a grace period, sometimes she’ll wait a little while. I instructed that HSBC be paid early so I don’t get any more calls.

At one point, we thought we would try to use our Rewards Visa to pay the mortgage because we could get lots of rewards points that way. Well, HSBC has some policy (and again, you can only deal with the computer) that any payment done outside of sending a check requires a service fee, which I believe is as much as $30. Seriously, this is one of the largest banks in the world and they want to gouge you for paying with a credit card?

This and other examples leads me to wonder who comes up with these business policies? Have you ever visited a website or downloaded a program that seemed to have been designed only for the use of the designer or programmer? "I’m the greatest coder who ever lived, and you’ll just have to do things my way because I know better than you do" seems to be the mentality.

I found a post on Web Worker Daily called Web Design: The Human Approach. This advocates a form of role playing in the context of designing a website. Designers should create personas and characters and then work through the website as that person to see if the site can meet his or her needs. I honestly believe that this approach should apply to other concepts as well, especially programs and business processes. Two of the most challenging and life changing classes I’ve had at the University of Phoenix were on business systems analysis. A good systems analyst should be able to look at the business processes, interview the users and other stakeholders, and then design (or purchase) and customize a system to meet those needs. A system can’t be geared too much toward the users nor can it be geared too much toward the business processes. For example, until last year, my current company still used paper timecards. My previous company, which I left in 2004, was using an eTime system as early as 2000 or 2001. The system was painful at first, but by the time I left the company the bugs and kinks had been worked out and I thought the eTime system was great. This company, rather than copy a successful concept, decided to reinvent the while and create a new eTimecard from scratch. The timecard is written in Java, is only supported on Internet Exploder 6, and crashes my browser 2 out of 3 times I try to use it. I’ve actually found it to be more reliable running in IE Tab in Firefox where it only crashes the whole browser 1 out of 3 times. When the application was first rolled out, it was apparently written entirely against the business rules for the paper timecard. The rules were if you made a mistake, you had to line out the entire line, initial, and write an explanation for the mistake at the bottom. The electronic timecard followed the same rules to a painfully exact level. If you were in the block for Tuesday, for example, and entered 4 hours against a contract, then tabbed to Wednesday, and said "Oh, no, I only worked 3 hours on that contract on Tuesday!", you could not go back and change it. You had to void the entire line, add an explanation in a pop-up box, then add the charge number and start all over again. I remember at one point I got so angry with this cumbersome process I actually wrote in the pop-up box:

I made a mistake and recorded the wrong amount of hours against this contract. I would also like to add that this is the stupidest application I have EVER used. What bonehead wrote a program that doesn’t allow you to make a change during the active session? Isn’t that the whole point to moving to an electronic system?

I would like to think that my witty and insightful comment turned the company around, but I’m sure it didn’t, or at least I couldn’t have been the only person to complain because the rules were fixed which is good. Now if you make a mistake you can change it until you save the timecard. After you save, you must provide an explanation for chances. Even though I never notice my mistakes until after I save, I can live with this.

I put that story out, not to complain, but to support the point to this post that if you find yourself designing a website or writing a program or even crafting business processes, take into account the people who will be using your program, visiting your website, or following your business processes. Most of the time, you are not designing for yourself.

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Darn It Jim Part II- Finally Found The Cause

This is in reference to a post I wrote previously which can be found here. I’m mostly writing this post to vent but maybe I can offer some help or advice along the way. You can read the other post, but to summarize, when my youngest son Caleb was 11 days old, we went to visit the pediatrician for baby’s first office visit. For most of the last two years, I have been battling both the pediatrician and Aetna to get that visit paid. After the call that prompted the last blog entry, I thought the charge was resolved. I saw on the Aetna member site that it was paid, at least, I thought I saw that. This afternoon, my wife called to say that we got yet another bill (this makes 6) that states if we don’t pay within 15 days they will report it to the credit bureaus. The fastest way to chill an American’s blood is to threaten his credit rating. (This is only partly a statement of our greed and materialism; far too many things in American society are tied to credit ratings including car insurance, security clearances, etc.) I decided this time to try a change of pace: rather than call Laurel Pediatrics and yell at them, I would call Aetna first. Before I continue, I will say that the Aetna operator was very diligent and patient and we at least now know what the problem is but cannot guarantee that it will be resolved.

The problem appears to be that an entry dropped from the database along the way. To recap, as of this visit, Caleb was 11 days old. It is impossible to register an 11 day old baby for health insurance because you can’t get a Social Security card back in 11 days and you need an SSN to register for health insurance. I know darn good and well that as soon as Caleb got his SSN I registered him with one of the doctors at Laurel Pediatrics as his PCP. In October we changed doctors. Laurel had moved to an office farther from us and became a large practice. My wife didn’t care for the coldness of some of the nurse practitioners. We also found that where there are three doctors there are five opinions, and she thought she was being told something different every time she took the kids to the doctor. We found a single-pediatrician practice closer to us so at least we would only hear one story.

What happened is that somehow the database record was backdated showing Caleb’s primary care physician (PCP) as the doctor we switched to in October effective from his birthday. I told the operator that can’t be right and asked her to check Joshua. Sure enough, Joshua’s PCP reflected our current doctor going back to March of 05 when my insurance became effective. That wasn’t possible. I asked her to check what bills had been paid for Joshua and we were able to establish that his PCP was Laurel Pediatrics through October. After spending a good half hour on the phone working this issue, I asked her to check any record submitted and paid for Caleb prior to October. What came up were the bills for his hospital stay, including a bill paid to a doctor that I clearly remember from Laurel Pediatrics. Because that bill was paid, she checked the tax ID of the claim paid to him against the tax ID of the claim denied to Laurel Pediatrics, and found a match. The claim was resubmitted to the claims department with the explanation but there is no guarantee that it will be paid, although the chances do improve.

After working this for almost two years, I now know the problem was on Aetna’s end the whole time. I would like to publicly apologize to Laurel pediatrics for my accusations of incompetence. We still don’t intend to bring our kids back to your office, but it wasn’t your fault.

I’ve spent so much time working this issue that I’m tempted to add a two your stint as a "medical billing consultant" to my resume.

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