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a little bit more about me

My name is Beth and I accidentally have found myself living in Arizona but I'm originally from Tennessee. My education is in history and anthropology, which means that I know a little about a lot of things and can hold my own at a cocktail party in mixed company. I work in museums, doing all sorts of things ranging from researching and writing exhibits to cataloguing absolute wickety wak. I love comedy, baking, photography, my daughter, dogs, and above all else, napping.*

* 2013 edit: Oh yeah, and my new son too.

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    Entries in web (8)


    The Problem(s) with Craigslist

    I have mixed increasingly negative feelings about craigslist. Like all websites, its utility has faced a diminishing law of returns - its usefulness declines the more people use exploit it. 

    I used to think that what would help was if there were some kind of buyer/seller pricing app or plug-in, a tool that would mine craigslist listings for any item and recommend a fair selling price based on the pricing data and how long the listing lived on the site. A Kelley Blue Book-style tool for craigslist, if you will, like the ebay seller tools. But then I realized that all that would tell you is what the seller asked for. Not what the item actually sold for, if it even ever sold.

    Craigslist suffers from the same problems as Yelp: the lack of any oversight means that there are no standards to ensure any consistency or quality. On Yelp, there's no rhyme or reason to what 1, 3, or 5 stars means. What constitutes 4 star service to me might be 3 star to someone else. And what I think is 1 star food might get rated as 5 star by some reviewer suffering from ageusia.

    The other problem they both have in common? There's no floodgate to control the number of identities or postings one can make. Are these sites assuming we're dumb enough to believe the number of users is representative of the real number of unique users? Twitter, anyone? Just because there's "Bill," "Wee Billy Winky" and "Will-e," all of whom go gaga for the food doesn't mean that some fanboy hasn't logged in under 3 different identities. And that's not even counting all the self-promo 'reviews' planted by corporate hacks, owners, bots, and paid reviewers. Likewise, some craigslist yahoo might think their ugly-ass orange chair is worth $500 when I wouldn't pay $5 for it. Or, just because someone lists their chair for $500 and it sells doesn't mean it sold for $500. Hopefully the buyer negotiated to trade it for their mean cat.

    And all of that is setting aside all the many, many other problems. You have the flaky buyers/sellers. You know, the sellers who, when you text to let them know you're at the apartment complex gate, text you back to say "oh, sorry. Just sold it to someone else" even though they knew you were on your way 10 minutes ago. And the buyers? Don't get me started. Texting at all hours, berating you in ALL CAPS EMAILS for not having responded to their other grammar-poor email from 10 minutes ago, never showing up for the agreed-upon exchange. You have the sellers that abuse the listings, listing their item multiple times every single day, making sifting through the listings about as effective as flushing the display toilets at Home Depot. And let's not forget the whole recent spate of craigslist-based crimes that make the buyer/seller exchange just downright scary. Even if you could eliminate the criminal element, the site is just useless these days.

    Related: where am I going to offload my old loveseat now?


    Unfiltered Thoughts: Websites that Should Exist

    Sites that follow up on flash-in-the-pan news stories that caught my our collective attention but about which I have heard nothing since. Remember the kid from UCLA who joined the Libyan revolution? Well what the hell happened to him? Did his parents beat him senseless? Is he back to life "as usual" in LA as a student?

    A website where you can post the subtext behind all-too-polite resignation letters. Like the chick here who was demoted a couple months ago who resigned abruptly with: "I just wanted to send a note to you that I wish each and every one of you Much Success and Happiness  personally and professionally and certainly Much Success  to the organization overall, best wishes!" C'mon. Really?

    Caveat: These might already exist. I just don't have time / energy to investigate whether they do.


    Time for a Nap

    I came across this Statler & Waldorf video today, and it incorporates everything that is good in life: Muppets, the web, and napping. A friend of mine says, "I have NO idea how I spent my time at work before the Internet. Seriously! I have NO clue!" So what would we do without the internet? I wholeheartedly support Statler & Waldorf's excellent suggestion.


    Thank You, Interwebz

    And thank you to my awesome friend Sara for pointing me to Compy 386!, a site that fills a gaping hole I never before knew existed.


    The Trend-Followers

    Museums strive to influence culture, to argue that they are a nexus, the ground zero of things like civic engagement, social responsibility, and visual learning. Ha! That is such bullshit. An example: the web. Museums are constantly looking at emerging technologies as in, How do we get in on that? Museums say “What’s with this Twitter thing? What is the need for social networking?” rather than sitting around thinking proactively about how to put these tools to use -- its all retroactive. It’s kind of like reading Snow Crash today and saying Wow! This Stephenson guy really took the avatar idea and ran with it, gave it life. (For those who don’t know, Stephenson invenvted the whole avatar thing.)

    I mean when I started applying my writing skills to museum exhibits, the most exhibit experience I had was in doing online exhibits....as in on this thing called the interweb. This was no secret -- I made it completely clear that I had very little hands-on experience with making a “real” exhibit. And yet, my boss said something to me like "See, here's where we differ. I don't think online pictures can replace the real thing!" Let me be clear. Web exhibits are not supposed to "replace" the real thing. People come to museums to see stuff. But what we do online can help get people to come see stuff. And give them an unstructured space to explore what we're all about.

    I taught myself a bit of HTML & CSS, I do a lot of database admin for my work, and have had to learn basic SQL, networking, etc. And yet I’m almost always the most knowledgeable about this tech-type stuff among my coworkers, except in places that have staffs large enough to hire *actual* IT folks. Which is scary, because I only know enough to be dangerous. I can figure out how something is put together, and it takes me a long time to break it down, recode it and put it back the way I want it. It can be done, I can do it, but it takes me awhile. I am self-taught in Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Access, Google Sketchup, and tons of other stuff, which means I can figure something out, but it takes me longer than folks who’ve had formal training in these things. But at least I recognized that for my future career, I would need to know these things and try to at least keep up with the curve, rather than falling hopelessly behind. Like the luddites with whom I seem to work. I mean I said something about how stupid it was for all of these Second Life museum classes I keep getting advertisements for, and these folks look at me like I’ve grown a second head: "What’s Second Life?"  OMG, ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I get “I don’t believe in Facebook” or “What's the point of Twitter?” I think my points are lost when trying to explain that Facebook can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool, and Twitter is just plain awesome. Especially for writers -- it helps me hone my skills of saying what I want to say in less than 140 characters several times a day. What better way to become more concise AND tell all of my followers about my thoughts on the a penis invasion on Second Life?