A $ Hyperlink…Where’s George?

Our world is full of hyperlinks, hashtags, tweets, text messages by the score, IM communications etc.,etc….all current forms of communication in our virtual world.   Here is an example of how someone has used a “real world” dollar bill as an entrance or portal to following the “travels” of a dollar bill on the Internet as it circulates around the country. Of course the success of the tracking depends upon people noticing the link on the bill and reporting it on the web site.

The link was interesting, to say the least…Emoji   http://www.wheresgeorge.com/

I obtained the bill as part of my change at Peet’s Coffee in Petaluma this May. According to WheresGeorge , the bill was registered on their web site on August 7, 2012 in Sacramento, CA.  Thereafter it most likely passed through many hands without notice until I received it here in Petaluma in May of this year and decided to check it out!

Dollar Hyperlink 2web

Dollar Hyperlink 1web

Whether there will be any further reporting on this particular bill will depend upon whether I return it to circulation or simply leave it on my dresser!!

For additional information on WheresGeorge and the people behind it , check out  Web Site Lets You Track Paper Money

READER NOTE–For those who may not follow my photo blog, you may want to check out another “curiosity” I encountered by taking a quick look at A flower by any other name…

Claques For Bloggers…Blogging For Claques


In previous posts, I attempted to discuss how the Web and communications technology have become pervasive in our lives and of the need to set human boundaries for their use. See The Web Is Too Much With Us? and Petaluma’s Brave New Google World?

A recent experience taught me that while the Web may be relatively new, it is also a medium for one of the oldest scams in the world…fans for hire–Claques.

First, A Little “Techno” Background…

WordPress has an extremely effective (not to mention well-regarded) spam program to protect bloggers from having to deal with rogue or spam comments. In my case, an average of 775 spam comments/month.

The Akismet program does sort out a few for review by the blogger to determine whether they are valid comments.

When I opened up my WordPress a few days ago, I noticed that Akismet set aside three comments for my consideration. I also noted they were all from a site offering a prepaid computer generated comment service… 

“We gather 1000 blog posts and submit 1000 general comments to all of them. Usually the acceptance ratio is 20-30% so a total of 200-300 backlinks.”
“This is an automated process and we can therefore not guarantee a certain amount of blog comments but our experience tells us that app. 20%-30% goes through.

This will give you a boost in traffic and rankings. We use more than 100 premade comments that are all very general and will fit into all blog posts.

We also run our software through proxies. This is a perfect booster for a new started website or a great way to gain lots of links to your established sites quick and cheap.

Please make sure you are not banned by the Akismet wordpress spam filter otherwise very few comments will go through.”

SAMPLE COMPUTER GENERATED COMMENT–“omg a number of the feedback most people make are such stoner remarks, now and again i question whether they honestly read the content pieces and reports before posting or if perhaps they basically skim the titles and publish the first thing that comes to mind. anyway, it’s pleasant to read through clever commentary now and then compared to the exact same, outdated post vomit which i usually notice on the internet.”

Claques For Bloggers…Blogging For Claques…

Hiring favorable audiences or claques is an ancient tradition.  It is a well known practice in many opera houses to this day. In fact, claques may be hired to boo as well as to applaud a particular performer.  Not unlike current American politics, now that I think about it.

I suppose somewhere out there in Cyberspace, there is a program that also writes generic blogs to be matched up with computer generated page hits and comments. In theory, a blogger could sign up for both services, solicit advertisers and voila!–an instant money machine without any human involvement.  (Warning! Don’t give up your day job!)


A Tweet from Ogden Nash…

I asked Mr. Wordsworth to provide a few lines of poetry to close this epistle, given his donated wisdom to my earlier posts. Unfortunately, his computer was on the fritz and his mobile device had lost its charge.

I close instead with a 21 Century Tweet from Ogden Nash…

When surfing the Web, don’t you be Bait

When surfing the Web, Discriminate

Be aware of the Claques

Beware the Quacks

When Elephants

Dance with Sycophants


Don’t let the Cons

Put you On


Petaluma’s Brave New Google World?

The story about Petaluma’s efforts to become a test city for Google’s new super high-speed Internet service was breaking about the time I was absorbing the reactions and comments to The Web Is Too Much With Us?

A few quotes from the March 4, 2010,  Argus article by Philip Riley illustrate the potential scope and size of the Google effort:

“Google says that its new ultra-high-speed network could revolutionize what is possible on the Internet, so when the company announced that it would test that network in one or more communities across the country, Petaluma jumped at the opportunity.”

“It’s almost unimaginable what types of benefits it would have,” said Tim Williamsen, the city’s information technology manager. The technology would create Internet speeds 100 times faster than the average connection, with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. Besides blazing download speeds, if the network comes to Petaluma it could bring high-tech companies, jobs and tax revenues with it, Williamsen said.”


If Petaluma is successful with its Google application, it will be a powerful and significant event for the City and for individual citizens. 

As an aside, I can now envision the jockeying for position by neighborhoods and businesses to be the first to be connected. It does not take too much imagination to conjure up several future stormy Council Meetings coping with this process. 

After all, let us not forget we are talking about Petaluma…

Whether or not Petaluma’s application is accepted, the Internet speeds contemplated by Google will eventually arrive here and elsewhere–sooner rather than later…quicker than a kitten on the keys…

  • When ultra high-speed service becomes generally available, will we have the collective and individual wisdom to use it to enhance rather than control our lives?
  • If Petaluma is selected as a Google test city, will the way we adapt and adopt it serve as a model for others?

On one level, these are more difficult questions to answer than the “hows” of the engineering,  technical, and construction work required to install it.

Remember the cautions offered in the comments to The Web Is Too Much With Us?

  • “… I have learned that in today’s world it is almost impossible to have “private” and “special” moments…”
  • “…there is more to life than virtual reality and trivia overload, that there is strength and grace and understanding in reflective solitude.”
  • “…It is imperative that everyone multitask at all times. The thought of “quiet time” is actually frightening to many. The idea of having to come to grips with their inner self by spending time reflecting is not on the radar of activities.”
  • “…(We have to know when to) Turn it off. Disconnect from the web of chatter and noise and indulge your soul in the absolute bliss of silence. You can always plug in again later.”
  • “…I need a regular dose of good, old-fashioned interpersonal communication and eye to eye contact to keep me on track and in touch.”
  • “…Technology is a tool, not a lifestyle.”

Playing off the last comment, I turn now to another cautionary 21st Century tweet from William Wordsworth…

If needs must

The Web is too much with us

If  tools

 make the rules…

The Web Is Too Much With Us?


This article is the product of my efforts to elevate my understanding of the impact of communications technology to a higher level of confusion.  

For convenience, I use the term “Web” to encompass all forms of communications and entertainment technology and software–the Internet, social media, cable, satellite, new media, e-mail, mobile devices, laptops, desktops, notebooks, cell phones, mobile networks, ipods, etc.




Clearly one of the largest impacts of the Web has been on how we get our news. 

With a few clicks of a mouse or a search from a mobile device, we can access news sources from around the world. Moreover, it is a bilateral exchange if readers post comments to what they read, making traditional letters to the editor somewhat archaic. Add the proliferation of online equivalents of classified ads (e.g. eBay or craigslist) and you have a print newspaper industry struggling to survive and traditional radio and TV scrambling for multiple outlets on the Internet and mobile services.  

I’ll leave the future of the print industry and electronic news media to others to explore, except to note that the forces of the Web are affecting not only how we get our news, but from whom. 

Blogs and community bloggers (paid and unpaid) have been a growing source of news at all levels.  

In recognition of this trend at the community level, the Knight Digital Media Center at the University of California, Berkeley is conducting a workshop in March “… for journalists and others who are…becoming independent publishers of specialty blogs and hyperlocal community news sites that play a central role in the emerging news and information landscape.” (See Changing times in journalism and media!‏)

Petaluma’s Frances Rivetti  (Sonoma Country Life) will be one of the participants in the UC workshop.*


The Web has extended the reach of our human experience… 

  • If you have a question, you GOOGLE it. 
  • If you need to research a service provider or contractor, you check with ANGIE.
  • If you want to sell or buy something, you go to the AMAZON or check with CRAIG.
  • If you have a few moments to reflect, you can read your FACEBOOK.
  • If your tooth turns blue, you see a dentist. If your BLUETOOTH malfunctions, you go to RadioShack.
  • If you go out to eat, you may TEXT your friends or send TWEETS on your TWITTER between courses.
  • When you get home, you may YELP about your experience–if you did not already do so during desert.
  • Even better, if you go to a SPEED DATING session, you may do all the above in ten minutes or less!
  • If you get lost coming home from your speed date, you can GPS.
  • After arriving home, you may turn on your 50-inch LED flat screen and watch four shows simultaneously on one screen courtesy of ATT&T U-verse TV .

I wonder, however, if ordinary mortals don’t need a workshop on how to cope with the avalanche of information and communication. By my observation, it has become an all-consuming task for many, if not a lifestyle.  

Many, if not most, coffee shops I frequent have free Web access and are often filled with people communing with their laptops or mobile devices. Few are conversing with each other.

The “need” to communicate and to be constantly connected to the Web has almost become pathological based on examples from my experience… 

  • Cell phone calls from stalls in public restrooms
  • Calls to the office from a trail in Arches National Park while complaining about the lousy signal
  • Two men on a trail in the Muir Woods (cyborg phones in their ears), texting away and muttering, “I can’t get a signal!”
  • Teenagers in any size group walking down the street with their eyes fixed on their mobile screens

Our job as “consumers” of media is to sort through it all–or to ignore it if we so elect. It would be helpful to have some guidelines to assist in this sorting process–with perhaps a touch of instruction on the use of  practical critical thinking in judging what we see and hear.

This is all well and good for those of us who know, or should know, when to turn it off and return to the “real” world.  However, what about those whose life experiences and reference points are only Web based?  Endless streams of information and data do not produce understanding, much less wisdom. 

Many years ago, Marshall McCluhan commented on the societal impact of television with his famous–The medium is the message. However, what I fear now is a Web medium that is fracturing into an infinite number of voices–infinite until each and every soul on this planet has a Facebook page.

  • Could it be that we are headed for a society where relationships with avatars are more important than relationships with humans?
  • Is virtual reality the coming reality? 


If  William Wordsworth were alive today instead of the 19th century, perhaps he would have expressed his famous lament about materialism in a tweet such as this… 

The Web is too much with us, late and soon   

Our hearts now gone for a downloaded tune!  

Texting & Tweeting, we lay waste our perceptual

For little we see that is not simply virtual

When we have gone too far and virtual is actual!


(Alternate Tweet)

The Web is too much with us…

When Avatars

Drive Our Cars

To the Bars


*Update 3:48 p.m. March 1. 2010. Frances Rivetti posted Revelations of an Ever Evolving Web News Frontier, which addresses many of the issues raised in this article. 

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