Free Ingrid – The Power of the Internet

 

 

This video was posted to YouTube today. Within minutes, the link was being shared on Twitter. In the next few hours, I’m sure many blog posts will be written on the subject.

It is every human’s right to be free. It is unconscionable to hold another as a hostage. It is the duty of every person to take action to save those who are being held captive.

Hundreds of people are being held hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen and former presidential candidate in Colombia, is among them. Throughout six years of captivity, her face has become a symbol of this horrible situation.

When I look into Ingrid’s face, I see a sister of humanity. We are all connected—we are a family. When a member of our family is in danger, we must take action.

Taking action means something different for everyone. I can’t physically rescue these victims of terrorism; but I can pray, write a blog, and share a link.

What can you do?

 

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Being a Noun Means Nothing Without the Verb

 

My Mouse by mousewords

 

We all identify ourselves with nouns. Like me, for instance. I’m a writer, an artist, and a web designer. I say this quite often, and type it into all my social media bio pages. Everyone knows me by these nouns.

Nouns are great. But I need to remind myself of verbs. Being a web designer doesn’t mean anything unless I design web pages. Saying I’m a writer is meaningless unless I put words on a page. I am those nouns, so one would think that performing the verbs that go with them is second nature to me. It is…when I let it be. But more often than I care to admit, I let myself forget.

Sometimes I fall prey to thinking that the verbs that are most important in my day are the demanding ones. Answer that message. Work on that project. Clean that room. They need to be done by a certain time, so they must be high priority, right? But that’s not always the case. There will always be tasks and “to-do’s” that are deadline-intensive, in the short term. Be assured, there will always be a steady stream of them. When one is dealt with, another will arise to take its place.

On the other hand, the long-term goals—the ones that are really most important—will be there consistently, not moving, not going anywhere. It’s tempting to let them slide down the priority list, simply because they’re always there. But the truth is that they’ll always be there because I’m not doing any verbs toward finishing them.

Long-term goals are kinder and gentler than short-term requirements. Quieter, not so demanding. They sit meekly in the background and await one’s attention. Making them very easy to neglect—there’s no knee-jerk reaction to deal with them, as there is when a short-term shouts at you. And neglect can become a habit. If there’s no unpleasant reaction, no shouting, no chastisement for being neglectful, chances are good one will put off remedying it. You can get used to leaving the quiet things for later…even when they’re really the most important. But they’re usually the most faithful. They’ll wait for your attention.

I know I do this. I get a lot of things “done.” But I don’t do enough towards what’s important. So I need to take a step back every so often. Reorganize my goals. Trim the short-term off the top of the to-do list, remember that taking care of them will not get rid of short-term tasks. Others will take their place, and I will be trapped in an endless cycle of crisis management. While the goals that are most meaningful to me and my future waste away in the background—and may never be achieved.

I don’t want that to happen. So I’ll remind myself to actually perform the verb that comes with my noun.

Writers write. Artists paint. Lovers love.

What verb should you be doing?

 

Strike That–eBay Sellers Protest Unfair New Policies

 

Monday marked the beginning of an unusual protest. eBay sellers are on strike.

The recent announcement of upcoming changes to eBay fees, feedback, and searches came on the heels of a year fraught with seller dissatisfaction, and has proved to be the proverbial last straw.

As a seller of my original art in eBay’s art community, I’ve watched these events unfold. eBay has a strong advantage in name recognition, customer base, and format, as well as a sense of community among sellers. However, much like participants in an unhealthy relationship, these sellers have stood by the auction site through the years, forgiving frustrating changes time and again. The fact is, the percentage of sales on eBay usually outweigh those on other sites. So sellers stay.

But with a resounding call of “eBay is not fun anymore,” buyers and sellers alike are leaving the auction site in droves. And from February 18-25, many sellers are striking in protest.

Beginning February 20, changes will be made to eBay’s fees, feedback system, and search functionality, among other things. While changes in fees and PayPal payment policy are sources of frustration, the majority of complaints are centered around the auction site’s newly discriminatory attitude towards sellers.

Written in the Stars

Feedback and searches are two areas which will be altered under the new rules. Previously, both buyers and sellers were ranked by the same feedback rating system. Participants in a transaction would leave positive, neutral, or negative feedback, together with a short description of the transaction. It was the same on both sides. eBay members relied upon a person’s feedback rating and descriptions—buyers placed confidence in a seller’s good feedback, while sellers felt reassured in seeing good feedback in a buyer. By the same token, negative and neutral feedback and dissatisfied descriptions were cautionary flags to anyone.

Under the new system, “Buyers will only be able to receive positive Feedback.” However, Sellers will still be able to receive negative and neutral feedback. In addition, a star rating system has been added to the seller’s feedback page. After leaving feedback for a transaction, buyers are asked to go a step further and rate the seller with one to five stars in four categories. What isn’t made immediately clear is that “4 out of 5” is considered “low” and adversely affects a seller’s overall record.

The stars will be tied to search engine rankings. Whereas before the eBay search default sorted items by “ending soonest,” results will now be listed according to sellers’ star ratings.

I encourage measures to help the shopper feel safe and comfortable. I spend a great deal of my own time trying to do just that, through clear listings, one-on-one communication, prompt shipping, and customer service. I’m a buyer as well as a seller. I understand what it’s like to pay hard-earned money to a stranger and hope you get what you pay for.

But I take offense at discrimination.

The new rating system places an unfair emphasis on sellers. People are people on both sides of a transaction. There are honest sellers and stellar buyers. But at the same time there are also dishonest people on either side. Under the new policy, sellers are at an increased risk of theft. With no fear of negative feedback, a dishonest buyer could say they never received the item in the mail, and request a refund from eBay. Fearing negative feedback and damage to search engine rankings, a seller may be inclined to issue the refund without complaint, and chalk up the item as a loss.

Fraud of this nature has happened many times before—except now, without the veil of protection from equal feedback, the potential for a seller’s risk is increased.

Where Else?

The eBay home page sports a new tag line: “Where else but eBay?” Apparently that’s not a rhetorical question, and eBay has taken it upon themselves to answer it.

While sellers are working hard to keep their stars from being tarnished, the search ranking they’re aiming for actually cuts into their potential for profit.

eBay search result pages now carry ads for other, off-site retailers.

How does a seller in eBay Motors feel when they find an ad for Toyota.com on the eBay Motors search results page? Or someone selling a lamp, who has to contend with a banner ad for LampsPlus.com above their listing? Why buy a video, when an ad encourages you to rent it from Netflix—with a free trial? How about the person trying to sell their iPhone. What goes through their mind when they see an off-site ad for the Apple Store?

Hmm….”Only $399 Free shipping” from the Apple Store itself, or $400 plus shipping from some person I don’t know.

What would you choose?

Following the “About” link near the ads opens a window that states:
“We think these relevant AdChoice ads will personalize and improve your eBay experience.” For a second, maybe, until I click one and wind up off-eBay.

Here’s an example. My sister is a 19-year-old photographer. While she pursues her college studies, she’s also trying to get a head start on her career by selling her original, limited edition photo prints in an eBay Store.

Say I’m a buyer. I have a wall I want to decorate. I decide I want photography. I enter “photographic print” in eBay’s search bar. This page comes up:

But before I hardly have a chance to see what’s there, I notice an ad for JC Penney’s Home Sale. That makes me suddenly remember I have an email discount from Penney’s. So I click on the ad, enter “photographic print” in their search bar, and here I am.

And an aspiring photographer paid her fees for nothing.

I have to tell you, that doesn’t “improve my eBay experience” in the least.

What’s more, this is in direct opposition to eBay’s own links policy:

“Non-permitted links include, but are not limited to: Links to websites or pages that offer to trade, sell or purchase goods or services outside of eBay.”

Like JC Penney?

“This policy promotes a more level playing field by ensuring sellers do not link inappropriately thereby creating a disadvantage to those sellers who link appropriately.”
(http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/listing-links.html)

Every seller I know agonizes over links, making sure they fit within eBay’s listing policies. They “link appropriately.” Yet eBay itself undermines the “level playing field” by linking to off-site retailers.

It gives the impression that eBay is happy to collect sellers’ fees, then turn around and sell buyers to other vendors for additional money. Ouch. That’s not fair. And we pay fees for what, exactly?

Tangled Website

The workings of the eBay site have become convoluted and perplexing. The problems with the new policies are not just going to go away. Many good sellers will leave. New, short-term friends aren’t going to stick around very long to play. How is that a way to strengthen a business?

Why would anyone stay?

Before, I’ve had many reasons—chief among them being the market visibility, customer base, and community atmosphere of eBay.

But that’s actually a good question. Why stay with eBay after all, when other opportunities are growing stronger and looking better? With options like Etsy.com, Amazon.com, and Onlineauction.com, what reasons do sellers have to stay with eBay?

I wonder how many sellers are asking themselves that very question right now:

“Where else but eBay?”

…And then answering it.

 

Who Do? ooVoo

 

 

Today was the kickoff of “My ooVoo Day With…”, a “week-long experiment in blogger to fan interaction.” What’s ooVoo? According to the website, it’s “the next evolution in online communication.” It enables up to six people to participate in an online conversation, at the same time, via video chat or text. Other features include video messaging, file transfer, even phone calls. The name makes me smile, since it reminds me of an old comedy routine quoted by Myrna Loy and Cary Grant in “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.” (“You remind me of a man…”) But the technology has me intrigued.

To showcase the ability of the technology, well-known bloggers are hosting chat sessions throughout the week, covering a wide range of topics. Anyone is invited to grab an available slot and join in the conversations. As a thank-you to the hosts, ooVoo is making a donation to each blogger’s charity of choice.

I didn’t even own a webcam—but the opportunity to talk with these bloggers on a face-to-face basis was too good to pass up. So I ran out and got a webcam, and had it set up just in time for the start of “My ooVoo Day With…” I had the privilege of participating in a chat with artist and new media consultant Susan Reynolds and communications specialist Connie Reece, founder of Every Dot Connects. Susan’s battle against breast cancer inspired the creation of the Frozen Pea Fund, which is working to raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer. The FPF is one of the organizations benefiting from the ooVoo Day event.

The site proclaims that ooVoo is “remarkably easy to use,” and I agree. Being familiar with web chat, I was able to intuitively use the features of ooVoo, even though I had no previous experience with video chat. The design—with its theme of black, gold and gray punctuated by bright primary colors—is aesthetically pleasing, and makes it easy to identify things at a glance. I quickly found myself looking at my own face onscreen, alongside those of the other participants.

For the first chat, I was on my laptop, with a high-speed Wi-Fi internet connection; but found that it had trouble keeping up. The audio and video were erratic, making it tough to follow the conversation. Thankfully, the simultaneous text chat capability helped me have a say even when my voice couldn’t make it.

A quick query to Scott Monty garnered the advice to use a wired connection–so I moved operations to the desktop PC. An ooVoo chat from there worked just as it should–decidedly cool. I noticed that if a chat participant is using external speakers rather than a headset, I hear my own delayed voice in the background–which makes it kind of surreal at first–but beyond that the chats were as easy and normal as sitting across the table from people at a coffee shop.

The possibilities of using ooVoo have me enthusiastic—whether it’s to connect with my siblings in the same state or get to know my readers from all over the world.

And I’m also looking forward to other “My ooVoo Day With” chats coming up later this week. They remind me of a place, actually. What place? A coffee shop. Who do? ooVoo.

 

The Three-Letter-Word

 

There is a subject that has been heavy on my heart for many months now. A recent, feeling post by Jesse Loop has reignited it to the point where words are starting to flow out of my heart and through my fingers.

It’s the subject of the “three-letter-word.”

Brains are whirring. I know, mine did. It’s hard to come up with a foul word that only has three letters. A word that makes you wince inwardly at the mental picture it brings up. A word that leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you think of what it means, and how it is used. A word that many people try not to say in polite company. Yes, that bad.

And mousewords is gonna say it on her blog.

God.

The very thought of God has become detestable to many…because of the way He has been portrayed by those who call themselves His people.

Sexual abuse in the name of God. Child abuse in the name of God. Emotional abuse, spousal abuse. Racial discrimination. Religious intolerance.

Too often, the result is that the victim of abuse recoils from the God whose name was used in the justification of unconscionable actions. Others who witness such abuse and discrimination are disgusted by many so-called “Christians.” The righteousness in their souls shrinks away from being associated with such a “God.”

And people are driven away.

So what do I think when I hear someone say that the actions of others have caused them to turn away from God? Do I think, “You’re doomed.” “You must be a bad person, or you couldn’t say that.” “You better repent pretty fast, or there will be hell to pay (literally).”

No.

When someone turns away from God, my heart cries. Not because of the hellish doom they are facing.

Because of the incredible love they are missing.

And God the Father of all cries with me.

The “sinner” is not the person who has been hurt and has turned away from the thought of God out of revulsion for what has been done in God’s name. The sinner is the one who claims to be a Christian, and yet would do something to harm the body or spirit of another.

The damage may be done out of selfish interests, or out of misguided good intentions. Either way, the result is the same.

One is driven away…and that’s not the one who needs to fear for their eternal soul.

So how do I know this? God said it. When one looks at the Bible, words on paper, one finds a very different perspective from what is often taught by people. Clear the air of complicated prose about damnation, and read the words of Jesus. Among many teachers of God’s law, Jesus was not a popular fella. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them,” the teachers muttered.

In response to that, Jesus told four stories. Stories of ones who had been lost from the fold, missing for some time, caught up in wild living, or consumed by the love of money. In these stories, Jesus portrays God as He is—One who understands the ways of the world, and does whatever it takes to rescue the lost ones. No condemnation from God—He rejoices at the return of the ones He loves.

Which is to say, everyone.

Those who considered themselves experts on God sneered at this perspective. What Jesus said in response to them still holds true today, for anyone who turns the name of God into a three-letter-word.

“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”

Those of us who call ourselves Christians, and those of us who have been hurt by ones claiming that name, all need to remember this.

God Himself is really a four-letter-word.

Love.

 

TGIF…Maybe?

I just read an interesting article. It seems that the Italian court is reluctant to allow a couple to name their new baby boy “Friday.” Their point is that the boy would be subjected to a lifetime of ridicule and inferiority complexity by being named for a savage character from the book Robinson Crusoe and a day of the week that “raises a sentiment of sadness and penitence.”

I find this an extremely interesting difference in culture. I always thought the name “Friday” was terribly cool—I’ve actually read Robinson Crusoe, and my impression is that the name “Friday” depicts an indispensible, true-blue, buddy of a sidekick. “His Gal Friday,” for instance. A “Friday” is someone you can always depend on. Not to mention, the day Friday is so welcomed in the US that we Thank God for it and name restaurants after it.

It’s just fascinating the way people have so many different perspectives in the world.