KASEYCOFF
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Day 378: Moby Spark

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Call me paranoid.

The insecurity of the internet is nothing new.

I first cast off on the Sea of the Worldwide Web back in '98. At the time, it occurred to me that it was a good idea to use a handle, much as CB-ers did (do). It never crossed my mind to put my phone number (at that point in time, I had an unlisted one), my address (what, and let the crazies know where to find me?), my bank account (hey, anyone willing to pay those bounced-check fees probably would've been welcomed), or anything else personal.

If anything, I was scrupulous about NOT broadcasting such information, just as a matter of practice.

I went on to serendipitously meet Hubby #2* on an IM system (I don't know if it even exists anymore; I asked him if he ever uses it, and like me, he hasn't in years) and... well, as many of you know, it's one of those There-I-Wuz stories turned into a Here-I-Am story.

*Note, it wasn't a dating website, a singles social network, whatever - just a penpal site. Neither of us was looking. Density... I mean, destiny, took a hand, is all. If you want to read the how-it-happened story, try this link: intranet.sparkpeo
ple.com/mypage_public_jour
nal_individual.asp?blog_id
=3934583
.

Point being, I'd like to think I know when and how to take my chances.

Further point being, I have no qualms about taking a chance on Spark.

Recently, I've had occasion to mention to several people that SP is - at least for me - a lifesaver. Literally.

You know I'm not an all-or-nothing kind of gal. I don't preach to the choir (or at least I try not to) and I don't believe in blindly following My Passion Of The Moment. I'm not a cheerleader.

Having said that, beyond my appreciation to 'SparkGuy' and the other staff is a huge appreciation and genuine gratitude to my fellow Sparkers.

I love browsing pages and blogs and suggestions. I find inspiring stories, and wonderful quotations, and personal stories that leave me humbled.

I try to cheer on those who seem overpowered by their problems, who are struggling to get - or keep - on track. I reach out (not often enough, I fear) to others here who are working so hard and are so afraid that they will fail yet again.

We all do that. We all try to nudge that little Spark (!) that will make the difference for someone between giving up and keeping on, between despair and hope. And we're all heartened when we get a goodie or a note from someone supporting us in our efforts.

I'm not the voice of reason crying in the wilderness.

It's too bad, really. I'd LIKE to be that voice of reason. Unfortunately, my nature tends to be less reason and more Chicken Little: alarmist, frantic, contributing mightily to panic and chaos in times of crisis.

Come to think of it, more like Chicken Little magnified. Think of the headless chicken.

Equally, I can only keep quiet for so long, then I have to pipe up. Before I (you should pardon the pun) weigh in with my two cents' worth, though, keep in mind it's strictly IMHO, right?

The 'OMG, I'm out there on the internet!' wildfire that's currently happening on SP is what I'm addressing.

Ordinarily, I'd be right in the midst of it, running around ala CL and shouting about the sky falling in, posting warnings on team message boards and sending alerts to all and sundry.

But... this time? Not so much.

I mean, I don't go to any great lengths to 'hide' on the 'net - I'm not in a witness-protection program or anything - but equally, I don't advertise what I do or where I go.

What's that you say? 'Yeh, but Kasey, you post photos 'n' stuff.' True. But I don't post 'em with links. I don't believe in links, y'see.

I spoke up back when SP first touted linking with FB. At that time I said I didn't think it was a good idea. I was shrugged off, and scores of Sparkers went right ahead and got the extra points for linking.

A year or so farther down the road, and Spark decides to put a toolbar at the bottom of the pages. No, I don't use it - and what crossed my mind is 'Another tracking method.' Don't kid yourself, it is. But like the advertisers and sponsors, it's the kind of feedback that keeps SP free, so I don't do anything with it, or complain about it. I just ignore it and choose not to click on it.

Another year or so farther down the road, and Spark decides to put a toolbar of click-buttons at the top of blog posts. Did anyone seriously think it was merely a convenience? Of course it's a way to promote SP, and no doubt to get some usage numbers to show advertisers that their dollars would be well-spent here, especially for advertisers who also promote on Facebook or other networks and could benefit from the crossover and extra exposure.

Keep in mind, of the health / lifestyle / diet / fitness websites out there, the ones before SP have mostly either died on the vine or resorted to 'exclusive to paying subscribers only' membership. Other current free ones are tracking just as assiduously as Spark and aren't nearly as comprehensive and feature-loaded.

[I'm not going to get into SP's recent foray into the world of paid membership. Bottom line is, I couldn't afford it, even at half the price they're charging. When eDiets started out, oh, ten years or more ago, I joined. It was pretty useful, but after a year or so, they went to a 'paid subscription only' network, and thereby shut me out. AllRecipes had a sister site focused on personal nutrition and menus, but they went from free to paid, too, and I had to opt out. I think that one's defunct now. I sincerely hope Spark doesn't end up going with a paid-only site.]

You pays yer money (or opts for the freebie) and takes yer choice.

With this latest spate of chatter re the blog-share buttons, we are on the verge of Spark changing forever, and it's down to what started as a tiny snowball turning into an avalanche.

There seems to be a lot of huffing and puffing about 'We should've been consulted!' About what? About having your information show up on the internet? That was happening long before SP's little 'share' buttons. For that matter, it was happening long before Spark.

What we 'pay' for Spark isn't in cash. It's in supporting advertisers and sponsors. It's in promoting the website. It's in buying - when we can, if we can - fitness DVDs and merchandise and books that are issued through Spark.

What we owe, what we really pay with, are our contributions: our stories, our experiences, our ups and downs, our hopes and sorrows, our successes and failures.

These contributions are priceless. And it's those very contributions from the rest of you that mean so much to me, that stoke my motivation and keep me from giving up.

It's all well and good to say 'Thank you, SP, for removing that dreaded toolbar!' As if that would solve the problem of you being 'findable' on the internet, or of strangers reading about your holiday weight-gain.

It's all well and good to set your page to 'private,' though if you seriously believe that keeps you hidden, you are kidding yourself.

Spark has disclaimers all over its site, advising people they should protect their privacy. Click on 'Edit My SparkPage' on your own page, and at the bottom appears this message:

"Please choose carefully the information you post, and that you provide to other members on SparkPeople.com. Information in your member page, profile, and message board posts is available to anyone with internet access."

Posted information - and that includes every blog - is available without special tabs, buttons, links, toolbars, or anything else. If you really want to protest about exposure of your personal details, write to The Powers That Be at Facebook and other social networking sites - they are even less secure and have even more identifiable info, especially if you've linked your mobile phone number, your employer's name / address, your school, your birthday.

In short, there's no need to panic and privatize your SparkPage or close your Spark account. What you need to do - what you should do in every case - is be smart. Be safe. Be secure.

1) Don't use your full name as your Username. Not on Spark, not on any website.

2) Do consider changing your name on SP or any other website. Check with their formatting first to make sure you won't lose any of the features you want to retain.

3) Don't jump on all those 'link with us' invitations you get - they're proliferating, and the more crossover info that's out there, the more easily you can be tracked.

4) Do be aware that every link, every button, every cookie, every click, every bookmark is attached to something or another; your 'net usage is being tracked, but usually for very benign purposes.

5) Don't be an ostrich. What's the use of putting your head in the sand and believing you're protected, when all you've done is (again you should pardon the expression) make yourself vulnerable to an attack from the rear?

Knowledge is power, and now you know. Let's quell the scaremongering and use common sense.

There's no such thing as a free lunch - or a free website. You just need to think carefully and make smart decisions about how to pay for the freebies.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MELLISOND
    Hi Kasey,, I always enjoy checking your page (for your great pics) and reading your blog (for your wit and wisdom). Your comments about this Facebook/Spark phenomenon are right on. Thanks for sharing!
    3227 days ago
  • MEDDYPEDDY
    Oh my dear that was really good work!

    I am sort of naive in this - as I have not connected with my facebook account, as I do have a nickname that is unique for this membership and as it is an american website with 50-100 swedish members (of which I know nobody IRL) I feel kind of "secret" from my normal life. IF somebody finds me here.. so be it I am not posting any dark secrets although I do share some personal stuff that i would not choose to share at a village meeting or at my workplace but IF some neighbours, coeagues or friends found me here or worstcasescenario - my ex - found me here, I could ive with that.
    My fear is that spark will change into something so commercial that I can´t keep on being here, I can see the pressure of wanting me to sign up for things to buy things and to register in a way that all those sponsors can take advantage of.

    As a swede I don´t think I am that valuable to Spark People - the advertisers is not aiming for the swedish market...
    I read that Spark people has more members than my country have inhabitants - that is an interesting perspective...

    Spark people has achieved the same thing as face book - a site that is selfgenerating by the members. I am not that active on facebook anymore, it is too much clutter and not enough fun... I prefer a site with a purpose beyond just showing yourself...

    You started me thinking with your very thoughtful post - thanks!
    3230 days ago
  • LEANJEAN6
    Well, I finally found you--haven't touched base with you in a long time. Of course you do a fabulous job with yer blogs and they are very informative!--I agree--"you pays yer money--you take yer chances-"----a lotta hype ----but--there is with everything--- Now I can't find any more of yer blogs--Why?--Lynda from the Northland! emoticon
    3232 days ago
  • CO-CREATOR
    You make a lot of excellent points. Thank you for sharing.
    3236 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5080021
    Good job Kasey. A lot of wisdom in this blog!
    3237 days ago
  • WINE4GIRL
    Absolutely spot on! I encouraged my kids not to post as much info on FB as they have and definitely not to post phone numbers or DOBs. TOO much of your info can be very dangerous out there. Thanks for wonderful blog!
    3238 days ago
  • SEAWAVE
    All very good advice! It surprised me that Spark had added the link, and that it was up to the user to remove it. I guess I'm used to the fic writing community on-line, where you mostly request permission to link to someone's writing before actually doing it. Lesson learned!
    3239 days ago
  • BAKERBARBARA
    Very enlightening!!! BTW, I love that blue cable-knit background!!
    3240 days ago
  • SPARKYCARLEY
    I've thought about all this before; just not all at the same time like you've put it all here. Thanks for that. I don't use the little toolbar thingy they put on the bottom of the Sparkpage. I hate the popping up & down part. It irritates me so I turned it off. I don't ever connect my FB with anything. My first couple years on SP, I blogged every day about everything in my life. The support I got was THE thing that kept me going from day to day. Then, someone in my life who was abusing me mentally and financially at the time; got wind of my blogs, and all that I talked about, including him. He read my stuff, got pissed, and my safety was in danger. I removed most of my blogs, which hurt a lot because I loved the feedback and support. Now, I talk about my life, but it's just a tiny fraction of what I used to talk about. And I miss very much the support I used to get. So I mottle through alone without the encouragement. It hurts, but I'm scared for my safety now. That jerk is gone from my life, but he still lives here in town & we still have mutual friends. If he got wind of anything else, he wouldn't think twice about hurting me or worse. If SP goes for membership feels completely, I would miss it desperately, but at least for the weight loss portion of my life, I could manage by tracking in other ways. the friendships and support; can't be found elsewhere. SP is unique for that. Granted I have another outside blog site where I write devotional messages based on my own journey and experiences. I want to promote that; but truth, is I can't talk about my life in any detail that really matters.
    3241 days ago
  • KATHYRESTART
    Thanks for your common sense. I feel the same way but cannot express myself nearly as well.

    I have 2 facebook accounts, a very private one that only family members know about and a public one with no real information about me for gaming and linking to sites like spark.
    3241 days ago
  • RGEETING
    well said! Thanks!
    3242 days ago
  • LECATES
    Insightful post! And I would not have met or got to know such wonderful people around the world---and been able to personally meet up with them either---I just like to choose if my writings appear on Facebook or not---and for me, that is a NOT.
    3242 days ago
  • no profile photo CD10228624
    Very well written !!Thanks for the tips. I always try to be careful, but don't think about some of the "little" things..that can be bad.
    emoticon
    3242 days ago
  • LHLADY517
    Well written and very good points. Thank you
    3242 days ago
  • MS.ELENI
    another good blog. Love the pic
    3242 days ago
  • no profile photo CD9922996
    Good post, Kasey. Common sense prevails! BTW, I met my husband online also in a net group (not a dating site) and, only after exchanging several messages with him found out he (a) was single, (b) was living about 20 miles from where I did, and (c) wanted to go out on a date. I wasn't "looking" at the time, but I agreed to meet him and we were just about inseparable from that first meeting. Got married two years later and will have been married 12 years this November. Amazing what the "net" has brought into so many lives. I am also extremely grateful (as I would never have met him elsewise). The net also helped me make friends in advance of moving to London in the late 90's and, of course, has helped me move toward healthier and healthier habits via SP.

    Cheers, Deb
    emoticon emoticon
    3242 days ago
  • no profile photo CD11085628
    I agree with what you say to a point, but I was very unhappy with the bar to share with Facebook. I know of several friends who have had difficulty and embarrassment caused by others copying and posting something and don't feel Spark had the right to facilitate that without member input. I also know that anything you write on the internet is available - just google yourself and see! But I also know that I often write about my feelings and past reactions to situations and how they played a large part in putting me where I am today. I don't feel comfortable with the ease others had to put my feelings out for the world to see - note the word "ease" used here.
    I too hope Spark remains free and I do try to support their advertisers IF the product is something worthwhile for me.
    Sheila
    3242 days ago
  • SIMPLYABUNDANT
    Good ol' common sense suggestions, Kasey. Thank you!
    3242 days ago
  • LJR4HEALTH
    thanks for teh info
    3242 days ago
  • LEANJEAN6
    Thanks for the warnings--and thank-you Spark----I bought a puppy on line--Imagine!!!--The benefits of Spark outweigh all the possible problems--Lynda (not awake!)--
    3242 days ago
  • BD3269PM
    I really hope that Spark does not become a paid membership site only. I love the site and use all of the information to keep me on track with my plan for a new healthy lifestyle. I think that the site can change many lives as it did mine. Please keep the site free!! And thanks for the tips on internet safety. It is scary out there. emoticon
    3242 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.
 

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