Needed an expert opinion to solve a problem. Upon further review, the experts disagreed and clashed. Does that sound familiar?
What should have taken thirty minutes ended up absorbing hours. I blame the internet. Specifically, online reviews. My willingness to go scurrying down rabbit holes had nothing to do with the delay.
I’ve been telling stories on the internet for thirty years-way back to the UseNet days and then ListServs and finally to the point I wrote html code to create my first website. After years of using various web hosting companies, I finally taught myself how to create and run servers. Today, all of my websites run on unmanaged virtual private servers, which means every operating detail is up to me.
Don’t worry-this brief story is not technical. I provide that information only so you understand when I say a critical piece of software created an issue for me. The annual license expires in the next few weeks. The fee isn’t cheap and I’m not convinced it works as well as some alternatives out there. I needed to change.
Operating servers is a technical business. I am, at heart, a writer, not a techie. As I’ve always said, I know enough to be dangerous. Changing my setup requires careful research. I check with respected gurus. I get their opinions.
So I Googled my Super Duper Software Solution™ (not the real name in case that wasn’t obvious). The first guru reviewed the tool. After a detailed analysis, he announced his conclusion:
SDSS rocks. It’s the best tool I’ve ever seen. It works perfectly. Nothing else comes close.
- Tech Guru 1
I leaned back in my chair, breathed an enormous sigh of relief, and reached for my credit card. Then I saw the next line:
To buy SDSS, simply click on the link below. And, yes, that is an affiliate link and SDSS pays me a small fee, but that has no impact on my opinion.
- Tech Guru 1
I continued my research and found a second review:
Whatever you do, don’t buy SDSS. It’s awful. The worst. Only idiots would use such a tool.
- Tech Guru 2
Egads, now what? Fortunately, said expert continued:
The best solution for the job is the Greatest Alternative Software Product. It’s so much better than SDSS. I’ve tested it thoroughly and couldn’t recommend it more.
- Tech Guru 2
Having been down this road with another product, I’m hesitant, so I scroll a little further. Sure enough, there it is:
Sure, I’m a GASP affiliate, but that doesn’t affect my honest opinion at all.
- Tech Guru 2
No, of course it doesn’t.
So I kept reading reviews. And more reviews. And even more. SDSS. GASP. Expen$ive $olution. Bob’s Lawnmower Repair and Software Services.
The problem, of course, isn’t limited to technical reviews.
With our fairly recent return to Asheville and the pandemic shuffle with restaurants, we aim to eat at a new-to-us restaurant routinely. We find something promising and check the reviews:
Exquisite decor. Delicious cuisine. Attentive staff. I give it an A+.
- Honest restaurant patron not associated with the restaurant
But scrolling further reveals:
Drab appearance. Tasteless food. Rude employees. Avoid at all costs.
- Honest restaurant patron not associated with the competitor
Now, of course, reviews are everywhere. You can barely buy a product without receiving an email asking you to provide your feedback. I paid a bill online the other day and at the end of the process, a review popped up asking me to rate my payment experience. I wrote:
I would have given a higher rating if you were giving me money rather than taking it.
- Tired of paying bills
Once a decade or so, I trade cars. Not my favorite thing to do. Last year was the year.
At the end of the process, the salesman leaned forward and explained a survey was coming in the mail. He needed to know right then if I wouldn’t rate them perfect scores. Anything less and all the employees in the dealership would be fired, imprisoned, and beaten. He needed my commitment to rate the process five out of five stars.
Nothing like creating an honest feedback loop to improve your business.
Reminds me of the company that had disgruntled former employees leaving review after review of how awful management was and how they treated their employees poorly. To solve the problem, the executive team pressured current employees to post glowing reviews to offset the negative ones. Anyone who refused was subject to termination.
Textbook example of solving the wrong problem.
Back to my issue of server software. I’ve tested options. Made my selection. Implemented the fix. I’m saving money and that part of the server is working better.
I give myself four out of five stars. Would be five, except I wasted time reading reviews.
Vocabulary Word Of The Week: Fomite
During our Sunday morning walk, we came across a scene of a small party the night before-a few empty cans of beer and a couple empty energy drinks. Probably some teenager mischief, but it didn’t really matter because my only focus was cleaning it up. We gathered the litter and tossed it into a trashcan only a few feet away.
But then I couldn’t stop thinking of a terrific word-fomite-an object subject to contamination with infectious agents. During a typical cold and flu season, people innocently pass germs through commonly touched items like doorknobs. It’s the reason hand washing is so effective in controlling the spread of disease.
Interestingly, the word goes back to the Latin fomit which means kindling. Thus, the way you start a fire-or spread a disease-is grammatically similar. Also related is foment, meaning to promote the growth or development of something.
Pardon me while I go find some soap and water.
Chittering, chattering, and scampering about the yard, the squirrels are everywhere. This one wasn’t too happy as we came home from our walk and interrupted his busy schedule.
Interesting Links: A Writer’s Cafe With Rules
We writers are no more immune to procrastination than anyone else. A little “research” excursion on the internet turns into an afternoon of cat videos on YouTube. A thesaurus hunt for the best word choice becomes an etymology rabbit hole. Don’t even get me started on our ability to stare out a window and daydream.
But what if a cafe existed that allowed only authors as customers to provide the quiet we need along with refreshments? Great idea, right? Especially if the other restriction was you couldn’t leave until you achieved your word count for the day.
Just what the Tokyo Manuscript Writing Cafe does.
Books Read: My Darling Husband
I read 100 novels a year and share the best with you.
A man kidnaps a woman and her children and demands ransom from her successful chef husband, but the payoff is the unraveling of lies.
May Newsletter And April Survey
The next monthly newsletter will hit mailboxes Wednesday, May 4. If you haven’t already, you may subscribe by clicking here.
One item in the newsletter will be the results on the April survey about which type of book you prefer-hardback, paperback, ebook, or audiobook? Response has been strong, but it’s not too late for your voice to be heard. To take part, click here for the survey.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
The never-ending games between the Trouble Brothers-Typhoon and Roscoe-inevitably start because one of them “innocently” crosses some boundary. In this case, His Royal Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey was enjoying a quiet afternoon watching squirrels in the trees. He warns his little brother-from-another-mother not to invade his solitude. Yep, you guessed it-three seconds later, a rousing game of chase ensued.