Thursday, January 12, 2017

Useless Solutions versus Useful Solutions: The Long Overdue Sequel

Following up on this post, finally...

The correspondent's e-mailed reply to that post was that the correspondent was currently dealing with a much less sophisticated type of identity thief, more like cookie-stealing children than like professional burglars. What that kind of thief would do to steal someone's identity, the correspondent wrote, would be to set up an e-mail account for some name like "Priscila" instead of "Priscilla" and post plagiarisms or other garbage at a pay-per-post site under this variant form of my name, or the name of whomever else they might choose to harass in this way. Asking for documentation of the person's real-world identity might make things a little harder for these really lazy, really clueless thieves.

Mmm...maybe. It might even push them to take one step further into criminality. Using keys instead of a big clunky crank to start a car did, at one time, discourage car theft (and also make it easier for more people to drive cars). That helped for a short time, until people who wanted to steal cars learned about (a) hot-wiring and (b) stealing keys. Today we just take it for granted that if you don't want your car and your keys to be stolen, generally a good way to make that less likely is not to let every single person you know hold on to them. In the case of car keys, specifically, adding that extra step did serve other useful purposes, but nobody now imagines that the existence of car keys is going to prevent car theft.

One very good way to discourage a lot of the thieves in this world is just not to have the kind of things they want to steal. I'm a poor and obscure old lady; that makes my identity useless to the majority of real-world thieves. I have no credit cards, no car, no television set; that forces a large percentage of real-world thieves to find another target. Nevertheless...we do live in a world in which people have broken into churches to steal boxes of Bibles.

I keep harping on this topic, at this web site, because--poor and obscure though I am--my real-world identity is still a commodity that relatively honest people have in fact offered to buy. Why? Because I'm a citizen of the United States. That is all it takes to make your identity a hot item in international criminal circles, Gentle Readers, and if you also happen to be the basic human color it makes your identity especially valuable to ISIS. (And if you happen to be Canadian, in some criminal circles that might be even better. It depends on the target for criminal activity. In some places Canadian citizens may be more trusted than U.S. citizens.)

Be extremely careful about mailing out any clue to your real-world identity, anything that would give anyone fewer than several hundred guesses about who you really are, fellow North Americans.

(Disclaimer: I've not read this relatively new book yet and don't know to what extent I agree with it...I do, however, trust Glenn Beck's research team to document whatever they allow GB to use in his books, so I'd guess that this is a good book so far as it goes. I'll admit that it's not the perfect Amazon link for this post, because ISIS are by no means the only international criminals Out There. I'll also admit that I am not, and don't particularly want to become, well enough informed about international criminal activity to know what the perfect book link for this post might be...if there is one.)

So how are editors of writing sites, content farms, and'zines supposed to screen out the garbage? Bad news for those who want to get rich quick...if you're offering worthwhile, edited content, there is no substitute for actually, like, editing what you buy. Even for spelling. Computers are never going to know whether a title like "Meditation To" is correctly typed, because computers can't tell whether it's meant to inform readers that "this is a meditation on a Cosmic Mystery for which I don't want to choose a name," or "this is Meditation #2 that follows Meditation #1," or "in a discussion of stretching, massage, deep breathing, and other pain control techniques, this is the part about meditation helping too." Nor will computers know to what extent an informative article about a seven-step process has been hastily "spun off" an older article about the same process, or independently written drawing on new research. You have to know those things. That is what qualifies you to be an editor.

Do the work. Learn the English language. Read the classics of English literature so that you know where recently written pieces fit in. There is not and will never be an easy alternative.

If you're promising people substantial nonfiction content that does more than vaguely remind readers about a product you're selling, study the field in which you're publishing. If you want to offer worthwhile content about vitamin supplements or motorcycles or custom-quilted slipcovers, there is not and will never be an easy alternative to learning what those products do, and how, and which ones perform best in which conditions.

If you're just a young entrepreneur who wants to offer content all around the big round world (which is what my correspondent appeared to be), and English is not your first or second language and you're past your peak language-learning years, and you can't even imagine how much time, money, or effort it would take to become qualified to edit all the different types of content you want to publish...traditional publishers never had to learn all the languages or study all the fields of knowledge Out There, no. What they had to do was hire people who were qualified to edit everything they wanted to publish.

If that's still sort of's sort of overwhelming to me, too, and I am pretty well informed about the English language and the literature that's been published in it. What can I say? Take it slowly. Start where you are, and build from there.

There is no substitute for actually doing what you want to get paid for doing.