Why is Spam Mail Still A Problem And Why Facebook Is The Next One

Junk Mail, Spam, Unsolicited E-mail whatever you want to call it was one of the biggest annoyances of E-mail. In fact it’s still just as annoying as it was. Every website on the internet is trying to send you it’s weekly email and usually makes you uncheck at tiny box somewhere at the bottom of a horrible page of terms and conditions to stop it from happening.

I decided to post about this when I woke up this morning with 14 emails. Not one of them was worth reading. On Cyber Monday I had about 23 emails and I’ve only bought things from American websites for 3 months. What does that say about the state of E-mail. Yes, I can put them into Spam or I could even unsubscribe (by law I have the right to) but it’s become increasingly difficult even to just do that. You’ll find an unsubscribe button at the very bottom of the E-mail in a size 7 font. Then when you finally click it, it may ask for your account user-name and password before you can unsubscribe. Sometimes it’s much simpler and you just click it sometimes not.

Another problem with these E-mails is sometimes the reason we signed up to them or allowed them to be sent to our emails is because we generally had an interest in what we were being offered. When Amazon asked me if I would like to receive an E-mail once a week showing what deals were on I thought “yeah, why not. It’s only once a week and I might get a bargain”. Then out of nowhere, I started getting daily deals, of things I really couldn’t care less about or things I’ve already bought even. In fact it makes me less tempted to shop with them (although there are little online stores as good). There was no notification that they would be sending me more emails, they just started hoarding this stuff at me without even telling me. In fact if they emailed me saying, would you like to receive deals more often, I’d of never of said yes. Nobody would and they know that so they just do it. All major retailers are culprits. It’s infuriating. The worst thing is that I do want to receive the emails sometimes just not every day. Soon I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes every hour. They are forcing products into our lives by disturbing us. Bombarding us with their information and offers.

So that brings me onto Facebook quite nicely. Signing up for one thing and receiving something quite different. It all started when groups were turned into pages, pages were things people liked and things people liked could be turned into marketing machines. Again when people sign up for them you don’t necessarily know what your getting yourself in for. There is no measure on how much will show up on your news feed and how often. In fact so many groups that are now pages that used to be completely dormant have recognized there monetizing potential. So what are they doing? They are doing exactly what everyone. You liked “baked potatoes” in 2008 and now you’re being offered hair removal treatment for only $299. Unfortunately, I signed up for Facebook during the earlier phases of the network. You know, when it really was for sharing photos and keeping in contact with people. Yes, it’s improved dramatically for doing those features but Facebook is now a monetized business and many other monetized businesses are using Facebook to get to you. Facebook does in fairness make it relatively easy to remove these from your feed whilst maintaining your likes but again, like email they accumulate too fast. I have somehow liked  470 odd things. I probably don’t even like half of those things but at some point in my sad, lonely nights I thought about clicking that like button. It doesn’t benefit me in any way whatsoever. It tells other people that at some point in my life I’ve agree’d with it.

It’s also annoying because what I like is now documented even though everything I do like changed very often. I used to be a really big gamer, now not so much. Someone might come up to me in the street and tell me that they saw I’m really into Gamecube games and retro gaming. Not necessarily true. I had a Gamecube and I adored it at the time but it’s not my scene anymore. What happens to the people who have had Facebook since they were really young? Some people on Facebook may simultaneously be liking Glenfidditch and Art Attack.

I’ve been an ever-growing feud with Facebook since The LAD Bible became one of the most annoying things ever to hit British culture. Then there was I F****ing  Love Science which got so many likes from people with liberal arts degrees it upsets me. I like it just see the tripe that comes through it and the comments that some people with about as much scientific knowledge as a newborn child has.

I want fixes. I want quick fixes for both the email and Facebook spam problems. If I can’t find a solution soon I’m pretty sure I’ll have to touch-up on my scripting skills and find an answer myself. I’m talking likes that expire after a certain time if I tell them to. An extension to Gmail that highlights the unsubscribe functions or something that only accepts an email with the word offers in once every 5 days.

This Week – Vegas, Thanksgiving & A Ghost Campus

My flat mates have all left for the thanksgiving break, I’ve been in the flat on my own for two days and hardly anyone has even walked passed the window. I’ve spoke to the boys next door once or twice and turned to my trusty copy of Lord Of The Rings extended edition for some fun. Was this really how I wanted to spend the next week. The only people left on campus were leaving for Vegas on Tuesday afternoon. The only two establishments still open on campus were the 24 hour Subway and the corner shop were all shutting up for the break. Was I really going to spend all my time here? Watching countless movies and potentially some of the worst TV of all time for an entire week. Nobody to talk to. My friends going to party in Vegas and others seeing more of America. Well for a fair amount of time I thought yes. Then we went to the pub and the week ahead of began to dawn on me. It was time to book a flight. Last minute. I flew the same day I booked the flight. A spontaneous decision to fly to Sin City and I was there at 9pm with one piece of carry on luggage, two smartphones and attire that can be described as the complete opposite of what I would have worn had I stayed in San Francisco.

Hotel: MGM Grand
Transport: Shuttle
Music: 90’s Punk
Plan: Go wild

I left the airport after a rather pleasurable flight with three seats to myself, the rugby on the touch screen and a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage to tease my liver in to thinking it was having a quiet couple of days. Perfect. Hopped on the reasonably priced shuttle and was at the hotel within 15 minutes. Straight to Starbucks to shoot down a decent coffee to perk me up for the night ahead.

The boys met me in the lobby of the Grand and took me up to the room where I could ditch my bag and have a few beers before we head out to the casino’s and clubs of America’s most notorious destinations. Now as you can imagine being just over halfway through November, it was the off season. Did this mean the brightly lit, overly-themed city would be quiet? Absolutely not. Every club we went to was absolutely rammed, all the tables in the casinos were busy and everything you could want from a Vegas holiday (except a big win) happened. It was one of the funniest holidays I think I’ve ever had and by the end of it I just needed to go home. I was shattered and had to be out of the room at 11am after 3 hours sleep. Not fair.

So that’s a fairly brief overview of what happened in Vegas because well… afterall… what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

I flew back via Arizona for no apparent reason and was pretty shocked to see how huge Phoenix is. I’ve not head much about Phoenix and didn’t really get a chance to check it out as I was just heading home and had to stay within the terminal. I was exhausted and just wanted to get back to the flat ready to get some sleep before heading off to a friends for thanksgiving dinner in the afternoon. I arrived back at the flat around 1pm after paying the extortionate airport fee that one would have to travelling on their own into the city.

I arose nice and early to head off to Concord where I would be meeting my friend and her family who so pleasantly offered me a spot at the table for my first traditional American thanksgiving.  I have such a new appreciation for the BART after that trip. It’s an absolutely mind blowing journey from Embarcadero to Concord. I’m used to the Underground in London. I can just about manage the MUNI with it’s crazy bus/train/tube hybrid thing it has going on but the BART I just assumed was like the tube. I was so wrong it’s insane. It’s actually very good value for money as well. I paid just over $5 to go to Concord and that would of cost me so much more in a cab it’s unreal. The journey starts off underground as I expected, then I’m on some bridge going across the docks on my way to the East Bay. All is well and we stop at a few stops and then all of a sudden I’m in the central reservation of a motorway with five lines of traffic on either side of me. Not every day you see that on the London underground.

Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely immense. I feel like it’s some of the best food I’ve had in ages. It had that special home-cooked taste, just like I have when I’m back in the old comfort zone in Wales. My friend’s family were all so nice and welcoming and I couldn’t of asked for more. I tried Pumpkin Pie which I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like but it turned out to be absolutely delicious. Also American Cider, nice try guys but leave it to the pros.

Last week was an absolute staple in my time here in America. In fact I think it will be one of my most memorable weeks. I got to spend time with all my closest friends out here, I got to see my friend who I studied with in London last year and I had an absolute blast! This week is back to work until Friday when I’m hitting Lake Tahoe with the IEEC. Let’s Go!


3 Videos That Prove Red Bull Is One Of The Coolest Brands On Earth

I noted in my previous post that I went to the Red Bull Flugtag event in San Francisco on the weekend. I’ve also studied Red Bull for case studies in various business classes before and I’ve come to the conclusion that they are one of the coolest brands on earth. Here are some videos that back up my thesis.

Rube Goldberg Machine

A series of Athletes who’s sports require great precision to carry out. Each of which is sponsored by the Energy Drink come marketing company.

The Art Of Flight:

An avid snowboarder myself, this makes my jaw drop. The things some boarders will do is absolutely insane so Red Bull gives these lot a helicopter and drops them off on some of the best snow and sketchiest ledges ever seen. Oh, and this is just a trailer. Not only is it totally awesome shredding but it’s also got all the sound effects that one would expect to find on SSX 3. Perfect!

Space Freefall:

Not content with sponsoring nearly every extremely cool sport on planet earth, Red Bull had to put a man up in the stratosphere and watch him jump back down, whilst plastering their signature logo all over it of course! They managed to break three world records and have put their name all over the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound un-assisted.



This Week – Basketball, Union Square, Flugtag

This week only really started to get interesting on Wednesday when we traveled back over to Oakland and hit up the Oracle arena for a match between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Unlike most events that I visit the Warriors actually won and that was the home team that I was supporting. They are in fact transferring to a new stadium here in San Francisco in 2017, although I won’t be here…  The game itself was actually really fun. Although the Warriors are not exactly the best team in the world, they played a great game. The cheerleaders and the half time acts were also really entertaining. When we first turned up it looked like it wasn’t even going to fill out at all but it started to after a while and the atmosphere got better and better. I’m a big fan of an atmosphere at stadiums. After all don’t we all live for match day in the Millennium Stadium? Notable parts of the game included when the Warriors dropped into 2nd place but made a come back pretty quickly. I actually enjoyed watching the b-ball more than I expected but I’d much rather go see one of the more famous teams in a filled out arena.

We spent Thursday as usual, heading down to the Irish bars on Taraval. This time we went to Costella’s as well as Shannon’s. Pretty standard Thursday evening to be honest although I missed the bus home and made the 30 minute treck back which I wasn’t that happy about. We were also accompanied by another Australian who’s a friend of the guy’s next door. It does feel like I’ve moved to America to spend a lot of time with Aussies. Can’t knock it though, I feel we have a lot more in common than we do with the Americans. I think it was Stephen Fry who said “is all you have to do to make a Brit realize how little he has in common with an American is put him in a room with an Australian”. I can completely understand that we have pretty similar attitudes towards life and leisure. I have to be honest it’s gonna be sad to them go after Christmas.

Friday we went out to a club called Vessel downtown and right on Union Square. This is the sort  of the club I imagined to be an absolute tourist trap. Full of people staying in 5* hotels and willing to spend an absolute fortune on drinks and entry. We managed to get on the guest list and had free entry but if we got there any later than 11pm it would have cost $20. Then when we got in the drinks were about $6 for a beer (corona) and $12 dollars for a vodka and mixer. This is pretty standard for posh clubs I guess and at least the vodka they were using was Grey Goose. There was a pretty poor DJ when we first go there playing music that one could only associate with the hangover spots in Ibiza or the day time clubs. A kind of funky house meets chillout vibe. I honestly think those kind of sets are better for the daytime and beach clubs than in a nightclub. Fortunately the second DJ was awesome and dropped all the good, current and pumping tunes from the Electronic Dance Music scene. Not to mention they had a CO2 cannon that blasted right in my face and made me go absolutely wild.

On Saturday was a Red Bull event down by AT&T park. It’s called Flugtag and it’s absolutely hilarious. It’s pretty much a joke where people get on a pier and do a skit before they try and fly in their engine lacking flying contraptions.  The first flugtag was in Austria, Red Bull’s home. I really admire what Red Bull has done. They’ve taken a rather terrible tasting energy drink and turned into one of the coolest brands on earth. It’s a marketing machine that has managed to sponsor just about anything worth being sponsored. If sending a man up to space to skydive wasn’t enough they’ve got videos of just about every extreme sport on their YouTube channel and of course there is the F1 team. That day half of San Francisco seemed like it was plastered in Red Bull promotion and it was absolutely awesome.  The Red Bull Mini’s were everywhere, the party bus was parked right up outside the ball park and everyone and their mum’s seemed to be drinking the energy boosting beverage.

Following the Flugtag day we headed down to the Sunset in and ate some Vietnamese food where the boys did nothing but take the mick out of how unskilled I was with chopsticks.  The food was delicious and I’ve discovered a new found love for Sunkist orange soda. It was also relatively priced, I wish I could remember or pronounce the name of the restaurant to give it the old shout out but unfortunately I can’t. It’s next to Underdogs in the sunset though if you’re an SF resident you’ll know what I’m on about.

Sunday has been a day of relaxing and catching up on various British TV shows. It’s Veterans day tomorrow extending my weekend by an extra day but it has been firmly reserved for homework. Next week is going to be work, work, work as we build up to the thanksgiving break.


How SkyDrive Will Become One Of Your Most Important Tools

Windows users around the world are transitioning to Windows 8. What is one of Windows 8 killer features? Well believe it or not it’s one that isn’t touted nearly as much as I thought it would be when the reviews started rolling out.

Right now you get 7GB of free storage as soon as you sign yourself up for a Microsoft account. If you’ve used Windows 8 or Windows Phone 7/8 you will of noticed how much more important your Microsoft account becomes. In fact I’m so glad that I scooped up a couple of relatively hard to get @Outlook.com email adresses when the service relaunched so that I could ditch my 13 year old-self’s idea of a great username. I obviously had no intention of using this Microsoft account but it was good to have the names I wanted on the service. I was pretty content with my Gmail and still am but then I got a Windows Phone and Windows 8 and I started to realise how Microsofts cloud service department has had something up it’s sleeve that nobody has noticed.

Let me put an example out there for how useful SkyDrive has been for me thus far. There are certain things I can’t do on my Windows Phone that I can do on a laptop such as edit videos to a decent standard or photoshop images. Any image I take on my Nokia Lumia uploads straight to SkyDrive and then I can log in to the drive on any browser on any computer, even on another phone or tablet I want and it will be straight there.  When I’m on my Windows 8 Professional install I can grab a picture from my phone without even worrying about whether it’s plugged in, or whether I’ve transfered it over WiFi. It’s on the cloud straight away. The same goes for your office documents. The same goes for just about any file you want to store in the cloud.

I can see myself in a years time with a Windows 8 tablet, Windows 8 on my ThinkPad and even a Windows Phone 8 device and they will all live together in perfect harmony. In fact, I even have the SkyDrive app on my iPhone so when I want to instagram something that I haven’t taken on my iPhone but took on one of my Windows Phone days, I can just grab them from the app and upload them. Same with documents, same with OneNote notebooks. I can get what ever I need on my MacBook as well, because it’s browser enabled. If I ever get round to having an Xbox that will have it too.

The fact of the matter is your Microsoft Account will have the majority of your digital life stored within it. The future won’t just be 7GB either.  In fact judging by the fact people are judging Microsoft on the size of their OS right now means they’ll probably end up offering RT owners free extra storage on SkyDrive. When you log into your new device, your apps, your documents, your music, your favourites absolutely everything will be there. Unified synchronisation how it should of been a long time ago.

This Week – American Halloween, Knife Party, Balboa Park

What a week. This week has been the week that I fell in love with San Francisco. It’s been the week where I stopped thinking that each city has the same things in a different format. It has been the week where I’ve finally caught on to the character that this city has to offer.

It all started with Halloween. Yeah, we celebrate that at home and yes it’s pretty big in London but the Americans are renowned for how much they love Halloween. Typical pop culture and media outlets at home have lead me to believe that Halloween in the states would be absolutely mental and mental it has been. It’s not just a one day thing, especially not when it’s on a Wednesday. No, people have been celebrating halloween for ages it seems and it wasn’t going to stop until at least Friday of this week. Last week my halloween celebrations began but my next outing would be on Halloween night. Firstly to a Halloween party at a friends in Park Merced and a few drinks to celebrate her birthday and then onto the Castro. Now the Castro is never the first place that springs to mind for a straight bloke looking for a good time on a Wednesday night but rumour had it that on Halloween in San Francisco the Castro is the place to be and who am I to judge? We hopped in a cab and made our way there. As soon as I got out of the cab, dressed head to toe in giraffe attire with a large giraffe head on top of me, I realised where the rumours came from. I looked around to see hundreds of people, tons of police officers, queue’s for every bar in sight. The rain was smashing it down yet everyone had a smile on there face and everyone was going to enjoy halloween regardless of the weather. We moved between various bars and ended up in one near the bottom of the main street before finally taking a cab home. There were some pretty interesting sights in the Castro that night and the LGBT community were as friendly and embracing as ever. It certainly made for a different halloween than ending up in a random Revoloution bar somewhere covered in unconvincing fake blood.

So the week carried on as one would expect with various classes, a slight bit of illness and rather bland food that is offered with my meal plan but there was more to look forward too. I’d booked myself a ticket to Knife Party in The Fox Theatre in Oakland. A fair group of us we’re off to see the electronic ensemble in a place sometimes dubbed as the “sketchiest place on the west coast” but it was going to be insane. A lineup that included Baauer, Tommy Trash and Zane Lowe as well as the headline act. We had a few drinks and headed up on the BART to the Fox. The venue is absolutely incredible. The layering system on the bottom level actually works out really well and when we got there it was pretty quiet. Baauer played some fantastic tunes and we had enough space to get some creative dance moves on the go and started cutting some heavy shapes before the crowd turned up for the main act. Each act played pretty decent sets, Knife Party played for a fairly short time although that’s expected with how young they are as a group (pendulum tunes not included). I have a new found love for Tommy Trash and found Zane Lowe to be a bit more commercially pleasing than he is really capable of. I’ve seen most of the acts before, Knife Party played equally as good as before but I think Zane Lowe was better when I saw him in Ibiza. Last time I went to see Knife Party I actually met Rob Swire and where as I’m not usually one to idolise celebrities; it was pretty awesome. So that was a post-halloween party and pretty much the end to halloween in the US. What a ride it was.

Saturday saw me visiting a kickback and having a few games of beer pong, eating a disgraceful amount of McNuggets and generally taking it easy. Then came Sunday and the plan was to visit Dolores park. A part of the Mission district which features some pretty obscure characters but a die-hard set of fans and a breathtaking view of the city. It was absolutely stunning and considering it’s the 4th of November the weather was like nothing I’m used to. In fact, from what I’m reading on various social networks the majority of my friends are already wearing scarves and coats and I’ve yet to even think about putting on my chunkiest knits! Oh what a hard life it is. That said homework to be done, coursework to be adressed and a whole lot of studying to follow this week.

Giants World Series Victory

Baseball. A sport that most people in the UK would regard as awful and boring. An American past time that has no bearing outside of the borders. Me? I’m not really a team-sports person. I don’t follow football, I don’t watch cricket, I’m not into many of the big sports at home except rugby. I find it incredibly hard to take an interest in such things. I’d much rather you gave me a pair of skates or a snowboard and tell me that although it’s risky it’s fun, give it a bash.

Since moving to America though, one sport has prevailed as something easy to pick up. Rather exciting and not a poor version of rugby (read: American Football). I’ve been to a Baseball game, I’ve watched countless of them in the flat and down the pub and I’ve really managed to get into it. Maybe it’s the massive baseball culture that San Francisco has. You can walk around downtown, campus, anywhere within the bay area and you will see countless black and orange caps, jerseys and t-shirts all sporting the words “San Francisco Giant’s”.

The post-season has steadily progressed and having watched nearly all the games on the way to the World Series when San Francisco won the play-offs and were going to the World Series there was an excitement ambience all over the city. Then the games started. Ticket prices were up at $400 each and every baseball fan was buzzing. Then the Giant’s started playing in the world series like absolute legends. Pablo Sandoval was hitting home runs left right and centre and the World Series seemed so feasible. Then there was 3 games to nil. Only one more game to be won and it happened. A straight 4 game win against the Detroit Tigers and the Giant’s had done it.

So many people were going mad, nearly every person I’ve met here and become friendly enough with to accept on Facebook had been posting many a status’ and photo showing there joy. It was such a good time to be in the city and I feel like I couldn’t of came at a better time. Then there was the parade. Wednesday morning we headed down to the civic centre where it seemed like nearly everyone in San Francisco had skipped work and School in order to celebrate their local teams incredible success. It was packed, there were people chanting on the escalators on the way out from the subways, people backflipping off portable toilets. Orange and Black absolutely everywhere. It was a pretty great time. That’s probably the last I’ll see of the World Series but my god what a season it’s been and such a great time to be here in San Francisco.