Friday, June 16, 2017

Future-proofing Naïveté

How naive we were, ten years ago, to think that URL shorteners needed to withstand the apocalypse. Even back then, we called it future-proofing. Today, clicking on a ten year old link typically yields a four-oh-four unless you're visiting the website of an Internet power-player with a keen interest in archival like the NYT or Wikipedia 

While shortened links may last a decade or longer, web pages have a much shorter shelf life. As technology quickly changes, so do server-side URL naming schemes that break links. Today's working links will eventually become tomorrow's orphaned links.


404 Solution

I saw a fix to this problem when working at a corporate conglomerate. Every morning, someone analyzed a list of all the 404s from the past day and then did their best to fix the "referrer." Usually that was easiest done by fixing the source, if it was an internal brand webpage. If the broken link was on an important, external website then we set up a web page, where the 404 was landing, to redirect the user to the correct destination. Fix the problem at the source, and when you can't then fix the symptoms rather than shifting the blame.


In The Future

Soon, it'll be common for digital anthropologists to piece together the Internet puzzle, from days long gone, to document the digital history of a culture. No different than a traditional anthropologist, except dealing with electrons instead of atoms.

The web is what it is, it is us who need to adapt our thinking to be inline with online. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Luck With Banking

Last month, I withdrew $200 from a San Diego ATM. Unlike New York, where ATMs dispense $20, $50, and $100 bills, San Diego's ATMs have always spit out $20 bills, in my experience. But, last month I got a pleasant surprise when, instead of receiving ten $20 bills, I received nine $20 bills and one $100 bill. Suspected jackpot! 

My first thought was that I had either received $280 in cash or, perhaps, I received $180, plus a counterfeit $100 bill. I immediately spent the "Benjamin" without any problem. On Friday, I looked at my bank statement and saw that I was debited $200, as expected. I spoke to a local corner market owner who refills his store's ATM and he told me that there would be no record of the extra $100 bill since the ATMs can't distinguish between bills – everything's a $20 bill to the ATM. Reaffirmed jackpot!

I figured that I would be free-and-clear of the extra $80, but it wouldn't surprise me if, at some point in the future, that money might be debited from my bank account without notice. So, I sent a message to my bank, describing what happened and this was their response:


Dear Mr. Moreno,
Thank you for your message.  I appreciate your honesty!
As it turns out, [we] can file a dispute when you are not paid enough, but we do not have a resolution process when you are overpaid [...] it sounds as though you may have had a lucky draw!  

Confirmed jackpot!


Bad Luck With Banking

In the mid-1980s, I withdrew some money from a Marine Corps West Federal Credit Union on Camp Pendleton. I heard some paper crunching inside the machine as the money was dispensed, jamming up the cash dispenser. When I walked into the bank to report the issue, the banker looked at me with suspicion and skepticism as I told her what happened.

"We'll look into it," she said, dismissively.

About a week later, I followed up with her and she made me whole. She seemed a little defensive when I asked what happened and how they confirmed it. She simply said the extra money was discovered jammed in the ATM cash dispenser feeder. A minor hassle for me before the age of e-mail, but it all worked out. 

One day, I'll write about how, in the mid-1990s, my landlord deposited my rent checks, but he wasn't credited for them. My bank, which was a different institution than his, was adamant that he was "almost positively" lying. He wasn't, but it took a couple months to reconcile. 

PS – Did you know that you can make actual size, hard copy reproductions of US bills in black and white? You can also make color reproductions of money as long as the one-sided reproduction is more than 25% smaller or 50% larger than genuine bills.