Ramblings of an Urban Geek – Tech Enthusiast

Beware, some of those forum avatars could be quite embarrasing

The past 2 days I was talking about blogs, bloggers, and blogging. Today I want to talk about another part of the internet that is pretty useful. Message boards, or Forums. Many useful bits of information is found on message boards. As a matter of fact, almost every “social thing” to come about with the whole Web 2.0 moniker has basically been some sort of message board integrated with something else.

What I want to talk about today is more of a tip. Well an awareness, or even a complaint. Heres another little story…

My mother owns a local store and do a lot of business on the web. Most of what she needs the web for is stocking, and ordering supplies. Sometimes she may need help with the software that she uses, which is mostly used for various printing/advertising functions. To tell you a little about my mother, She is a pretty straight forward person. She is a Christian and believes in trying to maintain her life and everything she does a certain way. My relationship with her has always been a strict mother-son relationship. At age 35, I still wouldn’t use any profanity or drink any alcohol or anything along those lines around her, and I cringe if I see or hear anyone else doing so in a personal situation.

She is really a beginner when it comes to the web and using computers, I mean a straight up newbie. So of coarse, she will come to me from time to time with questions or needing help doing certain things. One day while she was at my house, she asked about a problem she was having with a website where she was trying to order supplies. I cant remember exactly what the problem was, but I remember that it was something that I had read about before, that can be resolved with a tweak within Windows. I couldn’t remember it exactly so I started searching for the answer.

My search lead me to a message board. On that message board, the answer was spelled out with complete directions on how to solve that particular problem. I read them to her as she looked over my shoulder at the screen, then I moved so she could read it. She was a little hesitant to sit at the computer, and asked me

What do you have me looking at?

I assumed that maybe the directions was a little too complicated for her so I told her that I would email them to my dad and maybe he can figure it out. My Father is also a beginner but he is at the point where he can do certain things. I figured this was simple enough that he could do it. My mother then said….

Why would you send that to your dad, where are you reading this from

I then pointed to the text on the screen that listed the directions, she then saw the directions and was like OK. Then she said

Theres so much other junk on the screen that I didn’t know what you were reading, I thought you pulled up a porn site by mistake

Right then, I looked at the page on the screen. It wasn’t until then did I notice the avatars of the people posting on the message board.

The first avatar was the one you always see with George Bush holding up a middle finger. The next was an animated GIF, a topless woman, oiled up, rubbing her hands in a circular motion around her – well you can guess. The third was another animated GIF of 2 women engaging in a repeating make out session. The fourth was a simple picture of Dave Chappelle. And last but not least, the last Avatar on that thread was a very XXX rated animated GIF involving bodily fluids.

Needless to say, I was a little embarrassed, but further more, I started to think about who else could’ve been at the computer when I was looking for those directions. At that moment, and many times when I’m searching, I tend to have a bit of “Avatar blindness” along with my “Ad blindness“. Once I stopped focusing on the text on that web page and looked at it, I noticed that the page was filled with tons of “adult oreintated” material, from the avatars, to the advertisements on the page. It was actually the forum section of a Bittorrent website that I had never heard of.

Anyway, that little situation was something I thought was interesting. It has made me more aware of what link in search results I click when someone else is watching over my shoulder.

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