Back on Facebook

Well, I’m back.

On the day after Memorial Day, I woke up to discover that someone had broken into my account and changed the profile and header images on a page I maintained for the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival. As I hurried to log into Facebook so that I could fix that problem, I discovered that my whole account had been disabled by Facebook. I followed the prompts, and tried to verify my identity, but that seemed to fail and the response Facebook gave me was that I had violated their community standards, my account had been disabled, and they were not going to review my account again.

It stayed that way for many weeks as I tried different methods of reaching Facebook so that I could speak with someone about restoring my account. I tried any direct or back channel that I could think of. I also wrote to the BBB, filed a letter with the FTC, and reached out to local media.

I launched a blog (http://www.gazerbeam.com) where I could document my struggles. Along the way, I discovered how common this problem was, so I dedicated a portion of my website to the cause of helping other people who had their accounts disabled for a variety of reasons. I stayed active on Reddit, and joined a few discord servers, all filled with people who were in the same boat as me. I even participated in an interview with NPR for a story they did about the issue with Facebook accounts.

My account on Facebook was the best record I had of everything that’s happen during the last ten years of my life, most notably the last two years during which Josh fought his battle with brain cancer.

My best advice to everybody is to ensure that your credentials for Facebook are secure and that you should download a backup copy of your account data as soon as possible, just in case something happens and you lose your account.

Facebook, please enable my profile

RE: Request for a review of the decision to disable my Facebook Account

June 1, 2021

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To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing to you to ask that you review the recent disabling of my account for Jon Alan Morgan, under email address 32bpwr3@gmail.com. This morning, I discovered that the header and profile images of a page I manage for the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival had been altered without my permission. I am also hearing from other admins of the Facebook page that they were removed from the page.

Next, I discovered that my account was disabled, and responded to a request from Facebook to verify my identity. I submitted my information, including my ID. When I was done, I was shown this error message:

We Cannot Review the Decision to Disable Your Account

Your Facebook account was disabled because it did not follow our Community Standards. We have already reviewed this decision and it cannot be reversed.

This is very disheartening, as I have a lot of photos and videos stored on Facebook, and often use it to stay updated on the news and to stay in touch with friends and family. My son passed away from brain cancer in April, and I have taken comfort in the photos that appear in my timeline as reminders of past memories with him.

It would mean a lot to me if you could help me to get my account restored. I can’t be sure what triggered this lock-out, but I suspect that it is related to the changes which were made to the Facebook page. I have a background in Journalism and an interest in Social Media as a professional, so I take my presence online seriously. I am confident that a review of my account will show that it should be reactivated.

I’d be happy to provide you with any additional details or information that is needed.

Sincerely,

Jon Morgan

After one year, email application Spike delivers what it promises but still has room for improvement

Almost one year ago, as I began to ramp up my job hunting efforts, I knew that I was going to need a system efficient enough to help me organize the job-related postings, confirmations, and conversations that I’d be engaging in until I found a new full-time position. This seemed like a job which was too large for google mail, so I set up a separate account on Outlook. I created an email address on my hosting account which I planned to use only for my job search.

As I was setting all of this up, I came across an intriguing new web email app being promoted by my host provider called Spike. This new application’s biggest selling point was that it would organize email exchanges into conversation threads, and offered an interface which was most similar to that of Slack.

I love Slack, so this email application really intrigued me. .During the eleven months that I’ve been using it, I have found that it can be a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks. True to its main selling point, I enjoyed viewing my exchanges in the form of discussion threads. This made the process of communication very fluid. I’ve also enjoyed the ability to “snooze” incoming emails until later, a feature I’ll use on confirmations for job applications when I want to follow up with a position after the weekend, or as a reminder to follow up after a week or two.

Spike is also available as a mobile app, and I’ve had it on my phone for almost as long as I’ve been job hunting. The user experience on my phone is just as smooth as it is in the browser. In both versions, you can view everything that’s in your inbox, or filter for just email that has been received via a specific email account. This has been handy as I have set up multiple email addresses to help manage my job hunting efforts.

One major drawback is that on several occasions I nearly missed an opportunity to interview for a job because an email message never showed up in my inbox, or was somehow buried. I suspect that because the emails are displayed in the form of threads, that the new message was simply added to the bottom, and there wasn’t a clear way to see that a new message had arrived. The threads are also determined by email addresses, so if a sender uses a new address, their message could be stored separately from an existing thread. This might happen if an initial message was sent from a web-based system, but then follow up messages were sent for an email account.

For this reason, it seemed to me that the biggest thing that has been missing from the Spike user experience is the ability to switch to a more traditional inbox layout. This would help to ensure that new messages aren’t missed. There are several other systems, such as bulletin boards, which allow you to switch the view on the messages you are viewing. Sometimes, you might want to see messages chronologically instead of in a thread.

I also found that Spike had a difficult time processing attachments. Whenever someone sent me a file, the application didn’t seem to be able to handle it. I would need to forward the message to my gmail account before I could view or download the attachments.

I was so spooked by these shortcomings, that I have gradually transitioned back to gmail, and use spike mainly as a way to quickly glance over my new email messages. So, I think that the concept of displaying email in conversation threads similar to the discussions in Slack is a great one, and eventually Spike could even give Slack a run for its money. But, it still has a ways to go before it is reliable enough to cover all of my email and team communication needs.

If I heard that someone was looking for a more intuitive email application, I would recommend Spike, but not if they are already comfortable with the service they had, and not in place of other mainstream team communication platforms.

How to use smart speakers to set up an Emergency Medical Communication System in your home

Last year, as the beginning of July drew closer, my wife and I focused our energies on getting the house ready for our son, Josh, to return home after spending five months in rehabilitation at the Mary Free Bed. We switched bedrooms so that he and his little brother would be on the ground floor, and we would be on the top floor, made arrangements for the driveway to be paved, and changed around the bathroom so that Josh would be able to safely use the toilet and the shower.

Surgery in March to remove a large tumor from Josh’s brain had left him paralyzed on the right side, and unable to speak. During his rehabilitation, he was able to gain many of these abilities. When he checked out of Mary Free Bed in July, he walked off of the floor with the aid of a cane, and could speak sentences that were about five words long.

One of the challenges I knew we would face at home was being able to attend to quickly attend to Josh’s needs. We went home knowing that he would be starting six rounds of chemotherapy treatment right around August. This meant nausea. Even on an ordinary day, I knew there would be times when he would need our assistance, but if my wife or I were upstairs or on the other side of the house, it wouldn’t be as easy to hear him.

The other half of the challenge was that it was difficult for him to find the right words he wanted to use to express himself. This is fine during casual conversation, but in an emergency time is of the essence. For example, “bucket” became the word that he used when he felt like he needed to throw up. It was just something that started while we were in Mary Free Bed.

Hospital rooms are typically equipped with devices that allow patients to call nurses when they need something. Josh and I used his many times, although he wasn’t always comfortable trying to make the requests himself because of his aphasia. I knew that we needed a system which was similar to the nurse call intercom, but could be set up to help Jon communicate his needs.

Our Google homes seemed like a logical starting point. We had just gotten enough Google homes to position one in each room, and I had used Google’s app to create several automations. You could, for example, program the Google home to turn on the lights and play a specific podcast if you told it “I’m home.”

You could also pre-program an announcement which would go out on all of the Google speakers when triggered. And, since several of our rooms were equipped with Google homes, that announcement would be heard just about everywhere. So, we already had our own version of P.A. System.

I set up the triggers so that they would be unique to Josh’s medical needs, but rare enough so that we wouldn’t set off the trigger by accident. I borrowed the hospital’s color-coded system, i.e. “Code Red,” or “Code Blue.” Code Red, for example, triggered an announcement stating that Josh felt ill. I believe the exact phrase was, “I am about to get sick.”

I ended up with three or four automations, but I knew that it could be easy to forget all of their meanings. So, I set up an additional automation which would serve as a type of verbal menu. The trigger was “help,” and the response from the smart speaker included a list of the different options.

I had been binge watching “Star Trek: Voyager,” and was inspired by the show’s EMH to write the script for this automation as if Google was an Emergency Medical System. The word “help” would trigger a preliminary announcement to everybody in the house that the “system has been activated.” This was enough to cause alarm, even if you were sound asleep or involved in something else. Choosing the different codes would help to give context: I feel sick, I need to use the bathroom, etc.

I recall the system only being used once as intended, on the first night of Josh’s chemotherapy treatments. I tried to encourage the rest of my family to use it, but it didn’t experience a lot of traction. A year later, things are quieter, and Josh has an easier time communicating his needs, so we don’t rely on this so often. He has also been using text messages or just the intercom feature on the Google home in his room to get our attention.

I have been thinking, though, about all of the corona virus patients who are quarantining themselves at home, and the people who are taking care of them. It seems like this kind of home emergency medical system, or HEMS, might be needed there as well. Especially if someone needs help, but isn’t able to quickly describe what it is that they need.

I also think about the way Josh was in the hospital, and his challenges with using the nurse intercom. How does one explain over an audio system what it is that they need, when they aren’t able to find the words? An automated system might have helped to bridge that gap.

I also purchased a pair of Alexa speakers a few weeks before Josh came home because I had seen the Alexa in action and was impressed with its intercom feature. You could basically connect an intercom call between one room and another, and then carry on a conversation. Google homes only allowed you to send short bursts of words to each other. My goal was to enhance our communication with the Alexa. We could also use the Alexa as a “baby monitor,” so that we were alerted if Josh got up or said that he needed something.

I think that this experimentation could be carried a lot farther with Alexa’s ability to set up “skills.” I can imagine setting up Alexa so that it asked the person intuitive questions, and then took actions based on the responses.

And, my Alexas are able to send my phone an alert if it “hears” the sound of broken glass. I wonder if it could be set up to react to other sounds, such as someone getting sick or key phrases.

Having tried both smart speaker systems, if I were to start over again I am sure that I would choose to invest only in the couple of Alexas. I think that their intercom capabilities are far beyond what the Google home can do. And, as I said, I think that Alexa has the potential to become a truly voice-activated medical assistive device.