I want to be a good human being, but I'm finding it increasingly hard.
It isn't just the oppression of a world gone to dung. It isn't even the notion that technology is making it harder to be ethical.
It's more that tech companies want to nag and nag and nag until you do precisely what they want you to do.
I regret that Microsoft is one of the bigger -- but certainly not the only -- culprits in my life.
It may, at least in some ways, be an adorable company. Yet, at its core lurks the idea that annoying human beings are the best way to bend them to your will.
So many Windows users were aggravated, for example, when Microsoft foisted the new -- and very good -- Edge browser upon them, without preamble or even uplifting sell.
So many Windows users continue to be aggravated because their devices now may not be able to embrace Windows 11.
Microsoft, Why Are You Making Me Run Hot?
And then there are we, diehard Hotmail users. I know, I know. It's called Outlook now, but my email address is still Hotmail, and what are you going to do about it?
For reasons that aren't always clear, Microsoft persists in inserting little ads that emerge near the top of my Hotmail desktop page.
The most persistent over the last year urged me to download, why, the Edge browser. This is despite the fact that I downloaded it soon after it was launched -- yes, April 2020 -- and really quite like it. I simply haven't made it my default.
There's little more perplexing than a product you like going out of its way to get on your last nerve.
Very recently, the Download Edge ads have diminished in frequency. But they still don't go away. They appear once in a while, and I have to click on the cross to make them go away.
So I asked Microsoft what I had to do to stop getting downloading encouragements about a product that I've already downloaded -- more than a year ago, in fact.
A Microsoft spokesperson, however, wanted to enlighten me: "The ads encouraging you to download Edge or add an Outlook application, they're actually not ads at all."
They're not? That's a relief. I worried that this is exactly what they were -- persistent, somewhat annoying ads.
The enlightenment continued like this: "This is what's called the 'Biz Bar,' which is used at the top of Outlook.com to tell consumer customers that there are new features and apps available to them."
This Is the Bizness, Don't You Know?
The Biz Bar. That sounds like somewhere I'd (never) like to go for a drink. Who needs shop talk when you're sipping on a cocktail?
But wait, I've already downloaded Edge. Did I mention it was a year ago? I like it. Why is your Biz Bar telling me to download it?
"Primarily, it's used for letting customers know about Edge and Outlook features for Edge, like the new Outlook Extension," said Microsoft's spokesperson. "Different messages will appear depending on which browser is being used."
So Microsoft doesn't know I've downloaded Edge because my default browser is Firefox; ergo, it's going to continue to pester me about downloading Edge?
"Please," I begged. "I have Edge. I like Edge. But Firefox is currently my default browser. Is there any way I can stop these non-ads, these Biz Bar barracking, from appearing on my Outlook page?"
"The Biz Bar notifications can always be dismissed," said the spokesperson. "But there is not presently a way to disable them entirely."
Not presently? Some might translate this as: "Not ever, ever, ever."
"Do you want to have a serious relationship with me?"
"No, I told you before. I'm happy keeping it casual."
"But do you want to have a serious relationship with me?"
"There are benefits to us just being, you know, friends."
"But don't you want us to be exclusive? Or, at least, an official couple?"
Some Day, We'll Be Together. Together Forever.
So here I am, condemned to constant dismissal. Here I am without even the option of "don't show me this Biz Bar Barracking again."
I worry, you see that Microsoft will keep occasionally pestering me about Edge until I make it my default. This is the sort of "selected, personalized" message I'll be getting forever until, wizened by the tiredness of life, I succumb.
I tested this painful theory out. I opened my Edge browser and signed into Hotmail. Immediately, the Biz Bar lit up: "Your browser supports setting Outlook.com as your default email handler."
You don't say? Really? Oddly, I don't get that notification from Hotmail in Firefox. Yet it, too, supports Outlook.com as my default email handler and has done for many years.
Wouldn't it be possible for Microsoft to set, say, a dismissal limit? If you've dismissed an ad -- er, Biz Bar barracking -- 20 times, then you won't see it again?
You might gruff that Hotmail is a free service, so I should expect these sorts of nagfests. But I actually pay $19.95 to enjoy the enhanced Hotmail service. This doesn't seem to exempt me from this completely pointless, fruitless messaging.
You might imagine there are better ways to communicate with your customers. Your loyal customers that is. I mean, goodness, I still use a Hotmail account. How much more loyal can you be?
Then again, we're talking about Microsoft here.
This is the company that recently tried to encourage me to renew my Microsoft 365 subscription by offering me, oh, a free cup of Starbucks coffee.
I wonder if, one day, it'll offer me a lifetime of Starbucks frappuccinos if I make Edge my default browser.