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Counterpoint.

[A]ny software that is intended to be used by humans is inevitably an expression of its programmers’ understanding of the software’s audience, and therefore the programmers’ beliefs about the nature of those humans’ lives and priorities and the value of their time and experiences. Consequently, larger a program is, the more likely it becomes that you can evaluate its merits purely on the politics of its developers.

mike hoye on context.

2019-10-30T08:52:23+11:0024th February, 2020|Tags: culture, tech|

Phreaking Square.

You know those Square reader things everyone has at cons to pay for their stickers and badges? Apparently they work by encoding data as noise—apparently basically all credit card readers work this way—that they send through the phone’s headphone jack. Y’know. Kinda exactly like how those screamy old 90s modems worked…

See also: this.

2019-10-29T12:25:22+11:0021st February, 2020|Tags: tech|

It’s not you, it’s men.

The world does not deserve [its women]. I thought back to every person who has ever asked me how to “fix” the gender problems in STEM, how to “get more girls” to join STEM programs. I thought about every time that someone has suggested “men are better at spatial thinking” and that “testosterone is linked to better performance in math”.

In my mind I look at all these people, a crowd that is gathered. And in my mind, I stand up and I scream at them. I would put my hands around their shoulders and shake sense into all of them, individually, if I had enough time and enough hands

The problems are so obvious.

There is nothing wrong with women. There is nothing wrong with girls in STEM. There are many women and many girls who, in spite of everything, love STEM-related disciplines. Some of them even go through 4-year bachelors degrees at MIT, maybe even 7 years of a PhD, and then begin questioning whether they should continue in these fields, because they are filled to the brim with so, so many shitty men.

Selam G. on the pipeline.

Content warning for the linked post, which deals with the conduct of various Shitty Men In Tech ranging from shitty comments to harassment to the explicit sex trafficking of minors… and to the other men who enable it all.

This is also, incidentally, the post that went viral and lead to Richard Stallman “resigning” from various positions, because I guess there’s only so many times you can defend pedophilia—and Stallman had a known history of it, to be clear—before consequences catch up.

(That being said, by the time this post gets off the post queue, if Stallman isn’t already on his “wah wah SJWs/cancel cancel culture comeback tour” I will eat my keyboard…)

2019-12-18T09:52:57+11:0017th February, 2020|Tags: culture, tech|

Unaccountable.

Put differently, when Toyota recalls hundreds of thousands of cars for potential defects in which exactly zero people were harmed, we consider that responsible stewardship of their product. And when the people working at Uber straight up murder a person with an autonomous vehicle, they’re allowed to say “but software”. Because much of software as an industry, I think, has been pushing relentlessly against the notion that the industry and people in it can or should be held accountable for the consequences of their actions, which is another way of saying that we don’t have and desperately need a clear sense of what a “duty of care” means in the software context.

Mike Hoye on duty of care.

This is, of course, an intentional by-product of thirty years of techbro mantrums and whining and refusing to grow up and, y’know. Realize that Actions Have Consequences, Actually…

2019-10-25T07:53:59+11:0013th February, 2020|Tags: tech|

… and you can too!

Obviously I wholeheartedly endorse this list of reasons why you (yes, you!) should totally have a website

Also amused to find out The Thing I Have Been Doing With My Blog Since The Early 2000s apparently now has a cute acronym: POSSE.

2019-10-25T07:48:25+11:0012th February, 2020|Tags: tech|

.com bubble up.

Like nuclear take but maybe giving control of like two thirds of the internet to the company that thought buying the rights to Crazy Frog was a good investment was not, like. That great an idea…

2020-02-14T08:19:58+11:0010th February, 2020|Tags: tech|

Digital superstition.

While this phenomenon has been called a hoax, a scam, and a new iteration of the chain letter, it’s also something like a superstition. People are legitimately concerned about the power of giant companies like Facebook, and it’s kind of believable that it’d be able to make these kinds of rules and you, the user, would be stuck with them. Thinking there must be some legal way out of this unequal relationship—that the law wouldn’t let one company act with impunity in this way—isn’t so irrational. And so these words keep popping up and, since there was no change in the first place, they seem to “work” and do no harm—like knocking on wood—so everyone forgets for a couple of years.

Katharine Trendacosta on digital supertitions.

This is about those panics that periodically go around social media where people believe making a post with a certain set of words in it will exempt them somehow from ToS enforcement or other unwanted behavior; the AO3’s version of this is the “don’t post to another site” tag, for example. The linking of this with superstitious practices like knocking on wood is pretty interesting—what are these posts, after all, but the digital equivalent of saying “bless you” to keep someone’s soul in when they sneeze—and now I’m imagining, like. All the weird little rituals and phrases people might be saying in ten or fifty or a hundred or a thousand years…

2019-10-23T08:53:50+11:005th February, 2020|Tags: culture, social media, tech|

Fauxpitalism.

But Uber has already plainly announced its roadmap: Self-driving cars. The much-lauded independent driver-entrepreneurs will be replaced by completely automated service providers as quickly as possible, and not only will those new self-driving cars not have drivers who need to be paid, they will all be owned by Uber itself. When this transition happens over the next decade, we’ll have entire markets of independent contractors displaced by the transition, precisely at the point when the social safety net is being dismantled. In the meantime, politicians across the political spectrum have been presenting these “gig economy” non-jobs as the future of work.

Anil Dash on fake markets.

A quick history of every intentionally engineered “mistake” that got us from eBay to Uber…

2019-10-09T15:54:07+11:0026th January, 2020|Tags: tech|