Zeynep Tufekci on the new dystopias.

Tufekci is a social researcher who has a special interest in tech and its impact. This is a TED talk—so don’t all groan at once—but in it she gives a very accessible 101 on how ad platforms like Facebook, Google, and YouTube are being used, both intentionally and inadvertently, to feed the political goals of authoritarianism.

2017-11-07T15:44:50+00:00 21st April, 2018|Tags: culture, tech|0 Comments

Facebook: Still terrible.

So most of you probably know Facebook is currently facing down new privacy regulation in the EU, called the GDPR. In essence, its introduction means that, a) Facebook can no long shadily sell off European users’ data to the highest bidder, and b) there are hefty fines for any company caught doing the dodgy.1

What most of you might not know, however, is that all Facebook users outside of the US and Canada are considered “European users”, since Facebook runs its non-North American operations out of Ireland.2 What that means is that, technically, the GDPR should protect the data of all of those users too. That’s 1.5 billion user accounts, i.e. the majority of Facebook’s userbase, including all Australian users.

So, naturally, Facebook is working to immediately exempt them from the law. Because it literally has no other way of surviving other than selling your data off to spy agencies both government and private.

So, yanno. About that…

Edit: More here.

  1. And, let’s be honest, Facebook gets caught doing the dodgy a lot. ^
  2. A lot of companies do. It’s a tax dodge. ^
2018-04-20T08:11:21+00:00 20th April, 2018|Tags: privacy, social media, tech|0 Comments

Is this breaking rule #1?

Dave Rupert is trying to bring back RSS (as an alternative to social media), by providing RSS-only content.

For me, RSS never went away; I’ve been using a self-hosted RSS reading solution since, like, before Google Reader died, and while the UI is kinda janky and it stopped syncing with my thick client reader when I migrated to CloudFlare, it’s still how I consume like 90% of all my stuff on the web.1 All those links I post? Yeah, they come through my feed reader.2

RSS in the modern web can be a bit crap, but most major blogging platforms and news sites support it in some fashion even if a lot of content isn’t as well-optimized for it as it used to be. Hell, even Tumblr supports RSS, and Tumblr is probably the social media platform least suited to it, so go figure.

The point of all of which is to say RSS is still great and was, in its day, the cornerstone of the oldskool open web. And anyone chafing at the confines of their digital feudal lord’s walled garden3 could do a lot worse than rediscovering the technology…

  1. The other ten percent? Split between Twitter, Mastodon, and Tumblr. ^
  2. If I read something I want to make a post about, I star it in my reader. I then have a script that takes all the starred items our of the database and sends them to Instapaper. There’s another script that pulls things out of Instapaper and posts them as drafts to my blog. Why the Instapaper intermediate step? It’s so I can also flag things I find outside of the RSS reader, either from the aforementioned social media sources, or from following links in other articles. ^
  3. … lol. ^
2018-04-19T08:04:23+00:00 19th April, 2018|Tags: internet, rss, social media, tech|0 Comments

Good cop, good cop.

It’s long been an anecdotal truism for people who work in interrogation-related fields—from policing to intelligence—that rapport-building techniques work much better for extracting information than verbal or physical coercion. The problem was the science wasn’t behind them, mostly due to the difficulty of studying a field where most of the evidence is classified.

Well. A pair of researches have overcome that obstacle, and been able to empirically assert what’s long been suspected: torture doesn’t work. And, specifically, it doesn’t work when compared to other, less confrontational, techniques.

2017-11-16T11:33:47+00:00 18th April, 2018|Tags: culture, science|0 Comments


I was asked a question on a panel once that was something along the lines of what advice I’d give to aspiring authors. My answer was that they should let go of the idea that everyone should “like” their writing.1 “Heaps of people hate Stephen King, whose stuff I love,” I said, “and love JK Rowling, whose stuff I can’t stand. And no-one at all defends Dan Brown, yet he still manages to be a bestseller!”

Having said that, a week or so later, I read this.

Incidentally, I think “not very clever media designed to make men feel they’re very clever” is probably a genre in-and-of-itself. And a lucrative one at that…

  1. I stand by this. It’s anecdotal, but still one of the biggest dividers I’ve found between novelists who’re successfully published and those who, uh, will probably never be. The former tend to understand things like audiences, markets, and YKINMKATOK. The latter, no so much… and often like to make sweeping generalizations about the “universality” of certain subjective plot lines, tropes, and authors while they’re at it. ^
2017-11-07T08:39:00+00:00 16th April, 2018|Tags: pop culture, publishing, writing|0 Comments