Alis

/Alis

About Alis

Alis Franklin is a thirtysomething Australian author of queer urban fantasy. She likes cooking, video games, Norse mythology, and feathered dinosaurs. She’s never seen a live drop bear, but stays away from tall trees, just in case.

Amazon is bad, actually.

So probably about two years ago, I made a quiet-but-conscious choice to, in as much as possible, stop shopping at Amazon. This isn’t entirely difficult, since Amazon isn’t nearly as embedded in the retail market in Australia as it is in the US—and it ironically got even worse once it opened onshore operations—but I’ve still found I’ve had to use it as a vendor-of-last-resort in those few situations where I can’t buy something via another channel.

Which is a lot of puff to basically say I very wholeheartedly agree with this article’s premise that, uh, actually Amazon is kind of garbage. Like, as a store. It’s garbage. People forget, because they don’t use other retailers but… damn, is it.

2019-02-18T09:16:06+10:0011th August, 2019|Tags: amazon, tech|

Dominance.

Imagine, for a moment, a world in which Uber and Lyft hadn’t been able to raise billions of dollars in a winner-takes-all race to dominate the online ride-hailing market. How might that market have developed differently?

Uber and Lyft have developed powerful services that delight their users and are transforming urban transportation. But if they hadn’t been given virtually unlimited capital to offer rides at subsidized prices taxicabs couldn’t match in order to grow their user base at blitzscaling speed, would they be offering their service for less than it actually costs to deliver? […]

We’ll never know, because investors, awash in cheap capital, anointed the winners rather than letting the market decide who should succeed and who should fail.

Tim O.Reilly on blitzscaling.

Related: I always kind of fascinating that the pop perception of capitalism is one of competition on an equitable playing field—to the point where the word “competition” itself is often used as a synecdoche—when in reality like, no major “capitalist” institution works like that at all

2019-02-18T09:04:55+10:009th August, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|

Thoughts and prayers.

Once there was a nation suffering the plague of gun violence. “Help us,” the nation prayed, “save us from the violence.” And God said, “You shall be provided with the legislative tools to ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and other wartime instruments of death.” And lo, the nation said, “I’d rather not.” And so nothing came to pass.

“Help us,” the nation prayed a year or so later, “save us from the violence.” And God said, “You shall be provided with the best universities and research institutions in the world, so that you may study the topic of gun violence and arrive at solutions to this public health crisis yourselves.” And lo, the nation said, “Let’s make funding studies of gun violence illegal.” And so nothing came to pass.

“Help us,” the nation prayed a few months later, “save us from the violence.” And God said, “You shall be provided with the best mental health resources in the world, and you shall be provided with wealth beyond compare so that all who are struggling with homicidal or suicidal thoughts will have access to care.” And lo, the nation said, “Sounds socialist to me. Let’s make Medicaid harder to access, not easier. And, oh yeah, our leaders are going to spread hate and xenophobia to give people a reason to commit acts of violence.” And so nothing came to pass.

“Help us,” the nation prayed a few weeks later, “save us from the violence.” And God said, “If you are scared that the Supreme Court will overturn sensible gun laws, if you are scared of the lobbying power of the NRA, then you shall be provided with a way to create Constitutional Amendments overturning the Second Amendment and making it harder for lobbying groups to influence elections.” And lo, the nation said, “A Constitutional Amendment? Sounds kinda complicated. It can’t be done except for all those times it’s been done. Nope.” And so nothing came to pass.

“Help us,” the nation prayed a few days later, “save us from the violence.” And God said, “It seems like many of these shooters are white men. I think you should raise boys differently and look closely at what whiteness does to someone’s psychology.” And lo, the nation said, “How dare you even say that.”

And so God — that’s me — I’m sitting up here going, What the hell is wrong with you?

God (via prophet Chas Gillespie) answers your thoughts and prayers.

2019-08-07T08:22:00+10:007th August, 2019|Tags: culture, cw: mass shooting, politics, usa|

Outliers.

Black exceptionalism is a popular and complicated idea. It asserts that a monolithic “average” black identity exists, and that by transcending this average, one is exceptional. While the idea isn’t welded to black achievement, it is related. Successful members of the black community who somehow avoided the regression to the (black) mean are presented as paragons, exceptional ones of their kind. There are backhanded compliments, and then there is black exceptionalism—a racist idea lightly dressed in a pat-on-the-back.

C. Brandon Ogbunu on being exceptional.

2019-02-13T09:17:32+10:005th August, 2019|Tags: culture|

Adventures in booth manning.

So last weekend was GAMMA.CON, and for my sins I ended up manning the CSFG‘s booth through most of Saturday. We had a shared table with Conflux and it was, uh. An experience. Part of it was possibly the placement; we were up in the back corner near all the sword and prop manufacturers, when we’d probably have been more suited to being in the author’s alley segment. And part of it was straight-up lack of planning; our notification was very, uh. Short. So it was definitely a last-minute scramble to organize things to actually put on the table. We did okay—anthologies were sold, tentaplushies were squeezed—mostly thanks to the arrival of Kaaron Warren, who’s much better at this sort of thing than yours truly.

(more…)

2019-08-05T09:03:20+10:005th August, 2019|Tags: books, cons, csfg, fandom, gamma.con, sff|

What we see here is evidence of the only real innovation 8chan has brought to global terrorism: the gamification of mass violence. We see this not just in the references to “high scores”, but in the very way the Christchurch shooting was carried out. Brenton Tarrant livestreamed his massacre from a helmet cam in a way that made the shooting look almost exactly like a First Person Shooter video game. This was a conscious choice, as was his decision to pick a sound-track for the spree that would entertain and inspire his viewers.

Robert Evans on thoughts and prayers.

EtA: Fredrick Brennan, i.e. 8chan’s founder (but not current owner), calls for the site’s closure. The most interesting this from the article, though, is the quote from Cloudflare’s executive Matthew Prince’s statement that Cloudflare won’t revoke 8chan’s customer status because, If we kicked 8chan off our network […] law enforcement would have less visibility into what’s going on. Which is, like. Uh. Way to admit to the world in The New York Times that your company effectively acts as a giant spying apparatus for law enforcement, I guess. (Full disclosure: I also use Cloudflare for most of my sites.)

EtAx2: Apparently Cloudflare has now revoked services and the text quoted above has been removed from the NYT article. I didn’t grab a cap of it but… it was there, I swear!

EtAx3: Cloudflare’s statement:

In the two years since the Daily Stormer what we have done to try and solve the Internet’s deeper problem is engage with law enforcement and civil society organizations to try and find solutions. Among other things, that resulted in us cooperating around monitoring potential hate sites on our network and notifying law enforcement when there was content that contained an indication of potential violence. We will continue to work within the legal process to share information when we can to hopefully prevent horrific acts of violence. We believe this is our responsibility and, given Cloudflare’s scale and reach, we are hopeful we will continue to make progress toward solving the deeper problem.

So-oo-oo… yeah. Cloudflare is spying on the traffic on its network. Whether you think this is justified and/or acceptable is another discussion but… they’re definitely doing it.

2019-08-05T15:48:06+10:005th August, 2019|Tags: culture, cw: mass shooting, politics, privacy, tech|