This is a daily (?) list of links I found worthwhile. Some of them are news, some are timely information, and some are things I should have known about a long time ago, but only now had pointed out to me.

Links for 2019/05/07

Got quite a grab-bag of stuff this time. Been busy enough with life that what should be a simple evening habit one night a week has gone for…three weeks? I guess that’s not so bad. It’s long enough, though, that I can’t clearly remember all of the articles in my backlog. And there are too many topics to make a coherent theme. Let’s work through them, then.

Music for this linkblog: Twin Black Lodges, a generative soundscape from mynoise.net, inspired by Twin Peaks.

Social Media

EUnomia Critical FAQ

EUnomia is an EU-funded university research study that intends to develop tools for scoring the “trustworthiness” of users and posts on social media. They have come under criticism for not only the general sketchiness of their goals, but also for working closely with military and intelligence contractors with histories of anti-immigrant work. This FAQ represents what is known about them.

Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS?

“Because it would mean banning some Republican politicians too”.

Basically, it can’t be done at scale using the same kind of automated tools that they used to get rid of ISIS accounts, because the collateral damage that they considered acceptable for that would affect people with power and influence in the US that could come back to bite them.

It’s also the case that there is significant overlap between the kind of rhetoric used by, e.g., the Christchurch shooter (someone everyone would want to ban) and, say, former US Rep. Steve King (someone I would ban, but Twitter wouldn’t). And then there’s the dog whistles – the US right generally uses coded language to merely suggest what the far-right says outright.

Why Google+ Failed

A lot of the lessons in this are things that anyone working on social networking software should take into account. In particular, Mastodon and its kin use asymmetrical following, which discourages close ties. And even though Mastodon has strict chronological timelines, it still has infinite scroll, no concept of read/unread messages, and is generally not reliable for messaging.

Web tracking

The New York Times sells premium ads based on how an article makes you feel

This is the kind of thing that data science is used for under surveillance capitalism. I’ve listed it under tracking, but this particular offence could actually be done without tracking you personally, just knowing what feelings an article evokes in a standard audience.

DuckDuckGo wrote a bill to stop advertisers from tracking you online

Duck, bill, haha. The actual bill proposes to give the Do Not Track standard teeth by making violations punishable. This would be somewhat weaker than the GDPR, because it would be opt-in, but would also be less of a pain in the ass than the GDPR-compliance features on European websites.

Xanadu

WIRED: The Curse of Xanadu

An oldie but a goodie about some of the many reasons that Xanadu never became a successful or widely-used system. It doesn’t get into some of the reasons that basic features of Xanadu (immutable documents, transclusion, transcopyright) would actually be bad things in an open-world system.

Wiki is not Xanadu

An article on the original Wiki on why Wiki is not that much like Xanadu.

Environment

The Plan to Grab the World’s Carbon with Supercharged Plants

Improving carbon capture through plants is a better idea than geoengineering, as long as it’s combined with massive reductions in emissions. I’m not sure that engineering roots to decompose worse is as good as making biochar, though.

Airpods Are a Tragedy

Environmentally, they’re a tragedy because there is no safe way to repair, recycle, or dispose of them. Socially, they are a tragedy, because they are only for signalling disposable income.

Digital typography

Raster CRT Typography (according to DEC)

An article on how DEC designed the fonts for their classic terminals to play nice with and take advantage of the hardware limitations of the displays. Interesting fact: the fonts as actually displayed are wider than the fonts as dumped from the terminals’ ROM, because of display timing.

Simulate Dot Stretching in DECTerminalModern.ttf

An OTF font that simulates the “dot stretching” feature discussed in the previous article. I am using it with Cool-Retro-Term to write this linkblog in emacs.

Unclassified

The Anarchists Who Took The Commuter Train

23 Reasons Not to Reveal Your DNA

Posters Urge Atlanta Residents Not to Dump Trash on White Supremacists’ Property

Get These Dependencies Off My Lawn

How Men Became “Emotional Gold Diggers” - Men Have No Friends and Women Bear The Burden

Go well, friends. Take care of each other.


Links for 2019/04/14

Retro web, simple web, and alternatives to the web

A simple gopher client for Gnome, written in Vala

This is in early stages, but it works fine for most gopher sites. I would like to find time to help out with it.

Shizaru, an opinionated web server

This is a web server written in golang that attempts to “serve no evil” by imposing strong opinions on pages that it serves. The default opinions focus strongly on a “fast, safe, simple, clean, respectful” web.

Neocities Districts

An old-fashioned topical index of a set of web pages. We need something like this for the gopherverse, honestly.

Water.css

A simple CSS stylesheet with no classes that you can just drop in to semantic HTML to give it a modern style without boilerplate.

Pondering what’s between gopher and the web

By the author of shizaru, above. What limitations of gopher can we overcome without it degenerating into the modern web?

The modern web and its politics

Status as a Service

I really strongly disagree with the author’s position that status competition on social media is basically inevitable and therefore good. But I do like the depth of analysis of how different social media platforms have tried to serve as sources/stores of social status. The challenge for sustainable social media is to attract and keep users, while tamping down on status competition and status inequality, in the manner of traditional hunter-gatherer societies.

Counting the Countless

How data science, as effectively an intensification of capitalist racist patriarchal bureaucracy, threatens marginalized people in general and transgender or nonbinary people in particular.

Politics generally

Utility threatens to sue critic over drinking water complaints

South Carolina news. Not sure if this is more “blaming the victim” or “shooting the messenger”.

Stick to the Plan

A discussion of centralized planning – how megacorps are, effectively, planned economies, and how their success shows that socialist planned economies could work – if we had a socialist society to implement it.

Bill McKibben Book ‘Falter’ Details Possibility of Human Extinction

And, of course, if we don’t achieve socialism right away, we’re doomed. It’s no longer “socialism or barbarism”, but “socialism or extinction”.


Links for 2019/04/07

I had way too many links to share this week, and I had to cut it down a lot to be able to handle all of it. That said, here’s what’s left.

Social Media

We Built a Broken Internet. Now We Need To Burn It To The Ground

The author argues that the state of social media, especially of Twitter, where harassment is baked into the platform, are a result of white cis men building a platform for themselves and not really thinking about other users. We can compare to Mastodon, where the anti-harassment features of the design largely result from trans women pestering the main developer, Gargron (white cis man), during the early development process.

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

The Intercept releases a PowerPoint presentation that’s a few years old about how GCHQ (Britain’s NSA) attacks people on social media. The contents aren’t very surprising, unless you believe that the US and Britain don’t do exactly the same kinds of things as China and Russia.

How to Think About Breaking Up Big Tech

A defense of anti-trust law in general, and Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for big tech in particular

DC Comics

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand”

The definitive take-down review of Man Of Steel, part of a re-watch series.

Eobard Thawne arrested after 3-hour stand-off in Athens, TN

So, apparently some guy, a crooked ex-cop, is actually named Eobard Thawne, and was arrested in Tennessee. This is a new low for the Reverse Flash.

Misc

A Roundup of Posts Against Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is not an organization by or for autistic people.

The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous

Twelve Step programs don’t work very well, and there are other strategies that work well. Why don’t we, as a society, do what works?

Shooting and Capturing

A Native American photographer is doing insider photography of every recognized Native American tribe.


Links for 2019/03/31

Technology and adjacent politics

Gadgets, Power, and the New Modes of Political Consciousness

This article is a good antidote to the standard kind of moral panic article over mobile devices. It takes a Marxist perspective on devices, and how the dominant narrative about them treats people (device users) as isolated economic units.

Memex(browser)

This is the main page for the Memex browser, a browser engine that is being developed. Here’s what the developer has to say about it:

Memex ultimately aims to show that it can be desirable to remove JavaScript from the web platform and instead move more in the direction of HTML and CSS. That doing so the web will not only improve security, but also:

  • strengthen consent/trust,
  • be easier to program against,
  • work naturally with a greater range of UI devices,
  • and possibly use less computing power.

All while providing alternative specifications so websites can continue to deliver the usability benefits they currently get from JavaScript.

I strongly agree with the idea of removing JavaScript and improving the basic web platform to do the reasonable things that currently require JavaScript.

Dataforge UUCP

A group of computer users are setting up a modern-day UUCP network. This manifesto explains why.

I had a UUCP newsfeed to my PC back when I was in college. It was running under OS/2, connecting to a local ISP over dialup. Looking back on that time period, I have never been more satisfied with my “social media” experience.

Designing for the Librem 5 - Space and Meaning

I don’t anticipate ever owning a Librem 5, but I’m extremely grateful for the work they are doing on adapting Gnome apps to smaller screens. I have a small laptop screen, and I like to split the screen in two halves, left and right, with a tiling window manager. Each half of the screen is very much a phone form factor, so apps designed for a phone screen work well. So far I’m seeing this with Epiphany (web browser) and Lollipop (music player); I’m looking forward to this support getting into Fractal (Matrix chat app).

Facebook Violated Fair Housing Act with Ads, HUD Charges

Ad targeting is intrinsically discrimination between parts of your potential customer base. It’s just that when it comes to housing, many of the ways Facebook normally provides advertisers of discriminating are, in fact, illegal. This is entirely apart from the ways in which Facebook allows its advertising customers to reach users in ways that are fundamentally unethical, e.g., show this ad to people who are interested in “white nationalism”.

Big Tech is Spying on Us: a collection of articles to freak you out

None of these are news as such. But this is a good article for showing people who are not sure why they should care.

The Southern Poverty Law Center

The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center is Everything That’s Wrond With Liberalism

Discussing these two articles together because the second one is highly derivative of the first, which is the actual expose. The truth is that, even though this story is about the SPLC, it’s not just about the SPLC. Most liberal “cause” organizations operate basically the same way. They do some good work, but it’s incidental to their fundraising operation, which is the main part of the organization.

Pop Culture, Nostalgia

Touchstones: An Appreciation of the Dark Comedy “Heathers”

This was one of my favorite movies as an edgy teen thirty years ago. The article talks about how it subverted the expectations of teen movies at the time. This just feels like one of the defining movies for Generation X.

The Anti-Imperialism of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

This article is a Marxist look at DS9 as showing the dynamics of imperialism, and the compromises forced on a communist state competing with imperialist states. It really goes into quite a bit of depth.

DS9 is extremely popular on the fediverse, significantly with people who weren’t alive when it was actually on the air. But I think that’s more because of its LGBTQ+ subtexts rather than its anti-imperialism.

Politics remaining

Get Real

The author tries to give a materialist explanation of why people in rural areas vote against their economic interests that is more satisfactory than the idealist explanation given by liberals.

Seeing Like A Communist

Someone with far too much patience and tolerance tries to provide a basic feel for the communist worldview, targeted at the Less Wrong/Slate Star Codex “rationalist” community, who are notable for being extremely tolerant of and charitable towards fascists, but much less so towards leftists of any kind. The result is a good “communism for normies” article.


Links for 2019/03/23

Going to try to do this whole link blog entry from emacs. Normally I have a workflow that involves dragging links from Firefox into emacs, where, by a bit of emacs magic, they are automatically converted into Markdown links. But I’m trying to live in the terminal (with Cool Retro Term) this week, so I’m using pinboard-list.el to give me my list of links to share. Hopefully I’ll have a macro or something that is almost as easy as my drag-and-drop hack…

The Male Feminist Movement Time Forgot

This article is a good introduction to the Men’s Liberation movement, and why we now have, instead, its shadow, then Men’s Rights movement. Oddly, it doesn’t mention contemtorary Men’s Lib resources, like /r/menslib on Reddit.

Why we use progressive enhancement to build GOV.UK

I also work in government web development, and because we have accessibility requirements that the private sector often doesn’t, progressive enhancement is a natural fit for us, too.

Geo for Bootstrap, a Timeless Theme by Divshot

This is a theme for Bootstrap that makes it look like a classic GeoCites webpage. A brilliant subversion, since Bootstrap is so closely associated with webpages that look professional but lack any unique character. A real piece of work.

How to Make a “Share on Mastodon” Button in Pure/Vanilla JavaScript

I’ve added this at the bottom of each of my pages as, of course, progressive enhancement. Without JavaScript, you get a “web+mastodon” URL, which depends on your browser having installed a handler for it. Unfortunately, neither is going to work in Lynx; you’re just going to have to copy and paste the URL in that case.

Where platforms go after Christchurch

The author identifies two classes of problems that make it easier for neofascists to spread their idology: platform problems, and internet problems. Internet problems are those that just come from everyone being able to talk to everyone. Platform problems are those that come from platforms growth-hacking, slapping on a thin layer of moderation, and using algorithms to try to optimize for engagement.

The Brutalist Path

An emacs user discusses how they went from using standard color themes to making a brutalist theme: more than no syntax highlighting, but substantially less than normal themes, and quieter. I’ve tried their theme, and for whatever reason, it causes font substitutions on my emacs both on Windows and GNU/Linux, so it’s not quite usable for me, but I really like the idea.

The Pyrex Glas Controversy that Just Won’t Die

Basically, what you’re buying these days under the Pyrex brand is not Pyrex, in the sense that it’s not borosilicate glass. Because it’s cheaper to sell tempered glass, even though it’s prone to shattering into small pieces under thermal stress. This is fine.

Shutting down Homestead child detention center: a Quaker perspective

The Miami Friends Meeting is working to shut down the child detention center in Homestead.

Quaker: The Quiet Revolutionaries

We saw this video at the Palmetto Friends Gathering last week. I wish I had a better link for you than vimeo, but youtube-dl will make it usable. This is a simplified history of Quakerism focusing on the social justice aspects. Sometimes it may be simplified to the point of not being 100% accurate, which was a point of contention for some of the people at the gathering.


Links for 2019/03/19

Web

A JavaScript-Free Frontend

This has some neat tricks that I hadn’t thought of for doing “live” front-end without JavaScript. The checkbox/label trick is really cool, though it’s a little over-complicated for my taste, and besides, doesn’t degrade well in browsers that don’t support CSS. The fact that you can use it to build a modal dialog is crash, though.

I’m using details/summary for subject/Content Warning in brutaldon. It degrades okay. The live behavior isn’t available in older browsers, but you do at least get all of the text displayed. The forms and input validation is an example of the “paving the cowpaths” approach that browser vendors should be taking for enabling behavior without JavaScript. Unfortunately, they aren’t doing it as much as they should. The author of this article recommends a few more HTML elements that would let you dump more JavaScript, like a native modal and standard drag-and-drop-sorting.

Digital guide to low tech

This article is another “how to build a low tech website”, using a lot of the same tips as the other article. The main criticism I’ve seen is that the image processing is performative – you could actually get smaller images without the dithering done in the article.

The web we broke.

tldr; Web developers don’t care about accessibility. And we often do things that require going out of your way to break things that are accessible in standard HTML.

Some emulations in the browser of older browsers

Jason Scott @textfiles Since it’s the 30th anniversary of the world wide web, let me just link to some emulations-in-the-browser of browsers, so you can see some of where it could have gone before we all decided to let Ol’ Sociopathic Googly be the entire engine for everything.

The Hottest Chat App for Teens is Google Docs

Nature, uh, finds a way. People will use whatever tools are actually available to them to achieve their goals; taking away the chat apps won’t make people stop chatting.

Generative.fm

Generative ambient music. This is very much my thing, and it would be ideal for listening to at work, if it weren’t against office policy :(

Politics and Adjacent

‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ at Fifty

A good review.

Beto O’Rourke’s secret membership in America’s oldest hacking group

O’Rourke’s life story is pretty compelling to me (punk band, Cult of the Dead Cow), but that’s not how I choose candidates to support. His policy record is pretty conservative, and that’s the opposite of what we need today.

Move Fast and Build Solidarity

Activism at Google and Amazon paid off. But can the emerging “tech left” forge long-term alliances between janitors, drivers, and engineers?

Elizabeth Warren’s Big Tech Beatdown will Spark a Vital and Unprecedented Debate

Electroshocking the corpse of anti-trust law.

Something actually concrete and useful from our local fishwrap! If you’re not in SC, I’m sure you have similar or better resources available to you. A guide to what you can actually get from FOIA and public records.

Parenting

How Inuit Parents Raise Kids Without Yelling – And Teach Them To Control Anger

Basically, adults never show anger at kids, and they let kids know that showing anger is for babies, but in a playful way. And they use stories and play to let children practice controlling their anger while they are not mad.


Links for 2019/03/11

Mercifully short today.

A feminist’s guide to raising boys

A lot of this rings true. The article mentions that little boys are different from little girls because even parents treat them differently, even when they don’t mean to. One thing it doesn’t mention is what they pick up from peers, even as toddlers and preschoolers.

Medical benefits of dental floss unproven

I feel vindicated.

Nothing is a greater waste of time than the planned debate between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Žižek

This is bound to be entertaining, but debates don’t convince anyone, much less prove anything.


Links for 2019/03/07

I didn’t accumulate as many links this week, because while I was sick with the flu, I felt too bad to read as much as usual.

AI won’t relieve the misery of Facebook’s human moderators - The Verge

It might allow Facebook to pay less for moderators, though…

The Climate Change Paper So Depressing It’s Sending People to Therapy - VICE

There will be no new normal.

What “Knight Fight” Gets Dead Wrong about Medieval Men | The Public Medievalist

I knew as soon as I saw the name “John Clements” attached that it would be a shitshow.

Paul Woolcock / unroll · GitLab

A thread unroller for the fediverse! You can unroll a thread by replying and cc’ing @unroll@botsin.space.

NPR: Hate groups and white supremacists spread their message with flyers

My impression had been that after their many very public defeats when holding rallies, that US white supremacists were in retreat. But apparently that perception is wrong; they are more active, but in ways that don’t expose them to physical danger.

Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

Electric cars should only need enough range to drive you to and from the train station.


Links for 2019/02/26

Strap in, it’s a little depressing this time.

Why US cities are becoming more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians

Mostly the answer is a good thing — more people are biking and walking. Unfortunately, that brings more people into danger, given that our cities are designed for cars, and not for people.

The article overstates it a little bit. It’s chloramines, caused by reaction of chlorine with proteins that causes red eyes, and the smell of the pool. But sweat would also be enough to create chloramines, it’s not all pee.

Instagram account of University of Pennsylvania runner showed only part of story

This is a really good article about how perfectionism is implicated in depression and suicide. Also touches on social media, and how it can cover up depression while also making it worse for some people.

All of the reasons why the internet is bad—a breakup letter — Quartz

A personal, but also very generic and relatable, account of falling in and out of love with the Internet.

The Communal Mind: The Internet and Me

Similar theme, very good writing; more focused on the Extremely Online, and especially on Twitter, rather than on the changes in Internet culture over time.

On Smarm

A necessary antidote to the cult of forced civility. Smarm is the form of civility without its substance. A defense of snark.

The Hard Lessons of Dianne Feinstein’s Encounter with the Young Green New Deal Activists | The New Yorker

Dianne Feinstein treats a group of children who have come to beg her to let them grow up in a non-apocalyptic world as if they were some flesh golem made from pieces of lobbyists and Russian spambots. Strike that; she’d be friendlier to the lobbyists.

The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America - The Verge

This was a horror to read. You need to be in a resilient mental space before you read it, but you need to make time to read it when you’re in that space. I don’t think I’ve read any story that sums up the times we’re living in as well as this one. The workplace surveillance and abuse; the desperation, quiet and otherwise; the progressive face that corporate HR puts on while it basically tortures people for the sake of appearances and a goal they can never possibly fulfill.

How Google, Microsoft, and Big Tech Are Automating the Climate Crisis

tldr; providing IT and cloud services to coal and oil companies enables them to extract fossil fuels more efficiently, effectively moving carbon from the ground to the atmosphere faster. This effect massively overshadows any kind of investments that Big Tech is making in clean energy or efficiency.

Digital Life: What happened to voice mail?

Oh God, never leave me voicemail. I need to set all of my voicemail messaegs to remind callers to send a text or email instead.

Prisons Are a Biblical Abomination | Church Life Journal

An amazing Catholic argument for prison abolition.

Companies that insist on surveilling their employees want to make encryption weaker for everyone. Pervasive monitoring is an attack.

About Face – Popula

A powerful piece of sequential art about fascist aesthetics in modern America.

That’s all for this edition.


Links for 2019/02/19

Architecture

Over the last five years or so, maybe a little bit more, downtown Columbia has been sprouting these student apartments everywhere there’s space for them and a lot of places there isn’t (displacing existing local businesses). One thing about them is that they all look alike – basically they’re long boxes, four or five stories tall, with various superficial architectural features that don’t really do anything to hide the fact that they’re long boxes.

This week I finally found out why this is! Apparently they are a type of building called “five over one” or “five on one” that consists of one story of poured concrete and four or five stories of “stick” (wood frame) construction, the same kind you see in single family homes. Apparently this used to violate fire codes, but in 2009 the nationwide model code updated to allow it (with increased sprinkler requirements, I think?). And it spread because it’s cheap. You don’t need as skilled labor to assemble pre-cut and pre-attached wood frames as you do to build the steel frames that used to be required.

Here are the articles I read about this in.

_ Why America’s New Apartment Buildings All Look the Same - Bloomberg

The new Seattle, where everything looks the same | Crosscut

Community Architect: How “One-Plus-Five” is Shaping American Cities

Updates on the hellscape we live in

A thread written by @gilbertlisak

Teacher trainings for school shooter response are both terrifying and useless. And almost certainly profitable.

A Night at the Garden

A film compiling footage of a Nazi rally in the US by the German-American Bund, before Pearl Harbor.

The magical thinking of guys who love logic | The Outline

Why online “rationalists” are typically less rational than average.

New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in US Politics | The Nation

Russiagate is brain worms for liberals who are unwilling and unable to look for domestic causes for Trump’s win. We’re entering the primary season again, and it looks like we’re going to repeat the mistakes of 2016 or worse, because Americans are incapable of learning anything.