The sky, black with lawyers

jwz on How to fix social media:

What we need is this one simple trick:

A site that scrapes, collates, and de-dups your friends’ posts on every social media site, and then shows you the union of all of those posts as one feed.

This is the only way to break Facebook’s back: to allow your friends’ transition from one social network’s data silo to another to be so gradual and effortless that you don’t even notice it happening.

The thing that makes this difficult, of course, is not the coding, but the fact that if you succeed at it in any meaningful way, the sky will blacken with lawyers, and the data silos’ spending on technical countermeasures will absolutely smother you.

Sadly, people have little agency in all of this. Social Media’s End User License Agreements (EULA) and Terms of Service (TOS) make that clear.

Remeninces of iPod

When I first went to Japan I had a Huawei-built Google Nexus 6P and a red iPod Touch 6th generation 256G. Other than the sometimes arbitrary requirement of iOS apps that one’s device have a cellular radio (active or not), they were a good pair of devices to cover my mobile needs.

Eventually the Nexus battery swelled and I moved fully into the Apple ecosystem. I keep looking for a good Android-based media player WITH A HEADPHONE JACK but they were either scarce on space or wildly expensive. I traded the iPod in.

Nowadays the iPad Mini 6th generation 256g fills the role the iPod did for me, and the red iPhone SE 2020 has that pocket friendly form factor the Touch had.

Hurtful language hurts politicians

United States Senator Bill Hagerty on Tuesday joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and nine other colleagues to introduce the Public Servant Protection Act, which protects public officials and employees and their families from having their home addresses displayed publicly online. Text of the bill may be found here. …

United States Senator Bill Hagerty on Tuesday joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and nine other colleagues to introduce the Public Servant Protection Act, which protects public officials and employees and their families from having their home addresses displayed publicly online. Text of the bill may be found here.


That’s not how free speech works.

Should public servants and their families be protected by law enforcement? Yes. We all should, and those serving in office should get protection specific to their role as the vitriol is particularly incendiary and the service they provide is important.

Should government officials be sheltered from voters who disagree with them, those who say things they don’t like, in a peaceful manner? No. If the voices are dangerous? Yes.

Should journalists and news outlets couch political grandstanding as “protection” from “threats”? No.

Should public employee addresses be public record? That’s not clear cut. I think elected officials should have their addresses on record since their residence is part of the requirement to hold office. If public service employees, like fire and police, are required to live in their community, then that should be public record as well.

Of course, this is largely moot. Most everyone volunteers their location on social media. It would not take much work to figure out where a public servant lives based on posts by themselves, their significant others, or their offspring.

Lawn care specialists, house cleaning professionals, au pairs, and the like could also post location information.

Maybe neighbors post their own information and it becomes easy to triangulate a voted-on public servant’s house?

Interesting Leadership Language Choice

Money Stuff: Twitter’s Board Gave Up:

You could imagine him [Twitter Chief Executive Officer Parag Agrawal] giving an answer that employees did want to hear. “This will make our product stronger than ever.” “This will give us the funding we need to improve the service.” “This means we can focus on delighting our users rather than on the stock price.” “This means more free speech, which is a core value of ours.” “Elon Musk is a business visionary and he will run the company better.” “Elon Musk loves Twitter and uses it way, way more than any of the current executives or directors, so he will run it better than we do.” I don’t know. I’m not saying that I necessarily believe any of those things, or that Agrawal does, or that you should. I’m just saying you could imagine the CEO of a company, who had just voted to sell that company, telling the employees of the company that that was the right decision for the company, whatever that means. You could imagine some enthusiasm. You could imagine the CEO thinking that the person who values the company the most and will pay the most for it — Musk — will do good things with it. Agrawal said the opposite. The implication is that Twitter has interests as a company that are distinct from the interests of its shareholders, but that Twitter’s board felt it had no choice but to do what was best for shareholders even if it was worse for the company. (Emphasis mine)

This deal, whether it happens or not, will be taught in business and law schools for years. I’m of the opinion the deal will not close, but I would not be surprised if it did.

Leadership seminar speakers will also probably mine this rich vein as maybe a cautionary tale? Employment coaches certainly will, telling their clients that if the company says stuff like Agarwal has, fire up the job search.

OG HomePod FTW?

Getting my pair when I did was a great move, but better now:

Why the HomePod? That’s a good question. It’s a piece of Apple history, perhaps; you need two of them for stereo or more for whole-home audio; and unlike its more affordable successor the HomePod Mini, it’s acoustically quite good. My colleague Jen Tuohy has also explained that the smart home is one of the few places where Siri actually excels. She thinks people are realizing it’s the only other option besides the worse-sounding HomePod Mini.

(Via Sean Hollister at The Verge)

Siri is.. not bad on the iPhone either? Or the Watch? Possibly this is because people do want a good-sounding speaker and are willing to spend a little more because they aren’t finding what they want. (Marco Arment complained about this on the most recent ATP podcast.) How ironic if the big HomePod finds its market only after being discontinued, like Sony’s AIBO robot dog.

( Via Charles Arthur at The Overspill)

While living in my sister’s guest room during the pandemic I decided to take a flyer on an OG HomePod. They dropped to a more reasonable $299 and I was tired of listening to things on tinny speakers. I knew from hard earned experience that Sonos was not the way to go. I was in the Apple ecosystem, so it seemed a better investment than another Sonos disappointment or the tin-can-on-a-string acoustics of an Amazon device.

Two key items, both unexpected, sold me on the platform: it sounded good and crisp at low volumes (important as my nieces’ rooms were on either side of mine) and the Siri integration proved more useful than expected. My Siri & HomePod journey has not been without frustration and doubt, however.

Today I have a stereo pair in my family room for home theater audio from my Apple TV. The lesser HomePod minis are in my living room and bedroom for low stakes audio. When I need real sound upstairs, I have my actual stereo setup with wired speakers that plays actual physical media. Before I got the second pair of Minis I looked on eBay for the OGs. They were already at what I’d consider a premium in January. I almost bought another pair when they went end-of-sale, but I had other priorities. I kind of wish I had now, but speculating on what tech becomes lamented and prized is a fool’s errand.

Marriage Story

“He’s both a pas­sion­ate believer and in­tense critic of the service which is ex-actly what we need on @Twitter, and in the board­room, to make us stronger in the long-term. Wel­come Elon!” Mr. Agrawal tweeted.

Mr. Musk tweeted: “Looking for­ward to work­ing with Parag & Twit­ter board to make sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments to Twit­ter in com­ing months!”

(Via WSJ; by Sara E. Needleman and Meghan Bobrowsky)

I watched moviesthis weekend for my Introduction to Film Studies class. One of them was Marriage Story (2019).

It opens with each of Scarlett Johannson’s Nichole and Adam Driver’s Charlie, a wife and husband, describing what they appreciate in the other in what we learn is a divorce mediator’s homework for the irreconcilably differenced couple.

The letters each wrote about the other parallels Agarwal’s and Musk’s mutual masturb … er, appreciation society.

I use Twitter sparingly. I’m not a Musk-o-vite. Regardless, I will note how this pans out.

Libertarianism in light of misinformation

The fundamental precept of libertarianism is best summed up with the phrase:

All things being equal, …

Of course, few if any things are truly equal.

Libertarianism – as I understood it – is predicated on other secondary assumptions, assuming government doesn’t tell them to do these things:

  • People have enlightened self-interest
  • People are responsible for their actions and expect others to be
  • People are predictably selfish
  • People are rational actors
  • There’s someone else who will fill in the gap: churches, charities, non-profits, and the like where enlightened self-interest, predictable selfishness, and acting rationally fail
  • Open information is best and will help people be enlightened self-interest rational actors

That idea, that open information is best, feels right. It should be right, all things being equal.

Things are not equal. Just like the idea that there are markets in everything, there is gaming of everything. Come up with rules and someone will not only find ways around them but will frame their activity as right and true.

Many people are disturbed that Duck Duck Go will down-rank Russian disinformation on their search engine. They are declaring that DDG is dead to them.

I have no problem with this. I will keep an eye on down-ranking, but in this case I think it’s the right thing to do.

First, down-ranking means that the search results for the disinformation will still be there but maybe not at the top. So sources of bad information will have a hard time to manipulate algorithms to get their bad data at the top.

Second, there’s the idea that all users – in this case, all people – are the above-mentioned rational actors and can tell disinformation from fact. They can’t. See the amount of recent disinformation around Barack Obama’s birth certificate AND HE’S BEEN OUT OF OFFICE FOR FIVE+ YEARS. DDG is not preventing misinformation from being available but is not giving it equal weight to credible data.

Third, DDG’s announcement seems to assume the imperfect knowledge of most if not all users. That’s not wrong: We’re all variously imperfectly knowledgeable about Russia’s war with Ukraine, Brexit, the cartels in Mexico, the elections in South Korea, and a bunch of other stuff. I read the news for 1-2 hours per morning and I would not consider myself “well versed” on any of it.

Forth, DDG uses results from Microsoft’s Bing. One could do the same search in Bing and get the misinformation.

My takeaway is that DDG is being a responsible netizen, preventing misinformation from proliferating as on-par with verifiable information from credible sources. Those who think DDG is violating libertarian ideals and will not use it as their search engine – farewell and best wishes.

Work calendar trust, or the lack thereof

I no longer trust my work calendar.

First, colleagues reschedule meetings when we need to meet on a topic again. For example, a meeting held this morning at 10:00 ET had an outcome of meeting again tomorrow. Instead of scheduling a new meeting, the organizer rescheduled it to tomorrow.

Second, corporate migrated/is migrating to a new email system. Everything in the old system is still there in the old system. None of it transferred.

Third, the desktop, web browser, and mobile calendars loose synchronization. For example, last week I saw the same meeting scheduled for 2 different times depending on the platform. Luckily I noticed the difference and was able to confirm with colleagues about the actual start time.

Lastly, the work calendar relies on multiple internal corporate systems. Which internal corporate systems seems to depend on how the work calendar is accessed. Some of this might help explain #3, but right now a outage on another system impacts my ability to get at my schedule.

What does all this mean?

Keeping with the idea that “Plain Text Rulz!”, I am using my iOS Shortcut and the Beorg app to dump the next & current day’s schedule into org files so I will have a more reliable record of my comings, goings, and doings.

I will back it up with my analog daily journal. I used to keep my work schedule this way back when I worked in Japan but dropped the habit.

※ I do not share my iOS shortcut as is but might share a sanitized version if requested.

Platforms are not for users, part 27

Goodreads lost my entire account last week. Nine years as a user, some 600 books and 250 carefully written reviews all deleted and unrecoverable. Their support has not been helpful. In 35 years of being online I’ve never encountered a company with such callous disregard for their users’ data.

(Via Nelson Minar)

As Nick Heer wrote on Pixel Envy:

Goodreads is not some scrappy start-up. It has been owned by Amazon for nine years. These are big companies with big budgets and lots of customers, but they still act like they are just figuring this stuff out. That era is long over. Software needs a warranty, and so do services.

This all goes back to a maxim of mine that I continue to refine: if you value your data, you need to own it; relying on platforms to “do the right thing” is a fool’s game.