What a horrible website.
The Plunge is a wedding planning site "for men", based on the assumption that "real men don't plan weddings".
It's one of the most remarkably offensive websites I've seen lately. It manages to be sexist both ways.
It's sexist against men because it assumes we're all beer-drinking, remote-control hogging, sports-watching man-children who are trying to weasel out of being involved in our own weddings.
It's sexist against women because it assumes they're all frilly-magazine-reading, gold-digging Termagants who, when proposed to, turn into Bridezilla and become intent on never letting you have fun again. (Um, why would I be marrying someone like that, exactly?)
It also assumes that wedding traditions, especially expensive ones, are unquestionable and must be obeyed no matter how much you dislike them. Forget doing what you and your bride want to do; the wedding industry MUST be obeyed. But since you're a man, you're going to be pouty and passive-agressive about it.
Finally, The Plunge assumes I am engaged to a woman with whom I have such poor communication that I need a website's advice about how to talk to her. It's full of "How to talk to your bride about..." articles that basically recommend being disingenuous and evasive.
Why am I reading this? It's like a train wreck from which I can't tear my horrified eyes.
Their attitude is summed up in this direct quote:
"It [wedding planning] makes you play along with a fake smile, bored and bitter, creating the illusion that you give a damn."
Oh no, I have to spend months and months planning all this boring stuff I don't care about and buy all these expensive things that I don't want, because Bridezilla is going to make me, boo hoo hoo!
Seriously, what the hell is with this whiny attitude? Am I a man or am I a spoiled little boy? A man decides what he wants and then does it. A boy does things he doesn't want because of peer pressure, and then complains about it. Boys should not be getting married.
And if I can't reach a reasonable compromise with my woman than why would I be marrying her? I don't get it. Talk to your partner, figure out what you're gonna do, and then do it. What's so hard about that?
The one good thing about The Plunge is that it has made me want to be more involved in wedding planning, just so I won't be the kind of guy they're talking to. Was it all reverse psychology? If so, it worked.
Websurfing in bed
If you install a wireless network in your house, and you own a laptop, be very careful. The combination of wireless internet plus laptop is dangerous because it allows you to websurf in bed. This is just about the most useless of all possible activities, but so easy and comfortable that it is hard to stop. Several times over the past few days I've been trapped by my own laziness and wasted several hours websurfing in bed that I really would have preferred to spend doing something useful.
Let this post be a warning to you all! From now on, I will keep my laptop plugged in in the living room when I'm at home, just to make it harder to do the bed thing.
How to Argue Politics on the Internet
This post is inspired by every political blog comment thread that I've ever made the mistake of reading. I was going to call it "How to argue politics like an angry moron on the Internet" but then I noticed that was redundant.
First, get in the right frame of mind. Politics has only two sides: liberal and conservative. One of those is Your Side, and the other one is the side of Nazis and baby-killers. Some real-life issues may look at first like they complex multidimensional problems with many possible positions that a reasonable person could take, but that is an illusion and you must drive it from your mind as quickly as possible. You have to reduce the issue to a two-sided struggle so that you can begin the important work of proving that your side is right and that the enemy side hates freedom.
1. Psychoanalyze! Dissect the secret motivations of people you have never met and explain in great detail the character flaws that cause all [liberals|conservatives] to hate America and want to destroy freedom. You don't have to prove that they do hate America; just assume it to be true and then distract everybody from your lack of evidence by focusing on an argument over motives.
2. Take credit for anything good that happened when a president from your side was in office. Assign blame for anything bad that happened when a president from the enemy side was in office. Even things outside the president's (or any human being's) power to predict or influence are still fair game. If you're creative, you can imagine a chain of cause and effect that will allow you to blame the other side's president for tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and scandals in the private sector.
2a. Unless something bad happened during your guy's term. In that case, it was obviously Congress's fault. Or it was an impossible situation they inherited from the enemy side's president.
2b. If something good happened during the enemy's presidential term, take credit for it anyway by claiming it was a delayed result of laws passed during your side's presidential term.
3. There are only two kinds of sources: sources that you agree with, and sources that are biased. If anybody presents evidence that contradicts what you already believe, it must be from one of the biased sources. Loudly proclaim that the quoted pollster/study/newspaper/academic institute/police department has an extreme and well-known [left-wing|right-wing] bias and is not to be trusted. This will help you maintain a perfect defense against new information.
4. If somebody points out something your side did wrong, and you can't think of any way to deny or evade the blame, just think of something that the other side did that was similar, but soooo much worse than what your side did. (It's sufficient to find something they did that was similar, because anything the other side does is automatically worse than anything your side does.)
4a. Hope everyone is distracted enough by arguing over the new thing that nobody notices you changed the subject without answering the original point.
4b. Advanced version: Call your opponents hypocrites because they're complaining about this tiny, insignificant thing that your side did while they ignored, or supported, a similar but way worse thing that their own side did. Skip over the part where you ask whether or not they did support the thing that their side did; remember, everybody on the enemy side believes in and supports exactly the same things.
5. Make puns by changing a few letters in the name of the opposing political party or politician in order to make an unflattering word. Examples: "Rethuglican", "Demo-rat". This is very clever and shows everyone what a good sense of humor you have.
6. Never allow any criticism of your own side to enter your brain, unless it is to criticize politicians on your side for being too moderate. If they're not fighting as hard as they should to defeat the evil that is the enemy political party, they're appeasers and sell-outs!
7. When all else fails, call the other side Communists, Nazis, Fascists, Socialists, Jihadists, Imperialists, etc. All murderous authoritarian movements in history are interchangeable; they existed for the sake of giving you nasty labels to put on your political enemies, so choose freely and don't worry about understanding history or maintaining a sense of proportion.
8. If for some reason you still haven't won the argument, then describe in detail how you will physically assault your opponents when you see them in real life. Threatening violence proves your argument about interest rates and unemployment is correct! You're never going to meet the other person in real life, so you are free to posture and make empty threats that you could never back up.
Always remember, the object of the game is not to learn about other people's points of view, to improve your understanding of complex issues facing our country, or to find workable solutions. The object of the game is to keep attacking the enemy until you find that one perfect line of attack which is so rhetorically unbeatable that everyone who disagrees with you will go home with their tail between their legs. Then you will be declared The Winner Of The Comment Thread and the Internet will throw a parade to honor you for saving America from the evil [liberals|conservatives].
OMG pandas are scary
Video of a panda ripping a guy's jacket off right through the cage bars. That panda really, really wants that jacket. You'd better let him have it before he rips your arms off along with it.
Why do people have trouble understanding Creative Agenda, or: A study of internet communication failure
Clyde interviews Vincent Baker on Creative Agenda in this podcast. Vincent has obviously been frustrated by having to explain the concept of Creative Agenda over and over again to people who don't get it. He sounds like a guy who's moved beyond frustration into philosophical acceptance.
Why do people have so much trouble getting it? I have a theory. There's a short version and a long version.
Short version: Traditionalist GMs read Gamism/Simulationism/Narrativism and they badly want it to be a restatement of Robin Laws's classification of player types from Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering. It's not. Internet Communication FAIL. The end.
Long version: Read the rest of this article...
"It's my job to entertain a group of players with divergent interests." That is how traditionalist GMs conceptualize their role. If you think your players are there to be entertained (emphasis on the passive voice), then obviously you need to come up with a compromise that will give every player at least one thing to be interested in per session, and thus you need to understand what your players want. A breakdown of player "types" like one Robin Laws offers is a starting point for figuring out what your players want and thereby finding that compromise. So far so good.
But the confusion sets in when a person who is used to GM-as-entertainer is looking for Player Types - style advice and comes across an article about Creative Agenda. Creative Agenda is something completely different that just happens to use enough similar words that if you squint a little bit and ignore the parts that don't fit, you can misinterpret CA and force-fit it into your preexisting mental model by interpeting it as a restatement of Player Types. This feels comforting because it feels like what you're reading is confirming what you already believe. (Just saying it in a weird way for some reason.)
So our hypothetical GM is reading along, nodding his head, thinking about stereotypes of players like power-gamers and rules-lawyers and drama queens, and then he gets to the part where Ron Edwards says "In order to be coherent a game must have one and only one Creative Agenda".
Bam! Our hypothetical GM does a spit-take!
Because he's looking for Robin Laws-esque advice on making a compromise to please all types of players, and instead he sees advice that seems to say he should be trying to do the opposite. "WHAT? I can't simultaneously satisfy people who like realism, people who like story, and people who like slashing monsters? Nonsense, that's what I have to do every week. Any functional game has to have all three of those things. This theory is bollocks. This Ron Edwards guy is full of it. All of Forge-derived RPG theory is clearly B.S."
Internet communication FAIL!
People who understand CA know that "people who like slashing monsters" is not Gamism, but if you're a traditional GM looking for Robin Laws-esque advice on being an entertainer for people with diverse interests, then you're going to map "Gamist" onto what you already know about "Power Gamers", and from there you figure out what gamer stereotypes you can map "Narrativist" and "Simulationist" onto, and before you know it you've made a category error akin to confusing a box of dry sphaghetti with Catholicism because they both come from Italy.
In recent years, Forgies have tried to phase out the words gamist/narrativist/simulationist in favor of calling the agendas "Step On Up", "Story Now", and "The Right to Dream". This is probably a good move because these names have the advantage of being grammatically more difficult to apply as labels to indivdiuals and therefore harder to mistake for Player Types. (And if the new names sound like the titles of manifestos, good, because that's exactly what they are).
But this isn't going to solve the underlying misunderstanding, which stems from the fact that traditional RPGers have the (unspoken) meme that "GM = artist, players = audience" and therefore the GM's job is to entertain people with diverse interests. Forge theory rejects this meme. In Forge theory the baseline assumption is that everyone is an active and more or less equal participant in a creative activity; some games may assign a few extra duties to one of the players and call that player the "GM", but it's not an artist-audience relationship any more than the banker in Monopoly is in an artist-audience relationship to the other players. So the fundamental problem to be addressed is not "How can the GM reconcile the desires of all the players they are entertaining for", it's "How do we take the creative ideas of all these different players (including the GM) and weave them together into a functional activity of some kind". It's only from this point of view that CAs make sense: there must be a baseline agreement between the players about the nature of said functional activity. What are they there to do?
It might help to introduce traditional role-players to CA by introducing them as "campaign styles". This is still a little misleading since "campaign style" implies something the GM can choose unilaterally and enforce from above, whereas CA is something the whole group buys into or it doesn't happen. "In order to be coherent a game must have one and only one Campaign Style, and all the players must buy into it" is a more acceptable statement to a traditionalist; in fact it sounds so self-evident as to make you wonder what all the fuss is about, which is exactly how it should be - this is not supposed to be a controversial statement, it's just a starting point for talking about how to achieve the campaign style, or Creative Agenda, that you want.
The sad irony here is that Creative Agenda isn't even really that interesting of a topic. Yes, CA mismatch can kill your gaming group, but that's like the coarsest type of gaming group problem and the easiest to fix. Getting on the same page CA-wise is just a starting point, either for play or for design; the really interesting stuff starts after you've got that. The people who are involved in actually designing, playing, and writing about indie games (/story games / Forge games / narrativist games / whatever you want to call them) barely ever even mention CA anymore except when a newbie comes along and wants to argue about it. There are many, many other concepts from RPG theory and from Forge-derived games that are far more relevant and useful to analyzing and improving the quality of actual play sessions.
But for some reason, and I'm not sure quite why, Creative Agenda has become a gateway of sorts. It's the concept that most people encounter first when starting to read about RPG theory on the Internet (e.g. this Escapist article leads with it), and how they react to CA largely determines whether they'll read more about Forge theory and indie games, or whether they'll decide the whole scene is garbage and develop an aversion to it. The latter reaction is a shame because it means the person is missing out on learning techniques that could improve their enjoyment of role-playing. And missing out on playing innovative games that they might enjoy.
Trying to put into words why Story Games makes me roll my eyes so much...
Click for full size. One of these is a real Story Games thread. Can you spot it?
So you're telling me there's now an entire genre of video games recreating the experience of losing at Warcraft by turtling?
Every lunchtime conversation in Silicon Valley
Twitter iPhone Facebook! Social Networking, Twitter Facebook Google Twitter. Google Wave! User-generated content; Twitter iPhone. Google? Apple. Facebook Twitter. Drill down leverage, stop energy, innovation. Innovative? Revolutionary! The Power Of Social Media Twitter Facebook iPhone App Store. iPhone Mashups Twitter Crowdsourcing. Facebook!
Ugh, Silicon Valley. You're killing me.
Something I realized the other day is that I literally do not use the same Internet as most of my colleagues. I do not use Twitter or Facebook; neither one offers anything I am remotely interested in. They make me feel like an old man as I wonder what all the fuss is about. I do not have an iPhone and I don't want one. I don't want to use the internet on my cell phone. I do not want my cell phone to run "apps". I'm still trying to figure out how to get Verizon to stop charging me an extra $15/month for the apps that I have never used and that I've repeatedly told them to turn off. If I could smash my cell phone under a rock without massively inconveniencing my friends and family I would do it in a heartbeat.
The positive way of looking at this is that my different perspective might bring something to the table at Mozilla that would be otherwise overlooked.
On the other hand, people in the developing world are going straight to using the internet on cell phones without using it on computers first. Iranians aren't overthrowing their government with e-mail, they're overthrowing it with Twitter. Pretty soon cell phones will be the dominant way that people use the Internet. Will my hard-earned skills at developing software for computers, I mean ones with keyboards and mice, become obsolete? Will I adapt or will it be time to change careers? Who knows.
I LOLed at this. Explaining it would ruin the fun so just watch.
From Succeed Blog, the opposite of Fail Blog.
"Waaa! Waaa! Stop censoring me!"
Since there's such an interesting conversation going on in the comments of my previous post about free speech, I thought I'd talk about the most annoying misunderstanding people have of the concept.
Nobody's been doing this on my blog, but people do it ALL THE TIME in online political discussions and it drives me crazy. It goes like this:
- Say something that's stupid, hurtful, racist, hateful, or otherwise just plain wrong.
- Other people in the discussion call you out on the stupid shit you are saying.
- You wrap yourself in the flag and scream about your first amendment rights, censorship, how you are being oppressed, etc. etc.
- The discussion gets massively derailed and never gets back to the content of your original statement, so you are relieved of the burden of having to defend it. Great success!
One example I've seen a lot the past couple of years is conservatives calling Obama a Nazi... and then when people object, whining that they "aren't allowed" to call Obama a Nazi and that liberals want to censor them.
I'm like... Dude, what do you mean you're "not allowed to"? You just did. Disagreement is not the same as censorship.
When you have to watch the content of your speech to avoid *legal punishment*, that's censorship. Facing *social* ramifications for the content of your speech — e.g. the fact that if you say racist shit, people will shun you for being a racist — that has nothing to do with censorship, it's just other people using their freedom of association to not associate with you.
You have the right to say anything you want; I have the right to disagree with you and point out where you're wrong. That's how it works. If you want to convince people you're right, try engaging in actual discussion - asking questions, citing evidence, making better arguments, etc. instead of turning it into a meta-discussion about what you have the right to say.
Making a stirring monologue in defense of free speech in a conversation where nobody is even proposing censorship is as much of a non-sequitur as if you had started listing your favorite ice cream flavors. And it's generally the last refuge of people who can neither defend their statements nor admit when they're wrong.
No, your hobby will not become mainstream
I saw it today in the Team Liquid Starcraft 2 forums: yet another topic about "Oh noes my [family member] doesn't understand Starcraft and tells me it's a waste of time what will it take for Starcraft/"E-Sports"/competitive strategy gaming to become MAINSTREAM??"
I've seen this same complaint plenty of times before. On anime disucssion groups: "People don't understand my anime addiciton and they think anime is all pokemon or hentai, what will it take for anime to become MAINSTREAM??". On role-playing discussion groups too: "What will it take for role-playing games to become MAINSTREEEEEEM?"
OK, nerds of the world? Listen up. Your hobby is probably never going to become mainstream. And that's OK. Because:
1. You can still enjoy your hobby all you want no matter how obscure it is. All you really need are a couple of friends who share your interests. Even a very tiny niche hobby probably still has a worldwide participation of hundreds of thousands of people. Mabye none of them live near you, but you can still talk to them on the Internet. Things are a lot better for niche hobbies than they ever were pre-Internet, for sure.
2. You wouldn't like it if you hobby became mainstream, anyway. Imagine if your hobby magically did become the most popular pastime in the country. Then it would be over-hyped, commercialized, dumbed down, lots of stupid and obnoxious people would like it, and you would be complaining about how it was ruined. Search your feelings; you know it is true.
3. Why do you care whether or not strangers like the same things you like? Yeah, OK, sometimes somebody will call you names, tell you your hobby is a waste of time, or just give you a blank stare of incomprehension when you try to explain it. So what? Some people are stupid, narrow-minded, and judgemental. Those people lead boring lives because they're afraid to try new things.
Even if your hobby magically became mainstream, those people would still be stupid, narrow-minded, and judgemental. You don't want them as your friends anyway, so why do you care what they think? Just ignore them and go have fun doing the things that you know are awesome.
4. Consider that the problem might be your conversation skills. If people are running away every time you start talking about your RPG character, your problem might not be "RPGs aren't mainstream", it might be the fact that all you talk about is your RPG character. People who can only talk about one thing are boring. Picture a guy who only rambles on about fishing, no matter whether other people are interested or not. Yeah. Don't be that guy. Learn to listen well, learn to gauge people's interest levels, take an interest in other people's lives too, and learn a variety of subjects to converse about. These skills might not come naturally to nerds but you can learn them with a little effort, and they're important to have.
Worrying about mainstream acceptability of your hobby is just a sign of insecurity. Grow up, get some self-respect, and accept that other people won't always like what you like.
Wow, the internet really does save everything
Sushu just uncovered some very embarrassing posts I made under a pseudonym on an unsavory message board many years ago. (Well, I'm embarrassed. She thinks it's cute.)
No, I'm not going to tell you what.
But yeah, the Internet never forgets.
How dare you criticize obviously sexist advertising!
I had a conversation with Asa Dotzler at the Firefox launch party. He told me about how Microsoft made a pretty sexist T-shirt slogan advertising Internet Explorer. Asa blogged about it. Then Asa's blog post got MASSIVE BACKLASH from privilege-denying dudes. Asa said to me, "Is that shirt really inappropriate or am I just crazy? Cuz I was sure it was inappropriate but it seems like everybody's against me and I'm starting to wonder if I'm the crazy one."
No Asa, you're not crazy. I'm with you on this one.
If you somehow can't see the sexism here, let me lead you through it step by step: Designer sets out to illustrate the slogan "Fast is now beautiful". For "fast", designer chooses icon of a rocket. For "beautiful", designer chooses... what looks like an icon of a female stripper / porn star, aka image of sexual objectification of women. Hmm. So instead of using a neutral or universal symbol to illustrate "beautiful" (a flower, a sunset, a beautiful painting...) you chose a symbol that represents a very narrow type of sexual beauty - the kind that appeals to the horny hetero male, basically the stereotypical Maxim-reading audience.
Which, whether intended or not, sends the message that the Maxim audience is also the audience for Internet Explorer. If you're a woman who uses Internet Explorer, Microsoft has just told you that you're not part of their intended audience -- but your body can be used to portray their product as more "beautiful" to the men they care about pleasing. Might as well have gone whole-hog and used the slogan "Internet Explorer is the best browser for horny dudes to view porn with".
I was quite surprised at Microsoft for choosing an advertizing image that is both sleazy and sexist, especially given how conservative, businesslike, and even "square" Microsoft's messaging tends to be. The shirt seriously runs counter to Microsoft's usual messaging that Internet Explorer is for everyone. It also undermines the efforts that the industry is trying to make to encourage more women to get involved in software-related and the web-related careers. Efforts which Microsoft itself has even put considerable monetary support behind.
So anyway, that's the original issue. But the thing I really want to talk about is not "Microsoft made a sleazy and counterproductive marketing decision" but rather the phenomenon of the massive, defensive backlash to Asa's post.
All these random dudes jump out of the woodwork in the comment thread to angrily defend the shirt, deny that there's a problem, and attack Asa for being "PC" or "oversensitive". Many of them are surprisingly vehement about it. They've got this attitude of "How dare you even bring this up". They're, like, deeply offended that Asa chose to criticize the imagery used in a piece of marketing.
What's going on here? Where does the anger come from? I can see disagreeing with Asa's assessment, but this reaction is more like the commenters are trying to make him the bad guy for even raising the point. You would think he was trying to take away their right to look at porn or something.
The whole thread is full of illogical arguments and attacks on straw-man positions. I'm feeling snarky, so let's dissect the flaws in some of these counter-arguments. There's:
- "You're against freedom of speech" = attacking a straw man. Asa didn't propose censorship.
- "You're trying to repress sexuality" = another straw man. Expression of sex is fine. The issue is the decision to insert imagery based on sexual objectification into an off-topic context.
- "You're trying to tell the woman [the one depicted on the shirt] how she's allowed to dress and pose, what are you the Taliban?" = hilariously wrong, because it assumes that the cartoon outline drawn on fabric is a real person who had a choice about how to display herself. I'm all for women dressing how they want and even being porn stars if that's the career they choose. However, the woman depicted on the shirt doesn't exist, so referring to her as a free agent is nonsense. The issue is with the person who designed the shirt and the icon they chose to represent "beautiful".
- "You can't say for sure that the image on the shirt is a stripper / porn star, you're just asserting your opinion as fact" = way to obfuscate the issue, but are you seriously saying that the icon used there means something else? What else do you think it could mean? Maybe that rocket's not really a rocket either then?
- "But they didn't mean for it to be offensive to women". No, they just didn't bother to think about what message they were sending to women in the audience because they assumed their default audience was all-male. Isn't that just as bad?
- "It's impossible not to offend anybody. Even if you had put a flower there somebody would choose to be offended by it." = missing the point. The goal is not "to offend nobody" (which would indeed be impossible). The goal is "think about who you're addressing your marketing to and whether that's sending the message that half the population is not welcome in your user community".
- "[ Mozilla / the open source movement] doesn't have a 100% perfect record with regards to sexism either, so fix tht before you criticize Microsoft" = while there is merit to the principle of "let he who is without sin cast the first stone", we're not casting stones here, we're making criticism. Nobody's perfect, so if only those with a perfect record can criticize, then nobody can criticize.
- "You're overreacting, this is a total non-issue, why are you even wasting time talking about it" = and yet here you are, registering a username on somebody's blog just to argue about it. So you obviously don't really think it's a waste of time to talk about.
It's similar to the reaction you get in the gaming world when you try to point out any issues with representation in video games. Go on a video game forum and ask "How come there are 20 playable characters and all of them are white?" or "How come the male fighter gets normal plate mail but the female fighter gets armor with ridiculous windows cut out of it to show off her midriff and cleavage?". These should be obvious questions that game designers should be asking themselves once in a while. But man, ask those questions on a forum with gamers and watch them freak out as if you had just proposed censoring all video games.
Why are these guys so vehement about defending the status quo? Is it a sense of identification with their chosen technology that leads them to interpret any criticism of a company as a personal attack on its customers? Or, more likely, is it the need to deny that privilege and bias exist because otherwise you might end up thinking about things that might make you feel bad?
There's a disproportionateness to the backlash that doesn't make sense. Sexism and racism have undeniably caused harm to people and society. But what harm has ever been caused by criticism of an advertising campaign or criticism of representation in a video game? Take the criticism or leave it, but why react like criticism is something that could hurt you?
Email is a gigantic reminder of all my failures
God I hate my email inboxes. Both of them. They're nothing but a gigantic reminder of all my failures. All the things I didn't do, all the people I didn't stay in touch with, all the projects I didn't finish, all the requests for help that I never responded to, and my general failure to stay on top of things. Between @gmail.com and @mozilla.com I have over ten thousand unread emails, not counting spam; the number that I've opened but haven't dealt with is even higher than that.
And the stuff just keeps piling up, faster than I can deal with it. It's pointless to star a conversation: it just scrolls off the bottom of the page within a day and gets lost forever along with everything else.
I have given up trying to tag or folder things and lately I've given up on trying to read or delete everything. These days I treat my inbox like a forum - I peek in once in a while and pick a couple of interesting recent threads to respond to, and ignore the rest. What else can I do? Email is the dumping ground for every person in the world and every automated script on the internet. It's impossible to deal with.
Email is broken. We can keep scaling up our servers and our bandwidth but we can't scale up our brains or the number of hours in the day to keep up with all the people who want a piece of our time.
Why you should never read the comments on a political article
Reasonable position A: for example "The ACA isn't perfect, but healthcare costs just keep rising so we need to try something different. It would be a shame if the Supreme Court invalidated it before we got a chance to see how it works in practice."
Number of people in the discussion thread holding this position: About half
Number of people in the thread arguing for this position: 0
Number of people in the thread arguing against this position: 0
Reasonable position B: for example "Yes healthcare needs fixing, but it sets a disturbing precedent if the government can order us to buy certain products from private companies. I hope the Supreme Court strikes that part down so we can try a different approach."
Number of people in the thread holding this position: About half
Number of people in the thread arguing for this position: 0
Number of people in the thread arguing against this position: 0
Ridiculous position A: "The government should confiscate all the money from people who earn it to give free plastic surgery and Lamborghinis to people who are too lazy to work!"
Number of people in the thread holding this position: 0
Number of people in the thread arguing for this position: 0
Number of people in the thread arguing against this position: About half
Extreme position B: "If you're not a millionaire you don't deserve a doctor and should just die in the street!"
Number of people in the thread holding this position: 0
Number of people in the thread arguing for this position: 0
Number of people in the thread arguing against this position: About half
It's not just politics that brings out this style of argument. I saw the exact same pattern in a Warmachine forum thread about sportsmanship (of all things) - the question was "should you tell your opponent your maximum threat range if they ask?". Everyone was basically in agreement, yet the thread went on and on with people arguing "I shouldn't be called a cheater just because I don't reveal exactly what I'm planning to do on my next turn" versus "you shouldn't be allowed to hide your cards and keep your model stats secret". The majority of the thread was arguments against positions that nobody held.
It's a lot easier to tear down an idea than to support one, and it's a lot easier to tear down the extremist idea you accuse your "opponent" of holding than to find out what they actually believe and engage with that.
I got flash mobbed
Ugh. I've had to reboot my web server four times in the last three days, and I will have to pay Slicehost extra for bandwidth this month. Google "everybody hates firefox updates" and you can see all the places that linked to my article. Hacker News. Reddit. Fuckin' Forbes! What the hell?
My poor web server couldn't handle the load.
I made an account at Hacker News to respond to some of the hundred-plus posts there. My account was instantly banned because I triggered a false positive on their spam filter, so I wasn't able to participate in the disucssion. I eventually got unbanned but the thread was over by that point.
If any of my former coworkers are reading this, I want to apologize. I didn't expect this to go viral, I didn't expect it to be misinterpreted the way it has been, and I definitely didn't intend to do harm to Mozilla's reputation with this post. But I'm afraid that could be happening, because most of the re-blogs seem to be portraying this as a standard disgruntled employee rant against his company. Which has obscured the point I really wanted to make, about the disconnect between the user's goals and the developer's goals which is endemic to the whole software industry.
I've had a few thoughtful comments, but mostly it's just been people piling on to bitch about Firefox and/or Chrome. The number of people responding to the main point of my post is very low. A lot of people reblogging it or discussing it on Reddit or wherever don't even seem to have read what I wrote.
Any news site referring to "Jono DiCarlo, Firefox developer" clearly A. has no idea who I am, B. doesn't care enough to get my name right, and C. hasn't read my article, where I refer to Mozilla as my former employer.
Also, I was never a Firefox developer. I worked on Labs and then on User Research, never on the main product itself. I guess "firefox dev says firefox suxxors" was the irresitible link-bait headline, facts be damned.
This has taught me something very sad and frustrating about how communication goes wrong on the internet. I posted something that was close to a lot of peoples' hot buttons. So it "went viral" and appeared to generate a lot of discussion. But most of the people "discussing" don't even care what I said. They just wanted a thread to re-state their favorite rants about Firefox memory consumption or whatever. My post was just used as fodder for a pre-existing flame war. The point I wanted to talk about got lost in the noise.
I've closed new account creation on this site until this blows over. If you already have an account you can still comment. Generally the only people who bother to comment here are people I'm friends with in real life, and that's the way I like it. I don't particularly care about the opinions of random strangers from the Internet, and I don't want to spend any energy hosting, moderating, or responding to their comments.
If I know you in real life and you want to comment here, send me an email and I can enable you. In the future, I may implement some kind of locked-post feature so I can write something for my friends without inviting the whole internet to the party.
If this is what internet fame is like, I don't want any!
Apologies to people hurt by my post
It was never my intention to cause harm to Mozilla. I intended my post about upgrade hate to be constructive criticism.
But I found out yesterday that Mozilla had to make a press release to deal with all the flak that my post has generated. I never imagined it would go that far. I felt absolutely terrible about my post getting out of control to the point where they had to make a press release. I have a lot of friends in Mozilla who I care very much about. I'm deeply sorry if the result of my careless speech has been to make their jobs harder. I spent a lot of yesterday sending out apologies.
Firefox manager Johnathan Nightengale and my good friend Atul (now the only one of the Humanoids still at Moz) both wrote thoughtful posts in response to mine, which you should read.
I stand by my main point, that software developers tend to underestimate how much updates (even good upates) suck for users, and that the industry needs to think more about that fact. I wish I had made that point more diplomatically. I wish I had written the post so that it was more obvious that that was my main point, and so that it was less of an invitation for browser flame wars. I should have called the post "Updates Are Painful For Users" or something like that.
In 8 years of writing this website I don't think I've ever had a post viewed by more than about a hundred people or so. So the reaction to this one took me by surprise. I severely underestimated the potential for my post to go viral and the potential for my words to be twisted by people with an axe to grind.
As one of my friends told me: "Looks like you forgot how the internet works".
For the record, I'm still a Firefox user and I'm quite happy with it. The updates have been much less obtrusive, and since about version 13 or so they haven't broken anything that I use. It's not perfect but for me it's better than any of the alternatives. Chrome doesn't respect my privacy, IE is typically a step or two behind in support for cutting-edge features, and Safari is made by a company that thinks it should get to decide what software we can and can't run on our devices. Opera seems pretty respectable, but
it comes with advertisements and it's not open-source.
When I complain about Firefox it's not because I want to switch browsers. Firefox is the only browser that suits my values. I don't want to switch; I want Firefox to be better.
The internet never forgets
Just got this in an email from LinkedIn:
Wait... I still have a LinkedIn profile?
And people can look at it?
The picture above accurately portrays how I feel about this. It also portrays about how seriously I was taking LinkedIn when I made the profile.
Maybe I should update that shit... if I can remember what my password was.
Lovebird is ready for beta testing
The short version: I wrote a Thunderbird add-on to make the email interface I've always wanted -- one that helps me remember to stay in touch with people I really care about, instead of always distracting me with the newest incoming trivia.
The add-on is called Lovebird and you can download it here.
The rest of this post is about the philosophy behind Lovebird and why I designed it the way I did.
About a year ago, I wrote a post about how much I hate email
. I was frustrated that the few relevant messages from people I care about quickly get buried under a flood of distractions and nonsense. Not spam, even; just trivia.
There's a saying that "Life consists of what you choose to pay attention to."
Software encodes values, biases, assumptions, often unconscious, of the people who create it. The more that software becomes our filter on the world, the more that the unconscious biases of the software determine what we pay attention to.
There's one bias that's so prevalent it's invisible - noticing it is like a fish noticing the water. It's the assumption that the newest thing goes on top.
Twitter! Newest thing on top. News website! Newest thing on top. Blogs! Newest thing on top. Email! Newest thing on top. RSS feeds! Aggregators! What's new! what just happened now? I don't care about that thing it's so 20 minutes ago, get that off the front page.
The newest thing usually isn't the most important. It's usually a distraction from what's most important. Obsessive focus on the newest thing is a sickness in our culture. Not just the culture of software developers, but modern 21st century culture as a whole. Software didn't create distraction, but its bias towards showing you the newest thing is contributing to the constant distraction of modern life.
If life consists of what you choose to pay attention to; and what you pay attention to is increasingly not a choice you make consciously but is dictated by the software lens that you see the world through; then you are giving up control over the contents of your life to decisions made by that software.
And if the software is always focusing your attention on the newest thing just because it's newest, then you're allowing what your life consists of to be decided by who's noisiest.
Does that horrify you? It horrifies me.
Meanwhile, the stuff you don't pay attention to gets pushed out of your life.
Nurses who work with end-of-life care say that one of the most common regrets expressed by people who are dying is that they didn't do a better job of staying in touch with old friends and distant family while they still had the chance.
Email is the way I talk to more people more often than any other technology -- more than telephone, more than face-to-face contact.
My email interface should be helping me remember to stay in touch with old friends and distant family. But instead, email buries the important conversations under a flood of auto-generated GitHub and eBay notifications, political mailing list ACTION ALERTS, charities begging for money, etc. etc.
Maybe I opened my email interface with a thought in mind about what email I wanted to write. But my thought is soon lost as the interface bombards me with distractions -- all the newest, unread stuff.
Meanwhile that thoughtful, in-depth conversation from an friend I haven't seen in years is down on the third or fourth page. I didn't respond right away because it deserved a considered, crafted response. I starred it, sure, but... I guess I star a lot of things, most of which rapidly lose their relevance.
Unless I make a concerted effort, that conversation's going to get buried forever and I'm gonna forget about it. Now I'm gonna die with regrets because my email interface focuses my attention on what's new instead of what's important!
So I decided to do something about it. I started hacking around with an idea for an email client that would put that conversation with the old friend front and center of my interface, keeping it in my attention.
I built it as a Thunderbird add-on. Since its purpose is to help me stay in touch with the people I love, I named it "Lovebird".
Since it's people I care about, not messages, the Lovebird UI is built around a list of people, not a list of emails.
Everybody thinks they have the right to take up space in my inbox, but not everybody gets in to the Lovebird interface. It's a privilege, not a right. No mailing list or notification-bot should ever be allowed in the Lovebird list. Humans only.
And you only get there if I explicitly add you. I don't want my computer trying to be too smart and guessing who should go in the Lovebird list. That creates the wrong kind of feedback loop.
For everyone else, I can still check my inbox. Lovebird isn't meant to replace the inbox entirely.
I can have Lovebird sort my list of people in a couple different ways, none of which are based on putting the newest stuff on top. The default sort order shows me who's been waiting the longest for me to respond to a conversation. Whatever I've been procrastinating about writing becomes the top item in my interface. Hopefully this will make it harder for me to forget to answer people.
I can also have it show me who I haven't talked to in the longest time, even if they're not expecting a response from me. Maybe I just want to reach out to them and ask about their lives.
I've been hacking on Lovebird, on and off, for the past couple of months. If you've read an email from me lately, I probably sent it to you from Lovebird.
Now you can try it out! I've uploaded a beta version to Addons.mozilla.com. It's still missing some intended features, but it's about ready for people to try.
The source code is on GitHub. That's also where you can report any bugs that you find.
Bitcoins!!! Definitely the currency of the future and not a speculative bubble at all!
You may have seen recently that Bitcoins lost half of their value in one day. This may have frightened you into thinking that Bitcoins are no longer a safe retirement plan! You might be thinking that Bitcoin is nothing more than an interesting experiment in solving the "double spend" problem of virtual currency without a centralized verification service. You might even think Bitcoin is a giant scam designed to take money from naiive libertarians!
Fear not. I'm here to reassure you that Bitcoins are the future! Just consider all the advantages that Bitcoin has over your precious "fiat currency" with its "governments" and their "laws" and "regulations":
- A great incentive to learn computer security and maintenance, since you lose all your money if your hard drive crashes!
- Exchange rate vs fiat currency fluctuates by orders of magnitude from day to day, making it impossible to plan purchases or budget anything!
- Great for money laundering, black-market purchases of illegal goods, and income tax evasion! You can anonymously buy illegal drugs, child pornography, and bomb-making materials!
- If you want to buy food or clothes or pay rent you'll have to exchange your Bitcoins for dollars first, but this is just a temporary inconvenience until MacDonalds and Wal-Mart start accpeting Bitcoins, which they'll have to start doing any day now or they'll be left out in the cold when Bitcoin replaces all government fiat currency!
- Nobody can help you if you're a victim of fraud. Fraud prevention would require non-anonymous transactions and/or a central authority to resolve disputes, both of which are contrary to FREEDOM! Fraud is just part of The Free Market, so get used to it! Caveat Emptor, statists!
- Mathematically guaranteed to be deflationary, since there's a finite supply and Bitcoins will go out of circulation over time due to computer failures. Nobody in this utopian virtual economy of the future will want to spend Bitcoins on goods or services when they could be hoarding their Bitcoins to sell later! Don't you know that "incentives to hoard" are an important part of any exchange medium?
- Since they're super cheap right now, this is a great time to trade all your fiat currency for Bitcoins. Do it now, so you can get in on the next bubble! Wait did I say bubble? I meant completely justified increase in value, driven by all the people abandoning fiat currency for Bitcoins! A heavily hyped-up asset whose price shoots up by thousands of percent in a short time with no change to the underlying fundamentals is always a good stable currency and not a speculative bubble at all! The one who benefits from the next price increase will definitely be you, and not one of the early adopters who's been hoarding massive amounts of BTC since the easy-mining days, waiting for a chance to cash out. Listen to those guys, they're smart. When they tell you to buy BTC and thereby increase the value of the BTC they already hold, they only have your best interests at heart.
- Be part of an exciting online community! Join your fellow internet anarchists and Ron Paul fans and have fun ranting about the evils of the Federal Reserve, "fiat currency" (AKA any money not made of gold), and "coercion" (AKA living in a country with laws). Hoard ammunition and canned food to prepare for the imminent collapse of the U.S. economy due to "socialism" (AKA any government that collects taxes to pay for services).
- Did you know that dollars haven't been backed by gold since the 1970s? They're, like, just pieces of paper with no inherent value, man! Did I just blow your mind??? They're "fiat currency" which means the government could print as many as they want! And I bet the government is just itching for a chance to undermine its own authority by intentionally making its own currency worthless with massive economy-destroying inflation! They're probably going to start doing that any day now! Wake up, sheeple!
- But with Bitcoins, the supply is limited to 21 million! That's all the Bitcoins that will ever exist, thanks to the arbitrary will of some anonymous computer geek nobody's ever met who goes by the pseudonym of "Satoshi Nakamoto"! That means that Bitcoins are literally as good as gold, because the value of a currency depends entirely on scarcity and not on what people are willing to trade you for it (Don't listen to those economists who say the gold standard is a stupid idea. They're trying to trick you!)
- Feel like a big shot when your "mining rig" (thousands of dollars worth of graphics cards and power supplies) manages to cryptographically "mine" its first bitcoin after running for just a month! Sure you've lost money, but everybody on Reddit will be real impressed!
- You might think all the decentralization would make Bitcoins inconvenient to use, but don't worry: the fans of decentralization have settled on a single centralized place to trade your decentralized currency! It's called MTGOX which stands for Magic: The Gathering Online Exchange (because it was created for trading Magic cards and then pivoted to trading Bitcoins) and despite its reputation for horrible lag, a huge majority of all exchange between BTC and USD go through MTGOX -- giving MTGOX all the power of a central bank, with none of the benefits and none of the responsibility. MTGOX may even be manipulating the Bitcoin exchange rate for their own financial benefit.
- There is no way the government could ever crack down Bitcoins, because they're anonymous and decentralized! If they shut down one Bitcoin exchange, another will arise to take its place! Viva la revolucion! Nobody can stop our glorious free market! Sure, they could crack down on the endpoints where people exchange BTC for US dollars, making it impossible to exchange Bitcoins for goods and services from the real-life economy, but who cares! We don't want your worthless US dollars anyway! We can get everything we need on our online black market! (All a healthy economy needs is drugs, porn, server space, and Reddit karma, right?)
- Never pay taxes again! When the IRS tries to collect, tell them that your income was $0 last year! Since you took payment only in pretend internet money and not dollars, they can't tax you anything! There is no way the IRS will charge you taxes based on an estimate of the dollar value of your income, nor will they be able take your ass to court for tax evasion when you refuse to pay up. No, the IRS will be totally stymied by a simple technicality. Bitcoins are untaxable!
- Learn the hard way why the real-world financial system has all of the regulations and safeguards that it has built up over the last few centuries! Sure you could learn about speculative currency bubbles, pump-and-dump schemes, and Ponzi scams from a book, but isn't it more exciting to be a part of it yourself and learn from first-hand experience?
That's why Bitcoin is sure to replace all government fiat currency any day, I tell you, any day now! You'd be a fool not to trade your dollars for BTC.
(Buy mine? Please?)