Pages about slightly deeper thoughts. You know the ones. The meaning of life and all that.

2020-07-04 Is Gemini from North Korea?

I was hanging out on the #gemini channel on and people noticed that Hacker News was talking about Gemini, and this got posted in a thread about a toffelblog post, A look at the Gemini protocol: a brutally simple alternative to the web.

lukee: another juicy quote from HN to entertain you “In a way Gemini could have been published by writer of European Union, North Korea or Soviet Union laws, I can’t belive this is a US products, as it contains too much to liberty constrain 😉 “

There’s more in that Hacker News thread. I don’t know what to say. How do you respond to somebody who says that there is something in common between the European Union, North Korea, the Soviet Union, and the Gemini protocol? It’s a waste of time. So how about something different... How about imagining this being a good response! How could we rephrase it and have an interesting conversation?

How about translating it into “Why is minimalism a thing? Why does it have to be mandated? Minimalism in the web has meaning because you can do otherwise. Brutalism in architecture because you could be hiding it all. The decision to show that concrete only has meaning because you could be hiding it. To mandate minimalism is simply to mandate poverty. It has no meaning.”

So, let’s imagine that; let’s reply to this imagined intelligent challenge, and hope for a good conversation.

I think the first question would be: who does the choosing? In a world where we all use the web, some authors can choose to use minimalism in web design: little CSS, simple HTML, no Javascript, no content from other domains, a focus on documents instead of imagining the web as a generic interface to all applications. It’s possible to do. The choice lies with the web author.

The choice does not lie with the reader, though! The reader who tries to surf the web with text browsers such as w3m, lynx, or eww, or with very limited browsers such as dillo, soon runs into problems. Sometimes the text itself can be read, but interaction is difficult. Headers and footers are often terrible. The list of links at the top of pages is terribly long and messy. It’s hard to find the text of a tweet if you visit the URL on Twitter. There’s too much garbage on that page! It’s also hard to find the beginning of that README if you visit a project’s page on GitHub. So many links!

The choice also does not lie with developers, surprisingly. The developer who tries to create a different browser, the developer who tries to extend HTML, the developer who tries to extend Javascript, all developers on the web soon realise that everything is fucking huge. The code base for Firefox is huge. The code base for Chromium is huge. The number of web standards is huge. The Javascript APIs are huge. The number of open issues in the bug trackers is huge. The Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) wiki is huge. Even the processes one has to follow to propose new things are huge. The hoops one has to jump through to propose new Emojis for Unicode.

And how much weight there is to all these things. How much business, money, capital, investments, jobs. Unicode is going to be forever and ever as long as we use text, I think. All those stupid pictures of technology that we no longer use are going to stay with us for the next ten thousand years. It boggles the mind.

Therefore, individual developers effectively have no choice. The number of people and the amount of capital required to create a new fully-featured web browser is unimaginable.

That’s why people like @alcinnz working on the Odysseus browser have very specific opinions on what to implement and what to drop.

That is why Gemini matters. Gemini allows many developers to write clients and servers. It gives users back choice.

I’d love to read your take on it.

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

@solderpunk wrote Why not just use a subset of HTTP and HTML?

“… to create a clearly demarcated space where people can go to consume only that kind of content in only that kind of way, which is what I think we really want.”


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2020-06-15 Why Wiki‽

Indeed, why? I’m writing this because I want a wiki and I’m interested in Gemini and I’ve read some things on the mailing list that make me think other people don’t love wiki as much as I do. (Start with Sean Conner’s post if you’re interested. Some quotes from that thread can be found in the comments on 2020-06-04 Gemini Upload.)

Some people think that we should all self-host the things we write. This is a good idea. We don’t want to depend on faceless corporations that can take away our online presence on a whim.

At the same time, however, not all of us have the means to self-host. Some of us have no time, because system administration takes time to learn, takes time to practice, takes time to do. Some of us lack the know-how. We can write, and we want to write, but we can’t host. Perhaps we don’t have the money to pay for a host. Or we don’t have the energy or the time to look for the cheapest host out there. Perhaps we want to write but we feel comfortable with our phones and so we want to write on our phones. It’s like the best camera being the one you have on you. The best writing implement is the one you have on you. These days, it might be your phone.

Also, let us not forget that not every service is rendered by a faceless corporation. We can get service from cooperatives, from neighbours, from family members, from friends, from schools, from libraries, from friends we’ve made online. To design solutions that make it hard for friends to help each other, we design for the cold alienation of modern capitalism. We need to grow networks and help each other. Sure, we can write to each other. But we can also host each other. Like all these pubnix systems out there, we’re sharing a resource. Why should sharing shell access be any different from sharing text hosting?

And finally, let’s not forget that self-hosting means self-writing. But what if you’re collaborating? Of course, we could pull in yet another dependency: use git, or some other distributed version control system! Or how about the systems we us allow us to collaborate naturally, because they are inherently designed to do so? I share Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision for a read-write web that Sean Conner dug up in RFC-1945, where we read that the POST method can be used for the “Annotation of existing resources” and for “Posting a message to a bulletin board, newsgroup, mailing list, or similar group of articles”, and that “the PUT method requests that the enclosed entity be stored” and that “the origin server can create the resource”. Yes! That’s exactly it.

And wikis were the big break through: we had browsers, we had forms, and that was it. But Ward Cunningham wrote the WikiWikiWeb, a website with pages that are quickly editable by users. The barrier to entry was extremely low.

Sure, it also attracted vandalism and spam, and like email, and like the fediverse, the technology is in a constant arms race to block and ban miscreants. But it still works and barriers to entry can still be low. We can all come together under a banner, be it the biggest encyclopedia known to humankind, or wikis on Star Wars, or the Malazan Empire of the Fallen, or Emacs, or any other kind of topic, really, and we can collaborate. It’s the simplest collaboration platform that works. You write some text. I fix mistakes. You make additions. I reorganise. You split it up. I link it. The hypertext grows without necessary “ownership” of pages.

The effort required to maintain a wiki is worth it, to me, because we have a viable alternative to the isolation of self-hosting, and the surrender to value-extracting corporations. Doing things together, achieving things together, is important to teach the new generation of people coming online, it is important to teach ourselves that resistance is not futile, resistance is not a struggle, resistance to the machine is the simple act of having fun and building things together.


Comments on 2020-06-15 Why Wiki‽

A vision for Gemini (that doesn’t focus on wikis) by Solderpunk.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-16 21:27 UTC

Dunno, nowadays even large, popular wikis I see are being overrun by spam, or at least spambot accounts. Edits become rare. Discussions even more so. The whole point of a wiki is to enable communities, otherwise there are much better ways; and the community spirit has largely been lost in most places.

But I wrote all that before. Possibly even here. And at least with wikis I experienced that community spirit for a while; with shell accounts, not so much. Got to try again sometime.

A better question may be what exactly you’re inviting people to build with you. Because they are still coming together often enough. But they’re doing that on software forges, and on Neocities, and on forums. And I think what makes all of those different is that you can fork a project and submit pull requests, or quote other people and link to their posts (you can do that on any ordinary blog farm, too – oh look, another form of online community), until ownership begins to blur... but in an organic way. You can still say, “okay, by now I’ve crossed from my backyard into my neighbor’s”.

Guess that would be a village, then.

Felix 2020-06-17 15:29 UTC

Sure, and I understand those activities as well. All the RPG blogging goes there. People post new ideas, other people comment on it, or pick up on it using their own blogs, incorporate ideas into their own products, it’s true. And yet... I see the problem in the Emacs World. I’m depending on somebody like Sacha Chua to understand what’s going on. There are so many packages being posted, blog posts, and on and on. I guess I miss that feeling when people used Emacs Wiki to drop their half-finished stuff. But now we have MELPA and it’s all git, and what can I say, I feel the isolation of capitalism. Everything belongs to somebody, everybody is the king of their garden, all the exchanges are carefully gatekept, transactional, I send you mail, you accept merge requests, and so on.

I might be alone in this, but I still want that fluidity. I still want that lack of ownership, that building together, that communal aspect.

And in really small ways, it works: Campaign Wiki is where RPG groups can create their own wikis, just for them, an audience of three or four or five, and that makes them happy. It makes me happy, even if my players don’t write a lot – hardly anything, to be honest. But this is how I can have a quick and easy website that works with the browser as it’s only interface.

I really like that aspect, too. I’m not sure how many of the other authors (few as there are) would remain if they had to register by requesting a client certificate and got shell access, or a sftp account, or whatever one uses these days for sites like Neocities.

To me, these are all inferior solutions to just using wikis.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-17 15:41 UTC

So people wanting credit for their work is capitalism now? Artists wanting attribution? Writers wanting to own their words (and others to own their words as well)? Sure, we have a bit of a problem with capitalism too, as another friend of mine pointed out some months ago: this idea that everything we do, and every waking moment we have, should be monetized. But that’s a different problem.

People need and want their own little corners, and the ability to set boundaries, however blurry and permeable. And they prove it by flocking to those kinds of online media that provide.

Felix 2020-06-17 16:19 UTC

Sure. But at the same time, I also want the alternative. Let those people do what they want. I also have this blog, which is “mine”, and the software I maintain, and so on. What I called the “isolation of capitalism” is something different. It’s the feeling when every commons is privatised, all the land is enclosed, and every project has one benevolent dictator. I want the alternatives, too. I want cooperatives, associations, gaming groups, spontaneous collaboration, anonymous contributions. I want them on top of everything else.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-17 20:45 UTC

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2020-05-27 The meaning of software

An interesting blog post by Jesse Li, Where Did Software Go Wrong? It starts with the disillusion many feel about software development (me included), continues on to talk about who writes software, whom they write it for, who benefits, and capitalism.


Comments on 2020-05-27 The meaning of software

The more I work in contact centre projects, where call centre agents make phone calls and answer e-mails, where they use scripts to guide the conversation, in an environment where I suspect that all the counter-arguments have been neatly assembled, where I imagine all responsibility is swiftly deflected, where I read that mistakes are only admitted in private and compensations are always tied to non-disclosure agreements, the more I wonder about the role of software in our society, the more I wonder about the role of programmers in our society. Are we arming corporations as they confront fellow humans, giving them longer lances, better tools? In the end we humans have but one choice, the one that I have made a long time ago: to minimize all contact. I don’t answer the phone for unknown numbers, I unsubscribe from all newsletters or send them straight to the Junk folder, I don’t send feedback, I block ads as much as I can. I try to live in a parallel universe where I don’t see them and they don’t see me because every second spent with corporations are seconds of my life lost. We are not cooperatives organising humans in order to improve our lot, together, and I’m feeling the alienation.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-28 11:44 UTC

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2020-05-09 Ethics and licensing

In 2018, I wrote about ethics in programming and today stumbled on a related thing when @decentral1se mentioned the Hippocratic License:

Politics and software are so tangled that they cannot be reasonably separated. … if those novel situations involve harming other people, we can and should feel responsible. … the Hippocratic License … specifically prohibits the use of software to violate universal standards of human rights

I understand the problem of interoperability, the difficulty of enforcement, the headaches of assembly… and yet! And yet. Remember Code is Law? Software is politics and programming is about making ethical choices. Why should the license be a technocratic decision? We fought proprietary software and while we haven’t won that’s not a reason to avoid a second battle. We are humans. We can juggle many things. Our opponents do, too. We can do this.

As humans, I feel that most of us do not want to be complicit in crimes. We don’t want to be working on weapons. We don’t want to be working for organizations that do evil. If we agree that people can have these goals while working, why should programming be different?

Sometimes a tool is like a shovel and we cannot prescribe what people do with their shovels. But when we can, and when we think this is fact necessary, we do add safety measures to physical tools in order to prevent their use as weapons. And where we cannot, we regulate their use: building regulations, traffic regulations, we have added safety standards everywhere so people don’t manufacture dangerous tools and so people don’t use tools in dangerous ways. Why should complex software be different?

As a human, you have the choice not to participate in crimes (I hope!), and you have the choice to design your products such that it is harder to commit a crime, and you can make contracts that forbid recipients to use products in certain ways – its all there, for good and for evil. Why should programmers relinquish this option which is at their disposal?

Free software activists have used free software licenses to fight back against proprietary software that is hard to audit, hard to study, hard to copy, hard to modify, hard to distribute. We have used copyright and license to guarantee freedom where the powers that be would have had us relinquish that freedom and let capital have its way. And we did it!

Sure, the fight for free software is not yet over but that is not an excuse. We can fight for ethical software at the same time. We can fight for it in politics, we can speak for it on our blogs, and we can push it using our licenses.

It might not be free software as we know it, but it will still be free software. There is no golden standard of freedom. Freedom is a balancing act that needs to be renegotiated again and again. And sometimes a freedom is curtailed for another freedom to flourish. In most democracies, for example, the constitution limits the laws that can be passed such that a simple majority in parliament cannot abuse a minority. This limitation is for the greater good: the consideration of legal interests is an ongoing process.

Here is what I’m talking about:

The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0). – Richard Stallman, The Free Software Definition

I consider the freedom to run the program as you wish to be an important freedom, but it is not an absolute freedom. It can and it must be weighed against other legal interests, other freedoms and other rights – rights like the ones listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As I said at the top, more licenses is always a problem, specially if these are more licenses trying to achieve the same thing in incompatible ways, like free software. But there will always be new goals, and therefore there will always be a need for new licenses. We are not going to spend the next millennium without new licenses, for sure. Might as well make it a license that puts Human Rights first.


Comments on 2020-05-09 Ethics and licensing

See also, A Six-Month Retrospective on Ethical Open Source by Coraline Ada Ehmke. Also, her other publications listed on Model View Culture.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-09 13:04 UTC

And interesting note by @sir, Thoughts on the subject of ethical licenses. He argues three points:

“Anyone who is prepared to violate human rights is going to have no problem ignoring your software license, too.” This is true. But I believe that it does send a message. Not all laws are necessary or enforced. We recently added sexual orientation to a list of things one may not discriminate against in Switzerland even though some people argued that it was already implicitly illegal due to some other law. Not sure whether the law was therefore unnecessary. I voted in favor of that change.

Sometimes interpretations vary by country. Many people in the US don’t consider water boarding to be torture, for example. And yet, this is having an effect outside of the US. We don’t like to send people wanted in the US to the US for fear of cruel and unusual punishment. Abroad, the US is now viewed as a country that may torture prisoners. So, even if human rights are ignored somewhere, highlighting this fact is going to have an effect. If ICE is violating human rights in the US a developer using a software is now both complicit in what is considered a crime abroad, and in violation of a license. I don’t think people will ignore this.

“It’s difficult to comply with” is a good argument. But that hasn’t stopped other laws from going into effect: enforcing GDPR is hard. Enforcing copyright and DRM is hard. Enforcing ethics is also hard. Perhaps it’s a good thing that we’re outgrowing the simple problems. Time to tackle the hard ones.

“It’s not open source.” I think already discussed this in the blog post. It’s true. Ethical software puts limits on freedom zero, the freedom to use the software for anything. There are limits.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-05-09 13:30 UTC

Not directly related, but you linked to a slideshow presented on a single HTML page that talked about how websites were overwritten and way too large, and the site had other interesting transcriptions... I remember making a copy of it, but it seems like I misplaced it 😟

Ynas Midgard 2020-06-28 14:49 UTC

Maybe in the comments of 2019-07-11 The breaking of the web?

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-28 19:01 UTC

Ah, found it on an older device of mine: The Website Obesity Crisis!

Ynas Midgard 2020-06-29 10:06 UTC

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2020-02-23 Into the climate catastrophe

An evolutionary stable strategy is one where all members of a group do (possibly terrible) things because the one who stops will suffer in comparison to the others. And so the pattern continues: «once it is fixed in a population, natural selection alone is sufficient to prevent alternative (mutant) strategies from invading successfully.» Male lions continue killing the cubs of their predecessors. People continue driving cars and flying planes.

Unlike lions, humans have the ability to regulate their societies. We could legislate against cars and planes, against beef and oil, against palm oil, against antibiotics and growth hormones in animal feed. But that just shifts the point of view: between nations, the same law holds true: the first one to stop will suffer in comparison to the others. Which is why practically nobody wants to be the first.

The second best approach we have is education: we know better but we cannot change our own behaviour, so we teach our kids to do better where we failed, and wait for our generation to die. The mortality rate limits how quickly humanity can change.

I guess that points us to one possible factor that will improve the rate of change regarding climate change: the people in power simply dying of old age.

I guess I’m one of the kids that grew up knowing better. I knew that the environment was important, but my generation was also too weak to affect real change. It was slow. I remember when I was 18, our history teacher asked us about our votes. I would have voted Green (but couldn’t, because I was a foreigner living in Switzerland). One guy had voted for the Car Party “for balance”. 🤦‍️ Change is extremely slow. But as the old generations are dying, real change is ever more plausible.

Also, think about the far future: whatever the catastrophe, however much biodiversity is lost, however many species went extinct, however many people have died: our descendants will claim that they made the changes just in time. Because those changes happened just in time for their present to be only one there is. Everything else will be “alt history”. Like: nobody cares about the possibility of us having killed Hitler earlier. WW2 ended just so that our present world could emerge.

The future people of Earth will look back and describe the events unfolding now as a successful last-minute turnaround, a miracle, ignoring the fact that we could have done all of this back in the seventies when people realised that the whales were dying, that Smog was killing us, when the trees started dying, when the hole in the ozone layer was discovered. But we found a way to manage the damage. We changed, as slowly as possible.

Finally, we’re picking up speed.

There will be a lot of finger pointing. People will claim that “they didn’t know.” Like the Germans and their collaborators everywhere, after the war. Or perhaps: “we knew something was wrong but what are you going to do?” I don’t know. But we better be doing something. The first thing to do would be to stop working for the companies that are actively destroying the world we know. Then we stop supporting them. Then we vote and legislate them out of business. Let’s end those planet eaters.


Comments on 2020-02-23 Into the climate catastrophe

That’s a very good point about ending up viewing changes eventually implemented as a “last-minute turnaround”.

Ynas Midgard 2020-02-23 16:22 UTC

Yeah, I started thinking about that in the context of green parties in European parliaments not getting as much done as I would have liked. And sometimes I look around and feel that journalists write as if climate problems and our awareness of them was “new” – but it’s not.

The again:

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-23 17:39 UTC

@olivia replied on Mastodon:

First time i visited europe i was surprised by how much people in a ’first world’ country could actually live their whole lives thinking they are ’good people’ and ’do no harm to others’ (and really, they’re not doing anything wrong) and recycling and being nice to their neighbors. without realizing they were working for companies that actively engaged in social exploitation in far-away lands, buying things made by someone that makes 1 dollar a day etc.

because in these first world country everything is so clean and orderly. and the trains come on time and you don’t see poor people on the streets. poverty is elsewhere. but it’s hard to see how much your life impacts poverty across the globe in these situations. we need to remember, as david harvey always says, how did the food we eat was produced. the things we buy. why are they so cheap? how can i buy a shirt for 5 dollars if getting a haircut where i live costs 4× that?

The comment above developed into a longer discussion on Mastodon. I don’t think I can copy it all to the blog. Sorry!

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-23 22:24 UTC

Where were you when you wrote this, three days before you arrived in Quito?

Ed Davies 2020-02-26 21:19 UTC

Greta Thunberg: Humanity has not yet failed, 75 on the Swedish radio, in English.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-26 14:51 UTC

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2020-02-14 Unprofessional

Eldrad Wolfsbane recently wrote Reevaluating My RPG Gamer (NON) Life. It’s an angry and melancholy story about work sucking the hours out of your life, at least that’s how I read it. Also, termites. But also soul and sweat poured into a thing that nobody uses. It breaks my heart.

The rest of this blog post is not about Eldrad Wolfbane’s decision to go back to his gaming roots: “All on paper, scratchy drawings and maps on graph paper. All hand written dice rolled stuff. I am just going to create stuff for my own personal games.” The rest of this blog post is about capitalism and how not to be professional, i.e. how not to “prosecute anything for a livelihood”, as Webster had it in 1913.

I’m only doing the stuff I want for my own games. The amount of effort I put into the Caverns of Slime for Fight On! #15 which never got published showed me that every step of the process has to be enjoyable. If it is not, if it is premised on some later reward and recognition, what happens when the reward does not manifest? Time is wasted and life passes and then we grow and then we die, that’s what.

It’s why I decided to only do the things I like doing. I don’t believe in “when you build it they will come” because in today’s society we have a “winner takes all” setup: we can produce PDFs in infinite numbers, we can send physical books all over the world, we can reach a global readership, we have ways to fund projects... everything is possible! It’s exciting! It’s liberating! But it’s also possible for everybody else. That includes the people who know how to play the Marketing Organ, that know how to blow the Trumpet of Hype, that have the experience. And when somebody wins, they win globally. Everybody knows them and second place is first loser.

Ah, now we’re back where we began: how much are you willing to sacrifice in this time and age of capitalism when you don’t have the capital? How much work will you do upfront, exploiting yourself, working in the great lottery of life hoping for a big break? It’s dreams and fantasies, and we are as prone to them as everybody else. And the big machine will eat us up and spit us out, thoroughly chewed and maybe even spit upon. Just look at show business, at the music industry, anything where capital and fame is important. The winner takes it all. How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to be a winner? You life? Your relationship? Your family? Your hobbies? How about: None of the above! 😁

A year ago, I read this great blog post by Molly Conway, The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles. I recommend you read it. It starts with the author meeting a friend who made herself a wonderful dress and is dejected when asked about an Etsy shop. The tension dissolves when the author says the magic words: “You don’t have to monetize your joy.”

I feel this pressure to publish in the RPG design sphere, and I don’t think it’s healthy or good. Some people enjoy making these products. And some people like buying products. And capitalism is made for this: capital allows people to make products that satisfy demand. As the capital flows, it creates incentives of its own. I’m not Karl Marx but even I understand that the people involved in this trade have an urge to communicate their joy, and the incentives are in their favour. For some, it’s marketing. For some, it’s unboxing videos. For others, it’s reviews. But for all of us, it’s capitalism at its best: creating demand, and satisfying demand by producing things.

But here’s the rub: if you’re strapped for capital, then it doesn’t work that way. That’s why when we work for money, we often feel bad about it, disenfranchised. Because if we were doing it for fun, then somebody else would be doing it for free. That’s why fun isn’t something you’re getting money for. It’s work. Of course, some people try to tell us that work should be fun, and that we should enjoy it, and love it, and pour our soul into it. But remember: all they’re saying is that they’d like us to do the work for free. That’s not how it works, but if enough of us believe it, then wages go down. Work is not about having fun, and having fun should not turn into work.

I’m not poor, so I don’t know anything about the realities of hustling. But it seems to me that if you’re poor, you need to work and make money. But for the love all the things you love, don’t turn the thing you love into a hustle. Flip burgers or something. Keep work and play separate. Don’t turn your game into a poorly paid job.

Instead, consider how the act of playing our beloved games is fundamentally anti-capitalistic: you don’t need to buy much of anything to play. Pen, paper, dice, maybe a book or two. And then: no money required for years and years. You can’t grow a global reach by playing at a table. I guess you can grow a global audience with YouTube and Twitch and all that, and maybe monetise it, but mostly the providers of these services are going to monetise you. The actual game needs no money. You talk and laugh, and scribble and dabble, howl and haggle, and a good time is had. There is no “growth.” There is no “increased productivity.” It’s about the basic joys of being alive: talking to people, imagining things and telling others about it.

Focus on the things that you love doing.

If you want to put that thing you loved making out for other people to see, write a blog post, create a PDF using the means of production you have at your disposal, and do it, for the joy of it. Don’t expect a reward or later recognition. That’s not how it works for the great majority of us. Make it free and keep capitalism out of your hobbies.


Comments on 2020-02-14 Unprofessional

Good to know that flipping burgers is better way to support yourself, and totally doesn’t suck the life and energy out folx, and totally doesn’t negatively impact creativity.

– Anonymous 2020-02-14 19:52 UTC

Let’s talk when the RPGs bring in as much money as flipping burgers. Flipping burgers is a job. Making RPGs for a living is winning the lottery. Telling people to pursue their dreams and work in RPGs is simply bad advice. Yes, flipping burgers is shite for life and energy and creativity. But so are most other jobs.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-14 20:46 UTC

Like how dare folx monetize their hobby

– Anonymous 2020-02-14 21:14 UTC

I guess I don’t understand the argument you are trying to make and it seems pretty clear that you don’t understand the point I’m trying to make. Move along, please. I don’t think this conversation is going anywhere. Feel free to write a longer reply elsewhere.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-14 21:46 UTC

(Un)Professional, on the Axes and Orcs blog argues that they know “more than a few folx who do [make a living]” (presumably from RPG product making).

Of course I would claim this is survivorship bias: they are not counting all the people who failed. It is only by comparing the two that we arrive at numbers that would help us decide who’s advice to heed. As I don’t know the numbers either, we are at an impasse. All we can do is list are anecdotes and critically examine the system.

Anecdotally, I have seen a small number of people selling a few books. Do they have day jobs? I think so; I haven’t ever heard of anybody getting rich from RPGs. So even at the top, the air is thin. That is to say, on the winning side, the rewards don’t seem to be great.

At the same time, the number of people I see begging on social media is heart breaking. I think we must all work for change but we must also survive. Looking at the amount of bad news from the US health care failure is crushing. Such an inhumane system is one of the main reasons to not drop your day job. Leaving the system is a mortal danger. That is to say, the price of failure is horrendous.

Based on that, I’d say that unless you’re living in a social system with safety nets for diseases and accidents, producing RPG products is almost always going to be a side job. I don’t know whether people like Sine Nomine Publishing’s Kevin Crawford have a day job. I assume they do? John M. Stater of Land of Nod does. In any case, I don’t see many people in their league.

So now we’re talking about “just do it as some extra cash”. Here, too, I see a lot of hardship – perhaps it is not as existential, But what I remember of people talking about how their games are doing financially is mostly that it is coffee money, or enough for them to support other creators, or simply some form of validation. To which I say: sure, if that’s the reward you are looking for, then this is fine. More power to you. It does look like a completely different hobby than running and playing the games, though.

Perhaps I’m simply confused (or we all are?) because we think the product authors share the same hobby when in fact on the one side there are the people running and playing the games, which involves a bit of writing, and on the other side we have authors of ergodic literature, as recently discussed by Robbie on Teaching Role-Playing Games, Part 1: The Justification:

The basic argument is that there is a type of literature—not a genre per se, but a kind of modality—that requires efforts which go beyond the direct understanding or reading of a text. This is what he means by ergodic literature.

Such as RPG products. We’re talking about how to become a successful author for a (no longer?) niche market. I think that culturally we know about how to become authors and thus we are better able to understand how it will work because we have seen enough movies and read enough books where authors make an appearance:

  • there is not a lot of money in it at first
  • there will be many rejections
  • many will quit before making a break through
  • the break through will be a matter of luck
  • the connections, the people you know are important
  • many authors rely on the financial support of others

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-15 07:14 UTC

AHAH! People do read my blog! Just a few musing to stir up some conversations. Explain “prosecute anything for a livelihood” as my meager Louisiana education (Ranked 62 in the Nation!) allows this term to elude me and frankly anyone else who has tried to discern the meaning of such.

EldradWolfsbane 2020-02-16 04:13 UTC

Webster 1913 app screenshot showing the entry for ‘professionally’ 😀 – as a non-native English speaker I often look up words in a thesaurus. Specifically, the Webster 1913 edition which is in the public domain. It’s my favourite!

I sort of knew that “professional” meant doing something “for a living” but I didn’t know what the exact definition was. And when I looked it up on Webster, I thought “prosecute anything for a livelihood” was funny as I associate “to prosecute something” with lawyers and so I decided to quote it. 🤷🏻

Also learning English as a 15 year old with AD&D 1st ed and Gary Gygax’ prose surely didn’t help, haha!

As for blogs I read: these days I stopped subscribing to blogs and just skim the RPG Planet. And since your blog is listed, I read it. 😀

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-16 11:29 UTC

FWIW, Kevin of Sine Nomine Games does write RPGs full-time, but he’s definitely an exception rather than the rule. He does believe others could follow his suit, though, and he’s pretty open about his methods (e.g. free flagship game that lures in customers, offering cross-system tools to increase potential audience, pricing, and generally being a one-man show, except for art in his case).

Ynas Midgard 2020-02-16 20:39 UTC

Point taken. Kevin Crawford, and I’m guessing all the small scale businesses like Paizo or Monte Cook Games are a handful of people that manage to live off of RPG products. Maybe Wolfgang Baur and Kobold Press as well?

I’ll easily concede that it is possible to so. I’m not sure how much of concession that is, however. It still looks like a lottery to me.

I’m not sure what to make of it. I know, of course, that many people will try to win the lottery in life, be it writing their books at night, painting in their studios, following their dreams... But if these people were my kids, I’d hope that they also don’t have to beg for alms, for donations, for dollars on Patreon. I’d hope that they got a steady day job and pursued their dream while being safe. Perhaps it’s middle age that’s making me say this. I also want to say this to the people that have a hobby they enjoy: playing games with their friends. Begging for alms, tip jars, dollars on Patreon, telling me that the dollars they get allow them to justify the hours they spend... I don’t know. If they were my kids, I hope they’re all happy. I hope that they’re not setting themselves up for disappointment. If 9999 of them are unhappy and one of them wins the RPG lottery, that still is a lot of misery. How many RPG players are there? 10 million? How many people make a living writing RPG products? Let’s be generous: 100? That still leaves 100,000 of them. One in a hundred thousand. Now, you can counter that by saying who cares about the players of games, we need to compare them with the number of people trying to make a living making RPG products. Surely there are far fewer of them. I’ll concede that as well. If only one in 10,000 gamers wants to make a living making RPG products, then perhaps I’m wrong to be so negative: 1 in 10 would succeed. Nine unhappy stories of slow failure and grinding and nothing to show for it, and one of them makes it.

I don’t know. I’d still feel bad about it as a parent. Sure, follow your dream! But… be careful out there: Consider the nine who tried in vain, for years, they gave their all and still they failed. And consider the 9,999 gamers who decided no to make a living making RPG products. Perhaps they made better life choices.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-16 22:35 UTC

(Somebody also posted it on Reddit.)

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-16 22:43 UTC

If you want to be an author, you’re playing a different game. Good luck!

I just saw this on Mastodon, by @mwlucas:

I write books to pay the bills. No consulting, no leeching off family members, no teaching: only writing books.

How do I pull it off?

  1. Understand cashflow
  2. By treating it as a business

More on publishing, writing, etc at my FAQ.

The big secret: MAKE MOAR WORDS!

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-18 22:29 UTC

I liked this post by Noah S.: Chasing the Dragon.

I am growing disgruntled with the endless onslaught of prompts to buy things. I won’t go too much into it here, but it started with a couple of years ago as all these creative and talented people I love started and brought pet projects to fruition (which is great) and made them for sale (which is fine) but then turned to making things for sale (my perception) and became less focused on just sharing cool ideas (my possibly erroneous conclusion).

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-21 23:47 UTC

Alex et al. I believe this may be the version to use to look up Webser’s 1913. I just found it after the jsomers reference was not found:

I am totally bookmarking this!

PresGas 2020-02-23 21:16 UTC

Depending on your nerdiness, you can also install a dict server and install the appropriate dictionary... For Debian, that would be the package dict-gcide:

Comprehensive English Dictionary

This package contains the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English, formatted for use by the dictionary server in the dictd package. The GCIDE contains the full text of the 1913 Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, supplemented by many definitions from WordNet, the Century Dictionary, 1906, and many additional definitions contributed by volunteers.

The definitions in the core of this dictionary are at least 85 years old, so they can not be expected to be politically correct by contemporary standards, and no attempt has been, or will be, made to make them so.

This package will be of limited use without the server found in the dictd package, or another RFC 2229 compliant server.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-23 23:54 UTC

Recently, @JasonT was wondering about this from a different angle. For him, compensation is important and he thinks that the solution is for “more privileged creators” to charge for their work so as to “fight the norm of undercutting struggling pros with free games.”

I don’t know.

I don’t like how the things we love are measured in money, how every labour of love is turned into a little freelancing job. Now, some people are poor and they’d like to do that for a living but the main problem here seems to be poverty and I think that poverty needs a political solution, not better ways of self exploitation. I don’t want to be complicit in a scheme were people do this.

I mean, we could do both, of course. But remember that my starting point is that I feel that money corrupts the things I love. I’m simply not convinced that turning my hobby into a little job is going to help me. Do I have to renounce part of my hobby, now?

If somebody wants to argue with me about capitalism instead of poverty, saying that I’m “destroying the market” for people, then I’d say that it is not my duty to maintain a viable market where none exists. Supply and demand: if enough of something is available, prices will drop. It’s a tragedy, but that’s how it is. If many people can serve a table, then servers are going to be paid badly. The solution to that is unions and better legal protection for works, though. The solution is not individual acts but collective action. This is a political problem.

But really, for me, it’s about money corrupting everything and I want no part in it. I want to draw a clear line between my money job and hobbies, and it’s going to take a lot of convincing for me to drop that part of the hobby.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-13 20:45 UTC

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2020-02-13 The Past

I just had a good discussion with @dredmorbius who started with a quote from a Wired story on Facebook and Privacy or the lack thereof:

...The notebooks have now mostly disappeared, destroyed by Zuckerberg himself. He says he did it for privacy reasons. This is in keeping with sentiments he expressed to me about the pain of having many of his early IMs and emails exposed in the aftermath of legal proceedings. “Would you want every joke that you made to someone being printed and taken out of context later?”...

Inside Mark Zuckerberg's Lost Notebook

Data is a liability, even our own‽ Soon we’re running out of plots for dystopias to write. Didn’t Charles Stross complain about something like that? The impossibility to finish near future science fiction in time?

My recipe for fiction set ten years in the future used to be 90% already-here, 9% not-here-yet but predictable, and 1% who-ordered-that. But unfortunately the ratios have changed. I think we’re now down to maybe 80% already-here—climate change takes a huge toll on infrastructure—then 15% not-here-yet but predictable, and a whopping 5% of utterly unpredictable deep craziness.

Dude, you broke the future!

@dredmorbius started wondering: “What happens to individual and social capacity to keep up?”

I don’t know. People have been talking about this for decades but the young ones don’t seem to be having mental breakdowns. It’s the older generations that can no longer cope. We tune out, don’t get on Tik Tok, or micro blogging, depending on where we draw the line. I’m more worried about people being unable to imagine the past. How did we live without mobile phones? Without phones‽ Without cars…

@dredmorbius linked me to The Past is a Foreign Country, from The White Review. That was a good article. The thought of a police vs. striking miners reenactment sends shivers down my spine. And that bully psycho drama... argh!

But the past being a foreign country is exactly my point. Previously, the foreign country past was the Second World War. My grandpa was weird, he had fought in it! He was a prisoner of war of the Americans. But now I find that my teenage years are weird. I had no mobile phone. The foreign past is creeping up on us. A bit like the Nothingness in the Neverending Story. We end up unable to relate to our own past selves.

We are become strangers from a strange land, says @dredmorbius. Indeed.



Comments on 2020-02-13 The Past

It’s a deep point. Sometimes my father’s thought processes seemed incomprehensible and I suppose that my son doesn’t really understand some of what I do. We’re products of our environment and it is quite hard to appreciate other cultures from other times.

The past is foreign because you have to have lived through it to appreciate it. It shapes the bits of us that we like to call unique. It is not all bad, the distance help discern the parts of the past worth preserving.

Alok 2020-02-24 17:18 UTC

Good point, thanks.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-02-24 18:10 UTC

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2020-02-02 Slavoj Žižek: Down with ideology!

@saper mentioned an interesting discourse about ideologies and how they became hideous yet prevalent. There is a nice interview with him done by SRF's Sternstunde Philosophie:


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2019-12-09 Decentralization and Collaboration

the Internet already uses three times more energy than all wind and solar power sources worldwide can provide – About the Low Tech Magazine

Sometimes I wonder whether switching my wiki’s architecture would be worth it. Just produce static websites and leave the serving up to a normal web server. The wiki is simply responsible for the editing.

@ckeen suggested “hosting them on solar powered devices instead” and I started wondering: what’s the benefit we’re looking for? I think it should be minimal energy consumption. I’m not sure individual solar powered households is the way of the future unless we radically depopulate the planet. How will this work in an urban environment? So I think what I want is for the grid to change the mix and for energy consumption in general to fall. Next up is whether a small server at home is more efficient than a virtual machine rented elsewhere. I don’t know.

@ckeen then said “one could argue that with decentralised computers one also has the option of distributing local content without relying on the centralised infrastructure.” Good point! But now we’re getting into the question of how collaboration would actually work in such a setup. Does Secure Scuttlebutt and the like even need the concept of a wiki? Maybe not. All we might want is a curation software that allows us to say: these documents are part of the collection; here’s how to make you own collection; here’s how to merge collections from elsewhere.

Something a bit like git, except simpler. Git is inadequate for me and the non-technical people I want to work with. Having a discussion about role-playing games should not require people to know git. I need an in-browser solution I think, as that’s the only way to reach non-technical, multi-platform people.

So how do I collaborate with others? In my imagination, I’m a social creature and “go” to “public” places to get informed: the library, the coffee house, the search engine, the wiki. These are somewhat centralized but perhaps not necessarily global (even the search engine attempts to provide local relevance). But it would feel weird if I was limited to the stuff I have at home, even with a lot of exchange with others.

This exchange with known individuals, like thinkers in the old days writing letters to each other, is extremely limiting compared with what we have today.

Let’s take the Gopher world as an example and let’s consider the failure of my moku pona feeds: it was easy to add the pages collecting the large sites collecting multiple Gopher sites (Red Consensus, Zaibatsu, Republic, Gopher Club), but I’m failing to add the individual sites. I’m basically hoping Tomasino does it for me with his collection of feeds. He’s acting as my curator. It works better if some aspects are centralized.

That’s why I think wikis are not dead, yet.

I think my way of collaborating and knowledge exchange is not me writing essays and sending them out, with each of us having a collection of essays sent to us by our friends (the vision of a very decentralized network, back to the Renaissance). Instead we struggle to write the One document, the contract, the manual, the wiki page, the document collection. Having that bottleneck improves my way of thinking. Even these humble blog posts allow people to comment.

I know, many people don’t like comments – but I do. Tight interaction is how I collaborate with others. If it is all based on conversation, I can’t have conversation be slow and decentralized. I don’t need it to be globalized – but some form of centralization is good for me.

My blog-wiki centralizes what I write and the comments and conversation around them. People are free to talk about the blog posts elsewhere but they don’t often do.

My Mastodon accounts allow me to talk to friends and stranger in a federated network of instances. I doubt that I would have met a similar number of interesting people if I had limited myself to a “gossip-based” 100% decentralized system like Secure Scuttlebutt.

Limited centralization is good for me. Globalization in the hands of evil corporations, not so much. 🙂


Comments on 2019-12-09 Decentralization and Collaboration

As someone that ejected my comment system from my site, and switched to entirely static, I too went through an anguish of should I preserve comments.

What I have done is made my email address available and a contact form (via Google Forms). Several people have emailed me, and we end up exchanging emails. Sometimes I’ll ask their permission to post something from their email.

I have found Reddit a reasonable way to post and share and solicit feedback. However, it does fall into the trap of non-federated. I tried Mastadon during the G+ exodus, but found it not quite in line with my approach. For now, what I have works well enough for me.

Jeremy Friesen 2019-12-09 17:51 UTC

Hm. I hardly ever get email. Would you have sent that comment as an email? I know that I hardly ever do that. Then again I was weaned off email because people started hiding their email as they tried to stay anonymous or avoid spam.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-09 22:19 UTC

If there is a form for sending that e-mail, it becomes practically as effortless as a comment, only non-public.

deshipu 2019-12-10 01:08 UTC

Sadly, sending mail is never as easy as it seems...

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-10 09:43 UTC

@alex - There is a 10% chance that I would’ve sent email. Another 20% chance I might have responded in a blog. And a 70% chance I would walked away. With comments, I think the chance was about 40% that I would’ve responded to this (and I rolled a 29 on my d100 so I responded).

This conversation pushes me to consider Mastodon, but social media wears me out; It feels a little like the relationship management I do at work as a manager of software developers in a research library.

Jeremy Friesen 2019-12-12 00:10 UTC

The art of using social media isn’t well developed, unfortunately. We know very little about it. From my own experience, I’ll say:

  • when I added journalists and politicians to my Twitter feed, it felt more “real”, more like the newspaper, and eventually I didn’t care any more – a personal touch remains important
  • when I’m following a diverse bunch, more genders, more colours, more neurodiversity, more foreigners, more languages, I am more curious, more interested

So, I’m explicitly trying to follow no journalists, no politicians, and less white men, less programmers. It seems to be working so far.

I also unfollow anybody who annoys me even for the slightest reasons in order to keep the number of people manageable and relatable.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-12 07:40 UTC

“but some form of centralization is good for me”

I’m not sure I entirely understood your meaning. What did you mean by “some form of centralization”? Do you mean that there are some qualities of centralization which you consider beneficial? If so, which?

“Globalization in the hands of evil corporations” I think you misunderstand globalization. Globalization is the process of making (whatever) global. Usually, this means global accessibility. When a company is global, that means that it offers services in whatever part of the ’globe’ i.e Earth. Globalization of the internet means making it so that there is access to the internet in each part of Earth. Globalization does not require centralization, as it seems this blog entry assumes. I’m not sure why you assume that globalization is at the hands of some “evil corporations”. Which corporations are evil? How is the evil of a corporation determined?

Perhaps you don’t assume that globalization is necessarily “in the hands of evil corporations”, but then why the hackneyed phrase? Also, why does it matter whether the corporation in whose hands the globalization is is evil?

“people started hiding their email as they tried to stay anonymous or avoid spam”

In this is a popular misconception. The key is the use of the singular case in reference to electronic mail addresses. Many seem to assume that it is impossible to have multiple electronic mail addresses. This, obviously, is just stupid. The spam problem is avioded by having, for each one’s correspondent, a different electronic mail address. If an electronic mail address that is used with only one correspondent starts receiving spam, there is a high probability that that correspondent is the source of the spam. To stop further spam, it is sufficent to stop using that electronic mail address. One may, if one so chooses, start using another electronic mail address for that correspondent. (Perhaps that spam was a fluke.) If that correspondent is the source of spam, stop corresponding with that correspondent. There is hardly a better way.

“Sadly, sending mail is never as easy as it seems...”

And this is also a popular misconception. It’s really easy, you just have to have the right tool for it, the right program. Even in the case of having multiple electronic mail addresses, some persons perceive a nondifficulty as though it were a difficulty. Some persons claim that it’s difficult to use multiple electronic mail addresses, checking each for incoming mail, keeping track of which electronic mail address is used for which correspondent. This is misguided, because the user doesn’t do that, there is a program that does that. The program checks each one’s electronic mail address for incoming messages, downloads each message into one place. It can also be configured to do this check/download at randomly chosen times, via hard-to-trace network connections (e.g. via TOR), for the sake of impeding the correlation between the user and the electronic mail address. Perhaps there are other techniques for this, but randomly chosen electronic mail checking/downloading over encrypted difficult-to-trace network connections seems sufficent.

Sending is also easy, because all the sender needs to do is prepare the message, and specify the recipient. The electronic mail program is configured just before the first correspondence with that correspondent, with all the details about each correspondent, including the electronic mail addresses of the sender, of the recipient, and the keys for cryptographically signing or encrypting the message. All that an end user would need to do is, for example, (command line interface) \command{mail \subcommand{send \argument{recipient} \argument{message}}} where \argument{recipient} is some specifier of who the recipient is, such as the recipient’s ekenym, and \argument{message} is some specifier of what the message data is, such as the name of the file that contains the message data, or just the message data.

The creation or consumption of a message, naturally, happens outside the electronic mail system, because a message can be arbitrary data. If message creation is part of the system, it tends to limit what sort of data is used in the message.

“I’m explicitly trying to follow ... less white men”

I think the racism here is obvious. Your goal is to have new (to you), interesting (to you), data. Instead of using arbitrary criteria such as the author’s profession, race,, you should be considering what, exactly, you seek. What, exactly, are the qualities you like in the data you consume? I doubt that you really care about the author’s race or profession. My guess is that you have a need for stylistic novelty. If that is the case, you might like authors whose products tend to be avant-garde.

“I also unfollow anybody who annoys me even for the slightest reasons in order to keep the number of people manageable and relatable”

It can be dangerous to use nonannoyance or relatability as criteria for data to consume. Nonannoyance is a dangerous criterion for data to consume because you may be annoyed by something with which you disagree. Relatability is a dangerous criterion for data to consume because you may find relatable only that with which you agree. The danger is that you might be consuming only data with which you agree, which tends to make one stupid, because one has less exposure to different thoughts. (“I don’t care about their different thoughts, different thoughts are good for me” —Tanita Tikaram.) By thinking through a different thought, one becomes smarter by figuring out everything wrong about that thought, and everything right about that thought.

From under the comment box:

“Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License”

What’s wrong with contributing work licensed under the ISC license?

“To save this page you must answer this question:

Please say HELLO.”

That’s not a question.

Muirzow 2019-12-17 08:03 UTC

Your simplistic definition of globalization misses the point. See Wikipedia on Globalization.

As for the benefits of partial centralization, I think it’s all in the blog post.

All the people I knew started hiding their email addresses back when the web started growing and rumours started spreading that web spiders were harvesting email addresses of web pages. Your solution is one of many, but it’s complicated and I don’t know anybody using it. You want to redefine how people use and think about mail. I don’t care about rethinking how mail should work.

Sending mail is never as easy as it seems refers to the difficulties of setting up a mail server on your web host and configuring it correctly so that mails sent from it actually get delivered. Your definitions of what messages are or could entail are besides the point.

Your accusation of racism is noted. My interest in talking to you is significantly diminished.

Your comment on my preference to avoid annoyance is noted. I do not share your point of view.

Your comment on the security question is noted.

What can I say? I’m already annoyed by your style of writing. I can’t really imagine how this discussion could end up being considered time well spent. I fear our communication styles are fundamentally at odds.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-17 08:26 UTC

Your simplistic definition of globalization misses the point.

Are you implying that it’s better to use an unecessarily complex idea? Also, in what way does it miss the point. What point does it miss? (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

As for the benefits of partial centralization, I think it’s all in the blog post.

No, it’s not. I even re-read it just now. I do not see any sentence which describes something that is a benefit of centralization as a benefit of centralization. If there is a description of a benefit of centralization, it is not described as a benefit of centralization. (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

Your solution is one of many, but it’s complicated and I don’t know anybody using it.

Complicated relative to what? Many a thing is complicated. Even some of the simplest things are complicated (e.g. quarks). I would agree that it’s more complicated than not using electronic mail. I would agree that the whole my proposed electronic mail system is more complicated than the whole standard electronic mail system. It includes the standard electronic mail system, adding an elegant interface. I would disagree that using my proposed electronic mail system is more complicated than using, with the same level of security, the standard electronic mail system.

You want to redefine how people use and think about mail.

No, I don’t. (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

Sending mail is never as easy as it seems refers to the difficulties of setting up a mail server on your web host and configuring it correctly so that mails sent from it actually get delivered. Your definitions of what messages are or could entail are besides the point.

No, it doesn’t. That statement was clearly about sending mail, not about installing a mail server. Accordingly, my comment discussed sending mail, and how it could be made easier. If you had meant that installing a mail server is more difficult than it should be, then that is what you should have written. Do you expect that a person who reads “sending mail is difficult” is going to interpreta that as though it had meant that installing a mail server is difficult? Only few persons are telepathic (probably none). According to my estimation, the probability is high that it is in your best interest that you compose, and write, your texts accurately, and as precisely as apropos. (At least this your statement is conducive to it’s discussion.)

Your accusation of racism is noted. My interest in talking to you is significantly diminished.

Racism is racial discrimination. That sentece described racial discrimination. (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

I’m already annoyed by your style of writing.

What about it annoys you? (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

I can’t really imagine how this discussion could end up being considered time well spent.

I can. I won’t. Imagining that is not productive.

I fear our communication styles are fundamentally at odds.

That is a strange fear. There is no conflict between my communication style and your communication style. It is impossible that a communication style conflicts with a communication style. Perhaps your fear is that, my communication being exact, you’ll read something which is true, about which your preference is that it is not true. If something is true about which your preference is that it is not true, pretending it is not true shan’t make it true. The only way you can change it’s truth value is by seeing it, understanding it, understanding how to get from it being true to it being untrue, and doing what is sufficient to make it true. (Again you state something nonconducive to it’s discussion.)

(Perhaps state more conducive-to-it’s-discussion statements, less nonconducive-to-it’s-discussion statements.)

– Muirzow 2019-12-18 03:38 UTC

Globalization or globalisation is the process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide.

is the first sentence on that page to which you pointed. How does that differ from my conception? Are they not effectively identical? I do see a minor difference, which I suspect is an error. The difference is that this first sentece of Wikipedia/Globalization forgot the word “increasing”, between “the process of” and “interaction”. I would, perhaps, change the sentence to be: “Globalization is the process resulting in the integration of, and increasing interaction among, persons throughout Earth.” (A company is a sort of person. A government is a sort of person. There is no such thing as the world. There are worlds, some which contain, some which are contained by, Earth.)

– Muirzow 2019-12-18 03:50 UTC

Ugh, please leave my blog forever. I am not interested in this conversation.

Your style of communication makes me want to discontinue the conversation before we even get to the various points where one could be right or wrong.

Feel free to conclude whatever you want from this, but do it elsewhere. You are not welcome, here.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-12-18 06:42 UTC

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2019-12-05 Machines ruling us

Remember Charles Stress’ blog post about companies being actual artifice life forms in the process of exploiting humans? A bit like we keep cattle, I guess.

@technomancy recently expanded on the idea on Mastodon. Here is the thread, quoted with permission:

① corporations are a form of AI, and are the dominant form of life on this planet

this one seems self-evident, but if you need some help putting the pieces together, this piece by Charles Stross might help ... or you could just watch the 1988 classic film They Live.

in any case, while there do exist corporations which can peacefully coexist with humans, most of what passes for peaceful coexistence these days is either accidental or due to humans regulating corporations. regulatory capture is making the latter less and less common.

② “software is eating the world” is simply survival of the fittest

when a company can offload more of its internal processes from humans to software, it’s simply becoming more adapted to its environment and more competitive. it can change faster in response to threats, and there is less of a chance for humans to interfere.

many tech companies got to where they are now by meeting human needs, but consider the ones that have become as powerful as governments. do you think that if humans stopped needing the things they produced, or if the non-monetary cost became too high (abuse of amazon’s human warehouse workers, for instance) that they would quietly go away?

③ when machines no longer need humans, they won’t dispose of them using weapons

it’s not going to be like Terminator--weapons are costly and inefficient. when humans are no longer needed, the machines grind them to dust by means of capitalism, which is their native element.

note the use of present tense here.

unlike the priests who serve cthulu in order to be favored by the gods and killed first, humans who work with software will be destroyed last, because they are useful for the longest. you can already see this in many tech-heavy cities where the only people who can afford to live there are the ones working in software.

④ leadership isn’t

it’s possible that the corporate task of “decision making” will be rid of its need for humans before the task of “software maintenance” will. you can see foreshadowing in companies where leaders who refuse to put profit above human factors or sustainability get replaced by more willing collaborators.

companies actually getting rid of their human executives seems pretty far-fetched; what seems more likely is a situation in which they are symbolic figureheads that simply pronounce decisions which have been made for them elsewhere in the machine.

⑤ helping companies produce software is problematic

for many tech companies, the way they prey on humans is obvious. facebook and twitter turn human attention into cash and power while emitting human misery as a waste product; amazon works towards ensuring humans can no longer purchase products from non-amazon sources; google simply attempts to gatekeep literally all the world’s information.

some companies I’ve worked for seem neutral because all they do is provide tools for producing software. so far so good; in theory producing software is neutral. but there’s a big difference between producing software for humans and producing software for tech companies; the latter is simply a way of facilitating the process of a company becoming more adapted to its environment; see #2 above.

⑥ it’s (probably) not too late

I mean, I hope?

one reason I’m drawn to the fediverse is that it proves we can still make enclaves for ourselves where humans make the rules.

while the GDPR legislation means a lot of extra toil for me at work, it also fills me with determination, because it shows that there are still places in the world where humans can tell companies what to do, and they have to obey.

I want to see more of that.

Thank you for writing it down so succinctly.


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