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In reply to: Programming is Forgetting: Toward a New Hacker Ethic - Allison Parrish | Open Transcripts

So to that end I’m proposing a new hacker ethic. Of course proposing a closed set of rules for virtuous behavior would go against the very philosophy I’m trying to advance, so my ethic instead takes the form of questions that every hacker should ask themselves while they’re making programs and machines. So here they are.

Instead of saying access to computers should be unlimited and total, we should ask Who gets to use what I make? Who am I leaving out? How does what I make facilitate or hinder access?”

Instead of saying all information should be free, we could ask What data am I using? Whose labor produced it and what biases and assumptions are built into it? Why choose this particular phenomenon for digitization or transcription? And what do the data leave out?”

Instead of saying mistrust authority, promote decentralization, we should ask What systems of authority am I enacting through what I make? What systems of support do I rely on? How does what I make support other people?”

And instead of saying hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position, we should ask What kind of community am I assuming? What community do I invite through what I make? How are my own personal values reflected in what I make?”

So you might have noticed that there were two final points—the two last points of Levy’s hacker ethics that I left alone, and those are these: You can create art and beauty on a computer. Computers can change your life for the better. I think if there’s anything to be rescued from hacker culture it’s these two sentences. These two sentences are the reason that I’m a computer programmer and that I’m a teacher in the first place.

Link logging

Whoops! This post is a wee bit longer than previous link-logging posts. I’ve broken it up into a few sections to make it more easily skim-able. Granted, all barriers and edges are illusory at a certain point, so I recommend looking for connections rather than demarkation and separation. Do not tare along the dotted line. Personal pizzas are best when shared. 🍕

Creativity and capitalism

On Godzilla and the Nature and Conditions of Cultural Success; or, Shedding the Skin

I’ve got a quick confession: I love Godzilla. This post encompasses all the things I like about Godzilla. You’ve got some cultural production stuff, you’ve got climate and ecology stuff, with a smattering of socio-political stuff all wrapped up in a rubber dino-monster suit. What isn’t to like!? Also, this picture…

Just the legs of Godzilla

It could be that Godzilla is successful in 1950s Japan and in 2010s USA because it happened to fit two very different but very specific cultural niches — the trauma of defeat culminating in nuclear war, on the one hand; and (to make something up) a compulsive desire for re-enactments of 9/11 on the other hand. But explaining wide-spread success by a series of particular fits falters as we consider all the many other social contexts in which Godzilla has been popular. Maybe it happened, by chance, to appeal narrowly to one new context, but two? three? ten?

An alternative is that Godzilla has managed to spread because it appeals to tastes which are not very context-specific, but on the contrary very widely distributed, if not necessarily constant and universal. In the case of Godzilla, we have a monster who breaks big things and breathes fire: an object of thought, in other words, enduringly relevant to crude interests in predators, in destruction, and in fire. Since those interests are very common across all social contexts, something which appeals to them has a very good source of pull”.

What’s inside a brand?

… When your customers are active partners in making” and managing” the brand, policing who is allowed to shop at your store is, weirdly enough, a hiring decision like any other. We’re used to thinking of production and consuming as separate activities, but, as Jefferies shows, in modern branding, they are one and the same. Making sure the right” person consumes your clothes is a way to enhance a brand’s value. Like it or not, then, modern life gives you little choice but to work” for a brand, putting all of our social lives in the service of capital. What branding offers is belonging (for a price).

This entire article walks right up to the edge of likening brand based marketing to fiction, but doesn’t bridge the gap. This isn’t my faulting the piece by any means…I think it is a stretch, or at least a stretch in the context of the article, but I couldn’t stop noticing how similar the discussion of self-policing brands looks to the discussion about fandom, and who is or isn’t a fan of some particular thing. Who gets entrance into the narrative, be it Apple’s or Star Trek.

Ursula K. Le Guin Was a Creator of Worlds

Traveling to an unfamiliar place often has ethical implications in Le Guin’s fiction

She also resisted the approach to writing that emphasized that fiction must have a hero, a conflict, a storyline.

Civic

Washington Will Decriminalize Fare Evasion. Better Idea: Free Transit

The idea of free public transportation isn’t as crazy as it may sound. Prompted by concerns over congestion and pollution, the European countries of Estonia and Luxembourg already offer it, and Germany is considering it. Removing fares clearly makes transit more desirable; when Talinn, Estonia’s capital, adopted free public transportation in 2013, ridership immediately spiked 10 percent. Such ridership gains would certainly be welcome in the United States, where 31 of the 35 largest transit agencies saw passenger counts dip in 2017. Unlike most goods, transit gets better with heavier usage because more frequent bus and train service will reduce wait times.

Journalism should be free

This is a depressing moment for… well, everything, but also journalism. Watching talented reporters get laid off is heartbreaking, infuriating, and despair-inducing. Out of the ashes, new ideas for sustainable, impactful journalism are bound to emerge. The best ones will acknowledge that journalism should be free.

How to Design Playgrounds for the World’s Most Vulnerable Kids

Designing systems (specifically public systems) with children not just in mind, but at the forefront pretty much always seems like a very good idea.

Math and astronomy

How a Strange Grid Reveals Hidden Connections Between Simple Numbers

Sharing this piece specifically because I think it does a really solid job explaining something that is rather complicated (at least for me) in a clear way that also doesn’t come off as being dumbed down.

Far side of the Moon photographed by amateurs

Moon Minute Monday

Learn something new about our Moon every Monday.

Webby techy stuff

A new interview with Manton Reece of Micro.blog for 2019

I enjoy participating in the micro.blog community, and appreciate Manton’s persistence in going it slow, making intentional design choices. While the source code of micro.blog itself isn’t open source, it is refreshing that Manton’s process is, through posts and interviews like this one. Manton is practicing a different sort of Calm Technology with micro.blog.

The Ethics of Web Performance

Poor performance can, and does, lead to exclusion

And comes at a higher environmental cost.

Web Browsers and Privacy in 2019

Google Chrome, destroyer of worlds? Defo eater of RAM. See also Browser diversity starts with us.

You are in a maze of deeply nested maps, all alike [TALK]

All be honest. I was into this mostly for its title. It sounds like a line straight out of a Robbe-Grillet story.

Also, shout out to Eric Normand for almost always including a transcript alongside video and audio content.

Literate Programming against REST APIs

Starts with a tl;dr:

TL;DR Other HTTP Clients aren’t that great. Here we use Emacs and restclient, with public APIs, to identify plants and share on Twitter. Emacs and restclient offer a great user experience and workflow when documenting and exploring APIs.

I’ve got a soft spot for literate programming. I haven’t done much of it, but as I gain confidence writing LISP, I think a little side project may invite it. 🤷‍♂️

The big DNS Privacy Debate at FOSDEM

You all. DNS is baffling. I’ve been migrating some client sites and I set up (again) a pi-hole and, while I feel cozy with the basics of DNS config, the underlying architecture is both fascinating and…terrifying? Maybe the wrong word. Obtuse.

Hacker tools

A neat resource. I dipped right into the lesson about Virtual Machines and Containers.

Saving time with Emacs, or not.

Yes. I love emacs. I agree with Jack: Emacs does not typically save me time.

In reply to: The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

I watched the video before reading Bostrom’s moral and thought it might have been about half a dozen other things (guns, climate change, agriculture, the Industrial Revolution, racism) before realizing it was more literal than that. Humanity has lots of dragons sitting on mountaintops, devouring people, waiting for a change in the world’s perspective or technology or culture to meet its doom.