This is my monthly roundup of the books, articles, and streaming media I found interesting. Here's my list for October, 2022.
My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Smartly pointed satire loosely disguised as a thriller. Witty and dark as hell. I loved it.
Chivalry, by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran. A lovely little tale, rich with the best kind of British idiosyncrasy, and beautifully illustrated in watercolor.
Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. “You should be protected from abusive data practices via built-in protections and you should have agency over how data about you is used.”
Elon Musk Twitter deal closes, CEO fired. “CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, and Vijaya Gadde, head of legal policy, trust, and safety, were all fired, according to the people. Sean Edgett, the company’s general counsel, was also pushed out, one of the people said. The top executives were hastily shuttled from the building.”
Little Rules About Big Things. “Tell people what they want to hear and you can be wrong indefinitely without penalty.”
When your salary requires you not understand the labor movement. “In most people’s interactions with a workplace, the company takes too much and gives too little. The only recourse for labor is to form structures of counter-power to try and balance the equation.”
How a Secret Rent Algorithm Pushes Rents Higher. “For tenants, the system upends the practice of negotiating with apartment building staff. RealPage discourages bargaining with renters and has even recommended that landlords in some cases accept a lower occupancy rate in order to raise rents and make more money.”
No one is “non-technical”. “Likewise, constraining the word “technical” to refer only to “people who write code” serves to uphold a system in which benefits like compensation and prestige are distributed inequitably—regardless of the actual value of the various techniques being deployed.”
An Investor That Agreed to Back Elon Musk's Twitter Bid Wants Out. ““We’re all trying to get out of it, to be honest,” said Andrea Walne, a general partner at Manhattan Venture Partners.”
How a New Anti-Woke Bank Stumbled. “The startup, called GloriFi, initially aimed to launch with bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages and insurance, while touting what it called pro-America values such as capitalism, family, law enforcement and the freedom to “celebrate your love of God and country.” Within months, the investors’ money was nearly gone, and GloriFi was on the verge of bankruptcy.”
‘Where Are the Women?’: Is Hybrid Work Widening Tech’s Gender Gap? “Polls and studies show that women have embraced flexible and remote work, and opt to work from home slightly more often than men. But they also are liable to spend those additional hours at home on chores and child care, even when a partner is also working at home.”
Notes on Roadtrips. “And because I’m still uncomfortable talking about company values, we’re going to do so by talking about something else entirely. We’re going to talk about Road Trips.” I appreciate this more human approach to values statements.
End frequent flyer programs. “Frequent flyer programs use words like “status”, “elite”, and “prestige” for passengers who make ridiculously high demands on the earth’s resources. With private club access, seat upgrades and priority boarding, they use the trappings of social mobility to encourage destructive behaviours.”
A NASA satellite launched to detect dust has discovered huge methane leaks. “In the three and a half months following EMIT’s launch, the tool has not only successfully mapped out massive dust plumes and their effect on the changing climate, but has also identified another key piece to the global warming puzzle: more than 50 methane “super-emitters,” some of which had previously gone unseen.”
Animal populations experience average decline of almost 70% since 1970, report reveals. “The total loss is akin to the human population of Europe, the Americas, Africa, Oceania and China disappearing, according to the report.”
The Perfect Commit. “The commit is our principle unit of work. It deserves to be treated thoughtfully and with care.” As always, a thoughtful approach to technical work from Simon.
The transitional web. “What I mean is that we’re at the start of another wave of change in our industry, where old trends and best practices give way to something new.”
GitHub Copilot investigation. “Copilot’s whizzy code-retrieval methods are a smokescreen intended to conceal a grubby truth: Copilot is merely a convenient alternative interface to a large corpus of open-source code. Therefore, Copilot users may incur licensing obligations to the authors of the underlying code.”
The Proprietary Syndication Formats. “Guess which format is going to outlast all these proprietary syndication formats. I’d say RSS, which I believe to be true, but really, it’s HTML.”
Using the Free Pascal IDE for a week. “I’m not sure what the rationale is for maintaining the text mode FP IDE. It seems kinda quaint in 2022 to maintain a recreation of the old Turbo Pascal editor, but I’m so glad that it’s there.”
Software engineering practices. I really like Simon’s summary of recommended software engineering practices. I agree with everything here, and this might encourage me to write my own additional list.
Blockchain’s real world problem. “Cryptocurrencies and smart contracts truly do reduce the need for trust and centralization! However, if you want to connect them with off chain data, you need to trust the source(s) of that data. Some oracle providers like Artory vet their data sources stringently, but many, like Chainlink, don’t”
The Only Crypto Story You Need, by Matt Levine. “Which is why we asked the finest finance writer around, Matt Levine of Bloomberg Opinion, to write a cover-to-cover issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, something a single author has done only one other time in the magazine’s 93-year history (“What Is Code?,” by Paul Ford). What follows is his brilliant explanation of what this maddening, often absurd, and always fascinating technology means, and where it might go.” Phenomenal.
Regulating DAOs. “It’s a mistake to defend DAOs on the grounds that code is free speech. Some code is speech, but not all code is speech. And code can also directly affect the world.”
Coin Center Says Biden Administration 'Criminalized' Open Source Code. ““The Biden Administration criminalized the use of Tornado Cash, an open source software tool that helps Americans maintain their privacy while using cryptocurrency and related assets,” states the 36-page lawsuit.” I don’t agree that this has merit, but we’ll see where it goes.
Kim Kardashian settles SEC charges over Instagram EthereumMax crypto promo. “The reality TV superstar and influencer has settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges that she failed to disclose a payment she received for touting a crypto asset on her Instagram feed, the agency announced Monday morning.”
How ‘A League of Their Own’ and Anne Rice Are Making the Internet Rethink the Rules of Fanfiction. An interesting piece about the evolution of fanfiction, the separation between fanfic and original creators, and how the two might dovetail back together.
The Hollow Core of Kevin Kelly's "Thousand True Fans" Theory. “On closer examination, it turns out there are many things wrong with it. Thousand True Fans is a hollow philosophy. It is Chicken Soup for the Digital Creator’s Soul, ultimately devoid of any real nutritional value. […] We can have a tiny rich patron-class whose tastes and whims are the only thing that reliably gets catered to, or we can tax that rich patron-class and use the funds to actually fund the arts again.”
BBC And Disney Branded Television Join Forces on Doctor Who. I don’t know what Doctor Who with a Disney budget even looks like, but I’m in. Obviously.
How the first female Time Lord changed Doctor Who forever. “So what does it mean when shows such as Doctor Who increase diversity in front of and behind the camera? Mort says increased on-screen diversity will improve the self-esteem of those represented, and having behind-the-camera talent from communities being portrayed on-screen will ensure the authenticity of these narratives. “This way, diverse narratives can be told, not just stereotyped,” says Mort.”
Bakery Creates ‘Pan Solo,’ a 6-Foot Replica of ‘Star Wars’ Hero Made of Bread. “Finally, after a month of work, he was ready: a lovingly wrought 6-foot recreation of Han Solo frozen in carbonite, made entirely of bread. The duo behind the creation, Hannalee Pervan and her mother, Catherine Pervan, called him “Pan Solo.””
How Chinese citizens use puns on Weibo to talk about MeToo and zero-Covid without being censored. “This particular approach to internet speak — substituting words that sound like or are spelled like others — has been an essential part of being online in China for decades, allowing netizens to use the humor and cleverness of spoken Mandarin to dodge censorship.”
Women of color are leading the effort to connect voting rights and abortion access. “Issues of democracy and reproductive rights have long been tied together for women of color in America. But during this year’s midterms, women of color are in positions of power and influence in ways they haven’t been before. They framed the stakes of the election early and have made this the central argument in the final days of the campaign.”
Uline’s billions fund voter suppression . “The Uihleins are ideologues, but it’s a mistake to view their authoritarianism, antisemitism, racism, and homophobia as the main force of their ideology. First and foremost is their belief that they deserve to be rich, and that the rich should be in charge of everyone else.”
Who is Curtis Yarvin, the monarchist, anti-democracy blogger? “Yarvin argues that a creative and visionary leader — a “startup guy,” like, he says, Napoleon or Lenin was — should seize absolute power, dismantle the old regime, and build something new in its place.” Genuinely frightening stuff.
Could the Tory turmoil get even worse? “As her premiership fell apart, Truss tried to find new bogeymen who she insisted were derailing the post-Brexit revolution, blaming an “anti-growth coalition” that included people with podcasts, Scottish nationalists and north London liberals.” My people!
Don’t Count on White Women to Save Abortion Access. “White women as a voting bloc have proven, time and again, to prioritize racial privilege over gender solidarity.”
Introducing Democracy's Library. “Over the next decade, the Internet Archive is committing to work with libraries, universities, and agencies everywhere to bring the government’s historical information online. It is inviting citizens, libraries, colleges, companies, and the Wikipedians of the world to unlock good information and weave it back into the Internet.” Yay!
Voter ID laws are creating barriers for transgender people, women and others. “More than 200,000 voting-eligible transgender Americans may find it difficult to cast a ballot in the upcoming midterm elections because of voter ID laws.”
'Stop the steal' supporters train thousands of U.S. poll observers. “If these people show up to the polls with the intention of disrupting voting from taking place, then I can’t imagine a worse threat to democracy than that.”
Comedians sue over drug search program at Atlanta airport. “Those 402 [police] stops also yielded more than $1 million in cash and money orders from a total of 25 passengers” even though drugs were not found on them. Absolutely vile.
How California’s Bullet Train Went Off the Rails. “SNCF was very angry. They told the state they were leaving [California] for North Africa, which was less politically dysfunctional. They went to Morocco and helped them build a rail system.”
Chelsea Manning: ‘I’m Still Bound to Secrecy’. “I came to see that the classification system exists wholly in the interest of the U.S. government — in other words, it seems to exist not to to keep secrets safe but to control the narrative.”
After 187 years, the Cherokee Nation wants its seat in Congress . “The 1835 treaty included unequivocal language that a delegate “shall” be included in the House for the Cherokee, a provision that was essentially forgotten as they and other tribes tried to survive and rebuild after forced removal.”
The most terrifying case of all is about to be heard by the US supreme court. “Should the court endorse the ISL theory, Republican-controlled legislatures also will be able to gerrymander political districts to lock in permanent control of federal elections without judicial oversight.”
Proposed bill labels LGBTQ+ information as 'sexually-oriented' material. “Multiple LGBTQ+ researchers and policy experts told The 19th that they had never seen a bill like this one at the state level, introduced in the current Congress, or passed into law in recent memory. A bill that so overtly depicts LGBTQ+ people as sexually inappropriate, especially around children, is a significant escalation — even if it’s all part of the same rhetoric, advocates say.”
Microplastics found in human breast milk for the first time. “We would like to advise pregnant women to pay greater attention to avoiding food and drink packaged in plastic, cosmetics and toothpastes containing microplastics, and clothes made of synthetic fabrics.”
Hair Straighteners May Pose a Small Risk for Uterine Cancer, Study Finds. “For women in the study who had never used hair straighteners, the risk of developing uterine cancer by the age of 70 was 1.64 percent, the research found, while the rate for frequent users of straighteners was more than doubled at 4.05 percent.”
Wildfire Smoke May Carry Deadly Fungi Long Distances. “For years now, researchers have understood that wildfire smoke, and the noxious gases and soot particles it carries, isn’t merely an unpleasant experience that forces people to shut windows and herd children indoors. It’s a significant health hazard that not only triggers asthma and breathing problems, but can harm immune systems for years.”
State abortion bans are preventing cancer patients from getting chemotherapy. ““I don’t know anybody that would feel comfortable treating a pregnant patient with cancer because I don’t feel like they’re nearly dead enough,” Zahedi-Spung said. “The threshold that I am holding in order to provide abortion care is basically almost dead to try to avoid being arrested and jailed.””
James Bennet and the rewriting of 2020. “Desperate to undo the social movement that threatened their place atop the social hierarchy, the right and its handmaidens in the squeamish center have fought obsessively to recast the protest summer as the aborted dawn of a new, terrifying tyranny — of “cancel culture,” anti-racism, and the most feared of them all, “wokism” — in which revolutionary mobs working with the Hollywood elite and the mandarins of the Democratic Party (don’t think too hard about it) will … well, do something bad.”
Publishing Prejudice: The Oregonian's Racist Legacy. “The newspaper helped create the Oregon of today: A majority white state, with the West Coast’s smallest proportion of Black residents, anchored by Portland, America’s whitest big city. Despite Oregon’s progressive reputation and growing population of color, its major institutions — lawmakers, schools, police, housing systems and health care providers — have failed to erase deep-rooted inequities.”
News in America: Public Good or Private Enterprise? “Most Americans believe news organizations prioritize their own business needs – over serving the public interest: More than three in four say news organizations are first and foremost motivated by their own financial interests, while just 12% of Americans say news outlets act as civic institutions first.”
The BBC at one hundred. “Its relationship with the British state has been fraught, a function of its peculiar dual status as both a news organization and a nominally unifying cultural service, and of its funding status.”
Tucker Carlson’s strange rant about Fetterman shows how media fails. “Asking objective news reporters to be aware that a massive apparatus of disinformation is out there waiting to pounce on and exploit hazy reporting seems like the absolute minimum to expect.”
When spyware turns phones into weapons. “In the long-term, journalists who feel threatened by an invisible enemy that could expose their sources and their private lives to public scrutiny may start to shy away from controversial investigations, curtailing their publications’ coverage, and dealing a blow to press freedom.”
If Trump Runs Again, Do Not Cover Him the Same Way: A Journalist’s Manifesto. “We should be resolutely objective in the sense of seeking evidence and approaching subjects with an open mind. We should not, however, resort to taking everything down the middle, no matter what.”
What is Dovetail from PRX? “From a birds-eye view, Dovetail does three main things: podcast distribution, data collection, and ad inventory management.”
Most people on Twitter don’t live in political echo chambers — but mostly because they don’t care enough to bother building one. “Most people don’t follow a bunch of political “elites” on Twitter — a group that, for these authors’ purposes, also includes news organizations. But those who do typically follow many more people they agree with politically than people who they don’t.”
The Sun-Times’ new chapter: Our digital content is now free for everyone. “So today, we are dropping our paywall and making it possible for anyone to read our website for free by providing nothing more than an email address. Instead of a paywall, we are launching a donation-based digital membership program that will allow readers to pay what they can to help us deliver the news you rely on.”
In Grief and In Anger, Welcome to Peste Magazine. “Peste Magazine believes health is a human right. We believe in naming the names of the powerful who believe others do not deserve that right, because of who they are, where they live, what they do, how they fuck, or how much money they don’t have.”
Wikipedia has once again debated whether Fox News is a reliable source. “The final result: Li found consensus that Fox be deemed a “marginally reliable” source for information about politics and science. This means that its use as a reference in Wikipedia articles will not be permitted for “exceptional claims” that require heightened scrutiny, but that its reliability will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for other claims.”
First-ever study shows bumble bees 'play'. “Bumble bees play, according to new research led by Queen Mary University of London published in Animal Behaviour. It is the first time that object play behavior has been shown in an insect, adding to mounting evidence that bees may experience positive “feelings.”” I can’t believe it’s taking this long to get to the obvious idea that all animals have feelings.
Tuna. “It has a name, this uniquely vile game: it is called extinction speculation. It’s practised by those who collect Norwegian shark fin, rare bear bladders and rhino horn; men and women with hearts that sing along only to the song of money. There are collectors known to be building up huge piles of tiger pelts and vats of tiger bone wine.”
Airline hired for UK’s Rwanda deportations pulls out of scheme. “This is a victory for people power – for thousands who took action and for the torture survivors who stood up against the UK government’s cruel ‘cash for humans’ Rwanda scheme.“ Activism works.
Louisiana parents fight to keep their children out of violent Angola prison. “Parents and legal advocates in Louisiana — chief among them Black mothers — say a plan to temporarily transfer incarcerated youth to an adult facility once known as “America’s bloodiest prison” will traumatize the children and limit their access to education and rehabilitation opportunities.”
Afghan couple accuse US Marine of abducting their baby. “This is a story about how one U.S. Marine became fiercely determined to bring home an Afghan war orphan, and praised it as an act of Christian faith to save her. Letters, emails and documents submitted in federal filings show that he used his status in the U.S. Armed Forces, appealed to high-ranking Trump administration officials and turned to small-town courts to adopt the baby, unbeknownst to the Afghan couple raising her 7,000 miles away.”
Texas schools send parents DNA kits to identify their kids’ bodies in emergencies. ““You have to understand, I’m a former law enforcement officer,” Walder, who has lived in Texas for 14 years, said. “I worry every single day when I send my kid to school. Now we’re giving parents DNA kits so that when their child is killed with the same weapon of war I had when I was in Afghanistan, parents can use them to identify them?””
Monarch. “Not once at school was I told any of this stuff. I’d heard of the Raj before, although the British always spoke of it as if it was something to be proud of.” +1. And it is nothing to be proud of.
Tarana Burke on #MeToo progress and reframing the future. “Ahead of next month’s midterms, she said she’s thinking more than ever about survivors as a key part of the electorate. They can be a powerful voting bloc that could help elect candidates focused on changing policy around sexual and gender-based violence.”
Women share stories in their own words, five years after #MeToo movement. “These women, regularly denied the chance to show their full selves and tell their own stories, do so here in their own words, navigating what it means to find safety and self in the face of widespread public attention, and criticism.”
Longtermism, or How to Get-Out-Of-Caring While Feeling Moral and Smart. “MacAskill begs us to ask questions like: Do you care about the specter of climate catastrophe? Definitely. World War III complete with nuclear annihilation? Yikes, yeah. How about population stagnation and potential collapse because rich people stopped having enough babies? Wait, huh? What do you think about lowering the probability of complete human extinction by .0001% at the expense of allowing 100 million people to die in genocidal neglect?”
Why Do Rich People Love Quiet? “The people complaining clearly thought they were trying to enforce a sonic landscape that they deemed superior, but what they were really doing was using shame to exert control. Over the restaurant, the building, the borough. Us.”
Positano, the Instagram capital of the world, is a terrible place to be. “The problem of travel at this particular moment is not too many people traveling in general, it is too many people wanting to experience the exact same thing because they all went to the same websites and read the same reviews.”
Mark Zuckerberg Is Going To Kill His Company. “As funny as it is that Zuckerberg responded to “don’t spend as much money on the metaverse” with “I will now spend more on the metaverse,” anybody with half a brain can see that he is burning his company to the ground. Zuckerberg is experiencing peak founder-brain - that previous success begets future success and that has had several good ideas means that every idea you’ll ever have is perfect.”
Preventing the bait and switch by open core software companies. “The approach ensures that an open core company can’t switch to solely creating proprietary software. The charter also addresses other issues we have seen in open source projects like withholding security fixes and transparency issues.”
3 Reasons Why I Think 50% Coding 50% Marketing is the Best Framework for Solo Tech Founders. “Usually when a solo founder thinks they need to do more coding than marketing, it’s because they don’t want to do marketing, not because they genuinely think they need to spend more time on product.”
Co-Founding Considered Harmful. “I’ve come to view the idea that you absolutely need a co-founder as one of the most harmful memes in Silicon Valley. It’s probably killed more companies than any other misconceptions out there.” Really solid advice.
Biden admin investing $65 billion in broadband access. “The federal government is investing $65 billion in expanding broadband, and two-thirds of that money will be directed toward programs that encourage better hiring and retention practices for women and people of color, who have been severely underrepresented in the field.”
Twitter to start charging $20 per month for verification. “Employees working on the project were told on Sunday that they need to meet a deadline of November 7th to launch the feature or they will be fired.” Way to build a supportive culture!
Welcome to hell, Elon. “Also, everyone crying about “free speech” conveniently ignores that the biggest threat to free speech in America is the fucking government, which seems completely bored of the First Amendment. They’re out here banning books, Elon!” The best post about the Twitter acquisition.
Fake books. “With GPT-3, we now have an infinitely-scalable technology that is years away from being able to enrich our lives, but is already more than capable of drowning out all remnants of authentic content on the internet. And because you can leverage this to earn money or sway opinions, that outcome is probably hard to avoid.”
The Commodordion. “The Commodordion is an 8-bit accordion primarily made of C64s, floppy disks, and gaffer tape.” Into it.
TikTok Parent ByteDance Planned To Use TikTok To Monitor The Physical Location Of Specific American Citizens. “But the material reviewed by Forbes indicates that ByteDance’s Internal Audit team was planning to use this location information to surveil individual American citizens, not to target ads or any of these other purposes.”
Introducing the Overflow Offline project. “Many coders would say they rely on Stack Overflow to get work done, but Hicklin’s situation is different. She had no access to the internet while incarcerated.” Great initiative.
How We Uncovered Disparities in Internet Deals. “Recent research from activists and academics has pointed out a digital divide for high-speed internet between the parts of major American cities where ISPs have upgraded the infrastructure (often rich and predominantly White) and the frequently poorer, predominantly communities of color where they have not made upgrades.”
s13e10: Dying Slowly, and then All At Once; Scrollytelling. This is so sad. And honestly, given I post many links a day, kind of scary.
Microsoft Full Circle. “The entire reason why Windows faltered as a strategic linchpin is that it was tied to a device — the PC — that was disrupted by a paradigm shift in hardware. Microsoft 365, on the other hand, is attached to the customer.” I’m a much bigger fan of the new Microsoft than the old one.
The AT Protocol. “The world needs a diverse market of connected services to ensure healthy competition. Interoperation needs to feel like second nature to the Web.” I’m cautiously optimistic - and certainly curious.
Facebook owner Meta to sell Giphy after UK watchdog confirms ruling. “The only way this can be addressed is by the sale of Giphy. This will promote innovation in digital advertising, and also ensure UK social media users continue to benefit from access to Giphy.”
Kanye West plans to acquire conservative social media site Parler. “Parler was created in September 2018 as a free speech alternative to apps like Twitter and Facebook. The app was de-platformed from Google and Apple’s app stores in January 2021, following the January Capitol siege.”
This will be a thread discussing a real world breach involving a drone delivered exploit system that occurred this summer. An epic corporate security breach using drones. The stuff of movies.
Papa John's sued for 'wiretap' spying on website visitors. “Session replay tools have been a privacy concern due to their indiscriminate capturing of data, sometimes poor security, and failures to get user consent to track and store this data, not to mention having analysts going over your every move to see how they can optimize their webpages and boost sales.”
As pandemic measures are lifted, social media use has declined with the exception of TikTok. “Other studies have shown that young people are now using TikTok as one of the primary ways to get news and that some have even replaced Google Search with TikTok.”
Disrupting the Gospel of Tech Solutionism to Build Tech Justice. “Virtually every new technology tied into the massive, interconnected web of data and machine power undergirding the global internet has the potential for both social benefit and social harm. And communities that have been overpoliced and surveilled are more likely than others to experience the negative capabilities of new technology.”
The Battle for the Soul of the Web. “The decentralized web that Kahle and others have envisioned for years has yet to receive major mainstream attention for an obvious reason: It never promised to get anyone rich. But the Web3 movement certainly did.”
The High Cost of Living Your Life Online. “Studies have found that high levels of social media use are connected with an increased risk of symptoms of anxiety and depression. There appears to be substantial evidence connecting people’s mental health and their online habits. Furthermore, many psychologists believe people may be dealing with psychological effects that are pervasive but not always obvious.”
AI Data Laundering: How Academic and Nonprofit Researchers Shield Tech Companies from Accountability. “This academic-to-commercial pipeline abstracts away ownership of data models from their practical applications, a kind of data laundering where vast amounts of information are ingested, manipulated, and frequently relicensed under an open-source license for commercial use.”