The tyranny of engagement metrics.

How using hyper-capitalist concepts like “engagement metrics” is killing galleries and museums.

2018-11-08T13:42:42+11:0024th March, 2019|Tags: arts, culture|

Freeze you, freeze me.

This is where the fetishizing of free speech and debate goes bad. I get to deny your basic humanity and your right to exist, and you now need to convince me otherwise. I get to freely make assertions that don’t challenge my privileged status but do potentially do great harm to you, and I have no responsibility or obligation to others — others who may even consider those statements “wrong beyond doubt” — to make defensible statements, and the onus is entirely on you to address them, and if you don’t, you are an intolerant tribalist. Why do you get so angry when I merely want to deny your civil rights, or enslave you, or kill you? That’s not very logical.

PZ Myers on freeze-dried peaches.

2018-11-08T13:33:51+11:0023rd March, 2019|Tags: culture|

The Dragon of Rosemont High, ch. 18.

“You’re, like. My best friend.”

Zoe doesn’t scream, although it’s mostly because she has her hands clamped over her mouth. Above them, her eyes are anime-girl wide; almost grotesque and comical. Eli shifts, awkward in the silence that’s dragging on far too long.

“So, um,” he says. “Ta-daa?” He sits up on his haunches as he says it, making a sort of car salesman gesture with his arms. Zoe’s eyes, if anything, go even wider, and a muffled squeak emerges from behind her fingers.

Eli lowers himself back down again. There’s no way he can be smaller than Zoe, short of lying on the ground, but he does his best anyway to make himself non-threatening. “Um. Zee? Say something, please?”

“You can talk!” Still muffled behind Zoe’s hands and woolen bracer things. But it’s a start.

“Um. Yeah?”

“You . . . you’re a dragon!”

“Apparently?”

“Since when?”

Eli shrugs. It’s more in the wings than the shoulders, and he doesn’t miss the way Zoe’s eyes follow the motion.

“A week?” he hazards, in answer to her question. “Since the peryton, really.”

Zoe drops her hands. She’s shifting back and forth, craning to look more at Eli now her shock is being replaced by curiosity. Something inside Eli unclenches in relief. If Zoe had been frightened by him . . .

Read more »

2019-03-22T17:55:49+11:0022nd March, 2019|Tags: books, DRAGON OF ROSEMONT HIGH|

The web is also garbage.

If an advertiser’s primary goal is to get their ad in front of people and the cost of the ad rises the more that it can be proved someone saw the ad, website makers have a strong incentive to serve ads that cover content, block content, prevent access to content temporarily, etc. Many ad-funded websites feel like they have to make a some pretty hard calculations: how much can they piss users off in order to make enough money to survive, without scaring users off completely.

I, as a web user, do not at all think many websites have calculated well. But a weird thing about the web is that because a lot of information is discovered via search engines, as long as websites can play the SEO game they will continue getting a large volume of users, and as long as those users stay on the site long enough to get some ad impressions, the site stays afloat. That is to say, even though users are pissed off at the design of the sites, the site still generates traffic because search engines are looking at the content, not the experience.

Winston Hearn on trade-offs.

Advertising is, hands down, the worst thing to ever happen to the web and that is a hot take I will die on…

2018-09-27T11:52:12+11:0022nd March, 2019|Tags: advertising, tech|

It’s the economy, stupid.

Americans have been taught — indoctrinated, perhaps — to think of the economy as capitalism. Quite literally: if capital returns are high […] then Americans suppose the economy is booming. But capital returns — profits, dividends, stock markets, GDP (or their opposites, deficits) — are not the economy at all. They are just the success of capitalists, at increasing their capital. Hence, the average American — who isn’t a capitalist, since the true capitalists, Bezos, Brin, Buffett, are tiny in number — is cheering on capitalists increasing their capital, but not his own income, savings, living standards, health, longevity, or happiness. […]

Americans think the economy is a set of abstractions about capitalism — more exactly, capitalists increasing their capital. But they have been systematically warned against thinking of the economy as them: the simple and daily realities of their very own lives — whether or not they can afford food, shelter, medicine, education, save, retire, create, dream, build, grow. Comrades — the victory of capitalism is the victory of us all!

umair haque on economies.

2018-11-26T08:22:27+11:0020th March, 2019|Tags: economics, politics, usa|

The Dragon of Rosemont High, ch. 17.

“There’s something I need to show you.”

The Rosemont High gymnasium pulls double-duty as an auditorium, meaning one end is dominated by a long stage. There are rooms behind it, hidden and disused except during plays and assemblies, and Eli and Zoe hide out in one now.

“I hate crying.”

Zoe is sitting in the corner, hunched over her own bag. Her tears have mostly stopped, but she’s still sniffling. She’s still in her gym clothes, too, unkempt and unarmored.

“How do you feel?” Eli asks. He wants to sit next to Zoe, to wrap his arm around her and pull her close, but isn’t sure if she’ll allow it. So he leans against the far wall, instead, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his hoodie.

“Headache,” Zoe says eventually. “And . . . my mouth tastes gross.” She smacks her lips a few times to demonstrate. “Like I’ve been licking garbage.”

Eli doesn’t bother to ask how she knows what garbage tastes like. He can taste it too. Not strong, but: “It’s the rísók, I think.”

Zoe looks up at him, narrowing eyes red-rimmed from crying. “The what-awk?”

Eli bites his lip. “Um,” he says. “How . . . how much do you remember? About . . .?” He waves a hand, noncommittal.

“I . . . I warded my bag,” Zoe says, looking down at the object in question. “After Morgan. I . . . I didn’t want . . .” She stops, takes a deep, shuddering breath, and starts again: “We were outside. Running, y’know? When I felt, like . . . It was the ward. I can’t explain how I knew, but I knew. You know?”

Eli nods. He does know.

Read more »

2019-03-19T18:17:20+11:0019th March, 2019|Tags: books, DRAGON OF ROSEMONT HIGH|

“Both” “sides”.

Reagan sold arms to the “mujahideen” that became Al Qaeda, and George W. Bush invaded Iraq for oil after 9/11. George H.W. Bush manufactured a recession out of the Gulf War. Democrats were forced to pick up the pieces, and we did. But we also made one big mistake, over and over.

We assumed the essential goodwill, the goodness, of Republicans and conservatives. We assumed they believed in something, if not the same things we did than something similar, something decent, something American.

The great accomplishment of Donald Trump has been to rip all that away and reveal the Confederate-like racism, and Hitler-like Fascism, behind the masks. Republicans built this era. They did it by gaming the system when they couldn’t win honestly, having Supreme Court justices lie to Congress routinely from Clarence Thomas on, stealing the 2000 election by halting the recount, and engaging in the Jim Crow Project years before Trump was elected, with Russian help.

They did this. Both sides don’t do this. They did all of this. Your neighbors. Your fellow Americans.

Dana Blankenhorn on suckers.

2018-11-26T08:22:27+11:0018th March, 2019|Tags: politics, usa|

Metacrap.

On the birth and death of the semantic web.

I confess I… was kinda into the semantic web. Back In The Day, when I used a homebrew system rather than WordPress, my entire blog was even rendered in XML, styled for display to humans via XSLT transformation.1 This was back in the XHTML heyday. I always hated XHTML—it’s basically the worst of both HTML and XML and I’m glad it “lost” the standards wars—but I liked the clean separation of data and presentation as represented by the XML/XSLT combo.2

It had, of course, some obvious downsides, the main one being that it would crap itself and fail if it encountered even slightly malformed data (as opposed to HTML, which is endlessly fault tolerant). It was also very easy to machine-parse, which is both good in the sense of interoperability but, conversely, also bad in the sense of interoperability, depending on your stance on content silos, web scraping, and plagiarism.

Still. It was neat, and clean, and I do kinda miss it. Modern “alternatives” like microformats and JSON whatevers and and such and so on always seem like… pale and compromised imitations.

  1. A technique I stole off the then World of Warcraft website, which implemented this, as I discovered when I once tried to view-source in order to steal graphic elements for my guild site.
  2. I even implemented it in a commercial project that required different format outputs for data. It was a pain to make the underlying framework actually do what I wanted, but once I’d done that, it was way easier to just write new transform stylesheets for, say, Word-versus-Excel-versus-browser output.
2018-09-25T09:24:20+11:0017th March, 2019|Tags: tech, webdesign, webdev|