Protect Me From What I Want · Over on Mastodon, there are many people who enjoy not being in the grip of software like Facebook or Twitter that single-mindedly tries to maximize “engagement”, which means the amount of time you stare at the screen so they can show you ads. These algorithms don’t care what they’re showing you and if it turns out that showing you exclusively stories vilifying or praising Donald Trump (depending) maximizes engagement, then that’s what you’ll see. So the chant over there is “No algorithms on Mastodon!” This chant is wrong, and the discussion around it teaches us that we need clarity on what algorithms are, what moral weight they can carry, and whether they can be avoided. (Spoiler: They can’t.) ...
[11 comments]  
Bye, Twitter · Today I’m leaving Twitter, because I don’t like making unpaid contributions to a for-profit publisher whose proprietor is an alt-right troll. But also because it’s probably going to break down. Read on for details ...
[11 comments]  
Mastodon Moment · My first Mastodon post (that I can find) dates from April 6, 2017. I try to check out interesting new life-online technologies, and this was one. But I found it sort of quiet and empty and didn’t say much. Now, following on Muskification, Twitter may become an unattractive online home, so it’s time to explore alternatives. I’ve been digging deeper into Mastodon (so have really a lot of other people) and this is a progress report ...
[6 comments]  
AWS and Blockchain · This week saw the cancellation of the Australian Stock Exchange’s long-running effort to build a blockchain-based trading system. Which, oddly, has me thinking of 2016, when AWS decided not to make a strategic investment in blockchain, with my input a contributing factor. It felt like a good story while it was happening ...
[26 comments]  
Just Don’t · Sometimes it’s wrong to begin a phrase with the word “just”. I offer as evidence two such situations. I think there’s a common thread to be drawn ...
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How Much For Twitter? · Following on Mr Musk’s acquisition of Twitter a discussion has broken out about what to charge for. Which makes sense, because Twitter revenue is kind of lousy, notably out of sync with its societal importance, and now they’ve got a great big honking debt to service ...
[6 comments]  
Online Shopping, But… · But not from middlemen I mean, especially Amazon. Like most people, I regularly buy stuff online. (I think that saying “most people” is now globally true?) But I have a big attitude problem about online retail aggregators in general and Amazon in particular. So as a matter of principle I’ve been trying to take significant purchases upstream to the source ...
[4 comments]  
Long Links · Hey everyone, welcome to autumn on the top half o’ the orb and spring on the bottom. For your pleasure and edification, another curation of long-form pieces that pleased and edified this semi-retired person, one or two of which might boost your morale in these trying times. Featured: Tolkien as lexicographer, Wikipedia vs Fox News, John le Carré, and cheesy music from my youth ...
[3 comments]  
Still Forest Lives · I’ve said it before: Forests are therapy. So, here are pictures that might please eyes and ease minds. I’ve taken the camera out into these Keats-Island forests many times and who knows, maybe shared shots of the same living plants. Not going to apologize. Come along, let me take your eyes for a walk ...
[1 comment]  
2022 Vancouver Election · In the City of Vancouver’s 2022 election, deciding who to vote for is extraordinarily difficult. Since we don’t have a ward system, we have to vote for one mayor, ten city councillors, seven park-board commissioners, and nine school-board trustees. There are six local political parties running random variations of mayoral candidates (or not) and full or partial slates for the other bodies. I just finished doing sufficient research to make my own choices; maybe my sharing it will be useful to one or two other Vancouverites ...
 
Autumn Golang Diary · I’ve posted here about my experiences with Go since 2013 and I guess it’s too late to stop now. This one is truly miscellaneous, just a bunch of things that built up in “should write about this” notes to myself while working on Quamina ...
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Luxury media · I was cruising through the supermarket when a shopping-cart traffic jam stalled me in front of the “newsstand”. That word is in quotes because most things on offer aren’t news and in fact aren’t magazines in the traditional sense, but single-issue glossies about Princess Diana or Bruce Springsteen or Michelle Obama or Christmas. Anyhow, an awesome cover photo of an owl on the The Atlantic caught my eye; that cover also touted an article about Jack White, whose music I enjoy, so I impulse-bought it. Now I’m thinking about the quality-publishing business model ...
[7 comments]  
Hello, Ruler · Hey, look what’s been open-sourced: AWS Event Ruler! Check out the announcement blog. I built v1.0 of this Java library while I was at AWS, and wrote about it in Filtering Lessons. Tl;dr: It offers APIs for declaring pattern-matching Rules, as many as you like, then for presenting data records called Events and finding out which Rules each Event matches, very quickly. It’s in production in multiple Amazon (not just AWS) services, notably EventBridge. Also see: Content-based Filtering ...
 
Long Links · Hi everyone, once again I invite you to a curation of links to long-form pieces that I have time for but you may not. The hope is that one or two of these will enrich your life. This month, featuring quite a bit of music, computer keyboard obsession, politics as usual, and potatoes ...
[3 comments]  
On Faith · What is “faith”, anyhow? The answers can become abstract, but concretely it’s what gets Salman Rushdie stabbed in the face. Oh wait, is that statement anti-Islamic? Guilty as charged; but then I’m also anti-Christian, anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist, and, well, there are too many organized religions to list them all. Herewith too many words on Faith and Truth, albeit with pretty pictures. I do find positive things to say, but at the end of the day, well, no ...
[7 comments]  
Slow Travel · Suppose you believe, as I do, that we have to slash our carbon emissions drastically and urgently to ameliorate the worst effects of the climate catastrophe that is beginning to engulf us. And that you believe, as I do, that travel is a good thing for individuals and societies, and that in principle every human should enjoy the opportunity to visit every neighborhood around our fair planet. Can these beliefs be reconciled? ...
[12 comments]  
False Creek Friend · I want to share a project I’ve been helping out with for the last couple of years; the False Creek Friends Society. I haven’t wanted to write about it before now because it was just big-ideas talk. But there’s some science starting up and if you’re nearby you might want to get involved ...
[6 comments]  
Dark Matter Fun · Anyone who’s read one or two of my Long Links curations knows that I’m fascinated by the ongoing conundra in Astrophysics and Cosmology on the subject of Dark Matter. There are a couple of recent developments that are worth noting ...
[6 comments]  
Living With Models · More people, more often, are finding themselves dealing with the output of Machine-Learning (ML) software. With even a little practice you can spot when it’s happening. It makes me wonder what the future of human/ML interaction looks like. Herewith a few personal experiences ...
[2 comments]  
Long Links · Dear Readers, once again a selection of links to long-form pieces which I, as a semi-retired person, have time for, but people with normal lives probably don’t. The hope is that one or two will enrich your life. Housekeeping note: I have said “Yes” too often recently and Long-Linking opportunities will probably shrink. Featured this time out: American roots music, BC beer, how wealth vanishes, and the Apple M2 ...
[3 comments]  
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