Threads for chobeat

  1. 10

    I tried something similar, asking ChatGPT to produce recipes for different fermented food. It is similar in the sense that there are specific models implied in the production of the answer: proportion of the ingredients, times, temperatures, phases in the processing, etc etc.

    They all looked kinda ok and it showed that the AI could infer the relevant parts necessary to ferment food and 1 out of 10 was maybe neighbouring correctness. Nonetheless 9 out of 10 would have probably molded and killed you.

    As usual with these generative models, the content keeps looking better and better but it doesn’t get any more reliable than before. It might be good for fillers in a newspaper, the copy of your startup’s website and stuff like this.

    I think this article, while I believe it’s completely real, is very misleading in portraying cherry-picked examples. It’s misleading because it implies the possibility of trust in the output of the model that shouldn’t be there. Obviously this guy is biased and produces propaganda for his side in order to overcome this need for trust but as technologists we shouldn’t buy into it.

    This doesn’t take anything away from the impressiveness of this parroting device. Just don’t use this stuff in the real world.

    1. 4

      This topic is very interesting to think about.

      One key question, missed by the article, is: What will computers look like in 100 years? Massively parallel is a given, but beyond that, will it be higher performance to tightly couple memory to the processor and have NUMA-esqe interconnects, or will we have massive processor complexes connected to tebibytes of RAM?

      One interesting bit from Mill Computing is that they are designing the processor architecture and instruction set based on the constraints of silicon lithography! This leads to choices like having two separate instruction encodings, so that they can have two simpler (and smaller) decode units, coupled with smaller and faster (due to locality to the decoders) instruction caches. The video series goes into much, much more detail and they are worth a watch for anyone interested in computer architecture.

      And then we need to talk about truly 3D processor architectures, because we won’t be using silicon lithography forever.

      And then we need to ask, who is writing programs 100 years from now? Mostly other computers. So restricting program keywords to English text, saving code in files, in-line comments, and such may all go by the wayside. Does it make more sense for all the code to be in some kind of database instead? Will there be any code reuse in the conventional sense, or will AGI just custom-write each separate program, making things ultra-optimized?

      1. 5

        it’s very bold to believe that computers will still exist in 100 years. They might exist in some parts of the world where you can produce simple controllers locally if you have the luck to have in the same place the resources necessary, the know-how and an economy that can make use of them but it’s clear that personal computers won’t survive the ongoing collapse of the industrial civilization. Maybe there still will be some in 50 years but 100 years is way too much.

        A nice paper on the subject: https://kurti.sh/pubs/unplanned_limits17.pdf

        1. 2

          Oh, we’re certainly racing towards the cliff of un-sustainability. I’m fairly convinced, one way or the other, that human civilization won’t exist like we know it now by 2100. It might be good, or there might be civilizational collapse from ecologic or other factors. Or a robot uprising.

      1. 32

        And that’s why the abuses of techno-optimism from the ruling classes are creating a new wave of luddism inside and outside the tech industry.

        The argument from OP is not new: the conflict of humans vs machines has been a major trope of 20th century philosophy, literature and art, especially after the brutality of nazi-fascism in Europe. Actually, it’s the whole premise of entire fields of study, political institutions and organizations.

        Obviously, this stuff is not taught to engineers, that are trained to implement acritically anything that is requested from them. Just sprinkle some ethics-washing on top and they will believe they are the good guys.

        It’s always fun (not really) when techbros discover they are perceived as the “bad guys” outside their bubble. They get mad at people writing “no programmers” or “no cryptobros” on dating apps or “if you work in tech, everybody hates you. Just leave” on the walls of a gentrified neighborhood.

        1. 4

          Obviously, this stuff is not taught to engineers

          Depends on the schools, in Québec (maybe in the rest of Canada, I don’t remember) we are required to take a course on ethics in engineering. I also had course on sociology (also geared towards technology and engineering), but I don’t know if it’s required outside of Polytechnique of Montréal.

          1. 4

            This kind of courses are taught throughout the world, for what I know, but they are very very shallow compared to the responsibility and a power that a software engineer has. Also they tend to reinforce an idea of ethics that supports the status quo and usually draws the line at “95% of what is being done with technology is totally ok, the remaining 5% must be eradicated and please don’t put AI in your weapons”. I don’t know the one you took, but all the syllabi of the courses I’ve seen are wildly insufficient.

            1. 4

              Canada uses the word “engineer” very differently from USA. Here is it a regulated term with requirements to be one (including ethics training). In USA it can describe almost any practical job, but in this context often means “someone paid to write code”.

              1. 3

                Hi, I hail from Quebec too, and I’ve been practising software development for the past decade and a half. Can’t legally call myself an engineer, only went through college. Most of the people I have worked with over a decade and a half are not legally allowed to call themselves engineers. So “this stuff is not taught to engineers” is not true, from a very technical standpoint, but the reality on the ground is that indeed, the practitioners are not taught that stuff.

                1. 1

                  That’s a pretty good point, almost all my colleagues went to the same engineering school, so I tend to forget that not all software developer went to engineering school.

              2. 2

                They get mad at people writing “no programmers” or “no cryptobros” on dating apps or “if you work in tech, everybody hates you. Just leave” on the walls of a gentrified neighborhood.

                They sure do love the engineers’ salaries when it comes to supporting a family or paying taxes for their community programs, though. Damnedest thing.

                1. 2

                  Flaunting money is possibly even more repelling than being into cryptos.

              1. 14

                What surrprised me about Tainter’s analysis (and I haven’t read his entire book yet) is that he sees complexity as a method by which societies gain efficiency. This is very different from the way software developers talk about complexity (as ‘bloat’, ‘baggage’, ‘legacy’, ‘complication’), and made his perspective seem particularly fresh.

                1. 31

                  I don’t mean to sound dismissive – Tainter’s works are very well documented, and he makes a lot of valid points – but it’s worth keeping in mind that grand models of history have made for extremely attractive pop history books, but really poor explanations of historical phenomena. Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies, while obviously based on a completely different theory (and one with far less odious consequences in the real world) is based on the same kind of scientific thinking that brought us dialectical materialism.

                  His explanation of the fall of the evolution and the eventual fall of the Roman Empire makes a number of valid points about the Empire’s economy and about some of the economic interests behind the Empire’s expansion, no doubt. However, explaining even the expansion – let alone the fall! – of the Roman Empire strictly in terms of energy requirements is about as correct as explaining it in terms of class struggle.

                  Yes, some particular military expeditions were specifically motivated by the desire to get more grain or more cows. But many weren’t – in fact, some of the greatest Roman wars, like (some of) the Roman-Parthian wars, were not driven specifically by Roman desire to get more grains or cows. Furthermore, periods of rampant, unsustainably rising military and infrastructure upkeep costs were not associated only with expansionism, but also with mounting outside pressure (ironically, sometimes because the energy per capita on the other side of the Roman border really sucked, and the Huns made it worse on everyone). The increase of cost and decrease in efficiency, too, are not a matter of half-rational historical determinism – they had economic as well as cultural and social causes that rationalising things in terms of energy not only misses, but distorts to the point of uselessness. The breakup of the Empire was itself a very complex social, cultural and military story which is really not something that can be described simply in terms of the dissolution of a central authority.

                  That’s also where this mismatch between “bloat” and “features” originates. Describing program features simply in terms of complexity is a very reductionist model, which accounts only for the difficulty of writing and maintaining it, not for its usefulness, nor for the commercial environment in which it operates and the underlying market forces. Things are a lot more nuanced than “complexity = good at first, then bad”: critical features gradually become unneeded (see Xterm’s many emulation modes, for example), markets develop in different ways and company interests align with them differently (see Microsoft’s transition from selling operating systems and office programs to renting cloud servers) and so on.

                  1. 6

                    However, explaining even the expansion – let alone the fall! – of the Roman Empire strictly in terms of energy requirements is about as correct as explaining it in terms of class struggle.

                    Of course. I’m long past the age where I expect anyone to come up with a single, snappy explanation for hundreds of years of human history.

                    But all models are wrong, only some are useful. Especially in our practice, where we often feel overwhelmed by complexity despite everyone’s best efforts, I think it’s useful to have a theory about the origins and causes of complexity, even if only for emotional comfort.

                    1. 6

                      Especially in our practice, where we often feel overwhelmed by complexity despite everyone’s best efforts, I think it’s useful to have a theory about the origins and causes of complexity, even if only for emotional comfort.

                      Indeed! The issue I take with “grand models” like Tainter’s and the way they are applied in grand works like Collapse of Complex Societies is that they are ambitiously applied to long, grand processes across the globe without an exploration of the limits (and assumptions) of the model.

                      To draw an analogy with our field: IMHO the Collapse of… is a bit like taking Turing’s machine as a model and applying it to reason about modern computers, without noting the differences between modern computers and Turing machines. If you cling to it hard enough, you can hand-wave every observed performance bottleneck in terms of the inherent inefficiency of a computer reading instructions off a paper tape, even though what’s actually happening is cache misses and hard drives getting thrashed by swapping. We don’t fall into this fallacy because we understand the limits of Turing’s model – in fact, Turing himself explicitly mentioned many (most?) of them, even though he had very little prior art in terms of alternative implementations, and explicitly formulated his model to apply only to some specific aspects of computation.

                      Like many scholars at the intersections of economics and history in his generation, Tainter doesn’t explore the limits of his model too much. He came up with a model that explains society-level processes in terms of energy output per capita and upkeep cost and, without noting where these processes are indeed determined solely (or primarily) by energy output per capita and upkeep post, he proceeded to apply it to pretty much all of history. If you cling to this model hard enough you can obviously explain anything with it – the model is explicitly universal – even things that have nothing to do with energy output per capita or upkeep cost.

                      In this regard (and I’m parroting Walter Benjamin’s take on historical materialism here) these models are quasi-religious and are very much like a mechanical Turk. From the outside they look like history masterfully explaining things, but if you peek inside, you’ll find our good ol’ friend theology, staunchly applying dogma (in this case, the universal laws of complexity, energy output per capita and upkeep post) to any problem you throw its way.

                      Without an explicit understanding of their limits, even mathematical models in exact sciences are largely useless – in fact, a big part of early design work is figuring out what models apply. Descriptive models in humanistic disciplines are no exception. If you put your mind to it, you can probably explain every Cold War decision in terms of Vedic ethics or the I Ching, but that’s largely a testament to one’s creativity, not to their usefulness.

                    2. 4

                      Furthermore, periods of rampant, unsustainably rising military and infrastructure upkeep costs were not associated only with expansionism, but also with mounting outside pressure (ironically, sometimes because the energy per capita on the other side of the Roman border really sucked, and the Huns made it worse on everyone).

                      Not to mention all the periods of rampant rising military costs due to civil war. Those aren’t wars about getting more energy!

                      1. 1

                        Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies, while obviously based on a completely different theory (and one with far less odious consequences in the real world) is based on the same kind of scientific thinking that brought us dialectical materialism.

                        Sure. This is all about a framing of events that happened; it’s not predictive, as much as it is thought-provoking.

                        1. 7

                          Thought-provoking, grand philosophy was certainly a part of philosophy but became especially popular (some argue that it was Nathaniel Bacon who really brought forth the idea of predicting progress) during the Industrial Era with the rise of what is known as the modernist movement. Modernist theories often differed but frequently shared a few characteristics such as grand narratives of history and progress, definite ideas of the self, a strong belief in progress, a belief that order was superior to chaos, and often structuralist philosophies. Modernism had a strong belief that everything could be measured, modeled, categorized, and predicted. It was an understandable byproduct of a society rigorously analyzing their surroundings for the first time.

                          Modernism flourished in a lot of fields in the late 19th early 20th century. This was the era that brought political philosophies like the Great Society in the US, the US New Deal, the eugenics movement, biological determinism, the League of Nations, and other grand social and political engineering ideas. It was embodied in the Newtonian physics of the day and was even used to explain social order in colonizing imperialist nation-states. Marx’s dialectical materialism and much of Hegel’s materialism was steeped in this modernist tradition.

                          In the late 20th century, modernism fell into a crisis. Theories of progress weren’t bearing fruit. Grand visions of the future, such as Marx’s dialectical materialism, diverged significantly from actual lived history and frequently resulted in a magnitude of horrors. This experience was repeated by eugenics, social determinism, and fascist movements. Planck and Einstein challenged the neat Newtonian order that had previously been conceived. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem showed us that there are statements we cannot evaluate the validity of. Moreover many social sciences that bought into modernist ideas like anthropology, history, and urban planning were having trouble making progress that agreed with the grand modernist ideas that guided their work. Science was running into walls as to what was measurable and what wasn’t. It was in this crisis that postmodernism was born, when philosophers began challenging everything from whether progress and order were actually good things to whether humans could ever come to mutual understanding at all.

                          Since then, philosophy has mostly abandoned the concept of modeling and left that to science. While grand, evocative theories are having a bit of a renaissance in the public right now, philosophers continue to be “stuck in the hole of postmodernism.” Philosophers have raised central questions about morality, truth, and knowledge that have to be answered before large, modernist philosophies gain hold again.

                          1. 3

                            I don’t understand this, because my training has been to consider models (simplified ways of understanding the world) as only having any worth if they are predictive and testable i.e. allow us to predict how the whole works and what it does based on movements of the pieces.

                            1. 4

                              You’re not thinking like a philosopher ;-)

                              1. 8

                                Models with predictive values in history (among other similar fields of study, including, say, cultural anthropology) were very fashionable at one point. I’ve only mentioned dialectical materialism because it’s now practically universally recognized to have been not just a failure, but a really atrocious one, so it makes for a good insult, and it shares the same fallacy with energy economic models, so it’s a doubly good jab. But there was a time, as recent as the first half of the twentieth century, when people really thought they could discern “laws of history” and use them to predict the future to some degree.

                                Unfortunately, this has proven to be, at best, beyond the limits of human understanding and comprehension. This is especially difficult to do in the study of history, where sources are imperfect and have often been lost (case in point: there are countless books we know the Romans wrote because they’re mentioned or quoted by ancient authors, but we no longer have them). Our understanding of these things can change drastically with the discovery of new sources. The history of religion provides a good example, in the form of our understanding of Gnosticism, which was forever altered by the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library, to the point where many works published prior to this discovery and the dissemination of its text are barely of historical interest now.

                                That’s not to say that developing a theory of various historical phenomenons is useless, though. Even historical materialism, misguided as they were (especially in their more politicized formulations), were not without value. They forced an entire generation of historians to think more about things that they never really thought about before. It is certainly incorrect to explain everything in terms of class struggle, competition for resources and the means of production, and the steady march from primitive communism to the communist mode of production – but it is also true that competition for resources and the means of production were involved in some events and processes, and nobody gave much thought to that before the disciples of Marx and Engels.

                                This is true here as well (although I should add that, unlike most materialistic historians, Tainter is most certainly not an idiot, not a war criminal, and not high on anything – I think his works display an unhealthy attachment for historical determinism, but he most certainly doesn’t belong in the same gallery as Lenin and Mao). His model is reductionist to the point where you can readily apply much of the criticism of historical materialism to it as well (which is true of a lot of economic models if we’re being honest…). But it forced people to think of things in a new way. Energy economics is not something that you’re tempted to think about when considering pre-industrial societies, for example.

                                These models don’t really have predictive value and they probably can’t ever gain one. But they do have an exploratory value. They may not be able to tell you what will happen tomorrow, but they can help you think about what’s happening today in more ways than one, from more angles, and considering more factors, and possibly understand it better.

                                1. 4

                                  That’s something historians don’t do anymore. There was a period where people tried to predict the future development of history, and then the whole discipline gave up. It’s a bit like what we are witnessing in the Economics field: there are strong calls to stop attributing predictive value to macroeconomic models because after a certain scale, they are just over-fitting to existing patterns, and they fail miserably after a few years.

                                  1. 1

                                    Well, history is not math, right? It’s a way of writing a story backed by a certain amount of evidence. You can use a historical model to make predictions, sure, but the act of prediction itself causes changes.

                              2. 13

                                (OP here.) I totally agree, and this is something I didn’t explore in my essay. Tainter doesn’t see complexity as always a problem: at first, it brings benefits! That’s why people do it. But there are diminishing returns and maintenance costs that start to outstrip the marginal benefits.

                                Maybe one way this could apply to software: imagine I have a simple system, just a stateless input/output. I can add a caching layer in front, which could win a huge performance improvement. But now I have to think about cache invalidation, cache size, cache expiry, etc. Suddenly there are a lot more moving parts to understand and maintain in the future. And the next performance improvement will probably not be anywhere near as big, but it will require more work because you have to understand the existing system first.

                                1. 2

                                  I’m not sure it’s so different.

                                  A time saving or critically important feature for me may be a “bloated” waste of bits for somebody else.

                                  1. 3

                                    In Tainter’s view, a society of subsistence farmers, where everyone grows their own crops, makes their own tools, teaches their own children, etc. is not very complex. Add a blacksmith (division of labour) to that society, and you gain efficiency, but introduce complexity.

                                1. 19

                                  Italian native, working in English in Germany: I would pick English over Italian every day to do anything or discuss anything technical.

                                  Also Italian has this weird grammatical quirk where every 300 hundred words you have to stop, offer a coffee to the other speaker and then go actually take it at a bar because the one at the machine sucks. I’m caffeine-free so you can see how this wouldn’t work out.

                                  1. 1

                                    Yeah, I remember getting my first caffeine shakes, after the sixth coffee break working with an Italian. Scary, but good coffee.

                                    1. 1

                                      My limited experience 20y ago was that Italians, just like Germans, have translated a lot of technical terms and insist on using them, so even if you could have a conversation with your every day language skills, there are suddenly new technical terms you’ve never heard. Not sure how common that is in professional software development circles though. In German it seems to get better, but back in the 90s/early 00s some of our teachers and professors insisted on the German versions of e.g. Heap, Stack, FSM, and a million more - whereas others had accepted that English is the lingua franca.

                                      1. 3

                                        In my experience as an Italian who’s been writing code professionally for a couple years, people out of university tend to use a lot more translated terms, and depending on the environment they shift towards English terms over time. If you’re not used to it you’ll hear tons of stuff that will have you do a double take, and every new team you work with will use its own melange of Italian and English terms to say the same things.

                                        I learned programming entirely in English and didn’t have a deep conversation about it in Italian until I started working so this was kind of a culture shock for me, but I’ve grown accustomed to it after a while.

                                        1. 3

                                          As said by @steinuil it’s mostly a uni thing. There are some translations that happen but I believe French or Germans are worse. Italians in IT actually use waaaaaay too much English and they are made fun of by normal people.

                                          One funfact about Italian IT and bad translations: Italians translated “port” as “porta” (door) instead of “porto” (port). So most Italians probably visualize doors or little holes with data going through, instead of harbours you use to land.

                                          1. 1

                                            Yeah, I didn’t want to make the impressions that the Germans aren’t worse ;) I also think it’s mostly some people at uni who feel the need to teach a language that no one in the industry speaks - no idea bout academia.

                                      1. 7

                                        My primary usecase for adblocker is to make the site load faster, I don’t care about tracking. Ad fraud detection will probably catch this (therefore making tracking work again), and if not the extra clicks just drive ad network’s revenue. I don’t understand the point.

                                        1. 5

                                          The ad sector is mostly a scam: a good chunk of clicks are made by bots or automated system of some kind. The assumption is that if you can make this ratio higher and higher eventually everybody will take note, stop buying targeted ads and bring down the monstrosity that is the ad-driven internet and Facebook and Google with it.

                                        1. 17

                                          Someone did this manually on facebook: https://www.wired.com/2014/08/i-liked-everything-i-saw-on-facebook-for-two-days-heres-what-it-did-to-me/

                                          They got sent down a fascist rabbit hole in no time. While poisoning Google’s database sounds desirable, I’d also rather not be classified as a fascist.

                                          1. 3

                                            that’s what happens on pretty much any platform. By default you get trapped in right-wing propaganda. Especially true for youtube

                                            1. 0

                                              It worries me how meaningless those historically heavy terms have become. Of course I’m being a bit sarcastic, but it’s diluted to the point of “fascist [fash-ist] noun, a person who has clicked a bunch of ads” and if in the year 2049 the government takes browsing history into account to judge a person, I will go to jail, because I installed Ad Nauseam 5 years ago and forgot to turn it off.

                                              I’d also rather not be classified as a fascist.

                                              I sometimes worry about this too. Like with 4chan and the OK-Hand sign, context gets so painfully lost. Lines become blurred and doing mallice with those blurred lines becomes easy. Be it the fault of algorithm, person or both, something should be done about this. I complain and offer no solutions, so I am a bit of a hypocrite.

                                              As for Ad Nauseam, I think it’s really cool what was done here and being banned off Add-on stores really shows, that they successfully annoyed a good amount of people. Be it big Ad corpo or small artist’s blog being stripped of revenue, it created a good amount of discussion, that maybe this shouldn’t be the way the internet functions. Activism done damn right.

                                              1. 5

                                                a person who has clicked a bunch of ads

                                                But that’s not a definition, that’s a mechanism for getting categorized by algorithmic advertising as a person interested in content promoting fascism.

                                                Like with 4chan and the OK-Hand sign, context gets so painfully lost.

                                                “The OK-Hand sign being a dogwhistle was actually a 4chan prank” is the same kind of useless factoid as “tomatoes are actually a fruit not a vegetable”. Yes, it’s true, but it is inconsequential trivia. 4chan may have initially tricked some “liberals” into believing the OK-Hand sign is a hate symbol at a time when no hate group was using it that way. But very early on actual white supremacists started actually using it as a dogwhistle – at first ironically I’m sure (because some white supremacists do hang out on 4chan) but soon it spread to very offline white supremacists who just copied it because it was a thing they saw other white supremacists do and get excited about.

                                                There’s a difference between a teenager saying their mom is a fascist for making them clean up their room and calling people like Stefan Molyneux or Richard Spencer a fascist for promoting extreme sexism, white supremacy and violent racial power fantasies. Yes, fascism is a somewhat vague term but most of the alternatives are too euphemistic or only get at certain aspects of how the ideology is presented rather than the ideological underpinnings. Umberto Eco’s shopping list isn’t an all-or-nothing deal either.

                                                So yeah, calling a conservative fascist because they are a bit homophobic is a bit of a stretch, but insisting that people like Stefan Molyneux are not fascists because they don’t tick off every item on the fascism checklist is pedantic at best and directly aiding fascism at worst. It’s not like fascism is a coherent ideology to begin with, it’s more of a way to con a people to go against its own interests and submit to a Great Leader under the pretense of restoring some supposed former glory and claim to greatness while actually creating asphyxiatingly oppressive power structures and eliminating undesirables.

                                              1. 1

                                                We will probably do a test deployment of our tool “mobilizon-reshare” we developed in the past few months. It’s a small suite to automate your social media strategy in regards to events, using Mobilizon as a primary source for event data.

                                                So basically you point it to a mobilizon account, it pulls the events, it decides what to publish and it publishes on a bunch of platforms according to your configurations.

                                                It currently supports: zulip, mastodon, telegram, twitter and I’m almost done with Facebook.

                                                https://github.com/Tech-Workers-Coalition-Italia/mobilizon-reshare

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                                                  Having trouble squaring the whole “ do everyone a favor, and […] don’t work in ad tech” with “I rolled my eyes and reverse engineered the script for him” and everything that follows. If it’s true that you find it all so unsavoury then how about, I don’t know, maybe don’t enable it for your own personal gain in the first place?

                                                  sometimes things are better left unsaid

                                                  Yeah, like for example “the reality is I’m prepared to take their dirty money when it suits me but still think it’s cool to write a knowing blog post about how awful it all is when I’ve decided that suits me better instead”.

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                                                    I spent two years working to drill oil and gas wells. There’s probably 40 wells out there with my name on the paperwork. Doesn’t mean I’d recommend anyone else go into that career, or that I particularly like the petroleum industry, or think anyone should use use fossil fuels. It means I had $3000 in the bank and living expenses of about $2000/month, and had spent six months after getting my grad degree with zero other interviews beside front-line tech support. At least drilling wells was something new, and paid about four times better.

                                                    I don’t regret making the choices I did, but I sure as fuck wouldn’t go back.

                                                    (…That said, after that I worked as a staff member in a top tier technical university for a couple years. In retrospect the culture there was probably almost as dysfunctional and generally horrible; at least the petroleum industry is generally honest about using people up and spitting them out.)

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                                                      Don’t feel bad about it. Cheap energy is the bedrock of civilisation.

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                                                        it’s also possibly gonna be the end of it

                                                        1. 0

                                                          Unlikely though. And it’s worth considering that cheap energy has made extreme climate events much more survivable. From Alex Epstein:

                                                          https://i.postimg.cc/DfPQGZL5/climate-carbon.png

                                                          1. 6

                                                            lol, you know that Alex Epstein is well known to be associated with organizations spreading fake news and anti-science propaganda to defend industrial interests, right? RIGHT?

                                                            1. 1

                                                              He wrote a book titled, if I recall correctly, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. So, yeah, I’m aware of his position.

                                                              I don’t see that any of that invalidates the claim that cheap energy - historically at least, provided by burning fossil fuels - saves lives during extreme climate events.

                                                              Edited to clarify, because it’s necessary in times of heated tribalism: I happen to agree that AGW is a real thing, and may pose some challenges to humanity in the future.

                                                              I’m also an advocate of cleaner power generation because of the many health benefits it brings, think nuclear power is underutilized in Australia, have worked for a cleantech startup, and also a petroleum wetstock management company.

                                                              People are complicated :)

                                                              I’d sum my position up as: fossil fuels have been and continue to be a great boon to humanity, especially in developing nations. Let’s be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when responding to AGW.

                                                        2. 2

                                                          I don’t feel bad about it. I learned a lot. Like how annoying people are when they judge off the cuff without putting in any effort to understand.

                                                      2. 19

                                                        I mean, it’s quite possible that one can do something in the past and regret it later…

                                                        1. 4

                                                          Thats true, yet I fail to read any regret in the article. The author seems totally fine with everything that happened.

                                                        2. 6

                                                          I would say he was working against the ad tech. Ad tech is in a big bubble that will eventually burst ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/Subprime-Attention-Crisis-Advertising-Originals/dp/0374538654 ) and it’s hard to argue that what he did was something useful to the ecosystem and instead one of the many scams that are popular in the ad tech.

                                                          Ad tech is when you scam the people buying ads. If you scam the networks or other of the many intermediaries, you’re something else.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            I agree, but money is a powerful motivator.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              I got the impression that she was looking back on that time with regret.

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                                                              This is advocating that you always be a disposable commodity within a labor marker. A repackaging of the “free labour” idea from liberalism - that wage labour frees the worker to engage in any contract as they please. But the reality of being an exchangeable commodity is rather different.

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                                                                You can still be indispensable through your unique contribution and areas of focus that others would not have pioneered. By making it easy for people to follow in your footsteps and take over from you, you are influential, you change the way things work, and people notice that. When it’s for the organization’s betterment they appreciate it too. :)

                                                                I don’t want to be indispensable in the sense of a bus factor. I do want to be indispensable in the sense of “Wow, it’s a good thing /u/kevinc works here.”

                                                                1. 16

                                                                  That’s perfectly reasonable, but in order for it to work, there has to be a company at the other end that needs, values, and can recognize innovation and unique contribution. All companies claim they do because you don’t want to project a boring software sweatshop image, but realistically, many of them don’t. Only a pretty small fraction of today’s computer industry checks out the “needs” part, and you still got two boxes to go. For many, if not most people in our field, making yourself indispensable in the sense of a bus factor is an unfortunate but perfectly valid – in fact, often the only – career choice that their geography and/or employment allows for.

                                                                  1. 9

                                                                    Well technically we’re all bus-replacable. Some of us have enough experience and/or good-will built up in the company that if you actually do what the article proposes, you actually won’t be easily replacable even if you make yourself “replacable”. It’ll be either too expensive for the company to find and train your replacements, or they’ll lose on the value you’re bringing.

                                                                    What the article doesn’t mention, though, is that you can’t do any of that stuff if you’re a green junior dev. It’s easy to find a job when you’re good at it and you can prove it, but just getting kicked out on the street while I was still young in the industry would scare me shitless.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      I agree you want to find a workplace that does value you, and even if you do find that, you have to watch for the organization changing out from under you. Just, on your way there, you can earn some great referrals by giving what you know instead of hoarding it.

                                                                      As an engineer, is it valid to make yourself a wrench in the works entrusted to you? I think no. But to your point, you’re a person first and an engineer second. If survival is on the line, it’s another story.

                                                                      1. 3

                                                                        Just, on your way there, you can earn some great referrals by giving what you know instead of hoarding it.

                                                                        I absolutely agree that it is invalid to make yourself a wrench in the works entrusted to you, but computer stuff is absolutely secondary to many companies out there.

                                                                        Note: I edited my comment because, in spite of my clever efforts at anonymising things, I’m preeeetty sure they can still be traced to the companies in question. I’ll just leave the gist of it: so far, my thing (documentation) has not earned me any referrals. It has, however, earned me several Very Serious Talks with managers, and HR got involved in one of them, too.

                                                                        I know, and continue to firmly believe (just like you, I think) that good work trumps everything else, but I did learn a valuable lesson (after several tries, of course): never underestimate good work’s potential to embarrass people, or to make things worse for a company that’s in the business of selling something other than good work.

                                                                  2. 8

                                                                    I think this is a bit unfair. I’ve worked with people who have hidden information and jealously guarded their position in a company and it makes it harder to do your job. You have to dance around all sorts politics and all changes are viewed with suspicion. You have to learn what any given person is protecting in order to get what you need to do your job. You hear stories about people getting bribed to do their jobs. People won’t tell you how to do things, but will do them so they are unreplaceable. People build systems with the eye towards capturing other parts of the organization.

                                                                    Most of that would go away if people did what was described in the article.

                                                                    1. 9

                                                                      Maybe if IT workers had a better way of protecting their job security – such as a union – there wouldn’t be the motivation to do this kind of thing.

                                                                      (Note: I don’t do this kind of thing, but I totally understand why someone would, and worker solidarity prevents me from criticizing them for it.)

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        I don’t know if I agree with you in this specific case. It was at a place that never fired anyone. People who were not capable of doing their jobs were kept for years. It seemed to be more predicated on face saving, inter team rivalry and competition for budget.

                                                                    2. 6

                                                                      Yes, I had the same thought as you. It’s true that “if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted”, but since when are people promoted anymore? The outlook of this article is that job security is not something you can always take for granted; indeed, that you can take upward (or at least lateral) mobility for granted. Maybe that’s true for highly-marketable (white, cis-male, young, able-bodied) developers in certain urban areas, but at my age, I wouldn’t want to count on it.

                                                                      1. 4

                                                                        Being a disposable commodity doesn’t necessarily imply low value. You can do something that is highly uniform and fungible, and also well compensated, I think.

                                                                        1. 17

                                                                          you think wrong. Historically “deskilling” (this is the term for when a worker becomes standardized and easily replaceable) corresponds to salaries going down. This happens for a variety of reasons: you cannot complain, you cannot unionize easily, you cannot negotiate your salary. You get the money you get just because your employer has no mean to find somebody that can do exactly the same and get paid less. If that becomes possible and you don’t have rights that protect (minimum wage, collective agreements, industry-wide agreements) or collective organizations that can protect you, the salaries go down. Fighting deskilling is not necessarily the most efficient strategy and doesn’t have to be the only one, but for sure giving up on that is no good.

                                                                          On top of that, deskilling is coupled with more alienation, less commitment and in general a much worse working experience, because you know you don’t make a difference. You become less human and more machine.

                                                                          Programming, I believe, naturally fights against deskilling because what can be standardized and therefore automated will eventually be automated. But the industry is capable of generating new (often pointless) jobs on top of these new layers of automation of tasks that before were done manually. Actively pursuing deskilling is unreasonable also from an efficiency point of view, because the same problem of “scale” is already solved by our own discipline. The same is not true for most other professions: a skilled factory worker cannot build the machine he’s using or improve it (with rare exceptions). A programmer can and will if necessary. Deskilling means employing people that will only execute and not be able to control the process or the organization, leaving that privilege and responsibility to managers.

                                                                          1. 7

                                                                            the article is not about deskilling, it’s about communicating your work with your peers. Those are very different things.

                                                                            1. 8

                                                                              it says explicitely to try to be disposable. Disposability and deskilling are equivalent. The term, in the labor context, is not just used to say “this job should require less skill to be done”. It’s used for any factor that makes you disposable or not, regardless of the level of skill involved. Clearly skill plays a relevant role in the vast majority of the cases. What he’s advocating is to surrender any knowledge of the company, the platform and so on, so that you can be easily replaced by somebody that doesn’t have that knowledge. You’re supposed to put in extra effort deliberately (not on request from your boss and maybe often going against company’s practices) to make this process more frictionless from your employer. That’s what the article is saying

                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                it says explicitely to try to be disposable.

                                                                                While it does say that, I think that the actual meaning of the article is “make the work you do disposable”, not “make yourself disposable”. That way you can go through life making changes that make it easier for everyone around but also highly profitable for the company so that while the work that you currently are doing can be done by whomever, the potential value you bring at each new thing you do is incalculable. So they’d keep you, of course.

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  What he’s advocating is to surrender any knowledge of the company, the platform and so on, so that you can be easily replaced by somebody that doesn’t have that knowledge.

                                                                                  Are you suggesting that the replacement will not have that knowledge, or will at the moment of replacement have gained that knowledge?

                                                                                  Disposability and deskilling are equivalent.

                                                                                  This is not the case in my mental vocabulary, and I don’t think it is the case in the article linked. Disposability is about upskilling as a team, becoming more engaged in craft, and having a community of practice, so that the community doesn’t rely on a single member to continue to upskill/self-improve.

                                                                              2. 1

                                                                                While I agree that deskilling is a thing, it might be more something that affects blue collar workers working on an assembly line than IT professionals (to an extent). Replacing someone isn’t just firing the more expensive person and hiring a cheaper one. It involves onboarding and training, which may take several months, which directly translates to lost earnings.

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  It happened to plenty of cognitive workers throughout the work. Deskilling is also replacing accountants, fraud analysts or many other professions with ML models that live on the work of data labelers somewhere in Pakistan.

                                                                          1. 35

                                                                            Tbh this reads as if its written by a company owner who wants their employees to be very disposable.

                                                                            1. 31

                                                                              You wish. More likely it’s written by an employee that internalized his disposability so much that he thinks it’s efficiency

                                                                              1. 12

                                                                                It could also have been written by someone who had the experience of being too irreplaceable, i.e. they wanted to move on from a job, but the company was too dependent on them.

                                                                                1. 10

                                                                                  and what he’s keeping him there? Giving some notice is professionalism, staying years is probably a symptom of unhealthy employer/employee relationship and should be addressed through other means.

                                                                                  1. 8

                                                                                    …they wanted to move on from a job, but the company was too dependent on them.

                                                                                    Honest question, so what? At-will employment goes both ways: if you want to leave, then leave. I would never intentionally screw someone over, but I would also never feel I couldn’t leave if I really wanted to. That just seems crazy. A company is not a family and employment is not a lifelong bond.

                                                                                    1. 5

                                                                                      I think, in most of the cases you’d be right. But there are cases where you wouldn’t want to leave the company in trouble. If you create a situation that the situation breaks down without you, that doesn’t imply that the company was actualy bad.

                                                                                      So now you want to leave to a new job, but you know if you leave, you’ll leave fire and hell on your tails, and all your friends, colleagues, and the company that treated you nicely (most of us here are) and all of them are left to deal with the problems you’ve now created. There are companies where I left where doing that would not make me sorry, but there were also places where I sincerely didn’t want to leave all the people in a mess.

                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                  That’s a very unfortunate comparison, since the “End of History” in Fukuyama’s conception, is the butt of countless jokes and Fukuyama himself, 20 years later, admitted it was a very naive idea.

                                                                                  This article doesn’t seem like it will age much better.

                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                    Trying to interface Mobilizon events with Jekyll. I’m learning ruby in the process.

                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                      I think the author is conflating the problems of the startup model (that should be taken and set on fire), with the industry at large. Most of the IT is not startups and what he described is valid only in the startup niche. That said, in the article are very good ways to explain technical people why the startup model is not able and is not aiming to improve technology. It’s all theater and we, as engineers, are the paying public. Also the stage is on fire and what is burning are the resources the startup monster needs to fuel itself.

                                                                                      1. 32

                                                                                        Wow.

                                                                                        This article starts off with a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of some of the hard issues around open source and big tech, and then kinda jumps the shark as far as I’m concerned:

                                                                                        Work at a megacorp and either you rot working on menial things, or learn to play the politics game to get a shot at working on the one interesting project… until it gets canceled when the CEO decides to “refocus”, or when Monday comes if you work at Google.

                                                                                        Honestly, there’s no reason for this kind of attitude. You don’t want to work for big tech? Great! There’s a lot of merit for staying small and feisty and having total control. Rock on with your bad self! But don’t tar every employee working for big tech with the same brush, because:

                                                                                        1. Your preferences are not their preferences
                                                                                        2. Your goals may not be their goals
                                                                                        3. What brings you pleasure and fires your passion may not do the same for them.

                                                                                        And who are you to tell me what I do or don’t love, or where I can or can’t find fulfillment?

                                                                                        Am I asking everyone to sit around the campfire and have a sing along? Heck no! Big corporate jobs aren’t for everyone, What I would like is a bit more nuance, understanding and open mindedness and bit less vitriol.

                                                                                        The “software you can love” idea is interesting, but I guess I don’t really understand the advantage of further muddying the waters in an already super complicated licnesing landscape.

                                                                                        1. 19

                                                                                          Thanks both of you for clearing up my own concerns about the lines about Big Tech being tone deaf.

                                                                                          The “software you can love” idea is interesting, but I guess I don’t really understand the advantage of further muddying the waters in an already super complicated licnesing landscape.

                                                                                          I, personally, loved this framing. Among many issues with the Free Software movement, one I see constantly is an insistence that personal feelings of delight and good UX are sidelined in the name of “freedom”. Hate how config files feel and there’s no Settings GUI, so you’re not interested in using the software? Well, you’re an enemy of freedom. You didn’t reach the patch notes, the new software broke your system, and you’re annoyed? Well freedom is a choice, and you just chose against it. Not only does this cause people to not take free software seriously, it just means that people won’t actually use free software and will use proprietary alternatives instead, because you’re not taking the users’ desires into account when you’re designing the software.

                                                                                          I’d love to see an increased focus in free software on software that actually brings joy to its users; software that is fun to use and also free, not free but sometimes fun to use. I love the framing of that in this article. Software, at the end of the day, should solve a need.

                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                            this feels wrong to me. sure, there are a lot of elitist people in the crowd something like the free software movement attracts, but there are also at least a handful of prominent gnu projects with ease of use as a high priority. gnome is probably the best example here, but there’s also lmms and emacs (emacs not so much, but they’ve made some efforts for semi-gui configuration and so on).

                                                                                            which is not to say that i disagree with your main point. i love gnome for how little i need to configure it (these days i turn animation off and compose key on, and that’s it), and that’s great. but i also love emacs, and that’s for very different reasons, and maybe a lot of people who love the former wouldn’t love the latter or something, but emacs has very much taken its users desires into account in its design (even if currently maintenance isn’t doing such a good job at that).

                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                              I don’t think we disagree on anything discussed actually. Users of different systems have different expectations and needs. A user of Emacs probably has different expectations than a user of MS Word, for example.

                                                                                              there are also at least a handful of prominent gnu projects with ease of use as a high priority

                                                                                              Gnome is actually probably the only one I know. And even then, Gnome gets so much flak from many modern FOSS fans.

                                                                                              there are a lot of elitist people in the crowd something like the free software movement attracts

                                                                                              This is a question I’d love to unpack. Nothing about free software ostensibly requires elitism, but it’s present at many points of the conversation. Why?

                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                i think you’re right, and i misinterpreted some of what you were getting at.

                                                                                                Gnome is actually probably the only one I know. And even then, Gnome gets so much flak from many modern FOSS fans.

                                                                                                yeah, this sucks. i think a lot of that flak plays into the elitism thing, particularly as gnome seems to take a lot of inspiration from the mac aesthetic. also it appears that gnome do not consider themselves part of the gnu project, so i guess my point falls down anyway.

                                                                                                Nothing about free software ostensibly requires elitism, but it’s present at many points of the conversation. Why?

                                                                                                i find this interesting too, and i briefly touched on it in my post about nano being pretty good. fundamentally, i’d say it comes down to the fact that free software is an ethical stance. once the ethics of anything get involved, it becomes easy to consider those who don’t subscribe to, or understand, the ethical position as worse in some way, ergo, elitism. with that foundation, all sorts of other elitism can grow, and technical aptitude is an easy target in a technical environment.

                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                  it becomes easy to consider those who don’t subscribe to, or understand, the ethical position as worse in some way, ergo, elitism

                                                                                                  Yeah that might be it. It’s just unfortunate since elitism and ethics just mean that you can bully folks into accepting your UX of choice in the name of ethics, even though the ethics say nothing about UX.

                                                                                          2. 21

                                                                                            And who are you to tell me what I do or don’t love, or where I can or can’t find fulfillment?

                                                                                            Did you miss this part?

                                                                                            Big tech has been increasingly unable to create software you can love, and that’s the ability you gain by refusing to work for the silicon valley. It’s not for everyone and I can understand if somebody prefers the security of a stable job in a company too big to fail, where they can just go home after work, forget about software, and live a very comfortable life but big tech jobs are not the absolute best choice for those who really love software craftsmanship and, as it turns out, some of these people have taken a liking to Zig.

                                                                                            Also

                                                                                            The “software you can love” idea is interesting, but I guess I don’t really understand the advantage of further muddying the waters in an already super complicated licnesing landscape.

                                                                                            This has almost nothing to do with licenses, where did you get that idea? It seems to me you need to re-read the post.

                                                                                            1. 18

                                                                                              I didn’t miss that part. That part is just as tone deaf as the rest of this section of the article.

                                                                                              Would it surprise you to learn that there are a number of AWS employees who are fans of Zig?

                                                                                              People take jobs for all kinds of reasons. Those reasons can and often do have nothing at all to do with what those people may or may not love doing on their own time.

                                                                                              1. 30

                                                                                                Just like some work for AWS, I worked for Redis Labs. I don’t regret it, I learned a lot of things, and it was fun until the last phase. It also paid well and allowed me to live a good life.

                                                                                                I have no ill will towards people that work at AWS. I do have ill will towards the company, just like I have ill will towards Redis Labs given what’s happening to Redis.

                                                                                                If I had no other alternative, I would be still working at Redis Labs. I was lucky and so now I’m in a position where I can share what I think without fearing losing my job. I don’t expect anybody to become a human sacrifice in the name of software.

                                                                                                I really encourage you to read the article without seeing it as a personal attack towards you, or as a statement on licensing. It’s neither. It’s about the current dominant model of producing software, its limitations, and how the ZSF knows how to deal with big players that have different interests that conflict with ours.

                                                                                                1. 14

                                                                                                  I really encourage you to read the article without seeing it as a personal attack towards you, or as a statement on licensing. It’s neither. It’s about the current dominant model of producing software, its limitations, and how the ZSF knows how to deal with big players that have different interests that conflict with ours.

                                                                                                  Thanks very much for this. I will definitely do so.

                                                                                              2. 6

                                                                                                … but big tech jobs are not the absolute best choice for those who really love software craftsmanship and, as it turns out, some of these people have taken a liking to Zig.

                                                                                                It’s bullshit to say I don’t “love software craftsmanship” because I don’t work for, and frankly don’t want to work for, a non-profit startup building a new language. I will decide the “absolute best choice” for me. I really like the ideas and motivations of zig, and Andrew seems like a great guy, but your statement is just categorically false.

                                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                                  I might have messed up the English, but I think you have interpreted the sentence in the opposite way of its intended meaning. The sentence doesn’t say that if you love software craftmanship big tech is the worst choice, nor that if you work in big tech you can’t love software craftmanship.

                                                                                                  What the sentence hints at is the sentiment where if you are a skilled engineer that care about the craft then you have to aim for a big tech job. I used to have relatives tell me that “oh, you’re so passionate, one day you’ll work at google for sure”.

                                                                                                  I guess it’s hard to have a honest conversation about something that people consider part of their identity. I personally don’t consider my job part of it. I didn’t before working for a SV startup, nor during, and neither I do now.

                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                    Maybe this exchange can be of interest to you.

                                                                                                    https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26789129

                                                                                              3. 14

                                                                                                The “software you can love” idea is interesting, but I guess I don’t really understand the advantage of further muddying the waters in an already super complicated licnesing landscape.

                                                                                                I had the exact opposite reaction: “software you can love” is nice but honestly doesn’t actually address the root cause of the problem: the profit motive is toxic to software and users. You can talk about love all you want, but the failure of Open Source shows that any approach that isn’t rooted firmly in anticapitalist principles isn’t going to be very effective in the long run.

                                                                                                Getting very strong “you don’t hate mondays; you hate capitalism” vibes from the second half of this piece.

                                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                                  I had the exact opposite reaction: “software you can love” is nice but honestly doesn’t actually address the root cause of the problem: the profit motive is toxic to software and users. You can talk about love all you want, but the failure of Open Source shows that any approach that isn’t rooted firmly in anticapitalist principles isn’t going to be very effective in the long run.

                                                                                                  I suppose I should remind myself that we can hold two ideas in our minds at once. Capitalism though awful has produced a LOT of incredibly good (and incredibly bad :) ) software through the years. That doesn’t necessarily contradict your statement about profit motive’s toxic effect on the process.

                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                    Don’t mix up co-occurrence with causality.

                                                                                                  2. 4

                                                                                                    I think small shops such as Panic (https://panic.com/) are doing great: it is for profit, but not greedy. Mega corporations are in a totally different league.

                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                      I would maintain that it is not capitalism specifically that is the problem, although the profit motive is usually toxic to a degree. Modern capitalism is nothing like what Adam Smith originally proposed and should possibly not even be called capitalism, I prefer the term Neo-feudalism but that is a bit tongue in cheek. I feel like large corporations have become creatures of their own which we no longer control as a species.

                                                                                                      The pattern of what is happening with humans vs. corporations is starkly reminiscent of what you see in nature when a newly introduced species of plants or animals crowd out endemic species.

                                                                                                      Should we be concerned that in the long term corporations will replace humans altogether? If so, should we not be waging all out war against them while we still can?

                                                                                                    2. 5

                                                                                                      Honestly, there’s no reason for this kind of attitude.

                                                                                                      100% agree

                                                                                                      I work for a large corporation. I’m very happy with it. I don’t see any reason to shit on me for that.

                                                                                                    1. 9

                                                                                                      The key part,

                                                                                                      Not only can a Mastodon user communicate with users on different servers on Mastodon, perhaps more importantly this user can also communicate e.g with a Friendica (macroblogging) user or a Pleroma user. These are totally different networks that all support ActivityPub. But this is even taken a step further where that same Mastodon user can follow his favourite PeerTube channel or someone that shares great photos on Pixelfed. This is like you were able to follow someone with your Twitter account on YouTube or Instagram. This also means that this Mastodon user can comment or like the PeerTube video from his/her Mastodon user interface. This is the true power of ActivityPub!


                                                                                                      There is also Tribes which provides a custom-hosted version (I run mine here).

                                                                                                      See https://jointhefedi.com if you want to quickly try out the Fediverse.

                                                                                                      1. 10

                                                                                                        In all fairness, Mastodon has one of the least spec compliant ActivityPub implementations out there. It gets stumped with a lot of valid payloads that were generated by other services inasmuch as having to implement Mastodon’s quirks is mandatory if one wants to do development for the fediverse.

                                                                                                        1. 8

                                                                                                          Maybe an unpopular opinion, but without Mastodon ActivityPub would be living the life it was living before, used by dozens of nerds.

                                                                                                          Of course that’s not a proper discussion point to some, you may or may not like its ideas and technical features, but to me it was kinda useless when it was only identi.ca and statusnet and whatnot. I’m saying this as someone who was pretty involved in many FLOSS projects at the time. Utterly useless. It was Twitter if you wanted a thing like this and 90% happened on mailing lists and IRC anyway.

                                                                                                          1. 6

                                                                                                            Oh, I fully agree that Mastodon is overall a force for good in the Fediverse, at least in the fact that it made it popular with the non technical crowds, but I still wish they would work harder at some things related to ActivityPub compliance. Probably my own service will not be super compatible with it, as it skirts webfinger - something that Mastodon can’t do user discovery without. :(

                                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                                              I didn’t look into it very deeply, so can’t comment if they made some shortcuts for time to market, or enable stuff that would’ve been hard to do, or just because they were careless or simply didn’t care…

                                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                                From my perspective they’re prioritizing the features that makes them a better micro blog platform than the features that makes them a better ActivityPub one.

                                                                                                                I would like to say that being the major player in this niche they should take their responsibilities in this regard more seriously, but in the end they work on what they enjoy more, and that’s absolutely fine.

                                                                                                          2. 5

                                                                                                            Agreed. I am present on a few Mastodon instances but my personal instance is Honk which is a very opinionated and pure (I guess?) ActivityPub server/client/thing

                                                                                                          3. 22

                                                                                                            See https://jointhefedi.com

                                                                                                            The servers recommended on that page are some of the most notorious in the fediverse, notable for hosting bigoted shitheads and having nazi-friendly moderation policies.

                                                                                                            If you sign up on them, you will find yourself blocked by basically all fediverse instances with active and competent moderators.

                                                                                                            1. 8

                                                                                                              If you sign up on them, you will find yourself blocked by basically all fediverse instances with active and competent moderators.

                                                                                                              This was one of the reasons I stopped using the Fediverse. I don’t like the concept of full-on instance-bans to begin with (something like warnings for out-going actions and filtering for unrequested ingoing actions would be more appropriate). I’m not sure if federation necessarily has to lead to fragmentation, but some people seem to accept it as a necessary tool and don’t care if anyone has a different opinion. In my case I wanted to hear what people on the spinster server had to say, but it was blocked on the instance I was on (ironically this made me go out of my way to listen to the points of radical feminists, which I don’t think was the intention).

                                                                                                              Part of the problem with Mastodon specifically is that it has inherited a lot of the worst Twitter-culture by presenting itself as “Twitter with better moderation”, while paradoxically decentralisation is usually understood as a means to avoid being shut down by a central authority. Then again, it all ties into more fundamental issues with the Fediverse and how it presents itself as “each server is it’s own community”, while at the same time I don’t care about what server another person is using. The only thing I am interested in is the moderation policy and how well they administer the server.

                                                                                                              The part of the Fediverse I still remain hopeful for is Peertube.

                                                                                                              1. 11

                                                                                                                I’m not sure if federation necessarily has to lead to fragmentation, but some people seem to accept it as a necessary tool and don’t care if anyone has a different opinion.

                                                                                                                Instance bans allow for coexistence without cohabitation. You always have the choice of choosing your own policy domain/deferring to someone else. Forcing all nodes to be wide open would remove a lot of point and cause unnecessary annoyance.

                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                  You always have the choice of choosing your own policy domain/deferring to someone else.

                                                                                                                  To a degree yes, thought I’d still rather that not be the case, because I rarely agree with someone on everything, meaning I have to administer an instance myself. But it is not only a personal issue, with instance bans threads are also fragmented, so depending on your perspective, you might unknowingly not see the entire conversation going on, leading to more confusion than necessary.

                                                                                                                  Instance bans are sledge hammers that are applied to eagerly (I do think they make sense for actual spam servers). Maybe the situation has improved since, but I remember there only being three states:

                                                                                                                  1. No limits on federation
                                                                                                                  2. Instance bans by Users
                                                                                                                  3. Instance bans by Instances

                                                                                                                  Where I think that there should be more going on between 2. and 3.

                                                                                                                  1. 3

                                                                                                                    There are degrees between 1 and 2, at least on mastodon. Admins can “silence”, meaning posts from that instance won’t show up in the federated timeline by default. If I’m not mistaken, there’s also “mute”, meaning interactions from that instance won’t be shown to the muting instance unless there’s a preexisting relationship between the actors.

                                                                                                                    I should also note that instance bans are not really a thing– you can mute an instance at a user level, but your data is still sent there and you must trust that server’s administration.

                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                      instance bans threads are also fragmented, so depending on your perspective, you might unknowingly not see the entire conversation going on, leading to more confusion than necessary.

                                                                                                                      this seems to be an issue even if the instance isn’t banned. I see this happen with my small instance, where viewing the thread on the hosting instance (or from an account on another instance) shows different posts, and I’m pretty sure the missing posts aren’t from blocked instances.

                                                                                                                      1. 4

                                                                                                                        iirc mastodon will fetch replies upthread, but not downthread: that is, if the chain goes X -> Y -> Z, and your instance is made aware of post Y (someone follows the poster, it gets boosted, whatever) then it will fetch X but not Z. this is why some people have a norm to boost the last post in a thread, as opposed to the first. this isn’t a technical limitation, since pleroma (the other big fedi server) will fetch the entire thread.

                                                                                                                        of course, in either case, if one of the posts in the thread is private and you don’t follow the person you’ll just break the thread entirely, but there’s not much that can really be done there.

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                                                                                                                          oh wow, that’s confusing. :|

                                                                                                                  2. 7

                                                                                                                    Due to how ActivityPub works, you need to have near-ultimate trust of an instance if you wish to federate with them. If you believe the admins are bad actors, using acceptance of harmful ideologies as a proxy for that, then you can’t trust them with your user’s data, and must defederate.

                                                                                                                    ironically this made me go out of my way to listen to the points of radical feminists, which I don’t think was the intention

                                                                                                                    This isn’t necessarily against what the blockers wanted! What is called “censorship” on the fedi is usually about protecting their own users. Trans folks don’t want to have to see the same tired take on trans exclusionism for the fifth time today, nor do they want their posts to be seen by those folks.

                                                                                                                    As you discovered, there was absolutely nothing stopping you from finding out more from the spinsters, and nothing stopping you from making an account there either, right?

                                                                                                                    If we think decentralization is the key to freedom, then we can’t stop short of free association.

                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                      Due to how ActivityPub works, you need to have near-ultimate trust of an instance if you wish to federate with them. If you believe the admins are bad actors, using acceptance of harmful ideologies as a proxy for that, then you can’t trust them with your user’s data, and must defederate.

                                                                                                                      What do you mean by “trust them with your user’s data”? Is there something a server can only access if they are federated, that a “blocked” instance couldn’t see via it’s public feed?

                                                                                                                      What is called “censorship” on the fedi is usually about protecting their own users.

                                                                                                                      I get that an instance would decide to mute another instance by default, but if a user explicitly requests to receive data, why should they not be able to interact?

                                                                                                                      1. 8

                                                                                                                        A user’s private posts are always federated to any instance that has a single actor subscribed to it. That means that instance is storing a user’s private posts. If the admin’s a bad actor, they could see the private posts even if they’re not authorized to normally.

                                                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                                                          so private posts are not actually private, much like Facebook, though for totally different reasons. great.

                                                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                                                            Yes. Unfortunately, if you view private data disclosure as a security issue, Masto/ActivityPub is less secure than a centralized platform.

                                                                                                                            There’s hopes that CapTP will solve many of these concerns.

                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                              It’s similar to plaintext email, no? As long as the plain text traverses a server somewhere it can be read by the server admins.

                                                                                                                              As far as I know, end-to-end encryption isn’t supported by AP.

                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                yes, but email doesn’t use the term ‘private’ anywhere. I think many(most?) people understand that email is not useful for HIPAA or other things where privacy matters.

                                                                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                                                                  Many people sign up for things with firstname @gmail.com, and then claim the account owner “hacked” them. Many people think that companyname @somecustomdomain.com means you work for them. Many people think that anything @someother.tld means you actually meant @someother.tld.com.

                                                                                                                                  I don’t think most people understand anything about email.

                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                    I think with all things, it’s complicated. I’m sure people in their 70’s and older who have very little exposure to email are likely not very versed.

                                                                                                                                    For the average professional that is legally required to care about privacy, then I think they mostly have the understanding that email != private communication.

                                                                                                                                    Developers SHOULD know better, but they still do stupid things with email, because it’s the only thing you can reasonably assume someone has. (like login with email, use email for password recovery, etc) There are sane things you can do to help mitigate these things, like single use tokens, etc, but.. I’m sure there are still tons of code out there that doesn’t do these things.

                                                                                                                                    I agree email ADDRESSING, which is what you mostly are referring to, is full of assumptions and mostly none of them can be assumed. The only thing you can mostly assume from user@domain, is that the domain admin at some point thought that user should exist. :)

                                                                                                                                  2. 2

                                                                                                                                    I agree with you it’s a bit of a branding problem.

                                                                                                                                    I’m just so used to the store and forward model of email and NNTP that I just applied that model to the fediverse too. And I have not heard anything about E2EE in the “mainstream” Fediverse.

                                                                                                                      2. 3

                                                                                                                        The servers recommended on that page are some of the most notorious in the fediverse, notable for hosting bigoted shitheads and having nazi-friendly moderation policies.

                                                                                                                        Citation needed.

                                                                                                                        One of the servers recommended on that page, gleasonator.com, actually was created by someone that experienced bigoted behavior from mastodon’s toxic and neoracist moderation policies: https://blog.alexgleason.me/gab-block/

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                                                                                                                          As a queer person and regular fedi user, I concur that these servers are notorious. Multiple accounts from shitposter.club harassed a trans friend of mine just this week because they posted a selfie to their timeline. Freespeechextremist’s users have a habit of sea-lioning their way into my mentions; I think the last one was an extremely tedious “wow aren’t gay people bigoted” monologue mixed with Q-anon rants. Freespeechextremist.com, shitposter.club, spinster.xyz, and glindr.org (another Alex Gleason joint) all have the dubious distinction of being on the relatively short mastodon.social and mstdn.social blocklists for hate speech, harassment, and transphobia. With the exception of mstdn.social, this is not a general-purpose instance list: these instances all share moderation policies aligned with reactionary views on gender and sexuality.

                                                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                                                            That transphobic bigot wasn’t ejected by mastodon’s moderation policies. Mastodon is the service, moderation responsibilities lie with the server admins.

                                                                                                                            That transphobic bigot was ejected by todon’s moderation policies, because, as he so proudly proclaims, his bigotry is contrary to the server’s stated goals and aims.

                                                                                                                            Those goals, aims and indeed the moderation policy are clearly stated on the server:-

                                                                                                                            “we do not accept (among other things): racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism and other forms of discrimination, harassment, trolling, hate speech, (sexual) abuse of minors and adults (also not virtual), glorification of violence, militarism, nationalism and right-wing populism, right-wing and religious extremism, tankies (ML), capitalists, (right-wing) conspiracy ‘theories’, hoaxes, and of course no spam and other forms of advertisement.”

                                                                                                                            Gleason is a bigot. That bigotry was noted by other todon users (I number myself among them) and he was shown the door.

                                                                                                                            1. -3

                                                                                                                              The word “transphobia” is often used as a loaded term, just like “hate speech” is,

                                                                                                                              Usually the use of these terms outside of political environments brings a toxic ambiance and is not conductive to anything felicitous or productive to the domain. I’m sure you’ll have a hard time finding any actual instances of fear/hate (which is what “phobia” literally indicates) from Gleason; and of course defending for female sports rights doesn’t qualify as one (saying otherwise would be bigoted and would at best qualify as … umm … imagined phobia).

                                                                                                                              ’tis a good thing Lobsters is not politically woke to ban the likes of Gleason, eh?

                                                                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                                                                Gleason is a peddler in transphobic bigotry. Its an essential part of who he is. His “sex-essential” “gender-critical” nonsense is a paper-thin mask for hatespeech against a marginalised element in society.

                                                                                                                                You have now defended him, Freedom of Speech Zealotry, White Supremacists and transphobic bigotry up and down this story, which you appear to have posted just to link to the aforementioned listing site for hatespeech and bigots.

                                                                                                                                You can put all the ten-dollar words you want all over your post, I can say without hesitation that you’re both posturing and a troll.

                                                                                                                                1. 0

                                                                                                                                  All you are doing, in your anonymous account to boot, is to accuse other people (Gleason and now me–that are not anonymous, neither are afraid to hide behind a mask) without evidence and without engaging rationally (as in without refuting the central point) but merely with politically loaded language (as in resorting to thinly veiled ad hominem).

                                                                                                                                  Lobsters would be better off without such toxic comments expressing actual bigotry, and I assume on good faith that you did not intend that, and is writing in a state of not being with a sound mind - so I suggest you take a break.

                                                                                                                            2. 7

                                                                                                                              They out themselves as a transphone one sentence into the blog post. I’m sure many transphobes think being told they’re a transphobe is toxic.

                                                                                                                              They also had no problem joining Gab and admitting that it’s full of, their quote, “literal nazis” in the same article.

                                                                                                                              1. -1

                                                                                                                                They out themselves as a transphone one sentence into the blog post. I’m sure many transphobes think being told they’re a transphobe is toxic.

                                                                                                                                For those who haven’t read the article in full, this is what the first sentence (which according to the parent commenter indicates that Alex is outing himself to be a “transphobe”) reads: “I got deplatformed from Mastodon for supporting women’s sex-based rights. Now Mastodon is trying to stop me from using Gab.

                                                                                                                                They also had no problem joining Gab and admitting that it’s full of, their quote, “literal nazis” in the same article.

                                                                                                                                Again, for those who haven’t read the article in full, here’s the full quote: “Gab is a free speech platform. It is true that there are indeed “literal Nazis” on it. This isn’t a hyperbole, as there are some users who quite literally advocate for the extermination of races of people. The reason is because Gab censors no one. It’s not because Gab likes those people or wants them there.” - and that quote was a prelude to explaining why censorship is bad, by citing past examples:

                                                                                                                                • Marginalized people are at the greatest risk of being impacted by censorship. The Feminist movement laid the groundwork for freedom of speech in the United States with the formation of the Free Speech League in 1902. They were being censored from distributing material about sex-education and abortion. Keep in mind that the majority of people were against them at the time.
                                                                                                                                • The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s fought hard for free speech. The movement won a landmark case, New York Times vs Sullivan, in which Martin Luther King supporters were sued for running an ad which criticized the police.
                                                                                                                                • Black Civil Rights activists were also arrested for: praying, “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing.”, “statements calculated to breach the peace.”, “distributing literature without a permit.”, “conduct customarily known as ‘kneel-ins’ in churches.”

                                                                                                                                Nevermind that Twitter for instance has an uncommon number of neoracists as well.


                                                                                                                                I flagged your comment as unkind, because essentially it is a low-effort post made to flippantly accuse somebody without evidence, and there is zero fellowship regard (much less an assumption of good faith) towards Alex to the point of even misrepresenting what he wrote.

                                                                                                                                1. 16

                                                                                                                                  Friendly warning: anything anywhere that mentions transphobia or nazis becomes a bozo bit here on Lobsters. Don’t try to argue semantics, don’t appeal to actual text or logic or history, don’t waste yours or anybody else’s time–just steer clear of it and save those cycles for making things or engaging in communities with more mature discussion capabilities.

                                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                                    You’re too wise for this place

                                                                                                                                    1. 7

                                                                                                                                      Wisdom is what you get when do something really stupid but take notes.

                                                                                                                                      …I’ve taken a lot of notes.

                                                                                                                                  2. 17

                                                                                                                                    “Women’s sex-based rights” is absolutely a dogwhistle for transphobia, and if you look at what he wrote in his own words he says that ‘transgenderism [was] first popularized on Tumblr’ (?????), links the “TERF is a slur” page, and says “transgender ideology is fiction”. He’s transphobic through and through.

                                                                                                                                    I’m also extremely unconvinced that there’s no way to prevent people from being actual literal Nazis while not hurting marginalized people. Like, if someone was to come in to the comments section of a Lobsters post and say “by the way, I think we should kill all the Jews”, they’d get flagged and banned, right?

                                                                                                                                    And you’re ignoring the fact that constantly seeing people say that they think people like me (hi, I’m trans) are abominable freaks that are better off dead, or even ‘just’ mentally ill people who need to stop pretending, is likely to push me away from a place. This is going to happen with any sort of ‘free speech’-focused Masto instance: the bigots will migrate to your instance because they get kicked off elsewhere, and the people who don’t want to have to deal with bigots are going to go elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                    And, going back to the list, it’s not just gleasonator. As someone who’s used Fedi for several years, every single one of those instances aside from mstdn.social is one that I’ve had shitty experiences with. And it’s not a coincidence that mstdn.social is the only one that’s described as not allowing racism or sexism!

                                                                                                                                    1. 11

                                                                                                                                      Like, if someone was to come in to the comments section of a Lobsters post and say “by the way, I think we should kill all the Jews”, they’d get flagged and banned, right?

                                                                                                                                      Yes. And it’s happened: a few years ago a comment on a story about net neutrality attempted to use that to explain why the U.S. should commit genocide in the middle east. I deleted it and banned the author.

                                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                                        … now that’s a leap.

                                                                                                                                    2. 8

                                                                                                                                      branching off from the thread, that quote is infuriating. they make the following argument:

                                                                                                                                      • marginalized people are affected by censorship (citing civil rights activists)
                                                                                                                                      • gab does not participate in censorship
                                                                                                                                      • gab has literal nazis on it

                                                                                                                                      therefore:

                                                                                                                                      • it’s ok for gab to continue to host literal nazis because banning them is similar to the prejudice that civil rights activists face

                                                                                                                                      i.e. propagating the speech of who people arguing for an ethnostate and committing real-life violence against minorities is somehow beneficial for those same minorities. fucking inane.

                                                                                                                                      1. 7

                                                                                                                                        My comment below is terribly off-topic, I think.

                                                                                                                                        A transphobe is someone who fears or has a negative perception of trans people. Supporting “women’s sex-based rights” is the same as saying that people born with female sex organs have different rights than trans people who are women. That is a negative perception of trans people who are women. Saying that women who were born with female sex organs have different rights than trans people who are women is, precisely, transphobia.

                                                                                                                                        Your comment is a low-effort attempt to deny that basic fact; if you recognize that trans people exist, saying they should be denied affordances that cis people have is clearly a manifestation of transphobia.

                                                                                                                                        That claim is so obviously false and inflammatory that I have flagged your comment as a troll. I’ve done you the courtesy of leaving this comment explaining why even though my own comment should rightly be flagged as offtopic. That’s because I’m assuming some good faith even though the obviously false and inflammatory nature of your comment makes me think that’s vanishingly unlikely.