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    I would go one step further–I only grudgingly sign NDAs and assignments of invention too and would prefer if they weren’t there.

    This single issue is the thing that most makes me think we need collective bargaining and unions.

    Given the MO of modern companies, our ideas and skills are all that we have.

    1. 8

      Yeah I don’t think i’d work anywhere that did Assignments of invention. I just don’t think I could be paid enough to make me give that up. I once signed a noncompete though but it wasn’t this restrictive, it only applied to business that were making the exact same kind of product (Laboratory information Management Systems).

      1. 7

        When I joined my last company they had an assignment of invention section in their paperwork, but provided a place to list exemptions. I listed so many things on that form: github side projects to theoretical ideas I’d been kicking around. When I handed in the packet to HR they didn’t know how to handle the fact that I actually filled that stuff out. They ended up removing the assignment of invention section completely.

        I see a distinction between companies that prey on their employees and those that build in language and terms like this because legal told them to, or it’s “boilerplate”. Nether is acceptable and in many regions that take workers’ rights seriously they are explicitly illegal. I don’t see that happening in the US anytime soon, though.

        If it’s important to you, don’t sign. If it’s important to you and your company is a bunch of idiots, change the contract before you sign it and watch them blindly put a signature on it. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up owning all their IP instead.

        1. 0

          I can definitely understand why a company would want you to sign an assignment of invention and I don’t think they’re inherently good or bad. They’re just a trade off like anything else. If you really want to start your own company one day or side projects are really important to you than that’s something to consider strongly before signing an assignment of invention. Just like flexibility would be something to consider before taking a job if you really wanted to be able to take off work, with no advanced notice, to surf if the waves happen to be good and then make up those hours later.

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            Safety bars on looms and e-stops on lathes are a trade off like anything else…

            This is a local minima of error that companies are stuck in due to investors and lawyers (and greedy founders) trying to cover their own asses.

            It’s basically become industry standard, but seeing as how we’re all getting screwed in compensation (giving the growth we enable) compared to older days the bargain no longer makes sense. Further, the troubling trend is “Well, it’s probably no big deal to work on , just let us know and/or we don’t care anyways” is basically living with a gun to your head.

            If it is such a non-issue that most companies will overlook it, fucking leave it off the conditions of employment. If it is such an issue, compensate the engineers properly.

            1. 3

              I think we need to create a list of businesses that do this so that I can avoid ever applying to them and also ones that don’t do this so that I can weigh applying for them.

              1. 1

                Safety bars on looms and e-stops on lathes are a trade off like anything else…

                Apples and oranges. Those safety features don’t really affect the employer, but they have a huge effect on how safe the job is for all of the employees that use looms and lathes. Assignments of invention do have an effect on the employer and if you happen to be an employee without any aspirations of starting you own business then they don’t really affect you. Even if you do have that aspiration, a good company will be more than happy to stamp prior discovery paperwork to approve side projects that don’t have anything to do with the company’s area of business so an assignment of invention will only affect you if you want to compete with your employer.

                Edit:

                If it is such an issue, compensate the engineers properly.

                If you compare the software engineering salaries with those of other fields it appears that we are compensated for signing non-competes and assignments of invention. Nurses, for comparison, are also highly educated salaried workers but they make on average $20,000 less per year then software engineers [Source] [Source]. It is entirely possible that the gap in pay is a result of a high demand for and low supply of software engineers. But there is a high demand for and low supply of nurses as well.

                1. 8

                  a good company

                  Where, where are these good companies? “Not all companies”, indeed!

                  There is no upside to for the employer to do this once they have the paperwork in hand, and relying on the charity/largess of a company is foolish–especially once belts start tightening. Even companies that aren’t terrible can often punt forever on this sort of thing because of limited time to devote to non-business issues, because legal’s job is to provide maximal cover and push back on anything that might create risk, etc.

                  I suggest that the overall tone of how employee engineers are viewed, for the good of all engineers, needs to change. Hell, most of the innovation people claim to care about so much would be strangled in the crib under the agreements that are common today!

                  1. 3

                    Assignments of invention do have an effect on the employer and if you happen to be an employee without any aspirations of starting you own business then they don’t really affect you.

                    And without any intention of ever contributing to open source, and without any intention of ever writing an article or a story or a book, and without any intention of ever painting a painting, and without any intention of ever singing a song, etc., etc. (Ever assignment of invention I’ve ever seen has covered any and all copywritable works, not just code. Most have tried to claim assignment of works created before employment began.)

                    1. 1

                      Ever assignment of invention I’ve ever seen has covered any and all copywritable works, not just code. Most have tried to claim assignment of works created before employment began.

                      That is an entirely different story. The assignments of invention that I’ve seen strictly pertain to ip related to the company’s products and services, during your period of employment with the company. Although they have all asked for a list of prior work as a practical means of proving that any such ip of yours was created before your time of employment. That said, my comments above were made with that understanding of what an assignment of invention is.

                      1. 6

                        “Related” is way too open-ended for my comfort. If I contribute to an open-source project at night that is written in the same language I use at work, is that related? What about if they’re both web applications? What if they both use the same framework? If I write healthcare software during the day and I want to write a novel where somebody goes to the doctor, is that related?

                        In the contracts I’ve been presented with it’s been explicit that any work done prior to employment with the company that is no on your list of prior inventions becomes the property of the company. I’ve been programming since I was 12; there is no conceivable way I can list every piece of code I’ve written in 20+ years (much less other forms of copywriteable expression).

                        I have hired lawyers on two occasions to review assignment-of-invention contracts with provisions like these and on both occasions the advice I got was that “related” is pretty much a blank check for the employer.

                        1. 3

                          The ones I’ve seen (and signed) have been restricted to inventions created at work or on company equipment, which amounts to roughly “we own the things we’re paying (or providing infrastructure for) you to create”. Within the context of capitalist employment, I think that’s essentially reasonable.

                          1. 2

                            The fuzzy bit is, when you’re a salaried worker who is remote, what exactly is “company equipment”? What is “at work”?

                            How many of us have, in an evening say, made a commit to wrap up a thought after dinner from our laptops or desktops?

                            1. 3

                              If you’re a salaried remote worker, the company should be providing your work machine, which is either a laptop you can take with you, or a desktop that you remote into. If you’re providing all the equipment out of pocket, why are you on salary, rather than working as a contractor?

                              The only exception I could think would be a very early stage startup, but in that case you’re probably coming from a place of having a better negotiating position anyway.

                              I’ve worked remotely for 3 jobs, and have always been provided a development machine, and have done my best to avoid doing anything that is strictly a side project on it for that reason.

                              1. 1

                                One of the selling points vendors of separation kernels pushed was separation of Personal and Work on one device (“BYOD”). They mainly pushed it under the illusion that it would provide security at reduced costs on consumer-grade devices. They also pushed it for GPL isolation to reduce IP risks to them. Your comment makes me think that can be flipped: use of dedicated, virtual work environment for (typical benefits here) with additional benefit of isolating I.P. considerations to what’s in the VM. If you want something generic, do it on your own time in your own VM just importing an instance of it into the work VM and/or its codebase. Anything created in the work VM they or you can assume will belong to them.

                                I’m ignoring how time is tracked for now. Far as clarity on intent of I.P. ownership, what do you think of that as basic approach? Spotting any big risks?

                            2. 1

                              I’ve never consulted a lawyer so I’ll concede to you on this. Thank you for posting about your experience!

                        2. 2

                          If safety equipment did not affect the employer, then why did it take so long for employers to adopt them? Why did they fight so hard against them?

                          And if it isn’t a big deal to a good company to make exceptions, why bother with the clause?

                          If developers are being fairly compensated for these burdens, why do we still hear about a shortage of devs?

                          1. 0

                            If safety equipment did not affect the employer, then why did it take so long for employers to adopt them? Why did they fight so hard against them?

                            The same reason anyone makes a fuss when you force them to do anything. People don’t like to be told what do to. Add to that the slow moving nature of large organizations and there is going to be a huge fight to get them to do absolutely anything.

                            And if it isn’t a big deal to a good company to make exceptions, why bother with the clause?

                            Because trusting every employee to be honest about signing over ip to anything they’re working on that is related to the company is not practical and it opens up the company to a huge amount of liability. If you don’t bother with the clause what happens if you inadvertently use your ip your day to day work, fail to notice, and fail to sign it over?

                            If developers are being fairly compensated for these burdens, why do we still hear about a shortage of devs?

                            Because there is a shortage. Paying more isn’t going to magically create more senior devs. It’ll increase the amount of people that get into the field (and it has) but there is still going to be a large lag time before they have the experience that employers are looking for. That said, if you compare the salaries of software developers to the salaries of other professions with shortages you’ll see that software developers make more. So we might not be compensated as much as you would like, but we are being compensated.

                            1. 5

                              It took so long to do it because it costs money to replace your lathes with ones with E-Stops. It has nothing to do with being told what to do or being slow. Corporations can actually do things quite quickly when there’s a financial incentive to do so. They struggle to do things which they have a financial disincentive to do. This is precisely why unions are necessary for a healthy relationship between corporations and employees.

                              1. 2

                                It has nothing to do with being told what to do or being slow.

                                It’s both. Companies regularly waste money on stuff that doesn’t benefit the company or refuse to switch to things with known benefits that are substantially different. These are both big problems in companies that aren’t small businesses. They’re also problems in small businesses, but often in different ways. Egos and/or ineptitude of people in charge are usually the source. On programming side, it’s why it took so much work to get most companies to adopt memory-safe languages even when performance or portability wasn’t a big deal in their use cases. Also, why many stayed on waterfall or stayed too long despite little evidence development worked well that way. It did work for managers’ egos feeling a sense of control, though.

                                Can’t forget these effects when assessing why things do or don’t happen. They’re pervasive.

                              2. 4

                                I don’t think a ‘company’ has any feelings at all. I think companies have incentives and that is it, full stop. The people within a company may have feelings, but I think it is amazing the extent that a person will suppress or distort their feelings for money or the chance at promotion.

                                I would be surprised if liability was what companies had in principally in mind about ip assignment. I suspect the main drivers are profitability and the treat of competition.

                                In terms of compensation, I don’t think anyone is saying programmers are poorly compensated. The question is whether non-competes and and sweeping ip assignments are worth it. Literally everyone who works is compensated, of course it is reasonable to dicker over the level of compensation and the tradeoffs involved in getting it. …

                                I think there is a tendency to feel that the existence of an explanation for a company’s behavior is sufficient justification for it’s actions. Because there is an explanation, or an incentive for a company to do a thing has little to no bearing on whether it is good or right for a company to do a thing. It has even less bearing on whether a thing is good from the perspective of a worker for the company.

                                If there is a shortage of software developers, and they are worth a lot of dollars, it is in the interest of software developers to collectively negotiate for the best possible treatment they can get from a company without killing the company. That could include pay, it could be defined benefits, it could be offices with doors on it, or all of the above and more.

                                There is a strong strain of ‘the temporarily embarrassed millionaire’ in programmer circles, though. It seems like many empathize with the owner class on the assumption that they are likely to enter the owner ranks, but I don’t see the numbers bearing that assumption out.

                                1. 6

                                  If there is a shortage of software developers, and they are worth a lot of dollars, it is in the interest of software developers to collectively negotiate for the best possible treatment they can get from a company without killing the company.

                                  And as you know, employers colluded to secretly and collectively depress labor wages and mobility among programmers in Silicon Valley (Google, Apple, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Intel, Intuit, eBay), on top of the intrinsic power and resource advantage employers have over employees, further underscoring the need for an IT union.

                                  https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/pixar-lucasfilm-apple-google-face-suit-285282 (2012)

                                  https://www.theverge.com/2013/7/13/4520356/pixar-and-lucasfilm-settle-lawsuit-over-silicon-valley-hiring

                                  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/24/apple-google-settle-antitrust-lawsuit-hiring-collusion

                                  1. 4

                                    A very good reason for a union.

                                    Given a union, I wouldn’t necessarily even start with salary, so much as offices with doors and agreements around compensation for work outside of core hours, parental leave and other non-cash quality of life issues.

                                  2. 2

                                    In terms of compensation, I don’t think anyone is saying programmers are poorly compensated. The question is whether non-competes and and sweeping ip assignments are worth it. Literally everyone who works is compensated, of course it is reasonable to dicker over the level of compensation and the tradeoffs involved in getting it. …

                                    Whether or not it is worth it is an individual decision. But at the end of the day we are compensated significantly more than our peers in other fields with shortages (accounting staff, nurses, teachers, etc). If you don’t believe that we’re being compensated enough, then what we really need to be doing is advocating for our peers in those other fields. Because if we’re not getting paid enough, they sure as hell aren’t getting paid anywhere close to enough. And if we improve the culture around valuing employees in general, that will translate into improvements for us as well. A rising tide raises all boats. But as it is, I don’t know anyone but programmers who think programmers are underpaid.

                                    1. 1

                                      I’m all for paying people more, but I’m unclear why you are focusing on these other fields, I was under the impression we were talking about programmers and the IT field

                                      I also disagree that those fields constitute peers. Accountants may be the closes as white collared professionals, but they are in a field where everyone applies the same rules to the same data, which is an important difference. I’m all for labor solidarity, but I think it’s up for people in a given field to advocate for themselves. People elsewhere should lend support, sure

                                      1. 2

                                        I also disagree that those fields constitute peers.

                                        They’re peers in that they’re fields with similar, if not more rigorous, educational requirements and they’re also experiencing labor shortages.

                                        Accountants may be the closes as white collared professionals, but they are in a field where everyone applies the same rules to the same data, which is an important difference.

                                        That doesn’t mean they provide any less value than programmers though. If you run a big business you absolutely need an accountant and a good accountant will more than pay for themselves. That said, given the pay gap, it’s unclear to me that programmers aren’t already getting compensated for signing non competes and assignments of invention. Especially when you consider how much lower the average compensation is for programmers in markets where non-competes and assignments of invention are not the norm [Source].

                      2. 2

                        I’d never sign an assignment of invention, I find the concept to be absurd, especially in an industry like software engineering.

                        I sign NDA’s without complaint when they’re not over-reaching. Many are sensible enough to abide by. But I once had an employer who attempted to make their workforce sign an NDA that imposed restrictions on use of USB sticks retroactively, with huge penalties - up to $10 million - in a company where USB sticks were routinely used to transfer documents and debug builds between on-site third party suppliers and employees of the company. Basically everybody would have been liable.

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                        Comments really aren’t a “code smell.”

                        1. 16

                          Nothing stinks quite like uncommented complicated code.

                          1. 7

                            Exactly! Margaret Hamilton’s code itself, whom the author cites, is full of comments. Possibly more comments than source code. Which, if you’re sending a ship with the processing power of a toothbrush to the Moon, is a great idea.

                            1. 10

                              This code is not readable on it’s own, if it was possible to use variable and function names most of those comments could be removed. It’s also quite likely that every detail of the program was decided before writing the code. In a modern codebase things are always evolving and comments can get left behind.

                              1. 5

                                This is my fear with comments. I code in a team of 2, so we don’t really comment stuff. I know it’s bad, but I’m a team of two, we kind of know the whole code anyway.

                                We also don’t write tests. We’re bad people.

                                1. 4

                                  Oh man, save yourself some pain and write unit tests. You don’t need 100% test coverage, even non-zero coverage of basic functionality will save you so much time. If you don’t know how to use test frameworks then you don’t have to bother, just write one big main file with a function per test you want to do, and call them all in main. That’s basically what test frameworks are, so if you need a low barrier to entry then don’t bother learning one yet, just do something. If you program in a language with a REPL you can literally just save the stuff you use to manually test into a file so you don’t have to type it more than once.

                                  I personally couldn’t develop without unit tests. You can test the application and do something that hits the code path you just changed, which is time consuming and tedious, especially to do repeatedly, or you can write a little bit of code that calls the code and run it with zero effort every time all the time for the rest of forever. Even a small sanity test of the happy path is better than nothing, you can at least check your code doesn’t blatantly fuck up with normal input and save yourself the round trip through the application.

                                  If I had to code without unit tests I’d quit. And I have worked on teams that didn’t want to unit test, so I had out-of-tree tests I wrote for myself. The amount of bugs I fixed a couple hours after someone else committed was mind boggling.

                                  1. 4

                                    How do you even develop without unit tests?

                                    I’d avoid this kind of shaming, especially since the commenter has already noted (in a self-deprecating manner) that they’re aware of the stigma associated with not using tests.

                                    If the intent is to encourage the use of tests, I would put your last paragraph first and focus on how it would help GP.

                                    1. 3

                                      Revised, thank you for the feedback. 😊

                                    2. 2

                                      Depends on the language and coding style though. I wrote a 25000 line game in C++ without a single test, and I never had a regression. I obviously had occasional bugs in new code, but they’re unavoidable either way. Now my preferred language is Haskell, and I feel the need for tests even less. I generally prefer correct-by-construction to correct-by-our-tests-pass. My purpose isn’t to discredit tests though, just that not every codebase has as much need for them.

                                      1. 2

                                        I’m just self taught and kind of out of my depth on it. I had a dev friend who did integration tests, and they were really brittle and slowed us down a lot. Are unit tests not as bad at slowing down a small team of two devs who are both self taught? We’re good / mediocre / we build good stuff (I consider ourselves hackers) but we don’t have a ton of time.

                                        1. 1

                                          Unit tests don’t have to slow things down like integration tests. In your situation, I’d wait until the next bug comes up, then instead of fixing the bug immediately, I’d write a test that reproduces the bug. Usually doing that helps narrow down where the bug is, and after fixing it, the test passes and (here’s the cool part) you will never see that bug again

                                          1. 1

                                            That’s what i was told about integration tests, but I had to set up all these extra dependencies so that the integration tests continued to work every time we added an external service… we’d have to mock it or shit would break.

                                            I’m assuming since Unit tests don’t run like that, they don’t have external dependencies like that? You’d mock on a component by component basis, and wouldn’t have to mock unrelated shit just to keep them running… hmm… maybe i will.

                                            Any unit testing video series I could watch as a noob to get started you’d recommend? Or anything like that?

                                        2. 1

                                          I second saving yourself pain with writing tests! I’ve avoided lots of rakes with a handful of tests

                                      2. 2

                                        What makes everybody think that the programmers who change code so that it no longer matches the comments they just used to understand it will somehow write code so clear you don’t need comments to understand it?

                                        1. 1

                                          Often people write code like total = price * 1.10 #This is tax which can be rewritten as total = price * TAX A lot of comments like that can be removed by just putting them in the actual code.

                                          1. 2

                                            I’m not suggesting it can’t be done I’m suggesting it won’t be done

                                      3. 4

                                        I’ll also correct the article to say a team did the code and review per the reports I read. She describes it here in “Apollo Beginnings” as a team with a lot of freedom and management backing with unusual requirement to get software right the first time. Unfortunately, a rare environment to work in.

                                      4. 5

                                        You can’t write test coverage for a comment. You can’t have your compiler warn you that a comment is inaccurate.

                                        If you have no tests, and your code is full of dead paths, you can’t even percieve the risk posed by an errant, out of date, or unintentionally misleading comment.

                                        Sometimes they’re necessary. But the best default advice to a ‘mediocre’ developer is to write better code, not add more comments.

                                        1. 5

                                          You can’t write test coverage for a comment. You can’t have your compiler warn you that a comment is inaccurate.

                                          https://docs.python.org/3/library/doctest.html

                                          If you have no tests, and your code is full of dead paths, you can’t even percieve the risk posed by an errant, out of date, or unintentionally misleading comment.

                                          If you have no tests or comments you have no way of knowing whether your code is actually matching your spec, anyway.

                                          Sometimes they’re necessary. But the best default advice to a ‘mediocre’ developer is to write better code, not add more comments.

                                          That’s like saying that the best default advice to a ‘mediocre’ developer is to write less buggy code, not add unit tests.

                                          1. 2

                                            doctest is great for testing comments that include code, but nothing else… If a comment says “Framework X is expecting variable foo in JSON format inside the array bar.” I would be inclined to believe it at first and then test the hypothesis that the comment is wrong. That’s the danger of comments.

                                            1. 1

                                              A couple of times today I caught myself committing deleted or changed lines without deleting or changing the associated comment. Luckily I could go back and fix things so that the comments weren’t complete nonsense. Sometimes though they escape detection.

                                          2. 2

                                            Once the code is cleaned as much as possible and still is hard to understand, or if something is tricky, comments help a lot!

                                            I guess the author talked about comments that could be removed by making the code cleaner.

                                            Maybe it depends on what motivates one to add comments, there might be good reasons as well.

                                            1. 2

                                              True.

                                              But Comments that are wrong or out of date stink like dead rats.

                                              I view asserts as “executable comments” that are never out of date. Sometimes they are wrong… but testing will tell you that.

                                              If a plain comment is wrong… nothing will tell you except a very long, very Bad Day at work.

                                              1. 7

                                                But Comments that are wrong or out of date stink like dead rats.

                                                Valuable comments are something along the lines of “this looks weird, but I did it because of [historical reason that is likely to be forgotten] even though [other implementation] looks like the more obvious solution at first glance; it wouldn’t have worked because [rationale].”

                                                The longer I spend working with old codebases, the more I’ve come to treasure such comments. But comments that just explain what the code is doing rather than why are suspect.

                                            1. 10

                                              Yeah… No. I don’t want AMP in my emails.

                                              EMail already has a reduced HTML subset with most email clients blocking a large set of HTML stuff by default. Most emails are also not big unless you spam pictures in there (which you can strip out and simply not download) so I don’t really see any tangible advantage of AMP over regular HTML email (or Plaintext Mail)

                                              1. 3

                                                Dear god, give me plain text emails, please!

                                                1. 2

                                                  I block all pure-HTML e-mails. Occasionally I check out what was blocked. It’s all spam. I suspect AMP e-mail will be the same. Regular people will send three copies of their e-mails (in text, HTML, and AMP), which I will read in plain text, and spammers (also known as marketers) will send only HTML and/or AMP.

                                                  That being said, this attack of Google over the open Internet is the last straw that made me ditch all Google programs and services.

                                              1. 2

                                                I’ve been using the email gateway for the last six months or so and I’ve stopped visiting the site at all.

                                                For me, the ‘best’ threads are the ones with a lot of replies. Using mutt is pretty easy to see which threads still get replies after a couple of days and just read them at that point.

                                                1. 1

                                                  What’s the email gateway?

                                                  1. 2

                                                    What’s the email gateway?

                                                    It’s this feature https://lobste.rs/s/jg3eet

                                                    The greatest part is that you can also reply by email, which is what I’m doing right now.

                                                1. 3

                                                  None of which I’m aware. Then again, Lobsters moves pretty slowly–a quick jaunt through the newest page every couple of days should keep you more than up-to-date.

                                                  Also, “best” is slippery. Most comments? Most upvotes? Most flames? Better to be not lazy and work for your intellectual nourishment. :)

                                                  1. 1

                                                    I’m perfectly happy to have someone exercise their editorial judgement to make my reading list easier. I’m looking for the Soylent of online self-improvement, not the ‘how to grow barley and brew my own beer’ version :)

                                                    1. 6

                                                      Oh well in that case the best commentary on Lobsters is probably here.

                                                      As with Soylent, side-effects may include lethargy, allergic reaction, nausea, and death. In case of complications consult your family mortician.

                                                  1. 3

                                                    Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Mass Effect solidly call massive bullshit on this. Also, BioShock was the best example author could come up with on stories in video games? Seriously!?

                                                    EDIT: Added Final Fantasy thanks to sotojuan. Damned memory haha.

                                                    1. 2

                                                      I feel like those are stories that are still more or less on rails. I think Bogost is looking for something like minecraft, or dayz or dwarf fortress, where there are mechanics, but the meaning and story is brought in by the player’s interaction with their environment.

                                                      Like tinkertoys for story building, but on a computer.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        Hey now, the stories have plenty of interesting characters with emotional impact on top of it. It’s a good thing in games. Some games that is. I agree with the need for the other kind of game where story/meaning emerges from gameplay. I enjoy both. I know most others enjoy both although the proportions vary. I’m only rejecting the idea that we shouldn’t have the former.

                                                        1. 1

                                                          Sure, fair enough. I also like games with stories on rails (like MGS), and branching stories (like Skyrim). I might be putting too much of myself in the article, but I think the article is looking for the recognition that a game can have a story even if it doesn’t have a script.

                                                          I suppose Eve Online is a good example of a game with a story, but no script, now that I think on it

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                                                      A great many words, but I have no idea what was said.

                                                      1. 17

                                                        Let me attempt to summarize the core argument of the article:

                                                        Scripted narration in a medium that’s supposed to champion interactivity is a fool’s errand. Instead, narratives should be emergent via mechanics of the game that fosters discovered self-narration.

                                                        Put more crudely, the author would like gaming to be akin to a child playing with toys. The toys offer zero narration of their own–it’s all in the player’s head!

                                                        Though games like “Minecraft”, “Dreams” and “The Witness” are not mentioned by name, I would imagine the author very much would like to see more of these, and less of the… well, other games.

                                                        1. 4

                                                          My generous summary of this is:

                                                          1. It’s a positive review of the the game What Remains of Edith Finch, which argues that this game helps show us the way forward for the medium,

                                                          2. Secondarily, though this gets more space, headline, and attention, what some other people have argued is the way forward for the medium, the ol’ Interactive Storytelling dream of folks like Chris Crawford, Janet Murray, and David Cage, is maybe a dead-end, which we can definitively realize now that we’ve seen what the better way forward is.

                                                          Admittedly, this is reading between the lines a bit and he doesn’t quite make this argument as I’ve reconstructed it (he seems to be hitting in various directions other than David Cage, who I personally would’ve chosen as a better foil). Bogost’s a personal friend who I’ve known for a little over a decade, and I like much of his writing, but this isn’t my favorite piece of his, even if I’m sympathetic to the form of the argument I’ve reconstructed.

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                                                            OK. So among the games I’ve played, Doom and Bioshock, which is better? I can accede to the idea that a hypothetical Libertarian Atlantis movie would tell a better story than Bioshock. But does the addition of story elements make Bioshock worse than Doom? Would eliminating all the voiceovers from Bioshock and reducing it to “kill stuff and push buttons” like Doom make it a better game? Not inclined to agree.

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                                                              I don’t think it’s really arguing at the level of “game A is better than game B”, but more about future agendas. It argues that the holodeck “interactive narrative” dream, which views true interactive storytelling as the way to take the medium to the next level, isn’t promising, and is in favor, instead, of an alternative path forward, which it argues the game What Remains of Edith Finch embodies. Now, it’s hard for me to judge this last claim, because I haven’t played that game.

                                                              (The “holodeck” reference has an outsized significance in academic game studies, perhaps not obvious to the average reader, because the metaphor was used in an influential 1998 book by Janet Murray entitled Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. In addition to referring to the Star Trek holodeck, of course.)

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                                                                Ok, thanks, this helps put the article in perspective.

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                                                              Secondarily, though this gets more space, headline, and attention, what some other people have argued is the way forward for the medium, the ol’ Interactive Storytelling dream of folks like Chris Crawford, Janet Murray, and David Cage, is maybe a dead-end, which we can definitively realize now that we’ve seen what the better way forward is.

                                                              I’m curious what the “better way” is, in your opinion?

                                                              “Better” is in the eye of the beholder, as well. As much as I’d love (I don’t, actually…) to play Halo 15 and Call of Duty 26’s multiplayer portion and weave my own narrative devoid of any scripted narrative–such that no two players will experience the same arc of encounter and will each walk away with their own unique experience–I’d much rather experience the works of David Cage, et al. rather than play for play’s own sake (I, for one, cannot wait for Detroit to be released!).

                                                              I enjoy games the most when it makes me think and relate back to something in the real world and case me to appreciate it more, or see it in a different light.

                                                              Without any spoilers, the latest game I completed (Horizon: Zero Dawn), made me truly appreciate the design behind Erlang (yes, a seemingly out-of-the-left-field connection!).

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                                                                I’d really like see what connection you made there. I don’t know if we have a spoiler tag, but maybe something behind a link?

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                                                                  I don’t have strong opinions on the better way personally. I actually started my academic career building AI support for interactive storytelling, with the goal of making games that were non-scripted but still heavily story-based. So I have some sympathy for the Grand Interactive Storytelling dream, enough that I spent a few years working on it (albeit on the backend tech side, since I’m not a writer or game designer), and occasionally still go back to it. But I also have some sympathy for arguments like Bogost’s that argue this is trying to put a square peg in a round hole. I suppose I should stake out a strong opinion on this, given that it’s close to my research area, but I’m somehow just very undecided about it.

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                                                                  I really appreciate you adding context to the article. It sounded like something interesting, but I had a hard time making out the thesis. Clearing up the holodeck reference, in particular, helped

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                                                                Writing up how I’m using a finite state machine to drive a GUI, writing up evaluations and writing up some guides on how to run a meeting effectively

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                                                                  I was in a situation where I found my software was being used to track people in Iraq. So…. Yeah, I left that gig. My payment back is to write Free Software. Pay your penance with Free Software my friend. Also don’t feel bad about not liking Capitalism. Capitalism is terrible which is why most of the people on this planet hate it.

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                                                                    My payment back is to write Free Software.

                                                                    If you write free open-source software, you still have no control over whether it gets used for bad purposes.

                                                                    Capitalism is terrible which is why most of the people on this planet hate it.

                                                                    Capitalism was actually decent in the 1950s and ‘60s. (This is why Trump’s message of “Make America Great Again”, as much as I can’t stomach the disrespect to the minorities for whom that period wasn’t so great, resonated with so many people.) We had 4-6 percent real GDP growth and companies took care of their people. We had low economic inequality and no one would pull the kind of shit that you see today on a regular basis.

                                                                    In the ‘60s, getting let go by your company meant that the CEO took you out to dinner, explained that you were not getting the next promotion, and that you had a year or so before the accountants would expect him to fire you. (“At absolute most, I can keep you on for two years, so I want you to take your search seriously.”) He’d offer you his Rolodex and give you an excellent reference for where-ever you wanted to go next. In the worst-case scenario where he couldn’t get you hired, he called up his friend at an MBA or PhD program of your choice and got you in. That’s what getting fired was.

                                                                    That’s obviously not how it works today. Even people who don’t get fired get treated like garbage.

                                                                    I agree that the 21st-century style of corporate/managerial/vampire capitalism is a disaster that must be overthrown, preferably nonviolently, but through whatever means are necessary to get the job done.

                                                                    I don’t think capitalism is an innately terrible system. I do think that, like Soviet communism, it worked for a time and then failed. Communism managed to turn a frozen backwater into a world superpower from 1917-50. The implementation was morally reprehensible (Stalin) and the system began to collapse by the 1980s, but it worked for a time. Likewise, organizational/corporate capitalism worked for about sixty years (1914-73) and remained semi-functional for another 28 years in the West Coast tech industry, but is now in such a state where it needs to be replaced with something else… but I have no clue how one goes about that.

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                                                                      In the ‘60s, getting let go by your company meant that the CEO took you out to dinner, explained that you were not getting the next promotion…

                                                                      I call out hagiography. Things were generally better for many people (and as you noted, worse for others) but there’s never been a golden era of corporate beneficence for most people.

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                                                                        Corporations were often bad for the environment and sometimes to customers, but they used to be good to their own people. That’s the difference.

                                                                        Companies did some bad things, for sure, but once you were in, you were guaranteed support and they’d bend over backward not to hurt your career. You could go into the CEO’s office on a random Tuesday and ask to be his protege and he’d say “Yes; what department do you want to lead?” (You might have had to work until a solid 4:00, and occasionally even 5:30, to complete the workload and training that comes from being fast-tracked. But those are the sacrifices one makes.) Once they got in, it really was a lot easier for the Boomers, which is why they’re able to pay $7 million for 3BR houses.

                                                                        The 1957 objection was “E Corp is polluting local rivers and overcharges its customers.” I don’t intend to diminish those objections. We needed the consumer and environmental protections for a reason. The 2017 objection is “G Corp uses stack ranking to disguise layoffs as firings and thereby destroys the reputations of departing employees to preserve its own.” So, these days, companies are bad for the external world and, additionally, evil toward their own people.

                                                                        The Boomer hippie movement was literally a revolt against having to show up at a place 5 times per week for at least half a day (three-martini lunches made afternoon attendance optional) and having to wait a solid 3 years (!) before getting the VP-level job where you can fly business class and expense it. Meanwhile, as for Millennials… if it weren’t for World of Warcraft, there’d be a civil war by now.

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                                                                          I thought OP was about making the world as a whole worse, without distinguishing between customers and employees. Is your notion of “vampire capitalism” only about treating employees poorly?

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                                                                            They’re related. If companies treat their workers better, then other companies have to follow suit in order to compete.

                                                                            For example, Henry Ford (who was not a nice person, but knew a good play when he saw it) doubled the wage of his factory workers, to $5 per day, in 1914. (That’d be about $120 per day in 2017.) Historians note that he did this in order to have buyers for his products, but it wasn’t just the first-order effect that he was after, because that wouldn’t justify the cost. He knew that his doing so would raise wages across the board, and increase his buyer base nationally. It worked.

                                                                            Employers can be better in all sorts of ways. They can pay more, treat workers better, or treat the environment better. It’s all connected. Right now, we have an environment where employers hold all the cards and don’t have to do jack shit for anyone. They don’t compete to be better; they just pay their executives as much as they can get away with. We need to reverse that. It’s a moral imperative.

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                                                                        The 50s and 60s existed in that form because of massive government spending through the Great Depression and WWII, creating a massive, socialized infrastructure that permitted the growth of business. Private sector factories scaled up for wartime production, thanks to government investment, and then turned that excess production capacity to consumer goods (and along the way, we had to invent entirely new “needs” for consumers to fill, planned obsolescence, etc. because we had briefly hit a post-scarcity level of production for the current levels of population). Air travel was heavily regulated, utilities were heavily regulated, telecoms were heavily regulated.

                                                                        If anything, the 50s and 60s are a sign that markets work best when they are heavily managed by the state.

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                                                                          This is absolutely correct.

                                                                          You need a strong public sector to keep the private sector honest. Even if you’re a money-hungry capitalist who would never work in a government job, you should still care about what government jobs exist, because that will heavily influence the wages and conditions that are available to you.

                                                                          For example, when research jobs are easy to get because of ample public funding, the private world has to compete for talent. You get Bell Labs and Xerox PARC. When the research job market is in the shitter and has been for over 30 years, you get business-driven development and “Agile” shovelware.

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                                                                          Capitalism was actually decent in the 1950s and ‘60s. (This is why Trump’s message of “Make America Great Again”, as much as I can’t stomach the disrespect to the minorities for whom that period wasn’t so great, resonated with so many people.) We had 4-6 percent real GDP growth and companies took care of their people. We had low economic inequality and no one would pull the kind of shit that you see today on a regular basis.

                                                                          …iff you were a white dude.

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                                                                            Though you did mention that minorites didn’t have it so great, though that’s kind of an understatement :)

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                                                                              It wasn’t capitalism’s fault that minorities had it bad in the 1950s and ‘60s. Capitalism is not the only cause of human awfulness, as Jews persecuted by Communist Russia– and, of course, black Americans who suffered in pre-capitalistic slavery– can attest. The extreme racism that afflicted, and continues to afflict, our society runs deeper than our economic system.

                                                                              Society is better in 2017 than it was in 1960, insofar as we’ve made a lot of progress toward racial and gender equality. Capitalism itself is a lot worse.

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                                                                                I concur.

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                                                                                  I know it’s not your main point, but what part of treating people as owned assets as in slavery in the Americas is pre-capitalistic?

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                                                                                    People with real expertise would probably disagree or put it better, but:

                                                                                    We’ve had slavery in the America’s since about 1500. Neither England, France or Spain were a capitalistic society until sometime in the 18th or 19th century. They were feudal societies that later turned into mercantile societies.

                                                                                    My understanding is that the difference has to do with who can participate in markets, as well as whether there are markets. In feudal societies everything is down to the king. The king decides whether there are markets and what type of people may participate. The king issues charters to companies to allow people to act collectively. Colonial America was quasi-governmental, even if they called it “the Virginia Company”. It also took a royal writ to create.

                                                                                    As the industrial revolution went on we got to recognizable modern capitalism, but there was a mercantile stop off, where trade is recognized as good, but only within a country. External trade was viewed as harmful. The government had a much larger role in defining who could participate and what markets were allowed than it does today.

                                                                                    My understanding is a little shaky, though I’ll admit

                                                                                    As to your point about slaves, they are capital, and very expensive capital at that. I’m not sure I’d call any slave owning society capitalist though, because even with massive inequalities in a capitalist society, the lowest can still own things and trade things. Slaves can’t do that. Everything a slave has belongs to their master, everything a slave creates belongs to their master. A slave’s offspring belongs to their master. A slave’s ability to have offspring belongs to their master

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                                                                                It depends on where you were. Contrary to what’s portrayed in Hidden Figures, NASA was never segregated. Mad Men makes 1960s office life look terrible and sexist, but advertising in 1965 was analogous to investment banking in 2007: a macho career with long hours and a lot of unsavory characters in it, that people only did because you could be a millionaire before 30 if you played your cards right (and stole a few clients, a la Season 3).

                                                                                Professional life, if you could get an office job, was a lot better in the ‘50 and '60s than it is today. You were a trusted professional, not a suspect held under constant surveillance and expected to show daily progress according to bullshit metrics (“story points”).

                                                                                It was, unfortunately, astronomically harder for women and minorities to get into professional life in the first place, and of course they had to deal with all kinds of other garbage (lynching, poll taxes) that arguably makes the decline in office conditions trivial by comparison. Your boss might be more likely to be a decent human being, but if psychopaths are burning crosses in your neighborhood, there’s not much comfort there.

                                                                                No one with an understanding of history can say with a clear conscience that the 1950s-60s were better. They weren’t. However, some things were better. Economic growth was 5% per year instead of 2% per year, economic inequality was nothing like what exists today, and once you were inside a corporation, you were treated with a lot more respect than is typical these days.

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                                                                                  At least post some statistics before you do the lazy “hurr durr white cis men oppressing everybody amirite”.

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                                                                                    Please point to any data or conclusion presented in the link you posted that says anything but, “hurr durr white cis men oppressing everybody amirite”. The claim was that economic inequality was lower in the 50s and 60s, but that is true only when comparing across uniform demographics.

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                                                                                      The reading I had of the quote you were replying to was that capitalism was “actually decent”, in that it was providing returns for a broader section of people. If you look at the data, the 50s-60s clearly didn’t solely benefit white dudes–women’s wages went up, men’s wages went up, blacks and whites both made more money than they used to.

                                                                                      Everybody’s wages went up. You suggested “if and only if”, and you’re wrong, as shown by data.

                                                                                      The period after the 70s clearly had a more unequal tenor to it. The “Return to Stagnation in Relative Income” summarizes it nicely:

                                                                                      The years from 1979 to 1989 saw the return of stagnation in black relative incomes. Part of this stagnation may reflect the reversal of the shifts in wage distribution that occurred during the 1940s. In the late 1970s and especially in the 1980s, the US wage distribution grew more unequal. Individuals with less education, particularly those with no college education, saw their pay decline relative to the better-educated. Workers in blue-collar manufacturing jobs were particularly hard hit. The concentration of black workers, especially black men, in these categories meant that their pay suffered relative to that of whites. Another possible factor in the stagnation of black relative pay in the 1980s was weakened enforcement of antidiscrimination policies at this time.

                                                                                      ~

                                                                                      You made a cutesy little comment and are just being told “Hey, it’s more complicated than you’re representing”. Try to elevate the level of discourse instead of playing to the crowds.

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                                                                                        As I clarified, I was referring to the statement that economic inequality was low, which is true if and only if you are comparing across uniform demographics. I made no statements regarding increased wages across the board.

                                                                                        Try to argue to the point instead of feeling butt-hurt that someone suggested there are structural inequalities that benefited white men more than anyone else.

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                                                                                          However, economic inequality was lower in the 1950s to ‘60s. It’s a well-studied fact. You can debate social inequality, which is subjective and qualitative to a large degree, but economic inequality is numerical. Measured by the Gini coefficient, we’re at a level of inequality that we haven’t seen since the 1920s. Look here for some data on it. For example, in 1964, the 0.1% had 2% of the national gross income, whereas now it’s 8.8% (or 88x an equal share).

                                                                                          The only measure on which we seem to be doing better is the poverty rate, but that’s largely because the official poverty line is rarely moved (it would be politically disadvantageous, just as including discouraged workers and the prison population in unemployment statistics would make this country look like a shitshow).

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                                                                                            Fair!

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                                                                                            As I clarified, I was referring to the statement that economic inequality was low, which is true if and only if you are comparing across uniform demographics. I made no statements regarding increased wages across the board.

                                                                                            Your original post–the one I replied to–lumped in several distinct statements.

                                                                                            Try to argue to the point instead of feeling butt-hurt that someone suggested there are structural inequalities that benefited white men more than anyone else.

                                                                                            I did–you’re the one who has failed to bring any evidence into this. I’m not “butt-hurt” that you are asserting white males enjoy a structural advantage: I’m annoyed that you didn’t substantiate your point.

                                                                                            There are lots of structural inequalities that you should be able to point to–use some numbers, reference some papers.

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                                                                                    What I think we have here is a case of the body snatchers. Will the real Michael please stand up?

                                                                                    You know full well that when you say something was good at any time you must qualify with ‘for whom’. I implied that for the majority of people capitalism was NEVER good. Yes, was it good for millions of white American men in the 50s? Sure. My message does not contest this.

                                                                                    Not sure why you want to defend Capitalism for that tiny minority of people. You also do realize critics of Capitalism called the Soviet Union a state capitalist system. To the average worker , working at an America firm is indistinguishable from a Soviet one in all the important ways.

                                                                                    Now in regards to Free Software, I didn’t say it was a big penance. Thinking more about it I would say Venture Communism as stated by Dmytri Kleiner is a better approach.

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                                                                                      Whether industrial capitalism is good is somewhat of a value judgment. I think we can agree that it was morally better to the slave-powered economy and that preceded it. I would also argue that, for a time, it worked. We had 4-6 percent annual economic growth (3 times more than is normal today) in the 1940s-70s. Whatever one thinks of an economic system, the fact is that it did produce wealth. I think it’s also clear that capitalism is ceasing to work well and that we may have to move to something else. Certainly, it will look more like welfare-state socialism as see in Scandinavia than the psychotic, mean-spirited capitalism of the U.S. circa 2017.

                                                                                      At my core, I’m a pragmatist. There was a time when industrial capitalism, despite its flaws, worked very well. It is now working very poorly and probably needs to be replaced.

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                                                                                        I would just like to clarify your value judgement here. When you say it “worked” in the 1940s-1970s you are specifically talking about the USA and white men right? You are certainly not talking about the child laborers that mined the ore for minerals in Africa? The important thing to keep in mind is that all systems have global consequence now and even then. Also important to note is that there are many different modes of production happening at the same time. While there was some capitalism in th 1940s-70s USA, there was also some socialism, some communism, some welfare state. They worked at various levels and fed off one another. The reason the capitalism computer explosion happened in the 80s was built on huge government funded research and expenditure in prior decades.

                                                                                        So there is no totality of Capitalism then and even now. It was a interplay of many many systems. There is no ROOT cause for why “capitalism” worked then and doesn’t work now. We live in a complex adaptive system.

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                                                                                          When you say it “worked” in the 1940s-1970s you are specifically talking about the USA and white men right?

                                                                                          More than that. The US prospered, but US prosperity allowed us to rebuild Europe and Japan (Marshall Plan) and make the world more peaceful in general.

                                                                                          The reason Eastern Europe is poor and Western Europe is rich is the Marshall Plan. If the US hadn’t rebuilt W. Europe and Japan, they’d still be poor. We did this because the punitive handling of Germany after World War I led to Hitler and we didn’t want to see that again. After that mistake, we realized that our enemies were governments, not countries, and that rebuilding our formal adversaries was a way to prevent them from going bad in the future.

                                                                                          I don’t love capitalism. Pure capitalism is atrocious. However, I think it’s important to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Restrained capitalism seems to be better than command-economy socialism, as the latter has failed every time.

                                                                                          While there was some capitalism in th 1940s-70s USA, there was also some socialism, some communism, some welfare state.

                                                                                          Absolutely. Pure capitalism is bad, no question. Capitalism when tempered with 30-50% socialism (and the proportion of socialism that we’ll need will increase, as technological unemployment mounts) is much more humane and also works better. Pure capitalism will never fund the R&D that you absolutely need if you want to get back to 4-6% economic growth instead of the shitty 1-2% we’ve got going on now.

                                                                                          The reason the capitalism computer explosion happened in the 80s was built on huge government funded research and expenditure in prior decades.

                                                                                          100 percent correct. And the lack of research funding (and the attendant three decades of low economic growth) is the main reason why this country is going into decline.

                                                                                          So there is no totality of Capitalism then and even now. It was a interplay of many many systems. There is no ROOT cause for why “capitalism” worked then and doesn’t work now.

                                                                                          I can agree with that.

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                                                                                            Restrained capitalism seems to be better than command-economy socialism, as the latter has failed every time.

                                                                                            I think I found the source of our disagreement. It is often that people use the term capitalism to mean free market and private ownership. I mean it as a select few owning the means of production. The way Marx meant it. To me capitalism IS command and control.

                                                                                            If you look at most capitalist corporations, they are command and control. Tiny fiefdoms. I suspect when you say capitalism you mean private ownership and markets.

                                                                                            I guess I am using the term as it meant by the people who coined it. A derogatory term to hark back to feudal times.

                                                                                            In other words as you move from the spectrum of Capitalism->Socialism->Communism you move from command and control to democratic to social ownership.

                                                                                            This is why it is perfectly sane to me to call the Soviet Union state capitalism. Because the social relations are capitalist in nature (in other words, few own the means of production).

                                                                                            When you think communism you think command and control. When I think communism, I think everyone owning their production. When you think capitalism, you think markets and private ownership. When I think capitalism, I think command and control.

                                                                                            In other words, if you take the idea of capital ownership to the extreme, where everyone is their own company and own their own production, that’s communism to me. Oh and of course communism doesn’t even have money, because money is another command and control tool created by the state. And communism is stateless.

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                                                                                  It might depend on your definition of bad guy, but there is plenty of programming work in government that does good things and is even with good team. There’s the weather, or managing fisheries, or sending stuff to space, or any number of things, really.

                                                                                  I mean, they aren’t hiring, and a lot of the programming jobs are contracted out or involve the DOD or NSA, but when hiring starts up again they’re out there. Lots of social good happening via government

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                                                                                    Refactoring an email batch job to run as a daemon