Your life as an algorithm

In an article titled FYI: Taking Into Account Time Spent on Stories, Facebook tells us about how they are trying to fit all of their users into one box. They take a one-size-fits-all approach to software design–as many do these days–and falsely seem to think that they can make a magic algorithm that will make everybody universally happy.

However, the more they fuck with the feed, the more people get mad. But Facebook market their chaos thus: “The goal of News Feed is to show you the content that matters to you.” No, it’s not. That is categorically a bald-faced lie. The goal of the news feed is to show content in such a fashion that will maximise their revenue.

Continue reading “Your life as an algorithm”

So how well are the TSA doing?

Back in 2012, Gallup released a poll that announced just over half of Americans were positive about the TSA. That, only being the opinions of regular people, needed to have a wee prod in the name of science. ABC News* reveals that the TSA keeps America safe 3 times in 70.

That’s despite having spent over $550 million in equipment and training since 2009–the last time they failed a review.

If these were the results of a child doing a school test, this would surely be indicative of a learning disability.

I think the only people that are truly sleeping well are the ones selling security scanner equipment. I imagine half a billion dollars in the bank buys a lot of peace of mind.

* Warning: Videos autoplay when you visit this site.

 

Was Blatter’s Resignation Thanks to John Oliver?

A few days ago I posted John Oliver’s video from last year talking about FIFA. Well, he did a follow-up, and coincidentally, the suggestions he made in the video have happened. Sepp Blatter has resigned, and the reasons I heard was from pressure from the advertisers. Of course, there is also speculation that he got word of authorities planning to arrest him.

Time will tell what the real reason is. But this is bloody hilarious and well worth the watch, even if you don’t care a whit about football or FIFA.

The Age of Anti-Privacy

Late 2014, Facebook were going through a phase of shutting down accounts of people using aliases, and this had followed a similar mission of Google’s in an attempt to bring sanity to the Youtube comment sections the year before. Google forced users of Youtube to have Google+ accounts before they could leave comments on Youtube videos. Google+ had a real name policy, and the company foolishly believed that people using their real names wouldn’t act like cocktards. Oh, how wrong they were. This was a complete failure and backfired on them badly, but even to this day, it has left a mess of people’s accounts.

Those who had separate GMail accounts and Youtube accounts found that they were having problems posting comments, even to their own videos on their own channels because of this uberfailboat. Content producers on Youtube couldn’t understand why they even needed Google+ accounts, and many of them were not technically savvy enough to wade their way through the confusing process Google had foisted on them.

Continue reading “The Age of Anti-Privacy”

Are Parking Wardens Really Evil?

An article on Stuff about talking about parking wardens in Wellington city, and indicating that they are being given quotas of 3 tickets per hour that they “have to issue”.

Let’s look at this objectively, and I say this as someone who just got a parking ticket last week (I’ll let you guess who was at fault–spoilers below).

First, I believe it’s reasonable for an employer to have some kind of performance metrics for their employees. When your employees are wandering around the streets all day and are not sitting in front of managers, team leaders, or other staff, how do you determine whether you’re getting your money’s worth? How do you stop them from spending half their day at a coffee shop, or in a video arcade, or just going home? A goodly number of people are useless bastards and if they can avoid doing work, while still getting their employers to pay them, then they’re golden. It’s a minority, sure, but those people ruin it for everyone else.

In this politically correct social climate we have to suffer, the useless bastards know that it’s hard work for an employer to fire them. It’s costly to train new people, and it’s an expensive process for employers. So if they can avoid it, and if they can find a blanket method of ensuring staff are pulling their weight, they’re surely going to favour that.

Second, I believe these metrics are probably based on what should reasonably be expected for a day’s work. I’m fairly confident that the reason those numbers are where they are, boil down to the fact that most people are self-centred, entitled wankers and can’t seem to grasp why laws should apply to them.

At one of my previous workplaces, we had carparks at the back of the building which were 24×7 tow-away areas. We had staff that were on call who needed space to park in for after-hours work. Which were quite regular. One Sunday I had a prat of an old lady park there while she did her shopping. There were signs up clear as day–even for those with poor sight–that it was a 24×7 private park. Yet here she was, figuring that because it was Sunday and she was old that she had a moral right to park there. She arrived just as the tow truck driver did, so I let her fight it out with him.

It’s not just the youth who have a skewed sense of entitlement. Perhaps she was more upset that she had been caught, or perhaps she was mad because she was going to be late to bingo–I don’t know. But she was unjustifiably ropable.

If we have parking wardens going all over the city and we can expect each of them to give out a minimum of 24 tickets a day, then I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s because too many people are parking illegally.

As I mentioned earlier, I got a ticket last week. We have some carparks behind work, one side is all day free (which fill up very early), and the other has a 2 hour time limit. I got in a bit late and couldn’t be arsed parking down the next block where there are more free all-day parks. I figured I’d be out within the two hours and that I’d move the car then, but I figured wrong. I got stuck in a longer meeting than normal, and then had to go take a shit, so did all that first. And when I got to the car, I had been ticketed. Congrats to me, I’m a lazy dummy. Was it the damn parking warden’s fault that I had parked illegally? No. In fact, she was still there giving out other tickets to lazy dummies, so I wished her a good day and moved my car.

Accept your ticket with some fucking grace and use that as a lesson.

It’s the same as speeding tickets. It’s not revenue gathering because they’d get no revenue if people didn’t speed. That’s how you can get them where you think it’ll hurt–stick to the speed limit, or read the posted signs that tell you how long you can park and they won’t be able to gather any revenue off you ever again.

How is that a fucking complex mathematical equation?

Western Media Helping Disseminate ISIS Propaganda

There’s a great article on AlterNet explaining how the western media are doing more to help ISIS spread their propaganda than ISIS could on their own.

I think it’s true about the trolls being helped by morons, but why do modern media outlets do this? Are they actually pushing some agenda, or could this simply be explained by a desire in a digital age to be the first ones out with a story? The early bird catches the advertising dollar.

If sucking idiots into reading stupid shit wasn’t so lucrative, I’m fairly certain the major media outlets would stop doing it. Look at how over the last year or so, more and more sites use teaser headlines. You know the sort: “I thought it was a regular banana, but what she did with it next! I’m amazed!” or “It looked like a regular fluffy bunny. OMG! I can’t believe it!” Clickbait we call them. People will click on them because they must have their curiosity sated.

Traditionally, newspapers and other publishers are used to working in a different paradigm. They’ve been used to pushing information out to their audience, but now with the net, readers pull info and they do so from global sources. By that I mean that people aren’t restricted to one daily newspaper any more. With the Internet, we have the luxury of visiting several news sites all around the world. We select which channels we want to receive, whether those are visiting sites directly, or whether we are following RSS feeds, or twitter feeds, or Facebook pages, the list goes on.

The consumer pulls news from a variety of sources, and the most interesting headlines are what will attract the most eyeballs. It’s a competition. If you’re the first on the block publishing something juicy, you will get more viewers. People will see it early and in turn they will share through their channels. More eyeballs. More visitors to your site means you are earning more from advertising revenue. So it seems that it’s preferable to post an article with minimal fact checking and maximum hype as early as possible. You can always post an apology later. Which of course means a whole lot more visits to your page, both from apologists and from those trying to figure out how genuine you really are. All of whom generate revenue.

 

Ridiculing Stupid Beliefs – Does it work?

Fascinating article on the anti-vaxxer movement and how it should be ridiculed. I wonder why, as in the example of the KKK, this doesn’t work for religion in general. They have silly rituals, beliefs, and customs, yet ridiculing them often strengthens their individual beliefs. A default reaction seems to be playing the persecution card. The anti-vaxxer movement appears to be a lot like religion in that they honestly think they are protecting themselves and their children with their beliefs. That’s a hard thing to shake out of someone. They’ll get defensive, or they’ll form segregated communities.

In general people don’t really want truth and logic. They want their own beliefs enforced, which is why they form little clubs and cliques (from online forums to churches). The more retarded their beliefs, the more they appear to want re-enforcement. Of course, the natural extension of this zealotry is to force it on others because their way is now clearly the best way and they’ve got a whole lot of people confirming it.

This video from Penn and Teller really says it beautifully. But do people care? Continue reading “Ridiculing Stupid Beliefs – Does it work?”

Amazon vs Hachette

Never thought I’d admit this in public, but I agree with Amazon in this Amazon vs Hachette debate. EBOOKS ARE WAY TOO OVER-PRICED. Considering that there are no printing and distribution costs, and considering that you can’t just loan your ebook to friends, can’t read them for extended periods without having power nearby, can’t sell them to a second hand store once you’re done with them, you can’t use them for toilet paper, you can’t burn them to keep yourself warm, and you lose access to your entire bookshelf if you lose your device or it gets damaged until you can afford another. And even then, there have historically been issues with migrating some books between devices depending on the whim of the publishers. Or what if you’re sick of that type of device and move to something else? Or what if you’re sick of Amazon, and want to start buying from someone else? What happens to your old library?

Is there a difference between electronic and physical books? Does that change their value for you? It sure as shit does for me.

Whenever I buy an ebook I feel bad because should I ever want to lend it to someone, I can’t. My parents always taught me to share, but modern media publishers are doing their best to make that illegal. And all the while they’re crying poverty, they are fucking creaming it. With extra thick whipped cream topped with the ripest, most delicious cherries, and a side of Cadbury’s Flake (the crumbliest, flakiest milk chocolate in the woooorld).

With ebooks, you don’t own a product—you’re just licensing a reading copy. Seriously, if you don’t understand that last sentence, re-read it and let it sink in. This is only a little better than borrowing a copy from the library.

This makes their value to me very low. Anyone selling an ebook for almost the cost of a physical book can go jump on a cactus. Anyone selling an ebook for over $10 can go ahead and take off their pants before jumping on aforementioned cactus.

Basically, I’m of the opinion that Fuck Publishers. Fuck them in the eyehole. Traditional publishers are fucking dinosaurs (hence why I tend to call them Publishaurs), whether they be print, music, or movie publishers. In a modern world, they don’t add as much value as their percentage would otherwise indicate.

I feel bad about writers who are stuck in the middle, but my sympathy only goes so far. Many are stuck in the mindset that the publisher is necessary for distribution of content and marketing. They’re not. This is the 21st century, and anybody can self publish to a number of different sites with the click of a couple of buttons. You can even use Print On Demand and get people physical copies without any publisher involvement. And between social media sites like Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and blogs, marketing is easy. Sure, it resembles work, but if you’re not prepared to work for a living, then stop bitching about how hard life is.

I support self-published authors, cartoonists, bands, artists, and movie makers 110%, 150% if they go to the effort of producing a physical product. I’ve bought music from many bands, local and international, and I’m prepared to pay a little bit more if it’s self-published. Physical books are fewer and fewer these days, as I just don’t have the room for more of them in my house. So for them I’m shifting to digital. And I’m finding the majority overpriced. Even $7-8 I find too high in most cases, especially for books that are decades old, that the publishers have made more money from each format shift. And now with digital, these are just cream for the publishers. Yes, the authors will get their share too (hopefully), but the publishers have not done anything significant to warrant this extra income. For the shift to digital—especially for older work—the publishers should be reducing the prices and giving the bulk of the revenue to the writers. What’s even better for the publishers is that they will have dozens or hundreds of titles listed, and will be making a good percentage off all of them, while the authors may only have a handful each at best.

If you want to publish something—anything—then go ask Google how to do it. You can sell it for cheaper, and you get to keep all the money, not give it out to people who are rich at your expense.

Or ask me, and I’ll exploit you for a far smaller percentage.

TLS and Not-Security

So there’s a really bad post on Ars Technica about TLS and email. Apparently TLS makes everyone more secure and increases everyone’s privacy.

Uh, no.

TLS encrypts the authentication and the connection so that your authentication details aren’t sniffed. This is especially important if you’re on an open network or using wifi.

But once it’s on the mail server, it’s sitting there in plain text.

TLS stands for TRANSPORT LAYER Security. That’s all it’s securing. The transport of your message to the one server you’re directly connected to. If they don’t use TLS at the other end to receive their mail, or if they are forwarding their mail to one or a dozen other offsite mailboxes, then it’s bought you nothing extra.

All you get with TLS is that people can’t sniff your password for that eighth of a second it takes you to connect to your mail server. That’s pretty much it.

Your shit password still needs changing though, because bruteforce password attempts on mail servers haven’t slowed down. And the odds of your password being your partner/pet/child’s name with an 01 appended to the end of it, are pretty high.

If you really want privacy and security, encrypt all your emails with PGP/GPG. Not just the sensitive ones, because you’re giving people a target. Encrypt everything. But PGP’s apparently too hard and most people refuse to take an extra step because of the inconvenience.

The Fraud of Facebook’s Censorship

This video is worth a watch:

It shows how Facebook are doing the same thing as dodgy click farmers. And this chap goes to some length of explaining that with Facebook’s policy of only showing content to 10-15% of subscribers, that paying for Likes actually results in less engagement with your core audience, because most of the people seeing your content are the click farmers who don’t even read it.

So it’s a scam. But the effects of it go deeper, because if I Like a page (I stick to very few, and mostly they’re band pages I care about so that I know when they’ve got releases or tours coming), then there’s an 85% chance that I won’t see their posts.

Which really makes it completely fucking useless, both to me as a consumer, and as a producer of content.

What’s the alternative? A webpage. A real webpage hosted on a webhosting platform, not as part of someone’s social network. Heck, even a page on Blogger or WordPress.com if you’re too cheap to pay for a website, or if you’re just doing it for fun.

Honestly, I think that RSS feeds are a far better way of consuming content — real content, not the friend interaction that Facebook started out as. With an RSS feed, I can subscribe to whatever content I want — and most CMS/blog software allows you to subscribe to articles and comments together or separately — and they can be categorised.

And best of all? Shit doesn’t get censored by a company hoping to cash in by defrauding people.