Linkdump for November 12th through December 19th

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between November 12th and December 19th.

Sometime between November 12th and December 19th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • Toxic Masculinity Is the True Villain of Star Wars: The Last Jedi: SPOILERS: “Poe's character, while not one of the main protagonists, has even more to do in The Last Jedi. However, while he may be filling the role of the dashing pilot that Han did in the Original Trilogy, director Rian Johnson is using the archetype to say something completely different about heroism, leadership, and—perhaps most importantly—masculinity.”
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi Offers the Harsh Condemnation of Mansplaining We Need in 2017: SPOILERS: “Any female boss in 2017 or American still nursing the hangover of the 2016 presidential election can tell you that even nice guys often have trouble taking orders from women.”
  • Star Wars, the Generations: SPOILERS: “Great movies reflect an era through the eyes of artists who embody that era. George Lucas embodied the era of Baby Boom ‘destiny’ and self-conceit. Rian Johnson embodies our era of diminished heroism, cynicism and near despair– tempered by the hope, if we can but learn from our heroes’ mistakes, that somehow, some way, some day, we may yet restore balance to the Force.”
  • Rian Johnson Confirms The Dorkiest Reference In ‘The Last Jedi’: SPOILERS: “There is a dorky reference in Star Wars: The Last Jedi that even director Rian Johnson admits that you may have to be of a certain age to get – thanks to a narrow window where you might have been watching premium cable in the very early ‘80s when this bizarre little short film would air in-between feature-length films.”
  • Rian Johnson Says There Are No Twists, Only Honest Choices: SPOILERS: “It seemed completely honest to me. It seems like the most dramatic version of that. And that’s what you’re supposed to do. Find what the honest moment would be, and then find the most dramatic version of it. So, in terms of the big ‘twists’ in the movie, they sprung from a process of trying to follow where these characters would go as honestly as possible.”
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi humanizes the Force: SPOILERS: This was one of my favorite things about The Last Jedi. To my mind, a very smart direction to take things.
  • Did You Catch the Brazil Reference in Star Wars: The Last Jedi?:
  • ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Redeems the Prequels: SPOILERS: “One of the many reasons I love Star Wars: The Last Jedi is that it redeems the prequels. … It recontextualizes the prequels and reinforces what I loved about them.”
  • Pro-Neutrality, Anti-Title II: Interesting argument that the likely change to ISP regulations — the 'net neutrality' debate — may not be quite the horrid thing it appears to be. Worth thinking over. "The question at hand, though, is what is the best way to achieve net neutrality? To believe that Chairman Pai is right is not to be against net neutrality; rather, it is to believe that the FCC’s 2015 approach was mistaken."
  • Keyboard Maestro 8.0.4: Work Faster with Macros for macOS: Saving for me to remember and look into when I have more time.
  • The Amazons’ New Clothes: “The Wonder Woman designs received acclaim from fans and costume fanatics alike. They were clearly inspired by the Amazon’s origins in the Mediterranean and were feminine but very functional. Why mess with perfection? Oh, right. The all-male team of directors and executive directors wanted women to fight in bikinis.”

See Something? Check Snopes!

So here’s a little contribution I made to the world today, after seeing yet another Facebook friend sharing yet another easily disproven bit of misinformation.

So here’s a little contribution I made to the world today, after seeing yet another Facebook friend sharing yet another easily disproven bit of misinformation:

If you see something, CHECK SNOPES FIRST.

Please: Steal this image. Re-post it. Share it with your friends (you know the ones). Post it as a comment when they post whatever hoax comes around next. Get it out there.

Over and over, I see people–who in other situations seem to have at least two brain cells to rub together–sharing and reposting images on Facebook that are absolute junk. In most cases, disproving the information is as simple as googling “snopes” plus a couple keywords from the text. For instance, the image of a bunch of soda cans that talks about how someone died after drinking from a can that had been contaminated by rat urine? Yeah, that’s false, and not only is that link is the top result after searching for “snopes can rat urine“, but every other link on the Google results page is to a page debunking the information.

This stuff is not hard to find. The problem is, even the couple clicks and few words of typing are more work than simply clicking “share” on Facebook, and so when people see these things, their brains just seem to disengage. After all, it could be true…right? Well, no, not usually, but it gets shared anyway.

So, in a fit of pique, I created the image above (based off the “See Something Say Something campaign), and have now posted it publicly to Facebook, Google+, and this blog. It’s my (sure to be unrealized) hope that this image will get shared and, just perhaps, prompt a few people to actually put some small effort into thinking about what they’re posting.

Yeah, I know. Unlikely. But it’s worth a shot.

A Real First-Class News Experience

Now, I’m not a die-hard ‘information wants to be free’ crusader, and I really don’t have a problem with paying a reasonable fee for media that I’m interested in. However, I do want to be able to _use_ the information that I pay for, and a specialized system is _not_ something I’m willing to pay for. Give me text on a webpage, RSS feeds for my newsreader…information I can _use_, not something that locks it away.

From Business Class: Freemium for News?:

I had a perspective changing talk on the subject of pay walls with the chief executive of a big publishing company…. He asked me what I think about pay walls. I told him what I always say: The main currency of news sites is attention and not dollars and that I believe that it is his job, as a publisher, to turn that attention into money to keep the attention machine running. He nodded and made the following, astonishing statement:

I can’t see pay walls working out either. But we need to do something before we lose all of our current subscribers. Sure. It’s a tough business environment, but… But the flight industry is a tough environment too, and they found ways. So tell me: Why do people fly Business Class? In the end, an airplane brings me to the same place regardless of whether I fly Economy or Business Class and the massive price-increase I pay doesn’t compare the difference in value.

People pay for Business Class because they don’t want to be tortured in Economy. They get faster lanes at the terror check. They get an extra glass of champagne. The stewards are more attentive. They get off the plane more quickly. They get the feeling of a higher social status.

He asked whether I knew of a way to apply this logic to online news. What would a Business Class news site look like?

Good stuff here. Since moving to Ellensburg, I’ve been frustrated with my lack of online access to local news. The one local paper is the Ellensburg Daily Record, which only posts a (very) limited number of stories on its website. If you want access to the full paper without subscribing to the dead-tree edition, they offer $5/month access to the full edition. However, from what I can tell, it’s presented in a specialized, locked-down format similar to a fancy .pdf file, through the Active Paper Daily service.

Now, I’m not a die-hard “information wants to be free” crusader, and I really don’t have a problem with paying a reasonable fee for media that I’m interested in. However, I do want to be able to use the information that I pay for, and a specialized browser system like Active Paper, which presents an “exact replica of [the] print edition”, which forces me to “browse through the pages just as if [I] had the newspaper in [my] hands”, is not something I’m willing to pay for. Give me text on a webpage, RSS feeds for my newsreader…information I can use, not something that locks it away.

If the Daily Record (along with many other news sites) were to move to the “Business Class” idea as proposed in the linked article, I’d find a subscription fee for access to a better-presented, ad-free (or ad-light) version of the site entirely reasonable. Let them slap as many ads as they want on the free version of the site, break their stories into as many pages as they want to increase click counts and ad impressions for the free readers, but give me the ability to subscribe to a premium version without all the crap. That’s a model for news sites I’d love to see gain traction.

My First and Only Online Handle

I’m actually kind of lucky in this respect. I’ve only ever used one online handle, and while I’ve deprecated it a bit these days in favor of my real name, I still actively use it as a login name and occasional identifier. Most anyone who’s interacted with me online for any appreciable amount of time will recognize my online alias of djwudi.

From The Eternal Shame of Your First Online Handle:

Those of us who came of age alongside AOL must contend with something even more incriminating than a lifelong Google profile: A trail of discarded online aliases, each a distillation of how we viewed ourselves and our place in the world at the time of sign-on. The dawn of the Internet was an open invitation to free ourselves from the names our parents gave us and forge self-made identities divorced from our reputations IRL.

(via kottke)

I’m actually kind of lucky in this respect. I’ve only ever used one online handle, and while I’ve deprecated it a bit these days in favor of my real name, I still actively use it as a login name and occasional identifier. Most anyone who’s interacted with me online for any appreciable amount of time will recognize my online alias of djwudi.

A long time ago (though not in a galaxy far, far away), I was over at my friend Royce‘s house when his dad remarked that I “looked like a young Woody Allen.”

For a time, this little nugget of trivia was known only to Royce’s family and my own. At some point during my later high school years, though, a few things (namely, frustration at their being so many other Michaels in my age group, and a teenage-angst fueled desire to be “someone else”) led to my deciding to adopt the nickname of “Woody” full-time. It started with the yearbook and theater crew (both of which I was very involved with), and began to spread from there.

In the post-graduation years, I used “Woody” almost exclusively, in the social world and at my jobs. It wasn’t long before there were more people who knew me by “Woody” than by Michael.

Round about 1992 or so, the Anchorage alternative scene was somewhat in hibernation, especially for those under 21. I talked my way into a DJ spot at one club, then moved on to another, and then another, eventually spending around eight years DJing alternative/goth/industrial/retro/anything-but-pop for the Anchorage scene. My “DJ name” was obvious: DJ Woody, or, depending on how I felt when writing it out on flyers, DJ Wüdi, playing off Royce’s pseudo-Germanic version of my nickname.

The DJing eventually moved on into past tense rather than present, but as the world of the Internet grew, I soon found that short, unique names were both desirable and valuable, and that smooshing everything together into “djwudi” produced a string that, to date and to my knowledge, has not been used by anyone other than myself.

As the years have gone by, I’ve returned to using my given name in the real world and online, but I still claim djwudi on any site I sign up for.

Twitter’s Weird Email Search: Not Findable, Except That They Are

Is this a bug? A feature? A privacy concern? Or is there something that I’m just not grokking, and this actually makes perfect sense and is how things should work?

While killing time the other day, I ran into a weird little “feature” on Twitter that, I have to admit, I don’t entirely understand.

Twitter's FInd FriendsAs part of their new interface, there’s a tab at the top titled “Who to Follow”, when then has a tab called “Find Friends” that allows you to hook into your Gmail (or Yahoo, MSN/Hotmail, AOL, or LinkedIn) address book to discover people that you might not know are already on Twitter. So far, so good.

So, I pop my email address in, authorize with Gmail, and let Twitter think for a moment. After a moment of thinking, I get a long list of Twitter accounts that are associated with the email addresses in my address book (most of which I was already following). Once again, so far so good — this is all what I would expect to have happen.

But as I scrolled down, things got a little more odd. I started getting hits for a bunch of people with the cryptic message, “This person is on Twitter, but isn’t yet findable by email. Let them know you’d like to follow them.” When I clicked the “Follow” button on a few of those entries, Twitter kindly let me know that it had sent a message to let them know I was interested in following them.

Not Findable?

This morning, I got a note from one of the people behind those accounts letting me know that that account was unused. They were kind enough to forward the message that Twitter sends, however:

On Jan 28, 2011 11:13 PM, “Twitter” discover-wrejneera=tznvy.pbz-5591e@postmaster.twitter.com wrote:

Michael Hanscom (@djwudi) would like to follow your tweets (@—–) on Twitter.

Michael Hanscom knows your email address: @—–@—–.com. But Twitter can’t suggest you to users like Michael Hanscom because your account (@—–) isn’t configured to let users find you if they know your email address.

So here’s what I don’t understand. These accounts are set to hide their email address, and to not be searchable by email address. This is even mentioned twice, once in the listing after Twitter read through my address book, and again in the email sent out after I hit the “Follow” button. However, that’s exactly how I found the accounts: by their email address.

Sure, Twitter isn’t showing me the account name, so I can’t follow directly. Instead, I have to send a request, and the account owner then has to approve (or disapprove) the request. It does, however, let me know that there is a Twitter account associated with that email address…which seems to run counter to the intent of the account owners who have set their accounts to not be findable by email address.

Is this a bug? A feature? A privacy concern? Or is there something that I’m just not grokking, and this actually makes perfect sense and is how things should work?

Anybody want to toss their two cents in the ring (yes, mixed metaphor, I know)?

Drama-Free Facebook

Leave it to the kids to figure out how to make Facebook as safe, secure, and drama-free as possible.

Leave it to the kids to figure out how to make Facebook as safe, secure, and drama-free as possible.

From danah boyd | apophenia » Risk Reduction Strategies on Facebook:

Mikalah uses Facebook but when she goes to log out, she deactivates her Facebook account. She knows that this doesn’t delete the account – that’s the point. She knows that when she logs back in, she’ll be able to reactivate the account and have all of her friend connections back. But when she’s not logged in, no one can post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content. But when she’s logged in, they can do all of that. And she can delete anything that she doesn’t like. Michael Ducker calls this practice “super-logoff” when he noticed a group of gay male adults doing the exact same thing.

[…]

Shamika doesn’t deactivate her Facebook profile but she does delete every wall message, status update, and Like shortly after it’s posted. She’ll post a status update and leave it there until she’s ready to post the next one or until she’s done with it. Then she’ll delete it from her profile. When she’s done reading a friend’s comment on her page, she’ll delete it. She’ll leave a Like up for a few days for her friends to see and then delete it. When I asked her why she was deleting this content, she looked at me incredulously and told me “too much drama.” Pushing further, she talked about how people were nosy and it was too easy to get into trouble for the things you wrote a while back that you couldn’t even remember posting let alone remember what it was all about. It was better to keep everything clean and in the moment. If it’s relevant now, it belongs on Facebook, but the old stuff is no longer relevant so it doesn’t belong on Facebook.

(via Waxy)

Interesting approaches, and I don’t think I would have thought of either. Well, I might have thought of the second, but I babble enough that it would be far too much trouble to bother with (and besides, the majority of what goes on Facebook also goes to Twitter and my blog, so there wouldn’t be much point).

RockMelt

I’m not entirely sure how often I’ll use it (do I really need a specialized social media browser?), but I’m at least interested in the idea.

From First Look at RockMelt, a Browser Built For Facebook Freaks | Webmonkey | Wired.com:

We’ve seen browsers custom-built for the social web before, most notably Flock, which launched as a MySpaced-up version of Firefox. Mozilla experimented with Ubiquity, an in-browser tool for posting to different social sites and interacting with web services. There are a number of add-ons that can embed social networking dashboards into the browser for you. These tools have grown in popularity as we’ve struggled to manage the ever-increasing flow of links, media and bits shared by our online friends.

So, the idea isn’t original. And RockMelt doesn’t sport a complete re-invention of the browser interface, either. But it is very streamlined, and there are some key elements that people who live and breathe the social web will find intriguing.

(via Wired)

Interesting. I’ve signed up to get a look at it, since I’m pretty constantly on both Facebook and Twitter. I’m not entirely sure how often I’ll use it (do I really need a specialized social media browser?), but I’m at least interested in the idea.

Regarding Facebook

‘Facebook should not be a timesink where you slowly drown in all the half-remembered named of your youth. It’s a community like any other. What makes it great is that you control every member of your own community.’

A nice analysis of how Facebook works best:

Yeah, [Facebook] sucks ass if you use it wrong. Don’t do that. Keep connected only to people who are active, intelligent participants on the site; jettison everybody else. Facebook friends are not real life friends. You can unfriend somebody and keep their number in your phone. That’s allowed. Then, pursue lofty ambitions….

Facebook should not be a timesink where you slowly drown in all the half-remembered named of your youth. It’s a community like any other. What makes it great is that you control every member of your own community. Don’t like a contributor? Kick them out! And you’re left with a customized circle of the most wonderful people ever. (This works unless you don’t know any wonderful people.)

Rory Marinich

Lazyweb: Automated Crowdsourcing of Website Uptime/Downtime Tracking

Scan the tweetstream for variations on the types of posts people make when a service is showing signs of problems, display a regularly updated page showing statistics on problem reports for various websites and services.

Last night, Prairie and I were watching Bones on Netflix’s streaming service when Netflix suddenly stopped responding. In order to find out if there were service-wide problems, my first step was to turn to Twitter to see if there were any other people reporting problems — and as it turns out, there were. Reassured that it was a Netflix issue, and not something going wrong with my setup, we popped in a DVD until people on Twitter started reporting that things were working again.

It seems that using Twitter is becoming a more and more common way to get a quick handle on whether a particular website is having issues. This started me thinking about a website that could act as a simple, centralized tracker of uptime/downtime reports, gathered from real-time scanning of the Tweetstream. I don’t have the coding chops to do this, so I’m tossing the idea out to the Lazyweb in case anyone else wants to run with it.

The basic idea seems simple enough: scan the tweetstream for variations on the types of posts people make when a service is showing signs of problems. Basic search strings would be something along the lines of “* is [down|broken]” and “is * [down|broken]“. Anytime a hit is made on the search string, an entry is made in the database with the reported problem site and whatever might be considered relevant data from the source tweet (the tweet text, time/datestamp, perhaps even geolocation data for those tweets that are carrying it). Tracking reports of websites coming back online could be integrated as well, by watching strings such as “* is [back|up|back up|working]“.

The website would display a regularly updating display of downtime/uptime reports, one line per target website, with a series of stats indicating things like how recently the last problem or resolution tweet was recorded, the number of problem or resolution tweets found within the last 10, 30, or 60 minutes, perhaps a map showing geolocation markers that could indicate if downtime is widespread (indicating downtime at the website itself) or geographically targeted (indicating problems with a particular network, carrier, or ISP between the website and the Twitter users reporting problems), and whatever other data might be useful. It might be possible to use CSS to color-code lines depending upon variable such as the rate of problem tweets being found, too.

Anyway, that’s about as formed as the idea is in my head. If this sounds interesting to anyone else, feel free to grab the idea and run. If someone does build this based on this post, though, some mention or credit would be nice. ;)

No Olympics For Us

While it’s not quite to the point of being what I’d call a ‘boycott,’ it’s looking like the chances are extremely slim that we’re going to be watching much of this year’s Olympic coverage. We’d like to, but NBC has done a marvelous job of ensuring that we either _can’t_ watch, or when we can, we don’t want to.

While it’s not quite to the point of being what I’d call a “boycott,” it’s looking like the chances are extremely slim that we’re going to be watching much of this year’s Olympic coverage. We’d like to, but NBC has done a marvelous job of ensuring that we either can’t watch, or when we can, we don’t want to.

We just tried to watch some of this afternoon’s coverage. In the roughly fifteen minutes before we couldn’t take it any longer, we saw three commercial breaks, four talking heads (with audio lagging about a second behind the video feed), a bit of an interview with the first medalist from this year’s games, and eight-year-old footage from that same athlete’s first win in 2002. We listened to Bob Costas tell us that he was in Vancouver and that there were sports going on. We heard — again — about the accidental death on the luge track. We heard an interviewer ask an athlete “how he did it” after winning (um, he practiced his ass off, you idiot — why are sports interviewers always at the very bottom of the “stupid interview question” scale?).

What we didn’t see was any actual sports footage.

Oh, how I miss watching the last Summer Olympics on CBC, the Canadian network that Comcast carries locally. Their coverage was leagues better than anything NBC had: fewer inane talking heads (which can be interpreted as fewer talking heads overall or less inanity from the talking heads they had, either of which is an acceptable and correct reading); less “we’re the only country that matters” mentality; comprehensive coverage of all sorts of sports, even those that are less massively popular; and coverage that wasn’t constantly cut into with edits, updates, promises of what’s to come, and commercials (we spent one afternoon watching an entire marathon nearly commercial free, in part because we could, and in part because it was far more interesting than we’d ever realized, simply by virtue of actually being able to watch it). The realization that CBC wouldn’t be broadcasting the Olympics this year — and, further, that the Canadian network that got the contract isn’t viewable locally — was a sad one indeed.

Lately, we’ve been enjoying my new computer’s ability to watch streaming video sites like Hulu and Netflix, so I went to the NBC Olympics site to see what was available there. They’re posting a number of videos of stuff that has already happened, but prominently displayed on the main page is a live video stream (only active at particular times and for particular events, however). I click that, and am asked to tell NBC who my cable or Internet provider is. Apparently, NBC will only serve the live video to customers of certain other companies that they have contracts with. Annoying, but hey, Comcast is right near the top of the list, and we have Comcast cable, so we should be good.

After choosing Comcast, I get directed to a Comcast login page. I log in to Comcast, and they direct me back to the video stream…which tells me I’m not eligible. What? I go through the process again, and this time, work my way through until I discover that even though NBC has a contract with Comcast, and even though I’m a Comcast cable subscriber, I’m not the right kind of Comcast cable subscriber.

See, Prairie and I don’t watch a ton of TV, don’t see the need to pay ridiculous amounts of money for hundreds of channels we’ll never watch, and don’t even have a digital TV — both of our TVs are old, square, analog sets. So, there’s no reason for us to subscribe to digital cable, and we’re quite happy with our $15/month bare bones, completely basic, plug-the-cable-into-the-back-of-the-TV-set package (and honestly, we wouldn’t even bother with that if we got decent over-the-air reception with a digital receiver box, but OTA digital TV is essentially nonexistent in the Kent Valley). However, it appears that Comcast has decided that people like us don’t count, and is only sending the video streams to customers who subscribe to a digital cable package.

Crappy.

Out of curiosity, I took a look at Comcast’s website — and after poking around there, I think that digital cable prices might be one of the biggest arguments against upgrading our TVs until we absolutely have to (when they die, that is). Right now, we’re paying $15/month for a bare-bones package that serves us more than adequately — in fact, we only pay attention to about 7 of the 30-some channels that are part of the package, so there’s an argument to be made that even now, we’re over paying. If we were to upgrade to a digital cable package, the least expensive package available is $60 a month! Of course, what the website says is $30/month, but that’s only for the first six months. I can’t think of any reason why I’d want to quadruple what I’m currently paying so that I can have more crap that I’m not interested in piped into my home, no matter how pretty it is or how much of it has surround sound.

Further down the page, they mention a “Digital Economy Package,” apparently aimed at people like us, that actually is $30/month — but, of course, you can only get that if you also get your phone and/or internet through Comcast, which we don’t. So, once again, that’s not an option.

(Heading off counter-arguments: satellite TV isn’t an option, our apartment faces the wrong direction; and outlying the money for a HTPC/Media Center of some sort isn’t a realistic option for both budgetary reasons and that nagging little fact that we’re still using “old school” TV sets. I’ve got a very nice Sony TV set that’s only eight years old, and my parents have a Sony TV set that’s in its 30s and still working, so we may well not be upgrading our hardware for a long time to come.)

The end result of all of this? NBC can bite me, Comcast can bite me, and the Olympics — well, it’s not really their fault, but come on.