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  • Matt Groening still isn't listening. Apu is lovable. The problem is not political correctness, or people being offended, it's that Apu creates problems for Indian-Americans because there are so few South Asian characters on TV. Apu dominates. I'm sure the Simpsons and Groening didn't intend it, but it's happening just the same.
  • I love the Daily podcast, but it may be because I'm a neophyte in most of what they cover. When they cover Facebook, and other tech industry topics, they are the neophytes, and imho, they once again, imho, have missed the story in today's podcast.

    The story is Facebook's attempts to regulate the virality of lies. They're not trying to eliminate the lies, because as Zuckerberg states, we all make mistakes, and if they banned people or organizations that told lies, they'd be banning a lot of valuable interactions and people. Instead, when a story starts going viral, and if it's a lie, they tell the algorithm to ignore its popularity. To me, someone with some experience managing online communties, though not at the scale of Facebook, that seems to be a clever and wise solution.

    The Times reporter wants them to do more. He says Zuckerberg will have to use his power. He has no obligation to be fair, applying the standards of a western democracy to speech on Facebook. He could do what the NYT would like him to do, ban Infowars, Breitbart and Gateway Pundit, and keep the NYT and Washington Post. But this isn't what Facebook wants.

    What would happen if Facebook banned Infowars and Breitbart and other lie-spreading make-believe news orgs? They'd start their own Facebook. You might think it's not possible, but Facebook knows how many followers they have, and how hard the technology is. "Facebook is a business," Zuck said. And as a business he has to think about growth, and defending against potential competition.

    The last thing he wants is to give the right-wing infowarriors an excuse to move their users off Facebook and onto a right-wing-approved social network. I am sure that's coming, btw. I'm sure he's sure as well. And he wants to put that out as far in the distance as he can.

  • Andrew Sullivan explains, convincingly, that the idea of appealing to the conscience of Repubs is misguided. They've made it very clear that to the extent they have such things, they will have no influence on what they do. This piece is required reading, imho. And the business-as-usual approach of Bernie Sanders et al is unsupportable. We need to close ranks. Stop trying to optimize and just focus on getting the Repubs out of our government, asap.
  • If a Republican senator wanted to do something brave to call a timeout on the Trump presidency until some basic questions were answered, all they would have to do is this...

    Announce that they were voting against Kavanaugh and make sure everyone understood this is why. Then a few other Republican senators can join in, and then we'd have a bi-partisan discussion of the very minimum loyalty we insist on from a POTUS.

    Congress can act as representatives of the people. Never mind what they say to pollsters' questions. Imagine they knew how disloyal the president is. Act as a way of preventing the First Amendment being a suicide pact. Which is what's actually happening. Fox News has taken control of the political process, more than Trump, imho.

    Update: Andrew Sullivan explains, persuasively, why this won't happen.

  • MyWord Editor needed to be updated. 🚀
  • Yesterday: "Waiting for other people to save us isn't working."
  • I don't understand why the NYT would employ a tech reporter who isn't immersed in tech. The world is. Walk around any city if you doubt me. I haven't read many of his stories, but I would wonder if he's missing something important since he basically is one big blind spot when it comes to tech. I'm hoping the reporter who reported on the reporter was exaggerating, as they sometimes do. 💥
  • The Democrats have a new campaign slogan "For the people." It's close. But it betrays an attitude that separates you from us. Better to get down in there. Luckily there is a very American idea that fits. "We the people..." I'd leave the elipses in the expression to let memory remind us that we remember who we are.
  • BTW, I hope no networks are planning to televise Trump's military parade, but I suspect it's a lost cause. More free campaign coverage for Republicans.
  • Re exaggeration to feed our rage addiction -- a classic example. The president is considering whether to accept Putin's proposal to give Mueller access to the twelve GRU hackers in exchange for being given access to Ambassador McFaul and Bill Browder and a few others.

    This was a cause to set our hair on fire? It's a fantasy. It might happen in a few years if Trump is able to establish a dictatorship with no rule of law. No doubt he fantasizes about that, but it isn't happening now.

    Yet Maddow and McFaul and a hundred reporters we'd like to respect pretend that Trump could do this! Hah. He's having a meeting about it, says Maddow. The mood is somber. This is gross malpractice. She must know it's no threat, that someone in the meeting would ask Hey boss, how exactly do you plan to get McFaul to show up for this interrogation? That would be the end of the discussion. No judge would sign a subpoena. No cop would arrest him. What would the charge be? We have the rule of law in the US, and thank goodness it's holding.

    There is plenty to be upset about, but this is a cheap thrill. The liberal media is being every bit as bad as Fox News. Cut it out. We have minds, we're educated and we know when you're bullshitting. This is bullshit.

  • Look at how awful this thing is, and that. And we exaggerate to make things look worse than it is (more on that in a bit). In the meantime, what we were told would happen is happening. We're losing our will to act. We had great demonstrations around the inauguration. But that wasn't enough. Isn't enough. We have to be smart. Learn from the experience of Russia and Ukraine. What would the resistance there do differently if they had a do-over? We have a chance to look at our own future, and change direction. We keep missing chances. We have all the tools we need to make it work. But we have to risk, we have to be willing to sacrifice. Before it's too late. Because every day it's too late for what we could have done yesterday.

  • Poll: If you're an outliner user, do you know what hoisting is, and if so do you use it?
  • Imagine a guy floating down the Niagara River just before he goes over the falls, thinking "It's probably not too late. There are a bunch of Republicans in the observation area, all they have to do is reach out and grab me and I'll be OK."
  • Occam's News says the reason Trump is so deferential to Putin is that he is deeply in debt to Russian oligarchs. His problem isn't a pee tape, it's that Trump's wealth is Russian wealth. That fact is about to come out publicly, and Trump was afraid it would come out at the press conference, with the whole world watching with the cameras on his face. That's what they talked about privately, and that's why Putin had such a big grin. He has Trump's balls in a jar on his desk back in Moscow.
  • Earlier this month I wrote a piece about how Americans are like people who worked at Microsoft in the 90s. You can't separate the people from the group. In that sense, no matter whether you voted for Hillary or Jill or Bernie, or whether you marched with a pussy hat, or write angry tweets, if you're an American, you're complicit. Eventually you will be blamed for what America is doing, and that's fair and just.

    Truth is, Americans are lazy. How did we get this way? We let two wars be fought in the 2000s, with no draft, not only no wartime tax increase, but a tax cut. And we let the government get away with not showing the returning flag-draped coffins. We fought two wars in Asia (still are, btw) and you'd never know it at home. That imho is a crime. You shouldn't be able to fight a war without feeling a lot of pain.

    With that in mind, maybe we should be doing more than being outraged at why the Republicans don't act. Remember Gandhi said "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." In other words, in more American terms, stop waiting for other people to save your ass, risk some of your security for the greater good.

    Off the top of my head I thought of something we can do right now. Stop. Don't go to work for the rest of the week. Don't buy anything. Stay home, or go out and march. Stop the US economy. Make it clear what we want. Trump either resigns or the House impeaches him. There's plenty of time between now and Friday to do that.

    If we ground the economy to a stop that would make the world take note. Very likely the big companies would join the protest, and people around the world would join too. We fancy the US is the leader of the free world (obviously our president no longer is). How about a little of that famous leadership, from the people of the United States?

  • How to put this -- it's nice when a journalist or political figure correctly explains out how technology works. For example, Noah Smith, an opinion writer for Bloomberg, advises a columnist for the Washington Post that muting on Twitter is not a good idea, that blocking works better. I saw his post because it was RT'd by Brad DeLong, an economic historian at UC-Berkeley. I chimed in -- "You are right. They are trolling you, [and when you mute them] you just don't know it." And even if you block them, they can and do still go one-on-one with people who engage with you, and there are no tools on Twitter to stop that. But at least when you block them you keep them from broadcasting to everyone who follows you. Bottom-line: Block trolls, don't mute.
  • Poll: What will the GOP do about Trump?
  • To use his oven, he has to accept the terms and conditions.
  • Poll: What will we witness tomorrow when Trump and Putin hold their joint press conference?
  • Buster Keaton's philosophy: "I always want the audience to out-guess me, and then I double-cross them."
  • If you're a developer who works inside a news org, here's a plan for how to create a great set of whitelists of news that's trying to get it right. This is based on what I learned bootstrapping blogging and podcasting. The same ideas should work for journalism, at least as starting points. We have to work together, and not wait for the tech industry to do it, imho. We can do it. Programmers can save the world. (Not really exaggerating.)
  • New personal description on Twitter profile page. "American software developer, blogger, inventor of new media types."
  • Happy to report that an SQLite test app took about ten minutes to write and install. They make it sound like installing the native portion is some huge deal. It's not. I would share what I have so far, but I just followed the instructions on this page. They work, and the demo app works. I have an interesting project in mind, but first I have to learn more about SQLite to see if it's feasible. Still diggin. 🚀
  • Braintrust query: I'm thinking about using an SQL database in an Electron app. I want to bake the database software into the app. Looks like SQLite is the best option. Any other ideas?
  • Humiliated. That's the word for how the United States is.
  • As I wrote earlier this week, listening is hard. It's even more difficult when someone wants to report a problem. This comes up in all kinds of relationships, it even models software bug reporting.

    Here's a scenario. A person with a missing leg says "When you push me, I fall over and that hurts." Here's a list of possible responses, from best to worst.

    1. If you understand what they're saying, just say that, literally: "I understand what you're saying." If you don't understand, then say that, but only if you really don't understand.
    2. Don't defend yourself. For example "I didn't know you only had one leg," or "I didn't know if I push you you'll fall over." The person just wants to know you heard them. You're changing the topic to something about yourself. This leaves the question of whether you understood out there, unanswered.
    3. Don't argue. "The leg you say is missing is really just shorter than the other one, it's not actually missing." We're getting very far away from "I understand what you're saying."
    4. Even worse. "It never happened" or "I didn't push you over."
    5. Worst. "What about the time you said I was stupid."

    I'm sure you see the analogy to software bug reporting. We want to know that something went wrong, so we can fix it, and make the product work properly. Same thing in personal relationships. If you care about the other person, you want to know that something you're doing is trouble for them, so you can stop doing it. There really is no better way to show that you care for them than listening when it's especially hard to.

    Finally, why keep the response focused on the problem?

    1. It builds trust.
    2. It encourages the other person to report other problems, so the relationship can be further optimized.
    3. It makes for a happy family!
  • It seems to me AWS, with the combination of S3, Route 53 and the fact they have your credit card and shipping address, could turn HTTPS support into a checkbox.
  • Here's a timeline.

    1. Each news org should produce a list of news orgs they feel produce news that's not fake. Each should use whatever criteria they feel is right. Publish the list.
    2. Evolve the lists over time. This problem is not going to be solved overnight. The process will take years to sort out. In the process we will learn a lot. If it works, it will transform news to make it much more useful because it's online and not print.
    3. Techies, both companies and individuals, will build news products based on the feeds. For example, Facebook might offer a choice of news selected by different news orgs. An open source group could create software that flows Twitter-like news feeds from the lists.
    4. This will become competitive. Some pubs' lists will fall out, others will rise to the top. There will be surprises.
    5. Include blogs in the list, blogs that cover territory that you cover. For example, the NYT would include bloggers who cover neighborhoods. Tech pubs would include tech bloggers.
    6. Include your entire news flow in your list. Amazingly some news orgs do not have a comprehensive list of every news article they publish in reverse-chronologic order.
    7. You may choose to make your list a feature of your news site. You may also use other organizations lists as a feature on your news site.
    8. Let's discuss our experiences at a future-of-news conference. After a few months' experience we should be ready to learn from each other.
    9. This is not something tech companies can do for you. People whose work is producing news should come up with ideas for figuring out what is and isn't reliable news.
    10. The canonical "fake news" site, Infowars, will of course produce their own list of reliable feeds. Totally valid. People who want to be informed by them may choose to do so.
  • The hideous entity that walks among us as "Paul Manafort" slips on its human skin-suit for a quick mugshot.
  • One year ago today I introduced a feature that allowed me to include a post from Scripting News within another post. Here's the example, and the video demo. I wondered if I would use the feature. I haven't. But I forgot it was there, and forgot how it works. There's a CSS problem that's shown up, when I increased the size of the titles on the story pages. I'll fix that now.

    This is a test. Breakage fixed. I changed the way permalinks to stories work. If an item has subs it's rendered on its own page. The URL will be different, so it has to be parsed differently when setting up the xref node. So this points to a story on its own page, and I'm going to work on the code to detect this and properly compute the location of its corresponding JSON file.

    For the test above, the xref value is http://scripting.com/2018/07/09/143533.html

    The JSON derived from that URL should be http://scripting.com/items/2018/07/09/a143533.json

    This node is an xref. That means that in the OPML, it has an xref attribute, which is a link to a story on this blog. It's converted to the URL of a JSON file, which is then read, and included under this headline when it's expanded.

  • Follow-up to yesterday's addition. Here's why it's interesting to put the RSS in the GitHub repo. You can see what changed. Of course that's what River5 is for. But it's interesting to see it in GitHub. Like many things on the net, both GitHub and RSS are about "what changed."
  • After forcing a change to HTTPS, there are going to be other requirements. They'll try to eliminate fake news from the web as Facebook is trying (and failing) to eliminate it from their silo. That's the slippery slope they are starting down. They may not feel they have a lot to lose, but we do. Last year I wrote a piece about why I like to develop on the open web. If I get an idea for a feature, I can just do it. I could wait forever for Facebook, they don't listen to me (neither does Google) but I listen to me. I can do it without getting the approval of a big company -- that's the magic of an open platform. I will never give that up. I'd rather retire to Italy and make pottery and drink espresso and bubbly water. Grazie!

  • I did a bit more development work today on a project that stores stuff on GitHub as if it were a long-term place, a place to create a historic record. Of course I question that, I did when they were an independent company. Now that GitHub is owned by Microsoft, I still question it. Not sure if it's more or less likely to survive as-is for the indefinite future. Made me wonder what Microsoft could do to reassure developers, so we'd feel comfortable treating it as a permanent resource. Clearly that's in their interest. Microsoft has embraced open source, now I wonder if they have what it takes to be a leader.
  • Silent Movie GIFs is great. They show you tiny scenes from a silent movie, and then another and another, spaced out over hours. Here's a scene from the Buster Keaton movie One Week.
  • Most of the time I spend watching MSNBC is a waste, but yesterday there were two items that were important.

    1. On MTP Daily, an interview with Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD, carefully explaining how Trump still has the support of his constituents, but they don't like what he's doing with tariffs. I think this is a must-listen, a real milestone, imho.
    2. On The Beat, author Tony Schwartz, interviewed about the angry Trump baby blimp in London, said it's funny (it is!) but is far from where we should be focused. He says getting non-voters to vote is where our attention should be. Couldn't agree more. I want a system, where voters have buddies, like sponsors in a 12-step program, who they commit to voting, and they engage on Election Day and make sure they do. They escort them to the poll if necessary. We should have drills. What an incredible demonstration that would be. Far more powerful than a march. Think about it.
  • A Twitter account called Black and Proud addresses white people:

    • Please stop saying 'I don't see color.' Instead -- I see you and your struggle, because of your skin color. I will stand with you to end racism.

    I agree. Race is visible, and the statement that you don't see it is ludicrous. We see it. To say otherwise is to push it aside. I've written about this a few times before, once in an explainer about Black Lives Matter, and what it means, from a white person's perspective.

    I want to do more. I feel compelled, not just to make life safer and simpler for people of color, but also to put up a roadblock to racism, to let it know that it will encounter resistance. Some things are better kept under cover. Racism for sure is one of them.

    In the past I've proposed that we all wear Martin Luther King buttons. I felt his image was perfect because he's a black man, he preached non-violence, and was active, not passive, in his quest for equality and fairness. A white person wearing a MLK button makes a statement of equivalence. Treat me as you would treat a black person. If a majority of whites wore these buttons it would make a promise to our fellow citizens, that if there's trouble, we're standing with you. When there's trouble.

    It would be like Article 5 in NATO. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. As a white person I can't become black. But I can make a statement that I stand with people of color.

  • I'm now archiving the RSS file for Scripting News in the GitHub repo, every night, along with the content of the blog for the day (in JSON, OPML and HTML). It'll be interesting to be able to track the changes to the file over (knock wood) long periods of time. Here's the source of the app that does the uploading. It's proven to be very reliable. 💥
  • Development of the RSS format didn't peter out, it was frozen, so there could be as much interop as possible.
  • The problem for Jim Jordan, as far as I'm concerned, is I saw him cross-examine Rod Rosenstein. Just a couple of weeks ago. I know how corrupt his mind is. So matter how sincere he sounds I know his word means nothing. There is no honor in that man.
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