Tag Archives: internet

The usage and abusage of internet quotes

While watching Twitter like a crack addicted monkey for new reviews of The Pale King I noticed an often retweeted aphorism:

“Health is the greatest of all possessions; a pale cobbler is better than a sick king.”

Of course, pale doesn’t make any sense there, it’s a hale cobbler. “Pale cobbler” gets about 2,300 hits on Google, replace with hale, and you get three. On the other hand, the original quote is actually this:

“Health is the greatest of all possessions, and it is a maxim with me that a hale cobbler is a better man than a sick king”

Which gets you a healthy 11,220 hits on Google, and is attributed to 18th century Irish playwright Isaac Bickerstaffe. A further goog of Isaac Bickerstaff “pale cobbler” gets you only 173 people correctly attributing the incorrect quote.

The things I keep wondering about those first 2,000, and even more the 173 more learned attributers, is are they wondering what the heck the author meant by pale cobbler? And at what point on its putative growth curve will it pass the real quote, and become another “I could care less” aphoristic mind fuck?

This is the folk version of things like the medireview incident in the early 21st century, wherein a yahoo mail filter invented a new branch of historical academia that took a while to get caught and corrected. I suppose this has always happened, but in the age of the net it can happen and get corrected faster. I still wonder when enough of these, obviously enough laid along the paths of the net will get people to develop a healthy suspicion about the pale cobblers of the medireview when they come across them.

Privacy, Ephemerality, and Self @ Tedxsoma

I gave a talk on privacy on Friday for Tedxsoma. I deviated from my notes a great deal, as this was a new talk for me. But here’s my talk, as written:

In my reading of history, this is the first time we’ve had to deal with the issues around privacy and openness that we’re dealing with today. My work largely deals with human identity- by which I don’t mean your driver’s license or your website logins, I mean the stories you tell yourself and others about who you are, what matters to you, and consequently what you can and will do.

I don’t have answers. In fact, hopefully by the time I’m done with this talk you’ll have fewer answers than you have now, but your questions will be more interesting.

Often when we talk about these issues, we use the idea of private information and secrets interchangeably. They’re not the same thing. Secrecy is a technical implementation, and therefore approachable with technology and policy. Privacy is, and always has been, a social norm.

Secrets are mostly boring. When we talk about identity theft, we’re talking about people stealing secret numbers for the most part. No one steals your identity, not really. No one is going to start telling people that they have a love of manga but never really like their mother’s cooking because they stole an identity of someone who loves Akira but really can’t take any more of that meatloaf.

Privacy is different. It often has emotional content, and we share private information, we want to and need to, but we also want control over who sees it.

This is the epitome of a private, but not secret, event, the height of the social construction of privacy. It’s an AA meeting. There’s no security to ensure secrecy, but the promise of private camaraderie allows people to talk about incredibly personal things. In fact, any technical enforcement would be destructive to the complex private/social magic that makes something like AA possible.

But I found a picture of that meeting on the net. It’s the control of privacy which we’re losing right now. The net is architecturally incapable of respecting social norms. Its default behavior could largely be described as save everything, transmit upon request. It’s like we have the universe’s biggest Asperger’s peering over our shoulder remembering everything we do. The biggest loss of privacy the net visits on us is the loss of the fourth dimension of privacy, ephemerality. Our ability to forget is key to how we form our identities and change over time. Our ability to forget what someone has done is key to letting them change, and learning to trust them. The net doesn’t forget, and it doesn’t talk less about our past as we go through time. It remembers and keeps all our previous selves ready at all times.

Weirdly, there’s some great benefits to that. The power of positive affinity networking turns out to improve our quality of life so much that it’s worth losing privacy over. Our ways of building intimacy and trust are moving from the shared secret to time and attention, and to shared media. We are encouraged to open up more, and we see the edges of our homophilies- we’ve never seen that. We even have a growing idea that living in homophily might be bad for us and the human race. That very notion is about as strange and new as anything we built in the 20th century.

We all need to lie sometimes, even if it’s lies of omission. We all need to have our own business to mind, and to not mind other people’s. Minding your own business is the greatest social lubricant ever.

It’s arguable that every vulnerable population put into proximate danger by the loss of privacy might also have its vulnerability reduced over time by exposure. And in fact, that was my biggest hope about a society that loses privacy. I wanted to think that a world where everyone knew everyone’s business, what everyone had been and done, that would be a world in which tolerance was cognitively enforced, were we had to learn to get along with people different from us.

That’s what I want to be true about humans, but I don’t know about that anymore. Why I don’t think that doesn’t works can be well described by the no true scotsman fallacy, which goes like this: (Explanation of the No true Scotsman fallacy) Because of our ability to rationalize, which serves us so beautifully elsewhere, a society of transparency will never lead to a universal tolerance. It’s simply different when I do it than when you do, whatever it is.

—-

In 2007, partly in a fit of pique, I deleted myself off the internet. I took down my blog, deleted my Livejournal, canceled my Twitter account, made my old webpages non-readable, and with the exception of my Flickr account, I went dark. You could certainly google me, but you’d only really find other people talking about me, about things I’d done and said. I, myself, was a ghost in the internet archive.

When I did it I remember thinking, the grown up thing to do here is to sleep on it. But I didn’t want to, I had the energy and the will and I just wanted to do it before I lost the momentum. Some moments in life are like that. And when it was done, I felt like I could breathe deeper. I have never for a moment in the last three years regretted it.

I had been writing about my life online since 1994, when I put up my first webpage. I had gone through relationships, friendships, the death of my father, the birth of my daughter, the beginning of my marriage, and its end. A peripatetic career path that ranged from sys admin to school teacher to stand up comic. I took the net with me through it all, musing about love, technology, the people I met and the places I went. Lost dreams and high hopes.

When it went dark friends called to make sure I wasn’t going to kill myself. I told them I was fine, in some ways I felt better than I had in years.

I didn’t do it to reclaim what people normally seem to mean by privacy. I did it because my personal life had become a performance piece, and I didn’t want that much personal life anymore.

I did it out of a profound need to just be boring for a while. I had felt your eyes on me for years, and I had decided you could get your kicks elsewhere. I needed to be someone different. I have come to realize in the time since that I was doing the net’s best equivalent of moving away to start again. I was reclaiming the ephemeral in order to change the self. But I also did that at the cusp of it being possible- the privacy that time affords us is slipping away.

the room to grow and change hasn’t been common in human history. we have a model for the ephemeral and anonymous aspect of privacy diminished by small town life. There you are- consider the role of urban vs small town in modern and even somewhat in pre-modern life. Ee have a long standing story of going to the city to get the privacy we need to change as people. We go to the city to be anonymous, so no one knows about us and we aren’t tied to our past. It was even codified into the law about serfs in England at one point: a year and a day on the run unbound you from the land. That’s enabled a lot of great art and science in the time since we started having cities. But what if your small town is stapled to you forever, everywhere you go? Does that disrupt the velocity of culture? A friend of mine said to me the other day “everyone growing up in this society has a practical education in brand management.” I think that’s too much to ask of our children. I think that’s a bad new social norm.

I think maybe the better answer looks a little like personal space. We don’t enforce laws on when we’re allowed to touch each other. We learn and socially enforce that. And perhaps we need to learn not to ask questions we don’t want the answer to, so that we may give each other permission to be strange and grow and change with time.

Age of Excessions: Part Three, The brief, illegal life of the Scene.

“Everything that’s gone wrong in the news business went wrong first in the music business.” – Brooke Gladstone, On The Media

And before that, in the piracy business.

Create a new technology, and you invariably create a new culture with it. Every great invention of mankind is accompanied by fans, detractors, designers, bureaucrats, leaders, celebrities, and criminals. Computers alone weren’t enough to do this, but once they could talk to each other over phone lines, human roles began to coalesce around them. Computer criminals arose in the 80s, using PCs and modems to reach out and touch other computers.

Back in those paleointernet days, long before online piracy became something anyone could do, it was the exclusive realm of sophisticated users. Pirates, hackers, and phreakers were rarely solitary, stereotypes aside. They were vibrantly social among their own, creating a social system with all the normal features common to companies, governments, tribes, etc. Being an illegal underground, it went deliberately unnoticed as much as possible. It was the canary in the coal mine for what the internet could do to those institutions, but its death passed unnoticed and uninterpreted.

A very simple break down of the computer underground runs something like this: hackers, generally enabled by modems, got into computers they weren’t supposed to be in. Pirates made infringing copies of software, and often shared these around, again, by modem. The modems gave rise to a new form of criminal, focused on getting telephony resources without paying for them, called a phreaker. (Phreakers had an intrinsic fascination for Ma Bell that exceeded that purpose, but I’ll maintain most started phreaking after their first shocking phone bill.) Before long hackers and pirates often themselves became phreakers, to deal with both what could be huge phone bills and dangerous traceability. All of this intruding, copying, and messing with Ma Bell required a lot of social infrastructure. Within a few years the Scene was born, an underground community of people involved with illegal or unsanctioned computer or telephony activity.

Both “pirate” and “hacker” have changed meaning over time, and both of these terms have been reclaimed as points of pride. But the acts of pirates and hackers are, regardless of their inherent morality, generally illegal in some important jurisdiction. Hackers and pirates were not impressive additions to the criminal underworld. Most of them were people who had gotten interested in computers and just didn’t know or care that learning and doing more could slip quickly over the line of legality. Few of them saw themselves as criminals, they happened to break laws they saw as silly or insulting. Some of those laws were pretty silly, basic legislative misunderstandings of the technology that to this day prove incoherent when applied to sophisticated computer use.

I became involved with the piracy end of the Scene in 1995, after many of its key figures had been rounded up and jailed in the 1990 Operation Sundevil. My entré was down to dumb luck. I visited the house of a co-worker one evening. He and his friends were talking about something called God’s Realm, a successor to something called RIP. God’s Realm, it turned out, was the biggest piracy BBS in North America at the time. RIP was the board they’d run before, but when things got too hot with police they’d taken it down, waited a bit, and reinvented it. They were in piracy groups that competed to release mainly Windows software. The three groups I spent the bulk of my time over the next 18 months with were Razor 1911, PWA (Pirates with Attitudes), and DOD (Drink or Die). I met most of the people I would eventually interview on IRC.

Most of the pirates I met in that period were middle aged family men, with the exception of a couple younger guys that came up after Sundevil. I spent my time on IRC, lived with the pirates, and interviewed many of them. I openly took notes, so they taught me how to encrypt my notes. I found that the best way to learn about computer security and even lawbreaking was simply to ask and listen willingly. The Scene was mostly made up of people that didn’t see themselves as the bad guys, and were genuinely happy to have someone listen to their side of the story.

One of the younger guys (we’ll call him S) lived with God’s Realm in the house in front of an guest house I eventually rented a room in. He had a huge bundle of phone lines coming in, but they paid for themselves. S switched long distance carriers every few months without actually ever having an outgoing call, and the instant rebates covered the basic line costs with a few dollars to spare. The board was 15 nodes*, each node representing a phone line and a computer, with those computers networked together. The board boasted 80 gb of data- in 1995. It was an unfathomable amount of data back then. The majority of that 80gb was kept in tape backup. Only the index of the tapes and the most popular and newest downloads were kept live on the board, the rest you had to request and wait a week while the archivist got around to uploading it, so you could dial back in and download it over your modem. Some things required special access, for instance “cookies,” lists of credit card numbers used for long distance dialing, and stolen proprietary source code. I first saw the game Descent and Microsoft’s NT 3.51 in source code form. NT 3.51, I was told, had a check for the Utah teapot. If it saw the teapot running, it would turn off error checking, to deceive benchmark tests. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, and frankly, never had anyway to verify it anyhow, but I was shown the code where it supposedly happened.

God’s Realm was part of an ecosystem. It started with Suppliers, generally people who worked at software and game companies that snuck their software out to the Scene. Suppliers were carefully guarded resources. They usually got all-you-could-eat leech privileges on the boards, and didn’t spend too much time with the plebs on IRC. Their identities were hidden, often from everyone but the very heads of the groups. From Suppliers software was courried to the the Crackers, who used decompiling software like SoftICE to hack out the copy protections within hours. Only once did I get to see the SoftICE team work, three youngish guys huddled over their computers muttering to one another in some primitive, addled, and illegal version of pair programming. They were ripping bits out of games and rebuilding them, at the time trying to get the soundtrack to work after taking out the serial check. Once they were satisfied they passed it to a packager, it was approved by the leadership (who often, but not always, doubled as the packagers) and handed to couriers to spread to the BBSes like God’s Realm. From there the privileged and the lucky had access to huge stores of software in addition to those zero day warez. The process was focused on speed, but quality mattered too. A group would “win” on a title if their version got to a board first, but they could lose quickly too, if that version was buggy or broken. That would cost them download credits.

Couriers were the lowest rung of the ladder, and the most at risk. They used phreaking and carding to pay the enormous phone bills of passing data around the system of boards, and most of them weren’t very good at phreaking and carding. Couriers were the youngest, most likely to get caught, least in the loop people in the Scene. But even they had their legends, like a pair of twins known as the Thrust Brothers. They had two computers and four modems. They’d download from one board, hand the disks between them, and start uploading to the next without ever disconnecting.

There were people who maintained the channels of communication and coordination, those that recruited suppliers, people that acted as advocates, negotiators, spies, more roles than I ever fully understood. The scene had lawyers, landlords, archivists, and even me, their new pet amateur anthropologist.

The center of this social space, the boards, were becoming harder to justify. Everyone met up on IRC, communicated over email, increasingly worked for ISPs, web companies, or did networking for their real jobs. Running an FTP server was much easier than running a board. But most people didn’t want to move online; they complained that the net was more dangerous and less exclusive. And for the most part, that was the prevailing thought in the Scene. You joined an underground to be separate, and the net was the least separate thing in the world.

But it was so damn easy.

S, whose house played host to God’s Realm, got a job at a game company that was once quite famous, but has since gone out of business. At the time it was doing well out of a game called Descent. The local group of Razor 1911, of which he was a member, sat S down to tell him not to fuck this up. This was a good job, and winning on his company’s titles wasn’t worth risking it. But he was too tempted by the chance to win and gain status on popular game titles. Soon enough he bounced a large pgp file mailed from his work address to his outside email right after an internal release of the Descent 2 beta. No one had any doubts what was in the mail.

He was fired and escorted from the building. The next day he was asked to come down to the local PD for questioning, and brought along a scene lawyer. Somewhere in the course of questioning he was arrested, and the lawyer left and called the guys who ran God’s Realm to tell them to take down the board. The police had a warrant to search S’s house for the pgp key. The crew of God’s Realm swung into action to take the board down before the police got there, and destroy S’s key if they could find it. (Coincidentally, the whole 80 gig mess of tapes was in my car trunk that day, along with the archivist’s server.) Four or five people descended on S’s house and ripped up masses of computer equipment, carrying all of it to another house down the street, hoping like hell they wouldn’t be caught. The police arrive hours later, after the board had been destroyed and mourned. The police were looking for computers or a disk, what they found was a huge trunk of telephone lines terminating nowhere, and 15 square clean spots on the carpet. They were absolutely pissed, but totally powerless. They’d screwed up the investigation, and the guys got away with it.

There was some talk in the next couple of weeks about reviving the board, but nothing ever happened. The search warrant had administered the fatal hit to an already terminal patient. Other boards were dying too, or migrating on to FTP and web sites.

The internet was already destroying phreaking. It did this two ways. First via flat rate isp access that let you reach any node in the world. No more shocker phone bills, no more specific need to phreak. The second was how its inner workings were documented. The net was open and built by standards bodies amenable to question and comment. If you wanted to know how the whole magic system worked, you read the docs, maybe even mail the creators with question, to which most of them would respond cordially. If you found a way to break something, likewise, they might mail you and ask you to help fix it. What was phreaking Ma Bell internet architecture made not only socially acceptable, but a marketable job skill.

Way to ruin the party, net.

As for piracy, all the roles but cracking vanished. Supplying was no longer a zero day affair because download quotas made little sense on warez websites. Couriers, always the least safe, made no sense at all in an end to end network. Archivists, packagers, none were really needed anymore. The cost of disk was coming down, the bandwidth was going up. The need for massive groups and hierarchies dissolved. It now took one person to release, and he or she didn’t need to be part of the in-group. With the exclusivity gone, there was nothing to stop anyone from becoming a pirate.

The true death-stroke came with P2P, and what had been leeching became the central role in piracy. Intentionally anonymous, technically easy, socially vacuous, digital piracy could no longer support its little society. No one was part of the 415 or the 212 anymore, what would that mean online? Rootkits were even making hacking something any shlub could do, and the shlubs in old world organized crime were starting to take notice. With nothing to compete over the members of Razor, PWA, and DOD blew to the four winds, generally to computer jobs that paid well for skills gotten as part of life in the Scene.

And with its social structure destroyed, piracy itself was unstoppable.

The difference between piracy and the music business, or publishing, is that because the scene was never legit, no one saw or mourned its passing. It happened faster because no one could plead the Scene’s case as a social institution, and no one could praise the network for making piracy democratized to the point of social incoherence. But everything that happened to the music industry happened to the piracy scene first, and, importantly, as a prerequisite for disrupting the music business. The Scene was never going to scale to threaten music and software the way P2P has. Instead, the story of its passing is an example of the de-cohered future for whatever institutions the net touches. Because there was little institutional resistance to the effects of the net on the Scene, it gives us an accelerated view of how the net eventually comes to transform institutions. Also, a slightly inaccurate one, because conflict changes the outcome in some ways. But we see the fundamental post network effect. Today’s piracy represents the new stable state of a post-net institution, more etherial than corporal, more smoke than body. This is what all the other institutions the network disrupts will eventually look like, unless they succeed in destroying a network that is mathematically incapable of compromise.

It’s hard for most people to understand and identify with the experience of digital piracy, even though at this point, most people online do it. But what about librarians? Everyone loves librarians, including librarians.

Next: Part Four, Two non-profits you’ve never heard of, fighting over a catalog you didn’t know you were using.

* Possibly 11. My notes are unclear.

New Years Day: Things I have learned in the last ten years

Most of the things I learned in the last ten years (like perl, what the hippocampus does, or how to build a ring flash) aren’t very useful to most people. But I learned many amazing, terrible, and funny lessons this last decade about the nature and doings of humans. Here are some, and may you come by this knowledge easier than I did.

  • Busy is not the same thing as important, but it can sure seem that way
  • If you want to see the future, don’t look at how people are using technology. Search out how they’re misusing it
  • All people substitute belief for reality sometimes, and waste their time arguing with what is happening to them. Some people do this with business, some politics, some relationships, and some physics. This is how you get speculative bubbles, wars without end, horrendous breakups, and Darwin awards.
  • The things you actively think will never happen to you are much more likely to happen to you than the things you just never considered at all.
  • Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean the business world isn’t insane and stupid. It really is.
  • Cultures can have nightmares. A Whole society can become sick, It can roil in somatic pain as its own subconscious tortures it. History records these times with confusion. They are disturbing and inexplicable moments that don’t seem to have a real cause. They’re no fun to live through, and living through them gives you no more insight than looking back on them. You just hope to get to the other side.
  • Compassion, even for the very worst, costs nothing and opens up possibilities.
  • It may be possible to forgive absolutely anything, and it may be necessary in order to survive. But to say you forgive someone before you can is a lie.
  • Ten years ago I thought there was no such thing as a free lunch. But actually, they’re all free. “The sun pays all the bills.”
  • I’ve been to Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East, Africa, islands in the Caribbean, the Pacific, nations and states of wildly varying wealth and culture. Africa is different. Everywhere you go changes you, but Africa changes everything.
  • Dreams can creep up on you and come true while you’re doing other things.
  • Power and status are not as correlated with good decision making as I had hoped.
  • You can’t love away illness.
  • Some technologies will change your whole life for the better without you noticing, like text messaging, GPS, or spellcheck. Some will disrupt your life in ways you have no tools at all for dealing with, like the web vs newspapers or filesharing vs music labels, or when automatic spellcheck likes to correct your typos to say ‘incest’ when you meant to type ‘insect’.
  • In the tech world you don’t have the luxury of believing your preferences. When you run up against a technology you don’t like, you have to figure out why you’re wrong. When you come up against one you love, you still have to figure out why you’re wrong.
  • Storing a good collection of maxims, aphorisms, and proverbs in your head can actually get you through a lot.
  • Most people explain their faults upfront, but it’s very hard to hear them while it will still make a difference.
  • Ten years ago, I was in favor of Brinworld- radical transparency. Now my views are moderated, more complex. I thought it would usher in an age of tolerance, but I’ve learned that people can hold double standards in their heads I have no theory of mind for. But more importantly, I learned that privacy is vital for creativity. We need safe places to think strange thoughts. Sometimes they are what embarrass us, waste our time, or sink us to our lowest depths, but they are also the seeds of new worlds.
  • People are about as smart as you tell them they are.
  • You’re all geniuses.
  • I never understood the capacity for addiction before I had my daughter. Now I’m pretty sure drugs and alcohol are just taking over the same circuits in addicts that would make me do anything for her.
  • Humans have terrible memories. Most of the time, memories are just stories we make up about the past to explain how we see ourselves now. But memory is quite useful this way, and takes on an almost literary truth to make up for its factual error. However, it’s no way to measure or understand how we change over time, and it’s worthless for figuring out what happened.
  • I have killed far too many ideas for being born infants instead of springing fully formed and battle ready from my forehead.
  • There are people that just use a huge amount of toilet paper, and they seem to have nothing else in common, not bowel diseases or hygiene or so on. I have no idea what the hell they are doing with it. Perhaps that’s for the next 10 years.
  • 30 is a great age, when you can start to relax and get some perspective.
  • Graphic novels seem to make pretty good movies.
  • Becoming an expert is the delightful process of learning enough to understand far less of your field of endeavor than you did when you started. These days it’s practically my main signal I am getting somewhere- a sense of my grain of knowledge in an ever widening sea of my ignorance.
  • Whatever constraints, limits, or rules you come up with for humanity, there’s someone out there breaking them. And there’s a decent chance they’re blogging it.
  • When humanity communicates instantaneously over vast distances and across all cultural and national boundaries, there’s almost nothing we can’t turn into porn. But it turns out porn isn’t the end of the world.
  • Democracy doesn’t work very well anymore, if it ever did. The models I was given for how politics and policy work were completely false.
  • The founding fathers were a bickering pack who largely hated each other. They spanned the political and cultural spectrum, and universally agreed on exactly nothing. They were rich, they were poor, they were monarchists, anarchists, aristocrats and demagogues. There were some saints and heros, but there were some downright evil people, and there were a few that were all of the above.
  • This makes me wonder how the founders of the global network will be seen by history.
  • Writing a first book is one of the hardest things a person can do.
  • Minor tragedies always remain tragedies, but major ones can go either way.
  • Most of the easy problems have been solved. The ones that look easy are hiding the most terrible complexities.
  • Institutions are made entirely of humans, and all that implies.
  • It is easy to forget that unsustainable things can’t go one forever, because you expect them to start failing as soon as you realize they are unsustainable. Instead I have found that stupid things can go on much longer than I thought they could.
  • Unsustainable things are still unsustainable.
  • Torturer, tortured, trainer, trainee, conqueror, conquered, these are all misleading distinctions. No one really comes back out of those rooms.
  • You will likely reach a point when it seems life is not really your own, when it is filled with career, interests, family, obligations, and things. It will be so architected, so set, you will believe you are trapped. You’re not. You can walk out anytime.

What Gov 2.0 is making me think

I think we are getting enough examples of what the internet does to things back in the real world to start extracting some possibly slightly predictive behavioral patterns.

The one I think is really important for .gov is that the internet eventually destroys institutions whose main purpose was physical mediation of otherwise interested but unconnected parties. Over time, those middle layers will simply go away. They have to, because they are transformed (through no fault of their own) from conduit to barrier. The transformer is environmental- the internet is kind of ice-9 that way. But this is not a binary, smooth, fast, or simple transition, and the people in the middle of it are understandably confused and angry.

This is why record companies and newspapers are pissed off and pissing other people off that can’t figure out why they won’t just cease to exist. This is painful and hard. This is so painful and so hard that we have an aversion to seeing which institutions are next. Physical mediation is a good starting point to think about it: so what parts of governments exist to physically deliver something that can be described as information? Those parts will eventually go away. They can go away gracefully, or they can not go away gracefully. Government has a possibly unique ability to make that transition as non graceful as possible, but I doubt even it has the power to stop the process altogether.

When I first consulted with all sorts of companies in 1995 about their very first web pages, every one of them did a variation of the same thing: put their catalog or brochures on the web! How cool is that! Not actually that cool, I tried to humbly suggest. “The net,” I said repeatedly until my coworkers were ready to hurl, “is a conversation.” Many of these companies and organizations had never really conversed with anyone connected to them. It never had come up. Learning what that meant is each case has made the last 13 years completely fascinating.

I feel a little like the database fetishism I am seeing is a version of the catalog idea. There is nothing wrong with putting your catalog online, but it’s a serious misunderstanding of the net to think that the net is going to let you do the same thing as printing out all your data and sending it to everyone in the world, only without paying for postage. To explain how it’s different I’m going to dodge the question by hiding behind Tolstoy- pre-internet institutions are all alike, post-internet institutions are structurally disrupted in their own ways.

Like stages of grief, we need to figure out the stages of internet integration for institutions. I suspect grief is in there.

More as my head breaks.

Eliminated from Twitter

I stumbled out of bed this morning to find my Twitter account had been suspended for suspicious activity, and I couldn’t submit a ticket about it. The ticket just wouldn’t go through. So… I guess… don’t look for me there. For my new mostly Twitter lit friends: I hope to get back on, but if I don’t I’d still love to keep in touch.

Drop your notes of sympathy, contact info, etc in an email to quinn at quinnnorton.

Update: Ok, this was part of a general bug that hit everyone that used a certain hashtag. It’s fixxored now.

My happiness knows a few bounds

I have commenting working, finally! Please feel free to say hi, my god quinn you’ve changed my life, dude you suck, or suggest your viagra purchasing site to me.

We’ll see if it works this time.
*whistles*

How to take advantage of #Amazonfail

I’ve been watching the story of (probably) accidental censorship on Amazon with interest, and I think there’s a valuable sociological lesson in it. In short: Amazon de-ranked books with GLBT themes as adult over Easter weekend. People were outraged by the apparent moral prescribing censorship, a Bantown prole called Weev claimed he did it with a cross site reference forgery, and then Amazon said it was a cataloging error.

What’s interesting is that all these answers are pretty much equally possible. That’s just weird though- because it suggests that there’s not so much of an entry barrier anymore to the kind of book burning mind controlling corporate/state master propaganda stuff that the ruling class can use to dictate our punch clock existences. Is technology democratizing the tools of fascism? Why not? What’s so different about them? Here comes everybody indeed, whether they like it or not. We’re all going to be shooting mind control rays at each other, obeying Markov chain commands issued by our zombie army computers, living in an anarchist/fascist quasi state of cultural strange attractors, capable of free will only in topics of obscurity and total market failure.

Good times.

Then, just when I thought I’d mentally explored/perverted the scenario to its fullest, I received this ad: #powellswin: a 20% off book sale capitalizing on Powell’s not having (accidently) censored their search results. I like Powell’s, if I wasn’t in debt to my eyeballs (hey….) I’d be tempted to buy something. In the mean time, I’ll just have to let my phished cc do my opinion expressing for me.