Thought-policing Triumphant

Today, Facebook and Twitter began a purge, ostensibly to get rid of “spam”. In their announcement, Facebook described their reasons in some detail, and at least one of those reasons chills my blood.

*I* discovered what was going on because two of the Facebook pages I tend to watch because they twig me to political/social developments that rarely make it to major news outlets suddenly began showing up as:

After visiting their websites, I became aware that per Facebook, they had removed “559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

In and of itself, removing fake accounts and spam isn’t terribly disturbing. What *is* disturbing is that the two pages I was looking for, “Free Thought Project” and “Police the Police” are *NOT* spam, or inauthentic, or even particularly “coordinated”, by any reasonable definition. The only part of Facebook’s statement that would even remotely apply to either would be:

these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site. And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the “news” stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate. This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.

Let that sink in a minute. Valid news, “indistinguishable from legitimate political debate” (which I’m almost 100% certain is a really dishonest way of saying “legitimate political debate”) is being banned because the topics they choose have been arbitrarily declared “sensational”, and/or (gasp) they try to sell stuff on their websites to support their publishing!

How much “legitimate political debate” has been banned, as opposed to actual spam? No one knows for sure, but reports by “The Anti-Media” (also banned) and Slate seem to think that this is a purge of almost exclusively political pages and members. The wild part is that while much of the banning seems to have been oriented toward conservative/pro-Trump organizations, a large portion seems to have targeted pro-left or libertarian groups/accounts.

Now, to be sure, Facebook and Twitter are private organizations, and have every right to do whatever they want with their platforms. The nightmare here is that a *lot* of these groups are anti-establishment in tenor, and their very popularity is likely what got them banned. In a climate where most of the electorate opposes the actions of our government in one way or another, and for the first time in a long time is actually somewhat energized in that opposition, is it surprising that alternative media groups not willing to ignore actual problems unaddressed by the major media or political parties would be popular? I don’t know what percentage of the banned sites were actual spam, rather than “sensational topics”, and there are surely a number of valid removals, but even a five minute search of the internet turned up dozens of perfectly valid, if somewhat small and overly ad-contented news outlets in the latter group.

Facebook and Twitter are only two of many media outlets, certainly, but they currently constitute a massive percentage of the world’s news discovery channels. There is a massive cost to moving to smaller social media outlets in terms of viewership and ability to remain financially solvent. Actions like this one WILL kill off a large number of the smaller, issues-based media sites, regardless of affiliation.

First they came for the speech of the Nazis, and I did not speak out-
  Because I was not a Nazi.
Then they came for the speech of the tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorists, and I did not speak out-
  Because I was not a tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorist.
Then they came for the speech of the people who thought the police shouldn’t murder unarmed people in our streets, and

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

A Borrowed Musing on Fatherhood

From my all-time favorite poet…

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
Contrariwise, my blood runs cold
When little boys go by.
For little boys as little boys,
No special hate I carry,
But now and then they grow to men,
And when they do, they marry.
No matter how they tarry,
Eventually they marry.
And, swine among the pearls,
They marry little girls.

Oh, somewhere, somewhere, an infant plays,
With parents who feed and clothe him.
Their lips are sticky with pride and praise,
But I have begun to loathe him.
Yes, I loathe with loathing shameless
This child who to me is nameless.
This bachelor child in his carriage
Gives never a thought to marriage,
But a person can hardly say knife
Before he will hunt him a wife.

I never see an infant (male),
A-sleeping in the sun,
Without I turn a trifle pale
And think is he the one?
Oh, first he’ll want to crop his curls,
And then he’ll want a pony,
And then he’ll think of pretty girls,
And holy matrimony.
A cat without a mouse
Is he without a spouse.

Oh, somewhere he bubbles bubbles of milk,
And quietly sucks his thumbs.
His cheeks are roses painted on silk,
And his teeth are tucked in his gums.
But alas the teeth will begin to grow,
And the bubbles will cease to bubble;
Given a score of years or so,
The roses will turn to stubble.
He’ll sell a bond, or he’ll write a book,
And his eyes will get that acquisitive look,
And raging and ravenous for the kill,
He’ll boldly ask for the hand of Jill.
This infant whose middle
Is diapered still
Will want to marry My daughter Jill.

Oh sweet be his slumber and moist his middle!
My dreams, I fear, are infanticiddle.
A fig for embryo Lohengrins!
I’ll open all his safety pins,
I’ll pepper his powder, and salt his bottle,
And give him readings from Aristotle.
Sand for his spinach I’ll gladly bring,
And Tabasco sauce for his teething ring.
Then perhaps he’ll struggle though fire and water
To marry somebody else’s daughter.

— Ogden Nash
Posted in Family, For Facebook, Geeky, General, Personal, Whimsical | Leave a comment

Conversations From Engineering Hell: Part 1

Me: I spent an entire week going over every line of code by hand. The problem is in the database.

Coworker: No, it can’t be, there’s nothing in there that can do that. You just need to buckle down and find it in the code. We’re wasting a lot of time here!

Me, 1 week angrier: I spent an entire week going over your database procedures by hand. Here’s the procedure causing the problem, with your comment explaining why you were making the bad call.

Coworker: Oh hey, yeah, huh, look at that. Well, it’s late on Friday, I’ll get to it next week. Have a good weekend!

Me: Not if you open the package I plan to overnight to you…

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

“Free” Public School

You know what it costs to send your child to “free” public preschool? $12000 per year. That’s how much.

How is that possible, you ask? I certainly asked that too! Let me break it down for you:

  • You pay more than $1800 per year to the federal government for education funding (approximately 3% of federal budget).
  • You pay $4000 per year to the city for school taxes
  • You enroll your 4-year-old in his $5800+ “free” preschool, and are told “Oh, but school ends at 1 pm, so if you work at a job, you’ll have to enroll him in ‘wrap-around care’. That will be $6000 dollars per year, please”.

    Note that if we enroll our child in private preschool, the most expensive program around costs just over $10,000 per year (‘wrap-around care’ included), just over $1800 per year less than “free” public school. But of course, then we’d still have to pay the $5800 for the “free” public school we weren’t using.

    “Livid” is not the right word for how I feel about “free” public school. It’s much too tame. Maybe “Murderously enraged”? “Teeth-gnashingly furious”?

Posted in Family, For Facebook, General, Personal | Leave a comment

Product Review: Nokia Steel HR Hybrid Smartwatch

I’m addicted to my smartwatch. It wakes me on time in the morning, it keeps me on schedule, it tells me when someone wants to contact me, and it’s a tiny, informational multi-tool. Unfortunately, it’s also a five year old Pebble, the company that made it is defunct, and it’s starting to break down, so for some time I’ve been looking for a newer solution.

The one thing I’ve never been pleased with about my current smartwatch is that in the attempt to be a multi-tool, it is less than ideal as a watch! It’s big and blocky, lacks physical hands that can be seen in low light without backlighting, and it stops being a watch when the smartwatch functions have exhausted the battery.

To make a better choice this time, I decided to go with a hybrid smartwatch. I settled on the Nokia Steel HR. It’s a sleek, beautiful watch with physical analog hands and an uncomplicated face, but still provides notifications, a fitness tracker, and alarms. It even has a fancy feature called ‘smart wakeup’ that lets you pick a wakeup window, rather than time, and wakes you at your lightest sleep cycle during that window.

Having used the watch for a week, I was devastated to be forced to send it back for a refund. It is surely a beautiful watch, but fails in virtually every other way. Other than the appearance, I was looking for three features:

  • An analog watch that worked well and looked and felt like a real watch on my wrist
  • Notifications from my phone, so I would be made aware when messages or appointments came up
  • That super-cool smart wakeup feature

What I found:

  • The watchface, while delicate and beautiful in good lighting, has vanishingly thin hands that are utterly unreadable in anything less. Not only that, it has no backlight you can activate, so it’s effectively unreadable a lot of the time. Now, you might think, as I initially did, that since it has a screen that can show the time, I could use a gesture control to turn the screen on as needed, but you (and I) would be wrong. The screen can only be activated by pushing the stem/button. This means that unless you are outside in daylight or in a well lit room, if you want to know what time it is, you need two hands!
  • The notifications on the watch suffer from several defects. First of all, the power of the notification vibration is so low, you basically never feel it unless you happen to be very still in a very quiet room. Second, while the notifications *do* inform you of calls, calendar events, and messages, the only calendar it will use is the stock google calendar, ignoring all others. Third, literally the ONLY messages you get notifications for are SMS messages, and even then, only if you are using the stock text-messaging app. No WhatsApp, no Signal, no Facebook Messenger, no Google Hangouts, nothing. Effectively, this watch is utterly useless at the single most important function a smartwatch can provide!
  • The smart wakeup feature depends upon the watch’s alarm. They aren’t joking about the “Alarm” part, either. There is literally only one alarm on the watch. You can’t even set different wakeup times for weekends! Over and above this, during the course of a week, the “smart” wakeup woke me every single day at the earliest possible point in my wakeup window. Yet again, useless in every possible way…

I wanted to love the Steel. I *still* want to love it. It’s beautiful and elegant, and is billed with great features. It just doesn’t HAVE those features yet…

Posted in For Facebook, Geeky, General, Personal, Uncategorized | 1 Response
  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Blaise on Twitter