mat's recent activity

  1. Comment on You versus a world of stupidity; Advice for angry engineers in ~life

    mat
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    I know a few people who are very stuck in the "Me Versus a World of Stupidity" thing and I find it quite amusing how often they're wrong with their own suggested fixes to things, because they're...

    I know a few people who are very stuck in the "Me Versus a World of Stupidity" thing and I find it quite amusing how often they're wrong with their own suggested fixes to things, because they're generally very focussed on the aspect of the problem which intersects with their own expertise and that means they've generally missed something important from elsewhere.

    11 votes
  2. Comment on Making wood ash cement & building a fired brick hut in ~hobbies

    mat
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    There was rumour a little while ago of John doing a TV show, but I'm not sure what - if anything - came of that. Feels like a very BBC Four kind of project. They've done that kind of thing before....

    There was rumour a little while ago of John doing a TV show, but I'm not sure what - if anything - came of that.

    Feels like a very BBC Four kind of project. They've done that kind of thing before. Them or NHK.

    2 votes
  3. Comment on What are you reading these days? in ~books

    mat
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    Iain M Banks is, in my humble opinion, the greatest sci-fi author of the 21st century (OK, OK, more than half the Culture books were published pre-2000 but he's spiritually and thematically a 21st...

    Iain M Banks is, in my humble opinion, the greatest sci-fi author of the 21st century (OK, OK, more than half the Culture books were published pre-2000 but he's spiritually and thematically a 21st century writer). It's not just that he writes the widest of the widescreen space opera, but it's that he writes it so well. Banks' prose just sparkles, it's such a joy to read. He clearly loves language and he loves using it to tell his stories (cf George RR Martin who apparently hates English so much he feels he needs to drag it through the mud behind sixteen different synonyms for 'horse'). If you haven't read the rest of the Culture books you're in for a big treat. They're one of the few things I re-read every few years.

    The only currently working sci-fi author I've found who possibly comes close to Banks in terms of their use of language and epic-scale scope would be Ann Leckie. Maybe Arkady Martine. (both of whom I'd also recommend highly). Banks' non-genre stuff is also excellent, although I would strongly recommend not eating while you read The Wasp Factory - for those that know the book I was eating rice when we find out what happened to Eric. Yeah. Ugh.

    I miss Banks so much. Almost as much as Pratchett.

    6 votes
  4. Comment on What are you reading these days? in ~books

    mat
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    I am quite enjoying Artifact Space by Miles Cameron. It's very straight military sci-fi, not a subgenre I usually enjoy all that much but it's fast paced and exciting and the main character is......

    I am quite enjoying Artifact Space by Miles Cameron. It's very straight military sci-fi, not a subgenre I usually enjoy all that much but it's fast paced and exciting and the main character is... well, she's just really engaging. I want good things to happen to her. It is so far pretty formulaic and predictable and there's very little going on below the surface but y'know. Sometimes that's OK. If this book were a movie it would be Fast and Furious 6. It's nothing you haven't seen before but it's got a lot of well executed action and a good amount of heart and not a lot more.

    3 votes
  5. Comment on Occlusion Grotesque. An experimental, organic typeface in ~design

    mat
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    I do agree to an extent, but, counterpoint - have you ever seen David Lynch talk about film? He mostly just can't do it. He's trying to express the thing he expresses by making film through a...
    • Exemplary

    I do agree to an extent, but, counterpoint - have you ever seen David Lynch talk about film? He mostly just can't do it. He's trying to express the thing he expresses by making film through a medium other than film and it just doesn't work. Same goes for people like Bjork on music, Hirst on whatever he's doing at the moment, Abramovic in performance and so on.

    Often, asking high-concept artists to talk about their art in forms other than that very art itself just ends up sounding ridiculous, pretentious, etc. If they were capable of expressing those things in words, they'd be writers, not musicians/painters/etc. We don't expect authors to create a sculpture explaining their latest book, and nobody would be surprised if Neil Gaiman's latest sculpture was a load of crap - so same goes for conceptual art.

    10 votes
  6. Comment on What are some good mobile games which doesn't require dragging? in ~games

    mat
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    Have you tried Kittens Game, which I've just about weaned myself off now? It's like idle game crack. Or worse, Trimps (no app version I'm aware of, browser only). I've had a Trimps tab open for...

    Have you tried Kittens Game, which I've just about weaned myself off now? It's like idle game crack. Or worse, Trimps (no app version I'm aware of, browser only). I've had a Trimps tab open for about three years now.

  7. Comment on Twitter accepts buyout, giving Elon Musk total control of the company in ~tech

    mat
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    Eh, I think that's more down to your personal feed curation than anything else. Probably the same as twitter if I bothered to try there. On FB I follow various interesting and...

    Most people rarely post content that anyone other than their friends would care about.

    Eh, I think that's more down to your personal feed curation than anything else. Probably the same as twitter if I bothered to try there. On FB I follow various interesting and qualified-in-their-field people who post all sorts of weird and fascinating stuff. I also see shares of the same by my friends - one in particular likes to share in-depth legal analyses of the crap my government is up to this week, which is illuminating but depressing. I'm sure there are people doing war analysis but I don't want to see that so I haven't looked. What's nice is that the discussion is often as interesting as the content, but Twitter is not conducive to discussion because of it's character limit means anything longer than a sentence ends up in multiple posts, which end up with multiple replies (and on and on). 280 characters is generally not enough to express a complex thought or opinion. Then the replies fracture as well, then people reply to the second and third order replies and before you know it, the whole thing is an unnavigable mess. Reddit and tildes and facebook handle this stuff far better. They're better at being social networks. I stand by my claim that Twitter is fundamentally and by design a broadcast network.

    On usage stats, Twitter is fairly a small player in the social network sector. It just is. 200m uniques a month is pretty low for this day and age. Tumblr does close to that, and nobody would seriously argue tumblr is a big deal any more. Hell, it's in the same ballpark as 9gag or imgur. I can't find the link right now but just this morning I read something about how Twitter had been artificially inflating their monthly user counts above the already low numbers they had.

    What Twitter gets more than a lot of other smaller sites is shares. I see screenshots of tweets everywhere - even on the TV news. Because twitter is popular with journalists, so they source from it a lot, because it's right there on their phone. But shares don't translate to views. Or, importantly, revenue. Twitter has never made much money for a reason - because it's just not that big.

    4 votes
  8. Comment on Tech recommendations request: looking for a Linux-friendly 13" laptop in ~tech

    mat
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    If I recall correctly you're quite a few timezones from me so I'm not sure I can name any specific retailers which would be of use to you. In the UK I'd 100% recommend Backmarket, from whom I've...

    If I recall correctly you're quite a few timezones from me so I'm not sure I can name any specific retailers which would be of use to you. In the UK I'd 100% recommend Backmarket, from whom I've purchased several times, as have friends of mine.

    I have bought a couple of refurb devices from Amazon Marketplace where the seller had a good rating. I'm not sure I'd do the same on eBay but I guess someone with a good seller score is of similar risk to doing the same on Amazon.

    My first ever laptop I used in person was a Thinkpad. That wasn't this century...

    2 votes
  9. Comment on Tech recommendations request: looking for a Linux-friendly 13" laptop in ~tech

    mat
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    You could go used/refurb? I've had good luck with refurbs in the past. Unless you particularly need a lot of compute power (and if you did I doubt you'd be looking at 13"), a few-years-old machine...

    You could go used/refurb? I've had good luck with refurbs in the past. Unless you particularly need a lot of compute power (and if you did I doubt you'd be looking at 13"), a few-years-old machine might do fine. Especially with a fairly light linux on it. A ram and ssd upgrade can make older hardware feel a lot snappier too, and for relatively little[1] money.

    Manufacturer-sold refurbs or specialist refurb shops are much safer than buying used from a random person, although you do pay a little more.

    [1] I haven't bought hardware since pre-shortage times, I may be completely wrong about this.

    2 votes
  10. Comment on Tech recommendations request: looking for a Linux-friendly 13" laptop in ~tech

    mat
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    I usually just recommend people buy whichever Lenovo which best meets their tech and budget requirements. If it says "Thinkpad" on it, all the better but I don't think they do a 13" TP. I think...

    I usually just recommend people buy whichever Lenovo which best meets their tech and budget requirements. If it says "Thinkpad" on it, all the better but I don't think they do a 13" TP. I think they do some Yoga models in that size.

    I would also suggest not touching anything made by HP with a very long pole. But as with all these things there's always someone who has the exact opposite experience to me. Lenovo have never let me down, might not work out for you. HP have never made a machine I've liked, you might.

    A friend just got a Framework and is very happy with it. That's 13.6" though so a little bigger, but I like their philosophy, even if their hardware does look a little Mac-lite for my tastes.

    4 votes
  11. Comment on Pets! in ~talk

  12. Comment on Twitter accepts buyout, giving Elon Musk total control of the company in ~tech

    mat
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    I'd argue that Twitter is highly successful as a broadcast network. It's very well suited to people sending out messages. Yelling into the cyber-void, if you would. It's relatively bad - by...

    I'd argue that Twitter is highly successful as a broadcast network. It's very well suited to people sending out messages. Yelling into the cyber-void, if you would. It's relatively bad - by design, apparently - at being social and that's why I don't like it. I've been on Twitter since a few months after launch in 2006, I have a three-letter username (which I wish I'd sold back when it was worth something!) but because it's so bad at social interactions I don't go there often. I prefer my social networking rather more social. Where conversations can happen in a meaningful and civilised way. Like here. Or Reddit, or Facebook.

    I also didn't say Twitter was insignificant. I said it's not hugely relevant - Twitter isn't where the kids are, and it isn't where the older people are, and it isn't where billions of people are. Ignoring the bots, spam and brands, and unless the demographics have drastically changed since last I looked into it - Twitter is most popular with middle-aged tech/tech-adjacent people and media (tv, radio, print, digital) types.

    Finally I said it's not as big as Twitterists think it is. It appears big because presidents use it. But in terms of users, it's small. It does punch above it's weight in terms of reach, but it's low numbers when it comes to users and visitors aren't my opinion, they're just a fact.

    I don't pretend to have any clue why Musk does anything, frankly. He's some kind of chaotic genius or some kind of self-promoting idiot and which is true doesn't even matter because the outcome is the same either way. But if he thinks he can monetise Twitter better than Twitter has already been monetised I suspect he's in for an unpleasant surprise. Advertisers don't give a shit about anything other than the sort of metrics Twitter does pretty badly on. Metrics which are likely to get worse if Musk rocks the boat too much, doesn't really matter which side of the political divide he pisses off, some people are leaving. But who knows, maybe he will make it better. Stranger things have happened. I wouldn't put money on it.

    6 votes
  13. Comment on Twitter accepts buyout, giving Elon Musk total control of the company in ~tech

    mat
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    Raw numbers are what pretty much everyone uses to define success, but if you say so. Twitter's monthlies have been fairly flat or mildly declining in recent years as well but I guess that doesn't...

    Raw numbers are what pretty much everyone uses to define success, but if you say so. Twitter's monthlies have been fairly flat or mildly declining in recent years as well but I guess that doesn't matter either.

    Is Twitter relevant? Really? From what I can tell it's mostly self-congratulating celebrities, news outlets and engagement-hungry brands, all held together with wannabe comedians, trolls and propagandists. Doesn't feel remotely relevant when I go there, although I do try to avoid it because it's such a disgusting cesspool.

    6 votes
  14. Comment on Twitter accepts buyout, giving Elon Musk total control of the company in ~tech

    mat
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    Not even close. Twitter only has around 200m active monthly users. FB has nearly three billion.. Twitter is a bit odd. On straight numbers it is, and always has been, a relatively small player in...

    one that survived through all the other social media, hell it's surviving Facebook right now.

    Not even close. Twitter only has around 200m active monthly users. FB has nearly three billion..

    Twitter is a bit odd. On straight numbers it is, and always has been, a relatively small player in the social media space: it's smaller than reddit, smaller than instagram, depending how you do the numbers it could even be smaller than tumblr, and the "ghost town" of Google Plus consistently outdid Twitter on numbers. Twitter just happens to have a lot of very high-profile users (mostly celebs and news) so it has much bigger reach than it should do for it's size.

    8 votes
  15. Comment on Twitter accepts buyout, giving Elon Musk total control of the company in ~tech

    mat
    Link Parent
    Yeesh, getting quite off topic here but OK. fwiw my friend works at Facebook, so I can only comment on things I've discussed with them relating to FB. I know a couple of Googlers too, but nobody...

    Yeesh, getting quite off topic here but OK. fwiw my friend works at Facebook, so I can only comment on things I've discussed with them relating to FB. I know a couple of Googlers too, but nobody at Twitter.

    does your friend think the corrosive toxicity of social media is inevitable?

    Yes and no. Yes, but not in the sense I think you mean. You probably have to define "corrosive toxicity" rather better but generally the feeling inside FB is that social media reflects society rather than defines it. A proportion of people are toxic, therefore a proportion of social media will be too. Worth noting this is not played as a get out of jail free card to avoid doing anything.

    I don't think social media is inherently bad, personally. It's done a huge amount of good along with the bad. For every teenage girl who has suffered from body-image issues due to Instagram there's hundreds of people who are having a lovely time keeping up with friends and seeing photos from people they like. Again, that's not to say we shouldn't be trying to help the teenage girl. But "social media" is a vast and multi-headed thing, many aspects of which are positive. I mean, we're here, aren't we? What is tildes if not social media?

    why doesn't it seem like we're making any meaningful progress on that front that we can see reflected in the real world?

    Because it's very hard to quantify, but also in no small part because you don't see lots of the progress being made. FB remove huge amounts of content from porn to nazis and gore and lots more. Hate groups get quietly hidden, etc. etc. You don't see most of the backend adjustments that change what people are shown. I'm not saying they're perfect, but things are changing. It's almost impossible to measure as an effect on overall society though, because there's far too many variables for that.

    We've had this awareness of the toxicity of social media for years now and I think rather self-evidently the companies involved are not meaningfully committed to solving that toxicity at a fundamental level, since that threatens their business model which relies on engagement.

    I don't think that's self-evident at all. I've seen internal FB docs which show they've been doing huge amounts of research into this. Millions of dollars being spent on high quality science. Whether they're doing what you or I would consider enough based on that research is a different question, but the accusation they're not taking action is completely untrue.

    The business model is related to engagement, that is true. It actually relies on advertising, but more engaged users see more ads so the two are connected. But high quality, healthy engagement is worth much more than toxic stuff. Nobody wants to advertise on hate groups or negative body image ones or similar. Happy users are more valuable than angry or worse, addicted, ones.

    Most people say they want chronological feeds even if their actions speak differently, the same way it goes for pretty much any vice and unhealthy activity. We know it's bad.

    You say "most people" based on what? Most people you've talked to about it? I'm not at all convinced that activity-sorted timelines are inherently bad, and I'm pretty sure we don't "know" that either. FB have done testing on millions of people (both live on the site and in UI labs) and more people prefer non-chronological feeds than don't. It's not just about what's best for the metrics, although they do factor.

    A non-chronological feed encourages people to be lazy with who and what they follow.

    Have you met people? People are lazy. People are also busy, tech-illiterate, distracted and many other things which might make them look lazy on the surface.

    If you follow some right-wing troll and only the most engaging, entertaining posts are shown to you from them at the top of your feed, instead of the less engaged posts and stinkers that makes you think "Wait this dude is an insane idiot"

    I think if you're following a right-wing troll it's sort of up to you to realise that and take action. FB post content warnings on obvious misinformation (as best they can, it is a work in progress). Banning people based on their politics isn't something I have a great deal of problem with, personally - but FB isn't me. They're much more freeze peachy. Lots of people here are too, for whatever that's worth.

    And because unsubscribing is bad for the business model, they don't want you to unsubscribe.

    Bad engagement is also bad for business, as I said earlier. It's a more complex balance, it's nowhere near as simple as "clicks = good"

    fwiw, views in this post not always my own. Lots of this is what you'd get from my friend at FB. Who is, for the record, one of my oldest and best friends and whose ethics are pretty damn solid. If FB actually was the company you appear to think it is, there is no way my friend would be working there. They have got plenty of choices for work, but the fact they continuing to choose FB tells me that there's more good to it that we can see from the outside. I appreciate how anecdotal that is, but I do think it's relevant.

    4 votes
  16. Comment on Twitter accepts buyout, giving Elon Musk total control of the company in ~tech

    mat
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    I see what you're saying but I'm also not that convinced that the bad part about social networks is a non-chronological news feed. Another way to look at this is do you really think Twitter/FBetc...

    I see what you're saying but I'm also not that convinced that the bad part about social networks is a non-chronological news feed. Another way to look at this is do you really think Twitter/FBetc would be significantly less problematic if they went back to 'most recent' as default?

    The ordering of content doesn't change the data gathering, the advert targetting, the dopamine hits offered by notifications, the insertion of known controversial posts for rage-engagement (which is not the same as sorting my friend's posts by activity, which is essentially how the non-chronological timeline works), etc. etc.

    Your drug dealer might be offering their products in a slightly more easy to use package but ultimately it's not the baggy that makes crack addictive.

    3 votes
  17. Comment on Happy 4th Birthday, Tildes! in ~tildes

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    Four years, wow, no way I've had an account here that long. Happy birthday tildes! checks profile Oh. Three years, eleven months. Cripes.

    Four years, wow, no way I've had an account here that long. Happy birthday tildes!

    checks profile

    Oh. Three years, eleven months. Cripes.

    16 votes
  18. Comment on Twitter accepts buyout, giving Elon Musk total control of the company in ~tech

    mat
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    You might imagine that but... I may have mentioned I have a friend who works at another large social network, and they have extensively tested this and turns out a majority of people prefer...

    I want my news feed chronological [...] I imagine most people are the same

    You might imagine that but... I may have mentioned I have a friend who works at another large social network, and they have extensively tested this and turns out a majority of people prefer curated news feeds which surface interesting/currently-active content over straight chronological ones. That's why it's a common thing, because most people like it. It's easy enough to put ads in either sort of feed and engagement is engagement unless you're actively faking the numbers in your tracking. Turns out people just like having "trending" things presented to them.

    Personally I also prefer a chronological feed, but there we are. People eh? People also like Ed Sheeran, watching football and drinking lager, I don't pretend to understand that either.

    12 votes
  19. Comment on LUMITIME - A digital clock with no electronics in ~design

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    Fran Blanche tears down a 1970s electro-mechanical digital clock. I love this kind of engineering. Sure, nowadays you could do this all with a handful of electronic parts (probably a single...

    Fran Blanche tears down a 1970s electro-mechanical digital clock. I love this kind of engineering. Sure, nowadays you could do this all with a handful of electronic parts (probably a single off-the-shelf IC for a few pence) but this way is so much more fun.

    Also the design is gorgeous. The second "hand" especially so.

    2 votes