pallas's recent activity

  1. Comment on Armed doesn't mean dangerous: Black gun owners are often portrayed negatively. One photographer set out to change that. in ~misc

    pallas
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    I suppose we have very different perspectives on this. Looking at the photographs, I certainly didn't think that the people looked intimidating. I do certainly view the subjects negatively, and...

    I suppose we have very different perspectives on this. Looking at the photographs, I certainly didn't think that the people looked intimidating. I do certainly view the subjects negatively, and think they look rather ridiculous, but more out of a dislike of this fetishization of handheld firearms carried as accessory talismans of personal protection.

    Yet I expect that I'd view similar photographs of white Americans much more negatively. In part, I think that in addition to feeling that they were rather ridiculous I would tend to make assumptions about their views and culture. I don't know what the people in these photographs are like. They might be perfectly reasonable and kind people, or they might be horrible. But were they white Americans who had some desire to be photographed similarly brandishing firearms, I feel like I would immediately suspect that I knew all too well their political and cultural views, and that those views probably included hating me.

    In part, I suppose that, at some level, people who carry around weapons seem threatening when you feel they might see you as an enemy, whether that feeling is justified or not.

    7 votes
  2. Comment on Cryptocurrency is an abject disaster in ~tech

    pallas
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    I have conflicted views on Drew DeVault, as one might gather from my other post here. I could write elsewhere about how they are an online example of my conflicted views on people and behaviour:...
    • Exemplary

    I have conflicted views on Drew DeVault, as one might gather from my other post here. I could write elsewhere about how they are an online example of my conflicted views on people and behaviour: they are frequently frustrating, disagreeable, and dramatic, but the alternative is all too often soullessness. The comments here, however, are an illustration of just the sort of toxic cryptocurrency culture they are complaining about. While in DeVault's typical hyperbolic and confrontational style, their post is ultimately making specific complaints about the culture around cryptocurrency online, the way in which details of cryptocurrency incentivize the abuse of open and community-focused online systems, harm unrelated groups, and corrupt technological creativity and conversation. ‘Every comment online about cryptocurrency is tainted by the fact that the commenter has probably invested thousands of dollars into a Ponzi scheme and is depending on your agreement to make their money back.’—ignoring the tone, the point is that the details surrounding cryptocurrency push people to promote cryptocurrency.

    And what do we see here? Comments ignoring those complaints, and instead promoting cryptocurrency generally. We're told to ‘check out current SEC chair Gary Gensler's course entitled "Blockchain and Money."’ We're told ‘The biggest positive issue of crypto is countries where their currency is being devalued.’ We're told the author simply ‘sees all these people making lots of money so his jealousy has to write this article.’ What does any of this have to do with continuous integration on Sourcehut?

    Cryptocurrency has an enormous culture problem, and it is worth discussing without being confronted with promotion and defence of the underlying technologies. Whatever the virtues and vices of cryptocurrency, the usefulness or uselessness, the community around it has a tendency to behave in toxic ways that make everyone dislike them, and likely dislike cryptocurrency more generally.

    As DeVault laments, cryptocurrency miners desperate for free CPU time to extract miniscule profits for themselves are destroying charitable and cooperative systems in the FLOSS community. Elsewhere, in my experience, Matrix now has an increasingly frustrating problem with cryptocurrency and especially altcoin spam in completely unrelated rooms: try to get help with Debian, or discuss an interesting open project, and you'll likely be confronted with continual spam cryptocurrency posts that need to be removed, to the point where moderators probably need to spend most of their time solely dealing with cryptocurrency spam. If Tildes were more open, it would likely have the same problem. The cryptocurrency community poses a risk to public access servers; to public-interest and scientific computational resources; to honour-system and good-faith systems for electricity use and distribution; to gaming communities… there are so many places where the only, or first, interaction a particular community may have with cryptocurrency is the cryptocurrency community tearing apart their pleasant gardens, making it so they can't have nice things.

    None of this is necessarily a problem with cryptocurrency itself. But the incentives around it right now, and the way the community behave, make people hate it. I have to ask cryptocurrency enthusiasts: is that what you want? Is selling your reputation and tearing up other peoples' gardens worth the gains you hope to make for yourself?

    I remember when multi-level-marketing parties and similar hideousness of incentive-based social product selling were popular. On rare occasions, my family would be invited to such things without the nature of the event being clear. The problem was not the products. They may have been reasonable. The problem was the way the system, and the communities around it, abused social interaction, etiquette, and friendship to try to sell products. So, when the the sales pitches started, we'd quietly thank the host for inviting us, apologize for the confusion we had about the nature of the invitation, and never accept an invitation from them again. MLM poisoned invitations: you couldn't know whether they were actually social invitations because the host wanted you to come to their party, or an attempt at profit-seeking social extortion.

    (I do have some cryptocurrency holdings, though I would not be materially impacted by all cryptocurrency becoming worthless.)

    42 votes
  3. Comment on Cryptocurrency is an abject disaster in ~tech

    pallas
    (edited )
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    At the beginning of the post, in a red box, the author states that they held some amount of Bitcoin and altcoins, and profited off of them at the time. Are you saying that they are lying, both...

    I bet he lost his less than $10,000 in the last big drop and sold at a loss.

    At the beginning of the post, in a red box, the author states that they held some amount of Bitcoin and altcoins, and profited off of them at the time. Are you saying that they are lying, both about profits and motivations for complaining? The complaint in this post is a specific point that directly impacts the author and a community unrelated to cryptocurrency: that abuse by cryptocurrency miners is breaking features on Sourcehut and other online repository systems that offer continuous integration. It is not (necessarily) a post about cryptocurrency in general, and it is not a ‘plain and simple’ matter.

    If it is not clear, the post is by Drew DeVault, a prolific but controversial programmer and the creator of SourceHut, amongst a number of other projects. While I am not fond of their usual tone, many of their views, or their tendency toward programming community drama, they do tend to have a strong—one might even say obsessive and single-minded—devotion to particular projects and programming cultures. I see no reason why someone well known for angrily denouncing communities, projects, and ideas over what sometimes seem like petty, unrealistic, or idealistic points (eg, Rust, HTML email, non-email-based patch systems, people who don't like Wayland, people who don't use mailing lists they way they'd like them to, people who don't hard wrap text at 72 characters, …) would lie about their motivations for attacking a technology and community that has presented a nuisance to one of their projects.

    Is there some reason why you think they're lying here? Surely you are not just slandering them because they criticized cryptocurrency?

    19 votes
  4. Comment on Biden's First 100 Days - How has he done? in ~misc

    pallas
    Link Parent
    Unless monarda's comment has been changed, I'm confused at what any of those things have to do with climate action beyond talk? While I'm not sure I would argue as much, I do know people who would...

    Unless monarda's comment has been changed, I'm confused at what any of those things have to do with climate action beyond talk? While I'm not sure I would argue as much, I do know people who would argue that none of those things is important, by comparison to action on climate.

    7 votes
  5. Comment on Tower of Babble: Non-native speakers navigate the world of 'good' and 'bad' English in ~humanities

    pallas
    Link Parent
    I'm not even sure the author's suggestions can be seen as being so consistent, and honestly find the article rather offensive. They appear to argue that one should avoid idioms from some dialects...

    the author at certain points seems to suggest the globalization of English requires that it be broken down to its basest meanings

    I'm not even sure the author's suggestions can be seen as being so consistent, and honestly find the article rather offensive. They appear to argue that one should avoid idioms from some dialects of English, while using idioms from other dialects, within the space of a few paragraphs decrying ‘improving synergy’ and extolling ‘do the needful.’ In doing so, they appear to relegate all Indian English speakers to the status of ‘non-native,’ and attribute a phrase that appears to originate from English (albeit not American English) to a foreign language, presumably because the people who primarily use it are not American. They similarly describe criticism of accents as gatekeeping and bullying, then proceed to criticize non-rhotic and other accents, and refer to scientific support for their suggestion that people should change their accents, while linking to a paper that appears, from a quick glance, to have very different goals (a consistent accent to teach language learners).

    10 votes
  6. Comment on TeXMe Demo: Self-rendering Markdown + MathJax documents in ~comp

    pallas
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    This appears to render Markdown, and MathJax math, not LaTeX. Unless I'm not setting up the page correctly, basic non-math LaTeX doesn't work (itemize environment, section, bfshape, emph), and...

    This appears to render Markdown, and MathJax math, not LaTeX. Unless I'm not setting up the page correctly, basic non-math LaTeX doesn't work (itemize environment, section, bfshape, emph), and newcommand and even the basic TeX def don't work outside of individual math environments (as is usual for MathJax).

    It may be useful to change the description, because the idea of self-rendering LaTeX made me quite excited (and confused as to how it could be implemented) until I realized that it was doing something completely different than what I expected.

    5 votes
  7. Comment on Why Amazon workers sided with the company over a union in ~finance

    pallas
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    Unions have many of the same difficulties that democratic states have: it is much harder to stop a problematic government or leadership than simply being engaged, especially if the systems of...

    All I am saying is that all it takes to stop a shitty union is you and your coworkers actually being engaged with the activities of the union...

    Unions have many of the same difficulties that democratic states have: it is much harder to stop a problematic government or leadership than simply being engaged, especially if the systems of voting and representation are antiquated and fundamentally flawed, like FPTP.

    5 votes
  8. Comment on A NASA intern stole $21 million worth of moon rocks. He wanted to have sex on them. in ~space

    pallas
    Link Parent
    Wikipedia's article on the book this view comes from is surprisingly critical for a Wikipedia article, describing the book as being critically lambasted as lacking credibility and uncritically...

    Wikipedia's article on the book this view comes from is surprisingly critical for a Wikipedia article, describing the book as being critically lambasted as lacking credibility and uncritically taking a sympathetic view toward the perpetrator's story that the theft was just about sex. Wikipedia's own description of the theft doesn't mention that story, and instead describes a relatively straightforward theft, by a group, of the rocks with an intention to sell them.

    8 votes
  9. Comment on Officer Kim Potter fatally shot Daunte Wright, police said. She’s a 26-year vet, served as union president. in ~news

    pallas
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    I worry that this case may be being widely considered in entirely the wrong way, looking at the wrong possibilities, and judging the wrong groups. I don't think Daune Wright should have been shot...
    • Exemplary

    I worry that this case may be being widely considered in entirely the wrong way, looking at the wrong possibilities, and judging the wrong groups. I don't think Daune Wright should have been shot (or, I think, tased), and I think that something is very wrong. But I'm not convinced that the taser-and-gun confusion is illegitimate, or that Kim Potter should be punished.

    I recall an opinion piece, years ago, that compared the investigation of police violence to investigations of aviation accidents. It pointed out that aviation safety has an emphasis on keeping the same thing from happening again, and finding and blaming causes, not just judging the guilt or innocence of parties involved. I think this comparison is useful. In many cases, aviation accident investigations have involved disputes over whether the pilots were solely to blame, requiring little or no wider changes to how we fly, or whether there were more systemic considerations, even when pilot error was involved. Blaming the pilots, who have often died, can be easier, allows companies to avoid risk and liability, and allows people to keep doing what they are familiar with. But in many notable cases, tragedies that could have been attributed solely to pilot error were found to involve problems of design, construction, culture, and human behaviour, sometimes in surprising ways.

    When the 737 MAX crashes happened, Boeing's "the pilots didn't follow the right procedures" argument became ridiculed, because it became clear that, while it is technically true that they didn't follow the right procedures, expecting them to be able to, or to remember to quickly enough, was completely ridiculous. When the pilot in Air France 447 flew the plane in completely the wrong way, the focus was largely not on them being a bad person, but on why they would become so disoriented. When catastrophes in the 1970s occurred when experienced pilots made mistakes and others were reluctant to challenge them, or crews became disoriented and worked together ineffectively, rather than just blame the individuals for their mistakes, or the experienced pilots for being intimidating, or others for failing to confront them, aviation completely reevaluated the way that crews work, and developed concepts like crew resource management. All of these involved actions, by individuals, that killed hundreds of people. Yet investigations tried to come up with ways, not to find someone to punish, but to find out why those individuals acted the way they did, and how people could be made safer in the future.

    In fact, even in cases of actual malice, like the 9/11 hijackings or Germanwings 9525, investigations strongly considered how to prevent malicious actors from causing future tragedies, and made significant changes, rather than just blaming the tragedy on malice and being satisfied with condemning the perpetrators. Another hijacker could not repeat 9/11 today, because cockpit security has completely changed. Another Chauvin could simply strangle another Floyd in exactly the same way, however; and while I think Chauvin is likely guilty and likely should be punished, that punishment won't change the problem. I think most of us accept that a punitive justice system is ineffective: why would we expect it to be effective for police?

    So consider this alternative. What if Potter's explanation is entirely honest, and she is actually an experienced, skilled officer who honestly made a mistake? That would suggest a very different, and probably more distressing, possibility: that, when trained to escalate and treat all interactions as time-critical and life-threatening, under such high stress, there is a small, but significant, probability that even an experienced and adept officer will confuse a taser and a gun. The questions over how much they weigh, what colour they are, how their triggers feel, and so on, might not actually matter at all: it could be that the disorientation and stress of the situation completely erases differences that seem obvious when considered out of that context. There are many examples of pilots doing things that, in hindsight to the outside observer, seem completely ridiculous: stress, fatigue, disorientation, and crisis can completely change perceptions, decision-making, and behaviour. Aviation regulation, and safety regulation more generally, has responded to this not by expecting people to be better, or even expecting them to be trained to be better, but by developing processes that accommodate human imperfection.

    I would think that a safety-oriented approach to this incident would proceed very differently. The officer involved said she confused her gun and her taser, and the video doesn't immediately contradict this. So, immediately, suspend the practice of carrying a gun and taser simultaneously, nationwide, until this possibility can be ruled out or safe practices can be developed to prevent another accident. Compared to FAA actions, such a response would be completely reasonable. Do investigations of how officers recognize differences in equipment during split-second high-stress actions, and of the situations they are trained to treat in this way. Investigate whether changes to devices or practices can make this difference more apparent: maybe the design of tasers needs to be moved to seem nothing like a gun at all, even a toy gun. Or maybe, in instant decisions, there is simply too much similarity between two handheld projectile weapons to completely prevent confusion, and they should never be carried by the same person. Maybe training and actions also need to be completely reconsidered: what was the point in trying to tase a fleeing driver in the first place, instead of pursuing them or just tracking them until they stopped driving? Maybe procedures and training need to be fundamentally changed.

    This is hindered, of course, by the atrocious lack of regulatory oversight of policing in the US. The FAA, before having its reputation tarnished by recent corruption, was well-known for actions like suspecting the possibility of a rare fault in unusual circumstances, and grounding entire fleets of planes as a response, or requiring that every plane be inspected or modified. The response to communication confusions in the Tenerife disaster led to requirements around the world that standardized phrases be used, forcing people to change how they spoke. Yet the US, unlike most countries, seems to have essentially no control of this sort over police departments.

    Secondly, it's hindered by, I expect, a breakdown of confidence and expectation amongst the public in the US for any meaningful change. It seems unlikely that any systemic change will actually happen. But it's quite possible that the officer could go to prison. The latter probably won't make anyone safer, but at least it can be seen as something.

    And lastly, it's likely hindered by entrenched interests. A systemic, safety-oriented response to the problem would likely involve significant changes to practices and purchases. Making it so that every officer had a gun or a taser, instead of a gun and a taser, might cut taser purchases in half! Seeing this as a failing of an individual officer hurts a few individual officers. Seeing it as a failing of practices hurts the revenues of a few companies. And when the choice is between individuals and revenues, we know what is more valued.

    20 votes
  10. Comment on RMS addresses the free software community in ~tech

    pallas
    Link Parent
    I started writing a rather long and detailed story about an experience with a clearer example of such a problem, but decided that the details were too specific, so I'll try instead to write a more...

    I started writing a rather long and detailed story about an experience with a clearer example of such a problem, but decided that the details were too specific, so I'll try instead to write a more general summary.

    I was once in a group where someone who had significant Asperger's or something similar (circumstances made clear to us that it was a diagnosed disorder, though that diagnosis was rightly not available to us) regularly made a number of people, especially women, feel very uncomfortable, to the point that they were not comfortable participating in the group when he was present, or if there was the risk of him being present. The problems did not involve malicious or threatening behaviour, and even many of those who felt too uncomfortable to participate would say that the problems were not the person's fault. While the person couldn't recognize when or how they were making others uncomfortable, they were genuinely distressed about doing so when it was discussed, and they were clearly not ill-intentioned. But the problems were real and substantial, and it was clear that, while they might improve with effort, they would not improve enough to make people comfortable. The problems involved things that a reasonable person would see as unpleasant, and, because of coordination problems, involved some safety risk to others. Essentially all of us were at least somewhat uncomfortable: some of us were just more willing to accept that discomfort.

    It would have been wrong to exclude the person from the group. Yet at the same time, letting them participate normally would have been unfair to the people they made uncomfortable: it would not have been right to ask that all of them simply put up with legitimate discomfort because it was the result of the person's disorder, or stop participating.

    To address the problem, we largely mediated the person's participation through a subset of people who were willing to volunteer to interact with them and to accept the discomfort involved, and who were experienced enough to mitigate the safety problems. This arrangement, while it didn't let the person participate in quite the same way others did, was a reasonable compromise to allow both them and others to participate comfortably. They accepted this, because, even if they couldn't understand how they made people uncomfortable, they wanted to try to avoid doing so.

    With the FSF: I could accept that RMS, as he points out, has difficulty interacting with people, and understanding what he does that makes them feel uncomfortable. And he may well not be at fault in that. But if that's the case, and he cares about these problems, then he needs to accept he has these difficulties, and act to mitigate them. That may mean accepting that, even if he can't understand why he shouldn't do some things socially, he should accept that he shouldn't, even if he thinks they are right, or unproblematic. That may mean that he should try to make arrangements that will limit his potential to make others uncomfortable. Yet all accounts of him suggests that he doesn't do this. His own response, here, never really acknowledges it, instead describing the problems as him simply being too honest and forthright, or not understanding social cues.

    And for the FSF board, as they have now made a statement too: if RMS has these difficulties, then they need to work to mitigate their impact on the organization and its mission, not just ask everyone to accept them, and suggest that the problem can be dealt with simply by policy, or by RMS trying to be better.

    15 votes
  11. Comment on RMS addresses the free software community in ~tech

    pallas
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    RMS' attempted argument, which he thought was defending Minsky, was bizarre, and the choices he made in it are unsettling. As far as I have been able to tell, Giuffre stated that Epstein...

    RMS jumped into the thread and started by saying [let's assume these things are true - that Minksy had sex with a coerced, trafficked, 17 year old]

    RMS' attempted argument, which he thought was defending Minsky, was bizarre, and the choices he made in it are unsettling.

    As far as I have been able to tell, Giuffre stated that Epstein instructed her to have sex with certain people (eg, Prince Andrew and Dershowitz), that she did, and that they were involved in the abuse, but for other people, stated only that Epstein instructed her to, but did not state that she did or that she knew whether they were involved. To me, it seemed like the obvious defence, which I think Minsky's wife expressed, would be to argue that whatever Epstein's actions and intentions were, Minsky wasn't aware of them, wasn't involved, didn't do anything, and hadn't even been accused of doing anything.

    Yet instead, RMS constructed a set of assumptions in order to create a scenario where a prominent elderly man has sex with a teenager and, he argues, is blameless for doing so, because of the circumstances. In doing so, I think he significantly harmed Minsky's image, because the ensuing reporting on the scandal surrounding the argument reported on the imagined scenario, which, even if one accepts it, still casts him as being creepy and oblivious.

    Certainly, you can come up with sufficiently contrived and improbable fantasies where you can argue that a person is actually not at fault for doing something that would normally be abhorrent. While RMS didn't make his quite contrived enough to achieve this, in my view, and explained it ineptly, it could be done. But why leap immediately to such fantasies, when there doesn't seem to be any need to in the first place? Is it out of a culture of pseudorationalist edginess? Is it just out of complete bumbling cluelessness? Or does it come out of some desire, whether or not conscious, to be in that situation, where something forbidden but desirable to the person in some way is, through bizarre circumstances, made acceptable? I'm reminded of the sorts of people who, in conversations about security, immediately leap to fantasies where they would be justified in shooting someone.

    12 votes
  12. Comment on Signal adds a beta test for a payments system with cryptocurrency MobileCoin in ~tech

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    As far as I can tell, those aren't real concerns here, because the currency appears to lack most of the features of legitimate attempts at cryptocurrencies that result in those concerns in the...

    actual real questions regarding 51% attack, energy usage or other concern

    As far as I can tell, those aren't real concerns here, because the currency appears to lack most of the features of legitimate attempts at cryptocurrencies that result in those concerns in the first place.

    There are no real energy use concerns, because MobileCoin isn't proof of work; it's somewhat proof of stake, but where the creators have all the stakes and other stakeholders have no incentives to participate at all (but do have disincentives, costs, and required payments to Amazon), and thus one wouldn't expect much duplication of effort. There doesn't appear to be a possibility of a 51% attack by a party other than the creators of the coin, because the creators of the coin hold significantly more than 51% of the total coins, and can run one at any time. There's no problematic incentive structure for mining, because there is no mining, or incentive: fees go to the creators of the currency.

    This is wrapped in extremely dubious language of being non-profit, when I expect the more likely scenario is that this is a construction using ideas that US nonprofit law hasn't been updated to deal with yet in order to allow involved individuals to make a significant profit through the activities of their nonprofit organizations.

    4 votes
  13. Comment on Is it ethical for services to exclude those without internet access? in ~talk

    pallas
    Link Parent
    The hope here would be that the app would be generally available, and not restricted by region. This the case, for example, for Transport for London, and though I don't live in the UK, I have...

    And how are people who have phones purchased in other countries (because they're visitors) supposed to download an app that probably isn't in their country's app store, and probably isn't in their language?

    The hope here would be that the app would be generally available, and not restricted by region. This the case, for example, for Transport for London, and though I don't live in the UK, I have never had any problem using my phone for ticketing there (as a result of Covid I have not, however, been to London since Brexit).

    As for language, this is a difficulty that exists for public transport generally. Signs, ticket machines, tickets, announcements, and so on all must make choices of language, and will often be problematic for visitors, particularly in situations where they are unfamiliar with not just the language but also the characters themselves. Phone-based systems, if implemented well, may actually have the possibility of being an improvement here, as they can more easily be adapted to language the user can understand. (In practice, this is often implemented poorly; I'm reminded, for example, of the trend of tech companies to assume all users were monolingual and thus auto-translate or filter everything by interface language, making everything infuriatingly unreadable and making it difficult to see things in languages the user might be able to understand perfectly well.)

    3 votes
  14. Comment on Trio | Social video optimized for threes in ~tech

    pallas
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    (Edit: After looking at the length and tone of this, I should probably note that I am an academic who approaches criticism from what I think could be called a somewhat traditional academic way,...
    • Exemplary

    (Edit: After looking at the length and tone of this, I should probably note that I am an academic who approaches criticism from what I think could be called a somewhat traditional academic way, which can often end up sounding hostile. I don't mean to dismiss the idea, or thinking about different ways of arranging online conversations; if I did, I would do so by not commenting.)

    As you seem to be posting this to judge interest: I think that either I don't understand, or I don't agree, with the triadic concept. There seem to be two possible ways to understand it:

    One would be that you are arguing the intentional limitation to groups of three is optimal for social conversations in general. I'm extremely sceptical. Far from being a way to communicate in a ‘natural and fluid way,’ the limitation feels as though it would be very contrived and constraining. Natural, in-person conversations do not rigidly conform to having either three participants, or a visible absence of three participants, at all times: they grow and shrink, and at no time, ideally, feel as though there is the wrong number. You correctly note that video calls often lack a good expression of subtle body language, but this feels to me more frequently to be a problem of cameras, audio, connection quality, lag, and fundamental aspects of video calls, not the number of people in a call, so I don't see how this system would address the problem of body language at all. Even assuming that three people in a video conversation is ideal for body language, it doesn't seem that this would offer anything better than a normal system with three people, except, here, any need to include a fourth person would involve moving to another system. What does this offer for three-participant calls that three-participant calls in other systems don't have?

    This raises, too, an important problem of what an ideal conversation is. I would argue that a conversation is made ideal by its participants and content first, and its arrangement second. In order to have the ideal participants and content, sometimes the arrangements must be sacrificed: a poor connection with a vital contributor to the conversation, a chair wedged awkwardly at an overfilled table­­, a few people scattered across an empty room. This idea seems to pursue the opposite: in pursuit of ideal arrangement, it sacrifices flexibility of participants. A four-person conversation should not be compared to a three-person conversation only in quality of body language: rather, the quality of body language must be judged against ripping out all contributions of one of the participants. I don't think this is a good exchange. Like those chairs moved out of place, it seems instead like a constraint that people will primarily want to find ways around, rather than suffering under them for the sake of an ideal arrangement.

    I'm reminded of academic meetings in the current situation. For some reason, many university administrations are obsessed with Microsoft Teams, presumably for contractual reasons, and continually try to push it, and its constraints and awkward system, on everyone, especially for conferences. The result is not that people use Teams as intended: the result is that Teams primarily becomes a space that people use primarily to agree to move to some other, more natural space.

    The other possibility here is that the point of the idea is to have intentionally constrained, oulipien conversations. That might be more interesting, in a creative way, but in that case the use of the system would be much more limited than a system for general conversation, and I'm not sure that the simple rule of three participants with swapping would provide a sufficient constraint to create something interesting. There would also be the difficulty of avoiding having the system seem like some sort of imposed, dreadful networking or team-building exercise that seems to be the obsession of certain sorts of people and the horror of many others.

    The swapping and instant breakouts seem potentially interesting, but, at least to me, seem primarily interesting only in the context of larger discussions. The instant breakouts seem, in the context of triadic conversation groups, to have the potential to be outright offensive and socially vicious: either the breakout is done by two people inside the conversation, in which case it is really just a decision to exclude the third person, or the breakout is done by one person outside and one person inside, in which case it is primarily a social contest of whose company the person inside values more.

    As with many other systems with multiple conversation groups, the swaps and breakouts seem to be arranged devoid of context about the current conversations: it is not a matter of hearing another conversation that might be of immediate interest, swapping between conversations while vaguely keeping track of several; nor are the conversations large enough that splitting into smaller groups makes sense. Thus, it seems that the only reason to swap or breakout conversations is because you like the people you see in another conversation, or possible conversation, more than you like the people in your current one. The rigidity of either being wholly in or wholly out of conversations is a considerable frustration of mine with many multi-conversation systems, where my joining a conversation or not must entirely depend on a judgement of the participant list, but rather than addressing the problem, this system seems to take it to an extreme.

    Perhaps I don't understand the idea here. Or perhaps, I am not the target audience at all: I don't use Twitter, and feel that its constraints are actively harmful to reasonable conversation. I just don't see how making systems that are already frustrating in their inflexibility even less flexible, sacrificing quality of participants for perceived quality of arrangement, will be something that people would enjoy.

    7 votes
  15. Comment on Ido: A reformed and simplified offspring of Esperanto in ~humanities

    pallas
    Link Parent
    It's really better, I think, to see Ido and Esperanto as being dialects, rather than different languages. Wikipedia points this out, and that they are largely mutually intelligible. Ido itself is...

    It's really better, I think, to see Ido and Esperanto as being dialects, rather than different languages. Wikipedia points this out, and that they are largely mutually intelligible. Ido itself is based initially on Zamenhof's attempt to create a reformed Esperanto, which was rejected by the Esperanto community at the time, likely as the result of the linguistic conservatism and resistance to evolution that tends to arise with constructed languages.

    Personally, I could not support use of Esperanto, given its egregious sexism problem which is both needless and completely unacceptable in a modern constructed language. A language where the word for father is "patro" and the word for mother is "patrino" does not seem like a language that should be accepted as reasonable.

    More generally, I feel like this points to a problem of constructed languages ending up somewhat paradoxically being very stifled in ability to evolve compared to organic languages.

    5 votes
  16. Comment on Mask up! How to choose and maintain the best masks for use against COVID-19 [Updated] in ~health.coronavirus

    pallas
    Link
    For daily situations when I am not too worried about exposure, I wear an FFP2 mask underneath a secure cloth mask, which uses a velcro closure around the back of my head and has a metal nose clip....

    For daily situations when I am not too worried about exposure, I wear an FFP2 mask underneath a secure cloth mask, which uses a velcro closure around the back of my head and has a metal nose clip. While the US sources the article links to have concerns about disposable respirator mask reuse, the concrete studies and concerns they describe seem almost entirely related to degradation of fit quality. With the much heavier straps of the cloth mask securing the respirator underneath, however, this doesn't seem to be nearly as problematic. I am also not sure why a cloth mask, which I have never seen fit particularly well, would be preferable to a rotation of respirators with less-than-perfect fit, unless the concern is that a respirator could give a false sense of security.

    For situations where I am more concerned, I wear a half-mask respirator with FFP2 or P100 filters; in addition to being more secure, these are actually more comfortable than other masks, and for one of the two that I have, which has a speaking diaphragm, actually presents much less of an impediment to speech. Unfortunately, I've found that the appearance of these masks actually poses a significant problem, in that they appear to make others uncomfortable, and often cause unwanted hostility.

    3 votes
  17. Comment on How it happened: Transcript of the US-China opening remarks in Alaska in ~news

    pallas
    Link Parent
    I'm quite confused. I was commenting on the US statements, not the Chinese statements. The latter seemed to be very typical, with reiterations of arguments about internal affairs, claims of...

    Comments like these are curious to me. Nearly every statement made by the Chinese delegation was steeped in bluster.

    I'm quite confused. I was commenting on the US statements, not the Chinese statements. The latter seemed to be very typical, with reiterations of arguments about internal affairs, claims of progress in dubiously relevant areas and perfunctory whataboutism, and of little difference from comments that have been discussed many times. The US approach here is what is new, by virtue of the political changes there.

    Yet you appear to have written a response, almost entirely on a topic I didn't comment on at all, which appears to repeatedly accuse me of supporting the Chinese comments by virtue of being critical of the US comments. Can one not see both as problematic? Must there be "the bad guy" and, presumably by consequence, "the good guy"? Are you suggesting that, because the Chinese comments were bad, the US comments should not be criticized? Or are you suggesting that any comment needs to give equal time criticizing both?

    Was the Chinese rhetoric not steeped in Chinese exceptionalism to you? It didn't seem like heavy handed bluster?

    Do you think South Korea, Japan, Taiwan or even a nominally communist nation like Vietnam would prefer a Chinese led system to that by America?

    What is the point of questions like this? Again, I said nothing about the Chinese comments, and I don't particularly disagree with your comments on them. I just don't see how they relate to the US comments taken as an indicator wider post-Trump changes in American foreign policy, and don't see why there was a call for seeing criticism of the US comments as being pro-China. This is not some sort of novel where there is a protagonist and antagonist.

    5 votes
  18. Comment on US-China meeting breaks into tense confrontation on camera in ~news

    pallas
    Link Parent
    There appear to be significant cuts to this video compared to the US State Department transcript, especially to Yang's opening comments, which, in the editors' defence, went on long enough that...

    Where do you even go in talks after things break down publicly like this in less than five minutes?

    There appear to be significant cuts to this video compared to the US State Department transcript, especially to Yang's opening comments, which, in the editors' defence, went on long enough that Wang commented on its length.

    9 votes
  19. Comment on How it happened: Transcript of the US-China opening remarks in Alaska in ~news

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link
    I always feel dismayed hearing Blinken. US foreign policy under Biden, and Blinken, appears to have moved from the bumbling isolationism and personality-driven politics of Trump to a brutish...

    I always feel dismayed hearing Blinken. US foreign policy under Biden, and Blinken, appears to have moved from the bumbling isolationism and personality-driven politics of Trump to a brutish American aggression and supremacism, underpinned by a deep-seated sense of American exceptionalism and the need, and right, of America to lead the world.

    Blinken starts out his opening remarks with an aggressive laundry list of topics that, he claims threaten what he describes as "the rules-based order," by which presumably he means the explicitly American-led order he described in his interviews with the European press recently­­­: because, as he pointed out then, if America was not present to lead the world, then it would be influenced by bad actors like China, or have no leadership at all. He ends his comments, in what appears to be an unexpected response speech, with an outright American exceptionalist threat. He conflates American engagement with American leadership: at one point using the two words interchangeably.

    Both China and the US have significant problems. But if this is the new, respectful and professional US style of diplomacy, it is certainly depressing.

    6 votes
  20. Comment on CEO of Sky Global encrypted chat platform indicted by US in ~tech

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    It's unclear what they actually mean by that statement. The one concrete statement the US prosecutors appear to make with regard to money laundering is that the company accepted payment in...

    It seems like the big issue here was their employees' use of Bitcoin to help people launder money. It does seem (based on the reporting here) that they were actually helping organized criminals in a way beyond just having an encrypted chat app.

    It's unclear what they actually mean by that statement. The one concrete statement the US prosecutors appear to make with regard to money laundering is that the company accepted payment in Bitcoin, with the ostensible goal (even if the public ledger makes that a bit foolish) of protecting customer privacy. I would not be surprised if the argument the US is making is that, simply by accepting payments in Bitcoin, since the Bitcoins may have been obtained illegally, the (actual, not fake for the purpose of laundering) purchases constituted money laundering, as it allowed the use of illegal funds. That would suggest that any company accepting payments in Bitcoin without customer information and diligence on source of funds is facilitating money laundering (this is the case for some cash transactions in the EU, but I'm not sure if it also applies to Bitcoin, and it's unclear why the US, rather than Canada, would have jurisdiction here). I have some annoying personal experiences with the US making these sorts of interesting interpretations, with the interesting interpretation that taking a scheduled flight on a commercial airline (in South America...) could constitute an illegal drug-related financial transaction.

    There is also, however, the claim that Sky Global itself was evading something—either taxes or scrutiny—through shell companies around these payments. That would be another matter entirely.

    2 votes