pallas's recent activity

  1. Comment on Newly released 'Palace letters' reveal Australian Governor-General Sir John Kerr sacked the Whitlam government in 1975 without giving advance notice to the Queen in ~humanities

    pallas
    Link Parent
    I think it's important to note that, if we are referring to the same letter, when Charteris writes that the Queen would be unhappy if she was advised by the PM to dismiss the Governor-General, he...

    I think it's important to note that, if we are referring to the same letter, when Charteris writes that the Queen would be unhappy if she was advised by the PM to dismiss the Governor-General, he wrote this immediately before explaining that she would have no option but to follow the advice and dismiss the Governor-General if advised to do so.

    2 votes
  2. Comment on Announcing the Zig Software Foundation in ~comp

    pallas
    Link Parent
    We founded a non-profit in the US some time ago, and this was certainly not our experience at all. Maybe it was specific to their bank's focus and the community they were around?

    We founded a non-profit in the US some time ago, and this was certainly not our experience at all. Maybe it was specific to their bank's focus and the community they were around?

    1 vote
  3. Comment on "Knull is Coming" - Marvel missing the fact that fantasy names can be words in other languages in ~misc

    pallas
    Link Parent
    To some extent, there are simply a finite number of short words. There are inevitably going to be collisions between different languages. I am reminded of the Greek expletive μαλάκας, most often...

    To some extent, there are simply a finite number of short words. There are inevitably going to be collisions between different languages.

    I am reminded of the Greek expletive μαλάκας, most often used as μαλάκα. This sounds exactly like Malacca, which, of course, causes considerable problems for discussing topics involving Southeast Asia. In fact, in many places, Μαλάκα is the transliteration of the Malacca in the Straight of Malacca and elsewhere.

    In writing, this led to the somewhat unusual Μαλάκκα, the double-κ presumably existing to distinguish the word in written works, and to the peculiar tendency observed when Greek news discussed the disappearance of MH 370 to deliberately mispronounce the word by putting the stress (modern Greek has semantically-important accents) on the first syllable, saying Μάλακα, despite this not being in any dictionary or atlas, because it avoided the conflict.

    3 votes
  4. Comment on What's wrong with email? in ~tech

    pallas
    Link Parent
    To me, the enormously frustrating problem with communication at the moment is that email is a mess, but all work for alternatives appears to be toward entirely different, short-form chat-based...

    To me, the enormously frustrating problem with communication at the moment is that email is a mess, but all work for alternatives appears to be toward entirely different, short-form chat-based communication methods that are centred around rooms or groups. Thus, the supporters of those methods continually push them, and point out the legitimate major problems with email, while people who need a long-form, message- and topic-centred continue to use email, because there is no alternative.

    5 votes
  5. Comment on What's wrong with email? in ~tech

    pallas
    Link
    These sorts of everyone-who-doesn't-use-a-tool-the-way-I-want-is-WRONG-and-I'll-refuse-to-speak-with-them-if-they-don't-do-exactly-what-I-think-is-best rants don't seem constructive, and commonly...

    These sorts of everyone-who-doesn't-use-a-tool-the-way-I-want-is-WRONG-and-I'll-refuse-to-speak-with-them-if-they-don't-do-exactly-what-I-think-is-best rants don't seem constructive, and commonly come up in discussions about email. Software developers are not the world. Software developers' needs are not the world's needs. Different people have different needs for communication. The continual insistence that plain text emails work best for everyone is ridiculous. They don't: they work well for software developers.

    In one of my pursuits, I frequently need equations and diagrams in my emails. Plain text does not practically allow this: past very simple equations, it's not reasonable to try to have a discussion in TeX source. My choice is not between HTML and plain text emails, it is between an HTML email, or a plain text email with a PDF attached. In another pursuit, I frequently need images, referenced or inline in the text, because those images are either photographs or scans of the topics we're discussing.

    My current standard is to send clean HTML emails that are converted Markdown (and, of course, contain no external content, which shouldn't be allowed). This allows me to include equations and inline images, and to write with reasonable formatting. It also means that my emails are still quite readable as text: in fact, I often use Emacs+mu4e, along with conversions, as an email client. I used to buy into the idea that plain text emails were superior. But with clean HTML emails, my emails look far better, actually support communication in the fields I work in, and are more reliably readable in more ways on more devices.

    Could there be a better middle ground? Yes. Widespread Markdown support, for example, would go a considerable way toward nice, formatted emails. A common standard for clean HTML email content would be nice: HTML is, at its heart, a text markup language that is actually reasonably suited to email-style content. To some extent, there even is a middle ground that is not as described: most HTML email readers I know of block external content and connections by default, so tracking pixels shouldn't be a problem.

    Instead, the discussion about email is often overrun by developers, who insist that, because plain text is usable for them, it should be perfectly usable for everyone, and push discussion in such a ridiculously backward direction that, after decades of discussion, even something as simple as soft text wrapping is not possible in plain text.

    4 votes
  6. Comment on US Supreme Court grants federal job protections to gay, lesbian, transgender workers in ~news

    pallas
    Link Parent
    I think your confusion here is with regards to what coming out means. Coming out does not necessarily mean making statements about sexual orientation, or even having the orientation "be relevant"...

    I think your confusion here is with regards to what coming out means. Coming out does not necessarily mean making statements about sexual orientation, or even having the orientation "be relevant" to the workplace, but rather, can often mean not actively hiding it. One could argue that being out about something is the more usual state, and being closeted is the choice that makes it relevant, and makes it so that someone constantly needs to do to work to hide their orientation in the workplace.

    Do you need to be concerned about coworkers happening to see you with a woman outside of work? If your employer wants emergency contact information for you, would you need to choose not to give a partner's contact information, because they might notice that the person has a feminine name? Do you need to worry about carpooling, or having someone pick you up from your office? If you're in the US, do you need to worry about spousal/dependent healthcare coverage? Do you need to make sure to never mention someone who is a significant part of your life? Straightness comes up in the workplace, even if you never think to mention it.

    12 votes
  7. Comment on Helping or harming? The effect of trigger warnings on individuals with trauma histories in ~science

    pallas
    Link Parent
    Of note here, for this study, is that the trigger warning text they used was so completely vague and generic, giving no sense of what the content contained, that I don't think a reader could...

    Of note here, for this study, is that the trigger warning text they used was so completely vague and generic, giving no sense of what the content contained, that I don't think a reader could reasonably make an informed choice on whether or not to read the text:

    TRIGGER WARNING: The passage you are about to read contains disturbing content and may trigger an anxiety response, especially in those who have a history of trauma.

    However, the paper does reference a study suggesting that specificity in trigger warnings is also potentially not useful.

    6 votes
  8. Comment on Don't ask to ask, just ask in ~tech

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    It largely isn't helpful, however. The author makes a number of negative assumptions about a person asking questions, none of which are necessarily true: That the person is too ignorant to know...

    It largely isn't helpful, however. The author makes a number of negative assumptions about a person asking questions, none of which are necessarily true:

    • That the person is too ignorant to know what expertise would be necessary to answer their question.
    • That they're probably asking a common-sense question anyone could answer.
    • That the potential respondents will understand whether they can competently answer the question or not, and won't jump into trying to answer a question they don't actually understand.
    • That explaining the question won't take a significant amount of time, and the only reason not to just ask would be out of laziness.
    • That the question could just as well be worked out by the enquirer, if only they were willing to put in enough work.
    • That the question is being asked entirely to solve a problem the enquirer has, rather than, say, as part of contributing to a project, and that the enquirer should be grateful for any attention they get.
    • That the questioner will be familiar with the culture of rudeness common in internet circles like this, and accept it.

    I can understand the frustration the author has. Very frequently, these sorts of assumptions are all true, particularly on IRC, and this "any ??? experts around"-type introduction then leads into someone asking a question about how to add two numbers together in Python, or asking if anyone would be willing to do their class assignment for them. But those sorts of people aren't going to read a post like this before asking a question, and they're almost certainly not going to be familiar and comfortable with this sort of brusqueness, so when, as I expect this post was intended to be used, it's posted as a response to them, they'll just be offended. Thus it seems that the post doesn't achieve much other than trying to sound superior and blunt.

    15 votes
  9. Comment on Don't ask to ask, just ask in ~tech

    pallas
    Link
    I think many comments here are extending a point being made specifically about IRC to interactions more generally. Different cultures have different expectations around communication, and...

    I think many comments here are extending a point being made specifically about IRC to interactions more generally.

    Different cultures have different expectations around communication, and frustratingly, people in each culture often feel that their conventions are the only correct ones.

    Asking to ask can make sense when asking the questions is, itself, expensive, or where there are potentially obligations of some nature surrounding asking and answering questions.

    For example, in scholarly settings, there is often neither an outright responsibility to answer questions, as there might be in a corporate setting, or a complete lack of obligation, as there might be in an online development setting. There's generally a social and scholarly expectation that we'll help other researchers, but we may or may not have the time or the expertise: asking directly for assistance might not provide the opportunity for the person to politely decline, or refer to someone else, with them instead feeling obligated to help. At the same time, even explaining what the specific questions are might be a very time-consuming process, and the way the questions need to be explained might need to be tailored to the specific background of the person you are asking: simply asking the questions would take a large amount of time, which would be wasted if the person being asked couldn't respond.

    So, as an example, I received an email a few days ago that I feel went about this the right way. The person wanted to ask me some questions about some experimental techniques that they know I have experience in, whether they would work for their project, and whether I could help them apply the techniques. So they wrote a few sentences about the general style of experiment they were working on, asked two quick questions about general feasibility, and then asked whether I would have time to discuss the technique with them in detail. This seemed ideal: it didn't obligate me, or take a huge amount of time to write or read, but it also gave me just enough context to understand the general nature of they wanted to ask me, think about whether I wanted to help, and know whether I was the best person to do so.

    I think that asking to ask a question can, at times, also be useful in programming settings, particularly when you are not sure of your audience or when the question is sufficiently technical. I can recall a time, many years ago, when I thought I was asking a question in a space for development discussions, but which had gradually turned into more a place for technical support. So rather than asking whether I was in the right place to discuss fixing hardware bugs, I immediately launched into a technical question regarding how to approach properly solving a serious bug affecting a few laptop models, as current workarounds had specific and severe shortcomings. Numerous people, recognizing the bug and not reading the rest of my question, immediately responded with mild admonishment that I didn't search for a solution before asking for help, and then explained how to fix the problem I was having by patching the kernel... with a CPU-crippling temporary workaround I had written. Had I more clearly asked, first, about whether I was in the right place to discuss developing a fix for a bug, rather than asking for technical support or a solution, I could have been directed elsewhere, instead of wasting my time, and the time of everyone who tried to answer the question without understanding it. (I did at least learn that the distribution was filled with people who were being extremely irresponsible about what they recommended to users...)

    On the other hand, in civic- and business-oriented matters, and a completely separate culture, I am continually frustrated by voicemails and texts I get asking me to call people back, as they want to ask me something, without giving any information, at all, as to what they want to ask. I don't know how urgent or important the matters are. I don't know how much time the return call will take, how much privacy I might need for it, how much preparation or what documents I might need, and so on. It is infuriating, and at the same time, I also know that I can't just demand everyone change their communication styles.

    8 votes
  10. Comment on Mermaids writes an open letter to JK Rowling in ~lgbt

    pallas
    Link Parent
    Is it, or is it simply that the way voices are amplified online pushes discussion in that direction?

    I think it's ridiculous and strange that this is the hill so much feminism is now beached upon...

    Is it, or is it simply that the way voices are amplified online pushes discussion in that direction?

    5 votes
  11. Comment on Mermaids writes an open letter to JK Rowling in ~lgbt

    pallas
    Link Parent
    I think that's a difficult question, because it would seem to me that the problem is not necessarily her, or a matter of suppressing her preaching, but one of the media system as it exists now,...

    If so, what do you think is an appropriate response in order to suppress her preaching intolerance?

    I think that's a difficult question, because it would seem to me that the problem is not necessarily her, or a matter of suppressing her preaching, but one of the media system as it exists now, which gives an incentive to platforms and media sources to amplify extremist voices and create controversy and fury, regardless of what that controversy is. Is the problem here a need to suppress her voice, or a need to prevent it from being amplified? Should we respond to her directly, and seek to suppress every hateful voice at its source? Or should we fault the reporters who took what would have been a marginal essay and amplified its readership enormously with two-sided reports on it, or, worse, as in the case of the Sun, turning it into absurd and itself harmful drama? Or, perhaps, should we fault a social media system of link-sharing that offers a way for hateful voices to be amplified enormously and uncritically?

    I think an argument could be made here that the major problem lies with page-view-supported media sources and social media link-sharing.

    3 votes
  12. Comment on Mermaids writes an open letter to JK Rowling in ~lgbt

    pallas
    Link Parent
    Could you clarify whether you are stating this seriously?

    Perhaps you should not vote for my application for a moderator role on this site

    Could you clarify whether you are stating this seriously?

    4 votes
  13. Comment on Mermaids writes an open letter to JK Rowling in ~lgbt

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    I would argue that the intended audience of open letters is usually not the addressee, and that the politeness is important for the true audience. If Rowling were the actually the intended...

    This is undeservedly polite for an argument which does not hinge on a question of tone.

    I would argue that the intended audience of open letters is usually not the addressee, and that the politeness is important for the true audience. If Rowling were the actually the intended recipient, there would be little point in having the letter be open.

    Here, as I often think is the case with open letters, the intended audience are most likely the readers of Rowling's statements, the people who, not having the benefit of more information, and likely following her statements for reasons not related to these matters, read her views and think to themselves that she makes good points. The letter responds to those readers, with the references that Rowling did not provide in her essay, to show how Rowling's points are wrong. Regardless of one's views on civilized conversation and the handling of problematic voices, it is right to treat those readers politely, if you are writing to theme: they are not at fault for having read Rowling's essay.

    As you note, this letter is very unlikely to convince Rowling of anything, but I think it is very possible that it will be convincing to readers of both. In her essay, Rowling makes a number of claims of scholarly evidence, and tellingly, of course, provides no actual details or references: an ignorant, credulous reader could be forgiven for taking at least some of her arguments seriously as a result.[1] The response provides concrete, referenced rebuttals.

    I have to agree with Bal's response to your argument here, however (Edit: the initial response, not the subsequent comments). It's unclear what you propose by the argument that she be "banned from public forums and her legacy obliterated," but such a response, particularly when not backed with substantive discussion of what you mean, and with unsupportably absolute claims about Rowling's intentions, seems to risk lending unwarranted support to Rowling's unjustified attempts to paint herself as a victim in these matters.

    I would agree that ignoring her statements, rather than amplifying them, would make sense. But I'm not sure what you propose, particularly as her essay appears to be on her own website (I would take more issue with the tweet that led to the essay, rather than the essay itself, as it was in a public forum, and didn't even make an attempt to cast itself as reasonable).

    [1] While off-topic, I have a bit of a Foucault's-Pendulum-style fascination with ridiculous arguments, absurd pseudoscience, and so on, and as such I continue to be fascinated and baffled by the bathroom-predator idea, especially as described in Rowling's essay, where she seems to link it, somehow, to domestic violence. The argument seems to rely on an incantatory view of rules and laws, and I've never read a substantive argument as to what scenarios are actually envisioned, probably because they would need to be so utterly absurd that writing them out would expose that absurdity. I would contrast this form of argument with some others in the essay, which, rather than being based on fundamentally absurd premises, are based on false evidence.

    12 votes
  14. Comment on Trump signs executive order designed to limit the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for the content users post on their platforms in ~tech

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    Making the improbable assumption that the removal of Section 230 protections actually worked, then my understanding is that it would be completely infeasible for Twitter to actually operate. Their...

    Which means Twitter would be more responsible for user content, which makes it more likely to take down content in the future to protect itself from civil liability.

    Making the improbable assumption that the removal of Section 230 protections actually worked, then my understanding is that it would be completely infeasible for Twitter to actually operate. Their choice would appear to be:

    • Perform no moderation at all, and allow all content. This is not viable in modern society.
    • Be responsible for all posted content, when it is posted, as though the company had posted it, in the way that a newspaper, for example, can be held liable for the content of its articles. It doesn't seem that taking down content after posting would protect them. They'd have to vet each post before releasing it. Any potential copyright infringement claimant, or defamation claimant, or any other person with a potential complaint, would now have a gold mine: they could just go after Twitter.

    Section 230 was meant to deal with a series of US court rulings that put online forums in a ridiculous situation in the early 1990s. Essentially, CompuServe decided not to have any moderation, whereas Prodigy tried to have some basic content guidelines, and had moderators that removed offensive content. As a result, two court rulings held that CompuServe was not liable for content, even if it was inarguably defamatory, whereas Prodigy, in large part because they did basic things like banning expletives, were liable for everything every user wrote, including things like complex defamatory claims about an investment firm and an IPO.

    13 votes
  15. Comment on Redditor finds unsecured surveillance cameras seemingly placed by the US government in ~misc

    pallas
    Link Parent
    Errr...I'm not sure that we should be allowing what appear to be legally dubious links here. Mentioning to use Tor at the top of a long post with a list of links that could be misinterpreted as...

    Errr...I'm not sure that we should be allowing what appear to be legally dubious links here. Mentioning to use Tor at the top of a long post with a list of links that could be misinterpreted as being links to, eg, maps while scrolling through the comments seems problematic.

    4 votes
  16. Comment on Tax change in US coronavirus package overwhelmingly benefits millionaires, congressional body finds in ~finance

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    The title is blatantly misleading clickbait, and I don't really think it is appropriate for Tildes. The Washington Post article that Forbes references appears to have a far better, and more...

    The title is blatantly misleading clickbait, and I don't really think it is appropriate for Tildes. The Washington Post article that Forbes references appears to have a far better, and more honest, explanation.

    By it's honesty, it has more weight, as well. It's easy to discount this title as ridiculous, because it is: no one is getting a $1.7m check. The Washington Post title points out that (a) the analysis is coming from a congressional body, and (b) their analysis found that the vast majority of the benefits from the tax changes are to people making over $1m in income a year.

    And it also explains the context of this change. This is a change to how much in business losses can be deducted in certain situations. Like other tax code changes that are not immediately obvious on their own as problematic, the problem here is that it's removing provisions that were meant to offset other tax cuts. The article points out that, in fact, the limitations that this change reverses were put in place by the Republican tax bill.

    3 votes
  17. Comment on Jitsi Meet: Secure, fully featured, and completely free video conferencing in ~tech

    pallas
    Link
    Jitsi Meet is not secure by most modern definitions. It is not end-to-end encrypted, and so unless you are running your own server, 8x8, the company running the default server, has access to all...

    Jitsi Meet is not secure by most modern definitions. It is not end-to-end encrypted, and so unless you are running your own server, 8x8, the company running the default server, has access to all of your audio and video.

    This is in the Jitsi Meet readme:

    WebRTC does not (yet) provide a way of conducting multi-party conversations with end-to-end encryption. Unless you consistently compare DTLS fingerprints with your peers vocally, the same goes for one-to-one calls. As a result, your stream is encrypted on the network but decrypted on the machine that hosts the bridge when using Jitsi Meet.

    The Jitsi Meet architecture allows you to deploy your own version, including all server components. In that case, your security guarantees will be roughly equivalent to a direct one-to-one WebRTC call. This is the uniqueness of Jitsi Meet in terms of security.

    The meet.jit.si service is maintained by the Jitsi team at 8x8.

    It appears there's some disagreement about this.

    10 votes
  18. Comment on The right is using COVID-19 to wage war on reusable grocery bags in ~enviro

    pallas
    Link
    I'm a bit confused as to why the reusable and disposable bag question is somehow connected with political ideology. Without considering the environment at all, my reusable bags are far nicer to...

    I'm a bit confused as to why the reusable and disposable bag question is somehow connected with political ideology.

    Without considering the environment at all, my reusable bags are far nicer to use than any disposable bag is going to be. They're much sturdier, they have more comfortable handles and are more comfortable to use overall, they can hold much more, many of them will nicely sit upright, they won't stretch or break, and so on. Why would I want my groceries held by some bags of cheap, flimsy plastic film that will promptly spill everything if I set them down wrong, will stretch and break, and if they have handles at all, will probably stretch and break? Or some paper bags that risk disintegrating with the slightest bit of water, and where you have to constantly have to worry about the paper tearing, or the tacked-on handles falling off? When both are available, there really don't seem to be any advantages to disposable bags.

    It's one thing, maybe, to want disposable bags to be available if you don't happen to have bags with you at the moment (though everywhere I go, disposable bags are so cheap that it's not a significant cost increase), but to try to actively discourage the use reusable bags at all seems weirdly pointless unless you're, say, a plastics marketer trying to increase plastic consumption by any means necessary.

    Besides, don't many people with conservative views complain about things no longer being sturdy and built to last, usually in relation to Chinese manufacturing? Why would they want to demand to be be given cheap, disposable things for free?

    6 votes
  19. Comment on All European travel to the US will be suspended for thirty days, with exemptions for the UK and Americans who undergo screening in ~health.coronavirus

    pallas
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    It doesn't seem to make any sense from a containment perspective, particularly given the UK exemption. It would appear primarily meant to be a petty attack on the EU. It's appalling that the US...

    It doesn't seem to make any sense from a containment perspective, particularly given the UK exemption. It would appear primarily meant to be a petty attack on the EU. It's appalling that the US President would unilaterally use a global pandemic to promote his anti-EU stances.


    Update: It appears that Trump was not particularly accurate in describing the ban. It applies to anyone who has been in the Schengen area within 14 days of planned travel to the US, not simply to flights from the Schengen area, so this at least makes a bit more sense from a containment perspective, though the UK exemption doesn't: the way he described it, flights connecting through Heathrow would have been fine. It also doesn't apply to cargo, which makes a bit more sense as well.

    14 votes
  20. Comment on Oil prices just fell 31% (and counting) with single biggest drop since Gulf War in ~finance

    pallas
    Link Parent
    In some sense, they can raise or maintain oil prices, if they all agree to cut production enough to keep prices high, but that won't necessarily let them stay profitable, as they'll be selling...

    In some sense, they can raise or maintain oil prices, if they all agree to cut production enough to keep prices high, but that won't necessarily let them stay profitable, as they'll be selling less: it will help with per-unit costs, but not fixed costs.

    But right now, they can't even agree to cut production. Some of them tried to get everyone to agree, but it didn't work, and so instead Arabia, which tried to craft an agreement, and Russia, which rejected it, have decided they are going to go into an economic battle by increasing production, flooding the market and crashing prices until one of them falters.

    But this means that North American producers are doomed, as their per-unit costs are high enough that they can't sell at a profit at all in this market. The only reason they were viable at all was from high oil prices caused by producers with lower costs (but smaller overall reserves remaining) not producing as much.

    2 votes