Google+: In theory, they understand names

(Personal)

2012-07-31 15:31
Comment

(Hello, hypothetical reviewer. Please read this; follow the link to see why.)

I think I should in theory be able to get the name seebs on Google+.

The thing is, it’s unclear how. The appeals process is… erratic, still. There’s still no process for putting in any actual explanation, so instead I’m using my blog (which is pretty clearly a well-established part of my world) to put in the simple explanation:

Everyone calls me seebs. My coworkers call me seebs. My spouse calls me seebs. My friends call me seebs. My therapist called me seebs. My neighbors call me seebs. My lawyer calls me seebs. My mom tends not to, because she’s used to the legal name, but when she’s talking to strangers she’s more likely to say “seebs’ mom” than to use the legal name.

If I am in a public space, and someone shouts “seebs”, I look. If someone shouts the name on the driver’s license, I don’t. The G+ names policy says it is supposed to be the name that I normally go by. That name is seebs. I am not willing to use a different name for social things.

(I thought people were trying to connect with me, but actually the interface is just really strange about how it presents things like the buddy list of my Google Chat account.)

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

YouTube tries to push for real names: Google doesn't get it

(Personal)

2012-07-27 17:18
Comment

After the drama over Google+ demanding “real names”, and the claim that they were now accepting pseudonyms (they aren’t, for real people), and after a friend had her G+ account deleted because someone somewhere decided the name wasn’t good enough, I suppose I sort of accepted that Google was constitutionally incapable of comprehending that there could ever be legitimate reasons for people to want any kind of privacy.

It’s easy for a company run by extremely wealthy white males living in the US to view the issue as insignificant. Many of the problems other people face simply can’t happen to them. Sergey Brin is not at risk of being gang-raped by people determined to show him that his claimed gender is incorrect, for instance.

More troubling, though, is that the entire thing is based on a lie, or rather a pair of lies.

Lie #1: There is no risk if you aren’t doing anything bad.

You’d think this one would be sufficiently obviously stupid that people wouldn’t even bother advancing it. The world is full of victims of stalking, people who are gay or transgendered, people whose names carry ethnic connotations. People who would face genuine risk of harm if it were easy to find them, in short. There’s more to this, but a brief detour is in order:

Lie #2: Being under their real names will discourage trolls and abusers.

This is, in practice, not true. It’s especially not true for people who have common names; there’s no risk to someone named John Smith posting nasty comments, for instance. But beyond that, it’s not true because the sorts of people who engage in online bullying are not in general the sorts of people who are much concerned about their reputation. Even if they in theory ought to be afraid of consequences, they aren’t.

But let’s stop for a moment and consider that phrase: Afraid of consequences. See the gimmick here? It’s not just that the abusers aren’t likely to actually be afraid. It’s that to even imagine that they would be, you have to accept that being identified online can be dangerous. And once you consider that the online world provides a rich supply of people who are apparently inclined to bullying, we get to the real meat of the issue:

If you are unhappy with the way people behave when all they can do is post nasty stuff online, what makes you think that making it easy for them to find the home addresses and workplaces of their victims will improve things?

And that’s the real problem; it’s not just that pushing towards the use of real names won’t help. It’s that it will make things dramatically worse. It will give the abusers a great deal of extra power over their victims. You can just ignore obnoxious comments; you can’t just ignore photos of your house in crosshairs.

And the thing is, it’s been long enough that we all know that real names don’t fix things. So why do it? Probably because real names are more valuable to advertisers.

You remember when Google’s corporate ethos used to be “don’t be evil”? That was a long time ago.

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

Liar, liar, pants on fire

(Personal, Politics)

2012-07-24 22:51
Comment

So, there’s this long story. As always, Snopes has pretty good coverage of the whole issue.

1. Chick-fil-a, a restaurant chain, is identified as supporting various anti-gay causes.
2. In an interview, Chick-fil-a CEO says yes, that’s true.
3. The Jim Henson Company breaks off a deal with Chick-fil-a, because they are not okay with the anti-gay thing.
4. Chick-fil-a claims they are recalling the toys over safety concerns

Now here’s the thing. That last bit? That seems to be a lie. It sure would be a heck of a coincidence for a company to stop distributing a toy over “safety concerns”, but not to issue any sort of recall or warning about any hazaards whatsoever, right after the partner providing the toy stopped doing business with them.

And this, I think, gets to the heart of the issue: There is something that causes a lot of the anti-gay people to feel that their cause is so righteous that there is no reason at all that they shouldn’t lie to make themselves look better in pursuit of it. And that is not a thing that is usually associated with righteous causes; it’s a thing that is associated with pride and a pre-existing dishonesty.

Peter Seebach

,

Comment

---

We were not near the shooting.

(Personal)

2012-07-20 11:21
Comment

There was a shooting in Colorado, but it was not here.

(I have learned to just post this whenever I’m within a few hundred miles of something destructive.)

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

Are you sure?

(GeekStuff)

2012-07-17 18:20
Comment [1]

One of the recurring themes in user interface design is confirming actions which might be destructive. You tell the computer to do something, and it says “are you sure?”

Well, here’s the thing. For that question to be answerable, it really needs to indicate what it’s asking about. And it often doesn’t. Older Windows was particularly bad about this — it would ask whether you wanted to replace one file with another, and give you some information about one of them, but not the other. Textpattern, which is mostly pretty friendly, just has little dialog boxes that ask “are you sure?” It doesn’t distinguish between “approve comment”, “delete comment”, “mark comment as spam”, or “ban commenter”. Moneydance will ask “Are you sure you want to delete all of the selected entries?” even when only one entry is selected. Rift’s “report spam” feature confirms that you want to report spam, but doesn’t show the name of the person it thinks you wanted to report — a problem in an interface where the click targets can move faster than you can click (because it’s a scrolling chat window).

For some reason, things which do this tend to favor modal dialogs, so not only are they asking an unanswerable question, they’re preventing you from doing the research you’d need to be sure. Cancelling and trying again doesn’t necessarily help, because you might misclick the second time, too.

Suggestion: Figure out what users need to know to answer the question. Make that information available in some way, even if you have to hide it behind one of those little triangles for expanding hidden data.

Peter Seebach

Comment [1]

---

Says it all, really.

(GeekStuff)

2012-07-13 11:08
Comment [2]

Build ran forever. Went and looked, and discovered that a program called ecj1 had taken up well over 3 hours of CPU time. I announced that it was probably Java-related based on that alone.

Yup.

This amuses me.

(Note: I killed the process. The build completed without a single diagnostic or error. This makes even LESS sense.)

Peter Seebach

Comment [2]

---

Cisco's new view of how routers work.

(GeekStuff)

2012-07-04 17:11
Comment

You may not know what routers are. Routers are devices which transmit information around, so for instance, if you have three computers, and an Internet connection, somewhere in there you probably have a router. The router is what makes sure that all three computers are able to access the Internet, and that your email ends up on your computer while someone else’s videos end up on theirs. They provide some basic control over data flows and such.

Well. That was the old idea.

Cisco’s new idea is that if the router might be used in any way they disapprove of, that it becomes a brick. So, say they conclude that you are using your Internet for some kind of obscene or pornographic material. They can cut your Internet off because they don’t approve of how you’re using it. Sure, they just talk about killing access to their “service” — but that “service” is the only way you can access, control, or configure your router. Take away the service, the router is just a device for emitting RF radiation to no particular effect. They have backed down from some of their initial plans to require authorization to spy on you and sell information about you if they feel like it, but they haven’t provided any kind of promise that they won’t just add it back later on.

In short: If you are looking at network hardware, consider Cisco/Linksys to be roughly in the same category as Belkin; yo should only get the hardware if “and then it randomly started interfering with my network usage” is an acceptable outcome.

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

Surface Review: The Secret World

(GeekStuff)

2012-06-30 15:40
Comment [1]

So, a friend of mine has been really interested in Funcom’s The Secret World, which is currently in “early access”, with full launch on June 3rd. This means that, for the next couple of days, “pre-order” bonuses are still available, which may be of interest to some people.

A friend of mine is super into this game, for a number of reasons, and I had agreed that it sounded fun. What really convinced me to give it a closer look, honestly, was some particularly vehemently hostile Funcom-bashing that was happening in a thread about the game on the Rift forums.

So I looked into it. Here’s the elevator pitch: Dark urban fantasy setting, sort of survival-horror genre at least at first, advancement system does not have levels (and I think that really is the case; it’s not just that nothing is labeled “levels”, it’s that they don’t really have a corresponding mechanic), and any character could, in theory, with enough time, master all the powers in the game. At any given time, you have at most seven active (click) powers and seven passive effects; you can swap between sets of these. Game focuses on more immersive quests, and you actually have to read the quest text, pay attention to other in-game items, and so on.

EDIT: A friend points out that you can sort of view the item quality level as being comparable to level. You can have levels of “skill” with various categories of equippable items, and equipping items requires that you have a high enough level of skill for them. Items which require higher skill can provide higher stats. So in a way, you can sort of have an effective guide; if all the gear you’re equipping is QL3, you are probably noticably tougher than someone in all QL2. But since this can vary with item type — you could be able to equip QL4 pistols and only QL2 rifles — it’s still quite different from a “character level”. Players of some of the old FF games might consider this similar to “job levels”.

There’s a lot of interesting bits. There’s nine basic skill trees; all nine can serve to build DPS characters. Three of them also have healing abilities, three also have “support” (buff/debuff) abilities, and three also have “survival” (read tanking) abilities. You can effectively have two skill trees available at a time — you equip two weapons, and each makes that tree’s powers available, if you’ve trained any. So you can change your role and build around quite a bit.

I don’t actually know whether I’ll really enjoy this game for a long time. It certainly has flaws. The character creation options are sort of lame, with most items coming in three colors, and you can’t necessarily match any given item of clothing to any other item of clothing — they may not have any colors in common. The “cash shop” for cosmetic stuff is (MHO) badly overpriced, and you have to buy each item separately for each character, and in each color. The UI is full of “not quite ready yet” bits, although mostly what’s there works fine, it’s just that other parts aren’t there yet.

But the company appears to have been doing a lot of things right. They have more dev and staff involvement on their forums than a lot of games, GM responses are fast and don’t seem to be form letters at all, and the basic game experience is pretty light on bugs. I would compare this roughly to the launch quality of Rift; maybe not quite as good, but it’s doing pretty well.

And most importantly, the game is full of New Ideas. Yes, the game is split into “dimensions” (aka servers, shards, whatnot). But you can group with people who aren’t in the same dimension, because you’re all sharing a world in some way; you can get moved to their copy, or they to yours. Not just something like the cross-shard dungeons in WoW or Rift; ordinary questing, too. The level-less system, with two kinds of sort-of-parallel advancement? Neat. The “all the skills if you want them” advancement? Amazing. The way they’ve mixed up roles like survival/support/healing? Pretty cool.

So if you like MMOs, and you can afford to spend money now and again, I commend this one to your attention. It is a non-crappy attempt at implementing some fairly cool new ideas, and I think that the industry as a whole will benefit a lot if this game does well enough to encourage other people to be willing to think a bit more outside the box.

And since a lot of my friends are likely to ask: Female costumes are not overwhelmingly slutty, although you can get bright red hot pants if you really want to.

Peter Seebach

Comment [1]

---

Microsoft: Liars.

(GeekStuff)

2012-06-30 03:37
Comment

“You may be a victim of software counterfeiting.”

Nevermind that this is a machine which has already been previously validated, and has done nothing unusual but be turned off for a month or two. There is no way in which I could have been the victim; only Microsoft would be the victim.

And to add insult to injury, there’s a little thing saying “this copy of Windows is not genuine”. Liars. It is, in fact, a genuine copy. It is even a fully legal, fully authorized, copy that was licensed for use with this specific machine.

What offends me about this is that the entire thing is absolutely dishonest. It’s not just spin; everything they say about this is lies. There is no counterfeiting involved. It’s not true that this “is not” genuine. The strongest claim they could justifiably make is that they haven’t successfully validated it – and even then, the victim would be Microsoft, not me.

Except, of course, I am the victim. I’m the victim of Microsoft’s determination that their customers should be abused and treated like thieves.

Their helpful software explains: They detected an “exploit”. (No, they didn’t. There was no exploit. I just didn’t turn the machine on for a couple of months.) Therefore my key is invalid. I must buy a new key, or talk to their phone reps. And you know what? All false. No exploit. And sure enough, the exact same key works fine when entered again. If they had simply checked the key they already had, they’d have confirmed that it was valid. Instead, they lied to me, hoping to sell me another $109 of licensing I didn’t need.

This is sort of a recurring theme in Microsoft’s business strategy these days; accuse everyone of stealing in the hopes of extracting more money from them, because there’s no way left to grow their market except double-charging people. It’s pure sleaze. If you have a legitimate key, just re-enter it and watch, dumbfounded, as it turns out that everything the software had said to you was a lie.

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

Angry is a kind of stupid

(Personal)

2012-06-28 14:21
Comment [1]

Look, I’m not disputing that there are times when it is justifiable to be angry. I’m just saying… Angry people are dumb. Consistently. Being angry makes you think less clearly. Anger makes people unwilling to question, and unwilling to consider that they might be wrong; instead, they treat any suggestion that they are mistaken or confused as a personal insult. The angrier you get, the less competent you get.

Consider the protestors, outraged at China’s human rights record, protesting the Beijing Olympics. One sign slogan: “Would you have let Hitler’s Germany host the Olympics?” Well, you know, that’s a thing you can look up; the answer was yes. (Munich, 1936.)

Today, the Supreme Court ruled on a controversial health-care law, and upheld it, at least for now and in part. Response? Outraged opponents declare that they refuse to live in a country with socialized medicine, and are moving to Canada.

Or you could look at the hilarity of Ranaan Katz suing Google, a process which started when the ludicrously wealthy Katz decided that the best way to prevent people from viewing a picture of him he found unflattering was to sue a blogger about it. A poor blogger. So when she got pro bono representation, his lawyers threatened to sue them should they represent her. (Note: Normally you are not allowed to sue lawyers for representing their clients.)

Or basically anything, anywhere, relating to Charles Carreon, who has managed to obtain substantial Internet fame for threatening to sue not only a blogger he’s mad at, but charities that blogger is donating money to. Yes, really.

What all these things have in common is this: Someone is angry, and being angry they start attacking a thing which seems to them to be somehow incorrect or at fault, and then they can’t stop. They can’t say “hang on, this really is sort of silly”. They can’t say “okay, that was out of hand; I have legitimate gripes but I can’t justify that last statement.” They just have to run with it, and keep running.

So, the thing is. When you start finding that lots of people are attacking you or making fun of you? Stop and check whether you might actually be angry and making bad decisions. Or, alternatively, start a blog and post in lots of detail so the people who wonder what you’re thinking can find out. If you are okay with being a week’s Internet lulz, go for it.

Peter Seebach

Comment [1]

---

« Older Newer »