Responding to terrorism

charlie

I am appalled and horrified by the wicked and murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Settling scores with violence is the recourse of ignorant, cowardly barbarians – lower than animals. I am heartbroken for every person affected.

This was without doubt intended as an act of terrorism. But I refuse to be terrorised and decline the opportunity to hate. What does that mean practically? Terrorism is like a pernicious auto-immune disease to which it is easy to succumb. It seeks to provoke us into destroying ourselves.

  • To respond with attempts to make society less open is to succumb.
  • To respond with advocacy for or against religion is to succumb.
  • To respond with hatred of anything except terrorism is to succumb.
  • To respond by advocating racism and disrespect for anyone is to succumb.
  • To blame the victims is to succumb.

We should respond to this act of hate, which is as indefensible to anyone who embraces one of the world’s religions as to those who reject them all, by ensuring we do not succumb to the self-destructive reactions perpetrators of terrorism want to provoke. The best response is to strengthen the open, fair and tolerant society that terrorism seeks to destroy.

[This formed the seed for my column in InfoWorld]

DLC 1: Hotel arrogance, the no-win laptop and more

Meshed Insights & Knowledge

Digital Life Clippings from week 1

  1. Marriott will ban shareable WiFi if the FCC don’t let them block itNYT – Their arrogance in attempting to protect their high-margin abuse of customers’ vulnerability knows no bounds; threatening the FCC is jaw-dropping.
    To carry out their threat to ban shareable WiFi, they would need to ban not only MiFis but also Windows, Mac and Linux laptops as well as almost all smartphones. They may think they have a right to break my internet if I won’t use their broken internet, but the “hospitality” they will need to show their “guests” will be deeply harmful.
    The bug is not that people want to use their own internet connections; it’s that Marriott think people should have to pay extra for a facility that’s become as fundamental to travellers as hot water or electric light. [Coverage]
  2. HP’s low-cost Windows laptop is…

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A Europe Of Treaties?

I am no fan of elitist bureaucracy, but I am not a euro-sceptic. I am convinced the European Parliament and the civil service around it is close to the best available compromise for this part of history.

Without getting too starry-eyed about it all, I would especially prefer the European Parliament to continue to exist. Without it, european economic strategy would be negotiated between civil servants supporting national cabinets in treaty-making, using opaque and unaccountable processes. The Parliament gives us a real opportunity for scrutiny – and a democratic veto through our elected representatives – on each European policy issue, which change-by-treaty would not give us.

If we want a Europe where treaties like ACTA and TPP are the democratic norm, scrap the European parliament. If we want all the change that happens to be done in whatever the post-tobacco equivalent of smoke-filled rooms is, scrap the European Parliament. And, for the benefit of the raving right in the UK, if you want the UK’s primary trading market to be controlled invisibly via undocumented and unaccountable negotiations between the political lackeys of plutocrats, vote for the UK to “leave” the EU.

This is not to say it’s got everything right, but scrapping it or withdrawing from it passes control back to unaccountable treaty-negotiating mandarins and the corporate lobbyists who direct them. Britain can’t leave Europe. But it can choose to longer have a say in how it works.

Digital Life Clippings – New Year’s News

I’ll keep reposting these here for a while longer…

Meshed Insights & Knowledge

  1. Indian government blocks programming web sites, including archive.org and Github gists – TechCrunch – As if to illustrate why it’s bad to allow anyone the power to block web sites arbitrarily, the Indian government has blocked entire slices of web infrastructure because one of their functionaries found something about ISIS somewhere on it. More on the blog.
  2. Marriott wants to block your devices so you have to pay for their wifiBoing Boing – Marriott clearly does not want anyone from the technology industry to stay at their hotels or to use them for events. Best to respect their wishes and avoid them like the plague.
  3. End-user adoption of open source is a lousy metricRRW – Open source is primarily a collaboration technique, leveraging the permission-in-advance arising from software freedom to unlock innovation in many unrelated deployers. For many reasons, enterprise end-user deployment of unmodified…

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Digital Life Clippings – Christmas Break Edition

Meshed Insights & Knowledge

  1. Police called to remove pre-teens just in case they pirated Hunger Games movie with cellphonesArs Technica – Given the storyline of the movie, this is ironic. Cineworld thinks copyrights are so precious it’s worth infringing common sense and individual rights to protect them. They think paying customers are criminals until proven otherwise, even kids. Don’t let any kids you care about watch movies at a cinema with this attitude, it’s not safe.
  2. The most wasteful patent aggression strategy ever has failedArs Technica – Another skirmish in the ongoing dirty war by the legacy technology & media industry against Google bites the dust.
  3. NSA dumps incriminating documents on Christmas EveBoing Boing – Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of Freedom of Information requests should see how government agencies squirm responding to them.
  4. Inadvertent Algorithmic CrueltyMeyerWeb – Facebook’s Year In Review is a product of…

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Facebook’s Illuminating Algorithmic Cruelty

The ever-presumptive and unremittingly faux-positive peer pressure of Facebook is doing its part this Christmas to re-open wounds of hurt from 2014 for a bunch of people. Their Year In Review combines algorithmically-selected photographs and text from Facebook postings throughout the year. It was probably conceived in good faith; they clearly anticipated it would promote thankfulness. I think it will be widely regretted rather than welcomed, for the reasons Eric Meyer explains in the moving post from which my title is adapted.

Facebook's assumption of celebration

Frankly my year was not one for balloons

They could definitely have phrased the accompanying text better, not to mention omitted the randomly-selected cover photo – the equivalent Year In Photos at Google+ doesn’t trigger me in the same way, maybe for lack of text. Better, they could have thought through the subject a little more and realised plenty of people, though thankful for so many things, may prefer an algorithm not to force them back through the year. Humans are able to act with discretion, and to know when they are presumptive. Computers are unable to act with any more discretion than their programmer, and usually much less.

My own year has had much that I value, but little of it has been shared with Facebook so my own edition is largely valueless. It also thankfully omits the things that make me cry, like the memory of my mother’s passing this spring or the six months of triage following it. If you’ve chosen to share with Facebook, this is a wake-up call that you have also given them the implicit permission to make you relive memories on command.

Frankly it’s no worse than the other things you’ve given them permission to do with the intimacies you’ve shared. They are just as free with advertisers and social data miners; you just don’t have that rubbed in your face. If you dislike “Year In Review” you probably will hate the things they do with your data without telling you (even if they have secured your permission in advance through their Terms of Service).

In case you were wondering, it’s safe to ignore it; the card displayed on your profile is only visible to you, and as long as you don’t press the “Share” button that appears when you view it, no-one else will see it. You can stop the reminder showing up by clicking the arrow in the top right corner (see below) and telling Facebook not to show the post again. Pity it wasn’t just a button and a “hide this” option for those of us who don’t list Facebook among our confidantes. Algorithms can’t exercise discretion; don’t use them for things that demand it.

Is Santa to blame for the surveillance society?

Perhaps the reason we are not horrified by the surveillance society is because our parents normalised that behaviour by teaching us about Santa.

  • Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice
  • Santa knows where you’ve been & who you’ve been with
  • Santa is able to come into your home without apparent consequences
  • There’s even an elf on your shelf keeping an eye on you
  • This is all good because toys

Santa – Ta, NSA.

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