Is anybody following me only here any more?

(Unlike nearly everything I post, this is intentionally only being posted to LiveJournal.)

A few days ago, I posted my analysis of the new LJ Terms of Service, over on Dreamwidth as usual.  Those of you only reading me here didn't see it, because (as I found out the hard way) crossposting from DW to LJ is now blocked until and unless you *accept* that TOS, which I didn't do until after posting that.  I recommend reading it if you want my views on the situation, but here are some additional thoughts, and a question to y'all.

On top of all the other problems with the new TOS (and, importantly, the Russian law it is based on), they've unilaterally broken their contract with us permanent users.  One of the primary reasons I (and many others) went for permanent years ago was that those accounts would never have advertising featured on them.  They've now said that they are going to disregard that promise, and show advertising on *all* LJ pages, regardless of membership status.  Basically, they've given a fairly explicit fuck-you to all permanent members, which doesn't do much to endear them to me.  Everything I've been able to find indicates that the new ownership of LJ regards it as nothing but a cash cow, to milk ruthlessly until it dies.

Just to make that a bit more special, they're indulging in some pretty explicit censorship on the subject.  If you look at the news-community post about the changes, you'll find that the comment section is pretty anodyne -- entirely neutral-to-positive.  So I decided to do a little experiment, pointing out (unhappily but civilly) that they've violated their contract with the users.  That comment remains screened.  I have a strong suspicion that the reason there are so few comments on the change is that they are hiding all the negative ones.

Which is legally within their rights, but drives home the important point: LiveJournal is no longer the LJ I originally joined.  It's basically a zombie, animating the husk of the service that I loved for so many years.  Which further points out that DreamWidth is much, much more like The LJ That Was.

For those who haven't looked at it seriously: DreamWidth is a "fork" of LJ, based on LJ's codebase from some years back, before LJ decided to hide their code.  It has evolved somewhat differently, but the general look-and-feel is still a lot like LiveJournal.  More importantly, it's a non-profit company, running on a shoestring, and doesn't take advertising, so they care *passionately* about their users: paid memberships are basically their entire revenue stream.  By now most of my friends from LJ have moved to it to at least some degree.

I made the jump to DW a few months ago, and I haven't regretted it -- while it lacks a few features that LJ now has, it is a much better site in other ways, having added features that I've been wanting on LJ for a decade.  (Eg, Markdown support.)  More importantly, it's much livelier, and actually gives a damn about what the users think.  (The dw_suggestions community is a downright fun discussion about how to make the site better.)

The question before me now is: do I cut LJ off?  I'm strongly tempted to stop crossposting my DW posts to here, and just use this account for commenting on the few people who are still only here.  It's not an idle question: many of my posts are probably borderline-illegal by Russian law and precedent because I am, y'know, in favor of gay rights and stridently opposed to Vladimir Putin.  And while many people have pointed out that I'm *unlikely* to suffer any consequences from violating Russian law, the fact is that I'm a lawful guy and don't like violating a contract in any form.  So I don't know if I can post here with a clear conscience any more.

So the question to you is very simple: do you care?  If you are actively reading me here on LJ (as opposed to DW or FB), and have no intention of beginning to read me on DW, please comment to that effect.  If nobody comments, then it's an easy decision: either nobody cares enough to have read to the end of this, or they don't care enough about reading me here.  If some folks *do* care, I'll take that into account -- it might or might not change my mind, but I'd like to know.

Oh, and if you've been following the Querki Development Journal here, that will almost certainly be moved off of LJ soon.  My current plan is to enhance Querki itself enough to begin posting it there instead.

Thanks.  (And seriously, think about setting up a DW account and backing up your LJ to it, while you still can...)

Signal Boost: Affordable Housing at Assembly Square

Mainly for Somerville residents -- the developer of an enormous new apartment complex at Assembly Square is trying to skeeve out of some of the mandatory affordable housing: they're seeking a waiver to cut 37 affordable units out of the plan. IMO, the city shouldn't allow this; if you agree, it's time to go write to the Planning Board about it. More info on Mark Niedergang's website.

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.

A Study of the Battleground

When I dubbed my current politics posts with the tag "wartime thoughts", that was not originally intended as a general statement about the political arena. I've wound up using it more generally, but it was originally planned (before the gush of events distracted me) to be a series of posts on a specific topic, to make a specific point: we are already at war, a propaganda war. And the enemy are way the bloody hell ahead of us.

This was inspired by a moment on the WBUR call-in show "On Point", shortly before the election. One caller started matter-of-factly talking about how the show was of course being controlled by Project Mockingbird, and Tom Ashbrook, the host, completely lost his shit -- it was the only time I've ever heard him out-of-control angry. Which made me curious, so I Googled "Project Mockingbird", and quickly found myself in this weird parallel dimension of websites parroting all sorts of insanity. It was the moment when I finally realized where the bloody hell the Trump phenomenon had come from: in this parallel universe, Trump is right. (Or at least, not so obviously crazy.)

I'm reminded of that original inspiration by this brilliant article by Kate Starbird, a professor at the University of Washington. It's long, but you should find the time to read it in detail, because it is describing one of the primary causes of what's going right now. It outlines how her lab originally set out to do some analysis of the way that "alternative narrative" rumors spread after crises, and wound up consequently delving into the structure of what I think of as the "alt-net" -- the collection of websites and feeds that are the backbone of the alt-right movement.

This is seriously scary shit: while she keeps things carefully factual, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that what looks like an agglomeration of kooks are in fact a very principled and organized project to undermine Americans' collective sense of reality. On the surface it all appears to be authentic and independent opinion and reportage, but the cross-links are too deep to put much credence into that. There's a lot of very clever psychology at work here, focused on convincing readers that there is a gigantic conspiracy composed of the mainstream media, conventional government, the Jews, and so on, and that these plucky little websites are the good guys who are just trying to expose the truth.

(And while she never quite comes out and says it, the connections to Russia are kind of screamingly obvious. It is likely over-simplistic to say that this is just a Russian plot, but they are almost certainly deeply involved.)

This stuff is dreadfully important background, because it goes a long ways towards explaining the apparently-incomprehensible mindset of many core Trump voters. It isn't that they are stupid or insane, it's that they have been very carefully converted to a view of reality that is deliberately at odds with everything you and I know to be true. Their reality has been hand-crafted by some talented artists to be at least moderately self-consistent, and provides easy answers to many problems that, in reality, are just plain complicated. It's a reality view that is comforting, and therefore easy to believe, not least in that it provides for nice clear Enemies.

And through all of it, I'm left horribly curious about one key question: I honestly can't tell if Donald Trump is in on the joke. I mean, this is being run by a bunch of master manipulators. And I have a nasty feeling, based on his outbursts, that Trump is the Manipulatee-in-Chief...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.


Here's an interesting article about "adtech" -- those automated algorithms that companies like Google and Facebook use to spy on you and serve up advertisements that they think you will respond to. The major upshots are:

  • Adtech is at best wildly ineffective, and at worst actively damaging, for brands that are trying to advertise.
  • The core precepts of adtech is going to be illegal in Europe starting next year.

I'm not sure how accurate all this is -- it sounds a tad self-serving in favor of traditional advertising, so I take it with a grain of salt -- but I suspect there's a substantial grain of truth in it. It clarifies a distinction that the tech world has been trying very hard to blur, between direct sales and branding. It appears to me that adtech works a little for direct sales, but I suspect the article is right that it's inappropriate for serious branding.

I find myself ever more glad that Querki's business plan is specifically not built on the "spy on the users for purposes of advertising" model, which is looking ever more rickety. Asking people to pay for a service is old-fashioned, but it at least makes sense...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.

A good summary of the state of Russiagate

If you're not already following Yonaton Zunger, you might want to consider doing so -- his Medium blog has been one of the more consistently interesting ones out there.

Particularly interesting is his post yesterday, From Russia With Oil, which provides a nicely clear summary of what is currently known about the Trump/Russia connection, spelling out explicitly what we have reasonably strong evidence of, and what is merely circumstantial but compelling.

I confess, I especially like the title of the post, which calls out just how much the whole mess feels like a James Bond story -- without Bond around to stop things before Spectre puts its fiendish plan into motion.

Part of me still feels like it's too outlandish to be true, that the Kremlin *literally* bought the US President -- but the story is compelling enough that I'm starting to feel that demanding an independent investigation may be the single highest priority right now. We can't take our eyes off all the other issues that need attending to, but this could yet prove to be the block that takes down the entire Jenga tower of corruption in this Administration...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.

Signal boost: Confide probably should *not* be trusted

Since I know that a lot of my friends are security-conscious, and might be using it, I call your attention to this article in Ars Technica about the messaging service Confide.

The implication I'm getting (based on these reports, and what Confide itself is saying) is that Confide isn't secure -- and that isn't a matter of bugs, it's that the architecture is fundamentally broken. Indeed, I have to wonder if they even understand what "end-to-end encryption" actually means. I particularly call your attention to a couple of details:

  • One of their brags is their "code obfuscation". Never, ever put any stock in that. Code obfuscation basically means they have made it very slightly harder to figure out what's going on, and it's basically waving a red flag in front of hackers, going "Break me!".
  • They basically say that nobody except themselves could listen in on your conversations. That basically means that there is no end-to-end security. True end-to-end security means that nobody, including the service itself, can do anything with it. One of the signs of a good service is often when they say something like, "Don't forget your password, because if you do, you're out of luck -- we can't help you". Anything other than that means that they have backdoors, which can be exploited.

It is possible that Confide could fix all this -- but I wouldn't count on it, because like I said, these are fundamental architectural issues. End-to-end security is hard to do well, and it imposes real limitations on what you can do...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.

The Third Way: Beyond Fun and Authenticity

I just came across this marvelous essay on the SCA fun/authenticity false dichotomy, and a different way of looking at it. It was written some years ago, but is still worthwhile reading for any SCAdian. (It's from Tibicen, who some of you might remember from days of yore.)

I totally agree with the philosophy here: while I'm pretty indisciplined about it, I'd say that "atmospherist" nicely describes where I think the Society is at its best, and I think we still hamstring ourselves by under-emphasizing it. Indeed, while I've often thought of myself as a "funnist", I've always been clear that the distinctive fun of the SCA -- what makes this club particularly fun -- is the atmosphere...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.

Donaeld et al -- showing that Twitter can be a force for good (or at least, funny)

It occurs to me that not everyone has yet come across the Twitter feed of Donaeld the Unready and associated accounts. There is a growing collection of these, all interlinked from different viewpoints, and they are particularly perfect for the SCAdian -- of-the-moment political satire, all framed in terms of Anglo-Saxon England. I think my current faves are the political tapestries of Wulfgar the Bard. Check it out...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.

And sometimes the spam is just *weird*

I just got an email that looks, for all the world, like an attempt to make a hotel reservation. The English is fairly atrocious, and it appears to be bcc:'ed to me, but damned if I can figure out what the scam is here -- there are no links, no requests for me to send anything except a confirmation and the cost to put up 10 people in mid-May.

Mind, I still figure it's a scam -- some long-play attempt to get at my personal information or something like that. But I will admit that this could just be someone who is very, very confused...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.

Picking at the ball of twine is always dangerous

What I set out to do: add "Unsubscribe" links to the bottom of all emails sent from Querki, so we properly comply with CAN-SPAM requirements.

What I find myself doing: implementing not just Guest Mode (the long-long-desired ability to use a Querki invitation without having to become a member), but today implementing Shareable Links (because Guest Mode lets me do so with adequate security, and there are a pile of great use cases enabled by it). Yes, those are both sequiturs from where I started -- building proper "Unsubscribe" requires having a concept of Identity for an email address, and the ball of twine started rolling away from me as soon as I got that far.

They're great new features, and should make a ton of use cases much more usable. But man, this is not what I had expected to be doing with my week...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.