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There are times I think Google are somewhat competent -- and then I try to use Google Contacts

(Rant mode on)

Seriously -- WTF, Google? Google Contacts is perhaps the most unusable piece of software I am forced to use, and it exemplifies everything that's wrong with Google as a company. They forced me into this idiotic "Contacts Preview" UI, and years later it still fails to fulfill the most basic functions of a contact list.

(Yes, I could abandon Google Contacts -- all I have to do is abandon Gmail. Suffice it to say, that's a tall order at this point, although I may eventually be pushed into it.)

The one that always burns my butt (which I just hit again, which inspired this particular rant) is the fact that there is no way to say which email address to use for someone in a group. Google loves nothing more than to combine your contacts, so that instead of having four contacts for four email addresses, you have one contact with four email addresses. But you don't put an email address into a group, you put a contact into a group, and AFAICT there is absolutely no way to say which email address you want for this particular group.

My impression is that it simply always uses the first-listed email address for that contact. But AFAICT there is no way to re-order the email addresses, short of erasing and retyping them! (And of course, in typical Google fashion, they completely ignore the fact that different groups might be different contexts, and call for different email addresses.)

About every six months, some recruiter from Google tries to lure me in. I try to be polite, but this sort of crass incompetence keeps leaving me feeling like I would never want to work for a company that would put up with nonsense like this. They're the anti-Apple: as far as I can tell, they simply don't care about the user experience enough to put the slightest damned effort into it. As far as I can tell, I would find working there to be incredibly demoralizing.

(Or, I suspect more precisely: they don't care enough unless their corporate case of ADD has latched onto this topic right now. In which case it gets huge attention until the company gets bored, and wanders off to pay attention to the latest shiny, dropping all effort to make the existing software function right.)

Folks constantly ask me whether they can trust Querki, which after all is a much smaller company than Google. This is my heartfelt rebuttal: while my resources may be slim, I care passionately about making Querki as good as it can be, and supporting the users. I don't think you can say that about Google for any products except search and advertising. Everything else is just another Technology Preview, to be pushed for a little while and then abandoned.

(Rant mode off)

As to the question at hand, I eventually found this article. The secret turns out to be contained in the comments down there: if you scroll the left-hand bar way down, and open "More", you can abandon the goddamn Google Contacts "Preview" (never mind that it's been the status quo for years), and go back to the old, ugly but actually functional Gmail-style Contacts. That UI actually works -- there is a way (easy to use, although with crappy affordances) to say which email address to use for a given group for a given Contact.

Which I guess just underscores the point. Google got distracted by a New! Shiny! UI!, pushed everyone into it, and then lost interest and never actually finished it. So the old UI is still hanging around, for those of us who care more about a product that works than one that follows the latest visual-design guidelines...



This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/2017/02/28/google-contacts-incompetence.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.
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dw_suggestions

It occurs to me that many of my friends are the sort of geeks who like to provide feedback to their sites, and some are (like me) new enough to Dreamwidth that they may not know all the ins and outs yet. So if you are that sort of person, you might want to check out the [site community profile] dw_suggestions community. This is the discussion group where suggestions to the site land -- it allows DW members to vote and comment on those suggestions.

(NB: not all suggestions land in the group. They go through them manually first, reject the no-hopers, and add the ones that sound clearly right directly to the issue tracker. I was pleased that the one suggestion I've made so far -- an improved UX for Markdown entries -- was one of the latter.)

Anyway, it's an interesting little group, and I find it helps me better understand the site. If it sounds up your alley, check it out...



This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/2017/02/27/dw-suggestions.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.
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Thoughts on Reactive Systems

This one's just for the programmers/architects, and mainly for the experienced ones: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Building Reactive Systems.

The more you're used to building traditional Tomcat-plus-RDBMS applications, the weirder you're going to find this, but it's well worth reading and absorbing. It describes a few of the assumptions underlying modern, scalable, so-called "reactive" architectures, each of which gores one of the traditional sacred cows you're probably used to. What it all boils down to is that it's entirely possible to build seriously efficient, seriously scalable online services -- you just have to change a lot of well-worn habits.

(Querki is built around all of this stuff, except that I still have some blocking I/O in the MySQL code; replacing that with a better approach such as Slick is becoming an increasingly high priority.)

And this reminds me: among other things, it links to the paper Life Beyond Distributed Transactions. If you're playing at the Senior Software Engineer or above level, this is one of the most important papers of recent years, and you should read it if you haven't already done so. It was the paper that finally demonstrated that the emperor has no clothes: that the traditional transaction-oriented model of data processing doesn't scale well, and that you need better approaches if you're going to compete in the modern world.

For all that it calls itself "An Apostate's Opinion", it has become something like the new gospel. It has inspired enormous ferment and evolution over the past decade, and led to radically new architectures (such as the event-sourced approach that Querki is now mostly built on). If you are doing architecture for systems that are intended to scale, you need to understand this stuff in order to understand how the industry is evolving...



This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/2017/02/23/reactive-systems.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.
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As the Milo Tour Bus crashes, some thoughts on the Lost Boys

Laurie Penny is a journalist who has, in recent months, been following the Milo Yiannopoulos National Crassness Tour. It's made for delicious reading: she is utterly unsympathetic to Milo, but as far as I can tell he's enjoyed having her around as a sparring partner, so she's gotten to see what the whole shit-show looks like from the inside.

Her most recent post (which I suspect may be the last in this particular series) is especially fascinating, and well worth a read. It follows the Milo story over the past few weeks -- from the Berkeley riot to Milo suddenly becoming a Conservative un-person due to finally crossing a bridge too far -- and reflects on it.

The bulk of the article is not about Milo, and that's part of what makes it so interesting. Rather, it focuses primarily on the idiot children who have been following him around -- the GamerGate-type alt-right groupies who've been treating him as some sort of prankster-god -- and how completely incapable they are of coping with a world in which their side has, for now, won. She gives a sense of who they are as people, without even slightly forgiving them for what they have done.

Along with that, she makes a point we should be remembering and echoing: that the sudden crushing of Milo lays bare the hypocrisy underneath the right wing's cloak of First Amendment rights.

Not a short article, but highly recommended. She's a fine writer and analyst, and this is a great corrective to our tendency to see the right wing as some monolithic and impregnable fortress of evil -- quite to the contrary, she shows just how fragile some of them are, and in the most terribly practical sense that's worth understanding from a tactical perspective...



This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/2017/02/23/milo-tour-bus-crashes.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.
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Markdown in DW

Oh, and a quick note for any fellow DW newbies who didn't read the recent release notes (which is where I found out about it): it turns out that Dreamwidth supports Markdown format! If you start you post with a line that just says:

!markdown

the rest of the post will be interpreted as Markdown.

Obviously, this isn't so important if you don't know or like Markdown. But it's my wiki syntax of preference (Querki's own QText wikitext is a dialect of it), and it's the format I use automatically, so I find it very convenient. It makes things like links easier, and allows you to use the same at-name syntax for referring to accounts that every other social network now uses. If you like this approach, take due notice of its availability...



This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/2017/02/16/mardown-in-dw.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.
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Bagels

On a lighter note: while I don't entirely want it to be "discovered", the good stuff should be publicized.

While Boston isn't New York, we do have ongoing discussions about where to find the best bagels. After six months of patronizing the place, I now have a clear favorite: Bagelsaurus in Porter Square. (I assume the name started as Bagels 'R Us, but that's just a guess.)

Of course, bagelology is a highly subjective field, and not everybody is going to agree. But Bagelsaurus has a lot going for it:

  • A fine variety of flavors, including most of the traditional favorites. (Onion, Pumpernickel, Everything, Salt, etc.)
  • Remarkably generous toppings: when I buy a six-pack of Everythings, I wind up with a considerable puddle of toppings that have fallen off in the bottom of the bag, and they still look utterly covered.
  • Bagels are large -- not insane, but a generous lunch.
  • Bagels are light -- not the horrible white-bread-pretending-to-be-a-bagel that you sometimes see, but not the typical lumps of lead either.
  • Bagels are well-finished, and wonderfully crisp when toasted.

They also make a variety of tasty-sounding bagel sandwiches, but I always get them takeout to make at home, so I can't speak to those.

There are a couple of downsides to note:

  • Their Onion bagels are the onion-on-the-inside variety, not the onion-on-the-outside that I prefer. (This is a matter of taste.)
  • They can get crazy jammed at lunchtime, especially on weekends. Be prepared for a line if you arrive after noon.
  • They start selling out of flavors during the lunch rush, so if you have favorites, get there before noon.

Overall, though, they're the best bagels I know this side of NYC, and better than most New York bagels I know. More or less my platonic ideal. Check it out...



This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/2017/02/16/bagels.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.
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Are We on the Road to Regime Change in America?

On the scarier side of things, here's an essay that nicely puts all the pieces together -- essentially arguing that the blizzard of chaos coming from the White House is largely a distraction while they set up far more dangerous plans. Once again, I can't say for certain that this *is* what's happening -- but it's very consistent with what we can see so far.

Read it, and pass it around: seriously, it's important for as many people as possible to be alert to the signs. With any luck, this will be a Y2K moment -- a disaster that never happens. But as with Y2K, I suspect the only reason it might not happen is because enough people know about it, are prepared for it, and are preventing it.

I also concur with the implication here, that the Problem increasingly appears to be Bannon. Trump still appears to be a chaotic moron, but he's likely being manipulated by someone with a far more coherent and dangerous agenda. Getting Trump out of the White House isn't as immediately critical as getting Bannon out. So the question becomes: how do we, the people, get the point across to Trump that he is being *manipulated* by Bannon? That seems like the most effective way to neutralize Bannon -- Trump's ego is a mighty force, and convincing him that he is perceived as *weak* because of Bannon seems like a potentially good tactic...



This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/2017/02/16/regime-change.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.
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Chrome instability?

For the past week or two, Chrome has become surprisingly unstable -- it's been crashing on me about once a day. Weirdly, it is usually when I'm not using it that it crashes: typically, I wake my computer from idle and find that Chrome has gone splat.

Anybody else seeing anything like this? I'm mystified about where the problem is.

(And man, it is wonderful to know that DW now supports Markdown. Hadn't even occurred to me until they mentioned it in today's update. The custom entry URL thing is pretty neat, too...)



This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/2017/02/15/chrome-instability.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.
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How I Spent My Birthday

(Warning: diary ramble ahead.)

Intercon was scheduled a couple of weeks earlier than usual this year -- our experimental hotel last year wasn't great, and by the time we found our new site, the only options were this weekend or Easter.  So this year, I got to spend my birthday (yesterday) in high-intensity LARPing.


Let me say first: the new hotel rocks, and I hope we develop a long and fruitful relationship with it.  My initial reaction on hearing about it wasn't so positive -- the only thing I know about Warwick, RI is that it's the home of a certain Ducal pair of my SCA sibs, so I was basically going, "The Crowne Plaza in Middle of Nowhere, RI?  Oy."  I will state for the record that I was entirely incorrect in this -- Warwick is just far enough from downtown Providence to not be "city", but otherwise close.

And the hotel itself was great.  It's *huge* -- we had plenty of space, and didn't even rent the large Grand Ballroom wing.  It's well-furnished and comfortable, and not terribly expensive.  The service was top-notch: friendly, efficient and businesslike.  Even the concession food didn't entirely suck (which is about the best one can usually ask for in concession food) and had surprisingly excellent cupcakes.  So yeah, it's an hour away, but we should totally stick with this place.


Due to the storm, I missed the Thursday evening programming; I skidded in just before the roundtable I was moderating at noon Friday, "Playing to Enable Others" -- basically a session on how to be a generous player.  It was a bit of a BS session, much of it devoted to discussion of what the parameters of "generosity" were in the context of LARP, but it was a pleasant chat.  And I stuck around for the following discussion of "Plotting by the Seat of Your Pants", which gave me an excuse to relate a good war story or two, before striking out to the nearby shopping mall in search of pale blue sparkly nail polish.  (Give it a minute, and that'll make sense.)

I didn't play any games on Friday evening, opting instead to spend a few hours pulling Ops duty.  I'll have to remember for the future that Friday evening Ops is *fun* -- it's exactly the kind of high-intensity whirlwind that I always enjoy, answering questions, giving directions, checking folks in and all that.  I might have to make a habit of that.


Saturday was All LARP, All the Time -- I started running about 8:30am and didn't finish until about 11pm.  I played in three games, all good.

First up was Librarian and Catalog.  I can't go into *too* much detail without spoilers, but the public blurb sums up the high concept well: "The robot Librarian.  The damaged computer Catalog.  An alien artifact.  A chance to confront yourself -- again, and again, and again -- amid the collapse of parallel universes."  16 players, all playing The Librarian.  My version was "Scornful, Disciplined, Ruthless" (Librarian tR), and it was just the kind of focused, intense, totally-not-me character I was looking for.  Suffice it to say, the game is weird but fun, a bit slow to start but well-paced, and high in player agency.  Recommended if it runs again.

Saturday evening was The Inversion of Me and My Room, which I've been hearing good things about for a couple of years, so when it appeared on the schedule a few weeks ago I transferred to it.  I can say *very* little about this game, but suffice it to say it is *spectacularly* weird, trippy and dark, an iconic All The Feels game.  Recommended, but be prepared to throw yourself wholeheartedly into the emotional wringer, and don't expect things to make too much sense before endgame.  (For those who know the game, I played Helmer (family).)  It did leave me with a desire to finally rewrite my game Shards of Memory, which is in the same general category.


The high point of my weekend came in the middle of the day, though.  I had put Librarian and Catalog as my first-choice game, and therefore missed getting into Cracks in the Orb, the Dragaera game.  I decided to wait-list myself for it, and that finally paid off last Monday, when I got in.  For those who know the Dragaera books, Cracks is set something like 500 years before The Phoenix Guards, and includes younger versions of some of the characters from The Khaavren Chronicles.

For those who don't know the series, suffice it to say that the Khaavren Chronicles are a fantasy pastiche of Dumas, specifically The Three Musketeers.  The game follows that, although it also pulls in pastiches of a variety of novels of that vintage.  (Sadly, I can't say which novel *my* character was a pastiche of without major spoilers.)

Anyway, the game was a complete hoot.  My character, Fotheringil, was a foppish Tiassa (with more than a little Khaavren in him) who is a member of the Empress' personal guard.  ("Foppish" -- hence the nail polish, which is actually mentioned specifically in his character sheet -- light blue and white are the house colors of the Tiassa.)  He proved well-connected, and central to one or two major plots.  It's well-written and deep stuff, although I did wind up feeling for the players of my own games -- Lise (the primary author) is every bit as fond of deep biographical character sheets as I am, and the game is *very* intricate, with all sorts of major bluesheets and mechanics, so I had four days to absorb about 30 pages of fairly dense material.  If I didn't already know the source material, I might have had real difficulty with it.

ETA: for added fun, one of the major mechanics in the game is Social Dance (which allows you to remove the stain of Dishonor, and gain insights into your dance partner) -- which is represented by dancing, in this case the Belle Qui Pavane.  I offered to teach it, and pointed out to the GMs that it would be *totally* in-character for Fotheringil to teach everyone this new, fashionable dance form.  So I wound up teaching the dance in-character, and called it each time it came around.

But it was great fun -- I achieved nearly all of my game goals, including getting the girl.  I got 7/8ths of the way towards achieving my *big* goal, and I take fair pride in that: the goal was genuinely hard, and I only realized late in the game that finishing it would have required playing some fairly specific politics an hour or two earlier.  Suffice it to say, the rest of it involved strategic wargaming, and that's an area that I'm moderately good at.  As it was, I got close enough to support my personal headcanon of making progress towards the goal a bit further down the line.


After Inversion wrapped at 11pm, it was off to party.  Sadly, I'm not well-connected to the Intercon party scene, so I kind of had to crash Nuance's traditional Intercon birthday party.  (Which underscored how nice this hotel is.  Her party was originally right next to my room, so I was a bit concerned about sleep; however, as that grew a tad out of control, they moved it to one of the below-ground game spaces, far away from guest rooms, which was a pretty great choice all around.)  And then an hour at the traditional Intercon Dance Party, which is always one of the highlights of my year -- where else can you find people boogying in an eight-foot-tall inflatable T Rex outfit? -- and finally bedtime much too late.

As for today, I decided to skip Closing Ceremonies -- maybe the first time I've done that in 20 years -- in order to get home before the roads got too bad.  Hope everything finished off well; in general, it was a fine con, and bodes well for the future...

This was originally posted via DreamWidth, at http://jducoeur.dreamwidth.org/1564061.html, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. Feel free to comment either here or there.