I think a lot of this is about developers wanting more control – but they forget that the people who matter are end users, not developers. And I really don’t see any practical advantage which breaking up monolithic app stores bring to end users.

I wrote a long time ago about how the “freedom” in open source software was freedom for developers, not end users, and I think a lot of this argument is the same. So many arguments about “freedom” in technology fail to focus on the consequences of that freedom for end users.

What developers don’t see is the unequal power relationship with users. In an open platform, it is the developers who have the power – power to install all kinds of shit on users machines. iOS 14 showed they had the power to track what users are doing without proper consent. Until Apple effectively stopped them doing it, 53 applications were accessing clipboard data without user consent. And yet, users are supposed to trust developers to do the right thing?

Ian Betteridge, Open app stores, open source

An interesting angle on the current debate. Part of the reason that we’re in this mess is because for the most part it’s been developers versus the App Stores, with the end users nowhere in the debate. The result has been App Store policies and procedures cobbled together and then kludged periodically.

Like an algorithm, Johnson does not simply act at random. He does not ‘go rogue’. The algorithm works like any computer game: it performs the functions someone has programmed for it. It may seem out of control, but it is in fact doing exactly what it has set out to do.

Of course, Johnson did not take ownership of the exam results debacle. Of course, he blamed a disembodied computer glitch instead of a deliberate and conscious piece of policy-making supervised directly by him. Just as love means never having to say you’re sorry, Johnson’s self-love means never having to take responsibility. Everything is the fault of someone or something else: voters, foreigners or computers.

Jonathan Lis, Boris Johnson – The Anti-Prime Minister

Boris must always win, so everyone else must lose. The incompetence isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

A Message To TikTok Parents Who Use My Face To Make Their Kids Cry

Melissa Blake:

“Oh, look,” I deadpan as I read the latest message from someone letting me know that they saw my photo on TikTok being shared in a hurtful way. “Surprise, surprise!”

I joke because I’m definitely not surprised. As a disabled woman, people ridiculing and mocking my appearance is practically the most predictable thing about social media.

I was born with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder, and I’m also a freelance writer and disability activist, which means that part of my job is being very active and visible on social media. And because I look different, people have called me everything from “disgusting” to “a blobfish” to saying that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly.

I was bullied at school. Bullies will always find a reason to bully you, no matter how dumb. At least I could escape from it in various ways.

These days, however, the bullies can follow you just about anywhere online, and even people from the other side of the planet who’ve never met you in real life can join in the dog pile.

But what I find both inexplicable and inexcusable is the examples cited in the article where parents are using images of people with visible disabilities to frighten their kids. I literally have no words to describe how sickening that is.

Casey Liss:

About a month ago, I decided to "sunset" Vignette.

This was a decision that was a long time coming. In short, due to changes in Facebook, Instagram, and most especially Twitter, Vignette cannot work nearly as reliably as I would like. As such, I have decided to pull it from sale, worldwide. It isn’t right to charge money — any amount of money — for something that no longer works properly.

In my previous existence as a software developer, I took some solace from the knowledge that the frameworks for dealing with the operating system, hardware, networks, etc. were known quantities that weren’t liable to change unexpectedly.

Not only are the frameworks provided by the social networks incomplete and not always documented, but they absolutely will change at any moment because, unlike the programmers of operating systems and traditional applications, those working for the social networks serve their paymaster, not the end-user or the third-party developer.

Hat tip to Manton Reece for sharing the above link.


(*For those who don’t get the reference, it’s riffing on Goto Statement Considered Harmful by Edsger W. Dijkstra)

This article in Nature discusses scientific applications, but the techniques used to resurrect said code and get it running again are applicable to many other areas. Big business has its particular version of this challenge, keeping ancient COBOL applications working on new hardware and communicating with modern technology. And the Internet Archive is doing its part to bring old personal computer environments, and their applications, to life via the web.

Alas, I don’t have most of the code that I wrote during my software development career. And while Embarcadero (the owner of the old Borland tools and technologies that I used back then) have made available ‘antique’ versions of Turbo Pascal and Turbo C++ in the past, I no longer have access to the version of Delphi that I used for all my Windows-based application development.

Nick Heer, commenting on an Ars Technica article about how even Google’s own engineers are confused by Google’s privacy settings:

I don’t think comments like these are worrying. It is good that Google’s own staff is self-critical and effectively treated Nakashima’s reporting as a bug report. Nor do I believe that the cynical view that Google deliberately made these preferences hard to figure out for its advantage. The correct take is far more mundane: contrary to popular belief, Google just isn’t very good at design.

Bingo! I’m bemused at how much Google’s Material Design has been lauded and imitated. Personally, I find it meh at best, both on Android and in Google’s apps.

Mind you, when it comes to confusion, Facebook — unsurprisingly — leaves Google trailing.

Om Malik, Forget what, where is the news?

I woke up thinking, what is news good for? No, I was not being snarky. It was just a question: what is the purpose of news. After two and a half decades in the media trenches, the way I thought of news and its purpose was simple: one, to inform. And second, to educate the reader (or viewer.) And in doing so, it allowed readers to act upon it. That made news valuable.

For example, in the past, if there is news of wildfires and the news report tells you to evacuate, then the story has done an excellent job. Radio or TV reporters would talk to relevant authorities and relate that information to the people. Today, Twitter accounts of the California authorities of various stripes, brought that information to the people. The media outlets eventually caught up and added their twist on actionable information. However, by then, the information was already widely available.

News, as we knew it, is a victim of Dave Winer calls “sources going direct.” Blame it on the increased velocity of our times, the news already feels old in our lives moving at neck-snapping speed. Maybe that is why the news has become a tool of entertainment and titillation. Perhaps that is why it is hard to tell fact from fiction. 

In the world of business, bad news used to impact companies’ stock performance. Now, it is merely an opportunity to earn a bigger Christmas bonus for crisis management experts. There was a time when you could glean a lot in the news about a company’s prospects or an idea. Now, not as much. You can’t even get the essential essentials. 

This piece reminds me why I’ve stepped away not just from social media but the news cycle in print, TV, radio and online. Too many news organizations are focussed on bringing the news, rather than analysing and understanding it. And some are content to merely repeat what they’re told, in effect becoming extended PR.

I’ve mentioned before that I use Inoreader to manage all the RSS feeds that I follow. It may not be the flashiest service out there, but it packs a lot of power under the hood if you opt for a paid plan.

The other day, they announced a new feature that tackles something that I periodically have to deal with, duplicate posts. This comes on top of the existing abilities to filter feeds to remove posts you’re not interested in, and makes my overall reading experience even smoother.

Another thing that I like about Inoreader is that they are genuinely concerned about providing a good service to their customers. The web dashboard can be customized to flag up feeds returning errors, as well as those that have been inactive for a long time. And their browser extensions make it easy to subscribe to new sites. They even have technology that can attempt to pull content from sites that, for whatever reason, don’t have RSS feeds.

I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Matt Birchler:

The challenge is that Google search is a self-perpetuating machine that is able to improve because of how well it’s collected the world’s data. It’s able to do this in ways competitors just can’t. They don’t have the data and they can’t gain that data any faster than Google can. So how does someone come along and make something better?

I think the only answer is the hardest one: someone needs to do to Google what Google did to AltaVista back when it was new…someone needs to completely change the game in what we expect from search. But again, Google has done well here not to give future innovators much to grab onto.

Google used to show you sites that had the information you need. Then they took that information (stealing it sometimes) and just showed it to you without the need to go anywhere else. They then made it so you could ask your questions in natural language. They’ll even sell you a cheap little puck to answer those questions around your house. What’s the next thing? I don’t know, but I would put good money on Google already exploring it and releasing it before anyone else gets a foothold in the market.

Google’s biggest weakness is its willingness to throw up dozens of new ideas a year, let them run for a while, then lose interest in them and shut them down. That is why I steer clear of most of their services. You never know when they’ll decide to shutter a popular product because they can’t be arsed with it any more. (RIP, Google Reader.)

Google has turned into Microsoft. Microsoft has turned into IBM. IBM has turned into a fossil. Such is the march of progress, and no number of patents or acquisitions will stave it off forever.

James Wallace Harris:

…I’ve reached an age where I just don’t want to fuck with stuff anymore. (I know, I should have said tinker, but I’m getting crotchety too.) It’s like Dirty Harry said, “A dude must know just how much shit he can handle.”

I can totally relate to the above. While I’m happy to do projects that’ll improve my productivity or make me healthier, I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of poorly performing or unreliable products and services. That’s not to say that I can’t be bothered to do repairs — if it’s feasible and within my ability I’ll give it a shot — but I’m not going to bother if it’s to fix something that the manufacturer should’ve got right in the first place.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I now use my iPad Mini 4 as a replacement for a load of other devices – bedside clock, radio, book reader, games device, writing pad and more. At some point, once it has reached the end of its useful life, I’ll replace it with another iPad, hopefully the Mini if it’s still available.

Last year, I ripped all of my CD and DVD collection, put the discs into storage bags, then tore down the shelving I’d been using for them and took the wood to the dump for recycling. This year, I’m going to finish ripping my old music cassette collection, then dispose of those to free up more space.

Not only do I want smaller things, I want simpler things. Years ago I replaced my huge tower computer with a tiny Intel NUC. I’ve been thinking about going back to a big tower computer again, but my back just screamed, “Don’t do it you crazy old dog. Sit. Act your age!”

Marie Kondo tells us we should ask if our possessions spark joy. My back pain is now advising I ask my stuff if they’re too complicated or too heavy for my declining mind and body.

My mind isn’t declining yet, but I’m being a lot more careful with my body these days because I want it to last me as long as possible!