Jeff Atwood, one of the founders of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, recently created a blog post about the death of Aaron Swartz and "the end of ragequitting." While the crux of his post is largely about Swartz's suicide, his comparison to "ragequitting" his network, or the departure of _why and and Mark Pilgrim from the public internet touched on something I've been discussing in smaller circles from some time:
At least one user ragequits Stack Exchange every six months, because our rules are strict. Some people don't like rules, and can respond poorly when confronted by the rules of the game they choose to play. It came up often enough that we had to create even more rules to deal with it. I was forced to think about ragequitting.
I was very angry with Mark Pilgrim and _why for ragequitting the Internet, because they also took all their content with them – they got so frustrated that they took their ball and went home, so nobody else could play. How incredibly rude. Ragequitting is childish, a sign of immaturity.
Taking the issue of suicide off the table as something I'm neither qualified to talk about nor comfortable doing so, this characterization of normal "ragequitting" mimics a common theme in toxic social environments: whenever someone decides they've had enough, it's their fault. They should've "manned up" and took whatever thing got them to pack it up. Whatever issues they had, however legitimate they might be on the face, are squandered because they decided to quit.
This is flat out wrong. You have a fundamental right to disappear, and anyone who tries to strongarm you into thinking you don't should be ignored. They're acting like bullies, and bullies are never worth your time.
Today, Vint Cerf, chief internet evangelist for Google, had an op-ed piece in the New York Times where he boldly declares internet access is not a human right, and provides an anachronism to demonstrate the weight required to elevate something to the status of a civil or human right:
There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right. Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things. For example, at one time if you didn’t have a horse it was hard to make a living. But the important right in that case was the right to make a living, not the right to a horse. Today, if I were granted a right to have a horse, I’m not sure where I would put it.
However, Vint Cerf recalls one lesson from history yet ignores another.
This blog post isn't about technology, so if you've subscribed to my posts or follow me because of my technology-related stuff, I wouldn't be offended if you skipped over this post.
How can you be sure the Sun will rise tomorrow? It's not a question most people dwell on. We all take it for granted that some scientist—maybe it was Galileo or Copernicus or one of those guys from Italy or somesuch a long time ago who bothered to find out—proved, using the scientific method, that when the Sun sets at the end of the day, it's going to rise again the next morning.
What if I told you that there is no empirical evidence that sufficiently demonstrates the Sun will rise tomorrow? Poppycock, you say! That's just like saying "Evolution is a theory!" But it's true: we don't rely solely on empirical evidence to arrive at the conclusion that the Sun will rise tomorrow.
Never underestimate the the internet's ability to solve problems.
Yesterday, I received my new iPhone 4, and quickly found out that the TomTom iPhone car kit does not recognize the phone at all: no GPS fix, no "Docked" recognition, nothing. So, I Googled around, and found a few people having the same issue: the iPhone 4 simply doesn't work with the car kit. The consensus when I went to bed last night was that TomTom would have to release a software fix.
But when I woke up, I checked again: someone had figured out the problem and a workaround: stick something behind the base of the iPhone so the connector hits the port at the right angle. So, I tried it, and it totally worked.
I did some testing, and was able to find a pretty good minimum thickness: 0.07 inches, 1.778 mm, or seven 10pt/80lb business cards.
Every minute, some technology analyst is predicting the future. 99 times out of 100, they're wrong. And it's not really worth writing about. But every once in a while, there's a prognostication that's so crazy but written as though it's an inevitability is pains the mind.
Today, MG Siegler wrote an article about how the iPad looks like old news compared to the forthcoming iPhone 4. In it, he opines that, among the main problems the just-released iPad has, its display simply doesn't measure up to the new iPhone 4's display. I take him at his word: I haven't seen it yet, and nearly everyone who has says it's an amazing display.
But then this gem comes up:
Here’s why this really matters for Apple: the iPhone 4 likely points to the updates coming to the iPad in the not-too-distant future. Are there any doubts that the Retina Display and twice the RAM will make its way to that device? So why would you buy the iPad now if the device might get these updates in say, January? The proof will be right in front of your eyes on Thursday.
Hot damn, don't buy an iPad! Or if you already have, you poor bastard you, sell it on eBay! In January, we're going to have a new iPad (I'm calling it the iPad Unicorn) with a sick Retina display!
If you believe that, or if you can follow that logic, I'm going to save you some trouble now and tell you it's not going to happen.
This morning, I checked TechMeme and saw the big news: AT&T decided to restructure its data plans to remove the option for unlimited data. This disappoints me greatly: I, like I'm sure thousands of other customers, bought the iPad WiFi + 3G based on the deal Apple struck with AT&T to offer a no-contract, $30/month, cancel-and-activate any time you need it plan. Like Gizmodo said, the purchase was insurance in case I ever needed to be on 3G exclusively for a while.
The new plans, I believe, are a total bait-and-switch. I don't begrudge AT&T's right to change their prices, but I do find it disappointing that they did it no more than a month after the iPad WiFi + 3G launched, and a couple weeks after the return window ended. So, I decided to write to Steve Jobs in what I thought would be a vain release of my frustration:
The big buzz in the social media world lately revolves around Twitter's rollout of its "list" feature, which allows you and others to create lists of your followers: easily tagging them so you can share those lists with others. Robert Scoble thinks it's a game changer, and is pushing the value proposition for them hard. But I think lists, because they have no consent mechanism and because they can be made public, are boneheaded, broken, and ultimately make Twitter a dangerous tool to use for anyone who values their reputation.
You may not be able to use a shiny application for Google Voice on your iPhone, but you can use relatively new or unknown features of AT&T and Google together and against them and wind up saving a nice chunk of change in the process. This is for all phones, not just the iPhone, but if you’re an iPhone user, I’d say it’s not a bad consolation prize. I’m going to talk about two features: Google Voice’s outbound calling and your wireless carrier’s calling circle feature.
One of the projects I've been working on instead of updating this blog has been a set of modules for Drupal that allow FriendFeed users do all sorts of interesting things. While I'm not ready to release the details of those projects, one of the biggest mind-benders I've experienced in my work has been OAuth, a technology FriendFeed uses as its preferred authentication mechanism in the latest version of its API.
Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the web
Today, Alexander Van Elsas had a sort of 95 Thesis/20 Questions amalgam about a host of issues involving the state of the internet today. One set of questions provoked a couple points of discussion from Rob Diana and John Bredehoft: