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July 18th, 2014

10:41 pm - evil plans
So I've had yet another idea for a project -- possibly to go on the large stack of projects I'll never get to, except that this one dovetails nicely with the original concept for Issuepedia.

It's not really so much a new idea as the bringing of an old idea into sharper focus by virtue of the fact that I'm seeing more awareness of the need for it lately -- more so even than during/after Occupy

First, there was BuyCott, which I originally heard about sometime last year but couldn't use because I didn't have a smartphone -- which became no longer the case a few months ago, so I installed it and finally tried it out -- and found it quite disappointing.

What I understood was that it was supposed to let me scan the barcode of a food item, and it would bring up all the lowdown on the product and its maker -- primarily whether there were any known ethical or health issues surrounding either one, and providing some kind of evaluation of "corporate citizenship" so the buyer could know whether this is a company to whom they want to be contributing income.

So I scanned an "Eden Organics" product at the co-op -- and all Buycott would give me, aside from the product name and picture, was official stuff about the company: their web site, their Facebook page, their Twitter feed. Absolutely nothing from any third parties, much less any mention of their overt right-wing religiosity.

I had hoped that Buycott was at least a crude version of the crowdsourced reference guide I've been wanting to build for years now, but apparently it simply is not.

So now I'm thinking I need to write a mobile app that somehow feeds off all the data I've got in Issuepedia to provide that same kind of service, only done right -- eventually to add crowdsourced features moderated by the reputation management algorithm I've mentioned elsewhere (or something like it). That's the first part of the idea.

(Actually, to be fair, it started as an idea for a global warming denialism reference. That could still happen, and it's as important an issue, but it seems less likely to generate the kind of enthusiasm that could make this successful and less likely to have a near-term positive effect on how business is done.)

Part two is that I should do a Kickstarter (or equivalent) to buy the time to actually write this properly, on a schedule, and maybe to pay other contributors to add information about more companies and products. I've got Issuepedia pages for a couple of dozen businesses, and information on maybe a few dozen more -- but it needs to be hundreds or thousands. It needs to know all the brands owned by Koch, all the brands owned by Pepsi, all the brands owned by Viacom and Disney and Sony. (Scope-creep is going to be a difficult thing to avoid; it will have to go in stages, each with its own funding campaign and specific mission.)

Part three is that I came up with what seems at the moment like a fabulous name for the whole project: CoAgitate. (I've registered coagitate.com. I would have snagged .net and .org too, both available, but budget is tight at the moment.)

Obstacles: This would all have to wait until I've either got vbz.net up and running or else decide to put it on the back burner again, for which I've set myself a deadline of early August. (I could probably write a whole separate post about that issue.) And there's another project that has the potential to pay a regular salary, but the way it's going seems to be drifting slowly away from what interested me in the first place... and there's absolutely no guarantee that the necessary investors will pony up and make it possible anyway.

So, thoughts? Does this seem like a worthwhile thing?

(originally posted at http://woozle.dreamwidth.org/2276.html, where the number of comments is currently comment count unavailable)

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December 14th, 2013

10:14 pm
Going to my network page on Friendica, which has been insisting on showing me nothing newer than 8 months ago, I randomly clicked on "December 2013" just to see if anything would happen.

And hey, suddenly I see Diaspora posts from @Will Hill and @Dr.Edward Morbius -- w00t!

(This all just goes to show the value of randomly trying things that can't possibly work.)

(originally posted at http://woozle.dreamwidth.org/1850.html, where the number of comments is currently comment count unavailable)

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November 29th, 2013

09:56 am - Coding is a gateway drug to systems design
I'm being a bad, bad programmer this week, and totally indulging in my wish to have systems that work properly instead of just kluging stuff together to get it working as quickly as possible.

This is clearly why I don't deserve nice things.

(originally posted at http://woozle.dreamwidth.org/1569.html, where the number of comments is currently comment count unavailable)

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July 30th, 2011

03:29 pm - Google Announces Discovery of Giant Black Monolith, Lifts Employee Gag Order
Google today announced the discovery of a large black monolith under their Mountain View headquarters. The monolith was discovered as a result of investigations into peculiar magnetic anomalies affecting everything from the order of posts and the stickiness of +1s on Google+ to results from its search engine -- explaining, for example, why a Google search of the phrase "stop TSA" does not include the web site stoptsa.com in the returned listing.

"We knew this was absolutely huge news, and we didn't want the markets to panic," said the spokesman, explaining the reason for the gag order which had caused much consternation due to Google's apparent radio silence on the problematic Google+ "common names" policy. The spokesman denied that Google management had been using the news blackout as an opportunity to buy up stock in space-related companies and restock their private bunkers.

Except for a single, high-powered beam of energy aimed directly at Wall Street, the monolith has remained silent and inactive -- its origin and purpose still a total mystery.

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April 11th, 2011

09:28 pm - conspiracy theories
I originally asked this on Facebook: What's so terrible about conspiracy theories?

I think I can now elaborate a little. I had always taken the term "conspiracy theory" to mean "the idea that a particular set of observed results is best explained as the result of a conspiracy of some kind".

I have also seen it used to mean "any event-explaining hypothesis which differs in significant ways from an official explanation of that same event".

What I'm hearing, though, is that the popular understanding of the term might mean something more like "a theory that the world is controlled by some group about whom very little is known and for which there is very little conclusive evidence".

If that is how most people understand the term, then (1) I can understand the avoidance, and (2) what the heck do we call either of the first two things?

(originally posted at http://woozle.dreamwidth.org/1185.html, where the number of comments is currently comment count unavailable)

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March 30th, 2011

10:47 am - Harena dream
This may have been partly inspired by Harena's fitful sleep last night...

I dreamed that I had been out very late, doing something with the kids1 which somehow involved both the kids' Uncle Chris and PZ Myers (who seem to be oddly reminding me of each other, even though I can't easily define how), both of whom I was somehow supposed to connect with at different times afterwards (which ended up being in a dark parking lot just outside, and there was something to do with me not being able to find my shoes or something) and we were all there way past 1 a.m.

The amusing(?) part was that I knew Harena would be all panicked by how late we were (we probably all died in a car wreck or something), but when I got home it turned out that in her panic and depression she had elaborately calligraphed a suicide note, and then decided she really like the way it looked and submitted it to a goth font2 contest.

Because the contest ended at midnight, we were out so late that the winners were announced, and she won.

Some time later, back in reality, I told Harena about this and she made me post it. So now you know who to blamethank.

1. at this building whose exterior resembled that of the emergency room at Durham Regional Hospital (where we so recently spent many happy hours) and whose interior reminded me of RDU airport circa 1970 -- both classic early 1960s boxy "modern" architecture

2. you know... those Goth-looking fonts everyone uses... they're all the rage on the internet... you can't hardly click on a link without bumping into some new goth font... well, okay, maybe not in this universe -- I guess here it's sparkly vampires, but I'm sure there's some nearby parallel one where everyone is sick of goth fonts and yet people keep doing more of them.

Current Location: alternate universe
Tags: ,

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March 13th, 2011

11:58 am - MoveOn and political tools
MoveOn.org finally took a step I've been waiting for them to take since they started. Here's the email I just received:

Dear MoveOn member,

How would you like to send an email to all 5 million MoveOn members—or even just the ones in North Carolina or Durham—inviting them to join you in fighting for a cause you feel passionately about?

Well, this could be your chance. We're launching a new website where you can start your own online petition and invite your friends to sign it. 

Then we'll take the most popular petitions and share them with other MoveOn members, so thousands of new people can join your cause.

To help get ready, we're taking a quick survey. If this website were available today, do you have an idea for a petition you'd like to create?

Just click to let us know:

Yes, I'd start a petition.

No, I don't think I'd start a petition right now.


–Anna, Julia, Michael, Wes, and the rest of the team

My first reaction is "whoa, where to start?" Although this isn't the rich self-governance tool I've been wishing for, it's a significant step in the right direction... even if it's basically been done before.

Now that I think about it more, I'm starting to get discouraged again. Yes, it has been done before; putting such a tool on MoveOn doesn't really change anything significantly.

Oh well, at least in my message to them I mentioned some of what's missing. Here's what I just sent them:

It would really help if you had a tool to gauge popular support for a petition before actually setting it up, so petitioners can choose terms/causes with the most support.

Here are some petitions I'd consider starting, just off the top of my head:

  1. TSA: Return to pre-9/11 security procedures. Congress: disband TSA, return security management to airports.
  2. Congress: constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision.
  3. Congress: reinstate Reagan-era tax levels, or at least end the Bush tax cuts. (I don't know what the procedures are; maybe it's too late for this.)
  4. Congress/president: close Gitmo. No more tribunals. All terrorists must be tried on American soil. No more torture, either.
  5. No more "executive secrecy privilege" or whatever it's called. Return government to Clinton-era transparency.

I could probably come up with some better ones, given time to research it. There is much to do, and we badly need more tools of this sort.

See http://issuepedia.org/InstaGov for more thoughts along this line.

If I can ever get to a point where I'm not constantly working on other things that need to be done RIGHT NOW NO WAIT LAST WEEK AAAGGHH, I'm just going to have to sit down and write this thing myself, I guess. (Which I had been planning to do, but more urgent things keep interrupting it, so then I keep hoping I can find some way to get funding for it or at least find other people who think it's a great idea who can then encourage me to do it in spite of all the competing priorities.)

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March 2nd, 2011

07:21 pm - two unrelated things (unconnected and free)

Thing One

In response to a post on asexy beast, I found myself wondering if there is such a thing as a nondating/friendship site where individuals can choose what sorts of expressions-of-affection they are comfortable with (and under what circumstances) --
* kissing?
* hugging?
* casual touching?
* nonsexual intimate touching (e.g. under the shirt but not in the pants)?
* holding hands? (in public, or just in private?)

I have to think that this would be seriously awesome if there were such a thing, but of course it will turn out that someone has already done it and it somehow sucks.

Thing Two

A Fiction came into my head a couple of days ago and demanded that I write it. It's kind of an alternate-universe thing with fanfic-ish elements, but it actually doesn't depend on any copyrightable content, so I could actually publish it if it were to somehow become finished. However, after writing two large chunks, I have become discouraged and can't decide if it's worth continuing.

If anyone would like to read what I've got so far, drop me a line (or, really, a line segment... preferably with blunted ends; those one-dimensional theoretical constructs tend to go right through the floor without stopping).

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February 10th, 2011

05:30 pm - The Advise-Yourself-at-15 Meme
I caught this meme from kdsorceress; I apologize if it's contagious. The exercise, in case it's not obvious, is to describe what advice you would give your 15-year-old self. Read more...Collapse )

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December 28th, 2010

10:04 pm - distraction
I think I'm noticing a pattern... or maybe I already noticed it and have now figured out how to explain it.

When I'm working on code, there's a long stretch of time when it's uphill -- ConcentrateConcentrateConcentrate with no indication that anything purposeful is happening. I could be writing very good or very bad code, and there's no way to tell until I can actually use it.

Eventually you get to the point where some part of it actually functions (often after a shorter stretch of thrashing around when it almost works but generates errors -- which I actually find much easier to deal with, because it reminds me what I need to do next), and then there's this nice kick of accomplishment. Not only is there a working thing to show for the effort, but you can forget a lot of the tedious details you were having to spend mental energy to remember all at the same time.

The problem comes when I start to crave distractions.

(Ironically, unasked-for distractions often set this off: if I've had my focus broken once, it's much harder to get back to where I was because (a) I have to rebuild the house of cards toppled by the interruption and (b) I have less trust that it won't happen again.)

The thing about distractions is that you do a little bit of work and get only a little kick of "satisfied" afterwards (yay, I beat that level in Luxor for the 207th time, or yay I just explained my brilliantly controversial view in a comment on Facebook and have now alienated 6 more people) -- but it comes much more quickly and effortlessly.

When there's a long stretch of FocusFocusFocusFocus without reward, I start to desperately crave that feeling of "yay, you did something!", and I find myself doing things -- anything -- to get away from the non-rewarding work and get into something that will give a quick Accomplishment kick.

It seems very much like something that probably has an underlying hormonal mechanism.

Maybe there's a drug which can dampen out this pattern so I don't feel so desperate for an interruption. I don't know what it would be, though (even assuming I could afford it).

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