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Undoing the monster TV created
I had a weird thought the other day while flipping channels looking for something to watch.
I imagine that most of the entertainment industry is scared shitless of Trump and the rise of fascism in the US. Since Trump is a product of TV, and now we understand how powerful that is, I wonder if the power will be turned in support of self-government and freedom and the rule of law.
TV created the nasty "You're Fired!" mentality. But they also created Friends, and Will & Grace, Seinfeld and other shows I've never watched, but heard about, that are credited with having eased our culture into being okay with different lifestyles.
TV, in my earlier years when I was paying more attention, helped us purge hate, by helping us laugh at a Queens bigot (I'm from Queens, as is our president) named Archie Bunker, and accept that blacks can elevate via The Jeffersons. I wonder what Norman Lear thinks about Trump? The people who did The Sopranos and The Wire?
I wonder if TV will now help us undo the damage they unwittingly begat. Perhaps by having a Trump-like character get what's coming to him. Put him in Archie Bunker's chair, and see what happens. :balloon:
A couple of months ago I went to a studio across from the NY Public Library on 42nd St and did an interview with people from CBC, who were in Toronto, I think. We talked about the work I did with Chris Lydon when we were both research fellows at Berkman Center, in 2003.
I always worry about interviews, they can be like ransom notes, you never know how they're going to reassemble your words and if the result will make sense or accurately represent what you believe or know.
I should add that podcasting started before I met Chris, and continued after I left Berkman. CBC chose this thread, but there are others they could have just as easily picked up.
And it's nice to see Chris get the credit he deserves. A lot of people thought it was too weird an idea. When I pitched him, he showed up, and while they don't mention this on the CBC show, his series of podcasts are the only audio documentation of the early political blogosphere. His interviews were first class, and he picked a very interesting group of people to cover, some of whom went on to have amazing careers as bloggers and political leaders.
Which would be preferable syntax...
Hopefully this makes the case for synchronous verbs in the "third place" as explained in my previous post on this topic. :balloon:
I watched the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 when then-president Barack Obama made fun of the future-president Donald Trump.
I understood at the time that Obama deserved a chance to get even with Trump, who had just dragged him through a totally disrespectful non-scandal about Obama's birth, the kind of thing only a black man has to endure, at the hands of a white man. It was a humiliation not just for the president, but for a country with a long history of racial oppression, trying to overcome its past.
But I had a bad feeling. I had learned from years of conflict in business and tech, that you don't want that last bit of victory, it always comes back to bite you. When you win, you want to be gracious, extend an olive branch, be big, even if inside you feel like taking the revenge that is yours.
I learned this lesson from a defeated adversary. When I first arrived in Silicon Valley, I did a deal with a company called Personal Software, that had just bought a product called VisiCalc, which was the first spreadsheet program. They became a juggernaut, and my product, which eventually became ThinkTank, wasn't making it. When I finally delivered, the company decided not to market it, and they told me about their decision in a nasty, humiliating way. I was forced to take a perp walk through the company offices, administered by a guy I'll call Rick, though that's not his real name.
A few years later, Personal Software was gone, a victim of its own success, and my company, formed around the project they rejected, was thriving. I forget what I was doing, but I was playing with Rick, making his life miserable, because our fortunes were reversed. I was on top, and he was the loser. He reached out to me, and said something memorable (paraphrased).
"You won, Dave, I see that. It would be great if you'd let me get on with my life."
I felt shame. I stopped. And every time I won a personal victory, I remembered Rick and his humility.
But Rick, when he dragged me down, actually did me a huge favor, as Obama did for Trump that night. Rick motivated me. He gave me the push I needed to win. I had a reason to win, to kick his ass. It worked. And in the end I found I didn't need to kick his ass, the victory itself was enough of a reward.
Obama should now have learned that lesson. He was the guy up on stage, speaking in front of a podium that said President of the United States. Trump was in the audience, with no mike, no voice. Trump had to take it. But he was brewing his revenge as Obama humiliated him, a revenge that he would ultimately take out on all of us.
Why tell this story now?
Because Trump just did it to his adversaries.
His tweet, where he called American journalism the "enemy of the people" was too much. It was so wrong, so dangerous, so "burn down the house" that it motivates me, an American citizen and voter, to want to see him brought down. It tells me that there is certainly something very awful that he doesn't want anyone to know. So now we have to know it. And journalism will be part of how we get to know it.
It could motivate the Republican Congress to take a chance, really a small one, and authorize an independent commission with subpoena power, to investigate, so the news doesn't have to break through leaks. It should come out legally, under government supervision. Whatever the truth is, whatever it is that connects the Trump Family to Russia, we have to know it, we will know it. Either through the government or through journalism. And Trump, if he wishes to learn from his mistakes, will know he shouldn't have motivated his enemies.
I'm an American citizen, I vote, and I want journalists to investigate the president. I want them to investigate the connection between Trump and Russia, and the ways the president and his family are using his office to enrich themselves. I depend on them doing a great job, and the more the president attacks the press, the more I want them to dig in and find out what's going on. This is one of the core values of our country, and the source of American strength.
I've been working on a project called ElectronRunner.
What this means is functions return results instead of taking callback parameters.
So this is how you'd copy a file:
file.writeWholeFile (dest, file.readWholeFile (source))
I wanted to mark this moment, I think I figured out how it'll work. And rather than lose the thought process that got me here, I recorded a 25-minute podcast, telling the story of how 40 years of dev work led to this place and hopefully far beyond. :balloon:
We're watching the western alliance crumble waiting for the Repubs in Congress to give up on their fantasy of looting the treasury.
16-minute podcast with a proposal to pair famous people in politics, law, entertainment, education, sports, one Repub and one Dem, to join together to demand a bipartisan investigation of the connection between Trump and Russia, like the commission that investigated 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, or a select committee like the one that investigated Watergate.
Ultimately for it to mean anything, Congress has to authorize it, and then step back. Independence is everything. But it won't do for unelected members of the intelligence community, a.k.a. spies, to leak info about elected reps. That would turn the US into a police state, if you think about it.
Now we must pick up the ball, and show Congress what we want to happen. Demanding it is not enough, we have to show them, with examples.
BTW, in the podcast I promised to find a video of Sam Ervin, who led the Watergate Congressional inquiry in 1973. If only he were alive today. He was a wonderful, perfect, no bullshit, friendly, lovable, down-home Democrat from North Carolina, who talked like Foghorn Leghorn, who couldn't stand Nixon's bullshit.
If you get a few minutes, this podcast helps focus the mind.
It's David Frum of all people. Our politics don't match, but that's the point. We agree that it's America's strength that we can listen to each other, disagree, and co-exist in the same political system. We love that about our country, even if we disagree about almost everything else.
Frum says the two main threats from Trump are:
But even those aren't the big problem. It's the things he will do to cover them up that are going to destroy the republic if left unchecked.
Therefore he says and I agree the two things we should focus on are:
Also it's important to track progress. When a decision is made on the tax returns or the commission, pass the link around to your social media followers. It's not as salacious as the latest TrumpTweet, but keeping the pressure up on these two issues keep the process focused on what really matters.
Be inclusive if you want to win
One more thing Frum says, and I totally agree, if you can't rally with people you disagree with on other issues, then Trump is not your biggest issue.
His example. The Women's March on January 21 wouldn't admit pro-life speakers. Pro-life speakers who can't support Trump? Those are our people. (Note: I am pro-choice.)
That's probably why we should have had a more general protest, one that didn't have the conflicts that the Women's March brought to it. Getting past the Trump crisis is the most important thing right now as far as I'm concerned. We must work with everyone who agrees.
The Daily podcast
The NYT has a real winner with the Daily podcast. It's only 20 minutes, so it fits in with my other daily podcast listening. And it's great stuff, and quick. No points belabored, the news of the day covered. I'm hooked.
An old slogan from days-gone-by: Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet.
I read a piece in Ars Technica talking about efforts to get DRM built into the web. It's a complicated story, touches on a bunch of different viewpoints, Tim Berners-Lee, Richard Stallman, Cory Doctorow, Joi Ito.
My point of view: I have been, at one time, a dues-paying corporate member of the W3C, around the time XML-RPC was becoming SOAP, but I mostly stayed away from the process. I saw it as a time sink, it took me away from developing features for users, which is what I like to do. It looked to me as if the goal of the W3C was to negotiate between the big companies of the day, at times Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, Sun, IBM, then Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, the entertainment industry, these days.
The idea -- take a public resource and let the biggest companies divide up its future. The result is as lifeless as you might imagine. A big part of the reason imho why the web is in so much trouble these days.
Anyway, I wanted to offer my two cents in the DRM debate.
Should the web have DRM?
I don't see why the web needs DRM.
Is there a simple one or two page summary of the reasons for DRM? I understand why big media companies want to keep people from copying their movies, music, TV shows, etc. No judgement on that. In that I'm not as radical as Stallman, but I'm closer to his view than I am to that of big companies with expensive content that they want to lock up under DRM.
I was surprised to hear that MIT is unhappy that the W3C isn't paying rent. They are entitled of course, but I don't think the web itself should have to pay.
Anyway, I see how the web can help big companies, but I wonder when you all are going give back to the web? Seriously, the web has given us so much, and it's languishing because the big companies and the organizations they back suck the life out of it, and we stand by and say nothing? What does the web get in return for making these companies and their founders so rich?
Maybe we should have a negotiation. Someone should stand for just the web. You can have DRM, but in return you have to help the web. If you can't do that, then the argument might go, the web can't help you.
I think I get how frustrated El Presidente is. He had a great weekend at Mar A Lago. Perfect. Everyone loves him. Applause when he comes into the room. He gets to impress his pal from Japan, and they probably talked some sweet business, endorsements, etc. And everyone I mean everyone just loved him. And those stinking reporters can't see that. Look at how everyone loves me. I get to eat outside and play golf. And there was even a crisis with me as the CENTER OF EVERYTHING and that was cool cause I just said I'd be tough and they all thought that was exactly the right thing to do.
This would be even better than embedding journalists in small towns (which is a very good idea, imho). Teach people to be journalists. We could have eyes and ears everywhere.
Like the Indivisible howto, but for journalism. Teach everyday people the basics of reporting. It would be incredible for our self-government if we had millions of people who knew how to report based on actual facts.
A civil defense system against a central government that's out of control. Think of it as a backup system. An Emergency Broadcast System for news.
Viewing the First Amendment the way gun advocates view the Second, a defense against tyranny.
Continuing the thread started by The ACLU's feeds, a couple of new goodies for RSS developers and expert users.
Here's a random thought.
If Congress won't hold hearings into what happened in the elections, and into the president's conflicts of interest, what's to stop an independent organization, like a ProPublica or Snopes, from starting a public inquiry, with televised hearings, that looks into the matter, as citizens.
Form a shadow government, and out of that bootstrap a new House and Senate that works the way the people want it to work.
I don't imagine you'd have to finish the exercise, though you should. The real reps would get the idea and copy it, which is what you'd hope they'd have the will to do on their own.
Yesterday I posted a note about the ACLU's feeds. I'm going to do more of those feed collections. I already have a few. Thinking of ways to distribute them that will allow people to contribute, probably using GitHub and pull requests.
I got into doing work on River5, not sure why, but I'm not fighting the impulse. I did a bit of work on the default way it boots up, so that the initial result is more pleasing and understanable.
And then I noticed a warning in the Unix console about a "possible EventEmitter memory leak." It was just a warning but it bugged me, so I looked into it.
I'm going to keep rolling and feeding the RSS community little nibbles of sweetness, in the hopes that some of the lights come on. :balloon:
Part of building the news underground is organizing lists of feeds.
We haven't done much there, in a systematic way, to help news orgs show us, in machine-readable form, where all their feeds are.
There were some attempts to do this, but mostly without much communication, and if you think about it, the whole point of it is to communicate about them. :balloon:
So to get the ball rolling, I decided to make a list of the ACLU feeds. A good place to start. In an emergency we'd all like to be able to find their feeds, right? I know I would.
So here's the list.
A few questions.
I've turned on comments for this post. Stick to these questions, thanks.
Update: The Guardian's feeds.
I try to watch the Rachel Maddow show every night. It's really good and they're doing good. Unlike other shows that are still stuck in horserace mode, if you can believe that, Maddow has the guts to report on the world we're in now, the one that needs us to save it.
We should all do what we're good at.
I had more or less come to that conclusion. It's why I so desperately want to help news get on solid distributed ground where it can be not-so-easily controlled by a crooked and corrupt government.
All that's missing are users and developers.
Users who will use the product of the open systems created by the developers. The technology to create an open news ecosystem is trivial. And it doesn't need to be implemented. It already exists.
This is the amazing thing -- it already exists. Say that 100 times.
It already exists and WE AREN'T USING IT.
That's a crime.
This originally appeared as a tweet. Since many of the people who read this blog are developers, I should say where, if you want to get involved, you could start.
To be a good developer you first have to become a user. So I would recommend downloading and installing River5. You don't need a server to run it. Set it up to follow some feeds you like, let it run for a few days. Visit the river page several times a day. Add more feeds if you want.
This is an open news system. That's all there is to it. You don't have to be much of a developer to set one of these up.
Now what can you do with it? Put it on a public instance at AWS or Digital Ocean or where ever you like to host. It should be part of your political group. Or if you work at a news pub, it should be something you provide as a service to your editorial people. Let them tell you what to subscribe to.
That should give you more ideas. Build! Serve your users. Help open news thrive. We need it to survive.
But wait there's stuff users can do too!
First thing, can you find a developer to set up a river for you, as described above? If so, send them to this page. Make sure they know how much you love and appreciate them, and how important their work is to the cause. Take your developer friend to lunch. It's a little secret, programmers like to be appreciated, pretty much like other people. :balloon:
Until then, you can start using my rivers. I did what I describe above. I have one for politics, one for the NBA, a river of podcasts. These are of course just examples, but they are useful on their own. These are total labors of love, I'm not trying to sell you anything other than our freedom to share what we learn without using centralized systems. It's going to be really important if things go badly.
Update: Thanks for the help! We got to the problem quickly. Forever's log files were what's taking up all the space. I deleted them and freed up many gigs.
TL;DR -- Running Ubuntu, I need a way to find out which folders are using 99 percent of the space on my disk.
I have a number of servers on AWS running Ubuntu, running Node apps under Forever. One of them has a single app, called wo.js. Dropbox is also running on the machine.
A few days ago my servermonitor app reported that wo.js wasn't running, so I went to check it out and the Forever list was empty. Which is weird because a crashed app should still be in the list, with a big word STOPPED next to its name. But there was no sign of wo.js.
The app keeps a cache of rendered pages in its folder, so I figured that folder had gotten too big, so I deleted it,
rm -rf renderedPages
Then relaunched the app, and it was good. That appeared to have solved the problem.
But a couple of days later same thing happened.
I am very much a newbie when it comes to running a Ubuntu server. So far I haven't had to know very much. Just the basics. I asked how much disk space was available on the server.
It said the disk was 7.8GB and it was using all of it. Okay that's the problem. So I removed renderedPages again, and took another look. That only freed up about 10MB. The disk was still almost totally full.
The problem was not that my app was using too much space, something else is. This is where I need help. I have no idea where to look to find the files that are using up all that space. I'd rather not have to reprovision the server, so any advice would be appreciated.
The great thing about jury duty is you get a very clear sense of what self-government is about. It makes you feel empowered which can be even more uncomfortable than feeling powerless.
So much of the frenetic activity online is about that sense of powerlessness. So we give money to causes or we join in boycotts, but these aren't as powerful as participating in governing. Jury duty is a very quick way to do that.
We have to act more like citizens and less like subjects. I think that's the real message of the election of 2016. Subjects elect someone like Trump. People who think like citizens would elect someone very different.
People are flying through things.
So much is being written and people are getting alarmed by this and that, but being frantic isn't going to help.
When I find myself freaking out, and it happens a lot, I step away from the keyboard and try to refind a perspective in a bigger world.
Outside, things are actually normal. The buses and taxis and Ubers are all on the streets. People are walking, riding the subway, doing what they usually do.
So far the shit hasn't actually hit any fans.
The press and the president are doing a good job of keeping us whipped up. Congress is trying to sneak some nasty shit by us, but we're hearing about it. Or so it seems.
But the things we're worried about mostly have yet to happen.
And meanwhile there have been encouraging signs. Don't overlook those.
Let's all stay friends and try to stay positive, and this is a great country, with long traditions of free speech and tolerance and the rule of law and separation of powers and respect for the individual, and those things don't change overnight. Really, they don't. We still are who we were.
I read this somewhere a long time ago about how they do this.
Basically, the Democrats made a big issue of Betsy DeVos because they think it'll make it easier to win future elections.
The Republicans understand what the Dems are doing. They also know they have two votes to allocate to vulnerable members. Just two will get leave to vote against DeVos. Lots of factors determine who. How likely they are to win re-election. How reliable they are. Favors they are owed. Their ability to raise money. Do important lobbyists like them?
Some people think, imho erroneously, that they voted against DeVos out of principle. Maybe they really do believe she'd be a bad Secretary of Education. But first and foremost they are Repubs. Their No vote was not an act of rebellion. It was part of a Repub strategy to remain in control of the Senate.
All the theater the Dems put up over this was also for the purpose of winning future elections.
The takeaway is this. Nothing will change how politics works in the Senate. But we the voters have the ability to move them in different directions based on how they think we'll vote. Also factor in whether they think we will or can vote.
That's the system. Think about manipulating it to get what you want. And for that you have to team up with lots of other voters, because that's what counts, massive numbers of votes, in the right places. That will change the calculations of the parties in Congress.
A friend sent a link to a conference called Misinfocon, a joint project between MIT Media Lab and Nieman, two orgs I'm familiar with.
Here's the problem they're looking at:
Misinformation, and increasingly disinformation, is distorting people’s ability to make sense of the world around them, threatening the democratic process around the globe. While not a new phenomenon, the problem is compounded by both the speed that information travels in our networked world, and the technological and cultural “filter bubbles” that we live our lives in. This is a problem that impacts all of us.
I was trying to figure out if I should go.
I think the focus should be the other way, on collecting news flows that are reliable, from people and orgs who are trying to get accurate stories. I think that problem is easily solved, and then the next problem is revealed -- how to get people to come there for news.
I can create the flow, I have -- but I can't get people to come there.
I think this requires a change in thinking at the news orgs, that their futures are tied together, that without flowing their ideas through one central place (actually a number of them) they will eventually sink under the weight of all the flows captured on Twitter and Facebook.
We should have done this years ago, but now it's urgent.
So I don't think Misinfocon is for me. I would prefer to have a small meetup with a few systems people from news orgs, and create a UX for news-hungry people that only includes trustworthy pubs. I offer politics.newsriver.org as the seed.
From there, it could grow the same way BloggerCon grew out of the Thursday evening meetings at Berkman in 2003 and 2004.
I'm working on a little project to get the archives of my linkblog online going back to the beginning of 2011, when I started using Radio2. Later I switched to Radio3, but the archives were compatible and were stored in a uniform way, in JSON.
So this post is probably of little interest to human readers, but hopefully it will be of great interest to search engines. I hope they'll start indexing these pages. That's the reason I wanted to do the archive. Let's see if it works.
So here's the archive page for March 21, 2013, a date chosen totally at random.
Election day, four years earlier.
March 16, 2011, for no reason whatsoever.
Ten years after 9/11.
I will add some more links here in a bit. :balloon:
I admit that I like Michael Wolff's work. Most of his colleagues in the press don't. I've never been able to figure that out. And no, I don't want it explained, because I've heard it all, and find it unconvincing.
We hear all the time, in the op-ed pages of venerated pubs, how Facebook is stifling the news, but never how Facebook is killing the web. A few very simple additions to Facebook would help bring the web into Facebook, but they are deaf to this. As is the press. Why? Presumably because it isn't 100 percent about them.
Also when we hear how Facebook is stifling news, we never hear the other side, how news ceded its distribution to Facebook, and how we still don't know it wouldn't work, if the news industry just replicated what Facebook does, without the mistakes that Facebook makes. I think it would work. And as a user of news, I wish they would just do it. In America, we have a word for this -- competition, and like the First Amendment, it's one of our core values. You can't prove someone has a monopoly if you haven't even tried to compete with them. As the great Scoop Nisker says, "if you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own." That includes the news itself, imho.
Then just now I heard Jeff Jarvis, famous news-about-news pundit say, on the BBC News Hour, that journalism must be better at self-examination. Right there that's the bug. They need to not so much depend on self-examination, but rather learn how to listen to their users, not as amorphous mindless slurry, but as sentient beings.
For an industry whose existence depends on its ability to listen, news has become a ghoulish imitation of itself, sort of the Walking Dead of listening. They just can't do it. Most of what they do is recycle fumes. Yes there is some actual news in the fumes, esp in 2017 when the news is so rapid and real, but it would do better if instead of gradually reforming, news underwent a revolution of relevance. Let the people take over for a while. Find ways to radically listen. Extreme listening. It'll be painful at first, but no pain no gain. On the other side, we'll all be better for it.
Which is the Truth of Trump in every way. He himself is a disaster. But he forces us to get off our butts and actually work with each other. And that means the press has to learn to work with people who criticize it, because in the criticism, is truth that the news industry has been scrupulously avoiding.
I just did a tweetstorm that says something important. I've listed the points below with a little light editing.
Journalism plays dumb, worse than "view from nowhere." Can't ask who is in charge until someone says Trump isn't.
It seems journalism has at least two functions. 1. Reporting facts in evidence. 2. Asking questions. What are the rules governing #2?
Was journalism allowed to ask if Obama was born in the US, because someone made a big deal of it? (Clearly no. And they, largely, didn't.)
But they were allowed to question Hillary's honesty because other candidates raised it as an issue. They did. Even though scant evidence.
This is one of those conventional wisdom vs obvious reality things. I think it's obvious Trump is not in charge. Isn't it? Objectively.
But the press plays along with the (imho) farce that Trump is on top, ready to respond to crises, or even driving what his admin is doing.
Perhaps instead of 1984 or Brave New World, we all ought to be reviewing Wag the Dog?
People joke about #presidentbannon b/c we think we understand what's going on. But Bannon has been impeded, so even he isn't in charge.
The problem is this -- when the attack comes, and it is coming, there won't be anyone home at the White House. And everyone knows this.
But we are collectively pretending we don't.
The flow of EOs has stopped, which is good, by govt managers, the military and courts. system worked. we passed a big test.
The next step, to get back on solid ground, get someone in charge of the White House who is up to the job. Trying to be clear as I can.
To Repubs, get a grip. Your shopping spree is over, for a while. Pop your heads up, realize no one is running the show, fix it.