August 2011

Notes from Underground: Darkness and Inflection

“When a corporation acquires great power, the use — or misuse — of that power is everything. Will it be used for the greater good, or for selfish and destructive means? Now this is a question we must all ask ourselves. Why? Because we are Google.”

Evolution (nymwars remix), Skyloops, remixed by anonymous

It was another week of nymwars, uncertainty, booking train tickets instead of flying, and helping friends deal with difficult emotional situations. Good thing I was inoculated! And a good thing too that DJ Anomaly’s residency at the Atrium continued with Darkness Friday night followed by Inflection on Saturday.

snickerdoodles under black lightThe crowd and music were great both nights, and the food just keeps getting better and better. Jupiter is still bright, and with clear skies and a new moon the viewing was great. The energy was somewhat relaxed, for lack of a better word … a lot of people stayed home preparing for Burning Man, so it wasn’t real crowded on the dance floor. But everybody there seemed to be having a good time. Including me!

sparkling lightsD tells me I was fairly quiet both evenings, lost in my thoughts … stop me if you’ve heard this before: dancing to psytrance, fighting for civil liberties. Back in June 2010 the Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights phrased it as “the right to self-identify”. The right isn’t widely recognized yet, but we’re doing a better and better job fighting for it. Who knows how it’ll work out, but Eric Schmidt’s dream of Google+ as a government-friendly identity system (and perhaps a job in the next administration) has met with almost universal opposition in the tech press and more and more people are aware of the threat and looking for ways to respond. That’s a good thing.

Alas, as a result of all this, looking at my goals for the year, I haven’t made a lot of visible progress over the last few months. And in the process I’ve been spending most of my online time in an environment that’s hostile, sexist, and overwhelmingly male. Drat. I hate it when that happens.

Oh well, it is what it is.  And more positively there’s plenty of encouraging stuff as well. So, while things are dark in a lot of ways right now, as I let myself get lost with the music and the vibe take, I found myself thinking that perhaps the nymwars and the rest of summer 2011 also mark an inflection point.

And when I woke up late on Sunday morning, an inflection point still seemed like a good idea to me.   I heart psytrance.

blue and purple

Tales from the Net

Comments (1)


The double bind of oppression: Google+ and Diversity, part 5

Google+ in rainbow colors

Ever since it launched, I’ve spent most of my online time on Google+, and so far am very impressed from both the software engineering and business strategy perspectives. I think it’s on track to be a big success, so expect me to be talking about it a lot.

— me, in A work in progress, July 16

Google+’s first few weeks were incredibly exciting. It was social network magic, an updated version of my best experiences at places like Usenet, ezboard, tribe and free-association.  My stream was filled with visually gorgeous photos and art, great discussions, and interesting new people.  It’s got incredible potential from an activism perspective.*  Professionally, while it discombobulated the plans for my nascent startup qweries, it also presents huge opportunities.  Exciting!!!

And then the nymwars started.

Privileged much?

“I am a pseudonymous user in many, many [online] services. I appreciate the ability to go incognito and anonymous at times”

— Google VP Bradley “Bro” Horowitz**, quoted in Juan Carlos Perez’ Google Feels the Pain of Users Who Can’t Get on Google+, PC World

Bro’s boss, Vivek “Vicki” Gundotra, doesn’t go by his real name on Google+, so presumably also appreciates the value of pseudonymity.   But you wouldn’t guess it from their actions.

Continue Reading »

social computing
Tales from the Net

Comments (9)


Notes from Underground: Inoculation

Inoculation at The Atrium tonight. Psytrance!!!

Once again it had been a long week. Friday afternoon we went out to happy hour, then took a nap and danced for a few hours at Gibbous. And lucky us: Saturday night, DJ Anomaly was back at the Atrium for Inoculation. w00t!

Like a snake that simply uncoils itself form its own not, passion returns to its natural state independent of any external antidotes.  It is self-liberated.  It is already in the nature of transcendence.

— Dzogchen Ponlop, from Four Great Modes of Liberation, in Mind Beyond Death


It was pretty darn transcendent at Inoculation.  The place looked amazing, there was a seemingly endless supply of strawberries and watermelon, and it was DJ Anomaly’s best set yet.  By 3 a.m. we could see the waning gibbous moon over the dance floor — and Jupiter too, unusually bright!

the moon and the sun


Making our own happiness
At the atrium.

Today’s been a lazy day after, sleeping late enjoying the sun and taking it easy.  Who knows how long it’ll last, but for now I feel totally inoculated.  I heart psytrance.


Comments (1)


A tale of two searches: Google+ and Diversity, part 4

cross-posted on Google+ and Dreamwidth
Check out the previous posts in the series
: A Work in Progress, Why it matters, and #nymwars!

Google+ in rainbow colorsHere’s a good example of how Google+ is already influencing search results. I’ve got screenshots below for two searches on nymwars, one when I’m logged into G+ and the other when I’m not logged in.

A couple things to notice here:

  • s.e. smith’s excellent Where Identity and Capitalism Collide on Tiger Beatdown is on the list when I’m logged in, presumably because I’ve circled s.e. on G+ and several other people I followed also shared or reshared the post. Go s.e.! It’s a very good example of the potential advantages bloggers (and businesses, once they’re allowed on) can get from being part of G+
  • Skud’s nymwars strategy discussion only shows up indirectly — the version reshared by Crystal Rehula. This is kind of weird, because Skud’s post has 123 shares, and I’m following her as well as Crystal. So it’s a great example of how Google+’s naming policy penalizes people like Skud whose names they don’t like.

Robert Scoble: SKUD isn't welcome here unless she uses a common name.

Sure you can read Skud elsewhere if you can find her. But what if she doesn’t show up in search?

And it’s not just Skud. After looking at Geek Feminism’s Who is harmed by a real names policy? and My Name is Me, whenever somebody says something like “no reason G+ needs to be for everyone” what I hear is “no reason G+ needs to be for women, LGBTQs, people with disabilities, activists, whistleblowers, teachers, etc. etc.” Because, y’know, why would anybody want those people in our search results?

It seems so obvious to me. I wonder why Robert, Joseph, Bradley, and Vic can’t see it?


Update, August 18: in the excellent G+ discussion, Fedor Pikus discussed the various “signals” that feed into Google search, and highlighted that right now G+ is only a very small component. And sure enough, today s.e. smith’s post is high on the list whether or not I’m logged in. But Skud’s still rendered invisible.

Continue Reading »


Comments (10)


Notes from Underground: Perseids and Assimilation

How time flies when you’re having fun! After another quick trip to the Bay Area for some wine tasting in Sonoma, we’re back in Seattle for the full moon, meteor showers, and back-to-back DJ Anomaly shows at The Atrium. w00t!

Professionally, once again a lot’s happened since my last post on The Union of Bliss and Emptiness.  The underling ideas behind qweries still make sense, but with Google+ (and the upcoming Google Questions) it really doesn’t seem like now’s the best time to be writing a bunch of software.  Then again, in chaos is opportunity.  So Kathy Gill and I came up with an interesting ebook idea — with Google+ as the first target!  And we were just starting to get some momentum when the nymwars hit.

One thing that helps reassure me I’m on the right side in this war: during my six weeks on Google+ I’ve met literally hundreds of new and interesting people.  While the general environment is overwhelmingly male, with plenty of sexism and bigotry, my own circles are filled with a remarkably diverse group of great conversationalists (along with the occasional troll).  One of my new year’s resolutions is “spend more time on diversity-friendly social networks, and less in sexist, racist, and elitist environments”, and the last few weeks have really reminded me of how important that is.   So I’m going to renew my Dreamwidth subscription and start looking at Disapsora.

Alas, Google’s certainly giving the impression that they don’t want G+ to be that kind of place.  Their latest statements on the naming policy imply that they’re going to try to tough it out knowing full well that what they’re doing is harmful to women, lgbtq’s, activists, people with disabilities, and a lot of other groups — including many of my friends, who are unsurprisingly leaving or cutting way back on their posting.  I’m still optimistic that Google will come to their senses at some point … but when?  And until they do, how much time and energy do I want to be investing in their new world order?  Tricky questions …

Exciting times, to be sure, but somewhat stressful.  And with stresses in my personal life too … well, let’s just say I’m ready to dance.   Fortunately there’s an embarassment of riches tonight in the Seattle: Lara and Muschi at Inertia Labs’ 13th anniversary, and DJ Anomaly at the Atrium, following up last nights Perseids party with Assimilation.  Lots to look forward to!  I heart psytrance.


Comments (0)


Nymwars! Part 3 of Google+ and Diversity

Google+ in rainbow colorsKeep the pseudonyms and lose the assholes.

Kathy Sierra

The battle over whether Google gets to police what names people can call themselves rages on.  Ten days after Google VP Bradley Horowitz promised process changes, accounts still keep getting deleted without notice.  And while Facebook Director of Products Blake Ross got his account reactivated almost immediately, Skud’s account remains suspended (two weeks and counting) even after changing the name on her profile to Kirrily “Skud” Robert.


Is Google listening?

Pseudonyms are not in themselves harmful. Yes, they can be used for harm, as when people use them for anonymous, slanderous attacks, trolling, etc., but in the vast majority of cases there is no harm done. Importantly, they can serve to protect vulnerable groups.

— Caterina Fake, Anonymity and Pseudonyms in Social Software

Continue Reading »


Comments (10)