Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Current time for a hacker to brute-force a password

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Written by Leisureguy

2 December 2022 at 11:14 pm

Posted in Software, Technology

Letter from a lawyer to Musk (who seems to have bitten off more than he can chew)

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Letter from lawyer to Musk, threatening legal action if Musk does not honor commitments regarding severance.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2022 at 8:02 pm

“I Was Wrong About Mastodon”

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Marcus Hutchins has an interesting re-evaluation of his a priori judgments about Mastodon. The entire piece is worth reading. I’ll quote just two paragraphs:

What I missed about Mastodon was its very different culture. Ad-driven social media platforms are willing to tolerate monumental volumes of abusive users. They’ve discovered the same thing the Mainstream Media did: negative emotions grip people’s attention harder than positive ones. Hate and fear drives engagement, and engagement drives ad impressions.

Mastodon is not an ad-driven platform. There is absolutely zero incentives to let awful people run amok in the name of engagement. The goal of Mastodon is to build a friendly collection of communities, not an attention leeching hate mill. As a result, most Mastodon instance operators have come to a consensus that hate speech shouldn’t be allowed. Already, that sets it far apart from twitter, but wait, there’s more. When it comes to other topics, what is and isn’t allowed is on an instance-by-instance basis, so you can choose your own adventure.

Hutchins provides yet another example of how mere logic is not a totally trustworthy guide in life, since experience not infrequently contradicts conclusions reached through logical reasoning. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. pointed this out in the context of law: “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” But it’s not just law whose life has depended on experience more than logic.

Whenever you have reached a logical conclusion, see if it holds up against experience. The testing of a theory by looking to experience is, in fact, the scientific method. Indeed, it is so common in science that Thomas Huxley’s comment on “the great tragedy of Science — the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact” has been repeated many times in many contexts for many hypotheses.

I first encountered the statement in reading an account of someone being told of the tiny pores on one’s fingers, and the ridges and valleys that form fingerprints, and exclaiming, “Of course! The ridges are there to protect the pores that run along the valleys” — but the pores run along the ridges, not the valleys. Huxley’s statement was then recited to the person as a consolation.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2022 at 10:17 pm

Thinking about taking your computer to the repair shop? Be very afraid

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Dan Goodin writes in Ars Technica:

If you’ve ever worried about the privacy of your sensitive data when seeking a computer or phone repair, a new study suggests you have good reason. It found that privacy violations occurred at least 50 percent of the time, not surprisingly with female customers bearing the brunt.

Researchers at University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, recovered logs from laptops after receiving overnight repairs from 12 commercial shops. The logs showed that technicians from six of the locations had accessed personal data and that two of those shops also copied data onto a personal device. Devices belonging to females were more likely to be snooped on, and that snooping tended to seek more sensitive data, including both sexually revealing and non-sexual pictures, documents, and financial information.

Blown away

“We were blown away by the results,” Hassan Khan, one of the researchers, said in an interview. Especially concerning, he said, was the copying of data, which happened during repairs for one from a male customer and the other from a female. “We thought they would just look at [the data] at most.”

The amount of snooping may actually have been higher than recorded in the study, which was conducted from October to December 2021. In all, the researchers took the laptops to 16 shops in the greater Ontario region. Logs on devices from two of those visits weren’t recoverable. Two of the repairs were performed on the spot and in the customer’s presence, so the technician had no opportunity to surreptitiously view personal data.

In three cases, Windows Quick Access or Recently Accessed Files had been deleted in what the researchers suspect was an attempt by the snooping technician to cover their tracks. As noted earlier, two of the visits resulted in the logs the researchers relied on being unrecoverable. In one, the researcher explained they had installed antivirus software and performed a disk cleanup to “remove multiple viruses on the device.” The researchers received no explanation in the other case.

Here’s a breakdown of the six visits that resulted in snooping: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2022 at 6:21 am

Recent Mastodon growth

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I’ve been spending a fair amount of time lately on Mastodon because (so far) it’s been interesting. I just came across this chart showing its recent growth.

The plot shows the graph of the number of new users in the Mastodon platform as a function of the date for the last months.
It can be seen that until Musk's purchase was completed, the daily new users were about one thousand.
It jumped to twenty-five thousand during the first migration tc Mastodon, just after the Musk's purchase of Twitter was completed on October 27.
A second jump to 100k new users per day happened in the second wave, just after the massive layoffs in Twitter on Nov
4th.
Finally the third jump to almost 150k per day happened after Musk's Twitter 2.0 ultimatum on Nov 17th.
After that the number of users per day went down to 50k per day for the last week.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2022 at 7:10 pm

Trying Diaspora

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I’m liking Mastodon so much that I thought I’d try out Diaspora. It is a subscription service (because (a) no ads and (b) they don’t sell user information — compare to Facebook: a ton of ads and they sell everything they can discover about you to anyone who will pay). And the subscription is modest: 75¢ per month, paid annually ($8/year). At that price, it’s worth a shot, especially since Facebook presents me with a ton of stuff of no interest to me.

Here’s an invite. Check it out.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2022 at 4:25 pm

The New York Times Is in the Tank for Crypto

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I’ve noticed this, too. The NY Times rather too often has feet of clay — the effects of privilege and poor priorities (“access is everything” does not provide good guidance). Robert Kuttner writes in The American Prospect:

In a recent post, I noted in passing the oddly soft coverage of the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried in The New York Times. The Times managed to compare the woes of FTX to a bank run, to blame Bankman-Fried’s competitors for undermining his credibility, and to take his professed charitable intent at face value.

Since I wrote, the Times coverage has only gotten worse.

A piece on the interconnections between Bankman-Fried’s exchange (FTX) and the investment company he controlled (Alameda) soft-pedaled the outright illegality of his making trades with customer funds. To hear the Times tell it, “Alameda’s need for funds to run its trading business was a big reason Mr. Bankman-Fried created FTX in 2019. But the way the two entities were set up meant that trouble in one unit shook up the other as crypto prices began to drop in the spring.”

But that’s not what happened. When customers demanded their money, Fried didn’t have it, because he had been using it and losing it, illegally, for his own trades.

And this: “Alameda’s methods borrowed many aspects from traditional high finance. It was a quantitative trading firm, similar to Wall Street hedge funds that use mathematical models and data to inform decisions. It used ‘leverage’—or borrowed money—to fuel its trades and make bigger returns.”

Note the alibis, and the passive voice. The subhead tells the reader “things got out of control,” as in Nixon’s infamous “mistakes were made.” The comparable Wall Street Journal piece ran rings around the Times version, explaining the interlocks and the sheer illegality.

More from Robert Kuttner

But the most appalling recent Times piece was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2022 at 4:58 pm

Musk’s Twitter Buy Makes No Sense – Unless It’s Part of Something Bigger

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Dave Troy writes in Byline Times:

Ever since Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, plunged the world into an endless stream of speculation and condemnation around his purchase of Twitter, the biggest unanswered question has been: why?

For many, his ultimate goals seem to be a mystery. As someone who has followed the company and its role in information warfare closely, I believe we need to use a different set of lenses to evaluate what’s happening.

First, it’s not a very attractive business, and it probably isn’t worth what Musk paid for it based on business metrics alone. He will struggle to service the debt payments associated with it, and he could try to improve profitability by slashing headcount and charging for services like Twitter Blue (which will provide a verified “checkmark” but may not include identity verification). That subscription feature may generate around $100 million a year if it has high uptake — nothing compared to the company’s $3.7bn in 2021 revenues.

It’s also important to realise that co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey endorsed Musk’s takeover bid. Why? Dorsey actually believes Twitter never should have been a company, but rather a foundational protocol on which a Twitter-like service could be built for the benefit of all — rather like the foundational Internet protocols that have enabled the web and email. Dorsey retained his shares in Musk’s Twitter; he said in April, “Elon is the singular solution I trust,” and he seems to be standing by that assessment.

Twitter cost Musk and his consortium of investors about $44 billion — denominated in United States dollars. That seems like quite a lot to pay. However, just as home mortgage payments get less expensive in real terms as time goes on, if you had a high degree of confidence that the value of a dollar would go down, perhaps dramatically, you might not care very much about price — especially if you thought your new asset could help you devalue the dollar.

Looking closer at the biggest investors (among them Musk, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, Qatar, and Dorsey), all of them have an interest in challenging the US dollar. Musk and Dorsey are major Bitcoin fanatics, and believe it’s the future of money. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have expressed interest in displacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. It is a peculiar characteristic of the investor list that all of them are interested in displacing the dollar.

Of course, this strategy is also one favoured by Vladimir Putin. His disastrous war in Ukraine is about more than territorial gains — it’s also a challenge to the West and what he perceives as unreasonable Western hegemony. He intends to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2022 at 5:53 pm

Digital Books wear out faster than Physical Books

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I have experienced for myself the greater longevity of physical books. Brewster Kahle writes at the Internet Archive Blogs:

Ever try to read a physical book passed down in your family from 100 years ago?  Probably worked well. Ever try reading an ebook you paid for 10 years ago?   Probably a different experience. From the leasing business model of mega publishers to physical device evolution to format obsolescence, digital books are fragile and threatened.

For those of us tending libraries of digitized and born-digital books, we know that they need constant maintenance—reprocessing, reformatting, re-invigorating or they will not be readable or read. Fortunately this is what libraries do (if they are not sued to stop it). Publishers try to introduce new ideas into the public sphere. Libraries acquire these and keep them alive for generations to come.

And, to serve users with print disabilities, we have to keep up with the ever-improving tools they use.

Mega-publishers are saying electronic books do not wear out, but this is not true at all. The Internet Archive processes and reprocesses the books it has digitized as new optical character recognition technologies come around, as new text understanding technologies open new analysis, as formats change from djvu to daisy to epub1 to epub2 to epub3 to pdf-a and on and on. This takes thousands of computer-months and programmer-years to do this work. This is what libraries have signed up for—our long-term custodial roles.

Also, the digital media they reside on changes, too—from Digital Linear Tape to PATA hard drives to SATA hard drives to SSDs. If we do not actively tend our digital books they become unreadable very quickly.

Then there are cataloging and metadata. If we do not keep up with the ever-changing expectations of digital learners, then our books will not be found. This is ongoing and expensive.

Our paper books have lasted hundreds of years on our shelves and are still readable. Without active maintenance, we will be lucky if our digital books last a decade.

Also, how we use books and periodicals . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2022 at 5:34 pm

This pocket notepad is (slowly) replacing his phone

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Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2022 at 4:52 pm

An Elon insight

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I came across this exchange:

I genuinely wish I could see inside Musk’s head or at least get an explanation for how he was thinking his plans would work out.

Like it’s clear now he is fantastically out of touch with reality but I still really wanna know like, to what degree. Did he think people would accept his ultimatum? Did he genuinely think it would only take like 300 people to keep Twitter running?

In response to that query numberonecatwinner posted this:

I was an intern at SpaceX years ago, back it when it was a much smaller company — after Elon got hair plugs, but before his cult of personality was in full swing. I have some insight to offer here.

Back when I was at SpaceX, Elon was basically a child king. He was an important figurehead who provided the company with the money, power, and PR, but he didn’t have the knowledge or (frankly) maturity to handle day-to-day decision making and everyone knew that. He was surrounded by people whose job was, essentially, to manipulate him into making good decisions.

Managing Elon was a huge part of the company culture. Even I, as a lowly intern, would hear people talking about it openly in meetings. People knew how to present ideas in a way that would resonate with him, they knew how to creatively reinterpret (or ignore) his many insane demands, and they even knew how to “stage manage” parts of the physical office space so that it would appeal to Elon.

The funniest example of “stage management” I can remember is this dude on the IT security team. He had a script running in a terminal on one of his monitors that would output random garbage, Matrix-style, so that it always looked like he was doing Important Computer Things to anyone who walked by his desk. Second funniest was all the people I saw playing WoW at their desks after ~5pm, who did it in the office just to give the appearance that they were working late.

People were willing to do that at SpaceX because Elon was giving them the money (and hype) to get into outer space, a mission people cared deeply about. The company also grew with and around Elon. There were layers of management between individual employees and Elon, and those managers were experienced managers of Elon. Again, I cannot stress enough how much of the company culture was oriented around managing this one guy.

Twitter has neither of those things going for it. There is no company culture or internal structure around the problem of managing Elon Musk, and I think for the first time we’re seeing what happens when people actually take that man seriously and at face value. Worse, they’re doing this little experiment after this man has had decades of success at companies that dedicate significant resources to protecting themselves from him, and he’s too narcissistic to realize it.

This post is long so I’ll leave you with my favorite Elon story. One day at work, I got an all hands email telling me that it was Elon’s birthday and there was going to be a mandatory surprise party for him in the cafeteria. Presumably Elon also got this email, but whatever. We all marched down into the cafeteria, dimmed the lights, and waited. Elon was led out by his secretary (who he hadn’t fired yet) and made a big show of being fake surprised and touched that we were there. Then they wheeled out the cake.

OK, so, I want you to imagine the biggest penis cake you’ve ever seen. Like the king of novelty sex cakes. Only it’s frosted white, and the balls have been frosted to look like fire and smoke. This was Elon’s birthday “rocket” cake.

For as long as I live, I will never forget the look on everyone’s face — in that dark room of mostly-male engineers — when he made a wish and cut into the tip.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2022 at 7:11 am

Turn on two-factor authentication for Facebook

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After reading an article by Tatum Hunter in the Washington Post (no paywall), I immediately turned on two-factor authentication for my Facebook account. You should do that, too.  The article begins:

The first time 100 people tuned in for a live stream Lucretia Groce hosted on her Facebook cooking page, she felt a rush. Some viewers, including cancer patients whose appetites had been suppressed by chemo, told Groce that watching her cook made them feel hungry again. “It really touched me,” Groce said, adding that “it felt like I had known these people forever.”

It all abruptly ended a year ago, when Groce got kicked out of her account. Someone had posted abusive content from her page, an email from Facebook said. When she tried to report the action as an error, Facebook showed her the offending post: A video of two children being forced to perform a sex act.

Her account had been hacked. Groce said she cried for hours. Why did the site show her something so horrible with no warning? And how, without access to her personal account, could she recover the business page she had worked hard to grow?

She had started the page after quitting her job as a home health aide at the start of the pandemic. After years producing multiple videos a week, she had grown the page to 17,000 followers. The extra income from ads in her videos allowed her to pay bills and stash aside some savings, she said.

Her frustrating experience is not unique. Help Desk, the personal technology section at The Washington Post, has received hundreds of emails from people locked out of their Facebook accounts with no idea how to get back in. Many lose their accounts to hackers, who take over Facebook pages to resell them or to game search-engine rankings.

In some cases, losing the account is an inconvenience. But in many others, it is a threat to the finances, relationships or well-being of the user. Groce, for instance, estimates she has lost $18,000 in income after waiting for months for her account to be unlocked.

“We have clients crying on Zoom calls, as they have lost their business and livelihood,” said Jonas Borchgrevink, founder of Hacked.com, which helps victims navigate the notoriously confusing process for recovering hacked Facebook accounts.

Facebook shot to global dominance by promising to be a central hub for our lives, introducing tools to help us run businesses, make payments and even keep track of loved ones during disasters. But once you hit a snag, like an account takeover, that support disappears, dozens of users say, leaving people to flounder in an automated system.

Despite reporting revenue of more than $27 billion in the third quarter, Facebook parent company Meta is a multinational technology giant without real customer support, users say. This month Meta announced it will lay off 11 percent of its workforce. It is unclear how these cuts will affect account security and customer support.

Take these steps to get back into your hacked Facebook account

Last year Facebook told The Post it was working on new processes to solve these problems. A year later, not much appears to have changed. The company has no new initiatives for helping people recover their accounts.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal last week, Meta has disciplined more than two dozen employees and contractors over the past year for illicitly accessing user accounts, in some cases accepting bribes to do so.

Meta has said . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2022 at 2:35 pm

Uh-oh. This looks bad: Monopolies and Cybersecurity Disasters

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

Today I’m writing about an ID software management roll-up, where the private equity billionaire responsible for the worst software hack in American history is trying to get into even more sensitive territory.

One common theme of this newsletter is how a finance-first mentality creates hidden risk, particularly in areas of opacity and interconnection, like in enterprise software, the systems that manage the flow of information throughout big corporations.

The guts of corporate America runs on this stuff, large bloated software packages tied together with duct tape and run by ornery techies nagging their superiors about potential problems. Microsoft has built a somehow-unnoticed set of giant monopolies here, but there are an endless number of parasites – from software integrators to management consultants – who feed at this trough. And why shouldn’t they? Most CEOs of big companies don’t care if they spend a few more pennies per seat on some random network access security feature. They have IT departments for that, or CTOs they can ignore. And so enterprise software is often vastly overpriced and of poor quality. But it’s a rounding error on the profit-and-loss statement, it just doesn’t matter.

Only, sometimes it does.

SolarWinds is one of these innumerable enterprise software parasites, it makes a cheap and ubiquitous network management service called Orion. As the CEO put it, “We manage everyone’s network gear.” And he wasn’t, as we would find out later, joking. In late 2020, SolarWinds, and as it turns out every major corporation, was at the center of a devastating Russian hack. The victims were the most important American institutions, from the FBI to the Department of Treasury to Cisco Systems, Intel, Nvidia, California hospitals, etc. Russians got access to Microsoft’s source code and into the Federal agency overseeing America’s nuclear stockpile.

Hackers put malware into updates that SolarWinds sent to clients. Since SolarWinds was everywhere, the malware went everywhere. We hear a lot about how difficult it is to avoid cybersecurity problems, but this particular catastrophe wasn’t some unavoidable natural disaster. SolarWind’s security practices were not, shall we say, top quality. One researcher had previously alerted the company that “anyone could access SolarWinds’ update server by using the password “solarwinds123.’” It wasn’t just one instance of Spaceballs-style Dark Helmet idiocy, either. Lax security practices were common and systemic, so bad that the key advisor at the firm told them a security breach would be catastrophic, and eventually quit in frustration. For days after the firm was hacked SolarWinds continued to offer its software.

Why was SolarWinds such a poor quality software provider? The firm chose to underinvest in security, a result of a specific business model, which is designed to maximize cash flow while offloading risks, like vulnerabilities to hacking, onto others.. SolarWinds is owned by Thoma Bravo, a private equity firm which scoops up software companies in obscure areas where customers are locked in. In a puff piece in 2020, the Wall Street Journal covered the basic business model.

Thoma Bravo identifies software companies with a loyal customer base but middling profits and transforms them into moneymaking engines by retooling pricing, shutting down unprofitable business lines and adding employees in cheaper labor markets.

The firm then guides its companies to use the profits they generate to do add-on acquisitions, snapping up smaller rivals with offerings that they could spend months and millions of dollars trying to replicate.

Typically Thoma Bravo raises prices and cuts quality, but the affected constituency group – corporate IT managers – don’t have a lot of power or agency. Their superiors don’t want to think about a high-cost but low-probability event, especially if every other big institution would be hit as well. CEOs, ever since the turn to monopoly and finance in the early 1980s, have become bankers, not engineers. So the Thoma Bravo model works, because no one with power listens to the IT nerds offering sage warnings about software quality and risk.

What makes SolarWinds more than a catastrophe, and turns it into a scandal, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2022 at 6:42 pm

Twitter’s continuing meltdown as Elon Musk makes a fool of himself in public

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The French head of Twitter, who’s been with the company for seven years, quit this morning, saying, “It’s over.” And Robert Reich has an interesting piece in the Guardian, pointing out the different meaning of “assets” in (say) a steel-making plant and a software company. Reich writes:

When Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44bn, he clearly didn’t know that the key assets he was buying lay in Twitter’s 7,500 workers’ heads.

On corporate balance sheets, the assets of a corporation are its factories, equipment, patents and brand name.

Workers aren’t considered assets. They appear as costs. In fact, payrolls are typically two-thirds of a corporation’s total costs. Which is why companies often cut payrolls to increase profits.

The reason for this is corporations have traditionally been viewed as production systems. Assets are things that corporations own, which turn inputs – labor, raw materials and components – into marketable products.

Reduce the costs of these inputs, and – presto – each product generates more profit. Or that’s been the traditional view.

Yet today, increasingly, corporations aren’t just production systems. They’re systems for directing the know-howknow-whatknow-where and know-why of the people who work within them.

A large and growing part of the value of a corporation now lies in the heads of its workers – heads that know how to innovate, know what needs improvement, know where the company’s strengths and vulnerabilities are found, and know why the corporation succeeds (or doesn’t).

These are becoming the key assets of today’s corporations – human assets that can’t be owned, as are factories, equipment, patents and brands. They must be motivated.

So when Musk fired half of Twitter’s workers, then threatened to fire any remaining dissenters and demanded that the rest pledge to accept “long hours at high intensity” – leading to the resignations last week of an estimated 1,200 additional Twitter employees – he began to destroy what he bought.

Now he’s panicking. Last week he tried to hire back some of the people he fired. On Friday he sent emails to Twitter employees asking that “anyone who actually writes software” report in, and that he wanted to learn about Twitter’s “tech stack” (its software and related systems).

But even if Musk gets this information, he probably won’t be able to save Twitter.

With most of Twitter’s employees gone, most of its know-how to prevent outages and failures during high-traffic events is also gone, as is most of its know-what is necessary to maintain and enhance computing architecture, most of its know-where to guard against cyber-attacks, and most of its know-why hate speech (and other awful stuff advertisers want to avoid) is getting through its filters and what to do about it.

Without this knowledge and talent, Twitter . . .

Continue reading.

And another look at Musk as a person and a boss — a withering look, I would say.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2022 at 12:59 pm

Fediverse (and Mastodon) design philosophy

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Graphic of poster:

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY for the TEN THOUSAND TINY REVOLUTIONS

Replicable
Efforts must be well-documented and transparent about all environmental, financial, interpersonal, and other reasons which may have factored into desired or undesired outcomes of an effort.
Success must not depend on rare inputs or exceptional conditions.

Scale-Bound 
Efforts must have a maximum intended scale of impact. Unlike endeavors or economies with inbuilt growth-imperatives, any effort will resemble a single clover in a field or a tree in a forest; one of many in an ecosystem & without interminable, cancerous growth.

Experimental
Efforts will attempt new methods, even if previous methods have been successful. Just as mutations occur in biological life, allowing the spawning of black swans with unforeseen advantages over the adequately-adapted, the standard of success must evolve constantly.

Adaptive
Those engaging in any effort must be cognizant of and on guard against inertia in all forms. Methods, meeting times, protocols, hardware, imagery, language, & mental frameworks must change when they stop serving the needs of an effort.

Light
If the overall architecture of an effort or any component of it consumes too much time, too much money, or too much effort, it must be discarded and re-designed to be less resource-intensive. Low Overhead = High 

Independence*
Modular Efforts should be unix-like in their modularity: rather than forming protocols and tools or training individuals to only function in specific instances, components must be formed with the possibility of being adapted and integrated with others, in other times and places.

Interconnected
Efforts in one area must be designed to work in tandem with efforts in other areas. As in ecosystems, there must be constant communication& signaling between entities. Also, the outputs of one effort should be the inputs of another; nature knows no waste.

Localized
Efforts must be tailored to local needs and conditions and utilize locally-abundant inputs while minimizing inputs that are scarce in that area or at that time.

Antifragile
From Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book by this name, antifragility is the property of certain systems & entities to grow stronger, more adaptive, or more capable due to shocks, disorder, & unpredictable inputs. Efforts must be designed with this property in mind.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2022 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Tagged with

Mastodon membership waves

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Chart show three great waves of increases in Mastodon membership: following completion of Musk's purchase of Twitter, following the mass Twitter layoff, and following Musk's Twitter 2.0 ultimaturm, each wave larger than the previous one.

I like Mastodon more and more as I find good people to follow. That requires:

  1. Engagement: posting things and replying to posts.
  2. Using the decision criterion “Why not?” when deciding to follow someone — that is, lean toward following.
  3. Unfollow when the posts flowing from that person don’t match your interests. Unfollowing is not a reflection on them or on you, it’s just figuring out whether you have enough in common.

More in this post, which I revise and extend as I learn more.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2022 at 11:36 am

5 reasons to ditch Twitter for Mastodon

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Given what’s going on today and what seems likely to have over the next few days, I might say “Ditch Twitter before it ditches you.”

In the meantime, here’s another video explanation of the strengths (and weaknesses) of Mastodon. One interesting bit of advice: join a small instance (server), not a large one. It’s more comfy for reasons explained in the video, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s easy to move to another instance.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 9:48 pm

AI images for Shakespeare’s plays

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One image per play.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Software, Technology

3 key insights on just how broken Twitter has become under Elon Musk

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Jude Cramer reports in Fast Company (no paywall) on the effect Musk has had on Twitter:

It’s no secret that Twitter’s employee basebusiness model, and overall reputation have plummeted since Elon Musk took over the platform last month. But in his short tenure, exactly how bad have things gotten at Twitter, and is there any way out for Musk?

Fast Company’s Max Ufberg took to Twitter Spaces with contributor Chris Stokel-Walker to discuss what damage Musk has already done, and what potential ups and downs are in Twitter’s future.

Here are three key takeaways from their conversation.

YES, TWITTER IS A SECURITY RISK

Last night, security giant Norton sent an email to its users warning that Twitter’s rampant impersonation problems, compounded by Musk’s failing Twitter Blue verification program, could enable phishing schemes on the platform. Many weren’t sure if this was a real concern from Norton or just an attempt to capitalize on the news cycle. Stokel-Walker assures us that, yes, Twitter does have major security problems.

“There is a real concern about this, not least because the changes to verification have a major impact on who can pretend to be whomever,” Stokel-Walker says. “But also, it’s coupled with the fact that we’ve seen the content moderation team at Twitter completely be routed.”

That loss of personnel means even longstanding problems at Twitter could become significantly worse, simply due to the lack of employees to handle the chaos.

“Previously, pre-Musk takeover and pre-layoffs, Twitter would be able to potentially step in relatively quickly and then do something about that,” Stokel-Walker says. “Now, I’m not so sure they’d have that nimble response.”

NO COMMS TEAM MEANS NO ACCOUNTABILITY

Musks’ now notorious layoffs have affected every corner of Twitter, but one of the most devastating blows was to Twitter’s communications department. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

I think finding a savior CEO to replace Musk will face the insurmountable obstacle that anyone who would be competent for the position would also recognize that Musk will be unable to relinquish control — Musk, for one thing, would want the accolades for himself.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 11:12 am

Is Elon Musk evil? or simply a fool?

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Noah Berlatsky has an excellent article in Public Notice answering that question. I’ll give you the TL;DR from the end of the article (which is definitely worth reading):

He’s evil and a butthead, both.

The article begins:

Billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk officially took private ownership of Twitter on October 27. Soon after he fired around half his employees, including key executives. He also gutted its checkmark verification system by turning it into a paid subscription service; this was intended, he said, to raise much needed revenue to offset the $13 billion in debt with which he saddled the company. Instead, it made it easy for trolls to impersonate everyone from George W. Bush to pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly; after an impersonator tweeted out that the latter was no longer charging for insulin, its stock cratered.

The chaos has caused advertisers to flee Twitter in droves, which is a catastrophic threat to a company where advertising revenue is the core income stream. In addition, Musk’s frenetic thrashing has probably violated the company’s FTC consent decree. Privacy execs in charge of monitoring and implementing that decree fled the company last week, the FTC itself issued a sharp warning, and Twitter stands to be fined millions, if not billions.

Musk has been self-boosting frantically on Twitter itself. (“Twitter HQ is great” he said in one tweet.) But in communications to his remaining employees (instantly made public) he’s warned that the company could be facing bankruptcy.

Musk’s brief tenure at Twitter has been so farcically inept that experts have called it a “case study in failed leadership.” Many on social media, though, have argued that Musk hasn’t really failed. His handling of the company has been so incompetent, and his response to critics so openly hostile, that some have argued that Musk bought the company intentionally — or perhaps subconsciously — to destroy it.

So which is it? Is Musk trashing Twitter because he is an incompetent fool? Or is he trashing Twitter because he is an evil, ugly troll?

The answer, as so often with these things, is “both.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2022 at 3:18 pm

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