Links, with occasional commentary.

CS182: Ethics, Public Policy, and Technological Change

Our goal is to explore the ethical and social dimensions of technological innovation. Stanford has a special responsibility to address these topics in light of its role as a seedbed of Silicon Valley. By integrating perspectives from computer science, philosophy, and social science, the course will provide learning experiences that robustly and holistically examine the impact of technology on humans and societies.

What Is Pleroma? | Lainblog

Pleroma is a microblogging server software that can federate (= exchange messages with) other servers that support the same federation standards (OStatus and ActivityPub). What that means is that you can host a server for yourself or your friends and stay in control of your online identity, but still exchange messages with people on larger servers. Pleroma will federate with all servers that implement either OStatus or ActivityPub, like GNU Social, Friendica, Hubzilla and Mastodon.

Comment by nicbou on I prefer semi-automation | Hacker News

Automation is not just about saving time. It’s also about saving a “recipe” for a task, about avoiding human error, and about staying in the flow.

It’s our industry’s equivalent to mise en place. Deal with the drudgery in advance to focus on your work when it matters.

Things they didn’t teach you about Software Engineering by Vadim Kravcenko via Hacker News

Although it may sound surprising, the primary focus of a software engineer’s job is not writing code but rather creating value through the use of software that was written. Code is simply a tool to achieve this end goal. Code -> Software -> Value.

How They Must Write: Saving the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Contingencies by Thomas Basbøll

The five-paragraph essay forces students to be both knowledgeable and articulate about an assigned topic “on the spot” and therefore gives them a straighforward opportunity demonstrate to us whether they have learned what we have tried to teach them. If they know they actually have to a write a good one to a prompt they don’t know in advance ((but of course on a topic that is relevant to the class they are taking) they have a reason, not just to learn the material, but to keep their thinking and prose in good shape.

Why cassettes? by Dominique Cyprès via Hacker News

The way I relate to a recording when I carry it around physically in my pocket—not just my phone, which can provide access to that recording and many others, but a tape dedicated to containing just that recording and no other—just feels different. The tape becomes a little talisman that turns an intangible recording into a very tangible object, something I can see and turn over in my hands and physically give to another person.

GitHub is Sued, and We May Learn Something About Creative Commons Licensing by Roy Kaufman

Plaintiffs allege that OpenAI and GitHub assembled and distributed a commercial product called Copilot to create generative code using publicly accessible code originally made available under various “open source”-style licenses, many of which include an attribution requirement. As GitHub states, “…[t]rained on billions of lines of code, GitHub Copilot turns natural language prompts into coding suggestions across dozens of languages.” The resulting product allegedly omitted any credit to the original creators.

#AI #copyright #ethics #automation #writing #links

Sections of book covers representing books read in 2022

In 2022, I read about about 54 books. I started the year wanted to write a post about each book.

I only made it through the first 12. Here's to getting more of them up as posts in 2023.

Here are the six books that have really stuck with me:

  1. Purple Hibiscus – Fiction.
  2. Lost Children Archive – Fiction.
  3. The Pragmatic Programmer – Nonfiction.
  4. Bloodlands – Nonfiction.
  5. Lost Radio City – Fiction.
  6. The Kite Runner – Fiction.

This post contains affiliate links.


User Generated Content and the Fediverse: A Legal Primer from the Electronic Frontier Foundation via Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

For people hosting instances, however, it can also mean some legal risk. Fortunately, there are some relatively easy ways to mitigate that risk – if you plan ahead. To help people do that, this guide offers an introduction to some common legal issues, along with a few practical considerations.

Embracing My Butch Identity Was a Challenge, Here’s Why by Ro White

On one of many occasions when I was stopped by the TSA, an agent demanded to know what was “strapped to my chest.” “My boobs,” I said. “I’m wearing a bra.” Strangers regularly ask me what my gender is or ask leading questions to reveal my “true” identity. My life is a never-ending “It’s Pat!” sketch, and it’s only funny sometimes.

HTTPS explained with carrier pigeons by Zanin Andrea

Any activity you do on the Internet (reading this article, buying stuff on Amazon, uploading cat pictures) comes down to sending and receiving messages to and from a server.

This can be a bit abstract so let’s imagine that those messages were delivered by carrier pigeons.

Tokyo’s Urban Planning Secrets Revealed in New Book by Max Zimmerman

It’s based on the idea that systems and phenomena, through local interactions of their parts, can create orders. The classic example would be the flocking behavior of birds, in which you can see clearly the formations but there is no bird leading it.

#links #fediverse #gender #explainer #urbanplanning

I like to think about the year ahead, imagine ways to be better, and then figure out how to incorporate activities to get there. In other words: I make New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve got two this year:

Be a better communicator, professionally and personally.

That includes: – Active listening – Asking better questions – Sharing learning

Personally, that means I want to spend more time with friends, hear about their lives and families, and ask for help when I need it. That last one is a particular struggle. My tendency is to share personal struggles and learning after I am through them. Not while I am in the midst of them.

I’m going to set a dinner party goal (12!), a walk with friends goal (also 12), a talk on the phone with siblings and cousins goal (once every three months, each), and a reminder to talk with my family when I’m struggling.

To get there, I need to rebuild the habit of checking in and organizing my thoughts so I even know that I am struggling. For me, that means recommitting to morning pages. I’ve signed up 750 words to help juice that.

Professionally, it means really working on meeting facilitation and managerial 1:1s skills. I need to make them both a place where people can express themselves, stretch, and get the things that help them move their own project and careers forward. I feel like I have put some structure in place over the last year to help with that. I need to keep using and improving it.

It also means working with the garage door open more often. There are different levels for sure. I want to try again to share a weekly update email with the teams I am closest too. I didn’t get very far with that last year and then I had enough misses in a row that I just let it stop. I’m going to restart.

I also want to do more long form writing. This will be internal white papers, operational plans, and external position papers.

It also means structuring more of our work as open source with a strong governance policy. This is another place where my real goal needs to be about learning.

Sweat more.

Literally, not figuratively. I walk a lot but in the last year or two I’ve started sweating less. I need to push myself to sweat more. To do this, I’m going to recommit to running, bike more on around town errands, and do strength training. All of these are easy to set up with specific goals.



Anti-marketing by Andy Matuschak

If you make anti-marketing the goal, then interesting challenges become a positive thing: fodder for public conversation, not something to be swept under the rug.

My Information Operating System Part 1: Reading by Kyle Stratis

My goal when reading is to generate knowledge and insights that can be connected with knowledge and insights derived from other sources. That is a mouthful to say that I want to integrate information from something I read and connect it to my existing knowledge.

Why are there so many minor scales by Ethan Hein

The minor-key world is more complicated than the major-key world. But that also makes for a lot of musical variety. Let’s dig in!

Levels of Racism: Systemic vs Individual – Anti-racism Resources – Research Help at Fitchburg State University via D. Elisabeth Glassco on Mastodon

We pledge to provide access to information, resources, and programming that works towards dismantling the racist systems on which our country has been built, as well as the many other insidious forms of inequality that persist in our society.

#links #marketing #pkms #music #anti-racism #libraries

The result is systems that can produce text that is very compelling when we as humans make sense of it. But the systems do not have any understanding of what they are producing, any communicative intent, any model of the world, or any ability to be accountable for the truth of what they are saying. … When people seek information, we might think we have a question and we are looking for the answer, but more often than not, we benefit more from engaging in sense-making: refining our question, looking at possible answers, understanding the sources those answers come from and what perspectives they represent, etc. Consider the difference between the queries: “What is 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Celcius?” and “Given current COVID conditions and my own risk factors, what precautions should I be taking?”

From All-knowing machines are a fantasy by Emily M. Bender and Chriag Shah.

#area #AI

Whether it was Gap Khakis, Patagonia vests, or Allbirds, the counter-cultural ethos that applauded individuality has been replaced by herd thinking. In Silicon Valley, we use a better marketing term for herd: team. One of the biggest trends of the past twenty years has been the rise of corporate swag. Wearing a Google t-shirt, an AirBnB backpack, or a logo-festooned Hydra bottle are all symbols of belonging to a herd called “work.” These logos advertised where you worked and thus gave you a place in Silicon Valley’s social hierarchy.

As the technology industry became the cultural zeitgeist, it became necessary to advertise to the world that you were part of the tech set. And the easiest way to do so is through uniforms. And I don’t mean uniform in the strictest sense, just as pinstripes and bold red suspenders were the look for traders and bankers in the heyday of Wall Street. By embracing a uniform, we are echoing being part of the tribe. Uniform is a great leveler, and it shows what team you are on. It is a symbol of power, affiliation, and hierarchy. Its underlying ethos: us versus them.

From Sometimes a shoe is not just a shoe.


Musk uses each of the tactics that Trump did. But as Twitter’s owner, CEO and “chief twit,” he has an extra advantage that will make him an especially dangerous threat to democracy if we’re not careful.

Musk now has vast control over what we hear and see on this powerful media platform. (And despite his claims to be a champion of “free speech,” he is busy banning the speech of those with whom he does not like, such the “Elon Jet” account that uses public information to track his wasteful and environmentally damaging private jet flights.)

From Algorithm Warfare: How Elon Musk uses Twitter to control brains.

#democracy #media

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