Writing Well about Terrible People

September 24th, 2017

This morning, I set myself the task of turning my response to a New York Times article into something less ephemeral and annoying than a tweetstorm. I gave myself one hour to do it, which mostly meant not letting myself spend another two hours adding more links. I have a lot of feelings, and I’m […]

Be More Careful on Facebook

February 15th, 2017

Here’s the short version of what I’m about to say: Immigrants and visitors to the US—along with anyone participating in protests or visible resistance to the current administration—are the targets of intrusive governmental surveillance, including surveillance of their social networks. Both immigrants and political dissidents are being vilified by the administration and targeted for draconian and unconstitutional attacks. If your “friends”—or friends of friends—network includes people vulnerable to these attacks, you should assume that your constitutionally protected political speech may be used in bad faith to characterize your contacts as terrorists or criminals, and act accordingly. Read more ⇒

Hard Reset

January 4th, 2017

Our pop culture mostly presents telepathy as a cartoony curse: The power arrives, the cascade of thoughts overwhelms the telepath, temple-grabbing and visual effects ensue. (Like other primarily mental superpowers, telepathy is a tidy figure for the hormones of adolescence that we pretend doesn’t follow us into adulthood.) In our narratives, only a few characters usually possess or gain the strength to wield their skills successfully; most dissolve under the flood.

Anyway, then some of the baby nerds raised on genre media grew up and made a giant real-life telepathy machine for all of us to plug into, and that’s been…illuminating.

Most of my internet sanity-retention tactics over the last couple years have been rooted in the assumption that the online roar of anxiety would lessen a bit, especially after the 2016 election. I did a few things to tune my experience, and they helped me stick it out. Then the worst thing happened, and now we’re facing down a whole ugly flock of existential threats, along with the usual systemic, ongoing wrongs. Terror blended with uncertainty is one of the mammal brain’s worst enemies, and the social internet—especially Twitter—is soaked in it. Read more ⇒

No Country for Young Women

August 23rd, 2015

I didn’t set out to stop reading fiction written by men, or to stop watching movies and TV with male protagonists, I just got tired.

Sufficiently tired of women as props—as raped and beaten and tortured and murdered bodies meant to motivate the real, male people at the center of the world—that I stopped reading/watching fiction not previously vetted. Then I had a baby, and even less energy for anger or time for nonsense. At the first hint of the poisonous defaults that make women disposable, I dropped novels and movies and series.

But the defaults remain difficult to avoid, particularly on screen, and especially because I prefer tech-and-adrenaline to romantic comedies and srs ppl dramas about srs ppl problems. So as I write this I’m reeling from another startling viciousness, another promising tech series that declined midseason to butchering women as a way of giving its male characters depth. (Defaults.)

It’s not even that my politics quail at something I otherwise enjoy. I’m just stung and sad, and ashamed that I keep falling for the same trick. If a piece of fiction is made by and emotionally centered on men, chances are, it defaults to the belief that women are nothing but fuel. Doesn’t matter if I’m catching every reference and gleefully staying ahead of every jump. It will eventually declare that it’s not meant for me. Usually via a bloody body that looks like mine. Read more ⇒

Talking & Listening about Conduct

December 23rd, 2014

I’ve written previously about why I think codes of conduct are important, and how we made one for SRCCON, and I’ve linked there to some of my favorite resources on the subject. I am heartened tremendously by the variety and sincerity of voices raised this week—of speakers and organizers, but most importantly of conference attendees—who have written and tweeted that they value codes of conduct and the larger mechanisms of support and care that are required to give them weight.

Others in our industry have expressed their skepticism about codes of conduct, for a variety of reasons and in a variety of registers. Those wishing to follow a blow-by-blow of debate will have little trouble finding reading material. I’ll concentrate instead on a few points that have become clearer in my mind since I initially wrote about our SRCCON code. Read more ⇒

Ditching Twitter

September 14th, 2014

I’ve been on Twitter since the beginning of 2008. In the six and a half years since I joined, I’ve used the service enthusiastically, exuberantly, without the professional/adult restraint that many of my peers have wisely elected to maintain. Before it got big, when I lived in a little apartment with red walls in Portland, Twitter was my water cooler, my connection to freelance colleagues and a few friends in the tech world. Later on, in Brooklyn (and Queens and Manhattan and Portland again and Brooklyn again), it became a treasured part of a broader social life, encompassing work and grad school and friends from all over.

I called it my rosary, the thing I reached for when I felt anxious, after Metafilter stopped serving that purpose. As Twitter expanded and my own little slice of it grew as well, I called it my front porch and defended its quirks and downsides. But now the magic has turned, in ways that have felt irrevocable. I’m not angry at Twitter for changing, but I’ve been sad to feel that something so oddly entwined with my intellectual and emotional life is now beyond my use. Read more ⇒

Why You Want a Code of Conduct & How We Made One

September 12th, 2014

The day I drafted the code of conduct for OpenNews’ first conference, SRCCON, I mentioned it on Twitter and got some puzzled replies. Why would a conference need such a thing? Why not just say “don’t be a jerk?” The subtext was clear: a formal code treats professionals like unruly children, and surely isn’t really necessary, right?

So I want to go back to some basics and explain not only why codes of conduct matter, but also why you’re incredibly fortunate if you have the chance to make one. And then I’ll offer what I’ve learned about making one, and some advice I’ve received along the way. Read more ⇒

Three Minutes That Might Change Your World

August 12th, 2014

Pietro Vesconti’s world map from 1321 On August 16th at midnight, applications close for the 2015 Knight-Mozilla Fellowships. The Fellowships offer a chance for a handful of curious, code-friendly people to spend ten (paid!) months in a newsroom, working with journalists, designers, and technologists on all kinds of projects. We’ve collected posts from current Fellows, […]

Thinking About Mozilla

March 31st, 2014

Like many people inside and outside Mozilla, I was quite startled last week to discover that the board of the Mozilla Corporation—a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, my employer—had appointed as CEO a man whose financial support of Prop 8 had already been a major topic of conversation a few years back.

In the days since, the conversation about Eich’s appointment has been incredibly encouraging to me, both within Mozilla and in the larger tech community. I’m a new Mozilla employee, having gone full-time as OpenNews’s director of content in January, and my day-to-day work is very much focused on OpenNews, rather than the wider Mozilla world, so I didn’t know what to expect from my colleagues when this news broke. At every turn, I have been heartened by the degree of passion and care that have been apparent as colleague after colleague steps forward to express nuanced opinions, and by the commitment to equality and fairness that runs through the group like the stitches in the binding of a book. It’s less that I underestimated my colleagues before this mess arose and more that I underestimated nearly everyone’s investment in this issue.

In the conversation outside of Mozilla, I have been surprised and encouraged to see so many people get angry in service of a cause that has only gained a plurality of support in the US in the last few years. And as much as I’d rather not see a boycott of everything Mozilla does (which, it seems, most people still think of as “Firefox”) based on the actions of a single person affiliated with the organization, I am completely psyched to see this many people this angry in defense of civil rights.

So that has been incredibly good to see. But then there is the thing itself.
Read more ⇒

Hello, Hello

February 26th, 2014

Last week, the Editorially team announced that they were closing up shop and began the process of an orderly shut-down. The loss has been difficult primarily because I loved the tool and the team, and I thought they deserved to succeed. I still think that, and I’m going to be sad for a long time, and I may eventually write more about why. But today I’m going to be selfish instead, because the secondary reason I took this loss hard is that Editorially had become indispensable to my work. Losing it feels like losing a cherished and necessary robot-arm.

Editorial work—reading, drafting, revising, reviewing, line-editing, copyediting, marking up, illustrating, and publishing—is what I do for a living. It’s also a good chunk of what I do for love. And like a programmer with very specific requirements for their dev environment, I care a lot about the details of my editorial tools: how they work, what they allow, how they look, how trustworthy they seem. Read more ⇒