Tag Archives: Cory Doctorow

What killed RSS?

Technology didn’t kill RSS — regulatory capture did, says Cory Doctorow. “… thanks to generations of antitrust malpractice and financialization, we now live in an era of five massive services filled with screenshots from the other four.” Also, blaming feuding among RSS developers for its demise is “like blaming rhino conservationists’ internal disputes — rather than climate change — for the decline in rhinos’ numbers.” boingboing.net…

I love RSS. I still use it every day, several times a day on workdays. I’m about to do another sweep in my chosen RSS reader, inoreader.com…, now. It’s very disappointing that RSS never took off. People complained that it’s difficult to use and understand, but it’s easier than Facebook.

Gun suicides rise to highest level in 40 years

Suicide is an impulsive act. Half of suicide survivors report planning their deaths for less than ten minutes. States like Connecticut that have passed background check laws for handguns have seen precipitous drops in firearm suicides, and states with more lax gun laws experience higher gun mortality of all types. States that have repealed background checks for handguns saw increases in firearm suicides.

The most gun-suicidal populations are older white men and veterans. Guns are only used in a small minority of suicide attempts, but half of all successful suicides are firearm suicides.

By Cory Doctorow at boingboing.net…

Incredibly detailed technical guide to camgirling is a mix of advanced retail psychology and advice on performing emotional labor [Cory Doctorow/Boing Boing]

“Aella,” a (former?) camgirl, writes a practical guide to how to succeed in the business of selling intimacy to men.

So many retail businesses nowadays are now trying to sell emotional connections.

When I stay in a hotel, the desk clerk is not my family. When I phone the bank, I don’t care how friendly and chipper the customer service rep is.

I just want to do my business in minimal time for minimal hassle and then move on.

This is why customer satisfaction surveys make me nuts.

I have had the pleasure of having dinner at the homes of Italian-American families; it is nothing like eating at Olive Garden.

Yellow Vests stand for and against many contradictory things, but are united in opposition to oligarchy [Cory Doctorow/Boing Boing]

“For years, the French economist Thomas Piketty has warned that we have attained levels of inequality last seen in the days before the French started building guillotines. Today, yellow vests are literally erecting guillotines in Paris.”

Probing a mysterious network of dropshippers, evangelicals, crapgadgets, and semi-vacant Manhattan department stores [Cory Doctorow/Boing Boing]

Writer/academic Jenny Odell has been looking into scammy businesses for years. “Now, Odell has stumbled into a much weirder, much scammier, much murkier world, when she started investigating the parents of one of her Stanford students were receiving a steady stream of mysterious packages addressed to ‘Returns Department, Valley Fountain LLC.’ The packages tie to thousands of Amazon stores selling overpriced of-brand gadgets, a network of fake bookstores that mostly sold more crappy gadgets, a religious cult that bought Newsweek – yes, that Newsweek – which was raided by police for financial hijinks revealed by its own reporters, a religious university and the International Business Times, and more than one criminal indictment.

I read Cory’s blog post and Odell’s original New York Times article and I still can’t make sense of it. Interesting story, nonetheless. As Cory notes: ” … someone is making a lot of money, somehow — giant Manahattan department stores don’t come cheap!”

Link

Jon Schwarz at The Intercept: “Every now and then, in the midst of his unending eruption of prevarication, Trump will blurt out the truth about the United States in a way that no normal politician ever has.”

Cory Doctorow: “Yes, Trump is a pathological liar, but he’s also the first US president to call Ted Cruz a liar, the first to admit that the Saudis were likely behind 9/11, the first to admit that the Saudi royals can kill a lot of journalists but that the US will still do business with them because they buy a lot of American bombs, that Nancy Pelosi blew a chance to impeach Bush, that pharma and defense contractors rip off the American public, that politicians are for sale to their political donors, that Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a monopoly on political assassination (and that the US is hardly innocent on this score), and that going into Iraq was a ‘big, fat mistake.’”

Link

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is a Mississipi GOP Senator is going into a runoff election against her Democratic opponent, a Black man named Mike Espy who might end up the first Black Mississipi Senator since 1883. She made headlines last week with a joke about attending a “public hanging.” She also made public comments in favor of voter suppression.

Google donated $5,000 to her campaign.

Google says they made the donation before they heard about her comments and they never would have donated had they known. However, she espoused hateful views before her recent comments, and Google isn’t asking for its money back.

Internet death sentence

AT&T disconnects whole families from the internet because someone in their house is accused of copyright infringement

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

The customers who are being disconnected have never been able to face their accusers or have a day in court. The people they live with are not accused of any wrongdoing. The internet they are losing is likely the only option they have for broadband — or one of two options, with the other one likely being a cable company like Comcast who may now join AT&T in a race to the bottom.

The internet is not a video-on-demand service, it’s the nervous system of the 21st century. Terminating someone from the internet terminates their access to family, education, employment, civic and political engagement, health care information, and virtually everything else we use to measure whether a society is functioning well for its citizens.

Cory Doctorow on why science fiction is crap at predicting the future

Predicting the future isn’t what science fiction is for, says Cory. Science fiction reflects the aspirations and anxieties that people have about technology at the moment it was written.

It’s not just technology. It’s also politics and social change. And it applies to fantasy. H.P. Lovecraft in real life was a full-throated bigot who feared invading hordes of filthy mongrel immigrants; he turned that into some of the most powerful horror and fantasy written (enjoyed by legions, including the descendants of those same filthy mongrel immigrants). Star Trek has always been a reflection of whatever was going on in the news at the time the shows and movies aired.

Cory covers a lot of ground in this lively interview with Utah Public Radio’s Access Utah:

In a recent column, Doctorow says that “all the data collected in giant databases today will breach someday, and when it does, it will ruin peoples’ lives. They will have their houses stolen from under them by identity thieves who forge their deeds (this is already happening); they will end up with criminal records because identity thieves will use their personal information to commit crimes (this is already happening); … they will have their devices compromised using passwords and personal data that leaked from old accounts, and the hackers will spy on them through their baby monitors, cars, set-top boxes, and medical implants (this is already hap­pening)…” We’ll talk with Cory Doctorow about technology, privacy, and intellectual property.

Cory Doctorow is the co-editor of popular weblog Boing Boing and a contributor to The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He is a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. Doctorow is also an award-winning author of numerous novels, including “Little Brother,” “Homeland,” and “In Real Life.”

Writer in 29th year of solitary confinement barred from reading his own book

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing:

William “Billy” Blake is serving a 77-to-life sentence, and has been in solitary for 29 years, since he killed a guard in a failed escape attempt. He is one of the contributors to 2016’s Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement, a book he’s never seen, held or read….

Tommy Chong asks Obama to pardon him for his bullshit drug paraphernalia bust

When federal agents banged on his door and asked him if he had any drugs, he said, “Of course I do! I’m Tommy Chong!” Now he wants his criminal record to go up in smoke .

There’s a serious point to this. The war on drugs ruined the lives of millions of innocent people and is a stain on America’s claim to being a land that cherishes freedom. Chong’s life wasn’t ruined, but he can shed light on their problems.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I smoked a lot of pot in college, never suffered any legal harm from it, and walked away from it in 1985. Now that it’s virtually legal maybe I’ll give it another try sometime. Or maybe not; I gave it up because I realized I’d stopped enjoying it.

(Full disclosure: I also shared a joint at a wedding in 1993 or so. But nothing between 1985 and then, and nothing since. I’m not going to claim to be “clean and sober,” because that would be an insult to people who struggle with addiction. It’s just something I did for a while, and decided it wasn’t working for me so I stopped.)

However, there’s an alternate universe where I got busted for marijuana possession, spent time in jail or prison, and had to get by with a felon conviction on my record. As millions of people do — all for doing a thing that me and Barack Obama did with impunity.

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

Today’s creative writing: 778 words on “The Reluctant Magician”

866 words total. I’m just getting started.

Rather, I’m just getting started for the third time. I made a couple of false starts.

Then I read this essay from Michael Moorcock on how to write an adventure novel in three days.

I do not plan to write this novel in three days. If I can finish it in a year, I’ll be satisfied. But the essay got me thinking about outlining.

Moorcock doesn’t outline exactly. But he does have situations and locations worked out in advance, at the ready, like a metaphorical briefcase into which he can dip and pull out whatever he needs to keep the writing going.

I’ve never tried creative writing with an outline. I always thought outlining was the opposite of creative, and looked down on it. But after reading the Moorcock essay I realized that’s just a silly prejudice. Some excellent writers work from outlines. Others work freestyle. It’s just a matter of what works best; outliners are no better than non-outliners. Maybe outlining would work for me?

I did some research on outlines and came across the snowflake method. You’re outlining your novel by starting from the center and working outward. Like a snowflake — get it?

You start with a one-sentence summary, build that to a paragraph, expand further to studies of your secondary characters, and so on. I started with the snowflake method but abandoned it immediately after the one-sentence-summary stage, because it wasn’t working for me. But outlining was working for me.

I don’t mean a formal outline, with roman numerals and all that. I mean I just started writing down notes about the novel, in sequence. Who were my main characters, what was their problem, how were they going to solve it?

I also remembered a tip from Cory Doctorow on how to structure a novel: A character gets in trouble, does something intelligent to solve the problem but that only makes the problem worse. Repeat that several times until all is very nearly lost, and then the character does one more intelligent thing to solve the problem, and this time it works

Or something like that. I can’t find where Cory said that; the closest I can find is this article on InformationWeek that I wrote nine years ago but have no memory of writing. (That happens sometimes. I write a lot of articles.)

I worked on my outline for a couple of weeks and ended up writing 3,178 words, which I think covers the whole novel.

I think an outline is great for me for a couple of reasons: First, it allows me to forget about the big picture for a little while. I don’t have to hold the whole novel in my head every day, just whatever bit I’m working on at the moment.

The outline is also helpful because the novel I’m working on is a cross between a caper story and urban fantasy, in a fantasy city resembling 1970s-80s America in some ways, and drastically different in other ways, with a lot of background that needs to be explained in a lively fashion and moving parts to keep track of.

I’m not going to claim “aha! I’ve solved the problem of creative writing and will just keep plugging along and producing one novel after another!” I’ve thought that was the case many times before.

Link

Cornell economist Robert Frank studies the role luck plays in the outcomes of successful people, and the hostility that comes from suggesting luck plays a role in success.

Behavioral economist on why Americans freak out when you attribute their success to luck -Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing:

Frank’s argument: being born to a rich, privileged family is sometimes sufficient to guarantee success, even for people who aren’t very good at their jobs and don’t work very hard; meanwhile, being born into a family that lacks wealth and privilege can sometimes prevent people from rising in society, even if they are very good and work very hard.

In my observation most successful people are lucky and work hard. I’ve known many unsuccessful people who work hard, and a few successful people who were lazy and lucky.

From my life experience I conclude that good luck is essential to success, and hard work is helpful.

Link

Joshua Rigsby interviews Cory Doctorow for The Los Angeles Review of Books:

Cory on moving from London to beautiful downtown Burbank, California:

Burbank is its own little village. We’ve got a 2.5-mile-long stretch with no chain stores. I don’t own a car. We walk everywhere. We live five minutes from the airport. It’s very handy and weird and surreal. It’s where they shot the B-footage for ’50s TV shows, so everything feels eerily familiar in a Father Knows Best kind of way.

Burbank has just become our new normal, we’re settled in, we’re about to get our green cards. The bureaucracy is crazy, but it’s a one-time thing and that’s how I maintain my sanity, by saying, I never have to figure out how to get my Canadian long-form birth certificate again. So, I will spend this afternoon trying to figure out the office address of the doctor who delivered me 44 years ago for the Canadian government, but then never again.

On the role of fiction:

I don’t know that there’s a “the role,” but I think that one of the roles that fiction plays is that it’s entertaining. Fiction is primarily about empathy. It’s about pretending you’re someone else and experiencing their emotions. In the same way that getting a back rub feels nice, because it’s good for your muscles or whatever, I believe that thinking about what it would be like to be someone else is just intrinsically satisfying — at least for people within one or two sigmas of normal cognitive activity. Science fiction can also give us an emotional fly-through of a technology. It can be like an architect’s rendering of what it would feel like to live inside a technological regime, and so science fiction has been very useful in policy fronts in that regard.

On Facebook:

… Facebook wants to get rid of the internet and replace it with Facebook.

On his next novel, Walk Away, his first novel for adults since 2009:

Walk Away was inspired by the historian and activist Rebecca Solnit, who wrote the book A Paradise Built In Hell, about the gap between how people who live through disasters experience them, how they are reported, and how political and economic elites react to them. She starts with the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, and she shows this recurring pattering called “elite panic,” where rich people are convinced that when things break down the poor people are going to come and eat them, basically. So the rich preemptively attack the poor. Like General Funston keeping people out of the mission as it burned during the 1906 earthquake. He actually sent out detonation squads that didn’t know how to set fire breaks. They burned down a quarter of San Francisco, and didn’t let anyone go back and fight the fires in their homes. Or in Haiti — the ironclad belief that there would be food riots led to the creation of food distribution centers that were pretty much custom-built to create riots. Or in New Orleans, where there were no verified accounts of looting (as we understand it), besides people taking supplies and leaving IOU notes with the intention of settling up once the owners returned. Nevertheless there were Blackwater mercenaries and rich white neighborhood associations who were shooting to kill because they were convinced that there would be looting. There is this gap between how people behave and how elites believe people will behave.

Walk Away is a utopian disaster novel. It’s a novel about a disaster where people behave well.