Desperate to sign anything

They just assumed I must be just like all the other people they represent- hungry and desperate and willing to sign anything.

~ Jason Korman

People sometimes ask, when the Movers Mindset podcast isn’t available in their favorite podcast-player app, why not?

tl;dr: odious clauses in click-wrap contracts.

You should see some of the things! Obviously, there are “hold harmless” clauses obsolving them of any possible responsibility—sure, ok, that’s fine, I am deriving benefit from having our podcast distrbuted through your thing. But some of them want the right to insert ads—not just run ads before or after. Sure, ok, again, you need to pay for your thing; I get that. But insert ads in the middle? Or how about clauses that bind me to defend them in any lawsuit. Not even just related to the content we created—but any lawsuit. Or how about my not being allowed to mention in our advertising that we’re being carried by their thing . . .

i digress

These odious cases have arisen because it’s a lovers’ triangle: The thing/app convinces the users that everything is rosy. The users lean on me because they can’t hear the podcast, and then the thing/app extorts me. Which is all very closely related to Jaron Lanier’s comment about “our society cannot survive, if…” (And that’s a link to the web site where you can always listen to the podcast, for free, because we control our web site.)

Please—you reading right now—please start paying for things. Choose a podcast player app which is not free. That makes you the customer, and enables them to build a great app. Then they don’t have to strong-arm me. Choose a messaging system, choose a source of information, choose everything(!) by being part of a fair trade with another party.

If you find yourself in a position, where you’re thinking, “this is great and free!” please look around and try to figure out who is actually being taken advantage of… it’s clearly not you, but I assure you, it’s someone else.


Too close to the machines

The programmer, who needs clarity, who must talk all day to a machine that demands declarations, hunkers down into a low-grade annoyance. It is here that the stereotype of the programmer, sitting in a dim room, growling from behind Coke cans, has its origins. The disorder of the desk, the floor; the yellow Post-it notes everywhere; the whiteboards covered with scrawl: all this is the outward manifestation of the messiness of human thought. The messiness cannot go into the program; it piles up around the programmer.

~ Ellen Ullman

“The messiness cannot go into the program.”

I’ve never thought of it quite that way before. Every once in a great while, you feel the ground move beneath your feet. That sentence moved the ground for me.

I spent an enormous amount of time being a thorn in people’s sides as I clamored to get them to resolve the messiness so I could then manipulate the machines. I tried explaining the machines. I tried explaining the messiness and what I thought might be ways to resolve it. None of that turned out well for the machines, the people or me. Along the way, I realized that dealing with that every day has fundamentally changed how I think. Up until that sentence at the top, I didn’t have a good way to explain my predicament. I only had this fuzzy idea that reality is one thing, computers work this other way, and here I am stuck in the middle.

The messiness cannot go into the computer.

Maaaaybe, I can use that to remind myself that some particular bits of messiness are ok to ignore?


Crowding us out

If chatbots are approaching the stage where they can answer diagnostic questions as well or better than human doctors, then it’s possible they might eventually reach or surpass our levels of political sophistication. And it is naïve to suppose that in the future bots will share the limitations of those we see today.

~ Jamie Susskind

This is an interesting read surveying a variety of ways that chatbots might crowd humans out of the very spaces we created.

It struck me that while, yes, chatbots are primitive (compared to “real” AI), they are still having a real affect on our social spaces. Not simply, “it’s noisy in here with all these chatbots,” but rather that our social spaces are in danger of being lost to chatbots.


No phones allowed

The no-phones policy illuminated something about smartphone use that’s hard to see when it’s so ubiquitous: our phones drain the life out of a room. They give everyone a push-button way to completely disengage their mind from their surroundings, while their body remains in the room, only minimally aware of itself. Essentially, we all have a risk-free ripcord we can pull at the first pang of boredom or desire for novelty, and of course those pangs occur constantly.

~ David Cain

It has always seemed obvious to me that being focused on a screen, at the expense of the other person, was obviously bad. This used to bother me.

Now, when it happens I check my premises: Am I, right this instant, actually more interesting than the entire world in their hands?


Getting your brain back

Luckily, this problem has a solution: I call it Getting Your Brain Back, but it is a time-honored problem that has been solved by many people in the past. Originally limited only to company CEOs and world leaders, the excess of information has trickled down to the rest of us. To survive in this flood, we need to learn how to swim, in much the same way as busy and important people have always done.

~ Peter Adeney

…and just how bad have things become? Try this short TED talk:


Data privacy is not about consent

For example, as part of GDPR, we’re now constantly seeing pop-ups that say, “Hey, we use cookies — click here.” This doesn’t help. You have no idea what you’re doing, what you’re consenting to. A meaningful choice would be, say, “I’m OK that you’re using cookies to track me” or “I don’t want to be tracked but still want to enjoy the service” or “It’s fine to use cookies for this particular transaction, but throw unnecessary data out and never share it with others.” But none of these choices are provided. In what sense is this a matter of choosing (versus mere picking)?

~ Scott Berinato

One cannot legislate morality. GDPR does nothing to change people’s morals. The same people are still working within those same corporations with their same unconsidered morals. A new law simply changes the playing field in which those same people continue working towards the same goals they already had.


Don’t turn on two-factor authentication

Before you require a second factor to login to your accounts, you should understand the risks, have a recovery plan for when you lose your second factor(s), and know the tricks attackers may use to defeat two-factor authentication.

~ Stuart Schechter

I repeat: Do not enable two-factor authentication until you understand how it works and what you are doing. You know who is usually locked out of your car, house, etc. right? You are!

This is a great article surveying a myriad of things you should consider before enabling two-factor security. Yes, it is more secure, but that means it is also more likely that you’ll lock yourself out, permanently.


Are you currently really good at keeping track of passwords and security questions?
Do you use a unique password for every service and web site?
…are the answers to your security questions completely random things you made up and stored in your security system, or did you really use your easily-learned mother’s maiden name?
…and is your “security system” not post-it’s on your monitor, but rather a real, secure, system?

And how about…

Do you have a system in place to give your beneficiaries access to your stuff—and ways to permanently lock-and-destroy things you don’t want passed along?

…if not, then turning on two-factor is not a good idea. You’re about to make things even more complicated when you are currently not doing the basic things well. Instead of blindly enabling two-factor authentication, you should move off of the bell curve and stop being an easy traget.

Step one: Learn how to use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass, and start using unique passwords.


News addiction

After a couple weeks without news, I got past the hump and wasn’t craving it so much anymore. At this point I began reflecting on the habit from a distance, and I made the following observations …

~ Steve Pavlina


I substituted a syndication reader‡ and never looked back. I now read only the sources I want, when I want. Nothing beats my morning caffeine accompanied by a scroll through my feed reader. NOTHING I read is a “standard” news source. :)

‡ I suggest collecting your feeds into and then using Reeder (IOS, Mac).


The bullshit web

The vast majority of these resources are not directly related to the information on the page, and I’m including advertising. Many of the scripts that were loaded are purely for surveillance purposes: self-hosted analytics, of which there are several examples; various third-party analytics firms like Salesforce, Chartbeat, and Optimizely; and social network sharing widgets. They churn through CPU cycles and cause my six-year-old computer to cry out in pain and fury. I’m not asking much of it; I have opened a text-based document on the web.

~ Nick Heer

This is a long, in-depth read. You will be an immensely more well-informed user of the Interwebs after you read it— about six times.

Meanwhile, have you heard of the magical analysis tool that is ? You have now! Start dropping your favorite web sites into its analysis magic, sit back and weep at what we’re using the Internet for.

These screenshots are just the tip of the iceberg. GTMetrix shows an insane amount of detail.

This. Shit. Has. To. Stop.