…I had trouble simply communicating with motorists who have lost the ability to imagine unconstrained movement to any point on the horizon. Asking directions is often pointless. Like drivers everywhere, their frame of reference is rectilinear and limited to narrow ribbons of space, axle-wide, that rocket blindly across the land.
Tonight we hosted an Android meetup at Meetup. I took this fairly bad photo of Jimena, Mike, and John, from the back of the room on a Nexus 5. For the conditions, I think the 5 did pretty well.
They talked about the progress we’re making in rebuilding the mobile apps as actual social networking apps. Our apps were originally designed as calendars only; we bolted on social and group features one by one, muddling navigation on Android in the process. This project has been about producing a coherent navigation scheme that can better expose current features and make some room for personalized content to come.
If slides are posted I’ll link to them, but you’ll also be able to install the new app yourself in the next few weeks.
But seriously though, Tumblr, if you absolutely must waste my time by filling up my dashboard with advertisements, at least have the decency not to try to sell me cars.
The lovely folks at Riseup send out a newsletter to their users and list admins approximately monthly. This edition is worth reading for everyone but doesn’t seem to be on the web, so I’m pasting it here.
Dear Riseup Users:
Here’s the story of how we got to be the Riseup that we are. Please donate if you can! https://riseup.net/donate
Once upon a time, way back at the end of 1999 when the internet was still young and the millennium loomed, a couple of geeks got fired up at the WTO protests in Seattle. After a week of teargas, jail, cardboard butterfly wings, and way too much chanting, they sat in their living room and talked about what the movement needed for the next decade. They came up with Riseup.net as an independent provider of lists and email. They created Riseup on a couple of servers in their house, and soon attracted a couple more geeks to the cause.
Every year Riseup grew and grew, and it became more of a headache in that way where it was more work and had more people relying upon it. Some people came and went from the collective, and there were some hard, lean years where it was unclear if this was the right thing to pour time and money into, but stubbornly, Riseup kept going.
People’s skills increased around providing stable and secure services. More people joined the collective, and they were activist gold: the kind of people who worked hard on all the irritating day-to-day minutiae, the kind who showed up for meetings and cared deeply about this quixotic project, and the kind of people who stay up all night at crisis moments to wield their mighty hacker skills that looked like magic to those of us in the collective (like me) who are writers not geeks.
So somewhere around 2007, the collective became stable member-wise, and we became a group of about ten people who are mostly the same people we have today. Over the last eight years we have become a true collective in a rare way. We’ve worked together on Riseup for a long time, and slowly, that has become a big deal in most of our lives. We celebrate — those of us who live near each other — our celebrations together and care about each other in a true and real way. One of the greatest secret successes of Riseup was when Gadfly and Arara met at one of our retreats and fell in love. We have at times been annoyed, in conflict, and angry with each other (since we are humans not robots), and this has even led to some people leaving the collective, but overall we’ve been surprisingly stable as all but one of us has transitioned from being fiery, dreamy, young radicals into cranky, dreamy middle-aged radicals.
And also, sometime during the last eight years, Riseup has become a force to be reckoned with. We are the largest nonprofit email provider in the world, outside of a university system. We run one of the world’s most used TOR nodes. We are frequently cited and sourced as one of the few ethical, autonomous, and secure internet providers. We legally duked it out with the far right over not turning over our user’s information and won. We use and develop cool-ass secure software. We scheme with other tech collectives across the globe on what we are going to do about all this spying and how we can carry this work on into the next decade. We have big hearts and minds, and we plan to win.
So, that’s us. Or one of the stories about us. Support us if you can! https://riseup.net/donate
The Riseup Birds
Health plan enrollment via healthcare.gov has been pretty crappy and Republicans are still whining about people not being allowed to keep their shitty overpriced rip-off plans that don’t actually provide any health care coverage, because Republicans hate everyone and wish we would all just die.
What should be done is a question not only for U.S. citizens but also for people all over the world: the NSA destroyed the security of the Internet and privacy of communications for the whole planet. But if any healing is possible, it would probably start with making the NSA and its ilk socially unacceptable—just as, in the days of my youth, working for the KGB was socially unacceptable for many in the Soviet Union.
The AMS regularly publishes advertisements for positions at the NSA and manages reviews for the NSA Mathematical Sciences Grants Program. The relationship between the NSA and the AMS seems to be a symbiotic one: The NSA needs mathematicians for its tasks, and the AMS has an interest in increasing research funding. But any relationship with an organization whose activity is so harmful for the fabric of human society is unhealthy. For the sake of integrity, the AMS should shun all contacts with the NSA.
Plenty of carpers bemoaned the government not bringing in better programmers and designers to work on HealthCare.gov, but the truth is that the best information architects would have seen the potential problems and could have offered an elegant solution: a government program for all that would eliminate the need for any website at all.
Re the arrest of alleged Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, people are noting with glee that it appears that crypto still works when used properly, and that Ulbricht was caught because of mistakes he made. But if the operator of the Silk Road can’t have perfect opsec, how in the world are normal people ever supposed to do so?
If we want privacy in the face of the recent and continuing NSA revelations, we must destroy the Überwachungsstaat. Technical measures may help, and there may be work we can do to make them easier to use, but a free society is one in which normal people don’t have to worry about opsec at all.