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Anti Pro Apple

Peter Cohen, writing for iMore, via Stephen Hackett:

It had become clear years ago that despite early promises to pro photographers, Apple just wasn’t that invested in keeping Aperture competitive.

So I started grinding my teeth when I read Apple’s reassurance to Dalrymple that development on other pro apps like their video and audio editing tools continues unchanged. My first thought is that it’s true for as long as it’s expedient for Apple to do so. At one time Apple made similar promises to professional photographers.

Like I said in my previous post, Apple’s software is, regrettably, not reliable. I cheekily included a link to Shake in that post.

Shake was a digital compositing program that was the dominant player for years. Apple acquired the company that made it in 2002, and they started selling an OS X version of the software. It went from an industry leading application to a discontinued product in only a few, short years.

Apple press release from March 1, 2004 where Steve Jobs talks about how he’s proud of Shake:

“We’re thrilled that for seven years in a row, movies created with Shake have won the Oscar for best visual effects,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Shake is helping Hollywood film editors communicate their vision and deliver their art at an Academy Award winning level. We couldn’t be happier.”

The fact that Steve thought film editors were doing the visual effects is not a great sign. It also explains why users going to the Shake product page now get redirected to Final Cut Pro.

How can a professional $InsertName rely on any statement from Apple about their commitment to any product for professional $InsertName’s? They are capricious gods.

2014-06-27 14:56:24

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Aperture is No More, it has Ceased to be

Apple formally announced that it is discontinuing development of Aperture this morning. Jim Dalrymple had the scoop. It should be immediately obvious to anyone that’s ever used Aperture already discontinued development long ago.

Some quippy tweets:

@5tu: The only surprise here is that they bothered to tell anyone.

RT @theloop: Apple stops development of Aperture - http://t.co/iGFGh0qP5c

@bensyverson: @5tu @theloop “Apple announced today that they recently stopped development of Aperture, in late 2009.”

Aperture was dead already. It has ceased to be.

The last version released with anything other than bug fixes was 3.4.2 in November of 2012. That version tweaked Photo Streams. The last truly major release was 3.3 in June of 2012, which overhauled where photos were stored so iPhoto and Aperture had a unified location, and added an “Auto Enhance” button. That really doesn’t sound all that major, I know. Almost all the updates to Aperture have been stability improvements, and patching in ways for Aperture to work with more current, Apple products.

The big-big release was 3.0, which came out in February of 2010, and broke nearly everything. It was a complete mess, and was remedied by 3.1 released later that same year. 2010.

Promises Promises

The problem with investing in any Apple software is that they routinely neglect things, kill products, or scrap the whole codebase and just release something named after a previous product. Say what you will about Adobe, and Microsoft building empires on top of incrementally updated software, but there’s a reason businesses can rely on them. Will the product exist in 3 years? Will the product be able to import and export files from previous versions? Will there be feature regressions?

Notice that the people snarking about the death of Aperture and tout Adobe’s Lightroom 5, and for good reason. Lightroom was a response to Aperture. Apple basically shamed Adobe in to making a product. However, Lightroom quickly outpaced Aperture. I’m sure there are some photographers out there that are running things in Aperture 3, but I can’t imagine there are very many of them. While I loath Creative Cloud, you can still buy Lightroom 5 as standalone software, so its a superior choice.

Will the Photos app (horrible, generic name that will cause all kinds of problems when people search for help or instructions) really offer a complete set of tools to not only replace Aperture, but make up for all the years of neglect? I highly doubt it. That doubt comes from their track record in this area. It’s not clear if it will cost anything at all, or just be part of Yosemite next year. I’ve said this about the WWDC announcement before, but it is very suspicious that the Photos app is this far behind the OS release, unless it was something they decided they needed to do very recently. Perhaps some middle manager said, “Hey guys, maybe iPhoto and Aperture aren’t going to cut it any more?” We’ll never know.

It’s Good to be Unreliable Apple, Real Good

Every time that Apple seriously changes an application, users complain. Then people that don’t use the software say that it is a good thing they did it. That FCP X was fine, even though Apple went back and added things back in, so obviously it was not fine. Same for iWork. You guys know we’re not in Peaksville, Ohio, right? You did a real good thing Apple, wishing Aperture in to the cornfield like that! Real good! And Final Cut Pro X was fine when it was released! It sure was! Everything about iCloud is real good too! Even when it duplicated a bunch of my contacts and files. It’ll be real good when my photos are stored there. Real good!

I am Lazy

I paid for Aperture 2 back when Lightroom and Aperture were both very comparable choices. I bought Aperture 3 as an upgrade that was delivered to me by mail as a disc. I went through the whole conversion to a Mac App Store purchase, instead of a copy authorized by a serial number. I wanted to get a real update. Even if they released Aperture 4 as a whole separate app to pay for, I would have paid, because I just don’t like to move my stuff! The only way I would consider skipping a future version of Aperture would have been if they did what they did to Final Cut, or iMovie, and released some BS-ified version, Aperture X. Even then, I might have just stuck with it because I am that lazy.

I suppose I should thank Apple for forcing me off of autopilot? Thanks?

2014-06-27 12:19:23

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Defocused Podcast

Dan Sturm and I released episode two of our podcast, so I should probably mention that I’ve been participating in making a podcast. I’ve posted on here many times about how much I like podcasts. On Twitter, I had found a little group where we were all making our little podcast jokes, and “is this the show?” stuff. We had some test Skype sessions where we tried to make things work with timing, and with tone. Planning, and not planning, and planning just a little …

Last week, Dan and I decided we just ought to release something that we deemed was decent. We didn’t even name the podcast until after we recorded it. What we released was definitely just a Skype call between two nerds. That’s not the kind of thing that appeals to everyone.

If a very casual podcast appeals to you, and you don’t mind two white guys talking about movies that one, or both, of them haven’t watched, then give it a shot. I think our second episode, Tweets in the Nodegraph is better than the first one, and it’s also self contained, so you don’t miss anything if you go right to it. In fact, if you plot this on a curve, we’ll probably do even better by episode 10, so try to hold out until then.

The feedback has been more positive, and more generous, than I had expected. My good friend, Jason Ziglar even wrote an iTunes review for it.

2014-06-25 12:22:00

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Temporal Quantum Neurolytic Holography

There was a huge explosion of discussion in my twitter timeline about a very controversial topic. It shows no sign of slowing down. I am, of course, referring to Brianna Wu and Sid O’Neill claiming that Star Trek: Voyager was the best Star Trek series.

I am, of course, only jokingly disparaging their selection. It doesn’t make a lick of difference. Assuming it was something that actually mattered, here’s my critique of Voyager:

Consistently Inconsistent

The one thing you could always rely on was that whatever rules of the universe were asserted, they would always be ignored, sometimes within the same episodes. Things like technical details of how the ‘science’ worked were not upheld for any solid duration of time. Every Star Trek series is guilty of some of this hand-waviness, but none more so than Voyager because they made the characters guilty of the same flip-flopping flaws.

In an episode called Nightingale Janeway lectures Ensign Harry Kim about The Prime Directive, and how they shouldn’t really get involved with the matters of these alien races. Her argument would be far more convincing if she had not spent the last 6 years doing that. Janeway and Kim even argue back and forth about the number of times she’s contradicted this before she agrees that he should go on this mission. It’s a peculiar choice. (Also, it’s not a very good episode, and they reused a lot of ships, which is lame.)

One of the big things at the start of the show was supposed to be the challenge of the Maquis and Starfleet crew getting along, but that just sort of fizzled out to the point where they only occasionally mentioned it when they phoned home to Starfleet.

Another big problem is the lack of scarcity. At the start of the show, they were supposed to have a limited number of resources, a limited number of shuttles and torpedoes. They even need to limit replicator use by employing Neelix as a cook and collecting food from planets. Which… doesn’t make a lot of sense really? And they just kind of seem to use the replicators anyway? And not only do they lose more shuttles than they had when they started, but they also build two specialized vessels, the Delta Flyer (kaboom), and the Delta Flyer II.

The Next Generation would lose shuttles all the time, but they weren’t all by themselves. There were even two Defiant ships on Deep Space Nine, which was part of a very dramatic arc. With DS9, you got the sense that resources meant something when they were in the thick of the Dominion War. Voyager just kind of shrugs this off. Both Delta Flyer’s look slick, even though they are ostensibly cobbled together. I suppose the writers felt it was too restricting to actually make them a rag-tag group of loners? That’s a shame, because another science fiction show pulled off the “all alone scarcity” stuff pretty well (Stargate Universe wasn’t that bad, people.)

The fact that they never really seemed to commit to any of these things made it seem a little silly whenever peril popped up.

The Little Ship That Could

Since any challenge could be overcome, or reset, by the end of the episode, then any obstacle they came across was a pushover. The Borg were a real threat on TNG and in the movie, Star Trek: First Contact.

Voyager fixed all that! By the end of the series, The Borg were completely defanged. Anything scary, completely washed away in a shockwave of exploding Borg Cubes. Even an episode that saw crew members assimilated had no lasting impact, unlike it did for Captain Picard after The Best of Both Worlds.

Even the “bad guys” that Voyager brought to the table were pretty ridiculous. The first ones we meet, the Kazon Nistrim, are an alien race that can’t replicate food, or water, but have ships with warp drives. They use these ships to settle dessert worlds that have no food or water… So…

One thing the Kazon had going for them was Seska. She was a crew member of Voyager, a former Maquis, that looked Bajoran, but was really a Cardassian agent. Got all that? Well she was actually somewhat effective, because she was cunning, and kind of crazy. Unfortunately, they killed her off, a decision that the writers obviously regretted because they brought her back as a hologram, and as a fake temporal thing.

There were also the Vidiians, and they stole skin, and organs, from other races to replace their decaying, infected tissues. That sounds creepy! Unfortunately, they suck, and weren’t seen very often.

The Hirogen, introduced much later, are a race that used to have an expansive empire, but now are resigned to just hunt other races like The Predator. That could be a threat, on paper. Again, the writers did something to undermine that when they decided to have the Hirogen capture Voyager and turn it in to two big holodecks so they could brainwash the crew in to posing as prey for them. This was super dumb and made the Hirogen look like the biggest idiots out of all of them.

The saddest one was Species 8472. They were introduced in the Voyager episode Scorpion. They were supposed to be an extremely challenging foe for the crew to deal with. So much so that Janeway allied herself with The Borg. This brought on the character Seven of Nine, and was a big change in the show. A lot of stuff really happened here. Then they botched it all with an episode about Species 8472 building a big holodeck in space designed to look like Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco because then they’d… something… something… doesn’t matter.

At no point in the series did anything ever get the better of Voyager’s crew, or showed that they were in any real, lethal peril. It is fitting that so many plots centered on holographic deceit, because the danger was never real.

One two-part season cliffhanger that showed a lot of promise was Equinox. Finding another Federation ship that had been wandering along on a slightly different route from Voyager presented a lot of really interesting things that could be explored. Arguably, the Equinox, and her crew, went through a process that was more like what I had expected from Voyager, and her crew. Instead of the light-n-fluffy stuff. They resolved the episode in a good way and Voyager brought on some of the crew. Only, just like every other time crew was brought on board, they were integrated in to ship life in a way that made them completely disappear (unlike Icheb and Seven). We saw what deep and lasting effects the Delta Quadrant had had on Equinox’s crew, and it’s all thrown away.

Arguably, the biggest challenge they ever faced was from Annorax. He had devised a method to obliterate things from the timeline. To try and reshape the place the Krenim held in the galaxy. Something that had a debilitating effect on Voyager and its crew. At least they gave this a two-episode arc before they hit reset on it and washed away all the damage.

Indeed, any time travel elements on Voyager were just plain bizarre, but they’re usually bizarre on Star Trek. Future’s End starts with a time-ship from the 29th century popping up and firing on Voyager, and they fire back, and suddenly everyone’s back in time, for reasons. Then, at the end of the two episode arc, they destroy the time ship and an alternate time ship appears and sends them back to the Delta Quadrant, and back to their own time.

They’re all by themselves, how will they deal with this?! (Wave of a wand) They’re all safe! See you next week!

Not So Bad

There are still episodes that are good, even though they’re mostly self contained. They offer the chance to explore some interesting ideas.

  • Prototype — Oh cool, robots! Let’s help them!
  • Deadlock — Making difficult choices. Even though they don’t mean anything outside this episode.
  • Revulsion — He seems like such a nice hologram, on a ship of dead people.
  • Hope and Fear — Voyager encounters a pretty neat trap. A trap that actually does manage to have a plot element that carries through to other episodes.
  • Friendship One — Maybe the Prime Directive is a good idea.

Sometimes Funny

Since Voyager could never, ever, ever pull off being serious for more than a handful of episodes, that meant they could be as funny as they wanted to. (Intentionally, or not.)

Indeed, two of my Favorite Voyager episodes are Prometheus (starring Andy Dick, of all people), and Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy. They are patently ridiculous episodes where some very weak logic is used to get the Doctor involved in some shenanigans. In fact, The Doctor gets involved in a lot of shenanigans. They can be quite entertaining. The Q episodes mostly ellicit groans, and eye rolling, but they have funny moments too. Even the silly one where holographic aliens from another dimension break the holodeck — forcing an entire episode about Captain Proton — has moments where it’s so dumb it’s funny.

That’s not much of a silver lining, but hey, this is the section where I decided to be positive, so take what you can get.

Ending on a Low Note

By far, the worst of the entire series is Endgame, the series finale. It features the defanged Borg, loopy time logic, timeline changing, and Deus-Ex-Machina future technology that is never seen again.

We start out with a future where Voyager eventually got home — but not all of the crew made it. An aged Admiral Janeway really regrets this. She goes off and steals stuff from the Klingons, and travels back in time (and through space) to Voyager’s location in the Delta Quadrant. She selected this exact moment in time to save some of her crew because of reasons. Screw all those people that died before this point, I guess? She just wanted to keep the ones that died after this point from dying? Great?

Instead of using the time and space traveling device to send Voyager home — like how she got there — she comes up with this convoluted plan to give them future technology so that Voyager can go up against The Borg, and use a ‘Transwarp Hub’ to travel to Earth. You see, The Borg, long-time enemies of The Federation, apparently have a shortcut to go right to Earth’s doorstep that they’ve elected to not use. Reasons undisclosed.

Future Janeway goes over to talk to the Borg Queen, and infect her/them with a (BS) thing. But since the future she comes from doesn’t exist, because Voyager is going home, then how did… ARGGGGHHHHHH! Why do you do this, Brannon Braga?! WHY?

Certainly, the finale to Star Trek: Enterprise was equally terrible. With it all taking place as a holodeck simulation Riker is enjoying to brush up on his Captain Archer history. That was not a good way to end that either, so they both tie for worst finale.

This is a real shame when you think about TNG‘s or DS9‘s finales. I’d rank TNG as the highest of the finales. It had time elements in it, but it’s done in such a way where there’s no paradox, or sloppy side effects. Considering Brannon Braga was involved in both of those finales, it’s really strange to see him make something worse.

You Could Have Been a Contender!

My big problem with Voyager was that I had high expectations they’d be able to do something great. At the time it premiered, I really didn’t like DS9. That show was pretty boring back then. However, as time went on DS9 improved, while Voyager got worse. It was because of Voyager that I didn’t have any high expectations for Enterprise. That’s why I’m harder on Voyager — they could have done more and did seven years of mostly bad, or mediocre, stuff.

2014-06-24 11:24:28

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Captive Cloud

I have written a few times about how much I loathe all the things surrounding Adobe’s products these days. Their actually products are very useful for doing work — otherwise no one would put up with the horrible subscription schemes, wonky web services, and the World’s Worst Software Update System. I’ll highlight this last thing again for the release of CC 2014.

Firstly, what Adobe does not seem to get, is that if they want to pretend they’re offering a connected experience, then they need to actually offer that. Do not send me an email reminder to open your software updater. Your software updater is already reminding me, up there in my menu bar, to do just that. All the updater does is launch another menubar application — Adobe’s Creative Cloud app. So we’re up to one email and two menu bar apps. Why? It’s still a bunch of balkanized software under the hood, that’s why.

Because Creative Cloud’s menu bar app is a menu app, it goes on doing the install in the background. Until such time as it decides to steal focus while you’re typing to tell you the update finished. Sloppy.

Also, if Creative Cloud detects you already have a font installed on your system, like Courier Prime, or Source Sans Pro, their new font installer will just freak out and give you a warning it can’t install them from TypeKit. Go to the ‘Fonts’ tab, click on Manage Fonts (not mentioned in the error message) and then your web browser will launch, do five redirects, and arrive at a TypeKit page where you can uncheck fonts you don’t want to sync. Problem is, you’re unchecking them at the service level, meaning if I log in to my Creative Cloud account on a different computer, it’ll get the same font setting applied, whether or not Courier Prime is present.

Ideally, Creative Cloud would prompt me that the fonts already exist and ask if I want to skip syncing them on my system. I’d click ‘Skip’, and then never worry about it again on this computer, until such time as that font is uninstalled, and it prompts me to ask if I’d like to sync it now.

Creative Cloud also does not install software updates automatically. Even after updating the Creative Cloud app. So go in and manually click the buttons for each app that it says needs an update (Spoiler alert: it’s every app.)

If you click for more information about anything in the Creative Cloud app, it launches your web browser and loads a page after following some redirects (always with the redirects). If this is where I’m supposed to update things, then this should also be where you display information about what I’m updating. You could counter that Adobe has so much information to display, that they need the screen space afforded by the browser. I would argue that means they should have more concise notes about their software instead of puffery.

There is a new ‘feature’ of sorts that the Creative Cloud app will tell you about. When updating my copy of Premiere CC, I get this lovely prompt telling me Adobe is opting all their customers in to sharing data about how we use their apps.

The release gives you the option to share information with Adobe about how you use the Creative Cloud desktop apps. This option is turned on by default and the information will be associated with your Creative Cloud account. This will allow us to provide you with a more personalized experience, as well as help us improve product quality and features. You can change your preference anytime on your Adobe Account Management page.

Call me paranoid, but I don’t like to share automated, user-specific information with companies whenever I have the option not to. Digging through their FAQ, it does seem pretty innocuous, but they also provide no method for me to see what they have specifically collected — buttons and menu item logging wouldn’t keylog my social security number or anything, but everything about their apps is so sloppy that they could inadvertently be collecting things and not realize it until the next time their servers are breached. Tinfoil hat, I know, but really why have any confidence in them?

You have the option to share the following types of information about how you use the Creative Cloud desktop apps:

  • System information, such as operating system, processor, and amount of memory installed
  • Adobe product information, such as version number
  • Adobe feature usage information, such as menu options or buttons selected

This information will be associated with your Adobe ID and may be used to personalize the application experience, provide feature usage data to the product teams to help improve the product, and to communicate with you.

Your content, and information about the content within your files, is not shared with Adobe.

If you would like to opt-out, go here. This only covers privacy settings for their desktop apps, and not services like TypeKit or Behance.

Broad Unappeal

Another thing that Adobe announced this week is a renewed push for mobile editing counterparts to their desktop apps. I say ‘renewed’ because none of the other apps they’ve attached the ‘Photoshop’ moniker to on iOS have really taken off. Note that Adobe makes no mention of their iOS Photoshop applications when they talk about the new Lightroom iOS app. If at first you don’t succeed, just barely try a little more?

The new app is Creative Cloud centric. Adobe wants to build a case for you to use their products for all of your things. Unfortunately, the reason they want to do this is to push hard on subscription revenue.

Last year, Adobe found out that photographers were unwilling to sign up for the full CC service when all they wanted was Photoshop, and Lightroom — And that those people didn’t see much value in yearly app upgrades for both apps either. They tried a program where you could pay $9.99 a month for Lightroom and Photoshop if you were a Lightroom 5 user, to try to sweeten the deal.

Last week, they just rolled that out to everyone, a $9.99 a month and you get access to both of those apps on any platform you want to run them on.

$9.99 a month is $119.88 a year because an annual commitment is required. That means you can only back out once a year. This is only a value if you were a customer that updated Photoshop and Lightroom every year. It’s certainly a dubious value if you weren’t the kind of person that updated regularly. Adobe iteratively tweaks these apps, they’re not landslide changes every year.

It’s not just your phone that Adobe wants in on, it wants to be your source for Market Solutions too. This isn’t satire! It’s a real page!

This just seems scattered. Is the focus on consumer photography, or tracking ‘campaigns’? iPhone photos, or DSLR? Everything sloppily crammed together?

No More Month to Month

Adobe has also done away with the month-to-month plans for everything except for ‘Complete’. If you select month-to-month on ‘Complete, you will pay $74.99 (a $25 markup per month over the ‘year’ rate). The rest of the plans now require you pay for the year, up-front, or pay monthly for a thing you can’t get out of for a year. Effectively identical because there is no discount for yearly vs. monthly on those plans.

Previously, Adobe had a plan where you could use a single app for $19.99 with a yearly commitment, or $29.99 a month without any commitment. If you’re only going to use Adobe Premiere once a year to update one thing, then it was fine. I had that active when they changed their plans, and I’m apparently grandfathered in, unless I stop my subscription. I should stop procrastinating on the edits I want to make because it’s not viable to maintain the subscription just so I can avoid the $74.99 a month option for the full suite. Nor do I want to spend, potentially, $239.88 a year to keep the month-to-month rate going.

These plans are crap. I don’t want to pay Adobe, year after year, for things that really don’t change very much. Sure, cumulatively, Lightroom has done a lot of stuff since its inception, but how big are the incremental updates? Premiere isn’t reinventing NLEs every year, nor should it. Why pay for the rest of my life for this?

2014-06-21 14:44:43

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Slippery Slope of Empathy

Conor McClure posted a big rant about political correctness. I disagreed with him, at length, on Twitter about this post. It was difficult to carry a conversation with him on Twitter, because there’s a lot to say. I’m going to take apart his blog post here, not because I am mean, but because this is the kind of thing where I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. He’s not a bad guy, he just needs some Orwellian reeducation.

I’m not a fan of political correctness. But even more so, I’m not a fan of forcing political correctness.

People often object to political correctness without saying what it is, which further serves to make it a bit of a boogeyman that you are either for or against. Let’s just revisit it, with some historical context:

Historically, the term was a colloquialism used in the early-to-mid 20th century by Communists and Socialists in political debates, referring pejoratively to the Communist “party line”, which provided for “correct” positions on many matters of politics. The term was adopted in the later 20th century by the New Left, applied with a certain humour [sic] to condemn sexist or racist conduct as “not politically correct”. By the early 1990s, the term was adopted by US conservatives as a pejorative term for all manner of attempts to promote multiculturalism and identity politics, particularly, attempts to introduce new terms that sought to leave behind discriminatory baggage ostensibly attached to older ones, and conversely, to try to make older ones taboo.

Conor’s use of it here certainly corresponds to the pejorative sense. People are attempting to assert that things should be unacceptable. That it is inherently wrong to use certain words that offend people.

He goes on to cite a tweet he made earlier where he paraphrased Mark Cuban. Mark had said this when he was asked about keeping Donald Sterling’s racism out of the NBA, “You don’t. There’s no law against stupid.”

The state is not suing Sterling. The US government is not suing Sterling. He can be forced out — just like any person at a company can be forced out — for saying despicable things that reflect badly on the organization. It is perfectly legal to dismiss someone for being a bigot. Don’t believe me? Go slur your boss. But just in case, we have a court system where this the issues surrounding Sterling can be fully explored. Pay attention to that part about the courts, because it is important. Sterling is offensive, without a doubt, and Conor admits this.

Conor paraphrased Cuban talking about the LA Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling, because he wished to draw parallels between that NBA team owner, and the NFL team, the Washington Redskins. Dana Lone Hill in The Guardian:

Meanwhile, my fellow Native Americans and I watch as Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his team’s fans argue that using a recognized racial slur as the team’s very name isn’t racist and need not be changed. Snyder insists, instead, that he honors our people with the Redskins name and mascot – and that our legitimate anger can be assuaged by donating jackets to a poor reservation in Montana.

Dana and Conor draw very different things from Sterlings’ situation. Her article predates the events of Conors, where the United States Patent and Trademark Office canceled the patents the team held.

Note that it is not immediately canceled, because there will be an appeal. Also note that this involved people suing to get the trademark canceled, this was not a random act of bureaucracy. Back to Conor:

The idea of political correctness seems to have grown in tandem with the “Everyone Gets A Medal!” trend in children’s schooling. It’s the idea that we should all be nice to each other. None of us deserve to have our feelings hurt. We should all feel like winners all the time. These trends, and many facets of other sociopolitical movements, all share a common goal: making everyone feel happy, and systematically identifying (and (re)defining) and eliminating any form of hate speech or negative thoughts or viewpoints.

No, political correctness predates “everyone gets a medal” by a wide margin, but the core Conor is getting at is the idea that feelings should be protected from any, and all, harm. Problem with that, is that we are not talking about issues of personal achievement when we talk about racial slurs. This is not a singular person being called a name, this is a whole ethnicity having been called a derogatory name, and that name being adopted for a sports team. That is not the same thing as protecting an individual persons’ feelings about language.

These days, if you hurt anyone’s feelings, you deserve the attacks that come as a result. That is okay—it’s based on the founding principals of free speech, and works for both sides. Don’t get me wrong: I get it.

Point of order, “free speech”, here, refers to The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which does not protect all forms of speech. There are tons of limits, and clauses, set on the amendment. It is not pure Voltaire, but that is what most people think it is. Even if it were, I very much doubt that Conor is arguing for the parties of this case to lob racial epithets at one another.

What’s not okay is the next step, something that’s been occurring more and more lately: if you hurt someone’s feelings, you lose your property.

Wait, what? What are all these other cases Conor is referring to? The government canceled a trademark in this one case. Where are all the other cases? What’s all this other property? That’s just a sloppy argument to make if the only thing that backs it up is the one time someone had a trademark canceled because it was ruled it should not have been granted on the basis of a racial slur. Even if you count the trademark as property, no one has taken it yet. Snyder is free to keep pressing his case to higher courts, and to keep telling people that racial slurs are OK when they’re traditional racial slurs.

Just recently, Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced from his position because of a donation he made in support of a gay marriage ban. Let it be known: he’s an asshole for his beliefs. Did he deserve to be removed from his position? Debatable, but because he was ousted from a privately-owned company by a privately-owned company, I can’t comment. Then, Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA for making offensive and racist comments. Again, let it be known: Sterling is an awful person. Was it a fair decision? Mark Cuban would say no, and so would I.

Oh, those “more and more lately” things. Yeah well, those are still all private cases, n’est pas? No one gets any protection for that. I’ve written about Eich on here before. I wanted him to see the error of his ways more than I wanted him out of his office, but he was clearly not a good CEO because he couldn’t manage anything (even his damage control interviews) in the couple weeks he held his post. That was not good leadership, which I think is more of the reason he lost his job, than his position on same sex marriage. But this is a digression, because that had nothing to do with the government.

It keeps going with today’s news. I think most would argue and agree that the Redskins name is fairly offensive to the ethnic group in question, and that they have been demanding a change for decades. But I have to wonder: is it really okay for the government to censor and remove a long-held and legally-obtained trademark on the grounds that it hurts feelings? It’s offensive?

Traditional racism is my least favorite kind of argument. We should keep being horrible because we’ve always been horrible? What kind of logic is that? Admit when you are wrong, as the USPTO did today.

Going back to Dana’s article:

An elder from my tribe once told me that, back in the day, some Native Americans were proud of even the mascots that were racist caricatures because it let white people know that we were still here – that we endured. But that is the exact reason this is not, and should not be, acceptable: we are here, and we are not caricatures. My race isn’t a joke, and fans of the Washington DC football team should be, at the very least, embarrassed to call themselves “fans” of a racist slur. I know I would not let someone call me a “redskin” to my face, nor would I allow anyone to address my children in that manner.

I bet no one ranting about the USPTO decision has given much thought to any of that.

Back to today, if you send a slur to be trademarked, they would not trademark it. Should they? I ask Conor:

joesteel: @conorjmcclure OK then, back to the USPTO: Do you think racial slurs deserve trademark protection? conorjmcclure: @joesteel I think people should be able to trademark what they want :\

Conor does not really mean that. I asked if a certain other slur should be trademarked, and he didn’t really want to offer up an opinion on that one. Probably because he knows that one is wrong and doesn’t want to say yes. Of course he shouldn’t say yes, but does that mean this other slur is less-wrong? Conor changed direction:

connorjmcclure: @joesteel @sidoneill I’m reacting to the government offering blanket definitions of what’s defined as “offensive” and what’s not

There is no blanket definition. There was a suit, brought by a private party, that argued it was an offensive slur. A legal process took place, that started in 2006. There was agreement at this level of the court that it was offensive, and for that reason, should not have been granted. That’s not a blanket definition. That is not a magistrate, or mid-level bureaucrat hastily, and arbitrarily, deeming certain words taboo. It’s like there’s a legal system, or something. “We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered, in violation of … the Trademark Act of 1946.” ^1 Back to Conor:

Once again, I have to quote Mark Cuban: we’re going down a slippery slope. At what point is it okay for being politically incorrect to be legally objectionable?

Slippery slope! BINGO! Finish your drink!

The fear of “what next” — it doesn’t have to be defined, or even speculated about with any specificity! Just some other thing. And it’ll be worse! Thought police! Orwell! What will we do then? Why bother talking about racism at all because society could slide off a slope, that is slippery, and then we’ll be sliding … and bad things!

Seriously, unpack that terrorizing notion of the next thing, and the next thing. What are they in this instance? Is there even anything you are willing to assume will be in jeopardy? Some other sports team with a slur in their name, or a racist caricature, will be pressured to change? That they might lose their money-making trademarks on their offensiveness? That’s not really a great slope to try to defend! “We need to let them keep their trademark on their bigoted thing, or all these other bigoted things will be threatened!” — I mock.

Well I guess part of the slippery slope is that no one uses Italian, Irish, French, or German slurs when they talk to me. Sure, there are tons of them, and they’ve all fallen out of fashion. We’ve all agreed, maybe we don’t need to say those things. And that’s just slurs white people called other white people! What a catastrophic slope we’ve all slid down already! Oh dear!

This country has the benefit of holding freedom of thought, speech, and expression to a uniquely high standard, more than the vast, vast majority of countries in the world. We live in a country where law-obeying citizens can raise rebel flags outside of their homes and get away with it. They can speak racial slurs, publish controversial opinions, participate in morally-debatable activities, or abstain from the same activities. We live in a country where those of us who agree or disagree with choices such as these can freely insult, shame, dispute, and boycott to make a point. The power of the people is unique in these regards. I don’t want to change any of this.

Who’s changing any of it? As I’ve already established, the only case even involving the government Conor mentions is the USPTO trademark case. The Clippers, and Mozilla are red herrings. Indeed, Conor cites boycotting as something we can do to make a point —something that happened to Mozilla, which he objected to!

The trademark ruling doesn’t prevent anyone from using the slur, or selling the merchandise. There are no licensing protections afforded to the team owners, assuming the USPTO ruling is upheld and the hold removed. I hardly see that as an unspeakable terror perpetrated on unsuspecting white men just trying to uphold 80 year-old racism. No one has come in to your home and taken away your slurs. You can still slur people as much as you ever could, but now someone’s licensing is potentially at risk? The worst outcome is that public pressure will continue to mount as an indirect result of this. I guess people not liking things you don’t want them to not like is bad?

This isn’t about Conor. It’s not about two white guys arguing about something that doesn’t directly affect them. This is about empathy vs. pigheadedness. Not just blindly raging on about ‘free speech’. Thoughtfulness, considering other perspectives, is not some kind of debilitating impairment.

2014-06-18 12:47:25

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No Accountability on Our Accounts

Like many children of the 90’s, I have an old AOL account still active for use with a third party AIM client. (I know they rebranded, but it’s stupid, so I refuse to type it. They even forgot they rebranded in the docs they typed, so good job guys.) Upon signing in today, I was greeted by an automated alert from AOL:

We place a premium on your privacy, security and our ongoing relationship with you. We apologize for any inconvenience the recent email spoofing and unauthorized access of AOL’s contact database has had on you and your contacts. If you have any unanswered questions, please visit our FAQs.

Faaaaaannntastic.

If you’re curious, you can click the FAQ to find out that basically anything AOL had on file: “email addresses, postal addresses, contact information (as stored in the AOL Mail “address book”), encrypted account passwords, and the encrypted answers to account security questions that we ask when a user resets his or her password.” That is now in the hands of people that would do not-nice things with them. On the FAQ, they advise users change their password, but don’t even bother to mention it in their automated IM. They also don’t mention whether or not they will change the kinds of account verification questions they used to use when you’d ask for a password reset. You know, just in case their flawless encryption is broken on those answers and they just get in to your account anyway. Also, this could theoretically affect people that no longer hold active AOL accounts and you’d have no idea.

The “how” section is particularly comedic because it is a tautology. To paraphrase: Unauthorized access happened because unauthorized access happened. More troubling is the amount of time AOL took to contact me that my account was one of the accounts in the breach.

Why wasn’t I notified sooner? It is always our intent to be as transparent as possible when it comes to our members’ security. As soon as we were alerted to this issue, we began investigating its cause to identify the scope of affected users as quickly as possible. We then quickly took protective measures to address the impacts of the spoofing issue on April 22, 2014 and notified our consumers of that action in a post at blog.aol.com. We gave further information on April 28, 2014.

We want to be as transparent as possible about issues with AOL Mail that may affect you. Please check our blog periodically for the most up-to-date information.

There we go, every thing a person using AOL as an IM client would never see. Didn’t I check out their official blog? No, of course not! What the hell kind of a notification is that? “We published information about this breach in the 2nd floor women’s restroom of our North Sacramento, CA offices.” Would be nearly as helpful. Furthermore, if passwords were accessed, what possible reason would they have had to not immediately force a password reset? Sure, just keep logging in for another six weeks from the time we knew about a breach! Herp derp!

Also, they say in their FAQ that they are emailing people affected by this. I got an IM notification, and not an email. That’s a really consistent message to send that doesn’t make me at all confident. “Well they didn’t email me so I might be fine…”

Not Just Them

There are information breaches all the time these days. Adobe, eBay, Evernote, Target, etc. In each of these investigations, it has turned out that the people storing the data are total fucking morons. They might as well print all of our passwords and put them in neatly labeled file folders in the lobby area of their corporate headquarters. They might be nominally safer there. No regulation has even been suggested for industry-wide best practices, or to regulate what steps are mandatory when a breach occurs. Hypothetically, if I was unable to reset the password myself because I was not currently using the service, then anyone could exploit the account. There is no mandatory password reset required. The ones that reset the passwords have been the nice ones. I can literally say that Adobe was nice enough to forcefully reset my password.

Many people, myself included, have moved to using 1Password by AgileBits to manage separate passwords to accounts because there are simply too many to remember, and reset these days. After a breach there is the geek lamentation that these companies don’t work with AgileBits to have a 1Password 1Reset button. (The fact they can’t secure anything is a pretty big clue that no one should hold their breath on reset features.) That’s still a pretty fucked up thought though. We have so little faith that a company will learn its lesson after a breach has occurred at their company that we’re willing to ask for them to just make it easier for us to reset it. We fundamentally do not trust them.

What if this had been Google? What if this had been Apple? Could you imagine them sitting around for six weeks before notifying a person that they should consider resetting their password? Maybe we’ll find out what they will do some day when they experience a security breach. I am not entirely confident that any of these companies are secure.

When Dropbox announced they were adding convenient, limited-time-only-opt-out arbitration, one of the reasons I was so skeptical was that it just protects them in the event any data is compromised.

Stephen Hackett, and Casey Liss, have both complained about companies shortening the required passwords for services. One was a bank the other was T-Mobile. That seems like security is trending in the wrong direction.

You’d think that breach, after breach, would compell companies to audit their own security. You’d think…

2014-06-12 15:00:00

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Screenplays and Storyboards, Sitting in a Git Branch

I am a big fan of the Fountain markup language. It allows for some really interesting approaches to a creative writing space that haven’t been able to progress much with one company holding all the cards. This morning, I saw Stu Maschwitz tweet about this new Storyboard Fountain app from Charles Forman, and Chris Smoak. In very tiny letters, all the way at the bottom, they acknowledge that there are probably very few writers that use tablets, and that an iPad app would probably have more appeal. Interestingly, the whole thing is MIT licensed on GitHub. Unfortunately, it uses Node.js, which is why it’s currently a desktop-only app. That kind of explains a lot. (I guess with a web view…)

Just thinking about someone — anyone — using this to think about how they’ll shoot something before they start shooting it fills me with hope for the future. People underestimate the value in that kind of planning.

Indeed, Charles’ blog post is chock full-o-reasons why it’s a good idea to use storyboards. Like, knowing what you need, and saving money.

This tool is a fancy way to organize sketches. Being excited about this tool, is like being excited about a notebook, instead of being excited about all the great ideas you’re going to write in it. I’m excited to build a tool to help a better process, and ultimately make better work.

I disagree with Charles here. If there’s one thing the internet can do, it’s show you how excited people are about notebooks.

2014-06-10 16:32:00

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The Sprawling, Booming LA Tech Scene is Having a Moment ►

Recode posted a thorough piece where writer Nellie Bowles traveled around the LA metropolitan area and interviewed founders of tech startups about how being in LA, instead of Silicon Valley, has helped them. After feeling so down about this city recently, it’s a little heartening to see something can grow here — even if that something happens to Snapchat (cringe). I would definitely say that the people interviewed range from strange to fratty.

There is one sad part that caught my eye:

At an old steel-and-concrete special-effects studio along the main drag in Santa Monica, Peter Pham and Mike Jones have set up an incubator called Science. They have a private movie theater with a 25-foot screen and leather seats.

INT. JOE’S APARTMENT - DAY

JOE
(pours one out for Digital Domain)

That’s also technically Venice… Erm. So.

What’s curious about it is that there is an emphasis on being close to film, and television culture. Something that is dwindling in LA. Wouldn’t it be strange to see a shift where tech investment in online ‘content’ starts to make actual entertainment jobs? Not just a few people holding up a smartphone to record something?

Another perpetual starter-upper makes mention of the connection between Hollywood and ‘Madison Avenue’ for advertising. His metaphor is embarrassingly clunky, and makes his advice about the connection here being more natural a dubious one.

2014-06-09 14:39:00

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60 Years

Alan Turing died 60 years ago. Excerpt from a letter he wrote to mathematician Norman Routledge:

Turing believes machines think
Turing lies with men
Therefore machines do not think

2014-06-07 13:00:00

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