Here Lies Imzy, RIP.

Credit: Imzy.

Imzy, the “nice Reddit” has been laid to rest, and is being mourned by its users. It would seem that nice has little place on the ‘net, and has once again been chased into small pockets here and there in the netverse.

After a long bout of illness and injury sustained from battling racism, misogyny, and general depravity, Imzy — the last hope for human decency on the internet — has died. It was 2 years old.

Imzy, the “nice Reddit” created by Jessica Moreno and Dan McComas, two former Reddit executives who left the company in 2015 amid intense controversy over their anti-harassmentpolicies, will officially shut down June 23.

The reason? There’s no room for a platform that promotes basic politeness in the social media market.

In a blog post announcing the impending shut down Wednesday, McComas wrote “it is time for us to shut down the site” as Imzy couldn’t find a “place in the market.”

[…]

Imzy’s sunset isn’t just a loss for users, who regarded it as a place of belonging, it’s also a sign that the worst things about human interaction — bullying, harassment, forums dedicated to promoting racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia, unsolicited photos of genitalia, beheading and other snuff videos, child pornography — are likely permanent fixtures on the internet, and by extension in society.

[…]

Maybe this is what life on the internet is supposed to be. After all, the internet is just a mirror of the society it serves and a product of the biases and blind spots of a technology’s creators, so why would we expect it to be any different? Why should the internet somehow be better than the casual and blatant nastiness people experience every day?

It seems that belief in duality persists, this idea that online is distinct and separate from ‘real’ life. Yes, the ‘net is societies, writ large, often in crayon and spray paint. There’s a whole lot of ugly in human societies, so it should not be a surprise that ugly rears up on the ‘net. There’s a whole lot of kindness and creativity in human societies too, and that also shows up on the ‘net. It’s true that nice, fun, and kind don’t garner the same attention as ugly and malicious; we are all attracted to the worst excesses of humankind, if for no other reason, to tsk and be shocked that people could do such a thing. I’ve done my own tiny experiments here on Affinity, with doing nothing but art / photography / nice and fun stories in a day of blogging. When I do that, my stats take a serious hit. Blog about politics, assholes, bigots? Much better for my stats. I try to strike a balance, but it’s not always easy to do.

I am not a social person, at my keyboard, or away from it. I find socializing to be exhausting, and can only handle it in limited amounts, so for someone like me, the internet is ideal, because I can wander away when it all becomes too much. That’s why I don’t indulge in social media much, because being involved with social media means being involved with people, and all the consequent obligations to those people. I don’t think there is any particular reason nice can’t thrive on the ‘net, there are pockets of it all over the place, if you go looking. PZ has written about Mastodon a couple of times, and seems to enjoy it. If you’re trying to be a massive media giant, maybe it doesn’t work so well, I don’t know. Imzy had a great deal of money in October, $8 million. I won’t pretend to understand why it’s now being considered a failure, and those in charge don’t seem to want to explain it fully. Perhaps if there was less focus on the money, nice would thrive better on the ‘net, I don’t know. Seems to me that greed and nice don’t go hand in hand, but what do I know?

Think Progress has the full story.

Cool Stuff Friday.

Archive Dreaming from Refik Anadol on Vimeo.

Archive Dreaming, a stunning project, and one I hope becomes a reality before I die, because it would be an amazing experience! You can read all about this, and see more at The Creators Project.

Minutiae Photos.

There’s a new app in town, but it’s not like other social media in any way. This one is to document entirely mundane moments of your life, and you don’t get to do it at any given time.

Thus was born Minutiae, an anonymous photo-sharing app that, unlike uber-serious photography apps, encourages people to embrace the boring and mundane instead of meticulously sculpting the digital replica of their everyday lives.

Once a day, at random, all participants receive an alert to take a photo simultaneously, regardless of time zone. After taking the photo, the user is paired with a random stranger somewhere in the world who also just took a photo, and they are given 60 seconds to browse their chronological timeline or that of the stranger with whom they were matched. When the minute expires, the app shuts down, and the users must wait for the next alert to use the app again. Beyond the anonymity and its focus on the quotidian, Minutiae also prevents users from following anyone.

Despite Minutiae being a fully functioning app, Adolfsson and Wilson agreed that it should really be an artwork in and of itself. As Wilson tells Creators, it helped that they had a bit of a Swedish Arts Council funding instead of venture capital, so they were able to make what they see as a collective embrace of global mundanity.

“Our thesis is not that social media is ‘bad,’ just that it ends up making us look at the world, and documenting our experiences, in a very particular way,” says Wilson. “Through our use of Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat, etc., we are in the continuous process (often unconsciously) of refining filters that determine how we capture our lives… Minutiae frees us from this pressure to perform since you no longer have the option to choose what you are documenting—connections are singular and random.”

Another way Minutiae frees users, according to Adolfsson, is by restricting the time spent on the app to one minute per day. This flies right in the face most apps, which are designed to keep users locked in for as long as possible, or returning again and again like an addict.

“The app is a tool to help participants document their own in-between moments of life,” says Adolfsson. “The type of moments that we usually don’t think of as important enough to capture.”

You can see and read more at The Creators Project. Minutiae.

Metalliferous Streams from Eric Bellefeuille on Vimeo. All I have is WOW.

Paris at night by Roberto Estupinián.

Amazing, exquisite photos of Paris at Night.

If I Disappear…

You can blame the Evil Empire, aka Verizon. Trying to get net access has been extremely trying lately; I have to kill and reboot the wireless unit from 4 to 12 times in order to even have my connection show up, and even when it does, I keep getting kicked off, making blogging a right pain in the arse. There’s a tower down or summat like, and as Verizon doesn’t seem to be overly aware of rural users, it might be a while until it gets back to the normal level of truly crappy, overpriced ‘service.’

Anyroad, if I’m late getting started (like today), or gone entirely for a day, I’m fine, I’m just probably trying to walk off the desire to smash the wireless unit into tiny splinters.

Aaaaaaaaand, in line with this being a remarkably shitty day, just pulled a fucking godsdamned tick off my head.

Facebook’s Internal Rulebook.

Facebook’s policy on threats of violence. A tick means something can stay on the site; a cross means it should be deleted. Photograph: Guardian.

The Guardian has an in-depth look at the ongoing problems of Facebook.  If you’re on FB, you’re no doubt already familiar with all these problems and inconsistencies, but you might want to still take the time to do the reading, it’s very interesting, to say the least. As I remarked on this post, the big problem with FB is that they are well aware of the fact that no matter how much people get upset, they won’t kill their account and walk.

As for the above graphic, one of many, “To snap a bitch’s neck, make sure to apply all your pressure to the middle of the throat.” is allowed because it’s not considered to be a credible threat, too generic. Given the sheer amount of women murdered every single. damn. day., I have a whole lot of problems with that, to say the least. Someone, somewhere, will appreciate that information, and put it to use. All I have here is WTF FB?

I had been considering going back to FB, for an Affinity feed, but have been very hesitant to do so. This made up my mind. No. My personal principles won’t stand for it.

*Ob. Disclaimer: Yes, I know most of the effing world is on FB, and that’s fine. I’m making a judgment call for myself, no one else.

Full story at The Guardian.

Soothing Silicone.

Can you tell I’m not in the mood for politics today? I’m not. I haven’t even checked the news, and I’m not going to check today. If the world explodes this day, I’d rather not know anyroad. Instead of anxiety, depression, and paranoia, have some soothing silicone:

Silicone Annealing – Cruz Culture.

Mixing Silicone for Rubber Moulding – Butser Rubber Ltd. (Yes, that name made me laugh.)

Life on the line: kneading pigment into silicon – Stephen Woolverton.

“That was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump,”

The Guardian.

Carole Cadwalladr has an extensive and in-depth piece on the shadowy world of the Mercers and others, and their aims, none of which will make you rest easy. The age of reasoned paranoia is upon us. Recommended reading.

“That was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump,” a former Cambridge Analytica employee who I’ll call Paul tells me. “It was back when we were still just a psychological warfare firm.”

Was that really what you called it, I ask him. Psychological warfare? “Totally. That’s what it is. Psyops. Psychological operations – the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.”

Full story at The Guardian.

Cool Stuff Friday: Octobot!

Harvard University Octobot.

Researchers at Harvard University have designed a soft 3D-printed robot that can move on its own, powered by a chemical reaction, instead of electricity or batteries.

Shaped like a cartoon octopus, the Octobot contains no electronics or other hard parts, relying instead on a silicone body that houses a fluid-filled circuit.

Previously, soft-bodied robots had needed to rely on rigid components for power. But the Octobot uses hydrogen peroxide as fuel.

The liquid flows around a network of pre-printed hollows in the robot’s body, and creates a reaction as it passes over platinum embedded inside. This produces gas that inflates and moves the arms, to propel the robot through water.

You can read and watch more here. Do I need to say I want one? I want one.

No-To-Scale Studio.

Malaysian design office No-To-Scale Studio has issued a satirical proposal to President Trump, suggesting a radical means of representing the US-Mexico border: a 1,954 mile-long dining table.

Citing “logistical, financial and nationality” limitations, the studio’s design claims to be cost-effective in taking a domestic item and scaling it to massive proportions.

While the proposed slab of “continuous polished marble” may prove costly, diners will bring their own chairs in order to participate.

You can see and read more here.

Neri Oxman, Lazarus Mask.

Neri Oxman and the MIT Mediated Matter group have unveiled their latest collection of 3D-printed death masks, designed to contain the wearer’s last breath.

The Lazarus masks, described by Oxman as “air urns”, are modelled on the facial features of the deceased individual.

Each 3D-printed structure encompasses colourful swirling patterns that have been informed by the physical flow of air emitted from their last breath.

“Traditionally made of a single material, such as wax or plaster, the death mask originated as a means of capturing a person’s visage, keeping the deceased alive through memory,” said the team.

You can read and see more here.

Oh Great, Another Slogan: Buy American, Hire American.

Noel McKay, left, a program manager and Karen Latina, right, a biotech consultant, hold up signs during a Tech Stands Up rally on Pi Day, Tuesday, March 14, 2017, outside City Hall in Palo Alto, Calif. Subcontracted tech service workers and direct tech employees rallied together to call on their companies and CEOs to stand with their workers against injustice and hate. CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Risberg.

As a conservative columnist recently pointed out, the Tiny Tyrant is acting the full lame duck by concentrating on Executive Orders very early on. This is usually not seen until much later, usually when congress is busy blocking a president. The Tiny Tyrant has also turned to “foreign policy” in attempt to overshadow investigations and come across as doing something. The latest EO was announced in Wisconsin, at the expense of the Paris Climate Accord meeting. Now we have “Buy American, Hire American”, which, as Jake Tapper pointed out, is the height of hypocrisy when it comes to Trump’s own business dealings, which depend greatly on immigrant workers and the H-1B visa program. Of course, I’m sure he’ll declare all his little cash cows to be exempt. Contrary to the Tiny Tyrant’s constant vow of jobs and greatness and all that other crap, every move he has made so far is damn near custom-tailored to crash the economy, and this move will accelerate that considerably, if congress can be swayed to enforce it. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen.

The “Buy American, Hire American” executive order emphasizes enforcement of “Buy American laws” that will encourage government agencies and Americans to buy and hire American. The main thrust of the order calls on cabinet secretaries to implement administrative changes and produce reports that identify potential abuses of the H-1B visa program, which awarded 85,000 work visas this year to foreign knowledge workers through a lottery system, and look for ways the government can only award contracts to American business owners.

Regarding immigration, the order doesn’t address the administration’s main criticisms of the H-1B program, such as exploitatively low pay and replacing the lottery system to guarantee recipients are the best candidates for the positions. It also carries little weight on its own.

“It doesn’t do anything,” said William Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) in Philadelphia. That’s because the changes Trump campaigned on need to be approved by Congress.

[…]

The policy proposal sent a chill through the tech industry, which heavily depends on H-1B workers to fill out full-time and contract positions. That tension intensified earlier this year, after Trump signed his first executive order restricting entry of immigrants from or traveling from several Muslim-majority countries and companies such as Google required resident employees abroad to immediately return to the U.S.

The White House’s tenuous relationship with Silicon Valley was strained further as Trump’s policies homed in on issues central to the tech industry’s ethos and economic health. And with cracking down on H-1B visas in his sights, there’s concern Trump could hurt the economy he’s trying to help.

 […]

Besides a potential congressional hurdle, there could still be economic consequences to Trump’s desired changes, especially when it comes to funding existing programs and trade.

For example, further restricting H-1B visas could actually result in taking jobs away from American workers by encouraging companies to relocate, Stock said. That would create more jobs in places like Ireland, India (which is currently the biggest recipient of H-1B visas), China, and countries in South America, where there are growing IT workforces.

“If the workers can’t come here, then companies are going to have to go where the workforce is,” Stock said. “The unintended consequences are going to outweigh what he was trying to achieve.”

[…]

Restricting H-1B visas or prioritizing American businesses also doesn’t replace jobs lost due to the collapse of manufacturing or mining industries.

Dan Ikenson, the director for trade policy at the Cato Institute a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., said the order looks tough, especially when it comes to government contract spending. But he worried that Trump’s emphasis on only awarding government contracts to American companies could mean that taxpayers lose out. From a free market perspective, Ikenson said, there should be as many foreign companies as possible bidding for government contracts.

“You need the competition,” Ikenson said, arguing that only contracting with American businesses could result in overspending. “We shouldn’t just assume that it’s good for America if Americans transact with other Americans.”

That economic stance is why Trump’s immigration policies have garnered criticism from economists across the political spectrum.

“We need smart foreign workers to come here and share their ideas,” Ikenson said. “Immigrants are 50 percent more likely than Americans to start new businesses.”

Think Progress has the full story.

Autonomous Car Trap 001.

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The Creators Project has an absolutely fascinating interview with James Bridle, whose current project involves the magical science of fucking up autonomous cars. While this is a fun and intriguing project, Bridle brings up a very good point about just how easy it would be to interfere with those wondrous self-driving cars. Pictured above is a salt trap, blending the legendary magic of yore with modern road/driving signals.

Is it a silly prank, a Pagan ritual, or a genius discovery about the next era of mass transit? In a picture posted to Flickr by artist James Bridle—known for coining the term, “New Aesthetic”—a car is sitting in the middle of a parking lot has been surrounded by a magic salt circle. In the language of road markings, the dotted white lines on the outside say, “Come On In,” but the solid white line on the inside says, “Do Not Cross.” To the car’s built-in cameras, these are indomitable laws of magic: Petrificus Totalus for autonomous automobiles.

Captioned simply, “Autonomous Trap 001,” the scene evokes a world of narratives involving the much-hyped technology of self-driving cars. It could be mischievous hackers disrupting a friend’s self-driving ride home; the police seizing a dissident’s getaway vehicle; highway robbers trapping their prey; witches exorcizing a demon from their hatchback.

Self-driving cars aren’t there yet, but the artist-philosopher-programmer’s thought-provoking photo is a reminder that we’ll have to start thinking about these things soon. If a self-driving car is designed to read the road, what happens when the language of the road is abused by those with nefarious intent?

[…]

Now Bridle is trying to build his own self-driving car, and made the sardonic artwork Autonomous Trap 001 in the process. He’s released all the code developed in pursuit of the DIY self-driving car here. We spoke to Bridle to learn more about the circumstances behind this vague photo series and better understand his apprehension and curiosity about the robot chauffeurs of the future.

Creators: What are we looking at here? Can you give me a brief explanation of Autonomous Trap 001?

James Bridle: What you’re looking at is a salt circle, a traditional form of protection—from within or without—in magical practice. In this case it’s being used to arrest an autonomous vehicle—a self-driving car, which relies on machine vision and processing to guide it. By quickly deploying the expected form of road markings—in this case, a No Entry glyph—we can confuse the car’s vision system into believing it’s surrounded by no entry points, and entrap it.

Is this actually an autonomous car, or is it conceptual?

I don’t actually have a self-driving car, unfortunately—I don’t think any have made it to Greece yet, plus the cost issue—but I do have a pretty good understanding of how the things work, having been researching them for a while. And the one in the picture is a research vehicle for building my own. As usual, I’ve got totally carried away in the research, and ended up writing a bunch of my own software, rigging up cameras and building neural networks to reproduce some of the more interesting currents in the field. Like the trap, I wouldn’t entirely trust what I’ve built, but the principles are sound.

Where did you take these pictures?

I made this Trap while training the car on the roads around Mount Parnassus in Central Greece. Parnassus feels like an appropriate location because, as well as being quite spectacular scenery and wonderful to drive and hike around, it’s the home of the Muses in mythology, as well as the site of the Delphic Oracle. The ascent of Mount Parnassus is, in esoteric terms, the journey towards knowledge, and art.

There’s much more at The Creator’s Project!

Nimuno Loops!

nimuno-loop-lego-tape-design-products-toys-children_dezeen_2364_col_9

Lego fans can now build outwards from walls, chair legs, household objects or the backs of other toys using a new studded tape.

The Nimuno Loops tape is the creation of Cape Town-based designers Anine Kirsten and Max Basler. They launched the product on crowdfunding site Indiegogo three days ago, and have already amassed 12,107 per cent of their $8,000 (£6,470) target.

This looks like so much fun! You can see and read much more at Dezeen.