scruloose: (avatar)
It may come as a surprise that I still keep up with reading my LJ flist pretty much without fail. I've always been a lurker, not actually posting, but I do read and when I think I have something to add to the discussion, I comment. This is about to end, because LJ has finally found the last little annoyance that'll drive me to quit.

Over the years, LiveJournal has annoyed me almost to the point of shutting down my account and walking away... more times than I can count. From Brad's "There will never be ads on LiveJournal" broken promise way back in the day, to the poorly-handled handoff to 6Apart (who had no clue how to manage LJ's userbase), to Strikethrough '07 and the dismissive attitude toward users displayed in the aftermath, to the privacy-breaking Facebook integration mess, to the constantly-devolving user interface (because clearly, what I want when trying to read a long conversation thread is to not have the ability to subject-tag comments, along with having to dodge an endless minefield of mouse-rollover elements that want to pop up flashy boxes to hide the text I'm trying to read)... There's a lot of history there, and time and again LJ comes off looking like an amateurish operation run by a series of arrogant douchebags. Apparently the Russians love it. Frankly, the Russians can have it.

Oddly, my breaking point doesn't even come from any new change LJ has made, so much as a change in my own habits (combined with Dreamwidth being now well-established as an alternative). I've started doing essentially all of my browsing through the TOR network, which might seem like overkill if you've never heard of Edward Snowden or the NSA's PRISM program. But anyway. LiveJournal is routinely blocking TOR users, meaning that I need to have a second browser running without the privacy-protecting TOR connection just to read my LJ flist, and then manually copy-paste links into my TOR browser to open them, and it's just enough added irritation on top of everything that my patience has run out. I'm done.

As of about a week from now, I'm going to delete my LJ account as completely as I can manage. If you have compelling reasons for not crossposting to Dreamwidth, then I guess this is goodbye. If, on the other hand, you've simply never gotten around to setting up a DW account and/or configuring crossposting, well, it's almost absurdly easy, and I humbly submit that now might be a good time.

Here's the Dreamwidth signup page. The days of needing an invite code are long gone, and the signup process is pretty straightforward.

And here's the Dreamwidth FAQ entry on crossposting for users coming from LiveJournal. Essentially you check off a tickbox, type in your LJ username and password, and select whether you want comments enabled on LJ, a link back to the DW comments section, both, or neither. That's it.

Honestly, I've found Dreamwidth to be a better site in every way. The owners are respectful of the users, communicate changes in clear and respectful terms before rolling them out (and actually take user feedback into account when deciding on changes), and had a sustainable business model thought out before they launched the site. The codebase is way cleaner, because their developers have put a lot of work into working through the "technical debt" while LJ was busy trying to replicate the MySpace user interface. The design of the site is tidier, and they've made some very smart functional changes, such as giving you the option of following someone without automatically granting them access to all of your friends-locked posts (and vice versa), which is a surprisingly big improvement over LJ's functionality of "friending" someone.

Anyway, the choice is yours. I'm not here to change anyone's mind.

Scruloose out.
scruloose: (Default)
Feel free to call me jaded (you wouldn't be the first) but I'll freely admit that in spite of their generally-good privacy track record and "don't be evil" company motto, I've been growing a little uneasy about Google for a few years--in a faint "niggling doubt in the back of my mind" way. When it became clear that they were not so much a "search engine" company as a "gather all the information about everything and everyone" company, I had a little niggling doubt because power corrupts, and one entity aggregating and managing huge swathes of everyone's information is a hell of a concentration of power. When they got caught arbitrarily harvesting everybody's home Wifi info with their little Street View cars, my little niggling doubt got just a bit more insistent.

Of course, in spite of my misgivings, one thing I haven't had any doubt about is that Google's products are amazing. I've been using Google Reader for years, my Google Calendar is seamlessly integrated with my Android phone, and my primary e-mail address is (for now) at Until now, Google has been generally well-behaved enough that I've been able to set aside my misgivings. And even though the Google+ nymwars issue was off-putting enough to prevent me from getting an invite and signing up for an account, I couldn't really see what motivation Google would have to push the issue really hard, and I figured in a matter of weeks they'd probably drop their stupid and unworkable "real names" stance and I'd probably end up signing up for an account. Hey, at least it's not Facebook, right?

And then Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in an interview revealed the driving motivation behind the "real names" thing, and in fact Google's purpose for Google+, and it's no longer a little doubt in the back of my mind. It's time to start the long process of ending my dependence on Google's services. The article Real Names: Google+, Government & The Identity Ecosystem sketches some of the implications of Google+'s fundamental purpose as an "identity service". It's an eye-opening read and not terribly long. I recommend checking it out.

Put together Google's aggressive push to integrate Google+ with their other services, their Draconian approach to the "real names" issue, and Eric Schmidt's admission as to the underlying purpose... well, it leads inexorably to the conclusion that Google has declared war on anonymity and pseudonymity on the Internet. The ever-popular "if it's so bad, just don't use the service" excuse doesn't carry a lot of credibility given the fact that Schmidt is also being quoted (as mentioned in the "Real Names" article linked above) as saying that those who don’t have properly verified Google+ accounts could experience "downgrading" of their Google products and services.

At this point, the story I'm seeing between the lines here goes something like this:

  • Google got the whole Internet-using world hooked on their (admittedly excellent) services and software over a period of years. Presumably with no more nefarious intent than to make embarassing heaps of money.

  • Now that they have not only embarassing heaps of money but also global influence to rival a superpower, they're thinking in terms of empire, deciding to impose their will and reshape how the Internet works.

  • Google faces the same fundamental conflict of interest that Facebook does. As Bruce Schneier put it in his keynote speech at the 2010 RSA Security Conference "Don't make the mistake of thinking you're Facebook's customer, you're not – you're the product." The advertisers are the customer, and this fact has deep and scary implications for whose interests are going to matter when push comes to shove.

  • Given the volatile combination of a huge concentration of power and this conflict of interest, what's good for the users (anonymity and pseudonymity, which are vital to free speech) has, rather predictably, been sacrificed in favour of what's good for Google.

Oh, and just in case it's not self-explanatory, I'll let the Electronic Frontier Foundation provide a brief introduction to the connection between anonymity/pseudonymity and free speech. I don't think it's a hard concept, and I do think that the connection is fundamental enough that there's no denying that an attack on anonymity/pseudonymity is quite simply an attack on freedom of speech. Google is implementing the kind of universal ID card program that they stood up and refused to assist North Korea with in 2009, and that the British government scrapped in 2010 after years of widespread opposition, only Google is implementing it across the entire Internet regardless of national borders, and it comes candy-coated as a social network.

So much for "don't be evil".

Given all this, I can obviously never sign up for a Google+ account. Whatever claims they make about the policy going forward, how could I ever trust the service, knowing what I now know? And so, rather than wait and hope that Google doesn't choose to "downgrade" my other Google services, it's time to start disentangling myself now. My first step is to sign up with a paid e-mail provider. It's well worth $10 or $20 (USD) per year to not have to live with the assumption that my online communications are being datamined and sold. I will not accept being the product that the powerful people buy and sell. I'd rather be the customer.
scruloose: (Default)
Yes, it's true. My first post in forever and a day (maybe forever and many days) is a test.

There is more to follow, I promise.

Also, the obligatory bit: why yes, I am still alive. I hope you're doing fine!
scruloose: (Default)
So, thanks to this BoingBoing post and the linked Calgary Herald article I've learned that the Conservative government has proposed legislation that will, if passed:
  • force ISPs to divulge subscribers' personal information without a warrant
  • force ISPs to install monitoring equipment at their own expense to enable police surveillance of their subscribers
  • allow the police to remotely activate tracking devices such as the GPS built in to most current cell-phones
  • and more!

Specifically, two bills called the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act and the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act have been introduced by Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson and Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan.

As you may imagine, this has me pissed off enough that I'm writing three variations of a letter: one for the two MPs who put their names to this, one to the office of the Prime Minister, and one to my Member of Parliament (who is NDP, and is likely already actively opposing these bills). I'm printing and snail-mailing all four copies, because I hear that physical letters carry more weight with politicians. If you are Canadian and you're reading this and you value your civil liberties, I urge you to call, write, or e-mail at least your own MP.
So here is the first version of my letter: Click for angry political letter )

I'm certainly open to suggestions and opinions on the letter.
And, hell, if you want to sign your name to it and send a copy yourself, be my guest.

(Manually x-posted to LJ)
scruloose: (Default)
First off, apologies to anyone who's waiting to see my AN '09 pictures. This post isn't them, but I have over the last week or so got a handle on the tools to convert my camera's raw files to jpeg, scale 'em down to a useful size, and start uploading. Results should be forthcoming soon.

I've also learned that it's only worthwhile shooting certain kinds of thing in raw. Sunsets, tricky high-contrast lighting, and any picture that you're hoping will be Real Art. Oh, and HDR. I wish I'd used raw for the shots I was using to make HDRs out of.

But what I do have is the first (very) few Hawaii pictures. Specifically, my first dabblings in HDR.

On a mostly-unrelated note, anyone who knows antiques, or knows someone who knows antiques: any idea whether this thing is worth any money?

And in keeping with the fact that I seem to be really getting back into photography, I loved the Wikimedia Commons picture of the year 2008 entries. I'm partial to #5, myself.

Things have been pretty busy (and I'm just awful at getting around to things) but I am truly planning to get a bunch more pictures online soon!
scruloose: (Default)

I was working on a post explaining why I think Dreamwidth is worth getting excited about, but it's turning into a long rant about what sucks about LiveJournal (their code is awful, slow, and lacking key functionality--and management went from being completely amateur to completely indifferent about the good of the users... in a nutshell). I may or may not actually finish that post.

But in the meantime, I'm kind of excited about Dreamwidth...

It's a fork of the LiveJournal codebase that seems fundamentally different from LJ itself and all the LJ-alikes that have come before in that:

  • They took the time to get a business plan and some serious coding done before launching
  • They know how to launch a site, with stages of beta testing to ease the system into place
  • Where LiveJournal's feature improvements seem to have stalled at previews that give my ad-blocker one more thing to filter out, Dreamwidth's improvements include things like splitting "friending" someone into the separate operations of subscribing to read them and granting them access to your locked posts, and writing a style system that actually works and supports flexible CSS layouts
  • They seem to actually have (wait for it) a business plan! No, really. Like, a long-term strategy for how to balance the numbers of paid accounts with free accounts and not have to spam the users with ads to make ends meet.
  • There seems to be a starting assumption that freedom of expression matters, which is a refreshing change. I wasn't caught in LJ's "Strikethrough 2007", but using the dragnet of keyword-matching to mass-delete all accounts that list Lolita as an interest (to pick an example) is abusive and shows a fundamental disregard for the best interest of the users. The fact that those who opposed the move were met with a wall of "Oh, it's just the Harry Potter pedophiles whining because big bad LJ took their kiddy-porn away" didn't exactly help with earning respect or trust.

Anyway, thanks to my lovely and awesome wife, I got an invite code and now have a Dreamwidth account of my own. Same username as here. There's already an option to cross-post to LJ from DW, and I think I heard that you can add LJ journals to your DW reading list too. If all of that is true, I won't need to be haranguing my LJ f-list to switch. Of course, if Dreamwidth comes anywhere near living up to the potential it seems to be showing, you want to get in on it.


scruloose: (Default)
say it with silence

March 2014



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