We live in exciting, sometimes terrifying times. It has become fashionable to carry a device on your person at all times with more computing power than NASA’s Apollo command center. Products raise millions of dollars to essentially communicate with that smart device from several feet away. The most popular uses of of these mobile devices are to shoot round birds with a slingshot at makeshift towers built by pigs, and to broadcast any minute detail that pops up in the ol’ brain bucket. Broad new horizons.

However, users of these devices (and the services they enable) bring with them horizons that are neither broad nor new. Certain subcultures, previously ignored and subsequently rendered powerless, now have the means to broadcast globally and connect like-minded individuals regardless of geographic location. This message amplification has the ability to force society to progress with great strides, as with the LGBT community. But for some reason, the net-positive effect does not happen with everyone. The most recent instance of this is Gamergate.

In years past, I might have identified myself as a gamer. In the sense that “I enjoy and often play video games in my free time”, it is an accurate descriptor to this day. After the past few months, I would be reluctant to identify myself this way. If you have successfully avoided any Gamergate news up to this point, good on you. Keep it up. If you feel like being sad about life, read this summary from Newsweek with actual Twitter statistics, or this in-depth summary about the implications of this type of movement.

Upon further research, this seems like a deeper cultural issue, unrelated to gaming. I would say it is an American issue, but it is likely present elsewhere too. Kathy Sierra, a prominent tech figure, has now had to essentially leave the internet for the second time in less than 10 years. Before that, several private personal pictures of celebrities were leaked, of which there was a single male (and he was collateral damage, as he was dating one of the targeted female celebrities). Even before that, dumb old white guys were talking (seemingly sincerely) about “legitimate rape” in congressional election coverage. The megaphone created by our newly-connected society seems to have pretty terrible opinions about women on an alarmingly consistent basis.

TL;DR The only way I know how to help is to write about it. I will be a parent soon. It scares me to think that the difficulty of that kid’s life will be so greatly affected by a single genetic coin-toss.

Microsoft Office makes people worse at software.1

I work with engineers – people that know their way around power electronics and embedded software2. But somehow, no one seems to know how version control works. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Microsoft Office.

In my first C programming class, we only received grades on work that we checked in using the version control software3. It was a revelation to me, at the time, that there existed a way to collaborate on software (or any other electronic documents). This is likely because I did most of my document editing in high school in – what else – Microsoft Word.

So why has this revelation failed to bubble up to the (too) many companies with Microsoft enterprise agreements? Sure, my first introduction was via the command line, but Dropbox and Google Docs have shown it can be done in a user-friendly GUI. I constantly see coworkers go to the not-so-great length of changing a date in the document title and think “Boom – new version.” Or, even better – send out a document for several people to edit, who return their input as “Title – MM/DD/YY – Employee Initials”. It seems crazy that 1.) no one has thought “we should think of a better engineered solution to this”, and then 2.) “oh wait, IT ALREADY EXISTS.”

Even though it is not built into Office directly, I know version control is available for it now. I have even used it! Microsoft’s sort-of-cloud solution, Sharepoint, has version control and document check-out baked right in. It is buried in some context menu somewhere (proving my conspiracy theory that MS does not want you to use it), but it is there. Yet somehow we still create an Archive folder with all the previous, dated documents. It is a waste of storage space, a huge time suck, and can be extremely confusing.

I write this both as an admonishment for the workflows at my company, and as an acknowledgement that I am falling for it too. I have started to do this, mostly because my colleagues do, even though I know it is a terrible habit. The first step is admitting you have a problem. I look forward to apologizing to all the spreadsheets I have wronged in the past.

And don’t get me started on the crazy things people put into Excel.4


  1. I have not decided if this thesis is worth a series of posts. It might be, but this is the only example I could come up with so far. 
  2. I know the software team uses it for their software, and yet they don’t for any documents shared with other groups. How does that make sense to anyone? 
  3. It was a Unix system, and I can’t even remember the commands for committing code now. But I remember the concept, which is more important. (Right?) 
  4. It is not for presentations. That is why they made Powerpoint. 

I have been griping about leaving Facebook and owning my data for a while now, but I may have finally found a solution.

The indie web, its called. Made up of the people who got tired of talking about these concepts and decided to start doing something about them.

I first heard about them on one of my weekly must-hear podcasts, In Beta (episode 90). Then a guest on another webcast I enjoy regularly – This Week in Google #241 – brought it up near the end. (TWiG actually just dedicated most of an episode to it – #266.)

I always viewed blogging (at least my blog) as a spot for thoughts that skewed toward longform writing, that could not be fleshed out in a short snippet. The indie web, however, encourages tweet-length thoughts as well as longer posts, which can then be syndicated to whatever social network you choose. The point is to not keep those thoughts siloed somewhere that may eventually shut down or change their policies, but to control your online identity, on your own terms. You can build your own tools, or you can browse the IndieWeb site to find something pre-built to use on your site.

But how will people see these posts if they are on Facebook or Twitter? Well, they thought of that too. POSSE stands for Post (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. By syndicating, your non-IndieWeb friends will still get to see what you are up to. And using the webmention protocol, comments and replies will be pulled back into your own site as well.

If you are feeling less brave, one of the higher-profile indie web tools just launched a beta. It is called Known, and it has been treating me well so far. I look forward to their hosted/beta service adding a WordPress plugin. But if I did my work right, you should see my Known post about this article down below.

TL;DR: if you see anything oddly formatted posts on my site or one of my social profiles, it is probably an attempt at implementing one of the Indie Web projects. Maybe if you are getting wary of Facebook and you’re looking for a technically-inclined side project, you should check it out too.

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I am a Transformers fan.

It takes a lot to admit that anymore. That admission comes with a lot more baggage now than it did 10 years ago. It is a bit like being a Los Angeles Clippers fan; things started to get pretty good, but then the guy in charge is super racist1 and is kind of mad that people found out about that and goddammit he’s going to take everyone down with him.

My allegiances lie firmly with Hasbro, who I assume ghostwrote the current movie, as they have since the beginning. I own numerous shape-changing action figures, and will continue to buy them2 because secretly I am a nine year old with no self control. Even my USB drive is Ravage (a knock off, but still).

I write all this to frame my review of Transfomers 4: Hey, Mark Wahlberg! Right?3 It is, in the words of Charles Barkley, T-R-B-L turrible.

(Edit: I wrote this in the few days following the theatrical release, but haven’t had time to publish until now. The review holds up, but some of the references would have made more sense in June. Deal with it lol)

I rewatched the third one, because a) I am a glutton for punishment, b) I’ve already said I am a Transformers fan, and thus own all the movies, and c) because I wanted to confirm the my theory that they are steadily getting worse. I think it holds.

The first one had just enough of Spielberg’s touch to be pretty good. The second one was critically panned, and probably rightfully so, so several actors and writers jumped ship. Seemingly the only goal of the third movie was “don’t be actively racist again”, which they accomplished by killing of Ken Jeong (best character in the movie) before they could do any damage. And for the fourth, they basically took a cookie cutter to the third movie and said LaBeouf, Turturro, Jeong, Patrick Dempsey ==> Wahlberg, Tucci, TJ Miller, Kelsey Grammer4. And DINOSAURS!

Basically, the movie plot can be boiled down to this quote, from the writer of the goddamn movie:

When you’re talking about aliens, robotic machines which disguise themselves as vehicles and animals, you start to make your peace with the idea that logical sense doesn’t have to be the be-all, end-all.

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but expanding it to include plot and character development is another. “Making the robots the main characters? Allowing natural human interaction? Using the dinosaur robots before the last 15 minutes of a near-three-hour film? Nah, those would make logical sense. Oh, a samurai that transforms into a Bugatti Veyron AND a helicopter? Now you have something. Get Ken Watanabe on the phone.”

My only recourse is to not pay to see the film (which I already did). I can only sit back and watch Michael Bay ruin the rest of my childhood. So, Michael, if you are reading this: STAY AWAY FROM CAPTAIN PLANET. NO. STOP IT.


  1. Michael Bay is not super racist. I’m not saying that. Whoever wrote these jackasses, or Ken Watanabe’s lines in the new film, is secretly racist. Not super racist. 
  2. How can you not want to buy this?  
  3. My love of Mark Wahlberg comes from the fictitious ‘Mark Wahlberg’ character from the podcast Doug Loves Movies. It is the best. It is how I learned that he greenlights the first script given to him every month, and that they used live ammo on Lone Survivor – he only hit 3 extras and a PA. His review of Transformers: “You think it’s 3 hours because it’s bad?” 
  4. Which you would think would be an improvement, right? Not really. 

Here is a clickbait-y headline for you: “The 15 most important announcements from the Apple Watch, iPhone 6 event.” Here are all the items from the article, and how not new they are.

 

Awesome Apple Thing Already Been Done By…
Bigger Phones! 4.7 and 5.5 inches! Moto X (2013) and Galaxy Note (2011)
Optical Image Stabilization! LG G2 (2013), and likely before that
Landscape Mode! Power button on the side! Practically every Samsung phone
NFC Payments! Secure element! Galaxy Nexus (2011) (although NFC on top makes more sense – call this a draw)
Watch “crown” wheel! iPod click wheel (2001)
Watch “communication button”! Nextel push-to-talk (mid-00’s)
You can long press the watch screen! Android 2.0, if not before that
Screen widgets! Custom keyboards! Android 1.0, Swiftkey/Swype (2011)
Here’s U2 to play at the end!

/sarcasm

These things are all kind of cool, but it is dumb to assume that Apple will “bowl over” its competition by, essentially, osmosis. All the things will soon be 5.15-inch metal-rimmed slabs. I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.