The Year in Cheer
192 more stories of progress from 2021.
192 more stories of progress from 2021.
Some welcome perspective on healthcare, conservation, human rights, and energy.
I just filled out this form on the BBC website. Here’s what I wrote, based on this open letter to the BCC Upper Management and Editorial Staff.
What is your complaint about?
BBC website or apps
Which website or app is your complaint about?
BBC News website
Please give the URL, or name of the app
Are you contacting us about a previous complaint?
Select the best category to describe your complaint
Standards of interviewing/presenting
What is the subject of your complaint?
Innacurate reporting and unreliable source
Please enter your complaint
The article is based on a single self selected study of 80 individuals sourced from Get The L Out, a group who, prior to the survey, were already united by anti-trans views.
This study breaks the BBC’s own guidelines about using surveys as sources for claims in coverage, as it is self-selected, with a small sample size and a clear bias held by those self-selected to respond.
The article dangerously frames this as a widespread issue, whilst simultaneously acknowledging that there is no actual evidence to that effect outside of isolated claims and cherry picked individual cases.
The article routinely implies that transgender women are not women, uncritically quoting people who call transgender women men without at any point clarifying that this is ignoring their legal status as women in the UK.
My name is Jeremy and I’ve been a paid subscriber to The Guardian for a few years now. But I’m considering cancelling my account after reading this editorial.
On the face of it, the headline of the article sound reasonable and hard to disagree with. But the substance of the article downplays anti-trans views as simply being “gender critical.” This is akin to describing segregationist views as “integration critical.”
This line is particularly egregious:
As a society, we need to resolve the question of how to protect the privacy, dignity and rights of trans women while also respecting the privacy, dignity and rights of those born female.
Setting up these positions as though one in any way invalidates the other gives oxygen to those who wish to paint someone’s identity as a threat. I’m very disappointed to see this viewpoint expressed in an editorial on The Guardian website.
I’ve been watching The Right Stuff on Disney Plus. It’s a modern remake of the ’80s film of the ’70s Tom Wolfe book of ’60s events.
It’s okay. The main challenge, as a viewer, is keeping track of which of the seven homogenous white guys is which. It’s like Merry, Pippin, Ant, Dec, and then some.
It’s kind of fun watching it after watching For All Mankind which has some of the same characters following a different counterfactual history.
The story being told is interesting enough (although Tom has pointed out that removing the Chuck Yeager angle really diminishes the narrative). But ultimately the tension is manufactured around a single event—the launch of Freedom 7—that was very much in the shadow of Gargarin’s historic Vostok 1 flight.
There are juicier stories to be told, but those stories come from Russia.
Some of these stories have been told in film. The Spacewalker told the amazing story of Alexei Leonov’s mission, though it messes with the truth about what happened with the landing and recovery—a real shame, considering that the true story is remarkable enough.
Imagine an alternative to The Right Stuff that relayed the drama of Soyuz 1—it’s got everything: friendship, rivalries, politics, tragedy…
I’d watch the heck out of that.
If you dodged an accessibility lawsuit because you have physical locations, what does it mean when those physical locations close?
As movie theaters, restaurant ordering, college courses, and more move to online-first delivery, the notion of a corresponding brick-and-mortar venue falls away. If the current pandemic physical distancing measures stretch into the next year as many think, then this blip becomes the de facto new normal.
An excellent piece by Maciej on the crucial difference between individual privacy and ambient privacy (and what that means for regulation):
Ambient privacy is not a property of people, or of their data, but of the world around us. Just like you can’t drop out of the oil economy by refusing to drive a car, you can’t opt out of the surveillance economy by forswearing technology (and for many people, that choice is not an option). While there may be worthy reasons to take your life off the grid, the infrastructure will go up around you whether you use it or not.
Because our laws frame privacy as an individual right, we don’t have a mechanism for deciding whether we want to live in a surveillance society. Congress has remained silent on the matter, with both parties content to watch Silicon Valley make up its own rules. The large tech companies point to our willing use of their services as proof that people don’t really care about their privacy. But this is like arguing that inmates are happy to be in jail because they use the prison library. Confronted with the reality of a monitored world, people make the rational decision to make the best of it.
That is not consent.
For more detail, I highly recommend reading his testimony to the senate hearing on Privacy Rights and Data Collection in a Digital Economy.
Are we headed toward an Orwellian future where a handful of corporations monitor and control our lives? Or are we on the verge of creating a better version of society online, one where the free flow of ideas and information helps cure disease, expose corruption, reverse injustices?
It’s hard to believe that anyone—even Zuckerberg—wants the 1984 version. He didn’t found Facebook to manipulate elections; Jack Dorsey and the other Twitter founders didn’t intend to give Donald Trump a digital bullhorn. And this is what makes Berners-Lee believe that this battle over our digital future can be won. As public outrage grows over the centralization of the Web, and as enlarging numbers of coders join the effort to decentralize it, he has visions of the rest of us rising up and joining him.
Declan from MakerClub came by the office week and told us all about this great initiative for kids in Brighton that we’re supporting through the BrightSparks programme.
In this excerpt from his forthcoming book, Cennydd gives an overview of what GDPR will bring to the web. This legislation is like a charter of user’s rights, and things don’t look good for the surveillance kings of online advertising:
The black box will be forced open, and people will find it’s full of snakes.
A write-up of the BrightSparks programme that Clearleft is taking part in.
Each company agreed to help support one local child from a low-income family, on free school meals or with a yearly household income of under £25k.
You don’t need to be an American citizen to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union. The online payment process is quick and painless.
If you make a donation—and I sincerely hope you do—ping people who are generously offering to match donations.
A series of quick’n’dirty prototypes to illustrate some of the design challenges involved in handling personal data:
If we don’t start exploring what the General Data Protection Regulation means for people, the same thing that happened with the cookie law will happen again.
These new rights have the potential to improve how our digital products and services work.
Yesterday Ireland held a referendum to amend its constitution in order to provide equal rights to gay couples who want to get married. Today it’s clear that the “yes” vote is going to carry the day.
This is amazing.
I left Ireland in the early ’90s. When I told people abroad about the medieval legal situation in Ireland on contraception, divorce, and homosexuality …well, people just wouldn’t believe me. Combined with the nationalistic political situation, I got used to a sort of permanent miasma of embarrassment towards the country I came from.
But today I feel a swell of pride.
But under the guise of innovation and progress, companies are stripping away worker protections, pushing down wages, and flouting government regulations. At its core, the sharing economy is a scheme to shift risk from companies to workers, discourage labor organizing, and ensure that capitalists can reap huge profits with low fixed costs.
There’s nothing innovative or new about this business model. Uber is just capitalism, in its most naked form.
CAPTHCAs are a terrible, terrible solution to a technological problem. But at least these CAPTCHAs acknowledge that the person typing is not only not-a-bot, but a human being.
Yet another reason to host your own content instead of sharecropping; danah boyd wakes up one morning to find her Tumblr account has been moved to a different URL.
I believe it was the philosopher Conflicticus who said, "Only stupid bastards help EMI."
Oh, the irony! Unconstitutionally draconian French "anti-piracy" organisation uses a pirated font in its logo.
I’m Irish (well, half-Irish anyway). Most of the time, that’s something I can be proud of. Lately though, I’m feeling downright ashamed of my country.
ISPs in Ireland are facing legal threats by the recording industry trying to strong-arm them into cutting off internet access at their say-so …’cause, y’know, that worked out so well for New Zealand. Eircom have willingly rolled over. Other ISPs are resisting. A New Zealand-stlye blackout campaign is being organised.
While the recording industry tries to push through a policy of guilt by association, the Irish government is trying to revive an older form of guilt. Would you believe that, in Ireland, it might soon be possible to be found guilty of blasphemy? The supreme court says such a law is unenforceable, common decency says it flies in the face of separation of church and state, but the Irish justice minister says gimme that ol’ time religion.
Ah, Ireland. You’ve got the best music and the nicest people …but outdated business models and outdated superstitions make you the laughing stock of Europe.
What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.