A distributed approach for controlling a vicious minority

Screaming For Halloween!! 

Thousands of developers sign plea for tolerance in gaming community
[Via Ars Technica]

Amid weeks of heated rhetoric and misogyny-charged threats and attacks in the gaming world, many members of the gaming industry have publicly signed on to a petition asking for tolerance and acceptance in the larger community.

“We believe that everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability has the right to play games, criticize games and make games without getting harassed or threatened,” Spaces of Play’s Andreas Zecher wrote in an open letter on Medium.

“It is the diversity of our community that allows games to flourish. If you see threats of violence or harm in comments on Steam, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook or reddit, please take a minute to report them on the respective sites,” the letter says. “If you see hateful, harassing speech, take a public stand against it and make the gaming community a more enjoyable space to be in.”


All you have to do is read the comments from a respected site that touched on the vicious rhetoric turned towards people who criticize how women are displayed in video games to see that there is a problem.

The best way to deal with these miscreants is to expose them publicly and demonstrate that their behavior will no longer be tolerated.

We do this in real life now – with outright racists speech that was once accepted no longer fit for polite society.we are learning how to do this better online.

I don;t expect it to go away, just as racism still exists but its public display will be shamed.

Make it a game – a distributed approach for dealing with protests

Ben the War Journalist 

Citizen journalism game will show how your photos change the story
[Via Engadget]

As the Ferguson protests made exceedingly clear, citizen journalism is both a blessing and a curse; while it can expose police brutality and censorship, it’s also prone to misinformation. But how do you illustrate the complexity of the subject for the general public? If you’re developer Nicky Case, who has a history of tackling difficult subjects, you build a gamearound it. His as yet unnamed title will have your character trying to gain Twitter followers (that is, score points) by taking photos at controversial events like protests. The trick will be to accurately capture what’s happening without polarizing any group more than necessary. You may want to photograph police corruption, but the cops could block you from certain areas if you antagonize them too quickly; at the same time, you don’t want to take extreme shots that turn peaceful protests into riots.


An interesting approach. Actully put players into a complex situation and let them try and figure out what the best approach is.

How you frame the story, will change the story.”

It looks to be quite an undertaking and may never see the light of day. but distributed approaches allow him to try.

Wall Street Recruiting – Why I’ve grown to hate Harvard

For Rent Sign 

Why Are Harvard Grads Still Flocking to Wall Street? by Amy J. Binder | 
[Via The Washington Monthly

In 2010, Bastian Nichols moved into his freshman dorm at Harvard without much thought of what he would do after graduation. He felt sure that in time he’d find a career that matched his passions (among them, journalism and travel), but while in college he would experiment at becoming “a more interesting person.”* His concentration in psychology and comparative literature matched his general philosophy. So did his choice of summer jobs, which ranged from leading a bike trip through Austria and working in a theater in Croatia to doing post-production work in an Italian film company.


When I was going to college, a generation ago, Harvard was known for training great scientists and liberal arts majors.  Now its the place for Wall Street players.

Wall Street really creates no new markets and, today, is mainly full of rent seekers. They  try to appropriate wealth rather than create it. So we get things like credit default swaps and derivatives and people who manipulate the political process for their own wealth while doing little to create new markets.

Adam Smith hated those who contributed little to wealth creation. Labor and Capital were needed to make new things. But not the renters (from the Wealth of Nations):

As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. The wood of the forest, the grass of the field, and all the natural fruits of the earth, which, when land was in common, cost the labourer only the trouble of gathering them, come, even to him, to have an additional price fixed upon them. He must then pay for the licence to gather them; and must give up to the landlord a portion of what his labour either collects or produces. This portion, or, what comes to the same thing, the price of this portion, constitutes the rent of land 

I dislike where rent seeking has taken us. We now have some of the brightest people in America not becoming researchers and  business leaders to create new wealth and new companies. We have them going to the financial arena to use money to make more money, to help run a financial casino.

Luckily, academia is being  hugely disrupted and there are other, cheaper avenues appearing for the smart people to get an education.

Could not happen sooner for the rent-seekers and their educational cronies.

Could texting help literacy?

 Writing Skills
[Via xkcd:]


He makes an interesting point. With so many people communicating with each other by the written language perhaps higher levels of literacy ill arise.

Because to be a part of the society arising from technology, you have to be able to communicate using words. And communication by words is the most powerful way to communicate.

Sure. there will be a lot of crap. But Sturgeon’s Law predicts that. I guess we shall see.

Ebola DNA changes may hold key



Scientists found the origins of the Ebola outbreak — by tracking its mutations – 
[Via Vox]

One of the big mysteries in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is where the virus came from in the first place — and whether it’s changed in any significant ways. These unanswered questions could be making it more difficult to diagnose the disease and find treatments.

Now scientists are starting to get some answers. In a new paper in Science, researchers reveal that they have sequenced the genomes of Ebola from 78 patients in Sierra Leone who contracted the disease in May and June. Those sequences revealed some 300 mutations specific to this outbreak.


I wrote about this almost a month ago. There was something different about this outbreak and it might be due to new variants of the virus.

Now we have sequence data that shows this virus outbreak has a new strain(s) involved.

Researchers are also planning to study the mutations to see if any of them are affecting Ebola’s recent behavior. The number of mutations found is completely normal, and it isn’t necessarily the case that they’ll have a big effect. But it’s possible that something intriguing could turn up.

For example, this outbreak has had a higher transmission rate and lower death rate than others, and researchers are curious if any of these mutations are related to that. (Right now, social factors are thought to be the main causes of these two changes.)

Higher transmission rates coupled with lower mortality. That is what has usually been seen with other viral outbreaks in humans. Until there is a balance reached.

The changes are found throughout the genome and by studying them, they have been able to put together a ‘genealogy’  of the virus variants from the first outbreak in 1975.

ebola strains

I expect we will have treatments for this rather rapidly. Now that we have some data.

Tragically, this paper ends in something I have never seen before in a research paper:

In memoriam: Tragically, five co-authors, who contributed greatly to public health and research efforts in Sierra Leone, contracted EVD in the course of their work and lost their battle with the disease before this manuscript could be published. We wish to honor their memory.

Such brave people. Their pictures are at the top.

Social media creating silence?


[Via Dave Winer's linkblog feed]

How Social Media Silences Debate.


I’m skeptical that social media silences debate. It opens up a different sort of discussion tool, one that both reflects how humans create community and offers new approaches.

First, this deals with a specific issue – the NSA and Snowden. It hits an area where there can be very little discussion. People already have hardened positions not open foe debate. Few will be persuaded to change.

So why discuss it online, where your words are there forever? At best you may talk about it with people that agree with you but no way will you confront those who are on the other side. You do not know if any of them are really crazy. 

People have always refrained from discussion of politics in public. Because people have hardened positions and will not change their views. Because people are crazy. No one talks politics in polite company.

A liberal at a conservative family’s Thanksgiving dinner is not going to be all in on Obamacare. Same with a conservative meeting a liberal group from San Francisco.

No talk of controversial things. Unless it is a company they felt safe in. That already agrees with them.

First, perhaps 2/3rds of a population connect strictly to a local community, one that provides them information mainly from each other and one where opinions match. They do not like lots of new information, feeling comfortable with what the group ‘knows.’

This is true whether online or in person.

On the other hand,  perhaps 10% of a group is highly connected to other groups, moving information rapidly between groups and acting to disrupt the comfortable views of the majority.

The majority usually hates them, calls them impolite at best and jerks at worst. But without them, the community achieves epistemic closure and pinches itself off from humanity, becoming a bubble that has no impact on the world.

A sustainable community needs both. Too few disruptors and it simply becomes brittle and unable to adapt as the world changes. It cracks easily.

Online allows communities to come together much more rapidly and easily. Because the online world facilitates the flow of information by this 10% group, it is no wonder that the majority hates being open on social media. Everyone can see what they think.

For them, it is easier to control the flow of information, and thus who hears an opinion, when at a dinner party than when on Facebook. But being in the minority at a party does not mean you are more likely to speak.

If you do you may never be invited back. 

This does not change online. Those disruptors that speak online can simply be unFriended.

It is not that minority views are more likely to be heard by the majority in an online discussion. Most people only connect to people like them. 

It is that minority views can exist at all, find their own community and sustain themselves. Without online discussion, many of these minority views would simply dissipate. But by forming their own community, they can be sustained.

Perhaps this is one reason we are seeing so much Geek Culture hitting the mainstream. That niche community was sustained in ways that allowed ti to become much more ‘normal.’

Sure, niche communities are made up of humans and will also often exclude minority views. But the ease for creating these communities, for joining and for leaving, means that large amounts of information can flow between communities than could ever before.

I can easily find and join networks that discuss either aspect of almost any topic. I have been part of more vigorous discussions online than I ever did in any other sector of my life. Online communities are expansive for me, not restrictive.

The Twitch purchase – more proof that cable TV is dying

Thrown into the Deep End

Recode: Amazon to Acquire Twitch for More Than $1 Billion
[Via Daring Fireball]

Peter Kafka and Eric Johnson, reporting for Recode:

Amazon is buying videogame streaming site Twitch for more than $1 billion to edge past Netflix and Youtube in a race for younger viewers, according to a source.

Google had been in talks to acquire the company, but that deal died, according to the source. Amazon then entered the picture and completed what is one of its biggest acquisitions to date, this person said.

For the uninitiated, Twitch is a platform for making and talking about videos of videogame play. About a million users a month record themselves playing videogames, while the rest — pegged at 50 million unique viewers in July — watch and comment on the videos. In January, Twitch reported that 58 percent of its viewers spent more than 20 hours per week on the site.

The future of TV is online streaming, not traditional “channels” that come through cable or satellite. It occurs to me that Google’s 2006 purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion has proven to be one of the smartest and most important acquisitions of the Internet era. My son and his friends watch far more YouTube content than they do traditional TV. Cable TV is dying.


The median age of people watching broadcast networks is 60. The median age for Fox News is 68. That increased  almost 2 years over the course of one – suggesting that FOX is not attracting younger viewers.

So what are the younger people doing if not watching TV? Streaming video on demand is one of them. They can watch virtually anything online. And if it is not online, it is probably not worth watching. 

Netflix is producing great things to watch. At anytime you want. without having to wait weeks to see each episode. Twitch is another novel entertainment solution. I would not expect watching video games played by others to be big but it is.

Heck, even the Emmy broadcast last night made fun of this, with jokes about how many awards Netflix was garnering. Very few of the class programs, from Game of Thrones to Breaking Bad to True Detective or Fargo have to be shown on TV.

Especially as costs drop and disruption accelerates. Netflix makes money of programs like House of Cards if it is able to keep just a few hundred thousand people paying.

I get to watch a lot free video at Amazon if I have a Prime Account (closing in on $100 a year). If HBO had a streaming service apart from cable, would they make more money? There are a ton of hits to get HBO without cable.

$1 billion may be chump change as things progress. 


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