9 months ago in Articles

Fusion Foolery

Even at 100% efficiency, we’d get just 25 times more energy out, or 75 MJ. That’s still not enough to pay for the price of admission (400 MJ, just for the laser part). [..] So what can we say about the public reaction to this news? Headlines in December gushed about the dawn of a new era of limitless energy.
 9 months ago in Quotes
There is no sadder story in American capitalism than the decline of HP from a wonderful equipment engineering company to a racket for selling tiny little tubs of overpriced ink.
 10 months ago in Articles

Counting Ghosts - A case for abandoning web analytics

Caring about quality is the heart of craftsmanship.
 10 months ago in Quotes
At my Fortune 250, our threat model apparently includes -- rather conveniently and coincidentally -- everything! Well, everything they make an off-the-shelf product for, anyway. It makes new purchasing decisions easy:

"Does your product make any thing, in any way, more secure?"

"Uh... Yes?"

"You son of a bitch. We're in. Roll it out everywhere. Now."
 10 months ago in Articles

The Decline of Usability (2020)

A favourite is removing visible tools with 3-dot menus in the name of "cleaner" or "more intuitive" user interface that turns one-click actions into two clicks: 2 clicks hundreds of times a day for the tool users. Tables that show 10 items with 4 details each in the same screen real estate that used to show 20 items with 6-8 details. Dashboards that show 4 graphs instead of 10.
 10 months ago in Articles

It’s Official: Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy

It’s bad enough for the behemoth corporations that own the car brands to have all that personal information in their possession, to use for their own research, marketing, or the ultra-vague “business purposes.” But then, most (84%) of the car brands we researched say they can share your personal data -- with service providers, data brokers, and other businesses we know little or nothing about. Worse, nineteen (76%) say they can sell your personal data.
 10 months ago in Articles

The Ugly Business of Monetizing Browser Extensions

I decided to haggle with these people to see how high they would be willing to go. Based on my handful of data points [# users, max_offer], it seems that these individuals are willing to pay about $0.20 per user.

Now I surely don’t know what the new owners of these extensions are doing with them, but I don’t think their intentions are noble. The vector for abuse is easy to understand: buy a well-used extension, compromise its users, and squeeze the juice however you like. Maybe you steal their credit card numbers, may be you sell their traffic, maybe you use them in a botnet. Again: it’s possible that these acquiring entities do not intend harm, but it sure doesn’t look that way.

To transfer ownership of a Chrome extension, all you have to do is fill out this form. That’s it. The users will not be notified of the new ownership, and their installed extension will continue to silently update with whatever new updates the new owners decide to push out.
 10 months ago in Articles

The Tyranny of the Marginal User

Nearly all popular consumer software has been trending towards minimal user agency, infinitely scrolling feeds, and garbage content. Even that crown jewel of the Internet, Google Search itself, has decayed to the point of being unusable for complicated queries. Reddit and Craigslist remain incredibly useful and valuable precisely because their software remains frozen in time. Like old Victorian mansions in San Francisco they stand, shielded by a quirk of fate from the winds of capital, reminders of a more humane age.

How is it possible that software gets worse, not better, over time, despite billions of dollars of R&D and rapid progress in tooling and AI? What evil force, more powerful than Innovation and Progress, is at work here?

In my six years at Google, I got to observe this force up close, relentlessly killing features users loved and eroding the last vestiges of creativity and agency from our products. I know this force well, and I hate it, but I do not yet know how to fight it.
 10 months ago in Quotes
Remember AOL keywords? They basically had their own private DNS alternative. Every commercial on TV for a website would say "AOL keyword !" instead of the actual URL. I guess it was a lot less scary for your average internet user to type in "nick" instead of "http://www.nick.com". I feel like we still kind of have the "URLs are hard" problem. I've noticed a lot of ads in Japan tell the users to search (presumably Google) for a specific phrase, and buying the adwords for that is more or less the modern equivalent of paying for an AOL keyword. Search was really rough back then (although it's gone full circle into shit again I feel), and the URL bar UX wasn't quite figured out yet. Will users be able to adapt to wacky new TLDs or will we be stuck with .com forever because it's recognizable as a domain name? Do people still type "www."? Is the app store the modern equivalent of AOL channels? Sometimes I wonder if we're stuck in an infinite cycle of reinventing AOL.
 11 months ago in Quotes
That's what happened with the internet, which was supposed to be the new Library of Alexandria, educating the world, liberating the masses from the grip of corporate ownership of data and government surveillance, and enabling free global communication and publishing.

It's almost entirely shit now. Instead of being educated, people are manipulated into bubbles of paranoid delusion and unreality, fed by memes and disinformation. Instead of liberation from corporate ownership, everything is infested with dark patterns, data mining, advertising, DRM and subscriptions. You will own nothing and be happy. Instead of liberation from government, the internet has become a platform for government surveillance, propaganda and psyops. Everyone used to have personal webpages and blogs, now everything is siloed into algorithmically-driven social media silos, gatekeeping content unless it drives addiction, parasociality or clickbait. What little that remains on the internet that's even worth anyone's time is all but impossible to find, and will eventually succumb to the cancer in due time.

LLMs will go the same way, because there is no other way for technology to go. Everything will be corrupted by the capitalist imperative, everything will be debased by the tragedy of the commons, every app, service and cool new thing will claw its way down the lobster bucket of society, across our beaten and scarred backs, to find the bottom common denominator of value and suck the marrow [from] its bones.

But at least I'll be able to run it on a cellphone. Score for progress?
 11 months ago in Articles

Fusion Foolery

It would be fun to count all the megajoules that went into press coverage of the event!
 11 months ago in Quotes
Everyone here knows where this is heading, and yet people will sit here and defend these companies as if they're on some righteous path. Humans are already becoming disposable statistics and the engines of compute, all for free and all for the benefit of corporations who didn't pay for any of it and don't even contribute back taxes.
 11 months ago in Quotes
Nowadays some insist it's ok to have a site that won't begin to do anything without JS, but at the same time it's not OK to mix JS into the HTML code.
 11 months ago in Quotes
Originally advertising was designed around the premise of explicitly highlighting utility and functionality of goods/content. It wasn't until Bernays came along and adapted his uncle Sigmund Freud's theories into practice by designing advertising to manipulate people into believing that they actually need the product.
 12 months ago in Quotes
Things will continue to spiral downwards for the majority of people while the rich will benefit from people like you to spread the word to all the commoners that everything’s fine and this is great for innovation!
 12 months ago in Quotes
The ruling class wants slaves.

Be it animal, human, or machine. In every case where something made a better slave, capital has switched to using it.

Recognize what class you're in and see it for what it is (lotta people identify with the ruling class on this site), but don't pretend for a second us tech workers are somehow insulated from being workers. No one will care when we're homeless on the street anymore than the current group of i-got-mines care about the current homeless.
 12 months ago in Quotes
The only way for upper management to really understand what's going on and give useful input would be for them to be directly involved on a day-to-day basis.

In other words, they would have to do actual work.

That's not going to happen. So the best they can do is to stay out of the way of people who are actually working, avoid making decrees, and maybe try to keep the other managers from interfering with the work also.

Maybe another approach would be for the workers to share more equally in the spoils so that they would be naturally inclined to integrate business improvements and goals. But that's never going to happen.

The structure is much more directly related to a caste system than people may acknowledge.