Shared posts

19 Jan 13:28

You don’t have to take every handout or jump through every loophole

by DHH
You don’t have to agree with Uncle Sam on how he conducts all of his affairs to accept that “starving the beast” isn’t a path that leads anywhere good long term.

Basecamp used to take two common business deductions called the domestic manufacturing credit (§199) and the Research & Development credit. Both of these tax credits were substantial, both were recommended by esteemed accounting firms with entire departments dedicated to their exploitation, and both were total fucking bullshit.

So we stopped taking them. (You should have seen the faces of our new accountants as we told them this 😂).

Supposedly these credits are there to encourage American companies to spend on R&D and to keep manufacturing jobs in the country, but give me a break. I’d wager that the vast majority of companies that accept these tax handouts do not base their decisions about how much to spend on R&D or whether to hire domestically on these credits in the least. It’s just free money.

Now the conventional wisdom goes that companies have a fiduciary duty to squeeze, pull, and bend the tax code until it submits to the minimal possible effective rate. That executives and accountants simply must exploit every loophole and take every handout. Then celebrate when they score undue deduction after undue deduction with ever more lavish bonuses and payouts.

Fuck that.

Now, I’m not saying that you should voluntarily just send a bigger check to the IRS than your nominal rate requires. Or that there aren’t reasonable deductions that perhaps make sense and encourage good behavior in circumstances. But I am saying you’re allowed to read the intent of the law, not just the letter of it. That beating the system with the IRS as your opponent is a dismal and dark assessment of a companies role in the larger society.

You can absolutely chose not to partake in these schemes. But first you have to break out of the paradigm that has most executives and accountants treat loophole exploitation as the default strategy.

The scandal isn’t what’s illegal but what’s legal. Don’t be so scandalous.

It’s time to reimagine capitalism. It doesn’t have to be at war with doing what’s good for society. To pay workers better, to pay its fair share of taxes, to be contend with enough. You can do all this and still take a profit.


You don’t have to take every handout or jump through every loophole was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

16 Jan 14:22

Hypokondrisk inne- och utelista

by Hexmaster
Den här intervjun är inte pinfärsk men det spelar ingen roll, tvärtom. Vilka exempel på falska diagnoser (ett bättre begrepp än det rätt hemska "inbillningssjukor", då symptomen ofta är nog så verkliga) räknar den skeptiske läkaren upp?
– Amalgamsjuka, elallergi, kronisk borrelia till exempel. Trötta binjurar är inte heller någon sjukdom som vi vanliga läkare tycker existerar.
- Läkaren Mats Reimer i Läkare varnar: Felaktiga råd sprids på nätet, SVT 9 september 2015

Få se:
  • Ute Det är länge sedan amalgamsjuka var inne och det lär bli ännu mer bortglömt för varje år.
  • Ute Elalleri har fortfarande sina anhängare men börjar också att kännas passé.
  • Inne – Kronisk borrelia är betydligt hetare än de två ovan.
  • Inne – Trötta binjurar är det senaste tillskottet på listan, det minst kända och därmed minst utslitna.
För även i hypokondrins värld gäller att det som ska vara inne varken får vara för okänt eller känt, liksom att inget är så ute som det som verkligen varit inne ett längre tag.

15 Jan 11:08

Foreclosing on the future of the book

by Tim Carmody

Microsoft Reader Ad - 1999.jpg

At Wired, my old colleague David Pierce writes about a topic near and dear to my heart: Amazon’s Kindle, and its effects on how we buy and read books:

For a decade, Amazon’s relentlessly offered new ways for people to read books. But even as platforms change, books haven’t, and the incompatibility is beginning to show. Phones and tablets contain nothing of what makes a paperback wonderful. They’re full of distractions, eye-wrecking backlights, and batteries that die in a few hours. They also open up massive new opportunities. On a tablet, books don’t have to consist only of hundreds of pages set in a row. They can be easily navigable, endlessly searchable, and constantly updated. They can use images, video, even games to augment the experience….

The next phase for the digital book seems likely to not resemble print at all. Instead, the next step is for authors, publishers, and readers to take advantage of all the tools now at their disposal and figure out how to reinvent longform reading. Just as filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh are experimenting with what it means to make a “movie” that’s really an app on a totally interactive device with a smaller screen, Amazon and the book world are beginning to figure out what’s possible when you’re not dealing with paper anymore.

Except… not really.

Very few people have held out more hope for the digital transformation of the book than me. I used to run a website called Bookfuturism. I wrote, at length, in The Atlantic, at Wired, at The Verge, at any magazine or website that would have me, about the possibility of a new reading avant-garde. And it just never happened. For reasons.

For one thing, almost every kind of forward-looking reading technology can be put to more lucrative uses than making e-books. Facebook will buy your company. Google will buy your company. Some games publisher will buy your company. You will not be making books any more. You will be making something else. It might be cool! But it won’t be books.

Second, and more importantly, the main way that the Kindle and other digital devices have transformed books is to make them as liquid as possible. By liquid, I mean, they take the shape of their container, rather than dictating the container’s shape. You need a single book to read in much the same way on a Kindle as on an iPhone, a full-sized tablet, a PC, and on whatever device you’re using to read your audiobook. Plus, you know-printed books, which are still huge. And part of the value of the digital book is that it’s a reasonable facsimile of the printed book.

While all of these devices are more multimedia-capable than an analog printed book, the differences between their capabilities is vast, and designing around those differences is no easy task. So Amazon has done what I think any of us might do given those requirements, and basically de-formed the book, deemphasizing page design and anything else that might not cross over to devices with different screen sizes, media capabilities, and affordances.

Getting wild with digital design in 2018 means getting wild in 2018 with responsive design that’s agnostic to the kind of device you’re rocking. That’s doable, probably, but it’s really, really hard.

“If Amazon wanted to, it could with a single act bring a new form of book into being,” Pierce writes. It’s true that Amazon is probably the only company that could do so. But it has good reasons, not least the overall conservative nature of the book market writ large, to move exceedingly slowly.

Every generation deserves to have its own dreams for the future of the book dashed against the wall. For reference, here is a timeline Microsoft-nice, safe, Word-and-Office Microsoft!-put forward back in 1999.

2003- eBook devices weigh less than a pound and run for eight hours on a charge. Costs run from $99 for a simple black and white device to about $899 for the most powerful, color magazine-sized machine.

2005- eBook title and ePeriodical sales top $1 billion. Many serial publications are given away free with advertising support that now also totals more than $1 billion. An estimated 250 million people regularly read books and newspapers on their PCs, laptops, and palm machines.

2006- eNewstands (kiosks) proliferate on street corners, airports, etc. As usual, airlines offer customers old magazines on the flight, but the magazines are now downloaded to eBook devices.

2009- Several top authors now publish directly to their audiences, many of whom subscribe to their favorite authors rather than buy book-by-book. Some authors join genre cooperatives, in which they hold an ownership stake, to cover the costs of marketing, handle group advertising sales and sell “ancillary” (that is, non-electronic) rights, including “paper rights.” Major publishing houses survive and prosper by offering authors editing and marketing services, rather than arranging for book printing. Printing firms diversify into eBook preparation and converting old paper titles to electronic formats.

2011- Advances in non-volatile chip storage, including Hitachi’s Single Electron terabit chip, allow eBooks to store 4 million books - more than many university libraries - or every newspaper ever printed in America.

2012- The pulp industry mounts its pro-paper “Real Books” ad campaign, featuring a friendly logger who urges consumers to “Buy the real thing - real books printed on real paper.”

2018- In common parlance, eBook titles are simply called “books.” The old kinds are increasingly called “paper books.”

2020- Ninety percent of all titles are now sold in electronic rather than paper form. Webster alters its First Definition of “book” to mean, “a substantial piece of writing commonly displayed on a computer or other personal viewing device.”.

The technology has never been the issue. The willingness of big players in the industry to move quickly has never been the issue. I never thought Kindles were going to be wildly experimental, but I thought they might start doing everything that text does, or that paper does. But people don’t really want to even do Sudoku on their Kindles. What they seem to want to do is read (and in some cases, listen to) books. Books, and the enormous and enormously complex interconnected nature of the book market and book readership, seem to be the issue. You just can’t make that barge turn on a hairpin.

(Thanks to John Overholt and Catablogger for a photo of the Microsoft ad.)

Tags: Amazon   books   David Pierce   publishing
15 Jan 09:35

Peter Valdes-Dapena Reviews the Tesla Model 3

by John Gruber

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a review for CNN, the video seems like the “real” review, and the written article seems like an afterthought extracted from the video review. He makes three main points:

  1. The car drives and performs well, about how you’d expect given Tesla’s reputation.

  2. It’s expensive for what you get compared to other cars in this price range — but this point seems hard to quantify, because none of those other cars have Tesla’s excellent electric drive train.

  3. Having almost all of the controls, including things like controlling the air vents, go through the touchscreen is not a good design. He writes:

    To do almost anything, from adjusting the mirrors to tweaking the car’s speed while driving in Autopilot, I had to use the screen. There are two unmarked knobs on the steering that are involved in various functions but, before you can use the knobs, you have to poke around on the big screen first. It’s annoying and most people will hate it. More importantly, it’s terribly distracting.

I feel like #3 is by far the most interesting point, but Valdes-Dapena seems ill-equipped to make it. He just says it’s very annoying, rather than explaining or illustrating why it’s annoying. Perhaps because he’s used to writing about cars, not about user interfaces?

I’ve long been frustrated by the fact that car reviews seldom devote attention or expertise to the design of the controls of the car. They matter a lot to me (shocker, I know), but I think they matter a lot to everyone, whether they think about control design consciously or not. The Model 3’s touchscreen centric design is so radical, it deserves a thorough review of its own.

11 Jan 12:15

Kassetthouse 2017

by rasmus

För ett drygt år sedan la jag upp en lista med 12 riktigt bra kassetter som släpptes under 2016, mer eller mindre möjliga att trycka in under etiketten “kassetthouse”. Nu är det dags igen.

Vi säger “house” mest av bekvämlighetsskäl. Något som överlappar såväl med techno och acid som med vissa former av disco och funk, liksom alltsammans i olika grad kan glida in mot ambient. Ingen kan överblicka allt, men kassettformatets materialitet gör att det ändå går att skymta vissa väggar och tänka sig ett rum, där en handfull kassettbolag verkar befinna sig särskilt centralt. Här kan vi notera en förlust: 1080p från Vancouver, som stod för några av 2016 års bästa släpp, tystnade plötsligt och har inte märkts av under hela 2017. Däremot fortsätter 100% Silk (Los Angeles) att imponera, gång på gång, medan Seagrave (London) har ökat tempot på sina släpp med lite mer abstrakt musik och i den brittiska scenen måste jag även nämna de färgglada släppen från Acid Waxa (Newcastle).
För att inte glömma alla de artister som släpper på egen hand, oftast via Bandcamp (vars centrala betydelse som nod kanske är en akilleshäl för hela kassettscenen). Där går nästan alla släpp att hitta även i digital version. (Huruvida musiken finns på typ Spotify orkar väl inte jag kolla upp. Kanske gör den det.)

Min princip för den här listan är att bara ta med kassetter som jag själv faktiskt har köpt (innan de oftast små upplagorna tagit slut). Så löste jag överblicksproblemet. Här listar jag dem, 22 stycken, i alfabetisk ordning. Jag tänker försöka undvika att beskriva hur musiken låter eftersom jag just nu inte orkar med inflationen av subgenrer och de förutsägbara motreaktioner som sedan kommer som ett brev på posten.

* * *

A Thousand Mouths ‎– A Thousand Mouths (Lamour)

Lagom tills att träden tappade sina löv släppte Gävlebolaget Lamour den här mycket höstiga C40-kassetten med två spår på ena sidan och ett på den andra. Analoga klanger som rör sig mellan acid och ambient. Bakom artistnamnet står malmöiten Anders Walldén.
A Thousand Mouths by A Thousand Mouths

AIWA – Recent Ups and Downs (Seagrave)
Flera helkvällar i höstas snurrade den här kassetten varv efter varv i min bandare. Lajos Nádházi från Budapest (och som väl hör till samma scen som S Olbricht) beskriver själv sin musik som “fusion funk hardware jamz”.
Recent Ups and Downs by A I W A

Birdy Earns ‎– Nachtangst (Seagrave)
Ännu ett släpp från Seagrave som är svårt att placera i ett fack, utöver att det ligger i linje med Seagraves övriga utgivning. Erinrar kanske lite mer om tidigt 2000-tal, på ett lekfullt sätt.
Nachtangst by Birdy Earns

Deeper Kenz – Deeper Kenz (100% Silk)
Bland de mest dansanta släppen i årets lista. Direkt från norra Philadelphia. Den här låten kanske ni känner igen från TMP #002:
Deeper Kenz by Deeper Kenz

DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ – Makin’ Magick
Kanske något att antingen älska eller hata. De som slentriangnäller på lo-fi har verkligen fått en krok att hugga på. Själv älskar jag DJ Sabrina the Teenage DJ, vem som än döljer sig bakom det underbart fåniga artistnamnet, som får den musikaliskt närbesläktade DJ Seinfeld att blekna. Alldeles oavsett alla samplingar från tv-serien, så är det här musik som gör mig glad. Punkt. Dessutom kom den hem till mig i form av en skrikrosa dubbelkassett. Vill ha mer.
Makin' Magick by DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ

Fennec – One Night Could Change Your Life
Till skillnad från ovanstående kan detta inte anklagas för ironi. Fennecs samplingsspäckade house är på samma gång lekfull och oerhört varm och känslomättad. De långa tacklistorna känns också befriande ocreddiga. Den här gången får vi en givande bakgrundsbeskrivning. Fennec är tydligen från den amerikanska Mellanvästern, långt från storstädernas klubbkultur. I stället sprider sig dansmusiken via intima fester i människors egna källare. Den här kassetten är ett försök att skildra periferins värme. Upplagan är fortfarande inte slutsåld!
One Night Could Change Your Life by Fennec

French 79 – Olympic
Mina barn gillar den här kassetten mycket. Men jag är inte heller själv helt osvag för dess varma syntpop med vokala inslag. Utgivet på Data Airlines som annars mest är en institution inom chiptune (och t.ex. har gett ut en rad släpp med svenska Dubmood, som vissa av er säkert minns från Piratbyråntiden).
Olympic by French 79

Inner Self ‎– O​.​E. Outside Experience (100% Silk)
New York-producenten Andrew Stefano rör sig mellan deep house och elektronisk jazz, så visst, kalla det gärna fusion. Även detta är en kassett som med sina varma syntklanger envisats med att spelas varv efter varv på kvällarna hemma hos mig.
O.E. Outside Experience by Inner Self

Iku Sakan – Human Wave Music (Natural Sciences)
Japansk ambient. Fuktig och metallisk.
Human Wave Music by Iku Sakan

ISSHU – Bloc (Seagrave)
16 korta spår med dekonstruerad dansmusik. Bra introduktion till Seagraves estetik. Ännu inte slutsåld!
Bloc by ISSHU

Jjakub – Entry Level (Seagrave)
“Techno reduced down to a ultra-potent soup”, skrev någon. Ungefär så. Nyfiken på vart detta ska ta vägen.
Entry Level by Jjakub

Khotin ‎– New Tab
Ljud som jag fortfarande förknippar med försommaren. Khotin från Vancouver har tidigare mest gjort dansmusik, men detta är någonting annat, mestadels renodlad ambient, känslosamt med lite samplade röster. (Men missa ändå inte föregående årets vinyl Baikal Acid, kanske ett av de sista släpp som gjordes på 1080p.)
New Tab by Khotin

Lesinge – Slide Blinders (Acid Waxa)
Acid som från och till erinrar ordentligt om de släpp som Richard D. James i början av seklet släppte under artistnamnet Analord, men också om Ceephax. Alltsammans levererat i ett mycket snyggt omslag signerat Broshuda.
Slide Blinders by Lesinge

Michael Claus – Memory Protect (100 % Silk)
Introvert och samtidigt drivig techno/house. Skulle kunna vara 2017 års bästa släpp från 100% Silk.
Memory Protect by Michael Claus

Minimal Violence – Live at the Pickle Factory (Lobster Theremin)
Ett set med mörk acid och synkoperad techno, inspelat i somras på en klubb i östra London. Årets enda kassettsläpp från Lobster Theremin som annars ger ut mycket av den allra bästa dansmusiken i vår tid. (Hoppa gärna till 4.40 i klippet.)

MONO.1 (Modularfield/Noorden)
Inspelade livesessioner med olika artister knutna till de två Köln-etiketterna. Stilarna växlar lite för fort för att jag ska hinna med och visst blir det ganska ojämnt, men särskilt på B-sidan finns ett par riktigt bra passager.
MONO.1 by Modularfield x Noorden

PKU! – Veggie
Vet inte vad detta är för Stockholmare men deras musik är rolig! Fullt av samplingar, även från gamla svenska filmer. “Det måste ju funnits nån kvinna som gjorde nånting bra under första världskriget” kan vara årets låttitel. Upplagan om 20 kassetter än ännu inte slutsåld!
Veggie by PKU!

Replica – Gold
Londonproducenten beskriver sin kassett som “en dekonstruktion av housegenren”. En utsökt liten resa.
Gold by Replica

Roy of the Ravers – Acid Royale (Acid Waxa)
Lekfull acid från Newcastle.
Acid Royale by Roy Of The Ravers

Åmnfx ‎– Moscow Beat (100 % Silk)
Rysk producent som genom sitt sätt att abstrahera för tankarna till mycket av vad som under året utgavs på Seagrave.
Moscow Beat by åmnfx

V/A – Sensate Silk (100% Silk)
Brukar inte köpa samlingskassetter, men har ändå svårt att inte köpa allt från 100% Silk och den här var ingen besvikelse. En rad bra bidrag från nya och okända producenter, men en av dem sticker ut – berlinaren Westcoast Goddess (som just har släppt sin första vinyl på stockholmska Omena).
Sensate Silk by 100% Silk

V/A – Volna 1 (Volna)
Rysk kassetthouse har en särskilt plats i mitt hjärta och det verkar hända mycket på den fronten nu. Vad som i väst kallas för “low-fi house” verkar ryssarna helt enkelt kalla “raw” och öppna för en större bredd av influenser från hiphop, r’n’b och techno – utan gränser för hur opolerad ljudbilden kan bli. Underbart. Mitt intryck är att detta är något som rör sig utanför de allra största städerna i Ryssland. Den här kassetten anlände till mig från en avsändaradress i Nizjnij Novgorod. Räkna med att höra mer från den ryska kassetthousescenen under 2018, inte minst sedan nu ett amerikanskt bolag släppt samlingskassetten “Dirty tapes from Russia, vol. II“.
VOLNA 1 by VOLNA

11 Jan 09:09

Ubiquity and consistency

I keep thinking about this post from Baldur Bjarnason, Over-engineering is under-engineering. It took me a while to get my head around what he was saying, but now that (I think) I understand it, I find it to be very astute.

Let’s take a single interface element, say, a dropdown menu. This is the example Laura uses in her article for 24 Ways called Accessibility Through Semantic HTML. You’ve got two choices, broadly speaking:

  1. Use the HTML select element.
  2. Create your own dropdown widget using JavaScript (working with divs and spans).

The advantage of the first choice is that it’s lightweight, it works everywhere, and the browser does all the hard work for you.

But…

You don’t get complete control. Because the browser is doing the heavy lifting, you can’t craft the details of the dropdown to look identical on different browser/OS combinations.

That’s where the second option comes in. By scripting your own dropdown, you get complete control over the appearance and behaviour of the widget. The disadvantage is that, because you’re now doing all the work instead of the browser, it’s up to you to do all the work—that means lots of JavaScript, thinking about edge cases, and making the whole thing accessible.

This is the point that Baldur makes: no matter how much you over-engineer your own custom solution, there’ll always be something that falls between the cracks. So, ironically, the over-engineered solution—when compared to the simple under-engineered native browser solution—ends up being under-engineered.

Is it worth it? Rian Rietveld asks:

It is impossible to style select option. But is that really necessary? Is it worth abandoning the native browser behavior for a complete rewrite in JavaScript of the functionality?

The answer, as ever, is it depends. It depends on your priorities. If your priority is having consistent control over the details, then foregoing native browser functionality in favour of scripting everything yourself aligns with your goals.

But I’m reminded of something that Eric often says:

The web does not value consistency. The web values ubiquity.

Ubiquity; universality; accessibility—however you want to label it, it’s what lies at the heart of the World Wide Web. It’s the idea that anyone should be able to access a resource, regardless of technical or personal constraints. It’s an admirable goal, and what’s even more admirable is that the web succeeds in this goal! But sometimes something’s gotta give, and that something is control. Rian again:

The days that a website must be pixel perfect and must look the same in every browser are over. There are so many devices these days, that an identical design for all is not doable. Or we must take a huge effort for custom form elements design.

So far I’ve only been looking at the micro scale of a single interface element, but this tension between ubiquity and consistency plays out at larger scales too. Take page navigations. That’s literally what browsers do. Click on a link, and the browser fetches that URL, displaying progress at it goes. The alternative, as exemplified by single page apps, is to do all of that for yourself using JavaScript: figure out the routing, show some kind of progress, load some JSON, parse it, convert it into HTML, and update the DOM.

Personally, I tend to go for the first option. Partly that’s because I like to apply the rule of least power, but mostly it’s because I’m very lazy (I also have qualms about sending a whole lotta JavaScript down the wire just so the end user gets to do something that their browser would do for them anyway). But I get it. I understand why others might wish for greater control, even if it comes with a price tag of fragility.

I think Jake’s navigation transitions proposal is fascinating. What if there were a browser-native way to get more control over how page navigations happen? I reckon that would cover the justification of 90% of single page apps.

That’s a great way of examining these kinds of decisions and questioning how this tension could be resolved. If people are frustrated by the lack of control in browser-native navigations, let’s figure out a way to give them more control. If people are frustrated by the lack of styling for select elements, maybe we should figure out a way of giving them more control over styling.

Hang on though. I feel like I’ve painted a divisive picture, like you have to make a choice between ubiquity or consistency. But the rather wonderful truth is that, on the web, you can have your cake and eat it. That’s what I was getting at with the three-step approach I describe in Resilient Web Design:

  1. Identify core functionality.
  2. Make that functionality available using the simplest possible technology.
  3. Enhance!

Like, say…

  1. The user needs to select an item from a list of options.
  2. Use a select element.
  3. Use JavaScript to replace that native element with a widget of your own devising.

Or…

  1. The user needs to navigate to another page.
  2. Use an a element with an href attribute.
  3. Use JavaScript to intercept that click, add a nice transition, and pull in the content using Ajax.

The pushback I get from people in the control/consistency camp is that this sounds like more work. It kinda is. But honestly, in my experience, it’s not that much more work. Also, and I realise I’m contradicting the part where I said I’m lazy, but that’s why it’s called work. This is our job. It’s not about what we prefer; it’s about serving the needs of the people who use what we build.

Anyway, if I were to rephrase my three-step process in terms of under-engineering and over-engineering, it might look something like this:

  1. Start with user needs.
  2. Build an under-engineered solution—one that might not offer you much control, but that works for everyone.
  3. Layer on a more over-engineered solution—one that might not work for everyone, but that offers you more control.

Ubiquity, then consistency.

10 Jan 14:02

Om de vita bussarna

by Hexmaster
En vitmålad bil, sönderskjuten av allierat flyg.

Under andra världskrigets sista månader genomfördes en räddningsaktion som blivit vida känd och även föremål för en del missuppfattningar och missriktad kritik.

Idén och förarbetet kom från norrmän; om en enda person ska nämnas så är det Niels Christian DitleffWP, norsk diplomat i Stockholm. Han var helt emot idén att vänta tills de allierade befriade koncentrationslägren. Organiseradet utfördes av Svenska Röda Korset, det är också dess vice ordförande Folke Bernadotte som främst förknippas med projektet. Den första fasen av aktionen bekostades av det svenska försvaret (svenskarna var militärer och fick ta tjänstledigt när de skulle agera i krigförande land), den andra och större främst av det danska.

De vita bussarna var ett unikt projekt med unika förutsättningar. Den ursprungliga idén var att rädda norska, danska och svenska medborgare ur tyska läger; man befarade att nazisterna skulle försöka utplåna alla läger och dess fångar innan kriget tog slut, vilket också inträffade på många håll. Den 8 mars 1945 lämnade en karavan med över 70 fordon Hässleholm för att bege sig in i krigets Tyskland. Hälften var bussar, hälften andra fordon. Man fick utrusta sig som om man skulle till nordpolen och ta med sig precis allt: mat, drivmedel, utrustning ner till minsta plåster. I Tyskland våren 1945 kunde man inte stanna till på Autobahn för att bunkra; man fick vara glad om man överlevde. De allierade, som sedan länge behärskade luftrummet, förklarade också att de inte kunde garantera deras säkerhet — annorlunda uttryckt, skyll er själva om ni blir angripna. Det var, trots allt, en krigszon. Vad jag förstått hade de heller inget folkrättsligt skydd. Fordonen målades som ambulanser, vita med röda kors (i den andra fasen fick de danska flaggor) i förhoppning om att slippa bli angripna. Ändå angreps de flera gånger av allierat flyg. Såväl personal som befriade fångar skadades och dödades.

Men det som var mest speciellt var att allting genomfördes med Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmlers tillåtelse. Han hade, likt praktiskt taget alla andra tyskar, länge insett att kriget var förlorat, och försökte nu att ställa in sig hos västmakterna. Han förde diskussioner med Bernadotte om en separatfred med västmakterna, med en förtvivlad förhoppning om att fortsätta kriget mot Sovjetunionen. Det var därför han, under mycket lirkande, gradvis tillät skandinaverna att hämta fler och fler fångar ur lägren, givetvis under ständig övervakning från Gestapo och SS. Himmler var också mycket noga med att försäkra sig om att ingenting fick läcka ut till pressen — det skulle ha ställt honom i dålig dager hos Hitler.

Det har framförts kritik mot aktionen. Den har gått ut på att skandinaver prioriterades, vilket är sant; att fångtransporter mellan läger utfördes av de vita bussarna, vilket också är sant (de utvalda fångarna mellanlandade i lägret Neuengamme nära danska gränsen som då fick tömmas på andra fångar); och att man då bröt mot Röda Korsets regel om att prioritera de som bäst behöver hjälp, vilket är sant — men samtliga regelbrott var förutsättningar för hela operationen. Det var inte frågan om någon sorts kommandoräd som på eget bevåg körde ner och befriade fångar, eller hur man tänker sig det hela. Den som fått det intrycket har fått fel intryck.
Berättelsen om Svenska Röda korsets dödliga transporter tenderar att falla ur det kollektiva minnet. Det tog över ett halvt sekel innan eftervärlden fick kunskap om vad som hände dessa krigsfångar. Att komma ihåg deras livsöden, samtidigt som man också minns att Bernadotte-aktionen lyckades rädda tiotusentals människor till Sverige i krigets slutskede, är vad som krävs för att göra historien rättvisa.
- Ingrid Lomfors: Vita bussarnas svarta historia, Sydsvenskan 21 april 2015

Artikeln från 2015 är en uppdatering av en artikel från 2005 där tonen mot Bernadotte var betydligt hårdare. Stycket ovan lades till, stycket nedan togs bort.
Folke Bernadotte och de vita bussarna var inte bara i mars 1945 involverade i byteshandel med människoliv, utan ända fram till krigsslutet, och regeringen i Stockholm gav direktiv om vilka fångar av rätt nationalitet som skulle räddas till Sverige.
- Ingrid Lomfors: Mörka fläckar på de vita bussarna, DN 26 januari 2005

Lomfors är sedan 2014 chef för Forum för levande historia. Ett Forum som gjort och gör mycket för att sprida information om förintelsen, men samtidigt haft en omotiverat njugg inställning till Röda Korsets vita bussar.

10 Jan 12:12

Den unge stjärnprogrammeraren

by Hexmaster
I början av 1980-talet kom hemdatorvågen. En populär historia som återberättades lite varstans, som sig bör med varierande detaljer och sanningshalt, handlade om tonårsgrabben som satt inne på pojkrummet och programmerade på sin dator – för att rätt som det var bli miljonär på sin skapelse. Vi återkommer strax till den berättelsen.

I Liverpool bildades 1982 ett dataspelsföretag som hette Imagine. Redan året därpå var det ett av Storbritanniens mest omskrivna företag, alla kategorier. Det hade gått från noll till miljonomsättning på ingen tid alls, dess spel sålde obegripliga mängder, och de oförskämt unga grundarna hade blivit hejdlöst rika. Det tydligaste tecknet på framgång var ett obligatoriskt inslag i tidningsartiklarna: På företagets parkering stod rader med sportbilar.

En sportbil hade också en roll i berättelsen om deras stjärnprogrammerare. Eugene Evans hade en årslön på 35 000 pund (idag skulle det motsvara över 100 000:- i månaden) och ägde en Lotus Esprit. Han körde den dock inte till jobbet. Vilket berodde på att han inte hade något körkort, vilket berodde på att han var 16 år ... Han som börjat som assistent i en datoraffär häromåret kunde plötsligt köpa elektronik för tusentals kronor, även om han var tvungen att betala med fem punds-sedlar, vilket berodde på att han var för ung för att få betalkort eller checkkonto.

Allt om hemdatorer nr 2/1983

1984 gick Imagine i konkurs. De hade inte alls sålt särskilt mycket, särskilt inte på det senaste året. De många häftiga bilarna var hyrda eller köpta på avbetalning. Evans hade aldrig varit någon stjärnprogrammerare. Han hade fått rollen som Wunderkind för att han var ung, utåtriktad, såg någorlunda bra ut och därtill kunde programmera över huvud taget. Han hade skrivit något enstaka spel för Imagine men inget av deras mest sålda. Några 35 000 i årslön, eller vilka uppgifter som nu cirkulerade, hade han definitivt aldrig haft. Allt detta kände naturligtvis hans kolleger till, på Imagine liksom på andra företag i den lilla branschen; man kan föreställa sig vad de tänkte när de läste de upphetsade hyllningsartiklarna.

Man hade kunnat tänka sig Evans gå från Imagines mycket omtalade krasch till anonymitet; vända burgare något år, bli tråk-kodare på någon grå byrå, den stilen. Så blev inte fallet. Evans hade verkligen talanger, om än inte de påhittade man hyllat honom för.

På LinkedIn står han som boss och grundare på en egen firma. Och den har han grundat efter en lång och gedigen karriär som chef och mellanchef på en lång rad ansedda firmor i branschen.
Eugene Evans may look like a success, but he feels like a survivor. Speaking at the Develop conference in Brighton this week, Evans reflected on a 30-year career that took him from one of the first computer retailers in the UK to the general manager of BioWare Mythic. Along the way, he held influential positions at Psygnosis, Viacom, Zipper Interactive and Electronic Arts, and yet his message for an audience of largely young developers is not how to succeed, but how to survive.
- Eugene Evans: A Survivor's Guide To Games, gamesindustry.biz 13 juli 2012

Huvudkälla för denna bloggpost var Jimmy Maher: Games on the Mersey, Part 1: Taking Scousers Off the Dole, The Digital Antiquarian 1 september 2017 – en fantastisk blogg med hur många insatta och välskrivna artiklar som helst om en liten men fascinerande (åtminstone om man själv upplevt den) bit nutidshistoria.

09 Jan 13:49

Valår morghulis

by fthunholm

Så har vi släpat våra rövar till 2018. Det är valår – och det är som att eoner av tid passerat sedan senast. Då var vi gulliga, oskuldsfulla konfirmander med en tro på kärleken. Nu är vi en satanisk sekt av inavlade nihilister i ett universum som är helt likgiltigt inför vårt öde som art.

Eller, med enklare bilder: Då var vi Jonas Gardells Facebook, nu är vi Hanif Balis Twitter.

Kommer ni ens ihåg hur det var? 2014 var nazism inte en ideologi bland andra. Nordiska motståndsrörelsen hade fortfarande inte haft en enda sommarpratare. Ingen pratade om kulsprutor på Öresundsbron. Det är lätt att bli nostalgisk.

Nåväl. För att valåret ska bli i alla fall lite mer uthärdligt vill jag be alla politiker om en sak: Prata om vad ni vill göra med det här landet. Gör bara det. När journalister frågar om hur regeringen ska se ut efter valet – svara inte på det. När någon undrar hur ni förhåller er till SD – svara att ni inte gör det alls.

Detta är det enda som kan rädda oss.

Beskriv hur Sverige skulle se ut om ni får egen majoritet i riksdagen. Renodla er politiska identitet (i den mån den finns). Vilka principer betyder något? Var utopister! Det är inte detsamma som att vara orealistisk – det är detsamma som att ta demokratin på allvar. Forma inga allianser eller pakter. Sök inte koalitioner. Berätta sagor och sjung sånger.

Journalisterna, sorry, klickonomerna, kommer aldrig att fråga er om det här. De kommer att fråga om just vilka som ska bilda regering efter valet. Deras onda tvillingar på ledarsidorna kommer skriva indignerade drapor om hur ni flyr ert ansvar och bla bla bla whatever. Men ni gör motsatsen då. Kom ihåg det. Ni tar ert jävla ansvar genom att inte med ett enda ord beröra hur Sverige ska styras efter valet.

Det är bara ni, kära politiker, som kan rädda kvar ett uns av värdighet i politiken. Så gör det. Låt det här bli året då ni pratar ideologi och drömmar. Det kommer att bli struligt efter valet, när en regering ska bildas. Det vet vi redan nu. Så låt vägen dit bli en snygg väg, den är ju det enda ni kan påverka. Vad vill ni?

08 Jan 08:25

Blitzens mjölkbud

by Hexmaster
Sommaren 1940 angrep tyskt flyg Storbritannien, med olika metoder och mål, och gång på gång på gång ... I september övergick de till intensiva bombningar av London. Först militära mål som hamnarna, sedan blandade terrorbombningar: Blitzen.

Nu är det så, att myndigheter under krigstid högst ogärna sprider bilder av förödelse i det egna landet. Så var till att börja med även fallet i Blitzens London.

Men fotografen Fred Morley fick en idé. Från ett mjölkbud lånade han rock och ett ställ med flaskor. Sedan gick han och hans assistent runt i förödelsen till de fick se några brandmän i arbete; det dröjde nog inte länge. Assistenten drog på sig den vita rocken och agerade mjölkbud framför kameran tills Morley var nöjd. Även censorerna blev nöjda: Visst ser man ruiner och förfärligheter. Men bildens budskap går inte att ta miste på. Londonborna rycker inte bara ut och släcker bränder, de ser även till att vardagen går sin gilla gång. Det finns ju massor av hushåll som inte är utbombade, och det är klart att de ska ha sin mjölk.

Många propagandabilder ser inte ut som något annat än propagandabilder. Men de bästa fixar avvägningen: Budskapet är tydligt, men ser inte övertydligt eller alltför konstlat ut.

Den intressantaste frågan är nog huruvida bilden hade kunnat vara äkta. Gick inte mjölkbuden sina vanliga rundor, även om delar av dem råkade ha blivit ruiner? Varifrån fick Morley annars attiraljerna?
08 Jan 08:07

K296: Bildtläsning

by rasmus

Jag avskyr begreppet “megatrend”. Det låter så myndigt att slänga sig med listor över tre eller fem eller tolv “megatrender”, men är mest fluff eftersom det inte finns några definierade kriterier för hur dessa skulle skilja sig från andra trender, än mindre från varandra. Det underförstådda antagandet är att megatrenderna är pseudonaturliga lagar som vi människor bara har att anpassa oss till. Så kan det förstås vara, men då gäller det att förklara varför. Ingen historiker eller samhällsvetare med självrespekt försöka förklara något med hänvisning till “megatrender”. Det gör däremot en uppsjö av självutnämnda framtidsexperter, som går i fortspåren av John Naisbitt som med boken Megatrends (1982) inledde en välbetald föreläsarkarriär (och fick ge namn åt ett privat universitet i Belgrad).

Med detta sagt, tyckte jag det var ganska intressant att läsa Carl Bildts nyårsbulletin om det världshistoriska tillståndet. Inte minst att han så tydligt tonar ner betydelsen av 1989/1991 som historisk brytpunkt, för att i stället betona kontinuiteten från 1945 till vår tid, med kvartsseklet 1990–2015 som någon form av blomstringsfas, “kanske det bästa i mänsklighetens historia”. Nu är denna långa epok över, menar Bildt. Vår tid är en “hårdare tid”.

Efter den delade världens decennier, och det liberala systemskiftets framgångsrika kvartssekel, är det tveklöst en mer orolig och svårförutsägbar tid som vi har kommit in i. En stökigare tid. Historien framstår inte längre som linjär – det är inte längre uppenbart att vi automatiskt från mörkret stiger mot ljuset.

Vad är det som får just vår tid att sätta punkt för så mycket? Varför förlägga den historiska brytpunkten till 2010-talet? Här kan det noteras att Bildt inte visar något särskilt intresse för ekonomiska förklaringar (trots att han skriver i Dagens Industri). “Vår tid” skildras alltså inte som en tid i kölvattnet av en global finanskris, inte heller som fortsättningen på en utveckling med rötter i 1970-talet. I stället hänvisar Bildt till – just det – “tre megatrender”:

För det första ser vi hur geopolitiken utmanar globaliseringen som dominerande kraft. /…/
För det andra har frågor om identitet ersatt frågor kring ideologi i framför allt det vi kan kalla de västliga demokratierna. Det är inte förhoppningar inför framtiden, utan snarare farhågor, som dominerar. /…/
Och för det tredje är det uppenbart att vi befinner oss i slutskedet av den industriella och i inledningen av den digitala eran.

Inget fel på dessa spaningar, även om den tredje är mer än lovligt fluffig (eftersom det inte ges någon förklaring av vad som slutar när “den industriella eran” tar slut). Men ingen av tre trenderna kan förklara vad som gör just vår tid till en brytningstid, utan de är fortfarande bara löst hängande observationer. Såvitt jag kan se ger Bildt ingen antydan om hur de ska förklaras. Ointresset för klimatförändringarna är också slående. I stället ägnar han större delen av artikeln åt det han kan bäst, nämligen geopolitik. Globalt sett kretsar då inte allt kring Ryssland, tvärtom. “Ryssland är en i bästa fall stagnerande makt, långsiktigt snarare en nedgående.”

Ur det bildtska perspektivet var året 2017 en brytpunkt av framför allt två skäl: Donald Trumps presidentskap som tillträdes i och nittonde partikongressen i Kina som i oktober signalerade ett skifte mot mer aggressiv nationalism.

Med nuvarande trender kommer den kinesiska försvarsbudgeten någon gång efter 2030 att komma upp i samma nivå som den amerikanska, och denna motsvarar i dag cirka 45 procent av alla militära satsningar i världen.

Grundtonen är mycket dyster – trots att klimatförändringarna knappt nämns. Ändå kan det noteras hur Bildt lindar in sitt resonemang i ett tunt lager glättigt papper genom att inleda och avsluta med lite teknik- och tillväxtoptimism.

“Världsekonomin är på väg uppåt” – jo, kanske det, men från vilken punkt? Påståendet om en uppgång är tämligen meningslöst när saknar tidsskala. “Den digitala utvecklingen är bara i sin linda” – av sådana fraser får man känslan av att “digital” är ett ord som ofta används som synonym till teknikutveckling i allmänhet och det är klart att den inte stannar av, frågan är i vilken riktning den rör sig och hur den tas tillvara. Att 2017 var året när “snart sagt alla” började prata “om blockkedjor, artificiell intelligens och kvantdatorer” säger ingentingting om den saken utan är mest en indikator på vart investeringspengarna rör sig just i detta nu.

14 Dec 09:22

Annihilation May Not Be For Everyone, But Director Alex Garland Hopes the Battle Is Worth It

by Germain Lussier
Image: Paramount

Imagine you’re about to release a brand new trailer for a movie you’ve worked on for three years, and days before, a story is released that says the team behind your movie... may not actually be behind your movie.

That happened to writer-director Alex Garland this week for his new movie, Annihilation. The film, which stars Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, Gina Rodriguez, and others, is an adaptation of a heady, difficult scifi novel by Jeff VanderMeer about a group of scientists exploring a mysterious phenomenon. However, reports came out that producers clashed over the whether the film had enough mainstream appeal. Now, in an effort to mediate the dispute, Paramount will only release the movie on Netflix internationally.

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“It’s disappointing,” Garland told io9 on the phone from the UK. “I’ve got nothing against [streaming] as a medium. The Handmaid’s Tale was not made for the big screen and I think it was absolutely stunning. It’s more that we made this film for the big screen... Then I have to tell really good friends and colleagues, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening’ and they’re disappointed, so that kind of sucks.”

On the other hand, Garland also knows that his movie isn’t an easy sell—like, at all. This is a fact you can see quite clearly in the new trailer, which is filled with mysterious, unique visuals that stem from a scary place called Area X and an even scarier phenomenon the movie calls the Shimmer.

“Within this space, things are colliding with each other that don’t normally collide. Human, plant, animal, light, all things that are within the space that are colliding with each other that’s at times kind of horrifying and other times, sort of beautiful,” Garland said. “And that will mix with psychology, as well. So, it’s like a sort of holistic collision of lots of different things. Physical, psychological, emotional, and so on.”

Garland’s previous film was the acclaimed Ex Machina. Image: A24

Descriptions like that make the trepidation toward his film easy to understand, if not actually expected. But, mostly, Garland is struck by the timing.

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“A large group of people worked flat out on something that’s difficult and unusual and trying to sort of step outside the mainstream in some kind of way,” Garland said. “And it’s like, just as you’re about to reach the start of the race, somebody gives you a hard push and knocks you off balance. And you think, ‘Oh, fuck.’ That’s not what you hoped for. It would be nice to be starting the race on a more even footing.”

The feeling was similar way back at the beginning of the process. Garland read the book before it was released and loved it, but had no idea how an adaptation was possible.

“Reading the book is sort of like having a dream,” he said. “So, I took a very kind of... liberal interpretation in how I approached the adaptation.”

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He checked with VanderMeer to make sure that was okay and the author gave him “creative permission” to move ahead. “I think that people who love the book, and I understand why they love the book, too, will have things they love about the book and they won’t be in the film,” Garland said. “In some ways, I’m worried that [the adaptation] will disappoint people. But what can I say? I did the best I could.”

One of the biggest changes is that the characters have names in the movie. In the book, they’re only referred to by their job title.

“That was something people loved about the book and I actually also loved about the book,” he said. “But then we made this film, and we’ve got people talking to each other. And in the normal rhythm of conversation, people often use each other’s names. So some of the changes were really just for that really kind of functional book-to-film reasons.”

Image: Paramount

That also goes for the simple fact that, in a book, an author can leave something open to interpretation and the reader fills in the blanks. But a movie has to show things. So Garland and his team had to define what the Shimmer and the creatures and things within it look and sound like, which always risks alienating readers who envisioned something else. No matter what, Annihilation was never going to be for everyone.

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“It’s a privilege to get to make a film, and so, I’m not exactly complaining,” Garland said. “And when you see it, you’ll be even more surprised [that it got made].”

Annihilation is out February 23, 2018. Watch the new trailer below.

13 Dec 08:31

Bluffakuten om gulliga hus

by Hexmaster
Typiskt bluffinlägg vars svajiga svenska tyder på danskt påbrå.

Bluffakuten är en bra sida på Facebook som tipsar om sidor och kampanjer i den kanalen. Här är ett typiskt exempel på en "dela ett inlägg och vinn en oproportioneligt dyrbar vinst"-bluff. Så kallade tiny houses är en grej som verkar reta delnings-nerven extra mycket. De supergulliga husen brukar, om man köper dem nya färdigbyggda, ligga på sisådär en halv till en miljon. Huset på just denna bild kommer från California Tiny House och förefaller att ligga i den högre delen av det prisintervallet. För övrigt är alla deras hus unika så här lovar bluffarna bort någon annans hus.

Vad är grejen med att lura folk att dela på bilder? När den delats tillräckligt många gånger så lägger man till en länk i beskrivningen, och hoppas att tillräckligt många ska klicka på den. I typfallet går den till en sida hos ett företag som toleadoo GmbH eller någon av dess otaliga skumma karbonkopior till kolleger. Hos dem ska man fylla i ett formulär med namn, adress, epost och så vidare. Dessa kontaktuppgifter säljs sedan till spammare. Det är allt som händer. Några vinster – om man nu lockat med hus, presentkort eller något annat – delas naturligtvis aldrig ut eftersom de var rent påhitt från början.
13 Dec 07:03

It’s time for recurring meetings to end

by Dan Kim

Why are we still doing this to each other?

It’s thankfully been a really long time since I’ve been invited to a recurring meeting. But I heard a couple mentions of them last week, and it brought back terrible pre-Basecamp memories.

It reminded me that not everyone is so lucky — many people still have to attend those soul-sucking, brain-draining, pointless recurring meetings. You know the ones — they’re usually filed under euphemisms like “stand-ups”, “status”, and “check ins” and happen on a daily or weekly basis.

They’re terrible. Let’s discuss why and see if we can help each other get rid of them.

They force people to meet even when there’s nothing to discuss

Ever gone to a recurring meeting only to find a bunch of blank expressions and everyone just kinda looking at each other? Welcome to the recurring meeting.

For some reason the default corporate mindset is that there will always be something to discuss, so having a regularly scheduled meeting is good because it “gives folks a chance to catch up.”

But if you really think about it, is there always something to discuss? Aren’t there just some days or weeks where things have gone smoothly or people are just doing their work and there’s nothing to chat about?

How often are these recurring meetings actually needed? 10% of the time? 50%? I have no idea, I can’t see into the future — so why do meeting organizers think they can?

A common retort you’ll hear from organizers is that you should keep recurring meetings around because “you can always cancel them”. And sure, in a perfect world, that helps a little — it gives me back some of my day. But this also assumes that every meeting organizer is super vigilant in managing their meetings. And let’s be honest, they’re not.

Beyond that, canceling an instance of a recurring meeting doesn’t fix all the other problems they cause in aggregate. Keep reading.

They create a vicious cycle of meetings and overwork

Here’s what meeting organizers do: they look at everyone’s calendar and try to find the best time for everyone.

But because there are so many recurring meetings, blocks of time are hard to come by. So organizers start scheduling new meetings at inconvenient times because those are the only times available: early in the morning, late in the evening, over lunch. All times you should be relaxing, not working.

If a majority of recurring meetings were simply off the books and scheduled as needed, everyone would have more available time and fewer meetings overall. Imagine the possibilities!

This also shows why “just canceling” a recurrence doesn’t fix everything — a recurrence is already eating a block of time that other organizers can’t schedule against, so it has a cascading effect of breeding meetings at even worse times.

They hurt your team’s work and workflow

If you know you have a meeting in an hour, do you start your deepest, most complex problem solving work? I’d venture to guess most people don’t. I certainly don’t.

It makes sense — if you know you’re about to be interrupted in an hour, why start the really deep-thinking work you need to do. You’re probably more likely to tackle a few small, easy things. It’s a subtle effect, but imagine that happening multiple times a week. How much good, deep-thinking work is lost because of looming meetings?

If those recurring meetings weren’t there, people might choose an entirely different set of work. They’d have longer stretches of uninterrupted time, which are crucial for deep thinking and problem solving — things designers and programmers need every day to do their best work.

Oh and to address the magic bullet of “just cancel the meeting” again — getting a cancellation 30 minutes before the meeting gives me the meeting time back, but it’s already screwed at least a couple hours of my day’s work.

They become a dumping ground

The recurring meeting is the dumping ground of everything you don’t want to deal with now (probably because you’re stuck in another meeting).

How often have you seen this happen — you start talking with someone, can’t make a call, and then they say “let’s talk about it at the status meeting”?

Recurring meetings are a crutch — they let you defer decisions you probably should (and could easily) just make now. Remember, decisions are temporary!

“If circumstances change, your decisions can change. Decisions are temporary.”
Jason FriedRework

This is yet another reason why “just cancel it” may sound good on paper, but doesn’t work in practice. People tend to find ways to fill scheduled meeting times.

They drown out the important stuff

Recurring meetings can cause serious calendar overload for many people — they can be double or even triple booked at times. There’s considerable mental overhead to look at a busy calendar and try to decipher what’s important and what’s not. Ever missed an important meeting because you got things crossed up on your excessively noisy calendar?

And from a human perspective, meetings also make people think twice about scheduling important personal appointments. Yes, of course most of the time it’s OK to miss a recurring meeting. But have you ever thought twice about scheduling a personal appointment because there’s a meeting on your calendar? Of course you have, and so have I. It may be a small thing, but even the most unimportant meeting might make someone think “I should really go to this” instead of taking care of something far more important to them.

“Yes, awesome, another recurring meeting!”

I’m half joking, but honestly, have you ever heard anyone say this? Or is it more often a deep sigh followed by “Ugh, another meeting”.

Or how about this — remember the last time one of your meetings got canceled and how overjoyed you were that you didn’t have to go?

Doesn’t that tell you something?

Alright, so we’ve established I’m not a fan of recurring meetings. Maybe I’ve convinced you they’re terrible, or maybe I haven’t.

Either way, would you perhaps, pretty please consider trying a few things either as a meeting organizer or attendee? You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Organizers: Try reversing your default mindset

If you’re a meeting organizer, try this for one project—reverse your thinking and assume you don’t need one of the recurring meetings you usually schedule. Instead see how things go without it, and if a discussion needs to happen, schedule a standalone meeting with the fewest people necessary to make the call.

Things might be a little uncomfortable or harder at first, but in the end I bet everything will be fine (and your team a lot happier for it).

Attendees: Ask the meeting organizer if you can skip

This might be tough because a lot of times meeting organizers are in positions of power (managers, directors, your boss, etc.) But if you’re one of the people getting killed by recurring meetings, try asking the organizer if you can skip them unless there is something specific you’re needed for. Most of the time any reasonable person will be OK with that.

This still makes you a willing participant and available, but by default you get to do your real work unless they specifically call on you to attend.

Attendees (Bonus Points): Thank the never-calls-a-recurring-meeting organizer

They’re a rare breed, but if you ever notice someone who breaks from the mold and rarely calls a recurring meeting, thank them. No, seriously. They might chuckle, but they’ll appreciate that you noticed and it’ll validate how they run things. It will give them the confidence to keep doing things their way — recurring meeting free!

So hey, it’s nearly 2018 and it’s a great time to turn a new leaf. What do you say — can we cancel any and all recurring meetings and start the year fresh?

If you enjoyed this post, please do hit the 👏 button below. Thanks!

Do you have a story of a meeting gone terribly awry? Or a time when you put your foot down on recurring meetings? We’re collecting your funniest, most memorable, and most cringeworthy meeting stories for an upcoming episode of our podcast, Rework. (If you found a way to make meetings less terrible at your business, we want to hear about that too!) Drop us a line at hello@rework.fm or leave us a voicemail at (708) 628–7850. We look forward to hearing from you!


It’s time for recurring meetings to end was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

07 Dec 12:20

Ingen bäverrumpa i glassen

by Hexmaster
Vaniljsmaken i din mat behöver inte komma från en vaniljstång. Den kan även komma från en bäverrumpa.
- Sekret från bäverbak ger vaniljsmak, Metro 15 september 2013
I ingrediensförteckningen på vaniljglassen står nämligen endast "naturlig arom", vilket många tolkar som att det är arom utvunnen ur vanilj, men som egentligen bara betyder att den är utvunnen med "naturliga metoder" ur växter eller djur.
I själva verket kan aromämnet i det här fallet vara utvunnet ur det sekret som bävern utsöndrar ur sina analkörtlar för att doftmarkera sitt revir, åtminstone i USA.
- Äkta vara: Naturlig bäverarom, 12 september 2013

Nyckelordet i båda artiklarna, liksom praktiskt taget alla andra som cirkulerade hösten 2013, är kan. Bävergäll eller castoreum är ett naturligt (äkta vara!) ämne som är säkert att konsumera. Det har en vaniljliknande smak som gör att det kan användas som ersättning för vanilj. Eller vad man nu ska kalla det, när bävergällen är långt mycket dyrare än äkta vanilj, för att inte tala om syntetiska smaker som vanillin. Skulle en tillverkare välja en dyrbar råvara framför en billigare, frivilligt och utan att antyda det på förpackningen? Bara för att lura sina kunder på, ja, vad?
Alarmist warnings about castoreum are overblown: its use is now exceedingly rare, and the typical consumer is unlikely to ever encounter castoreum in food.
- Snopes.com: Castoreum is produced from beaver secretions?

07 Dec 09:53

Wish är tokbilligt – men någon betalar priset

by Erik Olsson

Shoppingappen Wish har tagit Sverige med storm och miljontals paket från Kina väller in på Arlanda. Varorna är ofta extremt billiga och en orsak är att någon annan betalar priset för det.

På mindre än två år har Kina sprungit förbi alla andra länder när det gäller e-handel bland svenska konsumenter. I dag kommer 36 procent av svenskarnas utrikes e-handel från Kina, mot 24 procent 2015.

I snitt handlar det om cirka 150 000 paketförsändelser från Kina till Arlanda – varje dag. Och shoppingappen Wish är en stor bidragande förklaring till det.

– Wish är den absolut populäraste plattformen. Sedan kommer Alibaba och Ali express, men Wish är helt klart den största källan till paketförsändelser just nu, säger Carin Blom, detaljhandelsanalytiker på Postnord.

Siffror från rapport 2017.

Väldigt låga priser

Som exemplen nedan visar är varorna ofta extremt billiga, i vissa fall till och med gratis. Beställaren betalar då endast fraktkostnaden, som kan variera. Ibland är även frakten gratis, men i exemplen som KIT listat nedan landar den på mellan 10 och 71 kronor.



Hur kan det vara så billigt?

Det finns några olika förklaringar till detta:


Inga mellanhänder

Konsumenterna som handlar via Wish beställer direkt från fabrikerna i Kina. De paketerar och skickar produkterna direkt till kunden. Appen Wish fungerar i princip bara som en annonsör och förmedlare. Det finns alltså inga mellanhänder som tar betalt på vägen – vilket drar ner priset.


Subventionerad fraktkostnad från Kina

Wish, AliExpress och andra liknande shoppingappar och leverantörer drar nytta av att post från Kina är subventionerad enligt internationella överenskommelser från mitten av 1900-talet.

För att möjliggöra att folk i utvecklingsländer skulle ha råd att skicka brev till personer i västvärlden utan att bli ruinerade på kuppen bestämdes det att post från fattiga länder skulle subventioneras.

Kina räknades på den tiden som ett u-land och har därför generösa subventioner som har hängt kvar, trots att det i dag är en av världens mest konkurrenskraftiga industrinationer. 

Eftersom det tidigare framförallt handlade om privat post var detta länge inte något problem, men när den internationella e-handeln exploderat på senare år ger det alltså stora konkurrensfördelar för exempelvis appar som Wish.

Postnords ersättning täcker inte kostnad för leverans

Ökningen av paketförsändelser från Kina har alltså varit enorm bara det senaste året:

Och för Postnord har detta skapat en hel del problem, det visar inte minst SvD:s avslöjande om att tusentals paket ligger dumpade under bar himmel på Arlanda.

Övriga stora e-handelsnationer har för vana att meddela när en stor mängd försändelser är på väg. Men den kinesiska posten ger aldrig några sådana förvarningar – vilket ytterligare bidrar till situationen.

Carin Blom, Postnord.

– Vi får inga aviseringar från kinesiskt håll och plötsligt kan det välla in containrar med paket. Det gör det svårt att planera bemanningen, säger Carin Blom, detaljhandelsanalytiker på Postnord, och fortsätter:

– De flesta paket som kommer från Kina är dessutom så pass små, eller skickas med oläsliga fraktsedlar, så det går inte att använda sorteringsmaskin utan paketen måste sorteras för hand.

Svensk Handel: ”Vi får betala för våra konkurrenter”

Summan av detta – och de subventionerade terminalavgifterna – blir att för Postnord är det ofta en förlustaffär att leverera paketen eftersom ersättningen från posten i Kina (som tar ut det lokala portot) är så låg.

– Det stämmer att det kostar oss mer att hantera de här försändelserna än vad vi får i ersättning, säger Maria Ibsén, pressansvarig på Postnord.

Stefan Kvarfodt, Svensk Handel.

På Svensk Handel har man länge varit starkt kritiska till detta eftersom det snedvrider konkurrensen.

– Och när paketen från Kina blir en förlustaffär att leverera så måste ju intäkterna för Postnord tas ut från andra kunder, vilket blir vi som skickar paket i Sverige. I princip får alltså Svenska handlare subventionera våra konkurrenter vilket blir en ganska absurd situation, säger Stefan Kvarfordt, på Svensk Handel.

I fjol fattade dock Universal Postal Union, som är ett FN-organ, beslut om att revidera systemet fram till 2021. Det kan komma att betyda högre ersättning till Postnord och i så fall sannolikt innebära högre priser framöver för svenska Wish-handlare.

 


Tullfritt under 1 500 kronor

Om exempelvis en svensk klädförsäljare importerar varor från Kina så måste denne betala tull på allt som har ett värde motsvarande cirka 1 500 kronor eller mer. Det gäller med andra ord nästan alla leveranser.

Men eftersom näthandlare som Wish skickar varor i små leveranser till enskilda köpare, och inte importerar stora volymer i samma försändelse som fysiska butiker gör, så når försändelsens värde ofta inte upp till 1 500 kronor*. Därmed behöver ingen tull betalas och tillsammans med brevsubventionerna ger detta en konkurrensfördel. 


OBS! I en tidigare version av den här texten angavs att varorna även är momsbefriade under ett värde på 220 kronor. Men detta gäller inte varor från näthandel och postorder från länder utanför EU utan dessa ska skattas från första kronan. Momsen betalas i regel in av köparen till varuleverantören eller ombudet där varan hämtas ut.

* På branschorganisationen Svensk Handel vill man inte peka ut Wish eller någon annan specifik aktör, men det har också hänt att utrikes varuförsändelser har paketerats för att se ut som gåvor för att på detta sätt undvika tull och skatt på varorna.


Låga omkostnader och krav samt billig arbetskraft

Kina har under de senaste decennierna växt till en enormt konkurrenskraftig industrination. En orsak är låga löner och omkostnader till följd av bland annat lägre arbetsmiljökrav och liknande. Detta är förstås en fördel som inte bara Wish utan alla aktörer som säljer varor producerade i Kina drar nytta av.

Wish har ingen skyldighet att följa miljö- och säkerhetskrav

Som privatperson måste du själv ansvara för säkerheten hos en produkt

Skillnaden ligger i att Wish saknar krav på att leva upp till gällande standard som svenska återförsäljare måste förhålla sig till.

Det gäller exempelvis att säkerställa att elektroniska prylar uppfyller svenska säkerhetskrav. Som Elsäkerhetsverket skriver i en rapport från i somras:

”Privatimport av elektriska produkter direkt från tillverkare i Kina är idag lika enkelt som att köpa från närmaste internetbutik, men det är inte säkert att produkten är gjord för den svenska marknaden. Som privatperson måste du själv ansvara för säkerheten hos en produkt när du agerar importör.”

I rapporten konstateras också att antalet bränder där Räddningstjänsten kunnat fastslå USB-laddare som brandorsak mer än fyrdubblades mellan 2013 och 2015. Detta skulle kunna ha en koppling till ökad import av elektroniska prylar utan säkerhetskontroller, men några säkra slutsatser går enligt Elsäkerhetsverket inte att dra.

Medvetenheten om västerländska säkerhetsstandarder är dessutom låg bland kinesiska tillverkare inom allt ifrån elektronik till kläder.

Omfattande arbetsmiljöproblem i Kina

Arbetsförhållandena i den kinesiska industrin har förbättrats de sista åren och det finns fabriker och tillverkare som håller relativt god standard. Men den generella standarden är fortfarande långt under vad vi skulle acceptera i Europa, och med jämna mellanrum kommer rapporter som visar på omfattande och allvarliga problem (läs exempelvis här och här).

Det kan förekomma tvångsarbete och barnarbete

Det handlar om allt ifrån utnyttjande av ung arbetskraft med väldigt låga löner till extrem och påtvingad övertid, avsaknad av skyddsutrustning för att hantera farliga kemikalier och så vidare.

– Det kan förekomma tvångsarbete och barnarbete till exempel, säger Linda Scott Jakobsson, researcher på Swedwatch, som är en ideell förening med fokus på att undersöka att svenska företag lever upp till internationella konventioner och mänskliga rättigheter i sin produktion utomlands.


Oklart om Wish tar något ansvar

Huruvida Wish tar något som helst ansvar för under vilka omständigheter som varorna som säljs via deras app har producerats är väldigt oklart.

Ingenting på bolagets hemsida tyder på detta. Där listas en rad olika krav på de producenter som vill ansluta sig till deras nätverk – men inget rör miljö, arbetsmiljö eller säkerhet. I stället handlar kraven om saker som återköp, prissättning, spårning av paket och leveranstider.

Notoriskt svåra att få tag på

KIT har på olika sätt sökt företrädare för Wish för att ställa frågor om detta. Men bolaget är notoriskt svårt att få tag på.

Någon svensk kontaktperson finns inte, trots att Sverige är en uttalad marknad och appen har svensk översättning.

Inte heller till huvudkontoret i San Francisco hittar undertecknad något nummer till en talesperson eller pressinformatör. Istället provar jag att ringa kundservice i USA, men åtminstone utanför lokal kontorstid kopplas detta direkt till en telefonsvarare som hänvisar den som ringer till att istället maila eller läsa på hemsidan.

Jag mailar alltså frågorna till kundservice men får bara automatgenererade nonsenssvar tillbaka.

Samma sak när jag försöker att skicka meddelande till kundservice via Wishs Facebook-sida:

Ett sista långskott…

… blir att försöka kontakta grundarna av Wish, Peter Szulczewski och Danny Zhang, via deras personliga Facebook-konton. Frågorna jag ställde var dessa:

Och faktum är att Danny Zhang relativt snabbt återkommer i ett mail. Men istället för att svara på mina frågor om Wish till exempel kan garantera att varorna de säljer inte har tillverkats av barn, så hänvisar han till sin kompanjon Peter Szulczewski.

I skrivande stund, fem dagar senare, har han ännu inte återkommit.

Nya avslöjanden inkluderar Disney, Mattel och Walmart

Tills vidare måste alltså slutsatsen bli att det inte går att vara säker på vilka förhållanden som gäller vid tillverkningen av de varor som säljs via Wish. 

Vem har betalat priset för att den här produkten ska vara så billig?

Detta är förstås långt ifrån unikt, och även om det blivit allt vanligare för företag att tala om CSR (Corporte Social Responsibility), och medvetenheten bland många konsumenter i västvärlden ökat, så är det fortfarande inte ovanligt med avslöjanden om missförhållanden även bland sedan länge etablerade storföretag.

Exempelvis rapporterade nyligen China Labour Watch om arbetsmiljöproblem som extrem övertid, avsaknad av skyddsutrustning och andra missförhållanden i produktionen av leksaker till storföretag som Disney, Mattel och Walmart.

Den allmänna rekommendationen från Linda Scott Jakobsson på Swedwatch till den konsument som har etiska ambitioner med sitt shoppande blir därför att helt enkelt använda sitt omdöme.

– Om något kostar tio kronor eller rent av ges bort så bör man nog ställa sig frågan: vem har betalat priset för att den här produkten ska vara så billig?

07 Dec 07:19

Rapport från kriget

by fthunholm

Lise Tamm tillträder snart som chef för Riksenheten mot internationell och organiserad brottslighet. Hon tycker att Rinkeby är jämförbart med en krigszon. Det är ett halvår sedan jag var i Rinkeby senast men då tänkte jag snarare miljonprogram än jag tänkte Aleppo eller Mosul. Att kliva av blå linjen är inte som att hoppa ur båten på Omaha beach.

“Men det är ju bara ett ord” säger folk från Hanne Kjöller till Lars Sjunnesson och himlar med ögonen. “Så löjligt att haka upp sig på ett ord när man borde prata om de problem som finns där.”

Jag bor själv i Farsta, ett av de 54 områden, tillsammans med bland andra Täby och Majorna, som Per Gudmundson utropade till en no go-zon i en legendarisk artikel i Svenska Dagbladet. Hit vågar ingen åka. Här vänder ambulansen.

Idag är detta etablerade “sanningar” hos rasisterna.

Man kan inte kalla områden krigszoner och no go-zoner om de inte är det och sedan gnälla över frånvaron av en nyanserad diskussion om problemen. Det går inte att först hävda att 54 områden kontrolleras av kriminella gäng och sedan säga att man inte ska anmärka på ord, när man kritiserar det, för att man till exempel, du vet, bor här.

Det är alltså inte “vänstern” som har en fucked up relation till ord och som omöjliggör en saklig diskussion om områden med problem. Det är de som använder de här svepande etiketterna som förstör.

Det är ju faktiskt helt sjukt att det ska behöva påpekas.

07 Dec 07:18

Swamp Thing and the Demon Would've Been the Batman and Superman of the Justice League Dark Movie

by Charles Pulliam-Moore

Guillermo del Toro has a habit of signing on for awesome-sounding projects that he either drops out of or never gets made at all. Either way, not a day goes by that we shouldn’t all be mourning the fact that we’re probably never going to get a del Toro-directed Justice League Dark movie.

Based on the comic/supernatural super-team of the same name, the film would have followed some of DC’s more mystical heroes on an adventure that more than likely would have taken them to hell. The team usually consists of folks like John Constantine and Deadman, but according to del Toro, his version of the film would have featured less-seen DC mainstays like Swamp Thing and Etrigan the Demon. During a recent Reddit AMA, del Toro explained that in his mind, those two are are core parts of DC’s arcane trinity:

“It’s a WB property, I am not sure I can comment [on the project]. Suffice to say that Demon or Swamp Thing mean to me what Batman and Superman mean to most mortals- perhaps even more. [Swamp] / Abigal love was a great source of inspiration for me.”

In 1985's Swamp Thing Annual #2, Swamp Thing ventures into hell to save the soul of his frequent love interest Abigail Arcane. During his Orphean journey, Swamp Thing encounters a number of DC’s other magical characters, like Deadman, the Spectre, the Phantom Stranger, and of course, Etrigan. It’s almost like the comic might have made for a fantastic movie in the hands of the right director—say, someone who knew a thing or two about humanizing monstrous heroes.

Oh well.

04 Dec 15:39

Män som pratar om automatisering

by rasmus

Sedan några år pratas, skrivs och tycks det en faslig massa om automatiseringen. Om en ny industriell revolution och om alla de jobb som kommer att försvinna. Idag tittade jag förbi den liberala tankesmedjan Fores för att lyssna på ännu ett samtal i mängden. Ryan Avent, journalist på The Economist, har skrivit boken The wealth of humans som på svenska fått titeln Stabilitetsillusionen. Huruvida den tillför något nytt till diskussionen vågar jag inte säga, men nog sätter jag den på min läslista.

Det mest slående med samtalet var dock könsbalansen, eller snarare frånvaron av balans. Publiken på cirka 80 personer bestod däremot till närmare hälften av kvinnor. Men av de som fick träda upp på scenen var sex av sju män. Undrar om detta är något som Fores över huvud taget noterade.

Frågan är större än att bara handla om representation i panelsamtal. Robotiseringsdebatten lider av en strukturell snedbalans där mansdominerade yrken konsekvent står i centrum. Gång på gång på gång upprepas samma ramsor om hur “alla” jobb är på väg att automatiseras bort. De kvinnodominerade omsorgsyrkena är diskussionens stora vita fläck. Visst talas det den del om automatisering i sjukvården, men aldrig någonsin om barn- eller äldreomsorg. På något vis förutsätter vi alla att det ändå finns något i det mänskliga mötet som inte kan eller får automatiseras bort. Men ytterst sällan talas det om var gränsen går eller hur den ritas om.

Vid ett tillfälle närmade sig Ryan Avent ändå saken. Det var när han sa att automatiseringen inte bara måste lösas genom omfördelningspolitik, utan också genom att vi som samhälle hittar nya sätt att värdera olika sysslor. Vi måste ta hänsyn till att människor vill bidra, inte bara sitta hemma i soffan. Därför borde vi visa större respekt för ideellt volontärarbete och oavlönad omsorg om äldre och barn, förklarade Avent – dock utan att nämna ett ord om vilket kön som tenderar att få ansvaret för detta oavlönade arbete. En något illvillig slutsats kunde vara att han menade att robotiseringen kommer att leda till en pånyttfödelse för hemmafruidealet.

Samtidigt var det slående att Ryan Avent tycktes stå en bra bit till vänster om LO-ekonomen Thomas Carlén. Inte nog med att Avent, på ett sätt som erinrade om Piketty, talade om behovet av ekonomisk omfördelning för större jämlikhet. Han drog också paralleller till den första industriella revolutionen och antydde att vår tid ännu väntar på en framväxt av något som kan motsvara den gamla arbetarrörelsen, som nödvändig motvikt till kapitalet. Detta sades alltså av en företrädare för marknadsliberala The Economist. Men från LO visades inget intresse av att plocka upp bollen. I stället presenterade Thomas Carlén vad han menade var en “ny idé”, nämligen att vi måste enas över klassgränserna för att försvara det egna landets företag: “Could there be a new kind of collaboration between labour and capital in the light of the digital revolution?” Ridå.

04 Dec 12:07

How iFixit Became King of the iPhone Teardown

by Jason Koebler

"Just so we're both completely clear: We've spent most of the week flying to Australia to stand in line to buy a phone we're not sure we're going to get," I say to Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit and the person whose plan this was. It crosses my mind that there is a perfectly good Apple Store three minutes from my office.

We have the order confirmation: One iPhone X, to be sold to us at 9:30 AM at the Castle Towers Apple Store. Still, it is entirely possible that there might not be a phone. It's happened before.

"It's completely ridiculous," Wiens responds. "It's a big gamble, right? If there's a disaster and the store doesn't get their allotment—at that point, you have to turn to the people who got them and offer stacks of cash."

We've brought $2,000 just to be safe. I know that we probably won't even turn the phone on, that it'll be a good day if we buy the most coveted device on Earth and immediately break it.

"We're going to have one of the first iPhones in the world, and we have no intention of using it," Wiens says.

*

Every iPhone is made up of more or less the same components. There's the ones we can see: the camera, the Lightning Port, the screen. And the ones we can't: the battery; the wifi, bluetooth, and cellular chips; the storage, processor, and RAM; the Logic Board; and hundreds of tiny chips and sensors that control everything from touch input to charging speed. They form, perhaps, the most successful commercial product humans have ever made. But without actually opening it, we have no real way of understanding how this all-powerful device works or knowing anything about these components besides the limited information Apple tells us.

It may sound absurd, but the most interesting and arguably most important thing to happen on iPhone release day is not the release of the phone but the disassembly of it. The iPhone teardown, undertaken by third-party teams around the world, provides a roadmap for the life of the device: When you inevitably break the screen, will it be easy and inexpensive to fix? Are there design flaws that will potentially cause widespread problems, such as the iPhone 6's bendgate? And, most importantly, who made the iPhone?

Very little inside the iPhone is actually made by Apple. In the iPhone X, Samsung makes the OLED display, Qualcomm makes many of the chips, and much of the iPhone's famous camera is made by Sony. Because Apple will sell roughly 200 million iPhones this year, what's in the iPhone is a crucially important question for the worldwide economy.

The iPhone X, disassembled. Image: Jason Koebler

"The teardown is the Super Bowl for the tech supply chain," Daniel Ives, an Apple analyst, told me in a phone interview. "Whether you're in the iPhone X or not—it could ultimately be the birth of a new company or the death of an old company."

Apple did not respond to my request for comment, but the company rarely offers any photos of the inside of its devices, and certainly not on the day it's launched. For that, we have to rely on third-party teardown teams.

"They're off in a distant land with a limited tool set, and we're back here telling them what's happening"

And so every iPhone release day, stock traders, gadget geeks, engineers, and even a lot of people at Apple itself frantically refresh Twitter, RSS feeds, Google Alerts, Reddit, YouTube, and Weibo in an effort to learn what's inside the device. Consider, for example, the iPhone 3G, which contained three different components made by a small, Oregon-based company called TriQuint Semiconductor. Moments after the teardown went live, TriQuint's stock price jumped by 60 percent; the company had been deemed good enough to be used in an Apple device.

"If the iPhone sells 80 million units and a company making a chip in there sells it to Apple for 40 cents, well, 40 cents times 80 million is a lot of money," Stacy Wegner, a teardown specialist at Teardown.com, told me. "That's the kind of math we start talking about."

Image: Jason Koebler

If the iPhone teardown is so important, I wanted to see it firsthand. And so I flew across the country, and then across the ocean.

*

iFixit didn't invent the teardown, but the company has become by far the most popular and well-respected group of teardown artists in the world. The company, based in a two-story reclaimed auto repair shop in San Luis Obispo, California, treats its iPhone teardown like a space launch. The "home team" camps out at its headquarters, while a teardown engineer, a photographer, and a coordinator are dispatched to far-flung locales like Tokyo, Sydney, or, in earlier years, London. The away team—this year made up of Wiens, teardown engineer Jeff Suovanen, and photographer Adam O'Comb—methodically works through the iPhone and sends photos of it back to headquarters, where engineers and analysts try to identify what, exactly, is going on in it.

Because the iPhone X is released at 8 AM local time all around the world, flying to Sydney buys the team 16 "extra" hours to tear down the iPhone before the East Coast launch. The goal is to be completely done with the teardown by the time the iPhone is for sale in New York. The team, I'll learn, needs just about every minute of that head start.

"It's like Apollo 13, but less disastrous," Sam Lionheart, a technical writer at iFixit who flew to Sydney to tear down the iPhone 8 earlier this fall, told me. "They're off in a distant land with a limited tool set, and we're back here telling them what's happening."

This time-zone gaming is necessary to even have a remote chance of consistently getting the first iPhone teardown on the internet. In the early days, iFixit was regularly scooped by Mitsunobu Tanaka, a Japanese biotechnology researcher at the Red Cross who tore down iPhones as a hobby.

"It was always a race between us and him, and he had the time zone advantage of being in Japan," Wiens says. Tanaka eventually quit the first-day teardown game because iFixit started flying people to Tokyo, Sydney, and Melbourne to better compete with him. Two teardowns just didn't seem necessary.

In the years since, new competitors have come from around the world. The first iPhone 7 Plus teardown came out of a Vietnamese forum; the first iPhone 3GS teardown was done by a team in Poland; increasingly, repair shops in Australia have gotten in on the game, too.

"At the moment we don't have an arch nemesis," Wiens says. "Instead, you're competing against the entire world. All it takes is one person somewhere to get the phone."

Wiens had "Plans A, B, C, and D" for getting the phone. Plans B through D all involved passing a large pile of money to someone in line.

The iPhone 4S teardown field trip was a bit of a catastrophe—Wiens flew to Tokyo to tear down the phone, was told in line by a reporter that someone had managed to get ahold of the phone early and had already torn it down, and Wiens wasn't able to buy one anyway. The iFixit team in California, meanwhile, managed to pay several thousand dollars to someone on Craigslist who had the phone before its release date because of a FedEx error that caused the phone to be delivered early.

Sometimes, the race comes down to who reaches the end of "live" teardowns first. When the Apple Watch was released in 2015, an Australian repair shop uploaded its first few teardown photos before iFixit. But the watch had a brand new, tiny screw that hadn't been used in an Apple product before. Without a screwdriver that could remove it, the Australian team was stuck and never finished the teardown. iFixit's engineers improvised by filing down a different screwdriver and were able to complete the teardown.

Circuitwise. Image: Jason Koebler

One advantage iFixit has is that the company's primary mission is to make it easier for the average person to disassemble and repair their electronics. Its main business is selling specialized tools and replacement parts specifically for teardowns and repairs, and so many of its engineers have helped craft the tools it will use to open up the iPhone X. Its headquarters features both a tool laboratory and a parts library that could easily be used to build just about any popular electronic device released in the past 10 years from scratch.

My goal from the outset was to embed with the team that would win the iPhone X teardown race, and iFixit seemed like my best bet.

*

In the days leading up to the iPhone X release, I scouted potential competitors. My early findings were promising from an "I hope I'm not going to Australia for no reason" standpoint. An Australian repair shop that has done several teardowns told me preorders sold out before it could get a phone. A French team called SOSav said that, given the quantity of teardowns, it was internally debating whether it should even bother. After much debate, it decided to go ahead with one: "Teardowns are a prerequisite nobody can avoid," a spokesperson for the company told me in an email. The good news for iFixit, though, is that SOSav would not be leaving France.

"We haven't yet felt the need to go to countries with an earlier release than France," SOSav CEO Mikael Thomas told me. "Personally, I think setting off to another country for the repair would completely contradict our aim to limit our carbon footprint. Putting our team on a plane would make us real kerosene guzzlers."

I had been assured that iFixit would get a phone, in Australia, within the first few hours of its release. An internet outage at the iFixit office prevented the company from pre-ordering the phone in Sydney, but a friend of the company had come through with a 9:30 AM reservation—just an hour and a half after the phone went on sale. The plan was to show up to the Apple Store early and bribe someone in line to switch reservations.

Wiens had "Plans A, B, C, and D" for getting the phone. Plans B through D all involved passing a large pile of money to someone in line.

The night before the teardown, I met with the iFixit team at Circuitwise, a circuit board manufacturer in an office park in suburban Sydney that owns one of Australia's only electronics X-Ray machines, employs highly skilled solderers, and happens to be located just 15 minutes from the Apple Store. The first floor of the facility is filled with robots that automatically place nearly microscopic chips on circuit boards, robots that bake and solder the chips, and humans clad in anti-static jackets that make sure the robots aren't screwing up.

Upstairs, iFixit has taken over a conference room. The boardroom table is covered with all manner of adapters, Lightning and Thunderbolt cables, tools, old iPhones (including the original iPhone) for comparison shots, a few bananas and pastries, and a bunch of laptops, each of which will soon be assisting in a critical part of the teardown. It is immediately apparent that iFixit is highly prepared.

It's around this time that I notice iFixit has already lost

"We have two suitcases of tools, so we can double our chances in case our luggage gets lost," Lionhart says. The suitcases are described to me as if they were teardown go bags, ready to be deployed in case of any smartphone emergency.

It was appropriate, I thought, that as Circuitwise built electronics, iFixit would be tearing into them.

*

Plans B through D weren't necessary, and Plan A went much better than anyone could have hoped. The Apple Geniuses didn't seem to care that iFixit's reservation time was an hour and a half after the store opened. Instead, Wiens was the second person let into the Apple Store and the first to check out. The transaction was completely over by 8:03 AM—it is entirely possible, probable, even, that Wiens was the first person on Earth to buy an iPhone X—and the team sprinted through the mall to the rental car. The iPhone remained in its box during a harried ride to Circuitwise filled with nearly missed turns, game planning, and borderline reckless driving.

We don't park the car; Wiens halfway pulls into a spot and runs into Circuitwise. The teardown is on.

It's around this time that I notice iFixit has already lost. Someone on Weibo had posted a short video of the iPhone X's internal components hours before the phone went on sale anywhere on Earth. The phone had "fallen off the back of a truck," repair-industry speak for unaccounted-for phones that disappear from factories. The video had gone to the top of the Apple subreddit, and MacRumors, a popular Apple blog, had already picked up the video. iFixit had been scooped before it even started.

I quickly realized, though, why the iFixit teardown is one of the few teardowns that actually matters. There's a huge difference between seeing a couple seconds of grainy footage and doing the sort of teardown that has the ability to affect the global economy.

Image: Jason Koebler

iFixit's teardown isn't just about taking the device apart; it's about trying to identify every single chip within the phone, its function, its manufacturer, and its likelihood to make any given phone repair easier or more difficult. For the next 10 hours, Wiens and his team methodically disassemble the phone. They x-ray some individual components in an attempt to learn their provenance and call the world's foremost chip analysts and experts to run part numbers or brainstorm what unfamiliar chips could do. They get help from Christopher Jimenez, an employee of Creative Electron, the company that makes the x-ray machine. Jimenez gave iFixit his preorder and flew to Australia to operate the machine. An employee of Circuitwise used an industrial soldering machine to separate the two Logic Boards from one another.

After months of iPhone X hype, it turns out that this iteration of the phone actually is quite a leap forward. There's seemingly much less stuff inside the iPhone X than in previous devices. Apple managed to shrink the Logic Board—the brains of the computer—to an absurd degree by stacking two chips on top of each other. According to iFixit's analysis, the board occupies just 70 percent of the real estate that the iPhone 8's Logic Board does, which allows for a battery that takes up most of the interior of the device. This is a significant step forward in Apple's never-ending quest to make its phones thinner, lighter, and faster—if you can get rid of all the separate components that make up a phone and put them onto ever-shrinking chips, you can reach a point where the functional bits of the phone don't get in the way of Apple's obsession with design.

"The eventual trajectory of this is you have a screen, a battery, a camera, and a chip," Wiens said.

Ten hours after he bought the phone, the brand-new iPhone X is lying on the boardroom table, spread out into its component parts. The phone will never work again, a sacrifice made in the name of exploration.

"Taking things apart is interesting and fun. Every time you take something apart, you learn something about what makes it tick," Wiens says. "We want to know what's in the phone, and we know we're going to write a repair manual so people can fix it themselves. We look at the teardown as an exploratory process, a public process of getting inside and learning how it works."

The teardown may influence the stock market, but at its heart, it's an exploration of how accessible our gadgets are to us. As companies increasingly move toward inscrutable and inaccessible systems and away from the very idea that you own the things you buy, flying halfway around the world to open a device that the manufacturer would prefer stay closed doesn't really feel crazy at all.

01 Dec 14:13

Aftonbladet tyskt 1915

by Hexmaster
[1915] Aktiemajoriteten i Aftonbladet köps av det tyska krigsministeriet.
- Lars M. Andersson och Lena Amurén, Sveriges historia i årtal (Historiska media 2003)

Uppgiften föreföll förbluffande. Kan en krigsmakt bli huvudägare i en av landets största tidningar? Mitt under brinnande krig?

Är det sant? Hur gick det i så fall till?

En snabbkoll senare avslöjar att svaren på de sista två frågorna är 1) ja och 2) i hemlighet:
Harald Sohlman och Aftonbladet stödde Tyskland i första världskriget, och 1915 sålde han och brodern Arvid aktiemajoriteten i tidningen till tyska regeringen för att ge Tyskland möjlighet att skapa propaganda i Sverige. Kontraktet hölls hemligt i många år.
- Aftonbladet: Från Lars Johan Hierta till våra dagar

Att AB var tyskvänligt under 30- och 40-talen är välkänt, åtminstone bland många som har koll på perioden. Att det började såpass tidigt och var så flagrant var en nyhet för åtminstone undertecknad.
01 Dec 07:21

Våra städers snabba förändring

by Hexmaster
Ett lite längre citat (språket kan ha moderniserats):
Våra städer genomgår för närvarande, i samband med hela samhällsutvecklingen, en hastig förändring, utvidgning och omdaning. Tidens nya krav och medlen för dess tillfredsställande kan verka nedbrytande på det gamla.
Kraven på högre förtätning, mer luft och ljus, snabbare förbindelser mellan stadsdelarna, mer bekvämlighet, nya byggnadstyper och konstruktionsmetoder ger alla våra städer dess moderna prägel. Ju större möjligheter en stad har till utökad industri eller handel, ju mer den av en eller annan orsak "går framåt", desto fortare ändras den gamla stadsprägeln. Men vid denna förändring, som på många håll pågår med en våldsam hastighet, förlorar vi mängder av gammal karakteristisk stadsbyggnadskonst, intressanta historiska och arkitektoniska minnesmärken, och frågan är: Ger det nya full ersättning för det förlorade?
När skrevs detta? Svar i vit text, markera för facit: [Gamla Svenska Städer (1908)]
30 Nov 11:23

Getting to the truth

by Jason Fried

If you want to feel good, brainstorm it. If you want to appear good, test it. If you want to know if you’re any good, ship it.


Getting to the truth was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

30 Nov 08:34

Managers, screw the Golden Rule

by Claire Lew

Don’t treat employees the way you want to be treated. Here’s why.

“Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.”

This is The Golden Rule we all learned growing up. As a manager or CEO in a company, you’d think it would make sense to follow it too. Managers should treat their employees the way they’d like to be treated, right?

Not quite.

In a recent interview I did with David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH), the Creator of the popular web framework Ruby on Rails and Chief Technology Officer at Basecamp, he shared this insight: You shouldn’t treat other people the way you want to be treated because the other person isn’t you.

The other person has different preferences (beliefs, ideas, and experiences) and is going to react to a situation differently than you. You might think something is reasonable or fair, but that’s you thinking that, not the other person. You cannot assume that the way she would like to be treated is the same as the way you’d like to be treated.

David admits to being guilty of this as much as anyone, saying that when he does this, “I’m trying to be empathetic to my own mirror image, which is not actually a very good definition of empathy.”

In fact, it’s self-centered in many ways to assume that if you treat others the way you’d like to be treated, other people will like it too.

One of the most memorable examples for me of this is when I talked with another CEO a few months ago. He told me how his company had implemented an unlimited vacation policy recently. In theory, he thought it was going to work great. It’s what he had always wanted when he’d worked at other companies himself — unlimited vacation, what could be better?

But then something interesting at his company happened: No one in his company took vacation. Maybe a day or two off here and there, but people took less vacation with the unlimited vacation policy than they had in years before.

I was a little shocked when he first told me this. What went wrong? The CEO learned is that none of the employees wanted to be seen as “the slacker” or “letting the team down.” Everyone else was afraid of taking vacation, so no one went on one.

After realizing this, the CEO replaced the unlimited vacation policy with a requirement that people take at least two weeks off of paid vacation during a year. It’s not what he would have necessarily wanted, but that’s not the point. If you’re a great manager or leader, you shouldn’t be operating from the point-of-view of what you want, you should be operating from the point-of-view of what others want.

Instead of practicing The Golden Rule and assuming other people are just like you, what should you do?

The answer is deceptively simple. Ask.

Ask your employees what type of vacation policy they’d prefer or what work environment they’d like to be in. Here are some examples of things you can specifically ask:

  • How do you prefer I give you feedback? In-person or in writing?
  • When you are most productive in a day? During the morning or the afternoon? Or even at night?
  • How much social interaction is important to you? Should we plan more team-bonding outings or have more regular company lunches?
  • How often would you like to get together for one-on-ones? Once a week, once a month or once a quarter?
  • How would you like to recognized for your work? Do prefer verbal praise in front of others, or more privately? Are small gifts or tokens of appreciation a good way to signify gratitude?
  • How much direction or context do you like before kicking off a project? Do you need space to gather your thoughts initially, or do you like having a lot of suggestions from me upfront?

Don’t just assume their answers are the same as yours. Ask, listen, and then act accordingly. The Golden Rule need not apply.

If you’re looking to learn more insights from David and other leaders from around the world, consider joining The Watercooler 💦 — our online leadership community with almost 400 CEOs, managers, and executives (including David!) where we talk about everything from hiring, firing, company culture and business growth.

This article was originally published for Inc.com, where I write a weekly column on leadership.


Managers, screw the Golden Rule was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

30 Nov 08:22

High Tech High Life: William Gibson & Timothy Leary in Conversation (1989)

by Ken Goffman

The story of Timothy Leary’s conversation with William Gibson is here.  This is most of the text as it was published in the first edition of MONDO 2000 magazine

TIMOTHY LEARY: If you could put Neuromancer into one sentence, how would you describe it?

WILLIAM GIBSON: What’s most important to me is that it’s about the present. It’s not really about an imagined future. It’s a way of trying to come to terms with the awe and terror inspired in me by the world in which we live. I’m anxious to know what they’ll make of it in Japan.

TRAPPED

WG: Oh, god. I’m starting to feel like Edgar Rice Burroughs or something. I mean, how did Edgar Rice Burroughs finally come to feel about Tarzan in his own heart, you know? He got real tired of it. Wound up living in Tarzana, California.

TL: You’ll end up living in a space colony called Neuromancer.

WG: That would be OK. I don’t think we’re going to have this kind of future. I think this book is so much nicer than what seems to be happening. I mean, this would be a cool place to visit. I wouldn’t mind going there.

TL: Where?

WG: To the Sprawl, to that future.

TL: Go up the well?

WG: Yeah. Go up the well and all of that. A lot of people think this is a bleak book but I think it’s optimistic.

TL: I do, too.

WG: I think it’s actually gonna be more boring. I think some kind of Falwellian future would probably be my idea of the worst thing that could happen.

TL: Yeah. That was a wonderful scene where you have those Christians who were gonna mug those girls in the subway.

WG: It’s not clear whether they’re going to mug them or just try to force some horrible pamphlet on them or something. Personally, I have a real phobia about guys like that coming up to me on the street . . .

TL: That’s a powerful scene! And you describe the girls as like hoofed animals wearing high heels.

WG: Yeah. The office girls of the Sprawl.

TL: Yeah, and they’re wearing vaginas, and — Oh, God! That’s a powerful scene.

WG: I like the idea of that subway. That’s the state-of- the-art subway. It goes from Atlanta to Boston, real fast.

TL: You’ve created a world.

WG: What you’re getting when you read that book — the impression is very complicated but it’s all actually one molecule thick. Some of it is still pretty much of a mystery to me. You know, the United States is never mentioned in the book. And there’s some question as to whether the United States exists as a political entity or if, in fact, it’s been Balkanized in some weird way. That’s kind of a favorite idea of mine, that the world should be chopped up into smaller . . .

TL: Me too, boy.

WG: West Coast separatism and stuff. In Count Zero, I mention what’s happening in California a little bit. One of the characters has a girlfriend who lives in a pontoon city that’s tethered off Redondo. Kind of like a hallucinated … it’s the Sprawl goes Sausalito — the
Sprawl but mellower.

At the end of Neuromancer, the entire Matrix is sentient. It has, in some ways, one will. And, as it tells Case, kind of matter-of-factly, it’s found another of its kind on Alpha Centuri or somewhere, so it’s got something to talk to. Count Zero starts seven years later, and like Yeats’ poem about how the center wouldn’t hold, this sort of God-consciousness is now fragmented. It hasn’t been able to keep it together. So the voodoo cultists in the Sprawl, who believe that they have contacted the voodoo pantheon through the Matrix, are in fact dealing with these fragmented elements of this God thing. And the fragments are much more demonic and more human, reflecting cultural expectations.

Anyway, I’ve got to do a different kind of book now, because I’m already getting some reviews saying, “Well, this is good, but it’s more of the same stuff.” I’m desperate to avoid that.

TL: Frank Herbert, who was a lovely guy, wrote a book that’s entirely different from Dune. It’s about humans who became insects up in Portland. Did you ever read it? It’s a nice change. In some ways, I like that book as much as Dune. He got into an entirely different situation.

WG: Well, he was trapped! That’s something I’m very worried about. I get flashes of “I don’t want to be Frank Herbert.” Because even as wealthy and as nice a guy as he was, I don’t think he was happy with what had happened to him creatively. He did get trapped. It’s different for somebody like Douglas Adams, where I think that the whole thing started off as such a goof for him that it was just a stroke of good luck that he built on. But Herbert was very serious, at a certain point. And then, gradually, he wound up having to do more of the same, because, I mean, how can you turn people down when something like that gets enough momentum?

TL: Douglas Adams told me that the three books were one book, and the publisher said split them up into three. He made a million dollars on each one of them. And they’re nice. It’s a nice tour.

WG: Yeah. They’re funny.

TL: These big books . . .

WG: I can’t go for that.

TL: I’m glad about that. Norman Spinrad … by the way — I love Norman. But I have a terrible problem with him. He makes them too big. Did you read Child of Fortune?

WG: It was too big for me.

TL: Yeah. If he had divided it down the center. If he could only cut it in half.

WG: He wrote a book called The Iron Dream. It’s a science fiction novel by Adolf Hitler, in an alternate world where Hitler became a science fiction writer. It’s a critique of the innately fascist element in a lot of traditional science fiction. Very funny.

ON THE CASE OF CASE & IN THE COURT OF BURROUGHS

WG: For me, given the data in the books, the keys to Case’s personality are the estrangement from his body, the meat, which it seems to me, he does overcome. People have criticized Neuromancer for not bringing Case to some kind of transcendent experience. But, in fact, I think he does have it. He has it within the construct of the beach and he has it when he has his orgasm. There’s a long paragraph there where he accepts the meat as being this infinite and complex thing. In some ways, he’s more human after that.

TL: In some ways he reminds me of some of Burroughs’ characters.

WG: (Equivocally) Yeah. He could be one of Burroughs’ wild boys … in a way. I’m deeply influenced by Burroughs. I always tell everybody that there’s a very strong influence there. I didn’t think I’d be able to put that over on the American science fiction people because they either don’t know who Burroughs is or they’re immediately hostile … he found 50′ s science fiction and used it like a rusty can opener on society’s jugular. They never understood. But I was like 15 when I read The Naked Lunch and it sorta splattered my head all over the walls. And I have my megalomaniac fantasy of some little kid in Indiana picking up Neuromancer and POW!

TL: Well, that happens, baby. Don’t worry. There’s 500,000 copies already.

WG: I had to teach myself not to write too much like Burroughs. He was that kind of influence. I had to weed some of that Burroughsian stuff out of it. In an interview in London, in one of my rare lucid moments, I told this guy that the difference between what Burroughs did and what I did is that Burroughs would just glue the stuff down on the page but I airbrushed it all.

TL: Burroughs and I are real close friends. We’ve been through a lot together. I went to Tangiers in 1961. I was there and Burroughs walks in with these two beautiful English boys. I started telling him about these new Drugs and, of course, he knew many times more about drugs than anyone in the world! I was just this childish Harvard Professor doing my big research project on drugs. And Burroughs is saying “Oh shit. Here they come. Boy Scouts. And they’re gonna save the world with drugs. Yeah, sure.” We brought him back to Harvard. He came to the prison project and all. I got to know him very well. He couldn’t stand us. We were much too goody-goody. We had hired this black psychologist, as our front, who was also gay. He thought we were ridiculous squares too. So he and Burroughs used to get together at the house, and Burroughs would drink a few gin-and-tonics and the two of them would start teasing us just to see how far we would go. Burroughs would say things like (assuming the dry Burroughsian rasp) “Anyone that says they wouldn’t fuck a 12-year-old Arab boy is either crazy or a liar.” (laughter)

It’s implied that the crowd that Case hung out with is a drug crowd.

WG: Yeah. This seems to be a world where everybody is pretty much stoned most of the time.

TL: That first chapter . . . whew!

WG: I had to go over and over that. I must have rewritten it 150 times.

TL: I’ll bet. It’s like a symphony or a fugue. This is the fifth line in the book; “It’s like my body developed this massive drug deficiency. It was a Sprawl voice and a Sprawl joke.” (Laughs) Of course, his life was jacking in.

WG: Oh yeah. He just lives for . . .

TL: Cyberspace.

WG: Yeah. For cyberspace.

TL: Would you describe cyberspace as the matrix of all the hallucinations?

WG: Yeah, it’s a consensual hallucination that these people have created. It’s like, with this equipment, you can agree to share the same hallucinations. In effect, they’re creating a world. It’s not really a place; it’s not really space. It’s notional space.

TL: See, we live in that space. We that are hooked up to Neuromancer are living in that consensual hallucination.

WG: Yeah. In a sense.

ON MOLLY

WG: I didn’t think women would go for the Molly character very much. I’ve really been surprised at the number of women who have come up to me and said, “Molly’s great. I really got off on her.” I think America is ready for a female lead who beats the shit out of everybody.

TL: Molly says “You like to jack in. I’ve gotta tussle.” That’s a beautiful two-liner.

WG: I was originally gonna call this book “Jacked In.” The people at Ace said it sounded too much like “Jacked Off,” but that was my first thought for a title.

Molly’s tougher than Case because Case is the viewpoint character, and I wanted an enigmatic character. So, she’s more shut off from me. It’s the symbolism of the sunglasses. He never even finds out what color her eyes are.

TL: And making love, she says . . .

WG: “No fingerprints.” (General all-around laughter) Yeah, she’s a tough one for me to do because that’s some kind of image from my . . . She’s a Bushido figure. When she says she’s street Samurai, she means it quite literally. She has this code. And it may grow out of a sort of pathological personality, but it still is her “code.

TL: What was that segment where she was like in hypnosis so she didn’t know what was going on?

WG: Oh, they use a sort of sensory cutout, so that she isn’t conscious when this stuff is happening, but her motor system was being run by a program. So, in effect, she became kind of a living sex shop doll. Programmed. The people who write the program are in Berlin. She says, “They have some nasty shit there.”

Actually, this starts in Burning Chrome. That’s where it comes from. One of the key things in that story is when this guy realizes that his girlfriend is working in one of these places in order to buy herself an improved pair of artificial eyes. I described it a little more clearly in that story. The prostitutes aren’t conscious. They don’t remember. In Burning Chrome, the guy says the orgasms are like little silver flares right out at the edge of space, and that’s the…

TL: That’s the guy’s orgasm, not hers. She’s not even feeling it.

WG: Well, she can feel a little bit, maybe . . .

ON RIVIERA, ARMITAGE & LUCAS YONDERBOY

TL: What would you say about Riviera?

WG: Riviera is like some kind of terminal bag-person.

He grows up in a radioactive pit with cannibalism pretty much the only way to get along. It’s like Suddenly Last Summer. Ever see that? Where the guy’s ripped apart by the little Mexican children? Well, Riviera is like that, a feral child. He’s smart, incredibly perverse. But all the stuff that he does ‘ the little projected hallucinations and things — are relatively low tech. He’s just projecting holograms.

There’s this amazing German surrealist sculptor named Hans Bellmer who made a piece called “The Doll.” He made a doll that was more his fetish object than a work of art. This totally idealized girl-child that could be taken apart and rearranged in an infinite number of ways. So I have Riviera call his piece “The Doll.” Bellmer’s doll. Riviera also represents the fragmentation of the body. People see things like that, sometimes, out of the corners of their eyes.

TL: What about Armitage?

WG: He’s a synthetic personality, a character utterly lacking character. As Molly says, “This guy doesn’t do anything when he’s alone.” It’s some kind of post-Vietnam state. •

TL: I can see certain Gordon Liddy qualities in Armitage.

WG: Yeah, I saw a video of his Miami Vice performance without realizing it was Liddy. When I saw that I thought of Armitage. This book’s fraught with psychotics.

TL: (Laughing) You see, there are a few of us who think it’s a very positive book in spite of that.

WG: Yeah? Really? Well, I just try to reflect the world around me.

TL: I know. You’re a mirror. Yes. How about Lucas Yonderboy?

WG: Lucas Yonderboy was my reaction to the spookier and more interesting side of punk. Kind of young and enigmatic. Cool to the point of inexplicability. And he’s a member of the Panther Moderns. They’re sorta like Marshall McLuhan’s Revenge. Media monsters. It’s as though the worst street gang you ever ran into were, at the same time, intense conceptual artists. You never know what they’re going to do.

ON PYNCHON & STERLING

WG: Bruce Sterling is my favorite science fiction writer. Schismatrix is the most visionary science fiction novel of the last twenty years or so. Humanity evolves, mutates through different forms very quickly, using genetic engineering and biochemistry. It’s a real mindfucker. When he first got it out and was getting the reviews back, he told me “There are so many moving parts, people are scared to stick their heads in it.” People will be mining that, ripping off ideas for the next thirty years.

TL: Like Gravity’s Rainbow.

WG: Yeah. That’s one of my personal favorites. Have you ever met Pynchon?

TL: Ohhhh … I had him tracked down and I could’ve. It was a deal where there was a People magazine reporter with an expense-paid thing. We were going to rent a car and pick up Ken Kesey. Pynchon was living up near Redding, Pennsylvania. We had him tracked there. And I decided I didn’t want to do it. I’ve said this to many people, so I should say it to you. Your book had the same effect on me as Gravity’s Rainbow.

The way I read Gravity’s Rainbow is pretty interesting. At one point, the American government was trying to get me to talk. They were putting incredible pressure on me. This FBI guy said if I didn’t talk . . . “we’ll put your name out at the federal prison with the jacket of a snitch.” So I ended up in a prison called Sandstone. As soon as I got in there, there was a change of clothes and they said, “The warden wants to see you.” So the warden said, “To protect you, we’re going to put you here under a false name.” And I said, “Are you crazy? Are you gonna put me on the main line?” And he said “Yeah.” I said, “What name are you going to give me?” He said, “Thrush.” And you know what a thrush is? A songbird. So I said, “Uh-uh. In a prison filled with dopers, everybody’s going to know that my name isn’t Thrush. I refuse to do it.” He says, “OK. We’ll have to put you in the hole.” And I said “Do what you gotta do — but I want to be out there in my own name. I can handle any situation. I can deal with it. I’ve been in the worst fucking prisons and handled it so far. So I can handle it and you know it. So fucking put me out there!” And he said, “Sorry.” He was very embarrassed because he knew. He was a prison warden. His job wasn’t to get people to talk or anything like that. He knew it was a federal government thing. The reason they were trying to get me to talk was to protect the top FBI guys that had committed black bag burglaries against the Weather Underground. So they wanted me to testify in their defense. They actually went to trial, if you remember, and got convicted. And were pardoned by Carter.

Well, they put me in the worst lock-up that I’ve ever been in, and I’d been in solitary confinement for over a year and a half. This was just a clean box with nothing but a mattress. The only contact I had with human beings was, five times a day, I could hear somebody coming down the hall to open the “swine trough” and pass me my food. And I’d say, “Hey, can I have something to read?” And they’d say, “No.” One of them was this black guy and, this one night, he came back. I could hear him walking — jingle, jingle, jingle — walking down the metal hall. He opens up the trough and says, “Here man,” and throws in a book. A new pocketbook. And it’s dark, so I waited ’til dawn and picked it up. And it was Gravity’s Rainbow.

WG: Perfect! Of all the books you could get, that’ll last you a while.

TL: You should only read that book under those circumstances. It is not a book you could . .

WG: It stopped my life cold for three months. My university career went to pot. I just sort of laid around and read this thing.

TL: What I did — first of all, I just read it. I read it all day until dark when they turned the lights out. I woke up the next morning and read it. For three days, I did nothing but read that book. Then I went back and I started annotating it. I did the same thing to yours.

Yours is the only book I’ve done that with since. The film industry’s never been able to do anything with Gravity’s Rainbow.

WG: It’s got 8 billion times more stuff in it than Neuromancer does. It’s an encyclopedic novel.

TL: But there’s a tremendous relationship, as you well know, between Neuromancer and Pynchon. Because Pynchon is into psychology. The shit he knows about! It’s all about psychology. But you’ve taken the next step because you’ve done that whole thing to computers.

WG: Do you think he’ll ever write another book? I know people who claim to have seen clearly, in Gravity’s Rainbow, that the guy would never write another book, that somehow it’s innate to the structure. Of course, one is extremely curious . . .

TL: There was an article in Esquire . . .

WG: You know, this guy makes Salinger look like Boy George. The levels of secrecy that surround this man. I know a man in Vancouver who claims to have washed a sinkfull of dishes at a Christmas party with Pynchon. Not the kind of guy who would make up a story. I think he may be the only person I’ve ever run into who’s actually spoken with . . .

TL: I’ve met several who knew him earlier. And do you know what all the stories are? He wrote Gravity’s Rainbow down at Huntington Beach. And he would wake up — he was taking a lot of LSD — and he’d wake up the next morning and reread what he’d written and he didn’t even remember what he’d been writing about.

WG: Well, a lot of it reads like that.

TL: By the way, I have some marijuana brownies if you wanna . . .

WG: Oh God no. I suffer from Cannabis dysphoria.

TL: (laughs) That’s a Sprawl joke. So Pynchon disappeared. There’s only one picture of him, and that’s in the Cornell yearbook. He’s totally disregarded author tours, and coming on the Donahue Show — all the hype and awards.

WG: He even set up some kind of legal thing to block his high school from revealing any of his records. All of his Naval records were destroyed in a “draft” bombing . . .

TL: The hero of the book is Slothrop. And you’re reading and reading and reading the book and suddenly, towards the end, you realize that the hero had disappeared and you haven’t seen him in about a hundred pages.

WG: That is the weirdest thing in the world!

TL: And you have to trace back. I traced back to the last time. Do you know what the last thing is that happens?

WG: It just trails off.

TL: The last time you see the character, he’s up on a mountain in Germany, and there’s a little stream. And he’s kind of — his memory is dissolving. And there’s a harmonica in the stream that was the one that Malcolm X dropped in the toilet at the beginning of the book. And that’s the end. But it just keeps going and Slothrop never reappears and you don’t notice he’s gone. Is that a way to end a book or to end your life?

WG: Yeah!

 

The post High Tech High Life: William Gibson & Timothy Leary in Conversation (1989) appeared first on Mondo 2000.

28 Nov 14:11

How to build a $600 million company without venture capital

by Jason Kottke

I loved this short profile of RXBAR founder Peter Rahal. He and his partner recently sold the company to Kellogg’s for $600 million. Some highlights:

- Each partner invested $5000 in the business…and they took no other outside investment. Yep, 0 to $600 million in about five years with no VC.

- Early on, when asking about getting investors, Rahal’s dad told him “You need to shut up and sell 1,000 bars.” Is that the best and most succinct business advice ever?

- They designed the packaging for their first bar in PowerPoint…and Rahal put his cell phone number on it. Whatever it takes.

(via @jasonfried)

Tags: business   Peter Rahal
27 Nov 06:57

May the next Etsy learn its lessons

by DHH
Can I interest you in a necklace with a lesson for eternity?

Venture capital taught Etsy that making money wasn’t a skill it needed to learn early on. Go on, it said, spend the millions. And when you’ve spent those, come back and get some more. So Etsy did. They came back for a B round, then a C round, then D, E, and F rounds. Just shy of $100 million in total.

That experience deluded Etsy into thinking that they, uniquely, could ferry the scorpion across the river without getting stung. That a cool hundred million wouldn’t ever need to be paid back or corrupt its noble mission.

But the party only lasts until the music stops. And after Etsy’s VCs foisted the “growth stock” onto the public markets, those markets eventually grew tired of waiting for said growth and profits. So they demanded change, and change they got by booting the old CEO and installing a new growth-at-all-costs replacement.

When Etsy looks back at the arc of its story, it’s easy to flatter themselves into thinking that everything was hunky-dory until The Evil Capitalists came for their pound of flesh. But give me a break. This story is as old as time, and the outcome perfectly predictable.

Etsy corrupted itself when it sold its destiny in endless rounds of venture capital funding. This wasn’t inevitable, it was a choice. One made by founders and executives who found it easier to ask investors for money than to develop the habits and skills to ask customers.

“If you really want to build a company that works for people and the planet, capitalism isn’t the solution”, muses one of the former Etsy employees in a NYT piece. Bollocks. Feel-good nonsense bollocks.

Etsy wasted the chance to provide a human alternative to Ebay and Amazon all by itself. Now it’s largely the same kind of strip mall hawking the same mass-produced goods. There was a laudable mission at its core, but one that was quickly spoiled by a gluttony for growth and negligent naiveté about scorpions.

In the burnt ashes of what Etsy has become, I hope a new attempt will grow. One that learns its lessons and guards its own destiny with as much zeal as the high-minded ideals.


May the next Etsy learn its lessons was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

21 Nov 11:35

Nej, ingen huvudtransplantation har genomförts

by Hexmaster
Den omskrivna italienska kirurgen Sergio Canavero har i flera år hävdat att huvudtransplantationer är möjliga. Nu säger hans forskarlag att de tagit ett steg närmare målet.
- Världens första huvudtransplantation på människa genomförd, Metro 18 november 2017

Vad ska man säga om en sensationell rubrik av första magnituden som inte har minsta grund i verkligheten? Även om man redan i ingressen drar ner på volymen rejält, från "genomförd" till "ett steg närmare målet". För att ta ett huvud från en död kropp och sy fast det på en annan död kropp är inte en transplantation. Det är i sig inte märkvärdigare än hydran i Hamburg.

Monstret var ett hopplock av ormskinn och vessleskallar. Det avslöjades av vår egen Linné.

Men huvud-affären blir långt kusligare när Sergio Canavero, som får Paolo Macchiarini att framstå som en omdömesgill människovän och samhällets stöttepelare, pratar om att faktiskt transplantera ett huvud, säger ta loss ett huvud från en levande person för att sätta på en hjärndöds person "levande" kropp. Vilket skulle innebära att de tar livet av en person på operationsbordet.
16 Nov 08:24

The populism of Amazon’s real-world bookstores

by Jason Kottke

Voracious reader Tyler Cowen recently visited an Amazon Store for the first time and posted some impressions.

1. It is a poorly designed store for me, most of all because it does not emphasize new releases. I feel I am familiar with a lot of older titles, or I went through a more or less rational process of deciding not to become familiar with them. Their current popularity, as measured say by Amazon rankings, does not cause me to reassess those judgments. For me, aggregate Amazon popularity has no real predictive power, except perhaps I don’t want to buy books everyone liked. “A really smart person says to consider this again,” however, would revise my prior estimates.

6. I consider myself quite pro-Amazon, still to me it feels dystopic when an attractive young saleswoman says so cheerily to (some) customers: “Thank you for being Prime!”

Some of his observations match those of other reviewers from when the store opened back in May. On my last trip to NYC, I visited the same store as Cowen (also for the first time) and it didn’t change my opinion about the visibility of the data in the store:

Other bookstores have books arranged according to best-seller lists, store-specific best-sellers, and staff recommendations, but I’ve never seen any store layout so extensively informed by data and where they tell you so much about why you’re seeing each item. Grocery store item placement is very data driven, but they don’t tell you why you’re seeing a display of Coke at the end of the aisle or why the produce is typically right at the entrance. It’ll be interesting to see if Amazon’s approach works or if people will be turned off by shopping inside a product database, a dehumanizing feeling Frommer hints at with “a collection of books that feels blandly standard” when compared to human curated selections at smaller bookstores.

Walking around, I half-expected to see SQL queries accompanying some of the displays — “SELECT * FROM books WHERE rating > 4.8 AND pub_year = 2017 ORDER BY number_sold”. Amazon definitely needs to figure out how to get a little weird into their stores, a little of the human touch. Toning down the data talk would help. A more casual typeface might work too — not Comic Sans but perhaps something at least approaching handwritten? They’ve got so so much data about how people buy books…they just need to be more clever about how they slice and dice it. Maybe look for books that exhibit the Napoleon Dynamite Problem? Find people with interesting wishlists?

Ultimately, I didn’t buy anything either.

Tags: Amazon   books   business   Tyler Cowen
15 Nov 09:27

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You've Ever Met

In real life, in the natural course of conversation, it is not uncommon to talk about a person you may know. You meet someone and say, “I’m from Sarasota,” and they say, “Oh, I have a grandparent in Sarasota,” and they tell you where they live and their name, and you may or may not recognize them.

You might assume Facebook’s friend recommendations would work the same way: You tell the social network who you are, and it tells you who you might know in the online world. But Facebook’s machinery operates on a scale far beyond normal human interactions. And the results of its People You May Know algorithm are anything but obvious. In the months I’ve been writing about PYMK, as Facebook calls it, I’ve heard more than a hundred bewildering anecdotes:

  • A man who years ago donated sperm to a couple, secretly, so they could have a child—only to have Facebook recommend the child as a person he should know. He still knows the couple but is not friends with them on Facebook.
  • A social worker whose client called her by her nickname on their second visit, because she’d shown up in his People You May Know, despite their not having exchanged contact information.
  • A woman whose father left her family when she was six years old—and saw his then-mistress suggested to her as a Facebook friend 40 years later.
  • An attorney who wrote: “I deleted Facebook after it recommended as PYMK a man who was defense counsel on one of my cases. We had only communicated through my work email, which is not connected to my Facebook, which convinced me Facebook was scanning my work email.”

Connections like these seem inexplicable if you assume Facebook only knows what you’ve told it about yourself. They’re less mysterious if you know about the other file Facebook keeps on you—one that you can’t see or control.

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Behind the Facebook profile you’ve built for yourself is another one, a shadow profile, built from the inboxes and smartphones of other Facebook users. Contact information you’ve never given the network gets associated with your account, making it easier for Facebook to more completely map your social connections.

Shadow contact information has been a known feature of Facebook for a few years now. But most users remain unaware of its reach and power. Because shadow-profile connections happen inside Facebook’s algorithmic black box, people can’t see how deep the data-mining of their lives truly is, until an uncanny recommendation pops up.

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Facebook isn’t scanning the work email of the attorney above. But it likely has her work email address on file, even if she never gave it to Facebook herself. If anyone who has the lawyer’s address in their contacts has chosen to share it with Facebook, the company can link her to anyone else who has it, such as the defense counsel in one of her cases.

Facebook will not confirm how it makes specific People You May Know connections, and a Facebook spokesperson suggested that there could be other plausible explanations for most of those examples—“mutual friendships,” or people being “in the same city/network.” The spokesperson did say that of the stories on the list, the lawyer was the likeliest case for a shadow-profile connection.

Handing over address books is one of the first steps Facebook asks people to take when they initially sign up, so that they can “Find Friends.” The “Find Friends” option on desktop is very basic:

You enter your email address and then your email password, and Facebook will tell you everyone you know on Facebook. Meanwhile, Facebook holds on to all the contacts you handed over.

The “Find Friends” page in the Facebook smartphone app is more inviting, presenting a picture of a spray of flowers and inviting the user to “See who’s on Facebook by continuously uploading your contacts.”

Down in the fine print, below the “Get Started” button, the page states that “Info about your contacts...will be sent to Facebook to help you and others find friends faster.” This is vague, and the purpose remains vague even after you click on “Learn More”:

When you choose to find friends on Facebook, we’ll use and securely store information about your contacts, including things like names and any nicknames; contact photo; phone numbers and other contact or related information you may have added like relation or profession; as well as data on your phone about those contacts. This helps Facebook make recommendation for you and others, and helps us provide a better service.

Take a look at all the possible information associated with a contact on your phone. Then consider the accumulated data your phone is carrying about various people, whether lifelong friends or passing acquaintances.

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Facebook warns users to be judicious about using all this data. “You may have business or personal contacts in your phone,” the Learn More screen admonishes the reader. “Please only send friend requests to people you know personally who would welcome the invite.”

Having issued this warning, and having acknowledged that people in your address book may not necessarily want to be connected to you, Facebook will then do exactly what it warned you not to do. If you agree to share your contacts, every piece of contact data you possess will go to Facebook, and the network will then use it to try to search for connections between everyone you know, no matter how slightly—and you won’t see it happen.


Facebook doesn’t like, and doesn’t use, the term “shadow profiles.” It doesn’t like the term because it sounds like Facebook creates hidden profiles for people who haven’t joined the network, which Facebook says it doesn’t do. The existence of shadow contact information came to light in 2013 after Facebook admitted it had discovered and fixed “a bug.” The bug was that when a user downloaded their Facebook file, it included not just their friends’ visible contact information, but also their friends’ shadow contact information.

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The problem with the bug, for Facebook, was not that all the information was lumped together—it was that it had mistakenly shown users the lump existed. The extent of the connections Facebook builds around its users is supposed to be visible only to the company itself.

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Facebook does what it can to underplay how much data it gathers through contacts, and how widely it casts its net. “People You May Know suggestions may be based on contact information we receive from people and their friends,” Facebook spokesperson Matt Steinfeld wrote in an email. “Sometimes this means that a friend or someone you know might upload contact information—like an email address or phone number—that we associate with you. This and other signals from you help us to make sure that the people we suggest are those you likely already know and want to become friends with on Facebook.”

Users of Instagram and WhatsApp, which are owned by Facebook, can also upload contacts to those apps, but Steinfeld said that Facebook does not currently use that data for Facebook friend suggestions. “Today, we use contacts uploaded to Facebook and Messenger to inform PYMK suggestions,” he wrote.


Contact the Special Projects Desk

This post was produced by the Special Projects Desk of Gizmodo Media. Reach our team by phone, text, Signal, or WhatsApp at (917) 999-6143, email us at tips@gizmodomedia.com, or contact us securely using SecureDrop.

Through the course of reporting this story, I discovered that many of my own friends had uploaded their contacts. While encouraging me to do the same, Facebook’s smartphone app told me that 272 of my friends have already done so. That’s a quarter of all my friends.

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But big as it is, that’s not even the relevant number. When Steinfeld wrote “a friend or someone you might know,” he meant anyone—any person who might at some point have labeled your phone number or email or address in their own contacts. A one-night stand from 2008, a person you got a couch from on Craiglist in 2010, a landlord from 2013: If they ever put you in their phone, or you put them in yours, Facebook could log the connection if either party were to upload their contacts.

That accumulation of contact data from hundreds of people means that Facebook probably knows every address you’ve ever lived at, every email address you’ve ever used, every landline and cell phone number you’ve ever been associated with, all of your nicknames, any social network profiles associated with you, all your former instant message accounts, and anything else someone might have added about you to their phone book.

As far as Facebook is concerned, none of that even counts as your own information. It belongs to the users who’ve uploaded it, and they’re the only ones with any control over it.

It’s what the sociologist danah boyd calls “networked privacy”: All the people who know you and who choose to share their contacts with Facebook are making it easier for Facebook to make connections you may not want it to make—say if you’re in a profession like law, medicine, social work, or even journalism, where you might not want to be connected to people you encounter at work, because of what it could reveal about them or you, or because you may not have had a friendly encounter with them.

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Imagine the challenge for people trying to maintain two different identities, such as sex workers or undercover investigators. Not only do you have to keep those identities apart like a security professional, you have to make sure that no one else links them either. If just one person you know has contact information for both identities and gives Facebook access to it, your worlds collide. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent would be screwed.


Shadow profile data powers Facebook’s effort to connect as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible. The company’s ability to perceive the threads connecting its billion-plus users around the globe led it to announce last year that it’s not six degrees that separate one person from another—it’s just three and a half.

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With its vast, hidden black book, Facebook can go beyond simply matching you directly with someone else who has your contact information. The network can do contact chaining—if two different people both have an email address or phone number for you in their contact information, that indicates that they could possibly know each other, too. It doesn’t even have to be an address or phone number that you personally told Facebook about.

This is how a psychiatrist’s patients were recommended to one another and may be why a man had his secret biological daughter recommended to him. (He and she would have her parents’ contact information in common.) And it may explain why a non-Facebook user had his ex-wife recommended to his girlfriend. Facebook doesn’t keep profiles for non-users, but it does use their contact information to connect people.

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“Mobile phone numbers are even better than social security numbers for identifying people,” said security technologist Bruce Schneier by email. “People give them out all the time, and they’re strongly linked to identity.”

Facebook won’t tell you how many people who aren’t your friends have handed over your contact information. The contents of your shadow profiles are not yours to see.

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As Violet Blue wrote in Cnet at the time of the shadow-profile bug, “What the revelation means is that Facebook has much more information on us than we know, it may not be accurate, and despite everyone’s best efforts to keep Facebook from knowing our phone numbers or work email address, the social network is getting our not-for-sharing numbers and email addresses anyway by stealing them (albeit through ‘legitimate’ means) from our friends.”

What if you don’t like Facebook having this data about you? All you need to do is find every person who’s ever gotten your contact information and uploaded it to Facebook, and then ask them one by one to go to Facebook’s contact management page and delete it.

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Just don’t miss anyone. “Once a contact is deleted, we remove it from our system—but of course it is possible that the same contact has been uploaded by someone else,” Steinfeld wrote in an email.

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The shadow profiles, like the People You May Know system they feed into, can’t be turned off or opted out of. The one thing you can do to impede Facebook’s contacts-based connections is, through its Privacy Settings menu, keep people from finding your profile by searching your phone number or email address. (Yes, Facebook functions as a reverse phone-number look-up service; under the default settings, anyone can put your phone number into the search bar and pull up your account.)

“Let’s say you’ve shared your phone number [or email address] with a lot of people and don’t want strangers using it to search for you on Facebook,” Steinfeld wrote. “You can limit who can look you up on Facebook by that phone number [or email address] to ‘friends.’ This is also a signal that People You May Know uses. So if a stranger uploads his address book including that phone number [or email address, it] won’t be used to suggest you to that stranger in People You May Know.”

These privacy settings are an undocumented way to control to whom you get recommended in People You May Know.

But you can only block People You May Know from using information you’ve actively provided to Facebook, not what’s in your shadow profile. So to protect your privacy, you need to provide Facebook with even more information about you.

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I asked if Facebook would consider sharing shadow profile information with its users, much like it accidentally shared it with their friends four years ago. Facebook says it can’t because it would be a privacy violation of those who gave the information.

“When you choose to upload your contacts to Facebook, we consider your privacy along with the privacy of the friends, family, and others who gave you their phone number or email address,” said Facebook spokesperson Matt Steinfeld by email. “We acknowledge that people might want to see the contact information that’s been uploaded about them to Facebook, but we also have a responsibility to the people choosing to upload this information. This is a balance and we’ll continue listening to people’s feedback.”

Steinfeld also said that while Facebook doesn’t currently “offer a way for people to manage the contact information others have uploaded that might be related to them, this is something I’ve shared with the team.”

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As usual, I asked to speak with the People You May Know team directly, but was turned down.

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