jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

I think this happens when a given ideal becomes an end in itself, and not a means to an end. Suddenly people's lives are based around this ideal, instead of the other way around, and anything that threatens this ideal seems to threaten their lives by extension.

I think this applies to evangelicals going after gays, movement atheists going after theists, and free software zealots going after anything and everything in the world that might make computing and coding more accessible to women. The way things are, or were, or should be, is perfect. If you don't exist in that ideal world, then you shouldn't exist at all.

I think this sort of inhumane idealism is worse than simple inhumaneness of convenience, because it actively seeks out people to destroy them, whether by conversion or by making life as something different impossible. And I think that part of the reason it gets so vicious about it is because it's sublimating the energy that should have gone into questioning its own assumptions, and hearing other people's stories.

I know in my case I spent most of my life not just willing to throw myself away for an ideal, but actively trying to do so. I spent years hating myself for not being the perfect Mormon, and struggling with Linux to try to get it to do what I needed it to. And when I found out that my theritype was a carnivore, I felt sick and wanted to cease to exist, because I felt like every day that I lived was a tragedy.

It's taken a lot of work to try to reconstruct my morality based on what's right for people, including myself, because of how much I saw the very idea mocked. It's supposedly weak, selfish, and dishonest to not sacrifice yourself. But the more I see how dishonest and selfish people who want others to cease to exist are, and how hard it is to convince myself that I shouldn't just curl up and die when I'm asked to, I start to question that. I guess.

I think this is why we're so quick to back down, to infosuicide even, and why it takes forever for us to get to the point where we voice our concerns about something that's hurting us. Deep down, we agree with everyone who's said we don't deserve to exist, for every reason. We consider every request made of us to be reasonable, by default, and every request we make to be an unreasonable imposition.

So when someone tells us to get the hell off their Internet, we already agree with them that we shouldn't be there.

It takes a lot of work to construct the illusion that we deserve to exist, and it's easy for that illusion to vanish.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

I'm going to try to keep this concise and nontechnical, and explain why I think everyone -- especially people who don't have a lot of time, money, or spoons, and who aren't as interested in fiddling with their smartphones as I am -- should consider a Windows Phone in general, and the one that I got in particular.

Cut for length and for lots of pictures. )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

That's the way Free Software idealists say software development should work. You get everything for free in Linux, including the code. If you don't like how something works, you change it and "submit your patch upstream," thus incorporating it into the whole. That way everyone benefits from everyone's creativity.

The problem is, this disenfranchises everyone who doesn't have both the technical ability to do that, and the social standing to be allowed to do that. Which means the Linux world is, and always has been, just a playground for technically proficient people who meet a particular demographic profile, and who keep making changes that affect everyone without consulting the people affected.

The only way to have your interests represented is to be part of the in-group, which means being a white cismale with unusual technical skills and enough money and free time to work on this stuff without pay. That, or a job that lets you get paid for it.

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Mormon theology holds that freedom is a product of obedience to Mormon leaders and teachings. The line of reasoning goes something like this:

You can choose to obey and be happy, or you can choose to disobey and be sad. The more you disobey, the more it takes away your ability to make future choices, through chains of addiction and bad consequences. But obeying increases your freedom and opens up new choices to you. So always choose to obey.

Sometimes, disobeying leads to immediate negative consequences. Like being eaten by crocodiles. (Content note: violence, predation, jump scares)

That's why you should only want to have "good, clean, wholesome, Latter-day Saint fun," like these identically-dressed youth. (Content note: cringe-inducing)

You know why they're having fun? Because when you're scared to death that breaking the rules will get you gruesomely eaten, you are freaking desperate for your needs to be satisfied in a way that the rules will allow. (This is also why Mormons marry for all of eternity at 19, after six-week courtships.)

How desperate? This desperate.

A lot of people use Free Software desktop operating systems for reasons that make perfect sense. I didn't. I was a PC gamer and a creative, and the desktop designed to set hackers free left me in chains.

"They cannot help their neighbours"

I had written an entire real-time strategy game in Visual BASIC on Windows 98, using 3d graphics I rendered myself, when I was 16 years old. I always told myself I would learn to do something like that again, this time with completely Free Software. But I never did. Instead I spent years installing and reinstalling distros, and when I finally set out to learn Linux app programming I found that I had to write the documentation myself. Worse, no one else would ever read it.

Add to that the politics, the sexism, the white cismale good ol' boys' network (they call it a "meritocracy"), and the grotesquely rude billionaire in charge of the biggest Free Software OS, and suddenly the cult didn't seem so appealing anymore.

I switched completely over to Windows 8 a few days ago. Immediately afterwards, my laptop got infected with malware when I tried to install a dodgy utility. I knew it was my fault, just like everything bad that's happened to me since I left the Mormon church has been my fault. Has been God's punishment, Satan's having his way with me, spiritual crocodiles snapping their jaws around my neck.

I'm supposed to go crawling back

To the people who shamed me for liking things they didn't, told me to ignore needs that they didn't have, and didn't think it was a problem that pretty much no one like me was making decisions in their world.

But the rest of the world isn't like that. It's okay to like different things. It's okay to have needs that aren't met by one particular church or OS, even if lots of other people like them. It doesn't mean that you're broken or terrible. It doesn't mean you have to sacrifice everything you like, just to make them comfortable. And it doesn't mean you have to give up your dreams, in order to do work that they don't even value.

I'm glad that the GNOME Foundation's sponsors paid me, and that my mentor and the people who left me kind comments encouraged me to develop my skills. I just wish that it'd been the kind of culture that would've chastised the trolls, instead of letting them run loose and say mean, clueless things in the same room and in the same comment threads. And I wish that it'd been the kind of culture that valued newbie documentation enough to have already had it in place, instead of delegating it to an intern years down the road and then promptly burying it.

Microsoft's offering money for apps

And they are all about their app developers.

I have been utterly spoiled by Visual Studio and Windows 8 so far, after I learned to avoid dodgy apps. I have been reading comprehensive tutorials, often written by women, using languages (HTML/CSS/JavaScript) I already know. And I feel like when I learned Visual BASIC that first time, and make something that amazed myself.

I don't know what I'm going to be using or writing a year from now, but I like what I've done so far and I want to keep going. I'll let you all know what happens.

In the meantime, I have at least one story commission to work on, and I've also been working on the [community profile] fursonarpg. We still don't have a start date set, but it's been awesome to see so many people excited about it.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

[personal profile] coffeevore and I are discussing on my last post what the warning signs of a cult are.

I'm reading people's comments on Jono Bacon's blog -- he's the piece of work who's Canonical's "community manager," and whose job description is basically "smother people who've been hurt and prevent them from doing anything about it." They're talking about how Canonical is engaged in "brand value destruction," and how it's destroying the Ubuntu brand by taking their volunteers for granted and treating them and their users as exploitable resources.

I once wrote an inspiring, frequently-favourited, sig-quoted post on the Ubuntu forums, that told the people there that they were what the Ubuntu brand was. That the Circle of Friends represented them. I believed in it every time I saw newbies learn how to use Linux. I believed in it when I saw PCs shipping with Ubuntu preloaded. I believed in it when I saw third-world contributors being empowered, local governments adopting Free Software, and all this other stuff that I felt couldn't happen with other "distros" because they didn't seem to care about anyone besides themselves and those like them.

I adopted and advocated Ubuntu not because I thought "Linux on the desktop" was the shiz, but out of solidarity with those people. And everyone else who had yet to be empowered by it.

Somehow, I missed the fact that the ends justified the means for Canonical. They they would do hostile, abusive things to their users, and take advantage of their most loyal volunteers, and justify it with "we're bringing Free Software to the masses." Sometimes they wouldn't even say that, and would just jump right to the "sustainable business model" garbage: "You want us to be able to make money off of this, right?" They wanted to be seen as a charity while they acted like a for-profit business, just like the church I used to be part of.

It's really no wonder I took to Ubuntu so strongly. It promised me the same clarity of vision, the same unambigiously good mission statement, the same visionary and godlike founder, who literally looked down on Earth from above.

All of it was a lie.

Here are the warning signs I think it and my old church had in common. (Quotation marks are used to indicate actual things said by Ubuntu cultists.)

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

After I wrote that takedown of the phrase "religion sucks," in which I pointed out that "religion" and "cults of personality" are separate categories which don't completely overlap, I started seeing cultlike characteristics in a lot of the things around me. And realizing what those characteristics were.

As part of this, I had the unfortunate realization that a lot of the Ubuntu community is a cult. I'm not sure I'd say all of it is, or that you have to be a cultist to use Ubuntu. But they say that people leaving one cult often join another, and for several years around the time I became disaffected with Mormonism I was really high on Ubuntu. I try to see it more pragmatically now, but the cultlike atmosphere on Planet Ubuntu and the way they diss people who don't fit in really disgusts me. Especially with the way people are treating those who left after the recent debacle. I'm switching back to GNOME and Fedora as soon as I can muster the energy.

Anyway, I'm going to try to list some of the cult characteristics that I've noticed here, using both religious and nonreligious cults as examples.

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
This entry sums up how we were feeling at the time. We're going to try to be more thorough here.

Feelings of inadequacy
  • Very soon after our internship started, our mentor was baffled by our incompetence, and admitted to having expected we wouldn't be having this kind of trouble. We realized that we had misled them as to our level of expertise, and while she tried to encourage us afterwards we felt like a poser pretty much the entire time we were there.
  • We're severely depressed and dysphoric, and surrounded in-person by people who hate us, yell at us, and talk casually about letting us die. We should be on disability benefits, not grasping at straws for tech writing chances. We didn't get as much work as we wanted to done because of this.
Feelings of rejection
  • Pretty much every blog post we made on Planet GNOME drew a ton of negative comments, especially the ones about sexism in tech. And that's even with anonymous commenting disabled. It got to the point where we set it to not email us and had our boyfriend screen comments for us.
  • At Open Help, a Red Hat employee talked openly about how the Outreach Program was a terrible idea and the money should not have been given to us. This caused a day-long depressive episode in the middle of the conference. Trying to talk to our mentor about it made us feel even more alienated, as she didn't understand our concerns and it was painfully obvious that she was trying to be polite.
  • We had to go home alone from one evening out at Open Help because the others there started talking in ways that made us uncomfortable while they were drinking.
  • After the conference, one person (that we liked and thought we had gotten along well with) wrote a blog post summarizing their experience at it, in which they used language that showed how weirded out they were by us and considered some of the topics we discussed there to be very inappropriate.
  • The whole time, we felt like a tag-along who didn't really belong there.
Lack of appreciation
  • We felt that the work we did, both in writing tutorials and in laying the foundation for ongoing JavaScript documentation, was completely ignored. There was no mention of it at all in the latest Planet GNOME posts about JavaScript being the "official" language, except for a note that the JavaScript tutorials were not as complete as the other languages' and someone had to fill them in manually. According to one person who was there, there was no mention of it during their in-person planning either. This was after we'd blogged extensively about it.
  • Bugs that we filed and comments we made on IRC went completely ignored, including ones about pointless and simple regressions which cost us important functionality.
We don't know how much of the problem is "we suck," how much of the problem is "GNOME sucks," and how much of the problem is "we're just not right for each other." We're usually inclined to believe the former more than the latter, which is part of the reason we listed our deficiencies right from the get-go and emphasized how awkward others felt around us.

All we know is that a thing that we were excited about turned out to be a horrible idea, and we're extremely depressed about it now. We don't really want to get involved in any more open-source projects in the future, if they have any of the kind of people who commented in our blog contributing to them. Some people encouraged us, but a lot of people discouraged us, and no one did anything about them.

Which may have been just as well.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
This essay compares another platform's user and developer experience to GNOME's, in an attempt to understand how to make GNOME accessible to app developers.

I'm watching a presentation about PlayStation Home given at GDC (Game Developers' Conference) 2010, and what amazes me is how easy it seems to be to make stuff for Sony's version of Second Life. It uses industry-standard 3d modeling software (sadly not Blender), and simple Lua scripts to hold everything together. The guy giving the presentation explicitly said he wanted a graphic artist to be able to try out the developer's kit and have a good idea of what they could make from it very quickly, and at every step there are tons of examples and validators which point out potential problems.

The end result is decidedly niche, since it only runs on the PlayStation 3 and takes forever to load (both Home itself and each "scene" in it). I've personally had a lot of fun with it, though, because it's even easier to play than it is to develop for. If Second Life is like a hardcore custom KDE or Windows 7 desktop (running in classic mode!), Home's more like GNOME 3 in that it's extremely simple to play and easy to control and customize your avatar.

SL makes darned near anything possible, but everything's clicky and difficult, and the end result is like a 3d modeling app crossed with a chatroom with bad lag. Home makes a number of trade-offs versus SL that make it more usable:
  • Your avatar can perform fewer actions, but they're all much easier to select.

  • It automatically sorts your inventory into folders, based on how you wear something or what kind of object it is.

  • Instead of rendering scenes or avatars gradually, it takes up to a minute to load each scene fully, and displays a transparent "ghost" person for avatars which haven't loaded completely yet.

  • Scenes themselves are completely self-contained. They can connect with each other through doors or teleporters, but there is no "mainland" area.

  • There's a dedicated game API for developers who want to make games in Home, which is less flexible than SL's open-endedness but makes it a lot easier to write games.

Very few people use Home or SL regularly, and the ones who do tend to be hardcore fans. In SL's case, the interface turns people off, along with how pointless it feels if you don't have friends there or aren't into kink. In Home's case, the long loading times (worse than other PS3 titles) don't help, plus the fact that it's basically a platform for Facebook-style social games where you play as yourself. Plus the fact that it's only on one game console, and isn't that heavily promoted. All of these factors limit Home's audience.

What Home does, though, it does better than Second Life IMO. Even if you toss out Linden Lab's marketing and take SL for the 3d modeling chatroom it is, it's just plain incredibly clunky to use. You have to really be captivated by it to even learn the basic controls. Whereas with Home, you can pick up a controller and play immediately if you can stand the long loading times. I just wish they'd tell people "you can use USB keyboards" when they log in, because one of my friends didn't know that.

Home's biggest limitations are that, from a player's point of view, it's tied to the PlayStation 3; and from a developer's point of view, it's tied to Sony. You need to be a Sony-approved developer, and pay a few thousand dollars for a dev kit. It's not like SL where anyone can jump in and start designing outfits. And while it's also not a griefer's paradise (with a large red light district) like SL is, there's still a lot of harassment in it.

PlayStation Home: Of the devil?

In the Free Software community, we might say that Home is immoral because of how proprietary it is. Tying your stuff to one platform and company is only one way to limit freedom, though, and Home seems to empower both users and developers in ways that (for instance) OpenSim doesn't. Partly because of the network effects and built-in PS3 audience, but also partly because that's what it was made to do, was be simple and widely accessible.

Learning to write GNOME applications, I was struck by how basic it seemed at its core. That a few lines of code, in a simple language, could create an elegant app. I just had to go through a lot of IMO unnecessary work in order to find out how to make that happen to begin with.

I documented what I learned, with the help of my mentor, but it hasn't been nearly enough. I want the best Free Software desktop to also be the most accessible to novice developers, even those who just want to write apps and aren't interested in "contributing to the community." Because requiring someone to be an established C guru, who fits in on GNOME IRC, in order to start writing apps isn't really that different from Sony's gatekeeping. Not from the perspective of someone who wants to create something and hasn't a clue where to start.

Let's make things better

If anyone's interested in contributing, this page explains how to get started hacking the developer docs, while this page outlines where I want to go with JavaScript's. I don't have a lot of free time to work on it in between using my limited spoons to deal with depression and transitioning, but I'm trying to document things that occur to me, and I'm open to hearing suggestions.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
Matthew Garrett's recent post on depression touched a nerve, because I've been dealing with it for most of my life and it was especially bad all of last year. I'm trying to arrange to get help, but even that is extremely difficult right now.

I'm going to try to add some things to his post without going on for too long. Specifically, I'm going to address ideas we have and stuff we take for granted that makes the experience of being depressed much, much worse.

The "Just World" fallacy

This is a fancy name for the idea that people tend to get what they deserve. Here in the States, we call it "liberty" and "objectivism" and "reducing dependence on government." In the Linux and Free Software communities, we call it "meritocracy."

It's an extremely convenient belief to have if you're at the top of your pecking order. It tells you that you deserve to be there, because of how awesome you are. And it tells you not to worry about anybody beneath you, because if they're deserving they'll make it eventually. And if they're not, well, don't worry about it. It's their fault, and helping them will just keep them dependent on you. Better to throw them out of the nest and watch their carcasses smear on the rocks, until you find one that can fly like you could.

This mindset stigmatizes being weak or in need of help. It turns being a newb, at life or at Linux, into something to be ashamed of. And when you have this mindset yourself, and are weak or injured, you're ashamed of everything. You have a desperate need to please others and show that your life is worthwhile. You're afraid to admit failure, to yourself or to anyone else, because you know that you'll be destroyed and it'll be your fault.

Preordained winners and losers

If you aren't so conscientious, of course, none of that matters. Of course you'll get the help you need. Of course you deserve it. Ayn Rand herself went on Social Security. My parents have no qualms about getting cheques from the government, via dad's military retirement. But I sold off almost all my possessions to keep from needing to apply for "food stamps," which are one of the only reliable social welfare programs here for people who aren't senior citizens. I didn't want to be a burden.

And that's what these beliefs are all about. They take people who care about others, who want to help others, who want to be part of a team and community and work together to do something awesome, and very often make them into nervous, self-loathing wrecks. At their best and most productive, they may have impostor syndrome and depression, may fail to promote themselves and their projects, and may put up with crap no one should. At their worse, they may want to kill themselves, like I almost did a few years ago after being thrown out of the house.

The fact that my parents let me back in an hour or so later didn't change anything. There was no apology. The status quo, in which this event wasn't even surprising and I just needed to live with it, did not change. And my family laughed and joked with each other later that day, without saying a word about what'd happened, as I went catatonic right there on the couch. I knew now that I was worthless, and no matter how much reassurance or encouragement I get from others that "fact" is still the core of my being.

I guess what I'm trying to say is,

The idea of "meritocracy" causes depression and kills people

And so whenever I see people glorify it, I know right away that to the degree that they take this belief seriously I'm looking at a good ol' boys' network with preordained winners and losers. Where people they like and consider worthwhile get rewarded and get away with anything, and people they dislike get blamed for their "failures" and punished.

This is why there's historically been so much hostility towards Apple, and towards everything in GNOME and Free Software and politics that tries to make stuff easier for newbs or bring new people into the fold. The people complaining have decided who's a "real" hacker or gamer or contributor or American, and who's undeserving of the label. They want the undeserving to run off somewhere that they don't have to see them, and they close their eyes so they don't see the smeared carcasses on the rocks.

When you grow up with this mindset and then realize that you're undeserving, you want to die.

I guess that's all.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
And neither does getting upset at people for not reading your mind, and knowing you "didn't mean to offend them" by saying something incredibly mean.

Case in point: World of GNOME's recent review of Fedora 18, which earlier today included a paragraphs-long joke (right after the winking smiley) about how it can be a good or bad thing that Fedora's more stable now depending on if "you" have a "hot" or "ugly" girlfriend, because a more stable distro = fewer visits to do "tech support."

A lot of people left annoyed comments on that version of the post, unsurprisingly including Fedora (and Red Hat)'s resident UX expert Máirín Duffy. It's unsurprising because when you put a lot of time and effort into a Free Software project you love, you really don't want to hear "jokes" which suggest that you suck at it; that you're only here with your boyfriend; and that you're only worth anything if you're "hot."

The post, as originally written, created a sickening grunch which reminded WoGue's female readers that we are women first and geeks second, if at all. Which made many of us feel like the blog's only written for guys, even if they interview women (including my awesome mentor from the 2012 OPW), and that we will always be out of place there.

WoGue has removed and apologized for the offensive material. Author Alex Diavatis deserves (and has received, in the comments) credit for doing so. This post isn't meant to shame him. It's meant to let people who may have read the original article know what's happened since it was posted, and to draw attention to a comment made by Bess Sadler:
I am baffled at how someone who programs computers can make the argument, "I know I said x, but I MEANT y, doesn't that count?" No, in natural language, like in computer code, it is what you ACTUALLY SAY that matters. Regardless of your intent, you have written something that is damaging to women. When you write software that has a bug in it, and someone helpfully points that out, you probably don't respond defensively and claim that because your intentions were good the bug doesn't need fixing. Please extend that logic to your non-code writing as well.
Bess left this comment for Alex because his first reaction was the same one a lot of people have when they're called out for doing something hurtful: Saying "but I'm not a bad person!" as though that undoes the hurt they just did.

This is not the correct response to a syntax error.

The correct response is to take bug reports seriously, patch the bugs when they come up, and apologize for your mistake. Because whether or not you personally think you're a "good person," or a "good programmer," or even "totally not sexist," ceases to matter if the code doesn't compile.

All you can do is fix it.

About us

~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

~ She / her ~

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