jewelfox: CollectQT's logo, intersecting cyan and magenta circuits which form a Q and T superimposed on each other. (CollectQT)

CollectQT is "A (Q)ueer (T)rans (Collect)ive for rebuilding your internets," according to its Twitter page. (They have a home page at collectqt.me which explains their philosophy and aggregates links, but there's no RSS feed, so at the moment you need Twitter to keep tabs on their doings.)

The project they are currently working on is Quirell, with one 'r' and two 'l's.' According to its IndieGogo fundraising page, it:

... aims to be a place for marginalized community members and others to escape the noise and over-saturation of traditional social networks. This project is needed because as users of social media, we are affected by the lack of privacy measures in place on current social networks, ‘real name’ policies, and the way that new features are implemented and security is handled within most social networking sites.

[...] we aim to deliver a platform that serves the needs of marginalized micro-communities searching for a place to call their own when mainstream social networks are overrun with hate campaigns, stress, or you simply want to connect with others like you.

Fundraising goes towards paying their queer / trans / apparently POC staff to work on it.

They "support a variety of communities, including the sex-worker community, transgender community, nonbinary community, and the MPD/DID community," the latter of which sounds like a somewhat clinical way of referring to pluralities like us but is still very encouraging. They have an open issue in their bug tracker for handling multiple personas, and their current early-stage mockup has your pronouns listed next to your name.

Why not Dreamwidth?

Dreamwidth is a wonderful CMS (Content Management System), in our opinion, which gives us a lot of control over who sees and comments on what we publish and how it looks. It is owned and largely run by women, it's free-to-use and ad-free, it supports RSS and OpenID, and it doesn't aggressively upsell its customers on "premium" services or maintain a separate tier of service for "VIPs."

It's not very easy to make it do "Tumblr-y" things or use it to post Twitter-style status updates, though, and it takes some getting used to for people who didn't grow up using LiveJournal. We feel Quirell would do a better job of addressing the needs of people like us who just want to share and communicate, while Dreamwidth's more advanced features make it ideal for RPers and prolific writers.

Sounds cool, where do I sign up?

Again, they are looking for fundraising through IndieGogo, which unlike Kickstarter will give them the funds even if they don't reach a lofty goal. The minimum donation amount is $5. If you'd like to become one of their minions (their cooler word for "allies") and have your status displayed on your Quirell page, the minimum amount is $10.

If you'd like to contribute unpaid labour instead of moneys, they have detailed instructions for helpers on their website, including non-programmer helpers I think.

If you'd like to simply poke at their code, they have instructions for doing so here. Quirell is written in Python, and has instructions for running it on Ubuntu, a free-to-download Linux-based OS which is reputed to be more accessible than others of its ilk and can be installed on a USB key without wiping your hard drive. It should be possible to get the code running on OS X or Windows too.

Hopefully, it will be live on the web soon.

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)

We wrote our "conversion story" on a forum we signed up for recently, and thought it summed things up pretty nicely in case anyone here is interested in what we've used technology-wise (although it leaves out our history of tablets, game consoles, and one beat-up iBook). What, am I the only one with an obsessive interest in how people relate to their technology and what that says about them?

Behind cut! )

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)

"Honest seekers of truth can know for certain that God lives and has a plan for their lives."

Why it's harmful: Because being preoccupied with getting ultimate answers to unanswerable questions means you find them, one way or another. Whether by having someone else tell you, or making them up for yourself. And because these questions are unanswerable, that means all the answers are wrong.

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)

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)

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)

If you want to apply for the next round: https://live.gnome.org/OutreachProgramForWomen

You don't have to apply to work on GNOME, either. Several other Free Software projects are involved. It is a paid internship.

There's also http://sf.adacamp.org/

They close to applications tomorrow.

We applied to go and get funding assistance, but aren't holding our breath.

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)

Turns out yesterday was "Intellectual Property Day," and the wonderful country I live in had its ambassadors spend the day promoting it worldwide.

Ars Technica also examined ways to improve the copyright system. Personally, I disagree with their last one; requiring you to manually register to receive any legal protection is just an invisible barrier to entry.

Finally, to put things in perspective

Creative works are relevant and valuable. Unlike this bullshit artist's website, which popped up when I researched MLM stuff after hearing someone mention it.

"Marketers" like that are living proof that libertarian capitalism -- private ownership of the means of production, and allowing the market to determine a person's value -- sucks hard. They're a reminder that money is a way of life for some people. They're exploits that need to be patched.

People like them have way too much power. Especially considering that they produce nothing of value.

Part of the reason Apple was such a lovable underdog is because they embodied the opposite of those people's values. The "suits" weren't in charge at Apple. Steve Jobs was, and as much of a tyrant and jerk as he was, he cared about making things that were beautiful and useful and improved people's lives. An entire culture grew out of those ideas, and I think that culture has value and is worth celebrating.

That culture still exists, as near as I can tell. Apple has largely expanded it moreso than undermining it. They play by the rules, and they play extremely well. It's just that the rules, right now, are a) designed to favour rich capitalists over actual workers and b) not intended to govern a high-tech society.

They need to be changed.

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] aliaspseudonym and I have been discussing my last post on Skype.

I think the original creator of a work should have their status protected via trademark, at the least. My ideal situation would be something like how Mozilla runs Firefox:

[11:23:12 PM] Jewelfox: There's a nonprofit foundation in charge of it, with a clear public benefit mission statement. A lot of the work is done by volunteers, who are co-ordinated by the foundation's representatives. The results of the work are shared with everyone via Free Software licenses. BUT the Firefox trademark is owned by Mozilla, in order to protect brand dilution.

[11:23:39 PM] Jewelfox: If you want to make a derivative, you have to call it like Iceweasel or something (yes this actually exists), as well as crediting Mozilla as per the MPL.

I feel fan creators should at least have their rights protected and codified, instead of having them be open to arbitrary attack. I also feel that if copyright's going to exist at all, it should last only 10 years at most.

There's an amazing comic I found years ago that explains a lot of the issues involved -- copyright, fair use, the Creative Commons, and the ways that "intellectual property" "owners" are claiming society's myths. It's called "Tales from the Public Domain: Bound By Law?"

I recommend it to anyone who wants to be informed about these issues.

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)

Right now, Apple can censor your app for political reasons, and lock you out of iOS forever. Hasbro can shut down any My Little Pony fan, anytime that it wants, because you only have Fair Use rights if you can pay to defend them in court (and they won't let you make money from your own work regardless). Popping the case on your tablet voids your warranty, even if you do it to fix the dang thing, and switching your phone to work on a different carrier is now illegal.

The people who own these companies aren't democratically elected. They don't have to work. They don't even have to sign contracts and hire people to work for them. They can get laws written that make others work for them, like the massive army of bronies and pegasisters creating goodwill for the My Little Pony brand without pay. Or the app developers who are out of luck if they go through anyone but Apple, because for some reason Apple's "right" to decide what goes on your iPad is more important than anyone else's.

Apple can do whatever it wants with the App Store, and with the iPad you purchased. Hasbro owns every fan work that every MLP fan ever made, and everything they will make for another hundred years or so. And not even Lauren Faust, the creator of the new MLP series, could stop them from shutting down fanworks based on it like Fighting is Magic.

That's not how things ought to work.

Here's how things ought to work:

  1. The worker should own the means of production.

  2. The audience should own their response to artwork.

  3. Everyone should have the right to take apart things that they own.

Stuff like Apple and Hasbro are doing ought to be illegal. People should go to jail and pay fines for them. It doesn't matter if you think Apple or MLP fans have bad taste, or that "computer games" and "cartoons" are irrelevant. They're just examples of things that affect everyone, in this world that we have where we choose to allow a handful of people to own everything, even though they didn't work for it.

There are a few things that work the right way.

Creative Commons and Free Software licenses let creators throw fans a bone, and make them equal partners instead of "participants." A writer can now own the website that her words are published on, thanks to Dreamwidth and WordPress' Free Software code, while MediaGoblin does the same for artists, musicians, and video producers. And while you can't write an "iPad game" without going through Apple, even my PlayStation can access what Mozilla calls the Open Web.

Finally, the stuff you create -- that you put into websites -- does not have to go away if you leave or get banned. Some sites work like Dreamwidth, where you can "friend" people on other sites and they can subscribe and leave comments. And if something goes wrong, you or someone else can take the code and set up shop someplace else, the way Dreamwidth did for upset LiveJournal fans. Mozilla is even making an app marketplace that works this way.

I'm trying to find more things that work this way, and evaluate everything else in my life and decide whether or not it's worth it.

Edit: I do not endorse brony culture, and I feel that there are a lot of problematic things about it. (The name, for starters.) Free speech should not include hate speech, because it silences others. I chose the Fighting is Magic fangame to use as an example of fans being silenced because it's a) recent, b) egregious, and c) overriding the wishes of the actual creator of the work in question.

Edit 2: Some much-needed corrections and clarifications are here.

Rapture 2.0

Apr. 7th, 2013 01:37 am
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 article that describes Tim O'Reilly, publisher of tech manuals and political mover and shaker, as a "meme hustler," is very long and obliquely-worded. It's gotten me thinking about a lot of the things I used to take for granted, though.

The tl;dr is "Silicon Valley tycoons are trying to dismantle social safety nets, erase the idea of civic participation, and become the world's unquestioned rulers." They might phrase it more like this sentence from the essay, though:

if only we had more data and better tools, we could suspend politics once and for all.

It kind of hit home for me because back in 2007, I was really high on the open source stuff and thought "we can empower everyone to solve their own problems!" But there were an awful lot of people that I was ignoring or blaming for their own circumstances, and I didn't realize that back then. Or the difference between empowering elite technogeeks, the way "open source" does, and empowering people to not be subject to them, the way that Free Software is meant to.

I think the biggest thing I learned from the article is to ask "who benefits?" when examining people's rhetoric, especially if they're skilled propagandists.

Everyone knows liberal social policies are designed to benefit the poor, which is why people who disparage them have to attack the very idea of benefiting the poor. No one wants to live in Rapture except Andrew Ryan, so the Andrew Ryans of this world have to appeal to your own selfishness; get you to think "this will be totally awesome for you," and pretend no one else in the world has different needs or abilities. Or that if they do, they'll fend for themselves somehow, which is another way of saying that they don't deserve to live.

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)
  • Markdown support, because I'm falling in love with it thanks to Simplenote. (Fortunately, it got it earlier!)
  • Google Reader style reading page, with an unread count and read entries marked differently than unread ones. Also, ease of adding external feeds to it, preferably with one click on a bookmarklet or extension.
  • Clean, modern UI. LiveJournal superficially looks much nicer right now. With a little organization and modernization, Dreamwidth could keep the same features but be much more accessible to newbies.
  • Daring Fireball style "essay" posts, which are set apart somehow from others because you want to call attention to them and let your friends know "hey I'd appreciate it if you read this." (DF uses a unicode star at the start of essay titles.)
  • Tumblr style microposts, for pictures or videos or anything else, even if they have to be hosted elsewhere. Basically I want it to be easier to post stuff that isn't a long-form essay. Right now I have noplace for this, because I don't like Twitter and don't want to get sucked into Tumblr or get trolled there.
  • One-click "add to memories," with maybe a Javascript popup asking if you want to give it tags or anything.
  • Memories page done in journal style.
  • Profile page done in journal style.
  • Apps for Android, Ubuntu, and Firefox.
  • Sharks with freaking laser beams.

I put this together because we spent awhile tonight brainstorming where, exactly, we should post little things that we want to share with our friends. Right now we use Skype for that, but what we'd really like is a Daring Fireball style linkblog. Unfortunately, that'd involve WordPress, which we've wasted hours and hours and hours on -- all while happily blogging away on Dreamwidth.

So as long as Dreamwidth's our home, we might as well do some renovation maybes. Once we've got our den set up and have done some test programming with JavaScript and Firefox OS.

Also, stories. Especially interactive ones.

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)
  • When I moved here, I basically plunked us down in the Eternal Suburbs half an hour from any bus stops and several hours from the cities where stuff actually happens. And when we do get on the bus, people here treat it like their living room and have loud conversations with each other about how people like me ought to die, or yell at me about how Jesus saves. And they don't even know I'm trans yet.

  • There is no one in my life right now that I've known for more than four years. Except for my aunt that I call on the weekends.

  • There are games in boxes, that I'm sorting through, that I haven't played because I was waiting to play them with mom like we used to when I was little. Except that she never did, never would, and now never will.

  • There are so many times I tried to share something with one or another of my parents, some game or movie or experience, and they either left partway through or turned it down outright.

  • There are so many conversations I had with them trying to tell them about something important to me, even as basic as vegetarianism or my love of Free Software and the Creative Commons, and they were skeptical and incredulous and took it as a personal affront.

  • I used to pray for them every night. "Heavenly Father, I thank thee for my family and friends. Please bless them that they'll be okay. Please help me to please them and do good things for them." I wanted it so much. I'd pray for them individually sometimes, and promise to do things for them, and apologize for not doing enough.

  • Now when I find myself praying for that, I have to remind myself of who my family and friends actually are.
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)
Content note: This essay will very briefly touch on Mormon religious concepts, as an illustration to a point. This is not just more ranting about stuff that I used to believe.

The concept in question is the idea of "eternal progress." I was taught that this was something which set my old church apart from the Brand X(-tian) churches out there, which all supposedly thought we'd be sitting on clouds in heaven and singing forever and ever. On top of that, we supposedly had "continuing revelation" even in this life, where God's living prophet would tell us new things which were tailored for our day and age.

I really believed all of this. And I believed that "heaven," for that matter, wasn't simply an unquestionably good place that believers were rewarded with. Rather, I believed that there were two kinds of people who didn't go to heaven: The unworthy who knew and regretted their unworthiness, and the unworthy who didn't see heaven as heaven because they'd been twisted around so much they didn't know up from down. They didn't want to go there, and if they could it wouldn't be heaven to them. They simply couldn't appreciate it.

(I may have mixed in some Planescape theology there.)

A couple years after I left my old church, it hit me that this was exactly right. Because back there, they were still teaching the same "Sunday School answers" to every problem, at least the ones they acknowledged existed. And God's living prophet was still telling the same old stories about widows and stuff. Even their new website about "Mormons and Gays" (trigger warning for homophobia) explicitly says "we don't know" why God doesn't want gays to get married. This is what it's come to, now that their old reasons have been disproven. And while the rest of the first world is moving towards marriage equality, they're having a hissy fit over women wearing pants to church.

It's progress, but it's glacially slow and decades behind. And most of their discourse is still the same-old.

Progressive software

Why do I bring all this up? Because I've been realizing how unhealthy it is for me to dwell on that garbage, and trying to find new things to occupy my time with. And while looking at different forums and blogs, I realized I felt more at home on Planet Ubuntu than most more traditional "Free Software" blogs, although Planet GNOME's a close second and I also like Máirín Duffy's blog. And I realized the reason why was the same as with the above: Because in my personal experience, Free Software zealots in the vein of the Free Software Foundation are fundamentalists, who are as anti-progressive as the ones in the church that I left.

So while GNOME is moving design radically forward, they're throwing fits about it. While Máirín's teaching Girl Scouts to use Inkscape, they're making fun of her and staging juvenile protests on Planet Fedora, against the idea of making it easier to use and get involved with. And while the Outreach Program for Women is bringing new writers and contributors into the fold, they're trolling our blogs and insisting we're making stuff up about harassment and other issues that they do not face.

(I realize "they" is amorphous here, so for the sake of discussion it means "the people who do these things." I associate "them" with the FSF because I see it as the least progressive, most fundamentalist arm of the Free Software movement, which I associate in my mind more with their boycotts and insistence on purity than anything -- like the GNU project, or the gcc compiler, or the GPL -- that they may have actually done or created at some point. I'm open to being proven wrong here; I'm aware that people and organizations change, and have been especially impressed with some of Microsoft's recent products. This is just an impression I have, based on who they call their enemy and why.)

I guess what I'm saying is I realized I like the culture in Ubuntu and GNOME, where the emphasis is on moving forward (albeit in different directions for different reasons), and on bringing this stuff that we have to as many people as possible, and even on changing it so as to be more useful and accessible. Whereas in other projects, and communities, and of course churches, I see more of an emphasis on preaching (or appearing to preach) the same fundamentals over and over again, to the point of insulting people it doesn't appeal to or help instead of asking them why.

Progressive gaming?

I realize it's slightly ironic that I'm saying all this when my favourite computer game ever was made about 10 years ago. >_> In FFXI's case, though, I really haven't seen anything better at doing what it does best, for me personally. Most MMOs these days tend to copy World of Warcraft, with its looting and button-mashing and information overload UI. And they don't even do a good job of it.

For me, FFXI isn't a game so much as a world, that I experience in a particular way. It has a minimalist interface that's designed to be played with a game controller. It's immersive, and sort of invites contemplation. Chatting's normally done by text instead of headset. And the pace is extremely different. The only games I know of which come close to how it feels (which I didn't describe very well) are PlayStation Home and FFXIV, both of which I either play or am hoping to play when it comes to the PS3.

I realize now that a lot of the things I lament about missing, that were around in the "good old days" of FFXI, are things that made the game hostile to newbies. I feel good about triumphing over them, but countless others got discouraged and left. I like seeing the game make some progress on this front, and I have high hopes for FFXIV: A Realm Reborn. I want to see this style of game that I like stay young, and bring in new players. I don't want to only be surrounded by people my age, and with my exact preferences. And I don't want all that we talk about to be how things aren't like what they used to be.

In conclusion

I guess there's not really a point to all this. I just figured I ought to write more Dreamwidth essays. Most of the realizations I've been having and progress I've been making, in the last few weeks, I've only been sharing on Skype. I figure I ought to change that, since people seem to like my writing.
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)
tl;dr Imagine a web browser that only lets you log in to MySpace and Yahoo!, and breaks when you access Google+, Pinterest, or any microblogging site. This is GOA in 5 years.

The situation

GNOME Online Accounts is GNOME's attempt at letting your desktop OS work seamlessly with websites. Instead of having to browse to Google Drive's website, for instance, you just open up GNOME Documents and there's all the stuff that you've written on Google Docs over the last several years.

It works this way because that's how it's supposed to work. GNOME Documents is useless in this day and age, to a growing number of technical and nontechnical users, if all it can get to is stuff on your hard disk. And Skype has become the universal chat client in the world at large, partly because of its effortless handling of video calls but also because of its seamless way of handling logins and chat logs from any device.

Once stuff that works this way becomes the norm, anything that doesn't support it feels broken.

The problem

The problem is that GOA only supports Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Windows Live, your Google account, and your Facebook account. That's it. There is no easy way to add support for your application to GOA. There is no way to share information from your app to others via GOA. The only way to get GNOME's core applications to work with your web app is to patch GNOME core, which involves persuading GNOME's core developers that your app is an essential part of GNOME.

This renders GOA irrelevant, and it renders GNOME's core apps irrelevant. Because by the time any of us realizes an app needs to work with GNOME, a bunch of people will have already stopped using GNOME core apps.

The next Facebook will be out for five years before someone from GNOME decides "hey we ought to import your pictures and contacts from this," because it won't be targetted at the demographic which comprises most of GNOME's core contributors. The next Skype will work on Ubuntu first, because it allows apps to add plugins to its version of GOA.

This has the potential to cause a bit of a mess, but the alternative isn't a pure and uncompromised user experience. The alternative is GNOME core having to make the decision, for every new web app, of whether or not GNOME should support it. The alternative is new Free Software web apps not working with the premiere Free Software desktop, because they'd rather write a plugin than beg and get turned down anyway.

The alternative is nobody using GNOME, because it doesn't work with their stuff.

"Asking permission from GNOME's core devs" is a solution which does not scale, and which imposes an unnecessary burden on third-party developers. We need a new solution. Because whatever we can do that makes it easier for people to work with GNOME, to write apps for GNOME, to write apps which tie in to GNOME, is a step towards making GNOME more relevant to more people's lives.
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)
If you say you are [X], I assume ...

[Trigger warning for just about everything.]

Read more... )

... until proven otherwise.

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

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