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Monkey Island

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I heard this (true) story several years ago, and it’s stuck with me:

A zoo keeps its monkeys on an island in the middle of a small lake. You can take a tour on a catamaran that motors around the island. A zookeeper answers questions over the boat’s loudspeaker.

A tour member asks, “I notice that there’s no fence around the lake. Why don’t the monkeys escape?”

“Good question,” says the zookeeper. “Members of this species of monkey are naturally strong swimmers, and any of these monkeys could easily paddle across the lake and leave the zoo. But none of the monkeys in this colony have ever seen another monkey swim, so they don’t realize that they can.”

I’m sure I’m a monkey, but I can’t figure out how. Which is the problem with being on Monkey Island.

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thcipriani
1 day ago
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Sylvain Beucler: Best GitHub alternative: us

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Why try to choose the host that sucks less, when hosting a single-file CGI gets you decentralized git-like + tracker + wiki?

Fossil

https://www.fossil-scm.org/

We gotta take the power back.

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thcipriani
12 days ago
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The Secret Life of Cats

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By Kasia Babis

The Nib Animated: Fly Boy

Watch the newest episode of The Nib Animated, which explores fear of flying and the science of teleportation.

Ireland Just Legalized Abortion—What About the Rest of the World?

By Rachel Dukes

Keep reading about abortion laws worldwide.

Korean Cartoonists Respond to the Peace Process

Four cartoonists reflect on the possibility of peace on the Korean peninsula, and a history of strife.

By Sunmi

Keep Reading “Korean Cartoonists on the Peace Process.”

No ICE? No Problem!

By Matt Lubchansky

Keep Reading “No ICE, No Problem!”

The American Revolution’s Greatest Leader Was Openly Gay

by Josh Trujillo and Levi Hastings

Keep Reading About Baron Von Steuben.

What Does It Take for a Celebrity to Get Fired for Being Racist?

By Kendra Wells

Keep Reading “What Does it Take for a Celebrity to Be Fired?”

Congratulations to Gemma Correll!

Gemma’s comics on The Nib won the 2017 National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award for Best Online Comics — Short Form! Read all of Gemma’s officially award-winning comics right here.


The Secret Life of Cats was originally published in The Nib on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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thcipriani
14 days ago
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I knew cats were up to something.
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Sunday, June 3 - on the vexed subject of github

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Sunday, June 3

on the vexed subject of github

So Microsoft bought GitHub. I started to outline a whole essay here, under a different title, making various arguments about that. I got about 500 words in before deleting it for being terrible writing.

Here’s the gist of the opinionating without the supporting rhetoric:

  1. This is bad and should probably be stopped (it won’t be).

  2. Microsoft are still bad even though it’s very much out of fashion to believe so.

  3. The real problem is that GitHub itself is bad and functions as such a lobster trap for open code, making the whole ecosystem more vulnerable to capture.

The real real problem is that capitalism is bad.

I was just reading about another acquisition: Bayer is buying Monsanto, to the tune of $63 billion. This is bad and should probably be stopped (it won’t be).

Microsoft made a convenient figure to cast as a villain for the computing counterculture of the 90s and early 2000s, but that’s not why they’re bad. Monsanto make a convenient villain for agricultural hippies and people who construe Whole Foods style luxury consumption as a moral good, but that’s not why they’re bad.

Both are bad because massive accumulations of unaccountable power are unhealthy, and we live in a time of escalating inequality and deteriorating governance.

I don’t know what to do about any of that.

GitHub itself is, in some sense, the product of what we could call design externalities in Git. Git’s model is distributed, sure, but it leaves the plumbing up to its users. Meanwhile, hub-and-spokes development models work pretty well for most projects, and features like issue tracking, friendly publishing, and code review are really useful. So is the discoverability of having one place to search, a unified namespace of users, and so on and so forth.

That there aren’t well-defined mechanisms for issues, code review, and other metadata to be stored and transmitted with code history is understandable from the perspective of a thing described as “the stupid content tracker”, but it’s also a giant vulnerability to the kinds of services centralizing SaaS providers are good at offering.

GitHub has solved a lot of hard problems, and solved them pretty well from the perspectives of interface, usability, and presentation. A lot of the stuff that’s missing from core Git is intrinsically difficult, and it’s more difficult to solve in a distributed way. That’s true even if your incentives aren’t to, as a friend recently put it, turn git back into svn.

Of course, if GitHub were a foundation or a cooperative with a clearly defined public mission instead of a highly successful financial engineering scheme built on the slow enclosure of the commons (i.e., a technology business in 2018), I’d probably applaud it the way I do something like archive.org. It’s not like there’s not considerable social benefit to its archival / publishing / communication functions.

(Even if, in practice, much of that social benefit is leveraged towards bootstrapping other financial engineering schemes so that assholes can get rich building the panopticon, because software is also bad and should be stopped.)

Anyway, here we are. I’m not doing anything about it this week, other than mulling some options, but within a couple of weeks is probably the right time to move all of the canonical hosting for my personal projects to a system I control. It’s been on my mind every now and then for years.

That part’s straightforward — there’s nothing I maintain on my own time that has a development team, or for that matter any users to speak of. Something like Gitea has more features than I need for things like the source code to this blog or a .vimrc that I occasionally link to in IRC. I’ll try to do an extremely boring writeup when I decide what I’m doing.

There’s a much bigger meta-game here, though, than just where some .git directories are stashed. That’s the part I’ll be watching with interest.

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thcipriani
14 days ago
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Wordograms

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I regularly confuse the words pictogram, ideogram, and logogram. There’s no good reason for that, since the words themselves describe what they mean!

In rough order of abstraction:

A pictogram is a picture of a thing or a situation. Pictograms are independent of language. The silhouette of a man representing a men’s restroom is a pictogram.

An ideogram is any graphic symbol representing an idea. It’s often geometric. Like pictograms, ideograms are intended to be independent of any particular language, but they usually require cultural context to understand. Mathematical and currency symbols (like =, %, or $) are ideograms, and so is a big red “X” over something to indicate that it’s prohibited.

A logogram (from Greek logos, “word”) is a symbol representing a word or phrase. Logograms aren’t universal and vary by language, like alphabets and syllabaries. Written Chinese, for example, is logographic: “China” in Chinese is 中国, which literally means “middle kingdom.”

The boundaries between these can be fuzzy. “中” is definitely a logogram, since it means the word “middle” in written Chinese, but it sure looks like it grew out of an ideogram representing centrality.

Similarly, every pictogram is an ideogram, since pictures represent ideas, but many ideograms aren’t pictograms.

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thcipriani
14 days ago
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What Biased Policing Can Do

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It upended Matthew’s life — just because he was trying to see a movie while homeless and black

by Katie Wheeler


What Biased Policing Can Do was originally published in The Nib on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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thcipriani
26 days ago
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