Death and Taxes…

They say there are only two things that are for certain in life – death and taxes.

Simple question. I live in the United States. For my most basic needs, I have to spend money. What if I don’t want to have a job, what if I don’t want to participate in “money”?

There is one way to get out of money – being homeless. You can’t really “own” a piece of land. At the very least, you must pay property tax on land. So really, it’s more like leasing. Even if you do “own” it, imminent domain can take it away.

So, unless you want to wander around homless (and many do), you have to participate in the system.

The question: how is this not slavery?

Albeit a very comfortable form of slavery, I can’t see how this is not an evolved form of slavery.

Egalitarianism

defend-equalityI can’t remember when it started. I can remember male bashing when I was very young. Since then, there have been a long series of confusing and frustrating events. Most recently, I’ve had a number of feminists in my life. This spawned a lot of conversation which deeply frustrated me. I love women, and I believe in equality. Yet, so many talking points brought out a warrior type spirit that wanted to debate points and defend a male point of view. More so, I was legitamitely insulted by the demonetization of men.

As soon as I would begin to debate and argue, I could see immediately that my efforts were at best ineffective, and at worst more damaging. The feminist rhetoric is as powerful as an organized religion and contains a wide variety of deeply emotional justifications for much of the inherent misandry. Once powerful emotions are triggered, a fair and logical discussion grows increasingly difficult if not impossible. (more…)

Progression Of Awakening – The Loss of “I”

mandalabotIf evolution holds, we started as microorganisms. Well, perhaps you could say we started somewhere before that. Regardless, at some point in history, humans lacked a sense of awareness. Fast forward to current times, and there’s a lot of talk about being “conscious” and “awake.” Somewhere between microbes and now, the first human(s) realized what it meant to be. I’ve always wondered what that part of evolution was like.

So as we strive towards greater awareness, well some of us, I often wonder what this truly means. In much the same way an amoeba is not well equipped to grasp self-awareness, I figure we only have the capacity to be aware to a particular extent. Still, something seems to be happening – to be changing – right now. I can’t point you to a website or walk you though some form of logic to illustrate that we are in a time of rapid change. It’s just a personal conclusion drawn on my own learning, observations, and experiences. This blog post isn’t really about the current time of change. What I will talk about is “awareness” itself and where I suspect it may be going.

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Kitchen Sponge Best Practices

SpongeI’m frequently unpleasantly surprised by the standard kitchen sponge practices I observe in many many kitchens. I’ve often observed risky practices at the homes of friends and family. However, more recently, I’ve witnessed these frightful practices in the office kitchen. I’ve seen poorly rinsed sponges left sitting in the bottom of a grime filled sink soaking in waste water on a daily basis. I figured I would solve the world’s sponge problems by posting some kitchen sponge best practices.

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On The Pirate Bay Sentencing

Pirates

Pirates

The file sharing rant has raged on for years. While the media industries claim that file sharing has hurt their market share, the movie industry is seeing record sales. For many, it’s obvious what is going on. With the advent of new media, we saw a shift in how things work in our world. Once upon a time, you had to have a lot of money to record media and distribute it. This need gave rise to a collection of media industries, music and movies in particular. Now, recording and sharing media is very cheap and very easy. The MPAA and RIAA are no longer important. However, with their size and power, they will do anything and everything they can to keep the status quo.

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Twitter Stats On Misogyny and Misandry

For those who may not know: misogyny is the hatred of women or girls while misandry is the hated of men or boys. I just did a little curious research regarding these two terms using Twitter search. My results are rather unscientific, but I invite you to do your own probing and see what you come up with.

My approach was simple. I did a series of 6 searches for specific words and phrases and took note of how old the last post on the first page was. There are always 15 entries on the front page. Thus, the age of the last entry gives you a concept of how often the word is used. If the last entry is 3 hours old, that means the word or phrase is used about 15 times in 3 hours. Simple enough. Lets begin.
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Running vs Driving

Alright, I’m an advocate of not driving more than need be. I’m kind of lazy, so I’m not always a good advocate. However, you’ve got to use your body to keep it working. That’s the neat thing about a self-maintaining machine. Anyway, that said, let me get to my quick point. I’ve seen a number of comments from treehugger ecogeeks about the amount of calories a car consumes daily versus the amount of calories our bodies use. It’s interesting stuff, but there’s a point I see missing often times. Cars carry heavy stuff (if only itself) across long distances very quickly. So lets play with some numbers.

First, there’s this popular link over on GOOD showing the amount of calories in gasoline. Meanwhile there’s a considerably less popular link to NutriStrategy’s calories burned per exercise. From the first link, we know that gasoline has 31,268 calories per gallon. A Ford Escort gets upwards of 40mpg. Lets make the math easy and say it gets 31.268 mpg. (See what I did there?)

31,268 cpg / 31.268 mpg = 1,000 calories per mile

This car weighs almost 2,500lbs. The average American is slightly lighter. According to that NutriStrategy chart, running at 10mph for 1 hour burns 1126 calories for a 155lbs person. Can you run at 10mph for a full hour? Holy crap. Anyway, lets pretend you can. In 1 hour at 10mph, you’ll run (approximately, I’m no mathematician) 10 miles. (See, I’m doing it again.) So, lets do the math.

1126 c / 10m = 112.6 calories per mile

Neat.. so we’re looking at a car using somewhere between 8 and 9 times as many calories per mile. Now less toss weight in. The car was 2500lbs (not including the person) and our person is 155lbs.

2500lbs / 155lbs = 16.1

The car is moving the same amount of weight as 16 people. Now, you might say “but a lot of that car weight is the engine itself…” True, but the same is true for the human, no? So lets keep going a moment. Let see how many cpm per pound we’re using.

Car: 1000cpm / 2500 = 0.40 calories per mile per pound…

Human: 112.6 / 155 = 0.73 calories per mile per pound…

Assuming a car speed of around 60mph, that means a human uses almost twice as many calories per pound to move at 1/6th the speed of the car. That is assuming no extra load for either. Toss in another person or two and a couple of hundred pounds of gear, what do you think is the best way for you and your mates to travel over long distance?

Now that I’ve blogged in support of the automobile, I’d like to say that I’m not a big fan of America’s addiction to cars. I’d like to see better use of trains, actually. However, pretty pieces of art showing calorie use compared is kind of a load of crap. Speaking of crap, I wonder what kind of numbers you would get if you compared the emissions per calorie consumed for a car versus a human? Ewww….

How to NOT build community.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve had an e-mail dialog with the organizer of a meetup.com group for marketing. It all began shortly after I added the group to my list. I noticed several very pointed e-mails asking people to RSVP for the upcoming gathering. So, I submitted my RSVP. On the day of the meetup itself, I learned that if I attended the meetup – I would be there alone.

I would like to share with you the dialog I had with the group organizer. This, in my mind, is exactly how NOT to motivated people to get involved with a group.

From the organizer to me:

I am not coming out and hope you get this message since I don’t have your number to call. One person is not worth a meetup confirming. Please e-mail me back ideas so we can team up and talk outside of the group. Sorry for any inconvience.For you being dedicated enough to confirm I want to make assistant organizer of you want.

Sincerely,
Xxxx Xxxx

From the organizer to the entire group:

I requested a e-mail at XXX@XXX and only got one response. So lets go for next thursday at the same time and hopefully a better response for confirmation. I am not doing this for free and paying 20 dollars literally to make this happen for fun. So next time you say yes and cancel there will be a 5 dollar fee for canceling. To use a place I need headcounts or to want to invite special guests I am not wasting their time either. If you dont pay the penalty fee you will be kicked out. You will be e-mailed my address to mail the fee as well.

From me to the organizer:

Xxxxx,
I wanted to let you know that this type of motivational approach really turns me off to the group altogether.

I don’t know how you would enforce a $5 cancellation fee, but I know that I will never pay one. I understand that you’re upset about the lack of participation in your group – but I don’t think threatening people who cancel is going to work to your benefit.

I think you’d be more successful if you found positive approaches to attract people to the meetings.

Just my $0.02. Best of luck.

From the organizer to me:

Dear Xxxx,
I run this group and will do what I want. If you want to be a member you will pay or get kicked out. You are a grown man with no fee to be here and I pay 20 dollars a month . So if you take my time and say you will be there . On top of that I make arrangements on a certain head count . In the end I look bad telling an owner one count and 2 show up. I have a busy schedule and am not doing this for fun or paying this fee hoping someone shows up. Thanks for your 2 cents ,but my word is final at all times. You being turned off is the least of my concerns . I need a devoted group not time takers.

You can probably already tell what is wrong with his approach. He’s bitter towards the very members he’s trying to recruit. His negative energy will continue to push people away from him. I believe his core fault is his attitude of entitlement. He seems to feel that people owe him their attendence because he’s invested his time and money in the group. This is the wrong attitude to have, and it will only lead to disappointment.

When you build your communities – either virtual or in the real world – do it for the joy and the fun. If you start with a “this better pay off” attitude, you’ve already failed.

A Few Good Forum Ideas

I’d like to share a couple of forum structure ideas that have made managing the Gearbox Software Forums a little easier and an idea we’ve yet to try.

Internal Combustion

Many message boards offer a forum dedicated to allowing users to flame. For example, the Xterra Owners Club used the traditional and cleverly name, “The Asbestos Lined Room“. Our message board lacked such a forum, and the entire community was littered with negative posts.

Thus, we spun off of the traditional idea, but took it a slightly different direction. We branded the new forum in the Gearbox theme and called it “Internal Combustion”. Unlike many other forums, we still maintained a certain level of moderation over the forum. We presented the forum as a place to voice concerns about anything related to the community that might normally be inappropriate. As a surprising result, we’ve seen a lot of very constructive threads and not much flaming.

We also made another very important decision when creating the Internal Combustion forum. A large portion of our traffic comes from Internet users looking for information that happens to be on our forums. To make it easier for these users to find the information, and to present a more positive impression of our community, we hid the Internal Combustion forum from casual users. The forum can only be viewed by community members when they are logged in. We also actively move threads from other forums into Internal Combustion when appropriate. This has ultimately helped to keep our forums a little bit cleaner.

The Illuminate

Most of our forum users don’t even know it exists. In fact, this post may be the very first and only public posting about it’s existence. I may get flamed for not keeping the secret.

Our message board attracts a lot of immature members. Our moderators stay busy trying to curb trouble makers and keep things generally productive. Even with our best efforts, the public posting areas can be unpleasant at times. In this chaos, we noticed that a lot of our regular members were very mature, very constructive, and an important element in making our community a good place to be. So, we decided to reward these members.

We created a group of hidden forums where only selected members could post. The moderators, company employees, and those selected members all found that these new forums made for a safe haven to chat and interact without the noise of the public forums.

Much to my surprise, I found that the Illuminate actually cared deeply about the success and structure of the community as a whole. Their feedback has been valuable in managing the community. So much so, that I’ve recently proposed organizing the Illuminate as a council to provide regular reports to help the moderators, admins, and our new manager further grow the community.

The Jail

It’s not live yet, but we’re seriously considering it. Currently, banning users is our only real forum of management. We want to expand our punishments and add rewards so that we can better influence the community. As a first step in that direction, we are considering jailing users instead of simply banning them. We would do this by creating a forum hidden the same way Internal Combustion is hidden. When a user earns a ban by breaking rules, we would restrict them to only being able to post in this forum. The idea is that the jailed user can still interact with any other forum member who’s willing to spend time in the jail forum. The jailed user will also have a platform from which they can discuss the nature of their punishment. The user may protest, make amends, or simply enjoy the time of the sentence.

Conclusion

If we go ahead and try the jail out, I’ll discuss the results in a future post. In light of this positive take on changes in the Gearbox Forums, I might also offer a future post discussing what hasn’t worked or – more interestingly – what has worked against us. Hopefully, the jail won’t be part of that post.

SXSW, in review…

Introduction…

Austin during the day. It’s been a few days since I returned from SXSW. The trip as a whole was wonderful. I enjoy being in Austin no matter the reason; and this trip was particularly rewarding. However, the Interactive Festival itself was less than I had hoped for.

I hoped I would find myself surrounded by scores of seasoned professionals. Rather, I found myself waste deep in blogosphere evangelists. Instead of being excited by the potential to interact with people from all over the industry, I found myself slightly creeped out by hundreds of Apple laptops sending blog updates through the air around me.

The First Day…

SXSW vendors area Jeffrey Zeldman provided my introduction to the event with his keynote. I enjoyed it. From there, many of the panels were very good. I found Digital Convergence in Central Texas to be very informative, although I would have liked a little more time for questions. Social Software and Shades of Trust was probably one of the most technical panels for the entire event, but I felt a bit out of place. Both panels were well done, and got me inspired about the rest of the event.

The Second Day

Mount Bonnell About that time, my significant other showed up. She works in promotions, so we hit Open Source Marketing next. Things started to break down. One of the panelists seemed more like a used car salesman than any kind of information technology professional. Meanwhile, too many questions from the audience were preceded with a discussion of their personal blogs. But, at the very least, there was some value in the panel on the whole.

I was involved in several start-up companies, but I was never involved in investor relations; so we attended the panel on How to Obtain Start-up Funding. The panel was great, but the crowd was so thin. It seemed I’d finally escaped the blogosphere zombies, I guess they’re not interested in business. Anyway, “Social Software” was the whisper on a handful of lips in the room. The panel was one of the best panels we attened. I left feeling excited.

The Third Day

Waterfall Optomistic, we took a bold step and attended a panel with “Blog” in the title. As it turns out, Blogging While Black was full of excellent panelists. I do, however, miss an Internet that seemed to be colorblind. I really enjoyed the days when online characters lacked ethnicity, race, age, or even a face. I suppose those days a long gone, and I think it’s a little sad that the next generation will never get to experience it.

We skipped Anna‘s keynote. We accidently attended Al Franken. I wondered who was trendier.

Design Eye for the Idea Guy was almost good. Somehow I got the impression that it would be a live redesign, not the analysis of a redesign done shortly before the event. Too bad.

Last Day

Fake? We woke up early for the last day, and we raced our ways to the biggest let down of the entire event. I was stoked about a panel called Web Design 2010. I was ready to chew on statistics and hear from educated industry professionals and scholars about the current online trends. I was not impressed. It wasn’t that the panel lacked interesting, talented professionals. Doug Bowman‘s work is a big inspiration to me and I have much respect. Just, somehow, the panel was completely inappropriate for the subject matter.

The moderator’s first question to the panel was simply dumb, “Are Web apps going to happen?” As a developer of Web apps, I was shocked by the question, and more so by the answer, “That depends on how you define Web apps.” There I was, sure that someone had defined the term “Web application” already – silly me. Eris Free dodged the topic with a comment about not having had her coffee. What ultimately followed was a horrid discussion on technology with gross misinformation. Panelists constantly referred to the Internet as the Web. They also referred to network applications as Web apps. It was obvious that the panel lacked having a single software engineer or even so much as a server side programmer. The panel did not seem to understand the basic infrastructure of the World Wide Web much less networks in general.

The panel would have been much better if the subject matter related to topics the panel actually knew a little something about. I felt bad for some of the panelists as they were obviously uncomfortable. More so, I felt really bad for the attendies, as many of them were eagerly learning horrid misinformation. In that regard, I was really upset by the panel. So much so, that I couldn’t address the panelists afterwards, even with my significant other urging me to do so. I feel better knowing I wasn’t the only attendee left disappointed.

After a little venting and cooling, we caught the tail of Remix Culture. Hearing about the world of Creative Commons rocked our socks, too bad we missed the beginning.

We barely managed to dodge Blogging Versus Journalism. Whew!

Lunch Break! We made it back from lunch just in time to slip GearboxSoftware.com in the hat for the Accessibility Shootout. When the panel tore into the first site they picked, I suddenly wanted to take mine out of the hat. It was too late, and I ended up in the spotlight. For the most part, I really enjoyed it. The panel was well informed and really dug into the details of the site – I learned a lot in the process. In the end, they told me I was doing a good job and headed the right direction. Given our target audience, I felt real good about where we were at with accessibility. Before we left, my significant other managed to get an autographed copy of Joe Clark’s new book.

SXSW in Summary…

SXSW was not what I had hoped. I must admit, for a film and music festival, they’ve worked hard to make the Interactive aspect work. However, coming from a technology background, the event wasn’t the focus I was looking for. I feel there is a missed opportunity in Texas for a gathering of information technology and Internet culture specialists.

The Trip in Summary…

Austin at night. The best part of the trip, for me, was catching up with two extremely talented Austin developers, Kirk and Vito. My breif time with each of them provided more depth and insight into our industry than every panel I attended combined. Mixed with a little time spent enjoying Austin with someone I love, and you have a very wonderful trip indeed.