Iran has unveiled it’s first in-house deathbot, but before everyone lines up to pat the defense department on the back for their sterling efforts, lets spare a thought for the marketing department who managed to come up with this description of said deathbot:
This jet is a messenger of honour and human generosity and a saviour of mankind, before being a messenger of death for enemies of mankind
You just know that the person who came up with that was wearing a suit paired with really, really shiny shoes.
In the same week that the story of Jessi Slaughter came to light, this post appeared on Engadget.
Free speech is a right that everyone should be entitled to, but when you say something, it’s all on you if it offends/upsets people. If you say something that a lot of people find offensive/upsetting then you can expect a lot of people to tell you about it and you have to except that they might do that in a way that you find offensive and upsetting.
So you are responsible for what you say, but what if someone provides you with a stage? With maybe the exception of reporting on something upsetting/offensive as a news item, the stage provider is effectively endorsing the content of your message. It is a reflection on them. Websites such as YouTube have a right to uphold their standards by refusing to post, or by removing videos containing content that they find objectionable. This is not censorship. You have the right to free speech, not to have people agree with you. The important point here is that the judgment call on what is acceptable lies with the stage provider, even if they use popular opinion to make their decision on where the threshold of acceptability lies.
In the case of Jessi Slaughter who is a minor (yes, I know that’s not her real name), her parents take on the responsibility for not protecting her from the full horror of the internet and the responsibility for not policing what she was saying*, she did instigate the entire episode after all.
In exactly the same way, Apple and Google have the right to refuse to allow apps containing content that they find objectionable in their respective app stores (the rejection of apps for the purpose of gaining/maintaining market control is an issue for another post). You want Nazi wallpaper on your smart phone, go do it, but don’t expect Apple/Google to help you.
I wrote this post because freedom of the internet is one of those subjects that people like to convince themselves is full of grey areas, when really it isn’t. The internet is as self policing as the spoken word, it’s just that people don’t like having to make the decision on what is black and what is white because they are making clear where their own threshold of acceptability is and other people might disagree.
*Despite what one of the talking heads on GMA said, rap music is not responsible for Jessi Slaughter’s actions.
There aren’t many downsides to using Twitter, but one of the more obvious ones is the number of bots spewing out spam. Thankfully, no machine is able to pass the Turing test, which means that whether the spam takes the form of @replies or DMs, it is easy to spot that the account is not genuine and notify Twitter of this. Once a few people have flagged an account as posting spam, or if a large number of people suddenly block an account, or even if an account suddenly follows and then unfollows a large number of people, Twitter will suspend/delete the account. If only there were a similar system for emails.
Once upon a time computers were slow. Really slow. Software developers had to make a really concerted effort to optimize their code, seeking to use as few CPU cycles and as little memory as possible, today’s developers are spoiled in comparison. I am genuinely grateful that the guys who took me on after University taught me the difference between writing code and developing software, that they took the time to show me why there was so much more to it then getting stuff to build and run. These days I am responsible for putting potential new recruits at $place_of_employment through their paces with a C++ test, and as much as I’m looking for working code, I am also looking at coding style and often find myself saying things that were once said to me (I guess it’s kind of like finding yourself complaining about your kids music like your Dad used to do). I never cease to be amazed at how people with apparently years of experience can produce answers to such simple questions that require me to sit and analyse each line for minutes at a time in an attempt to try and uncover their secrets.
My penchant for clean code is a gift and a curse though. I was genuinely startled to be told by a fellow developer that code efficiency was something that embedded software engineers needed to worry about, but not us!?!
Satisfaction is the death of desire.