Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney are joined by Special Guest Samantha Gold to discuss the top stories of 2022: Quebec Election, Elon Musk and Twitter, Quebec Healthcare & the return of shows.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the major storm ahead of Christmas Weekend, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting US President Joe Biden in the White House and Elon Musk’s resignation poll.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney talk about Ye (formerly Kanye West)’s recent anti-Semitic and other outbursts, the PQ being barred from the National Assembly for refusing to swear allegiance to King Charles III and Montreal settling a class action protest lawsuit for $3.1 Million.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss bizarre comments from FIFA president Gianni Infantino defending holding the World Cup in Qatar, the politics of letting oppressive regimes host huge global events, Twitter falling apart, Trump running for President and other reasons the world is on fire.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the near-routing of Trump-backed candidates in the US Midterm Elections, Elon Musk’s week of struggling to run Twitter, police in Mascouche, Quebec tazing an 18-year-old non-verbal autistic man and Daylight Savings versus Standard Time.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Doug Ford’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause against striking teachers and Justin Trudeau’s plan to fight it, Elon Musk firing half of Twitter’s staff and potentially destroying the company and ongoing Iran protests juxtaposed with potential Powerball winnings.
When I heard that Elon Musk, the new gatekeeper of the town square that is Twitter, was floating the idea of charging users a monthly fee to have their profile verified with a blue checkmark, I decided it was the perfect time to get a checkmark on my own account. Then I could properly get all indignant when Elon tried to charge me for it.
The thing is, I wasn’t able to. It’s not just about proving you are who you say you are, but that who you say you are meets their notability and/or following on the platform requirements. I also tried to get this site’s account verified, and while we do have the following and the legitimacy, no one’s created a Wikipedia article on us (hint, hint…I can’t do it myself), so it’s presently a no-go.
Oh well…back to Musk’s exchange with Stephen King, the one where the author said he wouldn’t pay $20 a month for a blue checkmark on principle and the new Twitter owner tried to talk him down to $8. I found something in his second reply quite interesting:
“It is the only way to eliminate the bots & trolls.”
Wait! What? How many bots and trolls does he think have blue checkmarks currently? Seeing as I couldn’t get one, I doubt very much that a bot could.
Then I read that Musk claims that he wants to get rid of the “lords and peasants” system that he thinks Twitter currently has and plans to offer “half as many ads” and “priority in replies, mentions & search” to verified users, which will probably be better referred to as subscribers going forward. Now the plan is becoming clear.
It’s not about shaking down Stephen King, William Shatner and other celebrities for $8 a month (though it would be hilarious if that was the case). It’s also not about leveling the playing field as Musk’s lords and peasants comment would suggest.
While I’m sure that the current eligibility requirements for Twitter verification will be replaced with something more simple like proving your identity and providing a payment method, allowing pretty much anyone who can afford it to get a blue checkmark, this isn’t opening any doors or leveling the playing field one bit. Instead, it’s using the cloak of a symbol of importance to mask the transition of Twitter into a paid subscription service.
If this is the “only way to eliminate the bots” then it stands to reason that any account that doesn’t opt to pay for the “verification” will be treated like a bot. The focus on celebrity reaction has masked what’s really happening.
If Twitter is the town square, then Elon Musk is charging cover to the town square. Though it may not be the town square for much longer.
Some will leave. Others will wait and see. And some will get the blue checkmark subscription because they feel they have to. Musk has essentially devalued a feature and put a price tag on it at the same time.
Maybe he hopes Twitter will turn into some sort of niche subscription service with significantly fewer users than before but who now pay. That could explain his reported plan to lay off half the company’s workforce tomorrow.
Or maybe he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Which could explain why he’s reportedly ending the company’s work from anywhere policy. Forcing employees of a company with no physical products to work from the office.
Either way, maybe we should treat our digital town square as a public service rather than a for-profit business subject to the whims of a billionaire like Musk who gets duped into buying it.
Last night’s SuperBowl game may not have been the nail-biter it was supposed to be, but the halftime show was a bright spot. This was, of course, due to The Weekend’s performance, but also quite literally thanks to Montreal company PixMob.
They did this by effectively turning the audience and performers into the lighting grid with wearable technology. They gave live attendees 22 500 LED wristbands to wear and placed 30 000 adapted ones on the cardboard cutouts the NFL was using to space out the socially-distanced crowd.
Performers on the field carried powerful LEDs known as “flares”. Meanwhile, The Weekend’s choir wore 75 LED masks and 150 face shields with light-up eyes.
The whole effect was quite spectacular. Have a look, if you haven’t already:
This is PixMob’s third Super Bowl Halftime Show. In addition to the big game, they have worked on some big-name tours such as Shawn Mendes and Taylor Swift. Currently, they are using their technology to help fight the pandemic with SafeTeams, an initiative which helps events re-open safely with distancing and tracing.
Featured Image of the PixMob team ahead of last night’s Super Bowl
Yes, winter is coming, but this spring, Canadians will be able to legally stream Game of Thrones without a cable subscription. Crave (formerly Crave TV), Bell Media’s Netflix competitor, just added an extended package that includes all HBO and Showtime content, including new episodes and a feature called On Air that allows you to watch shows from those networks as they air on TV before they show up in the on demand menu.
You have to get the basic Crave subscription at $9.95 a month and then add the extended package for another monthly $9.95, so $20 a month plus tax for HBO and Showtime, plus a bunch of recent movies (including what looks like all of last year’s Best Picture nominees), shows like Star Trek Discovery, and original content like Letterkenny. There’s even a very interesting back catalog with classic sitcoms like Cheers, but no Night Court…like c’mon, someone pick up Night Court, please.
It’s currently available on computers and mobile devices and will be available on Samsung Smnart TVs, Apple TV and other platforms as of November 15th. From the looks of it, it’s a better deal than Netflix.
While I’m clearly gleefully plugging this product, this article is not sponsored content, but rather rare editorial praise for Bell Media from a frequent critic. It looks like they have finally embraced the way a good chunk of the population consume TV and have stopped trying to push an old model on those who clearly don’t want it.
Even as HBO made all of their content available, with no strings attached, through their GO app in the US a few years ago, Bell, which owns the Canadian rights, refused to see the light. Sure, they made an app, too, called TMN GO, but you had to get a cable or satellite TV package first and then subscribe to HBO Canada on TV before you could pay the ten or so bucks for it.
So basically, in a lot of cases, the choice was pay over $100 a month on top of the cost of an internet connection to watch one show or risk getting an angry letter for illegally downloading it. Yes, HBO is much more than GOT, but that show’s the hook for people living in a post-cable world.
Bell was effectively ignoring a potentially huge market that they could easily get with no risk of losing the cable and satellite market they already have as a result. My friend’s parents who have been paying for a satellite package and HBO for years aren’t going to cut the cord just because the same content is now available in another format.
Meanwhile, people who don’t give Bell Media any money but still consume the content might be inclined to pay and go legit if presented with a reasonable offer and become customers Bell wouldn’t have any other way. Now, it looks like Bell Media has finally accepted and embraced that fact.
This will only help them promote original content, too, as it will now be running on the same platform as really popular shows. Come for Game of Thrones, stay for Letterkenny.
The future is an internet subscription and two to four streaming services. With the Crave expansion, Bell Media clearly wants a part of that future. Now if only they could add Night Court.
Tomorrow morning, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US is set to scrap Net Neutrality. Specifically, they plan to eliminate Title II protections that force the courts to treat internet access as an essential service.
John Oliver explains this distinction more in depth (if you haven’t seen this segment, you really should, even if you know about Title II):
In a nutshell, without this classification, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would be free to restrict or slow down access to sites that cannot afford or refuse to pay a fee to be in the fast lane. They could also start bundling sites together the same way cable companies bundle stations and charge extra for packages.
The Nightmare Scenario
My guess is they would probably bring in a mix of the two.
First, imagine basic internet including major email providers and maybe the weather network and a few search engines. You could then add the Social Media package with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for an extra fee, the news package with only mainstream sources for another fee. YouTube would cost extra and if you want Netflix, well you’d have to pay extra for it, above and beyond what you pay (or what your roommate, friend or ex pays, let’s be honest) to Netflix.
Don’t think this is possible? Look at this add for mobile internet packages in Portugal:
Meanwhile, smaller competitors, some widely used and relied on but not popular or potentially profitable enough to be automatically included in a package would take forever to load. If Verizon or Comcast can’t make an extra buck off them, why would they make it easy to access them?
While sites with primarily written content that use embeds for video and audio (like this one) may end up coasting underneath the throttling radar, others won’t. What about BandCamp? Vimeo? Crowdfunding sites? Gaming sites? How about sites that don’t use a lot of bandwidth but really irk the ISPs because of their content?
While the FCC is billing this as “Internet Freedom” it’s actually about letting a handful of companies restrict the freedom of everyone else. I have no problem with websites charging for their services or opting not to, they are already free to do that online. ISPs, on the other hand, should not be.
They don’t own the internet, we all do. Or no one does.
Yes, the ISPs may own the cables, but that only permits them to charge a rate for use of said cables. They have absolutely no business telling us what we can and can’t use the cables to access. No one tells you what you can and can’t say on a phonecall, the Internet should be no different.
Beyond the USA
While this may seem like an American problem, but it’s actually a global one as the internet is a global entity and America is a huge part of it. The biggest sites are American and so are most of the largest indie sites and non-profit sites.
Not only that, there are quite a few people that rely on or at least need some American eyes and ears for their livelihood: independent musicians, app and game developers, the list goes on. While their internet access may not be limited, their potential audience and clientele will be.
Meanwhile, the free flow of information and independent journalism could be seriously compromised, with stories about protest in the US not covered, or not properly covered by mainstream press not making it past someone’s computer or phone, let alone around the world. Likewise, smaller stories could have a hard time finding their way to interested people in the 50 states.
Then there’s the whole issue of American influence. Portugal may not set the global standard when it comes to the Internet, but the US does.
Here in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have said he supports a free and open internet and is “very concerned” about the FCC’s attempt to roll that back in the States, but how long will that stance last? You can bet that Canadian ISPs are just itching to do what their American counterparts may be able to do very soon and will use what happens south of the border to influence lawmakers here.
So What Do We Do?
The first thing we can do is fight like hell to make sure these changes don’t pass, and by we I don’t mean me, at least not directly. Americans (those reading this and others) are the only ones who can contact their elected officials and the FCC to fight this at the source. There is also an online campaign to oppose the FCC’s intentions called Break the Internet.
If they aren’t successful, there’s the legal avenue, though that takes time, probably more time than it takes for ISPs to start changing the Internet forever. There’s also hoping someone (ie Elon Musk) decides to offer unobstructed access (he already wants to offer the world access through satellites) and thus make it unfeasible for ISPs to offer anything but the net as we know it even if they are no longer legally obliged to.
Hoping for a capitalist benefactor/Bond villain to save us all may only lead to disappointment. People outside of the US fighting hard to preserve Net Neutrality and those in the States fighting hard to bring it back (or creating some sort of pirate ISP) may be the only way to fight and win.
But if we do win eventually, or even if the ISPs lose tomorrow in the US (or in the near future), we need to talk about how to prevent this from happening again, because you know it will. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about a threat to Net Neutrality and it certainly won’t be the last.
Maybe it’s time to look to more radical solutions to preserve what we have and have had for years. Maybe it’s time to nationalize ISPs. At least, the very threat of such an action would scare the corporations who currently control access to the web to forever shut up about changing the rules. At best, we could end up with an internet that could never be changed.
For now, though, let’s hope that the FCC sees the light, or moreover, is forced to see it.
* Featured image: Backbone Campaign via Flickr Creative Commons
Land lines are a dead technology.
People are increasingly realizing that it’s more practical to carry a phone with you all the time than to rush home agonizing over whether or not you missed an important call. With the proliferation of the mobile phone came the spread of providers competing for your business and until recently, companies have been taking advantage.
In 2013, that all changed when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a federal administrative tribunal responsible for regulating and supervising broadcasting and telecommunications, created the Wireless Code of Conduct which explains your rights as a mobile consumer and the rules your wireless company must obey.
On June 15, 2017, the CRTC came out with new rules specifying the obligations set out in the Wireless Code of Conduct.
Here’s a crash course on the Wireless Code and what those rules are.
Your wireless service provider must communicate with you in plain language. Written contracts and any related documents such as privacy and fair use policies must be written in a way that is clear and easy to read and understand. That means that they cannot draft contracts and related documents in a way that would dupe you into agreeing to something most wouldn’t have had they fully understood it.
The terms of your contract regarding voice, text, and data services cannot be unilaterally changed without the account holder’s consent. You are allowed to cancel your wireless contract within fifteen days and return your device to the provider in near-new condition at no cost, provided that at the time of the cancellation you used less than half of your monthly usage limits.
Wireless providers have to set out the prices in the contract and specify if they include taxes. They cannot charge you extra if you purchased a plan with unlimited services and they cannot limit an unlimited plan unless the fair use policy clearly specifies when they can and those conditions are met.
Your wireless provider must notify you at no charge when your device is in another country and clearly explain the ensuing rates for talk, text, and data. You can opt out of these notifications at any time. They cannot charge you more than a hundred dollars per monthly billing cycle for data roaming unless you have clearly given prior consent, and this billing cap must come at no charge to you, the consumer.
For data overage charges – data used over your data plan’s limit – the rules set the cap at fifty dollars unless you expressly consented to paying more. This cap cannot come at any charge to you.
Where family or group plans are concerned, these caps apply on a per-account basis regardless of how many devices are attached to the plan.
No More Locked Devices
Your wireless company cannot charge you for any device or service you did not expressly purchase, and as of June 15, 2017, unlocking fees are now illegal.
The aforementioned fees are what cell phone companies would charge to unlock your phone should you try decide to switch wireless providers. That means that before the CRTC’s decision, if you chose to switch wireless providers, you couldn’t just swap out the sim cards and keep using your current device. You would have to pay your old company a fee to unlock your phone.
Wireless providers justified the charges as a way of ensuring the device was paid for should the consumer decide to switch providers before the end of their contract. The CRTC has decided that this is illegal as it puts an unfair limit on competition between wireless providers.
As per the CRTC’s ruling as of December 1, 2017 you have the right to go to your wireless provider and have your devices unlocked free of charge. Any new devices you get must be provided to you unlocked from now on.
If your device is lost or stolen and you notify your wireless company immediately, your wireless provider must suspend your service at no charge. You’re still obligated to pay any charges incurred before the company got notice that the device was lost or stolen, the monthly fee, and if you choose the cancel the contract, any cancellation fee. If you find your device or replace it, you can notify your service provider who has to restore your service free of charge.
If you decide to cancel your contract early, the company can only charge you a cancellation fee. No other penalties apply and wireless companies have to calculate the cancellation fee based on criteria set out in the Wireless Code of Conduct. You can cancel your contract at any time by notifying your service provider.
Penalties for the Providers
Now let’s say your wireless provider does not obey the Wireless Code; what do you do? What kinds of penalties will the company face?
If your Wireless Service Provider does not respect the Wireless Code, you can file a complaint with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, which is charged with administering it. If the complaint falls within their mandate, they’ll get in touch with your provider and ask them to try and resolve the matter with you and get back to them in thirty days.
Once the provider gets back to them, they’ll try and assess if the issue has been resolved to your satisfaction. If it hasn’t, the Commissioner will assess if the issue can be resolved informally. Your complaint can be rejected or dismissed at any stage of the proceedings.
If the Commissioner decides your complaint has merits, they can recommend that your provider take action or refrain from doing so. This can include anything from an apology to stopping collections activity, to compensating you up to five thousand dollars for any losses or inconvenience suffered.
Both you and your wireless provider can decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation. If your provider rejects it, the Commissioner will assess the reasons and make a decision as to whether to maintain or modify their recommendation. If the decision is accepted by you, it becomes binding on your service provider. If you reject the Commissioner’s decision, your service provider does not have to obey it.
It’s not an ideal solution, as it’s a long process to try and get fairness from wireless providers all too ready and willing to take advantage of consumer naivete, but at least there are checks in place.
A cell phone is a modern necessity. Don’t get screwed by the providers.
* Featured image by John Fingas via Flickr Creative Commons
On March 15, 2017 the US Department of Justice announced that they were laying charges against four people accused of hacking four hundred Yahoo email accounts in 2014. Two of the accused are Russian intelligence officers and a third was in the US but has since fled to Russia. The fourth is one of our own, Hamilton native Karim Baratov, age 22.
Baratov has been roasted by media and law enforcement because he openly flaunted his love of luxury items online. When people asked how he could afford these things, his reply was that he was providing online services.
In the court of public opinion, it sounds like Baratov is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of, even though “online services” could mean everything from sexy video chats to tech support.
This article is not about Baratov. He is currently in jail awaiting his bail hearing in April and plans to fight his extradition to the US where he would face charges of conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiring to commit access device fraud, conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
This article is about how we address hacking in Canada.
It should be said right off the bat that not all hacking is illegal. One of the definitions of hacking is writing computer programs for fun, which is not illegal if the programs are harmless.
The other definition of hacking is the one most people are most familiar with, which is the act of getting into a computer illegally.
Though it’s never called hacking in the Canadian Criminal Code, the section dealing with the crime is the one used to address mischief. That’s right; the laws against hacking are in the same place you find the law punishing leaving flaming bags of poop on doorsteps on Devil’s Night.
The crime of hacking in Canadian law is called “Mischief in relation to computer data” and is defined as willfully:
- Detroying or altering computer data
- Rendering computer data meaningless, useless or ineffective
- Obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the lawful use of computer data
- Obstructing, interrupting or interfering with a person in the lawful use of computer data or denying access to computer data to a person who is entitled to access to it.
The punishments are the same as for any other kind of mischief crime. If the act put a life in danger, you’re liable to spend life in jail. If the crime caused damages worth five thousand dollars or more, it’s an indictable offense with a maximum sentence of ten years in jail or a summary conviction which would mean six months in jail or a five thousand dollar fine. If the value of the damage was less than five thousand dollars, you’re facing either a summary conviction or an indictment with up to two years in jail.
Like many crimes, hacking is often done with intent to commit other crimes like fraud, theft, and unauthorized uses of credit card data. A person guilty of hacking could therefore also be found guilty of additional crimes, some of which – like fraud – carry stiffer penalties than mischief.
Canadian law also holds a person responsible if they counseled or made it easier for someone else to commit a crime and they can face the same penalty as the perpetrator who actually did it. They can also face those penalties if they knew or should have known the crime could be committed as a result of their actions or lack thereof.
Though Canadian governments have been criticized as being ill equipped to tackle computer crime, the government seems to be doing its best not only to protect itself from cyber-attacks but also to teach us to protect ourselves.
In 2010, the Harper Government launched the Cyber Security Strategy outlining a long term national plan to deal with computer crime. The website getcybersafe.gc.ca was created by Public Safety Canada and is full of guidelines for ordinary citizens and businesses with the goal of keeping Canadians safer by increasing awareness of common online threats and how to fight them. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center was created by a joint effort by the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, and the Competition Bureau to fight mass marketing fraud online and is regularly updated with information regarding popular scams.
Technology is advancing at a greater pace than ever and our governments are trying to catch up to protect the victims. The problem with their initiatives is that they seem to place most of the pressure to protect against cybercrime on potential victims, which could lead to victim-blaming even in cases where, due to age or infirmity, a person may not be tech savvy enough to take every precaution. Their plan needs work to put the onus back on law enforcement to protect against cyber-crime back on those charged with protecting us, but at least it’s there.
Thousands of people lined up on the McGill campus Wednesday night waiting hours for a chance to be part of a videoconference with Edward Snowden.
(No, not the guy from Wikileaks, that’s Julien Assange and the only thing they have in common is an outstanding warrant against them for leaking information that the American government wanted kept secret. Snowden revealed that the government agency he worked for, the NSA, was spying on ordinary people on a scale that is neither legitimate nor legal. Basically, he proved that the US and many other countries, including Canada, engaged in mass surveillance. This means the government collects things like your phone records, your videos, your internet data, regardless of whether you are suspected of criminal activity or not.)
You might have missed the videoconference because you were among the thousands of understandably irritated fans left outside after both auditoriums were filled. Maybe you decided to go home after almost getting trampled for the third time in the line-up. Maybe you stayed home to watch the Cubs win.
We can’t recreate for you the distinct Rock Show feel of the overexcited line of people randomly cheering and periodically lurching forward in a panic to get inside, nor the barely concealed distress of the moderator as the video entirely cut off after random people started joining the video call.
The event did not run smoothly by any stretch of the imagination. Less than half of the people who lined up got inside the building. The conference was more than an hour late and the organizers managed to make the Google hangout public, which let to technical difficulties of frankly comedic proportions.
The fact that AMUSE/PSAC, the association representing 1000 members of support staff (most of them also students) at McGill was on strike and picketing arguably didn’t help matters. They became the prime target of the people’s frustration.
However, Edward Snowden himself came to their defense. He encouraged the people present to “hear them out” and reminded the audience of how hard being a dissident could be.
Mishaps aside, the conference happened and Snowden managed to say a lot of interesting things during it. Here are a few of them.
“Surveillance technologies have outpaced democratic control.”
Mass surveillance was a lesser problem when it wasn’t so easy. Not so long ago, it took a whole team to track one person’s activity. Now it’s the opposite. One lone government official can easily track the activities of many people.
The safeguards against the abuse of this power have not developed as quickly. This means that Intelligence agencies have less accountability than ever, while their powers keep growing thanks to evolving technologies.
“This inverts the traditional dynamic of private citizens and public officials into this brave new world of private officials and public citizens.”
This, Snowden says, is perfectly illustrated by the recent revelations about the SPVM spying on Patrick Lagacé. It was revealed earlier this week that the SPVM and the SQ have put the La Presse reporter and at least six other journalists under surveillance in an effort to discover their confidential sources. Snowden called it a “radical attack on the operations of a free press” and “a threat to the traditional model of our democracy.”
But the actions were authorized by the court. For Snowden, this is a sign that the “law is beginning to fail as a guarantor of our rights.”
Intelligence officials have overtly admitted that they would interpret the word of the law as loosely as they could to fit their interests, regardless of the actual intent of the law. In practice, this translates to using anti-terrorist measures to spy on environmental activists or getting access to a journalist’s internet data through a bill meant to fight cyber-bullying.
“How do we ensure that we can trust intelligence agencies and officials to operate the law fairly? The answer is we can’t.”
We can’t trust intelligence officials to respect the spirit of the law; in fact, we can’t even trust them to respect the law itself, argued Snowden. Intelligence gathering programs have broken the law more than once, he reminded, often without consequences.
“What we can do,” he continued, “is put processes in place to ensure that we don’t have to.” He believes the key of these processes is an independent judicial authority able to oversee intelligence gathering operations and prosecute them when needed.
“Canada actually has the weakest intelligence oversight out of any major western country.”
“Now they’re not the most aggressive,” he conceded, “they don’t have the largest scale, but…. no one is really watching.”
The powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) have drastically increased in the last 15 years. Law C-51, in particular, allows them to decide under any motive – however far-fetched – who constitutes a threat to national security and can thus be spied on. “The current Prime Minister did campaign to reform [C-51] and has failed to do so,” reminded Snowden.
The resources to oversee the CSIS, meanwhile, have decreased. The office of the Inspector General, which used to be a major part of it, was simply cut by Stephen Harper. This left the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) as the sole entity reporting to parliament on intelligence agencies. Its members are politically appointed.
CSIS is not the only intelligence gathering agency. The Canadian Border Security Agency, Global Affairs Canada and the National Defense Department all have the power to infringe on the rights of people, including the right to privacy, in certain circumstances and there is no credible authority overseeing them.
Retired Deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence Kurt Jensen pleaded for changing this situation in an article published last January. “Remember the old adage of who will watch the watchers? In Canada the answer is no one,” he wrote.
Since then, the government has started a process to review the oversight of intelligence gathering operations. Public hearings about the matter have started in September. Incidentally, this week, a judge ruled that the CSIS has been unwittingly conducting illegal mass surveillance since 2006.
The conference ended on an inspirational note, with Snowden addressing the students:
“We can have a very dark future or a very bright future but the ultimate determination of which fork in the road we take won’t be my decision, it won’t be the government decision, it will be your generation’s decision.”
Yesterday I was walking down Assiniboine Avenue here in Winnipeg, past the Legislative grounds, where often many Pokemon Go players gather. Indeed on a couple occasions, I, as a casual player, have hung out here as well.
This time I was just passing through on my way home from the grocery store. In the short time it took me to walk through, I heard several other people who were passing by make loud derisive comments to or about the people playing. Comments about how stupid it is, how stupid the people playing it are, how it’s sad that they have nothing better to do with their time.
As I walked further I got kind of angry. What right do these people have to judge? This is something that makes people happy, gets people out to have fun, brings people together. Why the hate? It’s a hobby.
Just because it’s not your thing, why do you have to try to spoil it for those who enjoy it? Then I got thinking about it a little more, and realized that this isn’t any different than people shitting on any other hobby, it’s just new, so people are more vocal about it at this moment. And I realized the sad fact that literally EVERYBODY does it. This is just what people do.
I guarantee every person complaining about how much they’re being judged for playing Pokemon is guilty of judging other people for doing things that they like doing.
In recent years I’ve noticed an especially vitriolic movement among people who don’t like sports to wear their ignorance of sports as a proud badge, to ironically talk about “sportsball”, and assume that all people who like watching sports are ignorant uneducated brutes, and brand them as such.
It’s the same thing I’ve seen with people who are militantly smug about how they don’t watch TV, because according to them TV is an evil, brain-killing thing that has no redeeming qualities, and anyone who is stupid enough to fall under its spell deserves to have their mind rotted out because they’re intellectually weak.
I could go on and on about the things I’ve heard people straight up hate on for no reason other than they personally aren’t interested in it; reading books, being a foodie, playing board games, and dozens of other things that people just do because they enjoy them.
We’ve all done it. I’m certainly not innocent of doing it. But I’m trying to be better. Everybody has things they like doing, so let’s just fucking let people do them without all the criticism.
Go catch Pokemon. Go play fantasy football. Go knit. Go watch superhero movies. Go birdwatching. Go collect records or porcelain dolls or insects or stamps. Go play basketball. Go play Magic. Your hobby isn’t any better or more valid than anyone else’s. And if you think it is, you’re an asshole.
Y’know what makes you just as much of an asshole, though? Criticizing other people’s interests just because people have been criticizing yours.
* Featured Image: Pokemon GO players in Cabot Square, Montreal by Elizabeth Ann Keenan
The internet has been mourning and remembering David Bowie ever since news of his passing broke a week ago. Amidst all the sharing of classic Bowie tunes, astonishment at his latest video being a farewell (a performer to the end), personal tributes (like the one FTB’s Cat McCarthy did) anecdotes, musical tributes, Labyrinth nostalgia and his latest album going to number one in the US (something no Bowie album had done before) something caught my attention.
It was a video of a 1999 interview with Bowie by the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman. The conversation turned to the Internet, still a relatively new phenomenon at the time. This was when AOL still shipped CDs and many people still thought it was a fad or simply an emerging platform with which to get pretty much the same content.
Bowie had a different idea. He thought the Internet would fundamentally change the relationship between performer and audience. Over 16 years later, it’s clear he was right.
David Bowie’s enormous talent and creativity were a huge part of his success. His willingness to set trends instead of following them, all the while constantly reinventing his public persona, made it possible for him to have a cultural impact for decades. This much is widely known.
There was, however, a somewhat less known key to his prolonged influence. It was his mind. In particular, his ability to understand our culture on a fundamental level and see just where it was headed. If you want proof, just watch this video:
This fall, I began working tangentially in the tech industry coordinating volunteers, who inspire and empower kids by teaching them to code, for a local non-profit called Kids Code Jeunesse. In light of recent and troubling events making headlines and spreading like wildfire over social media, I thought it necessary to speak with local #WomenInTech and hear about their perspectives and to discuss gender in the Tech and Gaming industry, and mostly, to learn from them, for myself and my work, and to share that knowledge with others.
Firstly, I spoke with Carolyn Jong, who is an organizer at the Mount Royal Game Society and a member of the Technoculture, Art, and Games Research Centre. Jong has been involved in many projects including making games of her own, and looking at intersectionality in gaming cultures. She is also an active member of Montreal’s indie game community.
A few days before we met for the interview, Jong hosted a discussion on recent events, including threats of a massacre at a feminist speaking event on the topic of gaming that would be given at a school, and about the “hate and harassment campaign,” also known as #GamerGate, with its persecution of game designer Zoe Quinn and others. Jong felt that there was a need for local collective conversation about what had been happening.
According to Jong, in terms of discussing issues affecting women in tech and games, there is a whole gamut of reactions. Some people recognize the issues and work towards addressing them while, on the other end of the spectrum, there seem to be two types of reactions: one of dismissal (“There are no issues!”) and another of a more aggressive nature.
Jong noted the irony of the dismissive response, which forces those seeking to address gender issues to keep close tabs on research and statistics, in order to demonstrate the “realness” of an issue that they may have experienced first hand. On the other hand, the more aggressive reaction is linked to power, privilege, and fear: “It’s complicated and part of a much bigger trend. This is a reactionary response.” In her blog post, “GamerGate and the Right,” Jong explores the disturbing nature GamerGate and its relationship with other movements and politics more in depth.
There are many initiatives aimed at bringing women in the industry together (such as GAMERella) along with initiatives aimed at getting young girls interested in tech and games (Girls Who Code, Ladies Learning Code). Jong has been involved with some of these groups, including the local group Pixelles, and has found meeting others with similar experiences and looking to address similar issues has also been a validating experience.
“For my own experience at least, it has been inspiring,” Jong explained. “These spaces have kind of given me, this sounds corny but, the strength to keep pushing on [addressing gender issues]. It would be really hard to do that kind of work because it’s not something that tends to be rewarded in other places.”
“I’m hoping,” Jong emphasized, “that the sort of push to get girls and women involved in games is going to branch out to include other people that have been marginalized or minoritized in circles. Current movements tend to be inclusive and aware of these issues but I’m hoping other initiatives specifically addressing these groups will emerge.”
Second, I chatted with Julia Evans, a Montreal-based web developer and data scientist, who organizes monthly events for programmer women with the Montreal All-Girl Hack Night. She also co-founded the local chapter of PyLadies Montreal.
“My daily experience in this community is mostly of super wonderful people, but for lots of women (and other minorities), it’s not like that. They work with people who routinely don’t take their work seriously or sexually harass them or just exclude them in a series of minor ways every day,” Evans recounted. “The more friends I make, who are women who work in this industry, the more I hear about [how] super competent wonderful technical women regularly get harassed and threatened. There’s a lot of really blatant sexism.”
These incidents of blatant sexism range from the microaggressive and discriminatory, to flagrant misogyny. Evans cited the blog posts of two women, Cate Huston and Julie Pagano, who publicly left the tech industry or community as an example of the types of issues women face. Evans also cited as evidence of blatant sexism how Christien Rioux, co-founder of Veracode, dismissed women’s abilities to write security exploits. Recently, the CEO of Microsoft, speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, responded to a question for advice for women who might be nervous to ask for a raise with a statement that they should not ask for a raise but trust in the system to pay them what they should earn. Problematic to say the least. There exists, and Evans pointed to it, a timeline of sexist incidents at the Wiki for Geek Feminism which includes the École Polytechnique massacre of 1989.
For Evans, who is used to the kinds of environments that welcome a diversity of programmers, it comes as a shock to attend conferences where 98% of the people in the room are men. “What went wrong here? This is not what a developer community is,” Evans recounts thinking in these situations. She finds it really upsetting that it would be considered normal to have a conference with an overwhelming majority of men when there is a considerable and established presence of women in programming already. Moreover, Evans nods to the magazine Model View Culture as highlighting the already existing diversity in tech whilst addressing and offering solutions to some of the barriers present.
Evans, like Jong, pointed to the importance of spaces which recognize these issues and aim to make change. Initiatives like AdaCamp, a women-only conference around open technology and culture, and workshops like Hacker School where, Evans explained “people work incredibly hard on making sure everyone is taken seriously and that everyone is given an equal chance to learn and grow.” Evans recommends reading a post by fellow Hacker School attendee Sumana titled “Hacker School Gets an A on the Bechdel Test” which highlights the diversity of women and their conversations in tech spaces.
Forget The Box would like to thank Julia Evans and Carolyn Jong for their time and for sharing their experiences and knowledge with us.