Tech journalists aren’t telling both sides of the #GamerGate #notyourshield story or even investigating it. http://thndr.it/1xKBSDX
Tech journalists aren’t telling both sides of the #GamerGate #notyourshield story or even investigating it. http://thndr.it/1xKBSDX
I admire the resolve of the #GamerGate people and sympathise with their project. I knocked up this tribute.
GitLab is a git repository host. Lately they removed the #GamerGate repository despite the project not being in violation of their terms of service.
Here’s an archive of the google groups thread where Sytse from GitLab invites feedback about the repository and its takedown: GitLab google groups thread..
In my view GitLab should be considered susceptible to strong-arming by parties wanting to suppress unpopular speech. Bear that in mind before choosing them as a host for your project.
More contextual details can be found in this image.
For a while now I’ve been kind of meaning to write a long, in-depth post about 4chan. With the recent controversy between them and some significant feminist figures in the gaming industry, I think it’s important that I finally go ahead and do this. Since, let’s be honest: any time there’s a big…
Here’s an idea that I’d like to see become reality. It’s a technological proposal prompted by the #GamerGate scandal. I believe, if created, it would mitigate some of the problems of integrity and transparency in video game websites that people are currently objecting to. It’s a service that would help online publishers of game related news, reviews as well as opinion/’think’ pieces, to avoid impropriety as well as the appearance of impropriety.
It would work as follows. On a web page containing a news story related to games, readers notice a third-party widget. The widget displays a Social Connection Indicator (SCI) score. Clicking a “What’s this?” link inside the widget, readers learn that the higher the overall score, the more likely it is that the author is not adequately impartial, and in the case of high scores, it’s recommended that readers should look into the connections further if they want to assure themselves that there’s no foul play going on.
The widget displays an overall score for the article prominently, as well as a breakdown showing a score for a pairing of each person mentioned in the article, with the author. I’ll call these pair scores, which are explained next. The overall SCI score for the article is equal to the highest of the pair scores it contains.
A pair score represents the degree of social connection, as measured through publicly available twitter interactions, between two people. The widget indicates the degree of social connection between the author of the piece and each person mentioned in it.
The degree of connection is calculated by the SCI service. The service conducts data mining on public twitter posts to arrive at pair scores. Retweets, replies and mentions are the main targets of analysis. A pair score is the product of direct interactions between the users, as well as the interactions of the people they interact with and so on until some arbitrarily chosen degree of separation. Collectively I’ll call these direct and indirect interactions the extended interactions. Data related to a user who is determined to be socially close to you (high connection score) will have a greater effect on the system’s calculation of your pair scores than data from a user judged to be more distant *.
To illustrate: Persons X and Y have never tweeted directly at one another, but their pair score is boosted to some degree because I have often had twitter interactions with both of them. My interactions link the two users in the eyes of the SCI system.
The tone of the interactions is not assessed. The SCI system doesn’t care if interactions are supportive or antagonistic. It concerns itself with the existence of connections, not their ‘direction’. We’re assuming that preexisting loyalties as well as animosities threaten impartial reporting.
The maintainers of the site publishing the games news article would set up and embed the SCI widgets on the relevant article pages, probably doing so before the articles are published. A setup wizard on the SCI site would offer fields to input the twitter handles of the author as well as the people mentioned in the article. The wizard would generate an appropriate embed code for use in the article.
I believe that such a service would be of value to gaming news sites interested in providing assurances of integrity and impartiality. It would be a highly visible way for these sites to differentiate themselves from less scrupulous organisations. To the extent that the service was successful, the lack of the SCI widget on a site would already serve as a red flag for concerned readers.
The SCI system could also report a site-wide average score (aggregated from all widgets used on the site). Organisations using the system would be motivated to try to keep their overall site score low. To this end reporters would be assigned to articles in a way that minimised prior connections (loyalty or animosity) between the writers and the persons involved in their articles.
The existence of the SCI system would influence the incentives of writers themselves too. If the SCI system saw widespread use, writers would understand that cultivating online friendships, or feuds, or participation in in/out group tribalism generally, with the people in the industry they are covering would limit the number of stories they’d be considered for in the future, both by their current and future employers.
Since authors for small and new sites will naturally tend to have lower connection scores with whoever they write about, this service will, to some extent, confer an advantage to these ‘underdog’ sites. This is good news for those who’d like entrenched institutions to feel more pressure to clean up their acts, and who’d like a more level playing field in game journalism.
At least in the form I’m imagining, the service would ‘see’ only Twitter interactions. Twitter seems like a good initial choice because of it’s popularity as a medium in independent gaming circles.
The SCI system is not intended to act as a substitute for ethical journalism practices (e.g. recusal) but as a supplement to them and a way to easily increase transparence towards readers.
A high SCI score, in and of itself, does not establish partiality, bias or corruption. Rather, a high score would be a signal for readers to be cautious and investigate the links between the author and the subjects themselves. This limitation would need to be clearly communicated to readers.
It’s also possible that real partiality exists even if a reported coefficient is low. So readers need to be aware that the system will sometimes result in ‘false negatives’. This could happen in cases where interactions between people happened exclusively offline, leaving little or no trace on twitter. I believe such blind-spots wouldn’t be a serious problem thanks to the use of extended connection analysis.
Some degree of connection should be expected between a journalist who uses twitter and the people he/she writes about. With respect to someone working in the industry being reported on, a pair score of zero, if even attainable, is not necessarily desirable.
Such a system could be monetised, for instance by requiring sites with sufficiently high page views to pay a subscription fee to the organisation hosting the service.
It may make sense to publish the codebase for the project in a publicly accessible way, so that interested parties can audit the code themselves to ensure there’s nothing shady going on in how the scores are derived.
The data derived by the live system could be cached in sequential files in some human readable format, and published. Auditors could then run the software themselves and verify that it gives the same results (for a given time window) as a safeguard against the possibility that the publicly available codebase is different to the ‘live’ one being used on the production server(s).
The system would respond to the crisis of confidence in gaming journalism by giving readers more information, but would not be diagnostic. It would be up to publishers and ultimately readers to decide for themselves what lower level of partiality is inevitable and what upper level of partiality is acceptable.
I hope someone reads this who agrees that this, or something like it, would be a valuable service, and has the tech/entrepreneurial muscle to pull it off.
* At first glance there seems to be some circularity here, but smarter minds than mine have created systems like this before so I’m not too worried about that.
The game The Castle Doctrine has been accused of being racist and sexist by some writers and their supporters. Many others (including myself) disagree that this is an appropriate use of the words racism and sexism.
The new itch.io acceptable use policy uses several such words that have strongly contested meanings. So as written, it’s quite ambiguous. Could you help clarify/sharpen up a couple of things?
Posting unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory content
Can you be specific about what you mean by discriminatory content?
Posting content that promotes or participates in racial intolerance, sexism, hate crimes, hate speech, or intolerance to any group of individuals
What is meant by intolerance, and sexism, here?
Two ways of dealing with tear gas grenades from comrades in Turkey: Either submerge them in water. Make sure you can close off the container cause the gas will still spread for a while. Or throw them in the fire so the gas burns off before it can spread.
I think that there’s more fear of moral nihilism than there needs to be. People worry that if they become persuaded of moral nihilism it will undercut their ability to make moral arguments and perhaps even turn them into the kind of person they don’t want to be. I hope to quickly show that these fears are misplaced.
Moral nihilism means rejecting the notion that there’s such a thing as mind-independent moral facts. We have no good reason to suppose that any actions have an intrinsic ‘must not-be-done-ness’ or ‘must-be-done-ness’. Religious people don’t dodge this bullet either, moral facts would be on no more firm an existential footing if there really was a celestial intelligence who wanted humans to behave in certain ways.
1. You care about the truth
The first insight is that you care about the truth. And you’d prefer to know the truth even if it’s uncomfortable. I believe moral nihilism is the position that coheres best with what we know about the world and I think if you read Mackie and Joyce there’s a good chance you’ll end up agreeing with me. Your commitment to truth should compel you to investigate this important subject seriously and with an open mind, even though (or perhaps especially because) you risk feeling temporary discomfort as your beliefs shift.
2. Ditching moral realism won’t make you a bad person
If you’ve done away with moral realism doesn’t this throw you into an anomistic chaos where anything’s permissible? Surely this stance at least prevents you from making arguments that imply that certain behaviour is right or wrong?
Neither is true. Even though moral facts don’t exist, in a healthy human, strong moral feelings and empathic response do. If I could be sure I’d ‘get away with it’ I still wouldn’t do the Bad Things that a psychopath would calmly contemplate because I feel repulsed by the idea of doing them, and I’m sure I’d feel overwhelming guilt if I was capable of going through with them somehow. This has nothing to do with questions of permission or forbiddance. In non-rigorous contexts I might even say it’s wrong to do those things.
3. Moral facts are persuasively inert
So doesn’t denying moral facts undercut your ability or motivation to make moral arguments? Perhaps surprisingly it doesn’t need to have that effect either.
I’m a moral nihilist and a libertarian. While being both of these things, I made the video George Ought to Help, which implicitly makes a moral argument against the state, specifically against the welfare state. It might strike some people as inconsistent or hypocritical for me to argue that way. It’s neither of those things.
I’m motivated to make moral arguments because I believe they can bring about changes in the world that harmonise with my preferences. My preferences (which inevitably reflect my moral feelings) include maximising prosperity and minimising suffering. I’m convinced that propertarian anarchism is by far the most suitable path yet conceived of towards that end.
My moral arguments don’t rely on the assumption that moral facts exist. Instead they appeal to a preference for coherence and consistency in moral judgements on the part of the people I’m making the argument to: You and I feel that X is wrong (meaning that it offends our moral feelings). Y closely resembles X in ways A B and C. If you condemn X doesn’t it make sense to condemn Y too? I encourage people to question whether their judgements cohere with one another. I believe it’s fair to say that the moral judgements of most statists are strikingly incoherent, for instance.
Perhaps the most important thing to notice is that in efforts of persuasion, moral realism doesn’t help you. If a person doesn’t feel that threatening violence against peaceful people is wrong already (e.g. threatening to assault a friend to compel them to donate to a cause you consider worthy), then no amount of outraged brow beating about moral facts is going to change their mind. You should consider cutting your losses and ending the conversation.
Notice also that if two moral realists disagree, they face a deadlock: How has either gained knowledge about what these moral facts are? By what mechanism? Why treat this conviction as something other than ‘merely’ a vey strong feeling?
Don’t be afraid of moral nihilism. If anything, I believe jettisoning the metaphysical baggage of moral facts makes it easier to anchor yourself in the world as it is, and to strengthen your arguments with the robustness that comes from a clear-eyed grounding in moral coherentism.
The MRAs are outraged.
Not because a violent misogynist killed people.
That’s the pretense of knowledge. The failure of a person to state that ‘I am outraged that a violent mysogynist killed people’ does not imply that they are not outraged, or that they don’t condemn the killing in the strongest way. Consider that it may be being assumed that all of the intended audience already condemn it, and that this condemnation doesn’t need spelling out.
This young man took to heart many of their philosophies. He was taught that if his perceived entitlement was not fulfilled, it justified his behavior.
Can you demonstrate that this corresponds to MRA philosophy somehow? I don’t think so. It is my impression that the MRA community has no overarching philosophy, instead it’s a community united by the attempt to correct injustices currently affecting by boys and men. Of course, just as with feminism, some dangerous and unpleasant people will identify with the movement.
You say not all men are monsters?
Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned.
Go ahead. Eat a handful.
Not all M&Ms are poison.
No matter how many times this metaphor is repeated, it fails because the exact same ‘reasoning’ applies to women too: some minority of women are violent, dangerous, murderous. Does this justify blanket generalisations about the character of women? Of course not. It’s similarly irrelevant when the target is men.
Can you lose a fortune by mistyping a bitcoin address? If you’re in a hurry ‘no’ is an acceptable approximation of the answer.
Lately the bitcoin exchange Bitstamp carried out a procedure intended to demonstrate the organisation’s bitcoin reserve amount. The procedure included the step of transferring funds managed by Bitstamp (183,497 BTC, which is roughly $103,675,805 at the current market price) to a new address known to be under their control to demonstrate ownership.
On Reddit a couple of users commented on the frightening prospect of transferring such a large amount of money, positing that if an incorrect receiving address was entered the result would be catastrophic. If you transfer bitcoins to an address by mistake the only way you’ll get them back is if the owner of the address decides to send them back. Helpfully, Bitcoin’s design makes this kind of mistake very unlikely.
Not all bitcoin addresses are valid. If you try to send money to an invalid address your bitcoin client, or the website hosting your wallet—assuming it’s been built competently—won’t process the transfer, and no funds will be moved. For testing validity, bitcoin adresses include a checksum.
Checksums are used to ensure the integrity of data portions for data transmission or storage. A checksum is basically a calculated summary of such a data portion.
The rough idea is as follows, the end portion of a bitcoin address is generated by performing a mathematical operation on the front portion of the address. If you take a valid address and change any part of the front portion, the back portion needs to be changed to a particular value that agrees with the front part in order for it to remain valid, and vice versa. The likelihood of accidentally changing both the front and back portion of an address to values that agree with one another is vanishingly small.
You can test this for yourself using blockchain.info. First look up a valid bitcoin address by navigating into one of the latest transactions listed on the homepage. For instance 1AbAgKrzbdZZ3Ty8uEvf4Q1pEGJYQvEHjB. Then try changing any of the characters of the bitcoin address in your browser’s address bar and refresh the page. You’ll see the error message ‘Checksum does not validate’. The same happens if you swap the positions of two characters in an address too.
So while it’s still possible to end up sending money to the wrong address (for instance you could copy and paste a valid address belonging to someone other than the intended recipient), the likelihood of this happening because a bitcoin address was mistyped or garbled somehow is next to non-existent.
I accept bitcoin donations via: 1KWH7bi8Tovmy4Pg5cQQiHa3SLda2iMECc
A question for advocates of anti-discrimination laws for private businesses. NB. this is not a rhetorical question. I don’t rule out the possibility that a sensible answer can be given (I just can’t think of one myself).
Consider two kinds of interactions that can happen between pairs of adults.
Advocates of anti discrimination laws typically believe that one should be free to reject the sexual advances of another person for any reason (including racist beliefs), but that when it comes to exchanges involving money, a business owner should be compelled to accept all-comers who are interesting in interacting in the form of buying/trade.
How can one justify advocating that freedom of association (specifically the freedom to turn down a possible interaction) be upheld in the case of sexual interactions, but not in the case of interactions involving the exchange of money for goods and services?
I co-wrote this and animated it, for LearnLiberty.
My co-writer and narrator was Prof Howard Baetjer Jr. He knows a boatload about the topic, and wrote this book, among others.
It’s like Kickstarter except patrons pledge to donate a given amount for each item created (in my case videos). Maximum limits can be set to avoid contributing more than you’d be comfortable with.
Rewards for patrons include being credited in videos they help to fund and the opportunity to add their voice to private discussions about upcoming video ideas.
Thanks in advance if you take a look to see if you’d like to be a patron, or just help spread the word.
I just supported Break Apple’s Bitcoin ban on @ThunderclapIt // @mormo_music
An Open Letter to Peter Schiff A follow-up to the discussion on the Peter Schiff Show, December 2, 2013 (this has been emailed to Peter just now)
It was a privilege and an honor to be a guest on your radio show today. I’ve been a fan of yours for more than five years; you were one of the reasons I discovered Austrian economics (and, in turn, Bitcoin), and your eloquent explanation of consumption vs. production in an economy has guided my outlook of the world ever since. So thank you sincerely for what you’ve taught me, and for the opportunity to appear on your show. It was a really special moment for me.
While we had some valuable discussion today, I felt a follow-up was appropriate to better articulate my points. You’re right to be highly skeptical of such a new technology and monetary system, but please take the time to ensure your skepticism doesn’t blind you from what I humbly suggest is one of the most important tools for human freedom ever conceived.
First, Bitcoin must always be considered as two things: the payment network (Bitcoin) and the currency units (bitcoins). Condemnations of the latter can often be resolved with an understanding of the former. Satoshi should have named them differently to avoid this initial confusion.
When you suggest that bitcoins have “zero intrinsic value,” you are only considering the currency unit itself and ignoring the payment network. While I prefer the term “utility” over “intrinsic value” (because all value is subjective to the valuer), I may indeed admit that bitcoins, as currency units all by themselves, have no fundamental utility and are completely uninteresting. But – and this absolutely critical – the payment network has vast utility.
In fact, this network is probably one of the most valuable and consequential technologies currently on the planet. Some of us realized this a few years ago. Others are realizing it now. Many more will realize it in the future. The Bitcoin network is, fundamentally, a ledger of title controlled by no man. Ponder that for a moment. The transmission of value and ownership has thus just been severed from the State, not by impotent voting, but by the technological achievement of man. Now, during the show, you agreed that perhaps this payment network has utility. So, if the network (Bitcoin) has utility, and only one currency is accepted on this network (bitcoins), and those bitcoins are scarce, then should not those units themselves command a market price? Who knows what that price should be, but there should be a price, no? Any good that is useful and scarce will have a price (consider that air is useful but not scarce, and fish with three eyes are scarce but not useful, thus no price for either of them). Because the Bitcoin network is useful, and because only scarce bitcoin currency units are permitted on this network, the bitcoins themselves have a price. Indeed, they must have a price until the network is no longer useful, or the coins are no longer scarce.
This is not magic. It is not a Ponzi scheme or elaborate fraud. It’s just the market pricing something that it finds useful. As the network grows in usage, its utility subsequently grows, and thus scarce bitcoins appreciate further. Those who grabbed coins in the early days benefit hugely, just as those prospectors grabbing nuggets of gold out of the California foot hills did in the early days of the gold rush. Gold is not a pyramid scheme merely because early acquirers profit from later subsequent adoption and demand.
The Utility of Bitcoin and Competitors
So to adequately claim that bitcoins ought to have no price (which is the implicit assumption from your claim on national television that Bitcoin is a Ponzi scheme), you must demonstrate that the Bitcoin network has no utility. As someone who has transferred $100,000 worth of value to another person instantly in another country (on a Sunday when banks were closed, no less), I am confident that you will not succeed in this demonstration.
I believe that you will understand and agree with my above arguments if you objectively ponder them for a while. Your contention then moves to the following: that if Bitcoin (the network) can be replicated by anyone, it isn’t actually scarce at all and thus even though the network is valuable, the price of individual coins will fall toward zero as the system is replicated over and over by competitors. You would explain that while bitcoins are limited to 21 million units, anyone can create a competing crypto-currency and thus the number of possible crypto-currency units are unlimited, thus not scarce, and thus not fundamentally worth anything.
You made this argument several times on the show today. It is a fair point for you to raise, but please allow me to counter it.
Bitcoin, after all, cannot really be copied. True, the open-source code can be copied and the copier could release CopyCoin (indeed this is happening all the time). But, the copier cannot copy the infrastructure. The protocol layer is easily copied. The infrastructure layer is not. On Day 1 of Bitcoin, it had no infrastructure layer. I can tell you, as an entrepreneur in this space for the past few years, Bitcoin’s infrastructure layer is now substantial. Indeed, I am sitting in my office, and looking at my employees building this very infrastructure as I write this. Their work, and that of many thousands of others around the world, is not so easily replicated.
Let’s use an analogy, which you so often convincingly do when describing the absurdity of Fed policy or the counter-productive nature of various government programs. I believe the following is a very fair analogy.
Consider that language itself is a protocol – a set of rules for conveying information. Consider then that one could copy the English language, and change parts of it, and release it as English 2.0. However, why would anyone use it? Even if it had marginal improvements over traditional English, where is the infrastructure? Where are the vast tomes of literature written in English 2.0? Where are the speakers and writers and scholars of this new language? Where are the libraries and Wikipedias full of English 2.0 articles? How many newspapers are written and conveyed in English 2.0? How many Peter Schiff podcasts are disseminated in this new alternative? That infrastructure wouldn’t exist, and neither therefore, would the users. This is merely the natural, spontaneous consequence of network effect, and it applies to English as a protocol for language just as it applies to Bitcoin as a protocol for money.
Now, does the network effect mean English, or Bitcoin, can never be replaced? No. But it does mean it’d be extremely difficult in either case. But let’s remember something. Even if a superior crypto-currency overcomes Bitcoin in the open market (certainly possible), does that make Bitcoin a failure or Ponzi scheme? Does that negate the utility bestowed by Bitcoin while the market still favors it? Consider that one can benefit from the Bitcoin network with zero or very low exposure to the currency price long term. This means a payment made with Bitcoin last year still accomplished its objective – value moved freely, the users benefited, even if a year later the system falls apart and goes to zero. Thus, there is real utility today even if the system doesn’t work next year. The assumption that Bitcoin will be around for eternity is not a prerequisite for benefiting from its utility in the present.
Mutual Respect for Market-Based Money
I think you will discover, upon reflection, that your concerns about Bitcoin boil down to the thesis that Bitcoin is a volatile, highly speculative, and non-conservative asset class. In this, I wholeheartedly agree. But if your arguments are claiming that the payment network itself is some kind of fraud – a Ponzi scheme undeserved of respect or even consideration – then I must take issue with that. The Bitcoin network is an utterly revolutionary technology. It separates money from the state, in a way that gold, unfortunately, has been unable to do. When fully understood, Bitcoin should bring tears to the eyes of anyone who fights against the tyranny and ignorance of coercive governments and their monetary witch doctors. This is why thousands of people around the world have dedicated their lives to this campaign. We are carrying out this experiment without anyone’s permission. We’ll either fail, or change the world in a way that was inconceivable before this technology existed.
I wholly support your idea to make a gold-backed digital currency. Please do it. I’d love to be your first customer, because I love gold. But being in this business, seeing how the payments and banking and regulatory world works, I can tell you that your initiative will likely fail, either by self-immolation (GoldMoney severing inter-account payments), or by governmental take down (e-gold).
A monetary/payment system that relies on gold backing is reliant on the backer. It relies on a centralized, trusted party, to warehouse the gold and provide convertibility. This is the counter-party risk eliminated by Bitcoin.
You cannot compete with fiat by having a competitor that is vulnerable to the guns of government. Bitcoin may not be perfectly immune, but it is highly resistant. Censorship of e-gold was easy. Censorship of Bitcoin will be… entertaining.
Regardless, if you’re honestly interested in trying that experiment again, I will help you and support that effort, because I recognize the value of precious metals as commodities and as money. Until such a system actually exists, I am humbly asking you to support our efforts in kind, and am humbly suggesting to you that bitcoins, while non-physical, are indeed real and indeed have real value, because they are the one currency accepted on the most revolutionary payment network known to mankind. This is not theory – it’s actually working for millions of dollars of payments every day. We’ve moved beyond the Mises textbook. We’re running in the open market.
While Bitcoin is still a highly-volatile experiment, it deserves more respect than dismissal as a Ponzi scheme, and regardless of whether you think the current price of a bitcoin unit is justified, you must acknowledge that this technology, broadly speaking, has utility both for both economic exchange and, more importantly, individual freedom. When my grandparents ask me how to protect their wealth, I don’t tell them to buy bitcoins. I tell them to buy precious metals. When they ask me how to transfer value across distance, I don’t tell them to ship gold. I tell them to use Bitcoin. My hope in writing this letter is simply this – that perhaps you’ll come to see Bitcoin and gold as beautiful compliments and important tools in the advancement of free-market money – one long-standing, conservative, and physical, the other new, technologically and politically disruptive, and digital. One will not replace the other, but I believe both will come to replace fiat, and good riddance to that stuff.
In Liberty, Erik Voorhees