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Détournement and Recuperation

Letterists International probably invented the ideas behind free software and creative commons. They created the idea of détournement, in which existing mainstream logos and slogans were subverted for anarchist, satirical and other radical political purposes, like the picture of the Queen defaced in the cover of the Sex Pistols single.

The counterpart to détournement is recuperation, in which radical ideas are appropriated by the cultural mainstream to be re-used in safe contexts, like the use of Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the air” to advertise an airline.

Free Software enables both of these: mainstream software made available under free software licences like the GPL can be put to radical new uses because of the terms of the GPL. But it also enables software built to political ends, and shared under those terms, to be put to mainstream uses.

If anything, open source software is a bigger enabler of recuperation. By relieving receivers of the pay-it-forward obligation, open source licences make it easier for incumbent organisations using traditional software model to make use of ideologically-motivated software publication.

Today’s surprisingly short workflow-improving win

When I have a TODO comment (or a #error in code, which is how I frequently do TODOs), I switched to writing the commit message I want to be able to use when I’ve fixed the TODO. Then I write the thing that’s missing, kill the TODO and yank it into the commit command.

Tech’s Meritocracy Problem

Meritocracy is a myth. And our belief in it is holding back the tech industry from getting better.

The intent to be meritocratic is not a myth, but we know what road is paved with good intentions.

—from Tech’s Meritocracy Problem.

Why nerd culture must die

http://computinged.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/why-nerd-culture-must-die-not-everyone-can-teach-themselves/

Truth.

There’s No Such Thing as a General-purpose Processor

http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=2687011

There’s no such thing as a General-purpose processor, and belief in such a device is harmful.

Joe Armstrong thinks we don’t need modules in software. Instead, all functions should have unique names and be published in a global database.

http://shape-of-code.coding-guidelines.com/2014/11/06/cobol-2014-perhaps-the-definitive-final-version-of-the-language/

Cobol now has function pointers :O

Apple noticed there are programmers outside the valley

If my summary sounds cynical, it’s because I’m cynical of the old Apple way where they only hired engineers who wanted to relocate within the shadow of (whatever the big thing in SV is: Stanford now, but probably HP when Apple was younger). I’m excited that they’ll get to hire from a broader range of applicants as they stagger, eyes blinking, into the wide world outside Cupertino.

Up or to the right

Sometimes in describing a concept X in one domain, someone will ask “oh, is that like X’?” where X’ is the same concept or a very similar one, expressed in a different domain.

The quick answer is “Yes”, but that permits a range of interpretations from “X and X’ are the same things in different contexts” to “this domain that’s new to me can be thought of by analogy to the thing I already know. For example, what I know as X’ exists, except that they call it X”.

One long answer is “There exists an idea called Meta-X. Both of these domains contain expressions of this idea, but one represents it as X and the other as X'”. But now, possible interpretations include “Meta-X is pure and both X and X’ are tainted”, “Meta-X is some fundamental proposition about the universe”, “Meta-X is some meaningless fiction invented by Graham to sound profound”, “Meta-X is some attempt to conceptually combine two different real things”.

So neither answer is “correct”, and you can’t present information in a way independent of those trying to make use of it.

The next phase in technological convergence will be harder than the last, because it can’t be solved with technology. Last time the devices converged, some phone makers just needed to buy a photoelectric detector, a lens, and licenses for some MP3 patents.

But how can the various tab-sized computers I carry – my bank cards, SIMs, passport, building door card, transport cards, office ID – be integrated, when they mean different things to different people? Technologically, it’s really bad to keep them separate because you can’t just hold a bag of RFID tokens up to a reader and expect the right thing to happen. Socially, it’s really bad to converge them; I can’t imagine my bank, employer, train conductor and government all agreeing to the same terms on identifying me, nor would one company be an acceptable clearing house for all of that so rather than N distinct tokens we’d end up with N tokens you can use Anywhere™*.