What I did for last Towel Day
I have to say, Skype conferences are not great for podcasting.
The Wow! Signal on the Wow! Signal
The Wow! Signal podcast finally covers the August 1977 event it is named after, with guest Bob Dixon, who was instrumental in bringing the Ohio State Big Ear radio telescope to bear on SETI. We also learn about Argus, which if built full scale could potentially detect many such signals.
Huh, it has been quite awhile since I posted here
The GamerGate aftermath: the positives
Must be miserable being a female gamedev right now, but I think there are genuinely some long term positives that may come out of this - none of which, I admit, are as positive as what might have happened if a powerful minority of men weren't complete bastards.
1. Men know it's happening now.
Call it projection, call it being blind to the obvious, but if anyone had come to me in August and told me how a sizable proportion of men absolutely hate women with a passion, with the abuse being entirely one-way, I would have nodded but not understood, because I like to think there's good in everyone. I would have poo-poo'd the more extreme examples of "one or two bad apples". Now I understand. Reading prominent GamerGate figureheads writing articles like "How to rape a woman and get away with it" or "How to break a woman" (no direct links but more information on this anti-misogyny site: http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/) is eye opening for those of us sheltered behind a general assumption of human decency in most people, even the ones we see as sexist. Yes, I've worked with at least one obviously sexist co-worker. No, I thought this was just mommy issues and that the guy was OK underneath. I don't think I'd treat him the same way now.
I had no idea the situation was this bad. I had no idea such evil attracted support from such a large and diverse group of people. I know better now. I have some idea of what to say to my daughter - when she's a little older, obviously - to ensure she can defend herself when the time comes. I know what to look out for from colleagues and "friends." I know what to tell friends who deny that the situation exists.
2. More women are speaking up, and being heard
GamerGate isn't happening because misogynists are slut-shaming a female gamedev who produced a game that wasn't to their liking, it's happening because women - and men - are rallying behind her. The superficial "Actually it's about ethics in gaming journalism" trope exists because those who attempted to intimidate said gamedev out of gaming found themselves the target of an overwhelmingly negative press, with large numbers of developers and other people in the gaming industry, especially women, standing up and saying stop.
It would be nice to go further and claim that this is universal, that women are exclusively looking at GamerGate as a chance to stand up and be heard, but alas, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and others are reporting that they're talking to many women devs who have headed in the other direction, seeing GamerGate as a reason to want out and to leave. This is terrible.
3. Related issues are receiving more attention.
That video with the women being cat-called, followed, and generally harassed, while walking through New York? Would that really have gone viral in a different environment?
Meanwhile, I wonder how many men have actually sat down and forced themselves to watch Anita Sarkeesian's videos on tropes in video games (caution: part six is actually fairly hard to watch), simply because of the controversy over the last few months? I know I did. It's hard to believe more coverage of this kind of constructive, concrete, criticism cannot lead to both less sexism in video games, and stronger, more original, video games in future.
4. Final thought
I'm not saying GamerGate is good or has been positive. It hasn't. We can choose to build in the ashes, or we can get angry about the loss of the city we once had. Or we can do both. I think I'm feeling both right now.
On posting anonymously
I'm finding it easier to post 100% honestly when I post AC on at least one subject at the moment. Why? Well, because if I post pseudonymously then I risk inflaming the wrath of an extremely nutty group, and I really don't have the time or patience or stomach for the kind of harassment I'd expect if I piss that group off.
I say this because it's a counterpoint to some of the stuff that's been said recently, especially in response to, for example, GamerGate and related Tech Sexism controversies, where many are of the opinion that anonymity has little value, encouraging the lowest forms of life to crawl out and make terrible attacks (such as death threats) without fearing the repercussions.
I have some sympathy with the position, but I also think linking identities to comments can severely limit people's ability to comment on things that genuinely bother them when there's a degree of mob like behavior by some on the opposing side of the issue in question.
Accountability is a force of moderation, but accountability cannot be the only means by which commentary is moderated, merely a significant but not insurmountable factor.
Update: This seems relevant