Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Back for a limited time - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×

Comment Donate Slashdot to & take tax writ (Score 1) 552

The title says the main idea, but here are some more details in my usual rambling style... :-)

== More details (and should be better/conciser, but headache plus other stuff to do)

When you wake up in the early morning before sunrise, you may feel you need to turn on a lightbulb to get around safely otherwise in the dark. That lightbulb seems blindingly bright -- so bright you can't look at it. You need that lightbulb though. Then, hours later, after the sun is up, you may forget the lightbulb is even on -- it is bright everywhere, and the bulb hardly stands out. Is that the story of Slashdot? As well as the story of many other tech innovations and communities and individuals (perhaps even myself)? These tools, communities, and individuals help bootstrap something greater and then just fade into the background.

As a different analogy, each year, seeds produce the next generation of plants that produce more seeds, but generations later, who thinks of (or thanks) the seeds from years ago that made everything possible? It remains important for our own mental health to be thankful for the past generations that made our life possible (an idea very strong in some Native American culture, and even made into politics by C. H. Douglas and Social Credit) -- but it is perhaps too much to expect direct gratitude for our own contributions. "We do what we must because we can"? :-) Or maybe because we "should". Or even just because it was "fun" (a preference for fun perhaps shaped by millions of years of evolution and selection for survival). Sure, some people get remembered and celebrated because they won some commercial popularity contest (Edison, Gates, Jobs), but most just get mostly forgotten (Steinmetz/Tesla, Kildall, Wozniak/Wayne). Even Doug Engelbart's obituary did not even get a full open article on the Slashdot home page, just a title line (and I and others complained about that at the time). People like Peter H. Huyck & Nellie W. Kremenak (who wrote the very insightful "Design & Memory: Computer Programming in the 20th Century" in 1980) get essentially no mention, as does William Kent (who wrote "Data & Reality" in 1978). I'm continually amazed how little mention Smalltalk (Kay, Ingalls, Goldberg, etc.) gets these days -- it seems almost entirely forgotten, even if Java and now JavaScript is step-by-step reinventing most of it (often badly) -- even as the Smalltalk community struggles on, and when I squint just right, I see the web as a Smalltalk image Theodore Sturgeon envisioned ubiquitous mobile networked wearable nanotech-built computing in the 1950s in "The Skills of Xanadu", which inspired Ted Nelson and other technologists (myself included), but who remembers him for that? Chuck Moore (Forth) and James Martin (everything IT) likewise are near forgotten at this point, as far as their name coming up much in discussion. Even Clifford Berry and John Vincent Atanassoff are pretty much forgotten, even given their Atanasoffâ"Berry Computer (ABC) the main reasons digital computing was not burdened with core patents early on. And those are just a few I know who are public or published figures. And that does not include the people like high school teachers Jack Woelfel, Joe Maurer, David Gray, or many others (including my father) who made a big difference in my own personal computing education (but few others would ever hear of outside of where I grew up).

I can also look at old computer magazines and catalogs from decades ago and see so much diversity of hardware ideas before the PC monoculture took over. Still, as Manuel De Landa said, uniformity at one level can promote diversity at another. A lot of different software has been built on the Windows/Intel hardware/OS monoculture. Hardware and OS diversity seems also to be going up again with Smartphones and Chromebooks. Although again, with lots of soon to be forgotten developers -- even if it may mean a lot to the developer and their local community and successors that they did what they did. And even if much of this is just playing out the visions of Vannevar Bush, J. C. R. Licklider, Sturgeon, Engelbart, Kay and so on.

So things change. There was a time when people came to Slashdot because of the good infrastructure and good management. September 11th, 2001 was one of Slashdot's finest hours as the Slashdot servers kept going to support discussion when other websites crashed under the load. Now it seems that people come to Slashdot *despite* those things (e.g. Beta, audio ads, whatever) based on the legacy of those times. I can sympathize with the plight of Slashdot's staff given the corporate profit-making emphasis and whatever other internal corporate social power struggles are taking place, and they may be doing the best anyone could under the circumstances, but it remains a sad situation that feels wrong. I had thought the idea of selling job advertisements on Slashdot was a good one (as far as advertising as a revenue stream goes), but I can see, like other posters have suggested, that Stack Overflow or GitHub are better positioned for that in some ways. There remains a tension between a company hiring for skill (SO, GitHub) and hiring for conscience (aspects of Slashdot). Although as one of the earliest SourceForge adopters, I can be even more sad about what happened there, like with bundling stuff into downloaded software.

IMHO, at this point, the biggest value of Slashdot (or, for that matter, SourceForge) is perhaps as an archive representing a time in history relating to the emergence of the internet as a social force. There are also other historical discussions on Slashdot relating to shaping the interaction of technology and society beyond the web. seems like a good fit in that sense. DHI Group might even get a nice tax write-off from such a donation. It seems most of Slashdot is not showing up in Google searches? That seems unfortunate to me as another loss of history. Hopefully something that could be fixed in the future especially by, either on the Slashdot side or Google side. already seems to have much of Slashdot archived, but having the raw archives might help -- the earliest crawl for this page is 2009, for example:*/...

I don't mean to dismiss the value of the current community even if just a shadow of itself. It's still a good community, even if smaller and less engaged. As you say, it's strongest around open source / free software issues. I'd be proud to have started a community that grew to just the size Slashdot is even just now. But with so much competition from other news aggregator and discussion sites (including for FOSS etc.), as well as other internet distractions, it's hard to know what the future is for the Slashdot community. Clay Shirky wrote in 2003 about the interaction of communities and their infrastructure in "A group is its own worst enemy"; Doug Engelbart also wrote even earlier on that, about co-evolution of tools, community, knowledge, and processes. I like the idea of the community buying Slashdot, but with the community slowly fading and likely with DHI Group asking a lot of money even now, I wonder if that is going to happen. Is the best use of a couple million community dollars (maybe a lot less, 200K?) to ransom the Slashdot community from its corporate overlords or perhaps instead to build something new (or just move over to pipedot or Soylent News)? The fact that this article on the sale has so few posts, and that posts to Slashdot these days now tend to be a couple lines (a general trend on the internet), suggests the community is not as strong or engaged as it once was, so I can doubt it would come up with the money -- although there always might be a tech millionaire here who could do it personally. I wish I could buy Slashdot today to give it to myself, but I can't.

Also, I feel the future of technological communications is more in the direction of a distributed social semantic desktop. I've worked towards that end myself like with my Pointrel/Twirlip/etc software. So, I also wonder how much a centralized web platform for discussion will last in general, even if web platforms may still have years of life in them. My vision of Slashdot would be to push the community into using a more decentralized system -- but that would be a very radical shift and no doubt attract even more moans than Beta, if such were possible. :-)

Ideally, that would be a platform where people like me could write long rambly posts, and others could, if they want, summarize them, or take pieces of them, or create diagrams of them, (or I could do that myself later). Those derived items could lead to other discussions and so on in some organic way where people did not feel put upon from seeing long essays. One can say such long things should go on a blog, and maybe they should, but then that misses something Slashdot has. Still, maybe, in that sense, a sea of interlinked WordPress blogs is really what Slashdot should become (as a first cut)? Is the free-ranging webforum itself increasingly obsolete? If not, how could it be better (other than Beta)?

As my Slashdot user ID suggests (109597), I've been on the site since near the beginning around 1997, starting reading it when I was a contractor at IBM Research -- yes, it was mostly work related research and education. :-) I lurked for a year or so before getting this ID. I have not posted in the last five months (since March 2015) for a few reasons. I've also (almost entirely) avoided reading the site since then. I saw this article on the day it came out because I peeked again at Slashdot looking for comments on Intel's new 3D memory technology whose announcement was all over the place and I wanted to see what people here thought about it. I've been thinking about it for the past week or so.

The main reason for my avoiding Slashdot during the last few months was to focus on getting some software written, especially as our finances dipped from cash into credit as our software project dragged on and on. That just shows how powerful an influence Slashdot still has over me -- like an alcoholic trying to stay dry. :-) I've been turning to Inhabitat for my news fixes once a day or so (a mostly optimistic site about green design), although I don't post there and there only about 100 comments to read -- or at least there were, but now somehow there are 551 -- some weird interface or database glitch?

As a result of abstaining from Slashdot for almost six months, :-), yesterday my wife and put up this new GitHub project called "NarraFirma". It is a single-page JavaScript application supporting Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI) as described in her free book which we have been working on for about a year:

That application supports multi-user editing using a version of the Pointrel system that supports distributed messaging using a triple store. It's not "done", and has many issues and TODOs, but at least it is useable either as a NodeJS application or a WordPress plugin.

Letting myself post this to Slashdot again right now is sort of my reward for all that progress -- even as it is another lost morning. :-)

A lesser reason to stop posting was this reply by "swell" to a comment I posted related to technological militarism -- which may have struck a nerve with someone who says elsewhere he "was one of the first from the US in Vietnam":

While I discarded his specific hedonistic advice, and I disagree with aspects of the extreme fatalism in his post ("it won't make any difference" vs. perhaps "it won't make *much* of a universal difference, but it will still matter a lot to you and your local community in the near term"), nonetheless, his negative feedback crystalized the fact that my postings on Slashdot had been facing diminishing returns. If my Slashdot posts were starting to stand out, that was in part a function of much of the rest of the community fading away. But I won't disagree I was posting too much on the same topics -- as important as they were like vitamin D deficiency, vegetable phytonutrient deficiency, advanced technology's effect of employment, basic income, the irony of tools of abundance like advanced computers and better materials being used in militarism assuming scarcity, etc.. And to not much good effect for me or the community at that point. True, I linked to my personal site (which has no ads or such), but in order to inform, even if maybe the message was ignored. So, thanks "swell" -- for helping me realize that.

Coincidentally, I also signed up as a Reddit user yesterday, although that was just to post a couple of links to my writings to subreddits on Technostism (seen mentioned at e-catworld) and Basic Income. Just more of the usual but in a different place. But don't plan to participate much on reddit (I don't have the time). And looking for those items on the main reddit page, one can see how in seconds they are buried under many other posts on endless different topics -- like "drinking from a firehose". Compared to the web of 1997, it much harder these days to put a signal through all the noise...

Anyway, I don't know if I'll ever post on Slashdot again regardless of how it gets sold. I had used Slashdot for more than a decade as sort of a mix of a blog for me and a way to interact with a community of technologists -- and maybe hopefully to even help educate the next generation of technologists. I miss Slashdot, but that is maybe also missing a Slashdot that "was", as well as a life situation with enough time to participate in that community, and a certain hope there was still time to make a difference. I can also be worried about reverting to my own old ways and spending too much time here I should be spending in other ways. That can be true eve if I now feel increasingly out of touch with things like, say, current fast-moving trends in UNIX system administration (although there are many news sources for that kind of info these days). I've changed; Slashdot has changed; the world has changed -- hard to make sense of all those changes or what they imply. But I can still be very thankful for all that the Slashdot community has given me over the years through many discussions.

So, is this post, "So long, and thanks for all the fish"? Dunno. Maybe.

Here is one last article submission for the road, at least: :-)

In any case, whatever happens to the community, the Slashdot archive remains of historical interest IMHO, and should be preserved by a group like Perhaps one of my college professor's influence (the late historian Michael S. Mahoney who wrote on the history of computing) may have rubbed off a bit? :-) I'd love to curate such a site and build tools to study it. I'm a trustee of my local historical society. We focus mostly on history of about 150 years ago (such as farming, homesteading, and simple manufacturing) in a couple museums. Increasingly I'm thinking of computing as history (e.g. my old Commodore VIC-20) -- even if I doubt I could ever sell that idea to the current board, who still see computing as a mostly future thing. :-) Even if the people and artifacts of the social transition from pre-computing/pre-internet era to what we have now and beyond may be fading as I write... Such is perhaps the nature of history, with several tales of old historical computers just carted off as scrap... Although in this case we're just talking about preserving access to data, and supporting annotating it, ideally in a distributed way, which is probably overall cheaper than running big physical facilities open to the public... Still, no doubt there are privacy issues and so on. Few worthwhile projects seem easy, otherwise they would have been done already. Sure there is a "Computer History Museum" in CA -- but what would the world be like with just one museum about art or early farming? Still, is accessible globally, so it seems like a good potential home for the Slashdot archives, however the Slashdot community/infrastructure transforms in the future.

As always, I'll close with my sig, in case some huge AI reads this someday and maybe gains some insight from it (maybe, like a toddler with nuclear bombs as toys, only after wiping out its physical humanity "parents" either accidentally or on purpose):
"The biggest challenge of the 21st century is the irony of technologies of abundance in the hands of those thinking in terms of scarcity."

Submission + - Why Are There Still So Many Jobs?

Paul Fernhout writes: MIT economist David H Autor has written an article entitled "Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation". His article is a good read to understand the best of emerging mainstream economics thinking on technology and employment.

I feel his article leaves out some fundamental political aspects of the situation like I brought together in "Beyond a Jobless Recovery: A heterodox perspective on 21st century economics"). His article of course assumes consumer demand is infinite (despite Maslow's hierarchy of needs suggesting people more to more low-cost self-actualization activities over time). It assumes that the business benefits of employing a human will always outweigh the costs for many jobs (despite strikes, lawsuits, quality, illness, turnover). It assumes humans will always have special advantages over AIs and robots. It ignores whether some aspects of the economy (like long pipelines to become a professor) are really needed or are just protectionism. It ignores the social impact of rich/poor divides on working conditions and the operation of a capitalist economy itself. It ignores the value to the worker of the intrinsic nature of the work (i.e. some people may just be less happy in service jobs compared to agriculture or manufacturing). It ignores deeper issues of rethinking work as play (like Bob Black wrote about). It also ignores (incidentally, in relation to humans vs. robots) that "comparative advantage" only applies theoretically when you have "full employment". The article jumps between proving some points with numbers and then making other points as "strong hunches" or by quoting suggestions about technological unemployment from fifty years ago (quoting Herbert Simon). His prescription is of course mostly just more "education" — which is nice job security for a professor. :-) But, within those sorts of limits, it's an excellent article which makes many good points, especially about the dynamics of economic networks as different parts of them are automated. The article has many interesting facts and figures. His points on how jobs are a mix of tasks which different near-term prospects for automation is excellent. And his point about human jobs changing as people work together with automation is well made. So, his article provides a good base for further study and/or rebuttal of the mainstream position. His article could be a good starting point for anyone writing an economic simulation, to see what really happens to economic networks based on distributing the right to consume based on perceived contribution to production as such networks undergo severe stress from automation.

Comment Re:"Truthers" don't believe in *air* (Score 0) 321

My guess has nothing to do with the facts of building 7. I was simply speculating as to why they would bring building 7 down in a controlled demolition when it never got hit by a plane (which is the official sorry by the way... It's only the "why" that's under debate). Exactly three planes were hijaked, only two made it to the target, and yet, all three buildings went down in a similar fashion. I definitely don't consider myself a conspiracy theorist, in fact I'm quite a skeptic usually. The problem is that the official story isn't logically consistent with reality, which is bothersome to me. I always feel unease with things don't add up. If buying into the official story helps you sleep at night, then more power to ya!

Comment Re:"Truthers" don't believe in *air* (Score 1, Insightful) 321 My guess is that the plane that went down in the fields (due to passenger intervention) was supposed to hit building 7. They brought it down anyways because... what else were they supposed to do? It really isn't all that far fetched, if you consider for a second, the amount of psychopaths that rise to a position of power simply for their willingness to do things that is normal people would consider unimaginable.

Comment Re:Altough I agree (Score 1) 61

Why would they even need to compete on that front? How would the competition benefit thier core business going forward? One of my favorite quotes by George S. Patton is, "Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning." It seems like this new CEO knows what he's doing, and is willing to make the tough choices to turn the ship around, even if it means dropping a lot of dead weight in the process. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Comment Re: It only increases accountability (Score 1) 294

You have no clue. I've been running Amtrak trains for 18 years. There is no intentional speeding, over 10mph and you lose your federally issued lisence for 30 days, second time you get caught 6 months and probably won't have a job to come back to. That's all laid out in the CFR. Everything is recorded, no one would dare. Remember we mess up and we're right there in an accident with you. Here's what I assume happened from my experience. He was newish to that route, I've read 2 -3 weeks, thought he was somewhere else, sped up, realized it and dumped the brakes. It takes years to know a route.

(quoting informative AC rated at 0)

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.