rax: (Twilight Sparkle is taking zero (0) shit)
So identified.com came to my attention today because it is sending email, gradually, to every email address and mailing list at MIT. I am still on a number of mailing lists at MIT, including some that haven't been used in many years, and they are all getting email in alphabetical order. (Does anyone know what sh-leech-wrestling@mit.edu was even for?? I am pretty sure I never wrestled any leeches.) Now, most likely what happened is that they set up an automatic mailer, and set up a webform so that people could invite their friends to the service over the web just by sending some sort of automated HTTP request, and then some "clever" MIT undergraduate who just discovered that you could get a list of every mailing list on campus [0] bashed together some sort of script in order to send requests to all of them in turn. Nice, nice, good for you kidlet, you have a bright future in being a dick.

I found the company on twitter and sent them a message saying "Hey, you probably want to turn that off." Now, this company brands itself on experts on social networking, and their blog is all about how to not screw up on social networking and thereby not be able to get a job. This is hilarious, because according to gossip this service is apparently their product launch. To add insult to injury, when I tweeted at them, I didn't get any real response --- not super unsurprising, business hours are over on the east coast and almost over in California --- but I got an automated email to the email address associated with my twitter account, with the subject "Rachel, when companies search for you, what do they find?" It was HTML email (not multipart! Just HTML!) and was an invite for me to join them so they could help me because "Companies and professionals are evaluating you on Facebook." So they run a spam gateway, mentioning them on Twitter gets you added to a marketing database, and they're trying to tell me how to come across professionally?

Well, Identified, if anyone's trying to evaluate me on Facebook, they won't have much luck, since I don't have a facebook. But if someone's trying to evaluate you, now they'll find this blog post. Cheers. Luckily for you, I don't care about SEO.


Edited to add: They responded as follows: "@ It seems a single MIT email address was synced and our software wasn't written for MIT's list serve system. Emails are off." On the one hand, it's nice of them to apologize, on the other hand, blaming it on "MIT's list serve system" demonstrates either that they don't understand what's going on or that they don't think that I understand what's going on. It's hard to tell in 140 characters; hopefully they get it fixed. And then I never hear from them again.

Edited again to add: I heard privately about what happened; it's not quite what I expected but it's also not "MIT's list serve system." It's super embarrassing for them, but it's not public information, so I will leave it at that. On the plus side, it's definitely fixed.

[0] Pretty sure there's a qy invocation for this; you might even just be able to do it with stella. I think it's stella? It's been a long time.
rax: (Kotone is getting shit done.)
  • On the whole LJ autopost to Facebook and Twitter thing --- yeah I agree that the being able to crosspost content out from under a friendslock is lame, but I think it could be useful. As much as a lot of my core social group uses LJ (or Dreamwidth, but I think I have all of four friends with DW presence and no parallel LJ presence), there are a good number of people important to me --- including almost everyone in Bloomington --- who don't use the service at all. They use Facebook (which I hate), and Twitter (if I'm lucky). If I can find a way to get crossposts to Facebook and Twitter working that encourage commenting on LJ and not on Facebook, that would be really useful for me, and maybe my family wouldn't think I hate them all just because I don't comment on their Facebook posts.
  • The transomatechnics class is encouraging me to "be creative in my mode of writing" and attempt things that bring in first-person narrative. ...should I take a stab at postfurry theory? I'm so tempted. It has nothing to do with where I see my dissertation going... OK that's a lie. The construction of authenticity of identities that didn't even exist fifty years ago [0] totally has something to do with one direction my dissertation could go. But, urgh. I have other stuff I want to write too. We will see! I should do more readings before I decide, probably.
  • I think I finally grok abjection as described by Julia Kristeva --- I read her essay, and went whaaaaaaat, and then read it again, and then tried to explain it to people to see if I understood it, and then read a couple of summaries online (this one was my favorite) and I feel ready to dive in, and at least confident that I know what things I don't know about it. (Why are we reading this before Deleuze?) The David Wills Prosthesis piece I still don't really get; I talked it over some with [personal profile] chagrined  and I have a bit of a better sense, but I am still really looking forward to talking about it in class because ummm help. I'm also gonna read it one more time after I leave this coffeeshop (it's too loud to really get reading done in here right now) in the hope that having kicked around in my brain for a week will make it make more sense the third time. Here's hoping...
  • Oh my god this is adorable.
  • If I spewed notes on the papers and books I was reading into this journal, would you find that awesome, annoying, or other? It would be a lot of notes, and I can't promise my thoughts will be terribly baked. The alternative is making another journal just for notes on readings --- I want to archive them somewhere, and I'd like to have the option of making them public.
  • My Pokédex is at 350 as of last night, when I played for a half hour to reward myself for finishing a book. (The book was Meatless Days, which is sadly not about veganism but is still an awesome memoir.)
  • I deleted the word "actually" from this post four times. I might have missed one. I need to fix this tic.

[0] There were people with animal/animalistic identities five years ago and probably five thousand; I'm not familiar with people identifying as animalized constructions of inorganic material before I met Nick, Rik, and Peggy the last twenty years or so. If anyone has cites for earlier examples PLEASE SEND ME THEM. <3
rax: (Benten guitar case)
First, summer scheduling: In a change to my schedule, I won't be at Readercon this year. If I'm at any con this summer, it will be Anthrocon (who else is going?), and I"m not sure about that either. Still trying to figure out remaining travel schedule, especially as concerns weddings. When I have a complete calendar I'll probably post it; term-time travel will be limited to random "Surprise, this weekend I'm in X" sort of things planned at the last minute based on not having anything due on Monday. And now, I am going to dork out or a while.

So, tech infrastructure. If you're reading this, you're probably already invested in using computer technology in order to engage with your social network. [0] You probably use a number of different technologies to do this, most of them supplied by socially and geographically distant corporations. These corporations probably range on the evil scale from Facebook's "Privacy is for losers" to Google's "Don't be evil" or Dreamwidth's "We are made of puppies." As much as I rag on Google (and I think they deserve it; a company that large does more evil things in a day than I will do in my entire life, unless I really start trying), they do try very hard to give users a positive experience for engaging with other people on the Internet, and the levels of adoption of their email services, chat services, and other offerings are a testament to that.

That said, I'm sometimes surprised by how many of my friends, Linux dorks in particular, use services like this. A lot of us talk big about peer to peer and community owned infrastructure when it comes to things like BitTorrent or distributed computing, but I haven't seen many projects looking to set up this kind of architecture for things that we use the internet for most frequently, like email, social networking, or blogging. The Diaspora project (distributed Facebook replacement under development) is one counterexample that has gotten a lot of press, but right now it's just an idea. I know a couple of people whose LiveJournals are secretly something else, but for the most part we either just use LJ/DW or have an external blog that shows up as a feed and then a reading account. There are some other LJ-alikes (InsaneJournal, JournalFen, and so on) that may have traction in specific communities, but they're still not quite what I'm thinking of, because...

I really value knowing my service providers personally. Just like I know my bike mechanic by name, drink beers with him, and sometimes just show up in his shop to talk about whatever, I want to have this sort of relationship with the people who provide my email service and other technical infrastructure --- when I'm not just doing it myself. When possible, I think it's awesome to trade these kind of resources either for skillshare or for cost. In some cases, I've been successful with this, or I'm successfully the person who other people come to for this: I co-own a computer in colo with [personal profile] sixolet , and a mutual friend helps us with infrastructure in exchange for backup space, and we lease out virtual machines to our friends at a rate that exceeds bandwidth enough to cover the cost of the machine in, oh... ten years? At the very least it pays for hardware upgrades. [1] This is awesome, and I want to do more things like it.

Some of the things I might want to do are very hard, either because they're just technically very hard (oh my god running a mail server was such a pain last time I tried) or because the protocols are closed (I can't just run my own facebook, because real Facebook won't talk to my facebook, and so I can't get messages from all my extended family who refuse to use anything except Facebook to talk to me). But some of them shouldn't be that hard, and might be of interest to other people, and I wanted to write about a couple I'm hoping to do and get comments and suggestions on them:
  • Cohousing wiki-type infrastructure. I imagine this as great for everything from grocery lists and chore structures to shared projects like "Let's all have an awesome event that requires coordination!" and want to set it up for my new house. I know a bunch of the random warehousey things around do this --- Langton Labs, for example --- and I think some smaller apartments (Technodrome, right?) do this too. I heard recently from a friend that she and her partner used Jira to coordinate just between the two of them. [2] So this is clearly doable --- but I don't know of any best practices anywhere, or templates, or anything like that. If you do this, what works for you? What doesn't? If you'd like to use this but don't now, what would encourage you to start? Would you want a template? Do you already have a server to run it on?
  • Mailing lists. The commercial-free services like yahoo groups are freaking abominable. Most organizations seem to run this by setting up mailman lists --- I tried to set up mailman and gave up after around ten hours, although this was a couple of years ago and maybe I should try again. (I still get a bounce message in my inbox from that mailman install every day. It's not worth the effort to figure out why.) Most of the social groups I know either do this client-side (some email clients kindly track lists for you) or through the MIT mailing list system. Since I'm now two universities, six years, and a thousand miles removed from MIT, I feel like I should be running my mailing lists through something different. Is mailman the state of the art? Are there other tools I should be looking at? Are there people out there with semi-open mailing list services, or people who would use one if it existed?
  • Event invitations. I traditionally do this via mailing list, but I've identified two big problems with this. First, for events that require RSVP/guestlist, technology could help a lot with tracking this --- and Evite and Facebook handle this sort of thing in a way that people understand and are arguably coming to expect. Second, I increasingly have friends --- people I'm quite fond of and want to see --- whose email addresses I don't have, and this causes me to miss them when I send out party invitations. (Hi guilwolfie!) I know at least one person has rolled this on their own, because I've been invited to a party that used it, but I don't think it was open source or know the author to write and ask if it's something other people can use. Also, it only worked over email. :) I think it's important that a tool for this contact users where they are, whether it be AIM or Facebook or email or whatever, and not require a new account. I don't really know how to do it, but I know that I want it, and I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on it.
I would really love to see community owned and operated email services, too, but I think that's very hard --- gmail does a better job both in services and in interface than I think I can do, and I don't think "run by your friend and not by Google" is enough to overcome that with anyone except people who already aren't using gmail. The three above, especially the first two (if your social group all uses facebook, the third is basically solved) I think are particularly worth looking into because I think we can build something that is better than the current alternatives, not just more open, and I think it may not even be very hard. Does anyone know if SIPB is working on any of this kind of stuff? It seems right up their alley...


[0] You might also be a search engine.

[1] I don't want this post to get mega-technical but if you ever want suggestions on setting up something like this, let me know. It's definitely doable; there are more people who would rent virtual machines if we wanted to rent more.

[2] I've poked at using RT for this personally but it was too heavyweight; I've poked at Hiveminder but it was too lightweight; I've considered using Salesforce case tracking but the version I like that I use at work is $999/year. I'm still using flat text files, and this makes coordinating with those close to me difficult sometimes.

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