Rarity versus the Internet


Before the modern Internet, lots of media was "rare" -- bootleg recordings, strange videos, obscure bands -- but today, nothing is rare. As a consequence, Rex Sorgatz argues, the social capital that comes from having an encyclopedic knowledge of some band's b-sides has been greatly diminished, and the Comic Book Guy school of know-it-all-ism has transformed itself into the nitpicking commentariat.

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Clickbait Dissertation: scholarship distilled to upworthyspeak


Clickbait Dissertations builds on the excellent work of Lolomythesis, but this time, rather than distilling their doctoral work to a single line of snark, grad students are asked to compress their scholarship to a ridiculous linkbaity headline ("What happens when you put farmers on the internet? Justice."). Bonus: each one links to the actual thesis, and most include abstracts.

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In case of fire: please leave the building before posting to social media


Excellent advice!

A PSA

How can you trust your browser?


Tim Bray's Trusting Browser Code explores the political and technical problems with trusting your browser, especially when you're using it to do sensitive things like encrypt and decrypt your email. In an ideal world, you wouldn't have to trust Google or any other "intermediary" service to resist warrants forcing it to turn over your sensitive communications, because it would be technically impossible for anyone to peek into the mail without your permission. But as Bray points out, the complexity and relative opacity of Javascript makes this kind of surety difficult to attain.

Bray misses a crucial political problem, though: the DMCA. Under US law (and similar laws all over the world), telling people about vulnerabilities in DRM is illegal, meaning that a bug in your browser that makes your email vulnerable to spying might be illegal to report, and will thus potentially never be fixed. Now that the World Wide Web Consortium and all the major browser vendors (even including Mozilla) have capitulated on adding DRM to the Web, this is the most significant political problem in the world of trusting your browser.

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Jay Lake, on blogging your own death

jaylake

Simon Owens writes, "I got a chance to interview Jay Lake extensively not long before his death and wrote a long profile on him and his cancer blogging that explores the impact he's had, both on the cancer and science fiction communities. He spoke extensively on what he hoped his legacy would be and how he'd be remembered after he died."

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Twitter account that de-bullshitizes linkbaity headlines

The @Savedyouaclick Twitter account decodes linkbaity headlines so you don't have to click on things that aren't likely interesting to you.

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Encrypt like a boss with the Email Self-Defense Guide


Libby writes, "Today the Free Software Foundation is releasing Email Self-Defense, a guide to personal email encryption to help everyone, including beginners, make the NSA's job a little harder. We're releasing it as part of Reset the Net, a global day of action to push back against the surveillance-industrial complex. The guide will get you encrypting your emails in under 30 minutes, and takes you all the way through sending and receiving your first encrypted email."

Email Self-Defense - a guide to fighting surveillance with GnuPG (Thanks, Libby!)

How Wikipedia can become a no-asshole-zone

Sumana writes, "I gave the opening keynote address at Wiki Conference USA last weekend, and told Wikipedians what needs to change to make the site friendlier and more hospitable. I mixed in wisdom from John Scalzi, XKCD, Hacker School, and the Ada Initiative. The transcript and a thirty-minute audio recording (Ogg) are now up."

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Today is the day we Reset the Net

Today is the day we Reset the Net! It’s been one year since the Edward Snowden disclosures hit the news and the whole world woke up to the scale of mass, indiscriminate Internet surveillance — a spying campaign that was only possible because our own tools leak our private information in great gouts. Reset the Net provides you with a technical, political, and social toolkit to harden our Internet against the spies; and Boing Boing is proud to be playing a role.

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FCC's website crashes, John Oliver's army of Cable Company Fuckery trolls blamed

The FCC's website has fallen over, and many blame John Oliver's incandescent exhortation to Internet trolls to flood the Commission with comments about its assault on Net Neutrality (or support of "Cable Company Fuckery"). The comedy potential is rich ("Hey, FCC, you shoulda paid Comcast for the fast lane, huh?") but to be fair, I think it's equally possible that the site's been brought to its knees by a denial-of-service attack.

FCC Website Hobbled By Comment Trolls Incited By Comedian John Oliver

First-person shooter engine in 265 lines of Javascript


Hunter Loftis, who created the fractal terrain generation in 130 lines of Javascript engine, has done it again: a a full-blown first-person shooter engine in 265 lines (demo, source). He used a technique called ray casting, and goes into some detail about this choice and where this could go next.

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Secret service developing a sarcasm detector. Oh great.


The Department of Homeland Security has put out a request for proposals for a Computer Based Annual Social Media Analytics Subscription that can detect sarcasm (and run on Internet Explorer 8) (this is not sarcasm). This will surely end well.

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Russia's army of paid astroturfers message-bomb western coverage of Ukraine


A set of documents leaked by a group identifying itself as Russian hackers purports to be training materials for Russian psyops agents who were paid to make favorable comments about Russia's position in Ukraine on western media websites. The group of fake commenters, called the Internet Research Agency, is based in Saint Petersburg, and its operatives were ordered to maintain multiple commenter identities based on certain archetypes, and to post a minimum quota of pro-Russia messages every day. Included in the documents are per-site strategy notes for preventing moderators from erasing messages (for example, on Worldnetdaily, do not use "vulgar reactions to the political work of Barack Obama.")

These tactics are familiar ones. Rebecca MacKinnon's indispensable book Consent of the Networked describes the Chinese government's "Fifty Cent Army," each paid 0.5RMB per message pro-government postings. And of course, the 2011 HB Gary leak revealed the existence of a US Air Force RFP seeking "persona management" software that would let US psyops operatives maintain up to 20 fake identities from which to post pro-US messages on Arab-world websites.

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It's not Net Neutrality that's at stake, it's Cable Company Fuckery

John Oliver was incandescent on the subject of Net Neutrality, Time Warner and Comcast on Saturday, and he has a new, less-boring term for Net Neutrality: "Cable Company Fuckery." This is not only brilliant, it's hilarious. John Oliver is a perfect blend of Jon Stewart and Charlie Brooker. A reminder: you can reach out and touch the FCC on the subject of Cable Company Fuckery, and EFF can explain how to do it.

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Podcast: How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance


Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Locus column, How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance, in which I describe the way that I've explained the Snowden affair to my six-year-old:

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