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Blog

Puppy breaks are the best!

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Blog

In Which A Calvinist Recommends Treehouses Over Forums

A wave of Facebook friends have been informing me that they are “moving” to other social networks such as MeWe and Parler. While the long-term sustainability of these alternative social networks is an open-ended question as of the time of this writing, I don’t foresee the bigger problems inherent to democratized public forums, such as state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, becoming a thing of the past.

Assumption: Purely democratic groups don’t scale very well.

Compound this with the Doctrine of Total Depravity, namely that man is born sinful by nature. I believe this is the key contributor to the problems we encounter on the Web. This is because technology will never inherently mitigate our nature. The best it can do is limit the effects of some of the symptoms (such as banning users for using racist words).

I experience the most joy interacting individually and in smaller groups with my messaging apps.

Whilst Shinto religious beliefs are not part of my faith, asking the famous Marie Kondo question of “what sparks joy” is a valid question to ask oneself when evaluating your choices of interactions and entertainment. For me, I experience the most joy interacting individually and in smaller groups with my messaging apps. I use Discord, Slack, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger daily.

Assumption: If I experience the most joy in messaging apps then many others do as well.

Instead of fixing the problem by making massively-scaled forums, I believe that smaller, human-moderated groups on messaging apps, which I consider the Web’s equivalent of “treehouses”, are more likely to isolate some of the problems the come with massive scale.

man in black leather jacket standing beside brown wooden house during daytime

What constitutes a successful “treehouse”? Here is my working rubric.

Delegate the most mature, most qualified individuals to enforce against sinful behavior and sinful content.

  1. Less than 50 total members – I admit, it’s an arbitrary number. You might be able to succeed with a larger number if your moderation is working well, but make sure your community doesn’t get so big that it lacks personality and/or collapses under its own weight. If your Discord group gets so big that you have to rate-limit users’ posts, for example, then it’s too big.
  2. At least 1 moderator per 10 members – I’ve seen drama happen on a messaging app group as small as 4 people on more than one occasion. Delegate the most mature, most qualified individuals to enforce against sinful behavior and sinful content.
  3. Enact rules meant to stop slurs and to stop intimidating behavior against women – there are certain forms of sinful behavior on the Internet that are frequently inflicted against women and minorities. For example, commentary on a woman’s appearance to objectify her or using Anti-Semitic slurs on Jewish group members. It is horrifying to behold, but even people who claim to know Jesus will engage in this behavior. Even if the perpetrator “didn’t mean it” your group will need a zero-tolerance policy in regards to this behavior.
  4. A consistent Meritocracy, not an inconsistent Democracy – promote the best-behaved members with more privileges, demote or remove members who refuse to stop committing repeat offenses. Smaller groups can do this organically, but larger groups could benefit from a rubric of some kind.
  5. Don’t censor cordial disagreement, even when the person you disagree with is wrong – Different people coming from different perspectives are bound to disagree. Assuming it is a polite disagreement that does not directly promote harm against anybody, the worst thing you can do is censor disagreement when a thoughtful discussion in a small setting is possibly more likely to change minds than a public forum. However, if you are concerned that political discussion is bound to be divisive in your group, then it stands to reason to ban political discussion (like I have in my private Discord group) but make sure to enforce it consistently.
  6. Friendly vibes, not strict vibes – This is a tough one to balance when you have rules. One way to you could institute friendly vibes is to be very welcoming of newcomers and to post wholesome content frequently. Puppy and kitten pics are what the Web was made for! Another way to keep up a friendly vibe is to remind people of the rules in a private chat instead of in front of the whole group. Just be nice and be creative in how to be nice.

There is no substitute for in-person communication, and even more so there is no substitute for being controlled by the Holy Spirit. For those moments where we are interacting from a distance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope the above tips will help you in interacting in a Sprit-led manner, perhaps in ways you haven’t considered yet.

Categories
Satire

A Post-Election-Day Survival Guide for Christians

It’s happened. Another President has been declared by national media outlets to be the projected winner of the 2020 elections. Many people are mortified and others are elated. How are Christians supposed to respond to moments like this?

1. Treat every late development that goes against your preferred candidate’s favor as suspicious

No matter if there is bipartisan oversight and ways to detect fraud, it’s totally “sus”.

Bonus: If there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for it, it’s still suspicious.

2. If your favorite candidate, celebrity, or news network says it happened, it must automatically be true!

We’ve all lied or at least exaggerated the truth in the heat of the moment, but obviously they would never do something like that!

Bonus: if you already suspected something and someone says it, then that’s automatically true as well!

3. Remind everybody of 1 Samuel 8, but only if your preferred candidate is projected to lose

At the end of the day, the context of the nation of Israel going against their covenant with God doesn’t matter. After all, America is the modern Israel, right?

Bonus: The President of the USA = King of the USA! Our President is not an accountable, elected representative with limited powers.

4. Remind everybody of Romans 13:1-7, but only if your preferred candidate is projected to win

Obviously, if the other candidate wins (or steals) the election then it wasn’t instituted by God and we can #RESIST without incurring judgment.

Bonus: This is especially applicable if the other candidate has sinful policies or a sinful lifestyle.

5. Political power is important for Christians

After all, when Jesus founded the church he marshaled a massive army of loyal men to march on Rome and overthrow the repressive regime that was practicing flagrant injustice against minorities, heavily taxed their conquered foes (taxation is theft!), and viciously attacked freedom of religion. No Christians died in the first century for their faith because it was imperative to seize power and not let the policies of the church fall out of favor.

Bonus: Violence against the “other side” is okay – “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword” doesn’t count even though Jesus said it when someone tried to use violence to protect Jesus from being killed.

Extra bonus: make a piñata or effigy of the candidate you disliked and destroy it. Checkmate, atheists.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Categories
Photography

Sunset in Chicago

Categories
Politics

Is Our Republic Eroding?

Not going to lie, I am very concerned for the safety of people in a political party that I strongly and morally disagree with: The Democratic Party. I’m concerned because they’re still humans with the same rights as mine. Their rights shouldn’t be up for grabs.

Why am I concerned? Because select members of the political party that champion the concept of a Republic, namely Republicans, were observed to engage in intimidation tactics.

Content Warning: video contains language.

While an investigation is underway by the FBI, there is a very concerning development. Namely, our President glorified it on Twitter (with a different angle that doesn’t show the violence, of course).

Given our President’s proficiency at Twitter and his position as Commander-in-Chief of the United States, I have no reason to believe he did not know of the above video when he responded with the below tweets.

The President of the United States is a master at communication and isn’t stupid.

I would expect nothing less than this behavior from the Democratic Party supporters since the violent rioting and looting appeared to be at the very least excused (aka “mostly peaceful”) by certain elements in that party. That being said, it has since been denounced by that party after it shattered the already-bruised economy in Democrat bastions like Chicago. Anarchy holds no true loyalties.

The Republican Party’s role is to hold the Democratic Party’s ideology in check and to protect the Republic which they champion by the rule of law and not by taking the law into their own hands. If their strategy to hold that ideology in check is with the intimidation and violence that they denounce, our Republic, the United States of America as we know it today, could be at risk of a collapse.

Furthermore, since many Republicans identify with Christianity, Christians with any basic understanding of the scriptures should be horrified at this behavior. When a lust for political power supersedes loving one’s enemy then there’s a problem. A very big problem.

Categories
Blog

Do you miss the office, or is that just me?

Remember back in March when we were all told that a 2-week lockdown was needed in order to “flatten the curve” of a contagious and deadly disease? Things turned out a lot more differently than planned!

It’s now October and I find myself missing the office and, yes, even the commute. I have been able to go from tolerating (though struggling) with working from home to being able to even enjoy a 9-5 routine at home.

However, since I started a new job in June I still haven’t met any of my current coworkers face-to-face. I miss in-person interactions at work. I know that my working from home, with growing discipline, has enabled the “deep work” and “asynchronous communication” that businesses want so badly from us for productivity. But I feel like the trade-off is that it is much harder to build camaraderie among peers. Or is that just me?

Learning more about my co-worker Frank over Slack somehow feels more intrusive than casually asking him what he likes to do in his free time over a sandwich at the office cafeteria. Or is that just me?

Either way, once offices reopen I certainly hope to never take the office space or interacting with co-workers for granted ever again.

How about you? Are you finding ways to keep personally connected with your co-workers or is it harder now that you can’t see them in-person? Drop your thoughts in the comments.

Categories
Blog

The Next Desktop Replacement: Phones?

Fast forward to 2020 and we’ve had iPads take on the desktop replacement challenge with some degree of elegance.

First came the laptops. Those beastly, 17-inch hunks with a fan big enough to cool your entire bedroom. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but those things were HUGE! My first “desktop replacement” was the Alienware M17x R4 from 2012. It had a 3rd generation i7 processor, 8GB RAM, and an NVidia GTX 680M. By 2012 standards, I was “flexing” when I brought it to class during my final year of college. Fast forward to 2020 and we’ve had iPads take on the desktop replacement challenge with some degree of elegance. Apple’s in-house ARM-based chips can now enable professional Youtubers to edit and publish their videos from a 10-inch tablet that requires no fan and has far more efficient power management than the M17x R4.

…we may see a decline, but not a complete demise, in both desktop and laptop usage…

Processing power and efficiency have come a long way.

I personally believe the next logical step in desktop replacement evolution, namely the ability for our phones to be fully-capable desktop replacements, will become a mainstream means of productivity in the next 8 years, and we may see a decline, but not a complete demise, in both desktop and laptop usage in the next 15 years.

…the Android ecosystem is still lagging in ability to adapt to the desktop form factor on demand.

Phones as desktops have already arrived in a few forms, one of the most popular being Samsung DeX. However, like Chrome OS has painfully revealed, much of the software in the Android ecosystem is still lagging in ability to adapt to the desktop form factor on demand. That being said, this ecosystem could still catch up, given the right incentives.

Samsung DeX in use with a Galaxy S8 in 2017 – Photo by Maurizio Pesce (licensed as CC BY 2.0)

…phone hardware is beginning to match the speed of productivity laptops.

Another reason I believe we are on the cusp of phones becoming our next desktop replacement is that phone hardware is beginning to match the speed of productivity laptops. For example, the Snapdragon 865+, which powers the highest-end Android phones of 2020, is marginally faster than the i5 processor that powers the base 2020 model of the Macbook Air!

While on the one hand ARM processors may never match the jaw-dropping speeds of a venerable AMD Threadripper per an objective benchmark, they don’t have to. Most Windows and Mac users run essential tasks on highly inefficient software optimized for platform compatibility at the cost of native performance. Thanks, Chromium! Android and iOS have a potential advantage over this problem. Thoughtful software optimization for OS-specific development can produce higher yield in throughput during intensive tasks. That is why you can edit and export 4K video on an iPad without it appearing to break a sweat, but if you try to run some Electron-based media apps on a Mac it will blast the fan loud enough to wake up your spouse. Also, with the growth of cloud computing offerings, we are returning in many ways to the 70s and 80s model of having computers with less hardware resources requesting the harder tasks from larger, rented computing resources.

The possibilities are exciting enough that I’m saving up to buy the best DeX-capable phone money could buy next year. My guess is it will be called the “Note 30 Ultra” if the current naming convention doesn’t change again. If I can install Linux on it as a VM, or if I can remote into an affordable cloud desktop from it, could my next phone become the one that replaces my laptop?

What do you think?

Categories
Blog

Highlights From the First 2020 Presidential Debate

None.

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Blog

Morning Surprise

Many people in the Gold Coast neighborhood woke up to an unexpected surprise on August 10th, 2020. For those who didn’t catch the news, many literally walked into it: The aftermath of an unexpected looting spree.

Bank of America at Division & State

Torn-apart containers ripped from cash registers and ATMs then discarded once emptied. Broken glass everywhere. The occasional alarm still going off. Trash everywhere. A heavy police presence.

A police wagon blocks entrance to a street while a business boards up in anticipation of more looting and riots.

What led to this event? Criminals weaponizing false information on social media.

The Truth

An adult man fired shots at officers, who returned fire in defense. He is expected to live.

The Falsehood

Stories on social media began to claim that the suspect was a minor and unarmed. This story continued to spread the next day. In one instance, the Chicago Police Twitter account called it out.

Fetched from the Wayback Machine because the original tweet has been taken down.

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20200810153935/https://twitter.com/Chicago_Police/status/1292835801110212610

Some criminals took this opportunity to encourage looting the downtown again. After all, there were little to no consequences for the majority of the looters last May.

Insanity followed.

The moment with perhaps the greatest political ramifications in the aftermath was the Black Lives Matter Chicago leader who condoned the behavior.

Not Afraid

My wife struggled with fear the last time looters came and trashed our neighborhood. After spending time in prayer about it, she knew what needed to be done the morning after they returned.

Lesson Learned

If there is one thing that you need to remember from this article, it is this:

Bad people will weaponize false information.

This is why posting possibly false information publicly on social media isn’t just wrong.

It is sometimes dangerous.

Categories
Logic

Either-Or

Classic lines like “If you don’t agree, unfriend me now” and “Not voting for [preferred politician] is a vote for [opposing politician]” are very much in style these days due to tribalism on social media and within political circles. These statements contain an implied “you’re either with me or against me”.

Only the Sith deal in absolutes, but by saying this I just made an absolute statement. Hmmm…

While research, observation, and careful interpretation can increase the probability of finding the truth of the matter, logic creates helpful “guardrails” to pursue the truth with validity.

That being said, logic is not the end-all. You can tell the truth in an logically invalid manner, and you can spread a lie in a logically valid manner.

Rather than exploring these issues on the basis of the positions that people declare to be true these days, this article will approach these statements on the basis of their validity.

Simply put, the argument by itself is invalid in most cases.

Just because there are two options does not mean they are the only ones. For example, someone may disagree with your views on immigration, but that does not mean they shouldn’t be your friend anymore. They may have a more-informed opinion (or a less-informed opinion) and still want to be your friend. Demanding that they no longer be your friend is invalid at best, and, if you were misinformed in the process, you risk losing friendships on the basis of a lie.

By design, the Either-Or dogmatism is intolerant. While select issues are definitely worth being intolerant about, it is being abused. However, there are exceptions where Either-Or should be considered valid. Either-Or dogmatism must be limited in scope to whatever you believe to be the ultimate source of truth. For me, that would be both the Old and New Testaments of the Scriptures. If your Either-Or dogma comes from a separate religious source, I would consider it to be untrue, but I would not accuse you of an invalid proposition.

As a cautionary note, I am not saying that this means that all logically-valid opinions are appropriate. A parting thought I would like to share is a quote I memorized from my philosophy professor:

“An economy of the dogmatic is a mark of a mature mind, however a sweeping acceptance [of all ideas] is… a modern cosmopolitan sophistication.”

Dr. Ron Horton