tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Dropbox, as I documented previously, states that they will permanently lock you out of your account if you have 2-factor authentication enabled and you lose your phone.

This isn't really true, though -- they make an exception if you know somebody who works for Dropbox. I was able to find someone in my social network who does, and was thus able to get all of my files back.

If you don't think it's fair for a company to treat users with friends who know people who work for that company one way, and everybody else a different way, probably don't use Dropbox.
It's interesting to me that the effect of the utter lack of regulation that the software industry suffers is that companies basically act like traumatized kids. As a traumatized kid, I understand (from extensive experience) hypervigilance: when you become focused on one type of threat and obsessive about avoiding it, at the potential expense of being unaware of other types of threats.

Imagine that your bank refused to grant you access to your life savings because you had 2-factor authentication enabled on your account and you lost your phone. Unimaginable, right? But it's only unimaginable because the banking industry is regulated. We consider it normal for cloud software providers to lock customers out of their accounts because the software industry is unregulated.

In the absence of external regulation, children don't learn to develop self-regulation, which is why kids raised in chaotic environments (hi) sometimes have trouble taking care of themselves as adults. Likewise, in the absence of external regulation, businesses can't self-regulate. We see that in software: inappropriate concern for one particular type of threat (a lawsuit due to someone fraudulently accessing account that isn't theirs) outweighs another, just as legitimate threat (the threat of paying customers not being able to access their own data).

The software industry can't regulate itself. In an age where more and more data are getting centralized (what we call "cloud computing" actually refers to the consolidation of power over ownership of information in the hands of just a few big companies -- perhaps, after all the mergers have happened -- just one), it's more and more important for us to organize to stop companies like Dropbox from setting our priorities for us.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
If Condoleezza Rice being on the board of directors wasn't enough for you, if their employees literally bullying children in San Francisco wasn't enough for you, hear me out here. I'm currently permanently locked out of my Dropbox account containing years' worth of photos because a phone repair place destroyed my phone and I had 2-factor authentication enabled. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess!

Other services, such as pobox.com, will reset 2FA if you send them a notarized letter proving your identity. Not Dropbox, though! Here's the response I received from their support team when I asked the following:
I'm surprised by this response, since pobox.com was able to reset my 2FA when I sent them a notarized letter confirming my identity. Is there a reason that Dropbox wouldn't be able to accept such a letter from me as proof of my identity?

And here's the response I received:

Hello Tim,

Thanks for getting back to me! Apologies for the delay in my response- I had passed along your request to several of my teammates to look into as well. Unfortunately, we have no method to verify your identity and disable two-step verification if you do not have any of the following:

1. a linked computer or mobile device
2. your 16-digit emergency backup code
3. a backup phone number on file that can receive text messages

As noted, for security purposes, if you can't enter the six-digit code from your phone, and you didn't store the 16-digit emergency backup code, we have no way to help you regain access to your Dropbox account. We can't turn off two-step verification for you because email alone is no longer sufficient to prove your identity. The best we can do is help you make a new account and transfer any paid credit and bonus space you've earned. But we can't transfer any files.

If you create a new account, please reply with that account's email address so that I can help you further.

Dropbox doesn't care about your data. They will deny access to your data because they're too lazy to open a letter from a paying customer. If you don't think that's okay, don't use Dropbox. (By the way, can anyone recommend a cloud backup service that cares about customer data?)
tim: A person with multicolored hair holding a sign that says "Binaries Are For Computers" with rainbow-colored letters (binaries)
It's so great to be able to go out to lunch with a couple of white guys between ages 22-39 and talk about nothing but compilers the entire time. I don't even mind that nobody ever seems to stop to breathe long enough for me to ask a question about something I don't understand. Really, I can just learn about this by osmosis.

I'm here at my desk at 8:30 PM on a Friday night because of my passion for my work.

I'm here at my desk at 8:30 PM on a Friday night because I'm even doing work at all.

// TODO: Fix this later.

I can totally listen to this meeting and isolate this bug at the same time.

It's so liberating that I can have a beer at 5 PM without even leaving the office. Or have one with lunch. Or have one when I come in at noon and lunch is the first meal I'm having that day.

I know I came in at noon, took a long lunch, and now I'm leaving at 4:30, but I'll just do some more work on Caltrain.

I'll just move to the South Bay to be closer to work even though most of my co-workers are hundreds of miles away anyway. It can't be that bad.

I'll just move to San Francisco to be closer to work, I mean, 50% of my take-home pay is a small price to pay for living in paradise.

I can totally commute from Berkeley to Alameda without a car.

Working in San Mateo? That'll be great! It's the heart of Silicon Valley (would Po Bronson lie to me?)

Living in Monterey will be great, I can go to the beach every day after work and it certainly won't be mainly for staring at the sunset and crying.

I guess I'll just live in Salinas because I can't find an apartment in Monterey that I can afford, because how bad can it be to share a house in a cul-de-sac with an ex-Marine?

Erlang is pretty similar to Haskell, after all.

I can cope with listening to the most senior engineer on my team have slapfights with the management every single time he's in the office. I mean, it's not like he's yelling at me.

Continuing to work in the same office with someone who I know sent anonymous threats directed at me will be totally fine. I mean, it's still better here than anyplace else in Silicon Valley.

Working support will be great -- I'll finally have the emotional energy to work on open-source projects after hours, which is absolutely what I want to do with my free time.

Nah, I don't mind walking to the mailbox to mail these CD-ROMs to the customer. It'll be a nice chance to stretch my legs. What, you say the customer never even uses the CDs so I can just send them blank discs? Great, even easier!

You say your company doesn't need to care about diversity because it's a meritocracy? That's a totally valid point of view. Can you tell me about the stock options again?

Fly to Japan because the customer refuses to open up a port so we can ssh into their machine to figure out what's going on? Sure, I wouldn't mind doing that.

I think it's totally cute and funny that you start conversations with all your employees about sex work and porn at the lunch place next to work, but explicitly say the conversation is ending now so you don't get sued for sexual harassment as soon as we walk back into the office. I mean, I know you're doing it to make your Muslim employees uncomfortable rather than to make me uncomfortable even though you think I'm a woman, so it's all good.

I don't mind reimbursing you $30 for the "business lunch" at Buca's that you assumed you would be able to expense even though your team is only 3 people and the company is a worker-owned collective that's losing money.

You don't need me to do that task either because you can do it yourself? All right, cool, I'll just spend this internship writing on LiveJournal and staring blankly at papers on logic programming. It's what I wanted!

Sure, I'll totally work on that PLDI paper with you.

Yeah, I definitely want to write the second version of a package manager whose first version was an abject failure, that'll be a good way to save my career.

Yeah, I can certainly write an entire package manager from scratch in three months, especially since it's pretty clear that your plan is to fire me if I fail to do that.

Sure, I'll be in at 10 AM tomorrow.
tim: A warning sign with "Danger" in white, superimposed over a red oval on a black rectangle, above text  "MEN EXPLAINING" (mansplaining)
In 2004, I attended ICFP in Snowbird, Utah. At the time, Paul Graham was on the schedule to give an invited talk entitled "Don't make the wrong mistakes: programming as debugging".

That might have been an interesting talk. The talk Graham actually gave was "storytime with Grandpa about the dot-com bubble" (which was all of three years ago, at the time.) I don't remember much about the talk, which was quite inane. I do remember the quotes I wrote down on LiveJournal at the time, which I approved of (shamefully... but it was ten years ago):

"It's no coincidence that I'm dressed like this... it's to make an important point. The coincidence is that I'm always dressed like this." -- PG
"Nerds dress informally as a prophylactic against stupidity." -- PG
"If you go to Google and search for 'nerd', I'm what you get." -- PG
"If your code miscalculates the path of a space probe, you can't dodge your way out of it by saying that your code is patriotic." -- PG

There is a liberally rewritten transcript of his talk on his web site. It still has nothing to do with the abstract he submitted to ICFP for his talk. (Full text for all you non-ACM-members out there. I'm pretty sure it's short enough to qualify as fair use.)

Anyway, what's not in the liberally rewritten transcript was the bit where, in the Q&A session afterward, someone asked him his opinion of outsourcing. And Graham said -- I'm paraphrasing -- that he thought outsourcing would be a self-limiting trend, because, "You can send things to India all you want, but eventually you realize you have to hire real programmers."

This is notable because while racism is thoroughly shot through Silicon Valley, it's rarely stated that overtly, that unashamedly, and by someone with some degree of social capital.

In any case, I guess Graham was namesearching on a Friday night, since out of nowhere, he replied to a tweet of mine that was about something else, giving me the occasion to post the tweet that is the pinnacle of my career.

Achievement unlocked: being told by Paul Graham that I should be ashamed of myself.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Dylan Wilbanks makes a really great point in this article about farmers versus laborers, as applied to the tech industry. It's a distinction that's been made before, but for the first time, something really clicked in my mind, something saying that I'm not worse than other people because I don't want to write code in my spare time.

And thinking about it, it occurs to me that the way we (as in young-ish tech workers) are being lied to is that our (collective) bosses demand from us that we behave like farmers -- like, in other words, people who own something -- without actually getting ownership in anything. That we take on all the risks of being owners, without actually owning a thing. That's true whether we're talking about expectations that people do open source work in their free time in order to be deemed worthy of a software job, or whether we're talking about expectations that employees work unpaid overtime to increase profits for people working 40 hours a week at best. When you put effort into a (literal) farm, you're getting something back -- you know it's always going to be yours, and if you do a good job, you're likely to gain economic security. What happens when you put effort into a company that someone else owns? How many businesses succeed? And what about working on an open-source project -- you could view this as contributing towards a collective good, but as Ashe Dryden among others have pointed out, the benefits of open-source work are grossly unevenly distributed.

It reminds me of what Lawrence Lessig wrote about socializing the risks and privatizing the benefits, and I'm sure there's a catchier way to put this, but I thought I should write it down.

And as far as the distinction that the article makes, I'm a laborer, and I doubt I will ever be anything else as long as I stay in the tech industry. (I'm a little uncomfortable using that word to refer to work where I get to be seated in an air-conditioned office all day, but there you go.)
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Crossposted to geekfeminism.org.

The Empowermentors Collective is, in their own words, "a skillshare, activism, and discussion network for intersectionally marginalized people of color in the free culture and free software movement." Also from their Web site: "We see radical potential in free culture and free software (often marketed as 'open source software') to work against ableism, racism, cissexism, heterosexism, sexism, and classism."

I think this collective is a great idea, and while it's not something that is open to me, I'll do my best to spread the word about it. But one place I can't spread the word is on any mailing list, forum, or syndicated blog post associated with my company. Since I work for an open-source company, Mozilla, that might employ people who are eligible for and interested in Empowermentors, that's too bad.

Why is that? The Mozilla Community Participation Guidelines say: "Some Mozillians may identify with activities or organizations that do not support the same inclusion and diversity standards as Mozilla. When this is the case: (a) support for exclusionary practices must not be carried into Mozilla activities. (b) support for exclusionary practices in non-Mozilla activities should not be expressed in Mozilla spaces." Empowermentors is exclusionary: it excludes white people, like myself. I support their right to create a safe space so that people who are oppressed can have one place that won't be dominated by people in an oppressor class who may (even in a well-intentioned way) engage in derailing and silencing. So I can't mention the group in a work mailing list email, or a post on Yammer (if I used Yammer), or in a post on my blog that is tagged so as to be syndicated to Planet Mozilla.

This illustrates a problem with codes of conduct that don't explicitly acknowledge social power dynamics and call out the difference between a group that has a history of being oppressive doing things that reinforce the system of oppression in which it operates, and a historically oppressed group engaging in self-defense. Compare Mozilla's Community Participation Guidelines with the code of conduct for the Open Source Bridge conference: "Communities mirror the societies in which they exist and positive action is essential to counteract the many forms of inequality and abuses of power that exist in society." With this one sentence, the organizers of Open Source Bridge communicated that the purpose of the entire code of conduct is to protect people who are abused, not to protect abusers.

Exclusionary groups that are for oppressed people are a positive force, because they give oppressed people time and space to talk about their oppression and/or just live their lives without explaining -- or worse, justifying -- their experiences all the time. For example, programming study groups that are for self-identified women only are a great thing, because it's easier for women to learn when they don't have to worry that if they say something silly or admit they don't know something, the men in the room will hold it against their entire gender. As another example, when I was in college, I didn't understand why the Black students' organization had to exclude white students from participating. Now I understand that white people dominate almost every space, and having an organization where Black students at an overwhelmingly-white college can talk amongst themselves doesn't hurt white students and helps Black students succeed.

But the Mozilla guidelines lump together these socially beneficial groups with white supremacist organizations or the Boy Scouts of America (which excludes queer men from serving as troop leaders). That's a problem. As the Open Source Bridge code of conduct shows, it's an easy problem to solve, as long as the priority of the people writing the code of conduct is to promote justice rather than to suppress tension.
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Here's a comment I wrote on a locked post by a friend discussing frustration (as a non-programmer) about being in conversations about programming where people talking about code weren't really making an effort to be understandable. I thought it was worth posting elsewhere.

I can sympathize with this because even though I've been programming for 17 years, I *still* get that "it might as well be Russian" (or Japanese in my case... I know a bit of Russian) feeling quite often when listening to people talk about code... and often, people I feel like I should be able to understand, like my immediate co-workers, or people at conferences (that are dedicated to the small, specialized area I used to focus on). I think part of it has to do with my difficulty processing speech (I can handle small talk just fine, but combine speech processing with any sort of difficult/complicated/abstract *content* and my brain falls over and dies), part of it is anxiety caused by impostor syndrome that ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy (when I can't understand something because I'm devoting too much effort to being worried that I won't understand it), and part of it is that CS and software are just so ridiculously specialized that even confident people with good communication skills just can't understand what each other are talking about if their specialties are different.

But believe it or not, I do know the feeling of alienation that comes from being in one of those conversations... and as with you, I hardly ever get it with any other conversation topic, even ones I know much less about than CS (well, maybe once in a while with physics or math, but most physics and math conversations I'm in on these days are people bullshitting and I'm well aware of that, so...)

Anyway, I'm not sure what the point of this comment is -- I don't think that my lack of confidence in my area of expertise should magically erase your lack of ease talking about an area you have no expertise in -- so I'm not sure what my conclusion is. One is that Bay Area tech culture can be really exclusive (when certain kinds of knowledge are used as a proxy for having had certain life experiences and *not* having had to deal with certain kinds of problems; I didn't have a computer when I was 5 and sometimes I feel like if I did, I'd be able to keep up with my peers). And another is that, well, often geeks just have a really hard time talking (or thinking?) about anything non-technical, and that's a flaw on their part, because part of being polite is to talk about things that won't exclude your conversational partners. I get the feeling people who sell insurance don't talk about it all night while hanging out at the pub. Why can't geeks extend others a similar courtesy? (And I think that also relates to my first point: privilege is *not* having to accommodate other people socially, and if you learned to talk about something besides code you might actually end up including people you'd prefer to exclude.)

ETA: I just came across this post on "technical entitlement", which overlaps with some of what I'm saying but says it more clearly.


Apr. 24th, 2012 04:37 pm
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
Currently I’m struggling with the fact that what one needs is not just the ability to say “Fuck you”, but the ability to keep saying it for years and years on end, through ups and downs and uncertainties, in the knowledge that mostly what you get in return for this is the opportunity to keep having to say “Fuck you” for the rest of your life.

I don’t know where that struggle will take me, right now.

-- GemmaM, in a comment on a post about being a woman in tech.

I'm not a woman, but that's still how I feel in being in tech.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Are you running an open-source project? Are you looking for an example to look to as to how to make sure your users don't submit bug reports? Look no further than the OpenOffice community:
"SBA->Mrosin: And PLEASE make it short this time. We're here to work on a software [sic] and not to read books."
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
"Welcome to the SanDisk Community Forums!

SanDisk Corporation ("SanDisk") makes the SanDisk Community Forums available to you subject to the following terms and conditions. ENTERING A SANDISK COMMUNITY FORUM WILL CONSTITUTE ACCEPTANCE OF THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO ABIDE BY THESE TERMS, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER SANDISK COMMUNITY FORUMS (ACTUALLY, SOME PEOPLE PREFER "FORA" BUT WEBSTER'S DICTIONARY PERMITS BOTH). Use of the SanDisk Community Forum is limited to participants aged 13 and over."
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (ignorance)
Why I want to set the entire open-source community on fire sometimes: the comments on this post and this post. (The latter of which is from one of my ex-bosses although I ran into it randomly, w00.)

Apparently, if you suggest that using a picture of a woman's bare ass on the title slide of a technical talk might not be the best idea if you want to make women feel welcome in CS, that is ~censorship~. I also can't decide whether it's those comments are the most special, or the ones asking whether also including pictures of naked men in the slides would have made it OK. Also see: examples of more or less every tactic mentioned in the link to "Derailing for Dummies" I posted before this.

I guess it's another entry for the Male Programmer Privilege Checklist. Also, I feel like I need to burn some more reddit karma, brb.


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

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