Saturday, 16-Sep-17 11:52

Blocking people on the internets is always a bit of a controversial subject - don't do it, and get overrun by trolls. Do too much of it, and risk missing valuable opinions and facts. The words people use to describe this are "bubble" and "echo chamber", where only "valid" opinions get thrown around, and any criticism is squashed. I'll again refer to Clay Shirky's A group is its own worst enemy for a thorough discussion on this.

Especially on Facebook, where pretty much everybody is, it's difficult to go by without blocking anyone ever. Facebook combines public and private in ways that is sometimes very inconvenient: It may be someone that used to be your best friend in high school, but has recently turned all nazi, and while you value what you used to have, it's kind of awkward to see swastikas in the middle of birthday celebrations and cat pictures. On Twitter this is less of a problem, because it's more of a public forum where people don't share their life - at least to me Twitter is more of a news service, where awkward texts and images are sometimes expected. But Facebook... If my blog is my living room, and Twitter is the public square, Facebook is like a communal space or a bar: people hang out there because they like it, and assholes make everyone feel bad, but you can't exactly throw them out. So you mute or block them.

For me, I don't block people because they have different opinions. I block them when they can't behave. So you could say that I live in a bubble of well-behaved people, which I suppose isn't such a bad place to be. I've been using this blocking criteria quite successfully for the past 20 or so years on the Internet:

  • Repetitive argumentation. This is basically when you keep saying the same thing over and over, regardless of what other people say. It's not constructive and it frustrates everyone. In FInnish we call this "jankkaus".
  • Continously moving goalposts. Switching the topic is fine, but those people who just argue for the argument's sake are just tiring.
  • Deconstructive argumentation. Texts aren't mathematical theorems - they don't unravel if you find even the slightest mistake. For some people, pointing out any mistakes in the text invalidates the point of the text, and so they will gleefully keep deconstructing even the smallest nuances until nobody really cares. Don't be that person, know when to call the argument.
  • Personal attacks on other people. You keep calling people names, you go onto the blocklist.
  • Science denial. If you have the scientific background, I'll appreciate your opinion. If you keep arguing that science must be wrong because you feel like it, well, I've had it with you.
  • Shameless promotion. Yeah, I get it, you really like that Breatharian diet, but I already checked it out two months and 50 similar posts ago. If I wanted to hear more from it, I'd like your page.

And I mean, this isn't like an exhaustive and a trigger-list, it's more of a "I find these behaviours really impolite and you may end up on my blocklist if you keep going" -list. The interesting thing is that many of these behaviours seem to usually manifest at the same time in the same people - like getting all argumentative over a trivial detail that escalates into name-calling. Or trolling comments on a scientific article.

Still, over the years I've had to block maybe 30 or so people, so my corners of the internet aren't really that bad. Then again, I don't participate in controversial Twitter discussions and fight Russian trollfactory bots all day long...

Monday, 05-Jun-17 12:37
Toolalicious 2017 to all!

(So let's see about getting back on the writing train again. Been a bit dismotivated recently to write, but gotta keep flexing those muscles in order not to atrophy them...)

I just want to give a shoutout to a number of tools I am using right now to keep myself productive. I'm not going to get into the actual productivity tools, since those are quite often a matter of preference (emacs vs vi anyone?), but just present a collection of things that I have, over the years, found invaluable for my own work patterns.

RescueTime is the tool I use to keep track of my work. It sits there in the background on my Mac and phone and counts the seconds I use each app. It categorises the applications and web sites I visit into a few rough buckets, and lets me know whenever I have spent too much time on a computer, or too long on social media websites. It also counts any productive tools and sites, which has given me interesting insight into how I work. My rule of thumb is that two hours of real, productive work per day is good; four hours usually means I'm exhausted by the end of it. Then again, four hours of productive work means somewhat like 10 hours of actual screen time, because the machine can't know when I am thinking and stops counting... It's good, but not seeing much development though, so I'm expecting someone to take over this personal time management space.

Amy and Andrew from are my personal assistants that now take care of my calendar. I don't really do that many meetings, but on those rare occasions there's something infinitely satisfying in sending an email "Hey Amy, can you please arrange a lunch for us next week?" and IT WORKS!

1password stores all my passwords and other critical info that I need. I do still store some stuff in an old-fashioned way in a GPG-encrypted text file, but most of the stuff that I need on a daily basis is now in 1password. The browser integration is excellent, and it's really easy to generate completely random passwords for any website. We also use it at the office, which makes it really easy to share passwords and things like company credit card data to those who need to know.

CrashPlan does my backups. It's a bit slow and clunky (and takes an ungodly amount of memory), but on the other hand, they have a family-friendly licensing scheme that lets me run the same application on my two Macs, wife's PC and my online Linux server. Backups run automatically every 15 minutes to the cloud, restores are straightforward (have tested three times now a full restore), and the whole thing just works invisibly in the background.

Little Snitch for my firewalling needs. I don't like the fact that Apple and other software vendors send all sorts of information out of my Macs without telling me what it is. But with Little Snitch I can selectively block outgoing communication with a nice little popup and watch my incoming/outgoing traffic per application. It's not for the faint-hearted though, since it has an annoying tendency to pop up right when you're typing something and then you end up pressing all the wrong buttons...

Freedome is absolutely critical when traveling. Now, it might not be the best VPN client out there, but it's easy to use and I got it really cheap. Combined with Little Snitch it makes me a bit more confident about using strange Wi-Fi networks.

F.lux changes the color of my screen at sunset to get rid of that blue glow that supposedly disrupts your sleep. I know new Macs have equivalent functionality, but I'm kind of used to f.lux, so I have no reason to switch :). Of course, my evidence is anecdotal, but I seem to fall asleep faster when it's on - but I'll take the effect gladly no matter if it's placebo or not :)

As for browser plugins, Adblock Plus blocks ads on Chrome, Pinboard stores my bookmarks (I've been Pinboard user for years ever since was first sold), Momentum makes my "new tab" -screen more interesting, and The Great Suspender stops browser tabs once they've been idle. Why, you ask? Because sometimes these modern Javascript frameworks and single-page-applications pretty much busyloop and consume all my battery in the background. Now, Chrome does mitigate this somewhat by starving background tabs, but Great Suspender just kills the tab content altogether. Which is very good for the battery.

Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.

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"Main" last changed on 10-Aug-2015 21:44:03 EEST by JanneJalkanen.

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