We Need to Toot About Mastodon.

Is Mastodon the silver bullet, or yet another social media dud?

First of all, we’ll have to clarify one thing. This post isn’t about the American heavy metal band Mastodon. It’s about the social network Mastodon. You’d think that the creator of Mastodon (the social network) would to at least a little research before picking a name, but apparently not.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with it.

The internet is great. It makes it incredibly easy to for us to connect, share, and educate ourselves. It’s also a place where trolls breed and feed, and hate is amplified. The anonymous nature of the series of tubes that is the internet often brings out the worst in people. There are few things that will make you lose faith in humanity faster than reading comments on a random, high-traffic site on the internet.

Historically, any lack of anonymity has restrained the trolls to a certain degree. And life was good. But with the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, we’ve seen that some people really don’t need anonymity to go absolutely nuts. They’ll write and share whatever they think about race, sexual orientation, global warming, and other heated topics. This has turned many social media sites into very hostile environments, and people are looking for alternatives.

So wouldn’t it be great if there was a Twitter, but without all the hate and hostility? Mastodon tries to be just that, but can it succeed?

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April One-liners.

Spring has really started to beak through winter, at least in the Northern hemisphere. Let’s celebrate with some of those one-liners that will make you go “hmmmmm…”

  • “Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
  • “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” — Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Failure is success if we learn from it.” — Malcolm Forbes
  • “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.” — Bernard Baruch
  • “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” — Abraham Lincoln
  • “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” — Anais Nin
  • “I’m sorry, if you were right, I’d agree with you.” — Robin Williams
  • “Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.” — Don Marquis
  • “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” — Babe Ruth
  • “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” — Charles Swindoll
  • “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” — Aristotle
  • “Teach thy tongue to say, “I do not know,” and thous shalt progress.” — Maimonides
  • “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” — Dalai Lama
  • “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” — Norman Vincent Peale

Self-Driving Cars Must Be Banned Now!

Or perhaps not?

People have gotten themselves killed by Tesla autopilot for quite some time. The first known fatal incident happened in 2016, when a Tesla Model S with the autopilot engaged slammed into a 18-wheel tractor-trailer. The autopilot didn’t notice the white side of the crossing tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, and the brakes were never engaged. The Tesla went so fast the roof of the car was cut off, and the vehicle didn’t come to a stop until it snapped a telephone pole a quarter-mile down the road. The driver in this particular accident was watching a Harry Potter DVD while driving.

Now self-driving cars have taken it to the next level, and are killing not only their drivers, but also unsuspecting pedestrians. On March 18, a woman crossing the road with her bicycle in Tempe, Arizona, was struck by a self-driving car operated by Uber. She was taken to the hospital, where she later died from her injuries.

Uber has naturally pulled all their self-driving cars off the road after the accident. Not surprisingly, many people are now calling for all autonomous vehicles to be removed from public roads until the cause of the Uber crash has been found. Other’s are demanding that the whole idea of a self-driving car being banned and buried.

Crying out for a ban is often the knee-jerk reaction when something new and scary goes awry. But it’s not necessarily the rational thing to do.

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Another 14 Weeks of Fatherhood.

It’s happening again. I’m taking 14 weeks of parental leave from work.

It’s been almost a year now since our second born, Hedda, saw her first daylight. Anniken has been at home,taking care of her, but in April she returns to work. Hedda won’t be starting kindergarten until early August, so it will be my job to keep her alive until then1.

Normally, April is a great time to start any kind of work leave in our slice of the northern hemisphere. Most of the snow is usually gone by now, which means that comfortable walks with Hedda in the stroller would normally be possible. But because of this year’s long, cold, and particularly snowy winter, it looks like bloody February outside. But there is a sliver of hope: It’s still two weeks until Anniken returns to work, and the temperature is occasionally tipping over on the red, and far more comfortable, side of the scale.

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You Might Be Helping Pentagon Train Killer Drones.

Are you using Google’s reCAPTCHA? Then you might unknowingly be training Pentagon’s killer drones.

With the rise of blogs, web 2.0, and user-generated content, came a torrent of SPAM. Automated computer programs, or bots, were flooding the internet with comment SPAM, more often than not drowning out actual discussion. In an effort to deal with the problem, the good guys on the internet took advantage of the fact that computers used to be quite bad at recognizing objects in an image. And thus the “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, or CAPTCHA was born.

A classic CAPTCHA that resolves to “smwm”,

The first CAPTCHA implementations were dead simple. To be allowed to write a comment on a web site, the user had to recognize the letters in an image, and then write those exact letters in a text box. If the letters in the image matched the ones provided by the user, the site knew user was human, and was thus allowed to comment. Recognizing the letters in the image was an easy task for most people, but the bots didn’t stand a chance.

A terrible, terrible CAPTCHA that resolves to “ah, fuck this”.

But as image recognition software became more advanced, the bots started to solve the first CAPTCHA implementations. The dam was about to break, and to prevent this, the internet created more advanced CAPTCHAs. Some of these second generation CAPTCHA implementations were terrible, like the one in the image to the left. Sure, they were impossible for bots to solve, but they were also very hard for a human being to figure out. It happened more than once that I simply gave up filling out an online form because of an unsolvable CAPTCHA.

Then Google came along with their silver bullet: reCAPTCHA.

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