Infinite Wishes: ♾️🧞‍♀️✨

Is a weblog by Emma Humphries

18 Sep 2020 » Being Angry

I'm angry about the Supreme Court as a single point of failure and still annoyed by React

I am yelling, silently
Credit: Mabel Amber

Of course I’m angry.

Not as much at the death of Justice Ginsberg, I hope her memory remains a blessing, but that we live in a system where:

  1. We prayed every day that God grant her another day of life until she could be replaced by another liberal justice
  2. That my existence as a queer, trans, non-binary woman, and my wife’s existence as a queer, disabled woman, and the lives of Black and Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, and anyone with a uterus are a constant referendum where the majority of voters are white, Christian, cisgender, and motivated by an ideology hostile to anything but whiteness

It’s exhausting.

The new issue of Logic Magazine came out last week, and Mar Hicks has an article on COBOL: how it came about, how it enabled a generation of people to learn programming, how academic computer science (and later techbro culture) hated it, and how it was sabotaged not because of it being a bad language, but by austerity programs.

But despite [its accessibility], there’s a cottage industry devoted to making fun of COBOL precisely for its strengths. COBOL’s qualities of being relatively self-documenting, having a short onboarding period (though a long path to becoming an expert), and having been originally designed by committee for big, unglamorous, infrastructural business systems all count against it. So does the fact that it did not come out of a research-oriented context, like languages such as C, ALGOL, or FORTRAN.

This ties back to my previous post on React, and how we make too many technical decisions on the basis of full employment for primarily white men with university degrees.

I’m going to find solace in a couple of things: Dan Hon’s Twitter thread with an alternate history of the 2000’s, and Mona Eltahawy’s The 7 Necessary Sins for Women and Girls.

And rejoice in a glorious takedown, complete with ancient magic and badgers, of the technical interview.

“In Lisp,” you offer. “We often write domain-specific languages to solve new problems.”

“C is not a DSL!”

“If you insist.” Keep going anyway.

12 Sep 2020 » React is a subsidy

JavaScript-first development is a subsidy harming the open web.

React is a subsidy
Credit: React logo CC 4.0 by Facebook, edited by the author

After a week of job interviews over video, while the sky was the color of Landry Violence, I decided to watch Stuart Langridge’s GOTO; 2020 talk (YouTube) on JavaScript.

Thirty seconds in, Langridge relates Zack Leatherman’s example of 8.5MB of tweets in static HTML rendering 1/5 of a second faster than a React site rendering a single tweet (Hellsite).

Reader, I howled, despite that being a bad idea after a week of dangerous air quality and six hours a day on video calls. Then I summoned The Infinite Scream (Hellsite) to do the howling for me while I wrote a blog post.

I’ve been thinking of the costs of the Javascript-first, particularly the React-first, state of web development:

  1. Users have to buy and use high-end devices (phones, tablets, and laptops) to access content
  2. Developers abandon the web for native applications
    • Which in turn demand rents (transaction fees)
    • And concessions (non-political content, what content can be sold)
  3. Orgs sticking with the with web use tool chains with high overhead and requirements (every dev needs a high end laptop and training in the React tool chain)
  4. Development jobs go to people who have the time and skills to use React and native frameworks instead of the open web
  5. JavaScript-first and native apps encourage privacy intrusive practices that siphon behavioral data, and reward getting a user “Hooked”

JavaScript in general, and React in particular, is a tax on the Open Web which subsidizes:

  1. Device manufacturers
  2. App stores
  3. Surveillance capitalism
  4. Elite developers

at the expense of:

  1. Users stuck on a device upgrade treadmill
  2. Projects which don’t fit the JavaScript-first economic model
    • Especially anti-racist, anti-policing, and anti-colonialist projects
  3. Creators who have to work under the precarity of large Social Media platforms
  4. Developers without access to tools and training for elite jobs

This subsidy will continue to harm all of us who were told that the Web was a boon for everyone.

11 Sep 2020 » Rediscovering APAs

Matt Webb rediscovers an older form of fanzine publishing

Matt Webb describes a fever dream of an idea for a website where a group of people agree to a publishing frequency, start ‘zines, and at the deadline the ‘zines are compiled and distributed to the membership.

Those are APAs (amateur press associations) except instead of the web, members were cutting and pasting zine’s and making copies at Kinko’s (remember when Kinko’s wasn’t FedEx?) to mail to or drop off at the Organizing Editor’s (OE,) who would host a compilation party where they would assemble everyone’s APA zine’s into a issue. You made as many copies of your zine as members in good standing, and a couple more for people who were on-spec.

Then the OE would mail copies to the out of town members (you contributed to a mailing fund for this) and you’d pick up your issue to take home and make notes in the margin for comments on everyone else’s zine.

And yes, APAs influenced Live Journal (and later Dreamwidth) culture.

I was a member of the Madison SciFi fan APA, The Turbo Charged Party Animal for close to 10 years. Jeanne Gomoll’s design portfolio has examples of her and her partner’s ‘zines for the APA over the years. My favorite memory was a multiple issue narrative arc about Jeanne’s Diet Coke stash. Her friends may have bought her a room full of cases of Diet Coke for her birthday one year.

Who wants to make an APA?

06 Sep 2020 » Linkblog: Exit light, enter face shields

Four(!) links and a song: Metallica socially distances, the IETF centers users, community mutual-aid and self-reliance in uncertain times, a resource management game about preparing people for the afterlife, and Big Joanie covers Solange

A triple-digit heatwave in California makes it easy to shelter-in-place this weekend. I hope you are well.

The Music

Big Joanie, Cranes in the Sky (Afropunk) - The UK post-punk trio covers one of the best break-up songs ever written

30 Aug 2020 » The Kayfabe of Autocracy

QAnon is kayfabe for Trump supporters

Kayfabe in the service of political power is instrumentalism.

Instrumentalism is enabling technology for authoritarians.