alternatives to the web are inaccessible to average users

The internet is more than the world wide web. tech folks get this, but everyday users don’t need to know, and likely don’t care. (if you do care, you might want to read about gopher.)

There seems to be a bit of a resurgence of the “low-tech” internet. (“Low-tech” is such a silly misnomer… the amount of technology it takes to access and build the internet is extraordinary and massive, and it’s still really new tech in the grand scheme of human history.) Some call it a renaissance. The irony is that many people with vision impairments have been using this tech for a long time, and it’s sometimes the preferred option for people accessing the web via very slow connections.

I am intrigued by the resurgence of gopher, and the new kid on the block gemini.

However, these are still inaccessible to the average user. It’s hard to find resources to help people access these nifty things who don’t already have a tech background or who have ample free time to learn. Since most of them can’t be accessed with a simple web browser, unless you happen to know of some kind of interface, they will likely remain inaccessible to the average end user.

The reason things like Facebook and Twitter are so popular and things like the fediverse are not so popular among everyday people is the usability factor. Just about anyone can figure out how to use Facebook or Twitter, but trying to access the fediverse in any kind of meaningful way is going to be impossible unless you’re already extremely technologically inclined, or you’ve got someone willing to hold your hand through your first few days of learning the ropes.

Personally, when I first accessed the internet in the mid-1990s, I ate up everything I could find, but I never could’ve done it without help from fellow users. I knew next to nothing about computers (I didn’t grow up learning to program or building my own computers, like many of my tech savvy acquaintances), but AOL made it really easy to get online, and within minutes, I met people willing to take the time to walk me through my first telnet connections. From my first telnet connection, a whole new world opened up to me. But I would not have gotten anywhere if people hadn’t taken the time to walk me through the most basic fundamentals.

I just don’t see that kind of assistance online any more. I see people encouraging others to read the docs (which is much nicer than RTFM, I suppose), but I very rarely see anyone stopping what they’re doing to help someone get a leg up on an elusive technology. It’s interesting to me that as we’ve become more aware of things like neurodiversity and learning disabilities, we’ve become less willing to help each other out for a common technological goal or a common good.

I don’t see myself adopting gemini or embracing retro gopher. It takes a significant amount of privilege to have the time and ability to sit down and adopt a new internet technology for fun. It’s not a privilege I possess.

an update

It’s been awhile. I’ve given up on finding a job in tech. I am old, fat, disabled, and I don’t look good on tech companies’ websites. I’m okay with it.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this blog… I don’t really have time or energy for blogging for fun, but I sometimes think about it.

Here is a bullet list:

  • Still working at same job, doing taxes. Still enjoying it. Can’t imagine that changing any time soon. I’m an IRS Annual Filing Season Program participant, and I’m working towards becoming an Enrolled Agent.
  • Still disabled and chronically ill. Worse in some ways, better in others. This and work are why I don’t really have time or energy for blogging.
  • I got an electric trike, so when I want to step away from the computer, I can tool around on that.
  • I sometimes blog at Gluten-Free RV to give updates to friends and family, although not as often as I’d like.
  • 2020 was an awful year, but I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll survive it.
  • I taught myself Hugo to make a couple tiny websites for fun, but this particular tiny website is still running WordPress

what it’s like looking for tech jobs when you’re someone like me

almost every tech job posting ever:

“we’re committed to diversity in tech….

….we’re looking for someone with 5+ years of experience….

….in very specific technologies….

….which have historically been extremely exclusive and prejudiced….

…and consequently only cis white males have experience in these technologies….

….so we’re going to hire an experienced tech bro, because business needs are business needs.”

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Link Blog: June 17, 2019

Blackfeet Researcher Leads Her Tribe Back to Traditional Foods: going back to traditional foods like berries and lean meats in the hopes of improving health outcomes and preserving cultural heritage.

Oklahoma base set for migrant site was WWII internment camp: Children crossing the border into the US without parents have been imprisoned at an army base since 2014. This particular base was previously an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, a “boarding school” for Native American children taken from their parents, and a camp for Apache prisoners of war.

You probably don’t need ReCAPTCHA: A list of many thoughtful reasons ranging from privacy to accessibility to encourage you to quit using this sketchy Google service.

Link Blog: June 1, 2019

The racist origins of one of RVers’ favorite words: full-time RVing is on the rise, and so is the use of racial slurs (like “gypsy”) and cultural appropriation. (Full disclosure: I wrote this post, and Gluten-Free RV is one of my side projects.)

Google uses Gmail to track a history of things you buy — and it’s hard to delete. You can see your purchases Google has tracked here.

4 reasons why forgiving U.S. student debt makes sense: 1) borrowers’ overall debt could be reduced by over a quarter, even beyond the student loans themselves. 2) borrowers less likely to default on debts (no shit). 3) borrowers are more likely to relocate and get better-paying jobs. 4) overall spending and consumption could increase.

The use of male mice in drug research skews research against women: animal models have long been debunked as lousy ways to test drug candidates, but here’s one more nail in the mouse-shaped coffin.

Link Blog: May 15, 2019

Trashserver.net is an XMPP server that’s 100% powered by renewable energy.

Offices Can Be Hell for People Whose Brains Work Differently: “Work spaces today come with strong smells, harsh light, lots of chatter, and constant messages on email or Slack. For neurodivergent people, this can be a big ask.”

The AI Supply Chain Runs on Ignorance: Even if you could decipher the legalese in apps’ terms and conditions, the fact of the matter is that not only are developers opaque about how users’ data will be used, developers themselves often don’t know how that data will end up being used.

I’ve Been Committed To A Psych Ward Three Times — And It Never Helped: A personal account with plenty of research data about how psych hospitals aren’t actually helping people when they involuntarily imprison patients.

If You Care About Health Justice, Stop Clicking on “Florida Man” Stories: the so-called “Florida man” is actually code for “Man Likely Suffering From Mental Illness or Drug Addiction.” Stop laughing at other people’s suffering, and stop clicking those links.

The rise of fear-based social media like Nextdoor, Citizen, and now Amazon’s Neighbors: Crime is going down, but you wouldn’t know it when you join a neighborhood social networking site.

Purism’s bigotry problem

Purism has created its own fork of Mastodon, but has removed the ability to report posts, and has basically taken a pro-bigotry stance by not condoning some pretty basic anti-bigotry concepts.

It turns out they’re going to be blatantly allowing hate speech on their servers, as long as they don’t harass individuals, whatever that means. See this Pleroma post with screenshots.

The author of the post, Chris, says he had a phone call with one of the execs at Purism today, so maybe things will change.

But it never should’ve gotten to the point of having to blow up on social media in order to be heard.

Taking an anti-hate-speech stance and spelling that out in obvious ways (like the Contributor Covenant) should not be so difficult. Expecting an organization to say “racism/sexism/ableism/sizeism/all forms of bigotry are not tolerated here” should NEVER be controversial.

Sadly, this is not limited to Purism, but I do think it’s a smidge bit extra hypocritical for a company to be all about liberty and that brags about creating a safe workplace.

Tech has a very long way to go.

another python specialization completed… now what?

This weekend I completed the University of Michigan’s newest python specialization on Coursera. It was a great followup to Python for Everybody, which was just perfect for new programmers. This newest specialization covered advanced topics like classes and working with large sets of data. My capstone involved learning image processing, facial recognition, and OCR libraries (Pillow, Tesseract, OpenCV, Kraken), and it was definitely hardest course I’ve taken on Coursera so far.

My capstone was the 30th Coursera course I’ve completed. Thinking back on the amount of course work involved in my two bachelor’s degrees (chemistry and forensic science), I think the 30-course-mark for computer science courses via Coursera is comparable to what’s required for a university BS degree.

That said, I’ve decided to suspend my Coursera subscription for now. I will be focusing on personal projects and the job I started at the beginning of the year (not in tech, but I love the work and I especially love my coworkers).

I started on my “learn tech skills to get a tech job” journey almost two years ago, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot. I’ve especially learned about tech’s diversity problem, and experienced those obstacles firsthand.

I’m not sure what’s next for jmf dot codes, but jmf dot person’s arms are tired from constantly trying to swim against the current.

Mozilla broke Firefox

Yesterday, after an update, all my Firefox add-ons stopped working. Even the ones owned by Mozilla.

The newest update seems to have broken all plugins. This has made Firefox completely useless to me, because I rely heavily on ad-blocking and a default zoom adjuster in order to keep webpages from giving me migraines.

Nice job, Firefox.

Link Blog: April 29, 2019

Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The Planned Obsolescence of Old Coders. The author admits that he neglected to reach out to older coders to add to the diversity of PyGotham, and discusses the challenges faced by older coders. As a disabled Jewish woman over the age of 40 who has not received a single job offer by the tech industry, this article hits especially close to home.

Apologies for linking to Medium. If you’ve reached your limit of free articles and are hitting a paywall, you may be interested in this article instead:

Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM: Propublica’s investigation of IBM’s massive layoffs of older workers (or strong-arming them into retirement) while hiring younger replacements.

And, relatedly:

Rich guys are most likely to have no idea what they’re talking about, study suggests. An admittedly small study (of teens no less) evaluates how people perceive their aptitude for 16 math-related skills, including 3 that don’t exist, and rich males were more likely than anyone else to boast about their skills in these areas.