Nazis nazis nazis Hitler. I win.

From ‘evernotes that never got blogged’ 3/23/12

Godwin’s law, and in particular its use as a rule to shut down debate when invoked, is a uniquely American thing even though netizens everywhere are familiar with it.  It is also the case that Europeans - particularly those GenX and up - reference Hitler and the Nazis in a wide range of situations.  But there is a reason for this, and one that is too quickly dismissed with the assumption that references to Hitler and the Nazis are just trivial consequences of an inevitable conversational gambit.  Hitler and the Nazis were not nice.  Europe was devastated by their actions.  The legacy of those actions lasted decades.  We grew up in cities still scarred by bomb damage (literally - there were spaces between buildings not filled in since the war, lasting right into the 80s that I remember).  We had grandparents, and in some cases parents, who fought in, or remembered other aspects of the war.  Hitler and the Nazis fucked things up in Europe in particular, without even getting into the greater consequences of their activities.

It’s also pretty hard to dismiss concerns raised, as they usually are in conversations and debates, that certain steps eased the way for Hitler and the Nazis unless one ignores the fact that other than the direct consequences of warfare there was the systematic murder of millions of Europe’s Jewish population.  This wasn’t a small thing.  There are steps, trends, actions, which in hindsight, were clear steps towards the rise of Hitler, the Nazis, their power and what they did with it.  There were many exit points where we could have got off that path, as a world, Germans as a country, Europeans as a whole, had sober heads honestly thought through the consequences of letting things keep going in the directions they were headed.  It is often the case in the modern world that we can see these steps in action and indeed leading to severe consequences.  Rwanda’s massacres really didn’t come out of the blue.  The slaughters at the disintegration of Yugoslavia were preceded by warning signs.  

There are social trends which lead to the kind of absolutism coupled with unaccountable power which time and again results in massacres, mass suffering and a loss of everything good a society amassed in prior times.  It isn’t a virtue to act like such trends and activities don’t exist.  Just because it’s become a trite cliche to say that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, doesn’t make the sentiment less valid.

So, yes, it can be annoying if someone trivially brings up Hitler and the Nazis in every argument.  It can indeed be used to shut down debate on topics in some circumstances.  But yelling Godwin, I win, is also shutting down conversations.  Often when people are trying to make the legitimate point - whether right or wrong (that’s the point of debate) - that in their opinion the opposing position is a contributing factor to states of affairs where they recognize a pattern similar to that in societies which have suffered from the same sickness that was Germany under Hitler and the Nazis, Cambodia under Pol Pot, Rwanda as talk radio coupled with extremist politicians whipped up their citizens into such a frenzy they hacked whole families to death with machetes.

Godwin’s law:  In any debate of sufficient length, eventually someone will bring up Hitler and the Nazis, to support their position.  Sure.  But sometimes that’s okay, because sometimes interlocutors are making a sober point and taking seriously the fact that societies sometimes murder millions of their own citizens and become a threat to all around them.  Preventing that is more important than protecting the feelings of folks who don’t like their poorly thought out positions characterized as having similarities to the roadmap which takes society down that path.


Intellectual relativism

From ‘evernotes that never got blogged’ 2/4/12:

When you think all opinions are equally valid… when you think you have the right to be taken equally seriously for poorly thought out garbage as for rigorous science… largely because you have never “learned proper”… 

Well, then such a situation takes hold it’s increasingly easy for leaders to convince people that those people are already smart and that their prejudices are actually the result of deep intellectual consideration, which is to be respected.  It is fare easier to manipulate the followers this way than it is to convince people they need to put in the effort to actually become smart, whereby they might pose a threat to the self-interest of said leaders

Likewise it’s easier to convince people “we’re number one” (woohoo!) than to convince them that they have to put in the hard work necessary to actually BE number one.

(As an aside, of course it may be neither necessary nor even desirable to achieve that goal - for example merely creating a winner/loser situation where someone’s number one at all may be less mutually beneficial than a win-win - game theory comes into play here but I digress.)

People suffering from intellectual relativism often (usually?) have a blind spot when it comes to self awareness - this sometimes manifests itself in an insistence that others follow different rules in qualifying to speak on a topic than they themselves choose to follow.

e.g. this absolutely garbage post which prompted this rambling thought in the first place.  Writing at its most mediocre from a publication I otherwise tend to enjoy.

Gotta love the title’s demand - only comment if you’re a lawyer.  This appears to be missing the subtitle “of course I am not a lawyer myself, yet I will spout pseudo-legalistic nonsense, in an incoherent argument, but your opinions aren’t as valid as mine cos i write for a blog with rock-star writers associated with it”.

Intellectual relativism sucks.  When those whose profession is the conduct of public discourse are so heavily mired in it, it doesn’t bode well for the future.


Paying attention

From ‘evernotes that never got blogged’ 11/11/11

[I wish I had taken a note of which obituary in particular made me think to write this note, but then perhaps its point is better made in the not knowing]

I hate it when somebody dies and their obituary makes me regret that I didn’t pay more attention to them during their life.  Which makes me think I wish I paid more attention to everybody I interact with in my life.  

My reason or excuse might be that I am building a company and changing the world, or I am putting food on the table for my family and a roof over their heads, or I am taking care of two growing children, one of whom has special needs.  That all takes so much focus and concentration I find it hard to direct as much of either as I’d like, towards other people.  Or so my internal narrative goes.

Not paying attention means that so many people we know or know of really are known to us only as caricatures.  



From ‘evernotes that never got blogged’ 2/28/10:

Cloud services have made me so much more productive, without me really noticing incremental improvements until I look back and compare. Being a bit ADD, and having an always-on creative mind, they’ve let me harness my creativity yet tame the urges to follow every thought, and instead focus on just one or two, focus on execution.

I have less of an “act now or it’s lost” fear, so I can make better decisions - still quickly but less impulsively.  Ideas are never lost.  They are always just a few clicks away, to be worked on in spare cycles as the interest catches me.

It’s a good way to hone in on a plan when you’re starting point is a vision and understanding of the broad framework of the future - the underlying currents whose waves break in cycles of creativity and expansion.

It’s a personal portfolio strategy. A portfolio of ideas. Put them into practice when you get the chance.  Ideas are freed by writing them down and giving them a chance.  Imprisoning an idea in your mind and never putting it into practice is not protecting the idea.  Protecting an idea.  It’s an odd concept.  Ideas don’t need protecting they need exposure.  Just as describing patents as protecting ideas is such a misnomer. They merely reward someone who had the right circumstances and appropriate resources to acquire legalized control of implementation of that idea, at the expense of reducing its dissemination. That’s not protecting an idea, it’s clipping it’s wings and denying it it’s desire to fly freely and benefit us all.

If the promise of the cloud is anything it’s that it might allow us to share ideas more structured than just blog posts or media, but really share the underlying concepts, share the implementation.


Facebook Home - a reflection

There’s a sadness permeating our culture today.  Facebook, Twitter, the digital social world inserts itself as a salve.  But it’s artificial.  

As people feel their lives become less meaningful.  As they feel less and less control over them.  As we all falter in our efforts to change our circumstances - for some to make their financial lot in life better, for others use our electoral processes to instigate the fundamental changes needed in a society we feel has in some ways gone off the rails - we start to feel an existential angst.

We fill that void with status updates - shouting to the world i exist, i matter, there is a thing that it is to be me and this is it.  Yet the status has overtaken the being - the declaration of being has superseded the being of being.

"Here I am" is not a statement of fact benefiting anyone who reads it, it’s a question in search of validation.  "Here I am?".

If we don’t document we were here perhaps we weren’t.  In a world where reality and its simulacrum overlap so fully, we cannot be confident that a memory held by our future self can be relied upon without a digital note for future reference, as though this most mutable of media is somehow more reliable than our flesh brain.

It is self fulfilling.  Note to self.  I was here.  I don’t have a memory of it as my being here was filled with documenting being here rather than experiencing being here.  I stopped to take a picture of the roses, though I’m sure they would have smelled delightful, had I had a spare moment to indulge that sense.


Facebook Home could crush app developers

I was reading this Om Malik post and the accompanying Hacker News thread, when this point jumped out at me:

It wants to be the start button for apps that are on your Android device, which in turn will give Facebook a deep insight on what is popular. And of course, it can build an app that mimics the functionality of that popular, fast-growing mobile app. I have seen it done before, both on other platforms and on Facebook.

Most of the comments are about the privacy concerns, or the Facebook good/Facebook bad back-and-forth.  But what surprised me was that this point didn’t get more play.

As a developer this should be of great concern.  I expect to see far more of the conversations which have been alleged in the past which go along the lines “hey, we like your company, let us buy you for [lowball figure] or we’ll crush you by building out the technology ourselves, after all we already have all the data”.


I should blog more

I hear a lot of people say words to the effect “I should blog more”.  I tend to nod along, agreeing with the sentiment.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas I want to share.  I do.

It’s not that I don’t take the time to write them down.  I do.  My evernote is full of thoughts which would have been shared, but for the idea I should wait until I get back to blogging then write it up properly.  

I was thinking of this recently when, on filling in an application form for something I was asked for my url.  I realized I always used to give my tumblr, but I haven’t posted in so long that it’s ridiculous to share.  So, rather than just filling evernote I should start writing on here again, and perhaps go back in and pull out those notes over time and catch up a bit.

Here goes…

…oh and in the mean time here are some old posts worth reading:



My Dualit Toaster:

Great stuff

Thanks, Steve.
Posting designs like this one makes me paranoid, because I can’t shake the feeling that it’s not original. I enjoyed the process regardless, but please let me know if somebody else beat me to the idea!

Great stuff


Thanks, Steve.

Posting designs like this one makes me paranoid, because I can’t shake the feeling that it’s not original. I enjoyed the process regardless, but please let me know if somebody else beat me to the idea!