Ta-Nehisi Coates: What This Cruel War Was Over

Coates lays out the sick and twist­ed her­itage of a sym­bol:

The Con­fed­er­ate flag is direct­ly tied to the Con­fed­er­ate cause, and the Con­fed­er­ate cause was white suprema­cy. This claim is not the result of revi­sion­ism. It does not require read­ing between the lines. It is the plain mean­ing of the words of those who bore the Con­fed­er­ate flag across his­to­ry. The­se words must nev­er be for­got­ten. Over the next few months the word “her­itage” will be repeat­ed­ly invoked. It would be dere­lict to not exam­ine the exact con­tents of that her­itage.

As usu­al, Coates does a great job look­ing at the chang­ing myths sur­round­ing South­ern White Suprema­cy. A rebel­lion that explic­it­ly start­ed as a defense of slav­ery shift­ed to more polite alter­na­tive myths over 150 years but it’s still real­ly about racism and human bondage. The flag needs to come down.

This mythol­o­gy of man­ners is adopt­ed in lieu of the mythol­o­gy of the Lost Cause. But it still has the great draw­back of being root­ed in a lie. The Con­fed­er­ate flag should not come down because it is offen­sive to African Amer­i­cans. The Con­fed­er­ate flag should come down because it is embar­rass­ing to all Amer­i­cans.

Retooling after Google Reader

I must admit I’ve been thrown off my blog read­ing by the demise of Google Read­er, closed July 1 with only a few months warn­ing. I remem­ber when Google’s was the newest mem­ber of the RSS read­ing options. Its sim­ple inter­face and relatively-solid per­for­mance even­tu­al­ly won me over and its com­peti­tors grad­u­al­ly stopped inno­vat­ing and final­ly closed. 

In the last few months oth­er ser­vices have tak­en up the chal­lenge of replac­ing Read­er, but it’s been a chaotic process and a gam­ble which would be rolled out in time. One of my go-to pro­grams, Reed­er, now works for the phone but not the Mac app. It runs off of the Feed­ly ser­vice, which I now use in the browser to access my feeds. 

I rely on the­se blog read­ing ser­vices to keep track of over 100 blogs. RSS may not be sexy enough to be a mass-market ser­vice but for those of us whose tem­per­me­nts or hob­bies run toward cura­tion, it’s an essen­tial tool. As the new sys­tems mature, I hope to keep up with my Quak­erquak­er read­ing more thor­ough­ly.

Share my offendedness (pleeeaaase)

Some­times I see blog posts that make me real­ly sad at the state of jour­nal­ism. Phi­ly­Mag is the lat­est but you have the fol­low the daisy-chain of ramped-up hyper­bole back just to make see how ridicu­lous it is.

The restau­rant chain Red Robin recent­ly made a fifteen-second TV ad whose joke is that its veggie-burgers are per­fect for cus­tomers whose teenage daugh­ters are “going through a phase.” It’s had rather lim­it­ed air­play (it’s the 450th or so most run ad in the past 30 days) but still, Busi­ness Insid­er ran a piece on it which claimed that “the chain man­aged to insult all poten­tial veg­e­tar­i­an and veg­an cus­tomers” with the ad. For evi­dence, it cit­ed three mild com­ments on Red Robin’s Face­book page. Fair enough.

But then the page-view-whores at Huff­in­g­ton Post saw the BI piece and wrote that Red Robin is “under fire for diss­ing veg­e­tar­i­ans,” still cit­ing just those Face­book com­ments. Under fire? For three com­ments?

Sens­ing fresh (veg­gie?) meat, Philly­mag links to Huff­Post to claim that ”veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans far and wide are freak­ing out” and that a boy­cott has been declared. The author tells us that “‘Offend­ed’ gets tossed around so rapid­ly” and it must be true, right?, as she uses it three more times just in her open­ing para­graph. It’s a pity that none of the three Face­book com­menters were con­sid­er­ate enough to actu­al­ly use the words “out­rage” or “boy­cott.” One described the ad as “dis­ap­point­ing” (ouch!). Anoth­er used the word “dis­sat­is­fied” (zing!), though he was speak­ing not about the ad per se but rather a recent vis­it to the restau­rant.

Seems like if there is an epi­demic of offended-ness going on, we might take a look at the des­per­a­tion of what pass­es for mod­ern jour­nal­ism the­se days. Offended-ness must get page views, so why not be offend­ed at being offend­ed? (I imag­ine some hack fur­ther down the pageview food chain is right now read­ing the Philly­mag piece and typ­ing out a head­line about the world­wide veg­an army issu­ing a fat­wa on the teenage daugh­ters of Red Roof exec­u­tives.) Is this real­ly the kind of crap that peo­ple like to share on Face­book? Do Inter­net users just not fol­low links back­ward to judge if there’s any truth to out­rage posts on out­rage? I usu­al­ly ignore this kind of junk even to read past the ridicu­lous head­line. But the phe­nom­e­non is all too ubiq­ui­tous on the inter­webs the­se days and is real­ly so unnec­es­sar­i­ly divi­sive and stereotype-perpetuating.

A social media snapshot

When I first start­ed blog­ging fif­teen years ago, the process was sim­ple. I’d open up a file, hand-edit the HTML code and upload it to a web­server – those were the days! Now every social web ser­vice is like a blog unto itself. The way I have them inter­act is occa­sion­al­ly dizzy­ing even to me. Recent­ly a friend asked on Face­book what peo­ple used Tum­blr for, and I thought it might be a good time to sur­vey my cur­rent web ser­vices. The­se shift and change con­stant­ly but per­haps oth­ers will find it an inter­est­ing snap­shot of hooked-together media cir­ca 2012.

The glue services you don’t see:

  • Google Read­er. I still try to keep up with about a hun­dred blogs, most­ly spir­i­tu­al in nature. The old tried-and-true Google Read­er still orga­nizes it all, though I often read it through the Android app News­Rob.
  • Diigo. This took the place of the clas­sic social book­mark­ing site Deli­cious when it had a near-death expe­ri­ence a few years ago (it’s nev­er come back in a form that would make me recon­sid­er it). When­ev­er I see some­thing inter­est­ing I want to share, I post it here, where it gets cross-posted to my Twit­ter and Tum­blr sites. I’ve book­marked over 4500 sites over the last seven-plus years. It’s an essen­tial archive that I use for remem­ber­ing sites I’ve liked in the past. Diigo book­marks that are tagged “Quak­er” get sucked into an alter­nate route where they become edi­tor fea­tures for Quak​erQuak​er​.org.
  • Pock­et (for­mer­ly Read it Lat­er). I’m in the envi­able posi­tion that many of my per­son­al inter­ests over­lap with my pro­fes­sion­al work. While work­ing, I’ll often find some inter­est­ing Quak­er arti­cle that I want to read lat­er. Hence Pock­et, a ser­vice that will instant­ly book­mark the site and make it avail­able for lat­er read­ing.
  • Flip­board is a great mobile app that lets you read arti­cles on top­ics you like. Com­bine it with Twit­ter lists and you have a per­son­al­ized read­ing list. I use this every day, most­ly for blogs and news sites I like to read but don’t con­sid­er so essen­tial that I need to catch every­thing they pub­lish.
  • Ifttt​.com. A handy ser­vice named after the log­i­cal con­struct “IF This, Then That,” Ifttt will take one social feed and cross-post it to anoth­er under var­i­ous con­di­tions. For exam­ple, I have Diigo posts cross-post to Twit­ter and Flickr posts cross­post to Face­book. Some of the Ifttt “recip­ies” are behind the sce­nes, like the one that takes every post on Word­Press and adds it to my pri­vate Ever­note account for archival pur­pos­es.

The Public-Facing Me:

  • Word­Press (Quak​er​ran​ter​.org). The blog you’re read­ing. It orig­i­nal­ly start­ed as a Move­able Type-powered blog when that was the hip blog­ging plat­form (I’m old). A few years ago I went through a painstak­ing process to bring it over to Word­Press in such a way that its Disqus-powered com­ments would be pre­served.
  • Twit­ter. I’ve long loved Twit­ter, though like many techies I’m wor­ried about the direc­tion it’s head­ed. They’ve recent­ly locked most of the ser­vices that read Twit­ter feeds and reprocess it. If this weren’t hap­pen­ing, I’d use it as a default chan­nel for just about every­thing. In the mean­time, only about half of my tweets are direct from the ser­vice – the remain­der are auto-imports from Diigo, Insta­gram, etc.
  • Tum­blr (Quack​Quack​.org). I like Tum­blr although my site there (quack​quack​.org) gets very few direct vis­its. I most­ly use it as a “links blog” of inter­est­ing things I find in my inter­net wan­der­ings. Most items come in via Diigo, though if I have time I’ll sup­ple­ment things with my own thoughts or pic­tures. Most peo­ple prob­a­bly see this via the side­bar of the Quak­er­Ran­ter site.
  • Face­book. It may seem I post a lot on Face­book, but 95 per­cent of what goes up there is import­ed from some oth­er ser­vice. But, because more peo­ple are on Face­book than any­where else, it’s the place I get the most com­ments. I gen­er­al­ly use it to reply to com­ments and see what friends are up to. I don’t like Face­book per se because of its pater­nal­ist con­trols on what can be seen and its recent moves to force con­tent providers to pay for vis­i­bil­i­ty for their own fan pages.
  • Flickr. Once the dar­ling of pho­to sites, Flickr’s been the heart­break of the hip­ster set more times than I can remem­ber. It has a ter­ri­ble mobile app and always lags behind every oth­er ser­vice but I have over 4000 pic­tures going back to 2005. This is my pho­to archive (much more so than the fail­ing disk dri­ves on a suc­ces­sion of lap­tops).

Honorable Mentions

  • I use Foursquare all the time but I don’t think many peo­ple notice it.
  • Right now, most of my pho­tos start off with the mobile app Insta­gram, handy despite the now-tired con­ceit of its square for­mat (cute when it was the art­sy under­dog, cloy­ing now that it’s the billion-dollar main­stream ser­vice).
  • Like most of the plan­et I use Youtube for videos. I like Vimeo but Youtube is par­tic­u­lar­ly con­ve­nient when shoot­ing from a Google-based phone and it’s where the view­ers are.
  • I gave up my old cus­tom site at Mar​tinKel​ley​.com for a Fla​vors​.me account. Its flex­i­bil­i­ty lets me eas­i­ly link to the ser­vices I use.

When I write all this out it seems so com­pli­cat­ed. But the aim is con­ve­nience: a sim­ple few key­strokes that feed into ser­vices dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion across a series of web pres­ences.

Is a golden age of reading is gradually, suddenly, almost here?

A must-read piece from Cory Doc­torow for those inter­est­ed in the changes in pub­lish­ing, Why the death of DRM would be good news for read­ers, writ­ers and pub­lish­ers.  He’s pre­dict­ing the end of DRM (dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment) and look­ing for­ward to a day when for­mats and read­ers are inter­changable:

The cheap-and-cheerful man­u­fac­tur­ers at the low end don’t have a sec­ondary mar­ket they’re try­ing to pro­tect, no app store or cru­cial ven­dor rela­tion­ship with a big dis­trib­u­tor or pub­lish­er. They just want a pro­duct that ticks the box for every pos­si­ble cus­tomer. Since mul­ti­for­mat sup­port is just a mat­ter of get­ting the soft­ware right, what tends to hap­pen is that a stan­dard, com­mod­i­ty firmware emerges for the­se devices that just works for just about every­thing, and the for­mats van­ish into the back­ground.

Many read­ers and pub­lish­ers have been upset at the recent Depart­ment of Jus­tice accu­sa­tions of price-fixing by major pub­lish­ers. The real bad guy, we’re remind­ed over and over, is Ama­zon. The pub­lish­ers are so scared of Ama­zon that they devel­oped a pric­ing scheme (the “agen­cy mod­el”) that often nets them less mon­ey than they get from Ama­zon. But for all it’s mar­ket share, most of Amazon’s advan­tages come from smart sales­man­ship and a big-picture view that helps it devel­op an ecosys­tem that “locks in” cus­tomers (e.g., I use Ama­zon video on demand to watch TV, which means I get free ship­ping when I pur­chase from them, I get to “bor­row” an elec­tron­ic book a mon­th, etc., which means when I want­ed to buy an e-reader, it was real­ly only a mat­ter of which mod­el of Kindle I would choose). As Doc­torow points out, the most ubiqutious e-reader is the cell­phone and most of us get a new one every two years – Amazon’s dom­i­nance could end rel­a­tive­ly quick­ly with the right com­pe­ti­tion. Get­ting rid of DRM con­tent lev­els the play­ing field.

I’m not sure I’m as opti­mistic as Doc­torow that DRM is about to sim­ply dis­ap­pear. But I agree it’s what needs to hap­pen. It would make Ama­zon just anoth­er sell­er. Pub­lish­ers could stop focus­ing on it and start tak­ing tak­ing more respons­bil­i­ty for shap­ing the future of pub­lish­ing. (Where might that be going? Five Rea­sons The Future Will Be Ruled By B.S. is a high­ly enter­tain­ing read and more cor­rect than incor­rect.) But gloom is not the fore­cast. A recent arti­cle in The Atlantic (chart right) per­sua­sive­ly argues that we are in a Gold­en Age of read­er­ship:

Our col­lec­tive mem­o­ry of past is astound­ing­ly inac­cu­rate. Not only has the num­ber of peo­ple read­ing not declined pre­cip­i­tous­ly, it’s actu­al­ly gone up since the per­ceived gold­en age of Amer­i­can let­ters. So, then why is there this wide­spread per­cep­tion that we are a fal­l­en lit­er­ary peo­ple? I think, as Mar­shall Kirk­patrick says, that social media acts as a kind of truth serum. Before, only the lit­er­ary peo­ple had plat­forms. Now, all the peo­ple have plat­forms.

The oth­er thread that’s been run­ning through my head the­se past few weeks is a G+ post from Tim O’Reilly that pulls a quote from ter­ri­fic quote from Hem­ing­way (“How did you go bank­rupt?” “Two ways. Grad­u­al­ly, then sud­den­ly.”):

I love lines from lit­er­a­ture that crys­tal­lize a notion, and then become tools in your men­tal tool­box. This is one of those. Keep it handy, because you’re going to see “grad­u­al­ly, then sud­den­ly” process­es hap­pen increas­ing­ly in the next few decades, not just in tech­nol­o­gy and in indus­tries trans­formed by tech­nol­o­gy, but in glob­al issues like cli­mate change, and in pol­i­tics.

Using apps to help kids with autism

Sounds like a ther­a­py that can get pret­ty expen­sive pret­ty quick­ly, and the arti­cle shares con­cerns about just how help­ful all of the­se might be. Still, I have to admit it’s pret­ty amaz­ing to watch my 6yo play­ing the read­ing games on reas​dingeg​gs​.com web­site and he’s pret­ty instinc­tive with the touch­screen of my smart phone.

Embed­ded Link

Using apps to help treat autism | Mac­world
Some par­ents of autis­tic chil­dren see ben­e­fits from the use of apps and tech­nol­o­gy; how­ev­er, experts raise con­cerns.

Posted February 12th, 2012 , in Uncategorized Tagged