J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Month: July 2015

Why I Quit Reddit

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Bye and thanks for all the cute animal pictures.

I just deleted my reddit account and committed to no longer visiting the site. Why? Reddit refuses to ban openly racist and hateful subreddits.

What About Free Speech?

Reddit is based on the principle of uncensored speech, shielded by anonymity. Sounds good, right? Anonymity is especially important for activists working in countries with repressive regimes. Even in the United States, where you can often criticize your own government without fear of repercussion (I’ve done so many times on this blog, though higher profile dissenters do face risks), there is value in anonymity. Many commenters on this blog comment anonymously about health issues and the like, and thus write more freely, sharing more information than they would otherwise.

Uncensored speech is equally important. Speech (and writing) that goes against the prevailing orthodoxy is often jarring and even offensive to the mainstream. Galileo’s astronomical notions were once considered heretical. Values and beliefs change over time; next week my daughter attends “Camp Galileo”. The same is true for Darwin’s ideas, many of which the political right are still having trouble digesting. While heliocentrism is generally accepted today — as far as I know even Texans accept that the Earth goes around the sun — attempts to censor Darwin’s ideas are still quite active.

But problems arise when free speech and anonymity are combined with hatred and willful ignorance. The result is online communities that steer marginalized loners towards violence.

Seeing something in writing — including slurs and blanket generalizations about racial groups or women — legitimizes the hateful treatment of that group. For young people especially (who may not yet have fully developed critical thinking skills) participating in echo-chamber hate forums comes to no good. In the “kind of bad” scenario, a hypothetical heterosexual young man who participates in “men’s rights” forums views begins to view women as “the enemy” and is thus set back in developing joyful trusting relationships with women. In a “very bad” scenario a young man like Dylann Roof is incited to violence and kills innocent people. It’s not only racist forums that contribute to violence. “Men’s rights” and “pick-up artist” sites probably contributed to the misogynistic attitude of mass killer Elliot Rodger.

Is there a difference between racist forums (including subreddits), pick-up artists sites, and sites that promote actual violence (like jihadi recruiting websites)?

Sure there is, but reddit should ban all of them. Major content websites (and reddit is in the top 20) need to take responsibility for their content. Like it or not, reddit is mainstream. It’s possible that reddit is so popular because they so staunchly support uncensored anonymous posts, but reddit should ban hate speech even if it means they become less popular. Corporations should do their part in marginalizing hate speech. Otherwise mainstream consumers like me will leave in droves, and reddit will be left as a cesspool of racist and misogynistic hatred. There goes the neighborhood (and there go your profits).

Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman has recently returned as CEO and has given the racist subreddits a pass. Reddit’s new proposed content policy will “ban spam, illegal activity and harassment, as well as the posting of ‘private or confidential information’ and sexual content involving minors” but will continue to host subreddits that “violate a common sense of decency”. This list includes /r/coontown and dozens of other subreddits that foment hatred and prejudice.

From the wikipedia article on controversial subreddits:

Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin noted that “having to stomach occasional troll reddits like /r/picsofdeadkids or morally questionable reddits like /r/jailbait are part of the price of free speech on a site like this,” and that it is not Reddit’s place to censor its users. The site’s former CEO, Yishan Wong, has stated that distasteful subreddits will not be banned because Reddit as a platform should serve the ideals of free speech.

Huffman himself writes, “It’s ok to say ‘I don’t like this group of people.’ It’s not ok to say, ‘I’m going to kill this group of people.’” While I acknowledge that Huffman faces a difficult “lose lose” decision (any policy change will alienate both free speech advocates and people trying to marginalize and discourage racists), for me personally the line is in the wrong place. Huffman’s “I don’t like this group of people” is a euphemism for “I hate this group of people,” and the latter is very close to “let’s take real world measures to hurt this group of people.”

As entertaining as I have found the cute animal pictures, fascinating news stories, and in-depth discussions of Dungeons & Dragons rules mechanics, I no longer want to spend time on a site that hosts malevolent, noxious hate groups.

Update Nov. 2016: reddit has commendably banned some of its more noxious subs. I do sometimes look at reddit these days (though I haven’t recreated an account)–it’s a fun break as long as I don’t get sucked in. Social policing is not censorship; it’s protecting users from harassment, bullying, and sometimes even death threats. It’s a hard thing to understand as a white male because you just don’t see the worst of it. If you’re a white male on the fence on this issue, ask your female and non-white friends about their social media experiences. I’d like to see Twitter be at least as responsive on this issue as reddit has been. Maybe then they could sell the company. – JD

How To Organize and Prioritize Your Family Calendar

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Last week we narrowly averted a collective emotional meltdown encompassing three generations of our family. The issue was a schedule conflict in our daughter’s schedule, and how to resolve it. The schedule conflict occurred *despite* everyone involved thinking they had done everything right, following the correct procedures, and “checking” with everyone else. The main problem was that our shared scheduling system sucked.

A family meeting and a compromise calmed everyone down, and we avoided a full-on crisis. Still, it was time for a new system.

The Old (Bad) System

Parent One enters things in the shared family Google calendar, which we both subscribe to via Calendar on our Macs and the built-in Android calendar app on our phones. Parent Two coordinates childcare with various grandparents.

Parent One “confirms” new family dinner date by waving text message in face of Parent Two, who is drinking wine and playing cards. Parent Two says “Fine — looks good.”

Schedule conflict surfaces on day of both scheduled events. Parent Two informs Grandparent One of schedule conflict. Grandparent One is not pleased, having previously scheduled playdate with friend of Child (and double-checked with Parent Two regarding time of playdate). Child is in tears because Child was looking forward to said playdate (and has little control of own schedule and parents keep changing it).

In the end we worked it out, but we realized we need a new system.

The New System

Child has own dedicated Google calendar, which parents edit and grandparents can ALL view.

Considerations

While the system change is relatively simple and straightforward, a lot of thought went into it.

  • For parents fortunate enough to get childcare help from grandparents (we’re very lucky in this regard), it’s important for parents to respect the scheduling considerations of their own parents. It’s reasonable to provide grandparents (and other regular childcare participants) with the “big picture” on your child’s schedule.
  • A physical “main calendar” in the kitchen is great for the nuclear family, but it doesn’t do much for the extended family. Shared digital calendars with different view permissions are a necessary complexity for a complex extended family.
  • A single “joint” calendar is fine for a couple scheduling dates, but it isn’t sufficient for the entire family when children start having their own engagements.

Calendaring and Kid’s Feelings

A big “a-ha” moment for me was during our family meeting, our daughter was expressing exactly why she was so upset about the change of plans. It wasn’t only that she was looking forward to the playdate herself, but she actually felt a sense of obligation to her new friend, who she had promised she would “buddy-up” with to reduce her friend’s anxiety about her first session of a martial arts class. In short, my daughter didn’t want to flake! I really felt for her at this moment — I remember being seven and having very little control of my own schedule. It seemed that adults would sometimes change things on a whim, with no regard for my feelings.

Sometimes work or other adult realities trump the feelings of children, but it’s important for parents to remember that children have complex emotions that impact them even more than the emotions of adults — they haven’t yet fully developed the self-regulating capabilities of the frontal cortex.

How to Resolve Conflicts?

There are different ways to resolve scheduling conflicts.

  • First on the “main” calendar wins.
  • Paterfamilias or materfamilias — the dominant head-of-household or schedule boss “puts their foot down” and gets their way.
  • Values-based approach.

Of these, I’m a fan of the third. By “values based” I mean the values of your family in particular. What does it mean to be a member of your family?

If there is a schedule conflict, which event supports the highest held value in your family? Friendship? Earning money? Keeping up appearances? Winning at sports? Once the underlying values behind a choice are revealed, a “difficult” choice may become much easier to make.

Personal Update, Track Download, Upcoming Posts

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Happy 4th of July! For you international readers, here’s a handy guide to the holiday and other Americanisms. I will be celebrating the holiday by participating in a secret tournament, the results of which I shall report upon later.

I have exactly ten minutes to write this post, so I’m going with bullet points:

  • Momu is rereleasing a bootleg we did a few years back. Click on the picture above to direct link to the mp3, or go to the Momu Download page. Momu’s new album The Mission is available on iTunes (and everywhere else), with our track “Google Bus” being the clear favorite. The “Dub Pack” remixes of “Sixth & Mission” can be previewed here. Please take a second to Like us if you want to keep up with Momu releases.
  • June was “Only New Music Month” — an experiment I did with Never Knows aka Marc Kate of the Why We Listen podcast. I’ll write a post about the experiment soon — in short it was not that difficult and fantastically rewarding. I would recommend it for everyone, especially if you feel in a musical rut.
  • Some progress in fiction writing. Finished 4th draft of my science fiction novel The Sky Woman and 2nd draft of its sequel The Guardian. I’ll be writing and submitting short fiction for the remainder of the year. If you know (or are personally) an agent or publisher who appreciates science fiction, I would love to send you my work.
  • Future posts will include a hair regrowth update, how to invest a lump sum (following up on this post), and more about refining systems for creative work.

Stay hydrated, unburnt, and very much alive this weekend, my friends and readers!

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