Well, I join slashdot (aka the "sinister Andover keiretsu") full-time today. It seems worthy of a story, although I'll limit it to the YRO section since those have been my traditional stomping grounds. There's no real news below, just some rambling and question-asking, but I hope it will be interesting nonetheless.
My previous job was at the U.S. Department of Energy, where I did web programming for them. Mostly placing huge databases on-line using Cold Fusion. For the last year I've also been a slashdot author/editor part-time, mostly posting YRO stories - encryption, free speech, privacy, etc. Prior that I was studying engineering; prior to that I was in the U.S. military. I turn 27 in a few days.
This job is not a programming job. Although I am fairly familiar with perl, the people working on slashcode and other projects for Andover/VA Linux/OSDN (even we don't know what to call it - OSDN is probably the current official name, but the stationery still says Andover on it...) would run rings around me, so it's doubtful that I could make much of a contribution right now.
Instead, and against all odds, this is a journalism job. This may seem odd for someone who has a partial quote from Kierkagaard as one of my random .sig quotes:
"The demoralization which comes from the press can be seen from this fact: There are not ten men in every generation who, socratically, are afraid of having a wrong opinion; but there are thousands and millions who are more frightened of standing alone, even with an opinion which is quite right, than of anything else. But when something is in the papers, it is eo ipso certain that there is always a good number of people having that opinion or about to express it.
Indeed, if the press were to hang a sign out like every other trade, it would have to read: Here men are demoralized in the shortest possible time on the largest possible scale for the smallest possible price.
What we need is Pythagorean silence. There is a far greater need for total-abstaining societies which would not read newspapers than for ones which do not drink alcohol.
When truth conquers with the help of 10 000 yelling men --even supposing that that which is victorious is a truth: with the form and manner of the victory a far greater untruth is victorious.
The lowest depth to which people can sink before God is defined by the word "Journalist." ... If I were a father and had a daughter who was seduced, I should not despair over her; I would hope for her salvation. But if I had a son who became a journalist, and continued to be one for five years, I would give him up."
Kierkagaard doesn't have a whole lot of faith in the press. Honestly, neither do I. Since I started paying attention to net-activism and politics (circa 1995), I've seen that most journalism is incredibly biased, based on lies and innuendo and press releases and product promotion. Any controversial issue is surrounded by at least two different sides telling stories that are, for the most part, entirely fabricated. Reporters are sometimes complicit in this, and sometimes simply lazy or misled. But the result is the same either way: readers get total crap, and are told it is unbiased reporting.
I hope to change that. Not by shooting all the other reporters in the world; that's too big of a job. Nor by trying to set a good example by being unbiased and impartial myself; that too is too big of a job. Instead I think what I will try to avoid is any suggestion that I am unbiased. Here, let's make it clear: I AM BIASED .
Here are some of my biases (partial list only, the slashdot database couldn't hold a full listing, nor could this keyboard withstand that many keystrokes):
- pro free speech - there's no substitute.
- pro encryption - see above item. Encrypted speech is speech.
- pro privacy - and pro privacy legislation, since self-help solutions are inadequate.
- pro Linux - but only because I think it's a good OS with lots of potential, I'm not a fanatic about it. I'm typing this on Win 98 right now.
- anti corporations - the mega-corps hate democracy, and they hate human rights. That's their nature - those things tend to get in the way of maximizing profits. The screwy thing is that many people are convinced we have to let them behave that way, like it's some kind of natural law. No. We don't.
- anti copyright, patents, and other forms of government monopolies - these do very little good in today's world. They need to be scaled back or eliminated. The original purpose of these monopolies was to make sure useful information was disseminated widely - that objective is now trivial with the advent of the internet. Yet copyright and patent laws keep expanding, not contracting. Why? Because if you make a fortune from a government monopoly, you have the money to lobby for a larger monopoly. It's a very dangerous feedback loop that must be broken.
- pro science, in all its forms - interesting science is interesting on its face and independent of what they're actually trying to achieve. I think I've given up on my boyhood dream of trying to go to space, but you never know - there's still enough time for me to make it out there if we got our act together.
I hope that's enough for a small taste. I'm trying to dispel all notion that I'm unbiased, or that I'll be presenting everything in an entirely unbiased fashion. If my biases totally offend you, you might want to go right now to your user preferences and check the box to block stories posted by me.
I do hope to avoid the worst excesses - the hatchet jobs, the total lies, the made-up stories. But I won't avoid those because I'm trying to be unbiased, I'll avoid those because they aren't fucking true. I'm a stickler for accuracy; it comes of being an INTP.
I took this job for a number of reasons. I had been at the DOE for three years; time for a change. I enjoyed the stuff I was doing part-time as a net activist and slashdot editor. They pay better than the DOE. It's a full-time telecommute job - I live in New York City, Andover is headquartered outside Boston. They're all good reasons. But probably the main reason is that I think this stuff is important. The next few years are going to determine the shape of the internet to come. It is quite possible that we could end up with a net that looks a lot like, say, cable television. A fair number of choices, but not one of them is anything other than mass-market pablum. Like most people, I want to make a difference in the world. I think that the opportunity exists here.
So, that should be enough about me. If you don't have a pretty good idea of where I'm coming from by now, you never will. Time for some questions to you.
What do you want out of slashdot? What would you like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Again, my primary interests are in things loosely known as cyber-liberties and scientific endeavors - it is there that I'm most likely to be able and interested in making direct and meaningful changes in the content of slashdot.
I was about to do another list, of suggestions and what-not. But why put my thumb on the balance? I'll just ask again: what do you want to see out of slashdot, that you think I can do?
P.S.: Anyone in NYC want to get together and have a beer or something?