Musings

I was fond of Twitter. I liked its sense of public forum, I liked its lack of ambiguity in knowing who’d see what when I posted. I liked reading Joyce Carol Oates’ snarky political comments & cat photos, I liked Jeff Vandermeer’s posts about the wildlife in his yard, I liked reading all the things the ADHD community posted to support each other (while meanwhile, I pondered about the fact that most of those posts seemed pretty relevant to me).

I liked its instant-verification of local earthquakes. I liked its brevity and semi-randomness. I liked its hashtags and cute animal photos and discussions about literary poetry and bad jokes. It was fun. Sometimes it was insightful.

And despite that, I’m done. I just deleted my account, leaving this as my final tweet:

And I’m off Twitter. The horrible Elon thing about requiring everybody to sign up for overwork is just the end. If you’re one of the small number of people I’m connected to here, well, I’m on LinkedIn, I’ve got a very retro blog, & you probably have my contact info. Peace.

(I’m curious how long account deletion will take, or whether it will work at all, given how many people have been fired and how many systems those people probably ran. I mean, maintenance and routine processes are a thing.)

I don’t imagine that one small account deletion will make a difference, but on some level I also just can’t be part of that crap. The idea that anything will get fixed or improved by pushing people harder, the idea that business innovation comes with clocking up the hours, the idea that people have to sign on and sign up for personal sacrifice with a near-cult level of dedication for what is fundamentally a job, where the basic equation is trade time + skillz for money – and that some kind of virtue signaling should attach to it! – that is just awful. That is the worst of Silicon Valley tech hustle culture. That is what creates terrible business models and technical & product debt and social isolation and every other terrible thing you can say about this industry.

And yes, I work in this industry. And yes, I think it can offer great things. But I also think it can offer a hell of a lot of stupidity, and this idiotic approach to things is a big part of how.

So I’m out. I kinda hope blogs take over. I kinda hope somebody else builds a less-awful social network. I would like community online. But whatever is going on at Twitter, that isn’t it.

Misc, Technology

Huh.

Have just discovered that Facebook requires cookies to log in. Contemplating next actions: enable cookies, log in, then delete account? enable cookies, log in, set computer to delete all cookies on logout? do not log in, move on with my evening?

Had been feeling very pleased about last week having blocked Facebook cookies, and hadn’t tried to log in since. Now thinking that blocking said cookies was clearly a good move, that requirement to have cookies pretty clearly indicates direction of Facebook’s business model (as if it weren’t clear enough already). and that accepting cookies is pretty clearly not in the cards as something I’m likely to do.

Well. At the least, I pretty clearly don’t feeling like dealing with this at the moment, so browsing whatever people-just-at-the-edges-of-my-social-circle are up to is clearly not going to happen. Net result is that avenue of procrastination is closed to me for the moment. Not all bad, I suppose.

Misc

What We Talk About When We Talk About Passwords

I work at Google. That said, this is a personal piece; the opinions & ideas here are my own, not those of my employer. 

It is just after six p.m. and I am home from work. The sky is still bright, a clear transparent blue behind fast moving fluffy clouds. The late afternoon or early evening light is clear and bright too after a rainshower that drenched the car just as I stopped at the gas station to refill the tank. I am upstairs sitting at my desk facing the window looking out, and wondering if there will be a rainbow. I open my laptop, log out of my work account, and log in to my personal account.

Some months ago I changed my password. This was in response to some generalized security breach or other; I don’t remember which. But as I was choosing my new password, I thought about what it should be.

Something I’d remember.

Something not like other passwords I’d used.

Something not easily guessable.

Every time we choose a password, we attempt to describe our own minds. Consciously or not, we attend not just to what am I thinking about today, but what will I think about tomorrow, what will help me remember this code I’m creating, what will I associate with this thing I’m trying to log in to. Even if we open up an app that generates a supposedly random sequence of letters and numbers and punctuation (and don’t you wonder about the security and privacy on an app like that?), the choice to do so still reflects something about us.

In choosing a password, I think we create a metaphorical thumbprint of the way we think, what matters to us.

In spy movies and thrillers, there’s so often a moment where the hero or villian needs to get information off of or onto someone else’s computer or phone. They do so by guessing a sequence, hands poised dramatically over the keyboard or screen: a moment, eyes closed, reflecting, considering. What matters to the person whose device they’re hacking? What is a significant birthday, a catchphrase, a city? The hacker’s fingers move, and the target’s life and secrets are spelled out in just eight to ten characters. Access granted.

Of course, real hacking attempts are rarely anything like that. They’re more often like the Target data breach: the target hacked isn’t an individual as such, but a much larger trove of much broader and more general information. Those attempts have little in common with the hacker in a movie, pausing to remember someone’s birthday in hopes of cracking the code.

Some of my own passwords are more complicated than others. Heresy though this may be, there are sites where I just don’t care if my so-called information gets stolen – those are the sites which don’t have much information to begin with. Some of my passwords follow intentional patterns. Some don’t. Some are legacies, leftovers from old thoughts, old ideas. Some are so clever I can’t remember them, and have to use the ‘forgot password’ link each and every time I log in.

But this time… when I was resetting the password on my computer, which is a pretty basic and fundamental thing, I thought harder about it. I wanted a password distinct from my own patterns, memorable to me, meaningless to anyone else.

And so I took a deep breath, and chose something in honor of my Dad, who first taught me about computers – and who these days may or may not remember that.