30 June 2021

Blogging is logging

Whereas the popular conception of a blogger is that of some guy with important things to say about something, the actual meaning is much more humdrum and ordinary. A blog is just a web log; it's a way of recording our lives, our reality, and our responses to what we are experiencing. It is online in order to share with anybody else who may be interested. But it is not "in your face" like social media. A true blog does not try to thrust itself in front of everyone's eyeballs. That is why I'm no longer publishing full posts through any channel. If somebody wants to read it, let them visit it here in its original form. I will continue to make it accessible by various means: RSS, email, the Fediverse and Twitter. I draw the line only at Facebook.

Thinking about CRMs and other information systems

Another kind of logging is the keeping of organizational records. For our small staff, we still haven't managed to keep our records inside a proper CRM system. I have tried to devise various means to preserve records, but still feel worried that too much of the information is kept only inside people's brains. And humans forget, and pass on in one way or another.

I managed to get CiviCRM working again, but I am not hopeful that anybody is going to use it. CRM systems seem to be created more for organizations that maintain thousands of contacts, record hundreds of thousands of conversations with leads, customers, constituents, volunteers, etc. Our own work is much more less intense, but still it's hard to convince the staff of the need for keeping good records. Forget CRM - I would be happy if they used even simple means. The most I have managed is to make sure that documents are backed up on Google Drive.

Because the staff is using Google Workplace, and they all spend lots of time in their email systems, I have been trying to look at ways to improve the ways in which we use Gmail. One item that is missing from Google Workplace by default is shared contacts. There are ways to mitigate that, such as by using an external LDAP source, or by writing a program that uses a Google API, but the simplest way is to buy a program from Google's Marketplace. Whereas many of the applications there are ridiculously expensive, the Shared Contacts program is relatively cheap; at least if the number of users is small. So I decided to get that, and now Gmail contacts will become much more useful. I spent two or three hours putting together a presentation on how to use the system well. I hope somebody will read it. Ah well.

As for me, while I agree to use these proprietary systems, I will be much happier when I can leave them behind. Today I wrote again to S., who has been organizing a "Hackathon" for positive ventures by young people in the village:

As I wrote to you earlier (I don't think you noticed that email), my own interest has always been to encourage an ethical approach. Technology is an amoral enabler for many good and bad outcomes. A lot of us had high hopes that it could be the foundation for a more open democratic society, and we are seeing more and more that it is undermining our democracies, enabling greater autocracy and new forms of slavery.

Israel is a hi-tech capital where much of the infrastructure and services for autocratic states, surveillance tools and unethical software is being developed. (Companies like NSO, which sell surveillance tools to governments that then use them to assassinate activists and journalists, etc.)

We have many talented young people in the village but some of them are drawn towards non-ethical companies because they can quickly make a lot of money.

I think in the village we should be encouraging our young people to look at the negative sides of unethical software and understand subjects like surveillance capitalism (as described by Shoshana Zuboff) and how it works. I have heard that H. has looked into the ethical side and I'm sure we could find guest speakers on the subject.

In a hackathon, I think you could start by explaining the concept of free open source software (FOSS), and how it can be used to develop tools that can create a better technological environment that is not based on surveillance capitalism or closed source proprietary systems that limit our freedoms.

You could encourage people to look into alternatives like:

Fediverse versus mainstream social media (Mastodon, Peertube, Pixelfed, etc) See https://fediverse.party
Service providers like disroot.org, riseup.net, others, that promote alternatives like Jitsy to Zoom, XMPP to WhatsApp, etc.

Regarding privacy and technology issues, we could encourage them to check out the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, Cory Doctorow, Shoshana Zuboff, Richard Stallman, etc.

With regard to fundraising, I do not work on that side of things at our office - it's a conversation that you should have with our team.

I seem to have difficulty communicating my ideas. I sometimes wonder if by expressing them, I somehow manage to persuade everyone that the opposite is surely true.


Windows 11 | Everything you need to know about Microsoft's new operating system - The Hindu

Silwan explained: How history and religion are exploited to displace Palestinians - Middle East Eye

Explained | Why is the U.S. readying new rules for the tech giants? - The Hindu

Illusions of empire: Amartya Sen on what British rule really did for India - The Guardian

OpenStreetMap looks to relocate to EU due to Brexit limitations - The Guardian

16 October, 2021


Tried watching Akira, but it didn't hold my attention. The only thing I learned was that the accent is on the first syllable, and that it is possible to do the same for the word "inquiry", though most of the dictionaries say otherwise. I wonder who started that fashion, considering that it is based on "inquire", where the accent is definitely on the second syllable. It probably became popular because when something sounds intuitively wrong, but people are pronouncing it differently, then there must be a reason for it, so it's obviously right.

The pandemic and the pandemonium

The medical people in this country seem to have a completely opposite view of the virus than the health ministry and the politicians. The cover of Friday's supplement in Israel's left-leaning Haaretz newspaper is simply a series of quotes by directors of hospitals and medical experts claiming that the closure is unnecessary and motivated by politics, that hospitals are far from being over-stressed, that treatment of the virus is much more advanced today than it was in March and that keeping people at home is more dangerous than Covid-19

Everyone thinks they know best. There's a lot of arrogance from people in positions of authority and a range of other extreme emotions among everyone else. I'm tired of the discourse around Covid-19. I have the luxury that it doesn't much affect my personal life style, because I'm a stay-at-home type trying anyway to live moderately. It just provides a further excuse to stay home. The pandemic or the restrictions are affecting a lot of people around me, so I can't just pretend it's not there. The intelligent way of approaching the situation is to accept it, adapt to it, work around it, use it as an opportunity to gain new skills and become more resilient.

Google's ever changing terminology

So first (?) it was Google Apps, which became G Suite which now becomes Workspace. I wonder if Google has finally found its G Spot? Are they competing with Microsoft on name change frequency?

It's also interesting that they keep changing direction from greater integration (with the Google Plus idea), to breaking services apart (post Google Plus) to now reintegrating them under Gmail, sorry, Workspace. Workspace sounds boring, but I get it. One's post-pandemic workspace is no longer the office cubicle, but a pod in Google's panopticon.

In the framework of the changes, the Google Hangouts and Hangouts Dialer apps, from which I was formerly able to place free phone calls to my brother's phone in the US, no longer seem to work. They tell you to go to Gmail. From Gmail they send you to Contacts. But I don't have that installed in my phone and I'm darned if I'm going to install another Google app. I don't use Gmail in any case. Although it's there, I use K-9 to check my office Google mail, along with the other accounts.