The @davewiner does a bank experiment

Dave posted this last Thursday:

Experiment: call your bank. Tell them you have a security issue. See how long it takes to freeze the account.

I’ve found that credit card companies are very tuned into security. If you call them up with a security issue, within a minute they have put a freeze on the account, and send you a new card. I generally get the new card the next day. And by "a minute" I mean a minute after the phone rings, not after navigating voicemail hell, getting upsold and hung up on, and being reminded your call is important to us, and did you know that you can get all the information you need on the web? Please hold and an operator will be with you soon. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Not to mention the follow-up email where they say how likely are you to recommend this to your friends and family, basd on this arbitrary and unqualified numeric metric? Card security is an interesting case, because its a financial instrument directly tied to your credit score and legislation. IT is still the Wild West by comparison.

My experience hasn’t always matched his, unfortunately. I used to be with Bankwest in Australia, back when I thought I’d be living the Australia-Singapore commute for longer and figured I’d eventually want to move to Perth to make that easier. I had my card skimmed, and Bankwest refused to dishonour the charges until I’d filed a police report. Amex, by comparison, did it almost immediately.

I closed my Bankwest account soon after, and got a few of my friends and family to do the same. Does that count as a 1 out of 10 on their scale on how likely I am to recommend?


The @davewiner does a bank experiment

Dave posted this last Thursday:

Experiment: call your bank. Tell them you have a security issue. See how long it takes to freeze the account.

I’ve found that credit card companies are very tuned into security. If you call them up with a security issue, within a minute they have put a freeze on the account, and send you a new card. I generally get the new card the next day. And by "a minute" I mean a minute after the phone rings, not after navingating voicemail hell, getting upsold and hung up on, and being reminded your call is important to us, and did you know that you can get all the information you need on the web? Please hold and an operator will be with you soon. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Not to mention the follow-up email where they say how likely are you to recommend this to your friends and family, basd on this arbitrary and unqualified numeric metric? Card securtiy is an interesting case, because its a financial instrument directly tied to your credit score and legislation. IT is still the Wild West by comparison.

My experience hasn’t always matched his, unfortunately. I used to be with Bankwest in Australia, back when I thought I’d be living the Australia-Singapore commute for longer and figured I’d eventually want to move to Perth to make that easier. I had my card skimmed, and Bankwest refused to dishonour the charges until I’d filed a police report. Amex, by comparison, did it almost immediately.


pkgin’s manpage

I can get behind this:

BUGS
We’re hunting them.

Wait, you mean you’re not using pkgin or pkgsrc for your package management needs? Or worse, you are, but you haven’t contributed to the NetBSD Foundation? There’s still time to correct this :).


Updating to Minecraft 1.17 in FreeBSD

Part one of Caves and Cliffs update is out! I updated the Minecraft server in Clara’s and my FreeBSD jail, but got this error:

Error: A JNI error has occurred, please check your installation and try again Exception in thread “main” java.lang.UnsupportedClassVersionError: net/minecraft/server/Main has been compiled by a more recent version of the Java Runtime (class file version 60.0), this version of the Java Runtime only recognizes class file versions up to 52.0

This was quite the runtime leap! Acording to The Java Version Almanac, “60” is Java 16. Thankfully the tireless FreeBSD ports maintainers had our back:

# pkg remove openjdk8
# pkg install openjdk16

Now it works. Time for Clara and I to get some axolotl friends!


What Americans don’t understand about Australia

Brenda Beenken summarised twenty things Americans don’t know about Australia for PaperCut’s blog. It’s fun reading things written from an outsider looking in; I had to relearn so much of this when I moved back from Singapore myself. At least Singapore and Australia both use Commonwealth spelling.

I can’t fault almost any of her list. Except point 1, you’re more likely to hear “hey mate” thesedays. I also don’t think an Australian invented the Tim Tam Slam, just like none of us had ever heard of bloomin‘ onions until American TV shows starting talking about a fast food chain over there.

I also would have added root among things you probably don’t want to say over here. Rooting for someone in America is wishing them success. Rooting in Australia is to fornicate, which perhaps you might want to be less liberal about suggesting in public.

The American predilection for month/day/year dates continues to baffle me too. The day/month/year everyone else uses also isn’t as good as ISO 8601, but at least it logically ascends.

That’s not to say Australians are always logical. Singapore uses floor 1 to refer to floor 1, like the US. Australian buildings insist on floor 1 being ground, which sounds fine until you realise they insist on floor 2 being floor 1. Therefore, a ten-story building will go up to floor 9. At the very least, ground should replace floor 1, not shift them up.


Feedback about FreeBSD, Linux VM gatekeeping

Last month I talked about people who get angry or smug at those who run FreeBSD, Linux, and other OSs within VMs, with the implication that they’re not really using them. I pointed out that this was a) technically inaccurate and b) not the way to foster good will or new users in open source software communities.

(The title of that post was originally misspelled as Umbridge instead of Umbrage, which remains in the permalink. It’s the punny name I’ve given to network bridges on personal hypervisors for years, which leads me to instinctively misspell the actual word each time. It’s a bit ironic and especially silly given the topic at hand).

Most of the well-intentioned feedback I’ve had suggests that running an OS directly on a laptop teaches you things you can’t get on a VM. This is a good point; sometimes getting your hands dirty is the best way to learn. Workstation experience doesn’t directly translate to servers, but things like package managers, reading logs, and the boot process certainly would. Who knows, your experience replacing a broken btrfs volume with ZFS might translate into industry experience that will come in handy in the future.

My point wasn’t that running an OS directly on a laptop wasn’t useful, but that it shouldn’t pose a barrier to entry. I’m wary of gatekeepers in general, and this struck me as an especially counterproductive example.

It’s also a wash as far as elitism goes. The most competent, professional, talented people I’ve met at industry events, conferences, and at work all use the right tool for the job, whether they be kernel developers or pre-sales engineers. Unfortunately, that might mean carrying a Mac or Windows machine to use specific software, and a BSD or Linux VM. That VM may be sitting on your local machine or the cloud. Whether you run such an OS directly on your laptop is not indicative of anything useful, nor does it speak to technical competency.


Reddit’s /r/blogging, and my own advice

A gentleman by the name of Miguel emailed asking if I’d read anything on /r/blogging on Reddit. I hadn’t, so I thought it was worth taking a look.

There’s some good stuff around blog themes and choosing a platform to write on. But the bulk of the posts and comments seem to be about SEO, how you can gain traffic, and monetisation. I read comments suggesting you cap the length of posts, with prescriptive detail about how you should format and compose your writing to fit.

I was a little disappointed, but I shouldn’t have been. Indie blogging platforms themselves now advertise turning audiences into businesses. Another well-known player discusses creating beautiful websites in their podcast and YouTube video reads, but say nothing about writers beyond saying it does “blogging”.

It’s all backwards.

The most important thing you can do as a blogger is write. Write about topics you’re interested in, in whatever form you want. Knowledge, experience, creativity, dedication, enthusiasm, and joy can’t be faked (for long).

All the SEO tricks and metadata in the world can’t replace or compete with content people want to read and share. I rank highly in search results for a bunch of keywords and phrases having written here for sixteen years, but I still derive more inbound traffic from people sharing what I write on social media, mailing lists, and sites like HN. I’ve been offered my last few jobs as a direct result of people reading this silly site, which have become my primary sources of income for at least the last decade. Doc Searls pointed all this out as far back as 2004.

(But even that thinking falls into the trap that you’re only worth something if you’re getting clicks or attention. Writing doesn’t need a justification).

(While I’m writing asides, I also still think SEO is snake oil. “Search engine optimised” sites comes as a positive side-effect of genuine content, accessible page structure, and correct metadata, in that order. Starting with SEO is yak shaving at best, and textbook premature optimisation at worst, in my experience).

I worry that people channel all their energy into these recommendations from places like /r/blogging, are disappointed when the results don’t meet their expectations, and give up. Then we’ve then lost another writer who would have contributed something special.


Rhett and Link on boolean algebra

From one of their recent Good Mythical Mores:

Link: I'm just starting to think everything is true
except for the one that was false.


Block jquery.nicescroll.js to make sites responsive

Have you ever visited a website, attempted to scroll, and…
    …it feels really…
        …jerky and…
            …slow?

Check out the Ring of Saturn website to see what I mean. I don’t mean to pick on them specifically, it’s just a useful demonstration.

I looked at the page source, and found this ironically-named Nicescroll jQuery package which they’d imported. The official site showcases a newer version which is smoother than the above site, but is so floaty and imprecise it could make you feel seasick. The JS Fiddle is equally poor, with a visible delay between when you scroll and when the page responds.

If you use uBlock Origin or a similar plugin, you can banish it by adding the following to your blocklist:

*/jquery.nicescroll.js

Anti-patterns like this aren’t new. Certain web developers have been duplicating browser functionality in JavaScript for years, at huge cost to accessibility and page load times. It’s equal parts hilarious and tragic, like the kid who bounced a basketball into my face and bent my glasses last week. Only at least the kid didn’t try to sell the result as a vision improvement!

If this were a @ShitUserStory:

As a: website visitor
I want to: have native scrolling replaced with a JS library
So that: I can s-s-s-scroll worse.


Motivation myths

Dr Amanda L. Giordano wrote for Psychology Today about why telling people to change doesn’t work:

Now, suppose someone approaches you and begins telling you all the reasons why you should make [a] change. [H]ow likely are you to change? If you are like the average person, not very likely at all. In fact, paradoxically, all the external pressure to make the change may actually make you less likely to change.

She raises an intersting point:

Oftentimes, a person’s most compelling reasons for making a change are linked to their personal values and goals—something that others might not know or might not fully know.

It reminds me of what Daniel E Lieberman wrote about exercise this month for The Guardian:

Myth 9: ‘Just do it’ works. Let’s face it, most people don’t like exercise and have to overcome natural tendencies to avoid it. For most of us, telling us to “just do it” doesn’t work any better than telling a smoker or a substance abuser to “just say no!” To promote exercise, we typically prescribe it and sell it, but let’s remember that we evolved to be physically active for only two reasons: it was necessary or rewarding. So let’s find ways to do both: make it necessary and rewarding.

Back to Dr Giordano, she also cites research by Miller and Rollnick in 2013 that suggests a motivational interview (MI) approach:

The heart of MI is to join with the ambivalent person and create opportunities for them to give their own reasons for making a change (you see, we are much more apt to listen to our own advice than the advice of others!). [..] Rather than falling into the predictable volley of “yes, but…” statements, MI encourages a specific communication style that invites individuals to voice their own reasons for making a change.

Some of the examples she provides from Miller and Rollnick include asking what would be the benefits of making the change? How significant is making this change to you? What would you like to be different from how things are now? If you don’t make the change, what might happen? What are the most important reasons why you would make the change?

She’s given me a lot to think about. I can see how my efforts to help people have failed by not doing this, and I’m starting to see how others offeirng to help me have fallen on deaf ears because I fell into this trap myself.