Yahoo Groups deletion follow up

Things happen. Computers aren’t perfect, neither are their operators, or sometimes even the business models that underpin them. So I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when stuff happens, or when tough decisions need to be reached. Which is all the more reason I find obfuscation frustrating.

Yahoo quietly announced last month the deletion of Yahoo Groups content in bullet point four of a long email. They’ve now sent follow up with this evasive subject line:

Next Steps: The Evolution of Yahoo Groups (Final Notification)

The first paragraph, which manages to say a lot and nothing at all:

Last month we notified you of the changes coming to Yahoo Groups that better align with user habits, and today we are providing an update to guide you through the next steps of the transition. Yahoo Groups is not going away - [sic] but we are making adjustments to ultimately serve you better. We are amazed at the vibrant community you’ve created through Yahoo Groups and we want to make sure you feel supported as we introduce these changes.

And again, buried halfway down the email in bullet point five this time:

Any content that was previously uploaded via the website will be removed.

This should be the first sentence. Anyone reading this email would likely be turned off by the wall of marketing speak at the start, and could be forgiven deleting it without a second glance. Which means people are going to lose their data. Full stop.

Yahoo Groups have been around for a long, long time, and it’s likely the admins of various groups have moved on, or forgot about their communities. So it’s even more important for this word to get out appropriately.

Like the GeoCities debacle, I’m also a bit miffed that an integral piece of internet history is being deleted. I don’t entirely subscribe to the idea of a Digital Dark Age, but there are certainly whiffs of it each time this happens.

Ending their email:

We have watched the evolution of Yahoo Groups with awe, as we grew to a community of millions with over 10 million Groups. Every day, we witness the power of community and shared passions, and our mission is to provide a platform for the strong connections people make with each other around their interests.

Oh dear.

Consuming media

Brent Simmons wrote this on his microblog on Monday:

Please stop using the word “consume” when you mean read, watch, or listen to. It makes us sound like animals being force-fed our entertainment and info “experiences”.

I hadn’t considered that before, but it does make it sound like fodder.

Rubenerd Show 399: The smokeless Melbourne epispde

Rubenerd Show 399

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

28:40 – Bushfires have engulfed Sydney for more than a week now, so it was a relief and joy to wander around back in Melbourne on a business trip with blue skies, even if only for a couple of days! Talking about the inevitable comparisons between Sydney and Melbourne, Stanley Kubrick-inspired data centres, health nonsense about Kombucha, tree-lined streets, and wishing for a Ricoh GR III pocket camera. Creative Commons music by Chris Jurgenson.

Recorded in Melbourne, Australia. Licence for this track: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Attribution: Ruben Schade.

Released December 2019 on The Overnightscape Underground, an Internet talk radio channel focusing on a freeform monologue style, with diverse and fascinating hosts; this one notwithstanding.

Subscribe with iTunes, Pocket Casts, Overcast or add this feed to your podcast client.

What a FreeBSD guy uses NetBSD for

I’m a FreeBSD advocate, and user on most of my personal servers and workstations. But I do keep NetBSD around too for some specific tasks, and suffice to say I enjoy it far more than other OSs I have to use.

(I remember getting audible gasps from the Japanese NetBSD users in the audience at AsiaBSDCon this year when I included a slide of my Mai-HiME NetBSD fan background I made back in 2008. And I’m pretty sure I still have my flag badge from CafePress somewhere).

To get the obvious comparison out of the way, online guides—usually written on otherwise well-meaning Linux websites—state the same old summary that FreeBSD has the widest install base, NetBSD is for portability, and OpenBSD is for security. I’ve got a draft post that explores why these truisms are entirely unhelpful for making real world decisions, not least for the inescapable, misleading, and incorrect corollaries.

But while that post is in progress, I can speak to why I use NetBSD:

  • As well as being a great contemporary, general purpose OS, it’s the best Unix-like environment for resource-constrained computers. It runs beautifully on my Toshiba Libretto 70CT and my Pentium 1 tower, whereas they no longer meet stock FreeBSD memory requirements.

  • Related to above, it installs in such a tiny space it’s great for quick virtual machine tests and boot keys.

  • It was the first BSD OS I ever used, if you don’t count Darwin lurking under my PowerPC iBook G3’s Mac OS X install. I installed NetBSD over that machine in the early 2000s, and it Just Worked™. I keep using DOS for masochistic nostalgia, but NetBSD is a pleasure to use.

  • pkgsrc is an excellent cross-platform package manager, and obviously fits well into a NetBSD install.

  • This is a bit fluffy, but there’s something fun and interesting about using an adjacent OS, for want of a better phrase. I appreciate the camaraderie of my NetBSD colleagues at tech events, and smile each time I see a NetBSD developer’s email on a FreeBSD driver manpage. Ditto OpenBSD, who’s developers provide so many excellent tools we all use.

I’m the maintainer of both the NetBSD and FreeBSD templates on OrionVM, despite knowing the former’s install base is probably tiny. Just like its system requirements! I’m keen to see its continued use, and encourage people to try it out.

I reached out to Twitter earlier this week to ask what other people use it for. If you have any use cases and stories to share, I’d love to hear them.

Chatswood sky, April and today

I haven’t done a bushfire smoke post for at least a few days, so it’s time to rectify this. Here’s the view from the walkway near our apartment building in Chatswood back in April, a northern suburb of Sydney:

Skyline of Chatswood, showing scattered clouds on a blue sky.

And the same view earlier today:

The same view, obscured by haze and smoke.

This is the first day of this smoky ordeal that my breathing has been laboured. I’m still probably recovering from my lung scare earlier this year, so this couldn’t have helped. Fun COUGH times.

Music Monday: Rhythm is our Business

It’s Music Monday time! I absolutely adore John Pizzarelli, as you’ve no doubt been able to tell from my years of blogging about him. His guitar and soft voice are always beautiful and just that little bit cheeky.

This is my favourite rendition of that big band classic, with all the winking and smiles you can hear as he introuces members of his band.

Play Rhythm Is Our Business

His recent tribute album Sinatra & Jobim @ 50 may be one of my new favourites, but his 1997 Our Love is Here to Stay will always remain the most special to me. You can check out a live performance of Avalon that I blogged about back in 2012 from the same album.

Talking at FreeBSD events

I just submitted a talk proposal for an upcoming FreeBSD event. I’ve only taked briefly once during a Work-in-Progress session at AsiaBSDCon, but it was fun walking through ideas and getting feedback, especially from the old guard for whom I harbour tremendous respect.

Michael Dexter of Call For Testing and bhyvecon fame asked for some examples of IT discouragement a couple of monthso ago. I shared the story of my first attempt of a talk at a Linux conference back when I was in my early 20s, and having people loudly snigger upon hearing I’d written something in Perl. I was thrown off guard, nervous, and didn’t finish. It was an embarrasing low point in my career, and took almost a decade to work up the guts to attempt again.

If I’m accepted, I’ll let everyone know and will post here :).

Twitter threads should be blog posts

Threads are another recent Twitter trend. You’ll be reading your timeline, then see an intelligent comment proceeded with the word THREAD! They’ll then reply to this initial tweet a few dozen times, forming a train of thought.

I admire people who are able to be creative in a limited medium, from people PEEKing and POKEing their Commodore 64s, to journalists making compelling stores in 240 character chunks. It takes skill beyond just splitting thoughts into shorter sentences and pasting them in a row; they need to flow, and remain engaging in a medium vying for people’s nanoscopic attention spans.

But I’ve yet to see a single one of these threads that wouldn’t work better as a blog post. It’s another pernicious element to social media that I think we’re largely ignoring in light of the more easily identifiable problems. Social media has convinced people of three things:

  1. It’s less cognitive effort to break up your thoughts into stilted chunks than it is to publish freely on a blog.

  2. Thoughts won’t get adequate attention if they’re blog posts, and attention as expressed through likes and retweets are the currency we’re supposed to take seriously now.

  3. Thoughts are less valuable if they’re published on a blog.

We can solve #1 and #2 by educating people, making our systems easier to use, and cross-posting with adequate metadata. But the devaluing of independent media in #3 gravely worries me. We’ve been here before, when blogging was seen as a silly hobby and that traditional media outlets were the custodians of reliability and worth. All we’ve done is substitute the New York Times with Twitter. Let the implications of that sink in for a moment.

I fear the window to have a compelling answer to this is closing, before the Internet really is just a handful of players as we all feared would happen. I wouldn’t fauly anyone for thinking it’s already happened.

The career skill of accountability

A well known luggage manfacturer who sponsors many tech podcasts is in hot water for its treatment of employees. I’m sure they’re not the only ones exploiting people like this, but this report by Zoe Schiffer in The Verge is a believable, grim read.

The investigation from The Verge revealed how Korey has used Away’s core company values to push employees nearly to the breaking point. Last year, she told a group of customer experience managers that she was taking away their paid time off in order to support their career development. “In an effort to support you in developing your skills, I am going to help you learn the career skill of accountability. To hold you accountable…no more [paid time off] or [work from home] requests will be considered from the 6 of you,” she said (emphasis hers).

Pot, kettle, etc. But it was this comment that says all I need to know, right down to the cringey excited:

“I hope everyone in this group appreciates the thoughtfulness I’ve put into creating this career development opportunity and that you’re all excited to operate consistently with our core values.”

She released a public apology, but Zoe quoted a response from an employee:

“It’s not like this was the first time she’s needed reprimanding for her management and conduct”

Even if you’re the stereotypical sociopathic boss, I still fundamentally don’t understand how you think you can bring out the best work from people if you foster a toxic company culture. Can someone explain this to me?

I’ll ask my sister for permission to share some of her stories about the banks she’s worked at in the past; they were hair-raising. I’m extraordinarily lucky that I’ve only ever had, and continue to have, good bosses. Clients… well, that’s always another story.

Data centres, and blue skies for once

Photo outside the Equinix ME1 data centre with a blue sky and clouds.

I’m sitting here blogging from our company’s cage in the ME1 data centre in Melbourne, as the name of the data centre may suggest. I took a photo outside the facility to send to coworkers, before realising two things:

  1. I barely recognised it, because Equinix are building another giant new facility in front, in what used to be a grassy field. Access is through a precariously narrow walkway now.

  2. Far more importantly, I couldn’t help but realise the sky is blue, not an acrid mustard yellow from the weeks of bushfires that Sydney is blanketed with. Even small storm clouds were a welcome sight.