Facebook and the Silent Bob Effect

Technology
Dec 3, 2019
Orange megaphone on orange wall by Oleg Laptev

In high school, I had a band director who would rarely say anything to his students which wasn’t related to music, marching or directing us. When he did talk to us, typically before a big competition, all two-hundred students in our marching band would be silent and attentive. He retired my sophomore year and was replaced by another band director who loved giving us pep talks all the time, so much so that most people constantly tuned him out and ignored what he had to say.

The filmmaker Kevin Smith plays a reoccurring character, named Silent Bob, in many of his movies. Silent Bob rarely ever talks. When he does, his lines are intended to be profound or at least memorable, even if they’re very simple. I rarely post on social media, unless it’s to direct friends to content on my website, which I host independently. In normal social interactions, when a person doesn’t talk much, more weight is often given to their words when they do. However, social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, use custom algorithms for sorting posts. Although these systems are closely guarded secrets, they seem to reward people who interact with their platforms more. People like myself, who rarely post content, often get less exposure than those who frequently interact with other users.

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Nihilism Gets a Bad Rap

Philosophy
Nov 12, 2019
abandoned eroded plane fuselage

Nihilism often gets a bad rap. Unlike other philosophical doctrines, nihilism is usually not a fully encompassing belief system. Although we tend to group people like Nietzsche and Camus into the nihilist camp, few philosophers or authors actively identify as purely nihilistic. Philosophers who tend to use bleak views of the world might do so in order to emphasize the reasons for holding a more positive outlook. As Camus says in The Myth of Sisyphus, “Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable.” The absurdity of the universe, rather than being disparaging, can instead be an acknowledgment that we are responsible for our own purpose. It is that self determination that, while acknowledging we may live in a world void of meaning, allows us the freedom to form our own happiness.

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A History of Personal and Professional Websites

Technology
Oct 29, 2019
Photo of Netscape Communicator Standard Edition CD-ROM

I started creating websites in the late 90s, while I was in high school. In the early 2000s, while in college, I kept a professional website with my coding and web design work, as well as a personal journal. Some time after college, I also created separate political and philosophical websites, maintaining all of them using a WordPress installation. While backpacking around the world in 2015, I migrated all my WordPress sites to Jekyll and combined their look and feel. In September of 2019, I finally unified all these independent microsites back into BattlePenguin.com, with full redirects from the former websites. The following is a history of some of these websites, and the technologies they used.

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Voat: What Went Wrong?

Technology
Oct 6, 2019
Tenderness by Ricardo Gomez Angel
Tenderness by Ricardo Gomez Angel

Voat is a link aggregation platform, where users can submit text or links to content, comment on existing submissions and vote both links and comments up or down. It’s essentially a Reddit clone, but, due to several bad design decisions, it has become known on the rest of the Internet as a community that promotes intolerance and hate speech. Voat didn’t start this way, and many of its early users were similar to those in the communities on other social networks. But due to a series of design decisions, including its contributor point systems, Voat was constructed in such a way as to converge on narrow view points and become the platform that it is today.

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Preferred Gender Pronouns

Philosophy
Oct 5, 2019
Photography of a Dictionary

In 2013, I met with a group of LGBT activists in Wellington, New Zealand. During introductions, everyone gave their name and their preferred gendered pronouns. I believe this was the first time I was introduced to the concept of defining ones own pronouns, which has become more common all around the world. I find this growing trend problematic for a number of non-political reasons. Not only does it create an ability to offend directly within the language, but it defeats an important trait in the evolution of language, and thereby increases cognitive load in basic conversation. Language is representative of both things in our physical world and abstract concepts. However when you really break down natural language, it’s all metaphor. Defining pronouns for oneself breaks those metaphors and hinders our ability to relate to each other in our basic conversations.

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Everything about the one is wrong

Poetry
Sep 7, 2019

Pick from a list

Poetry
Sep 4, 2019

Twitter is Trying to Erase the Past

Politics
Aug 16, 2019
Twitter Logo

I recently got an e-mail saying I had violated Twitter’s rules for hateful conduct. I immediately thought my account password had been compromised, or that this was a phishing attempt. I rarely post to Twitter anymore, except to promote this website or other personal projects. The e-mail was real though, and Twitter locked my account for a Tweet I made nearly a decade ago!

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Give me a page of your life

Poetry
Aug 10, 2019

It's not just another love song

Poetry
Jul 27, 2019