Random Geeky Musings
Random stuff about computers, software development and Linux.
My First Hackathon wasn't a Complete Disaster...
In fact, it turned out great.
I was at a company hackathon at the end of the last week, and I had some reservations about whether or not it would amount to anything, or if I would even enjoy it. I was skeptical about whether or not my company would make us work overnight unpaid on a project that would end up belonging to the company, and which I had no rights to, or if we would be in a competitive setting, or if there wouldn't be any interesting ideas I cared for, or if my team consisted of people who wouldn't be great to work with. Thankfully, it wasn't that kind of a hackathon, and nobody was forced to stay beyond the usual hours they're paid for, and there was no competition or prize or anything like that, and there were some nice ideas*. As for the teams, I guess it depends on a combination of the kinds of ideas people would gravitate towards, my own choice, some politics, and sheer dumb luck.
That's nice, but now what about the people I'll be working with? From my previous experience working with people in my company, there are definitely people I know I do not want to work with on a project like this. I don't like to work with them because they either don't communicate properly or because they aren't pulling their weight. Having any of those kinds of people in your team on a hackathon can spell disaster. You don't have a lot of leg room to mess about if any one of these people fails at communicating or contributing to the team. You do not want to spend extra time dealing with their shortcomings, because that's extra time that could have been spent on actually working on the hackathon project. I was lucky and the people that ended up my team not only weren't any of these people that I didn't want to work with, but they contributed in ways I wasn't aware of when we started. I may not have worked with them previously, and there was always the chance that it wouldn't have worked out, but it was better for them to have been people I've never worked with before than to be people I know for sure aren't worth working with.
We didn't encounter too much friction introducing Mithril into my team; they didn't mind learning something new, even if they weren't used to it, and it wasn't a serious show stopper. We got a lot done, had something nice to show off at the end, and everybody in my team pulled their weight. Does this mean I'm more receptive to hackathons? Well, not necessarily. The reason this hackathon turned out so nicely was because I got lucky. I was lucky that I had a nice team and none of the people I didn't want to be on my team were on it, and I was lucky that there was an idea that matched what I wanted to introduce to the hackathon. I think hackathons are in a way like any kind of team project; you have to be lucky. Teams don't magically create great things by virtue of being a team; you have to get the right people together or else it doesn't work. If you have a team with people that don't communicate properly or aren't pulling their weight, they aren't going to make anything that amounts to much. It doesn't matter if you put them together and call them a team; it's not going to happen. Not without a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Which is frankly sometimes not even worth the trouble.
This has always been my experience working in a group. If you never get to choose what team you're on, or you're not sure what your team members are going to be like, whether or not your team succeeds or fails is often just due to sheer dumb luck. I tend to think of hackathons the same way. You just have to get lucky. I probably still wouldn't attend a hackathon if I had a choice. I'm not interested in testing my luck and I already have plenty of other projects to work on anyways.
*Not every idea was nice, or appropriate for the time frame of the hackathon, but at least they weren't the only ones and I didn't have to choose them.
How to pick a Mastodon Instance
The Importance of Federated Networks
TL;DR: Federated networks are important if you want to consistently keep posting NSFW content. The concept may be difficult for some people to grasp, but it may, in the end, be the only safe place to continue posting NSFW content on.
I’ve been aware of the existence of federated networks around the time I started using Tumblr. It basically started with Diaspora, and I’ve hinted about it subtly on my Tumblr about page. Which it seems most people don’t pay much attention to anyways. But when I originally learned about federated networks, I knew at the time, that it had an important place among the other social networking platforms, even if most people were instead using centralized platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and among others. I knew that federated networks were created by people who cared about their users, and wanted what’s best for their privacy. They were created and managed by people who wanted to provide a space for users to express themselves freely without a central platform being held hostage to government censorship (you can find plenty of examples of this from Stallman’s rant about Facebook.) At the time, I hadn’t specifically thought this would mean that people would want a platform like this to post NSFW content or loli/shota on, though at the time, and even now, it’s definitely possible. But at the time, I didn’t have any reason to believe that being on Tumblr would be a ticking time bomb, and still, I posted on other platforms, as well as Diaspora, because there wasn’t really any reason not to. In fact, posting on other platforms is the only way to be sure you’re not going to lose all your viewers because the one platform you rely on goes down, for whatever reason, tomorrow. But now, there’s no better time than to hop onto a federated network and continue posting NSFW content because in the end, it could very well be the only choice left.
Most people I’ve met who aren’t that interested in computing or free software don’t know what federated networks are. They haven’t been as enthusiastic about joining a federated network as I have because they don’t understand them. I don’t blame them, but the only way to be sure you’ll have a place you can continue freely posting your content on, besides being on multiple platforms is to join a federated network, where instead of one central entity controlling the servers, the rules and the entire platform with only a limited number of poorly paid employees to moderate users, many independent administrators run their own servers using the same libre* platform software, with their own rules and own choice of where the server is hosted. This has several implications. Users have more choice about which server they want to be on. If you don’t like the rules governing a server in one country, you can try a server in a different country. If you don’t like any of the servers, or their rules, you can even make your own. Of course you’d still have to learn how to do it and pay for the server hosting, or pay someone else to do everything for you, but it’s at least possible. On Tumblr and other central networks, this isn’t even an option. Tumblr and Facebook don’t open source their platform software** for other people to use. Secondly, all the accounts on a federated network can interact with each other. This means that if you choose to be on one server and a friend chooses to be on another, you can still follow each other and stay in contact. This is possible because both servers are using the same platform software. It is designed to work like this. Thirdly, because every server is operated by a different entity, and has different rules, all the staff members on one server need only be responsible for the content on their servers; not the entire federated network. This makes managing and moderating users much more managable.
On the other hand, in addition to most people being confused about how federated networks work, there are some other things worth looking at in a server or instance before you sign up for it. Firstly, you may be interested in an instance which is already full, which means the server admin might decide to close sign ups, and you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want to join an instance. Secondly, depending on the content and rules on the instance you’re looking for, your server may be blacklisted by other instances, making it harder for other people to find you. Conversely, your instance may blacklist other instances (particularly if they contain loli/shota or are too free with their rules), which means you can’t find certain kinds of content from the timeline of your instance. But all of this is very much a consequence of a federated network, where users are the ones who decide what content they want to have on their servers. It may mean that there are instances that promote racism or sexism. It can mean there are instances that contain other kinds of objectionable content. But this is what a free platform looks like; it will enable people to create servers for any kind of content you can think of. It need not be about racism or sexism, and often, it isn’t. You can create a server on a federated network for content that most commercial entities have no interest in supporting, but is otherwise not objectionable.
The freedom to choose an instance to be a part of or to create your own instance is a small price to pay for the freedom to post NSFW content consistently. I’ll understand that some people wouldn’t choose to be a part of such a platform, despite the benefits, but until something better comes along, it’s the only place I can think of where I can safely post NSFW content on without being told tomorrow that I have to pack up and go elsewhere. And I don’t care if people don’t follow me there; I’m going there because I think it’s what’s best for my NSFW content, and because in a world where we are constantly losing our privacy and freedom, using and developing free software like federated networking is the best thing to do.
*In English, there is some ambiguity with the term “free”, because it can mean free, as in beer that costs nothing, or free as in free speech. So we use libre to mean free as in free speech.
**Most notably, Facebook open sources React, one of the components that makes up their social networking platform, but it uses (at the time of writing) a questionable open source license that isn’t compatible with the spirit of free software, and the Facebook platform itself is still proprietary.
How I spent Easter putting Linux on an old Macbook Pro (part II)
- Web browsing
- Playing flash games
- Mounting, reading and writing to the other partitions
- Triple booting. Mac OSX for my GodotEngine game build testing and dmg packaging, Windows 7 for games and Linux for everything else.
How I spent Easter putting Linux on an old Macbook Pro (part I)