another bad idea from the Firefox team

Firefox now enables its "sync" feature by default. Apparently the developers think Google is an innovator and they want Firefox to be just like Chrome.
Formerly a user could copy a Firefox folder with bookmarks, cookies, add-ons and customization from, say, a Linux PC to the "users/joeblow/appdata/roaming" folder on, say, Windows 7.
Now Firefox doesn't recognize that folder and prompts the hapless user to sign into a "Firefox account," the sole purpose of which is to "sync data among devices." You can turn sync off in "about:config" but the folder still isn't recognized. Also, when you try to sign-in to the "account" (e.g., to make sure no data got into the cloud by mistake) the login just hangs, because the Firefox team is trying to suck data off your PC with no sync capabilty.
Also the only way to delete your browsing data is by deleting your entire "Firefox account."
But - hey, it's OK -- all that personal data in the cloud is going to be super-duper encrypted.

net art anthology blues

Have been avoiding looking at's Net Art Anthology because it's always painful to have been deeply involved in a scene and watch the historians get it wrong.
Rhizome is accurate when it describes the purpose of the anthology as


A cynic might say that yes, it's being retold to conform to the sensibilities of curator Michael Connor and his predecessor Lauren Cornell. In their world "Vvork" was an important website, deserving of critical writing, full archiving, and interviews with the founders (some of whom went on to have art world careers, in no small part due to constant plugs by Cornell). The surf club "Nasty Nets," by contrast, is an ugly duckling that still hasn't been treated kindly, as Rhizome acknowledges:


The link goes to the old, error-ridden "Artbase" copy of Nasty Nets, saved in the early '10s by then-conservator Ben Fino-Radin. Apparently his successor has had difficulties cleaning up the saved version, because the launch has been postponed numerous times over the last seven years and is still not completed.

Eventually the Nasty Nets story will be told in depth (in particular its relationship to blogs that came afterward, such as Spirit Surfers) but in the meantime we get some minor blurb writing and flawed archiving from Rhizome.

A small blurry 2007 photo appears of the group, without any caption or other list telling who the members were.


On the main Anthology page the members are given as follows:


By contrast, the Anthology gives a detailed listing of the participants in the Spirit Surfers blog:


This is especially ironic because the premise of Spirit Surfers is a group of spiritual "infomonks" divining wisdom from the web (or something) and its members all use aliases such as "tntet," "states," "INFObeard," "Dtangler," etc.
Whereas Nasty Nets members used their own names, and elsewhere on Rhizome (not linked from the Anthology) can be found a list of the most prolific posters:


Possibly Michael Connor doesn't want his readers to know who the main driving forces behind Nasty Nets were. (In fairness, it's hard to know if this is out of spite or curatorial malpractice.)

Despite subtle favoring of the "Spirit Surfers crowd" over the "Nasty Nets crowd," it can't be said that the former got better archiving treatment.
Rhizome used its "Webrecorder" software to preserve Spirit Surfers (which is still an active website). There is a record of several attempts by someone named lyndsey, but it seems that the most he or she has been able to record is 39 pages. However, the blog itself has 117 pages of posts! Flawed as Nasty Nets' archive may be, at least it goes back to the beginning.

Related: UNAC thoughts

minor edits after posting

uber and under

Hubert Horan, writing on the Naked Capitalism blog, has offered consistently skeptical analysis of Uber's claims of profitability and inevitability. His coverage of the lousy IPO (which should have surprised no one) is here. A couple of choice bits:

Few, if any of Uber’s narrative claims were objectively true. Hype about powerful, cutting edge technological innovations that could overwhelm incumbents in any market worldwide helped hide the fact that Uber was actually higher cost and less efficient than the operators it had driven out of business. Stories about customers freely choosing its superior products in competitive markets helped hide Uber’s use of massive subsidies to subvert market price signals and mislead investors about its growth economics. Misleading accounts about driver pay and working conditions helped hide the fact that most margin improvement was due to driving driver take-home pay down to minimum wage levels


Outside the mainstream one could find numerous articles critical of Uber/Lyft claims and their lack of business fundamentals. These included observers who thought that there was a huge, dangerous “tech bubble”, or who thought that years of private control had eliminated most future appreciation potential, or who thought Silicon Valley venture capital had become totally unhinged from reality, or who thought that years of artificially low interest rates had destroyed the market’s ability to evaluate business risk, or who had actually discovered how vacuous Uber and Lyft’s S-1 claims were. These minority views were available to investors doing very diligent research, but these observers were never quoted in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, much less CNN or CNBC.

Am always bummed out to discover a friend or family member using these services.

personal cyber-milestones

1. My last tweet was one year ago today. I'm keeping the account as a backup way to be "notified" of stuff.

2. Last week I upgraded Linux Mint from 17.2 (end of life Apr 2019) to 19.1. Compared to a Microsoft upgrade, where all your proprietary programs are lost after a clean install and have to be laboriously re-added (with passwords, licenses, dongles, etc), Linux was a snap. The backup tool creates a list of all the software you have on the system, and after your drive is wiped, it goes to the package repositories and finds all those programs and reinstalls them.
Many Linux users still have to hold their noses and use Windows occasionally for certain proprietary programs. In this post, political commenter The Saker asks if his blog followers will donate a Windows 10 laptop to him because he doesn't want to buy from Microsoft. That's hardcore. In the comments, users nevertheless remind him of the horrors of the new, post-privacy Windows environment.

discogs hall proctor watch

As mentioned previously (see links below), Discogs' owners have employed a "Tom Sawyer gets his friends to paint a fence" strategy of labor, where most of the work is done by enthusiastic volunteers.

Unfortunately a clique* has emerged within this family of happy chumps, which has the power to downvote dissenters and banish them to CIP. What is CIP? The Contributor Improvement Program, a limbo that prevents talented and insightful collectors from making changes to the database until they get enough upvotes. And who gives the upvotes? People with voting power. Who hands out voting power? Algorithms, supposedly -- "the ability to vote is automatically assigned based on your interaction with the site." (And no, I am not in CIP -- yet; I made a handful of submissions and then started feeling used so I stopped contributing, thus lessening my chances of getting a vote but also of being exiled.)
Discogs is both a database and a market. So changes to the database affect the value of collectibles. But the clique likes to claim that database considerations trump marketing considerations. But do they really? Should they?
Discogs makes its money by charging fees to record sellers, who may or may not have voting power and a chance to guide the database. A seller may have to watch helplessly when one of the clique members changes the date of an item for sale and declares it a "reissue" or "repress," making it less valuable. If the seller has voting power, a moral outrage contest with the offending cliquester may result. Staff rarely intervenes in these disputes (too busy counting all the fee money?).
Let's take a specific example. Snakefinger's Manual of Errors (1982) has been in the database for years. Almost 700 people say they own it; 37 copies of it are for sale; values range from 14-36 dollars depending on condition.
User "valparaiso" (who has a Residents eyeball for his screen icon) realized that the first person to enter the disc in the database years ago made a mistake thinking it was the 1982 original, when an etched number in the runout indicates a later, 1985, repress. Photos and physical description of the '82 and '85 discs are largely identical. Before this week there was no other "1982" submission in Discogs. Instead of creating a new submission for the 1985 release, valparaiso changed the date of the database entry from '82 to '85, citing some rule about the first runout entered being the controlling data item.
Thus potentially hundreds of users with 1982 copies (including sellers) now have to switch "their" copy to a 1982 release newly created by valparaiso, with no records of ownership or sales. All the sales history remains with the 1985 release, which is patently inaccurate.
It is neither reasonable or fair to make people do this, so user Musikland steps in "reverts" the date. Valparaiso punishes him with an EI (Entirely Incorrect) downvote and delivers a smug lecture about how personal preferences should not be considered in making changes to the database.

A friend who has worked in the record business off and on and knows the collector mentality scoffed when I told him that Discogs had a monk-like caste who lived only for the Database and shunned wordly concerns. "I know these people," he said. "If they have the ability to change the database you can bet they will use it to reap personal, financial advantage."

How might this work in practice? Valparaiso says he owns the (actual) 1982 edition of Manual of Errors and he has made it the basis for his newly-created 1982 database entry. This entry is new to Discogs and has no sales history. The database shows a 1985 repress selling for $14-36. Let's say (purely hypothetically!) that in the timelag before users start migrating their personal collection data from the '85 to '82 version, someone offers a copy of this "rare" 1982 version for sale for $75 and a buyer, not knowing any of this history, snaps it up. The disc now has a $75 market value. Valparaiso (purely hypothetically!) immediately puts his copy up for sale and scores. Do this enough times, invoking, of course, the sanctity of the database and the need not to be influenced by personal preferences, and you could have some real money! Of course, valparaiso would never do anything this crass.

My friend has been selling his voluminous collection on eBay. Someone told him he really needed to look into Discogs. When I told him that collectors were in charge of the database he said "Thanks for the info -- that's very helpful -- I'll stick to eBay."

Why does any of this trivial crap matter? (i) Aesthetics. As with the art market, sales have a subtle or not-so-subtle effect on aesthetic judgments. I'd like to know how the mechanisms work. (ii) This is a brave new world of digital business and digital archiving. Nothing like Discogs existed 20 years ago. I'd like to understand the ethics of this corporate-owned cyber-commons.

Previous hall proctor reports: 1 / 2

*This group isn't small or particularly well orchestrated; it mostly consists of people who seem to have obtained voting power by "interacting" with the site thousands of times. People with "no lives," but also who share a vision of the Database as a place wholly in conformity with the Discogs Guidelines, no matter how out of date or inapplicable these rules are. Each clique member assumes an air of absolute authority regarding guideline interpretation, and allows no meta-discussion regarding the ethics of the Guidelines or Discogs as a whole. A stock comment is "if you have a problem with this rule, take it to the forums." Of course, the forums are dominated by their fellow cliquesters.

Update, January 2020: Comments on the Snakefinger releases described above, questioning the collector maneuvering, have been deleted from Discogs, after being on the site for several months. Not sure if this was done by staff to protect its volunteer nerd army, or by one of the nerds with vote power.