Recent blog entries for etbe

wp-spamshield

Yesterday I installed the wp-spamshield plugin for WordPress [1]. It blocks automated comment spam systems by using JavaScript and cookies, apparently most spammers can’t handle that. Before I installed it I was getting hundreds of spam comments per day even with the block spam by math plugin enabled. Now I’ve had it running for 24 hours without any spam. The real advantage of this is that now when a legitimate comment gets flagged as spam I’ll notice it, previously I was deleting hundreds or thousands of comments at a time without reading them.

deb http://www.coker.com.au wheezy wordpress

The above repository has the wordpress-wp-spamshield package for Debian/Wheezy. I have no immediate plans for uploading it to Debian because the security support for WordPress plugins doesn’t fit in with the Debian model. I am prepared to negotiate about this if someone has good reasons for including it or any of the other WordPress plugins I’ve packages.

My packaging work is under the GPL (of course) so any DD who disagrees with me could just rebuild the package and upload it. Within Debian there is no rule taking another DD’s GPL’d code that they decided not to upload and then uploading it. There is a consensus that such things are not appropriate without permission, but anyone who wishes can take this blog post as permission.

Related posts:

  1. WordPress Plugins I’ve just added the WordPress Minify [1] plugin to my...
  2. Creating WordPress Packages deb http://www.coker.com.au wheezy wordpress I maintain Debian packages of a...
  3. WordPress Maintainability For a while I’ve been maintaining my own WordPress packages....

Syndicated 2014-12-23 02:20:40 from etbe - Russell Coker

BTRFS Status Dec 2014

My last problem with BTRFS was in August [1]. BTRFS has been running mostly uneventfully for me for the last 4 months, that’s a good improvement but the fact that 4 months of no problems is noteworthy for something as important as a filesystem is a cause for ongoing concern.

A RAID-1 Array

A week ago I had a minor problem with my home file server, one of the 3TB disks in the BTRFS RAID-1 started giving read errors. That’s not a big deal, I bought a new disk and did a “btrfs replace” operation which was quick and easy. The first annoyance was that the output of “btrfs device stats” reported an error count for the new device, it seems that “btrfs device replace” copies everything from the old disk including the error count. The solution is to use “btrfs device stats -z” to reset the count after replacing a device.

I replaced the 3TB disk with a 4TB disk (with current prices it doesn’t make sense to buy a new 3TB disk). As I was running low on disk space I added a 1TB disk to give it 4TB of RAID-1 capacity, one of the nice features of BTRFS is that a RAID-1 filesystem can support any combination of disks and use them to store 2 copies of every block of data. I started running a btrfs balance to get BTRFS to try and use all the space before learning from the mailing list that I should have done “btrfs filesystem resize” to make it use all the space. So my balance operation had configured the filesystem to configure itself for 2*3TB+1*1TB disks which wasn’t the right configuration when the 4TB disk was fully used. To make it even more annoying the “btrfs filesystem resize” command takes a “devid” not a device name.

I think that when BTRFS is more stable it would be good to have the btrfs utility warn the user about such potential mistakes. When a replacement device is larger than the old one it will be very common to want to use that space. The btrfs utility could easily suggest the most likely “btrfs filesystem resize” to make things easier for the user.

In a disturbing coincidence a few days after replacing the first 3TB disk the other 3TB disk started giving read errors. So I replaced the second 3TB disk with a 4TB disk and removed the 1TB disk to give a 4TB RAID-1 array. This is when it would be handy to have the metadata duplication feature and copies= option of ZFS.

Ctree Corruption

2 weeks ago a basic workstation with a 120G SSD owned by a relative stopped booting, the most significant errors it gave were “BTRFS: log replay required on RO media” and “BTRFS: open_ctree failed”. The solution to this is to run the command “btrfs-zero-log”, but that initially didn’t work. I restored the system from a backup (which was 2 months old) and took the SSD home to work on it. A day later “btrfs-zero-log” worked correctly and I recovered all the data. Note that I didn’t even try mounting the filesystem in question read-write, I mounted it read-only to copy all the data off. While in theory the filesystem should have been OK I didn’t have a need to keep using it at that time (having already wiped the original device and restored from backup) and I don’t have confidence in BTRFS working correctly in that situation.

While it was nice to get all the data back it’s a concern when commands don’t operate consistently.

Debian and BTRFS

I was concerned when the Debian kernel team chose 3.16 as the kernel for Jessie (the next Debian release). Judging by the way development has been going I wasn’t confident that 3.16 would turn out to be stable enough for BTRFS. But 3.16 is working reasonably well on a number of systems so it seems that it’s likely to work well in practice.

But I’m still deploying more ZFS servers.

The Value of Anecdotal Evidence

When evaluating software based on reports from reliable sources (IE most readers will trust me to run systems well and only report genuine bugs) bad reports have a much higher weight than good reports. The fact that I’ve seen kernel 3.16 to work reasonably well on ~6 systems is nice but that doesn’t mean it will work well on thousands of other systems – although it does indicate that it will work well on more systems than some earlier Linux kernels which had common BTRFS failures.

But the annoyances I had with the 3TB array are repeatable and will annoy many other people. The ctree coruption problem MIGHT have been initially caused by a memory error (it’s a desktop machine without ECC RAM) but the recovery process was problematic and other users might expect problems in such situations.

Related posts:

  1. BTRFS Status March 2014 I’m currently using BTRFS on most systems that I can...
  2. BTRFS Status April 2014 Since my blog post about BTRFS in March [1] not...
  3. BTRFS Status July 2014 My last BTRFS status report was in April [1], it...

Syndicated 2014-12-05 08:09:27 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links October 2014

The Verge has an interesting article about Tim Cook (Apple CEO) coming out [1]. Tim says “if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy”.

Graydon2 wrote an insightful article about the right-wing libertarian sock-puppets of silicon valley [2].

George Monbiot wrote an insightful article for The Guardian about the way that double-speak facilitates killing people [3]. He is correct that the media should hold government accountable for such use of language instead of perpetuating it.

Anne Thériault wrote an insightful article for Vice about the presumption of innocence and sex crimes [4].

Dr Nerdlove wrote an interesting article about Gamergate as the “extinction burst” of “gamer culture” [5], we can only hope.

Shweta Narayan wrote an insightful article about Category Structure and Oppression [6]. I can’t summarise it because it’s a complex concept, read the article.

Some Debian users who don’t like Systemd have started a “Debian Fork” project [7], which so far just has a web site and nothing else. I expect that they will never write any code. But it would be good if they did, they would learn about how an OS works and maybe they wouldn’t disagree so much with the people who have experience in developing system software.

A GamerGate terrorist in Utah forces Anita Sarkeesian to cancel a lecture [8]. I expect that the reaction will be different when (not if) an Islamic group tries to get a lecture cancelled in a similar manner.

Model View Culture has an insightful article by Erika Lynn Abigail about Autistics in Silicon Valley [9].

Katie McDonough wrote an interesting article for Salon about Ed Champion and what to do about men who abuse women [10]. It’s worth reading that while thinking about the FOSS community…

Related posts:

  1. Links September 2014 Matt Palmer wrote a short but informative post about enabling...
  2. Links July 2014 Dave Johnson wrote an interesting article for Salon about companies...
  3. Links August 2014 Matt Palmer wrote a good overview of DNSSEC [1]. Sociological...

Syndicated 2014-10-31 13:55:52 from etbe - Russell Coker

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

In June last year I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 [1]. Generally I was very happy with that phone, one problem I had is that less than a year after purchasing it the Ingress menus burned into the screen [2].

2 weeks ago I bought a new Galaxy Note 3. One of the reasons for getting it is the higher resolution screen, I never realised the benefits of a 1920*1080 screen on a phone until my wife got a Nexus 5 [3]. I had been idly considering a Galaxy Note 4, but $1000 is a lot of money to pay for a phone and I’m not sure that a 2560*1440 screen will offer much benefit in that size. Also the Note 3 and Note 4 both have 3G of RAM, as some applications use more RAM when you have a higher resolution screen the Note 4 will effectively have less usable RAM than the Note 3.

My first laptop cost me $3,800 in 1998, that’s probably more than $6,000 in today’s money. The benefits that I receive now from an Android phone are in many ways greater than I received from that laptop and that laptop was definitely good value for money for me. If the cheapest Android phone cost $6,000 then I’d pay that, but given that the Note 3 is only $550 (including postage) there’s no reason for me to buy something more expensive.

Another reason for getting a new phone is the limited storage space in the Note 2. 16G of internal storage is a limit when you have some big games installed. Also the recent Android update which prevented apps from writing to the SD card meant that it was no longer convenient to put TV shows on my SD card. 32G of internal storage in the Note 3 allows me to fit everything I want (including the music video collection I downloaded with youtube-dl). The Note 2 has 16G of internal storage and an 8G SD card (that I couldn’t fully use due to Android limitations) while the Note 3 has 32G (the 64G version wasn’t on sale at any of the cheap online stores). Also the Note 3 supports an SD card which will be good for my music video collection at some future time, this is a significant benefit over the Nexus 5.

In the past I’ve written about Android service life and concluded that storage is the main issue [4]. So it is a bit unfortunate that I couldn’t get a phone with 64G of storage at a reasonable price. But the upside is that getting a cheaper phone allows me to buy another one sooner and give the old phone to a relative who has less demanding requirements.

In the past I wrote about the warranty support for my wife’s Nexus 5 [5]. I should have followed up on that before, 3 days after that post we received a replacement phone. One good thing that Google does is to reserve money on a credit card to buy the new phone and then send you the new phone before you send the old one back. So if the customer doesn’t end up sending the broken phone they just get billed for the new phone, that avoids excessive delays in getting a replacement phone. So overall the process of Google warranty support is really good, if 2 products are equal in other ways then it would be best to buy from Google to get that level of support.

I considered getting a Nexus 5 as the hardware is reasonably good (not the greatest but quite good enough) and the price is also reasonably good. But one thing I really hate is the way they do the buttons. Having the home button appear on the main part of the display is really annoying. I much prefer the Samsung approach of having a hardware button for home and touch-screen buttons outside the viewable area for settings and back. Also the stylus on the Note devices is convenient on occasion.

The Note 3 has a fake-leather back. The concept of making fake leather is tacky, I believe that it’s much better to make honest plastic that doesn’t pretend to be something that it isn’t. However the texture of the back improves the grip. Also the fake stitches around the edge help with the grip too. It’s tacky but utilitarian.

The Note 3 is slightly smaller and lighter than the Note 2. This is a good technical achievement, but I’d rather they just gave it a bigger battery.

Update USB 3

One thing I initially forgot to mention is that the Note 3 has USB 3. This means that it has a larger socket which is less convenient when you try and plug it in at night. USB 3 seems unlikely to provide any benefit for me as I’ve never had any of my other phones transfer data at rates more than about 5MB/s. If the Note 3 happens to have storage that can handle speeds greater than the 32MB/s a typical USB 2 storage device can handle then I’m still not going to gain much benefit. USB 2 speeds would allow me to transfer the entire contents of a Note 3 in less than 20 minutes (if I needed to copy the entire storage contents). I can’t imagine myself having a real-world benefit from that.

The larger socket means more fumbling when charging my phone at night and it also means that the Note 3 cable can’t be used in any other phone I own. In a year or two my wife will have a phone with USB 3 support and that cable can be used for charging 2 phones. But at the moment the USB 3 cable isn’t useful as I don’t need to have a phone charger that can only charge one phone.

Conclusion

The Note 3 basically does everything I expected of it. It’s just like the Note 2 but a bit faster and with more storage. I’m happy with it.

Related posts:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 2 A few weeks ago I bought a new Samsung Galaxy...
  2. Samsung Galaxy S3 First Review with Power Case My new Samsung Galaxy S3 arrived a couple of days...
  3. Samsung Galaxy Camera – a Quick Review I recently had a chance to briefly play with the...

Syndicated 2014-10-31 13:40:25 from etbe - Russell Coker

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

In June last year I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 [1]. Generally I was very happy with that phone, one problem I had is that less than a year after purchasing it the Ingress menus burned into the screen [2].

2 weeks ago I bought a new Galaxy Note 3. One of the reasons for getting it is the higher resolution screen, I never realised the benefits of a 1920*1080 screen on a phone until my wife got a Nexus 5 [3]. I had been idly considering a Galaxy Note 4, but $1000 is a lot of money to pay for a phone and I’m not sure that a 2560*1440 screen will offer much benefit in that size. Also the Note 3 and Note 4 both have 3G of RAM, as some applications use more RAM when you have a higher resolution screen the Note 4 will effectively have less usable RAM than the Note 3.

My first laptop cost me $3,800 in 1998, that’s probably more than $6,000 in today’s money. The benefits that I receive now from an Android phone are in many ways greater than I received from that laptop and that laptop was definitely good value for money for me. If the cheapest Android phone cost $6,000 then I’d pay that, but given that the Note 3 is only $550 (including postage) there’s no reason for me to buy something more expensive.

Another reason for getting a new phone is the limited storage space in the Note 2. 16G of internal storage is a limit when you have some big games installed. Also the recent Android update which prevented apps from writing to the SD card meant that it was no longer convenient to put TV shows on my SD card. 32G of internal storage in the Note 3 allows me to fit everything I want (including the music video collection I downloaded with youtube-dl). The Note 2 has 16G of internal storage and an 8G SD card (that I couldn’t fully use due to Android limitations) while the Note 3 has 32G (the 64G version wasn’t on sale at any of the cheap online stores). Also the Note 3 supports an SD card which will be good for my music video collection at some future time, this is a significant benefit over the Nexus 5.

In the past I’ve written about Android service life and concluded that storage is the main issue [4]. So it is a bit unfortunate that I couldn’t get a phone with 64G of storage at a reasonable price. But the upside is that getting a cheaper phone allows me to buy another one sooner and give the old phone to a relative who has less demanding requirements.

In the past I wrote about the warranty support for my wife’s Nexus 5 [5]. I should have followed up on that before, 3 days after that post we received a replacement phone. One good thing that Google does is to reserve money on a credit card to buy the new phone and then send you the new phone before you send the old one back. So if the customer doesn’t end up sending the broken phone they just get billed for the new phone, that avoids excessive delays in getting a replacement phone. So overall the process of Google warranty support is really good, if 2 products are equal in other ways then it would be best to buy from Google to get that level of support.

I considered getting a Nexus 5 as the hardware is reasonably good (not the greatest but quite good enough) and the price is also reasonably good. But one thing I really hate is the way they do the buttons. Having the home button appear on the main part of the display is really annoying. I much prefer the Samsung approach of having a hardware button for home and touch-screen buttons outside the viewable area for settings and back. Also the stylus on the Note devices is convenient on occasion.

The Note 3 has a fake-leather back. The concept of making fake leather is tacky, I believe that it’s much better to make honest plastic that doesn’t pretend to be something that it isn’t. However the texture of the back improves the grip. Also the fake stitches around the edge help with the grip too. It’s tacky but utilitarian.

The Note 3 is slightly smaller and lighter than the Note 2. This is a good technical achievement, but I’d rather they just gave it a bigger battery.

Conclusion

The Note 3 basically does everything I expected of it. It’s just like the Note 2 but a bit faster and with more storage. I’m happy with it.

Related posts:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 2 A few weeks ago I bought a new Samsung Galaxy...
  2. Samsung Galaxy S3 First Review with Power Case My new Samsung Galaxy S3 arrived a couple of days...
  3. Samsung Galaxy Camera – a Quick Review I recently had a chance to briefly play with the...

Syndicated 2014-10-31 12:55:25 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links September 2014

Matt Palmer wrote a short but informative post about enabling DNS in a zone [1]. I really should setup DNSSEC on my own zones.

Paul Wayper has some insightful comments about the Liberal party’s nasty policies towards the unemployed [2]. We really need a Basic Income in Australia.

Joseph Heath wrote an interesting and insightful article about the decline of the democratic process [3]. While most of his points are really good I’m dubious of his claims about twitter. When used skillfully twitter can provide short insights into topics and teasers for linked articles.

Sarah O wrote an insightful article about NotAllMen/YesAllWomen [4]. I can’t summarise it well in a paragraph, I recommend reading it all.

Betsy Haibel wrote an informative article about harassment by proxy on the Internet [5]. Everyone should learn about this before getting involved in discussions about “controversial” issues.

George Monbiot wrote an insightful and interesting article about the referendum for Scottish independence and the failures of the media [6].

Mychal Denzel Smith wrote an insightful article “How to know that you hate women” [7].

Sam Byford wrote an informative article about Google’s plans to develop and promote cheap Android phones for developing countries [8]. That’s a good investment in future market share by Google and good for the spread of knowledge among people all around the world. I hope that this research also leads to cheap and reliable Android devices for poor people in first-world countries.

Deb Chachra wrote an insightful and disturbing article about the culture of non-consent in the IT industry [9]. This is something we need to fix.

David Hill wrote an interesting and informative article about the way that computer game journalism works and how it relates to GamerGate [10].

Anita Sarkeesian shares the most radical thing that you can do to support women online [11]. Wow, the world sucks more badly than I realised.

Michael Daly wrote an article about the latest evil from the NRA [12]. The NRA continues to demonstrate that claims about “good people with guns” are lies, the NRA are evil people with guns.

Related posts:

  1. Links July 2014 Dave Johnson wrote an interesting article for Salon about companies...
  2. Links May 2014 Charmian Gooch gave an interesting TED talk about her efforts...
  3. Links September 2013 Matt Palmer wrote an insightful post about the use of...

Syndicated 2014-09-30 13:55:48 from etbe - Russell Coker

Cheap 3G Data in Australia

The Request

I was asked for advice about cheap 3G data plans. One of the people who asked me has a friend with no home Internet access, the friend wants access but doesn’t want to pay too much. I don’t know whether the person in question can’t use ADSL/Cable (maybe they are about to move house) or whether they just don’t want to pay for it.

3G data in urban areas in Australia is fast enough for most Internet use. But it’s not good for online games or VOIP. It’s also not very useful for Youtube and other online video. There is a variety of 3G speed testing apps for Android phones and there are presumably similar apps for the iPhone. Before signing up for 3G at home it’s probably best to get a friend who’s on the network in question to test Internet speed at your house, it would be annoying to sign up for an annual contract and then discover that your home is in a 3G dead spot.

Cheapest Offers

The best offer at the moment for moderate data use seems to be Amaysim with 10G for $99.90 and an expiry time of 365 days [1]. 10G in a year isn’t a lot, but it’s pre-paid so the user can buy another 10G of data whenever they want. At the moment $10 for 1G of data in a month and $20 for 2G of data in a month seem to be common offerings for 3G data in Australia. If you use exactly 1G per month then Amaysim isn’t any better than a number of other telcos, but if your usage varies (as it does with most people) then spreading the data use over several months offers significant savings without the need to save big downloads for the last day of the month.

For more serious Internet use Virgin has pre-paid offerings of 6G for $30 and 12G for $40 which has to be used in a month [2]. Anyone who uses an average of more than 3G per month will get better value from the Virgin offers.

If anyone knows of cheaper options than Amaysim and Virgin then please let me know.

Better Coverage

Both Amaysim and Virgin use the Optus network which covers urban areas quite well. I used Virgin a few years ago (and presume that it has only improved since then) and my wife uses Amaysim now. I haven’t had any great problems with either telco. If you need better coverage than the Optus network provides then Telstra is the only option. Telstra have a number of prepaid offers, the most interesting is $100 for 10G of data that expires in 90 days [3].

That Telstra offer is the same price as the Amaysim offer and only slightly more expensive than Virgin if you average 3.3G per month. It’s a really good deal if you average 3.3G per month as you can expect it to be faster and have better coverage.

Which One to Choose?

I think that the best option for someone who is initially connecting their home via 3g is to start with Amaysim. Amaysim is the cheapest for small usage and they have an Amaysim Android app and web page for tracking usage. After using a few gig of data on Amaysim it should be possible to determine which plan is going to be most economical in the long term.

Connecting to the Internet

To get the best speed you need a 4G AKA LTE connection. But given that 3G speed is great enough to use expensive amounts of data it doesn’t seem necessary to me. I’ve done a lot of work over the Internet with 3G from Virgin, Kogan, Aldi, and Telechoice and haven’t felt a need to pay for anything faster.

I think that the best thing to do is to use an old phone running Android 2.3 or iOS 4.3 as a Wifi access point. The cost of a dedicated 3G Wifi AP is enough to significantly change the economics of such Internet access and most people have access to old smart phones.

Related posts:

  1. Changing Phone Prices in Australia 18 months ago when I signed up with Virgin Mobile...
  2. Cheap Net Access in Australia The cheapest ADSL or Cable net access in Australia seems...
  3. Aldi Changes, Cheap Telcos, and Estimating Costs I’ve been using Aldi as my mobile phone provider for...

Syndicated 2014-09-24 07:06:05 from etbe - Russell Coker

Inteltech/Clicksend SMS Script

USER=username
API_KEY=1234ABC
OUTPUTDIR=/var/spool/sms
LOG_SERVICE=local1

I’ve just written the below script to send SMS via the inteltech.com/clicksend.com service. It takes the above configuration in /etc/sms-pass.cfg where the username is assigned with the clicksend web page and the API key is a long hex string that clicksend provides as a password. The LOG_SERVICE is which syslog service to use for the log messages, on systems that are expected to send many messages I use the service “local1″ and I use “user” for development systems.

I hope this is useful to someone, and if you have any ideas for improvement then please let me know.

#!/bin/sh
# $1 is destination number
# text is on standard input
# standard output gives message ID on success, and 0 is returned
# standard error gives error from server on failure, and 1 is returned

. /etc/sms-pass.cfg
OUTPUT=$OUTPUTDIR/out.$$
TEXT=`tr "[:space:]" + | cut -c 1-159`

logger -t sms -p $LOG_SERVICE.info "sending message to $1"
wget -O $OUTPUT "https://api.clicksend.com/http/v2/send.php?method=http&username=$USER&key=$API_KEY&to=$1&message=$TEXT" > /dev/null 2> /dev/null

if [ "$?" != "0" ]; then
  echo "Error running wget" >&2
  logger -t sms -p $LOG_SERVICE.err "failed to send message \"$TEXT\" to $1 – wget error"
  exit 1
fi

if ! grep -q ^.errortext.Success $OUTPUT ; then
  cat $OUTPUT >&2
  echo >&2
  ERR=$(grep ^.errortext $OUTPUT | sed -e s/^.errortext.// -e s/..errortext.$//)
  logger -t sms -p $LOG_SERVICE.err "failed to send message \"$TEXT\" to $1 – $ERR"
  rm $OUTPUT
  exit 1
fi

ID=$(grep ^.messageid $OUTPUT | sed -e s/^.messageid.// -e s/..messageid.$//)
rm $OUTPUT

logger -t sms -p $LOG_SERVICE.info "sent message to $1 with ID $ID"
exit 0

Related posts:

  1. Parsing Daemontools/Multilog dates in Shell Script I run some servers that use the DJB Daemontools to...

Syndicated 2014-09-04 04:19:49 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links August 2014

Matt Palmer wrote a good overview of DNSSEC [1].

Sociological Images has an interesting article making the case for phasing out the US $0.01 coin [2]. The Australian $0.01 and $0.02 coins were worth much more when they were phased out.

Multiplicity is a board game that’s designed to address some of the failings of SimCity type games [3]. I haven’t played it yet but the page describing it is interesting.

Carlos Buento’s article about the Mirrortocracy has some interesting insights into the flawed hiring culture of Silicon Valley [4].

Adam Bryant wrote an interesting article for NY Times about Google’s experiments with big data and hiring [5]. Among other things it seems that grades and test results have no correlation with job performance.

Jennifer Chesters from the University of Canberra wrote an insightful article about the results of Australian private schools [6]. Her research indicates that kids who go to private schools are more likely to complete year 12 and university but they don’t end up earning more.

Kiwix is an offline Wikipedia reader for Android, needs 9.5G of storage space for the database [7].

Melanie Poole wrote an informative article for Mamamia about the evil World Congress of Families and their connections to the Australian government [8].

The BBC has a great interactive web site about how big space is [9].

The Raspberry Pi Spy has an interesting article about automating Minecraft with Python [10].

Wired has an interesting article about the Bittorrent Sync platform for distributing encrypted data [11]. It’s apparently like Dropbox but encrypted and decentralised. Also it supports applications on top of it which can offer social networking functions among other things.

ABC news has an interesting article about the failure to diagnose girls with Autism [12].

The AbbottsLies.com.au site catalogs the lies of Tony Abbott [13]. There’s a lot of work in keeping up with that.

Racialicious.com has an interesting article about “Moff’s Law” about discussion of media in which someone says “why do you have to analyze it” [14].

Paul Rosenberg wrote an insightful article about conservative racism in the US, it’s a must-read [15].

Salon has an interesting and amusing article about a photography project where 100 people were tased by their loved ones [16]. Watch the videos.

Related posts:

  1. Links August 2013 Mark Cuban wrote an interesting article titled “What Business is...
  2. Links February 2014 The Economist has an interesting and informative article about the...
  3. Links July 2014 Dave Johnson wrote an interesting article for Salon about companies...

Syndicated 2014-08-31 13:55:49 from etbe - Russell Coker

Men Commenting on Women’s Issues

A lecture at LCA 2011 which included some inappropriate slides was followed by long discussions on mailing lists. In February 2011 I wrote a blog post debunking some of the bogus arguments in two lists [1]. One of the noteworthy incidents in the mailing list discussion concerned Ted Ts’o (an influential member of the Linux community) debating the definition of rape. My main point on that issue in Feb 2011 was that it’s insensitive to needlessly debate the statistics.

Recently Valerie Aurora wrote about another aspect of this on The Ada Initiative blog [2] and on her personal blog. Some of her significant points are that conference harassment doesn’t end when the conference ends (it can continue on mailing lists etc), that good people shouldn’t do nothing when bad things happen, and that free speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences or the freedom to use private resources (such as conference mailing lists) without restriction.

Craig Sanders wrote a very misguided post about the Ted Ts’o situation [3]. One of the many things wrong with his post is his statement “I’m particularly disgusted by the men who intervene way too early – without an explicit invitation or request for help or a clear need such as an immediate threat of violence – in womens’ issues“.

I believe that as a general rule when any group of people are involved in causing a problem they should be involved in fixing it. So when we have problems that are broadly based around men treating women badly the prime responsibility should be upon men to fix them. It seems very clear that no matter what scope is chosen for fixing the problems (whether it be lobbying for new legislation, sociological research, blogging, or directly discussing issues with people to change their attitudes) women are doing considerably more than half the work. I believe that this is an indication that overall men are failing.

Asking for Help

I don’t believe that members of minority groups should have to ask for help. Asking isn’t easy, having someone spontaneously offer help because it’s the right thing to do can be a lot easier to accept psychologically than having to beg for help. There is a book named “Women Don’t Ask” which has a page on the geek feminism Wiki [4]. I think the fact that so many women relate to a book named “Women Don’t Ask” is an indication that we shouldn’t expect women to ask directly, particularly in times of stress. The Wiki page notes a criticism of the book that some specific requests are framed as “complaining”, so I think we should consider a “complaint” from a woman as a direct request to do something.

The geek feminism blog has an article titled “How To Exclude Women Without Really Trying” which covers many aspects of one incident [5]. Near the end of the article is a direct call for men to be involved in dealing with such problems. The geek feminism Wiki has a page on “Allies” which includes “Even a blog post helps” [6]. It seems clear from public web sites run by women that women really want men to be involved.

Finally when I get blog comments and private email from women who thank me for my posts I take it as an implied request to do more of the same.

One thing that we really don’t want is to have men wait and do nothing until there is an immediate threat of violence. There are two massive problems with that plan, one is that being saved from a violent situation isn’t a fun experience, the other is that an immediate threat of violence is most likely to happen when there is no-one around to intervene.

Men Don’t Listen to Women

Rebecca Solnit wrote an article about being ignored by men titled “Men Explain Things to Me” [7]. When discussing women’s issues the term “Mansplaining” is often used for that sort of thing, the geek feminism Wiki has some background [8]. It seems obvious that the men who have the greatest need to be taught some things related to women’s issues are the ones who are least likely to listen to women. This implies that other men have to teach them.

Craig says that women need “space to discover and practice their own strength and their own voices“. I think that the best way to achieve that goal is to listen when women speak. Of course that doesn’t preclude speaking as well, just listen first, listen carefully, and listen more than you speak.

Craig claims that when men like me and Matthew Garrett comment on such issues we are making “women’s spaces more comfortable, more palatable, for men“. From all the discussion on this it seems quite obvious that what would make things more comfortable for men would be for the issue to never be discussed at all. It seems to me that two of the ways of making such discussions uncomfortable for most men are to discuss sexual assault and to discuss what should be done when you have a friend who treats women in a way that you don’t like. Matthew has covered both of those so it seems that he’s doing a good job of making men uncomfortable – I think that this is a good thing, a discussion that is “comfortable and palatable” for the people in power is not going to be any good for the people who aren’t in power.

The Voting Aspect

It seems to me that when certain issues are discussed we have a social process that is some form of vote. If one person complains then they are portrayed as crazy. When other people agree with the complaint then their comments are marginalised to try and preserve the narrative of one crazy person. It seems that in the case of the discussion about Rape Apology and LCA2011 most men who comment regard it as one person (either Valeria Aurora or Matthew Garrett) causing a dispute. There is even some commentary which references my blog post about Rape Apology [9] but somehow manages to ignore me when it comes to counting more than one person agreeing with Valerie. For reference David Zanetti was the first person to use the term “apologist for rapists” in connection with the LCA 2011 discussion [10]. So we have a count of at least three men already.

These same patterns always happen so making a comment in support makes a difference. It doesn’t have to be insightful, long, or well written, merely “I agree” and a link to a web page will help. Note that a blog post is much better than a comment in this regard, comments are much like conversation while a blog post is a stronger commitment to a position.

I don’t believe that the majority is necessarily correct. But an opinion which is supported by too small a minority isn’t going to be considered much by most people.

The Cost of Commenting

The Internet is a hostile environment, when you comment on a contentious issue there will be people who demonstrate their disagreement in uncivilised and even criminal ways. S. E. Smith wrote an informative post for Tiger Beatdown about the terrorism that feminist bloggers face [11]. I believe that men face fewer threats than women when they write about such things and the threats are less credible. I don’t believe that any of the men who have threatened me have the ability to carry out their threats but I expect that many women who receive such threats will consider them to be credible.

The difference in the frequency and nature of the terrorism (and there is no other word for what S. E. Smith describes) experienced by men and women gives a vastly different cost to commenting. So when men fail to address issues related to the behavior of other men that isn’t helping women in any way. It’s imposing a significant cost on women for covering issues which could be addressed by men for minimal cost.

It’s interesting to note that there are men who consider themselves to be brave because they write things which will cause women to criticise them or even accuse them of misogyny. I think that the women who write about such issues even though they will receive threats of significant violence are the brave ones.

Not Being Patronising

Craig raises the issue of not being patronising, which is of course very important. I think that the first thing to do to avoid being perceived as patronising in a blog post is to cite adequate references. I’ve spent a lot of time reading what women have written about such issues and cited the articles that seem most useful in describing the issues. I’m sure that some women will disagree with my choice of references and some will disagree with some of my conclusions, but I think that most women will appreciate that I read what women write (it seems that most men don’t).

It seems to me that a significant part of feminism is about women not having men tell them what to do. So when men offer advice on how to go about feminist advocacy it’s likely to be taken badly. It’s not just that women don’t want advice from men, but that advice from men is usually wrong. There are patterns in communication which mean that the effective strategies for women communicating with men are different from the effective strategies for men communicating with men (see my previous section on men not listening to women). Also there’s a common trend of men offering simplistic advice on how to solve problems, one thing to keep in mind is that any problem which affects many people and is easy to solve has probably been solved a long time ago.

Often when social issues are discussed there is some background in the life experience of the people involved. For example Rookie Mag has an article about the street harassment women face which includes many disturbing anecdotes (some of which concern primary school students) [12]. Obviously anyone who has lived through that sort of thing (which means most women) will instinctively understand some issues related to threatening sexual behavior that I can’t easily understand even when I spend some time considering the matter. So there will be things which don’t immediately appear to be serious problems to me but which are interpreted very differently by women. The non-patronising approach to such things is to accept the concerns women express as legitimate, to try to understand them, and not to argue about it. For example the issue that Valerie recently raised wasn’t something that seemed significant when I first read the email in question, but I carefully considered it when I saw her posts explaining the issue and what she wrote makes sense to me.

I don’t think it’s possible for a man to make a useful comment on any issue related to the treatment of women without consulting multiple women first. I suggest a pre-requisite for any man who wants to write any sort of long article about the treatment of women is to have conversations with multiple women who have relevant knowledge. I’ve had some long discussions with more than a few women who are involved with the FOSS community. This has given me a reasonable understanding of some of the issues (I won’t claim to be any sort of expert). I think that if you just go and imagine things about a group of people who have a significantly different life-experience then you will be wrong in many ways and often offensively wrong. Just reading isn’t enough, you need to have conversations with multiple people so that they can point out the things you don’t understand.

This isn’t any sort of comprehensive list of ways to avoid being patronising, but it’s a few things which seem like common mistakes.

Anne Onne wrote a detailed post advising men who want to comment on feminist blogs etc [13], most of it applies to any situation where men comment on women’s issues.

Related posts:

  1. A Lack of Understanding of Nuclear Issues Ben Fowler writes about the issues related to nuclear power...

Syndicated 2014-08-22 01:54:26 from etbe - Russell Coker

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