Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

NatWest add SMS for fraudulent transactions

Just read this from NatWest:

From December, if we spot an attempted debit card transaction on your account that looks unusual, we’ll send you a text message asking you to confirm that the payment is being made by you. Once you text us back to let us know it’s genuine, we’ll ensure your card is available to use again.

This is actually reasonably sensible. I’m not keen on the “text us back” bit,1 but having quicker possible fraud notifications (or, even better, just a routine SMS for each transaction) seems like a win—something Bruce Schneier was pointing out back in 2006.

  1. I’ve been in areas with no mobile service too much to trust a system where I have to send SMSes to verify things, especially if the SMS response cycle has a timeout.

If you have comments on your site, and you have a “flag” option, I shouldn’t have to login to flag something as spam. I’m helping you to clear up the mess on your site—I shouldn’t have to login with my Facebook account or (worse) set up an account to do that.

Guess who is coming along to an interfaith conference on the “complementarity of man and woman in marriage” organised by the Pope? Tony Perkins from the virulently anti-gay Family Research Council.

So much for the bullshit myth that Pope Francis really, really loves gay people. “Who am I to judge?” he said. Well, he doesn’t need to judge. He can outsource that to Perkins, who has said that the It Gets Better project—an anti-bullying project!—is a “concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle”, advocates ineffective gay-to-straight conversion therapy, compares loving same-sex relationships to drug addiction, blames paedophilia exclusively on gay people, and argues that man-on-horse marriage is the logical outcome of same-sex marriage. (No, really.)

The fact that Pope Francis will be making Tony Perkins welcome at his event will in no way prevent idiots from believing that the Pope is some kind of agent of drastic change for the Catholic Church.

Got an email: “You are one of our top customers at GBK Richmond.” Which is rather odd as I’ve never been to GBK in Richmond…

Twitter: old and new

What it used to say on Twitter’s homepage:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Twitter’s new ‘strategy statement’:

Reach the largest daily audience in the world by connecting everyone to their world via our information sharing and distribution platform products and be one of the top revenue generating Internet companies in the world.

Forget that both are longer than 140 characters. You can tell the difference in tone. One is written by a creative person building something obviously excellent. The other is written by some kind of management moron.

Twitter’s descent into corporate fuckwittery is why it is so important that people find ways to get out of corporate silos. My primary objection to services like Twitter and Facebook isn’t that they are co-operating with government surveillance: I just have a very strong aesthetic distaste for big corporate crapness.

Because I’m a masochist, I watched a few episodes on YouTube of the now cancelled ‘Dapper Laughs: On The Pull’. Dapper is basically the Uni Lad website turned into a person, given a mockney accent and a whole stack of terrible “your mum” jokes, and his TV show consists of him meeting up with some bloke and teaching him how to score some girls. Having a certain fascination with terrible TV, I had to watch.

In episode two, there’s a particularly lovely interlude where Mr. Laughs describes exactly what it’s like getting “beer goggles” and “going on the pull when you’ve had too many”. He ends up being attracted to a long-haired brunette and commenting “look at the arse on that!” only to reach the bar and discover that she is in fact a man, then recoiling in horror. Someone at ITV2 decided that some toxic combo of gay panic and transphobia ought to be aired. Still, we can get married now, so it’s not all bad for us poofs, right?

Other highlights from episode two include Callum from Leeds explaining how one of his favourite pick-up techniques is to set a photograph of his penis as the background image on his phone, then walk up to girls and show it to them. He then proceeds to explain the method by which he has intercourse with the bird that he has pulled—which obviously lacks adequate foreplay. Proper classy.

In episode three, Dapper takes whatever-his-face—at this point, they’ve basically become so bland and “blokey” as to basically be interchangeable—off to meet some female ballroom dance teachers. After teaching identikit man how to do the tango, Dapper asks the dance teachers what advice they would have for guys going to meet girls, and they basically say be confident, and don’t use cheesy pick-up lines. Which is pretty much the only advice you should actually take from this show.

Also, in episode three, I learned that two women who managed to resist the seductive temptations of the Dapster must, of course, be lesbians. In Dapper’s mind, playing for Team Gay is the only feasible reason a lady would have for not wanting to have it off with a man who makes “your mum” jokes professionally.

What I watched can best be summed up as “just fucking ghastly”. I’m an atheist, but if there were a God, watching ‘Dapper Laughs: On The Pull’ would be all the reason I’d need to thank her profusely for making me gay and thus having the privilege of only being an observer of the strange and disturbing pick-up rituals documented on shows like ‘On The Pull’. I’m almost sad that the show has been cancelled: I think that there ought to be a channel where the worst parts of humanity are broadcast, both as a warning to ourselves, and as an invitation for an alien civilisation to come and do humanity a favour and wipe us all from existence like an interstellar Dr. Kevorkian. Based on ‘On The Pull’, ITV2 seems like an ideal host for such an exercise.

Saw Interstellar yesterday. Visually spectacular, emotionally satisfying, well worth seeing. I found the science side okay (if you accept the scientifically improbable) but found the depiction of some of the characters slightly unbelievable. The Murph character felt like she could have been more fleshed out: I found it a little difficult to understand her as a character. She sort of just goes from a 10-year-old girl to a genius scientist and we don’t really see much about her character beyond that. (highlight to reveal small spoiler)

Clojure isn’t awful. Given that I hate pretty much all software, this is a compliment.

New York Times headline: “Victory Assured, G.O.P. to Act Fast in Promoting Agenda in Congress

If it’s anything like the legislative agenda the GOP have pursued in the House in the last couple of years, prepare for a nice starter of abortion restrictions, followed by some “we’re still butthurt about Obamacare” bills, and rounded off with a desert of “waah, gay marriage is still happening, can we make the modern world stop now?” bills. I’m sure all three of these will help with jobs and growth and the economy and stuff.

Professor Michael Jordan on the Singularity

This whole interview is worth reading, but I highly recommend Jordan’s response to the matter of the Singularity…

My understanding is that it’s not an academic discipline. Rather, it’s partly philosophy about how society changes, how individuals change, and it’s partly literature, like science fiction, thinking through the consequences of a technology change. But they don’t produce algorithmic ideas as far as I can tell, because I don’t ever see them, that inform us about how to make technological progress.

That burn was overly polite, but damning precisely because it is so polite. There’s just nothing there. I’m sure that won’t stop people paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend Singularity University.

Problem: you don’t own your domain name, ICANN does and you are just renting it.

Proposed solution: use Namecoin.

Now you have two problems: firstly, all you’ve done is substituted ICANN with a blockchain, and secondly, you only possess the Namecoin domain in the same way as those idiots who buy and sell property on the moon do. If you can’t actually use it for anything, your ownership or otherwise is basically meaningless.

I go to a website. I hover over some text and it turns blue. My mouse cursor turns into a finger-point click symbol. A URL appears in the status bar. I click and nothing at all happens. I right click and choose “open in new tab” and it works. Thank you JavaScript developers of the world for making this superb triumph of awesome user experience possible. Without your superb work, the web might not be nearly as useable, and that would be tragic.

It took me at least 15 minutes of reading the manual and turning dials and pushing buttons before I was reasonably satisfied my washing machine was going to do what it said it was going to. This seems needlessly complicated given that basically there’s a fairly limited list of variables I care about: spin speed, temperature, duration and whether the dryer runs afterwards. Rather than making mobile phone apps, perhaps the UX community could work on making it so I can operate a washing machine without ending up feeling like a complete dumbfuck.

The UK Government now recognise vCard and iCalendar as open standards, along with other great standards like HTML, HTTP, URIs and Unicode/UTF-8. The Open Standards Board are doing everything right thus far.