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

I would suggest a rule that public transport ought to have library-like silence but that wouldn’t be much of an improvement since most libraries have abolished the rule of silence in order to get idiots to spend more time in libraries.

The impact assessment for the R18 Content Access Controls regulations is quite interesting.

For instance, it contains this rather amazing admission from the government…

According to literature reviews commissioned by Ofcom (Cumberbatch report 2010 and Helsper report 2005) there is inconclusive evidence that R18 equivalent material causes harm to people under 18. This conclusion is arguably the result of the inability to test the harmful effects because of ethical considerations relating to intentionally exposing people under 18 to R18 material.

Got that? They don’t know whether or not R18 material (porn, basically) is harmful to under 18s.

Later on in the same impact assessment, they list as one of the benefits of changing the regulations:

Preventing the exposure of R18 material will support the positive development of people under 18.

Except that contradicts the “inconclusive” evidence that was cited in the impact assessment.

The statutory framework protecting people from harmful material is unclear because it relies on a demonstration that it ‘might seriously impair’ those under 18, thereby providing scope for interpretation.

Except we don’t actually know that it’s harmful or “might seriously impair” those under 18, because the studies have been inconclusive—as this very document points out.

We could perhaps instead do something radical like talk to young people and learn something about how they use and relate to porn—because, hell, most of the teenagers I knew did when I was a teenager back in the late 90s and porn came down the wire at dial-up speed. The problem there is if you do a study, there is always the possibility of finding negative results, just as it is always possible when you study the harms of, oh, say, recreational drug use, you might find that it is less harmful than the law makes it out to be. You obviously then have to shoot the messenger.

Lazy moralism is so much easier than science, which is why politicians will always prefer it.

I’ve got a radical idea: when I’m working, maybe all software could fuck off and stop nagging me to update itself from version to 1.5.3. Do it silently in the background, but I’m trying to fucking concentrate.

I read about “playful cities” and I wonder how “playfulness” makes cities actually better for humans. Is it reducing crime? It it helping people hate their jobs less? Is it helping reduce the number of people chucking themselves under trains to end it all? Is it making people less likely to be racist or homophobic our loudly proclaim their hatred for immigrants? Is it helping reduce social privation? Improving educational chances for the worst off in society? Is it actually making a meaningful change in how cities are.

Or is it just making pretty things so designers can say “look at the pretty things I made” and put photos of said pretty things in their portfolios with lots of pious discussions of urbanism? When I hear ‘playful’, my mind usually jumps to ‘insipid’. I’d love for someone to convince me that I’m wrong to be so cynical about this playfulness stuff.

Not a good news day for Uber. In Washington, DC, they are lobbying against a law to increase the number of wheelchair accessible cabs in the city.

This follows on from a story in September that the National Federation for the Blind are suing Uber for a series of incidents involving blind riders and breaches of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Who knew that when Silicon Valley acolytes preached “disruption” what they really meant was “being a dick to disabled and blind people”?

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…