If All Birds Could Fly

twitter-logoTwitter has been both an amazing service and an incredibly frustrating company nearly it’s entire existence. From the beginning when the founders made a service that they knew they liked but somehow didn’t understand, to the point where the company had more Fail Whales than hours of uptime, to when they decided that those who actually knew the service best should be strangled out of building on it, to today when they have no permanent CEO, a founder wants to come back, even though it’s not apparent what he’s going to do differently than his first go around, their stock is sinking, their goodwill is nearly burned through and the passion for the service has died off. How did we get here?

Hindsight being 20/20, we can easily answer that, and in doing so, we might find a solution to what can fix things.

I’ve been a twitter user since early 2007. I found I liked its concise communication, and more importantly, I liked the people I found on the system. Twitter wasn’t particularly about who you knew, it was about what shared interests you had and who else had them. It was the social network not for your real life, but to improve your real life. That was, and is, revolutionary.

More importantly, Twitter fulfilled a niche in our culture that accentuates what Facebook, Friendster, MySpace et all couldn’t do, because Twitter was ‘now’. Every other social media is the past. Things we’ve done. Things we’ve seen. Things we used to care about. Twitter, while still maintaining an archive that allows you to venture into the past, wasn’t and isn’t focused on the past. It’s focused on the now. That, too, is revolutionary.

It seems that two revolutions might be causing confusion, because somehow the people that founded it didn’t get this. There used to be a saying: “Facebook is the people I know and already hate. Twitter is the people I wish I knew in real life.” The really amazing part of Twitter in the early days is that if you followed people who you liked that happened to be on Twitter, they could follow you back, and you could create a relationship with them. That relationship could lead to many interesting things, up to and including actually meeting these amazing people in real life.

This didn’t just happen to me, it was common. I say “was” because something stupid happened inside Twitter that was the first of many clues that the corporation doesn’t understand the product they produce: they made it so that when someone replied to a person you weren’t following, you didn’t see the replies. Why? Twitter claimed it was to keep your timeline clean.

Do you know why I’m following the people I follow? I follow them because they have insights into the world around us that I lack, and those insights are freely given and awesomely on display in their tweets. Free! Open to the public (mostly)! And Twitter thought they were clutter! No, people, they are not clutter. In fact, they were and remain the easiest way to find smart people who are passionate about the same things that you’re passionate about, and I can’t see them in my stream without going to look for them.

What’s worse, Twitter included a mechanism to override the hiding of the reply, and everyone has seen this. The dot-lead tweet is a miasma of idiocy for one very real, tragic, reason: the people who use it shouldn’t, and even they don’t use it when they should. I follow a couple of people who constantly use the dot-lead to show their blistering wit or to enlist help in a flame war. I’ve been stupid enough to jump in and play along a few times, until it got through my head that it’s a waste of time and no one really cares. Those are the wrong moments to engage your entire following, yet it’s the only time people think to do so (again, I’m guilty of this).

When people are calm, lucid, and tweeting through a discussion with another person on Twitter, you see magic. Reasoned thinking and collaborative, concise, back-and-forth leads to amazing things, and that always, always, happens without the dot-lead because the participants have two things happening – they are conversing about something that they are both engaged in, and it’s not about anyone else. They never think to open the discussion to the wider world because they aren’t there to give a speech or hold a public debate, they are simply chatting.

Yet Twitter allows the rest of us to see it. This is magic. I can see a fantastic conversation happening between two of the leads at Pixar as they discuss a working environment that produces some of my most beloved stories. A work environment that I have little chance of seeing, much less of occupying in a professional capacity, but that I get to understand from some of the people who not only work in it, but who helped to make it a reality in the first place. In public. For free. It’s a thrilling reality, on display many times a day.

While over on Facebook, I get a funny cat picture. That’s nice.

Somehow Twitter is failing. Its stock is down below its IPO. It’s leaderless, and it’s managed to alienate the people who gave the service the power it had to change the world. When you send a tweet, you’re using the terminology that was developed by the team at The Iconfactory, not at Twitter. The Iconfactory came up with Ollie, a little bluebird of happiness, long before twitter even called their messages tweets. Even putting the @ before a username wasn’t a convention that Twitter came up with, but they adopted that one almost immediately. It was a tweet directed @ev that caused that, and it was integrated immediately. Hashtags are very much Twitter-centric, and again, weren’t something that Twitter invented. Twitter acquired a third-party search tool, integrated them, and hashtags were then a part of the system. And now, the world.

All the innovation for how people used Twitter came from people using Twitter and developers building things for people to use Twitter. All of it.

Naturally, a company that didn’t understand its own product and didn’t like that others appeared to not only get it, but got it well enough to invent things and make money on top of it, decided to do the only thing that would make things worse for everyone: cut off third-party developers from the API and bring everything in house. In-house development had made Twitter, but not most of the reasons people loved using Twitter. They brought in a CEO that didn’t use the product and didn’t understand its magic, and didn’t believe in anything but business school, money, investors, and the valley. Last time I checked, business school teaches you about things that have happened. Twitter is truly something new, so business school might not yet have a semester on its particular magic.

Regardless, Twitter has to figure out what it wants to be, and I have a suggestion: be Twitter. And be everywhere. If it’s everywhere, everyone will want to use it, because it becomes the one thing it’s really amazing at: What’s Happening NOW.

I want Twitter everywhere. I want to be able to have it in my car, read to me by Siri via Twitterrific, telling me that the polls show that Trump’s dumped, that the middle east is enjoying a turmoil-free day and that JC Penney is having a sale on fat pants and I could swing in and get some. Yes, I want the service to succeed and that means I have to deal with it making money somehow, and that probably means ads. Fine, just make them not suck.

A quick digression re: Advertising not sucking.

There’s a premise out there that people hate ads. That’s a lie. People love some ads. People hate plenty of them, but here’s the secret: people generally hate an ad for its delivery, not its product. Remember pop-up ads? Think hard, and I bet you realize that now you love Netflix, but if you ever see another pop-up or pop-under ad for them you’ll think of canceling the service. If you’re annoying me and shouting in my face, I’m probably not going to enjoy it, and that disgruntlement transfers to your product as a lost sale. If you’re nice, clever, cute and endearing, or even just clean and simple, I’m far more likely to engage with your ad and become a customer. The best example of this is The Deck ads. I’ve been a fan since I first came across them on Daringfireball in 2004. When Twitterrific launched, they had a free version that included showing ads via The Deck in the stream. I immediately bought a license and then didn’t activate that license because I enjoyed the ads from The Deck enough, and they weren’t intrusive and they were for products and services that, over the years, I’ve come to appreciate.

Yes, I appreciate not only the design and style of the ads, but the delivery was clever and clean and not only didn’t bother me, it added to my day and my work in subtle ways. And I spend a lot of money on products from The Deck.

When Twitterrific on iOS was released, same deal. I used it without restoring my purchase for months, right up until I needed to use a second account, and then that option went away. But I chose to see the ads, actively, for as long as I could.

Why? Because the products are relevant to me, and were presented in a way that didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of Twitter.

Again, the Iconfactory has already figured out what Twitter needs to do, and given them a map.

Everything about my usage of Twitter is available to Twitter. They can mine my access, my words, my times of day, everything. They have it all. And they can use that to create targeting for advertisers to tap into to deliver to me clean, crisp, concise, advertisements that show up in my stream and are easily digested and incorporated into my day. No disruption. No muss. No fuss.

And Twitter should be everywhere. The API should be re-opened so that third-party clients can do all the amazing new features (Quoted Tweets are the best!) directly, and Twitter should just design a simple way to create clean ads. Yes, they need links. Yes, they need images. Yes, they need to be awesome, but you can do that with a good team that says no to hideous and horrible and awful with a passion matched only by the users who will enjoy getting to see art in advertising again. Find a modern day Don Draper and make it happen.

Twitter should be everywhere. Everywhere. That should be the goal. On my phone. On my computer. On my watch. In my car. At my bar. Let me see everything that’s going on in the world in the cleanest, crispest way, using a tool that best matches my life. Some people want Tweetbot. Some want Twitterrific. Some want Tweetie back so bad they cry when they think of it. Let’s have them. Let’s access Twitter from whatever we choose, however we choose, because here’s the thing; Twitter has a choice to make: It can be a website that becomes part of history, or it can be integrated into our lives completely.

I look forward to the day that Twitter is back, integrated in my life in an awesome way.

But it warrants further exploration.

Yes, it does. After laying out the basic tenet that the movement toward equality has been hijacked by the current batch of SJW’s, Aristotelis Orginos believes he has found the problem, and the problem is …feminism? Or perhaps just those who call themselves feminist? His article isn’t quite clear, but it starts out unpromising and then falls into logical fallacies that leave one aghast that he’s a self-proclaimed “future teacher”.

First up, the confusion between ‘hate’ and ‘anger’. His supposition is that “…in attempting to solve pressing and important social issues, millennial social justice advocates are violently sabotaging genuine opportunities for progress by infecting a liberal political narrative with, ironically, hate.” No, they are angry. I don’t know of anyone who is truly fighting for justice and equality that is lining up a list of all the idiots they hate.

I’ll quote him extensively for a moment:

“Many will understand this term I used — millennial social justice advocates — as a synonym to the pejorative “social justice warriors.” It’s a term driven to weakness through overuse, but it illustrates a key issue here: that, sword drawn and bloodthirsty, millennial social justice advocates have taken to verbal, emotional — and sometimes physical — violence.

In a dazzlingly archetypical display of horseshoe theory, this particular brand of millennial social justice advocates have warped an admirable cause for social, economic, and political equality into a socially authoritarian movement that has divided and dehumanized individuals on the basis of an insular ideology guised as academic theory. The modern social justice movement launched on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Jezebel, Slate, Huffington Post, et al. is far more reminiscent of a Red Scare (pick one) than the Civil Rights Movement.”

Really? Has he read anything of Malcolm X? What about the riots of the miners and other unions who fought for the 8-hour workday and child labor laws and everything else we currently enjoy? Does he realize that those were actual battles, not just verbal engagements fueled by tacky, fruity, fake martinis? People fought and people died for those social justices to come about. They were angry at being abused and they picked up weapons and fought. That’s not hate, that’s exhaustion and self-preservation. And it’s nothing new. And the words that are currently being used to battle are far more civil than the knives and guns used in the past. Which would you really want us to use?

That asked, I don’t see the current crop of names most associated as “SJW’s” picking up swords or guns or anything other than cameras or code to fight currently. They are being pretty civil, and haven’t chosen to join the darkside just yet. I get that you, a straight-white-cisgendered-male don’t like being a target, but I’m pretty sure that no one does. I’m a gay-white-cisgendered-male, and I’ve been a target for anti-LGBTQ bigots my entire life, and I despise that. It makes me angry. However, I don’t hate the people who target me, nor will I let them get away with their vile attacks simply because they don’t like being challenged on their bigotry. You don’t like being attacked, stop attacking people.

Oh, but he can’t help himself. He then attempts to draw a parallel between the book 1984 and the current landscape of the equality movement’s millennial contingent. And he misses, but only because he’s completely wrong.

In 1984, as in any authoritarian system, the authority has the power, as one might expect, and can and does shut down dissent by exerting that power. Pretty simple concept.

When a dissident moving is trying to change the situation, and authority rises up against it, some go sideways, yes, and some go violent, yes, but it’s very rare that the dissident movement completely replaces the current hegemony. As we’ve yet to elect a woman as president, over 90% of leading companies are run by cis-straight-white-men and current statistics[1] estimate that 1-in-6 women in the United States will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, you cannot reasonably say to anyone that the feminist movement has won. It’s not even close. To say, therefore, that the movement has gone overboard and is now using its power, which is relatively small, to endanger and demean all of society is ridiculous. Well, it would be if so many cis-straight-white-dudes didn’t believe it.

And now we dive into ‘Rape Culture: Does It Even?’ which is a nice way to dismiss statistics and research as lies because they make you uncomfortable. Yes, rape culture exists. Done. End of story.

No you don’t get to claim it’s not real because you don’t see it. You don’t see my sex life, either, but it’s real. That sort of idiotic thinking is what got us here in the first place. The concept that “He’s a nice boy!” and “What did she expect dressing like that?” aren’t just imagined, their in police reports. While I don’t agree with the basic premise that all rape reports must be treated as if they are true, I know for a fact that questioning a person who reports a sexual assault is still, in 2015, riddled with questions like “Are you sure you didn’t mean to have sex?” and “Why did you put yourself in that situation?”

None of those question is uncommon, and all are accusatory to the person reporting the crime. When you report your car is stolen you won’t ever hear “Why did you buy that model?” or “Why did you get that sexy red paintjob?” because they are immaterial to the case.[3] Same goes for the aforementioned questions to the person reporting a sexual assault. Asking questions the put the blame for the sexual assault on the person reporting it is the core of rape culture, and it’s a part of the current patriarchy. It’s very real, and it’s not right.

Some people get mad at that. Hell, I get mad at that. The fact that I have two sisters and a niece and countless female friends, and knowing that some of them have dealt with sexual assault makes me angry on a molecular level. How can you not think that’s a fucking problem that needs to be tackled, head on? And sometimes to fix a problem you have to really fight. It’s not pretty, but it’s necessary.

Now, I don’t agree with the statement that all accused rapists should be treated as guilty, but I do agree that all who accuse should be treated as if they are telling the truth. Ask what happened, don’t put the accuser into the role of a liar, and then do your investigation. That’s fair and right, and sadly, that isn’t what happens today. If it were what happened today, there wouldn’t be nearly a half million untested rape evidence kits rotting on shelves.

Back to Orginos tome. That he pulls the Blackstone Axiom out is not novel, yet it doesn’t really apply. With the research stating that nearly 60% of rapes are not even reported, and only 3% go to jail. That axiom is out of balance in the cases of sexual assault, so some corrective must be applied to the course.

Now, here’s where I agree with Orginos, “Due process, or the idea that a governing body must respect all legal rights of an individual, is granted to Americans by the 5th and 14th Amendments. To suggest that there is no recourse for the accused — and to ask for it is actually rape apology — is absurd…” and he’s right, it is absurd.

However, it’s no more absurd than the continued thinking that prompts questions like “What were you wearing?” and “Why didn’t you just leave?” which are both victim-blaming and dangerous to justice as a whole.

The idea that men are incapable of seeing a woman dressed a certain way and not immediately raping her is asinine, and yet it’s pervasive in our culture. From High Schools attempts to ban leggings all the way up to legislative representatives trying to tell women how they should dress, the sad fact is, it’s men pushing for these policies and inherently admitting they are incapable of acting in a civil manner because: TITS-AND-ASS. That’s not just disgusting, it’s shameful.

Orginos continues:

“…and to ask for it is actually rape apology — is absurd, reactionary, and further highlights the black-and-white nature of this certain brand of millennial social justice advocates. Why, after all, would someone ask for due process when a woman is accusing a man of rape? The millennial social justice advocate views this as an insidious question that results from sexism against women and is corroborated, they feel, by a statistically insignificant rate of false rape accusations.”

Some vocal people do view it this way, because our system has pushed them to this view. Just like the miners who, when pushed too far, fought back with weapons we, today, hope to never see in use, these people are using weapons that Orginos finds distasteful and wrong, and, honestly, neither him nor I know if they’ll be effective or not. We’re in the middle of the fight, so it’s not like the outcome is guaranteed either way.

That’s not to say that the weapons aren’t valid – they absolutely are. All’s fair in love and war, and the current fight for social justice for women against rape culture is a perverted mix of both. The sad fact is, 1 in 3 men would commit rape if it weren’t called rape. (But what’s in a name, right?).

Then Orginos opines the greatest love-letter to mankind, ever:

“To the social justice advocate of our time, conclusions are not contingent on facts; rather, facts are contingent on conclusions. In a global example of confirmation bias, the truth is malleable. The malleable truth is molded around the theoretical viewpoints of social justice. In order to uphold the sanctity of this viewpoint, adherents ostracize dissension. It’s nothing new — it’s a tactic as old as religion itself. Instead of holy texts, though, the millennial social justice advocate bows at the altar of the currently-in-vogue ideological Trinity: Marxism, Feminism, and Post-Colonialism.”

The only quibble I have with this is that his entire thesis is predicated on his firmly held belief that rape culture doesn’t exists, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. When you start out from a viewpoint and then go collect facts and write evidence to support that viewpoint, he’s saying you’re doing it wrong. It’s also exactly what he’s doing.[2]

But just because Orginos hasn’t stirred up enough shit, he decides to take on the racism, a social ill that, honestly, this country was founded upon. Only, instead of fighting against racism, which is what anyone with a brain will do, he decides to use the condensed format of twitter to try to prove that SJW’s just don’t get it.

The quote he pulls is “You cannot be racist to white people just like you can’t fire your boss because you don’t have that power” and he manages to miss the part about power. In fact, he missed it so much he puts forth the idea that “[t]he mantra of the movement is thus: It is impossible to be racist against white people because racism is the equivalent of prejudice and power. Since white people have social and economic institutional power and privilege (in America), those who are racially oppressed cannot be racist toward whites since those who are racially oppressed do not have power.”

That’s not how I view racism. That’s not how anyone I know views racism. That’s how people who want to claim they are being attacked for being a part of patriarchy deflect criticism. You most certainly can be racist towards whites, but if you’re a minority and you try to exert that racism in any way, what does it do? Depending on how high up on the social ladder you are you might be able to get away with some sort of racism towards white people in this country, but given the power that whites have in this country, it’s not going to be much or for long. And those fighting for social justice intrinsically understand that fact. The condensed format of Twitter doesn’t allow for a long explanation, but the tweet wasn’t wrong – if you don’t have the power, your racism doesn’t mean anything.

That he then tries to prove that sexism towards men is a problem is laughable. Men have power over women, physically by nature, and socially by the constructs that we’ve forced on society through the application of our nature. That’s not a bad thing in an of itself, so long as we don’t abuse the power. It’s really too bad that we have.

“Instead of the discussion being focused on how advocating to “kill all white people” as a political statement or how the hashtag #KillAllMen are prejudicial and hateful sentiments, the millennial social justice advocate excuses and legitimizes these phrases and behaviors by suggesting that they are not racist or sexist but are legitimate expressions against their oppressors. The discussion of how legitimately hateful and anti-liberal these statements are does not ever surface because, as the script goes, this is “derailing” discussions of legitimate problems of oppressed people to focus on the non-problems of oppressors.”

I don’t know anyone who is advocating to “kill all white people” but any idiot can see that it’s racist statement. It’s also called genocide, but whatever you call it, it’s evil and wrong. And the hashtag #killallmen is just the same level of stupid, and yes, it’s sexist.

What he never proves is that this the chosen tool of those fighting for social justice. The lack of proof is easy to understand, tho, as it’s almost impossible to come by. Of the prominent people who proudly fight for social justice, not one is this way, and all of them have advocated for calm to return to the discussion. So I ask you, Aristotelis, who are the people who have said this, and what power do they actually wield?

In searching Twitter for the hashtag #KillAllMen I can find a lot of people complaining about SJW’s saying it, but not any SJW saying it. I can see a lot of writing from sites like Breitbart, but that’s about the same level of thinking as buying stuff from Acme. And as soon as the  #gamergate hashtag is invoked, I can and do find a hate mob. And don’t forget the doxxing, swatting and threats to rape and kill female SJWs.

But even though that’s publicly searchable information, that can’t be right. It’s an outlier. Nope, it’s just a statistic, and as we know, it’s all about lies, damned lies, and statistics. If you’re going to claim that all research and statistics about the pay gap and rape culture are flawed because you can manipulate data in such a way as to exclude them, you’re fighting against research and the scientific method. And you’re doing so to fit the narrative that you want to be true, which…

“But here’s the thing — who I am does not (or should not) have any bearing on facts.”

It shouldn’t but it often does, on both sides of any debate. You don’t like being lumped in with rapists, but then you tacitly defend them. You don’t like being a bigot, but then complain when someone like you is called a bigot, so much so that you’re now upset at the whole movement. You have, right in your writing, done exactly what you claim that SJW’s are doing – you’ve discounted the arguments of a group of people because you are feeling attacked (oppressed) by them.

Why are you feeling attacked? Why are you, a white male with a comely beard, feeling like you’ve done something wrong? Have you? Is guilt, that you refuse to acknowledge, eating you? While you write in antiseptic language, and try to keep it as devoid of your personal angst and defensiveness, it’s still coming through loud and clear.

You even go so far as to define ‘ad hominem‘, lacking the self-awareness that, right off the bat in the title of your essay, you’ve leveled an ad hominem attack. “Bullies”? You don’t like being told not to rape and that you have to treat women equally, and you’re calling those that do so ‘bullies’? Ad hominem, indeed.

As for your conclusion, let’s be quick about this in the hopes that, like removing a bandaid, it’s less painful:

  • Identity Politics is only a problem for you if you lack an identity. That’s on you. And your supposition that identity politics is somehow new is ludicrous. Identity politics is the base of human history, as we define ourselves and define ‘the other’ which we are not. That the definitions are less about tribes and classes and more about attributes is an interesting wrinkle for our time, but even that isn’t particularly new.
  • Safe Spaces are separate because the powers-that-be only left us those spaces. You aren’t welcome because, in many cases, it’s all we have. Get over it. Believe me, we’d like nothing more than to not have to retreat to them – and easily seen proof is the reduction in gay bars in cities. We used to need them as a safe space because we were separate but not equal, and now, as we’re becoming more and more part of the mainstream, the bars are fading away. Amazing how that works.
  • You don’t like that we’re fighting using the tools available to us in Academia. Tough shit. You shouldn’t have been dickbags to begin with, so we wouldn’t need to fight back. You don’t like the tactics, so sad for you, but the only way to end the battle is for us to win it, because we won’t go back to being in the closet, being slaves, or being servants with no rights. Is that hostile to say? I don’t think so, but you might be feeling my anger at the system that attacked me, and that you are admitting to being a part of, and you might mistranslate that to hate. It’s not. I don’t hate you. I will fight against you, tho.

“The world is more than one viewpoint. The ostricization of those who hold alternate viewpoints is not any way conducive to social progress. The opposite of hatred is not hatred in the opposite direction. There is no excuse — none — for being a bad person toward another on the basis of their identity.”

I whole-heartedly agree. Why you are doing exactly that?

You’re theorizing that the way we are fighting is wrong. Really? Have you tried fighting for what we believe to be right? You claim to be a liberal, but everything you’ve written is libertarian, not progressive. You don’t want to be dragged into the fight, you just want everyone to be equal and get along. That’s not liberal. That’s libertarian, and it’s a nice ideal. I’d love to see it happen at some point. We have yet to achieve the equality that you are saying we should have – and we won’t achieve it without a fight. I’m sorry that you are going to have to suffer through the fight; I’d rather we didn’t have to fight, but we’ve exhausted all other options.

The fact that you can’t see the inequality that surrounds you, and try to defend your blindness by saying “I expect these responses — partially because I am so used to having seen this script play out over the last four years at NYU.” only proves how misguided and out of touch you really are.

You need to zip up; your privilege is showing.


Every so often in human history you have massive changes that affect all of us. These are things like World War II, which was truly a world war, (as opposed to WWI which was just the world of whites, never mind that it was still massive). It’s easy to point to these events and understand that they changed us.

Smaller events, like the founding of the United States, the rise and fall of the British Empire, the rise and fall of Rome, the cycle of dynasties in China, the rise and fall of imperial Japan, etc., are easy to see in by looking back, but were certainly much harder to identify as changes that would affect the world as a whole – at least while they were happening.

And there are smaller events that have dramatic impact on the world around us. How they work has always interested me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the way that history plays out, with its push-and-pull dynamic, is not only interesting, it’s almost poetry. And I think I see one happening around me.

I’m the first to recognize my own privilege, being a white male has some amazing power that is just handed to me, and that I can easily abuse without even realizing it. Given that I’m gay, I run into times where this power mysteriously evaporates and I’m faced with having to fight for things I feel entitled to. Specifically, equal treatment under the law.

The fact that a white man is bitching about not being treated equally is irony of the highest order, and I know that. I’m not just fighting for me, tho, and in reality, I have it pretty good, but I continue to fight because until we have equality, too many of my friends get fucked sideways for nothing more than not being exactly like The Old White Straight Men who are, for some reason, the base zero for “what did that human look like?”.

Regardless, I think we’re at an interesting inflection point, where an action catches the eye of the public in such a way that the public reacts sharply – far sharper than they have in the past to similar actions. It’s the straw the broke the camel’s back, for sure, but it’s still broken, and it’s interesting.

When Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in Indiana last week, he knew exactly what he was signing and what it would do. He had advice from 20 top legal scholars in his state warn him of the issues with the bill, and he didn’t care because Mike Pence is a bigot. There’s nothing more to it. He’s just a bigot, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid; he’s not.

And by signing that bill into law, he created a firestorm that caught, honestly, most of us by surprise. While I like to think that we’re all outraged by idiocy that puts imaginary friends before flesh-and-blood people, we all know that happens all the time. And it’s not new, not by a long shot.

But this time? This time, it was different. This time, everyone saw, and everyone spoke out. So much so that, while it was a nice surprise that Apple, lead by the recently self-outed Tim Cook, spoke up, and it was even nicer that Salesforce.com and Angie’s List both decided to move operations out of Indiana to avoid the insanity that this law creates, there is not one person on this planet that would have bet money on Wal*Mart stepping into the fray on the side of equality. Not one.

That’s how this point in time is different. Pence got smacked down hard across the board, and when Arkansas and Wal*Mart are calling you a bigot, you have some real issues to deal with, and fast.

As of right now, Indiana is working on a compromise bill that may or may not be enough of a change for the equality-minded to live with, while Arkansas is drafting a new bill, other states such as my own, Montana, have dropped the bills entirely, and the bigots of the far right are crying foul and raging against reality. Sorry NOM, AFA, AFD, AFTAH and all you other bigots, you can suck it.

With SCOTUS hearing oral arguments on marriage equality on April 28th, with a ruling expected sometime during June (Pride month, for those who don’t know), this year has moved us unexpectedly closer to the end goal of full equality. The fight is by no means over, but we are much closer than we were even at the beginning of the year.

This inflection point could be the one that moves us to the last chapters in this fight. I’m hopeful. Self-reinforcing success would be incredible to have, the momentum would change the world.

I’m scared that it could, like any inflection point, trigger a disaster, too. Too many angry people can make a war from nothing. But I’m hopeful.

This once.

A Line in the Sand

Vesper, by Q Branch
Vesper. Collect your thoughts.

I’ve been a fan of John Gruber’s Daring Fireball since it launched, and if you were to rummage through my t-shirt collection, you’d find a rather odd stack of DF t-shirts that basically chronicle the life of the site. When he and the team at Q Branch decided to launch Vesper, a note taking app, it was a foregone conclusion that I would purchase it. It’s a great app, and I use it often, and love the care and detail that these fanatics have put into this simple, delightful tool.

I was disappointed that it was $2.99.

Why would a trio of fanatics make an awesome tool that works exactly as it says it does, looks beautiful, launches quickly and never crashes price their app as if it were a throw-away? What the actual fuck?

Thank the gods we’re moving past this madness. The pricing on the app store has devalued the work of engineers and programmers and designers and it’s about time that it  absolutely comes to a halt. Panic has been pricing their apps higher for a while, and needs to continue, but when I brought that up to people, they pointed out that the functionality of their apps makes it more likely that they would be bought by people who do programming or design, and they know the gig. While Vesper is for everyone, while Transmit is not.

The OmniGroup also prices their apps at a sustainable level, and seem to be doing ok, but again, their apps are a bit more focused, and while the argument that Omni apps are also for a niche-ish market can be made, I own several and have used them for years. OmniOutliner was my go-to for notes before Vesper, even tho it really wasn’t designed for that.

The latest update of Vesper includes a line in the sand against the desperation pricing that is destroying great app development on mobile devices. Vesper will now cost a very reasonable $9.99, and I’m hoping there’s a way I can re-buy the app.

I spend $5 on a coffee, and $12 on a martini, which are even more ephemeral than the 1s and 0s of an app, and last quite a bit less. I spend at least $10 on a meal, and sometimes a shameful amount above that, and it’s not like I’m starving myself to redirect some of that money towards paying for good things. I am not alone in this, and if you don’t think the stuff that you shove into your $800 hand-held computer should work well and afford a life for those who make them, you are an asshole.

It’s 2015, people. Pay for the art you like. Pay for the work put in to make the great tools that improve your life. Pay for music. Pay for entertainment. And pay well, because your life is short, money isn’t the goal, and if you continue to focus on keeping it, you’ll find that old Montanan saying is true; Money is just like manure. If you don’t spread it around it’s just a pile of shit.

And so it begins


We’re just getting started, but it’s now time to get you involved. If you live just east of Helena, from East Helena, Winston, the Silos, all the way to Townsend, and you’re looking for true broadband, we need to chat!

Fiber-to-the-Home and gigabit speeds in Montana are not the stuff of dreams any more. We at TSI are actively working towards that ideal, but it will take all of us working together to make gigabit internet a reality in Montana.

East Helena is the first stop. It’s the test bed for our new ideas. We are deep into the planning phase of the East Helena network, but we need you for the next step.

In order to secure the required financing, we need to show that there are enough customers who are willing to pay for higher internet speeds.

The goal: 1,000 signatures.

Sign up here, now!

Benefits Corp – A Status for Our Future

Benefits-corp status: necessary - Treasure State InternetToday I had the opportunity to give testimony in support of Benefit Corporations at the Montana Legislature’s House Committee on Business & Industry. HB 258 is the bill, and the amazing Representative Kathleen Williams is the primary sponsor for this legislation, which was attempted in the 2013 session but didn’t pass as time ran short in the session. Happens, as we only have the legislature in session for 90 days every two years, but it sucks that this didn’t get through last time. Repeating work drives me batty, but Rep. Williams was cool, collected and on target with her opening and closing statements. (Quick shout out to Rep. Zach Brown, who we reached out to first to help us, and who has been super supportive from the get-go.)

The formality of giving testimony on a bill is interesting, but the best part of today was the overwhelming support of the bill. From the state Chamber of Commerce to several businesses, including mine, there were plenty of people there to show their support.

There were no opponents.

At all.

That’s a big deal.

The one issue is that even the committee members were a tad confused about the exact details. After all, the bill is 10 pages of very dense legalese, and many of them were just getting to see this for the first time. Lots to take in.

If you haven’t read the bill, don’t worry, here’s the basic gist of it:

A standard C-corp has one goal, and one goal only, by law and judicial ruling: make the shareholder’s money. That’s it. Nothing else can come above that goal. Nothing. If the board or the executive team do something that negatively impacts shareholder value, they can be sued, and by law, they will lose and it will suck.

A Benefits-corp has a goal that comes before making money.

That’s it. Generally, the goal that the company chooses needs to be a social or environmental good, and the activity done in support of that goal must be documented and audited by a third party organization, but that’s really the only difference.

Tax-wise, we’re still a c-corp, we still pay taxes, we still have the obligation to be profitable enough to remain in business, and we can sell stock and have investors so we can continue our business. We just have a higher goal that making money hand-over-fist.

What does this mean in the real world? Well, good question, and I’m going to speak a bit early about something that I’m involved in, but it won’t hurt to go public with a bit of this now, since I essentially did it this morning anyway.

Treasure State Internet, provided the Benefits-Corp bill becomes law, will have a stated goal of “Providing fiber-optic internet service connections, or, should the technology evolve to be faster in some other media then that newer faster media, to every home and office in the State of Montana”. Ugh, what a mouthful, and frankly, there’s a good chance that will be rewritten a thousand times before we lock it down. I generally say “The fastest fucking internet to every fucking home and office in fucking Montana.”

Because we fucking want to.

See, if a C-corp tried to lay fiber to Roundup, MT (to pull a place out of my hat) they’d have to get grants from the feds to lay that connection. Why? Because if they used their profits to do so, the shareholders would have every right to sue the living daylights out of the board and the executives for it. The ROI would be so low, and so far out, as to be considered zero by the market and, therefore, by the court. This is why true broadband internet service is slow to get to rural America. There’s very little in grants, and the big companies don’t want to deal with the headache.

But when we, a B-corp, decide to take some profit from our current income and re-invest it in laying a pure fiber-optic connection to Roundup, Two Dot, and Radersburg, we not only have the option, we have the responsibility to do so.

During questioning by the committee it became apparent that a few members were confusing “donating to a charity” with being a Benefits-corp. They aren’t the same thing at all. The donations are a great way for the company to support local arts, community events, and directly help their local communities, but those are generally “marketing” in a very real sense. They aren’t core to what the business actually does. A Benefits-corp, again, has the responsibility to use it’s profits not to line the pockets of shareholders, but to improve the world around it, in a very real, tangible way, in the course of it’s every day business. There’s a massive difference in those things, and I’m not sure how the confusion arose, I just hope that clears it.

We need this bill to pass. Sorry, it’s 10 pages of updates, and I know the fine folks over in the Secretary of State’s office that compile and control the Montana Code Annotated and the ARM, and I despise having to create more work for them. It’s not like anyone really enjoys mucking up the MCA. It’s a massive, complex, tedious expanse of text that most thinking individuals actively avoid touching in any way at all. However, this is needed. It gives us more freedom to do good for the state.

In fact, it’s the single easiest way to make the Last Best Place an even better place to live.

Visa Will Not Suffer Fools

Gruber was right to focus on this quote:

“I don’t know that it will, and I don’t care. As long as Visa suffers.

There’s something that these Cabal-MXC companies need to figure out really quickly, because, just like Apple with every version of iTunes, Visa has Terms of Service that these merchants agree to, and that Visa can change at any time. If you think for a moment that Visa isn’t looking at this and fuming, you’ve never read those documents that Visa sends out to merchants and banks. Banks have teams of lawyers pouring over these TOS’s all day, every day, and there’s nothing they don’t know about them, but they still get dinged when they aren’t doing something exactly the way that Visa wants.

Visa wants people using more secure systems – like Apple Pay and the other NFC systems developed that use tokenization. Visa can easily make it a contract point that NFC systems be in place. Why they haven’t is beyond me, but they could.

Much more likely, tho, and something they’ve done in the past, is what I like to describe as “Don’t Even Fucking Try to Make Us The Bad Guy” clause.

Some of you may remember getting gas in the 80’s and seeing “Save 5¢ per gallon with cash” signs on the pumps. You know why those went away? Because Visa and the rest of the credit card cabal[1] saw that and freaked out and put in a clause that says, basically, that you can’t offer products and services at two different prices in an attempt to mitigate our fees. Up until that clause existed, many businesses were doing just that.

I fully expect to see a clause in there that says that anyone pulling this MXC crap, or even just using older non-NFC systems, will incur the highest transaction fees until they also accept secure payments via NFC. To keep it from being anti-competitive all they have to do is put in what I’ll call a “We Fucking Hate Fraud And You, You Pricks” clause that basically makes people accept NFC systems or get hit by the highest transaction fees possible even if the card is present because giving out the card number to merchants is insecure and costly for Visa – and they absolutely hate to lose money.