Having an open mind doesn’t mean believing both sides equally or disbelieving them both equally.

Comment on this guest post at This is True: What’s Good for the Goose

Having an open mind doesn’t mean believing both sides equally or disbelieving them both equally. It means looking at evidence and actually *thinking* about what is being said, what is being done, and what else is happening.

If one “side” promotes unfounded accusations (i.e. conspiracy theories) and the other “side” calls them on it, those aren’t equivalent.

If one “side” marches when an election doesn’t go their way and the other “side” violently threatens or attacks the legislature to overturn an election that doesn’t go their way, those aren’t equivalent.

If one “side” complains about propaganda in an election they lost, and the other “side” insists without evidence (unless you count the claims that have been repeatedly laughed out of court) that the votes in an election they lost were somehow faked, those aren’t equivalent.

Sure, don’t trust reflexively – but don’t dismiss reflexively either. Automatically rejecting “both sides” isn’t critical thinking, it’s just another way of reassuring yourself that you’re right.

Flickr Commons and Facial Recognition

Comments on @angeldan’s Flickr post reacting to the NYTimes article on Flickr Commons photos being used to train facial recognition software and the initial reaction of how dare they use our photos for this?

FWIW, it was Yahoo that did this, and they no longer own Flickr.

Also, if they only used photos that were licensed for creative commons or commercial use…well, that’s what those licenses are for, right? Pre-emptively giving others permission to use the work under specific terms without them having to ask?

A. The thing is, you have to make an effort to choose a Creative Commons license for your photos. And the licenses are short, and go out of their way to explain what they do. It’s not the default, and it’s not 40 pages of legalese that you’re required to click through just to use the service. Now, if Yahoo used photos that *weren’t* licensed to allow reuse, then that’s another story.

More concerning, IMO, is whether the *subjects* of the photos would have agreed to this use. Not an issue with identifying trees, birds, cars, etc. – the original Flickr Commons collection wasn’t specific to people – but definitely an issue with the face recognition projects, and that’s where things like the Illinois biometrics law come in.

B. Yeah, the uses that the tech has been put to are in many cases creepy, unethical, and dangerous. That’s always a problem with tech. We often don’t anticipate the ways people will abuse it, and that’s something that we need to do more of. That’s a *huge* discussion in the tech world right now, and one that needs to be examined more closely, from as many angles as possible.

But is this *Flickr’s* breach of trust?
1. It was Flickr’s former parent company that made the original collection, using images that users had specifically assigned creative commons licenses.
2. It was a team at the University of Washington that narrowed it down to the images of faces, created the MegaFace dataset, and encouraged groups building facial recognition technology to use it for training and testing.
3. It’s still other companies that have been actually using the tech.

Demonizing Rent’s Benny vs. Lionizing Hamilton’s Alexander

Demonizing Rent’s Benny vs. Lionizing Hamilton’s Alexander via @geekdads

On Twitter

My comment on the article:

Great analysis! I recently picked up the Rent soundtrack again after letting it sit for a while and found that my perspective has changed over the years.

I was thinking about Benny vs. Aaron Burr the other day: Benny’s the designated villain because he’s on the other side of the conflict from the rest of the main cast. Personal flaws aside, he’s not evil, he just has different priorities. But the show clearly presents him as the bad guy.

Hamilton literally has Aaron Burr *call himself* the villain, but the show does so much to humanize him that it’s hard to read him that way. (At least as far as the cast album goes.) Antagonist, yes. Opponent, absolutely. But he’s presented much more sympathetically than Benny, even though he actually kills the hero.

Angsty Superheroes

Comments on Mary Sue: Daredevil v Batman v Superman: Getting Angst Right in the Superhero Genre

I’d like to think that the general popularity of Daredevil amongst comic book/superhero fans should make it clear that fans who aren’t thrilled about the dark tone of Man of Steel (and the implied dark tone of Batman v. Superman) aren’t all just afraid of having grown-up superhero stories, but that grimness and darkness fit some characters better than others. (YMMV as to which characters they fit.)

But then the complementary tones of Flash and Arrow don’t seem to get that across either, and they actually make meta-references about it in the shows.

I’m *hoping* that once DC’s cinematic universe branches out, they’ll break things up tonally as well (like they’re doing with the DC & Vertigo TV shows), but it’s hard to be confident when they’re presenting the launchpad movie as doubling down on the angst.


Delicious Retreat

Comment on A Delicious Retreat: Early Sharing Pioneer Announces Feature Downgrade

I get the impression that they tried to be Pinterest and then realized that they couldn’t keep up, and figured it would be better to focus on their strenghts than be a third-rate Pinterest clone.

The fact that they added Facebook integration at the same time as announcing the cancellation of stacks suggests that they’re aiming to be a repository for link sharing on other social services. Searching your Twitter stream or Facebook timeline (or Google+ page, or Tumblr, etc) for a particular link you posted three months ago is a pain. Searching for it on Delicious is…well, at least possible, though it’s better if you take the time to tag your links once in a while.

That of course goes away if FB or Twitter realize that people might want to look at their old stuff and improve their own search…except for people who use more than one social service. Or *have* used more than one social service over time. Aggregating those shares in one place could be useful, and might even turn out to be a niche worth filling.