Health Technology

Reddit decides to allow COVID-19 misinformation

A few anti-vaccine subreddits have popped up on Reddit over the past months. And in response, a selection of other subreddits are calling on Reddit [c] to remove these subreddits – which are often full of misinformation – from the platform.

Well, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman (spez) has responded [c], essentially with ‘no’:

Dissent is a part of Reddit and the foundation of democracy.

He does on to say:

Reddit is a place for open and authentic discussion and debate.

(This was said in a post which has the comments turned off.)

Censorship is always a very tricky subject. By and large I am dead against it on the web. I want it be open and free. However, rampant lies and the purposeful spreading of misinformation about something so vital as the COVID-19 vaccine does come rather close to needing some stronger vetting by Reddit, in my opinion.

Either way, Huffman’s rather blunt and heavy-handed statement was probably not the best way for Reddit to announce its decision to allow anti – and most likely wrong – COVID-19 vaccine viewpoints and I expect an updated statement for ‘clarity’ in a day or two.

Main Technology

The Apple Era

I realised something today. The world is riddled with complicated questions with even more complicated answers. And it can feel crippling at times. But when it comes to computers, phones, smart watches, smart headphones and tablets there’s a simple answer to the question of what to buy: Apple.

We’re living in the Apple era. The Apple brand is universal and unparalleled. Their output is by far the most innovative and beautiful. They’re so dominant that its rivals often seem laughable in comparison. And whilst in certain details they aren’t always the best, on the whole they are.

In fact I’m struggling to think of a single comparative company in history. All the ones that come to mind dominated through monopoly, isolation or acquirement of rivals, not through technical brilliance.

I’m no Apple cultist (half my blog posts feel like they’re moans about the minutiae of Apple’s latest ‘failings’) and I say all this not to gush. But I say it simply because it’s nice not to have to waste time and thought about the subject of what brand to buy. 9 times out of 10 – if I can afford it – Apple is the answer. So I’m free to spend my brain power elsewhere on unsolved issues like the perfect ratio of cheese to cracker.

Link Technology

‘Why the internet didn’t break’

A nice little explanation of why the internet was always going to be just fine during the COVID-19 crisis despite the massive spike in demand.

But the main takeaway from the article is that there could be 42 million Americans without broadband. And that’s not good enough:

Three weeks ago, everyone’s point of reference for high-speed broadband networks was the one-way delivery of video services such as Netflix. Henceforth, broadband will be recognized for what it is: a critical two-way connection that can no longer be considered a luxury. #

Link Technology

‘They Were Opposed To Government Surveillance. Then The Coronavirus Pandemic Began.’

Good follow up read in BuzzFeed.News in the same vein of the Maciej Cegłowski article I linked to yesterday.

Is the coronavirus the kind of emergency that requires setting aside otherwise sacrosanct commitments to privacy and civil liberties? Or like the 9/11 attacks before it, does it mark a moment in which panicked Americans will accept new erosions on their freedoms, only to regret it when the immediate danger recedes?

Many countries have already taken creepy steps:

In South Korea, the government is mapping the movements of COVID-19 patients using data from mobile carriers, credit card companies, and the Institute of Public Health and Environment. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the country’s internal security agency to tap into a previously undisclosed cache of cellphone data to trace the movements of infected persons in that country and in the West Bank. And in the Indian state of Karnataka, the government is requiring people in lockdown to send it selfies every hour to prove they are staying home.

But the real question is less about what elements of digital privacy we as a society are willing to trade in right now to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and more about wether we’ll ever get them back.

The article ends with this:

Sanchez worried that the coronavirus, like the war on terror, is an open-ended threat with no clear end — inviting opportunities for those surveillance measures to be abused long after the threat has passed. In the same week that he spoke, the US Senate voted to extend until June the FBI’s expanded powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, originally passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 19 years ago.

I think it’s safe to presume that anything we lose will never be returned.

Link Technology

China wants to create a whole new goverment-controlled internet

At the gathering, held at the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency that establishes common global standards for technologies, they presented a simple PowerPoint. It didn’t bother with much detail on how this new network would work, or what specific problem it was solving. Instead, it was peppered with images of futuristic technologies, from life-size holograms to self-driving cars.

The idea was to illustrate that the current internet is a relic that has reached the limits of its technical prowess. It was time, Huawei proposed, for a new global network with a top-down design, and the Chinese should be the ones to build it. #

This is scary:

China is already in the process of building a credit-scoring system for its population, based on online and offline behaviour and past “misdemeanours”, the delegation member noted. “So if somebody’s social credit score dipped below a certain amount because they were posting on social media too much, you could actually prevent that phone from connecting to the network.”

Note: the Finanical Times’ paywall and website is awful. They even inject this when you copy and paste something:

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at

So I’ve linked to a cached copy of the article. But if want you can read it at its original URL here.

Main Technology

Developers: Show Users What You’re Working On

Today I stumbled on the website for a blogging engine called Blot that I’d never heard of before. The general design of the site and the fact that it ‘turns a folder into a blog’ made me think it was probably created by some dude about five years ago and is now probably long abandoned.

But while it turns out that it is about five years old and is also made by just some dude it most certainly isn’t abandoned. Because after some more poking I found a really cool ‘news’ page. Essentially it’s a mirror of the developers to do list along with their recently completed tasks. It’s a simple but wonderful idea and does a great job of quietly broadcasting the hard work of the developer and signals to users that the service is still very much in development. I wish more services and software did something similar. And Blot itself looks cool. Check it out.

Link Technology

‘Apple Acknowledges Personal Hotspot Issues’


In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers this week, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has acknowledged that some iOS 13 or iPadOS 13 users may experience issues with Personal Hotspot.

I have had nothing but problems with Personal Hotspot for a long time. Long before iOS 13. And that’s actually a big problem because when I turn it on it’s because I can’t find Wi-Fi anywhere and I really need it to just bloody work right now. But all too often it fails. An iPhone is increasingly a digital Swiss Army knife and Personal Hotspot is an important part of that. It has to work 100% of the time. Imagine if Apple Pay didn’t work every single time?


The Flashing Webpages

I’ve noticed more and more websites now only loading images on a page when you scroll to down to them. It’s called ‘Lazy Loading‘ and I hate it. I’m all for saving bandwidth and improving page loading times but this trend is incredibly annoying. Scrolling down a page once ‘loaded’ should be smooth. But instead images flash at you as they load while you scroll. A terrible experience. Look at the Kottke homepage for an example of this. It’s a good blog with plenty of nice images and videos. But exploring it is miserable thanks to this delayed image loading ‘feature’.



The Archive

I have a bad memory. If I don’t jot something down then I’m going to forget it. Even if it’s a task that I need to do in just ten minutes time I still jot it down.

And I’ve used a plethora of tools for this task. But several years ago I just settled upon individual text files for each task. Simple. But this turned my plain text folder into an out of control, bloated monster. It became so unwieldy that my usual digitally tidy self just gave up and left it be. I was no longer concerned with tagging, naming, and filing. And as a result fairly soon it morphed from a to-do list into an everything-bucket. Any piece of digital text got put into an individual .txt file. Recipes, book highlights, web articles, diary entries, cockney slang, album reviews, wine inventory, places visited, etc.

And it’s been this way for quite a while. A 12.59 MB pile of 5000+ plain text files. But it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done in my digital life. Suffocated by my need for things to be organised I rarely actually just got stuff down. Now everything gets written down, no matter how obviously inconsequential it may seem at the time.

Everything gets written down. Nothing gets forgotten.

Links and Notes Technology

Links and Notes – Week 43, 2019

A Cybersecurity Firm’s Sharp Rise and Stunning Collapse

‘Tiversa dominated an emerging online market—before it was accused of fraud, extortion, and manipulating the federal government.’ Long read.

Apple announces AirPods Pro

£249. Noise Cancellation, ‘Transparency Mode’ (allows outside noise in), Qi-enabled charging case, removable tips of different sizes to ensure a good fit. John Gruber [Daring Fireball] has published his first impressions. Transparency Mode should make driving and walking with AirPods much safer.

iOS 13.2 Emoji Changelog

With every iOS update there seems to be a new wave of emojis and I’m always impressed by the detail of Emojipedia’s breakdowns. I’m not an emoji user myself, but I know of people who’s only interest in upgrading iOS is to get new emojis. This time it seems like a lot of emojis have been updated to be ‘gender-neutral’. But to my eyes most of them actually look more feminine than masculine. Apple is also taking away certain stereotypical iconography from their designs it seems, removing the moustache from the police officer and the beard and ponytail from the genie. But with emojis being so small I wonder if this will cause some confusion. You need to rely on stereotypical elements to quickly and clearly display what the emoji is trying to represent.

HBO & Sky On Brink Of New European Programming Deal

In case you’re wondering why the UK won’t be getting the new HBO Max streaming service:

HBO has previously avoided launching a linear channel, or streaming service, in markets covered by Sky as a result of the lucrative programming deal.

Twitter to Ban All Political Advertising

We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons… – @jack

Google Buys Fitbit for $2.1 Billion

… the company will still take privacy for health and fitness data seriously, noting that “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”

The 50 Most Important Websites of All Time

Some nostalgia for you.

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers Series

“… timely ideas of classical thinkers in lively new translations” and at manageable page lengths. Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus and more are all here. I haven’t explored these yet so can’t pass comment but they seem great if you’re interested in discovering some of the Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers for the first time. They’re published with the original text on the left page and the translation on the right (like a Loeb book), which I always enjoy.

Running an Indie Bookstore, With Churchillian Resolve

A short article on a gentleman who runs a bookshop which only sells books by or on Churchill. How is it still in business? Well it also sells high-end memorabilia and has a “favorable” financial arrangement with the buildings owners.

Mr. Steinberg’s secretary called down requesting “a complete set of everything Churchill ever wrote, first edition and bound in leather,” Mr. Singer said. […] Mr. Singer wound up charging Mr. Steinberg $100,000 for the set, half of which was for a rare copy of Churchill’s “Mr. Brodrick’s Army.” “He got a bargain — it’s worth more now,”…

Why Don’t We Eat Swans?

We’re not so squeamish about chicken, turkey, pigeon, or goose, but these long-necked beauties have long been off-limits.