I am not saying anything that we don’t …

I am not saying anything that we don’t already know about the web. But sometimes it is easy to be stuck in the mode of pressing ‘Like’ rather than ‘Publish’. We need to remind ourselves that the act of contributing on the web is not only writing a blog post. It could be as simple as writing a review, making a web annotation, commenting on a post that influenced you. Each creates an artifact on the web that can add to our body of knowledge on a diversity of topics.

CJ Eller

The weird thing about this current moment is I’m left to wonder whether there’s an actual, definable surge in people on the internet rediscovering and discussing the original promise of the web because of everyone’s increasing frustrations with corporate social media’s community failings, or if the chatter always has existed at this level and to this degree (I get that it’s always existed as a sort of background hum) and it’s just that more people are noticing or participating in it because of everyone’s increasing frustrations with corporate social media’s community failings.

One thing I have noticed since beginning my process of moving my blogging over to Write House is that the minimalism has made me feel freer in how I write. Medium and WordPress made me rigid in how I thought about what and how to write. Longer, more thought-out missives, with titles, subtitles, and a featured photo. Drive-by thoughts were right out.

Not thinking about all of that, and only barely thinking about design issues, let alone themes or templates, has trended me back toward old-school blogging, where things were looser.

When we talk about “not pathologizing autism,” we …

When we talk about “not pathologizing autism,” we don’t mean “pretending autistic people don’t have impairments.” But we also don’t assume that neurological and behavioral differences are always problems. For example, there’s nothing inherently wrong with disliking social activities. Not wanting to socialize is different from wanting to participate and being unable to. Both are possibilities for autistic people. One requires acceptance, the other requires assistance. Sadly, I have yet to meet a therapist who doesn’t treat the two as equivalent and in equal need of correction.
While there is a lot of overlap with the social model, the neurodiversity approach is primarily a call to include and respect people whose brains work in atypical ways, regardless of their level of disability (I will focus here on autism, but neurodiversity is about “all kinds of minds”). This requires challenging our assumptions about what’s normal, what’s necessary and what’s desirable for a person to live well. Of course, better accommodations and reduced stigma would improve our lives immensely. But so would a broader definition of a meaningful life. As Taylor puts it: “Western culture has a very limited idea of what being useful to society is. People can be useful in ways other than monetarily.”

From Clearing Up Some Misconceptions about Neurodiversity by Aiyana Bailin

Update on our continued review–we have suspended …

Update on our continued review–we have suspended this channel’s monetization. We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies.


This, the latest from YouTube after first saying there was nothing at all they could do about Steven Crowder’s ongoing harassment of Carlos Maza, is reflective of some things Jack Dorsey said awhile back about the companies he runs.

In a galling Rolling Stone interview early this year, Dorsey remained detached and a bit coldly dismissive about nazis on Twitter, but became much more animated when discussing the need for things to run smoothly when it came to Square because “you’re dealing with people’s money” and that’s “extremely emotional”.

YouTube, apparently, agrees, thinking that as long as they prevent Crowder from directly profiting off of YouTube, everything is fine. Of course, he will continue to profit indirectly, YouTube itself will profit from his continued presence, and any other hateful people recommended off of Crowder’s channel will continue profiting as well.

Money, it seems, is emotional. So they will halt (some of) the flow of money to Crowder, but not the flow of money to themselves, or other likely harassers. The harassment, itself, however, carries no emotional weight for them.

Demonetizing harassers literally is the least YouTube can do besides doing nothing. It only vaguely harms Crowder, and requires nothing from YouTube itself. It’s certainly nowhere near best practices.

Harassment occurring on your platform should result in deplatforming the harasser. Harassment occurring off your platform should result in deplatforming the harasser. Good community codes of conduct, like most of the ones I’ve been considering for Write House, make that clear.

At some point while working on the …

At some point while working on the “about” page for Write House yesterday, and continuing to think about developing its code of conduct, it suddenly occurred to me that WriteFreely currently does not have any user management tools to handle suspending someone who violates such a code of conduct.

User management tools are coming, according to the development roadmap, including options to “suspend account entirely” or “disable ‘Public’ blog setting for the user”, but it’s unclear to me how these actions would be communicated to the user, or how the user could respond if they want to challenge the suspension or address whatever prompted it.

WriteFreely as a platform has a privacy focus, as can be seen from the default privacy policy on WriteFreely Host installs such as this one.

It retains as little data about you as possible, not even requiring an email address to sign up. However, if you do give us your email address, it is stored encrypted in our database. We salt and hash your account’s password.

Without requiring an email address to sign up, there’s no way for an admin to contact a user who has violated their instance’s code of conduct. Will a suspension result in a message to the user when they access the site, informing them of the suspension, the reason(s) for it, and how to contact the admin if they wish to discuss the matter?

Absent that approach, I’m not sure what one would do. Certainly, I cannot launch Write House until and unless such a process exists.

We move house, change jobs, begin new …

We move house, change jobs, begin new relationships, yet most of the time, most of us still experience a thread of inner continuity – a constant feeling of me-ness that transcends the various chapters of our lives. Indeed, there’s evidence that having a stable, constant sense of self and identity is important for psychological wellbeing. However, this thread can rupture, leading to an uncomfortable disconnect between who we feel we are today, and the person that we believe we used to be – a state that psychologists recently labelled “derailment”.

Christian Jarrett

Mostly I find the above interesting precisely because I don’t have a “stable, constant sense of self and identity”, and I never have.

In fact I cannot conceive of the person I was when I was in grade school in rural upstate New York, or the person I was in high school in suburban upstate New York, or the person I was in college in downstate New York, or the person I was after college in Chicago or back in upstate New York or in New York City, or the person I was over two decades ago in northern California, or even the person I was when I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, or even the person I was a decade ago here.

It’s not that I don’t remember any of these times, or what I was doing. It’s that I don’t remember how any of it felt, how being any of these people felt, and I do wonder whether or not having access to how it felt to be at any given stage of your life is key to having a sense of flow from one version of you to the next.

Past online autobiographical blurbs I’ve written have included a telling statement: “If events were pictures and emotions were sounds, his memories would play as silent movies.”

On rare occasions the emotional components of my past selves can surface. One day in college, I watched an old home movie that had been transferred onto videotape, and one segment included both my late maternal grandfather and my late family cat, and I erupted in tears. (I’d not, for whatever it’s worth, cried contemporaneously at either of their deaths.) So, either the emotional components of those memories must have been recorded somewhere in my brain, or this particular emotional outburst purely was in response to the in-the-moment stimulus of the videotape itself.

I suspect the latter, since in my memory of that moment of watching the videotape I do not notice any sense of me thinking about the person I was when either of them died. It wasn’t about the then, it was about the now.

Do other people have the long-term emotional memory I lack? I’m not sure where the cutoff is, exactly, but I clearly have some sort of short-term emotional memory, since I’ve had outbursts, of the autistic meltdown kind, that can be traced at least in part to my reacting and responding not just to the stimulus of the moment but to past stimuli of a similar enough nature to be called back into the present moment, in a manner similar to the recalling of trauma.

At any rate, by the article and study above, my entire life appears to be one of routine “derailment”, per se, except in that I don’t feel the discomfort they speak of, over the disconnect between the who I was and the who I am. I’m not sure it ever occurred to me to think of myself as anything other than a succession of selves.

(I do wonder how or if the internet age affects this process. I myself have had a fairly overt succession of online identities, each one handing off the baton to another. One of them even eventually generated my legal, offline name. Could we today simply be more naturally fluid in this sense than were people of the pre-internet past?)

What’s a bit fascinating, looking at things from this perspective, is that my midlife autism diagnosis in fact has repaired some of that disconnect, as pieces of my life both large and small suddenly were granted explanations, ones that linked experiences from childhood to experiences from adulthood to experiences from middle age.

Being autistic, it turns out, is one of the few common threads that weaves throughout all of my past lives into my current one, and one wonders what impact, if any, an earlier autism diagnosis would have had upon the matter of “derailment”.

I don’t think being knowingly autistic would have somehow altered the fact that my memories don’t record their emotional track, and so I suspect the disconnect between successive selves would have remained undisruptive. Still, who knows? Maybe being aware of that single, common thread would have yielded an obvious contrast to my changing sense of self.

But would that have been a good thing or a bad thing?

Democrats apparently mean to spend the month of …

Democrats apparently mean to spend the month of June refocusing attention on the damning contents of the Mueller report, and certain parties within the party are ready with the preemptive framing to head off any momentum into an official impeachment inquiry.

A senior House Democratic aide said June will be a particularly important test for the Judiciary Committee — the forum for these hearings, as well as any potential impeachment battle — to make the most of Mueller’s words and the substance of his report, which paints a damning picture of a chaotic White House and president seeking to thwart Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“It’s about whether Democrats — the Judiciary Committee, specifically — can exploit this moment and Mueller’s statements to ignite a national conversation about the extent of President Trump’s abuse of power and ways to hold him accountable,” the aide continued. “The true test of that is going to be in June. If you can’t do that with what he gave us, there’s no way you’re ready for impeachment.”

This sounds suspiciously like the Pelosi/Hoyer wing of the party cynically trying to take advantage of the historical reality that it is impeachment hearings themselves which bring public opinion around on impeachment, by using non-impeachment hearings to “prove” that there is no public support for impeachment.

As many who support impeachment hearings have pointed out, in early 1973, Gallup polling showed that only 19 percent of Americans supported removing President Richard M. Nixon. By the summer of 1974, when Nixon resigned, support had climbed to the high 50s — which illustrates that on impeachment, public opinion can be moved in a big way, including, presumably, on Trump.

No one will be watching Judiciary Committee hearings about the Mueller report, absent Mueller himself testifying, the way everyone would be watching actual impeachment hearings, because the very rarity of impeachment, along with its very nature as a constitutionally-designated process, carries weight—even if we think just of rhetorical weight–that a normal hearing in any committee cannot hope to match.

Pelosi and Hoyer know this. They of course knew it even before Glen Sargent just today underscored that public opinion turns toward impeachment once actual impeachment hearings begin–something I was seeing on cable news (I think maybe from Michael Beschloss?) maybe as much as two months ago.

You can’t educate the public into impeachment support beforehand. You have to have the courage to begin impeachment first, because that brings such searing public focus onto the impeachable offenses that the public comes then around.

Given that everyone watching these issues knows the historical reality, that Pelosi and Hoyer, via this “senior House Democratic aide”, appear to be trying to manipulate the outcome in advance is a pretty ugly way to treat the members of their own party.

Poor adaptive skills without adequate supports may …

Poor adaptive skills without adequate supports may explain the dismal higher-education and employment rates among autistic adults. This is particularly true for those without intellectual disabilities, who may be presumed capable of attending college or pursuing competitive employment without a need for significant supports. In fact, however, these individuals often have significant impairments in basic day-to-day functions.

From Why intelligence scores do not predict success for autistic adults by Gregory Wallace

“Objective” news reporting is defined …

“Objective” news reporting is defined not by a lack of assumptions or biases, but by a refusal to acknowledge those assumptions & biases. The kind of reporting Haberman & other US political journos do rests on a giant superstructure of unexamined presumptions.
Digging those presumptions up, examining & interrogating them, FEELS like “opinion journalism” to people trained in that milieu. But it’s a meaningless dividing line. Why is an unexamined presumption any more “objective” or “neutral” than one consciously chosen?

From “Objective” news reporting is defined not by a lack of assumptions or biases by David Roberts

As part of preparing for the eventual public, if …

As part of preparing for the eventual public, if invite-only, launch of Write House, I’ve been working on the matter of the necessary Code of Conduct for administrators, writers, and commenters, focusing on a couple of resources I found back when I was considering starting up a Mastodon instance.

For awhile, I’ve been looking at the XOXO Code of Conduct, itself modeled after material from Geek Feminism and other sources, as it’s pretty clear and succinct. I also appreciate the section specifically discounting any complaints of “‘reverse’ -isms”.

XOXO prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort. XOXO reserves the right not to act on complaints regarding:

  • ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’
  • Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I’m not discussing this with you.”
  • Communicating in a ‘tone’ you don’t find congenial
  • Criticizing racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behavior or assumptions

More recently, I came across the Community Covenant, which is slightly more extensive, and specifically designed for online communities of one sort or another, but mostly, I think, consistent with XOXO’s.

I’ve considered primarily using the latter but incorporating the former’s discounting of “reverse -isms” complaints. Lately, I’ve been thinking of just using XOXO’s.

One tricky thing I’m encountering while working through what to draw from for Write House’s code of conduct is that best practices dictate a sensible provision under which any staff member accused of harassment automatically is recused from investigating or policing that accusation.

At the time of this current pre-launch state, I am the only administrator and the sole “staff” person, which got me musing about having some sort of outside reviewer on retainer–although not on an actual paid retainer, as payment itself would create a conflict of interest for the outside reviewer.

I don’t yet know how that would even work, or who I’d turn to for such a thing, but it did spark another idea.

What if there were a nonprofit outfit consisting of outside ombuds who would contract with community websites on a volunteer basis to enforce their codes of conduct. These ombuds would be paid by the nonprofit, which itself would be prohibited from accepting contributions from its clients, making them entirely independent. I suppose for this to work, any given ombud cannot be the contractor for a community in which they already are involved.

I still need to solve the issue when it comes to Write House. While I don’t expect to be accused of violating the eventual code of conduct here, this recusal provision needs to be included.

In the meantime, I am giving away the above nonprofit “Community Code of Conduct Ombuds Agency” idea to whoever wants to run with it.

Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter, …

Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter, recently presented two theories of the internet (it’s also on Medium), one of which is based upon Liu Cixin’s theory of the universe in The Dark Forest, the second book of his Three-Body trilogy (which gave me a serious, late-night existential dread).

Imagine a dark forest at night. It’s deathly quiet. Nothing moves. Nothing stirs. This could lead one to assume that the forest is devoid of life. But of course it’s not. The dark forest is full of life. It’s quiet, because night is when the predators come out. To survive, the animals stay quiet.

Is our universe an empty forest or a dark one? If it’s a dark forest, then only Earth is foolish enough to ping the heavens and announce its presence. The rest of the universe already knows the real reason why the forest stays dark. It’s only a matter of time before the Earth learns as well.

This is also what the internet is becoming: a dark forest.

In response to the ads, the tracking, the trolling, the hype, and other predatory behaviors, we’re retreating to our dark forests of the internet, and away from the mainstream.

Is this a true representation of the theory as applied to the internet? Liu’s description (via WIkipedia) of how “the dark forest” operates is a little more specific than Strickler’s.

Luo Ji explains to Da Shi the implications he derived from Ye Wenjie’s two axioms of cosmic civilization: 1. Each civilization’s goal is survival, and 2. Resources are finite. Like hunters in a “dark forest”, a civilization can never be certain of an alien civilization’s true intentions. The extreme distance between stars creates an insurmountable “chain of suspicion” where any two civilizations cannot communicate well enough to relieve mistrust, making conflict inevitable. Therefore, it is in every civilization’s best interest to preemptively strike and destroy any developing civilization before it can become a threat, but without revealing their own location, thus explaining the Fermi paradox.

Critical to the Liu formulation are those first two premises: survival and resources. These are absent from Strickler’s appropriation.

Strickler seems to be talking about a kind of retreat into information silos, in this case not the result of myopic (mis)management but instead that of an instinct of self-preservation in the face of too much bad information, and bad faith, on the existing mass platforms.

Arguably, the retreat into self-protective silos itself is what could create a kind of dark forest of the internet. (Although I don’t believe it.)

Liu’s posit is that the immense distances between stars make it impossible to communicate and learn each other’s motives. An alien civilization could represent itself in a manner designed solely to hide a malevolent intent and we’d have no way of knowing. This isn’t really true of the internet.

In fact, on the internet malevolent intent—or, as I said above, bad information and bad faith—is readily identifiable. It’s everywhere, all mixed together with the good information and good faith. It’s just that the mass platforms are not doing enough to protect you, me, or anyone else from the bad.

That’s what driving people into silos.

On the internet, the axioms in play aren’t a civilization’s need for survival and the finity of resources. Instead, we might look at it from the standpoint of two other premises.

  1. Each person’s goal is connection.
  2. Attention is finite.

If we take these as the axioms, we aren’t looking at a “dark forest” and the dangers of a preemptive war between civilizations due to finite resources and impossible communication.

Instead, we’re looking at the dangers of mass platforms monopolizing connection in order to monopolize attention.

The “chain of suspicion”, then, doesn’t flow laterally between or among civilizations who are more or less equal as in Liu’s theory, but rather vertically between the users of mass platforms, below, and the owners of mass platforms, above. Silos, in this case, then, aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Think of them instead as safe spaces, chosen communities of relation or affinity.

What’s more, I suspect that most people will not simply wall themselves off exclusively into various silos, but continue also making use of such mass channels as continue to exist. It’s just that as more opportunities for safe, chosen communities arise or are made we will use each space for its own, unique purposes. Some of these communities will be self-contained, while others will interact with each other.

What we’re looking at here isn’t a dark forest. What we’re looking at here is an interconnected network.

There should be a name for that.

This morning while reading an article on civilians …

This morning while reading an article on civilians trying to find support for their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (I don’t have PTSD, but have an interest in how trauma gets laid down in the brain), I followed a link to “Where is the Evidence for ‘Evidence-Based’ Therapy?” by Jonathan Shedler, adapted from remarks he gave at a conference several years ago.

“Evidence-based therapy” has become quite the catchphrase. The term “evidence-based” comes from medicine. It gained attention in the 1990s and was, at the time, a call for critical thinking. It reflected the recognition that “we’ve always done it this way” is not a good enough reason to keep doing something. Medical decisions should reflect clinical judgment, patients’ values and preferences, and relevant scientific research.

But “evidence-based” has come to mean something very different in the psychotherapy world. The term has been appropriated to promote a particular ideology and agenda. It has become a code word for manualised treatment—most often, brief, highly-structured cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). “Manualised” means the therapy is literally conducted by following an instruction manual. The treatment may be pre-scripted in a way that leaves little room for understanding patients as individuals.

Shedler’s goal here is to debunk just what “evidence-based” means in the realm of mental health, and it mostly seems to be something of a deceptive a marketing phrase, propped up by carefully choosing the question you’re answering and by limiting one’s definition of success to the short-term.

My interest here, of course, is that Applied Behavioral Analysis, too, is referred to as “evidence-based” treatment when it comes to autism, despite the anecdotal reports from older autistics who relate their childhood experiences of ABA as being somewhat torturous.

What’s clear to me from those anecdotes, especially in the context of Shedler’s look at the evidence for “evidence-based” treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in other contexts, is that what’s really needed are long-term, long-range studies of children who underwent ABA to determine its lasting effects, both inward and outward.

(I did not undergo ABA, as I was not diagnosed until midlife. I pay attention to the ABA discussion only tangentially, because of my own interest as an autistic adult in the matter of autistics and psychotherapy, since I question the degree to which traditional socially-performative approaches themselves can just be additional, problematic stressors which interfere with the therapeutic benefits.)

Older autistics tend to describe ABA less as any kind of treatment for autism than as a kind of treatment for the people around the autistic person. In effect, the argument goes, it simply forces the autistic person to suppress the outward-facing behaviors of being autistic. Left seemingly unaddressed (in large part, I suspect, because most of the evaluations are made by people outside the child, and not by the child themselves) is the degree to which this has a real beneficial inward effect upon the actually autistic individual. It does, however, make the people around the autistic more comfortable being around the autistic.

One thing I found interesting in Shedler’s analysis of things like CBT for cases like depression is this notion of how these treatments are “manualized”, scripted approaches. My limited understanding of ABA suggests it is similar in that regard, and so in this context partakes a little too much of the idea of the autistic as a kind of soulless automata. ABA, then, becomes just a kind of reprogramming.

(I don’t think my last therapist viewed me as an automaton, but as a proponent of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, an offshoot of CBT, she did come across to me as if she simply had this checklist in her head that she was trying to plug me into, as quickly as she could. It’s why I only lasted three sessions, and am still trying to find a replacement.)

Is anyone monitoring the long-term impact of childhood ABA treatment upon autistics as they grow older and more self-aware? Do these studies already exist? If so, what questions are they asking about how to define success, and what are they showing? If such studies don’t exist, why don’t they?

While finishing up this post, I ran into CJ Eller’s “Metaphor Debt”, which gave me another way to think about this.

There is the common concept in software called technical debt. It is the implied debt of additional work caused by choosing the easier solution rather than the better one that would take more time and resources to complete.

The open questions, I guess, are whether or not ABA is just “the easier solution”, and, if so, what debts we—or, rather, the autistic kids—are incurring because the people around them didn’t instead choose what might be the better path.

To make commenting more human, it needs to become …

To make commenting more human, it needs to become conversation rather than commentary. Someone talking at you through a television or lonely comment on a blog isn’t natural and human; a conversation is. If you want to talk to an author, you should be able to do that directly — no public side is needed. Then, if your conversation turns out to be of interest or use to more people, you should be able to make it public, where it can stand as a work in itself.

From Commentary and Communication by Matt Baer

Astonishingly, the advice in “How a Sensory …

Astonishingly, the advice in “How a Sensory Diet Can Help Your Child” is to hire a professional occupational therapist to program a rigid “sensory diet” schedule for your child.

So, culturally, the advice is to pay good money to torture the autistic behavior out of your child and then later pay good money to artificially recreate it?

(This isn’t to suggest the author supports Applied Behavioral Analysis; I’m speaking above about the wider conventional wisdom.)

Note that the article never once even mentions that stimming already is a natural thing that we culturally disdain and try to prevent.

They don’t even use the word.

This clever knowledge drop from Caroline Criado …

This clever knowledge drop from Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men is about kinesiology and motion sickness, but I’m going to be stealing this idea of “anticipatory” vs. “compensatory” adjustments and control for future discussions about being autistic.

One of the most convincing aspects of Stoffregen’s theory is how it finally explains why I get car sick in every seat other than the driving seat: it’s all about control. When you’re walking, you are in control of your movements. You know what’s coming. On a ship, or in a car, someone else is in control—unless you’re the driver. “The driver knows what the motion of the car is going to be and so the driver is able to stabilise his or herself in what we call an anticipatory fashion,” explains Stoffregen, “whereas the passenger cannot know in quantitative detail what the car is going to be doing. And so their control of their own body must be compensatory. And anticipatory control is just better than compensatory control. You know, that ain’t no rocket science.”

Emphasis added. I’m thinking that the distinction should hold up pretty well when discussing anything from anxiety issues to socially performative communication to the usefulness of routines and scripts.