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l’azile » 2013 » February

February 25, 2013

the law of raspberry jam*

catherine @ 12:10 am

A rare and very honest perspective by Shanley Kane on the fucked-up culture increasingly promoted in tech orgs and startups: What Your Culture Really Says (via @terrahawkes).

“Culture is not about the furniture in your office. It is not about how much time you have to spend on feel-good projects. It is not about catered food, expensive social outings, internal chat tools, your ability to travel all over the world, or your never-ending self-congratulation.

Culture is about power dynamics, unspoken priorities and beliefs, mythologies, conflicts, enforcement of social norms, creation of in/out groups and distribution of wealth and control inside companies. Culture is usually ugly. It is as much about the inevitable brokenness and dysfunction of teams as it is about their accomplishments. Culture is exceedingly difficult to talk about honestly. (…)”

I really do not think this person’s perspective is an exaggerated one. I have seen this culture at work in many tech orgs (who shall remain nameless) and have seen it start to rear its head in some not-for-profit orgs in the last couple of years. I have tried to have meaningful discussions regarding my feelings about this culture, what I have seen of it specifically in Montreal or elsewhere. But, as usual, I am made to understand that I bring up an uncomfortable subject and that this is the way the game is played, the way it has to be played in order to stay competitive and relevant.

I also worry about what this culture is doing for democracy and democratic institutions. I mean, I am all for enabling citizens to take control through technology and access to information (among other things). I have even modestly contributed to that objective, namely via accessibility and open data initiatives. But to be honest, I increasingly get the feeling that the “citizens” are secondary. That the industry is feeding on itself and the goal, whatever it may be, is a pretext to maintain this culture. Yes, yes, there is the question of making more and more money but that is another discussion.

And then I read stuff like politicians wanting to turn cities into startups or other politicians (who have no idea what they are talking about) practically suggesting we throw the policing of government corruption into the lap of developers. And those are just two examples but there is so much more stuff out there to give us pause. And I have to wonder. Is it a good idea handing over the development of our democracy to people who are subject to and/or promoting this type of culture? And is it even fair? I am certainly not suggesting we should leave it strictly up to politicians, gawd no, we have enough evidence of how, euh, unreliable governments are at governance. But frankly, part of me finds the idea of the tech industry (or industries) leading the way rather scary. But I guess that is a whole other subject.

Anyway, there are aspects of the tech and/or startup “culture” that are fun and promising and challenging (in a good way). But there are aspects that are alarming and perverse. And I am relieved I am not alone with my questions. I am glad that someone has the guts to bring up their questions too, and quite brilliantly I might add. It happens all too rarely. And when it does, people do not listen enough. I hope that changes.

* “The Law of Raspberry Jam: the wider any culture is spread, the thinner it gets.”, Alvin Toffler (In this case, lets fucking hope so.)

February 7, 2013

finasserie

catherine @ 12:55 am

Voilà comment on fait pour ne pas répondre à une question légitime et sérieuse.

L’office de consultation publique de Montréal a tenu récemment des audiences dans le cadre de la campagne “Faire du neuf avec le Vieux“, qui vise à recueillir mémoires et commentaires des montréalaises et montréalais sur l’avenir du Vieux-Montréal. Les audiences ont été filmées et les vidéos ont été mises en ligne ce qui m’a donné la chance de prendre connaissance, de chez moi, des préoccupations apportées lors de cette opération de consultation.

Lors de la dernière audience, le 29 janvier dernier, un représentant de l’organisation Moelle épinière et motricité Québec (MEMO-Qc) a mis de l’avant la question complexe de l’accessibilité architecturale. Quiconque a des limitations motrices, même mineures, peut témoigner du peu d’accessibilité de cet arrondissement à caractère historique.

Or, en visionnant l’extrait où le réprésentant de MEMO-Qc est intervenu (05:47m-16:05m approx), on constate que les gens interpellées ont maîtrisé l’art de la tergiversation. En effet, on a déployé des efforts considérables pour ne pas répondre aux préoccupations clairement exprimées au sujet des entraves que la protection du patrimoine historique représente souvent en matière d’accès et d’utilisation d’un arrondissement complet ou presque pour une partie importante de la population. Grosso modo :

  1. Le gars de la ville a esquivé la question en parlant des ascenseurs dans le métro Champ-de-mars;
  2. L’architecte du ministère a esquivé la question en expliquant que si on lui présentait des projets avec l’accessibilité, ce serait sûrement une bonne idée et elle est ensuite allée jusqu’à suggérer que c’est au promoteur de le proposer afin de voir au respect de ce droit civil. C’est une architecte ministérielle ou une patenteuse de petits villages légo?;
  3. Le promoteur a esquivé la question en affirmant sans vergogne que ça fait juste 10 ans que l’accessibilité architecturale est une préoccupation en architecture et s’est ensuite plaint qu’on n’était pas gentil avec lui et qu’on le traînait pratiquement en justice au lieu de proposer des solutions (alors que des solutions sont proposées et des compromis sont acceptés depuis presque 40 ans dans divers endroits au monde).

On peut comprendre que ce n’est pas une question facile. Mais on est quand-même en 2013. Il faudrait arrêter de nous prendre pour des cons et de nous répondre n’importe quoi.

#vieux-mtl #handicap #a11y #complaisance

February 4, 2013

let there be spaces in your togetherness*

catherine @ 12:16 am

Dear everybody, I am taking a break from Facebook for a while for the following reasons:

Firstly, I HATE the new ticker functionality; IT CREEPS ME OUT. I do not need to know every single thing my friends do on Facebook but, more importantly, I do not care to have my friends know every single thing I like or comment on. I actually sometimes feel spied on by some people even though I understand (or in some cases hope) that it is not intentional on their part. But it is just too much information and until Facebook offers a way to opt-out of having my every move broadcast not only to my friends but to people I do not even know, I will not be commenting or liking anyone’s posts, photos or comments or if so, very rarely. This will probably make me a very boring friend but c’est la vie. Please do not take it personally.

Secondly, a few recent articles (here and here) have also motivated the aforementioned measures I have decided to implement. I knew Facebook could use “corporate” likes to use us as unsuspecting promoters of brands or other content so I was extremely careful about the things I liked outside of personal posts, photos or comments from friends. In fact, I purposely made sure not to like anything corporate or for-profit, except for a couple of friends’ business pages as a show of encouragement. But according to the Forbes article, “Facebook is now recycling users Likes and using them to promote ‘Related Posts’ in the news feeds of the user’s friends. And one more thing, the users themselves have possibly never seen the story, liked the story or even know that it is being promoted in their name.” It is worth reading the whole Forbes article as it also mentions something I have noticed while reviewing my Activity Log recently, that I do on a regular basis, i.e. the phenomenon of “false likes”. I have found a few things in my log that I supposedly liked but that I know for a fact I never did and never would. Facebook conveniently attributes this to user error but I just do not buy it.

I realize I have a fairly public life on the Web but to a certain extent, I think I have done a reasonably adequate job of controlling it (or at least I like to think I have). And when I joined Facebook last February, I knew I was giving up some privacy and I knew that Facebook is evil (although obviously, I did not know to what extent). But I hoped that the rules and conditions would remain somewhat consistent and clear. This has undeniably not been the case. And to be honest, since I became very sick, Facebook has really helped me stay connected to friends and family especially. But I believe that these latest changes and what I consider to be violations to my privacy and my rights as a user are just too much for me. I hope things will get better but Facebook has received numerous questions and complaints regarding the first matter I mentioned and so far, they have completely ignored the issue. This brief statement is the only information that I was able to find from Facebook that almost addresses the concerns I have. Clearly, that is insufficient as far as I am concerned.

Anyway, I can easily be found in less intrusive places on the Internet and for those who still remember how, there is always email.

Peace.

This post is a slightly edited version of the latest status update I posted to Facebook yesterday.

* The quote is from Kahlil Gibran

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