jack: (Default)
I like the principle of duck typing.

Roast it if it looks sufficiently duck-like. Don't worry about whether it's officially a duck, just if it has the relevant features for roasting.

However, I don't understand the attachment to getting 3/4 of the way through the basting, stuffing and roasting project before suddenly discovering that you're trying to crisp a small piece of vaguely duck-shaped ornamental stonemasonry.

I agree with (often) only testing for the *relevant* features of duck-ness. But it seems like the best time to test for those relevant features is "as soon as possible", not "shut your eyes, and charge ahead until you fail". Is there a good reason for "fail fast, except for syntax errors, those we should wait to crash until we're actually trying to execute them"?

I've been working on my non-vegetarian metaphors, how did I do? :)
jack: (Default)
There's a story. I can't remember where I saw it (slatestarcodex?) It was really creepy. It described someone in hell, and he/she/they were walking across an endless desert, getting thirstier and thirstier, never relieved, never dying. And after an endless aeon, the devil came to them, and offered them a different hell. And he/she wouldn't tell them anything about the alternative, but they thought "anything but this".

And inevitably, the alternative was infinitely worse, and they suffered for another aeon, all the time thinking this was worse than anything and they wished they'd stayed in the desert. All the time blaming themself, and feeling they brought it on themselves. And then the devil came to them again, and offered them the choice to be put into a different hell. And they thought "I know it was a mistake, but anything at all is better than THIS".

And of course they were wrong, and the suffering was even worse, and they wished they could go back to the second hell. And this pattern repeated every aeon for eternity, getting ever worse and ever more self-blaming.

So anyway, it turns out, when I get an SMS, now google hangouts says, "would you like to install google's SMS messaging app?" and I say "surely it's more convenient than hangouts?"


Jun. 4th, 2016 10:52 am
jack: (Default)
"Sorry to see you go. We'd love to hear your reasons."


(1) You have bugged me every ten minutes since the free trial expired to upgrade to the paid version. On windows 10, that makes an annoying "BOOONG" sound. Now I hate you with a firey passion and want to see all your works laid bare and low.

(1a) I clicked "Because there were too many notifications" SEVERAL times, but apparently there is only an option to toggle it on or off, the checkbox does not have a ternary option for "very" to express my EXTREME EMPHASIS in this matter.

(2) No, I did not already BUY other security software. I already have other security software FOR FREE because your program came pre-installed in windows 8+. In general, I feel the collation of more and more functionality into the operating system, while convenient, may stifle competition in a fashion long-term undesirable. But in this case, your entire business model being crushed by the microsoft juggernaut fills my heart with a warm glow of karmic satisfaction.

There, now. Do you feel more satisfied?
jack: (Default)
It's not that I don't understand the etymology of --porcelain options. Lots of commands are "plumbing", ie. intended to produce output which is consumed by other commands rather than by the user, because git is like that.

So "porcelain" is coined to mean the opposite of that: output which is intended to by read by a person, and include lots of useless twiddles like human-readable column formatting, units, column headers, messages saying "there was nothing found" instead of returning "" etc.

And some commands are often used as user-facing commands, but can also be used by scripts and other commands intended to produce more user-friendly output, and so have a command line option "--porcelain" to mean "produce output which can be parsed by another command".

It's not that I don't know that.

It's that I think it's unnecessarily confusing that:

1. "Porcelain" means not "smooth, unencumbered" but the opposite
2. "--porcelain" means "make the output not porcelain".
jack: (Default)
Dear people who start a kickstarter project, I am really not an expert at this, so if you have expert advice you probably know better than me already. But as someone who occasionally sees links to cool-looking kickstarters, I can tell you what seems good to me.

On the front page, try to have some sort of prominent summary, ideally two sentences, saying WHAT IT IS and WHY IT'S COOL. Um, maybe that's supposed to be obvious. But seriously, "We have an awesome webcomic, we made an rpg boardgame of it" or "we made an isometric computer game with detailed wizard duels" or "I wrote about about vampires living in london" or "here's a gadget that makes your bike sound like a horse", all of those make me think "oh, cool, can I see more". Even if I've never heard of it before. And many other pitches would make me think "good luck, but not for me".

But I seem to see so many kickstarters that say "here is a brand new BRANDNAME which is exciting and ADJECTIVE and lets you experience ADJECTIVE and ADVERBITY and here's a video for more information". That's fine. Unless you want me to give you money, in which case it has the disadvantage that all that coy non-information doesn't make me think "Yes, THIS random twitter link is the one I must track down the backstory for" it makes me think "why was I here again? *back* "

I'm assured, videos are great for persuading people. But I assume that only applies if people watch them?

To me, a video is saying "Dear technocrats, busy people, people with full-time jobs, people with children, people with smartphones, people under 25 with short attention spans, people with disabilities, methodical people and googlebot, get out of here, we don't want your money or your interest." Fine, you can sell to whoever you want to sell to, but that's excluding a LOT of desirable market shares...
jack: (Default)
They moved the sorting office! It rose delicately up onto its teeny tiny tootsies and scampered away to hide in an industrial estate behind the station. Or maybe it hummed and vibrated and sort flashed into a photographic negative and went "zingngng" and vanished and reappeared in a new spot. Or thousands and industrious citizens suddenly turned towards it and spontaneously rushed there, converging on it, donning hardhats and lab cots as they ran, and began dismantling it, labelling the parts and throwing them onto the mail trucks with joyful enthusiasm.

Or, maybe the site was conquered by Parcelforce partisans, skirmishing out of the neighbouring warehouses, and after months of tense running battles, the royal mail stalwarts broke, fleeing with what parcels they could save to recoup at the new site.

I have no idea which it was because I was, well, I had my head in the clouds and didn't notice. I've even cycled passed Henley Road and thought "yep, still there", and it didn't occur to me the sorting office wasn't still there.

And then, lo, I began thinking "these books fit through the letterbox, as do the sink plugs, and wallet ninjas, and various small household items, there's no reason to continue ordering them to work." And that worked, until one arrived that didn't fit, and the obliging postie, after following standard orders to throw it in the black bin, but then realising it was collected that day and maybe that was a bit infra dig even for the post office, turned to the green bin. And then, after a moment of guilt, parcel poised over the rotting compost, clinging terrified to the postie's hand, it was spared. And pausing only to give it a few regulation stamps (the kicking sort, not the licking sort) and hope that next time, it would learn to be narrower than the letter-box, it was reluctantly returned to the sorting office.

And little Jack, pootling home from work one day, find a little card saying "your parcel (probably books) was here, mere inches away from your devouring bibliovoric hunger maw of living room, but was taken away again. When would you like to see it again, on a scale between 'several days' and 'many days'?" I believe the "several days" may be the fault of communism and/or fertility rituals for preventing post delivery on Monday. Although they make up for it by getting people to walk round Milton Park in Starwars costumes!

I'm still a bit confused by the notation that the parcel is available for pick-up the next "working day" from the delivery office. "Working Day" is underlined. But seems to include Saturday? But you can't request redelivery until the working day after that which I guess is now, um, Tuesday? But anyway, blithly disregarding the difference between "Henley Road" and "Clifton Road" our endearingly pontificatory hero toddles bravely off with the note. "I'll go to work", he says, "and pick it up at lunchtime. The delivery office is really near, I remember that."

"In fact, it's REALLY convenient if I have a working bike and a reasonable rucksack (or car). Maybe I should make a habit of ordering things to home and then picking them up from the delivery office whenever it's convenient, if they don't happen to get delivered to home on Saturday." Our hero's little face shone with self-satisfaction, soon to be smashed to smithereens.

For what transpires is not, as hoped, "MOAR BOOKS", but rather, a forlorn looking disused warehouse with a sign saying "For demolition, dangerous, details, details" and nothing else. And lo, our hero was defeated, and decided going out into the sunshine had been a good idea, but maybe the actual book-getting part of the operation should be implemented by "asking the internet to deliver the book to home next Saturday instead", with no more moving his physical body about in public.

Here ends our tale (well, hopefully next Saturday). This story was brought to you by the magic of "nearly the bank holiday weekend, OBVIOUSLY work involves spending 1000s of words spodding about incidental administrative matters". But hey, you know, posting more stuff is good :)
jack: (Default)
Contrary to popular rumour, my love for mechanistic magic systems isn't all-consuming. I love stories where people exploit the system, stories about ideas -- old school science fiction about the possibilities of technology that hadn't been realised; everything by Greg Egan and Ted Chiang; HPMOR; much of the magic and plots in Brandon Sanderson's books. Ender's Game.

But I also love stories which work as stories. And I love the one good idea that suddenly works, even, or maybe especially, in magic systems which are more magical and less mechanistic.

But I think a lot of the fun of the story is lost when the reader doesn't have the knowledge to know what matters and what doesn't. Most stories have some things which are supposed to not be known to the reader, at least in theory. And most have some things which ARE supposed to be known to the reader.

A story where the hero is rushing to prevent something, and the audience know it won't work the way she intended, or don't know if it will work the way she intends, is told in a different way to a story where audience know what she's trying would work, but don't know whether she will be able to achieve it.

But if you screw up your worldbuilding, your audience won't know which. It's supposed to be obvious because "that's what the physics says" or "because they discussed that on p87" or "that's just how this sort of story works"? OK, fine, if that's ALWAYS right. If your book is ALWAYS consistent with the physics, and has examples to show it, then fine. If not, your audience doesn't know to trust you and probably won't. Likewise, they discussed it -- are the characters usually right about this sort of thing, or are they USUALLY undermined by some deus ex machina?

It's not important to be consistent with the real world, it's important to be consistent with your audience's expecations. Which in many ways is a lot harder. Being "slightly more consistent with the real world than your audience expects from similar books" is a good way of doing that, but not the only way.

To steal an example from John Scalzi, if the climax of you film involves a character dying in a tragic way by falling into lava, that's a bad moment to suddenly introduce a whole bunch of new rules no-one saw until now. I think even Scalzi would lose his suspension of disbelief if the character fell into lava and turned into purple mosquitos. But to everyone who's spend 5 minutes thinking about the density of rock, "falling into lava and sinking" is just as ridiculous. And yes, most people don't know that, so the story is fine for them. But Scalzi's point was that the moment of "suspension of disbelief" is arbitrary and varies between people. And my point is, that's sort of true, but more, that moment is determined by the consistency and trust the film has built up to that point, and the genre conventions of previous similar films.

Sometimes that's really unfair, because you want your book to be judged without those expecations. But there's not much you can do about it, except work to undo them or accept people familiar with them won't get your book as much.

This is why I keep caring about films which blatantly break worldbuilding they've previous established. If there's skyscrapers in your fictional Washington DC, that's stupidly untrue but doesn't break your story -- it's not realistic, but everyone will understand it's the sort of thing you get in cities. But if a tiny seaside village has lots of random skyscrapers, people will expect it to be a plot point because it's the opposite of what they expect.

In fact, I love magical magic systems. In some ways they're easier because they can do anything. But in many ways they're harder, because what's possible has to be determined by "what feels like it would be possible" which can be personal and hard to establish -- it needs a combination of shared expectation, and subtle world-building that doesn't invite people to pick at it.

But this is why I hate it if people say you shouldn't care about this sort of plot hole. I'm not saying you should care. But if you accidentally know that (for instance) different websites are run by different computers and no single program can alter them all, it's really hard to enjoy a plot based on the opposite assumption, because you literally don't know what's going to be possible and what isn't...
jack: (Default)
Orrie Gamal Poster: I want to froblicate my woozle. I've tried flimbling it, and that doesn't work. And I've tried wimbling, wombling and wumbling and I don't think those do what I want. And I can't do theminraining because I don't have a froog. What am I doing wrong? Do I need to frogwockle it?
Quickdraw Mactrawl: Have you tried flimbling it?
Oblivious Ollie: Have you tried flimbling it?
Ditto Ditta: I don't know if anyone's asked this already, but have you tried flimbling it?
Eager Edsel: FIRST POST! I don't really know, but have you tried flimbling it?
Expert Edgar: Lots of people have this problem. I've worked on something related, so let me spend several thousand words pontificating about related matters. But none of that may directly help you. So you have you tried flimbling it? What happened when you did?
Orrie Gamal Poster: As I've said several times already, I tried flimbling it. Here's a detailed description.
Quickdraw Mactrawl: You shouldn't have tried flimbling it! That won't work in your situation.
Oblivious Ollie: Have you tried flimbling it?
Ditto Ditta: I see several people have suggested flimbling it, but that won't work.
Eager Edsel: I know I said this already but I don't know if you saw my comment. Have you tried flimbling it? How about now? Have you tried it yet? If not, have you tried wimbling or wombling it?
Expert Edgar: Ah, I see your mistake. Let me rephrase it with more technical jargon. I know you might not have realised this, but flimbling it won't work.
Eager Edsel: Or how about wumbling it?
Oblivious Ollie: I don't know if anyone's asked this already, but have you tried flimbling it?
Eager Edsel: Have you tried flimbling it?
Orrie Gamal Poster: NOT wimbling or wombling.
Orrie Gamal Poster: And NOT wumbling either for that matter!
Expert Edgar: Ok, I see my mistake. I've taken the time to read your post. I think you might need to theminrain it even though you don't have a froog. Alternatively, you could try frogwockling it, but I'm not sure that will really do what you want.
Ditto Ditta: All of that Expert Edgar just said but more vague and waffly without really knowing what I'm talking about.
Oblivious Ollie: I don't know if anyone's asked this already, but have you tried flimbling it?
Orrie Gamal Poster: As I said, I can't theminrain it because I don't have a froog.
Orrie Gamal Poster: I tried frogwockling it, and my woozle seems even less froblicated than before. In fact, it's smoking a bit round the edges.
Orrie Gamal Poster: YEOUCH! It's smoking quite a lot round the edges.
Orrie Gamal Poster: ...
Orrie Gamal Poster: I unfrogwockled it with some difficulty, and now it's slightly woozled, but I'm not sure where to go from here.
Expert Edgar: Did you try to frogwockle your woozle without flimbling or themraining it? Because that might ruin it entirely.
Orrie Gamal Poster: Aaaaah!
Oblivious Ollie: I don't know if anyone's asked this already, but have you tried flimbling it?
Oblivious Ollie: Or, if you don't want to flimble it, can you theminrain it?
Expert Edgar: I think theminraining it is the only way to go even if you don't have a froog.
Orrie Gamal Poster: I've said this again and again, I want to froblicate my woozle, but WITHOUT a froog. Does anyone know how to do that? Please stop telling me not to do that.
Eager Edsel: I didn't really read your last comment, but maybe if you told us more about your problem we could suggest another way to help?
Expert Edgar: I think Edsel is right.
Orrie Gamal Poster: OK, here's an extremely long account of lots of things I tried mostly related to frooting my whombaht that show I don't know anything about woozles in the first place. But in order to do that, I need to froblicate its woozle, but I can't theminraining its froog because whombaht woozles are undefrooglicious (and any rate, aren't wumble).
Drive By Miss Daisy: If that's the case, you don't want to froblicate your woozle at all. If you themrain your whombaht's wumble directly, you can womble it itself without any woozles or froogs at all. Did you try that?
Oblivious Ollie: I forgot what we were talking about, but have you tried flimbling it?
Orrie Gamal Poster: Yes! Thank you miss daisy. That solved my problem. I don't know why no-one else could just say that even though it directly contradicted my original post and relied on a lot of information I didn't think was relevant once I went down a blind alley.
[5 year later]
Quickdraw Mactrawl: I just found an old notification for this thread and I realised I may have posted too quickly. Whatever you do, don't themrain your whombaht's wumble directly because I'm not going to explain why just in case it's useful to anyone who finds this forum thread later and doesn't know if I know what I'm talking about or not or if it applies in their situation.
[5 years, 1 day later]
Oblivious Ollie: I just saw this. I don't really know about woozles, but I think I read something similar once and someone suggested flimbling it. Have you tried that?
[10 years later]
Dame Spam-a-lot: That's a really interesting post! Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My website is in the exact same niche as yours and my visitors would certainly benefit from a lot of the information you provide here.
[15 years later]
This thread was locked by Orrie Gamal Poster.
jack: (Default)
AGAIN I went through the steps to recover my username, reset my password, play twenty questions to discover what the actual requirements on my password are, be unable to set it, discover that the problem is "same as previous password", go back to log in screen and log in.

Is there a reason websites that have a morass of password restrictions don't show them on the LOGIN screen, so you can remember what constraints you had to deform your password to meet? Is it sheer hatred for humanity? Or just incompetence? Or better, why not accept that I don't care about your stupid insecure grasping website and give me a one-time log-in code to my actual email address, rather than forcing me to pretend that because I had to use your site once, it will automatically become my primary email address? I guess that last question answers itself.

There's a reason google is seductive and evil, "evil and repellent" is not a good sell!
jack: (Default)
Today I saw an act of pure evil (and an act of pure good).

If you're in a stationary queue of traffic, and and a vehicle wants to turn through (not into) it, into or out of a side road, there is absolutely no benefit to you in preventing it, and negligible harm to anyone else. It's physically impossible for the queue ahead to accelerate so fast that waiting 20 seconds to let someone through means you may be left behind, unless they have psychic powers. And even if they do, you're still only losing 20 seconds.

As far as I can tell, the only possible downside is that way at the back of the queue, the cars are being held up by 20 seconds, and someone *may* be slowed down by the queue from reaching the turning they want. But the person in the vehicle that would like to turn in front of you is *definitely* being prevented, so letting them through seems like it would always be better. There's not even any mental effort, since letting someone turn out of a side road is pretty boring, but it's less boring than sitting in a queue of traffic :) Is there any other downside I'm missing? Even if the queue is only moving slowly, it's still usually better, but sometimes it's actually rolling forward a few metres at a time between stopping again.

It's basically free karma. Completely free: not "clearly better to do more good, at the expense of a smaller downside", not "put in a bit of effort now and it will make a greater return later", just "no downside, take the gold pill and make the universe slightly better, or take the green pill, and don't". Pure positive-sum, a small microcosm of positive-sum-interpersonal-interactions which are what make society.

So why do people NOT do this? It's pure evil.

Except, even if that analysis of the pros and cons are accurate, that emphasises the difference between evil intent and evil outcome. Most people haven't thought it through, just "must get to the red traffic light AS SOON AS POSSIBLE just in case something delays me". As with big things, for small things, "evil" intent is poorly correlated with evil outcome -- obliviousness is at least as common.

Which feels more wasteful, but might be easier to fight.
jack: (Default)
Dear creepy ads which snooped on my browsing and followed me all over the net,

I've already bought a Lakeland clothes hanging rail and it was very good. I don't need another Lakeland clothes hanging rail. I won't buy another Lakeland (TM) clothes hanging rail, however many ads you keep showing me for Lakeland (TM) brand clothes hanging rails.

Please continue to show me ads for Lakeland clothes hanging rails! They're much less offensive than all the ads you used to show me and the repetitiveness makes it a lot easier to automatically tune them out.

Also, I hope charging lots of money showing ads for products to people who won't buy them means your whole industry syphons off all the moolah from the overhead economy to creators and then bankrupts itself.

Love Jack
jack: (Default)
Got to work late because of waiting for the bed delivery. Then got 8 hours of productive work done. That never happens! Why can't that happen every day?

Squeeeee! Bed!

Where would you put the "off" switch for a monitor?
☐ Somewhere you can't reach
☐ In a concrete bunker under the raptor cage
☑ At the corner where you need to grab it to adjust the height
☐ Anywhere else

How can you tell if a unicode ☐ character shows up correctly? :)

I added two more weekly resolutions to beeminder. It's a lot more convenient now it has a "max safe days" option, it's easier to make goals where you don't want to do a total amount, but want to do an approximate amount every week if you say "doing twice as much this week can give me credit for next week, but no more". But getting in to work 7 hours early, I wouldn't do, but if I did, would be equally unprofessional to getting in to work 7 hours late, not cancel it out. And no amount of cleaning now will mean I don't have to tidy again for three months! My new resolutions are 15 minutes of tidying twice a week (ie. not only at the last minute). And 15 minutes of practising some hobby (drawing, writing, juggling, etc) twice a week.


In related news, I'm so averse to capslock that even when I am writing an all-caps rant, I just hold down shift! It's easier because my fingers do it automatically.

Come to think of it, why isn't there an italic-lock key?

Finished Saga vol 1. Beautiful and fascinating. I was somehow expecting less gore and disturbing situaitons, though, even if they were perpetrated by bad people. On to Vol 2, but not immediately.

ETA: In case it wasn't clear, guess who just hit the last day of "resolution to post three blog posts a week" :)
jack: (Default)
For nine seasons, HIMYM is the often INCREDIBLY, INCREDIBLY annoying, sometimes sweet, sometimes funny story of Ted and friends, and all the ways Ted messes up relationships, told as the story of Ted explaining to his children how he first met their mother.

I really liked most of the last season (with a few unfortunate exceptions) with all the little hints with other cast members meeting the children's mother, and Ted not quite doing so yet, but having flashforwards to things they did together.

I'd assumed that any ending would be a let down, assuming that Ted would meet the children's mother in the last episode, and there was no possible way that could be a surprise. But I was very pleasantly surprised that they built up a whole season showing Ted and the children's mother continually nearly meeting, and showing her meeting the other characters, and building her up as a character, it felt like if they just capped it off with the expected meeting at the end, it would have been perfect, much better than I expected for a show built around a premise that encapsulated its own ending, and dragged out for nine seasons.

Thoughts and feels, including spoilers )
jack: (Default)
A little while back, there was a fuss, "should a corporation hire the obvious candidate for CEO if they donated money to a campaign against allowing equal marriage".

What I think should happen

But lots of posts about it framed it as "should everyone refuse to hire people with different political views" and concluded "no, even if the views are really awful, it's usually better if everyone hires ignoring political views and sorts out political issues by voting and activism". Which I agree with.

But I think this framing is mistaken. I don't think we should refuse to employ anyone with vile political views, but I do think we shouldn't put them in charge of doing things which their politics tells them not to, unless they make a clear and convincing statement that "I may not agree with it, but I admit my job responsibilities say I should ignore that and I will abide by them."

Something similar applies to people in being-a-public-face roles. And a CEO is both in charge and a public face.

If he had an objectionable political view completely unrelated to the company he's running, and he was discrete about it, I would reluctantly live with it. But anti-gay-marriage isn't that, there's all sorts of ways it can come up. Would you prefer corporate charity donations which are anti-gay-marriage, or refuse ones which are sympathetic to it? Would you discriminate against gay employees? If you have the option, would you deny employment benefits to gay spouses but not straight spouses? Did he clearly state none of that was a problem?

I basically think "a giant internet storm which forced him out" was a good result (even if a shame for him personally, and I think internet storms are dangerously misusable).

Aside: Firing people for not being progressive enough

A point several people made is that it's exhilarating to have reached a point in society where it's even conceivable to talk about firing someone for being anti-gay, instead of firing someone for being gay. It would be easy for people to get overexcited and call for anyone with non-progressive views to be fired.

I agree it's better to have a truce where people aren't fired just for their politics, with the 51% on any issue always deploying a scorched-earth policy against the 49%, since that just makes it worse for everyone. And that it's risky to fire someone because of internet outrage, because that can happen. But I don't see that it happened in this case (eg. no-one called for mozilla to be purged of ALL people with some political view, just the CEO!).
jack: (Default)
Step 1

Spread news about your website by word of mouth, but prevent your front page from telling anyone what your website is about, why it might help them, or what's cool about it. If you let people find out the secrets, they might visit your website, view your ads, or spend money on your merchandise!

Maybe you have a webcomic about a group of characters. Or a website that sells awesome T-Shirts. Or a website that can save people from procrastination. But you're scared that people might find that out casually without showing the proper level of dedication, whether or not they think the latest instalment of ongoing relationship-drama and plot-critical reveals is fascinating before they

Avoid "about" pages! Keep "help" and "cast" pages to a minimum -- if you try, it's surprisingly easy to write a cast page which is funny to people who already know the characters, but does almost nothing to help new readers understand which character is which, or what the salient facts they need to know to understand the strip are.

HANDY TIP: Did you know, the more people visit your website, the more bandwidth you may have to pay for?

Read more... )


Your front page should link to an "about" page that explains what your website is. In text.

Webcomics: link to a strip that's a reasonable place to start reading.

Companies: explain what someone might want to buy. If you market to individuals and companies smaller than fifty people, swallow your pride and admit how much it costs (even in general terms, if I know it's £10-£1000, I can guess where I might fit, and you still have a chance to negotiate. If you don't say, I'll just pass on).

Also: I hate video! Video is hard to consume. If you don't have the time to edit your video to a form I can see, fair enough, but don't pretend you're doing me a favour. If you don't want to read your website, fine, but try to put "eff off, we hate people" on the front page, don't make me click through several links first to find out.
jack: (Default)
If "enter" is the shortcut key for "autocomplete", what is the shortcut key for "the thing I have typed, submit it"?

I've had this problem in facebook, and in spreadsheets, and sometimes with autocomplete on my phone. It seems they're trying to be too helpful, but I don't know if I'm using a bad version, or if my instincts are wrong, or if they literally have removed the ability to enter original text.
jack: (Default)
Advantages of middle-endian (MM/DD/YY) dates:

  • 3/14/15 is an extra-special Pi Day

Advantages of ISO standard (YYYY-MM-DD) dates:

  • Everything else.
jack: (Default)
Any project -- civil engineering, software engineering, social, etc -- can suffer from a tipping point where one part of it is complete where people stop being grateful it's as good as it is, and start resenting it for not being finished.

If you write a software app, when it's just started, it's obviously fairly ad hoc. At worst, people say "I can't figure it out". But after you fix all the obvious shortfalls, it gets to where people can use it fairly trouble free for a couple of hours, and then suddenly hit a brick wall where they can't do X, or it doesn't work with software Y, or they do Z and it suddenly crashes. And they ask "why doesn't it work"? And the answer is "I haven't had time to examine the hundreds of possible situations people might use it in and make it not just functional but work seamlessly out-of-the-box in all of them yet". But that's little comfort. A better question might be, why does it LOOK as if it should always work?

Similarly, imagine playing bridge with someone. If they're a complete beginner, you're lucky if you can bid legally, let alone coherently, and you just take it as it goes. But once they've mastered all the basics and got reasonably consistent, it's possible that the exceptions surprise you more, because you've subconsciously started treating them as an expert, even though you know that even if they know a lot of things in theory, they've yet to practice every possible combination of them.
jack: (Default)
The spaceship is racing across the galaxy to prevent the plague spreading off-planet. Will it get there in time...?

My objection is not, "is the speed of the spaceship scientifically accurate?". Nor even, "is it consistent from episode to episode?" That would be nice, but isn't necessary to tell a good story -- look at something like the Simpsons.

If the story doesn't say, but makes it clear that they're cutting it fine, but any one delay will be dangerous and two are disaster, that's fine.

My objection is, when the story doesn't make it clear.

The original StarTrek fudged distance all the time, but normally stayed consistent for the duration of one journey. The reboot oscillated widely where a journey would be months, and then a few minutes later, only take minutes. That meant there was never a sense of urgency except from people screaming: however urgent the next crisis was, there was never a suggestion that getting there in time had anything whatsoever to do with where it was.

Sherlock is really quite consistent 80% of the time. But 20% of the time, (normally to do with electronics) the rules suddenly change completely and become fuelled by magic wishing juice.

Sherlock: $Thing1 is impossible (even though it's possible in the real world).
Sherlock: $Thing2 is possible (even though it's impossible in the real world).
Sherlock: $Thing3 is impossible (even though it's possible in the real world) and $badthing is going to happen unless we do it! Oh no, $badthing! Oh, it turned out it was possible after all. Hahahahahaha, why were you so stupid as to believe that, don't you know it's possible in the real world?[1] Why are you not more emotionally engaged by our escape from inevitable $badthing?

In Captain Vortpatril's Alliance, there are two plot points that were supposedly necessary, but don't really make any sense to me. (Details in forthcoming post.) I don't care about the plot consistency. But it makes a significant difference to the character arcs, which were mostly excellent, whether the characters (a) did something really dangerous and pointless because they're emotionally biased and got rewarded for it or (b) bravely made the least-bad decision in a difficult situation and got through it. It makes a difference whether the stupidity is in the character (someone who gambles people's lives on a stupid idea is really quite awful) or the plotbuilding (someone who comes up with a good plan in the book is doing the right thing, regardless whether the science would work in the real world). But that means I can't engage emotionally as much as I'd like, because I don't know which.

[1] Really.