Ben Poole

The spaces debate

For some time now, MS Word has been flagging up two spaces after a full-stop as an “error”. Given that, it seems as good a time as ever to say, can we please, please put this bloody debate to bed now?

This is my favourite bit in John Gruber’s assessment of the situation:

The two-spaces thing has been a “debate” only in the way that wondering if the earth is round, or if man landed on the moon, or if you should smash up a couple of cherries and orange wedges while mixing an Old Fashioned have ever been debates. One side has all the experts in agreement; the other side is wrong.

John Gruber, Microsoft Word now flags two spaces after a period as an error

(My emphasis).

Land of the free?

As Jason Kottke says, this is quite the paragraph:

Americans are, of course, the most thoroughly and passively indoctrinated people on earth. They know next to nothing as a rule about their own history, or the histories of other nations, or the histories of the various social movements that have risen and fallen in the past, and they certainly know little or nothing of the complexities and contradictions comprised within words like “socialism” and “capitalism.” Chiefly, what they have been trained not to know or even suspect is that, in many ways, they enjoy far fewer freedoms, and suffer under a more intrusive centralized state, than do the citizens of countries with more vigorous social-democratic institutions. This is at once the most comic and most tragic aspect of the excitable alarm that talk of social democracy or democratic socialism can elicit on these shores. An enormous number of Americans have been persuaded to believe that they are freer in the abstract than, say, Germans or Danes precisely because they possess far fewer freedoms in the concrete. They are far more vulnerable to medical and financial crisis, far more likely to receive inadequate health coverage, far more prone to irreparable insolvency, far more unprotected against predatory creditors, far more subject to income inequality, and so forth, while effectively paying more in tax (when one figures in federal, state, local, and sales taxes, and then compounds those by all the expenditures that in this country, as almost nowhere else, their taxes do not cover). One might think that a people who once rebelled against the mightiest empire on earth on the principle of no taxation without representation would not meekly accept taxation without adequate government services. But we accept what we have become used to, I suppose. Even so, one has to ask, what state apparatus in the “free” world could be more powerful and tyrannical than the one that taxes its citizens while providing no substantial civic benefits in return, solely in order to enrich a piratically overinflated military-industrial complex and to ease the tax burdens of the immensely wealthy?

David Bentley Hart, Three Cheers For Socialism

Togetherness

Those of us who have hung around the internet for the longest time will remember the breathy enthusiasm of the 1990s. We had skeuomorphism here, there, and everywhere in software design, and it was thrilling: General Magic’s Magic Cap, Macintosh System 7, hypertext, eWorld… oh my goodness. Soon we would all be connected in “virtual towns”! The world would become smaller, people would come together, learn, and solve the big issues! The design of this brave new world reflected all that. What a time to be alive.

Ah, but we should have taken more notice of the flame wars that erupted regularly in the most innocuous Usenet groups, because fast-forward to 2021, and we still have wars over made-up sky faeries, skin colour is still a massive issue, legion of us have to justify vaccination programmes, and the Flat Earth Society is in its seventh decade of existence.

So much for our collective development as a species. As my esteemed colleague Andrew Magerman says:

we humans are more fascinated by scandal and outrage, rather than plain old boring truth.

Andrew Magerman, Digital Privacy is not only a private decision – it affects us all

There is hope though! Almost two years ago, Jamil Zaki wrote the piece, The Technology of Kindness which is worth a skim. The article looks into what makes much of our online experience so nasty, but also establishes how that doesn’t have to hold true always. A couple of the sites positioned in the piece as online communities with heart have gone by the wayside, but Zaki does call out both RareConnect and 7 Cups – empathic, encouraging platforms versus the polarising shit-storm that is social media. There is hope.

Fast

You can make your web pages really quick if you don’t load them up with trackers, ludicrous backgrounds, myriad Javascript libaries, mahoosive CSS templates and other sales ’n’ marketing nonsense (there’s a reason you shorten that to S&M).

Just a thought.

It’s alive!

Now then. It’s been a while…

I decided to celebrate this site’s upcoming nineteenth anniversary by resurrecting it, which seems fair enough.

benpoole.com used to be a hand-coded Domino web app with extensive work-arounds to make it do the right thing. However, that is so early-noughties; I’ve decided to go full-on, nineties www with a static web page for now (!)

All the old content still resides in an NSF which I will be migrating in due course – will it be worth it? Who can say.

For now, if you’re reading this, well hello there, and thanks for having me!

Archive (coming soon)