17 April, 2014

Differences in collaborative styles

It is unfortunate, I think, that women talk a lot about how "women are bitchier than men" and "women are back-stabby" and so forth. I mean, I hear this kind of thing all the time when discussing (primarily with women; men don't say these kinds of things) gender performance and roles in adult society.

Certainly, it is possible that some women are manipulative, or petty, or overly concerned with superficial or superfluous causes and needs, or oblivious to things like empathy. But this is true of all people. Why do we have a specific sort of "trope" or cliché about this?

When I have asked for help from women, I, almost without exception, have received help or at least attention. I think, to some extent, this has to do with my being a woman, but largely I think it is because there is no stigma around vulnerability or "being emotional." That is, stoicism is not required to "be a good/strong/whatever woman." Generally, we find it an exceptional quality in a man that he is willing to be seen crying (conversely, we laugh at men who cry, for example, in a movie theatre).

Lots and lots has been written on empathy in technology. I think the most important thing I have read on the subject is Dr Erin Cech's study at Rice, which specifically dealt with engineering and technology.

It seems, from my own experience, that women are generally just more capable of empathy. Perhaps this is not innate, and comes from the way we raise girls and boys differently (and yeah, we totally do). But the fact remains I have never been so supported in any community as I have by women in technology.

When I have worked for female managers there has always been less insistent upon hierarchies and enforcing structure; they're more interested in results and maintaining the health of their employees/peers. Women have been less insistent about the 24/7 ethos and more inclined to tell people "well, sorry, we are going to miss that deadline," and deal with the consequences, mitigating risks and damage. I surmise this is because, owing to empathy, women are more interested in damage to their people than they are to a project.

I realise some people will be a little peeved about that; there are some projects that require intense devotion – national security, safety-critical and so on – but if you slip your release schedule because you aren't willing to make your team work sixty hour weeks for a month, again, I think this is a perfectly reasonable reaction, and that furthermore, it's fucking software. It happens. Work on, next time, having a more accurate estimate of hours and time. Work on getting your programmers or other engineers more skilled at what they do. More efficient at the things they do (host brownbags on how to use their editors, organise filesystems, manage their calendars/schedules). There are a million things to do before asking your people to do these things.

Anyways, this is kind of all over the place, but my point is this. I am really incredibly happy with the support I have gotten from women in my profession. It's heart-warming. Honestly. And I wish we, as women, would stop bashing women.

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On socratic irony, friends, and trolling

I was reflecting on a disagreement I had with a (former-) friend of mine a while ago this evening as I lay trying to get to sleep, because that's what I do when I am trying to sleep (rather than sleep, of course).

He, and a friend of his, asserted that this particular opinion I held (which was basically that neither of the prominent American parties were faultless in the federal government's shutdown; that the shutdown was easily avoided, and was basically a failure of anyone to do anything) could not possibly be my actual opinion, and de facto I was trolling. I maintained that I wasn't, he maintained that I was (from the position that obviously the democrats were less at fault than the republicans, I mean, obviously), and we're not friends anymore. I know, right?

My position in this argument was consistent – equal spite for both parties, unwillingness to concede that this shutdown was a foregone conclusion, that nothing could have been done; obviously, the democrats conceding to republican demands would have ended it. Right? Not the solution they wanted, and there's no question the republicans were being obstructionist about it, but we have a shitty system that needs to be thrown out, bathwater included, and it has ways it works, and ways it doesn't work, and everyone was choosing to not work within this system. I see this as being logically consistent and not so preposterous that I could not hold this position logically except but to argue. Anyone who knows me is fairly familiar with my deep mistrust of, and strong dislike of, authority figures. Really, I am more the kumbaya and drum-circles type than I am one to fit into hierarchies and dick-waving contests. Alas, I digress.

I was very hurt by this suggestion that I must be trolling. The truth is, I do a fair amount of trolling. I don't do it with my friends because, hey, I like those people. If there's anything resembling trolling with people I care about, it's light-hearted, not an ad-hominem, and over quickly. None of this "deep troll" I sometimes partake in. But this was not such a case.

But the friend went further with this. He suggested that I always do this, that I always hold an opinion in an argument or a position on a sociopolitical issue that is perhaps unique, usually contrarian, not especially palatable, and usually against common wisdom. That this is by definition trolling. Actually, that is not the case. I offer that I hold such positions because I am in fact in every respect authentic, transparent, and genuine in most conversations. And trolling is not simply disagreeing with you. Trolling is specifically to elicit a response. When I am asked my opinion, I often don't really care whether you agree with it or not, or even what it is; you asked, I'm telling. I don't hold such opinions for the sole purpose of irritating people, luring them into some sordid argument trap.

In fact, I am a person who is herself often not especially palatable. I am often possessed of unique opinions with fragile suppositions or wild speculation at their core. I abhor common wisdom and will rant at tedious and incessant length about the ways in which "common sense" and similar ideas literally offend me. But these are genuine positions that I think a whole lot about. I come to these opinions precisely because I so detest the complacency that breeds people who (for example) will accept a two-party system as something that can be "worked within." Or that voting will somehow change the fact that the whole fucking system is broken (no, it won't).

These opinions not being accompanied by pat solutions that fix problems, or tidy little bows on top of brown paper packages full of blame and hate, or consensus with a group of people, and the like, none of this makes them disingenuous. And in fact, I will argue to great length, genuinely, the reasons I hold these opinions because I think a whole fucking lot.

So, then. Let us talk of trolling. And how this is different.

I very often find these "common-sense" approaches to politics and other subjects (technology, religion, social justice issues) to be tedious, boring, under-informed, rote and repetitive. And so I begin to ask a lot of questions because I see innumerable holes in these opinions.

  • What is this vote on this ballot you are casting right here going to do to change your municipality, state, country, planet, in the next week, month, year?
  • What if there isn't a solution to this problem and you are just suggesting this solution because it's the quickest and dirtiest way to do something that makes you feel productive, but which wastes dollars/lives/time and accomplishes nothing?
  • What would you do if, for example, you could get everyone on Earth to agree on something?
  • What if the men-with-guns weren't out there, enforcing this detestable kyriarchy?
  • What if laws don't really exist?
You see, these are the sorts of questions that produce all kinds of holes in the supposedly well-reasoned arguments that one digests from listening to the news, and reading The Guardian, and so on. All these opinions are based upon this tiny little world-view, and they are exceptionally easy to tear down, inducing somebody to say "well, yeah, this opinion I hold is not really something that I would stand behind if I had a choice to do/say/be the right thing instead of some attempt or approximation thereof."

This is not exactly Socratic irony, but I have and will likely again play the simpleton in a discussion to be able to ask such "naïve" questions, absent assumptions and presuppositions about the environment and political situation. That is, what if we could do this the right way, instead of the one of three ways being offered to us?

What this means, then, is very simple, I think:

If I am telling you my opinion, I am almost certainly not trolling (I am instead, being trolled). Conversely, if I am asking you your opinion, chances are fair to good that I am (depending on how close we are; if you don't know me, it's almost certain). The question at that point, really, is whether I like you and want to engage in conversation, or I am bored with you and want nothing more to do with the conversation. This former part is called "conversation," not trolling.

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15 April, 2014

Sexism in the workplace

It is really infuriating to me that (almost) all women recognise and understand there is sexism in the workplace. That women understand it is real. And we try to point it out and say "hey, that's fucking shitty, could you maybe not do that!" …and we are ignored. That, how is it possible that there would be sexism if I myself (a manperson) do not see it? How fucked is that?

Pointing it out means I am a hysterical woman. Pointing out means I am a bitch. Or bossy. Or whatever. Not pointing out means I get walked all over by people who would fucking know better if I were a man.

I wish I had something more cogent to say on this, but I am still percolating.

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01 April, 2014

Slave owner mentality

Something I’ve never understood about the 9 to 5 grind is the obsessive need for a company to know exactly what its employees are doing, when they are doing it and where. It’s a slave owner mentality. It’s an effort to dump as many tasks onto each individual in as short a time frame and for as little pay as possible to make the largest profit for those who generally do none of the actual labor. It kills motivation and morale. And for a lot of women, it feeds a sense of resentment when they are not allowed to care for a sick child or are forced to pay exorbitant sums of money to put their children in daycare or camps because, somehow, we are mostly forced to work the same arbitrary weekly schedule. Also worth a mention is that so many jobs today can be done from home. Not only is that a family friendly approach, but isn’t it also the whole point of the so-called ‘green’ movement? Less travel=less traffic=less pollution=less consumption of resources. Am I missing something here, because some of the greenest companies around are still operating on that corporate mentality.

Via an article on women in bitcoin.

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31 March, 2014

The Brooklyn Protocol

Sometimes in life we find ourselves struggling with a single person we care about. Often, while we feel this person is a net positive for our life, it is hard to determine whether this is actually the case, as our feelings are mixed. This protocol will help you determine whether you can or should continue, and leaves the acting out of your hands.

You will need;

  • a friend (reliable)
  • a friend (less reliable)
  • an 'effective' (not 'recreational', effective) dose of xanax for eight total doses. If you do not know what your effective dose of xanax is (you may substitute lorazepam or whichever works for you best), you do not need this protocol
  • a smartphone
  • about a week in which you may be emotionally problematic around coworkers and friends but will not be fired or otherwise socially harmed (holidays work well for this) – this is optional, but very helpful. don't do this the week of your period.
    • This is an estimate; a week is the shortest time that's worked for me, and it's worked several times. Depending on the relationship, it could take longer. If it takes longer, however, this really becomes more a 'breakup' than a 'getting distance' exercise, which is not the intent.
  • a hobby. something to keep you busy.
  • the person you're having difficulty with
For purposes of this protocol, the person will be called Federico.

First things first: with one exception, there are only two bad people on this planet. Neither of them is Federico. So let's get that out of the way. This is just a situation in which your feelings of caring for somebody are making it difficult to carefully examine how you feel about somebody and whether you should continue with that relationship. This protocol will help you get some distance, so you can think about things, and lets the other person think about it, too, although under no circumstances should they be involved in the protocol.

Step one: save a copy of the address book card from your phone and computer's address book, and put it somewhere it takes effort to get to. Put it on a memory stick in the garage. Or give it to a friend. Something. But make it difficult to get to their number/contact info.

Step two: Remove them from apps like Whatsapp and Snapchat and the like. You don't want to block them, as that brings them into play, and they'll get a little note saying so-and-so blocked them, and then this whole process fails. Just make the sort of casual interaction that is the cause of all this more difficult. You can always re-add them later. Facebook is trickier, but there are ways in which you can remove them from your news feed without unfriending them. Do that.

Step three: Tell both the reliable and less-reliable friend that you are having some trouble with Federico, that you need to take a break, and to please not ask any questions or bring him up for the next week.

Step four: Take one dose of Xanax. As you're waiting for the xanax to work its way to your brain, write down how you feel about things. This is where all the confused, mixed thoughts go. You'll be clearer later, and can reflect and revise. But for now, just put it all down on paper or in your favorite editor. Do not share this with people. If you do, you'll wish you hadn't, later.

Step five: Now you wait a week. It's time to take that love and put it on the shelf.

For the next few days, you may require one or two doses of Xanax a day. You don't take it unless you need it, and you can take as many as two doses in a day (separated by at least four hours). More than this, and you will develop tolerance; more than this and you may become habituated. The goal here is to reduce the complexity of mixed feelings for someone, not to become habituated to pharmaceutical coping.

Just as you may be needing Xanax the next few days, you'll need one of those friends to talk to. You're probably not going to be especially coherent. The reason for having the two of them is that it's hard to have one friend that is always going to be available to you. So you have primary friend and fallback friend, for when one isn't available.

In a week, your feelings should be substantially more disentangled. In a week, you'll have an idea of what's happening on the other side of the equation because you're not blinded by what you are doing.

In a week, if Federico's reached out to you, take a moment to think about what you want to say, if you want to actually re-engage. Read what you wrote that first day, before that first Xanax, and see what this relationship does for you, and does to you. These are different things. Me personally, I keep these things around – those little scraps of things I wrote when I was desperately confused; you may want to get rid of it. Lidia Yuknavitch eats them. I see merit in this. Your mileage will vary.

There's no reason you can't get back in touch with him, but after a week, after four or five days of Xanax, the increased intimacy is going to be gone or at least reduced. The trick here is an end-run around oxytocin and the soup upstairs that makes it hard to objectively verify what it is this does in your life. Accordingly, feel free to get back in touch, and do so as less- or not-intimate friends.

Alternatively, you may have worried Federico. Tell him you needed a break to sort things out. If that's difficult for them or they're unhappy about it, you need to re-evaluate why it is you're friends with him, irrespective of whether you're anything else with him. If, instead, he says something akin to, gosh, I'm sorry, do you feel better? Can I help? you're probably in a good spot with him. Now would be a good time to talk about boundaries and what led you to that situation to begin with.

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29 March, 2014

The subjugation of craft to lifelong employment; crushing of creativity and people

(this was originally written in january 2005)
I've never really liked Justin Frankel, but I did spend some of today reading through his weblog. While most of it is (like this weblog) just personal effluvia shat out onto a helpless internet increasingly devoid of actual content, I did find one thing that disturbed me.
It occurs to me that Mr. Frankel, with $86 Million and probably in the neighborhood of tens of thousands of shares of TWX, doesn't really have to think twice about whether he wants to work for himself or someone else. He can pick up and leave. Or, he can seed his own company, and do whatever he likes. 

For the rest of us, the only solution really is self employment. Justin is right. He's more right, I think, than he thinks. What he says applies to any trade in which we take pride in our work. 

Let me elaborate. (hey, I have a captive audience, right?) 

As a systems administrator (which is the hat I wear today), I take pride in what I do. When I am the sole (or one of a group of) administrator of a machine, I want to do the right thing. I don't want to cut corners, implement quick fixes, or do any of the other things that generally get handed down from the pointy-hairs. At AOL there were thankfully few (well, only really one, but I'm just saying that because I'm bitter) pointy-hair types. However, in general, we are forced to subject our craft to things we feel harm it. We are forced to commit what we feel to be crimes against the craft. Be we programmers or systems administrators or database administrators. 

The only answer, if I may repeat myself, is self employment. 

If I may digress for a second, I recently found the 43 Things website. On that site, one of my objectives is get rich. Note what one person had to say about this objective:
    ...there are three easy ways to become rich. you can win the lottery you can become a smart successful criminal you can have an excellent, simple, outstanding idea and sell it. i do not play lottery. I do not have the attitude for crime. I need an idea.
I find this frustrating. I do not have the thousands-of-options/shares. I do not have even one million dollars to seed a business. I have become a business in Virginia, and I manage to come up with a few thousand dollars a year in income for that business. But it's never enough; I am always beholden to some larger fish than myself for income. That larger fish is responsible for 80% of my creative direction in my career and thus life. 

It disgusts me that it is so hard, in this free nation we live to be actually free.
I resurrected this from the pile of draft posts that had not been published (reaching, in fact, almost a decade back in time) because I find that not a lot has changed. I no longer really have the objective to get rich; instead, this has been replaced with equally ambiguous (become-and-) remain whole, and aggressively pursue happiness in life. But in terms of the one facet of myself that I still share with that person, ten years ago – that I share with that very confused, angry, and hurt young woman – is dissatisfaction with the way careers work. The way a lifetime of employment forces us to, literally, mortgage our lives. The economy of scarcity (which is now outmoded at best) ensures that we will live our lives, the best years of our lives, in servitude to someone who skims a bit off the top (or a lot), to assure their own comfort at our expense.

It is exploitative in nature, and it doesn't have to be there at all. As a race, humanity has the material wealth to flatten this system, to do away with (this is the first time I have used this term, and probably not the last, and this probably in fact means I am a deconstructionist feminist, but I will think on the repercussions of admitting that later) kyriarchy. But we don't. Out of a mixture of ignorance and greed, and complacence, allowing others to drive our day-to-day.

What I was getting at in 2005, but had not had enough time of introspection, or enough time and distance from those very traumatic things that happened to me back then, is that I am unable to pursue the things I am passionate about, indeed the things that I am probably better than anyone else at, for lack of a benevolent sponsor, willing to kick some portion of their wealth my way to support me, regardless of its value to them or merit on its own.

This is very troubling. But what troubles me more is that there are so few people who look at the system and call bullshit on the "you should vote!" and "work to change the system!" rallying cries of modern (Western-) activism. No, step back a minute; fuck the system. The system itself is broken. Let's step back and envision a world in which none of these precepts about law-reinforced-by-violence or the very fucking existence of warfare are things we consider to be rational and necessary.

No, we need to destroy all of this and stop paying lip service to the idea that this is a system worth saving.

There may be some hope. Justin seems to have stopped being a colossal asshole and is leaning more in the direction of being a good person. Rather like me, after ten years of introspection, I guess.

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Thoughts on homosexuality and shared experience of doubt

I often stridently resist labeling because it requires me to commit to something I am unwilling (because I am unable) to commit to: remaining consistent in presentation and performance for an indeterminate period (which is to relinquish power, bluntly). As such, when I encounter the question of sexuality in life (and we all get it, I think, even straight people who don't have these kinds of internal dialogues), I am very hesitant to say that I am one thing or another. The fact is, though, that despite trying to make things work, I am daily more convinced that it just won't. Anyone who spends much time reading things I have written will find a long trail of distrust of men in social and situations involving intimacy (I feel like I need to add a qualifier here, and resent that, so I will not). So, it should be no big surprise that while I don't "feel" gay, anecdotal evidence seems to point to the idea that I'm never really going to have a meaningful intimate relationship with a man. I am not certain I could even understand a son.

I read an interesting blog post this morning while looking for a little more facile interpretation of some Spivak:
It is difficult, painful, unbearable to feel the continuous need to fight heterosexuality. I feel the need to continuously underline my existence as a slap to the people I am surrounded with. But this need itself is so… crazy. Sometimes I feel that I am trying to convince myself that I am lesbian. Often, I wonder if I really don’t like men. Heterosexuality is a deep, deep fantasy that I cannot swim out of. And yet, I never notice most men, I never feel like talking to most men, or being friends with them. There it is again. Sustained self-doubt, sustained anxiety about not feeling any attraction towards men. It is doubly nightmarish, then, to be attracted to masculine women or transgendered (FTM) people. I am so, so, so convinced some days that the world is right and we are all just naturally heterosexual. Sometimes, I have started thinking, it would be a relief to be straight. 
I read the chat conversations I had with PR when we were in a heterosexual relationship, and I can read the deep fulfilment of my fantasies there. And I know that I was not happy with him. I was constantly anxious, worried, unhappy, angry, submissive, feminine. I had no desire, and the poetry was very contrived. I am not happy even now, but I am not worried about my words, my feelings, my needs, myself, in the way I was with PR. I don’t like myself often, but my relationships let me be even that disagreeable person, and I know that there are no expectations thrust upon me to change. 
I am often uncomfortable with masculinities because I feel that just by the virtue of being feminine, I am being divested of power, I am being put into my place. But in my fantasies, men appear as pure masculinity, without these markers of power. They appear even powerless, because I cast myself as the woman who wields the power of being the Beloved. I open my eyes, and not only the men, every living thing is marked by power and/or the lack of it.
I suspect this is far more common a sequence of feelings than the author believes. Certainly I have had some of these feelings myself. The idea that it would be a relief to be heterosexual. That somehow, one can make it work. That one faces less overt hatred and disgust from society as heterosexual.

It's really enough to give a person a complex. I clearly need to spend more time talking to my peers about this.

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On the inadequacy of the living experience

For those not subscribed to the newsletter, I have just had my thirty-sixth birthday. I have already run across a number of things in life that should have by rights killed me, so I suppose I "ought to be glad to have made it this far." I have also been very fortunate to have a wife I love very dearly and whom I assume loves me to some near-equivalent degree. I have lovers and friends. I've had a successful career that seems to get more interesting daily.

So, on balance, things are going fairly well, right?

The problem is, what I have been meditating on for a couple months now, in those idle moments when I can't get to sleep and can't be bothered to fetch a xanax, on trips from one town to another or one country to another, and so on, is that I want to try things differently.

I am ruminating this evening, periodically, on a relationship I have with a lovely person that makes me really extraordinarily happy, and who also, thankfully, scares me. Parts of me consider my feelings for her, and say, hey, fuck it, let's just throw caution to the wind, let's change rules and roles and plan life around this relationship, or at least give it more priority than I am giving it, and see where things go.

While this relationship is not really the focus of this particular meditation of mine, it is symptomatic of the "problem" I am describing: the constraints of "the rest of my life" force me to make decisions I am unhappy with.

So let us say that I am, for example, forced to choose between a lucrative, challenging, and interesting change in my career on the one hand, and this woman on the other. All rational thinking says, well, relationships, they come and go, but generally speaking the career thing needs more care and feeding, as it sort of chases you around the majority of your life.

Or let us say that I am considering my feelings and thinking, well, instead of being guarded and managing my own reactions and indeed my own actions, why can I not just love with reckless abandon, give myself up to fate and hope that things turn out okay? I mean, normally, things turn out okay, right?

The answer here is that we have just this one life. I can't fork off some process and explore this relationship and allow it to form and grow and wither and succeed and flourish and fail in all the different conjugations relationships are wont to experience. I'll never really get to know this person; in many ways I am just now, after nine years of marriage, getting to know my wife.

The questions I have are going to be left unanswered. I am being cut out of all these experiences I can see, things that are hinted at, and there's no remedy for this situation but to destructively choose between the things I have in my life.

We paid lip service to this idea of "work-life balance" at Booz a lot. The idea, in theory, was that your work is certainly capable of swallowing you up if you let it, or you want it to. There are always more problems to solve, more customers who want bodies in chairs and admins watching the fort. So, yeah, you can work basically as much as you want.

But as you do this, you necessarily, owing to the number of hours in the day, neglect the rest of the things in your life – whether you have kids or a spouse, if you perhaps are unattached and have no time to socialize and date, you lack meaningful time to focus on your own personal development as somebody who will one day work less than they are working now.

We do this same thing with all the structures in our lives. While we in the polyamory community say that one needn't choose between lovers, indeed many of us (most of us?) do precisely that, when we talk about having secondary or tertiary partners; the time we dedicate to our primary partners is time we are not spending with these other people.

A hobby, like flying for recreation, or scuba diving, or driving race cars, will rapidly deplete you of time and usually money. These things, time and money, can be focused other places, like your family or even your career.

It is so frustrating to me that I am given an ever-shrinking amount of time, of years left in my life, of hours in the day, that I am forced to choose between many endeavors I consider to be so very worth my time. To love, with reckless abandon. To focus on self-development and better understanding of myself and the way I relate to the world around me. To become highly skilled at a trade. To learn new languages and spend time in new places. Learning, generally.

It seems so cruel to me that we are presented this immense gift that is life, and yet it is such a short span of time that we cannot possibly go back for another round at the buffet; we are forced to choose what to put on our too-small plates, and we are told to appreciate this great feast in front of us.

Obviously it is better to have experienced life, as much as we are given, than it is to not be granted life, or sentience, or introspection, or reflection on the universe around us. But how much better? The more I ask this question, the sadder I get.

To be clear, I am not real afraid of dying; I'd prefer not to do it, or at least not just yet, but my concern rather is that there are so many things I want to do, and I resent not being able to do them, knowing that I will die one day, and I will be thinking to myself, how could you have fucking done that? You loved her. What were you fucking thinking?

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The male gender politic and what happens online.

People call me a misandrist. I sometimes joke and say that I am a misandrist. This is not really true, as I have said before. The truth is, men scare me. It is because the male gender politic has features which are incredibly destructive and dangerous, and are outmoded in modern society.

I know one of you is right now screeching but surely you are generalizing, Jane! Yeah. I'm generalizing. There are billions and billions of men on the planet, and slightly more women. If we are to talk about men and women, and gender politic, the sort of macroeconomics of sexism and gender relations, we must generalize. Because, believe it or not, the human brain is not cut out for discussing billions of individuals individually; English is even less suited to the task. So, really, spare me. Let's move on.

So, are you going to hit me?

The male politic in (primarily inter-male) interaction is a series of escalating bluffs. Men are largely concerned with hierarchies for this reason: without a hierarchy saying who is the dominant person in a given pool of people, these bluffs can be called at any time. The bluffing is based upon who-is-fittest. The metaphor that we all (yes, all people) use in (unfortunately very casual) speech is penis size. It's quite vulgar, but the vernacular in engineering and investing includes such phrases as "the swinging dick" (which I am told originated in the book Liar's Poker, but I have not actually verified this). The notion being that he-with-the-largest-penis is the superior, dominant, in-chargiest person there.

If you watch a group of men in a meeting, or discussing something contentious in a social setting, some really clear patterns emerge. The least secure, usually the younger, men of the group tend to raise their voices, and interrupt, and talk over. Formulate your own ideas as to why this happens. The older, more established of the group will generally be somewhat even-toned, appear pensive, but "speak with authority," and employ cadence that is very direct and intimidating, using eye contact and body language (yes, even in a chair) to show that they expect their own preferences to be deferred to.

Really curious things, though, happen when disagreements ensue: this sequence of bluffing comes out. The first thing to come out is usually qualifications – "Well, man, I know what ceviche is like in europe, I spent a month in Madrid in 2001." "What are you talking about? I am a programmer. Of course I know what imperative execution is." And so on. But it is incredibly gauche to actually call these bluffs. Effectively saying, "prove it."

I won't go into too much detail here because I realize that I probably have a less accurate understanding of these interactions than I think I do.

With men, though, the bottom line is always violence. You can rest assured that with men, if somebody gets sufficiently upset, yelling will happen. Someone will stand up sharply from a desk and say "no, you listen to me. We are doing things my way. [or else]" In business this is always the "do it because I am the boss and if you don't I will fire you" angle.

We have phrases and idioms to describe these moments, too, like "back to the wall," which is basically when a person cannot be held accountable for their actions and is de facto dangerous because all their bluffs have been called, and they are forced to make good on their assertions with respect to their physical/intellectual/whatever prowess. "Writing checks that the body can't cash." And so on. We may not talk about this much, or even think about it much, but the male interaction is predicated on violence. Start to finish.

Because I'm a big dork, I will do this in ternary:

Demand. Accepted ? Implement : Bluff ? Called ? [ bluff/call recursion ] : implement : implement
(note to self: make this a flow chart)

Eventually that clause there, [bluff/call recursion] causes the male political interpreter to shit the bed and say deep recursion detected, and then you're stuck outside the framework of bluffs and calls, and you're left to measure the man that you, and your opponent, are.

Okay, so what does this have to do with the internet?

Well, if you're a dude, on the internet, it is very difficult to bluff in any meaningful way. Furthermore, it is incredibly easy to call these bluffs with little risk to yourself (whereas in person, you may get socked in the face). This is where we get the term "internet tough guy" – you clearly wouldn't be calling this bluff in person, scrawny man, you are protected by THE INTERNET, WHERE I CANNOT BEAT YOUR FACE INTO TINY PIECES.

Accordingly, the male politic breaks down and functions poorly on the internet, in a media where the threat of violence is largely meaningless. In a male gender politic, men are not given the tools to operate productively on the internet. Whether the internet should have a gender politic at all (or whether it does) is an interesting discussion – for a different day.

We see all kinds of failures at work within this framework. Characteristic of these failures are the common rape threats, death threats, hate speech, and so on, that is hurled at just about everyone (male or female). The reason for this is nobody can prove how (forgive me) big their dick is; the goal, then, is to intimidate everyone in the most severe, visible fashion possible.

It is because of this that violence characterizes the male interaction on the internet. Whether we are talking about threats of bodily harm, or we are talking about trolling and character assassination, violence is part-and-parcel of that interaction.

Once a person enters into a (again, forgive me, this is an awkward term) male system, they will very quickly find that people immediately seek to establish a hierarchy. There are abundant ways to determine who is fittest online, from their Klout score, to the number of lines of code committed to the repository (we have even seen recently allegations of the extirpation of a female Github employee's code from the repository as retaliation…), the longest time in the community (especially on irc and forums), and so on. For the most part, this works to defuse the smaller conflicts. But because the bar for conflict is so low, the cost to call bluffs is so minor compared to doing it in, say, a bar, conflict is never really far away.

And the male system for conflict resolution just breaks down and fails on the internet because, bluntly, nobody can be hurt or killed.

So, yeah. I've got more thoughts on this, but I am sure this will annoy more than a few people I know, or who read this, or even random persons from the internet.

But for me, for my sanity, I will avoid communities with male leadership, communities with a too-high male-to-female ratio, and I will generally avoid "unattached men:" that is, men outside of a community we share. We generally don't get along. It's better for both of us. I am not shy about this; I tell people this and have walked away from communities (and individuals) for this reason.

I'd point out that, at least in America, a lot of this stuff has been remedied by modern HR programs explaining how you can and cannot treat people in the office. That, generally, in the workplace, the above is not really true. You'll see it from time to time, especially in the people that kind of regard themselves as "alpha" (rolleyes) male types, or the insecure, or the newly-promoted/newly-hired seeking to establish dominance and indicate where the steps in the hierarchy are. But generally, things go okay in a modern office environment.

Twitter? Not so much.

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14 March, 2014

That time I unfollowed most of the men I followed on twitter

I had been having this problem with my twitter feed for some months. I'd be reading the usual things I like - random programming jokes or expressions, idioms, etc, various humor of usually a sexual nature, the various oh look an animal in a funny pose pictures, and news, usually from folks like @asher_wolf, who manages to usually find news stuff before I see it in the major outlets, and perspective and people I might not otherwise see.

But in this stream of things, people would go further than I really wanted to see in my feed at work, or before bed, at breakfast and so on. Pictures of dead fighters in Syria, Danny Pearl's body, mass violence, and so forth. Additionally there was a lot of the usual "nip slip" of random celebrities, scathing critiques of people that amounted to ad hominem, and so on. 

This troubled me. So I paid more a attention to see if there was a certain group of people that was doing it more often than others. Previously I had done a sort of mass-unfollow of another group of people that was really kind of troubling me during my day, and my life was better afterwards. Less strife and melodrama. But who was it this time? Was it the hackers? Feminists?

No, the only real thing they had in common was they were all men.

And this troubled me. I joke around about being a misandrist, but the truth is I'm really not. There are men out there I like a lot. There are of course, men I don't like at all. But I think this is true for everyone. Most of the population we can largely do without, and there are a select few we'd have on our hypothetical desert island. Anyways. So I was thinking, "do I really want to just unfollow all the men I follow on twitter? What does that say about me?" And so on.

I literally thought about this for weeks. How do I do this while still getting the information I got from these men I follow, how do I do this without making it some feminist stance or something that just makes me look like an asshole, and whether I "needed" to do anything at all.

But it kept coming. Especially with the stuff in Ukraine and Syria and Venezuela, the daily images of violence were all over my twitter feed and it kept getting worse.

So I made a list. And I went through my list of people I'm following, and with few exceptions, I began to unfollow the men and add them instead to this list. I gather they all got a note saying they'd been added to a list. It took me an hour or two to do this, because the process is very tedious, but afterwards I think I had 130 or so men on this new list, and I was not following them anymore.

And then I waited.

And my experience on twitter, over a week or two, improved dramatically. I had fewer tweets to go through, for one, which was great. But also, I had much less, in fact none, of the things I had been trying to get rid of.

As time went on, I began to worry, what if I am missing great content from all these men I unfollowed? And I began to go check "the list," and to read it daily. When I read it, the "character" of that list of people was different. The sentiment was different. I just did not really like reading that list. And I found, also, that the things I was most interested in from that list [of men], the women I followed by and large did retweet.

So that's the thing here; I can't "keep out men" from my twitter feed because I follow people who retweet men. But I think that what men will retweet and what women will retweet are two different spectrums. And the stuff I want from the men I no longer follow will usually be retweeted by the women I follow who follow those men.

It seems, then, that my (admittedly kind of sexist) experiment has succeeded. Kind of against my hopes. I wanted it to fail to show me that I can't just discriminate content I want to read based upon gender, or to have some foregone conclusion that reinforces some stereotype I've been nursing or something. But, it worked. And I'm happier. And I'm not missing anything. So, I guess I won't complain.

But there you have it. I don't follow men on twitter anymore.

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