Ring! Ring! Who’s There? *handcuffs*

Cnet has a report on how police departments are being inundated with false alarms from Amazon Ring alerts because people have freaked out over the camera footage of innocent activities. In one case someone called to report footage of themselves walking into the door!

I’m reminded of a case that happened nearby just a month ago. In Manhattan Beach (near Los Angeles), police from five cities — and an LA Sheriff’s helicopter — descended on a neighborhood because someone panicked over Ring footage of a food delivery sent to the wrong address. It took them an hour and a half to confirm that there was no crime in progress.

The story basically filled a bingo card:

  • IoT doorbell camera (and of course it was Ring)
  • Gig/app delivery service
  • Upscale neighborhood
  • Paranoid reaction to, you know, people
  • NextDoor posts quoted in article (because of course they are)
  • Massive police over-response
  • SMS alerts sent to neighboring cities

It was absurd. Fortunately no one was hurt or arrested, so it remains an absurdity, but between the waste of resources, the increase in fear, and the risk that something could have gone wrong, it fits right in with these other cautionary tales. As Fight for the Future puts it:

Ubiquitous, privately owned surveillance camera networks are NOT going to make our neighborhoods safer. They just make us all paranoid. Soon we’ll be snitching on our neighbors Red Scare style. Enough

Dear Twitter: Please Ditch the Clutter

Have you ever been to a Las Vegas casino? The main floors tend toward sprawling layouts, with lots of shiny distractions to entice you to stay and spend more time and money on the slots instead of helping you get where you’re going. That’s what Twitter’s new layout feels like.

When Twitter started out, the home timeline would just show me posts from people I followed. Now it also shows me

  • Posts they liked, but didn’t like enough to retweet.
  • Posts from people they follow.
  • A “Who to follow” box that I can’t seem to get rid of, which is also on the sidebar.
  • Advertisements – I mean “Promoted” tweets.

I get that ads are the business model they’ve chosen, but what’s with the rest of it? It’s not like I’m going to get bored if I don’t have more suggestions shoveled in front of me.

And I am going to get frustrated if I can’t find the stuff I’m actually looking for. Let’s think back for a moment to the early 2000s, back when there were a lot of different competing search engines. Google won not just because it was fast and accurate, but because it had a simple, fast-loading, no-nonsense home page while everyone else was trying to cram everything imaginable onto a “web portal.”

With that in mind, let’s look at what happens when we look at a specific post. The logical thing to do would be to show you tweet itself and the context around it: If it’s part of a thread, show the rest of the thread. If it’s part of a discussion, show the discussion. And that’s how Twitter used to work. But now you have to click through another link to see that context, and instead it wants to show you “Tweets from people like so-and-so.” How is that a useful default?

It’s like going to a page in a book and finding not the previous and next pages, but ads for other books.

I actually do like the two-click retweet button functionality, where you click and get a menu asking if you want to retweet by itself or quote-tweet it. Normally a two-item pop-up menu is a terrible idea for usability, but this is a case where introducing some friction in the process might give people a chance to consider what they’re doing.

But the rest of it feels like they’re desperately throwing everything they can think of at me in hopes of broadening my engagement with the site. And that reaches a point of diminishing returns. When you can’t use the site for what you’re trying to do, it ends up making you much less interested in coming back.

I wish I could use TweetDeck on my phone.

It would be simpler.

Double Rainbow Cloud

Wispy cirrus clouds/contrails against a blue sky, with a rainbow-colored section.

Two fragments of a circumhorizon arc seen on my way back from lunch today. I took some shots with my phone, because that’s what I had, then remembered that I had the good camera with me (I usually don’t) and grabbed it from the office. The clouds had shifted, but not far enough to destroy the effect completely, and I was able to get some interesting shots of one section, even if the other had mostly dissipated.

Saturation has been enhanced on both photos to bring out the colors.

Looking back over others I’ve seen, just about all of them have been visible while I was on my way to or from lunch. It makes sense. The optics do require the sun to be high in the sky for it to appear, so close to noon is a better time to spot them than, say, mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Wisply cirrus clouds/contrails above palm trees. Two clouds have rainbow-colored segments at the same visual height.

Oh, funny thing: When I initially posted these on Pixelfed, my phone auto-corrected “cirrus cloud” to “citrus cloud.” Twice. And again when I tried to correct it!

Fix the small problem, break the big problem

If you have a big problem and a small problem, and you solve the small problem in a way that makes the big problem worse, that’s a bad solution.

Imagine “solving” a squeaky air conditioner fan by breaking the AC completely!

In the US, people voting who shouldn’t is a much smaller problem than people who should be allowed to vote not being able to, or mishandling of ballots after the vote. Voter ID laws and roll purges “solve” the smaller problem by making the bigger problem worse.

(You might already have an acceptable ID, or the documentation needed to get it — and the time and money to handle it. But what if it’s hard to get the time off? What if you can’t cover the fee without skipping meals? What if you need to cross two states to get the docs and can’t afford the car/gas/motels?)

If you assume good faith? Pushing to block people from voting, while simultaneously refusing to protect registration rolls or polling machines from mishandling or cyberattacks that we know are ongoing, is bad problem solving at best.

But it’s hard to assume good faith. Because those ID requirements and purges are more likely to unfairly disenfranchise people who might vote Democratic. And the ongoing Russian attacks that Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to guard against have favored the Republicans.

So it’s really easy to conclude that GOP politicians don’t want fair elections. They want elections tilted in their favor. Even if it means leaving the door open for a hostile foreign government to attack.

And anyone else who finds those vulnerabilities.