Have you ever gotten into a debate on social media, researching a thoughtful post (with citations!) only to be told to do your own research, and most importantly, to “think!”

It’s frustrating, isn’t? Thirty minutes of reading research papers, or longer (admit it–you spent hours down that rabbit hole, didn’t you?), following by trawling countless links to dig up data the other party is clearly willfully ignorant of only to be told to “think!” Isn’t it amazing how disheartening a low brow, low-effort post can become after so much work? You’re not alone, but that doesn’t change the disappointment no matter how fleeting.

One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed whenever I’ve been subjected to this sort of response is that it’s almost always written alongside a logical fallacy (e.g. appeal to authority) that gives the author a faux sense of superiority. Rest assured, this isn’t to convince you: It’s to convince them.

As someone who’s participated in discussion on predominantly politically-right-of-center social media and message boards, I’ve encountered a wide array of strange conspiracy theories (like “Q”) and occasionally even more perplexing (but strangely popular!) ones like the “flat Earth” nonsense. But sometimes I’ll run into individuals who utilize this same retort in areas where I have more concrete familiarity that I know they’re not as well versed in.

A more recent example at the time of writing (this was published much later than the events described herein to protect the guilty) occurred in a Linux users’ group where the topic of malware cropped up based on a recent story of Linux machines being subjected to either state-sponsored malware exploits or long-running command-and-control malware directed by botnet operators. Inevitably, someone from a Windows background tossed around pejoratives, calling anyone who attempted to counter his low-effort arguments names and suggesting that no one could answer is indisputable points. What those points were is anyone’s guess, but that’s not the point of this essay.

The point is that people like this are never interested in the material essence of discussion–or debate–so much as they’re interested in the attention they can receive by antagonizing others. Through name-calling, and other insults, they can effectively raise the temperature of the thread sufficiently to provoke others’ frustrations until the inevitably boil over and return fire. Once this happens, they’ll usually proclaim the moral high ground, express concern that others are shamelessly slinging insults, and obviously no one can offer a retort to their arguments–arguments that are clearly bulletproof. At this point, anyone delving into the debate has probably forgotten the fact that these personalities have never offered a substantive argument. That was their plan all along!

It’s a distraction. It’s a distraction wherein they implore you to think!

This form of trolling thrives on negative attention and anger. Once, it was used by people who weren’t particularly interested in any given topic and simply wanted to irritate as many people as possible. Now, it’s often used by individuals who have an emotional investment in a topic but don’t know enough to support their argument through evidence. Their opinions are all that is needed (or so they think) to draw a line in the sand and stake a claim on facts and truth–oblivious to the reality that facts and truth operate independently from opinion. Of course, that won’t stop them from arguing the point ad nauseum because they know for certain that they’re right. It doesn’t matter if their viewpoint is demonstrably false. They think it’s true, therefore it is true.

Fortunately, as with trolls of yesteryear, one of the most effective techniques against these personalities is to simply ignore them. I know, it’s difficult to do, because the reward cycle in your head desperately wants to tell them they’re wrong. But remember: If they’re disputing or ignoring evidence, they’re not interested in the truth. They’re interested only in their own opinion. If you ignore them, they won’t have anything else to add to the conversation and will eventually leave. Untag them, talk passed them, do whatever you need to do–but ignore them first and foremost. That’s how you win.

There’s a reason the Internet of Old had signs posted with the advice “Don’t feed the trolls.”

I think it’s time we revisit this.

I may touch on the principle of argumentative mental reward cycles in a later post and how trolls exploit this.

I really ought to write more on zancarius.com since it is the domain of my online moniker that I’ve had for almost my entire life on the Internet (going on close to 20 years), but I’ve never had any idea what to do once I moved my primary content to bashelton.com. As of now, politics works as well as anything.

Disclaimer: I’ve been in the political tank for Trump for quite some time. I’m completely aware his public persona paints him as a total jerk, but I think it’s wrong. Privately, Trump is not the man the media gleefully portrays (undoubted with some cultivation from Trump himself). I can’t vouch for this from the basis of personal knowledge, but through observation of his children and their successes, his close friends and associates, and people who have worked for him, the relationship between the real Donald Trump and the media Donald Trump is a complex web of branding, business, successes, failures, and, perhaps more so than anything else, necessity.

Of course, that’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m writing this Thursday, July 21st because of the speech Ted Cruz delivered last night, and I think it’s important to offer some insight into why I think Cruz was booed off stage, why Trump supporters felt immense disappointment, and what this means for Cruz’s career. Before I start, I’d like something from you as well, dear reader: I want you to approach this post with an open mind. Many of Cruz’s staunchest acolytes (of which there aren’t many) have been both busy and vocal on Twitter and elsewhere, spinning Cruz’s speech–and more importantly, the reaction to his speech–in a futile effort to defend their general routed in the waning hours of his campaign. I can understand their emotions, but I have a difficult time empathizing with their continued attacks. The campaign is over. Go home.

There are three or four common talking points among the self-described “Cruz crew” currently making their rounds on social media. They are, with some varying degree of importance: 1) He has no obligation to endorse a man who attacked his wife and father; 2) booing Cruz was shouting down his principles, freedom, and the constitution, rather than his lack of endorsement; 3) he’s a man of principles and will not support someone who he feels is neither conservative nor a Constitutionalist; and (somewhat rarely) 4) a reiteration of his encouragement to vote one’s conscience, usually with the implication that “voting one’s conscience” is synonymous with “writing in Ted Cruz” (both disastrous and stupid). Of these, the first two are the most commonly parroted and intellectually dishonest.

Senator Cruz is under no obligation to endorse a candidate in this race. Whether that’s a reflection of his personal feelings and convictions (or his ego) is between him and God. However, I can fully appreciate his lack of endorsement following brutal primaries and personal attacks (from both sides). When one’s family is dragged into a campaign, it’s difficult to ignore attacks targeting them, and it’s certainly unfair to them as citizens who are not running except by way of association. Believe me: I wish US politics weren’t always so dirty, but it does make for incredible entertainment. That’s not just my analysis–record setting ratings and viewership across the board for all media suggests (sadly, perhaps) US politics are more exciting the uglier they get. I’m not attempting to justify it; the truth is what it is.

Cruz admitted during breakfast with the Texas delegation this morning that at least part of his refrain from endorsing Trump was due to the attacks on his wife and father. I understand his sentiments, but I find it somewhat surprising given the actions of his campaign and their associates. Cruz’s supporters refuse to acknowledge this, but his campaign, his PACs, and many of his campaign’s foot soldiers were by no means entirely aboveboard or as pure as the wind-driven snow. Everyone can acknowledge that Trump’s campaign was, at times, brutal, but I’ve run into few Cruz supporters who will admit that their own candidate was responsible for instigating at least some of the mud-slinging. Where Cruz supporters are quick to point out Trump’s retweet comparing Melania Trump to Heidi Cruz as a personal attack on the latter’s looks (and let’s admit: The photo of Mrs. Cruz was unflattering), they’re less inclined to recall the Utah ads paid for by a pro-Cruz super-PAC showing Melania Trump posing in her birthday suit next to a few lines of unsavory text. In the rare event they do remember the ad, they usually believe it was justifiable. After all, not only should no woman pose in the nude for a photo shoot, but she most certainly cannot be forgiven if she does. (Curiously, the inability to forgive others has been an ongoing theme within the Cruz campaign.)

Legally, super-PACs cannot work directly with campaigns; I will concede this much. Furthermore, I will concede that perhaps retweeting a comment written by someone else may be slightly more problematic than an ad paid for by an allegedly autonomous organization. However, I also believe this is a glaringly hypocritical double standard by the Cruz campaign and his supporters. Holding Trump accountable for comments made by his supporters, regardless of whether he retweeted them or not, and comments made by independent publications or organizations regardless of his relationship with their staff while simultaneously refusing to hold Cruz accountable for the exact same infractions is, in my opinion, an indictment of intellectual dishonesty. They will fervently disagree with this charge, of course, but it’s indisputable: Their faith in Cruz absolves him of any wrongdoing, even if he commits actions that reflect the same or similar behavior of his opponents.

It’s a bit ironic coming from a campaign whose followers often recite Trump’s quote “I could shoot somebody […] and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Sorry, Mr. Trump. I think Mr. Cruz may have you beat in terms of blind loyalty from his adoring fans.

My favorite charge by the Cruz acolytes thus far has been the implication that delegates booing him off stage were jeering against freedom, the Constitution, and the principles Cruz represents. It’s humorous to me precisely because it’s nothing more than blatant disregard of context and a little behind-the-scenes brouhaha. Actually, no, maybe it’s not humorous–instead, it’s so brazenly stupid, it cannot be anything other than malign deviousness with the intent to provoke harm. I watched the entirety of Cruz’s speech, and the booing started after his dismissiveness of the New York delegates’ chant “Endorse Trump.” It wasn’t a delegation shouting down his principles. It wasn’t a delegation shouting down the freedoms of this country. It wasn’t a delegation shouting down the Constitution, the United States, or everything this great country stands for. To advocate that the delegates were shouting down principles isn’t merely rude: It’s a slap in the face of anyone with an IQ above room temperature. It’s an expression of bitterness and anger, maybe even a little resentment. Take your ball and go home.

On the other hand, I may be wrong. It could be argued that the delegates were booing the principles Cruz holds dear if those principles are petulance, pettiness, and selfishness. I’ll have to ask for further clarification in the future. Sometimes it’s difficult to read through Cruz supporters’ smugness.

The next question is whether a man of principles, allegedly one like Ted Cruz, should support someone who is neither conservative nor a Constitutionalist. This question is a loaded question. What this means, for those of you keeping score at home, is that loaded questions are considered a form of logical fallacy. Logical fallacies are often used in a debate when the opposition has neither evidence to support a claim nor a means of logically disputing a statement with which they disagree.

First, the implication of such a question is that Trump is neither a conservative nor a Constitutionalist. This much is up for debate. Trump has a history of vacillating between political parties, and his donations have been more or less uniformly divided among Democratic and Republican candidates. There’s also plenty of anti-Trump propaganda, like the suggestion he’s donated or supported only Democrats, which is easy to counter (Trump supported both McCain and Romney in 2008 and 2012, respectively). Yet, deeper investigation into Trump’s statements, policies, and interviews going back as far as the 1980s suggests a man who was politically agnostic for much of his career. As a businessman, remaining apathetic to political divisions can be advantageous, and retaining influence through political donations is an investment tactic myriads of business owners utilize each year with varying degrees of success (usually more donations equals more success, particularly in corrupt arenas). The question would be better served if it were asked under an ethical framework rather than one of principles or political philosophy. Recall that a business is only obligated to increase value for its stakeholders. Any other concerns are ancillary to this core tenant. No, Ben and Jerry’s save-the-rainforest nonsense is not an obligation, although you could argue that “green” environmental policy increases shareholder value by reducing certain externalities, but I digress.

Second, should a man of principles endorse or support someone who may hold views counter to his own? Cruz supporters phrase this question somewhat ambiguously as a leading question, and since few have experience as attorneys, their efforts usually provoke further dissent and bruised egos (although I’m rarely sure what they expect). Yet the answer to this question is complicated and may depend more on intent than principles. If the intent is to encourage unity and promote healing after a bitter campaign, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” If the intent is to encourage further dissent and division, the answer is “no.” If one has an ego as bruised as Ted Cruz, then the answer is absolutely “no.”

Readers may find it surprising that the one question I find somewhat unfair is whether Cruz is beholden to his principles if he’s unable to uphold his promise to support the GOP’s nominee. On our side, this talking point has been repeated so frequently as to become ineffective, and it’s not even the right question to ask. Even if Cruz signed a pledge to support the nominee, the pledge is legally non-binding. It’s essentially a non-issue. Whether or not it’s ethical to back out of a pledge is another question, but it’s one I leave for the moralists to debate. That’s when it’s a question of whether or not Senator Cruz is acting ethically.

The problem with Senator Cruz taking a verbal or signed pledge has surprisingly little to do with the contents of the pledge. It has everything to do with his campaign. Both Ted Cruz and his campaign have portrayed the junior senator as a man of impeccable integrity and principle. If you put forth substantial effort to hone your image as a man of integrity, principles, morals, and values, but cast them (and your promises) aside the moment someone else treats you poorly, don’t expect your foundations to be free from criticism. It’s not unlike cheating on your wife because she called you lazy. It’s a testament of Cruz’s preparedness for office. If Donald Trump was able to ignite last night’s tantrum, how would Cruz have handled the Left’s relentless assaults? I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, but that sort of behavior is surprisingly similar to President Obama’s (also a junior senator once upon a time).

Lastly, we come to the Senator’s plea to “vote [our] conscience.” Pundits have flagged this as a “non-endorsement endorsement,” and Newt Gingrich cleverly twisted it as an appeal to vote for Donald Trump. I suspect–but cannot prove–that this was simply lip service to the last remaining dozen or so of the #NeverTrump movement (click here to donate to the World Wildlife Fund for endangered species). Whether Cruz hoped to inspire his supporters to write in his name instead may never be known as during the course of the latter part of his speech, Cruz’s rant was beset by technical difficulties and jeering from his opposition.

Cruz’s languishing departure from the stage and his ongoing difficulties today touch on the displeasure felt by Trump’s supporters. To many, the time for primary campaigning has passed. The convention was supposed to be a time for unity, but since Monday, the #NeverTrump dissenters (no matter how few) have continued their disruption with diminishing results. They knew their efforts were futile, ugly, and childish. They knew the media would devour any signs of division. Yet, paradoxically, their autistic focus on a nebulous concept of “principles” and “values” is so tremendously important to their cause that they would rather elect Hillary to make a queerly myopic point. Let me say that again: #NeverTrump dissenters are so bitter that they would rather install 3-4 leftist SCOTUS appointments, countless other judges, and subject us to another four years of liberal rule of law simply because of hurt feelings. I’m not sure there’s enough Preparation Hâ„¢ in the world to remedy this much butthurt.

I guess this is what happens when you condense your entire movement into a single hashtag.

What this means for Ted Cruz and his career remains to be seen. There’s no crystal ball we can gaze in, there’s no looking glass through which we can see the future. We know that Cruz’s ego implored him to speak yesterday, and instead of accepting an olive branch extended by the Trump campaign, he took the opportunity to hang himself. Eloquent though he may be, there is one lesson to be had from last night’s show: Trump’s shrewdness as a businessman is just as useful in politics–something Cruz underestimated. Trump knew what Cruz was going to say, and he let him say it. Trump likely knew the reaction Cruz would receive and did nothing to stop it. Indeed, there was little need: Cruz eagerly offered to say his piece, all while happily tying his own noose at the gallows.

Cruz will be up for a primary election in 2018, two long years from now. I depart from my fellow Trump supporters here and wager that Cruz will be safe during his primary election. Political memories are short. If Trump wins, there may be some unintended forgiveness. However, if Trump loses, Cruz may find himself the party’s scapegoat and be punished with a loss in his primary bid. I can’t say it would be entirely undeserved, but where his supporters will blame the “stupid” people for electing Trump, you and I will know the truth. The man who found no allies in his impressively lonely filibuster found his allies at the convention stretched thin, and a Clinton victory would likely alienate all but the small handful of #NeverTrump adherents, most of whom are old enough to be dead or in a nursing home by the time 2018 rolls around.

The irony that Cruz’s political eulogy, being a self-described man of the book, may be most dependent on his ability to forgive others isn’t lost on me. Perhaps even more damning is that he’s just another politician.

This is an open letter to Blizzard containing some of my thoughts and my feelings about a game of theirs I played for some 6 years. I don’t expect anyone to read it, but in case they do, understand that these are only my specific desires, wishes, or opinions. You don’t have to agree. Some whining may be present ahead, so read at your own risk.

Also, I’ve yet to proof-read this nonsense. I hammered it out late this evening, but I’m too tired to continue and want to go to bed. I’ll re-read it sometime in the coming day or two. I just wanted to publish this for review.

Dear Blizzard,

I’m not a paying subscriber of yours, and I haven’t been for nearly 5 years. I used to be, all those years ago, and payed for a World of Warcraft subscription for a good chunk of the 6 years I played (minus a month or two break here and there). I quit mostly because of the changes introduced in Cataclysm, and mostly because I had other things consuming a majority of my time. Actually, if I were to be completely honest, I was mostly distressed with the changes to the old world made in Cataclysm. I understand why they were made (outmoded content), but it doesn’t mean I have to like them.

Frankly, I miss that old content. Maybe that’s a stupid thing to miss, but I do. And I think I know why.

You see, in this day and age of perpetual push-updates for everything (your browser, your phone software, your games), there’s almost nothing that stays static for long. Everything is in a state of flux. Tons of MMOs have succumbed to this progression-at-all-costs mindset, and for the longest time, I would argue that WoW was immune to it. Content was added as entirely new zones for the better part of two expansions (and Cataclysm to an extent). Sure, the game mechanics changed and grew more complex over time (maybe that was a bad thing?) as talent points increased, spells became more numerous, and the developers struggled to find ways to make use of all the new cruft they added with each release. But by and large, the Old World remained constant–a static reminder of the immutable nature of the old WoW. It illustrated to me that WoW would always be there–unchanged, unphased by competition, and unwavering in its appeal.

Cataclysm changed that.

I eventually played it about a year after its release, and while some of the changes were welcome (simplified talents, removed or deprecated spell sets merged together), the absolute devastation of the Old World ruined it for me. I realize it had to be done–things change, of course–and it would be difficult to have included Deathwing in any part of the story without such destruction. Though, I think at least part of the underwhelming nature of Cataclysm was due in part to the defeat of Arthas. Another dragon trying to destroy the world? Color me surprised.

While I’m not a loremonger–I seldom get interested in the story lines of video games, and I normally abhor the fantasy genre (science fiction is where it’s at!)–I think that even to someone like me, the build up of Arthas as the series final antagonist was perhaps the inevitable failure of the franchise once his demise was certain. Sure, there were minor distractions in the interim (think Burning Crusade), but the festering evil of the Plaguelands was ever-present in the minds of all the early players. We knew what was there. We spent hours–days, in fact–farming in these zones, running Stratholme and Scholomance before the larger raids saw the light of day. Those were the bread and butter of our nighttime entertainment. The Lich King was, at the time, an unseen villain whose influence surrounded us and ate into our very being.

Then we killed him.

With Arthas dead, the not-so-surprising ending of “There must always be… a Lich King,” and the inability to eliminate the Scourge entirely underfoot, there wasn’t really anywhere else for WoW to go. So you added Deathwing. Great. He, like Onyxia, were just distractions to what many of us felt were the main thrust of the WoW storyline, and in many cases we were somewhat disappointed that other avenues weren’t taken (Emerald Dream anyone?). Instead, Deathwing felt like an excuse to make a reboot of the early starter zones and revamp Azeroth’s oldest content. I’m not wrong.

But I’ll tell you this: There’s a way you can sell me on WoW again. It’s not easy. In fact, I almost hope you don’t do this, because I can’t imagine any way of doing it easily (or cheaply), and there’s always the potential to screw it up such that ex-players like myself will just drown in a sea of disappointment, never to return. Here’s the thing: Remember Caverns of Time?

Yeah, you know where this is going.

See, that’s another thread I never felt was sufficiently explored. You used it to take us back in time, back before the plague, but it probably never crossed your minds for very long that you could use it to win back the older players. All you have to do is this: Give us a way to play the old expansions, the old original content, complete with talents, level caps, and original zones as they were so that we can relive the glory days (so to speak). I have friends who skipped TBC or never played “vanilla” WoW. They wanted to, of course, but by the time they got into it, the level cap was substantially higher and the game was dramatically different. All that content was wasted keeping it around. Sure, you could re-roll a new character, play through it as it was intended (sort of), but the dungeons would never be the same.

Remember Magister’s Terrace? We played that a few times. But then Wrath of the Lich King sort of steamrolled that, and it was swept under the rug, forgotten to history. I even know some guys who played WotLK with us who didn’t even know what it was, yet they remembered most of the dungeons from vanilla. It’s just that they skipped BC, dropping off of the planet for the two years or so that content ran, and then came back. It’s as if Outlands never happened except for getting you through those pesky 10 levels from 60-70.

Yet the astounding thing to me is that much of this was good content. Even better (for you), it’s already paid for to a large extent. Repurposing it shouldn’t cost much in the way of man hours to retweak it, and if you somehow manage to reintegrate the older expansions in a manner that makes the player’s view of game mechanics more or less analogous to the expansions that content was designed for, I can’t imagine it would be that difficult. But hey, what do I know? I don’t write games for a living, either.

Franchises like Guild Wars 2 have you beaten in this area. With the down-leveling for earlier content, even at the level cap (80 as of this writing), and the attribute balance ArenaNet included, it’s difficult to get bored with boss encounters just on the merit that you outleveled them three months prior. All of the Harathi Hinterlands content is still very much playable (and challenging) at level 80. Orr is a perpetual pain in the neck (it is max level content for the most part). And even the old dungeons don’t get any easier.

Yet Guild Wars 2 is missing something WoW had. I can’t put my finger on it, but I know it’s there. It’s like a painting that never really looked quite right until you saw it in the proper lighting. Maybe it was a smudge or a bizarre shade of blue.

But I think where WoW really shined was its social interaction. I made a lot of friends in WoW (that’s where I met my girlfriend, too). I still talk to nearly everyone I talked to whom I met in WoW with few exceptions. I’ve become great friends with them in real life, talking everything from politics to toiletry habits (just kidding). So, shout out to Hunter and Jonathan, two great guys whose friendship I owe thanks to WoW.

The kicker? I’ve played GW2 off and on for a couple of years (or is it 3?). I can’t remember a single damn person I’ve run into in that game. I have a friends’ list that’s pretty full. Yet you know what? Aside from one or two encounters, I’ve never talked with them again. There’s got to be something to it, Blizzard. I don’t know what you guys did, but you had a formula going that was arguably superior to the competition.

Then it went south.

I don’t know what the change was, or why it happened, or even how the “old” WoW was better than the “new” WoW. Two expansions since Cataclysm have come out, and I’ve not played a single one. A few of my friends have, but it held their collective interest for less than a few months before they moved on to other games. Why? I have no idea. The magic vanished, and I don’t know if it can be recovered.

But I guarantee you one thing: If you come up with a way to let me play the old content, more or less as it was intended, I’ll be back. I loved it that much. But it has to be fairly true to the intent of that content, with a few exceptions (getting rid of the absurd requirements of 40 man raids was a good start), and I think some modernization would be useful. Maybe the talent trees really were getting a bit out of hand. Yet… I find that they had a certain charm to them, even still.

Ideally, I’d love to be able to go to the Caverns of Time, pick an expansion, have my character transformed to the level cap that accompanied that expansion, and go get gear true to that period in WoW’s history. Even if those instances of my character(s) were isolated from each other in some manner, I wouldn’t care. It would just be nice to be able to go back to zones like Darkshore before they were destroyed and hang out in Auberdine while watching new players run by again.

I don’t know how that would be possible, if it would be possible, but I think at least part of the charm of WoW was hanging out with some friends in low level zones just to pass the time. Then going off and helping some lowbies with a rough boss or two.

Poor Hogger.

Most sincerely,

Update September 6th: Some weeks ago, a few friends of mine alerted me to the “timewalker” feature wherein Blizzard will make available old content, specifically old dungeons, as part of a holiday weekend. You’ll be able to obtain era-specific weapon skins, appropriately leveled for capped players, while your effective level is dropped in a manner similar to Guild Wars 2. It’s a good idea, but the fact that it’ll be limited to random dungeons only rather than content, and only on specific weekends is a letdown. I’d love to see something akin to an expansion-specific selection where players would be able to select which expansion they want to partake, or some sort of leveling system similar in nature to what GW2 has implemented.

One of my greatest weaknesses is indecisiveness. Sometimes I just can’t make up my mind as well as I would like. I think much of this is because I find myself mired in internal speculation over the outcome of an n-problem system. The mental simulations I entertain during such times often become sufficiently complex that I completely lose sight of the original decision’s scope. That’s why I really like it when the decisions are already made for me. It’s so liberating.

I dumped DigitalOcean as my VPS provider today. It’s not that there was anything particularly wrong or troublesome with their service. In fact, I’d argue that DigitalOcean’s service has been among the most fantastic I’ve ever had the opportunity to enjoy. Counter to some of the opinions made elsewhere, in my experience, service disruptions have been minimal (enough so that I had a VPS with 319 days uptime–I meant to update it, honestly!), and although I never had to contact support, their team simply seems far more transparent than many other service teams you encounter in the wild. I greatly enjoyed my time as part of their family of customers, and I wish I could have stayed with them indefinitely as I grow my own projects.

Sadly, such things are not often meant to last.

About a year ago (perhaps longer), I followed their primary Twitter account as an extra source of information about DigitalOcean’s ongoing activities. It was great, at first, but it slowly transformed into a political mouthpiece of leftist philosophy. Retweets often appeared from self-described “social justice warriors,” feminists, and other personalities that were less reflective of (in my opinion) the forward march of technology and more a symptom of a push to substantially change culture for no reason other than for the sake of changing culture. I get why: DigitalOcean’s headquarters is in New York city, and so they’re steeped in a left-wing thought bubble. I’m not complaining. This is a free country, and they’re free to do what they want. I’m also free to send my money to businesses whose politics align with my own or are, at the very least, more private about their leanings.

Before you pick up the phone to arrange a protest outside my window, consider this: I’m not upset that they’re politically active (and very vocal about it). Quite the contrary: I’m happy for them. I would much rather live in a country where free speech is protected, even for businesses, than to live in a country where businesses are shut down by government agencies and fined into bankruptcy on the merit that they don’t wish to participate in activities counter to their beliefs. Unfortunately, the latter describes in horrific detail the nature of our society at the present moment, and of one that is teetering dangerously over the precipice of tyranny.

I’m reluctant to engage in debate, but even I will freely admit that this isn’t a free country anymore because First Amendment protections (religious, press, speech) are no longer guaranteed. Call me a bigot, call me hateful, call me whatever you like. I don’t really care at this point, but it definitely gives me pause for thought. Hell, forget the pause, I’m taking a tremendous risk just typing this (much less publishing), because the instant my blog is discovered by the thought police masquerading as activists, their perverted notion of justice will be swift, and they’ll do everything they can to destroy my career, my future, and my life–all while reminding me that free speech is free, but it’s not without consequences.

I think one of the most dangerous facets of this movement is that it has no concept of proportionality. It’s ironic to consider given that one of their core tenants involves a harsh critique of the proportionality inside the criminal justice system. Thus, rather than engaging in polite discussion, it becomes a matter of all-out victory regardless of cost or collateral. It’s necessary to completely annihilate the opposition and to rationalize it with seething vitriol and by labeling the other side with “hate.” The debate itself doesn’t matter. What matters is how hateful we perceive the opposition as, and it certainly doesn’t matter if the opposition is “hateful” simply because they disagree. The more fervently they disagree, why, the more hateful they are! It’s easy to win debates when one no longer must consider finding common ground or supporting an argument with facts.

It would be an understatement to suggest I’m growing horribly tired of it. I’m tired of being labeled because I’m a Christian, because I’m politically right of center, because I believe in personal responsibility. I’m tired of being labeled because I think politeness and mutual respect for your fellow man are more meritorious virtues than “social justice” and wanton disregard for tradition. I’m tired of the divisiveness perpetrated by political interests who are more keen on accumulating power than helping those who granted such power to them. Honestly, if the first thing you want to do is to storm out your door and protest in the streets, you’re part of the problem, and I’m tired of that, too!

All of this nonsense is really just a round-about way to say that I’m done. I’m taking greater care from this moment onward to support organizations and companies I agree with, or are not overtly partaking in providing aid to these groups, and retracting my support from those in opposition. Let’s be honest, when retweeting comments from anti-religious activists and plastering rainbows all over your company logo well into the week following a political victory, it makes me feel unwelcome. It makes me feel unwanted. It was never about #LoveWins; it was about marginalizing my convictions.

So no, I don’t want to continue rewarding individuals–or companies–who personally attack my God, my beliefs, or me. I was raised believing it virtuous to respect others’ convictions and feelings. I can’t be the only one, but there’s a whole gaggle of lost souls whose childhood was obviously void of such a foundation, and therefore continue happily tearing down the pillars that once held our society true to the virtues of honor and respect.

Nevertheless, I don’t wish ill of anyone. I pray that DigitalOcean will continue to grow and prosper. They’ve worked exceptionally hard to build one of the best cloud providers in the world, and I think they deserve to reap the rewards of their labor. I also hope they continue to exercise their First Amendment rights as granted to them by the Constitution of the United States. It’s an important amendment–that’s why it’s the First–and I will fight for their rights to say what they wish, because no one will fight for mine. I just regret that I no longer feel welcome as part of their family of customers. C’est la vie. My contributions were regrettably minimal, but on a positive note, it also means they won’t miss my departure.

I’m glad there are some decisions I don’t have to make alone. Moving forward with a different provider is a difficult choice to make but not so much when it was made for me.

Thank you for everything, DigitalOcean.

It’s no secret that yesterday, February 26th, the FCC voted to reclassify Internet service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934–and on dozens of new regulations that will affect ISPs and content providers. We’re not yet sure how many such regulations exist, or of their composition, but we expect to see them posted to the federal archives within 30 days provided no further amendments are added or petitions made against the FCC. Since I doubt the reconsideration period will be met with silence, I’m not especially hopeful that I’ll find a copy of these rules in my hands before April.

Taking a step back to observe the aftermath of the debate on net neutrality has been educational. One of the most curious (and unusual) things to me has been the raw emotion that has overtaken the pro-regulation crowd. Anger, resentment, and suspicion reign above all else in their minds, casting doubt as to the intentions of those who are opposed to such regulation. Thusfar, I’ve seen accusations of astroturfing (comments made en masse by paid shills) levied against the opposition, insults, and broad statements suggesting that any opponent of such regulation simply wants the Internet to die. Certainly there’s plenty of irrationality to go around, but the pro-regulation camp is so vehement about their beliefs that I’m not sure there’s much of debate left. It’s been supplanted instead by argument and dissent. I don’t think this is a good thing.

I am mostly opposed to regulation in general and net neutrality in particular because government intervention is often unpredictable and unnecessary. That does not mean, however, that I’m on the payroll of a cable provider (or any telecommunications company for that matter) simply by the merit of my disagreement (I’m not). Unfortunately, my opinion and that of many others who have urged everyone to approach this matter with cautious discretion have been demonized, threatened, and bullied. Oddly enough, the tide of comments made by pro-regulation forces are so similar, it’s almost as if they are the ones astroturfing, electing to disguise their motives and benefactors by accusing their opponents of the inflicting the same ills. When presented with reasonable inquiries and concerns, they immediately shut down the debate in a spat of disgust, claiming that the opposition isn’t interested in intellectually honest discourse. If there’s any irony, it’s not hard to miss.

I should clarify that I don’t necessarily doubt the sincerity of net neutrality’s proponents. However, it is important that we maintain context in this debate by pointing out that that opponents of net neutrality aren’t the only ones who’ve been receiving outside funding. George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the Ford Foundation have both contributed $196 million to pro-net neutrality groups. Therefore, while I may not be inclined to suggest that the pro-regulation camps are insincere, I certainly do doubt claims that they are entirely without bias and untainted by outside money. It seems disingenuous that Reddit’s management has declared on their blog “Today, we defeated opponents of net neutrality who have spent tens of millions of dollars every year lobbying government. […] We defeated them by spending our time.”

Opponents of net neutrality weren’t defeated solely by an army of mouse-wielding twenty-somethings; nay, an order of magnitude more money–nearly $200 million, in fact–certainly helped. I charge then that if anyone in this debate is intellectually dishonest, it is surely those who claim themselves to have been underdogs, under-funded in a fight against corporations with deep pockets. They’re ignoring the deep pockets of left-leaning philanthropists and are simultaneously unaware that they have been bought out. It’s just that it’s different (and acceptable) when the hand that feeds you agrees with your cause, regardless of whether not they are also your masters. Such is human nature.

Now, that’s not to say I’m completely against the concept of net neutrality. So, before you take to the streets with your torches and pitchforks in the hopes of beating down my door, I should point out that I’ve generally been supportive of the principle underlying net neutrality in the sense that I don’t believe origin traffic should be throttled simply on the merit of where it came from or how much traffic it comprises. Consumers pay for their bandwidth, and it’s up to them how they ought to use it; it shouldn’t be decided by intermediaries whether or not to serve or throttle that traffic. That said, we must exercise caution with our choice of language: Quality of Service (QoS) and TCP congestion control protocols are inherently discriminatory by virtue of their design. Overly broad language that precludes any discrimination against packets is dangerous. In words not all that dissimilar to those uttered in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: all packets are equal, and some are more equal than others. This is what we need to be cautious about.

It’s like the adage “Be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it.”

Aside: I actually saw someone on Reddit a couple of days ago arguing that we need to do away with QoS, precisely because it is discriminatory. Granted, that individual was swiftly and sternly corrected, schooled in the nature of TCP/IP congestion control, but I’m afraid his (or her) belief, incorrect as it was, isn’t uncommon among certain proponents of Internet regulation. I wonder if this reaction is the result of our Pavlovian-like conditioning against specific words: Whenever the “discrimination bell” rings, students of left-leaning thought become excitable and froth at the mouth. It doesn’t matter that the things discriminated against (packets) aren’t tangible or self-aware. It’s discrimination itself that is inherently evil.

To continue: If the FCC’s language is overly broad and skirts the design behavior of routing hardware, it could impact the availability of real time services. Many consumer-grade routers include QoS packet handling algorithms for VoIP and streaming video services to improve their throughput and reduce stuttering during traffic spikes, but overly broad regulations may make it illegal to enable these protocols or ship devices that include them. I’m fairly optimistic the FCC wouldn’t be quite so stupid as to enact such rules, but my pessimism creeps back when I’m reminded that this is a government agency and government regulations are subject to extensive feature creep. If you think I’m paranoid, there are some sources that have accused the Whitehouse of operating what essentially amounts to a parallel FCC (WSJ), drafting their own regulations in secret, and strong-arming the commission into passing them. Whether or not this is true (and I suspect it is), the very notion that the Whitehouse could be manipulating an independent government agency is worrisome. Had this occurred under any other administration, I suspect things would have happened differently.

The powerful, emotional involvement of the pro-regulation crowd is troubling to me. Unexpected groups, like Code Pink, have orchestrated numerous marches in favor of an “Open, Free Internet,” pushing further regulation as a means to that end. (Ignoring for a moment the ironic belief that strict regulations equal greater freedom.) I’ll even bet you don’t remember that incident in December when protesters were able to unfurl a “Reclassify Now!” banner behind the FCC’s dias. How’s that for brazen? (I wonder who paid for the banner?)

Yet in spite of the insistence from net neutrality proponents, I can’t bring myself to agree that the Internet was so horribly broken that it desperately needed such far-reaching regulations. Certainly providers like Comcast have been poorly behaved, but the FCC has managed to reign them in using existing policy frameworks thanks in part to consumer complaints. If the problem has simply been a matter of wishing for unfettered access to Internet services, did we really need hundreds of pages of new regulations?

The answer, of course, remains to be seen. As it stands, we have no idea what any of these rules are outside of a few hints dropped by FCC commissioner Ajit Pai and his speculation that the new regulations will lead to potentially half-a-dozen new taxes on ISPs–costs, of course, which will be passed on to the consumer. We’ve been promised by the pro-regulation crowd that net neutrality would lead to cheaper, faster Internet access, yet broadly reclassifying all broadband services could potentially pave the way for new taxes at the local, state, and federal level. If it seems like a stretch, remember that just after the announcement was made yesterday, protesters interviewed following the vote were adamant that this was a win for “Internet security” and access for the “disadvantaged.” How will the rest of us maintain cheaper, faster Internet if these rules require further help for Internet access to the disadvantaged? The money comes from somewhere. (Hint: The consumer–that’s you.)

I’m also somewhat terrified if these rules include some vague notion of “Internet security,” and if you’ve been troubled by the NSA’s so-called metadata-collection-scheme, you should be, too. Security isn’t something that can be willed into existence through regulation alone. For proof of such a claim, I need only point to the banking and healthcare sectors where there’s no dearth of examples. Just last year, health insurance provider Anthem was breached, possibly as early as April, only to discover the compromise nearly nine months later. Healthcare providers are heavily regulated through various compliance and privacy requirements, yet breaches still occur and it took nine months for one of the largest providers in the United States to discover customer data had been compromised. Believe me, if you’re convinced that a couple hundred regulations passed by the FCC will make the Internet more secure, it might be helpful to move to Colorado (even Alaska or DC as of this week) to partake in a hefty dose of altered reality. The surprise will be rather unpleasant otherwise.

I’ve also seen (and heard) comments from supporters of net neutrality who believe they’ll be receiving free Internet by year’s end. Could someone tell these people that “freedom” (as in speech) is different from “free” (as in beer)? I hope they never discover the GPL versus BSD debate!

Of course, all of this is just my opinion. I’d be happy if I were wrong, but I’m not convinced government intervention is always the correct (or best) answer. And in this case, I’m not convinced either that the Internet was so badly broken it demanded such broad regulation. When the rules are released in the next month or two, we’ll see who was right.

I don’t play games very often these days outside a brief excursion into Minecraft or the rare flight simulator, so it’s interesting to experience the “joys” (scare quotes!) of modern gaming after having been out of the loop for somewhere north of 6 months. (Or was that a year?) As it turns out, the Chicken Little sky-is-falling predictions made years ago regarding the looming threat of online-only/online-required game play weren’t so far off. The anti-consumer behavior cropping up across the entire spectrum of game genres and studios is just a little frightening. I’m actually not sure what’s worse: Gamers happily tolerating repeated insults or that they willingly fork over money for the games that insult them! I don’t understand it, so I’ll just wave my cane and yell at you to get off my lawn. I feel out of touch. Or maybe I’m a relic of a bygone age.

(If you believe that last bit, you’re free to stop reading. In fact, I’d implore you to spend your time somewhere else. My drivel is really not that exciting.)

I started to formulate this rant in my mind a few days prior when my girlfriend bought a copy of Dying Light and sent it my way. I’m not keen on zombie games, neither am I much of a gamer, but for her sake I wanted to try it out. She was rather looking forward to having something to do together while she’s at veterinary school during her rare spats of free time. It couldn’t hurt.

Famous last words, right?

Dying Light has received substantial praise since its release, but in my opinion, it reeks of everything that’s wrong with modern gaming. I won’t touch on the game itself: While it looks nice, it won’t work well on my hardware under Linux, so I can’t provide much of a review besides the bits I suffered through at a lowly 15 frames per second. However, the game play isn’t what I think is the most important feature of the game. Nay, what I feel is important, and what I will discuss herein, is a much more subtle misfeature of the game that is sufficiently detracting that it caused me to immediately lose interest, and so it made the fact it was nearly unplayable under Linux on my hardware moot. In short, while the game’s multiplayer and cooperative modes are generally well received, you cannot play with others until you “unlock” cooperative mode by completing the first mission. It doesn’t sound like much, but for someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy wasting time in games, if I can’t jump right in and play with a friend, the game is going to rot on my shelf.

I’m serious.

It’s an insult, in my opinion, to advertise the game as having an active multiplayer capability while preventing players from playing with each other until they each unlock a basic feature that shipped with the game. What’s next? Are we going to charge gamers to unlock multiplayer mode? (You could argue most MMOs already do this.) I’m sure the studio would counter with requiring players to unlock multiplayer allows them to learn a bit more about the game mechanics. I don’t agree. I subscribe to the school of thought that experience is the best teacher, particularly with gaming, and sometimes the most satisfying way to learn how to play a game is to jump in, have at it, and make mistakes. Why drag me through a grueling series of so-called “tutorial” missions disguised as the start of the game’s campaign mode just so I can play it with a few friends? If I’m putting a limited amount of time into playing games and it takes me between one to one-and-half hours just to unlock an advertised feature (one that was proclaimed rather loudly, I might add) before I can play with someone else, that’s time we’re not able to play together because your studio decided it was a great idea to waste my evening with false promises. I’d almost suggest it’s narcissism, but I’m more inclined to believe it’s just unadulterated stupidity.

Fortunately, I came upon an easy solution: I uninstalled it. I feel bad my girlfriend wasted money on me like this, and if I were rich enough to have a legal counsel on retainer, I’d demand a refund. (I’d also probably buy her a boat.) But I’d be dumping more money into paying lawyers than I’d get back in return for her purchase. C’est la vie. I never trusted games published by a movie studio. This simply proves why.

Unfortunately, the story won’t end here. Because there’s a subset of the hardcore gaming crowd who believes that anyone who doesn’t have 8 or more hours a day to readily sink into a game has neither the right to play the game nor the right to complain about it, people like me are vilified for our opinions, and my opinion is that games like Dying Light are not worth $10–much less $60–and probably not much more than $5. The response from these “hardcore gamers” is so bad now that in many gaming communities the term “casual player” is used pejoratively to deter new players–and paying customers–from participating (and vocalizing our complaints). Then again, I suppose the casuals are at least partially at fault here: If a game requires a substantial investment in order to play, the easiest solution is to simply not buy it. If enough people voted with their wallets, it’s plausible that the studios might learn a valuable lesson. Either that, or they’d go belly up and blame the players anyway for simply not understanding what a great product they had, and how the free market system is inherently evil because they’re somehow owed the money.


Sometime after this experience with Dying Light, my father remembered I had purchased a copy of Planetary Annihilation for him. Yet, once more, the genius insight that only a gaming studio full of self-righteous idiots could invent presented a curious challenge. He couldn’t play the single player mode because he had to sign-up through PlayFab for an account–on a Steam title–for single player. Wait, did I say single player twice? Yep, that’s how stupid this is.

I get that Steam is essentially nothing more than polite DRM wrapped up in a shiny package with a fantastic store and loads of great deals on thousands of games. I don’t like DRM, but I’m willing to live with it if it stays out of the way, which Steam does reasonably well. However, if you release a title and expect me to sign in to your service just to play the single player mode, you’re only going to upset me. Your game is going to be shelved like Dying Light and the two or three dozen other games I’ve never touched, either because they’re terrible or because I bought them twenty-to-a-pack from one of the various holiday sales, Humble Bundle, etc., and I won’t be back. It’s very unlikely I’ll buy your sequel, if your studio lasts long enough to make one, because you’ve already proven you have no respect for my leisure time. The only thing that burns me more is that you now have my money, and I therefore cannot meaningfully vote against your product for a design that I feel is fundamentally flawed.

The thing is that these aren’t just isolated incidents. This is a problem that’s endemic to the entire gaming industry. Take Torchlight II for instance: Single player mode works great, but the moment you want to play it in a multiplayer capacity, you have to first sign up through Runic Games, create an account, and then figure out how to get your friends into your game. I realize the intent was most likely an effort to provide a third party platform for multiplayer matchmaking that allows them to sell the game through channels other than Steam, but I honestly feel that (as a player), Steam’s built-in multiplayer APIs are so much easier to use and so much more convenient (I already have a Steam account), that it’s outright infuriating to be required to jump through a series of hoops just to waste a few hours with a buddy.

And what happens if their services go offline or they go belly-up? That’s right: You cannot play their precious game anymore.

As much as I hate the Left 4 Dead series (see my comments on zombie-related games), Valve has it right. Stay out of the way when people want to play. You’re not selling an MMO. Your game isn’t that important (no, really, it’s not). Heck, your studio doesn’t mean squat to me. I just want to spend some time with a friend or two, and if you’ve demonstrated that you aren’t even going to afford me the courtesy of using the APIs of a service I’m already signed up for (hello, again, Steam!), you’re just going to piss me off. Flip me the finger, and I’ll toss you in the can.

Of course, I realize I’m in the minority. No one these days gives a second thought to signing up for a flavor-of-the-month service every time a new game or product comes out. Yet at the same time these are likely the same people who’ve expressed moral outrage that the United States has collected information on its own citizens via the auspices of the NSA.

Yeah, I’m really angry about them collecting all that information about who I talk to, where I go, where I work, what time I eat my dinner. But, oh, hey, look at this shiny new game. Did you say you want my social security number, too? No problem! How about my credit card, too, while we’re at it? Oh, baby, it comes with DLC, too? I’ll take five if you take my firstborn.

Like the causal gamer, I guess we’re part of the problem. Or rather, complacency is.

For years now, privacy advocates have been beating on the drums, shouting loudly, and doing much arm-waving, yet their voices have fallen on deaf ears. As angry as the public gets about certain privacy infractions, we nevertheless happily hand over whatever information nets us our next free service. We’ll sign-up for whatever it takes to sink 50 hours into a half-finished, bug-ridden, over-hyped triple-A title from one of the major studios who, as an added bonus, run their programmers through a high tech sweatshop. Coffee in, code out. If we want things to change, we have to stop encouraging these companies. To do so, we must stop purchasing their products. The problem is, Steam makes it so easy. Too easy, in fact.

On the other hand, there’s a rather vocal group of people whom I assume is a relatively small minority, but like most such minorities, they’re so absurdly vocal, they drown out contrary opinions. Criticism of these game studios, like mine, is often lamented as misguided, stupid, or old fashioned. “What’s the big deal?” they’ll insist.

Then the next time another PSN-style hack occurs, they’ll take to Reddit and complain loudly about the studios’ misuse of their private information. You can’t win.

How dare those companies have this much information on me! I even used that same password on 20 different sites, and now I have to change it! While people in Africa are starving to death, I am morally outraged that you would charge me $10 a month to sell my information that I happily parted with to advertising firms who now want to interest me in asian brides and sexy underwear that’s 4 sizes too small!


Maybe the problem really is that I’m too old fashioned. When I see “single player” stamped on the side of the box, I see that as a feature. I don’t expect the game to require a sign up. Likewise, when I see “supports cooperative play,” I expect to be able to fire up the game, possibly start a server if need be, and jump in it with a buddy. If the game requires too much more of me to play it with someone else, it’s going to be forgotten.

In retrospect, I’d be inclined to call this “laziness” on my part, but considering I’m more than happy to spend an hour or two setting up a private server to play with others on, I don’t think that’s quite the case. Is selective laziness a thing? It’s probably a thing. I’m sure of it.

Back to the point, let’s take Minecraft as an example. Minecraft was (and still is, mostly) independently marketed. It wasn’t sold through the usual channels, like Steam. It required a sign-up (for the most part, although you could still play it in offline mode), but the sign-up was required to purchase the game. If you received a gift copy, you had to create an account to activate it. Creating an account was an artifact of obtaining and activating the game. It wasn’t an afterthought by a game studio that was so convinced it had such a great product no one would ever say “no.”

Humorously, some of the third party services required by certain games on the market are so terrible you almost have to wonder if the studio even bothered to dog food their own product. I’m sure there’s nothing more fun than being booted out of a game just because the studio’s authentication servers went down! (The Sim City developers could have taken a lesson from Mojang here early on–it would’ve saved them 3-4 months of trouble.)

But, what do I know? I just write lots of code these days. I don’t take the time to play games all that often, but on those few times that I do, I want to be able to jump in with minimal fuss. If you think your game is so fantastic that I’ll be willing to waste a few hours waiting to sign up on your service or learn how to play via a pseudo-tutorial that’s more irritating than a sock full of poison ivy, I’ve got news for you: It’s not.

As an added bonus before I sign off on this, there’s a little bit of hypocrisy in my words. But it’s something tempered by youthful ignorance, and it’s really too good not to share because there’s a valuable lesson in it. I’m not sure what that lesson is, but if you’re smarter than me (and you probably are), it shouldn’t be too hard to divine.

At risk of sorely dating myself, the last game I took a great interest in and happily wasted hours and hours waiting to sign up to play was Tribes 2. I left that evening sorely disappointed and empty-handed. Dynamix hadn’t expected their authentication servers were vastly underpowered and unable handle the immense popularity of the game; consequently, many of us tried and tried again to create an account desperately wanting to play. We couldn’t. To add insult to injury, Dynamix also removed “skiing,” which soured many of the Tribes 1 vets against its overly optimistic sequel, but that’s another rant entirely. In the end, they patched skiing back in, but not until after Dynamix was disbanded and the intellectual property rights floated around in limbo for some time.

Naturally, those were different times. We knew the days of freely playable games without the need for authentication services were at an abrupt end. We knew Tribes 2 was ushering in a new generation of authentication services intended to limit cheating and create a platform where bans, scores, and other player-centric features were suddenly more meaningful. We knew it had a dark side, and we did nothing to stop it. It seemed like a good idea. So here we are, some 13 years later, overlooking the precipice where the single player game is dead and where third parties want enough information to supply healthcare coverage before authorizing players to play. Yet others have taken strides in the opposite direction, forbidding you from playing cooperatively until you’ve unlocked it by yourself, all while advertising the game as having incredible cooperative play.

I’ve seen the future, and it looks bleak.

Update, February 19th: So, a buddy of mine (hi, Hunter!) linked me to some interesting information about 2K/Turtle Rock’s latest game Evolve. Apparently studios are narcissists. Here’s a game where the publishers are so convinced you’ll love it that they’ve split the game’s DLC into 44 separate packs retailing for ~$130. Highway robbery is now disguised as video games. Would you believe it?

If you’re not sure what Bukkit is, you can skip over this post. Otherwise, keep reading.

In case you’ve been out of the loop, it appears that the Bukkit project is in self-destruct mode now that the two dozen or so core contributors have all announced their departure over circumstances I’m not entirely sure I understand.

The opinions here are therefore my own and are reflective of only the information I currently have and are subject to change. If you find them upsetting, then direct your frustrations to an organization that probably deserves it.

First, I think this is entirely weird and probably equal parts selfish and self destructive on the contributors’ behalf. Second, I’ll predict what’s going to happen: In a year or two, no one will remember any of this, Mojang will be motivated by recent actions by the Bukkit contributors to fast track their own API, and every single one of the Bukkit contributors will fade into obscurity.

Essentially, the upshot is that if you throw a tantrum and collectively elect to take your ball and go home, your actions will galvanize the community into factions that strongly support and strongly disapprove of your behavior. History has suggested it’s unlikely to happen any other way. The faction that supports your activity may be most helpful in constructing a new community from scratch while the opposing one will seek to destroy it. Though, I would urge caution to anyone who strives to build a community upon a foundation of vitriol and anger.

But let’s back up for a moment and discuss this obscurity I mentioned. I’ve been running Bukkit off and on for probably two years or so (maybe three, I honestly can’t remember–I first used it when the project was quite young). And let me be frank: Aside from some of the big names (Dinnerbone, EvilSeph), I can’t remember anyone else’s name. Sad? Maybe, but that’s the reality. As a consumer of the Bukkit source code (speaking of it as a product), I was exclusively interested in using it because it made my life a bit easier as one of the administrators of a small server for a few friends of mine and I, and because of the numerous (and useful) plugins. Selfish? You bet.

Unfortunately, Bukkit’s substantial memory requirements over the stock Minecraft server and local lack of interest in Minecraft in general, I’ve since shut down the server we were using indefinitely and may or may not elect to start it up again. This is going to sound harsh, but as someone who might administer future Minecraft servers for my own personal use, I’m not really going to care in the long run what happens to Bukkit. It was a great project, but when open source projects die or fork, I don’t have the time to fuss with internal project politics. I’m going to pick one that does what I want, and I’m not going to fret about who did what. In the end, it doesn’t matter.

Second, as I understand it currently, this is largely due to the departure of EvilSeph from the project for various reasons. It’s also due to the activities of Wolvereness whom I understand used the DMCA to take down specific parts of Bukkit code. I’m not entirely clear on which parts were removed, but a response from a Mojang employee is suggestive that it was a fairly important part of Bukkit and likely the parts that attempted to reimplement the Minecraft server software. So, legally speaking, the activity by Bukkit was already on shaky grounds, even though Mojang had no interests in doing anything to the project (at that point in time).

Finally, it appears to me that the community has decided to circle the wagons around Wolvereness, essentially working themselves up into a tizzy about this perceived smack-in-the-face by an evil, profit-making company (without which, I might remind you, Bukkit wouldn’t exist). I find it oddly ironic that certain posters on the Bukkit forums have plainly stated that community members are uninterested in working for a for-profit company “for free.”

Do you guys have any idea what you’ve been doing the last three years? I really shouldn’t have to spell this out. At least it hasn’t degenerated into Youtube-level stupidity, so that’s a plus, but the night is young.

(Aside: It may surprise you to discover that you can make money from GPL licensed software; you just have to supply the original sources and any modifications you’ve made thereof to any party that asks.)

The other side of the coin is that there was a huge debate about the legality of Minecraft existing, simply on the merit that Bukkit is licensed under the GPL. I recall no less than two or three individuals arguing that, because of the GPL’s nature, since Mojang “owns” Bukkit, the Minecraft sources must therefore be released or else it will be in violation of the GPL. I am not a lawyer, but this is outright nonsense, and I’ll explain.

First, Minecraft by necessity of causality predates Bukkit. If Minecraft didn’t exist, there would be no Bukkit. Second, you cannot control what third parties will do with your own product; if a third party produces software that is GPL licensed and relies on interfacing in some manner with your closed source product, they cannot then demand that you open your product under the GPL or face legal action. It simply doesn’t work that way. Yes, it’s a problem that Mojang now owns some rights to Bukkit, but I’d argue that the nature of Bukkit’s interaction with Minecraft is such that it is legally dubious to argue that Minecraft is in violation of the GPL simply on the merit that Bukkit requires it to exist. (This is for a court to decide, not armchair lawyers.)

Second, I’ve seen a few comments from people who are essentially encouraging the Bukkit contributors to “take back” their contributions so Mojang cannot use them. This is equally absurd, because these contributions have already been licensed under the GPL, presumably with the intent of being part of the Bukkit project. While possible, it’s very difficult to backtrack a contribution made in good faith under a copyleft license like the GPL, because to do so flies in the spirit of the license. The GPL is intended to protect the consumers of such code (that’s you and me), and as such, the copyright holders give up some rights so that we may freely make use of the code, freely modify the code, and freely give back our own contributions without fear that the original sources will be closed or otherwise pulled out from under us. This is why many popular projects over the years have been forked: Community members grow frustrated with a lack of maintenance or the stewardship of the project maintainers/owners, and so they fork the project to drive it in a direction they want for themselves.

In spite of Richard M. Stallman’s intentions, there is nothing altruistic about open source or open source stewardship. It is almost always entirely driven, even if only initially, because of inherently selfish desires. The desire to scratch one’s own itch isn’t something that materializes out of charity to an as yet unknown community. Thus, licenses like the GPL strive to protect us all from inherently selfish drives, particularly those activities by people who would rather take their own contributions and run for the hills.

To put it more simply: If anyone from Bukkit attempts to reverse their GPL licensing, it will only apply to any code they write at the point after which the GPL licensed code was written and existed.

A final point that comes to mind is one that I’ve been musing about myself for my own projects, including one that I intend to have distinct commercial and F/OSS versions that will live simultaneously but with the intention that they may accept source code contributed to me by other individuals. It goes something like this: If Mojang did in fact buy the rights to Bukkit two years ago, they should have made all contributors sign a Contributor License Agreement. Such an agreement would provide protections to Mojang and to the individual contributors by 1) ensuring that contributions made to Bukkit are given to Mojang under a perpetual non-exclusive license with the rights to relicense and sublet the sources as Mojang desires and 2) protects the contributor by authorizing them to reuse their contributed code in their own projects (or commercially) as they see fit. CLAs are fairly common among open source projects and provide a means for contributing to F/OSS projects that may have commercial backing or commercial versions based in part on community-supplied sources without leaving the projects in legal limbo.

This would have afforded Mojang the options to do whatever they see fit with newly contributed code while making clear Bukkit’s legal standing. It may have also prevented someone from torpedoing the project via the DMCA (or similar). However, unless the agreed upon CLA were retroactive to previous contributions, it would most certainly not have prevented someone from poisoning the well with contributions made in the months prior to the implementation of a CLA. It’s plausible then that even with the protections of a CLA, things may have worked out the same way. Regardless, it’s better to have some protections than not enough, and I think the events that have transpired this week should serve as a warning to all F/OSS projects. If you do not have sufficient legal protections, a malevolent actor can use copyright law to irreversibly damage your project.

Beyond that, I’m sure there are still a few lessons to take away from the Bukkit fiasco which we’ll discover in due time. For now, the best we can do is sit back and wait.

Looking through my posts on this site, I’m greeted with a half dozen unpublished articles I’ve been meaning to do something with for quite some time. Many of them have since slipped through the cracks, and because they addressed current events at the time they were written, they’re no longer relevant. Yet, I’m reluctant to delete them simply on the merit that they might one day be of interest to me. Really, though, it’s little more than the sentimental value of re-examining opinions of mine that were recorded at some point in the past, and to view how much (or how little) they’ve changed. Unpublished posts are a snapshot in time gazing back through the looking glass to an earlier day when things weren’t quite the way they are now.

Simultaneously, I’m greeted with fear. Fear that opinions expressed in the past might negatively affect my future: We’ve seen the dangers of Internet vigilantes and what they can do to one’s career (remember Brendan Eich?), and there’s little recourse once you’re in the crosshairs. Yet another part of me finds it strangely humorous. On the one hand, we’re reminded by the vigilantes that “rights are not without consequences,” and while everyone is free to express themselves, we must be aware that our freedom of speech is subject to sanctions imposed upon us for expressing our opinions; yet on the other hand, these are the same people who have long lauded punishment directed to the borderline-lawless behavior of groups like Occupy Wallstreet. These are, on occasion, the same individuals who feel that defecating on a squad car and setting a small business on fire are legitimate means of sticking it to the man.

It’s puzzling to me, because it reminds me one of the most important books (second only to 1984) I’ve ever read when I was a child–one I’ve been reluctant to re-read because it’s been taken by some as a sort of instruction manual by idealists who’ve likely never understood it. Whenever a group fueled by vitriol against another gains a certain amount of influence–and believes themselves to be the majority opinion holders–the rights of those against whom they are poised diminish. We’ve seen this directed most obviously toward those who are opposed to gay marriage in some (or all) form(s), but it also exists elsewhere as illustrated by the SCOTUS decision in Hobby Lobby and probably a dozen other exhibits.

I remember when the Hobby Lobby decision was reported. I once followed a self-described liberal on Twitter whose work for Archive.org I’ve been a tremendous fan of, but I changed my mind when he retweeted a comment by someone else who asserted the decision was made exclusively because the majority justices were male. It was a comment that suggested a slew of societal ills, hearkening back to an age where women had no rights and were often thought of as property. Many of the subsequent comments were in vocal agreement with this assertion, and many more suggested that SCOTUS wished to deny women of basic health services (one such comment asked, chidingly, when SCOTUS would deny women access to antibiotics to treat infections). Sadly, the sort of non-sequiturs parroted by a mob of very angry people aren’t uncommon. It’s actually getting worse.

It’s no surprise (or maybe it is to some) that researchers from Beihang University in China discovered substantial evidence anger spreads faster than any other emotion on social networks. The oft-joked about Internet torches and pitchforks are, in practice, less of a joke and more of a frighteningly reality. They’re illustrative of the strange variety of “mob justice” that permeates online communities and motivates various miscreants into committing acts of questionable legality. It’s the emotion behind proclamations like “Brendan Eich should never have a job again” or “Hobby Lobby wants women to die.” It’s the desire to alienate those with whom you disagree and deprive them of basic rights. It’s the driving force that lends one to believe many of us on the political right are hateful bigots. It’s the burning hatred that wishes we would all simply die.

Ignoring, for a moment, the sort of pitiful irony in calling for the death of someone with whom you disagree, and the use of highly vitriolic, hateful language to describe those you claim are the legitimately hateful bigots, the mob justice this behavior inevitably leads to is quite real and rather dangerous. The further irony that those prone to this sort of behavior are also vehemently opposed to “Internet bullying” is not lost on me (though it might be on them). It’s an eye-for-an-eye philosophy seen as a valid mechanism of protest against the rights of others by those who are often staunchly opposed to vigilante justice. Killing a murderer is bad while depriving my neighbor the right to speak his mind is good.

Animal Farm, indeed.

I think the crux of the problem lies in the tribalistic intolerance we humans tend toward. We naturally gravitate toward those who share our opinions, those who look like us, those who talk like us, and those who praise us for expressing opinions with which we agree. It’s why online communities become insular echo chambers. It’s why atheists tend to avoid Christians and vice-versa. In its most sinister form, it’s why racism still persists. We, as a species, naturally disdain and hold suspicious those who are not like us. Paradoxically, some of the worst offenders seem to be the ones who are most vocally opposed to this behavior. It’s almost as though an intolerance toward intolerance drives one to become the same–to become that which they most hate. But then, relying on seething hatred to promote an agenda of so-called tolerance is likely to beget the same. I’m not sure where we lost our way, or when the philosophy “love thy neighbor” was swept under the rug.

I don’t know what Jesus, Gandhi, or Dr. Martin Luther King might think of this modern world, but I do know it’s in desperate need of men like them.

First, I need to apologize. I inadvertently published a series of notes for a post I may or may not write. It only sat on the front page of my blog for a few days before I caught it (I’ve been busy!), but nevertheless, it was cryptic enough that those of you who visited recently were probably a bit puzzled. It’s gone now.

Secondly, I’d like to talk about Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

As of this writing (March 13th), the Malaysian government has released numerous, sometimes conflicting reports, and everyone is currently mulling over a slew of information from Chinese satellite imagery, reports from an oil company employee, and automated reports from the Rolls Royce engines that powered the plane (which are apparently untrue). There are also a wide variety of theories as to what happened to the aircraft–including some really wacky ones–but I suspect only two of them are likely: Hijacking or an in-flight fire.

An in-flight fire would fit best with the evidence offered by the Chinese and by the gentleman who witnessed an object in the sky burning briefly before disappearing. However, most other aircraft that succumbed to in-flight fires were located rather quickly (see Swissair flight 111), debris was found shortly after the accident, and at least some declaration indicating an emergency on board was made. The lack of contact with the aircraft is troubling and is suggestive that, whatever may have happened, it was unlikely to have been such an emergency.

The next theory toys with the prospect of a hijacking, either failed or otherwise. It might explain the supposed data received from the engine’s reporting systems as well as the aircraft’s behavior. But where might it have gone? The aircraft had 5-7 hours of fuel in the tanks, and it might have been able to make it as far as Pakistan, but wouldn’t it have been spotted by India’s military radars? This theory fits some of the facts better but at the expense that whatever questions remain are more difficult to answer than those posed by an in-flight emergency.

I’m not sure which is more likely, but as much as I’d like to suspect a hijacking, the lack of a motive or place to land such a large aircraft renders it remote at best.

I still can’t shake the thought that it could have been an in-flight fire. A recent report suggests that the automated reporting systems in the cockpit were turned off 20 minutes after the transponder (or vice versa?), which could have been–and maybe likely was–performed manually. But examining disasters like Swissair flight 111 where the flight recorders stopped functioning about 5 minutes before impact due to the blaze eating through power couplings indicates that there may exist other possibilities. Yet an in-flight fire would have lead to some attempt to contact air traffic control, unless it happened rapidly, but in that case the aircraft also wouldn’t have flown for as long as some reports are speculating.

So that leaves us with only one uncomfortable option: Wait.

The unfortunate side effect of disasters-in-the-making like MH370 is the shear number of armchair specialists who come out with their pet theories, explain why the others are so unlikely, and often spread misinformation and distort facts. At the risk of coming off as such an armchair commentator, I want to remind everyone that until wreckage (or a plane) is found, we simply have to admit that we don’t know what’s happened. Yes, it’s uncomfortable for the families who are seeking closure–or just want to know where their loved ones are–but given the lack of factual information and the Malaysian government’s unwillingness to part with anything substantial, waiting is our only option. Unless one of the eleven or so countries currently participating in search-and-rescue operations makes a lucky break, we may never know.

Or worse: If this flight is never found, MH370 could become the mystery of the century.

What do I think happened? Well, that’s a problem. I’m inclined to believe it wasn’t as nefarious as a hijacking or terrorist attack, but even if it was the result of a fire on board (or similar emergency), if the aircraft stayed aloft for any substantial percentage of the total time its flight was planned for, the damn thing could be anywhere. I do think there’s too much emphasis on water search, or at least searches in the wrong waters entirely, but where do you begin? Unless papers or other debris (or bodies) start washing up somewhere, this is a mystery that may never be solved.

I’d probably start looking in the Indian Ocean nearest Malaysia or maybe the western Pacific in the event its navigational computers were really off the mark, searching for small debris including paper and seat cushions. There’s no point looking for oil slicks at this stage. They’ll have dissipated days ago.

I’m inclined to believe we’ll find out that something happened to knock out communications (either accidental or otherwise) and the aircraft spent a few hours circling before finally crashing into the sea or a dense jungle forest. That still doesn’t do anything to dissuade the hope that–maybe, just maybe–they found somewhere safe to land and are simply waiting to be found.

Again, if nothing is found in the next two or three weeks, it may never be found.

One tragedy of American politics is the limited public discourse that follows (or erupts after) the legislative process. Bills that attract fervent attention invariably disappear, forgotten, once defeated. Sadly, so too does important public debate.

If you’re unfamiliar with SB1062, it’s the bill that has been lauded by some to be oppressive to homosexual rights and was vetoed on Wednesday the 26th of February. I’ve been reluctant to post this article in the immediate aftermath of the debate, but I think the dust has sufficiently settled to go ahead and punch the publish button.

I’ll try to avoid some of the common arguments for and against the bill for a couple of reasons. First, both arguments have been repeated ad nauseum in the press, so I won’t do anyone a service by repeating them here. Second, the emotions (on both sides) driving argument served to divert attention away from the motives for proposing SB1062 in the first place. It’s unfortunate, but the reason public discourse is often so vehement belies the fact that the public in its default state is apathetic until such time that support (or opposition) to a specific cause gains sufficient momentum before triggering a landslide of emotions, often anger, and uproar. It’s regretful, but by the time public support has thrust itself behind a particular faction, the initial catalyst of the debate is forgotten or hugely misunderstood.

I think that happened with SB1062.

What follows is my analysis. I’m a programmer, not a lawyer, so appropriate restrictions apply. Much of this analysis is peppered with opinion and should not be taken as legal recommendation. If you’re examining this post because you’re in a similar situation to any of the parties involved, please seek legal counsel.

Ultimately, understanding SB1062 and why it was proposed requires some knowledge of recent history. In particular, the events leading up to the defeat of a small photography firm in the New Mexico Supreme Court (Elane Photography, LLC v Willock) are of vital importance. Although it was superficially a case contemplating the limits (or extents) of public accommodation law, the NMSC utilized a loophole in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was intended, at least in part, to address limitations imposed upon religious practice by public accommodation. In the RFRA, individuals are protected from government unduly burdening religious freedom by way of law or litigation. The NMSC, however, ruled that RFRA protections did not apply in Elane Photography, LLC v Willock because both parties were private entities and therefore undue governmental burden did not apply.

Arizona’s state legislature followed the New Mexico case closely under fear that similar cases might be brought before their own courts using the New Mexico decision as precedent. Although Arizona businesses opposed the bill, claiming that they could already discriminate, it’s worth noting that Arizona’s public accommodation laws prohibit discrimination against race, national origin/ancestry, sexual orientation, religion/creed, or mental/physical disability. Such public accommodation prohibits businesses from denying or blocking entry to affected persons. I’m not precisely sure whether those businesses in opposition to SB1062 were aware of the law (I suspect they were) or whether it was politically or economically motivated (which I suspect it was).

The Elane Photography, LLC v Willock ruling, Arizona’s public accommodation law, and the inability of RFRA to protect religious business owners against private parties motivated the Arizona state legislature to amend their statutes protecting the free exercise of religion by business owners. Contrary to progressive analysis and the widespread belief that the Arizona legislature was attempting to stage a social coup in effort to reestablish segregation and discriminate against homosexuals, the bill was most certainly not motivated by prejudice beliefs. I think it would be a fair charge to suggest that the bill was drafted as a knee-jerk reaction to lawsuits that have affected business owners in other states, but I don’t think such fear was entirely unfounded either. Remember, these legislators had already witnessed a court ruling that decided against a religious business owner on the grounds of sexual discrimination through denial of service. They were keen to prevent the same from happening under Arizona law.

Bearing this in mind, it’s important to read the text of the bill as it was presented to Governor Brewer (and later vetoed). Regardless of the fiction reported by CNN and other outlets, believed to be true by many on the Left, nowhere does the bill authorize discrimination on the basis of religion. Instead, a careful reading of the bill correctly reflects prior analysis that suggested it was drafted as a direct response to New Mexico’s ruling. In particular, the language was to be changed such that religious burden may be imposed only if an opposing party (rather than the government as a sole actor) could demonstrate an interest (i.e. discrimination) whose remedy was the “least restrictive means” against the religious party. Of note, the changes would have also prevented “state action” from affecting religious persons even in cases of “general applicability”, that is, public accommodation.

To suggest that the wording of SB1062 would violate the rights of minorities is patently absurd. No one was advocating a return to segregation nor was SB1062 a power grab by the “extreme right.” Careful reading of the bill’s text would have been the only action required to establish such fact, yet it was precisely that act which the pundits avoided. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the validity of the bill and its ability to protect business owners from litigation on the assumption of sexual discrimination can only be determined by the courts. As such, the vehement reaction by pro-gay groups and progressive liberals was largely unwarranted. If the bill were used for blatant discrimination, and such could be proven in a court of law, the bill would be struck down by the judicial system.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have checks and balances drafted into the most fundamental law of our government. If a bill does happen to be discriminatory, it is the power of the court to decide (and nullify) and, if necessary, strike it down. That the bill was tried and defeated by the court of public opinion is a testament to the power of negative (and inaccurate) reporting. It’s a curious state of affairs when a political faction’s agenda is capable of overriding legitimate concerns, but it’s exceptionally troubling when that same faction refuses to address these same concerns under the guise that they don’t exist or are discriminatory.

The troubling thing about the defeat of SB1062 and the public discourse that followed is that it most certainly does impact a religious business owner’s right to practice as they choose. The opinion among progressives is effectively “tough luck.” If you’re in business, you have no rights except to serve the public (even if the business is “privately” owned). Yet it could be argued that discrimination based on adequate dress (“no shirt, no shoes, no service”) places an unfair burden on the poor, of whom minorities in particular are disproportionately affected. It’s not much of a stretch then to argue that discrimination-by-dress-code is merely a subversion of public accommodation laws in effort to deny the poor–and by extension, minorities–service by wealthy white business owners who seek to impose servitude upon the underclasses.

But the other problem is the precedence this sets for other religious business owners. Should Muslims or Jews be forced to sell pork products to a particular individual who seeks to purchase them for, say, cultural reasons? It’s a question worth asking, because we have essentially established that public accommodation laws override religious protection. At the risk of invoking the “slippery slope” fallacy, I certainly do think it’s worth consideration and has already been established as fact.

One last question that comes to mind. Is is discrimination to refuse service to a gay wedding if you would otherwise happily provide service to gay people in any other context? In other words, is it discrimination to provide service to a particular venue or activity when you’d otherwise provide your services to the persons involved outside that venue or activity? Is it really any different from denying service to, say, skydiving weddings or weddings in circumstances outside your realm of expertise? Perhaps it’s splitting hairs, but I think the distinction is important. It isn’t substantially different from selling meat products–with the exception of pork–to a customer. If you’re willing to provide a service to anyone who walks inside your door with the exception of specific kinds of service counter to your convictions or capabilities, it’s a denial of specific service (“we don’t/can’t do that”) not discrimination.

Or to take it one step further. What would stop someone from using this decision as precedence to sue someone who denies service on the merit that the service sought after isn’t something they can do? Small time contractors beware! The travesty of this is the narrow-minded nature of everyone involved. It seems insignificant, superficially, but once precedence has been established, it can be used to induce a desired outcome provided the party in question has sufficient capital to continue litigation.

That point has since been lost in the public debate that erupted a couple weeks ago. I think that’s a shame. Emotion wins against rational argument because it is a stronger motivator than reasonable discourse. The other shame is the abuse of our legal system: Provided one party can out-spend the other or simply has the least to lose, a sufficiently motivated plaintiff can wreak havoc on someone else’s livelihood–or worse, freedoms.