{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

Archive for August, 2009

Caster Semanya

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Anyone else following the Caster Semanya story? She’s the South African runner whose gender has come under intense scrutiny by the athletic world because she doesn’t fit neatly into their gender segregated categories as either female or male. Lauren McLaughlin talks briefly about Semanya, the rigid either/or of athletics, and the continuum of gender here.

I don’t feel knowledgeable enough on the issue to properly comment or add my two cents, but I do feel for this woman who is being subjected to this intense probing of her most basic (and private!) biological and personal self. I also have several long-standing problems with gender segregation in sports and games that I have no solution for.

More links here and here and here and here.

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Facebook Bows to Canadian Privacy Commissioner

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Facebook agress to follow all the demands of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. And Facebook’s blog post.


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Politics Closer To Home

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

This spring the province of Alberta finally got around to including gay rights into Alberta’s human rights law. Which is fine if really late to the party (like, 10 years late WHOA), but they also wrote into it a proviso that parents would be allowed to pull students from classes dealing with “controversial” topics such as evolution, sex, and — you guessed it — homosexuality. (Link here and here for some more commentary.) Where on the surface this appears merely eye-rolly, what this means practically is teachers will have to send out advance notice to all parents when they intend to cover those topics in class to allow parents the opportunity to pull their children, effectively quashing any “teachable moments” that might come up, bottling impromptu discussions about “religiously sensitive topics” that come up organically, and putting teachers’ (and students’) free speech under religious thumbs. All in the name of not ruffling a religious parent’s delicate sensibilities. So gay marriage is legal in Alberta and has been for some time, but Bill 44 would make such things illegal to talk about freely in a school setting without parental approval.

We may be a very conservative province, but there was a very loud UM WHUT that echoed across the internet, the LGBT communities, and the Teacher’s Association. Social media in particular was used to rally the troops and express dismay over the perversion of a bill that was supposed to secure gay rights. And, apparently someone was actually listening. Thank goodness.

Chris LaBossiere believes this is a direct response to the lobbying done by Albertans, including an active student-populated Facebook group boasting over 11,000 members and a Twitter debate with MLAs and the public that went into the wee hours of the morning and exposed the clumsy, fuzzy language of the bill.

It warms my heart that ordinary people can make a difference and maybe have made a difference here. Kids who still can’t vote spoke up, teachers spoke up, Albertans spoke up. It’s not a done deal at all and the bill still might pass as is, but at least we didn’t let it slide by without a fight. Even in Alberta this shit doesn’t fly.

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Anonymous Blogging & The Internet

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Originally posted by rm and I’m spreading it around some more because I think the conversation is a good one to have: is it okay to blog about this woman anonymously?

I’m not sure which side I stand in the latest battle between unmasked anonymouse Rosemary Port and her target Liskula Cohen. On the one hand, I think probably Cohen had a fairly good idea who was behind the blog before she started going through the motions of forcing Google to reveal her identity, and it seems fairly clear this particular issue is more about the bad blood between these two people than either anonymity or privacy. (And can I just sidenote for a minute to say how much it saddens and frustrates me that women are taught to treat each other this way in our culture, and that it’s being pumped up by the news media largely because it is two women dueling in that way women have been conditioned to, which just reinforces it. End sidenote.) At the same time I detest and bemoan the way the anonymice have made the culture of the internet such a brutal, unforgiving, unreasonable one in many ways, I’m also not certain being rude should mean forfeiting your privacy and entitles the world to know your identity.

Thinky thoughts indeed.

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Sears, SEO, & Poor Web Implementation

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Sears’ cacheable URLs, poor web implementation (guys, this is why jobs like mine are important), and their own fuckwitery has combined to create this awesome fail.

Someone discovered they could change the labels on a Sears product and category pages by changing it in the URL, forcing the page to draw this BBQ category with the description “Grills to Cook Babies and More”. In most cases, this would have been a one-off visible only to the mischievous little scamp who’d made the change, but because Sears caches these URLs in order to get some black-ops Google search lift, the pesky URL was indexed by both Google and Sears’ internal search. As things do on the internet, the link spread like wildfire until the offending URL about eating babies became one of the featured pages on Sears.

The best part is, once Sears found out about it, they started trying to kill any conversation about it online, approaching sites like Reddit and threatening to pull any and all advertising if the admins didn’t remove and censor any and all conversations. Nothing makes the internets angrier than being censored, and thus the Streisand Effect was invoked.

Way to make something relatively harmless into an internet crusade. This lesson on what not to do brought to you by our sponsor, Sears.

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