I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

“Political Views”

My thoughts on the anti-gay-marriage Mozilla CEO controversy got mostly positive responses in agreement. All others had the same argument: that Brendan Eich should not have lost his job because of his “political views” or “free speech”.

Even Andrew Sullivan took issue with the controversy:

If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.

His right to free speech entitles him to express any opinion he pleases.1 But it does not shield him from the personal and professional repercussions of what he says.

Our right to free speech entitles us to be vocally outraged, to encourage others to boycott Firefox,2 or to call for his firing. What Mozilla pressures or forces him to do as a result is solely their decision and their problem, and has nothing to do with anyone’s free speech — it’s a business decision.

So let’s knock that argument right out. This is not a free speech issue, period, and it’s incorrect, misleading, and naive to attempt to make it one. Such distortions are the fastest way to pervert and derail an argument, as we often see from our politicians, and I expect better from intelligent people like Andrew Sullivan.

Let’s move on to “political views”.

Suppose, rather than fund an anti-gay-marriage bill, Eich had instead funded a fringe bill that prohibited black people from getting married. Or suppose he said during a press conference that he believed women shouldn’t have the right to vote.

Would it be reasonable for the public to be outraged and call for his firing then?

Assuming your answer is yes (I don’t think I can really help you if it’s not), why is that different from funding an anti-gay-marriage bill?

Opponents of gay marriage (and other equal rights and anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people) consider their opposition a valid “political view”, appealing to the already completely wrong and extremely destructive idea that all opinions on an issue are equally valid and deserve equal time and representation in media and public discourse.

“Beliefs” and “views” deserve no inherent protection, validity, or value to the rest of society simply because they’re political or religious. They’re just opinions, and just as many opinions are worth considering and discussing, many others are offensive, crazy, ignorant, or bigoted.

A hundred years ago, saying that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote was a “political view”. Now, that would be a ridiculous and highly offensive opinion regardless of what any religion or political party said on the topic. Most discriminating “political views” of this sort eventually become widely recognized as unacceptable, barbaric bigotry with no place in civilized society — it’s just a matter of time.

As much as gay-rights opponents would like to believe otherwise, that time has come for their “political views”.

  1. Unless they caused him to do something that is illegal, such as hiring discrimination. (There are many more exceptions and limitations to “free speech” that actual lawyers can tell you about.) ↩︎

  2. Much of the world was actually doing a pretty good job of inadvertently boycotting Firefox before this controversy. ↩︎

Anti-Net-Neutrality “Fast Lanes” Are Bullshit

Given that the FCC is usually run by past or future lobbyists and executives for the industry they’re supposedly “regulating”, like most American regulators, it’s no surprise that it usually does what’s best for the country’s big ISPs at the expense of the citizens.

The New York Times published an article yesterday entitled, “F.C.C., in a Shift, Backs Fast Lanes for Web Traffic”. Pay careful attention to the ISP-friendly political marketing language being used. Emphasis mine:

The Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday that it would propose new rules that allow companies like Disney, Google or Netflix to pay Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers. …

Still, the regulations could radically reshape how Internet content is delivered to consumers. For example, if a gaming company cannot afford the fast track to players, customers could lose interest and its product could fail.

The rules are also likely to eventually raise prices as the likes of Disney and Netflix pass on to customers whatever they pay for the speedier lanes, which are the digital equivalent of an uncongested car pool lane on a busy freeway. …

“Americans were promised, and deserve, an Internet that is free of toll roads, fast lanes and censorship — corporate or governmental.” …

Broadband companies have pushed for the right to build special lanes.

Under the proposal, broadband providers would have to disclose how they treat all Internet traffic and on what terms they offer more rapid lanes

Those earlier rules effectively barred Internet service providers from making deals with services like Amazon or Netflix to allow those companies to pay to stream their products to viewers through a faster, express lane on the web. …

Consumers can pay Internet service providers for a higher-speed Internet connection. But whatever speed they choose, under the new rules, they might get some content faster, depending on what the content provider has paid for.

Everyone in this discussion has been led, most likely by talking-points marketing by the FCC and ISPs, to describe the destruction of net neutrality as allowing ISPs to “create fast lanes”.

This language was carefully constructed to sound like a positive, additive move: It’s building, not destroying or restricting. They want to offer faster service, not reduce the speed or priority of all existing traffic. Who could possibly be against that? They’re building fast lanes, like a highway! Everyone loves fast lanes! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Naturally, this doesn’t reflect reality at all. Only a fool would believe that the ISPs would actually create any new capacity, higher speeds, or consumer value in this process, leaving their existing service untouched. Yet that’s exactly the future you’re suggesting by using the “building fast lanes” metaphor.

Be honest.

This is not building anything new — it’s discriminating and restricting what we already have.

This is not making anything faster — it’s allowing ISPs to selectively slow down traffic that they don’t strategically or financially benefit from, and only permit traffic from their partners to run at the speeds that everything runs at today.

It’s ostensibly the FCC’s job to see through this bullshit language and do what’s right for the country and the people, but only the fool who believed that ISPs are trying to build something beneficial here would believe that the FCC gives a damn about what’s best for American citizens.

And 52.9% of us were that fool for believing in another big, empty political marketing campaign.

“Superficial Changes”

Jared Sinclair’s iOS 7 Squandered a Year of Third-Party Development on Superficial Changes is interesting and worth reading, but I disagree with the premise:

It’s been almost a year since version 7.0 was announced, yet as a developer I feel like a year’s worth of work has brought about only superficial changes to the apps I work on and the apps I use.

All the big problems facing iOS in the summer of 2013 are still with us. Some have gotten even worse.

There are plenty of problems with the iOS app ecosystem, but most of them that Apple could reasonably control — and most of Jared’s specific complaints — are App Store-related, not OS-related.

The App Store team has a lot of work to do, and improving it must be a very low priority for Apple since it moves so minimally and glacially. It’s clear by their actions that Apple believes the App Store is mostly fine the way it is, which is sad, embarrassing, incorrect, and a huge strategic mistake.

But that has almost nothing to do with the OS or iOS 7’s redesign, and it’s simply incorrect to state that iOS 7’s changes were “mostly visual”. Jog your memory and it’s pretty clear: TextKit and UIKeyCommand enabled entirely new app capabilities and categories; Multipeer, Game Controller, and JavaScriptCore have tons of potential for interesting uses; asset catalogs, SpriteKit, and Dynamic Text are very useful; and background refresh, content-available push notifications, and long-running background transfers being available to all apps is a total game-changer for anything that benefits from periodic updates, which is almost every app that most people use frequently. Oh yeah, and they also transitioned the entire OS to 64-bit with no significant issues.

That’s just the big stuff. 7 also added tons of smaller improvements to the API and tools that I benefit from almost every day that I spend coding for iOS. The idea that most of iOS 7’s benefits to developers were visual is completely, inarguably, not-even-close wrong.

And I’d say the visual stuff was pretty great, too — and very necessary, given how spoiled and petulant Apple’s fans and the media were last spring about a lack of “innovation” in iOS. Remember?

Moving onto Jared’s second point:

The visual overhaul obligated third-party devs to follow suit. It reset all of their product pipelines, setting them back months or years. Developers, being the hard-working and clever folks that they are, made the best of the crisis. Lots of fresh ideas were shipped since last fall. But the bulk of the apps released over the last year are only superficially different from the apps they replaced.

Jared and I must be using different apps, because I’ve seen an incredible year with massive progress.

Many older apps have been refreshed or redesigned, usually with great results. Newcomers have been able to establish footholds in previously stagnant markets, as I predicted in Fertile Ground. And iOS 7’s dramatic “new”-ness has given a huge advantage to developers with limited design resources: it made stock UIKit look fresh and good again. It still does: I’m using a lot of stock UIKit in Overcast, it looks great, and I’m the only full-time designer — and I’m not even a designer.

Some app developers chose to spend all of the last 11 months — we haven’t known about iOS 7’s redesign for a year yet — redesigning and rewriting their apps, but nobody was forcing them to do that much. Most developers took a few months over the summer and fall to adapt, and then got back to “normal” development shortly after iOS 7 shipped.

But that’s the same pattern that happens every summer, with every iOS release. Apple always adds new capabilities, APIs, and design paradigms that customers expect well-maintained apps to adopt promptly. And every summer and fall, developers spend time adopting to the latest iOS release, almost always for a net benefit to their apps: they can do something big that they previously couldn’t, they could delete a bunch of code, or they could dramatically improve an important feature.

iOS 7 only “set you back months or years” if you haven’t been paying attention to the iOS development cycle and decided to take on far too much unnecessary additional work with the migration to 7, both of which would cause problems in any year, on any app, with any new OS release.