Tag Archives: Editorial

Hello World Issue 5: Engineering

Post Syndicated from Russell Barnes original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hello-world-issue-5/

Join us as we celebrate the Year of Engineering in the newest issue of Hello World, our magazine for computing and digital making educators.

 

Inspiring future engineers

We’ve brought together a wide range of experts to share their ideas and advice on how to bring engineering to your classroom — read issue 5 to find out the best ways to inspire the next generation.



Plus we’ve got plenty on GP and Scratch, we answer your latest questions, and we bring you our usual collection of useful features, guides, and lesson plans.

Highlights of issue 5 include:

  • The bluffers’ guide to putting together a tech-themed school trip
  • Inclusion, and coding for the visually impaired
  • Getting students interested in databases
  • Why copying may not always be a bad thing

How to get Hello World #5

Hello World is available as a free download under a Creative Commons license for everyone in world who is interested in computer science and digital making education. Get the latest issue as a PDF file straight from the Hello World website.

We’re currently offering free print copies of the magazine to serving educators in the UK. This offer is open to teachers, Code Club and CoderDojo volunteers, teaching assistants, teacher trainers, and others who help children and young people learn about computing and digital making. Subscribe to have your free print magazine posted directly to your home, or subscribe digitally — 20000 educators have already signed up to receive theirs!

Get in touch!

You could write for us about your experiences as an educator, and share your advice with the community. Wherever you are in the world, get in touch by emailing our editorial team about your article idea — we would love to hear from you!

Hello World magazine is a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Computing At School, which is part of the British Computing Society.

The post Hello World Issue 5: Engineering appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Hello World Issue 4: Professional Development

Post Syndicated from Carrie Anne Philbin original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hello-world-issue-4/

Another new year brings with it thoughts of setting goals and targets. Thankfully, there is a new issue of Hello World packed with practical advise to set you on the road to success.

Hello World is our magazine about computing and digital making for educators, and it’s a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Computing at School, which is part of the British Computing Society.

Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS

In issue 4, our international panel of educators and experts recommends approaches to continuing professional development in computer science education.

Approaches to professional development, and much more

With recommendations for more professional development in the Royal Society’s report, and government funding to support this, our cover feature explores some successful approaches. In addition, the issue is packed with other great resources, guides, features, and lesson plans to support educators.

Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS
Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS
Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS
Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS

Highlights include:

  • The Royal Society: After the Reboot — learn about the latest report and its findings about computing education
  • The Cyber Games — a new programme looking for the next generation of security experts
  • Engaging Students with Drones
  • Digital Literacy: Lost in Translation?
  • Object-oriented Coding with Python

Get your copy of Hello World 4

Hello World is available as a free Creative Commons download for anyone around the world who is interested in computer science and digital making education. You can get the latest issue as a PDF file straight from the Hello World website.

Thanks to the very generous sponsorship of BT, we are able to offer free print copies of the magazine to serving educators in the UK. It’s for teachers, Code Club volunteers, teaching assistants, teacher trainers, and others who help children and young people learn about computing and digital making. So remember to subscribe to have your free print magazine posted directly to your home — 6000 educators have already signed up to receive theirs!

Could you write for Hello World?

By sharing your knowledge and experience of working with young people to learn about computing, computer science, and digital making in Hello World, you will help inspire others to get involved. You will also help bring the power of digital making to more and more educators and learners.

The computing education community is full of people who lend their experience to help colleagues. Contributing to Hello World is a great way to take an active part in this supportive community, and you’ll be adding to a body of free, open-source learning resources that are available for anyone to use, adapt, and share. It’s also a tremendous platform to broadcast your work: Hello World digital versions alone have been downloaded more than 50000 times!

Wherever you are in the world, get in touch with us by emailing our editorial team about your article idea.

The post Hello World Issue 4: Professional Development appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Could you write for Hello World magazine?

Post Syndicated from Dan Fisher original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/could-you-write-for-hello-world-magazine/

Thinking about New Year’s resolutions? Ditch the gym and tone up your author muscles instead, by writing an article for Hello World magazine. We’ll help you, you’ll expand your knowledge of a topic you care about, and you’ll be contributing something of real value to the computing education community.

Join our pool of Hello World writers in 2018

The computing and digital making magazine for educators

Hello World is our free computing magazine for educators, published in partnership with Computing At School and kindly supported by BT. We launched at the Bett Show in January 2017, and over the past twelve months, we’ve grown to a readership of 15000 subscribers. You can get your own free copy here.

Our work is sustained by wonderful educational content from around the world in every issue. We’re hugely grateful to our current pool of authors – keep it up, veterans of 2017! – and we want to provide opportunities for new voices in the community to join them. You might be a classroom teacher sharing your scheme of work, a volunteer reflecting on running an after-school club, an industry professional sharing your STEM expertise, or an academic providing insights into new research – we’d love contributions from all kinds of people in all sorts of roles.

Your article doesn’t have to be finished and complete: if you send us an outline, we will work with you to develop it into a full piece.

Like my desk, but tidier

Five reasons to write for Hello World

Here are five reasons why writing for Hello World is a great way to start 2018:

1. You’ll learn something new

Researching an article is one of the best ways to broaden your knowledge about something that interests you.

2. You’ll think more clearly

Notes in hand, you sit at your desk and wonder how to craft all this information into a coherent piece of writing. It’s a situation we’re all familiar with. Writing an article makes you examine and clarify what you really think about a subject.

Share your expertise and make more interesting projects along the way

3. You’ll make cool projects

Testing a project for a Hello World resource is a perfect opportunity to build something amazing that’s hitherto been locked away inside your brain.

4. You’ll be doing something that matters

Sharing your knowledge and experience in Hello World helps others to teach and learn computing. It helps bring the power of digital making to more and more educators and learners.

5. You’ll share with an open and supportive community

The computing education community is full of people who lend their experience to help colleagues. Contributing to Hello World is a great way to take an active part in this supportive community, and you’ll be adding to a body of free, open source learning resources that are available for everyone to use, adapt, and share. It’s also a tremendous platform to broadcast your work: the digital version alone of Hello World has been downloaded over 50000 times.

Yes! What do I do next?

Feeling inspired? Email our editorial team with your idea.

Issue 4 of Hello World is out this month! Subscribe for free today to have it delivered to your inbox or your home.

The post Could you write for Hello World magazine? appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Hiring a Content Director

Post Syndicated from Ahin Thomas original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hiring-content-director/


Backblaze is looking to hire a full time Content Director. This role is an essential piece of our team, reporting directly to our VP of Marketing. As the hiring manager, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about the role, how I’m thinking about the collaboration, and why I believe this to be a great opportunity.

A Little About Backblaze and the Role

Since 2007, Backblaze has earned a strong reputation as a leader in data storage. Our products are astonishingly easy to use and affordable to purchase. We have engaged customers and an involved community that helps drive our brand. Our audience numbers in the millions and our primary interaction point is the Backblaze blog. We publish content for engineers (data infrastructure, topics in the data storage world), consumers (how to’s, merits of backing up), and entrepreneurs (business insights). In all categories, our Content Director drives our earned positioned as leaders.

Backblaze has a culture focused on being fair and good (to each other and our customers). We have created a sustainable business that is profitable and growing. Our team places a premium on open communication, being cleverly unconventional, and helping each other out. The Content Director, specifically, balances our needs as a commercial enterprise (at the end of the day, we want to sell our products) with the custodianship of our blog (and the trust of our audience).

There’s a lot of ground to be covered at Backblaze. We have three discreet business lines:

  • Computer Backup -> a 10 year old business focusing on backing up consumer computers.
  • B2 Cloud Storage -> Competing with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft… just at ¼ of the price (but with the same performance characteristics).
  • Business Backup -> Both Computer Backup and B2 Cloud Storage, but focused on SMBs and enterprise.

The Best Candidate Is…

An excellent writer – possessing a solid academic understanding of writing, the creative process, and delivering against deadlines. You know how to write with multiple voices for multiple audiences. We do not expect our Content Director to be a storage infrastructure expert; we do expect a facility with researching topics, accessing our engineering and infrastructure team for guidance, and generally translating the technical into something easy to understand. The best Content Director must be an active participant in the business/ strategy / and editorial debates and then must execute with ruthless precision.

Our Content Director’s “day job” is making sure the blog is running smoothly and the sales team has compelling collateral (emails, case studies, white papers).

Specifically, the Perfect Content Director Excels at:

  • Creating well researched, elegantly constructed content on deadline. For example, each week, 2 articles should be published on our blog. Blog posts should rotate to address the constituencies for our 3 business lines – not all blog posts will appeal to everyone, but over the course of a month, we want multiple compelling pieces for each segment of our audience. Similarly, case studies (and outbound emails) should be tailored to our sales team’s proposed campaigns / audiences. The Content Director creates ~75% of all content but is responsible for editing 100%.
  • Understanding organic methods for weaving business needs into compelling content. The majority of our content (but not EVERY piece) must tie to some business strategy. We hate fluff and hold our promotional content to a standard of being worth someone’s time to read. To be effective, the Content Director must understand the target customer segments and use cases for our products.
  • Straddling both Consumer & SaaS mechanics. A key part of the job will be working to augment the collateral used by our sales team for both B2 Cloud Storage and Business Backup. This content should be compelling and optimized for converting leads. And our foundational business line, Computer Backup, deserves to be nurtured and grown.
  • Product marketing. The Content Director “owns” the blog. But also assists in writing cases studies / white papers, creating collateral (email, trade show). Each of these things has a variety of call to action(s) and audiences. Direct experience is a plus, experience that will plausibly translate to these areas is a requirement.
  • Articulating views on storage, backup, and cloud infrastructure. Not everyone has experience with this. That’s fine, but if you do, it’s strongly beneficial.

A Thursday In The Life:

  • Coordinate Collaborators – We are deliverables driven culture, not a meeting driven one. We expect you to collaborate with internal blog authors and the occasional guest poster.
  • Collaborate with Design – Ensure imagery for upcoming posts / collateral are on track.
  • Augment Sales team – Lock content for next week’s outbound campaign.
  • Self directed blog agenda – Feedback for next Tuesday’s post is addressed, next Thursday’s post is circulated to marketing team for feedback & SEO polish.
  • Review Editorial calendar, make any changes.

Oh! And We Have Great Perks:

  • Competitive healthcare plans
  • Competitive compensation and 401k
  • All employees receive Option grants
  • Unlimited vacation days
  • Strong coffee & fully stocked Micro kitchen
  • Catered breakfast and lunches
  • Awesome people who work on awesome projects
  • Childcare bonus
  • Normal work hours
  • Get to bring your pets into the office
  • San Mateo Office – located near Caltrain and Highways 101 & 280.

Interested in Joining Our Team?

Send us an email to [email protected] with the subject “Content Director”. Please include your resume and 3 brief abstracts for content pieces.
Some hints for each of your three abstracts:

  • Create a compelling headline
  • Write clearly and concisely
  • Be brief, each abstract should be 100 words or less – no longer
  • Target each abstract to a different specific audience that is relevant to our business lines

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider all this. I hope it sounds like a great opportunity for you or someone you know. Principles only need apply.

The post Hiring a Content Director appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

AWS Hot Startups – February 2017

Post Syndicated from Ana Visneski original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hot-startups-february-2017-2/

As we finish up the month of February, Tina Barr is back with some awesome startups.

-Ana


This month we are bringing you five innovative hot startups:

  • GumGum – Creating and popularizing the field of in-image advertising.
  • Jiobit – Smart tags to help parents keep track of kids.
  • Parsec – Offers flexibility in hardware and location for PC gamers.
  • Peloton – Revolutionizing indoor cycling and fitness classes at home.
  • Tendril – Reducing energy consumption for homeowners.

If you missed any of our January startups, make sure to check them out here.

GumGum (Santa Monica, CA)
GumGum logo1GumGum is best known for inventing and popularizing the field of in-image advertising. Founded in 2008 by Ophir Tanz, the company is on a mission to unlock the value held within the vast content produced daily via social media, editorials, and broadcasts in a variety of industries. GumGum powers campaigns across more than 2,000 premium publishers, which are seen by over 400 million users.

In-image advertising was pioneered by GumGum and has given companies a platform to deliver highly visible ads to a place where the consumer’s attention is already focused. Using image recognition technology, GumGum delivers targeted placements as contextual overlays on related pictures, as banners that fit on all screen sizes, or as In-Feed placements that blend seamlessly into the surrounding content. Using Visual Intelligence, GumGum can scour social media and broadcast TV for all images and videos related to a brand, allowing companies to gain a stronger understanding of their audience and how they are relating to that brand on social media.

GumGum relies on AWS for its Image Processing and Ad Serving operations. Using AWS infrastructure, GumGum currently processes 13 million requests per minute across the globe and generates 30 TB of new data every day. The company uses a suite of services including but not limited to Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon EMR, AWS Data Pipeline, and Amazon SNS. AWS edge locations allow GumGum to serve its customers in the US, Europe, Australia, and Japan and the company has plans to expand its infrastructure to Australia and APAC regions in the future.

For a look inside GumGum’s startup culture, check out their first Hackathon!

Jiobit (Chicago, IL)
Jiobit Team1
Jiobit was inspired by a real event that took place in a crowded Chicago park. A couple of summers ago, John Renaldi experienced every parent’s worst nightmare – he lost track of his then 6-year-old son in a public park for almost 30 minutes. John knew he wasn’t the only parent with this problem. After months of research, he determined that over 50% of parents have had a similar experience and an even greater percentage are actively looking for a way to prevent it.

Jiobit is the world’s smallest and longest lasting smart tag that helps parents keep track of their kids in every location – indoors and outdoors. The small device is kid-proof: lightweight, durable, and waterproof. It acts as a virtual “safety harness” as it uses a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Multiple Cellular Networks, GPS, and sensors to provide accurate locations in real-time. Jiobit can automatically learn routes and locations, and will send parents an alert if their child does not arrive at their destination on time. The talented team of experienced engineers, designers, marketers, and parents has over 150 patents and has shipped dozens of hardware and software products worldwide.

The Jiobit team is utilizing a number of AWS services in the development of their product. Security is critical to the overall product experience, and they are over-engineering security on both the hardware and software side with the help of AWS. Jiobit is also working towards being the first child monitoring device that will have implemented an Alexa Skill via the Amazon Echo device (see here for a demo!). The devices use AWS IoT to send and receive data from the Jio Cloud over the MQTT protocol. Once data is received, they use AWS Lambda to parse the received data and take appropriate actions, including storing relevant data using Amazon DynamoDB, and sending location data to Amazon Machine Learning processing jobs.

Visit the Jiobit blog for more information.

Parsec (New York, NY)
Parsec logo large1
Parsec operates under the notion that everyone should have access to the best computing in the world because access to technology creates endless opportunities. Founded in 2016 by Benjy Boxer and Chris Dickson, Parsec aims to eliminate the burden of hardware upgrades that users frequently experience by building the technology to make a computer in the cloud available anywhere, at any time. Today, they are using their technology to enable greater flexibility in the hardware and location that PC gamers choose to play their favorite games on. Check out this interview with Benjy and our Startups team for a look at how Parsec works.

Parsec built their first product to improve the gaming experience; gamers no longer have to purchase consoles or expensive PCs to access the entertainment they love. Their low latency video streaming and networking technologies allow gamers to remotely access their gaming rig and play on any Windows, Mac, Android, or Raspberry Pi device. With the global reach of AWS, Parsec is able to deliver cloud gaming to the median user in the US and Europe with less than 30 milliseconds of network latency.

Parsec users currently have two options available to start gaming with cloud resources. They can either set up their own machines with the Parsec AMI in their region or rely on Parsec to manage everything for a seamless experience. In either case, Parsec uses the g2.2xlarge EC2 instance type. Parsec is using Amazon Elastic Block Storage to store games, Amazon DynamoDB for scalability, and Amazon EC2 for its web servers and various APIs. They also deal with a high volume of logs and take advantage of the Amazon Elasticsearch Service to analyze the data.

Be sure to check out Parsec’s blog to keep up with the latest news.

Peloton (New York, NY)
Peloton image 3
The idea for Peloton was born in 2012 when John Foley, Founder and CEO, and his wife Jill started realizing the challenge of balancing work, raising young children, and keeping up with personal fitness. This is a common challenge people face – they want to work out, but there are a lot of obstacles that stand in their way. Peloton offers a solution that enables people to join indoor cycling and fitness classes anywhere, anytime.

Peloton has created a cutting-edge indoor bike that streams up to 14 hours of live classes daily and has over 4,000 on-demand classes. Users can access live classes from world-class instructors from the convenience of their home or gym. The bike tracks progress with in-depth ride metrics and allows people to compete in real-time with other users who have taken a specific ride. The live classes even feature top DJs that play current playlists to keep users motivated.

With an aggressive marketing campaign, which has included high-visibility TV advertising, Peloton made the decision to run its entire platform in the cloud. Most recently, they ran an ad during an NFL playoff game and their rate of requests per minute to their site increased from ~2k/min to ~32.2k/min within 60 seconds. As they continue to grow and diversify, they are utilizing services such as Amazon S3 for thousands of hours of archived on-demand video content, Amazon Redshift for data warehousing, and Application Load Balancer for intelligent request routing.

Learn more about Peloton’s engineering team here.

Tendril (Denver, CO)
Tendril logo1
Tendril was founded in 2004 with the goal of helping homeowners better manage and reduce their energy consumption. Today, electric and gas utilities use Tendril’s data analytics platform on more than 140 million homes to deliver a personalized energy experience for consumers around the world. Using the latest technology in decision science and analytics, Tendril can gain access to real-time, ever evolving data about energy consumers and their homes so they can improve customer acquisition, increase engagement, and orchestrate home energy experiences. In turn, Tendril helps its customers unlock the true value of energy interactions.

AWS helps Tendril run its services globally, while scaling capacity up and down as needed, and in real-time. This has been especially important in support of Tendril’s newest solution, Orchestrated Energy, a continuous demand management platform that calculates a home’s thermal mass, predicts consumer behavior, and integrates with smart thermostats and other connected home devices. This solution allows millions of consumers to create a personalized energy plan for their home based on their individual needs.

Tendril builds and maintains most of its infrastructure services with open sources tools running on Amazon EC2 instances, while also making use of AWS services such as Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, Amazon Simple Queue Service, and Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL.

Visit the Tendril Blog for more information!

— Tina Barr

AWS Week in Review – Coming Back With Your Help!

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-week-in-review-coming-back-with-your-help/

Back in 2012 I realized that something interesting happened in AWS-land just about every day. In contrast to the periodic bursts of activity that were the norm back in the days of shrink-wrapped software, the cloud became a place where steady, continuous development took place.

In order to share all of this activity with my readers and to better illustrate the pace of innovation, I published the first AWS Week in Review in the spring of 2012. The original post took all of about 5 minutes to assemble, post and format. I got some great feedback on it and I continued to produce a steady stream of new posts every week for over 4 years. Over the years I added more and more content generated within AWS and from the ever-growing community of fans, developers, and partners.

Unfortunately, finding, saving, and filtering links, and then generating these posts grew to take a substantial amount of time. I reluctantly stopped writing new posts early this year after spending about 4 hours on the post for the week of April 25th.

After receiving dozens of emails and tweets asking about the posts, I gave some thought to a new model that would be open and more scalable.

Going Open
The AWS Week in Review is now a GitHub project (https://github.com/aws/aws-week-in-review). I am inviting contributors (AWS fans, users, bloggers, and partners) to contribute.

Every Monday morning I will review and accept pull requests for the previous week, aiming to publish the Week in Review by 10 AM PT. In order to keep the posts focused and highly valuable, I will approve pull requests only if they meet our guidelines for style and content.

At that time I will also create a file for the week to come, so that you can populate it as you discover new and relevant content.

Content & Style Guidelines
Here are the guidelines for making contributions:

  • Relevance -All contributions must be directly related to AWS.
  • Ownership – All contributions remain the property of the contributor.
  • Validity – All links must be to publicly available content (links to free, gated content are fine).
  • Timeliness – All contributions must refer to content that was created on the associated date.
  • Neutrality – This is not the place for editorializing. Just the facts / links.

I generally stay away from generic news about the cloud business, and I post benchmarks only with the approval of my colleagues.

And now a word or two about style:

  • Content from this blog is generally prefixed with “I wrote about POST_TITLE” or “We announced that TOPIC.”
  • Content from other AWS blogs is styled as “The BLOG_NAME wrote about POST_TITLE.”
  • Content from individuals is styled as “PERSON wrote about POST_TITLE.”
  • Content from partners and ISVs is styled as “The BLOG_NAME wrote about POST_TITLE.”

There’s room for some innovation and variation to keep things interesting, but keep it clean and concise. Please feel free to review some of my older posts to get a sense for what works.

Over time we might want to create a more compelling visual design for the posts. Your ideas (and contributions) are welcome.

Sections
Over the years I created the following sections:

  • Daily Summaries – content from this blog, other AWS blogs, and everywhere else.
  • New & Notable Open Source.
  • New SlideShare Presentations.
  • New YouTube Videos including APN Success Stories.
  • New AWS Marketplace products.
  • New Customer Success Stories.
  • Upcoming Events.
  • Help Wanted.

Some of this content comes to my attention via RSS feeds. I will post the OPML file that I use in the GitHub repo and you can use it as a starting point. The New & Notable Open Source section is derived from a GitHub search for aws. I scroll through the results and pick the 10 or 15 items that catch my eye. I also watch /r/aws and Hacker News for interesting and relevant links and discussions.

Over time, it is possible that groups or individuals may become the primary contributor for a section. That’s fine, and I would be thrilled to see this happen. I am also open to the addition to new sections, as long as they are highly relevant to AWS.

Automation
Earlier this year I tried to automate the process, but I did not like the results. You are welcome to give this a shot on your own. I do want to make sure that we continue to exercise human judgement in order to keep the posts as valuable as possible.

Let’s Do It
I am super excited about this project and I cannot wait to see those pull requests coming in. Please let me know (via a blog comment) if you have any suggestions or concerns.

I should note up front that I am very new to Git-based collaboration and that this is going to be a learning exercise for me. Do not hesitate to let me know if there’s a better way to do things!


Jeff;

 

Emoji Ticker

Post Syndicated from Matt Richardson original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/emoji-ticker/

What was my reaction when I first saw this scrolling emoji ticker project? 😍🙌👏

lightbulb-emoji-ticker-750x500

Up until recently I’ve been a bit reluctant to adopt emoji characters in my everyday communication. But ever since they’ve been elevated to greater prominence on phones and on services such as Slack, I’ve given in completely. If I had the creative energy and patience, I’d write this whole post with emoji (though it mightn’t make it past Liz’s editorial discretion)!

This is where Dean comes in. Dean is a community member who helped us out at Maker Faire Bay Area in 2015. Normally a web developer, he rolled up his sleeves and took on the responsibility for a fun physical project for his company’s office. He works at Yeti; they built the app Chelsea Handler: Gotta Go!, which they describe as “a way to generate excuses and set them as alarms. It’s the perfect solution for bad dates, awkward convos with your in-laws, boring meetings and whatever else you might want to hit the eject button on.”

glowy-dysfunction-750x500

Each hilarious excuse has its own emoji character, and Dean wanted the office’s Raspberry Pi-driven LED matrix ticker to show which emojis were being used by the users of the app. After some turbulence with wiring up the hardware and some clever web implementation, he was lighting up the office with 🐻 👮 and 📞, using a blend of Python for the network requests and C for driving the LED matrix.

Dean documented the experience on the Yeti blog, where he offers a few takeaways: collaborate, use documentation but stay flexible, and know when to ask for help. His most valuable lesson? He says it was “the value of code modularity, or the practice of breaking a project into function-specific components (i.e. functions for rendering on the LED matrix, classes for communicating with the Gotta Go server).”

Dean, 🙏 for sharing!

The post Emoji Ticker appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

One year later

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2016/06/12/one-year-later/

A year ago today was my last day working a tech job.

What I didn’t do

I think I spent the first few months in a bit of a daze. I have a bad habit of expecting worst case scenarios, so I was in a constant state of mild panic over whether I could really earn enough to support myself. Not particularly conducive to doing things.

There was also a very striking change in… people scenery? Working for a tech company, even remotely, meant that I spent much of my time talking to a large group of tech-minded people who knew the context behind things I was working on. Even if they weren’t the things I wanted to be working on, I could at least complain about an obscure problem and expect to find someone who understood it.

Suddenly, that was gone. I know some tech people, of course, and have some tech followers on Twitter, but those groups are much more heterogenous than a few dozen people all working on the same website. It was a little jarring.

And yet, looking back, I suspect that feeling had been fading for some time. I’d been working on increasingly obscure projects for Yelp, which limited how much I could really talk to anyone about them. Towards the end I was put on a particularly thorny problem just because I was the only person who knew anything about it at all. I spent a few weeks hammering away at this thing that zero other people understood, that I barely understood myself, that I didn’t much enjoy doing, and that would ultimately just speed deployments up by a few minutes.

Hm.

When I left, I had a lot of ideas for the kinds of things I wanted to do with all this newfound free time. Most of them were “pure” programming ideas: design and implement a programming language, build a new kind of parser, build a replacement for IRC, or at least build a little IRC bot framework.

I ended up doing… none of those! With more time to do things, rather than daydream restlessly about doing things, I discovered that building libraries and infrastructure is incredibly tedious and unrewarding. (For me, I mean. If that’s your jam, well, I’m glad it’s someone’s.)

I drifted for a little while as I came to terms with this, trying to force myself to work on these grandiose dreams. Ultimately, I realized that I most enjoy programming when it’s a means to an end, when there’s a goal beyond “write some code to do this”. Hence my recent tilt towards game development, where the code is just one part of a larger whole.

And, crucially, that larger whole is something that everyone can potentially enjoy. The difference has been night and day. I can tweet a screenshot of a text adventure and catch several people’s interest. On the other hand, a Python library for resizing images? Who cares? It’s not a complete thing; it’s a building block, a tool. At worst, no one ever uses it, and I have nothing to show for the time. Even at best, well… let’s just say the way programmers react to technical work is very different from the way everyone else reacts to creative work.

I do still like building libraries on occasion, but my sights are much smaller now. I may pick up sanpera or dywypi again, for instance, but I think that’s largely because other people are already using them to do things. I don’t have much interest in devoting months to designing and building a programming language that only a handful of PLT nerds will even look at, when I could instead spend a day and a half making a Twitter bot that posts random noise and immediately have multiple people tell me it’s relaxing or interesting.

In short, I’ve learned a lot about what’s important to me!

Ah, yes, I also thought I would’ve written a book by now. I, uh, haven’t. Writing a book apparently takes a lot more long-term focus than I tend to have available. It also requires enough confidence in a single idea to write tens of thousands of words about it, and that doesn’t come easily either. I’ve taken a lot of notes, written a couple short drafts, and picked up a bit of TeX, so it’s still on the table, but I don’t expect any particular timeframe.

What I did do

Argh, this is going to overlap with my birthday posts. But:

I wrote a whopping 43 blog posts, totalling just over 160,000 words. That’s two or three novels! Along the way, my Patreon has more than tripled to a level that’s, well, more reassuring. Thank you so much, everyone who’s contributed — I can’t imagine a better compliment than discovering that people are willing to directly pay me to keep writing and making whatever little strange things I want.

I drew a hell of a lot. My progress has been documented elsewhere, but suffice to say, I’ve come a long way. I also expanded into a few new media over this past year: watercolors, pixel art, and even a teeny bit of animation.

I made some games. The release of Mario Maker was a really nice start — I could play around with level design ideas inside a world with established gameplay and let other people play them fairly easily. Less seriously, I made Don’t Eat the Cactus, which was microscopic but ended up entertaining a surprising number of people — that’s made me rethink my notions of what a game even needs to be. I made a Doom level, and released it, for the first time. Most recently, of course, Mel and I made Under Construction, a fully-fledged little pixel game. I’ve really enjoyed this so far, and I have several more small things going at the moment.

The elephant in the room is perhaps Runed Awakening, the text adventure I started almost two years ago. It was supposed to be a small first game, but it’s spiraled a little bit out of hand. Perhaps I underestimated text adventures. A year ago, I wasn’t really sure where the game was going, and the ending was vague and unsatisfying; now there’s a clear ending, a rough flow through the game, and most importantly enough ideas to see it through from here. I’ve rearchitected the entire world, added a few major NPCs, added core mechanics, added scoring, added a little reward for replaying, added several major areas, implemented some significant puzzles, and even made an effort to illustrate it. There’s still quite a lot of work left, but I enjoy working on it and I’m excited about the prospect of releasing it.

I did more work on SLADE while messing around with Doom modding, most notably adding support for ZDoom’s myriad kinds of slopes. I tracked down and fixed a lot of bugs with editing geometry, which is a really interesting exercise and a challenging problem, and I’ve fixed dozens of little papercuts. I’ve got a few major things in progress still: support for 3D floors is maybe 70% done, support for lock types is about 70% done. Oh, yes, and I started on a static analyzer for scripts, which is a fantastic intersection of “pure programming” and “something practical that people could make use of”. That’s maybe 10% done and will take a hell of a lot of work, but boy would it be great to see.

I improved spline (the software powering Floraverse) more than I’d realized: arbitrarily-nested folders, multiple media per “page”, and the revamped archives were all done this past year. I used the same library to make Mel a simple site, too. It’s still not something I would advise other people run, but I did put a modicum of effort into documenting it and cleaning up some general weirdness, and I made my own life easier by migrating everything to runit.

veekun has languished for a while, but fear not, I’m still working on it. I wrote brand new code to dump (most of) RBY from scratch, using a YAML schema instead of a relational database, which has grown increasingly awkward to fit all of Pokémon’s special cases into. I still hope to revamp the site based on this idea in time for Sun and Moon. I also spent a little time modernizing the pokedex library itself, most notably making it work with Python 3.

I wrote some other code, too. Camel was an idea I’d had for a while, and I just sat down and wrote it over the course of a couple days, and I’m glad I did. I rewrote PARTYMODE. I did another round of heteroglot. I fixed some bugs in ZDoom. I sped Quixe (a JavaScript interpreter for some text adventures) up by 10% across the board. I wrote some weird Twitter bots. I wrote a lot of one-off stuff for various practical purposes, some of it abandoned, some of it used once and thrown away.

Is that a lot? It doesn’t even feel like a lot. I want to do just as much again by the end of the year. I guess we’ll see how that goes.

Some things people said

Not long after my original post made the rounds, I was contacted by a Vox editor who asked if I’d like to expand my post into an article. A paid article! I thought that sounded fantastic, and could even open the door to more paid writing. I spent most of a week on it.

It went up with the title “I’m 28, I just quit my tech job, and I never want another job again” and a hero image of fists slamming a keyboard. I hadn’t been asked or told about either, and only found out by seeing the live page. I’d even given my own title; no idea what happened to that, or to the byline I wrote.

I can’t imagine a more effective way to make me sound like a complete asshole. I barely remember how the article itself was phrased; I could swear I tried to adapt to a broader and less personal audience, but I guess I didn’t do a very good job, and I’m too embarrassed to go look at it now.

I found out very quickly, via some heated Twitter responses, that it looks even worse without the context of “I wrote this in my blog and Vox approached me to publish it”. It hadn’t even occurred to me that people would assume writing an article for a news website had been my idea, but of course they would. Whoops. In the ensuing year, I’ve encountered one or two friends of friends who proactively blocked me just over that article. Hell, I’d block me too.

I don’t think I want to do any more writing where I don’t have final editorial control.

I bring this up because there have been some wildly differing reactions to what I wrote, and Vox had the most drastic divide. A lot of people were snarky or angry. But just as many people contacted me, often privately, to say they feel the same way and are hoping to quit their jobs in the future and wish me luck.

It’s the money, right? You’re not supposed to talk about money, but I’m an idiot and keep doing it anyway.

I don’t want anyone to feel bad. I tried, actively, not to say anything wildly insensitive, in both the original post and the Vox article. I know a lot of people hate their jobs, and I know most people can’t afford to quit. I wish everyone could. I’d love to see a world where everyone could do or learn or explore or make all the things they wanted. Unfortunately, my wishes have no bearing on how the system works.

I suspect… people have expectations. The American Dream™ is to get a bunch of money, at which point you win and can be happy forever.

I had a cushy well-paying job, and I wasn’t happy. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Yet if anything, the money made me more unhappy, by keeping me around longer.

People like to quip that money can’t buy happiness. I think that’s missing the point. Money can remove sadness, but only if that sadness is related to not having enough money. My problem was not having enough time.

I was tremendously lucky to have stock options and to be able to pay off the house, but those things cancelled each other out. The money was finite, and I spent it all at once. Now it’s gone, and I still have bills, albeit fewer of them. I still need to earn income, or I’ll run out of money for buying food and internets.

I make considerably less now. I’m also much, much happier.


I don’t know why I feel the need to delve so deeply into this. The original post happened to hit lobste.rs a few days ago, and there were a couple “what a rich asshole” comments, which reminded me of all this. They were subtly weird to read, as though they were about an article from a slightly different parallel universe. I was reminded that many of the similar comments from a year ago had a similar feel to them.

If you think I’m an asshole because I’ve acted like an asshole, well, that’s okay. I try not to, and I’ll try to be better next time, but sometimes I fuck up.

If you think I’m an asshole because I pitched a whiny article to Vox about how one of the diamond lightbulbs in my Scrooge McDuck vault went out, damn. It bugs me a little to be judged as a carciature with little relation to what I’ve actually done.

To the people who ask me for advice

Here’s a more good comment:

The first week was relaxing, productive, glorious. Then I passed the midpoint and saw the end of my freedom looming on the horizon. Gloom descended once more.

I thought I was the only one, who felt like this. I see myself in everything [they] describe. I just don’t have the guts to try and sell my very own software as a full time thing.

I like to liberally license everything I do, and I fucking hate advertising and will never put it on anything I control

It’s almost as if that [person] is me, with a different name, and cuter website graphics.

First of all, thank you! I have further increased the cuteness of my website graphics since this comment. I hope you enjoy.

I’ve heard a lot of this over the past year. A lot. There are a shocking number of people in tech who hate being in tech, even though we all get paid in chests full of gold doubloons.

A decent number of them also asked for my input. What should they do? Should they also quit? Should they switch careers?

I would like to answer everyone, once and for all, by stressing that I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know anything. I’m not a renowned expert in job-quitting or anything.

I left because, ultimately, I had to. I was utterly, utterly exhausted. I’d been agonizing over it for almost a year prior, but had stayed because I didn’t think I could pull it off. I was terrified of failure. Even after deciding to quit, I’d wanted to stay another six months and finish out the year. I left when I did because I was deteriorating.

I hoped I could make it work, Mel told me I could make it work, and I had some four layers of backup plans. I still might’ve failed, and every backup plan might’ve failed. I didn’t. But I could’ve.

I can’t tell you whether it’s a good decision to quit your job to backpack through Europe or write that screenplay you’ve always wanted to write. I could barely tell myself whether this was a good idea. I’m not sure I’d admit to it even now. I can’t decide your future for you.

On the other hand…

On the other hand, if you’re just looking for someone to tell you what you want to hear, what you’ve already decided…

Well, let’s just say you’d know better than I would.

Oracle attorney says Google’s court victory might kill the GPL (ars technica)

Post Syndicated from corbet original http://lwn.net/Articles/688894/rss

Ars technica is carrying an
editorial from Oracle’s attorney
in its fight with Google; it would
seem that this ruling is the end of the world.
It is hard to see how GPL can survive such a result. In fact, it is
hard to see how ownership of a copy of any software protected by copyright
can survive this result. Software businesses now must accelerate their move
to the cloud where everything can be controlled as a service rather than
software. Consumers can expect to find decreasing options to own anything
for themselves, decreasing options to control their data, decreasing
options to protect their privacy.

Subjective explainer: gun debate in the US

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2015/10/subjective-explainer-gun-debate-in-us.html

In the wake of the tragic events in Roseburg, I decided to briefly return to the topic of looking at the US culture from the perspective of a person born in Europe. In particular, I wanted to circle back to the topic of firearms.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the United States has witnessed a dramatic decline in violence over the past 20 years. In fact, when it comes to most types of violent crime – say, robbery, assault, or rape – the country now compares favorably to the UK and many other OECD nations. But as I explored in my earlier posts, one particular statistic – homicide – is still registering about three times as high as in many other places within the EU.

The homicide epidemic in the United States has a complex nature and overwhelmingly affects ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged social groups; perhaps because of this, the phenomenon sees very little honest, public scrutiny. It is propelled into the limelight only in the wake of spree shootings and other sickening, seemingly random acts of terror; such incidents, although statistically insignificant, take a profound mental toll on the American society. At the same time, the effects of high-profile violence seem strangely short-lived: they trigger a series of impassioned political speeches, invariably focusing on the connection between violence and guns – but the nation soon goes back to business as usual, knowing full well that another massacre will happen soon, perhaps the very same year.

On the face of it, this pattern defies all reason – angering my friends in Europe and upsetting many brilliant and well-educated progressives in the US. They utter frustrated remarks about the all-powerful gun lobby and the spineless politicians, blaming the partisan gridlock for the failure to pass even the most reasonable and toothless gun control laws. I used to be in the same camp; today, I think the reality is more complex than that.

To get to the bottom of this mystery, it helps to look at the spirit of radical individualism and classical liberalism that remains the national ethos of the United States – and in fact, is enjoying a degree of resurgence unseen for many decades prior. In Europe, it has long been settled that many individual liberties – be it the freedom of speech or the natural right to self-defense – can be constrained to advance even some fairly far-fetched communal goals. On the old continent, such sacrifices sometimes paid off, and sometimes led to atrocities; but the basic premise of European collectivism is not up for serious debate. In America, the same notion certainly cannot be taken for granted today.

When it comes to firearm ownership in particular, the country is facing a fundamental choice between two possible realities:

A largely disarmed society that depends on the state to protect it from almost all harm, and where citizens are generally not permitted to own guns without presenting a compelling cause. In this model, adopted by many European countries, firearms tend to be less available to common criminals – simply by the virtue of limited supply and comparatively high prices in black market trade. At the same time, it can be argued that any nation subscribing to this doctrine becomes more vulnerable to foreign invasion or domestic terror, should its government ever fail to provide adequate protection to all citizens. Disarmament can also limit civilian recourse against illegitimate, totalitarian governments – a seemingly outlandish concern, but also a very fresh memory for many European countries subjugated not long ago under the auspices of the Soviet Bloc.

A well-armed society where firearms are available to almost all competent adults, and where the natural right to self-defense is subject to few constraints. This is the model currently employed in the United States, where it arises from the straightfoward, originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment – as recognized by roughly 75% of all Americans and affirmed by the Supreme Court. When following such a doctrine, a country will likely witness greater resiliency in the face of calamities or totalitarian regimes. At the same time, its citizens might have to accept some inherent, non-trivial increase in violent crime due to the prospect of firearms more easily falling into the wrong hands.

It seems doubtful that a viable middle-ground approach can exist in the United States. With more than 300 million civilian firearms in circulation, most of them in unknown hands, the premise of reducing crime through gun control would inevitably and critically depend on some form of confiscation; without such drastic steps, the supply of firearms to the criminal underground or to unfit individuals would not be disrupted in any meaningful way. Because of this, intellectual integrity requires us to look at many of the legislative proposals not only through the prism of their immediate utility, but also to give consideration to the societal model they are likely to advance.

And herein lies the problem: many of the current “common-sense” gun control proposals have very little merit when considered in isolation. There is scant evidence that reinstating the ban on military-looking semi-automatic rifles (“assault weapons”), or rolling out the prohibition on private sales at gun shows, would deliver measurable results. There is also no compelling reason to believe that ammo taxes, firearm owner liability insurance, mandatory gun store cameras, firearm-free school zones, bans on open carry, or federal gun registration can have any impact on violent crime. And so, the debate often plays out like this:

At the same time, by the virtue of making weapons more difficult, expensive, and burdensome to own, many of the legislative proposals floated by progressives would probably gradually erode the US gun culture; intentionally or not, their long-term outcome would be a society less passionate about firearms and more willing to follow in the footsteps of Australia or the UK. Only as we cross that line and confiscate hundreds of millions of guns, it’s fathomable – yet still far from certain – that we would see a sharp drop in homicides.

This method of inquiry helps explain the visceral response from gun rights advocates: given the legislation’s dubious benefits and its predicted long-term consequences, many pro-gun folks are genuinely worried that making concessions would eventually mean giving up one of their cherished civil liberties – and on some level, they are right.

Some feel that this argument is a fallacy, a tell tale invented by a sinister corporate “gun lobby” to derail the political debate for personal gain. But the evidence of such a conspiracy is hard to find; in fact, it seems that the progressives themselves often fan the flames. In the wake of Roseburg, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton came out praising the confiscation-based gun control regimes employed in Australia and the UK – and said that they would like the US to follow suit. Depending on where you stand on the issue, it was either an accidental display of political naivete, or the final reveal of their sinister plan. For the latter camp, the ultimate proof of a progressive agenda came a bit later: in response to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, several eminent Democratic-leaning newspapers published scathing editorials demanding civilian disarmament while downplaying the attackers’ connection to Islamic State.

Another factor that poisons the debate is that despite being highly educated and eloquent, the progressive proponents of gun control measures are often hopelessly unfamiliar with the very devices they are trying to outlaw:

I’m reminded of the widespread contempt faced by Senator Ted Stevens following his attempt to compare the Internet to a “series of tubes” as he was arguing against net neutrality. His analogy wasn’t very wrong – it just struck a nerve as simplistic and out-of-date. My progressive friends did not react the same way when Representative Carolyn McCarthy – one of the key proponents of the ban on assault weapons – showed no understanding of the supposedly lethal firearm features she was trying to eradicate. Such bloopers are not rare, too; not long ago, Mr. Bloomberg, one of the leading progressive voices on gun control in America, argued against semi-automatic rifles without understanding how they differ from the already-illegal machine guns:

Yet another example comes Representative Diana DeGette, the lead sponsor of a “common-sense” bill that sought to prohibit the manufacture of magazines with capacity over 15 rounds. She defended the merits of her legislation while clearly not understanding how a magazine differs from ammunition – or that the former can be reused:

“I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those know they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.”

Treating gun ownership with almost comical condescension has become vogue among a good number of progressive liberals. On a campaign stop in San Francisco, Mr. Obama sketched a caricature of bitter, rural voters who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them”. Not much later, one Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post spoke of the Second Amendment as “the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches”. Many of the newspaper’s readers probably had a good laugh – and then wondered why it has gotten so difficult to seek sensible compromise.

There are countless dubious and polarizing claims made by the supporters of gun rights, too; examples include a recent NRA-backed tirade by Dana Loesch denouncing the “godless left”, or the constant onslaught of conspiracy theories spewed by Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. But when introducing new legislation, the burden of making educated and thoughtful arguments should rest on its proponents, not other citizens. When folks such as Bloomberg prescribe sweeping changes to the American society while demonstrating striking ignorance about the topics they want to regulate, they come across as elitist and flippant – and deservedly so.

Given how controversial the topic is, I think it’s wise to start an open, national conversation about the European model of gun control and the risks and benefits of living in an unarmed society. But it’s also likely that such a debate wouldn’t last very long. Progressive politicians like to say that the dialogue is impossible because of the undue influence of the National Rifle Association – but as I discussed in my earlier blog posts, the organization’s financial resources and power are often overstated: it does not even make it onto the list of top 100 lobbyists in Washington, and its support comes mostly from member dues, not from shadowy business interests or wealthy oligarchs. In reality, disarmament just happens to be a very unpopular policy in America today: the support for gun ownership is very strong and has been growing over the past 20 years – even though hunting is on the decline.

Perhaps it would serve the progressive movement better to embrace the gun culture – and then think of ways to curb its unwanted costs. Addressing inner-city violence, especially among the disadvantaged youth, would quickly bring the US homicide rate much closer to the rest of the highly developed world. But admitting the staggering scale of this social problem can be an uncomfortable and politically charged position to hold. For Democrats, it would be tantamount to singling out minorities. For Republicans, it would be just another expansion of the nanny state.

PS. If you are interested in a more systematic evaluation of the scale, the impact, and the politics of gun ownership in the United States, you may enjoy an earlier entry on this blog. Or, if you prefer to read my entire series comparing the life in Europe and in the US, try this link.

Subjective explainer: gun debate in the US

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2015/10/subjective-explainer-gun-debate-in-us.html

In the wake of the tragic events in Roseburg, I decided to briefly return to the topic of looking at the US culture from the perspective of a person born in Europe. In particular, I wanted to circle back to the topic of firearms.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the United States has witnessed a dramatic decline in violence over the past 20 years. In fact, when it comes to most types of violent crime – say, robbery, assault, or rape – the country now compares favorably to the UK and many other OECD nations. But as I explored in my earlier posts, one particular statistic – homicide – is still registering about three times as high as in many other places within the EU.

The homicide epidemic in the United States has a complex nature and overwhelmingly affects ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged social groups; perhaps because of this, the phenomenon sees very little honest, public scrutiny. It is propelled into the limelight only in the wake of spree shootings and other sickening, seemingly random acts of terror; such incidents, although statistically insignificant, take a profound mental toll on the American society. At the same time, the effects of high-profile violence seem strangely short-lived: they trigger a series of impassioned political speeches, invariably focusing on the connection between violence and guns – but the nation soon goes back to business as usual, knowing full well that another massacre will happen soon, perhaps the very same year.

On the face of it, this pattern defies all reason – angering my friends in Europe and upsetting many brilliant and well-educated progressives in the US. They utter frustrated remarks about the all-powerful gun lobby and the spineless politicians, blaming the partisan gridlock for the failure to pass even the most reasonable and toothless gun control laws. I used to be in the same camp; today, I think the reality is more complex than that.

To get to the bottom of this mystery, it helps to look at the spirit of radical individualism and classical liberalism that remains the national ethos of the United States – and in fact, is enjoying a degree of resurgence unseen for many decades prior. In Europe, it has long been settled that many individual liberties – be it the freedom of speech or the natural right to self-defense – can be constrained to advance even some fairly far-fetched communal goals. On the old continent, such sacrifices sometimes paid off, and sometimes led to atrocities; but the basic premise of European collectivism is not up for serious debate. In America, the same notion certainly cannot be taken for granted today.

When it comes to firearm ownership in particular, the country is facing a fundamental choice between two possible realities:

A largely disarmed society that depends on the state to protect it from almost all harm, and where citizens are generally not permitted to own guns without presenting a compelling cause. In this model, adopted by many European countries, firearms tend to be less available to common criminals – simply by the virtue of limited supply and comparatively high prices in black market trade. At the same time, it can be argued that any nation subscribing to this doctrine becomes more vulnerable to foreign invasion or domestic terror, should its government ever fail to provide adequate protection to all citizens. Disarmament can also limit civilian recourse against illegitimate, totalitarian governments – a seemingly outlandish concern, but also a very fresh memory for many European countries subjugated not long ago under the auspices of the Soviet Bloc.

A well-armed society where firearms are available to almost all competent adults, and where the natural right to self-defense is subject to few constraints. This is the model currently employed in the United States, where it arises from the straightfoward, originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment – as recognized by roughly 75% of all Americans and affirmed by the Supreme Court. When following such a doctrine, a country will likely witness greater resiliency in the face of calamities or totalitarian regimes. At the same time, its citizens might have to accept some inherent, non-trivial increase in violent crime due to the prospect of firearms more easily falling into the wrong hands.

It seems doubtful that a viable middle-ground approach can exist in the United States. With more than 300 million civilian firearms in circulation, most of them in unknown hands, the premise of reducing crime through gun control would inevitably and critically depend on some form of confiscation; without such drastic steps, the supply of firearms to the criminal underground or to unfit individuals would not be disrupted in any meaningful way. Because of this, intellectual integrity requires us to look at many of the legislative proposals not only through the prism of their immediate utility, but also to give consideration to the societal model they are likely to advance.

And herein lies the problem: many of the current “common-sense” gun control proposals have very little merit when considered in isolation. There is scant evidence that reinstating the ban on military-looking semi-automatic rifles (“assault weapons”), or rolling out the prohibition on private sales at gun shows, would deliver measurable results. There is also no compelling reason to believe that ammo taxes, firearm owner liability insurance, mandatory gun store cameras, firearm-free school zones, bans on open carry, or federal gun registration can have any impact on violent crime. And so, the debate often plays out like this:

At the same time, by the virtue of making weapons more difficult, expensive, and burdensome to own, many of the legislative proposals floated by progressives would probably gradually erode the US gun culture; intentionally or not, their long-term outcome would be a society less passionate about firearms and more willing to follow in the footsteps of Australia or the UK. Only as we cross that line and confiscate hundreds of millions of guns, it’s fathomable – yet still far from certain – that we would see a sharp drop in homicides.

This method of inquiry helps explain the visceral response from gun rights advocates: given the legislation’s dubious benefits and its predicted long-term consequences, many pro-gun folks are genuinely worried that making concessions would eventually mean giving up one of their cherished civil liberties – and on some level, they are right.

Some feel that this argument is a fallacy, a tell tale invented by a sinister corporate “gun lobby” to derail the political debate for personal gain. But the evidence of such a conspiracy is hard to find; in fact, it seems that the progressives themselves often fan the flames. In the wake of Roseburg, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton came out praising the confiscation-based gun control regimes employed in Australia and the UK – and said that they would like the US to follow suit. Depending on where you stand on the issue, it was either an accidental display of political naivete, or the final reveal of their sinister plan. For the latter camp, the ultimate proof of a progressive agenda came a bit later: in response to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, several eminent Democratic-leaning newspapers published scathing editorials demanding civilian disarmament while downplaying the attackers’ connection to Islamic State.

Another factor that poisons the debate is that despite being highly educated and eloquent, the progressive proponents of gun control measures are often hopelessly unfamiliar with the very devices they are trying to outlaw:

I’m reminded of the widespread contempt faced by Senator Ted Stevens following his attempt to compare the Internet to a “series of tubes” as he was arguing against net neutrality. His analogy wasn’t very wrong – it just struck a nerve as simplistic and out-of-date. My progressive friends did not react the same way when Representative Carolyn McCarthy – one of the key proponents of the ban on assault weapons – showed no understanding of the supposedly lethal firearm features she was trying to eradicate. Such bloopers are not rare, too; not long ago, Mr. Bloomberg, one of the leading progressive voices on gun control in America, argued against semi-automatic rifles without understanding how they differ from the already-illegal machine guns:

Yet another example comes Representative Diana DeGette, the lead sponsor of a “common-sense” bill that sought to prohibit the manufacture of magazines with capacity over 15 rounds. She defended the merits of her legislation while clearly not understanding how a magazine differs from ammunition – or that the former can be reused:

“I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those know they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.”

Treating gun ownership with almost comical condescension has become vogue among a good number of progressive liberals. On a campaign stop in San Francisco, Mr. Obama sketched a caricature of bitter, rural voters who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them”. Not much later, one Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post spoke of the Second Amendment as “the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches”. Many of the newspaper’s readers probably had a good laugh – and then wondered why it has gotten so difficult to seek sensible compromise.

There are countless dubious and polarizing claims made by the supporters of gun rights, too; examples include a recent NRA-backed tirade by Dana Loesch denouncing the “godless left”, or the constant onslaught of conspiracy theories spewed by Alex Jones and Glenn Beck. But when introducing new legislation, the burden of making educated and thoughtful arguments should rest on its proponents, not other citizens. When folks such as Bloomberg prescribe sweeping changes to the American society while demonstrating striking ignorance about the topics they want to regulate, they come across as elitist and flippant – and deservedly so.

Given how controversial the topic is, I think it’s wise to start an open, national conversation about the European model of gun control and the risks and benefits of living in an unarmed society. But it’s also likely that such a debate wouldn’t last very long. Progressive politicians like to say that the dialogue is impossible because of the undue influence of the National Rifle Association – but as I discussed in my earlier blog posts, the organization’s financial resources and power are often overstated: it does not even make it onto the list of top 100 lobbyists in Washington, and its support comes mostly from member dues, not from shadowy business interests or wealthy oligarchs. In reality, disarmament just happens to be a very unpopular policy in America today: the support for gun ownership is very strong and has been growing over the past 20 years – even though hunting is on the decline.

Perhaps it would serve the progressive movement better to embrace the gun culture – and then think of ways to curb its unwanted costs. Addressing inner-city violence, especially among the disadvantaged youth, would quickly bring the US homicide rate much closer to the rest of the highly developed world. But admitting the staggering scale of this social problem can be an uncomfortable and politically charged position to hold. For Democrats, it would be tantamount to singling out minorities. For Republicans, it would be just another expansion of the nanny state.

PS. If you are interested in a more systematic evaluation of the scale, the impact, and the politics of gun ownership in the United States, you may enjoy an earlier entry on this blog. Or, if you prefer to read my entire series comparing the life in Europe and in the US, try this link.