I have been reading PUA twitter for the last two days and _man_

Alternate title: 10 Things I Hate About Men.

On ethics:

  • It is not wrong for straight men to want to have more sex.
  • It is fucking weird how you will humanize women for one post and then dehumanize women for nine posts and then say “what, I’m not a misogynist” and point to the one post.

On context:

  • Women at a singles bar are literally there to find someone to have sex with. They want the same thing as you!!! You could just make smalltalk and ask. (Excuse me: “Playful Banter.”)
  • Most women in public contexts are not looking for a dude to fuck. If one of them responds to your advances, then congratulations — you got lucky!
  • Why are you acting like the woman is your enemy what the fuck. Why is she a slut for wanting to have sex with you when that is the same thing you want. How is she a controlling bitch for refusing.

On standards:

  • If your advice is “ask a hundred women because only ninety-nine of them will say no to you,” then apparently you are willing to fuck anything that moves.
  • The thing where you find a short woman and say “I usually only date tall women” is pretty gross and doesn’t work for the reasons you think it does. The reason it helps is that it implies you have literally any standards — which is false, because as emphasized, you are willing to fuck anything that moves.

On sex:

  • Don’t try to plan your response for when you’ve just had sex with a woman and she’s like “wow, when are we going to hook up again?”
  • Especially since literally no PUA resources seem to recognize that being a satisfying sexual partner takes effort.
  • The clitoris is not the thing at the very, very back of the slit, you absolute goon.

I have additional advice that doesn’t fit the format of the rest of this post, which is basically this — a lot of PUA dudes are just trying to get your money. One of the things that fucking stunned me is how many of them were promoting cryptocurrency scams. They do that because their followers are highly suggestible, and it makes them money, and most of them aren’t good people so they don’t really have a compunction against using you for your wallet.

I do not have the answers for how to have more casual straight sex. It is fairly likely PUA dudes are better at having casual straight sex than me: they’ve dedicated way more time to it and I’m not straight enough to be assed. But please don’t join a cult, or buy any programs. And don’t go to a fucking camp. And don’t take advice from people who repeatedly neg you and say “ah, but buying my thing will fix it” — they’re just using their strategies on you instead of women.

And often it is about selling a whole program. They don’t want you to think for yourself, so they try to take away the tools. They’ll tell you women are completely irrational and unpredictable, leaving you helpless — but they don’t truly believe that, because when they’re telling you about her objections to having sex with you, they give you pretty good answers.

To the extent that these responses are explained at all, the gurus explain them mechanistically. But the responses usually do make some sense if you understand them from the point of view of normal human psychology. They react to rational motives the gurus think she has, often in a crass, manipulative sort of way. You could cook them up yourself if you read a book on abuse and decided “well, I’ll do that.”

In my daily life I’m a programmer. When I was a kid I wasn’t buying my own programming books, so my parents bought me them. As a result, I’ve seen a million programming references that are like this — surface stuff interspersed with the message “you’re not smart enough to understand it” and “if something unexpected happens, buy my next book.” They’re all garbage!

My opinion is that, even if you’re a PUA, you don’t need this shit. You can go on hating women but humanize them slightly more and then you’d be able to handle these contingent situations without just buying more fucking programs every day of your life.

If you must be a PUA, read Albert Ellis’s book or something, because he’s dead, reputable, and not a rapist.

Divide and conquer

(art by skdaffle)

This is just how I see it. To deal with marginalized people, normative culture uses a strategy of divide and conquer.

I kind of feel like the game of prisoner’s dilemma starts like this: “We need you to sell out someone specific. We’ll give you a mouthpiece or even a job in exchange for it. If you don’t, we might fire you, ridicule you, something else.”

In practice it’s “Gay people: go sell out trans people; they’re too weird.” Or “Pride attendees: sell out kinksters; they’re exposing children to sex.” Or “Lesbians: sell out asexuals; they’re not ‘really’ oppressed.” Or “Nonbinary people: go sell out otherkin; they’re online weirdos.” Or “Plural people: go sell out OSDD sufferers; they’re not technically plural.” 

Other times there’s no shared group identity but there’s still an appeal: “Dirtbags and laborers: tell us the Trans have coopted your movement.” 

Sometimes the media just looks for marginalized people who intersect with prejudiced groups and tries to amplify them, knowing they’ll probably say something ignorant. For instance, if you talk to enough black people who attend a Baptist church, especially old people, you will find someone who shares the church’s strong negative views on gays.

When a lot of marginalized people take the bait on selling out X people – gay people, trans people, uneducated people, rich people – you end up with an X group and an X-exclusionary group. At this point you don’t really have a coalition any more. You have two and they kind of hate each other.

Unfortunately, like with theoretical cases of the prisoner’s dilemma, there are some winners and losers. The winners get institutional power, money, media airtime, whatever’s convenient.

In some cases, just a few people defect. The losers have to deal with a weakened political position. Their political opponents end up, parasocially, with a new Black Friend or Gay Friend who happens to agree with them that political correctness has gone too far, or whatever the order of the day is. See the Chris Rock routine.

This isn’t that big a problem for your ability to defend your side of the story if you’re black or gay yourself. But if you’re not black or gay, you can expect bad-faith accusations of racism or homophobia on the basis that you disagreed with the black or gay people who defected.

I’m not black, so I’m in an awkward position on this because at most I can say “well, I know some black people who would say X” – but none of them are my closest friends and it’s not as if I have a direct quote of them saying X. If I say “well, I have a textual example of a black person saying X” and I link to an academic source or a blogpost, I look like a weedy nerd who is selectively curating evidence.

When there are super loud defectors from a group basically repeating attacks on that group – black people repeating racism, trans people repeating transphobia – then you’re effectively trying to be heard over members of that group when you criticize them, which is usually bad.

At least for groups I’m in though – trans people, autistic people, etc – it’s very obvious to me that the support for those views is fake and results from this process. I don’t want those influencers to create a situation where the only people who can defend the rights of trans people and autistic people are trans and autistic people, because no one really listens to us, so we end up losing by default.

The sad thing for me about this is that I think most people would be able to tell that the support is astroturfed if they had friends in those groups. By “most people” I’m not talking about committed bigots; I’m talking about people who want to have the right opinions but listen to incredibly bad sources. I can’t really blame cishets who don’t know any trans people for not having any trans friends because it’s not their fault. People are forced into the closet on purpose.

I don’t really have a solution to this problem. I think you have to use your creativity and do what works!

How to get Self running on Windows (via WSL2)

oh look it’s here

It doesn’t work on Windows, so you have to use WSL.

Here were my steps:

  • install Ubuntu 20.04 on WSL
  • copy the files to \\wsl$\Ubuntu-20.04\home\nyeogmi
  • install dependencies
  • set up an X server
  • grant myself ownership and run perms, then run self

Here’s how to install the dependencies:

$ sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install libx11-6:i386 libxext6:i386 libtinfo5:i386 libstdc++6:i386

To set up an X server I used this tutorial.

Here’s how I granted myself ownership and ran Self:

$ chmod +x ./Self
$ ./Self -s kitchensink.snap

Ancient Voices (Russ Landau)

if you’re not having an apocalyptic vision, you’re not paying attention

In the software world you’ve got businesses that graze their money from users who buy their product. These are like vegetarian animals.

Then you have businesses that extract value from the process steps between users and businesses; these are like parasites. You have businesses that eat other businesses; these are like carnivores.

Evolutionary forces have changed the shape of the corporate embryo. It used to be that you’d come out of the womb capable of walking; or if you came out incapable of walking, you’d learn to walk before the fat on your belly was gone. Otherwise, you’d die.

Today, wings and legs develop last. Profit, in a word, is in never being born. You can buy Facebook Ads without exiting the womb. All your piss and shit go out the same tube.

At some point you poke your head out of the barren wound and demand funding. A large strange bird eats you. You, an organ, gain protective walls to avoid reincorporation into the corporate body. Your former executive is Santa Claus to the right people and Ted Bundy to others.

The bird injects you with cancer cells inside its stomach. Now you’re dying. The original functions of an organ is no longer important, just its fat and glucose levels.

The protective wall of the growing tumor is permeable. You might imagine that the T-cells would learn to recognize it, then kill it off, but that isn’t true. Cancer doesn’t release antigens until it dies. Those who had obligation to speak up are asleep until others are killed.

A body forms inside the tumor. You have become the meat, fat, and gristle of that body. You release a cryptocurrency.

(Guest post by Ben “Coach” Wades.)

This post ends with some poetry

art by pandashkart

I think Online Politics is mostly about hating the right people. That’s probably bad!

I think it’s OK to hate people as a byproduct of your political views. You should probably see billionaires as exploiters and you should see exploitation as a crime — meaning you should feel moral injury which might, as a side effect, spur you to anger and hate.

I think there’s a problem with organizations that traffic in anger and hate, though. I think these organizations are often parasitic.

People seem to use politics as a way to get permission to experience authentic feelings, but I feel like online activism seeks to become people’s main outlet in a way that leaves them hungry for permission and vulnerable to abuse.

I think this is an especially big problem for intro-level anarchism.

So I think most people grow up and reach kind of a good girl/good boy rationalism. A lot of their behavior is explained by what their parents and employer want them to do, which means it does not come from their internal creative and destructive impulses. Because people can’t act out their creative and destructive impulses, they feel a lack of power over their environment.

I don’t mean “environment” abstractly — a lot of people are pretty powerless over the problems in their lives. Men above a certain age don’t have friends, and people who have escaped their teenage years don’t make art or commit crimes. I think that if they were had more control, they would create more art and articulate negative feelings more clearly.

But when people explain what they’re doing, they’re able to rationalize it after the fact.

Think of someone who’s crossing the road. There are no cars but they wait for the pedestrian crossing light to change. They might say they were worried a car might show up out of nowhere, or they were worried they might get in trouble for crossing without permission.

These are kind of goofy on the face of it. Probably people don’t cross without permission because they’re following a rule. Something you’ll notice which undercuts those rationalizations is that, if one person crosses the street illegally, other people who were waiting for the light to change will immediately cross behind them.

People have creative and destructive impulses, but their main release for those is escapist media. They have power over their imagined surroundings, not their real ones. But I think there’s no physical barrier preventing people from say, stealing or destroying other people’s property; or creating art or writing poetry — it has something to do with rules and social expectations.

When someone goes in a slaughterhouse, whatever their opinions are on meat and what they’re going to do later, they should feel frightened and disgusted and they should own that authentic reaction.

This isn’t the same as a creative or destructive impulse — it’s just an authentic emotion, which is something more general. Many people not only lack power over their environment; they lack authentic emotion, because they’re obligated to express feelings that match what is expected from their surroundings.

Which feels rotten!

I’m in a weird position as far as talking to my coworkers goes. I effectively beg to authentically experience rage at social institutions, at powerful people, at evil in general. I want them to feel like they can do that without having to have a solution.

In other words, I’m begging them to experience baby-tier anarchism. And I try to hint to them that baby anarchism is enough — “yeah, if you’re disgusted, great, you’re doing good!”

But I think baby anarchism is only enough when you view it proportionally to the level of their political action. Like, having baby anarchist sympathies is psychologically healthy and politically harmless if your political action is “doing nothing” or “quitting your tech job.” But the more engaged you actually are, the more you have to consider harm.

You have baby anarchists who are actually harassing people online, and at that point you probably have to know a lot more than baby anarchism. You need to know yourself and you need to be wary of manipulators.

Because angry people online are really easy to control. And politics shouldn’t be a feelings contest, but you’ll run into a lot of people who are pretending to be like you — or worse, actually are — who insinuate “my anger entitles me to more than you” even though from the point of view of material harm, they have no reason to be angrier than anyone else.

I think that if you want good political outcomes, you pretty much have to put your emotions in the tank and do rational stuff. Really rational — not “good boy/good girl” rationalism where you do what society tells you and then explain why it was a free choice. You can’t just limit yourself to “what an angry lizard would do.”

(For what it’s worth, my activism has been “giving money to people who obviously need it, pretty often,” which is less cathartic and personal than Organizing (TM) or running social services, but I suspect any other way I spent my time would be literally less effective. I also think many activists refuse to spend money because on a gut level losing money feels like backwards life progress; that has a lot to do with parental expectations and for psychological reasons we should really try harder not to be governed by them.)

So where I’m at — I think that for most people, finding an affirming bubble that lets them leave their “good boy/good girl” rationalism aside is going to be psychologically healthy. Likely, even if some of the issues at stake will be political, it will have literally no political effect.

So you may as well be an anarchist, even in a totally impractical way, if it lets you experience authentic feelings. Good mental health is its own reward.

But there’s a thing I worry about when it comes to anarchist spaces. It’s really similar to the thing I worry about with Burning Man. My worry applies to a lot of less known but more “culty” cults too, like Landmark and the Tony Morris thing.

Basically, I think we need to ask “well, if anarchism et al lets people engage with their authentic emotional selves,” how does it do that?

I think people would like to think that being visibly anarchist makes anarchism conceivable to others. I think this is possible, but I don’t think people’s default political behavior is reasoned. I think most people have a slippery set of justifications that they apply to their existing behavior and their main form of engagement with new, rational ideas is to include them in the set of justifications.

I certainly don’t think being visibly free — which is anarchism in a nonpolitical sense — makes other people free. (I mean freedom in the sense of being unconstrained.)

Yet it ought to, because most people aren’t constrained. Law enforcement is almost a fiction for wide classes of crime. I’ve stolen things, experimentally, and was never even spoken to.

I think that unfortunately, the way that anarchism lets people be authentic is that it gives them permission to. And permission is something people can grow a dependency on.

I ultimately think there’s a lot of artists who only make art in a safe setting — and they only have one safe setting — and it’s a safe setting that, in some way, exploits them. Maybe for the art itself, or maybe for their brain.

I also think a lot of online political spaces offer you a bad, nebulously-defined bargain. They’re gonna let you be angry and destructive, and in exchange, you have to be angry and destructive at the right people, and if you voice heterogeneous opinions or ask people to do the research, you’re going to be criticized. And being criticized shouldn’t be such a big deal, but people can be vicious, in part because they were given permission to indulge destructive impulses and not creative ones — and maybe you lose your only outlet because you go down burning.

(I waffled on whether to include a specific example — I can think of two cases where Twitter was completely wrong about an issue, on a basic level of “failure to do the research,” but my friends got brigaded and harassed for pointing it out.)

I think that having long-term dependence on a specific source of permission is better than having no permission at all, but it’s not as good as having freedom — in the sense of being unconstrained by the need for permission. I think online spaces do very little to help people develop freedom in part because freedom is something that can’t be argued for. When one person tells you “you’re free” and you believe them and you develop the habit of believing a single person, what you have is almost the same as permission, even if it’s nominally something more broad.

I think that to really be free, you need to hear the same thing from a lot of voices that don’t all get along — maybe even some odious people — and you need to feel like you can rise above listening to any particular voice.

I also think the demand for nonstop, passionate activism (usually in the form of destructive activity) doesn’t free you as much as you might expect, because the demand to do activism continues long after the desire to do activism has ended. Being told you can have more is freeing when you want more, but it’s constraining when you’ve already told people you’ve had enough and you have no interest in cleaning your plate.

I also think the awful thing that happens to people other than you — where they’re given an outlet for their destructive impulses, mostly directed at you, and they grow more and more into those impulses — can happen to you, too. You reframe yourself more and more as a person who has those impulses, and maybe you even revert back to “good boy/good girl” rationalism, except the parental figures you’ve learned to please are the people who gave you permission when you needed it most — but only as far as they gave you permission to work inside their agenda.

I’ve framed this as an interpersonal problem, but I also think it’s a problem with algorithms, platforms, and spaces.

Online, negative content gets far more engagement than positive content. There’s a guy I saw on YouTube who used to do funny Final Fantasy videos, then he did one video dunking on Ken Ham, and then his entire channel became nothing but angry, angry philosophical debate.

Basically all spaces, including offline ones, encourage branding. When you’re encouraged to develop a brand, as activist spaces encourage you to, or when you’re encouraged to find one thing you can deliver and produce it, as if you’re selling it, for people who follow you, then you become encouraged neglect desires other than the specific thing you can deliver on. You don’t want your head to become a monoculture, but that’s where the affirmation is.

I ultimately think that most people’s creative impulses are literally not useful to anyone. It’s incredibly unlikely that you will find a space that rewards you for writing poetry or making art when those things are important to you. And it’s not like 50 years ago, when nothing you did was something anyone cared about. In 2022, you can sell basically any activity you do to someone else, in exchange for attention.

The behaviors that you’re discouraged from engage in are not only unprofitable — they were always like that, in the sense that they earn you nothing. They’re now comparatively unprofitable — immensely, compared to the behaviors that establish your brand and spread negativity.

I don’t really have a solution to this problem because I still care about other people’s opinion and see myself as responsive to the forces that hurt people online. I do think I care slightly less about other people’s opinions since I made few minor tweaks to my online experience. (I blocked Follower and Following counts across the board on Twitter, and I plan to block all engagement numbers soon.)

Related to nothing, here’s a poem I wrote in college. I’ve shoved it into many of the games I’ve made, kind of as my alternative to Hello World, in hopes that people would notice it, and it appears in hidden form in a few places in my work projects. So far nobody has:

Mammals is like men
moreso mango tree
that it hangs freely
by the night we

condemn this species
though the body lies
crown no more slender
but men stone flies

Beating a dead strawman

The Gang of Four

One other thing that I didn’t include in the last post, which was about distinguishing smart people from crazy people. It’s kinda relevant but kinda tangential.

In online engineering spaces, you’ll run into a lot of takes that aren’t heterodox at all, but people certainly think they are. They happen to be really defensible.

Design patterns are pretty trash.

Regexes are never the right answer.

Data-Oriented Design is better than Object-Oriented Programming.

C++ is overcomplicated.

The imaginary person who disagrees is someone in the workplace or someone who works for a college. I’ll admit that sure, some of the opposed takes (“C++ is great,” “design patterns rock”) have a little cachet there.

There are also online spaces with a pretty hardcore, “get good” attitude which seem to try to peer pressure people into using technologies that will make them miserable, and some of the opposed takes are popular there. A lot of people with Linus-y attitudes will try to judo you into doing all your game dev in C++ — ignoring that Linus Torvalds hates C++.

(Generally, malicious people who have a lot of C++ experience seem to like getting newbies using C++ so they can flaunt their status and berate the newbies for not knowing what they’re doing.)

But we’re not in those spaces, mostly. We’re in mostly supportive and extremely Full Stack Web Developer-y spaces, like Twitter and Hacker News. In those spaces, most people are not defending design patterns or C++, and they will speak out in a mealymouthed way against overuse of regex and OOP. (Likely they’ll give a little bit of lip service to functional programming without ever having used a functional programming language.)

Your best shot at figuring out if someone holds the anti-strawman, faux-contrarian takes I originally listed is to find out how much they know about the hard part of the relevant problem:

  • ask about obscure design patterns like Flyweight. (Or anything other than Factory)
  • ask about DFAs, or broadly, the performance of regex alternatives
  • ask them about ECS, then ask what representation of Component they like
  • ask them for an original, short, syntactically-correct example of a C++ problem (or ask them to explain C++ casts)

You can also ask:

  • have you used C++ in production?
  • do you use regexes?

(The answers to these two questions will be highly incriminating for opposite reasons. They are, respectively: “obviously, no” and “obviously, yes.”)

The underlying idea here: saying “X is shit” is pretty easy for people to get away with because they’re not really making an assertion you have to demonstrate.

If you want to figure out who the sharp ones are, you want to bait them into making and then proving specific claims. The crazy ones and the ones who are just trying to make a name for themselves will fail and recuse themselves, respectively — although there’s some overlap between the groups.

After you’ve done that, you have another good shot, which is to say: “Why are you talking about that? No one was talking about that before you came in here.” Chances are, if you feel like someone changed the topic just to beef about something they feel knowledgeable about, you are correct.

Whether they’re doing it to mislead you is a completely separate topic, but you can gather a little evidence by looking at how they react to a meek request for clarification.

As for whether it’s bad for people to do this — well, I think it’s a strong sign that people are young, and they’ll grow out of it. But I think fake expertise is pretty much always bad, and I think a subset of the people who believe this stuff will sink into it pretty hard later.

That subset? Well, I think people who are not that good at something usually reach a phase where they think having right opinions about the thing means they’re competent, which is wrong — you have to look at results for that.

If all you care about is being right, though — well, these are issues where it’s really easy to be right without knowing anything! And that’s easy. So you’re likely to keep pursuing that, and you’re likely to spend energy you could have spent developing real knowledge, like a hummingbird that’s addicted to saccharine and just gets leaner.

It’s not like it’s my place to shake those people loose, but I do try to avoid them.

One other note: you’ll often see people refuse to state a stance on these issues. Not stating an opinion on an issue you know nothing about is a soft tell for competence, but if someone’s a neutral bystander on every issue, including issues they have a strong reason to have an opinion about, consider that they might be doing it as a social strategy.

For instance, a friend of mine is the author of a C++ compiler and rarely unsolicitedly opines on C++ — except when he’s alone, because when he’s alone he’s extremely critical of it. In rooms where other people start it, he’s willing to be the C++ apologist or the C++ critic depending which way the wind is blowing. I think that’s a little cynical but I kind of respect it.

By the way — I believe these tendencies exist in other professions, but it takes deeper field-specific knowledge to sniff out this kind of person so I can only provide test statements for programmers.

Mundane, sharp, crazy

Verdict: Competent?

When someone claims to be fourish standard deviations off the mean — 160 IQ, for instance — they’re probably lying or mistaken.

Most of the time, when someone says “I’m competent,” you have to weigh the odds that they really are against the odds that they’re is completely wrong. Especially when it’s a really tall claim!

Many statements aren’t claims of competence per se, but have strong implications about competence. If you’re in France and some guy comes in from England and you ask, “how did you get here?” then four worlds are possible. I’ll assign them arbitrary percentage probabilities to make my point:

  • (9%) They say “I swam,” but they didn’t
  • (1%) They say “I swam,” and they did
  • (89%) They say “I didn’t swim,” and they didn’t
  • (1%) They say “I didn’t swim,” and they did

Well, based on these numbers and Bayes’ Law:

  • 2% of the time, they swam
  • If they say they swam, then 10% of the time, they swam


  • You should probably never assume someone swam.
  • But it’s more likely they swam if they say they did, than if they didn’t.

(The numbers are arbitrary, but you get the same conclusions as long as you assume that swimming is rare and people rarely lie in a way that implies they’re less competent than they actually are.)

So this is all me building up to a general observation, which is that certain claims are equally likely to come from a competent or an incompetent person, because they remove the middle.

For instance, in software, you’re likely to hear these statements from some people:

  • The author of this codebase is an idiot.
  • We should build our own engine.
  • I hate ORMs.

These statements can strongly suggest “I’m unwilling to adapt to other people’s rules” which is a basic career skill that a person might be lacking, or “I don’t think other people can do things better than me” — which in the case of competent people is accurate and in the case of incompetent people is very wrong.  

So before someone says something like that, you have the options “mundane,” “sharp,” “crazy” to classify them. Once they’ve said something like that, you know they’re weird, so you eliminate “mundane.”

(Of course, some claims are so wrong that they immediately eliminate “sharp” too — you don’t need to keep an open mind around Flat Earthers.)

Sharp, crazy

Well, someone put their foot in it, so now you have another question to answer: are they sharp or are they crazy?

From there it’s wise to look at one or two other data points.

You can test for Chesterton’s Fence:

Why do you think the code looks like this?

How do you feel about Unity’s scene system?

Why do you think other people like ORMs?

You can probe for basic experience:

How long have you worked with this code?

What engines have you used?

What ORMs have you used?

You can be Socratic:

Why do you think that?

These questions are often terribly uninformative for mundane people (or people who have sophisticated social strategies) — you will likely get coy answers or the other person will try to sniff out your opinion and repeat it.

But because you already know the other person is willing to say things that are weird and socially unacceptable, that’s less likely to happen — meaning you can often use these kinds of questions to quickly differentiate sharp people from crazy people.

(Note that while the last four questions may seem basic, very brazen liars will often be unable to convincingly answer really basic questions, especially when they could be convicted of fraud if caught, or when they are also lying to themselves. For instance, health scammer Belle Gibson couldn’t substantiate any of her claimed personal history when she was finally asked.)

There’s a minor subcategory of people who will recant their wild opinion if questioned. You can sometimes tell how crazy they are by how meek they look while recanting, but this is pretty unreliable IMHO, because it’s a strong tell that people care about image.

Mundane, sharp

If someone’s claiming to be really, really sharp, and you don’t have any other evidence suggesting they are? Well, sharp people are rare, so you can just assume “crazy.” (But don’t say it out loud, because they’ll hate you!)

But not everyone who’s sharp will say something that eliminates “mundane” as an option. Even if they do, you’re not likely to recognize it. This makes them harder to identify than crazy people.

Sharp people typically have at least one wildly heterodox opinion. As far as being right is concerned, if sharp people had the same opinions as everyone else, then anyone with the consensus view would be right about as often as them.

But much of smarts is technique; great pianists and chess players likely agree on 90% of theory, even though it’s obvious they do something different from everyone else. Their heterodox opinions are likely to be about niche issues you only recognize once you have the broad base of concepts that comes from knowing a lot of technique. Or, in a completely non-linguistic way, they just understand things better than you.

It’s also pretty common to misrecognize actually heterodox opinions as dull conservative ones. On a lot of issues, the prevailing opinion changes kind of arbitrarily for social reasons, but people who have an actual reason for their preference are going to be perceived as stodgy or unwilling to follow the times when their preference goes out of fashion. 

Additionally, sharp people may not voice their heterodox opinions unless they’re comfortable around you.

I think that unfortunately, in a situation where all you have is a glancing look at what people are saying and no access to their careers or personal history, you are probably not going to be able to tell with certainty if they’re hiding deep insight.

My best recommendation is to see if they’re saying things that (1) don’t make sense to you (2) obviously aren’t intended to impress; if so, presume they could know what they’re talking about, while looking for evidence that they don’t.

The nice thing about loud clashy arguments between people you don’t know is that usually everyone says something that sounds crazy eventually, so you’re less likely to wind up on this branch of the fork. (The not-so-nice thing is that people who get into online drama are a lot less likely to be right about basically everything.)

Being responsible

These are basically the standards I use to evaluate Content online as well as determine who I side with in a glance when I see big drama or a dispute. You can use these rules for legal content once you know what some of the common heterodox legal takes are. (“Fire in a crowded theatre” is an instant tell.)

I recommend doing diligent research before you boost anything or publicly take a side in anything, though, since then people other than you have the potential to be hurt or misled.

A short, somewhat engineering-specific followup.

Experts agree: stop citing jonathandata1

from jonathandata1, Twitter

jonathandata1 is a security researcher who has posted a lot of disinformation on Twitter. This article exists basically so you can send it to journalists who have cited jonathandata1, or to management folks who are tempted to hire him.

There are two reasons I’ve singled him out: one is that some of this disinformation has gone viral:

from jonathandata1, Twitter. For a debunking of this misinformation, see AsherLangton, Twitter

His tweets imply that he’s finding work. He claims to have consulted on Celo and there is public evidence he has consulted on other cryptocurrency projects, such as the ELLIPAL wallet:

from jonathandata1, Twitter

I am not a security professional, but here are some security professionals who interacted with Jonathan Scott’s disinformation and attempted to discredit it. (Because this is Twitter, you may need to scroll up to see all the posts in some cases)

To quickly summarize the accusations:

  • jonathandata1 misrepresents the content of code for his own purposes (ex: claiming that comments are executable code)
  • jonathandata1 does not appear to know how to use security tools correctly (ex: disassembling Dalvik bytecode as x86)
  • jonathandata1 makes totally unsubstantiated claims and insists he was understood incorrectly when called out on this (ex. Asher Langton and s1guza, above)
  • jonathandata1 attempts to discount security professionals as “unqualified” when they criticize him, even if he has previously used their work (ex. maldr0id, above)

Unfortunately, platforms like Twitter rarely act in this kind of case. Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder have been doing this kind of thing for years. I felt obligated to speak up in this case, though, since it’s a domain I understand.

If you’re a security professional who has publicly criticized jonathandata1, or if you know of anyone I missed, please send me a note. (I am @nyeogmi on Twitter.) Be sure to send me a link! I’m aware there’s much more — I just wanted to start with the interactions I remembered.

Also, please let me know if I have referred to you in a different way than you would like, or if I’ve gotten your job title wrong.

NOTE: The subject of this post is currently being harassed by a lot of Twitter users. (including fake accounts johnathandata1, spelled with an H, and jonathandata0) I don’t recommend giving views or engagement to trolls or harassers, because it makes the internet a more hostile place and allows jonathandata1 to posture as a victim.

Trip report, theories: Mulholland Dr

Hey! I watched this movie yesterday and liked it.

For people who don’t want to be spoiled, you should definitely watch it! It’s really easy to follow and it’s a lot less cynical than I expected. It comes off as kind of a moral fable — the characters make a lot of serious life-and-death decisions, and some come off as very good people.

The film also contains a lot of material that undermines that interpretation. There’s a lot of character nuance!

A lot of people seem turned off to this movie because David Lynch has a reputation for intentionally making things hard to understand, or for writing things in a pretentious way. I think that reputation is mostly undeserved. It’s definitely undeserved in the case of this movie.

Next up, the spoilers. Before reading on, if you haven’t seen the movie lately, I recommend refreshing yourself on the plot. Wikipedia has a summary.

It can be hard to figure out what actually happened in the movie based on the plot. I subscribe to the interpretation of the movie that says:

  • all scenes involving Betty or Rita are part of a dream Diane is having about Camilla
  • in order: Diane falls in love with her roommate Camilla, Camilla gets into a relationship with Adam, Diane hires a hitman to kill Camilla, has an extremely self-serving dream, wakes up, finds the key, shoots herself
  • in the dream, Diane is an idealized version of herself (Betty): Camilla is defanged and turned into an ideal friend for Diane (Rita)
  • Diane re-experiences her real-life desires to help Camilla, but, because she’s displaced all her flaws onto Rita, the secrets she discovers are hers

Based on that, here’s some details I found interesting. I’m tying some of these into theories, but some of this is just stuff I wanted to point out because I thought it was cool.

Some of these are observations I picked up reading other people’s criticism of the movie.

(I also wanna point out preemptively that I think work that uses symbolism is usually very abstract — a symbol that means only one thing is a lot less economical than a symbol that means many things which are related in a nonobvious way. That means that work which makes efficient use of symbolism tends to have multiple possible interpretations. There is likely more textual evidence than I realize for some of my theories, and some of my observations likely point to theories I have not considered.)

Diane appears to be willfully unaware that her brain is hiding something

Diane (dreaming) seems comfortable with the idea that other people might be repressing things, but not her.

The first time repression appears in the movie, it’s discussed metaphorically, from the point of view of a random guy Diane saw at Winky’s — let’s call him Fred — when she found the server’s name “Betty.” Fred had a terrible dream about a homeless person.

Fred never wants to see the homeless person again, but he can’t stop himself from exploring the place where the homeless person will be. Similarly: The movie is about a dream where Diane knows what she doesn’t want to see, but can’t stop herself from going there.

Later on: there are bad things Rita has done that Rita can’t remember. The blue box and key are Rita’s, not Betty’s. Rita appears to worry she may have killed Diane.

Betty has no awful secrets. Louise (who also looks a lot like a homeless person) can’t convince her that she does. Betty says she’s Betty, Ruth’s niece — Louise says “no you’re not.” Louise is telling the truth.

For Fred, Rita, and Betty, there’s something so terrible it can’t be seen without killing you. Fred sees the homeless guy and experiences a heart attack. Rita and Betty look in the box and disappear in turn.

Betty’s audition is a disaster

So: Betty’s audition for Woody’s movie (not Adam’s movie) goes really well! She has to let a man feel her up, which is really gross, and when he stops short of grabbing her ass, she grabs the palm of his hand and forces him to — this grosses the casting agent out, but everyone likes her performance —

— except Bob, who gives her real advice she isn’t sure how to interpret. His response is tepid. He thinks her performance was forced.

(At the end of the film we discover Bob is the real director of the movie that Adam was directing in Diane’s dream.)

The casting agent apologizes for the director and the actor and brings her to Adam, where she locks eyes with him — it’s the perfect moment, and he _would_ cast her, except for the fact that the mob and the cowboy have all told him to cast Fake Camilla.

Betty doesn’t even get to protest because she has to rush home to help Rita investigate Diane’s apartment.

I think the audition we saw in the film did not literally happen and these scenes are somehow determined by Diane’s feelings about Real Camilla, who got the role in real life.

Specifically, I think Diane is fantasizing about how it’s not her fault that she didn’t get the role, and telling herself she’s a good person despite the fact she didn’t:

  • Maybe I deserved the role, but someone else forced Adam to cast Camilla over me.
  • Maybe Camilla didn’t deserve the role: she just used sex to convince the men to cast her.
  • Maybe my audition didn’t go so well because the director failed to realize my talent. Someone could have recognized how good it was and saved me. Besides — he’s not the director. Someone else is.
  • I’m a good person because I was there for Real Camilla when she needed me, and that makes it OK that I didn’t get the role.

I think it’s easy to read Bob’s comments as representative of how her real audition went. (Not well.)

As a sidenote, I think this block of scenes is one of the most hellish sections of the movie. I think Betty’s actor plays the part admirably straight — no tears or anything.

Dream Adam has many similarities to real-life Diane

Before the dream, Diane is told that two detectives are looking for her. That makes sense, since she just took out a hit on Camilla.

Inside the dream, two mobsters are pursuing Adam. On the way to #12, Rita freaks out at a car containing two mobsters.

The cowboy tells Adam that he’ll see him only once if he does good, twice if he does bad. Diane has seen the cowboy once and sees the cowboy a second time when she wakes up.

The Cowboy’s advice is to stop dwelling on it, let Camilla get the role, and take a better attitude. This is advice that makes sense for Diane.

Diane feels she has lost Camilla to Adam. In the dream, she feels like she lost the role as Betty because she had to rush out to help Rita. Dream Adam’s wife cuckolds him.

There are people Betty can’t think mean things about

In the jitterbug sequence at the beginning of the movie, those weird old people’s faces are juxtaposed in weird ways over the footage, sometimes uncomfortably close to the camera.

They only have nice things to say — platitudes — and Betty is stiltedly formal around them.

Every time we see them, they’re smiling, even when they’re chasing and killing Diane. Sometimes (towards the beginning) the awful grin is frozen on their faces and they don’t look like they can talk.

Diane seems to feel the need to put a happy face on them, even though she fears them.

Diane doesn’t appear to want Real Camilla dead

The dream starts with Rita about to be shot. A weird coincidence happens and Rita lives. In other words, Diane just paid to have Rita shot, and the dream-hit failed.

In several places, the dream implies the hitman is incompetent. He kills three people in dumb ways while trying to make a death look like a suicide. He asks questions that imply Rita may have escaped him. (“any brunettes around?” type stuff) His friend can’t light a cigarette and they appear to smoke the end they tried to light, instead of the right end.

Her decision to shoot herself comes after seeing the blue key. The hitman claimed the blue key would mean Camilla is dead.

Diane projects a lot onto Rita

Rita: she’s a bit of a blank slate. She can’t even articulately oppose Betty when Betty decides she’s a friend of her aunt’s. There are only a few places where she has earnest wishes of her own.

Betty is pretty flawless. She’s highly competent, although she acts like she just gets her ideas from knowing what characters in a movie would do.

In real life: Diane is guilty about inheriting a large sum of money from her deceased aunt. Betty has no such guilt. However, Rita has a large sum of money and doesn’t know why.

Rita’s first action in Betty’s presence is to put herself to bed and hope that having a dream fixes it. This is (apparently) Diane’s action in real life.

In real life: Diane openly admits she’s not a very talented actress compared to Camilla. Betty is very talented, and gets the role Camilla got in real life. Rita is just her roommate and obviously not a good actress.

Rita is implied to be responsible for the death of Diane (hence the disguise) whereas we know that in real life, Diane is responsible for Camilla’s death.

(A sidenote: does anyone else get thirsty “look at how much I’ve done for her! Of course she’ll have sex with me?” vibes from the when thinking about how Betty’s behavior must feel from Diane’s perspective?)

The tape is still running

In Club Silencio, a magician explains that the sound of something can be there when the source of the sound is not. He demonstrates this with a recording of a clarinet and a trumpet.

Then he simulates an earthquake — a recording of an earthquake still shakes Betty. Then he brings on a singer, who collapses in the middle of her song, but the song still finishes.

Betty is still getting calls from Aunt Ruth. The real Aunt Ruth is already dead. Diane is getting visits from Camilla when the real Camilla should already be dead.

Trauma doesn’t seem to go away when the source of the trauma goes. It seems like Diane can get pretty shaken up by a mental recording.


  • Camilla comes off as so graceful when she escorts Diane out of the car in Diane’s version of the pre-shooting scene. The reversed chronology of the film really does it some favors — it gives us the impression that Camilla has done this before and knows where to go.
  • When Fred describes his dream, he assigns his boss the specific role of “person who is standing over there” and acts as if this is super consequential. That happens to be where the random guy was actually standing in real life when Diane saw him.
  • The sex scene from the dream comes off as intimate and close; the masturbation fantasy comes across as pornographic, and Camilla looks exhausted.

What’s Axie Infinity?

previous thread, as a blog post
art by skdaffle

EDIT: Redditors looked at this post and while my theory is appealing for a few reasons (it implies that VCs, like retail investors, are dumb enough to be defrauded), it’s probably wrong. Retail investors are likely being fleeced, but my (elaborate) theory isn’t necessary as an explanation of this — crypto investors will basically buy anything. Axie Infinity is most likely a straightforward Ponzi scheme. Here is an article that contains some evidence for that theory. (apologies, it’s gross and fairly promotional!)

Investors tend to look at highly gameable metrics. Number of concurrent users, cost per installation. They overvalue users because they value acquisition early and spend late.

You could just hire 10,000 people in the Philippines to use your app for ten minutes a day, and you’d have enough metrics to raise enough capital to pay for all the fake users you hired.

Of course, if you were caught doing it, your investors would be annoyed.

So what if you hired other people to do it?

You couldn’t just pay them to — that’s as bad as hiring the users yourself. You could compensate them in some other way, like equity.

Giving them real equity would tip off your investors. It could put you legally in trouble. But crypto remains an option. You can sell everyone crypto with the understanding that if your company gains value, the currency will probably go up. You could even sneakily promise to do a buyback once you’ve raised some capital, which will compensate holders of your currency.

But that’s still problematic for conventional investors. Running an ICO is generally understood as “morally equivalent to a funding round.” The specific problem you’re trying to avoid, which is the idea that investors might see your activity and realize you’re manipulating metrics, is likely to exist — because if you’re running an traditional ICO, there are obviously people who have a stake in those metrics being high.

So what if you came up with a virtual asset that anyone can buy which is explicitly not equity — to satisfy traditional investors — but whose value changes like equity — to satisfy the people who are doing your dirty work?

It’s part of a game or something, but it’s not cash in the game — if you had $1000 in World of Warcraft gold, and a ready way to liquidate that, you might get audited, especially if you just bought the gold. So instead of something that straightforwardly resembles currency, it’s something you consume to generate more virtual currency. The IRS, the SEC, and your investors are less likely to audit anyone just for having the coolest Gnome Wizard.

So as the designer of the system, the asset you’re handing out operates on two sets of rules — one, the explicit rules of your game, under which it’s clearly capital. Two, the explicit rules of the market, under which it’s probably some kind of speculative security, but it’s unclear how much its valuation is pegged to your VC money. The reason that’s unclear is that its value changes in response to marketing and buybacks, not in direct response to funding rounds — so it’s not “equity” per se. The value of platform-associated crypto is expected to bounce around in response to that sort of thing, after all.

That means that in the sense relevant to the people who are hiring the Filipino teenagers to play your game, its value clearly comes from something they can influence — the presence of the Filipino teenagers.

But you can hire unscrupulous middlemen to describe your platform to VCs, selling it based on its outrageously strong metrics, and you can pay those middlemen not to understand your economy. When you do that, VCs are likely to understand that your in-game item is part of the rules of your game, but they are unlikely to understand that it incentivizes people to game the exact metrics they care about.

Now, if you were to do that, that would be fraud, basically. When it comes time to turn a profit from your users, your product will simply fold. So, judged by the normal standards of a B2C product, you will have (knowingly) created an abject failure. But at that point, you will have already gotten paid and the fact that you’d done it would be legally deniable, since all you’d really done is sell game items.

This isn’t about Axie Infinity. What’s Axie Infinity?