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ACEs

4 min read

Sit back a spell and let me tell you a story about the Association of Concerned Employees (ACEs).

Back in 1991 the academic computing teams at the University of Minnesota were set to be laid off and we could "apply" for a job with the new quasi-private sector outfit the "Minnesota Supercomputer Center" (MSC).
So none of us liked that.  Over 300 of us set up an effort to stop it.  The VAX/Unix/MVS/Unix/PC/CDC units stopped fighting for crumbs and joined forces.  Letters to the editor were written, politicians where contacted, petitions were circulated.


Mailing lists, and even a BBS were put into use to coordinate.


Even, ahem, a listening device was placed in the Board of Regents office.


We were not in a union but AFSCME supported our demands and upped the pressure.


The efforts worked.  The privatization was called off.  There were job losses, but we had a voice that we used to make the best of the situation.  We had input into how we could reorganize the units and better support the students and faculty.


Oh and we finally got the audit of the corrupt MSC a few years later:
https://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/1994/backgrd.htm

`U' backs off of plan to privatize computer services
Published: October 23, 1991
By Jim Dawson; Staff Writer 

 
Intense pressure from many of the 330 civil service employees who
operate the University of Minnesota's computer systems apparently has
forced school officials to back away from a plan to privatize computer
services and place them under the Supercomputer Center.
Ettore Infante, vice president for academic affairs, who
announced the privatization plan last week met with computer workers
Tuesday.
      He told them that because of concerns regarding his
original plan, a reorganization of computer services would occur
"without the involvement of the Minnesota Supercomputer Center or a subsidiary of it."
    Instead, Infante said, an outside consultant will be hired to
 determine the best way to  consolidate and reorganize the university's
several computer service centers.
  About half of the 330 computer specialists would have been laid off at the end of the year under Infante's privatization plan.
       There will probably be layoffs under any new plan, but how many and when hasn't been determined.

  Infante's privatization announcement caught the computer
specialists by surprise last week, but they quickly used a computerized
electronic mail network to organize their opposition.
    Their main objection focused on the involvement of the Supercomputer Center.
       The center, a quasiprivate corporation partially owned by
the university, is not subject to public accounting.  Gov. Arne Carlson
recently cut $8 million in state funding from the center's budget, and
many of the computer specialists believed that Infante's move was simply
 a way to funnel new funds into the center.
    Infante denied that charge and cited the inefficient,
outdated computer systems and networks throughout the university as his
reason for consolidation.
    His move yesterday was welcomed by most employees, but many remained skeptical of his motives.
       "I was encouraged that they seem to be backing down," said
 Cheryl Vollhaber, a specialist with academic computing services.
    The employees demanded to be involved in the planning for
consolidating the computer systems, something most agree is badly
needed.
      However, Infante was noncommittal about employee participation.
    The computer specialists said that they have been calling for
 a consolidation and reorganization of computer services for a long
time, but that the administration has ignored them.   They are
frustrated, several said, because although they are the computer
experts, they are not being consulted.
    "Our focus will be having an employee representative on the
planning board," said Stephen Collins, of the university's
micro-computer center.

 

 

ACEs

4 min read

Sit back a spell and let me tell you a story about the Association of Concerned Employees (ACEs).

Back in 1991 the academic computing teams at the University of Minnesota were set to be laid off and we could "apply" for a job with the new quasi-private sector outfit the "Minnesota Supercomputer Center" (MSC).
So none of us liked that.  Over 300 of us set up an effort to stop it.  The VAX/Unix/MVS/Unix/PC/CDC units stopped fighting for crumbs and joined forces.  Letters to the editor were written, politicians where contacted, petitions were circulated.


Mailing lists, and even a BBS were put into use to coordinate.


Even, ahem, a listening device was placed in the Board of Regents office.


We were not in a union but AFSCME supported our demands and upped the pressure.


The efforts worked.  The privatization was called off.  There were job losses, but we had a voice that we used to make the best of the situation.  We had input into how we could reorganize the units and better support the students and faculty.


Oh and we finally got the audit of the corrupt MSC a few years later:
https://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/1994/backgrd.htm

`U' backs off of plan to privatize computer services
Published: October 23, 1991
By Jim Dawson; Staff Writer 

 
Intense pressure from many of the 330 civil service employees who
operate the University of Minnesota's computer systems apparently has
forced school officials to back away from a plan to privatize computer
services and place them under the Supercomputer Center.
Ettore Infante, vice president for academic affairs, who
announced the privatization plan last week met with computer workers
Tuesday.
      He told them that because of concerns regarding his
original plan, a reorganization of computer services would occur
"without the involvement of the Minnesota Supercomputer Center or a subsidiary of it."
    Instead, Infante said, an outside consultant will be hired to
 determine the best way to  consolidate and reorganize the university's
several computer service centers.
  About half of the 330 computer specialists would have been laid off at the end of the year under Infante's privatization plan.
       There will probably be layoffs under any new plan, but how many and when hasn't been determined.

  Infante's privatization announcement caught the computer
specialists by surprise last week, but they quickly used a computerized
electronic mail network to organize their opposition.
    Their main objection focused on the involvement of the Supercomputer Center.
       The center, a quasiprivate corporation partially owned by
the university, is not subject to public accounting.  Gov. Arne Carlson
recently cut $8 million in state funding from the center's budget, and
many of the computer specialists believed that Infante's move was simply
 a way to funnel new funds into the center.
    Infante denied that charge and cited the inefficient,
outdated computer systems and networks throughout the university as his
reason for consolidation.
    His move yesterday was welcomed by most employees, but many remained skeptical of his motives.
       "I was encouraged that they seem to be backing down," said
 Cheryl Vollhaber, a specialist with academic computing services.
    The employees demanded to be involved in the planning for
consolidating the computer systems, something most agree is badly
needed.
      However, Infante was noncommittal about employee participation.
    The computer specialists said that they have been calling for
 a consolidation and reorganization of computer services for a long
time, but that the administration has ignored them.   They are
frustrated, several said, because although they are the computer
experts, they are not being consulted.
    "Our focus will be having an employee representative on the
planning board," said Stephen Collins, of the university's
micro-computer center.

 

 

ACEs

4 min read

Sit back a spell and let me tell you a story about the Association of Concerned Employees (ACEs).

Back in 1991 the academic computing teams at the University of Minnesota were set to be laid off and we could "apply" for a job with the new quasi-private sector outfit the "Minnesota Supercomputer Center" (MSC).
So none of us liked that.  Over 300 of us set up an effort to stop it.  The VAX/Unix/MVS/Unix/PC/CDC units stopped fighting for crumbs and joined forces.  Letters to the editor were written, politicians where contacted, petitions were circulated.


Mailing lists, and even a BBS were put into use to coordinate.


Even, ahem, a listening device was placed in the Board of Regents office.


We were not in a union but AFSCME supported our demands and upped the pressure.


The efforts worked.  The privatization was called off.  There were job losses, but we had a voice that we used to make the best of the situation.  We had input into how we could reorganize the units and better support the students and faculty.


Oh and we finally got the audit of the corrupt MSC a few years later:
https://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/1994/backgrd.htm

`U' backs off of plan to privatize computer services
Published: October 23, 1991
By Jim Dawson; Staff Writer 

 
Intense pressure from many of the 330 civil service employees who
operate the University of Minnesota's computer systems apparently has
forced school officials to back away from a plan to privatize computer
services and place them under the Supercomputer Center.
Ettore Infante, vice president for academic affairs, who
announced the privatization plan last week met with computer workers
Tuesday.
      He told them that because of concerns regarding his
original plan, a reorganization of computer services would occur
"without the involvement of the Minnesota Supercomputer Center or a subsidiary of it."
    Instead, Infante said, an outside consultant will be hired to
 determine the best way to  consolidate and reorganize the university's
several computer service centers.
  About half of the 330 computer specialists would have been laid off at the end of the year under Infante's privatization plan.
       There will probably be layoffs under any new plan, but how many and when hasn't been determined.

  Infante's privatization announcement caught the computer
specialists by surprise last week, but they quickly used a computerized
electronic mail network to organize their opposition.
    Their main objection focused on the involvement of the Supercomputer Center.
       The center, a quasiprivate corporation partially owned by
the university, is not subject to public accounting.  Gov. Arne Carlson
recently cut $8 million in state funding from the center's budget, and
many of the computer specialists believed that Infante's move was simply
 a way to funnel new funds into the center.
    Infante denied that charge and cited the inefficient,
outdated computer systems and networks throughout the university as his
reason for consolidation.
    His move yesterday was welcomed by most employees, but many remained skeptical of his motives.
       "I was encouraged that they seem to be backing down," said
 Cheryl Vollhaber, a specialist with academic computing services.
    The employees demanded to be involved in the planning for
consolidating the computer systems, something most agree is badly
needed.
      However, Infante was noncommittal about employee participation.
    The computer specialists said that they have been calling for
 a consolidation and reorganization of computer services for a long
time, but that the administration has ignored them.   They are
frustrated, several said, because although they are the computer
experts, they are not being consulted.
    "Our focus will be having an employee representative on the
planning board," said Stephen Collins, of the university's
micro-computer center.

 

 

When Pong played Humans

3 min read

It was a blistering July day in Las Vegas, with temps hitting 109.  Inside the SIGGRAPH 91 convention hall Yello's Rubberbandman looped on the speakers. On each chair: a red/green paddle.

I was a student volunteer, stamping the finest hands in Computer Graphics.  Those hands (and my own) each controlled those paddles.  Then 5000 people looked up and saw a Pong Game appear on the screen.

And then..  the machine started playing us.

In response to visual stimuli we changed the color of our paddle.  The ball moved left, then right.  The crowd shouting "red red red", "green!" and cheering as the game played on.

The rules of the game and the feedback loops directed our actions.  It was a complex adaptive system with emergent behavior.

And luckily there is some footage of this moment.  Watch this excerpt from "Machines of Loving Grace" that talks about this moment in history:

Loren Carpenter Experiment at SIGGRAPH '91 from Zachary Murray on Vimeo.

Loren Carpenter cofounded Pixar.  Check out the TurboGopher appearance at the 5:00 minute mark.

Today the simple pong game is now the multilayered technological environment we interact with on a daily basis. Instead of red/green paddles with 1 bit of data we carry phones that generate a wealth more.  These devices also provide the aural/visual and haptic stimuli.    With that our collective actions power all kinds of "games" today:

  • Aggregated location data and movement speed generates traffic data in maps.
  • Aggregated search queries and click data deliver better search results.
  • Aggregated likes, views and interactions with content power trending data and even news and politics.

As technologists we need to remember that by controlling the game, we are indirectly controlling the players.  The choices we allow (and forbid) define the behavior.  The game "plays" the player.  And often the only way to be free is to not play at all.

Except that is if maybe, just maybe, the people start playing a different game than the one we designed.  In the giddy demonstration it was assumed that people wanted to win at Pong.  But we didn't play long enough for abuse or scheming.  It would have only taken a few people to cross over to sabotage the other side, or for trolls to have changed the outcome.

Finally this level of power and control demands great responsibility.  The only thing worse than control used for malicious purposes is control wielded without thought, without thinking of the consequences.  So the next time you're designing a product think about the whole system and all the inputs and ask "who's really in control?".

h/t to the General Intellect Unit podcast and their Machines of Loving Grace episode for reminding me of this unsung moment in history.

 

When Pong played Humans

3 min read

It was a blistering July day in Las Vegas, with temps hitting 109.  Inside the SIGGRAPH 91 convention hall Yello's Rubberbandman looped on the speakers. On each chair: a red/green paddle.

I was a student volunteer, stamping the finest hands in Computer Graphics.  Those hands (and my own) each controlled those paddles.  Then 5000 people looked up and saw a Pong Game appear on the screen.

And then..  the machine started playing us.

In response to visual stimuli we changed the color of our paddle.  The ball moved left, then right.  The crowd shouting "red red red", "green!" and cheering as the game played on.

The rules of the game and the feedback loops directed our actions.  It was a complex adaptive system with emergent behavior.

And luckily there is some footage of this moment.  Watch this excerpt from "Machines of Loving Grace" that talks about this moment in history:

Loren Carpenter Experiment at SIGGRAPH '91 from Zachary Murray on Vimeo.

Loren Carpenter cofounded Pixar.  Check out the TurboGopher appearance at the 5:00 minute mark.

Today the simple pong game is now the multilayered technological environment we interact with on a daily basis. Instead of red/green paddles with 1 bit of data we carry phones that generate a wealth more.  These devices also provide the aural/visual and haptic stimuli.    With that our collective actions power all kinds of "games" today:

  • Aggregated location data and movement speed generates traffic data in maps.
  • Aggregated search queries and click data deliver better search results.
  • Aggregated likes, views and interactions with content power trending data and even news and politics.

As technologists we need to remember that by controlling the game, we are indirectly controlling the players.  The choices we allow (and forbid) define the behavior.  The game "plays" the player.  And often the only way to be free is to not play at all.

Except that is if maybe, just maybe, the people start playing a different game than the one we designed.  In the giddy demonstration it was assumed that people wanted to win at Pong.  But we didn't play long enough for abuse or scheming.  It would have only taken a few people to cross over to sabotage the other side, or for trolls to have changed the outcome.

Finally this level of power and control demands great responsibility.  The only thing worse than control used for malicious purposes is control wielded without thought, without thinking of the consequences.  So the next time you're designing a product think about the whole system and all the inputs and ask "who's really in control?".

h/t to the General Intellect Unit podcast and their Machines of Loving Grace episode for reminding me of this unsung moment in history.

 

When Pong played Humans

3 min read

It was a blistering July day in Las Vegas, with temps hitting 109.  Inside the SIGGRAPH 91 convention hall Yello's Rubberbandman looped on the speakers. On each chair: a red/green paddle.

I was a student volunteer, stamping the finest hands in Computer Graphics.  Those hands (and my own) each controlled those paddles.  Then 5000 people looked up and saw a Pong Game appear on the screen.

And then..  the machine started playing us.

In response to visual stimuli we changed the color of our paddle.  The ball moved left, then right.  The crowd shouting "red red red", "green!" and cheering as the game played on.

The rules of the game and the feedback loops directed our actions.  It was a complex adaptive system with emergent behavior.

And luckily there is some footage of this moment.  Watch this excerpt from "Machines of Loving Grace" that talks about this moment in history:

Loren Carpenter Experiment at SIGGRAPH '91 from Zachary Murray on Vimeo.

Loren Carpenter cofounded Pixar.  Check out the TurboGopher appearance at the 5:00 minute mark.

Today the simple pong game is now the multilayered technological environment we interact with on a daily basis. Instead of red/green paddles with 1 bit of data we carry phones that generate a wealth more.  These devices also provide the aural/visual and haptic stimuli.    With that our collective actions power all kinds of "games" today:

  • Aggregated location data and movement speed generates traffic data in maps.
  • Aggregated search queries and click data deliver better search results.
  • Aggregated likes, views and interactions with content power trending data and even news and politics.

As technologists we need to remember that by controlling the game, we are indirectly controlling the players.  The choices we allow (and forbid) define the behavior.  The game "plays" the player.  And often the only way to be free is to not play at all.

Except that is if maybe, just maybe, the people start playing a different game than the one we designed.  In the giddy demonstration it was assumed that people wanted to win at Pong.  But we didn't play long enough for abuse or scheming.  It would have only taken a few people to cross over to sabotage the other side, or for trolls to have changed the outcome.

Finally this level of power and control demands great responsibility.  The only thing worse than control used for malicious purposes is control wielded without thought, without thinking of the consequences.  So the next time you're designing a product think about the whole system and all the inputs and ask "who's really in control?".

h/t to the General Intellect Unit podcast and their Machines of Loving Grace episode for reminding me of this unsung moment in history.

 

When Pong played Humans

3 min read

It was a blistering July day in Las Vegas, with temps hitting 109.  Inside the SIGGRAPH 91 convention hall Yello's Rubberbandman looped on the speakers. On each chair: a red/green paddle.

I was a student volunteer, stamping the finest hands in Computer Graphics.  Those hands (and my own) each controlled those paddles.  Then 5000 people looked up and saw a Pong Game appear on the screen.

And then..  the machine started playing us.

In response to visual stimuli we changed the color of our paddle.  The ball moved left, then right.  The crowd shouting "red red red", "green!" and cheering as the game played on.

The rules of the game and the feedback loops directed our actions.  It was a complex adaptive system with emergent behavior.

And luckily there is some footage of this moment.  Watch this excerpt from "Machines of Loving Grace" that talks about this moment in history:

Loren Carpenter Experiment at SIGGRAPH '91 from Zachary Murray on Vimeo.

Loren Carpenter cofounded Pixar.  Check out the TurboGopher appearance at the 5:00 minute mark.

Today the simple pong game is now the multilayered technological environment we interact with on a daily basis. Instead of red/green paddles with 1 bit of data we carry phones that generate a wealth more.  These devices also provide the aural/visual and haptic stimuli.    With that our collective actions power all kinds of "games" today:

  • Aggregated location data and movement speed generates traffic data in maps.
  • Aggregated search queries and click data deliver better search results.
  • Aggregated likes, views and interactions with content power trending data and even news and politics.

As technologists we need to remember that by controlling the game, we are indirectly controlling the players.  The choices we allow (and forbid) define the behavior.  The game "plays" the player.  And often the only way to be free is to not play at all.

Except that is if maybe, just maybe, the people start playing a different game than the one we designed.  In the giddy demonstration it was assumed that people wanted to win at Pong.  But we didn't play long enough for abuse or scheming.  It would have only taken a few people to cross over to sabotage the other side, or for trolls to have changed the outcome.

Finally this level of power and control demands great responsibility.  The only thing worse than control used for malicious purposes is control wielded without thought, without thinking of the consequences.  So the next time you're designing a product think about the whole system and all the inputs and ask "who's really in control?".

h/t to the General Intellect Unit podcast and their Machines of Loving Grace episode for reminding me of this unsung moment in history.

 

Investing in a better Internet: Resonate, a music coop

4 min read

Do you want a better internet?  One that balances the needs of creators and consumers?  A more democratic internet?  I do.  That's why I'm investing in a music coop: Resonate.

Stream to Own

I've been a member-owner of Resonate for a while, and listen every day.  It provides an eclectic mix similar to a high quality college radio station.  At first glance Resonate is a streaming service like Soundcloud or Spotify.  But dig deeper and the you'll find major differences:

  • You only pay for what you listen to.
  • Each listen debits your balance a small amount.
  • On the 9th listen you own the track. 

This tiered pricing model incentivizes discovery.  Owning actual tracks helps fans develop deeper ties to the music they love.

Stream to Own Model and Graph 

And I own more than just tracks.  My member share means that I own a portion of Resonate, I can vote on how the business is operated and at the end of the year I can share in the profits.

Over the past year Resonate has added more content, more features, and most importably a sustainable organization where fans, musicians, employees and labels can work together towards common goals.   This is the kind of “cooperative internet” that I always imagined would emerge back in the pre-web era.

 

“Purpose above Profits”

REI

"Purpose above Profits" was the slogan at REI as I shopped for the holidays.  It’s a reminder that the REI is a Member Cooperative.  With my $20 lifetime membership I get dividends based on my purchases while supporting outdoor and environmental causes.  In 2016 REI gave back 70% of profits.

This is but one example of how Coops can offer sustainable services for the communities they serve.  Growing up I had electric power from an Coop.  When I lived in Switzerland there’s a huge retail chain literally named “Coop”.  I currently use and support my Credit Union.

Overall Coop businesses are more sustainable, and are oriented to the long term interests of their member-owners.

But the growth of the Internet and the Web bypassed the cooperative model.  This despite the fact that open source and much of the shared internet infrastructure are structured like coops.  It wasn't until 2014 that the concept of Platform Cooperative was coined.   The rise of pseudo-"sharing" platforms like Uber and AirBnB and the rise of decentralized technologies like blockchains were two key reasons that many now embrace the concept.

 

Early Stage Capital

But a problem emerges, how do you bootstrap a Cooperative where there are significant barriers to entry?  That’s where Supporter Shares come in.  Anyone can invest in these shares.  Each year the co-op sets aside 10% of profits and issues dividends to Supporter Share owners.

Resonate Voting Diagram

But remember that Supporter Shares don't get you extra voting power.  A cooperative is still one-person, one-vote.  The upside is that there are no leveraged buyouts, no dual share structures or non-voting shares.

 

The Future Internet

The Internet I want is a democratic one where creators, consumers, supporters and employees can work together towards common, sustainable goals.  By using and investing in Resonate I hope to advance those goals.  Liz Pelly captured the sentiment in "Protest Platforms" that "Resonate is particularly interesting for the way it advocates for broad decentralization of data, power, and money in music".

The Resonate Project Map details where the project is going and the plan to achieve it.  I’ll admit that the content catalog is small, (but growing!) and the technology is very beta (but improving!).  I still use and enjoy it every day.

I hope that you'll consider joining the coop as a member owner and see for yourself.  If you want to accelerate this type of work consider purchasing Supporter Shares.

And finally, I hope that you'll consider supporting a new generation of online platforms that include the same kind of values that Resonate promotes.  All while listening to and supporting the artists we love.

 

Moving your Google +1s to Pinboard

2 min read

So the +1 button on the web is riding off into the sunset.  But you can still make good use of the data that you've collected over the years via Google Takeout!  I like to keep my bookmarks in Pinboard, so here's how I did it and you can too.

Export

1. Visit https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout in your browser.  You'll see something like this:

2. Click Select None, then click on the checkmark next to +1s.

3. Scroll to the bottom and click Next

4. The next screen has some choices for file format.  Change if you want, but the defaults should be fine and will email you a link to a zip file you can download.

5. You'll receive an email with a link to the zip file.  Expand the file and you'll find something like this:

 

Import to Pinboard

Now that you have the +1s.html file you can import it to Pinboard.  (Or other sites that support the Netscape Bookmark file format)

1. Pinboard 'tags' imports with the name of the file.  I wanted to use the tag 'plusone' so I renamed my file from +1s.html to plusones.html

2. Next visit the Pinboard settings page, then click import (or just click on this link)  You'll see something like this:

3. Click on the Choose File button, select your html file (in my case plusones.html) and click upload.

4. After a little bit of time Pinboard will have your imported bookmarks!  You can then view all of them based on the tag (plusones).  Click on the tag and you can browse/clean them up. Woohoo!

 

Other Places

Once you have the exported bookmark html file you can also import to other products.

Contact me if you have more.  I'll add them here!

 

 

Moving your Google +1s to Pinboard

2 min read

So the +1 button on the web is riding off into the sunset.  But you can still make good use of the data that you've collected over the years via Google Takeout!  I like to keep my bookmarks in Pinboard, so here's how I did it and you can too.

Export

1. Visit https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout in your browser.  You'll see something like this:

2. Click Select None, then click on the checkmark next to +1s.

3. Scroll to the bottom and click Next

4. The next screen has some choices for file format.  Change if you want, but the defaults should be fine and will email you a link to a zip file you can download.

5. You'll receive an email with a link to the zip file.  Expand the file and you'll find something like this:

 

Import to Pinboard

Now that you have the +1s.html file you can import it to Pinboard.  (Or other sites that support the Netscape Bookmark file format)

1. Pinboard 'tags' imports with the name of the file.  I wanted to use the tag 'plusone' so I renamed my file from +1s.html to plusones.html

2. Next visit the Pinboard settings page, then click import (or just click on this link)  You'll see something like this:

3. Click on the Choose File button, select your html file (in my case plusones.html) and click upload.

4. After a little bit of time Pinboard will have your imported bookmarks!  You can then view all of them based on the tag (plusones).  Click on the tag and you can browse/clean them up. Woohoo!

 

Other Places

Once you have the exported bookmark html file you can also import to other products.

Contact me if you have more.  I'll add them here!