As Those Who Make

It’s not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff). The problem is the idea that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it’s almost always doing things for and with other people, from the barista to the Facebook community moderator to the social worker to the surgeon. Describing oneself as a maker—regardless of what one actually or mostly does—is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products.

– Why I am Not a Maker – Debbie Chachra

I make communities. I do it with other people. It is just as valuable as those who make the architecture, content, documentation, and software that these communities use and support.

Be Informed

You have a computer that can access all of human knowledge within seconds. Please don’t remain ignorant. Do a little research, read opposing views, learn more about something you’re not familiar with.

“Now, we are caught in a series of confusing battles between opposing forces: between truth and falsehood, fact and rumour, kindness and cruelty; between the few and the many, the connected and the alienated; between the open platform of the web as its architects envisioned it and the gated enclosures of Facebook and other social networks; between an informed public and a misguided mob.

What is common to these struggles – and what makes their resolution an urgent matter – is that they all involve the diminishing status of truth. This does not mean that there are no truths. It simply means, as this year has made very clear, that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.”

How technology disrupted the truth – The Guardian

How to Write a Successful Craigslist Ad

My wife and I use Craigslist frequently. Not to only purchase items, but to sell our unused electronics and household items for a little bit of pocket-money. We like to see these things get another life with new people. Over the years I’ve sold quite a few items with pretty good success. Here’s a few tips for others trying to use Craigslist. 1

Take nice photos

You can use your phone camera and still take nice photos of the item you have for sale. There’s a few things to be sure you do when you’re setting up your shot. This doesn’t require 45 minutes and tons of effort.

Make sure you have lots of light. 90% of photography is letting as much light into the camera as you can. Taking a photo of something large, like a bed frame, indoors? Open any nearby windows and turn on the lights in the room. If you have a window open (or a big light in the room) make sure that light is behind you when you take the photo, not in the photo itself. Otherwise your item will be a silhouette against the bright light.

Keep your item in sharp focus by holding still and taking your time to line up your shot. A blurry photo is more frustrating than no photo! If there are details of the items folks need to know about (like labels or model numbers) get in close and take an extra photo. Make sure there’s nothing distracting in the background. It removes the attention to your item. Depending on how organized you are, a mess of whatever can also make you appear less trustworthy and could reveal more about your private life than you intended. Make sure folks can’t figure our your address or other personal details to protect your privacy.

Whatever you do, don’t use a stock photo. People know what the heck an iPad looks like. They what to know what the one they’re buying looks like. Also, stock images (or images taken from elsewhere on the web are often a violation of copyright and just look spammy.

Use Gud English

Please, whatever you do, put a little effort into the language of your post. One sentence is not enough. Five sentences with poor grammar and “U Wot m8?” are not really selling me on the idea of doing business with you. Also, the search on Craigslist takes into account the text of the post, not just the headline. Being descriptive helps potential buyers find your ad.

If you’re selling a manufactured good, like computers, personal electronics, cameras, home appliances – include the official description (e.g. Samsung Galaxy Tab Zero 56) and a link to the manufacture’s website for the item. There’s no need to provide a super-detailed list of every specification if you can point to an official source.

For electronics, a link to the tech specs can be helpful for those who want to geek out.

If your item has multiple spellings (Game boy and Gameboy) include the most common in the title of the post and the other somewhere in the description. 2 This way folks searching for either spelling will see your post.

Where are you?

Make sure you are clear that you’re not going to drive across the state to sell a $30 item. Offer to meet half-way. When you do eventually meet, do so in public, during the day. Coffee shops are a good place to meet for most folks and they are seemingly everywhere. If the weather is fair many have outdoor seating so you don’t have to carry your authentic leg lamp inside. 🙂

Clear Contact Methods

Let potential buyers know the best way to get in touch. By default it will be email (CL even allows buyers to email without revealing their personal address). Realize that some folks don’t want to give out their cell number or don’t use text messaging 3

Follow up!

Reply to polite messages and offers. If someone is too low for your taste, a simple, “I’m asking a fair price and am not interested in going lower than $X. Thank you.” often works. Once your item is sold, take your listing down. You’ll only frustrate people who think the item is still for sale – and yourself by dealing with dead-end requests. 🙂

Photo by In 30 Minutes guides – Licensed under Creative Commons

  1. And a sort of reminder for me next time I go to post something.

  2. How do you know which is more common? Search on Craigslist for both and see which shows more relevant results. Use that one.

  3. This may be hard to believe, but these people do really exist. You’re leaving them out if you demand texting.

One of the Hiring Questions

When I applied for the position of community liaison at the Wikimedia Foundation I was given a set of questions to answer. Here’s one that I think was important. The answer I gave is something I try to remember when working with people who have an approach to dialog that is unlike mine.

What might you say to someone whose feedback is unconstructive?

  • Listen, ask clarifying questions, encourage action.

Unconstructive feedback usually comes from passion. That’s good! We don’t want apathetic contributors. Sometimes that passion can manifest in misguided ways. Sometimes culture plays a role in interpretation and intent. So first I’d be patient and empathetic. Maybe the editor is having a bad day. Assume good faith and engage positively with the individual. Politely remind them that their behavior reflects on the community as a whole and ask them to remember to remain civil.

If people are sticking around – on talk pages, in conversations, Phab tasks – but frustrated, I’d like to know why. Is there history there? Past experiences? Can we use our own positive behaviors to shift those expectations? For example, if someone says, “Yeah right. You’ll never get back to me. People always promise to and don’t.” I’d be sure to make a note that getting back to people is a perceived negative and use positive behavior (getting back to people when I say I will) to negate that argument.

Another big part of engaging with folks in the wiki way – transparent to a fault – is to make sure that you’re talking to the audience, not just to the person who is being unconstructive. Let others who are reading know that you’re remaining positive and constructive with your actions and don’t let things devolve. I’m a fan/practitioner of the Charles’ Rules of Argument ( No jokes or sarcasm. Keep things simple.

In the end, you can still accomplish a lot with a diverse and productive community.

Surveillance Self-Defense 101 Notes

On Friday I attended a free workshop at SLU Law hosted by the National Lawyers Guild – St. Louis Chapter and the Electronic Frontier Foundation titled Surveillance Self-Defense 101: A CLE Workshop for Lawyers, Students & Activists. It was a pretty cool event and I learned a lot about not only how to keep oneself secure when it comes to surveillance, but also some of the issues and concerns activists and lawyers face when working with complex technology and law.

Here are a few of my notes. These are a bit ramble-ly, but I hope useful for anyone who couldn’t attend or a refresher for those that did.

Three rules of security.

1. No such thing as total security – just shades of more or less secure

2. We didn’t ‘go dark’. We were dark for many years, until folks started using technology they thought was secure, but wasn’t. Our ‘going dark’ is just returning to a state prior. Encryption, as a form of security, is one way we ‘go back’.

Security vs convince vs money – if you have more money you can pay someone to make something that is convenient AND secure. Less money often means less security at the cost of convince.

Https was an example that was secure, but not convenient and it cost money. Newer programs help to make the net secure, convent, and inexpensive.

3. Think about security as understanding your weakest link in a circle of security. You can have secure independent systems, but the weakest tool/service/avenue can undo all of that.

You might not have anything to hide, but those you work for (clients) or with (peers) might. Making yourself vulnerable puts them at risk. you can become the weakest link.

“Threat Models” can be grouped into three general types – personal, political, legal.

Personal – how our personal life is interacting with the world. Using personal email addresses for affairs(!) or political activism. Overlapping your personal and other areas of your life puts your assets at risk!

Again, look back to the weakest link. Who might be acting against you? What might they do if they can connect your personal life with your activist/professional/legal, etc.?

Example: Twitter accounts – influential accounts like FEMA, could have a higher threat model than say an individual, given that access to their account could cause serious damage – like a large-spread panic (Emergency flood warning for New York City!)

Assets – what do you have to protect? Rosters, client lists, strategy documents, SSN of family, medical history, finances, etc.

Federal government can’t keep the addresses of CIA agents secret – for 6 months the Chinese government infiltrated the portion of the government in charge of personnel records.

What we know of the NSA is only the tip of the iceberg – what Snowden revealed 3 years ago is only a small part of their capabilities.

Subversion (especially with minorities) by governments of communities (threats or promises (green cards)).

Not just federal, but local as well. Stingray devices – we only knew because someone who was being prosecuted found references in court documents. License plate readers and intersection light cameras as other venues of surveillance.

The fight against surveillance is at multiple levels (just like the focus – dragnet, targeted, on the street)

Street – cameras on street corners – fight with a local ordinance

Alderpeople have a discretionary budget where these street cameras are coming from!

Local – police department license plate readers – fight with laws, protest

Federal – ??? [I was sucked into an interesting story and didn’t take good notes here.]

Facial recognition does a poor job on darker skinned people – resulting in more false positives! Look for research this summer coming from Georgetown.

[We then broke into small groups and talked about our threat levels and assets]

Workshop questions

These are questions to ask yourself when determining your threat models for the various tools, software, services, hardware, you use and the data and information contained within.

  • What are your assets?
  • What do you need to protect?
  • What are in your communications?
  • What are the threats to those assets?
  • Who would want it?
  • How bad would that be (if they got access)?
  • How badly do they want it?
  • How high on the dial do you need to wrap your security?




Signal for Mobile messaging – encryption from end-to-end. Can be your default txt app on Android.


[I was able to ask a question to the hosts.]

Media, both fictional like TV shows and movies, and uh, factual like news reporting often poorly conveys the nuance of technology – especially around hacking, encryption, privacy etc.

What recommendations do you have in combating this skewed interpretations of reality?

[The answer was to advocate knowledge to people you work with, help educate others, and keep learning and sharing your knowledge.]