Lots of good discussion of the Tribes vs Ideology post over at Tumblr. Check it out if you want to debate people.

Awesome Games Done Quick was this weekend. They raise money for charity by marathoning speed runs of classic video games.


Even after the political warfare that has devastated the gaming community, I find AGDQ a delightful tribal oasis. You kind of have to watch it to understand what I mean, but, they just really love showing off their skills and tricks, and raising money for anodyne causes. (Superficially at least) it’s free of drama and political one upsmanship, despite the many potential political arguments you could make about it (it looks 95% white male.) They’ve clearly just swept various problems under the rug, but you can’t deny that they’re happy.

If you just want to relax with atmospheric tribal happiness, you can watch their videos here. The blindfolded Ocarina run is amazing.

Self-Segregation: Forming Communities or Destroying Them?

danah boyd on the ever interesting topic of the Big Sort

The problem is not simply the “filter bubble,” Eli Pariser’s notion that personalization-driven algorithmic systems help silo people into segregated content streams. Facebook’s claim that content personalization plays a small role in shaping what people see compared to their own choices is accurate. And they have every right to be annoyed. I couldn’t imagine TimeWarner being blamed for who watches Duck Dynasty vs. Modern Family. And yet, what Facebook does do is mirror and magnify a trend that’s been unfolding in the United States for the last twenty years, a trend of self-segregation that is enabled by technology in all sorts of complicated ways.

Sometimes Rules Aren’t the Issue

Some tribes can be as small as a polyamorous network of people dating each other, and Ozymandias helpfully points out that healthy relationships of people who respect each other look fairly similar, no matter what rules structure they use:

But in practice, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference between Reasonable Sensible People Polyamory With Rules and Reasonable Sensible People Polyamory Without Rules. My husband does not have a veto over whom I date, but he does get to have opinions. Naturally, I respect my husband’s judgment about other people, so I will listen to him to see if he’s seen something I’m blinded to by new relationship energy. Naturally, my husband respects my judgment about other people, so he will listen to me about the merits of the person he’s judged distasteful. Naturally, he doesn’t want to make me unhappy, so he will swallow his dislike and be cordial if necessary. Naturally, I don’t want to make him unhappy, so I will avoid squeeing about the awesomeness of people he dislikes. And if in spite of all this we can’t resolve the conflict, we’ll figure out how to manage it while keeping the lines of communication open so we can maybe find a resolution.


McDonald’s Communities

This is the sort of thing I assume everyone who reads this blog already has seen, but I guess I forgot to post it. An excellent article by the Guardian about how McDonald’s has become the community center for a lot of poorer communities.

When many lower-income Americans are feeling isolated by the deadening uniformity of things, by the emptiness of many jobs, by the media, they still yearn for physical social networks. They are not doing this by going to government-run community service centers. They are not always doing this by utilizing the endless array of well-intentioned not-for-profit outreach programs. They are doing this on their own, organically across the country, in McDonald’s.

Betty and Omar on their wedding day.
Betty and Omar on their wedding day. Photograph: Chris Arnade

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.

This sort of class demography connects loosely to this fascinating list of 66 types of American community by demographic interest made by the marketing firm Claritas. All the way from

01 – Upper Crust:  The nation’s most exclusive address, Upper Crust is the wealthiest lifestyle in America haven for empty-nesting couples over 55 years old. No segment has a higher concentration of residents earning over $200,000 a year or possessing a postgraduate degree.

02 – Blue Blood Estates:  Blue Blood Estates is a family portrait of suburban wealth; a place of million-dollar homes and manicured lawns, high-end cars and exclusive private clubs. The nation’s second-wealthiest lifestyle, it is characterized by married couples with children, college degrees, a significant percentage of Asian Americans and six-figure incomes earned by business executives, managers and professionals.


64 – Bedrock America:  Bedrock America consists of young, economically challenged families in small, isolated towns located throughout the nation’s heartland. With modest educations, sprawling families and blue-collar jobs, many of these residents struggle to make ends meet. One quarter live in mobile homes. One in three haven’t finished high school. Rich in scenery, Bedrock America is a haven for fishing, hunting, hiking and camping.

65 – Big City Blues:  With a population that’s 50 percent Latino, Big City Blues has the highest concentration of Hispanic Americans in the nation. But it’s also the multi-ethnic address for downscale Asian and African-American households occupying older inner-city apartments. Concentrated in a handful of major metros, these young singles and single-parent families face enormous challenges: low incomes, uncertain jobs and modest educations. More than 40 percent haven’t finished high school.

66 – Low-Rise Living:  The most economically challenged urban segment, Low-Rise Living is known as a transient world for young, ethnically diverse singles and single parents. Home values are low-about half the national average-and even then less than a quarter of residents can afford to own real estate. Typically, the commercial base of Mom-and-Pop stores is struggling and in need of a renaissance.[4]

WARNING: DO NOT read this list to find which of these communities is you, and where that falls on the status ladder. That way lies endless status anxiety that has no cure.

It’s a pretty powerful reminder of how many Americans are just old and not highly-socially-mobile, in a way that is fairly underrepresented in media depictions of “the average American.”


Sarah Constantin on Mental Health in Modernity

Excellent introspective piece on what it’s like dealing with mental health under the guise of an all-serving ideological state, ie college.

I remember scrolling through Facebook once, while hanging out with a friend who was a student at Yale Law, when suddenly my face fell and she asked “What’s wrong?”  Well, another friend of mine had lost his job, and I was worried about him.

My Yale friend was very impressed and made a big deal about how compassionate I was.

And that struck me as weird. Surely anyone would be sad about a friend who lost his job. A good friend would try to help him get back on his feet, or do some other concrete act of service.

But there are actually a lot of Ivy League types for whom common sympathy is unusual, to whom it doesn’t occur to pause for a moment and be sad for someone else.  We’re taught not to. We’re taught that other people’s troubles are not our problem, unless we can get public credit for some kind of conspicuous charitable work.  The right thing to do is to keep reaching for the brass ring and to resist the temptations of sympathy.

Sad friend? There are professionals to handle that.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
  Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
  That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
  Were axioms to him, who’d never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

There is something extremely weird in affluent society that treats the personal problems of your closest ones as something that needs professional attention, and not the traditional responsibility of the community that cares for them. In some contexts its certainly better (professionals have drugs and use them methodically if not wisely), but it’s definitely weird.


Tribe Structure in Fandom

This is the transcript of a delightful TED talk by Maciej Ceglowski, founder of Pinboard, about his experience watching fanficcers transplant and build their community on his site. It’s really worth reading for his description of a growing Google Doc of business requirements alone.

Here you see a very stern admonition by some people not to slash me (that is, include me in erotic fiction).

“Please don’t slash Maciej, he’s not okay with it, and we want him to like us.”

(I was totally fine with it!)

You see the debate and then someone plaintively cries “THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS”, and tries to argue that writing fic about anthropomorphized bookmarking sites is not the same thing as real person fiction (RPF), which is taboo in certain parts of fandom.

And then of course the inevitable happens, and someone writes fic about the document itself.

Naturally the fic links back to the document, and someone puts a link to the fic in the document itself, crossing the Internet streams and dividing by zero.

Having worked at large tech companies, where getting a spec written requires shedding tears of blood in a room full of people whose only goal seems to be to thwart you, and waiting weeks for them to finish, I could not believe what I was seeing.

It was like a mirror world to YouTube comments, where several dozen anonymous people had come together in love and harmony to write a complex, logically coherent document, based on a single tweet.

All I could think was–who ARE these people?

I worked in tech long enough to know exactly how he feels about getting specs.

Of course, to readers of this blog, what’s less interesting is that fans are special people, than the power of the spontaneous, organic community.

What is Hell?

This is totally my favorite comic for explaining what utopia looks like to me:

Most humans can (and have) lived with pain, illness, and facing death with some level of acceptance. What causes us real misery tends to be unfairness, and negative opinions from other people. It’s possible I am drastically mis-weighting human priorities here, but these are at least my intuitions, and I can’t get more fundamental than that.

I don’t just mean this appeals to me (though it does). I mean if we picture a rich man who has all the luxuries of high capitalism but suspect most people hate him, and we compare that to someone who has very little, and is even ill, but believes in the love and respect of the people who matter to him… which one do we think is happier?

On the flip-side, when I think of “Hell”, I don’t think of how you can pile the most physical pain onto a person, or other forms of singular anguish (like the obscene agonies listed in Unsong http://unsongbook.com/interlude-%D7%99-the-broadcast/ ). I think of being misunderstood and judged poorly, on a massive scale.

In fact, instead of weird paradoxes with “your body is burned every minute but also regenerates so you can keep being burned and also your nerves never develop any tolerance to the sensation” in such a Hell your safety and physical homeostasis would be guaranteed, so you can go on experiencing the psychological turmoil without distraction for as long as possible.

There would also be a lot of communication.
Continue reading “What is Hell?”