Don’t Get Attached To Organizations

Although this post could probably apply to everybody it is primarily aimed at political activists and revolutionaries. This is because political and revolutionary groups tend to have more drama than a Gamergate convention. If you’ve been involved in either type of group you’re probably aware of this firsthand.

For those of you involved in such groups how many times can you recall long, arduous debates over how the group should act? Usually these debates arise when a well-known and influential member of the group attempts to make everything about them. In their eyes the group isn’t an organization of individuals working towards a common goal but a tool to wield for their personal crusade. Because of the person’s influence and the basic desire of others to be nice nobody is usually willing to tell the bad actor to, “Sit your ass down and shut the fuck up.” Instead they patronize the idiot, give them time, and otherwise allow them to waste everybody’s time. More often than not the bad actor manages to get what they want because everybody else is too worried about looking bad amongst their fellows. Because of that, after the group goes along with the bad actor’s scheme, a lot of butthurt feelings arise that usually take the form of passive aggressive words spoken behind closed doors.

This post isn’t about stopping the bad actor, the only way to do that is to have members of your group who have a spine and aren’t worried about offending anybody’s delicate feelings, it’s about what to do afterwards. Let’s say you’re a member of a libertarian group that has been focused exclusively on getting the Federal Reserve shutdown. Things have been going well but then somebody shows up and tries to turn the group into Rand Paul’s personal action squad. Several members are sympathetic to Rand Paul and wouldn’t mind having access to some cash from the campaign. You are an actual libertarian through, you want no part in Rand Paul, and your only desire is to see the group continue doing what it has always been doing. After the dust settles the group has become another organ of the Rand Paul campaign. The question is, what do you do?

Traditionally the answer seems to involve a lot of passive aggressive comments, whining, and continued participation even if it’s slightly less enthusiastic participation. Let me be clear about one thing: that’s a really fucking stupid reaction.

Why do you want to participate in a group that isn’t pursuing your goals? Most people make the mistake of allowing a group to become part of their identity. They describe themselves as a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian. When they do that they set aside their interests whenever it’s necessary to remain in good standing with the group(s) they identify with. Humans are social creatures by nature so it’s not too surprise to see why this often becomes the case.

There is a better option though. If you’re a member of a group that no longer pursues your goals you can leave and either join a group more aligned with your interests or start your own group. I’ve done this numerous times and if I can do it, you can do it. I’ll use my participation in the Ron Paul campaign as an example. Back in my statist libertarian days I wanted to help Ron Paul spread his message. As a means to my ends I involved myself with the Republican Party by caucusing. I knew the party itself was the antithesis of individual freedom but that’s where Ron Paul was working so that’s where I worked. Not surprisingly the party shutdown Ron Paul harder than the Mongol Empire shutdown Baghdad. While a bunch of my fellow Ron Paul supporters continued to work with the Republican Party I, along with many others, left. We saw no reason to invest our precious time into a group that didn’t support our interests. After leaving the Republicans in our dust we gathered with other fellow travelers and became anarchists.

Who do you think came out ahead? I can confidently say it was us because those who remained in the Republican Party, for the most part, are still there and still seeing no fruits for their labors. Meanwhile those of us who left helped found an agorism festival that has been going on for three years. But the festival is merely a means that has helped our ends by instilling some entrepreneurial interest amongst agorists. I’m not saying our goals have been or will be realized but we’re certainly moving in a direction, which is more than I can say for those still involving themselves in a group that doesn’t share their interests.

So if you find yourself stuck in a group that no longer supports your values don’t be a passive aggressive bitch about it, leave. You only have a finite amount of time on this spinning rock that’s orbiting a giant fusion reactor so make the best of it.

Sometimes I Wonder About All Of You

I’m sure a lot of you have seen that video of the bear busting up a kayak and getting pepper sprayed in the face. If you haven’t, watch it before continuing on:

This video came to my attention because several gunnies were posting it and saying variations of, “This is why I carry a gun, not pepper spray.” After watching the video though I can’t help but side with the bear.

When the video starts the bear has ceased its initial assault on the lady’s kayak. We can only assume the lady was yelling at the bear to stop and it complied. Anyways the bear is obviously coming over to say, “Hey, ma’am, sorry about that. I didn’t know it was your kayak,” only to get pepper sprayed in the face. Of course the bear backs away and is all like, “Whoa, crazy lady! What the fuck?” Then little miss hysterical tells the bear to, “Come here!” The bear, not being an idiot like the lady, keeps its distance. After thinking things over for a bit it seems to say, “You know what? Fuck you and fuck your kayak.” The bear then goes back to beating on the kayak. When the lady screams, “Why are you breaking my kayak,” I can only imagine the bear is responding with, “Because you pepper sprayed me in the goddamn face!”

I’m sorry, but the bear is totally in the right on this one. Admittedly it was doing something wrong but it stopped when told to only to be pepper sprayed for it. If anybody was the aggressor here it’s the lady.

Micro Hosting

I’ve been talking about the need to decentralize the Internet. Unfortunately handing so much power to a handful of domestic companies has proven to be a boon for the surveillance state. This is one of the reasons why I self-host most of my online services. I don’t like the current centralized environment and am therefore trying to walk the walk in decoupling myself from large service providers. Admittedly the current environment makes things like self-hosted e-mail questionably useful in most cases, mostly because almost everybody uses Gmail and therefore most email ends up on Google’s servers anyways, it does demonstrates the feasibility of a strategy (and as I wrote elsewhere every revolution has a humble beginning).

For the purposes of this post I’m going to create a phrase that’s probably already being used unknown to me: micro hosting. Micro hosting is an idea that came to me at AgoraFest after hearing a speaker urging agorists to develop a million one dollar ideas instead of one million dollar idea. A micro host is some schmuck like me with a server, a business Internet connection, and knowledge in system administration providing services to a handful of people. The key to this model is that you have a million small hosts providing services instead of one large host. Decentralization not only makes it more difficult for the State’s surveillance apparatus but also makes it difficult for the state to enforce it’s massive number of regulations.

Another advantage to this model is that it could finally weaken the grip advertising has on Internet services. Each host is obviously free to develop whatever business model they choose. For people like me that business model would involve getting paid by users instead of advertisers. Under such a business model privacy becomes a feature instead of a liability since convincing customers to pay for your service over, say, Google’s would likely require assurances that you’re not snooping through their communications for advertising purposes.

Recently I’ve put out feelers to people I know who are concerned about privacy to see if there’s an interest amongst them to have me host their e-mail for a small charge. Surprisingly there has been quite a bit of interest in not just e-mail but other services as well. Since I’m already running the services the overhead of hosting more people is pretty minimal. In other words this makes for a great agorist business idea since the risks are fairly minor and the prospect of turning a profit exists.

As I move forward with this this plan I’ll post updates. My reason for this is to inspire other agorists, specifically to start a small business such as a micro host. An additional reason, of course, is to inspire other people who may not be agorists to start a micro host to help decentralize the Internet.

Embrace The Mesh

Mesh networks are wonderful for many reasons. My primary interest in them is their ability to decentralize Internet connectivity but they also offer a major advantage for those living in areas not currently services by high-speed Internet providers: a more cost effective means of obtaining Internet connectivity.

A lot of people complain that the Internet service providers (ISP) in their area don’t offer high-speed connectivity to their home but offer it to homes only a block or two away. In almost all cases ISPs will connect your home up but they’ll put the cost of expanding their infrastructure on you:

When Cole Marshall decided to buy an empty lot and build a house, one of his top priorities was getting fast and reliable Internet service.

Marshall says he received assurances from Charter, the local cable company, that he could get Internet access to his home in Wisconsin. There was also a promise of relatively fast DSL, with telco Frontier Communications telling him it could provide 24Mbps download speeds, he told Ars.

As it turned out, neither company could deliver. Once the house was built, Charter would only offer service if he paid $117,000 to cover the cost of extending its network to his new home. Frontier does provide DSL Internet, but only at slower speeds of up to 3Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream.

Marshall, who works at home as a Web developer, subscribed to Frontier and struggles with his Internet connection daily.

“Cable was always available everywhere I lived, and I never thought moving just a little bit out of the city would mean I’d get hardly anything,” Marshall said.

Whether Charter and Frontier provided those assurances is a case of he said, she said. But the core problem, Marshall wanting access to faster Internet connectivity, exists regardless. In this case Charter isn’t unwilling to provide him cable Internet but it does expect him to pay for expanding its infrastructure to him. The price isn’t surprising since acquiring permits, digging up ground, burying fiber, and covering it back up isn’t cheap. But Marshall also isn’t without choices.

Wireless Internet connectivity is nice because it doesn’t require building a lot of physical infrastructure. You only need two radios to span a gap. And based on the story Marshall isn’t that far from Charter customers with cable Internet service:

Marshall has been told that his home was about 3,200 feet from Charter’s network, or about 6/10 of a mile. But a Charter spokesperson told Ars that an inspection determined it could not build to Marshall’s home from the nearest facilities.

Spanning approximately one kilometer is easily doable with affordable radios. The directional NanoStations we used at AgoraFest can span five times that distance and cost about $40 to $50 per radio. Here is where Marshall could make use of a mesh network.

Were he to offer to pay one of Charter’s customers it’s likely they would have no issue providing him Internet access via wireless radio. After all, most people buy more bandwidth than they need and are happy to receive a little undeclared income. If other people in his housing development made similar deals it would be trivial for his neighborhood to have access to fast Internet connectivity for a very modest price. And because of how mesh networks operate the Internet connectivity could be maintained even if one of the Charter customers canceled a deal.

Establishing Reputations

Reputations are a tool we use everyday. Most people will warn their friends and family members about unsavory sorts and recommend reputable individuals. When looking for a new restaurant it’s not that uncommon this day and age to check for reviews on sites like Yelp. Successful businesses can find themselves in bankruptcy if their reputation becomes tarnished. Hell, I just bought a new shaver from the manufacturer of my old shaver specifically because of the positive reputation that company has established with me. With how important reputations are to most us of I am having a difficult time understand the outrage over this app:

You can already rate restaurants, hotels, movies, college classes, government agencies and bowel movements online.

So the most surprising thing about Peeple — basically Yelp, but for humans — may be the fact that no one has yet had the gall to launch something like it.

When the app does launch, probably in late November, you will be able to assign reviews and one- to five-star ratings to everyone you know: your exes, your co-workers, the old guy who lives next door. You can’t opt out — once someone puts your name in the Peeple system, it’s there unless you violate the site’s terms of service. And you can’t delete bad or biased reviews — that would defeat the whole purpose.

My question isn’t how a company could have the gall to release this but why it’s taken so long for something like this to be developed. The Internet has made it possible for people who have never met and have no common friends in real life to have meaningful relationships (be they friendship, business, or even romantic). As this trend continues to become more common a replacement for personal reputation recommendations needs to be developed. Will this app be it? Only time will tell. But it’s certainly a contender in a market with apparently few contenders.