04/17/2020

#57 – Kelly Goes Off

#57 – Kelly Goes Off

In this episode of the Grepcast, we focus on all the things that feel worse than the new normal of self-quarantines. Come for the Bird smack-talk, stay for Kelly going off on the Internet Archive. Check out the transcript of this episode below.

Grepcast #57 – Kelly Goes Off

Adam Fisk
What’s up everyone? You’re listening to The Grepcast from TSP LLC, bringing you a bi-weekly look into the world of technology, and technology-adjacent ephemera. My name is Adam Fisk and today we are joined by Michael Oh.

Mike Oh: Hello!

Adam Fisk
And Kelly Ford.

Kelly Ford
Hello.

Adam Fisk
So in terms of some quick hits today, we are diving into our COVID-related items early. Fan favorite, podcast favorite, just general scumbags, Bird, are back in the news today. This is actually an interesting – not interesting – this is a terrible thing!

Kelly Ford
Terrible. It’s not interesting!

Mike Oh
It’s terrible. But what else did we expect from The Bird?

Adam Fisk
Right. This originally came through a dual Twitter post by Julia Black who goes by @mjnblack, and then [an] article that was posted on Dot LA just talking about how Zoom really can be weaponized for corporate cowardice.

Mike Oh
It’s not Zoom’s fault. You know, Zoom can be used for good, it can be used for evil, and clearly Bird chose to use it for evil.

Adam Fisk
Right. The tool is generally agnostic in terms of its use. But in this case, 406 Bird employees were laid off on a gloomy, seemingly pre-recorded Zoom webinar.

Kelly Ford
Well, I would like to point out, too, on the official Bird Twitter account, they say they “eliminate” 30% of its staff. So that word choice was them. Not Zoom.

Mike Oh
Eliminate, exterminate.

Kelly Ford
Let’s eliminate them! I mean these people suck. Didn’t we didn’t we have an entire episode, Adam, where we just talked about how much we hate Bird?

Adam Fisk
Yeah, it was

Mike Oh
I think it was multiple episodes!

Adam Fisk
Yeah, it was multiple episodes. One of our kind of mini episodes where it was just Kelly and I raving, was very much Bird-focused and they crop back up. But the most, I guess, damning piece of this report was the quotes from people who worked at Bird and who were laid off, one of which who went on record saying that quote: “It felt like a black mirror episode.” And another one where, when they joined this zoom, which had an entirely generic-sounding name, which was “COVID-19 Update.” It didn’t start on time. It had a weird, “sparse slide with a dark gray background that only said COVID-19,” which is terrifying. But one of the employees that was in this DOT LA article had said that “it was not our brand color or font, which, frankly was unsettling in a way I couldn’t articulate.” So just by this happening, people were like “wait a second…” And…

Mike Oh
I’m honestly surprised it didn’t just have like, that molecule, you know, COVID-19 molecule graphic, just in the background.

Kelly Ford
I mean, that they did any slide at all is shocking, given everything else they did.

Mike Oh
Well, I do want to say I do want to give them credit, because I don’t think it was recorded. But at the same time, I’ll pull away that credit because clearly, the way that this message was delivered was so impersonal and so robotic that it probably was live, but everybody thought it was was recorded.

Adam Fisk
Yeah, it was like, reading off the page, like stilted.

Kelly Ford
But like, show your face. The very least you can do is like…yes, of course we’re in 406 different homes, but if you’re going to be laying people off, show your face. Don’t be a coward. It costs nothing to be kind. Like yeah, okay, […] maybe you can’t call 406 people individually. I personally think that you can probably afford that, given how much they raised in January. What was it, Adam, you posted 75 million [dollars]? You know what, take the time. That’s what they’re there for. Let HR do this. It’s good. It’s nice. But yeah, they just suck. We knew this.

Mike Oh
I mean, they might as well have just taken a recorded clip of George Clooney in in that movie Into The Air where he’s firing people. You know, that would have actually been better!

Adam Fisk
It would’ve at least been a story, I guess. The piece that pushes it over the edge is: as this voice on the line, as described in the DOT LA article, was describing how they had lost their jobs in a two minute span. All of the company-issued Macbooks went dark, restarted, and were locked out. All to the power of MDM which, according to the article, was a mistake. It wasn’t meant to go at that time. But you know, oops…

Kelly Ford
Mistakes were made.

Mike Oh
Well, the worst part about that part of the story is that the guy that developed the script, I mean, Adam, you and I spend quite a bit of time in the world of MDM. And in order for them to sort of execute this like, instantaneous “kaboom” version of it, you know, they sort of had to write a custom script and internally, they had a guy write a script that basically was a single button-press that can be applied across multiple users, which, you know, in the world of onboarding and off boardings, and non-COVID-related stuff, it’s sort of a semi-legitimate thing. You need to just make sure that when somebody leaves the company for whatever reason, that they don’t have access to services. But the guy that wrote the script internally at IT was fired by his own script! And he didn’t even know it. He was told that it was like, “oh, well, we’re gonna use this sort of selectively in the future,” and then boom. The worst.

Adam Fisk
In other missteps of this, some people tried to join the webinar that they were invited to, but could not because Bird didn’t pay enough for their licensing of their webinar license to accommodate the amount of people they were firing.

Kelly Ford
The level of planning, or shall we say, a lack of planning here is just outstanding. I mean, it is just a comedy of errors.

Mike Oh
Yeah, I mean, it would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that — how many people got laid off?

Adam Fisk
406.

Kelly Ford
Like, if you’re gonna lay off 406 people, that’s a giant number!

Adam Fisk
In two minutes.

Kelly Ford
Put some thought into this, guys. I mean, this was a panic plan, clearly.

Adam Fisk
Yeah. To close, I guess on this, it was so bad that some individuals, some people that were affected by this layoff, didn’t even know what was happening until they saw a TechCrunch article posted at 11:26 A.M.

Mike Oh
Man. That’s the worst.

Adam Fisk
So for an hour, staff didn’t know why their machines were rebooting, why they couldn’t do anything, and really any understanding of if they were even going to get their personal possessions left at their physical desks back. Way to go Bird. I hope to see more of your stuff in trash cans.

Kelly Ford
[laughs] For the people left, I do hope that — what was it, I think it’s like 30% of their staff? I can’t do quick math. But apparently, there’s still several, you know, hundreds of people left there. So for them, I do hope that they’re able to stick around and then eventually leave this terrible company. Get a really good severance. Apparently they did get a pretty good severance. So we’ll give them that. I think it was something like four weeks pay. But come on, guys. Be decent. It costs nothing to be kind.

Mike Oh
Absolutely.

Adam Fisk
But I guess on the TSP Grepcast side, how is everyone’s quarantines going? Mike, are you still doing your your video gym? Your exercise routine?

Mike Oh
Yeah, you know, the family members are falling one by one, but I’m still I’m still doing it.

Kelly Ford
You’ll be the last man standing? [laughs]

Mike Oh
Yeah, though. Literally, the kids were sitting on the sofa watching me do it this morning. You know, and my wife did it too, which is great. You know, but I mean it is Easter holiday. So we gave them a little bit of a break. But the thing is, you have to have some structure. Otherwise the whole thing just blobs up and falls apart. So we’re uh, yeah, we’re making it through. We spent quite a long time playing with the green screen last night with the kids. One of them put her face on Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian. And then the other one had the idea to put her face on my bio picture from the TSP website. So we’re finding ways to cope.

Adam Fisk
There you go. I have to say a Chemex has been my savior. I am a person of routine. I get the same thing every morning. And now, since I cannot go to JP Licks as I walk into the office, my Chemex coffee brewer is the only thing, or one of the only things, that is keeping me going and getting started every week. How about you, Kelly?

Kelly Ford
Uh, yeah, my life isn’t that different which people find shocking. Actually most people who know me don’t, because I’m very self-disciplined. So my only changes [are], you know, my TV workouts have gone from 30 minutes every day to an hour to make up for the one hour walk I don’t get. I do miss — kind of miss — my walk into work. It’s a pretty good walk, but I’m also a homebody, so the main thing that’s changed is now […] Sarah has gotten me boxes of Cadbury eggs. I allow myself one guilt-free every night after dinner.

Mike Oh
Wow. One!

Kelly Ford
One. Not always one. Sometimes it’s been two…[laughs] Maybe more…! No. No more than two. Then I just disgust myself.

Adam Fisk
So moving, with a perfect segue, into other disgusting things! The Internet Archive, a thing that I had really only acknowledged for its kind of — what do they call it? Their internet “way back” —

Mike Oh
Wayback Machine.

Adam Fisk
Wayback Machine — to look up old versions of websites and see what’s going on. Or even just some out-of-licensed games from my childhood. [They] decided to do this really, really cool thing that nobody on this podcast has opinions about, which is called the Open Library. Because again, we need technology companies reinventing things we already have.

Mike Oh
Wow. Well, it has the word “open” in it. So it must be good.

Kelly Ford
Yeah. Must be good…

Adam Fisk
Open source. That means everybody is happy! Yeah, so quick background on this, and this is really coming to us from multiple sources. So there was a New York Times article, there’s an Ars Technica article written by Timothy B. Lee, and there is a Bookriot.com article that’s written by Sarah Nicholas, really focusing on how also mis-managed this was. But […] from this Ars Technica article — for almost a decade, the Internet Archive has had something called the Open Library, which, similar to normal real life libraries and their digital components, [gives users] the ability to check out scans of physical books held in a storage closet, or warehouse. You can read it, you can download it, but you are required to and I heavy quote here, “Return it after a limited period of time.” Which to the credit of this Ars Technica article, if you are just giving someone a scanned document? No, no. That doesn’t exist. We’re on the the most basic versions of Honor Code they’re in, but it is essentially to the point of many of these articles, a piracy website.

Mike Oh
Well, I’m gonna jump in here because I have very little to say on this subject compared to somebody else. Somebody else who’s like, nibbling her Cadbury egg–

Adam Fisk
— while vibrating in her seat

Mike Oh
Yeah, I just I just liked the sub line of the Ars Technica [article]: Massive online library project is venturing into uncharted legal waters because that’s really what you want to do, is definitely venture into uncharted legal waters. What could possibly go wrong?

Adam Fisk
Also, they’ve already been sued for this so I don’t know what uncharted waters they have.

Kelly Ford
Exactly. Exactly! Okay….So…

Adam Fisk
Lay it on me.

Kelly Ford
I obviously have opinions on this. And I think what needs to be stated is, is everything they do bad? No, of course not. They’re providing disability services for I believe, um…Gosh, I can’t…I think it’s for deaf users perhaps? I can’t remember, I apologize. So it’s not saying everything they’re doing here is wrong. But what they are doing here is piracy. I am an author. This is piracy. And it’s upsetting to see so many people saying, “Oh, well, writers and publishers are just whining.They’re being babies about this.” So I’d asked you, Adam, if it would be possible to give a quick one-on-one, I promise it’ll be quick, about how authors get paid, so people have some context for this.

Kelly Ford
So when you get paid — so Hollywood has this this myth, right? Everybody gets this idea from Hollywood, that writers can just write something, probably in a month, maybe two weeks, and then they can send it directly to a publisher, say Random House, and then Random House will automatically give you a deal and then maybe three months or less later, you have your book and it’s out and we’re all millionaires. That could not be further from the truth. Yes, there are a lot of big name authors, and they do get paid a lot. And those sales actually help smaller authors such as myself, I’m not even mid-list. I don’t even appear in the Internet Archive. That’s how little I register in the publishing world [laughs], but I have gotten paid. But going to the point of getting paid — so you get an advance, and it’s not a lot of money. And half of my friends are writers. It’s just what happens in Boston, when you hang around here long enough. You know a lot of writers. And most writers don’t get an advance more than $10,000. And to me, I’m like, “God, that’s a lot of money!” Because I certainly did not make $10,000 on this. And you get paid in a chunk. So you might get paid at the beginning of the project. And so once you’re paid, that’s an advance on sales you might make and then they even — so you’ll still get the money, but you won’t make any more money on this, the royalties, until you sell that amount. And then they also take out reserves for returns. So print books — so if a bookstore buys a bunch of copies, say for an event, and they don’t sell them, they return them to the publisher. So you’re out that money too. And also, authors only get paid twice a year. So we get paid — well, okay, so the financial cutoff is in June and in December, so technically my last royalty statement, which is a joke because I get no royalties, um, is that I got a statement January 2020, for sales January 2019 through June 2019. So we’re so far behind, but, and I’m wrapping this up, I swear, e-books are where I get most of my money. Because my royalty percentage on e-books is better than my royalty percentage on print books because, again, print books can be returned. So the publisher will take them back and that counts against me. So if I earn out ever, it’s gonna be because of e-books. And what makes e-books important, especially for libraries, going back to this, is that libraries pay for e-books. You can go to almost any library online and ask them to buy a an e-book. There’s usually a request. I have requested it from the Boston Public Library. They have yet to accept. They still have not bought it. So again, my stakes are very low in this, in terms of financial gain. It’s more the principle behind this of consent, because the Internet Archive is coming and swooping in, as if they’re a savior, allowing all these books that are dramatically closed behind these brick and mortar libraries, and they’re offering these books, but these are not their books. And if they wanted to be like a library, they could be paying for this content, but they’re not paying for the content. And the whole idea about how — so what the Internet Archive is doing is, typically there’s hold. So you get an e-book for, say, 14 days or maybe seven days. And after that 14 days, it’s up. And if it’s available again, and no one’s on the waitlist, you can renew it, and you can get that book again. So if there’s a waitlist, that’s also good for an author, because it shows the library that there is demand, and then the library will buy more books. So it helps an author and as you can see, it’s like the ROI on being a writer is so low. Like, anyone who can do this, like there was something in the article like, the Authors Guild, I believe, said that the typical author gets $20,000 a year, which is amazing to me, I’m like, “Oh my God, who is that?” Because also the people who are doing this, they also get supplemental income from writer events, if you’re lucky, getting paid from Community College things, but most events are free. Most places don’t pay for your airfare. They don’t pay for your hotel. It’s just like, you know, there’s exposure, but as we know, exposure doesn’t pay rent. So it’s very important to me and other creatives that we’re getting paid for our work, because otherwise, we’d all be playing Parcheesi in the pandemic. But we’re not. We’re binge-watching. And we’re listening to all these things that creatives have made. And we’re not getting paid for it. So if you want to be a real library, you pay for it. And they’re not paying for it. Okay, I will end my — I imagine that Adam is like, “Okay, I’m gonna have to cut that, and cut that, and also cut that” [laughs]

Adam Fisk
Do it! I need to know.

Adam Fisk
I’m actually, I’m paying attention, because this is one of those things that I — you have a thought in your head of how libraries work that probably for me was crystallized when I was five years old. And now I’m 32. And I’m still just assuming that it’s the same way, which is libraries just get books. That’s it. It’s spontaneous generation, but novels. But the article. It’s an opinion piece in The New York Times, which is a great title. This was written by Douglas Preston, who is the president of the Authors Guild. “The Pandemic is Not an Excuse to Exploit Writers.” [He] pointed out specifically that legitimate libraries, and we’ll use that with that capital L in Legitimate, they do lend out e-books for free, but the way that it works is due to that licensing fee — expensive licensing fee — for the e-books. An then that flows to the Authors as royalties. The National Emergency Library, which is what the Internet Archive is calling this, this “new Alexandria of content”, is not paying for anything in this case. It is acquiring donations of used books that then they are scanning. The scanning? Yes, that’s really cool. That is a great thing to make sure that these books, [this] content, is not disappearing. But by fact of it is a donation-based piece for real, like current books in the New York Times article. We’re not talking about like, The Count of Monte Cristo, or something like that. We’re talking about like, Harry Potter or John Grisham books, things that have come out in the last 10 years that are not — what is it? It’s not open source. What’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, public domain. These aren’t public domain books.

Kelly Ford
Right. I went through and I found many books by many friends that have been published within the last 10 years. There is no way a public school is reading these books. They’re just not. It’s not in the curriculum.

Adam Fisk
Yeah. But at least people can, these authors can, go through and email a takedown notice, right? Yes, but what’s the point?

Kelly Ford
Right? And it shouldn’t be on authors to opt out. And I mean, it’s like, think about newsletters. […] You know, we were supposed to opt into newsletters and then it was like, “okay, maybe we don’t have to opt in anymore. So you can just opt out.” But it’s like, you spent maybe a week [or] a little bit more, on a newsletter. These are people’s lives. They’ve spent years on this content, and suddenly someone is just putting your work up, again, not me, I’m not that popular [laughs]. But let’s say my friend Emily Ross, I found her book on there, Half in Love with Death, which is a wonderful book and you should get it, you know, from your actual library. But putting that up there [is] taking money away from [her] ebook sales and letting people just download it. You can just — I went on and I got an account just to see what it was like. And it was a very simple process, there’s really no barrier to access, and you can just download as much as you want. And I think you can get up to 10 to 14 books at a time. But, again, as I said, it’s indefinite access. So if 20 people wanted to grab her book they could. And so that’s 20 different sales that she’s lost. And it’s also the slippery slope of this, right? And why — okay! This is the last thing! But why is it okay to steal from creatives? But these same people [that] are talking about how authors are babies, these are the same people who are like, “Well, that was my tweet. I wrote it first. How dare you? Give me credit for that tweet.” It’s like, why? Why is always okay to steal from artists? Why? Someone answer me!

Mike Oh
Yeah. The comments on these on the Ars article [are] just as bad as what the Internet Archive is doing. I mean, in the sense that like, yeah, we know a lot of people on the internet are trash, but it is It is amazing to see how little care there is. I mean, there’s basically people saying, well, the copyrights, patents and all of this stuff should just all be wiped off the face of the earth. It’s all pre-digital stuff. And it’s like how — on what basis do you really think that that’s a you know, a good idea other than being somebody on the internet just wants to make trouble, right? I mean, clearly, ownership and ideas and the idea that you’re creating something from nothing, you know, has value. I don’t think there’s really any way that you should, or can, argue that. I mean, clearly people do. But there’s really no basis for it. Because otherwise, what the hell is humanity here doing? I mean, it’s like, you know, if there is no value to originally coming up with something, whether or not it’s a combination of words or an invention, then I mean, we might as well pack up and die from COVID. But it’s just incredible to see kind of the masses. And there are some great responses to these things as well, which clearly are being ignored. But yeah, it’s…I don’t know. I mean, maybe the title of this episode of Grepcast should be “Things That Are Worse Than COVID”, right?

Kelly Ford
Or “Kelly Goes Off”!

Mike Oh
Yeah! Subtitle: “Kelly Goes Off”

Kelly Ford
Thank you for the platform [laughs].

Mike Oh
Internet Archive! Oh my Goodness. I don’t know what we’re talking about next, but they’re clearly worse.

Adam Fisk
I will give a pre-plug for Kelly’s plug. Kelly, you mentioned how easy it was to sign up for an account with the Internet Archive. I will say, the thing Kelly will be plugging was very, very easy. I did it while literally making lunch and so no complaints. You can’t complain anymore, gang! All right. So moving right along to the subject to which we have said and titled in our notes as “there’s no such thing as good guys.” Remember when we started talking, in the beginning of the Grepcast, [about the fact] that if you’re not paying for something, you are a product? We have a really just fun visualization that was put together by a company called Techtonics GEO.

Mike Oh
Not mysterious at all…

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. Certainly not a dystopian company name…! The tweet in question — I’ll just read it because it’s just hilarious. “Want to see the true potential impact of ignoring social distancing? Through a partnership with @xmodesocial, we analyzed secondary locations of anonymized mobile devices that were active at a single Fort Lauderdale beach during spring break. This is” — and here’s the fun part — “This is where they went across the US.”

Mike Oh
It’s fascinating to see it, right? In the sense that like, at first you click on the link in Twitter, you sort of see them, kind of like the tools that are available. And maybe this is an exaggeration, could be fake news, but I believe that what we’re seeing is correct. They go into the Fort Lauderdale area on this little map like Google Maps, they highlight a beach and then they say, “give me all of the devices in this area between this date and this date,” which is spring break and then they say “Fast forward in time and see where all those devices went,” right? From the standpoint of COVID, from the standpoint of like, tracking and understanding where these people have gone, these stupid freaking idiots that said that they, you know, didn’t care about getting infected with COVID, and then apologized two weeks later —

Adam Fisk
When they were sick.

Mike Oh
When they were sick, yeah. It shows the power of this data. But it also just shows this sort of amazing ability for people in this business to just whitewash and be like, “this is the best thing ever!” You know? “Look at how we can help pandemics from spreading by monitoring your privacy, your location, and all this information. It’s anonymized! Don’t worry!” You know?

Adam Fisk
The best part is the first reply which is Techtonics GEO replying to their initial tweet saying, “help us tell more start stories like this @CBSNews @ABC @CNNbrk @CNN @TechCrunch, so on, and so on, and so on.

Kelly Ford
Oh they want that exposure.

Mike Oh
Well and did you see the second one is “visualizations like this one can help drive better policy and awareness @Governer @CDC @StateMaryland at @RonDiSantis Florida.”

Kelly Ford
Oh, they’re thirsty! As the kids say.

Adam Fisk
I’m just gonna say: we told you.

Kelly Ford
We told you!

Adam Fisk
Like, in the last episode, we said that this was coming, because it already is happening. And it already has happened in China [and] in Italy — using AI to predict and sort through all these things. But now we have this extra layer of “Hey, but this already exists.” This is all just stuff that somebody decided to write some algorithm and some program to sift through.

Kelly Ford
Yeah, it is fascinating to see, but also, you know, on the surface, it’s fascinating, and you’re like, “oh God.” And the idea of — I can’t ever say this correctly — anonymization. So everyone’s kind of like “we should always put quotes around that.” Because I can’t remember what episode it was, but we had written about the idea — we should say the joke — of anonymity of data because they were able, because there were so many data points. I think there was something like Facebook has like 3000 to 5000 data points. It was the Cambridge Analytica cell. They sold all of our data points to them. And so with all these data points, you can absolutely tell who these people are. And in one episode we [talked about how] someone had been tracked, and I believe it was either Department of Defense, or what was it? A National Security adviser?And they had plotted who this person was all using anonymous data, but it was like, pretty obvious who this person is.

Mike Oh
Yeah. And I mean, look in the in the world of COVID — and I’ve gone back and forth, right? You hear these stories, and there’s gonna be so many more stories like this, of the guy in South Korea that walked into the buffet [who] had COVID-19 [and] thought “it’s fine.” You know, maybe he thought God was gonna help him, and then effectively infected 1000 people, you know, and they’ve done the contract tracing to sort of show that. And you sort of think to yourself, like, “it would be fine for that person to be shamed through lack of anonymization of this data,” but, you know, while it is sort of tempting to think that, let’s think of the other thousands of people that are exposed by this stuff. And it’s incredible to see actually that it’s being hawked in this way, as this amazing sort of new technology —

Adam Fisk
Because it’s an all-or-nothing. It’s all-or-nothing. If you want one person that goes in to, where was it? I think it was Maryland. Somebody just went into a grocery store and like, coughed and sneezed over everything. Like if you wanted to say, okay, “where else did they go? Are they actually infected? We now need to know everybody in the store.” That’s one thing. But if you turn this on, which it is on, you don’t turn it off. This is this is a switch that will not become un- switched.

Mike Oh
Yeah, I mean, and it’s on right now, clearly, in looking at that tweet and the desperation of this company, it’s on in terms of the technical side of it. But it’s not necessarily on in terms of like, the governments of different states of the US government, and different countries have sort of picked this up as being like, “let’s use this as a tool for you know, the entire state or national security, infrastructure,” all this kind of stuff. But Clearly they’re trying to push into it. And it’s just like the story that we covered however, many months ago of these private companies pushing into public schools and security and the lack of data protection around kids, well, this is exactly the same pattern, except they’re doing it with everybody and everything. And that’s just..it is very disturbing.

Kelly Ford
I thought it was interesting. One of the replies to the tweet [was] talking about how they’re hawking this information, [and] someone had pointed out that it feels very militaristic in its display. And, so speaking of Department of Defense, I thought that was kind of a fascinating point. I love going down the rabbit hole of comments, as you know.

Adam Fisk
Oh, I read the comments, and it’s bad.

Kelly Ford
[Laughs] But also fascinating points that people were making.

Mike Oh
I mean, it’s only like, you know, one step removed from the drone flying in on the map and then basically dropping bombs on the people that you know, have spread the disease. I mean…

Kelly Ford
But how cool is this?

Adam Fisk
Like from a UI point of view? It’s some slick tech. I have a grab bag of some real great tweets replying to this one person. I’m not gonna name names, because I don’t need to. “Would you kindly let us know what app slash devices you’re using to track us so we can #optout?” First reply to that: “If you’re concerned about privacy, just never leave your cave except to hunt mastodons.” Real helpful. “Wow, it must have taken a lot of work to get permission from all those people to track them electronically.” [All laugh] First response to that one: “It isn’t. Cover-Face emoji. Almost every single one of us give them permission to do it via phone service, Google, Amazon, etc. Y’all really don’t read the fine print before agreeing to terms huh? Expressionless emoji, Eyebrow Raised emoji.” So we don’t have to worry about this company making excuses or apologizing because the public will do it for them.

Mike Oh
Should we ask this company to do a visualization of the people that commented on that tweet mapped up against the people that commented on the Ars Technica article about Internet Archive, and then send the drones in, you know, for anyone who did both?

Kelly Ford
Right. And the idea — I was thinking too about and I keep going back to [old] episodes, because, golly, guys, we’ve been doing this for a while now, and things just keep circling back. So the idea of dark patterns and consent and people opting out and it’s like, you dummies. Why didn’t you just opt out? And it’s like, it’s impossible to opt out of some of these things. Right? I was kind of like, trying to do my dad there [laughs]

Mike Oh
Well, you know, I thought it was funny. You know, and for those that don’t, you know, maybe it’s your first episode listening. You’re like “Kelly’s making fun of Southern people!”

Kelly Ford
[Southern accent] Well. We got two right here.

Mike Oh
[Southern accent] We got two southerners right here, born and bred. You know, you can take the boy outta Alabama, but not the Alabama outta the boy. So, you know.

Kelly Ford
Arkansas represent! [Laughs]

Mike Oh
Adam’s just shaking his head.

Kelly Ford
I know, bless his heart. But we had discussed before this idea of dark patterns and how it’s almost impossible to opt out of some of these things. They make it difficult intentionally. And there’s this idea of ethics. And you know, similar to the “Oh, authors can just opt out of Internet Archive”, going back there. It shouldn’t be up to the consumer, or it shouldn’t be up to the author to have to opt out of these things. It should be a very visible opt out. And in plain language.

Mike Oh
But it won’t be. Because governments will find this information invaluable and COVID will give them the reason.

Adam Fisk
Well on these happy notes about how we cannot escape anything, that is the time we have for this week on The Grepcast. I want to thank you again for listening to us and we’ll be back at it again. If you want to catch up with any of the actually really interesting working-from-home articles we’ve been writing, check us out over on our website, tsp.me. And also tsp.space. You can always go and check us out over on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook as well. We’ve got options for you. In terms of plugs this week: Kelly, I pre-plugged your plug.

Kelly Ford
You did. And it is for the Boston Public Library, even though they have not purchased my e-book yet.

Adam Fisk
I’ll make a request.

Kelly Ford
Make a request, people! I have. So the Boston Public Library uses Libby which is a great app for e-books and for audiobooks. And I’ve had an e-card for a very long time, and they make it very easy to get one, especially right now. But I have been very anti-audiobook for a long time. I don’t know why. It was just a hill I died on for no reason [laughs]. But now that I’m getting a little bit bored with my one-hour workouts, I’ve started listening to Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, of Girl on the Train vein, because I’m super into those British mysteries, and it’s really good. So check it out from your own library.

Adam Fisk
And I have to again say it was so easy doing it. Kelly, you sent me the link. It was a form online. And I think within 10 minutes, Libby was downloaded on the iPad and I was scouring for the various things I’ve put off. How about you, Mike?

Mike Oh
I have two plugs. One is, which is just based on the Bird article, there’s a great link that we’ll put in the show notes for a company that went through layoffs, had to do the hard thing and did it really, really well. It’s a company called Seven Shifts and the CEO of that company, and they do a lot of stuff in the restaurant industry, actually published an open Google Doc — not open as anyone could edit, but anyone could download it — that basically walked through how they did it. And there are thoughtful ways of doing what is really a bad thing to do as a business owner. I certainly know what it’s like, so I thought that was really good. And my second plug is to go out and buy a pulse oximeter on Amazon. I was able to do that. And this is like a great you know, little device that you can put on your finger. When I was in the hospital many years ago, and I had pneumonia, it was like the thing that told people how much oxygen I had in my blood. And if you think you’re gonna have COVID and you can’t get a test, which apparently it’s pretty hard to do. You know, at the very least, you have something that you can tell a doctor or medical professional, what your oxygen levels are and, you know, hopefully get some treatment if it ends up that you need it.

Adam Fisk
Awesome. Until we talk to you again – wash your hands, and stay cool.

Mike Oh
Bye!

Kelly Ford
Bye!

Have an idea for a Grepcast episode? We’d love to hear from you! Contact the Grepcast team via email at grepcast@tsp.me.

Links and Extra Reading

My friend just got laid off along with 400 other employees by dialing into a pre-recorded Zoom message.

It Felt Like a Black Mirror Episode’ The Inside Account of How Bird Laid off 406 People in Two Minutes via a Zoom Webinar

Internet Archive offers 1.4 million copyrighted books for free online

The Pandemic Is Not an Excuse to Exploit Writers

Twitter: Want to see the true potential impact of ignoring social distancing?

Boston Public Library: Into the Water

LinkedIn: Our strategy for COVID-19 layoffs