Before diving into more tech related stuff, let’s charge head on into a minefield. I hear it can be refreshing. I promise thing turn lighter as you go further down this week’s Reading List.

Postcard From Peru: Why the Morality Plays Inside The Times Won’t Stop

But the complaints didn’t fall on deaf ears at The Times for a reason that also hasn’t come through clearly in the coverage — because they rang true. Mr. McNeil is known as a difficult character at the paper, a detail that is both irrelevant to the big ideological questions and important to understanding what had happened. A kind of Times-made man who was married for a time to a third-generation Times woman, he started at the newspaper in 1976. He had risen through the ranks from copy boy to become a night rewrite man, a theater columnist and a correspondent in Paris.

McNeil was effectively forced to resign his position at The New York Times and one can argue that management may have had numerous opportunities to fire McNeil. The Peru incident might have been a straw that broke the camel’s back or just the perfect opportunity to do away with a competent but also difficult, maybe even disagreeable (I wouldn’t really know) colleague. In any case, it is what it is and you should read the article in its totality. It’s great food for thought. In any case, this lead to something else. And keep in mind that this column was published in the The New York Times even, not elsewhere.

Read the column the New York Times didn’t want you to see

Namely this. This is a column that used McNeil’s handling by management as a demonstration of what PR or political zealousness (Personally, I’d say zealousness in general) can bring about if if we let it.

He says of intent:

Every serious moral philosophy, every decent legal system and every ethical organization cares deeply about intention.

It is the difference between murder and manslaughter. It is an aggravating or extenuating factor in judicial settings. It is a cardinal consideration in pardons (or at least it was until Donald Trump got in on the act). It’s an elementary aspect of parenting, friendship, courtship and marriage.

Which is a prelude to his highlighting the paper’s official stance:

“We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” they wrote on Friday afternoon. They added to this unambiguous judgment that the paper would “work with urgency to create clearer guidelines and enforcement about conduct in the workplace, including red-line issues on racist language.”

Then he makes the connection, just to be clear:

This is not a column about the particulars of McNeil’s case. Nor is it an argument that the racial slur in question doesn’t have a uniquely ugly history and an extraordinary capacity to wound.

This is an argument about three words: “Regardless of intent.” Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously.

Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.

I think it takes a very special brand of self-righteousness to ever say, or even pretend, that there’s never reason to take intent into account. I can do bad reporting if I’m a bad reporter. I can also do disingenuous reporting hoping to get famous if that’s what I’m after. In the first case, I’m just bad at my job. In the latter though? Intent can brand me a criminal.

Can anyone moderate podcasts?

I won’t even quote anything here. It’s amazing to me that anyone tries to spark a conversation about moderating podcasts, even more amazing that there are parts in this article that show why that doesn’t make any sense to begin with. But what really gets me is how the law isn’t even a part of such a conversation.

How on earth can you have someone on a podcast calling for the decapitation of anyone else and your first thought isn’t that this is illegal be default and can be prosecuted but obsess over whether a private company could moderate podcasts?

Public discourse on moderating everything remotely tech-related is going more and more bonkers as I see it. The law people. Remember the damn law. How hard can it be?

Stadia Leadership Praised Development Studios For ‘Great Progress’ Just One Week Before Laying Them All Off

In his Thursday Q&A with staff, he pointed specifically to Microsoft’s buying spree and planned acquisition of Bethesda Software later this year as one of the factors that had made Google decide to close the book on original game development. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is a nearly trillion-dollar company and roughly on par with Microsoft when it comes to revenue and profit, according to a 2020 survey by Forbes.

Elsewhere during the Q&A, Harrison seemed to suggest that the ongoing pandemic was partly to blame, according to one source. Covid-19’s effects have been devastating, including nearly half a million deaths in the US alone. But it’s also led many to find relief in gaming as they social distance and boosted the bottom lines of many big gaming companies as a result.

When you haven’t even tried to give any of your studios the time needed for a AAA game production, it’s not the pandemic. It’s you. And when you worry this much over Bethesda’s acquisition, even though Microsoft has publicly stated that Bethesda games won’t become platform exclusive going forward, again, it’s not about Bethesda, it’s about you.

And don’t get me started on the gall it takes to knowingly lie to staff about how things are progressing nicely, mere days before closing shop.

Exclusive: Majority polled believe social media radicalizes people

By the numbers: In an online poll of 1000 registered voters taken Jan. 28-31, 44% of respondents strongly agreed and 41% somewhat agreed with the statement that social media has played a role in radicalizing people.

Whether you agree with the specifics etc. is irrelevant. I urge you to look at this poll keeping in mind a couple of things.

  1. The US is more wary than most when it comes to any call for more federal regulation.
  2. Right or wrong, this perception can’t be ignored by tech companies, nor can it be wished away.

Terraria developer cancels Google Stadia port after YouTube account ban

Spinks says his entire Google account has been down for three weeks now, and Google has “done nothing but given me the runaround.” You can view the quality of Google’s support on Twitter for yourself. After the tweet from the official Terrarria account, YouTube support declined Re-logic’s request to try to solve the problem privately, choosing instead to publicly offer irrelevant suggestions to the game developer with over 30 million customers. First, YouTube asked if Re-Logic could access its banned email account, which the developer already explained was banned. Then, YouTube suggested trying Google’s account recovery system, which is only for users who have forgotten their Google password. Finally, YouTube shared instructions for how to recover a voluntarily deleted Google account, which is in no way relevant to an account ban.

Quality human support, right there. And this is technically a win as getting human support isn’t exactly the norm with modern tech companies.

Google uses a single account system across nearly all of its products. On one hand, this makes it easy for users of one Google service to try other Google services, but it also leads to ridiculously disproportionate punishments if a user gets hit with an account ban. A YouTube copyright claim, Google Pay transaction dispute, or TOS violation can lead to your entire online life being taken down. If you’re all in on the Google ecosystem, a Google account ban means you lose access to your entire email account; all the pictures you’ve ever taken; your cell phone service; your ability to communicate with friends and family; all your 2FA accounts; anything that uses Google OAuth; your app development business; your YouTube business and all your followers; your purchased apps, games, movies, music, and books; and all your contacts, documents, bookmarks, and notes.

And remember. If that happens by mistake, chances are you’ll only ever “speak” to a bot. How does that rub you?

Nevada bill would allow tech companies to create governments

The zones would permit companies with large areas of land to form governments carrying the same authority as counties, including the ability to impose taxes, form school districts and courts and provide government services.

Then again, there are some truly daft lawmakers out there. Still, they’re technically more accountable than a multi-national company.

Citibank just got a $500 million lesson in the importance of UI design

The subcontractor thought that checking the “principal” checkbox and entering the number of a Citibank wash account would ensure that the principal payment would stay at Citibank. He was wrong. To prevent payment of the principal, the subcontractor actually needed to set the “front” and “fund” fields to the wash account as well as “principal.” The subcontractor didn’t do that.

Citibank’s procedures require that three people sign off on a transaction of this size. In this case, that was the subcontractor, a colleague of his in India, and a senior Citibank official in Delaware. All three believed that setting the “principal” field to an internal wash account number would prevent payment of the principal. As he approved the transaction, the Delaware supervisor wrote: “looks good, please proceed. Principal is going to wash.”

If you ‘ve ever heard anyone whine over dark pattern design on the web and in apps and thought it was all crazy nerd talk, tell that to Citibank. The UI in questions wasn’t event trying to be deceptive. It’s just that bad. Imagine what one can do with intent. Remember intent from the start of this Reading List?

It took a year, but Gwyneth Paltrow figured out how to exploit the pandemic

To keep trekking, she endorses a $220 pair of hiking shoes, a $145 hiking tank top, and an $8,600 gold necklace. [Yes, you read that correctly.] Apparently, Paltrow has a thing for wearing necklaces, often several at once. “But for a hike, just this [$8,600] one is perfect,” she writes.

Perfect gold necklace for a hike. I won’t even try here.