Net Neutrality

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So, let me get this straight…network carriers in the US, like AT&T and Comcast, are NOT allowed to slow down network traffic in exchange for higher rates, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with SPEEDING UP specific connections for a fee?

How in the world could anybody not see that as the same thing? Net neutrality in the US has been up for debate in 2014 (and long before), and today is the day that the chair of the FCC is announcing the new rules for internet companies and the rest of the internet.

Internet companies have been arguing that since they made investments in broadband internet infrastructure, they should be able to charge whatever they need to in order to keep increasing connection speeds, but there is lots of data to show that this isn’t the case, and that they are basically extorting customers and services just to keep data flowing at a slower pace. This is because of limited competition for broadband internet in the US, something that also exists here in Canada. What these companies also fail to note or mention is that they are given massive amounts of cash from the government as investments in the internet framework, and the actual investment by the companies themselves isn’t so big in comparison. Add that to the fact that the FCC is composed mainly of former FCC lobbyists (people who are paid to complain about the internet rules on behalf of telecommunications corporations) and former broadband company lawyers (people who were pay to defend these huge national corporations from lawsuits and find loopholes in the system to allow them to continue extortive practises), and it’s at the point that we basically have very little say in what happens, and the FCC has no reason to change its practises, except to suit corporate interests.

You should definitely read up on this because the internet is a global thing, and so regulation (or lack thereof) in the States will affect the whole world, especially since a lot of the corporations and servers we all use and love are based in the United States.

For more on this, be sure to tune in to +Future Tech Chat this weekend (Saturday at 12:30 PM EDT), where we will be discussing today’s outcome and the future of the internet in the developed world. It’s sure to be an interesting episode!

Friends in a Digital World

I’ve been told throughout my life that I don’t have many friends. I’m certainly not one to mind being characterized in that way, but I started wondering if that is actually true, or even if there is a tiny bit of truth to a statement of that nature.

I’m sure there are lots of people in my neighbourhood, in Ottawa, in Canada, and in the world who have a fear or open dislike of personal or social interactions in one form or another. I wouldn’t say that my thoughts go that far, but I can say with almost complete assurance that I often find menial social interactions (small talk, etc.) unnecessary, to the point that I would rather say nothing in some social situations than to try to pointlessly fill time with chit-chat with anybody I have nothing in common with.

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I am much more comfortable in social interactions with only one or two other people. Perhaps this means I’m on the very low end of the autism spectrum, who knows. When I am in larger groups, I tend to stick to engaging in conversations with the people I already know than to branch out and meet new people. It doesn’t help that I know I have a bad habit of trying to pay attention to conversation and immediately forgetting people’s names as I am introduced to them. Having said that, it’s worth noting that a lot of the things I find pleasurable (obscure TV shows, a majority of pop music, web design, video production, writing, science and learning, etc.) are things that I don’t have in common with most people, and so I find it easier to keep them to myself than to bring them up in conversation or to try to get to know new people.


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In fact, a good majority of the people I encounter in my day-to-day life are what I would consider acquaintances, and are not friends by most strict definitions. I don’t really know too much about what is going on in their lives, and they don’t really know much about me outside of the time we spend together (in sports, work, leisure, etc.).

That brings me around to the main point of writing this. With social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, etc., etc., etc., what does it mean to be friends with somebody?

I have a strong feeling in my gut that when I let someones friendship request on Facebook sit “pending”, it affects my relationship with that person. Most people I talk to would see it as a slap in the face if I don’t accept their “friendship” immediately, and this is such a tightly engrained part of the human condition that there is literally a stigma associated with “un-friending” somebody on Facebook.

Personally, I don’t use Facebook’s friends list feature as a measure of my association with a person. I know plenty of people I see regularly and spend time with who I have never considered being “friends” with, and all of my current “friends” are really only grandfathered in since I started to allow people to follow my Facebook feed without actually being my friend (something Facebook allowed starting in 2012, like Google+). Since I use Facebook to post updates publicly, like Twitter (you have the choice of your audience every time you post something, like Google+) I don’t actually need the concept of “friends” on Facebook, and in fact I don’t use Facebook that way.

If not for Facebook Messenger (which will apparently start indexing the contents of your private messages now, so there’s that) I wouldn’t use Facebook at all, but I still don’t want to alienate people. I post all kinds of content on Google+, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, on this blog, and across the internet in 100s of places. If you want to see what I’m doing on the Internet, or send me a message via IM, email, video chat, anything, you are free to do so. Please don’t think that my not accepting your “friend request” on Facebook means that I don’t want to interact with you online, or that I don’t want to get to know you better. I just think there are better ways to keep my digital life and social connections organized, and you’re welcome to follow me (sending me a friend request also automatically subscribes you to what I post on Facebook), and if you have followers enabled (from the link) maybe I’ll follow you back. Send me a message on Hangouts at +Rob Attrell.

If we’re friends in real life, that can be enough. We don’t need to prove it on Facebook.

I have more to say on real life vs. digital friendships, but I’ll save it for another day.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out the latest video on my new YouTube Channel, +Attrell Update! Hope you like it!

We Are The Future

I have written before on the idea that we can all learn very important life lessons from our parents, and how it is important to let our elders influence and shape our relationships and understanding of the world. I made the argument here that there is no real need to take what our role models say or do to be the right thing on faith alone, but that their teachings should be adapted to fit our own experiences and the changing world we live in. Just because something has been done unquestioningly for a period of time doesn’t mean that it is the be all and end all, de facto way of doing something. As is often the case, the so called “old ways” tend to be upheld by conservative thinkers, simply because it is the way they have always known.

The particular reason I decided to write this piece came when I was watching the episode of the Office in Season 6 when Pam and Jim are getting married. This is one of my favourite episodes, and the montage with the cast dancing down the aisle to “Forever” cut with Jim and Pam electing to be privately married in the spray of Niagara Falls by the ship captain should have won awards for its tear-jerking quality. Anyhow, this part of the episode is not what caught my attention. I should point out, before I get too much further, that I have watched this episode at least 7-8 times since it aired 3 years ago. However, it was not until this most recent viewing that I actually picked up on how strange the particular scene I will describe unfolds. I think the reason for this might just be the point I’m at right now in my life, where these are things I think about on a day to day basis. It is certainly possible that this scene is actually only strange to me, in that I have never experienced anything like it in my life, and I hope that when I die I can say that I will have never experienced it.

A major plot point in the beginning of the episode is that Pam’s grandmother (henceforth referred to as Mema) is to be kept unaware of the fact that Pam and Jim are living together premaritally, and that Pam is in fact several months pregnant (the main reason the wedding is taking place when it is, though they are soul-mates and could get married in a sewer, or on Mars and things would still work out). The members of the Office are told that Mema is very old-fashioned, and that for that reason, she is being kept in the dark, because she would surely disapprove.

Of course, later in the episode it comes out during a toast that Pam is pregnant (strongly implying that she has engaged in premarital intercourse) and has been living with Jim for a period of several months. Mema decides that in light of this news, she is not going to attend the wedding, a source of panic in the episode. At this point in the story, Michael (Steve Carell) attempts to quell her emotions and convince her that its really not that big a deal. In the end, though it is never mentioned after this conversation, she is later seen at the ceremony. I expect that this scenario is not exactly how it would play out in reality, but for the sake of television they are forced to simplify the issue, as well as try to make it funny.

I have personally never met anybody who I would see as reacting this way to the lifestyle and habits of a family member, or anybody else, but as I understand there are many groups of people who would behave in a very similar manner, though would probably argue more vehemently and with much more conviction than this television scenario would have you believe.

Now, I don’t think this is necessarily a religious argument, but I can see it breaking down into one. Personally, I know many people who have no apparent problem with living together without being married. This can be said of people who make religion a big part of their lives, just as much as it can for people who are actively non-religious, so in my mind it really comes down to morality, which is guided by religion but doesn’t necessarily strictly follow it. I should point out for completeness that I personally have no issue whatsoever with people who wish to live together before getting married, or even who wish to live with a significant other even if there are no immediate plans to marry that person. I see it as a matter of convenience, both in terms of being able to spend time with that person, and in terms of sharing living costs. It stands to reason that two people who wish to spend such a large amount of personal time and space with another person would want to at least make sure they were doing it with someone compatible before making it “permanent”.

Now, on to the pressing issue of how this relates back to me. I have not actually discussed the issue of cohabitation before or after marriage with my parents or any other family members, but I would be keen to get their views on this issue. I don’t really see any members of my family (living or deceased) having any moral issue with my living with a significant other premaritally. Frankly, if they did have a problem with it (strictly on moral grounds of course, if the person in question is terrible, or a drug dealer, or a delinquent they should certainly be voicing their concerns) I expect that I would actually have a problem with them feeling that way. For example, if I was in the same situation as Jim or Pam, and found out that one of my family members wasn’t attending my wedding on this grounds, I don’t think it would bother me in the slightest. I think I would be disconcerted that someone who I know and love felt this way, and chose to protest my life by boycotting part or all of it. I would be glad to be an agent of change towards open-mindedness in a world of staunchly opposed views.

We are told that children are the future, and I think that still applies no matter how old you are. It is up to the newest generation to be open to the personal choices of people around them. It is akin in modern society to a family disowning a member of it because of their sexual orientation. It isn’t right, and nobody should have to justify their choices to anybody, much less the people they are closest to, just because traditionally it was frowned upon.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that people should be allowed to make decisions that are in their best interest, and the least of their worries should be morality police telling them that they are morally bankrupt for trying to be happy. I am just glad that the people I choose to associate myself with all seem to follow this policy.

Edit: This is a real site: http://www.halpertbeesly.com/