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Lindsey Kuper

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ha ha only serious [Jul. 27th, 2010|12:12 am]
Lindsey Kuper

07/17/2010: Gabriella Coleman and Finn Brunton at HOPE

The weekend before last, I went to some of The Next HOPE while in New York to see Alex oniugnip and friends.

Hanging around at HOPE was fascinating. It made me think a lot about all of the meanings of "hacker", and about how this hacker culture makes a point of distinguishing itself from that one. If anything, I've always identified more with the former, but one thing I appreciated about the latter at HOPE was the importance of humor. Throughout the weekend, I noticed humor smoothing rough social interactions and making difficult things easier to learn. I noticed that, other things being equal, people at HOPE valued doing whatever would be the most hilarious. Humor is something I care a lot about, something I try hard for in the things I make, and it seems to me that my side of hacker culture could stand to value it a little more. ESR's how-to-become-a-hacker manual doesn't explicitly mention humor, not even in the "style points" section. Maybe it should.

07/17/2010: chrisamafriends

Not all of HOPE was great. There were parts of it that I didn't care for, like the fact that the much-hyped "Social Engineering" panel seemed to me to be little more than a bunch of middle-aged guys making prank calls, with an audience to mindlessly egg them on. And although I wasn't there, I hear from Chris chrisamaphone that the Lisp talk was pretty bad; she said that the guy couldn't run a single line of code.1 Still, there seemed to be cool stuff going on the whole time we were there. For instance, I saw a talk about circuit bending which I liked a lot, despite not being able to understand most of it.2 But the best part of the weekend was getting to meet and spend time with many, many awesome people who all turned out to be a degree or two from people I already knew. We would see some stranger wearing a yak.net shirt, and moments later, Strick would appear. Or two people would be having a conversation and I would gradually become aware that they were talking about this. Or Alex would introduce me to some people and then one of them would turn out to know Wren winterkoninkje. (In fact, all during the conference I kept thinking I was seeing Wren in my peripheral vision, but it would actually turn out to be one of several dozen people who simply dress like Wren.)

I have my HOPE badge stuffed in my sock drawer, now, because its red LED is still gaily blinking away -- joined occasionally by a green one -- and there's not really any other place I can put it in this apartment where it won't keep me awake at night. Of course, I could probably touch a piece of conductive material to a couple of pins and make it so that it will never blink again -- but I don't want to.

  1. I wish I could understand why a large group of people -- now probably including everyone who saw the goddamn talk -- seem hell-bent on propagating the idea that Lisp is not actual runnable code. Because, you know, programs can't run unless they've had Magic Executable Dust sprinkled on them, which manifests itself in ASCII as curly braces and semicolons.
  2. I eventually realized that the speaker was using "cap" and "pot" as respective abbreviations of capacitor and potentiometer, which felt good to figure out, but only aided my actual understanding of the talk insofar as I understand what capacitors and potentiometers are, which is to say not at all.

[User Picture]From: underwhelm
2010-07-27 12:03 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-08-01 12:36 am (UTC)
Augh! That link is going to die or disallow hotlinking and then my journal will be blemished forever! Curse you!

Ahem. Yes. The best HOPE talk I went to, which is pictured above, was about what happened when making fun of Scientologists on the Internet solely for the lulz shifted over into something resembling a serious protest movement.

(And here's another, in case the link dies.)

Edited at 2017-01-03 01:53 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: jennekirby
2010-07-27 01:00 pm (UTC)
Whenever I go places where I am surrounded by my kind of people/people who look inexplicably familiar (most recently a They Might Be Giants concert), Wren is actually the person I keep thinking I see out of the corner of my eye. Maybe Wren is secretly actually everywhere?
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-07-28 12:18 am (UTC)
I sometimes wonder how Wren came to be independently doing research projects with both Alex and me, despite the fact that Alex and I study rather different things and despite the fact that Wren is in a completely different degree program. Maybe it's just that he's secretly doing a research project with everyone.
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[User Picture]From: keystricken
2010-07-27 02:44 pm (UTC)
Yes! And sometimes you get very pretty patterns in acrylic blocks! And sometimes you get acid in your eyes.
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[User Picture]From: keystricken
2010-07-27 06:31 pm (UTC)
Potentiometers are just a kind of resistor with a variable strength. Resistors impede the flow of current in a circuit and help you to not fry your other components. For example, if I wanted to add a glowing button to my doomsday device, I would have to put a huge resistor between the LED and the power source because otherwise the tiny LED would burn out instantly. And if your button doesn't glow, it's just not the same.

Giving the resistor a variable strength, as in a potentiometer, makes it possible to vary the amount of current that passes to another object. Some applications include: color-changing LEDs, nifty touch sensors, theramins (SEE: nifty touch sensors), other electronic music, and shifting the Annihilator 2010 from "decaf" into "dolphin mode".
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-07-29 12:02 am (UTC)
So what you need to do is go to HOPE in two years when it happens again.
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[User Picture]From: keystricken
2010-07-29 01:00 am (UTC)

Christ, I should probably look up and remember what your entire freaking post is about before shambling over to Google and typing "hope nyc" and "what does she mean" and "help help I can't find my ass" like I just did.

I am the dumbs.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-07-29 04:21 am (UTC)
You aren't the dumbs! But I am amused that, you know, I try to say something along the lines of "Humor in hacker culture: discuss!" and because of one little footnote, y'all interpret it as "Explain potentiometers to me!"
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[User Picture]From: keystricken
2010-07-29 04:42 am (UTC)
It was low-hanging fruit, I admit it. I don't spend a lot of time among other electronics hackers, so most of the humor I absorb is in the details of their projects. Take this bicycling machine, for example: it's a collection of gears and metal sheets, but it still has a helmet. It's setting a good example! And the robotic bartender from the Evil Mad Scientist lab: it's made with breast pumps, so it dispenses White Russians. It's these little things which seem to infuse the whole project with joy, and I can just imagine them cackling to themselves in their garage labs. It's what I would do.
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[User Picture]From: jonatthebar
2010-07-31 03:54 am (UTC)

I like this

"Humor is something I care a lot about, something I try hard for in the things I make."

Good stuff. I should be thinking about this more, too.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2010-08-01 12:14 am (UTC)

Re: I like this

Wait, so all this time you haven't been trying to be funny?

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