Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

02 Sep 2022, 15:10 p.m.

A Few Thoughts From Elsewhere

I thought y'all might enjoy a few things I said recently on MetaFilter.

About daily web puzzles:

I realized the other day that -- as the chronological history game Wikitrivia does -- a lot of puzzle/trivia games could reuse Wikidata structured data. Like:
Guess this person who has, at some point, been in line for the throne for a particular monarchy. If you guess wrong, you get a hint about how far you are from them in the genealogical tree, and in what direction.
Guess the extraterrestrial object. As with Globle, wrong guesses get you a hint about how far away you are from the target and how much bigger or smaller the target is compared to what you guessed. This approach could also work for "Guess the anatomical part of the human body"!...
Globle and Tradle are my preferred geography games. Globle shows me where the countries I've already guessed sit on the globe and this makes it easier for me to guess the target country. But there's no limit on the number of guesses which can definitely lead to the game taking longer than the six-guess-limit games do!
Every day when my household finishes Tradle and Globle, we usually look up the target countries. I have learned a lot about world geography in the last few months! And Redactle is also drip-feeding me some general knowledge about meteorology, history, and a bunch of other topics.

And relatedly, in a post about a celebration of roast potatoes that was instrumental in kicking off an ad hoc MetaFilter fad (people made a lot of silly front page posts about potatoes):

...the other day Slovenia was the mystery country in Globle or Tradle, so my spouse and I looked at info about it including the Cuisine section of the Slovenia page on English Wikipedia, and that's how I found out about the roasted potato festival, and I meant to make a MetaFilter post about it at some point soon, and then today I saw there was a front page post about a potato thing and decided to make this post!
Also I love eating potatoes.

About engaging volunteers:

Different volunteers have different motivations. Some are there to advance the goals of the movement. Some primarily want to socialize and have fun -- to hang out with existing friends, or to make new ones. Some are inherently interested in the specific tasks they could do (like hobbyist woodworkers who are happy to have a reason to do it). Some aim to do community service as a résumé item. Some have their own idea of what everyone else ought to be doing and see an opportunity to sway everybody to their agenda. And some people crave the experience of being part of a high-functioning team -- something they're not getting at home, school, or work -- and find it in a volunteer effort.
The faster you can learn to assess why a volunteer has turned up, the better you can tune your task suggestions, structure different communication/meeting invitations, etc.

About the end of the Choco Taco:

...a few years ago I was looking up my state's driving regulations and found out that they have a set of regulations for ice cream trucks, more formally something like "the sale of frozen desserts from vehicles" or something like that. And one of the rules is that sales can only happen while the vehicle is safely stopped. I know that this is meant to say, like, you can't stop and block an intersection while selling the ice cream. But I'm imagining someone delivering Choco Tacos by flinging them out the window onto porches, paperboy-style, and yelling "Venmo meeeeeee" as they pass.

About friendships across age gaps:

Just in the past few days I caught up with a few friends of mine who are 20+ years older than I am. We enjoy some of the same stuff, and they have great stories. I also have friends who are about 10-15 years older than me, who are my own age, and who are 5-15 years younger than me.
I make a bit of an effort to have friends who are in different industries than my own, to keep from being in a bit of a bubble -- hearing the same news, considering the same things important, etc. Having friends in different life stages is nice for that reason, and because we can care for each other in different ways. My friends who are older than me have been really excellent at immediately offering hospitality and concrete support (food, "here's what you do next" instruction) in moments when I've been in shock, and sharing life experience on matters big and small. And I have been able to accompany them to doctor visits and act as a witness/notetaker, gently say "we don't say that anymore" and explain when they accidentally use offensive language, and help troubleshoot tech issues. Caring and being cared for in this way has helped me reflect on how my parents and I have taken care of each other, including situations where someone's missed the mark.

About questions to ask your elders, to learn about their life experiences:

When did you get your first bank account? Why did you get it? How did they treat you?
When did you first realize that you were [ethnicity, gender, caste, nationality]?
When did you first realize that there are other countries, other than the one where you lived?
What color clothes did you wear when you were young? Did you get to choose the color?
When was the first time you got your own money to spend? What did you spend it on?
When was the first time you got to decide what to eat for a meal or a snack or a treat? Was it a special occasion? What did you choose?
How long did it take you to walk/ride/etc. to school each day when you were young? What did you see along the way? Did you go alone or with others?
Back when it was a lot harder to make long-distance phone calls, how did you stay in touch with distant family? Did you ever send a telegram?
Did your family subscribe to a newspaper? Did you read parts of it?
Did your family have a radio? What did they listen to?
When was the first time you got to go to a movie without your parents? What was it?

About choosing an email provider:

I use Fastmail for my email and calendar; here is a referrer link that saves you 10% off your first year. Very solid, has a mobile app and a web version but also integrates with my desktop email application, has good personal customer support when I need it. I use Fastmail as the email platform with my own domain name and it works completely fine; I believe I was able to do everything with a minimum of fuss based on their documentation. Fastmail also includes cloud files storage and notes storage. And the company contributes to the new JMAP email standard, which I like particularly as it implies they're going to continue to build new JMAP-based features in the future instead of forking off into their own world the way Hey did/does.
Fastmail does not currently integrate with Calendly, in case that is a disadvantage for you.

About Slack and similar group chat platforms:

Here's how one instructor recommends using Slack or a similar tool in remote classrooms, in case that perspective is helpful to the original asker or to anyone else here.
Like you, soylent00FF00, I also think poorly of misguided and often accidental "always on" expectations that creep into a team or organization that starts using a Slack-like tool. But these expectations are mitigatable by good leadership. Managers can set norms about expected responsiveness times.
I strongly prefer Zulip (disclaimer: I did some work for them) to Slack, partly because the software is open source and I trust the company isn't going to get sold and start doing awful things to my experience and with my data, but also because it's much easier in Zulip to modify what I get notified about and what I don't, and to leave a conversation for a few days in the secure knowledge that I can catch up later just as I would with email.

And, about whether other people are being patronizing/condescending:

People get things wrong about other people all the time, and if we are defaulting to being kind and supportive and nurturing, then we'll get things wrong by over-explaining, over-sympathizing, and so on, especially if in general we think we are giving you reassurance and support that you need or want. So here are some thoughts in case they help you deal with other people's clumsiness.
Your question leads me to try to define what it means to patronize -- I would usually use the phrase "condescend to". To me, it's condescending if someone who knows or ought to know that I am capable/knowledgable regarding something, or who ought not assume that I am incapable/ignorant, treats me as though I am incapable/ignorant, or is perceptibly surprised when I am capable/knowledgeable. So, for instance, given that I am an expert in my particular field of open source software, if someone was talking with me and already knew that I'm experienced in this field, it would be condescending for them to suggest that I take an introductory class in contributing to open source. Depending on their tone and phrasing, it might be condescending for them to directly ask whether I have a particular skill, so it might be incumbent upon them to either avoid making an assumption and proceed regardless, or to find a courteous and inclusive way to inquire -- one that neither insults me through condescension, nor overwhelms/intimidates me if it turns out I don't have that skill. And condescending to someone is an insult, and insults are worse when they're in front of other people, especially people in whose perception I wish to have status.
Does that kind of definition work for you and cover the kinds of interactions that are bothering you? Or is there something else bothering you here?
I think it might help you to try to think systematically about instances when you had an interaction in which you felt patronized, and then think deeper about what bothered you. And consider how the other person could have acted in a way that would have felt more respectful to you, given what they knew, should have known, or should/should not have assumed about you.
I think it might also help you to get concrete about what "basic" and "shocked" mean in "People are often shocked when I know basic things" -- it could be that you're misunderstanding how skilled and knowledgable you are relative to local averages, and it could be that you're reading a mild "oh I need to update what I'm saying per the Gricean maxim of quantity" course correction as shock. Or you could be right and your local environment has people who make a lot of poor assumptions and don't seem to learn to stop doing so!