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Jordan Peacock
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resharing from +Daniel Estrada

Like Daniel, I don't use twitter but my handle there is the most reliable way to 'find' me (@hewhocutsdown).

Facebook is terrible but people are there, so I've been sucking it up; most of my posts are public though, except for the stuff I post in specific groups. I'm at https://www.facebook.com/hewhocutsdown

The dealbreaker for me with Google+, ultimately, was the decision to do away with the "search your own posts". Google+ still has features that beat out the competition, but it's been so mismanaged as to erode any trust we once might have had.

I've exported all my posts from here, and at some point plan on establishing some sort of personal archive, but until then they're just sitting dormant on my hard drive.

I'm incredibly grateful for all the folks I've met through here; fantastic people and lifelong friends. But almost none of them are still here, and for similar reasons.
Losing My Patience with Google+

Over the last six months or so I have watched as the quality of engagement here on Google+ has steadily declined. I have watched my follower count fluctuate and flatline. I have watched as people I used to engage with quite a bit here have left or dramatically scaled back their investments of time here. And yes, I have seen my own enthusiasm for investing time here wane significantly.

I ask myself why and the answers are never as simple as I would like. In the end though, I have come to the sad conclusion that the real thing that is killing Google+ is just plain bad management.

Lack of Attention
One gets the real sense that many of the people now charged with running Google+ don't really understand what it was that once made this service so good in its early days. Indeed, one gets the sense that few of the people managing the service today even really use Google+. There are a few noteworthy exceptions like +Yonatan Zunger and +Leo Deegan, of course. I once made a circle with some 50+ Googlers who were once active here, and when I click on that stream, well, it feels a lot like a ghost town.

+Bradley Horowitz, the VP in charge of Streams, Photos and Sharing, (which is where Google+ sits within the Google org structure) hasn't posted here on Google+ in half a year.

Oh, and remember +Luke Wroblewski, who used to manage Google+ and would send out all those updates on the redesign? Well, he hasn't posted a single thing here in over 7 weeks (even though @lukew is quite active on Twitter). You know why? I just happened to check his LinkedIn profile, and he's apparently no longer managing Google+. I don't recall seeing any announcement of this change - just a sudden silence from the man perhaps most responsible for the UI makeover of Google+.

Rudderless and Un-resourced
That decision to remake the Google+ UI followed a long string of decisions going back to the separation of Photos and Hangouts, each of which have seriously hurt the service. I know there were probably some good reasons to move to the new, mobile-dominant (as opposed to "mobile-friendly") UI, but the lack of enduser empathy from deprecating all the old functionality really was pretty staggering. Much of it hasn't come back, and much of what has is so stripped down (e.g. Events, community moderation) that it isn't really that usable.

As users, we have been asked to be patient and to have faith in the new strategy. Because I have been such a huge fan of Google+ for so long, that is exactly what I have done. I've been patient. I've believed. Believed that some big, cool fix was coming down the pike that would not only fix all the problems caused by the UI decision, but actually start innovating again with some cool new functionality.

Yes, we got Collections, and they actually are quite useful even if they do need a lot of work still. But that's really about it. It's been a couple years now and the silence is stultifying.

And finally, it hit me:

Maybe this is it. Maybe Google has significantly curtailed its investments in this network. Maybe the management squandered the scarce resources it did have on a redesign that users weren't really even asking for. And maybe, just maybe, what we see right now is pretty much what we're going to get.

User Investments
And this is where I start to get really mad. Like many others here, I have invested a lot of personal time and energy building a following here. Like many of you, I have poured heart and soul into filling this place not just with great content, but also with a sense of community. I could have made those investments in Twitter or Facebook or reddit, but like many of you, I made them here. And now I'm starting to wonder how smart of a decision that was.

All of this is particularly raw right now because I'm starting to play around a bit with the new distributed social network called Mastodon (https://mastodon.technology/@gideonro). It's far from perfect, but one thing that is very different is that it is open source and federated, rather than centrally owned and controlled.

There are lots of implications to this different model. For one, there is lots of competition and innovation in the works because Mastodon sits on top of GNU Social and rests within a "Fediverse" of related, and interoperable, social network platforms. They are working on solutions that make it easy to export your content from one platform to another - to prevent lock-in. Also, there is a lot of visibility on exactly what investments are being made in the platform by various contributors.

More importantly though, there is a very conscious understanding that the value of these networks is only partially the result of the software developers behind these solutions. Just as much of it lies with the end users.

In the end, this is the thing that I am most frustrated about right now with Google+. End users have made this place every bit as much as the coders and product planners behind Google+. This isn't to in any way diminish the importance of those contributions. But what I do find frustrating is the way that Google seems to regularly dismiss the importance, and the real economic and social value, of end user contributions. This was true with Google Reader, and sadly it appears to be true with Google+.

I'm still rooting for Google+ to turn things around, of course. I have a huge soft spot for this place, given all the great learning I've done here with my fellow travelers. But one thing is clear: I'm losing my patience, and I don't think I'm alone.
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In varying degrees of progress...

Big step is that I'm now driving enough to justify audiobooks; working through The Name of the Wind (paused The Making of the Atomic Bomb, but both audiobooks are fantastic thus far).

Reading aloud Thinking the Twentieth Century with the girlfriend; we get about 10 pages of progress per session, so that one will bleed into 2017 for sure.

Voltaire's Bastards and The Use of Bodies are books where you read each chapter thrice.
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Currently reading. Also starting Pattern Recognition by William Gibson this weekend as part of a reading group.
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Icelandic inheritance law
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I may have bitten off more than I can chew.
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Some updates.

First of all, because I'm a huge philosophy geek, I excitedly preordered these two books that I've been watching the progress of for literally years:

An English translation of Simondon's 'On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects':
http://www.univocalpublishing.com/univocal-books/on-the-mode-of-existence-of-technical-objects

and Adam Kotsko's treatise on the devil, 'The Prince of This World':
https://itself.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/the-prince-of-this-world-is-available-for-pre-order/

The other thing was recognizing how I tend to find books, novels in particular, at all. My wife was asking me was led to the novels currently on my stack (Jo Walton's The Just City, Alvaro Enrigue's Sudden Death and Maureen F. McHugh's China Mountain Zhang).

The answer was telling: Walton was via the Crooked Timber group blog, they have been doing a symposium on it. Past symposiums have covered non-fiction such as Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years and novels such as Stross' bibliography and Spufford's Red Plenty. I've read Among Others by Walton, which was pretty good (although not the 6/5 stars I was hearing from other people), but the conceit of a novel in which Athena pulls Sokrates, Boethius, Proclus, Plotinus, etc. into pre-cataclysm Atlantis to build Plato's republic was pure Jordan-candy. And I just finished vol. 2 of A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps which focused substantially on these Neoplatonists. So, there's that.

Enrigue I'd never heard of, but Warren Ellis reviewed Sudden Death in his newsletter as follows:

"SUDDEN DEATH by Alvaro Enrigue is fucking superb. The translator, Natasha Wimmer, produces a sensitive and nimble translation of what must have been a murderous enterprise. Enrigue frames the end of the Renaissance and the conquest of Mexico in... a tennis game. He achieves that marvellous thing of connecting all the moving parts of the transition of an age in a single bloody tennis game and all the threads that come off it. Very few people can pull this particular stunt off properly, and we have to add Enrigue to that short list. And Enrigue doesn't give a fuck - he sticks emails in there, stops dead to address the audience like a writer/presenter of rhetorical television, even discussing and explaining the mechanics of the book itself. It's big, audacious, smart, funny, learned, gory, occasionally lit with anger, and he spins it all together into a swirling fugue of a crescendo. I burned through it in three nights. One of the essential reads of the year, I think."

Finally, China Moutain Zhang came up not once, but three times, once with the high praise of "my favourite science fiction novel of all time" at the local science fiction convention I attended last month. Having not heard of it before, I was immediately intrigued... more so the more I learned of it.

So short answer: find people with excellent taste. Poach from them.

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Computing the uncomputable

Last month the logician +Joel David Hamkins proved a surprising result: you can compute uncomputable functions!  

Of course there's a catch, but it's still interesting.

Alan Turing showed that a simple kind of computer, now called a Turing machine, can calculate a lot of functions.  In fact we believe Turing machines can calculate anything you can calculate with any fancier sort of computer.  So we say a function is computable if you can calculate it with some Turing machine.

Some functions are computable, others aren't.  That's a fundamental fact.

But there's a loophole.

We think we know what the natural numbers are:

0, 1, 2, 3, ...

and how to add and multiply them.  We know a bunch of axioms that describe this sort of arithmetic: the Peano axioms.  But these axioms don't completely capture our intuitions!  There are facts about natural numbers that most mathematicians would agree are true, but can't be proved from the Peano axioms.

Besides the natural numbers you think you know - but do you really? - there are lots of other models of arithmetic.  They all obey the Peano axioms, but they're different.  Whenever there's a question you can't settle using the Peano axioms, it's true in some model of arithmetic and false in some other model.

There's no way to decide which model of arithmetic is the right one - the so-called "standard" natural numbers.   

Hamkins showed there's a Turing machine that does something amazing.  It can compute any function from the natural numbers to the natural numbers, depending on which model of arithmetic we use. 

In particular, it can compute the uncomputable... but only in some weird "alternative universe" where the natural numbers aren't what we think they are. 

These other universes have "nonstandard" natural numbers that are bigger than the ones you understand.   A Turing machine can compute an uncomputable function... but it takes a nonstandard number of steps to do so.

So: computing the computable takes a "standard" number of steps.   Computing the uncomputable takes a little longer.

This is not a practical result.  But it shows how strange simple things like logic and the natural numbers really are.

For a better explanation, read my blog post:

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/computing-the-uncomputable/

And for the actual proof, go on from there to the blog article by +Joel David Hamkins.
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