Facebook needs to stop using empty user agents FFS

facebook-downvoteThis is an open letter to Facebook because their feedback system is very limited (no room for detail) and I’d rather have a public place I can link to with full details. If you work for Facebook, please tell me who I can talk to that has the power to change infrastructure details like this. If you don’t work for Facebook but know a good place I can share this important information, please point me in the right direction.

EDIT 2018-02: Somehow this bug persists! Despite multiple attempts by Facebook to fix it, multiple sysadmins are still experiencing the problem of FB bots visiting with no user agent. Even worse, it seems that same bot has a new bug in it, where it sends dozens/hundreds of visits in a short period, effectively generating a DDOS attack with no UA accountability! Obviously this is totally unacceptable, and it’s time for Facebook to do whatever it takes to fix this bug. You can read my most recent ticket on the “Facebook for Developers: Support” bug tracker  (and leave a comment saying how you believe this needs to be fixed) here: Facebook HTTP media fetcher has no User Agent

EDIT 2017-08: In the end I DID find the correct place to post a technical bug to Facebook, and created a ticket about this problem with the empty user agents. I got a decent reply from them where they accepted that the problem is real and stated their intention to fix it in February 2017. As of August 2017, they claim to have fixed the problem, but unfortunately I was able to find more examples of the problem in my logs after they closed the ticket as fixed. Hopefully it will start working soon, and I’ll update this again. Below is the original post, which assumes the problem persists.

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Say “Romantic Companion” instead of Boyfriend or Girlfriend

TL;DR: Avoid the words “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” because they are inherently gendered and exclude many people’s reality. “Romantic Companion” is a good alternative that works across gender and relationship types. 

In love - Dublin, Ireland - Black and white street photography

Since I got hints of gender theory at university it’s bothered me that there are no great gender-neutral words to describe casual or semi-committed relationships. I wanted to quickly describe my “girlfriend” in relation to myself without referring to her gender or whether I was queer (I like to keep people on their toes).

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Previewing Local/Dev RSS Feeds on Mac OSX

This post is filed under “I had an obvious need, I searched for it and found nothing, so here comes a blog post for the next searcher.” If you don’t do local web development or don’t know what that means, please watch this video instead, I promise it’s worth your three minutes and sex seconds.

TL;DR: You can preview local RSS feeds on OSX using ViennaRSS, a simple free app.

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An Ode to Walter, who was afraid of a lot of stuff in Pawnee, Indiana

I finally started watching Parks and Recreation recently and it’s a wonderful show. The humor is goofy but also really subtle and honest. I love the many details they work into the shot or script that reward you for paying close attention.

One such detail is the brief but heartwarming appearance of a character named Walter (Walt) Koypond, played by Brendan Jennings, in Season 5 Episode 12.

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The time Yahweh tried to Kill Moses, but left him alone in the end.

Exodus

Exodus 4:24-26 (New Century Version):

24 As Moses was on his way to Egypt, he stopped at a resting place for the night. The Lord met him there and tried to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife and circumcised her son. Taking the skin, she touched Moses’ feet with it and said to him, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me.” 26 She said, “You are a bridegroom of blood,” because she had to circumcise her son. So the Lord let Moses alone.

A lot happens in these three verses from Exodus 4. Yahweh has just sent Moses to Egypt with his “walking stick of God“, his 3 new miracles and an existential threat for the Egyptians.

Out of nowhere, while Moses is resting for the night God shows up and tries to kill him. The following verses imply that God was angry at Moses for not circumcising his son, but it’s never mentioned before this. His wife Zipporah seems to know that God is killing Moses because their son is uncircumcised, and does impromptu surgery which seems to satisfy Yahweh who leaves them alone and doesn’t kill anyone in the end.

To me the emotional crux of this passage is Zipporah’s reaction, which implies that she had wanted to avoid circumcision for her son, and she’s mad at Moses for forcing her to do it. She calls him “bridegroom of blood” which was probably a sounded better in the original language.

There are a lot of scenes in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy where Yahweh suddenly gets really angry and kills one or many of the Hebrews with little to no explanation or warning, but this is a rare one where he tries to kill the main character. It’s interesting how passages like this were maintained in the Bible despite making God look pretty terrible from just about any vantage point.

Here’s another analysis of this passage that I pretty much agree with (though the author is probably coming from a very different perspective than me).

I kind of wish this scene had made it into the movie.

Slides from my WordCamp Talk: Put A Map On It!

These are the slides for my talk at WordCamp Montreal 2015, about integrating maps and geolocation into your WordPress site with the Geo Mashup plugin. There should be video eventually and I’ll add it here :)

Full talk description

WordPress has built-in support for storing location information on posts, but no real way to make use of it. The Geo Mashup plugin enables deep, powerful geolocation in WordPress, letting you easily add geolocations (coordinates) to almost any content type. It also displays locations on maps you can embed in your theme, posts or widgets, with a dizzying array of options for what to show and how to display it.

This talk will start with the default geolocation system in WordPress and how Geo Mashup integrates with it. We’ll then cover the basics of setup and adding locations on posts, then the different map types and situations where you’d use them. We’ll finish with some dev considerations for displaying maps as elegantly as possible.

Experiences with the Fuji X-T1 in light of the X-T10’s imminent release

As an enthusiast photographer I chose Fujifilm as my system about a year ago, buying the already out of date but affordable X-E1 camera ($800 with the 18-55mm kit lens). My plan was to upgrade to whatever came out as an update to the X-E2, which I already knew was missing features from the flagship (i.e. expensive) X-T1 that had been announced. Fuji is releasing a new camera, the X-T10, a cheaper but feature-compatible version of the X-T1 without weather sealing, missing the coveted ISO dial and with a smaller EVF (electronic viewfinder). This article is my analysis of the most interesting features of the X-T1 that are new to me as an X-E1 user and the ways they do or don’t apply to the X-T10.

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What is Jurassic World?

Jurassic World is a thoughtful contemplation of animal rights in the context of zoos, genetic manipulation and artificial selection.

Jurassic World is the best pan-millennial, meta-cinematic work of self-satirizing marketing-fiction ever created.

Jurassic World is a silly movie about cartoon dinosaurs fighting in front of product placements.

I recommend it, but as always don’t watch the trailer first, it ruins all the fun.

Men’s rights activists: Stop.

Stop saying you’re not feminists, you are. Unless you think women aren’t as good as men, or that they don’t deserve the same chances, you believe in the premise of feminism. Saying you’re not feminists makes you sound like idiots, liars or misogynists.

Stop saying you’re “egalitarian” as if it’s mutually exclusive with feminism, that’s ridiculous. Women’s rights is an obvious and perpetual facet of any sensible mission to make all people equal. Your toxic stubbornness to accept multiple labels is literally making “equality” a bad word. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Stop seeking out feminists that make you upset. You don’t need to agree with them and they definitely don’t need to prove anything to you. You invented the “feminazi” then proceeded to breed them with your narcissistic, hateful and inexplicably violent comments. If you can’t find respect and empathy for someone’s views leave them alone, you’ll feel better and they won’t hate us all so much.

Most of all, stop blaming women for your problems. Stop deluding yourselves that you aren’t the luckiest humans in history to even be having this conversation. Yes, men are also bullied, stereotyped and raped, no one is saying they aren’t. We can all work together on these issues that affect everyone, but only if you accept responsibility for the completely unequal situation we find ourselves in.

Try making something out of love instead of hate. Try speaking from a position of empathy rather than conviction. Try assuming the best from feminists, then watch how easy it becomes to find fair, “reasonable” women that don’t mind talking to you.

P.S. It’s time to learn what “cisgender” means.