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The #Resistance Just Gave Darth Vader’s NSA Broad Spy Powers

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The post The #Resistance Just Gave Darth Vader’s NSA Broad Spy Powers appeared first on The Intercept.

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333 days ago
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nuclearspaceheater: “Procrastination isn’t relaxing. It’s like… false.”“How do you mean?”



“Procrastination isn’t relaxing. It’s like… false.”

“How do you mean?”

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357 days ago
358 days ago
Mountain View, California
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How Technical Collaboration is bringing new developers into the Wikimedia movement

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A Wikimedia team won the Open Minds Award in the category “Diversity” for their work with a mentoring program during the 2017 Wikimedia Hackathon in Vienna. Photo by Jean-Frédéric, CC0/public domain.

The Technical Collaboration team at the Wikimedia Foundation are focusing our efforts on a single goal: recruiting and retaining new volunteer developers to work on Wikimedia software projects.

Onboarding new developers, and ensuring they are set up to succeed, is key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Wikimedia developer community, which works on projects seen by billions of people around the world.

The current active developer community, which currently numbers in the hundreds, helps maintain more than 300 code repositories and makes more than 15,000 code contributions on a monthly basis. That puts the Wikimedia projects on par with some of the largest and most active free software development projects in the world, like the Linux kernel, Mozilla, Debian, GNOME, and KDE, among others.

But the developer community is not growing at the pace required to ensure the long-term health of our projects. Conscious of this, the Technical Collaboration team is focusing on bringing in new volunteer developers, connecting them with existing communities, and ensuring the success of both new and experienced technical members of the Wikimedia movement.

What we’re doing

Thinking closely about the ways we conduct outreach through formal programs.

We have participated in the developer training programs Google Summer of Code for 12 years and Outreachy, run by the Software Freedom Conservancy, for 10 rounds over 5 years. Part of our goal in working with those programs is to find and train new developers who continue to contribute to our projects once they complete the internship program. To improve the retention figures, we pair developers in the program with an experienced technical mentor who shares their interest. We are also thinking carefully about the social component of the program, and in helping developers find new challenges and roles after their internships end.

Thinking about the ways in which Wikimedia hackathons and technical events can bring in new developers.

We have changed our approach at Wikimedia hackathons and in technical spaces in order to focus on new developers’ outreach and retention. In the last editions of the Wikimedia Hackathon and the Hackathon at Wikimania, we put more attention towards supporting new developers specifically, by pairing them with mentors and creating spaces specifically for them on-wiki and in-person. We have also promoted smaller regional hackathons to reach out to more developers, and we have modified our scholarship processes so that top newcomers from a local event have a better chance to end up joining our global events.

Where we plan to go next.

Outreach programs and developer events were obvious places to start our work because they already are touch points with outside developers.  However, it is also clear that in order to improve our retention of new developers, we have to pursue a variety of approaches. Here are some of the avenues we plan to focus on from our annual plan:

  • An explicit focus on diversity. We believe that diversity is an intrinsic strength in our developer community. We want to improve our outreach and support to identify developers from around the globe, invite them to join our community, and support them.
  • Quantitative and qualitative research. Most of our current knowledge and assumptions are not based on systematic research. We plan to focus on some key progress indicators to ensure that we are meeting our goals. Metrics include the number of current volunteer developers, number of new volunteer developers who joined our project over the last quarter, and the number of new developers who remain active after one year. We are also starting to survey all newcomers who contribute a first code patch, and we planto survey new developers who seem to have left the projects. We want to learn more about their initial motivations and the first obstacles they faced, and also about the factors that influenced their decision to leave. We are going to compile the data, findings and lessons learned in a quarterly report.
  • Featured projects for newcomers. We have been trying to connect potential new developers with any of the hundreds of Wikimedia projects, when in reality, the vast majority of them are not a good destination for volunteers. Many projects are inactive, and others are so active that the learning curve is rather complex. Still others don’t have mentors available or appropriate documentation. To help new developers succeed, we have decided to select a reasonable amount of projects that are ready to welcome newcomers, and we work closely with their mentors to lead newcomers to those areas—to see if this helps improve retention.
  • Multilingual documentation and support. Picking a limited set of featured projects also helps us support documentation in multiple languages for those projects.  We have also thought about the pathways that we want new users to take. While we have traditionally sent new developers to read How to become a MediaWiki hacker, this may not be the right approach if developers want to contribute to tools, bots, gadgets, mobile apps.  We are now refreshing our developer documentation for newcomers, and plan to refresh the org homepage accordingly. We also plan to offer one support channel for new developers easy to find and maintain.

By connecting all these pieces, we aim to attract more developers from diverse backgrounds, and to offer pathways into our movement—professionally and personally—that motivate them to stick around.

For many of us, joining the Wikimedia movement was a life-changing experience. We want to help new developers (and their mentors!) walk their own paths in Wikimedia, to gain experience and contacts in our unique community of communities. We want to offer them opportunities to become local heroes fixing technical problems and creating missing features for the Wikimedia communities living in their regions or speaking their languages. We want to offer them opportunities to meet peers across borders and boundaries, working on volunteer or funded projects and traveling to developer events.

We plan to bring the Wikimedia technical community to the levels that one would expect from one of the biggest and most active free software projects, from probably the most popular free content creation project. The chances to succeed depend heavily on current Wikimedia developers (volunteers or professionals) willing to share some of their experience and motivation mentoring newcomers. It also depends heavily on Wikimedia chapters and other affiliates willing to scratch their own technical itches working with us, co-organizing local or thematic developer activities with our help. The first experiments have been very positive (and fun) so far. Join us for more!

Quim Gil, Senior Manager, Technical Collaboration
Wikimedia Foundation

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436 days ago
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The Contents Of The New Medicare-For-All Bill

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Senator Sanders released his updated Medicare-for-all bill yesterday. Below is a simple summary of the general contents of the proposal.

Coverage Areas
The bill requires coverage of hospital services, ambulatory patient services, primary and preventive services, prescription drugs, medical devices, mental health services, substance abuse services, laboratory and diagnostic services, reproductive care, maternity care, newborn care, pediatrics, dental, vision, and short term rehabilitative services. Notably, the bill does not include long-term care, but Sanders has reportedly said long-term care would be handled in a separate bill.

This is a generous coverage universe, but it is not unheard of. Critics tend to roll their eyes at the inclusion of vision, dental, and prescription drugs. But Denmark’s public system covers all of those areas with some cost-sharing.

The bill forbids cost-sharing for anything but prescription drugs. This means that there would be no deductibles, no coinsurance, no copayments, or other kinds of out-of-pocket expenses. The details of the prescription drug cost-sharing are mostly left to the regulators to work out, but there is a requirement that no individual be subjected to more than $250 of cost-sharing in a given year.

Those under the age of 19 would be enrolled immediately into the Medicare system. These individuals would be allowed to maintain their private health insurance in addition to their Medicare coverage during the four-year transition period. After that transition is over, there is a provision forbidding private insurance from duplicating the coverage provided by Medicare, which would effectively kill off any private insurance maintained by children up to that point.

For those over the age of 18, eligibility to enroll will be phased-in over four years. After year one, those 55 and over will be eligible. After year two, those 45 and over will be eligible. After year three, those 35 and over will be eligible. And after year four, everyone will be eligible. During that four-year period, adults will also have the ability to buy in to Medicare on the exchanges or if their employer chooses to offer it as an option.

The bill would bring in existing federal expenditures on healthcare made for Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, TRICARE, and other smaller programs.

In addition to the bill, Sanders released a paper with tax proposals that are intended to provide the remainder of the funding. The proposals are:

  1. A 7.5 percent employer-side payroll tax. This tax is intended to impound the money employers currently pump into the healthcare sector through private insurance premiums.
  2. A 4 percent income tax surcharge. This tax is intended to impound the money individuals currently pump into the healthcare sector through private insurance premiums. Because the tax is being collected through the federal income tax code, the standard deduction can be applied towards it, meaning that families making less than $29,000 would pay nothing, and families making $50,000 would pay just $844 per year, far less than they currently pay in private insurance premiums.
  3. Higher income taxes on the very rich. The plan calls for creating more tax brackets for higher earners with marginal tax rates spanning from 40 percent for income made between $250,000 and $500,000 to 52 percent for income made over $10 million.
  4. Elimination of capital gains preference. Currently capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income. This reform would tax capital gains as ordinary income.
  5. Capping deductions for the very rich. For households with incomes over $250,000, the value of particular itemized deductions would be capped at 28 percent. Currently the value of an itemized deduction is based on your highest marginal tax rate. So, someone whose highest marginal tax rate is 39.6 percent would receive 39.6 cents of value for every 1 dollar of tax deduction they claim. Under this reform, high-income families would only be able to receive at most 28 cents of value for every 1 dollar of tax deduction.
  6. Increase the estate tax. Under this proposal, the current 40 percent estate tax would be replaced with a progressive estate tax with rates ranging from 45 to 65 percent. There would be a 0 percent rate for the first $3.5 million (single person) or $7 million (married couple) of an estate.
  7. A 1 percent wealth tax for wealth over $21 million. This would mean wealthy individuals would have to annually add up their net worth and pay 1 percent of any net worth exceeding $21 million to the government.
  8. Close S-Corp dividend loophole. There is not much detail as to how, but the proposal is to make it harder for business owners to abuse S-corp status to report what is really ordinary labor income as dividends. It is worth noting that if the capital gains preference is eliminated (another of the proposals), this would not be strictly necessary.
  9. Tax offshore profits. This would apply the corporate tax to money corporations are currently holding “offshore” to avoid paying tax on it. This would be a one time thing.
  10. A 0.07 percent tax on big financial institutions. Particularly, the proposal calls for a 0.07 percent tax on the covered liabilities of financial institutions with $50 billion or more of total assets.
  11. Change treatment of corporate inventories. This would forbid the last-in, first-out accounting method that allows corporations to overstate the cost of their inventories in order to claim a lower profit and pay less tax.
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458 days ago
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I'm not sure when I first logged onto I'm pretty sure it was after my friend Greg Grossmeier signed on that I created my account "". I started following people that I knew in the FLOSS (Free / Libre Open Source Software) community. But I also started following other folks on there as well. The public stream moved at a ticker-tape crawl (not like the Twitter public stream which moved faster than you could read). But it was exciting to be part of something new. is a federated social network created by Evan Prodromou. What that means is each node of the network operates independently. So I could start my own instance at and build my own community of users. You could join any of the other instances out there and interact with the folks on that community of users. The federated part is that each of the users on these systems can then follow each other. So if Bob is at the instance I can follow

Also Statusnet, the software that powered and the other instances was released under the GPL license. That meant that anyone could hack on it and spin up their own version of the software.

At the time this was unheard of. Twitter was just hitting critical mass and having some growing pains trying to figure out their next move. And, as Twitter is wont to do they made some controversial decisions.

The first explosion of accounts came like a wave. Many folks hopped onto for a variety of reasons. Some were looking for the next big thing, some looking for what Twitter wasn't giving them. Some were just following Robert Scoble and Leo Laporte. Whatever the reason they were populating the instance and conversations blossomed.

Over time folks faded back to Twitter. tended to get these waves of people who checked out the service, but then realized they had different conversations on than they did on Twitter.

I remember Steve Gilmor co-organized a conference about and the future of social media. I remember watching the live-stream of the proceedings. Steve seemed more interested in ensuring that these services had "the firehose" like Twitter had. The firehose was the entire public stream of Twitter. had it, but each instance had its own public stream. So in order to get all of the traffic out there you'd have to poll each of the instances for their public feed.

It was a strange conference to look at, with multiple people having their own ideas of how social media would work. Steve seemed interested as a journalist for having a stream to research and investigate. Others were looking for how to monetize this technology.

I think we're still trying to wrestle with those questions.

But over time the instances grew quiet for various reasons. Folks migrated back to Twitter, and admins realized that administrating communities of people is hard work. went through a re-write to use a new protocol. Previously it used a protocol that is now known as OStatus. The new protocol is ActivityPub. ActivityPub was a better protocol than OStatus, but sadly it hasn't caught on.

Eventually Evan moved on to other endeavors and / was no longer his focus. There have been several attempts to keep the service running but as of this writing is down.

But what's great about the GPL is others can take the software and use it to build their own platforms. There are currently two major forks of the code / protocols. GNUSocial is closely related to the old StatusNet software. The other is Mastodon, which is a complete re-write of the code in Ruby.

Right now I'm seeing a migration of users from Twitter over to Mastodon. They all have their own reasons. For some the bullying on Twitter is unbearable. For others the racism. Whatever the reasons they're searching for alternatives.

It's like all over again. Maybe they'll stay and set up roots. Maybe they'll just pass through like the others.

Whatever the reasons I'm glad that still lives on.

(If you would like to take a peek at Mastodon check out for more information. And follow me

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548 days ago
I joined way back in 2008 and have stayed with it (and StatusNet, then GnuSocial ever since). There have been several waves of people joining the fediverse and, after each wave, many drift back to proprietary platforms but a few stay and the open web gets a bit bigger. I suspect the same will happen with Mastodon.
549 days ago
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Wikimedia’s open source software community launches Code of Conduct for technical spaces

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Photo by Tyssul Patel, public domain/CC0.

We are proud to announce that the Wikimedia technical community has approved a Code of Conduct (CoC) that promotes a respectful, diverse, and welcoming environment in Wikimedia technical spaces. The CoC is a policy that creates clear expectations for how community members should interact, encouraging respectful and productive dialogue. It also describes how people can easily report behavior that does not meet these expectations.

Codes of conduct have become more popular recently in technology organizations and online communities, which have long grappled with how to ensure that everyone feels safe and respected in technical spaces on and offline. Like many other online communities, the Wikimedia technical community has been affected by harassment and other toxic behavior.  Harassment harms individuals, limits the potential for creativity and open collaboration, and discourages new contributors. Many in the Wikimedia movement, including the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees, have made a commitment to help create a healthier and more inclusive Wikimedia community. The new code of conduct is an important step in mitigating harassment and creating a space where everyone feels welcome to participate in the Wikimedia technical community.

How we built it

To address the problem, professionals and volunteers in the community developed a policy through an open, collaborative drafting process.  This took place both online and at events like Wikimania conferences and the 2016 Developer Summit.  In other communities, drafting a code of conduct often involves fewer people, and decisions might be made by a project leader or  governing board. We instead used a deeply participatory approach, as has been used for other policy discussions in the Wikimedia movement. More than 140 editors participated in the public discussions, collectively contributing 2,718 edits to the discussion page. Others provided anonymous feedback.

Work began at a public Wikimania session in July 2015, in Mexico City. Developing policies to address harmful behavior in this community was a daunting task. Although codes of conduct have become increasingly common in free/open source software projects, Wikimedia’s technical spaces posed several specific challenges. For example, the CoC needed to address the needs and concerns of volunteers as well as Wikimedia Foundation employees. It needed to be enforceable, to ensure that technical community members would have a safe and welcoming space to contribute.  Finally, those who would be enforcing it needed to be trained in commonly encountered abusive dynamics, so that they could address CoC violations effectively and without further escalating the situation.  It was important, for instance, to include language deterring false or retaliatory reports. This is part of how we sought to protect victims from potential misuse of the policy.

We benefited from existing work, building on policies such as the Contributor Covenant, Wikimedia’s Friendly Space Policy, and the Citizen Code of Conduct.  We also benefited from expert advice and the support of the Support & Safety, Talent & Culture, and Legal teams at the Wikimedia Foundation. We expanded on these existing policies in order to meet our community’s specific needs.  Through detailed conversations, we resolved complicated issues, while focusing on how to make the Wikimedia technical community a better place for everyone to participate.

The Wikimedia technical community approved the CoC this March, concluding a 19-month process.  The Code of Conduct Committee recently began their work, after a community feedback process.  The Committee’s job is to receive reports, assess them, and determine how to respond.  For instance, they might issue warnings or enact temporary bans.

Reactions and reuse

“For over a year, Wikimedia Foundation staff and volunteer contributors have invested time and energy to develop a code of conduct that meets the unique needs of Wikimedia technical spaces and reflects the value our movement shares in respectful, open collaboration,” said Victoria Coleman, Chief Technology Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation. “This work is critical to creating welcoming, inclusive spaces for participation across the Wikimedia projects.”

Community members have welcomed the new policy.  “I applaud Wikimedia for posting a Code of Conduct and appointing a Committee to handle concerns,” said Anna Liao, a MediaWiki developer and Outreachy participant. “If I am ever the target of unacceptable behaviour or I witness it amongst others, there is a pathway to address these issues.”

Moritz Schubotz, a volunteer developer working on MediaWiki’s Math functionality, added that some situations “require the creation and enforcement of this CoC, to keep our working space nice and pleasant.”

The CoC is meant to set behavioral norms and create cultural change.  It shows how we seek to grow as a community, and we hope it increases people’s comfort and desire to join and participate more.

“No matter how open the community is, it should have a code of conduct,” technical volunteer Greta Doçi told us. “It promotes moral behavior, prevents negative legal effects, encourages positive relationships, and acts as a reference for solving ethical dilemmas.”

We encourage others, within the Wikimedia movement or elsewhere, to consider how a code of conduct or anti-harassment policy can strengthen their own community.  The policy itself is also open source for anyone to reuse and adapt.

Matthew Flaschen, Senior Software Engineer, Collaboration, Wikimedia Foundation
Moriel Schottlender, Software Engineer, Collaboration, Wikimedia Foundation
Frances Hocutt, Wikimedia community member and former Foundation staff

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552 days ago
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