GeekNights Monday - Blocking

Tonight on GeekNights, in light of Twitter's dying husk removing the ability to block people, we consider the concept of "blocking" in social platforms. The root problem is, as always, the twin evils of advertising and capitalism. In the news, the inability to warn the residents of Maui to the rapidly escalating wildfires requires significant government technology investment, and Dolby Atmos FlexConnect might prove interesting for home theatre setups.

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“If everyone thought and acted like me and had the same opinions and motivations and desires, all societal problems would be solved!” - Libertarians. Also Rym and Scott in this episode :slight_smile:


Close, but not quite.

Let’s use the old flawed analogy of information diet.

Someone out there might say they like seeing things they didn’t ask to see. They want to let someone else control their information diet. Maybe they have a fetish for being fed, I think that’s a thing.

Of course, it’s understandable why someone might say that. They go to some feed on a social app and they get force fed pure sugar. Delicious! Of course they say they like it, and want it.

But it’s terrible for them. I don’t deny that their motivation and desire is there. I’m saying that they are enjoying self harm, and it would be better if they didn’t do that. Sometimes you have to recognize when something you legitimately enjoy is not harmful, and then not do it.

As for the publishers who want to force feed their information to other people. Of course I understand their motivation and desire to do that. I just think those people are morally reprehensible. People can publish whatever they like. But there’s nothing right or good about attempting to force or trick people into looking at it.

TL;DR: I believe the people who don’t agree with me on this issue are either harming themselves (albeit maybe willingly and knowingly) and/or evil.

Your understanding/portrayal of other humans is so alien to how I see other humans/myself that I find it difficult to parse what you find objectionable, or grasp your solutions to the problems you perceive and how it might improve the world.

There are two principles.

A person who is consuming information should not see information they did not explicitly ask to see.

A person who is creating or sharing information should not force or trick anyone into seeing the information they are sharing. It should only be shared with consent. Lack of consent would violate the first rule.

The topic of blocking is about this conflict. When you have a platform that does not adhere to these principles, users are seeing things they did not explicitly ask to see. Therefore, they make use of the block feature to try to get closer to the ideal of the first principle. If they can get close enough, then using the platform becomes tolerable enough to use.

Okay. You are making huge leaps to arrive at your judgments of other people. But even if I agree with those judgments (I don’t) then you’re not proposing any solution that works with real humans with real motivations and feelings, and who live in the real world with real social, economic and other concerns.

Again, if the world was magically as you imagine it should be, and everyone had the same value judgments as you, then the world would be better for everyone. It’s a different world to the one all the Libertarians imagine, but the discussion is equally disconnected from reality.

Re: antennas, I’m actually somewhat qualified, for once, to talk about something beyond just my knowledge as an informed human being.

The length of an antenna is determined by the wavelength of the band you’re trying to receive; while there are some tricks you can do to trick that, there’s a fundamental, physical fact that there’s a minimum length the physical object reciving the frequency has to be in order to meaningfully interact with the radio waves. It’s not a technological problem, it’s a physics problem.

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Don’t people usually get around this by having an antenna that is very thin and then just wrapping it around something? Like how the antennas on the phone go around the edge instead of sticking out like a fishing rod? I’m going to hazard a guess and say that technique only works to some extent, and has quite a few drawbacks.


So to get into the edge of the weeds of antenna theory, any antenna that’s not a free-floating dipole is compromised in some fashion. Sometimes you can compensate by adding directionality (that’s the theory behind the Yagi-Uda; you sacrifice nearly any chance of picking up something to the sides or back of the antenna to amplify signals coming in from the front), sometimes you don’t care; that last one is the theory behind the wrapped antennas that you’re talking about. If you remember the shitty little DMR radios that you used to have to carry on-shift at CTCon, with the little nubbin antenna, that’s one of those antennas. The problem with those is that they drop off to noise really quickly. The second is, since wavelength is inversely proportial to frequency, the lower the MHz of the signal you want to pick up, the longer the antenna you need (there are some hams out in who-gives-a-fuck midwest who have antennas that wrap around multiple acres of property to get down to the weird frequencies that only the weird hams go to, for various signal propagation reasons). A 2 meter rubber duck (which could be made slightly shorter for reciving due to you not pumping 1, 5, or even 100 watts down it when you’re reciving, but is a good measurement) is about five inches long. The FM broadcast spectrum is in roughly the 3 meter band, so would probably require about another 50% on top of that. AM, which you’d want for various propagation characteristics in an emergency, is even longer, which is why most of the phones that do have radios in them only have FM. There are tricks you can do to make an antenna “electrically longer”, and receiving does have various considerations you can tease out compared to transmitting, but you’re still talking about a rather large chunk of wire, built-in, next to some RF noisy components, on an already compromised antenna. Could it be done? I admit it’s not impossible, but it’d work best in areas like NYC and Boston that are already blanketed in strong transmitters.

Cell phone data and voice work in the UHF/Decimeter or SHF/Centimeter bands for the most part. (LTE and 5g are anywhere from 800mhz up to 5 or even 6 GHz, which require exponentially smaller antennas) and are digital, which makes noise concerns lesser than analog FM/AM, so that’s why they can have the “loop around the phone” style antenna for your 4 to 5Gs, but not for 100.7 WZLX (Boston’s Classic Rock).


Hence, every smartphone I’ve ever owned that has FM radio requires wired analog headphones to be plugged in for it to work.

Which are uniquely good because one type of resonant(ish) antenna is a Quarter-Wave. 3 meters divided by 4 is 3/4ths of a meter, about two and a half feet, roughly the length (within a fudgeable amount) of most wired headphones (which are about 3 to 4 feet)