John Walker's Electronic House

The Rest


by on Oct.13, 2014, under The Rest

I need to put this in one place, to stop myself from having to tweet it eighteen trillion times.

GG got very cross yesterday and overnight with my having written about how much abuse and harassment I received. I mentioned that I’d received thousands of unpleasant tweets. I came to this figure based on an average bad evening of it would see 500+ tweets coming in, and this happened multiple times. Within them were a number of extremely unpleasant and distressing tweets, with demands that I kill myself and so forth. This was one of them (which GG has been desperately trying to declare can’t be anything to do with them because of X, Y and Z, then someone else pointing out he was, and then tweets get deleted, and so on).

Oddly enough, I didn’t keep the rest. Because I’m not crazy. I screenshotted that one on my phone, because it was quite so scary, and when the tweeter promptly deleted it after lots called him out, I was able to repost it. I took screens of a bunch of others, but deleted them since, because I didn’t really like having them on my phone. And, heck, why would I need them?

GG participants are FURIOUS with me, and have attempted to disprove that I’ve received any abuse at all, via various searches. However, they used Topsy, which only stores a month’s worth, meaning it went back only as far as 12th Sept, after the bulk of the abuse I received had happened. Their search also only included that which had the #gamergate tag in it. This also doesn’t work, as the vast majority of the abuse I received came without it. People would send me a tweet saying whatever, and if I replied, they’d then frantically add in the tag to get back-up. This would then bring dozens more in who were following the tag, also insulting me without the tag, and then themselves only adding it in if I replied pointing out they were incorrect, etc.

The reality is, I spent two weeks receiving extraordinary amounts of unpleasant comments, most of them mild, but unrelenting. It was miserable, my wife saw it all happening and it made her miserable, my friends saw it, people argued with these people at the time – it all happened. It’s important that I maintain this, in the face of an attempt to discredit it.

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A Thing About #GamerGate

by on Oct.12, 2014, under The Rest

I want to think through some thoughts about #GamerGate, and try to address the questions/accusations I receive the most often from those who identify as part of the movement. I also want to talk about my personal experience of it.

GamerGate (GG), since its beginnings, has unquestionably been a formless, undirected collection of people with wildly disparate aims and desires. To say, “GG thinks X” is a meaningless statement, since there are those who are participating who only want to know that the games journalism/criticism/coverage they read is not affected by corruption, all the way to those who are sending terrifying death and rape threats to women in the industry, with a wide spectrum between. While there are various attempts at grouping together specific aims or objectives, these again widely vary, from desires to see game sites publicise clear ethical guidelines, to the desire to “destroy” sites that do not adhere to particular standards/styles/beliefs. There are those who wish to see “politics left out of games coverage”, and those who wish to see writers with “SJW agendas” out of work. There are those who fear games themselves will be negatively affected by progressive criticism, and those who wish to scare female developers and writers until they are too afraid to participate in the industry.

Identify the group as one aspect of this, and other aspects will step forward in disappointment/fury/confusion in response to this understanding. It’s intangible. And I believe perhaps its greatest weakness is that it seems to have no idea that it is.

I absolutely believe that there are many who have been part of the million tweets made using this tag who are horrified by the horrendous abuse and criminal attacks that have come from within GG. I know that there are those who identify with GG who have benign aims, and are personally hurt or upset when they see people identifying GG as a misogynist cause, or a cruel, bullying agenda. I appeal to these people to consider whether GG is ever going to be a place that accurately reflects them or their desires.

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Rum Doings Episode 172: They’re Bubbling Like Fermenting Sauerkraut

by on Sep.30, 2014, under Rum Doings, The Rest

In our 172nd ever Rum Doings, our topic is what is, considering all the cracks, isn’t it now time to admit that paving stones are a noble failure which should be abandoned?

We talk about how microwaves enhance baby learning, Nick’s food fight with a primary school, and John’s disgust with the awfulness of Doctor Who.

There’s then chat about American late night talk shows, British attempts at them, and then some TV and book recommendations.

You are of course required to leave a review on iTunes. Thank you to everyone who has – there are some extremely generous comments up there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @rumdoings. If you want to email us, you can do that here. If you want to be a “fan” of ours on Facebook, which apparently people still do, you can do that here.

To get this episode directly, right click and save here. To subscribe to Rum Doings click here, or you can find it in iTunes here.

Or you can listen to it right here:

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Poor Old Newspapers – Technology Vs A Sex Scandal

by on Sep.28, 2014, under The Rest

Today the Sunday Mirror has a strong scoop. A male freelance journalist, posing as a young female Tory activist, managed to hook a Tory MP into sending explicit photographs of himself, and trying to arrange to meet ‘her’. The journalist then gave this story to the Mirror, who contacted the MP – he denied ever having heard of ‘Sophie’. So they contacted Downing Street with the evidence, who promptly released a statement saying the MP was stepping down immediately.

But ho boy, if a story involving technology isn’t a tricky pickle for the UK press to cope with. The conversation between Brooks Newark and ‘Sophie’ began via Twitter, moved on to Facebook, and then eventually to texts. However, the photos they exchanged were sent via WhatsApp. Here’s how that’s been understood by today’s newspapers, trying to hop on the scoop.

Here’s the Mirror’s front page headline:

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How Internet Hate Mobs Work, And Why It’s So Insidious

by on Aug.20, 2014, under The Rest

In the wake of another really horrifying social media attack on a few individuals – some I know, some I don’t – I find myself needing to process the way it works. The awfulness of what is done, and just how frighteningly proficient are the organised attackers.

In this particular story, an angry ex-boyfriend has made public a huge screed of personal information about his former girlfriend, along with a long list of accusations. These accusations crossed my path when they included claims that someone I employed had behaved inappropriately. There was no evidence provided for these claims, and indeed no examples of the suggested corruption have ever existed. I assume much else was untrue or twisted too, but it’s absolutely none of my business. What I was in a position to know about, I knew was entirely false.

Yesterday the woman involved had her Twitter and Tumblr hacked, her personal information including phone numbers, family phone numbers, street addresses and PayPal information made public. She has received unending abuse on all channels, including to her personal phone and address. People close to her have received similar abuse. People who have made it clear they are against the abuse have received small fractions of the abuse too. There is, without question, a huge amount of abuse to go around. The thing is, it’s not from a huge number of people – they’re just exceptionally good at making it look as though there are.

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A Pointless Guide To Armstrongian Hyperbole

by on Aug.16, 2014, under The Rest

On the superb BBC1 quiz show, Pointless, I contend that co-host Alexander Armstrong perhaps a little over-effusively enthuses on the contestants’ competence after their failure. No pair of entrants appearing in the 600 aired episodes has ever fallen short of “great contestants”, no matter how fist-grindingly dreadful they may have been. This is part of what makes Pointless so absolutely lovely, in an age of quizshowing that otherwise focuses on humiliation or treachery. It’s also entirely daft.

Armstrong, who appears an all-round splendid chap, seems peculiarly beholden to a script, from which he appears unwilling to deviate. I do wonder if during his sleep he mumbles that everyone gets two chances to reach the Pointless final, or that for the remaining two pairs things are about to get even more exciting now as they enter the head-to-head. (Of course, the meandering banter between he and the adorable Richard Osman is incessantly delightful, and the primary reason to watch the programme.)

While I have no desire to see Armstrong berating contestants, and absolutely love that failure is met with warmth and cheer, I do fear that his madcap positivity is causing confusion, so have prepared a guide to what his terms practically mean:

“Great Contestants” = Really astonishingly terrible contestants, who likely scored 200 in the first round, two days running, and uttered phrases like, “The 1870s were before my time,” and, “Words ending in ‘EART’ isn’t a good subject for me.” That they found their way to the studio without accidentally strangling themselves with their own arms is of note.

“Brilliant Contestants” = Pretty poor contestants, unlikely to have displayed any knowledge, who most likely only got through to the second round after some “Great Contestants” inadvertently impaled themselves on the podium.

“Really Brilliant Contestants” = Okay-ish contestants, who knew a right answer that scored under 50. It was probably about football, which was, when they were asked what subjects they’d like to see come up, their only response.

“Properly Brilliant Contestants” = At this point the “properly” introduces the notion that there may be some credibility to their performance. These contestants potentially knew the location of a country on the planet, or the name of a film director. Where some Brilliant Contestants had said, “Well I don’t really follow politics” when asked to name a British Prime Minister, a Properly Brilliant Contestant might remember someone other than the present incumbent.

“Really Properly Brilliant Contestants” = Quite good contestants.

(It should be noted that the reason I would never go on a quiz show like Pointless is how it would immediately reveal me to be in the region of a Brilliant Contestant, as the woeful lack of knowledge I possess would be presented to the viewing world.)

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On UKIP, Ignorance, And The Lazy Lie Of “Disillusionment”

by on May.27, 2014, under Rants, The Rest

Disillusionment is so often cited as the reason people vote for extremists, the underpinning reason why X or Y is happening in British politics. And it’s mostly gibberish. It’s a nonsense told both by those who wish to vote for extremes, and by those attempting to justify why others might vote for those extremes. The reality is, it’s barely ever the case.

I feel like we’re in a pretty scary place. When it comes to politics, there’s obviously a tendency for hyperbole, exaggerating one’s claims to suit one’s political agenda. But for someone with left-wing beliefs, their understanding of how to treat others best represented by socialism, the United Kingdom is currently a frightening political landscape.

People are voting UKIP/BNP/English Democracts, etc, etc, we’re told, because they’re disillusioned with the main parties and want to see things shaken up. This is plain, absolute rubbish. It doesn’t make sense in any way, and the media’s frequent declaration that this is the case is both intellectual snobbery, and woeful naivety.

The obvious reality is, a large contingent of people voting for extremes, for racist and homophobic parties like UKIP, BNP, etc, do so because they are racist and homophobic. Pretending this isn’t the case is endemic in the reporting of our politics, perhaps from a fear of appearing “biased”, perhaps from a fear of alienating the racist and homophobic contingent of their audience. Very few people tend to wear the mantle of “racist” with pride, hence that most oxymoronic of aphorisms, “I’m not racist, but…” The inevitable continuation of something either grotesquely or insidiously racist rather confirms the contrary, but for some reason our press has opted to acculturate itself to the opening gambit. Essentially, the coverage of UKIP in the recent elections has been, “UKIP isn’t racist, but…” The reality of course being: UKIP is racist, and lots of people who agree with their racist views have voted for them accordingly.

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You & Yours And Its Gloriously Failed Attempt To Promote Audiophile Woo

by on Mar.06, 2014, under Rants, The Rest

Oh glorious day!

One of my favourite worst things is BBC Radio 4′s You & Yours. On when I get my lunch, each weekday I get to hear a portion of this most daft of consumer shows, as they spread fear and concern about whatever was in yesterday’s Daily Mail. That’s not to say they don’t sometimes do some good – I believe they were pivotal in ending the banking scam over taking five days to process cheques, and they often do a good job of airing scams to make people aware of what to avoid. But this is always scattered with main host Winifred Robinson’s scaremongering and personal vendettas, as she ceaselessly attempts to campaign against things she’s been proven wrong about, most recently her deranged fury about DAB radio.

Today though, something wonderful happened. The end of the episode featured a segment in which two music engineers came on to explain about the wonders of “high resolution music”. This, we were told by straight faces, was the same as increasing the pixel count of a picture, enabling more detail to be heard. Incredibly at one point one of them acknowledges that previous recording qualities already matched what the human ear could detect, but no no! Despite this, the “harmonics” were more clear if there was a new way to have to buy lots more expensive equipment!

I’m not a sound engineer, and I’ve no idea if there’s genuinely any measurable improvement in the quality of the recording, but I certainly do know that no human would be able to tell.

As they were given air time on this national radio station to make their ridiculous claims entirely unchallenged, unquestioned, and only excitedly enthused about, they played in clips of recordings in “low res” and “high res”, so these experts could explain the difference. And it was pure woo bullshit from start to finish. Brilliantly they made it clear that no one listening would be able to tell any difference between the two because radio waves would take the magics away. But then played them anyway. They would be able to tell, in the studio, listening on a “high definition Sony Walkman” through their £90 billion headphones. They played Ella Fitzgerald twice, explaining which was low and which was high. Winifred declared she could “almost” hear Ella’s breathing on the second, opening the door for some wonderfully silly explanations about the guests’ surprise at how noticeable it was, how it was a “mellower, warmer sound” and “more dynamic”. “It actually started off slightly quieter,” the second expert explains, “and that’s one of the great things of higher resolution, whereas a CD if you like levels it out a bit just by the nature of the delivery, so you’re right, I think it was more noticeable than I thought, and I think we are losing dynamics on a lot of CDs.”

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Dexter Is Missing, And So, So Stupid

by on Dec.05, 2013, under The Rest

One of the oddest and best jobs I have is writing a column for a magazine called The Cat. The quarterly magazine has been going for over 80 years, published by the charity Cats Protection. My column has appeared in the last four years’ worth or so, and until the current issue (which you’ll likely find in that pile on the windowsill in your local vet surgery) has been about Dexter. The latest features Lucy too. If you can find a copy, I really recommend taking a look, because the illustrations they put on my column (called “Walker On The Wild Side, and NO, I didn’t pick that) are just fantastic. We’ve had a couple of them printed on canvas, and they hang on our walls.

Dexter has been missing for three nights now, which he’s never done before. Obviously we’re very worried, and extremely upset, but we’ve done absolutely everything we can, from posters, flyering the neighbourhood, searches, alerting the microchip firm, and contacting local vets and cat homes. I’ve also added his details to the superb Animal Search UK, who use volunteers to look for missing cats in their area. Amazing. You can be one of those volunteers if you want – you just sign up for emails of alerts near where you live.

So, out of sentimentality, while he’s gone I thought I’d post a few of my old columns from The Cat (these are the unedited versions, so expect mistakes). The first couple were based on articles I first wrote here, so I’ve skipped those, and appropriately gone for the third: a piece about how stupid he is. Because wow, is he stupid.

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The 10 Conservative Election Promises They Don’t Want You To Remember!

by on Nov.15, 2013, under The Rest

Scrabbling about Tory HQ, while disguised as an unpaid intern Polish trouser-presser, I found the ten Tory election promises they REALLY want you to forget:

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