I currently have seven different communications channels with my colleagues.
That's counting all of Google's nightmarish mishmash of chat platforms as one channel, which is frankly generous. The iteration of Hangouts that pops up over Gmail isn't the same as the iteration of Hangouts Chat that you can access on hangouts.google.com, which isn't the same again as the iteration of Google Chat that shows up at chat.google.com. All the services allow you to use some, but not all, of their features to contact people logged in on other versions of those three. But they will fail silently, leaving you completely unaware of whether you've been ignored or used the wrong version of the platform to contact someone.
It's also counting Google Hangouts video chat and Google Meet video chat as the same service. Again, I don't think that's the case, but I have no real idea what the difference between those things are anyway.
We're currently letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Our enterprise software setup is Google's cloud suite, which means we have access to – I don't even know what to call it, but to the service that is hosted at chat.google.com, which is Google's Slack competitor.
It is, to be clear, much, much worse than Slack. In classic Google fashion, a mediocre web-app is the beginning and end of the service. You can set up Rooms (channels) and Group DMs, but you'll never really get any notifications for any message, and the second you close the tab, you'll forget the service is there.
As, it seems, all my colleagues do. Hence the diaspora across every other messaging service under the sun.
Unfortunately, because we're paying for G Suite, we can't convince anyone to pay for a better service. We have a workplace collaboration tool already, which we aren't using, so why pay for a different one? And because Chat is bad, management doesn't use it to manage, which means the stick approach – you have to keep this tab open because your boss will shout at you if you close it – doesn't work to get people to use it.
Instead, management shouts at people over email. The same messaging channel through which the entire rest of the world also shouts at us.
One of my colleagues started a Slack to try and solve this problem. The idea was that Slack is so much better that we could slowly invite people on to it one at a time, until sheer weight of numbers meant that first management would have to join, and then IT would have to pay.
I now have eight different communications channels with my colleagues.
I think it's this, rather than the lack of human contact, the vitamin D deficiency, or the persistent, crippling anxiety, that will drive me mad first.
If you play PC games, buy this bundle
Humble Bundle are doing a Covid-19 fundraising special. 100% of the revenue goes to four charities –Direct Relief, International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders and Partners In Health – which is great and all, but let me be completely cynical and say ignore the charity and just focus on the games.
The minimum spend of £25.50 gets you Hollow Knight, Into the Breach, The Witness, World of Goo, VVVVVV, and Super Hexagon, to list the games I have played and loved in the rough order that I love them. It also gets you Undertale, Superhot, Europa Universalis IV, Psychonauts, Pikuniku and TABS, to list games other people love. It also gets you a bunch of weird books, which, fine.
Consider this a public service announcement. Christ, just The Witness alone is worth £25.50 and that's only the third best game in the bundle.
The Internet Archive isn't piracy but maybe this one thing is piracy and maybe that's OK
The Internet Archive has, for some time, operated a questionably-legal digital lending library. Under the concept of "controlled digital lending", the body operates the Open Library, which lets people borrow scans of physical books owned by the archive.
The concept is basically that it's completely legal for the library to own the book and physically hand it to users. So, the argument goes, if the book is merely format-shifted – scanned so it becomes a digital file – but then lent out with exactly the same constraints, it is effectively just a different way of operating the same library. So long as only one person is able to "possess" and "read" the book at any one time, the strictures of librarianship are obeyed, and the book gods are pleased.
I say questionably legal only really because no-one has sued them yet, and in the world of copyright law that's how things become actually legal or illegal. In actual fact, it seems unlikely that American fair use would stretch to a victory for the Archive, but I am neither a lawyer nor American.
It seems beyond the realm of possibility that the copyright laws of England and Wales, with significantly stricter requirements around fair dealing and the concept of a public lending right – in essence, a royalties payment from libraries to authors – would stretch to handing a victory to the Open Library, yet it operates "in" England and Wales nonetheless.
None of which really matters to me. I am not a lawyer, I harbour no great love for 21st century copyright law, I will not be particularly affected either way if the Open Library wins or loses in court, and I am interested in whether this is right or not.
And it seems to me fairly evident that it is right, in a moral sense. The tortuous process, of acquiring a book, scanning it, putting mild copying restrictions on it and then lending it out digitally, is clearly a good faith effort to replicate what libraries do already. It's probably not legal, because between libraries being invented and the modern copyright apparatus being constructed we got better at stopping all the smart ways people had come up with to not pay money to copyright holders, but it should be.
Now the Internet Archive has gone one step further. The group has effectively abandoned the "controlled" aspect of controlled digital lending, saying it will no longer loan out only one copy of a book at a time: instead, because of the number of libraries that are closed around the world, it will now give out a copy of the books to anyone who asks for them.
Those copies still come with restrictions – they need to be returned or renewed every two weeks, and the programme is only lasting until June – but the analogy to a physical library is now gone. If CDL was an attempt to replicate loaning a book online, this is more like a library announcing it will now be photocopying and binding new versions of any book you ask for if it's lent out the original, but you'll still have to bring those versions back.
There's not really any legal justification for it. The entire edifice of copyright law is pretty much set up to prevent that sort of behaviour, and, although the internet archive doesn't say as much, its public communications on the matter are telling, spending far more time defending the normal operation of CDL than the unique features of the "National Emergency Library".
And… I don't really care? Like, yes, this is illegal, and probably should be illegal, and in normal times there'd be no real justification for it. But these are not normal times, and it really is the case that millions of people can't get to a library and won't be able to for a long time. It doesn't strike me as particularly reasonable to say that if you would have, perfectly acceptably, taken a book out from your local lending library, and if that book is still on the shelf of the lending library but you are not allowed to leave your house, you must avail yourself exclusively of paid purchases.
Like, don't go hog wild on it? If you would have bought a book anyway, do? But, idk, it doesn't seem the most unreasonable thing to have happened in the last week.
Authors disagree, though. There's been Quite A Fuss.
It's all exhausting.