Monthly Archive: March 2022

DuckDuckGo cheated on me. I’m now dating Presearch

I recently moved from DuckDuckGo to Presearch.

The reason for the move was the announcement that the engine would filter results to favor a specific party on the Russia - Ukraine conflict.

Last year DuckDuckGo did already show its cards with "woke" discrimination of potential employees, where they'd favor less skilled employees as long as they had enough melanin in their skin and relatively uncommon sexual preferences.

DuckDuckGo supposedly still shields its users from being tracked for advertisement, but I think that most users went in expecting relatively unbiased results.

It should be noted that, as far as I understand, DuckDuckGo itself is a little more than a customer of Google and other major search engines. In practice, DuckDuckGo simply buys search engine usage from Google. For this reason, it was always a temporary solution, because Google's bias its already built-in in the results, plus they could pull the plug at any time, transforming DuckDuckGo into a sitting duck. Remember: if you don't build your own technology, you're just a power user.

Presearch looks more interesting, it's decentralized, it has its own search engine and also allows to quickly select other classical search engines.
Presearch was founded by people that already years ago had issues with Google's search engine result manipulation (see: "Google Penalizes Local Businesses On City’s ’Shop Local’ Website"), so, hopefully the founders are in it for the long run.

It's important to keep in mind that Presearch is just another offer. I don't plan to get married to it, but my time as a user is better spent on a new interesting decentralized project, than supporting DuckDuckGo, which is no more than a gate keeper.

On the Moon landing

In a previous post I reasoned on the importance to entertain the wildest theories and to listen to those that propose them.
I truly believe that it's important to keep an open mind, either to learn something new or as an exercise on how to find holes on such theories. It's all brain food.

I was recently listening to an interview to a relatively public figure that would normally be labeled as a conspiracy theorist. At some point, the subject of the 1969 Moon landing came up. Unsurprisingly, the interviewee was skeptical about it.

The general reaction of most would be that of disbelief, with an immediate rejection on the basis of pure reverence of NASA as an organization, but I don't think that that's enough. As I said, I think that it's a good mental exercise to try and find why certain claims can't be sustained, even if the conclusion is probably the same as the mainstream belief. Forming your own reasoning is a valuable experience, something from which new tools for reasoning can be acquired.

Onto my defense of the Moon landing, the simplest validation that I can think of is the argument against the visual effects that would have been needed to simulate a different gravity while filming on Earth. Believable representation of different forces of gravity has been the hardest thing to do in science fiction for many years. It has basically been impossible until we achieved photorealism in computer graphics.
Some say that Stanley Kubrick did that well in "2001: A Space Odyssey", but that's an exaggeration. The film was exceptional in many ways, but the visual effects used in it are a far cry from what's seen in the broadcast of the first Moon walk.

The reason why low gravity VFX took decades to start to become believable is due to our innate ability to judge certain physical phenomena. Our brain is wired to recognize dynamics, in fact we are naturally excited when we see movement, collisions, explosions, even rag dolls, because we can instinctively recognize the realism of the physical world.

I don't know to which degree our ability to recognize and appreciate dynamics is innate or learned. For sure, we show awareness from an early age, and it constitutes the bulk of child play. This also gives us the apparently uncanny ability to recognize a friend from afar and from behind, if he's simply walking.

It's very hard to trick the brain about dynamical phenomena. Any sort of wired complex rigging that would have been required to simulate low gravity on video in 1969, would have looked unnatural if not downright silly.

That's my reasoning on the subject. It's not a sophisticated approach, but I think that is one that has possibly the best ratio of believability and relatability vs the amount of time invested in research.

Happily ever after

One year ago I wrote the "My Space !" blog post, where I was giving my reasoning for leaving social media, meaning Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I erased my Instagram account, since I had truly no use for it. I kept my Twitter and Facebook accounts as a notification tool, to post links to content about my trading system and my blog posts. Eventually, one day I'll stop doing that as well.

At the time I downloaded a backup of my Twitter and FB feeds. The backup was easy to obtain, erasing years of history however is a different matter. It was easy on Twitter, but on Facebook it turned out to be a multi-day effort.

Last year, the only option to erase FB activity in bulk was to download a Chrome script that would emulate manual deletion of the timeline, one item at the time. On top of that, because the plug-in relied on an older FB design, I had to use a plug-in to also transform the UI of FB to an older version. The operation was long and error-prone. The plug-in even had a speed setting. Too slow and it could take forever, too fast and the procedure would miss deletion of items.

A couple of months ago I looked again into my FB feed, and noticed that I still had my 2017 posts and comments. FB now allows to batch-delete up to 50 posts at once, however the interface can get incredibly slow, and it would only delete 8-10 posts at once. For sure, the batch cleaning feature in FB is the most buggy of the whole site. It's obviously something that they put there to check a box for some demand, without any real effort to make it usable.

I opted not to completely delete my accounts, because a few people still find it useful to reach me via the occasional DM, and because I wanted to use my existing connections to keep people on the loop about the progress of my trading system project, that I obviously want to promote.

I don't miss social interaction one bit. In fact, it's a weight that was lifted from my shoulders. At some point, daily social media activity became a chore. Quick blurbs of text and funny or interesting videos can quickly become repetitive. It's a kind of interaction that is pointless and, of course, incredibly time consuming.

Maybe if I were a hot chick, I'd think differently, but for someone that has always had a self-image centered around his R&D as well as his interest in sharing his own "deep thoughts" ("deep thoughts and simple food" was my mantra already 30 years ago), reducing my publishing activity to "tweets", was a lobotomizing experience.

I'd be lying if I said that I'm above the need of validation. I like for my work to be appreciated as much as the next guy, but it's much more meaningful to have a blog with three readers instead of thousands of "contacts" scrolling past your name every day.

What makes things worse, is that Twitter and Facebook are controlled platforms built to serve interests of shadowy entities (including your own "democratic" government), and that believe in selective free speech (that would be an oxymoron, btw). It's like being a guest at a shitty party… I'd rather be home doing my own party with a couple of friends. It's a no-brainer for me.

Early on, Twitter had the power to get me loosely connected to people with common interests, mostly other game developers. Today however everything reeks of politics, making some Twitter feeds look like endless passive-aggressive rants. Get me out of here.

Facebook is the worst social platform of the two. It's a nostalgia platform. Though it can be cool to keep in touch with virtually anyone across decades, there are reasons why some people normally lose track of each other in life, even if they care for and respect each other. Keeping in touch today is very easy, but it's healthier if it's done privately, with the intent to keep in touch, rather than simply living in the same cyber-neighborhood.