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Time for a Pledge Drive!

It’s time (past time, really) for a pledge drive! If you appreciate this blog and its unique perspective, please consider donating by clicking the button below.

donate button

You can also donate by Venmo at David-Futrelle-1.

There’s no other blog quite like this one and your donations are what keep it alive. WHTM is ad-free, and I don’t pester you with popups asking for donations every time you visit. (I try to limit my pestering to these pledge drives.) There’s no mysterious billionaire keeping me afloat. This is a one dude, two cat operation.

I know this is a difficult time to ask for donations; many of you I am sure are as strapped as I am at the moment. But if you can afford to donate, please do. And if you can donate a little extra to make up for those who can’t donate now, that would be even better. You don’t know how much I appreciate it.

And if you’re one of those who donates monthly or has donated a lump sum since the last pledge drive, thank you so much!

My financial situation is, I’m sad to report, pretty precarious. I don’t have the money to cover either my rent or my insurance payment at the end of the month. And I’m still struggling with medical bills. I had to cover several thousand dollars worth of emergency dental work this spring and at the moment I don’t have the money to actually get the job finished. So every little bit you can spare would help a great deal.

Thanks in advance for your support!r

–David Futrelle

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Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
3 months ago

This is a one dude, two cat operation.

Cat pics?

My financial situation is, I’m sad to report, pretty precarious.

I’m very sorry to hear that. I really want to see cat pics but I won’t hold my donation hostage for them. Cat pics, tho!

Threp (formerly Shadowplay)
Threp (formerly Shadowplay)
3 months ago

Need to hit the bank tomorrow anyways, so I’ll remember to shift a bit over to use.

You’ve given me hours of reading – and a fair amount of learning. Seems fair enough to chip in.

Mind … cat pics are always welcome. 😛

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

There’s no mysterious billionaire keeping me afloat.

What? You need to talk to George and get that check.

Catalpa
Catalpa
3 months ago

I’m making a donation after I post this comment.

I’m again going to recommend David to open up a Patreon to have a more of a steady income.

KindaSortaHarmless
KindaSortaHarmless
3 months ago

Donated, also seconding Catalpa’s Patreon idea.

Ooglyboggles
Ooglyboggles
3 months ago

Hey everyone can I have your attention? If you have any extra to spare could you help our good friend Paradoxy? They’re in need of some cash for rent.

https://twitter.com/ParadoxyIntent/status/1288540268426416128

Pie
Pie
3 months ago

On an unrelated note, anyone heard of “genderify”? Awesome premise… stick a name or email address into their magical web API, and it’ll tell you whether the person it belongs to is male or female! Using the power of AI! It worked about as well as you might expect. It seems to have gone from launch to overwhelming mockery to shutting up shop in about 48 hours.

https://www.theverge.com/2020/7/29/21346310/ai-service-gender-verification-identification-genderify

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
3 months ago

Awesome premise… stick a name or email address into their magical web API, and it’ll tell you whether the person it belongs to is male or female! Using the power of AI!

I’ve seen programs that will predict someone’s gender based on a writing sample, with more words giving you a better prediction, but never down to just a name or email address. That’s pretty arrogant! LOL

sunnysombrera
sunnysombrera
3 months ago

Donated, and might give a bit more but need to think about it. I hope you receive all you need, David.

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

@Pie
I have to admit; I did a double take when I read that. I’d somewhat understand an AI that tries to gender photos, even though that is still also problematic it at least makes a modicum of sense as an idea. But email addresses and usernames? Most people I know, myself included, have emails that don’t really look like names and don’t give any indications of gender. Same with Twitter handles or other usernames.

Reminds me a bit of how some TERF created a social media platform that requires users to upload photos which were then checked by AI to see if they were cis female. In addition to being illegal under UK law (where it was based), the app appears to mostly check if someone is white and feminine.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
3 months ago

And the genderify disaster also remind that nobody ever know what a neural network actually learn. One of the strong example was how putting “Dr.” in front of a name made the AI see it as male. That’s a good example of how neural networks can appear to work and be based on obviously bogus rules.

Similarly, somebody tried to use neural network to detect criminal. It “worked” in practice by seeking if the suspect was non white and if he was poor. It’s not just that it reflect the bias of its trainer, it’s also that nobody can double check if the method used make sense.

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
3 months ago

“pledge”. always makes me think of ma dad saying “son, you don’t OWE allegiance to a flag”

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

@PoM
Out of curiosity, I just checked out one of the programs that predicts gender based on writing samples and pasted in some things I’d written. It gendered me correctly as female.

That being said, I still find the premise sketchy and I don’t like that it relies on binary ideas of gender or the idea that men or women should write or sound a certain way.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
3 months ago

@Naglfar

Back when I was on Livejournal writing fanfiction, my friends and I all put our writing through one of the bots. It was correct about 80% of the time, not counting myself where any gendering is both correct and incorrect.

the idea that men or women should write or sound a certain way.

The word “should” implies that the bot is prescriptive, but it isn’t. It’s just observing that men and women do, factually, have different-sounding written voices and making predictions based on those factual patterns. There’s nothing in the bots that says you SHOULD write in a particular way, but that you just do.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
3 months ago

I’ve done individual donations before, but I’ve upped to donate monthly. I hope it helps.
While I have the resources I’m trying to help others.

Your work has been very valuable to me and I read it everyday.

Catalpa
Catalpa
3 months ago

Those “let the machine determine if this person is actually [x]” are stupid at best, and biased and harmful at worst.

That said, it would be kind of cool to have an extension or something that would scan for preferred pronouns in a person’s bio and plug in the correct ones if you mentioned the person. I’ve accidentally misgendered someone once or twice because I wasn’t paying attention to their bio and that’s always embarrassing.

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

Out of curiosity, I ran a number of TERF blog posts by women through the bot and it has declared them all to be male. OTOH, it consistently genders me as a woman. I can just imagine the rage they’d have if they realized this.

To be clear, I do not like the bot and do not endorse it. I just find it a bit interesting how a group of cis women obsessed with always being able to tell trans* women apart gets misgendered by the bot.

I’m using this bot BTW.

Threp (formerly Shadowplay)
Threp (formerly Shadowplay)
3 months ago

Got curious enough to plug the first chapters of two novels into that bot.

The one with the male MC registers as weak male, with slightly over 52% “male gendered” words.
The one with the female MC registers as weak female, with slightly under 54% “female gendered” words.

(side note, I find the note that weak male may indicate European to be hilarious)

But we’re talking almost 50/50 splits of gendered words in each case. Which is good. I like balance. 😛

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
3 months ago

@Naglfar:

Reminds me a bit of how some TERF created a social media platform that requires users to upload photos which were then checked by AI to see if they were cis female. In addition to being illegal under UK law (where it was based),

Due to sex discrimination laws? Do those even apply to noncommercial private spaces?

the app appears to mostly check if someone is white and feminine.

Deliberately excluding non-whites, or an accident because they only trained it on white faces or something?

Of course, this would be ridiculously easy to defeat even if it worked as advertised. Just upload a photo of, say, Daniela Pestova. I don’t think they get much more feminine or white than her. Bam, infiltration achieved, now we can spy on the enemy camp. 🙂

@Ohlmann:

And the genderify disaster also remind that nobody ever know what a neural network actually learn.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/66479.Starfish

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

@Surplus

Due to sex discrimination laws? Do those even apply to noncommercial private spaces?

In the UK, these things are governed by the Equalities Act, which I am told (but could be wrong, please correct me) says that single-sex spaces can only legally exclude trans* people (which this app claims to do) if there is a justification that stands in a court of law. There is no proportionate means justification that would support this app.

Deliberately excluding non-whites, or an accident because they only trained it on white faces or something?

I don’t know if it’s deliberate (but might be), I just know that the vast majority of facial recognition AIs are mainly trained on white faces and most of the cultural signifiers of femininity in European culture have been designed around whiteness to exclude non-white women. Of course, this also excludes GNC women of all races, which might be a feature and not a bug for them.

Just upload a photo of, say, Daniela Pestova.

I actually don’t know how they prevent this. And since it appears a lot of TERFs online have/are sockpuppet accounts, this probably has already happened.
Honestly, I don’t think there is much of a point to infiltrating it. Infiltrating other TERF social media sites like Spinster or Glindr is easy but yields virtually no useful information, it’s just a lot of people obsessing about trans* people.

Susan
Susan
3 months ago

I did the gender bot @Naglfar linked to. I’m male, apparently. And they’re really sure, too, like 75% dude.

(I’m not male.)

Also, it said the genre of the sample is “informal” so I can’t take this seriously at all. (I put a couple of pages of the very formal academic book I am writing. It has footnotes, for heaven’s sake.)

KindaSortaHarmless
KindaSortaHarmless
3 months ago

@Susan

The two boxes outlined in red under the long horizontal total words box outlined in red appear to give two different analyses, one assuming formal writing and the other assuming informal writing. That’s what it’s shown for all the samples I’ve put through it, at any rate.

Susan
Susan
3 months ago

@Kinda, Aha! I see that now. Thanks. It’s still telling me I am male. By a lot.

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

I just ran a bunch of the Warren Farrell quotes from an earlier post here, and it is convinced he is female. It also appears to believe Valerie Solanas and Andrea Dworkin are male. In conjunction with other observation reported here, it seems this bot doesn’t work very well.

I also fed it text from another AI, and that AI consistently is gendered as male. Maybe the other AI’s training data was predominantly by men?

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
3 months ago

OT: I was locked out of this site for several hours this evening, without cause or any sort of warning. During this interval I was forbidden to even read anything here. This seems to require an explanation. Why was I subjected to this atrocious treatment? I am unaware of having done anything controversial recently to warrant any sort of a “time-out”.

I challenge the person responsible to step forward, admit responsibility, and explain their actions.

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

@Surplus
The site was down. David tweeted about it. I’m not sure why, probably a glitch at the hosting system or something. Anyway, it’s back up now so not a big deal. Servers malfunction sometimes, it’s just the way of technology.

Catalpa
Catalpa
3 months ago

@Surplus
I couldn’t access WHTM either. I got some kind of error page about a database failure or something. I’m pretty sure the whole site was down for everyone, not just you. And it was probably due to some server or database glitch, not the actions of a particular individual.

Just because something inconvenient happens, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s some intricately orchestrated plot in order to harm you specifically. In fact, I’d say that it’s almost never an intricately orchestrated plot to harm you specifically.

KindaSortaHarmless
KindaSortaHarmless
3 months ago

^Yeah, I got the database failure too. Something probably went wrong somewhere (you can tell I’m not a computer person).

Victorious Parasol
Victorious Parasol
3 months ago

Another person who got the database failure page. I refreshed, got the message again, grumbled, did something else, checked the page again, got the message again, grumbled, did something else, and now it’s working again.

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

Yep, database failure here too. Seems to be resolved now.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
3 months ago

Why was I subjected to this atrocious treatment?

What part of “database error” says “We are targeting Surplus for atrocious treatment” to you?

Moggie
Moggie
3 months ago

A database connection error can be a symptom of a denial of service attack. The database server will be configured for a particular maximum number of concurrent connections, so if an attacker swamps the site with traffic, it can max out this limit. If you’re using lower-cost hosting on a shared server, the outage could even be due to an attack on another site which shares the same database server. If anyone is being targeted, it’s David.

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

@Moggie
Do you think there are enough enemies of the site who would want to DDoS it? I know the manosphere doesn’t like it, but this site is hardly the biggest against them.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
3 months ago

Unlikely to be an attack against David indeed. Also, while the outage can be a symptom of DDoS, it’s similar to saying that cough is a symptom of black death : technically true, but not the most likely option on rate.

epitome of incomprehensibility

The A.I. that genders writing is…interesting and frustrating at the same time.

I first used my “epitome of incomprehensibility” nym while on a creative writing site (started ages 16/17) and when I first referred to myself as “she,” someone wrote that they were surprised to find out “e_o_i is a girl” and had to reset their “gender calibration meter” or something 🙂

My theory, for what it’s worth, isn’t that my writing was particularly masculine, but that gender-neutral pseudonyms (especially if they’re not “name-like” words) tend to be recognized as male. It’s the male-default bias, similar to the “Dr.” example above (although in that case it’s also that there were more men than women in medicine up until…when, a couple of decades ago? fairly recently anyway).

Also, the possibility of someone being non-binary or otherwise gender-nonconforming just doesn’t occur to a lot of people.

Also, David, hope the pledge drive goes well! Unfortunately I can’t give as much as last year because my tutoring work is down this summer.

Naglfar
Naglfar
3 months ago

@David Futrelle
My knowledge is limited, but if there was a DDoS I think you’d see a massive spike in traffic immediately preceding the down time. If that didn’t happen, it probably wasn’t a DDoS.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
3 months ago

If it’s sharing its hosting with other sites, and one of them was the target, you wouldn’t see a spike in your stats.

Has your hosting provider had anything to say about this incident? Even so much as an apology?