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Touching base

The lack of blogging this week has two roots: firstly, it was my parents' diamond wedding anniversary on Monday (which called for a road trip to visit them), and secondly, I'm still up to my elbows in the final draft of "The Annihilation Score", next July's Laundry Files novel. No, I can't say for sure when it'll be finished; probably early next week, but there's no guarantee. (I can say that this draft is 20% longer than the previous draft, which probably explains why it's taking so long ...)

In other news, some of you may have heard of this new-fangled social network called Ello. You can find me on it as @cstross, the same handle I use on twitter. Not much is happening there as yet (it's still in beta) but for now it looks a lot more interesting than Facebook (ack, spit).

Normal blogging will, I hope, be resumed early next week: or when I find something I feel compelled to rant about that won't fit inside a novel. In the meantime, watch the skies!



Ello's got issues. It's dependent on VC funding (see hereprivacy policy mentions that it might share information eventually - "Ello does not have any affiliated companies right now. But if we do in the future, we may share information with them, too.". There's also issues with making privacy tools available to users; after criticism, they've started promising basic features like blocking, but it's still problematic. There's a good writeup of concerns here.


I'm aware of the Ello privacy concerns, such as they are.

Nevertheless, right now, comparing Ello to Facebook on privacy matters is like comparing a mild head-cold to Fournier's Gangrene (WARNING: NSFL IMAGES BEHIND LINK).


Gah, meant to say: It's dependent on VC funding (see here). Its privacy policy mentions that it might share information eventually..


Congratulations to your parents on their 60th. Did they get a postcard from the Queen?

Do you have any thoughts about our relentless march to war in Iraq - Syria vs ISIS?

My thoughts (for what little they're worth): It really makes me ill that we're getting sucked in this time (I'm Canadian-- we dodged the Iraq bullet (by going to Afghanistan, where we did little if any good)).

First there are airstrikes. But they don't seem to be stopping ISIS. So then we have to go in on the ground. Where more people get killed. And no problems are solved. Hurray.

Meanwhile, Ebola is spreading, and we're fighting that on a shoestring. Where are our priorities?


1) Yes they did.

2) Some Oscar Wilde quote about the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible goes here. (I have nothing good to say about IS. But then, I have nothing good to say about the criminally irresponsible idiots who created them -- namely, British and US late imperial interventionists since roughly 1979.)

3) Yes, Ebola is finally getting traction in the western political weltanschauung. Shame it's about six months too late and may thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, will die unnecessarily as a result ...


First there are airstrikes. But they don't seem to be stopping ISIS. So then we have to go in on the ground. Where more people get killed. And no problems are solved. Hurray.

I feel that Obama is going to drop dead before allowing any American boots on the ground.

On the other hand, everyone seems to want to see ISIS bombed...


FWIW, the VC funding so far amounts to a $435,000 seed round so far, which has led at least one person raising the issue to change her tune a bit, though funding isn't the only nasty issue she sees coming up. Quoth Quinn Norton in an update:

If @Ello closes a $25m round, and pops the champagne, they're going to find it very hard to pay that back 5x or 10x with a freemium model. But I don't think it's impossible to pay back what they've taken so far and not stay true to their stated principles, and I also don't think VC is the only issue they face, given it only took up a couple of paragraphs of my Medium piece. My original Ello piece was a much about how the demands developer communities have for shiny things also drives a vicious cycle of business models in conjunction with huge VC demands. And the commentary on the need for diverse staff and sophisticated legal guidance are as important as the VC issue, if not more, in the long run. It's early days, and they're not going to be able to think about all these issues at once.

On Twitter, she's also pointed out that there is at least one very successful social network that's made freemium work quite well: LinkedIn. (Though given their general reputation for spamminess and artificial linkbait, it's not the world's most comforting comparison.)


Well, I'm on Ello as the usual HairyEars, just so that nobody else can squat it. If they put together a convincing security and privacy model, I might even use it.

Also: I like comparing FaceBork to Fournier's Gangrene.


I'm curious as to how the post-imperialists created IS.

I mean, I can see the "suggesting that the discontented youth of Saudi expend their energies doing something anti communist" - but their religious police, stonings, and beheadings were pre-1979.

I can almost see the "if it hadn't been for Sykes-Picot, the Middle East would be a secular democracy not a bunch of mix of Monarchies, Tyrannies, and failed states", but that rings hollow after a hundred years.

I can definitely see Syria as a proxy war between Riyadh and Qom; with the irony of Hezbollah and Al Qaeda (or at least JaN) knocking lumps out of each other.

I can see it as an attempted power grab over the Jihadi movement by Baghdadi (and the loads of money it brings in) by the declaration of the Caliphate, and implied leadership takeover.

But fundamentally, it's down to the locals. Power-hungry sociopath teams up with bitter Iraqi ex-Ba'athists and persuades marginalised Iraqi minorities that they're a better bet than a sectarian Prime Minister; sorry, no post-Imperialists required. Local tyrant facing a revolution decides that his first act is to throw open the prison gates and unload the nutters and psychos onto the rebels, in the hope that their presence will create fear among the waverers. Again, I just don't see the hand of post-imperialist interference.

The collapse of the rebuilt Iraqi Army can be explained by greedy and corrupt types happy to pad the payrolls with mythical soldiers, so as to collect their pay; or shoddy equipment at top-flight prices, so they can cream off the difference in the procurement budgets. Why fight for leaders often appointed for their family connections, not competence?

"Creation" is a strong word to use...


Ello looks "different" I have a twotter account, but not on my phone & I can't remember my password. Can one close a twotter account & get a new one?

I might easlily joinr "Ello" if "Invited" & especially if Charlie & Nige are on (in?) it - could be interesting (for Chinese values of interesting)


I'm curious as to how the post-imperialists created IS.

Let me refresh your memory:

  • What started on December 24th, 1979?

  • What was Operation Cyclone?

  • Who was Abdullah Azzam and what was the name of his young protege and follower who continued the organization he founded?

  • Who did Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad originally pledge allegiance to, and what did that organization change its name to on October 17th, 2004, and then in 2013/14?

  • It's not even an attempted power-grab: the chain of mergers, name-changes, leadership switches, and loyalty goes all the way back to Sayyid Qutb, but it's the same vanguard-party assholes staging a coup in the wake of civil war, applying Leninist praxis to overthrowing the tenuous grip of Ba'athist nation-building in order to create a revolutionary Caliphate. And while the CIA didn't directly intend to train and arm these aforementioned dangerous assholes, they handed an open chequebook to ISI who in turn doled out cash and guns to anyone who would inflict serious grief on the Soviets in Afghanistan, and perhaps if Zbignew Brzezinski's state department had been slightly more forward-looking and clear eyed they might have pondered what all these angry young men with leet bomb-making skillz were going to do once the Soviets were defeated.

    Bluntly: IS are the renamed, rebooted Al Qaida in Iraq franchise. They got their doctrine from Azzam by way of his sidekick Osama bin Laden, and Azzam got his training and experience in running a big chunk of the insurgency in Afghanistan, with guns and ammo from Pakistani military intelligence (the ISI) bankrolled by the CIA.

    It has not escaped my attention that Al Qaida has effectively grown from a bunch of student radicals sitting around in a basement talking smack about islamist politics to an army with mobile artillery that controls several million people and a bunch of oil wells. Much as Mr. Ulianov's vanguard party and drinking society snowballed from a bunch of ne'er-do-wells in exile clogging up cafes in central Europe prior to 1914 into a full-scale government by 1918.

    And you know something else? If George W. Bush hadn't had such a raging hard-on for Saddam Hussein, if he hadn't railroaded everyone into invading Iraq, this needn't have happened. Al Qaida have basically grown into a full-scale scary government-shaped object with a revolutionary ideology because Bush created a power vacuum for them to expand into. (And Obama helped, by not actively propping up the weak Ba'athist regime in Syria -- who are bastards, but at least they're not trying to destroy western civilization for a hobby.)


    Greg: I ran out of Ello invites yesterday.


    I occasionally wondered about all those reports crowing about "how the number X of AQ in Iraq has been killed". Survival of the fittest. Or in the case of ISIL, the smartest and meanest.

    ISIL is not going to be defeated by bombing. It will need Assad and an Iraqi government that actually cares about stopping it. Which they don't. The Shia Iraqis are fairly safe and to them that's what matters. The Kurds have their state, and now the Sunni bit have theirs.

    BTW, Assad's cousin in London is being feted and groomed as the next leader of Syria, but how all that plotting by multiple intelligence agencies will ultimately work out is anyone's guess.


    SO, the previous US (mis)-guvmints are the current stand-ins for the Imperioal GErman guvmint who sent Vladimir Ilich onwards in his "sealed train"? NOT a good precedent to be following, then.


    If I ask Nige/Hairyears nicely, do you/he think that might work for "ello" ??


    Ello doesn't have a revenue model for now, at least one they've talked about publicly, so they don't have a business model except burning VC money. That's ok, for now, because unless they can get people to stick around and have enough cool conversations taking place there that people keep dragging their friends in, sustaining itself after the initial "let's check this out" phase, it'll just be Yet Another Dead Social Network Startup.

    But if it does stick around, it'll need to acquire a revenue source, whether that's monthly subscriptions or advertising or hidden javascript dogecoin mining or selling uploaded user photos to marketers. My bet's on monthly subscriptions, but you can't do that until you've got a user base big enough that to make money after half of them leave, which isn't yet. They've said they don't like advertising, and if they wanted to be Evil there's already a competitor who's got 110% of the world's population using their network.


    The ello founders have repeatedly said they plan to go for a freemium revenue model: base level of services available to everyone, but some extra features available for a fee. See the comments on one of Quinn Norton's "where's the revenue" posts on ello itself for replies from the team:

    The details are still very much in the air: the premium features haven't yet been publicly identified, let alone priced. But that's what they'll be trying, so long as it works.


    all the way back to Sayyid Qutb

    I had to laugh when I first heard about him, and how he became "radicalized in Colorado" I can't imagine what he'd have made of modern Colorado Springs, which in his time was known mainly as a military waypoint. Really, though, I don't think he needed to come to America to become radical; he seemed to have been every color of Flaming Crazy, with the trifecta of misogyny, anti-semitism, and racism.

    Anyhow, Ello looks potentially interesting. Apparently no character limit, and allows markup (just one annoying thing about fb). If it lasts and opens up I might give it a try, it'd be nice to have someplace where I won't have to ignore relatives I don't know. I've avoided twitter for some of those reasons, and of course dealing with the trolls (not that I'd likely have that problem).


    You & Charlie have it, yes, Sayyid Qutb was totally off his murderous rocker, but .. um, err ...

    It is an ideological ( & moral? )struggle, as well as a military one. So, even apart from the short-term question: "Can one actually allow ISIS to remain on the planet?"

    It also goes back to, not just at least to SQ but, &/or maybe to THIS nasty piece of work Or even, shudder ... THIS

    Now what?


    Attention conservation notice: I'm upgrading that thing about IS to a full blog entry in its own right.



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    This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on September 26, 2014 6:55 PM.

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