Episode 73: A bold move

Download: Episode 73.

This episode we talk about moral clauses in FOSS licenses, ShotSpotter’s partnership with Verizon, how Buffer bought out its VCs, and WayMo.

Show Notes

Devopsdays Portland – SEPTEMBER 11-13, 2018 – RECOMPILERFRIENDS 20% discount

Community Event Planning pre-order
Still time to get in on the book previews

Survey for event organizers

Call for Contributors, Issue 12 Machines and Things

Major Open Source Project Revokes Access to Companies That Work with ICE

Stop using my tools, racists

Add text to MIT License banning ICE collaborators

Please remove jamiebuilds as maintainer for CoC violations

Restore unmodified MIT license

SPDX license list

My potted view on adding extra ethical clauses to open source licenses

ShotSpotter Expands Verizon Partnership With Reseller Agreement for Gunshot Detection Services

Ingrid Burrington on Twitter: “So one way to read this is it’s a way for Shotspotter installations to avoid any resident pushback by burying them in a contract–instead of making SST a line item, it’s just tacked onto a broader services agreement with Verizon that wouldn’t otherwise raise eyebrows.”

Rochester man shot by police sues cops, city, and ShotSpotter

We Spent $3.3M Buying Out Investors: Why and How We Did It

Amir Efrati on Twitter: “Just out: The truth about Waymo… https://t.co/q9Oet5j5Ck”

A day in the life of a Waymo self-driving taxi – The Verge

Donut County

Find below the link to my complete archive of 1951-1997 Sandia nuclear laboratory documents from my FOIA. https://t.co/Z8BzUTdF6g
You can also support my work at: https://t.co/GzHV653OGL or https://t.co/tvFac0gW44 pic.twitter.com/YzAo67Awri

— Martin “Sexy Nuclear Disarmament” Pfeiffer🏳️‍🌈 (@NuclearAnthro)

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CHRISTIE: Hello and welcome to The Recompiler, a feminist hacker podcast where we talk about technology in a fun and playful way. I’m your host, Christie Koehler.

Hey, Audrey.

AUDREY: Hi, Christie.

CHRISTIE: We’re live and we’re doing our live recording of Episode 73 of The Recompiler podcast. It is the last day of August, August 31st, 2018. And this week, we’re talking about moral clauses in free and open source licenses, ShotSpotter’s partnership with Verizon, how Buffer bought out its VCs, and some WayMo stuff. First, I think we got some announcements.

AUDREY: We do. We are coming up on DevOpsDays Portland. It’s happening September 11th through 13th. The Recompiler is happy to be a community sponsor and we have a discount ticket code of 20% off if you type in RECOMPILERFRIENDS.

CHRISTIE: All one word.


CHRISTIE: Less than two weeks away, it’s coming up. Exciting! We’ve been talking about that all summer, I feel like.

AUDREY: Yeah, we have.

CHRISTIE: Another thing we’ve been talking a lot about is our 2nd edition of the Community Event Planning book.

AUDREY: We are still taking pre-orders for people to join in on the conversation about the book as it progresses and to help us see how it fits into what you’re working on.

CHRISTIE: And along with that, we are also running a survey for event organizers and we have a link to that in the show notes. Then one more announcement, I think.

AUDREY: This is going to be relevant for anybody listening live and less relevant for folks who catch it on the recorded podcast release. Because our Call for Contributors for Issue 12 is ending on September 4th. That’s Tuesday coming up. And so if you’re listening live, there’s just a couple of more days to get your pitches in and tell us what you’d like to talk about with Machines and Things.

CHRISTIE: All right. Let’s get to it. I feel like we just talked about licensing and yet, more licensing.

AUDREY: We did talk about licensing last week.

CHRISTIE: A slightly different angle on it, I guess. Do you want to intro this one, Audrey?

AUDREY: Sure. A couple of days ago, I saw, a lot of us who pay attention to various issues in open source software, saw that there was a project that had modified their license. They were using the MIT license to add a section that prohibited companies that are in any way affiliated or associated with ICE, that’s the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from using their software. And it was a bold move to see a project maintainer decide to do this. It makes a lot of sense and it was in response to a specific user that they were aware of and user company that they were aware of. But it’s not something we’ve seen a lot of even though we are seeing the tech [inaudible] movement growing and pushback from people working at larger companies that have these kinds of contracts. I couldn’t think of another example. So, I was really intrigued to see what was happening there. And it did blow up in a lot of different ways. It got positive feedback; it got some very negative feedback. Some folks at the companies listed were not happy to see this and it led to the change being reverted, a major change in governance for the project, and folks exploring ways that they can continue this.

CHRISTIE: That’s a great summary. What were some of the big takeaways for you about this?

AUDREY: One of them is that there is a lack of education about free and open source software licenses in terms of why they’re defined the way that they are and what the impact of that is. Most people haven’t actually looked at the open source initiative’s definition of what an open source license is, but it contains two clauses that prohibit exactly what the person did with their software license. It prohibits limiting what sort of end user can use your software and how they can use it for what end purposes.

CHRISTIE: Right. One sort of category responses was, “Okay. Now, with this license change, the software is no longer open source as we conceptualize it.”

AUDREY: And because I’m working on a talk I’m giving that’s about a lot of the history of open source and where it’s going right now, I think it’s reasonable to say that the OSI definition is not the only way that people think about what open source is. And so, maybe it’s reasonable to stress that what we think of as an open source license could be broader than that 9-point definition.

CHRISTIE: I would be surprised if most people were unaware of the OSI definition.

AUDREY: Were aware of it?

CHRISTIE: Were not. That the more common would be to not be aware of it if you’re talking about all the millions. I don’t know what the latest census is of people contribute code through GitHub but I think it’s huge.

AUDREY: It is, absolutely. And because there’s kind of like just push-a-button process to adding a license, I think it will…for one thing, licensing is a pretty niche interest. It’s got all of these legal angles and a pretty extensive history. So to do something more than to pick an existing license probably based on what other projects you’ve seen using it, it’s a little unusual. Most folks pick something they think will be easy for them. For example, stuff that I’ve worked on was released under the MIT license because it basically says, “Go ahead, do whatever you want. Just continue to credit us.”

CHRISTIE: Once upon a time, you could only have a free project on GitHub if it were open source license. I don’t know if they ever enforced that or if they still are.

AUDREY: I’m not sure. That sounds familiar but I don’t create lots and lots of new projects on there.

CHRISTIE: It’s certainly a requirement that a lot of infrastructure companies have, that you only get their free tariff if you are using a Free Software Foundation or OSI-approved license. It’s just another sort of factor, I think, to keep track of.

AUDREY: Right. Definitely, deviating from those lists of approved licenses does introduce a lot of complications for your project because there are those sorts of requirements in the infrastructure and some of them are enforced on a technical level where you need to specify your license so that if it’s incorporated in other things, they can track that.

CHRISTIE: So there’s sort of network or ecosystem effects to changing your license potentially.

AUDREY: But at the same time, the collusion between tech companies and what [inaudible] doing and what the US government is doing is enormous. It’s really significant. I don’t think that it’s bad or wild to be willing to break some things, to try to figure out how to stop that or how to at least stop being complicit in that.

CHRISTIE: In fact, given that, these particular definitions are so entrenched. They kind of almost have to go through a period of breaking stuff, I would argue.

AUDREY: Yeah, because the defaults for how this stuff operates are bound to those specific ideals. The idea that code is morally neutral, that code should not be political. And political is basically defined as stuff that doesn’t hurt me. But to have that supposed moral neutrality just baked into this. To go against that is going to create a lot of friction, a lot of conflict, and to not always have predictable outcomes.

CHRISTIE: Yeah, the thing that’s frustrating to me is that there’s…the Free Software Foundation folks all support this sort of neutrality and licensing. We’ve got it set up that there’s a dichotomy. You’re either open source/free software or you’re proprietary. And it’s also seen as good versus bad.

AUDREY: That’s the moral distinction.


AUDREY: It’s open source or proprietary. Open source is good, proprietary is bad.


AUDREY: In a way, that’s kind of what came up last week, too, to talk about these source-available licenses that have commercial restrictions placed on them. That folks are being shoved out of the collaborative open source community toward weirdly being accused of only having business interests in mind when what the OSI definition achieves is to commercialize open source software very effectively.

CHRISTIE: And part of what was frustrating for me in this is that in trying to explore what the boundary is in our conception of open source saying, “Well, I would still be okay calling a license with a restriction like this open source.” I have people telling me that I’m actually doing harm with that. There’s not even room to have this discussion. And it was really interesting because one of the things I learned about this was the…SPDX?



AUDREY: Oh, I mistyped it originally.

CHRISTIE: Yeah, which is super confusing because I expected to have something to do with Portland.

AUDREY: Right.

CHRISTIE: And I don’t know what that’s an acronym for. We’ll have to look that up. But anyway, this is a way of…like machine [inaudible] licenses. I think it’s a [inaudible] way to put that. But it has a list of all these licenses and there are so many of them. I would argue that…I haven’t counted but it looks like at least half of them are neither free software according to the FSF or OSI approved.

AUDREY: Right. And you do have to submit your license for OSI approval. So in some cases, these licenses may qualify.

CHRISTIE: Like on their terms alone, they just haven’t gone through the process?

AUDREY: Right. Whereas, when I was looking around about this, it seemed like the Free Software Foundation folks may have gone a little bit more actively through lists of licenses to declare, which ones were or weren’t free.

CHRISTIE: So you’re saying there may be some false negatives for the OSI column on here.


CHRISTIE: Yeah, I’m curious. I sort of looked through different ones and the ones I spot-checked, it wasn’t clear to me off the top of my head what would make it not OSI approved or whatever. But this goes back to ‘this is a really niche topic’. And one of the things that’s frustrating for me about reading about it is, I looked at a couple of Reddit thread and a couple of Hacker News threads, and almost all of them devolved into a back and forth about the nuances about licensing and it just makes my head hurt.

AUDREY: And you see a whole lot of that. I’m not a lawyer but…


AUDREY: And I think even lawyers can find this complicated. Case studies are very valuable and a thing that maybe doesn’t immediately melt your brain. But if you don’t have personal experience with it, I kind of doubt the definitiveness of your answers, I guess.

CHRISTIE: Right. We have a colleague in common that has just started law school. And there is a funny tweet from her about something like, “I just told one of my fellow 1Ls that…” or something like one of the things you know people regularly do for fun in software is to like judge. I’m totally messing it up. And then the lawyer is like…yeah.

AUDREY: I saw that too. Because she had her first week of classes, I think. I told my fellow first years what people in my industry do for fun is talk about licensing and they’re just like, “Ugh…”

CHRISTIE: Anyway, I don’t have anything definitive to say about like how the license change would have effects that would propagate in terms of upstream licensing, downstream packaging and all that. That, I want someone with more expertise to kind of talk about. And also with a lot of this stuff, we don’t know. A lot of this stuff does not have a lot of established precedent either.

AUDREY: That is the way that we’re going to find out is by trying this because it’s complex, because there’s a lot of details and things can come together in a lot of different ways.

CHRISTIE: Right. And the thing is it’s only really big things are going to ever show up in the courts, pretty much. But what I did appreciate is actually talking about this stuff. You might criticize the way the maintainer [inaudible] but it did bring up the issue for discussion. I think it also revealed a gap in open source governance too. I saw people criticizing Jamie sort of like, “Oh, they haven’t been involved in a long time. They just came in and did this.” But then I saw someone who hadn’t really been involved in the project all of a sudden get really involved in governance which is the same thing in the other direction. I think a lot of projects have really ad hoc rules around who is considered a core contributor or maintainer and having the authority to make these kinds of changes.

AUDREY: And there’s a potential for unfortunate hijacking.

CHRISTIE: It looked a lot like that, in this case, to me.

AUDREY: Yeah, not knowing the people involved personally. Like you, I’m just looking at the bug tracker and the pull requests and stuff like that. But it sure seemed like folks that had been involved for a while kind of said, “Well, I don’t know if this is exactly what I would do or how I would do it. But I agree with the goals. So let’s give this a shot.” And then it kind of became a last maintainer standing thing of people trying to force others out because of the pushback, because of the ways that a lot of people do not approve of this. And I mean, it’s interesting because I don’t know if any of the companies exactly took a stand but there were folks at Microsoft who took this very personally.

CHRISTIE: And one of the people that showed up and now seems to be involved in the governance is a Microsoft employee.

AUDREY: [Crosstalk] list was a priority for them?

CHRISTIE: Right. And I’m not passing judgment because that’s wrong but I think it’s potentially problematic and it concerns me.

AUDREY: Without having a governance process about doing this, about how changes to your license happen, this kind of thing is hard to avoid. You don’t really have a system.

CHRISTIE: I also think we need to just have more conversations about sticky Code of Conduct situations. One of the reasons that they use to justify kicking the maintainer out was calling some other people racist. And we’ve seen increasing examples of racists or turf being categorized as a slur and people being punished for using those descriptive terms and I think we need to reckon with that.

AUDREY: Yeah. Again, civility is the thing people fall back on to talk about what’s appropriate or not. I don’t know, if these things are upsetting, then you might be yelling, you might be worked up, you might be terse with people. You might be not very forgiving of people explicitly or implicitly supporting harm. So, to say, “Oh well, but you have to do it very politely,” whether or not they’re making that really explicit. The impact is, “Oh well, you weren’t polite enough.” Then why is that the most important thing to you, just like why is the idea that software could be morally neutral the most important thing to you. You have to isolate yourself so hard to see that as a reasonable perspective.

CHRISTIE: Okay. I think we think we covered all the main points for the Lerna licensing thing.

AUDREY: Sure. One other thing that I saw that I thought was a good summary, It was from Danny O’Brien, who works at the EFF. He had kind of a nice comment that I think I agree with a lot. He said, “My podded view on adding extra ethical clauses to open source licenses: you should totally try it out! But (and this is something that the GPL’s aikido hides) the point of FLOSS licenses is to bypass the problems that ideas of intellectual property insert into the free flow of digital information. So, you get to add your clauses, but you will also end up with the friction and intuitive consequences of IP law. This has, historically, Not Gone Well. But who knows what the future holds?” This is going to not be easy. This is going to be complicated. But we should try it because the situation that we have is complicated and not easy and not good. I don’t know. I just think like we need to accept that about it.

CHRISTIE: Yeah. I appreciated that comment, too. There were some phrasing that signals things I might quibble with. But overall, I appreciate that comment a lot.

AUDREY: And coming from somebody who is part of the establishment here.

CHRISTIE: Right. It seems to signal that there should always be a free flow of information and I actually don’t know where Danny totally is on this but there should be no intellectual property attached to…

AUDREY: Well, the thing that we’re used to anyhow. The people that we’re used to that’s not very visible to us is that idea of a free flow, of not having to negotiate with every single piece component.

CHRISTIE: I think it can go either way. And where I’m going with this is these are ideas I’m still fleshing out. But I have sort of come to view software licenses as a giant hack to begin with. And because of that, that in part creates a lot of these really complicated situations.

AUDREY: Yeah, I think that’s fair to say.

CHRISTIE: So there’s a thing evidently, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at this point, called ShotSpotter. And this is a service that uses, I guess, sort of IoT sensor technology within municipal settings to detect gunshots.

AUDREY: I think we might have talked about this or something similar before because it’s applied surveillance layer.

CHRISTIE: It is. Anyway, they had a press release that they’ve entered into a reseller agreement with Verizon. And they had a prior relationship with Verizon, so this is just sort of a rejiggering of that. Ingrid Burrington on Twitter said, “So one way to read this is it’s a way for ShotSpotter installations to avoid any resident pushback by burying them in a contract instead of making SST a line item, it’s just tacked onto a broader services agreement with Verizon that wouldn’t otherwise raise eyebrows.” Because they’re basically sort of stepping up their bundling of this product with Verizon’s light sensor network and IoT platform deployed on streetlights and this is part of their Smart Communities suite of solutions. This reminded me of the thing we talked about with Portland recently.

AUDREY: Yes, me too. That was part of what caught my attention.

CHRISTIE: I don’t know. It wasn’t Verizon that was the telecom appointed for that. Was it T-Mobile or someone else? Anyway, but it’s very similar.

AUDREY: It’s not just the hardware installation of the street light sensor networks. There is software and lots of…once you have that, it can be a pathway to all sorts of things. And given that there are so many reasons for the expansion of surveillance, so many different actors who push for it, it’s not surprising that this stuff would get bundled together but it does seem pretty sneaky.

CHRISTIE: And the more things are bundled together, the harder it is to separate out the concerns. And part of the reason that people sort of…it’s the same with any kind of coalition building, you grow the base of support. So you’ve got people that want to improve transit or whatever, and law enforcement that wants to have more of these tools available and whatnot. And it’s harder to organize objection or concerns or whatever.

AUDREY: Right. You’re going to get people who say, “Well, but you don’t want shootings so we should be able to detect them.” Well, maybe it’s not very good at that.

CHRISTIE: I don’t know if you follow…so, we’ll link to Ingrid’s whole thread about it. But later on in the thread after she shared the press release, there’s this article about…it says, “Rochester man shot by police sues cops, city, and ShotSpotter.” So this was a man who…a patrol car started following him because they say the car matched a…it was one of those like they match a suspect. It’s not even clear that the description was close at all. He pulled up at his destination. They shone a spotlight on him. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a really bright light on you but can’t see anything else but the light. So he ran. And then their shooting evolved. Part of the evidence that was used against him in court to allege that he shot back at the officer was this audio from the ShotSpotter. And then later the…so the original jury acquitted him and only convicted him on criminal possession of a weapon and then later that was overturned based that the Shotspotter evidence was not reliable scientific proof. And then the government decided not to retry the other charges. They opted not to prosecute him against no weapons possession charge because that was the only evidence they had.

AUDREY: Because there were shots that the police officer didn’t fire then that means he must have had a weapon. But if ShotSpotter was completely wrong about how many shots there actually were, then the whole thing doesn’t make sense.

CHRISTIE: Yeah. So, these surveillance things are not just like an optional, nice-to-have addition to things. They’re used in negative ways against people. We’ve seen this with like Fitbit information being used in court cases, too.

AUDREY: I mean, one of the things that I thought when I saw this, aside from lookout all cities who have bought these products without thinking about what else could get embedded in there, is that people are wrong about gunshots too. People call 911 for things that they think are gunshots that aren’t. The software is going to have to be super good at something that might not be very definitive.

CHRISTIE: Yeah. And there’s this use of take like context and yeah. Anything else about ShotSpotter? I don’t think I’d heard of that for us to keep an eye on.

Okay. This is kind of some happy news. Buffer, which is the…what do you call these tools, like tools to manage social media interactions?

AUDREY: Yeah, like a social media marketing tool. I use it.

CHRISTIE: Yeah, Buffer’s pretty cool. And one of the things I really appreciate about the company is they have a pretty strong commitment to transparency and they make a lot of information about their business public. A lot. Like almost more than any other organization I can think of, including a lot of nonprofits for that matter.

AUDREY: I think the way that I’d first heard about them was around salary transparency and them trying to take steps to make it so that everybody in the company and job applicants knew what the salary ranges were.

CHRISTIE: And so they just had an article that says: We Spent $3.3M Buying Out Investors: Why and How We Did It.” And this is a pretty detailed post, complete with charts and graphics. It talks about basically the history of the company, what their types of investment were, why they took on a Series A, what they were looking for, and then why they decided to buy out a lot of their VCs. There’s a couple of things in here that I really appreciated, aside from just the detail and the transparency. I really appreciated that when they negotiated their Series A, they negotiated a pretty non-traditional raise. It was a small amount. They gave less equity of the company. They didn’t give up control, meaning there’s no investor board seat. They took a lot of it as liquidity which I thought was interesting. So money paid out to some of the founders and early team, and not being committed to an IPO within a certain timeframe. And then also a condition that came along with that was a threshold point at which investors could be owed a certain amount of, basically, interest for their investment.

AUDREY: I really liked that there was kind of a ‘how to’ element to this. Not just how we did it, but like here’s the things that we had to ask for. And that they didn’t necessarily know that they would wind up of doing this, but that they had had some guesses about what they wanted that enabled them to get the right kind of terms.

CHRISTIE: Yeah. I think this provides a lot of insight just into how startups and businesses work. I think it’s a great learning tool for that. I thought this was pretty cool.

AUDREY: Yeah, definitely. And I hope more companies can try this approach. There are things that’s hard to do without VC.

CHRISTIE: And I think this makes it really clear like why you take on funding and then also the drawbacks of it.

AUDREY: Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

CHRISTIE: Okay, so….

AUDREY: And then?

CHRISTIE: And then…so, I don’t know what prompted…I don’t know. The information had this long piece on kind of where Waymo’s at with things. I gave my email to the information, so I was able to actually read this article but potentially only this one. Waymo’s been testing autonomous vehicles. No, I already gave you my email. You’re not going to let me see it again? Urgh! Audrey!

AUDREY: Until we started doing podcast, I never appreciated just how bad it was, the process of just reading all of the articles that were relevant to what we were talking about. I didn’t appreciate just how bad the situation actually was.

CHRISTIE: I want people to get paid for journalism but also this one site’s like $200 a year. It’s just I can’t subscribe to all these things.

AUDREY: I really just want it to all work on a single subscription basis where everybody gets paid. And like maybe some of this stuff is available through the library and I just haven’t dug into it enough but it’s really nice to not have to figure out every single one yourself.

CHRISTIE: Right. And can I just reiterate that I gave him my email? I should be able to open the link again.


CHRISTIE: Anyway, lucky for me, I made a PDF of it. Anyway, Waymo which is Alphabet’s, which is Google’s autonomous vehicle company, whatever, has been piloting a fleet in the Phoenix area. And the information basically did talk to a bunch of people that work near the warehouse, the depot, whatever, just about their experience with the vehicles and they do a lot of goofy things. The tweet thread, which you can see, I really appreciated because it has some pictures, some annotated screen caps of Google Street View where we can have really good examples of where the vehicles get confused. And part of the reason it just kind of makes the whole issue really obvious is the intersection coming out of Waymo’s vehicle depot and it’s a T intersection with no signal lights and it looks like not a lot of lane markings. So the vans turning right onto this thoroughfare that they usually don’t have a problem but it’s the unprotected left they have to make and thoroughfares like 45 mph or something. So the vans quite often just wait forever and ever because they have to go find…

AUDREY: They don’t understand how to actually get into traffic.

CHRISTIE: Yeah. And I can’t tell if there’s a…yeah, there’s not a middle lane. Anyway, the article…I actually was kind of chuckling as I was reading this because a lot of the things that the cars have trouble with, they’re all things that stress me out when I’m driving. So I was reading and I was like, “Yep.” When I have to do that, I often turn down the radio if it’s on and I’ll pay extra attention and then sometimes have to make like a judgment call that I don’t always get super right. Anyone who has experience driving knows that you constantly have to make guesses and maybe break rules a little bit and you don’t always know in hindsight, you’re like, “Uh, well.” I didn’t actually have as much room as I was comfortable with to pull up, so I had to really step on the gas and kind of piss the person off behind me. But it turns out okay most of the time.

AUDREY: I looked at, for one thing, all of the interviews basically end up with the person saying, “I hate this.”


AUDREY: Like, “I hate this car so much.” But I was also thinking about it in terms of the bike ride that I went on yesterday where I kind of cut through my neighborhood a certain direction. And because I don’t drive, but I ride a bike, some of the kinds of decisions that I have to make and the ways that I can find myself going down a block and then coming back and going down another block and coming back because I’m trying to find a route through that doesn’t put me on a major arterial or on a street with no pavement because this part of town has a lot of unpaved segments.

CHRISTIE: That’s really bad. It’s one thing in a car, it’s another thing in a bike.

AUDREY: Yeah. I don’t know. I have tires that can handle it and everything. But sometimes I’m just like, “Ugh, not again.” Especially when I can’t see what’s going to happen when I get down to the other end of it. So I think I might have added another half a mile to a mile on my bike ride yesterday just by trying to find a through route. I did go over something that’s just like one linear mile through the neighborhood. But because I had just those things, I do not want to be on a busy street. I do not want to cross certain busy streets without a light. Anyhow, so I’m just thinking like how is this self-driving car going to do this when they can’t even see the current road condition in that kind of detail. They’re working off of maps and I can tell you that Google Maps does not have the information that I would need for this. So yeah, the car’s stopping because it doesn’t know what’s going on seems like the best possible thing here. Although I guess it gets rear ended a lot.

CHRISTIE: And abruptly stopping is actually not always the best course of action and can absolutely cause…or stopping abruptly or going too slow are actually things that are bad. Something that bugs the crap out of me when I’m driving is when you’re on a freeway on ramp and people are not accelerating. And you look down, you’re on 35 miles an hour or so and you look ahead and there’s a 100 yards where people are going 60 and you’re like, “Speed up!”

AUDREY: Oh, I see. Yeah, because you can’t make a safe merge.

CHRISTIE: No! By the time the merge approaches, you should be going just as fast as freeway traffic. And I don’t know what…I mean, I can understand it’s like a fully loaded down truck or something. But anyway, a lot of the things that the article describes are things that are tough for human drivers but also that quite often require a certain assessment of the body language of the vehicle and the driver, or your other fellow drivers, or pedestrians. It’s one of the reasons why I hate fully tinted windows and why they’re not legal in all jurisdictions. You can learn a lot from like what is the position of the other driver’s head? Are they looking in my direction?

AUDREY: Yeah. As a pedestrian, I loathe those. I think about throwing rocks at those cars because if I can’t make eye contact with somebody I’m crossing in front of, then I assume that they’re going to run me over, that they don’t see me.

CHRISTIE: And if you can’t even tell where they’re looking at at all, yeah. That was one thing. Another thing that really cracked me up is something that I get confused by all the time and I always feel like I’m doing wrong are the red/green lights to regulate the flow of traffic during rush hour onto the freeway because I always feel like it’s just like, “Hurry up and get in the way and then go, go, go, go!” And the cars are programmed to stop at a stop sign for a certain number of seconds, which I think that’s one of the things that you’re taught in driver training. But then I thought the merge lights onto the freeway, they often change so quickly.

AUDREY: Oh, they might end up waiting out like [crosstalk].


AUDREY: Which will also not be popular.


AUDREY: And you get two of them and they can block the entire on-ramp.

CHRISTIE: Yeah. Anyway, I empathize but also…I don’t know who’s in relation to this or just general discussion about autonomous vehicles but I think I saw a tweet go around and I wish I could find it again because I think it might have been linked or talking about sort of different academic studies in this regard but that like we can make autonomous transport systems but they require certain amount of isolation from humans and that we have them in our trains.

AUDREY: We can create an autonomous street car system.

CHRISTIE: Trains, trolleys.

AUDREY: With isolated tracks.


AUDREY: You need you need infrastructure. You need predictable infrastructure that only has these vehicles interacting with each other. But if they do that, then I want protected bike lanes, protected bikeways.

CHRISTIE: From the trains?

AUDREY: No, in general.

CHRISTIE: Oh, right.

AUDREY: [Crosstalk] with that kind of infrastructure and make it so that there is pedestrian and bike.

CHRISTIE: The cities I’ve been to with really good transit, that is all part of it. The multimodal. Anyway, I would just much rather have good trolleys and light rail and buses and trains than a whole bunch of autonomous vehicles on the road.

AUDREY: Absolutely. I agree.

CHRISTIE: It’s basically like having a whole bunch of 15-year old student drivers on the road all the time.

AUDREY: At once.


AUDREY: I thought it was interesting that the places that they’re choosing to test, they’re flat and they have like very regular street grids. But that doesn’t mean that they still have predictable outside behavior. It doesn’t mean that they have good signals or road striping or lack of potholes or whatever.


AUDREY: [Crosstalk] the street infrastructure, they could start there.

CHRISTIE: But that’s just given how big the United States is and just how terrible a lot of the infrastructure is in different cities and places, the inclement weather. Think how much people complain when it gets too hot and the Mac shuts down or when they have to do different things when we get ice and snow here. I feel like autonomous cars and trucks are going to be even more like…they’re going to be even less adaptable to that.

AUDREY: Like there will be just a very small window of usefulness even if these become as good as they possibly can be.

CHRISTIE: Right. Like when are they going to start training these with chains and ice?

AUDREY: I’m so glad that they’re not doing it in Portland. I guess that’s my last word.

CHRISTIE: I wish we go back in time to the Interstate Highway Act and prevent it or prevent just the utter dismantling of public transit that started then.

AUDREY: And redo absolutely everything.

CHRISTIE: Well, from that point on, yeah.

AUDREY: From that time period.

CHRISTIE: Yeah. We’re on a good path.

AUDREY: And said it took three decades for people to even start to push back, four decades, something like that.

CHRISTIE: We have one more topic but I’m wondering if we should punt this to the next episode.


CHRISTIE: Okay. Things we like on the internet this week.

AUDREY: Speaking of rolling around. I guess I’ve been playing this iOS game. It might be another platform, called Donut County. And it’s a little bit like [inaudible] and a little bit just like a physics puzzle game. But as far as I can tell, you’re a raccoon with a donut shop. And something rather that you’re doing causes holes in the ground and you are apparently exploring the possibilities of that because every time you let something fall through the hole, you slide it around and everything that gets through the hole gets a little bit bigger and absolutely everybody ends up in the bottom of the pit.

CHRISTIE: It’s good to have silly diversions, I think.


CHRISTIE: I don’t know that I have anything. It’s been one of those weeks.

AUDREY: Did you favorite any capybara videos?

CHRISTIE: Did I favorite any videos?

AUDREY: Did Bertie do anything good?

CHRISTIE: We had to put a cone on him which looks silly but it’s kind of sad. There’s a photo of a cat eating spaghetti. So I can use this one, I guess. I haven’t looked through this yet but I was planning to. NuclearAnthro who studies sort of a response…

AUDREY: [Crosstalk] of nuclear stuff.

CHRISTIE: Yeah, that’s a smarter way to put it, had made a request to Sandia Labs and it was just fulfilled and published or shared the documents and archived documents from 1951 to 1997. And I’m looking forward to dive into that research. This stuff is sort of fascinating to me.

AUDREY: Well, we still need to plan out our road trip to the B Reactor, right?

CHRISTIE: We do, yes. Then you get a tumbleweed. Maybe before a fire season. I don’t know. Washington State was so covered in smoke.

AUDREY: Oh, yeah. I know that there’s some pretty major forest areas closed right now.

CHRISTIE: Yeah. Okey dokey, I think that’s our episode. Thanks, Audrey.

AUDREY: Thanks, Christie.

CHRISTIE: Talk to you all later.


CHRISTIE: And that’s a wrap. You’ve been listening to The Recompiler Podcast. You can find this and all previous episodes at recompilermag.com/podcast. There you’ll find links to individual episodes as well as the show notes. You’ll also find links to subscribe to The Recompiler Podcast using iTunes or your favorite podcatcher. If you’re already subscribed via iTunes, please take a moment to leave us a review. It really helps us out. Speaking of which, we love your feedback. What do you like? What do you not like? What do you want to hear more of? Let us know. You can send email feedback to podcast@recompilermag.com or send feedback via Twitter to @RecompilerMag or directly to me, @Christi3k. You can also leave us an audio comment by calling 503 489 9083 and leave in a message.

The Recompiler podcast is a project of Recompiler Media, founded and led by Audrey Eschright and is hosted and produced by yours truly, Christie Koehler. Thanks for listening.