Newsletter #145: Dystopia or Utopia?

Hello Recompilers,

Whenever I hear people making fun of how every ad starts “in these uncertain times…” I think about my little introduction blurbs to this newsletter and cringe a little. But here we are! Another week! Of uncertain times! Today I broke my solar setup (for those of you following along) by forgetting to calculate the amps OUT of the charge controller, tripping a cheap breaker, and the breaker… broke. The $14 part brought my $2000 setup to a standstill. I’ll have it fixed soon. But I feel like there’s a lesson in there. About how huge, powerful things can be broken if targeted correctly.


This week wasn’t short on news, from Zoom buying Keybase to the Senate voting to allow the FBI to view your web browsing data without a warrant. I’m particularly fascinated about how all of the coverage of Chinese hackers trying to steal vaccine IP is being presented as if that is an unreasonable thing for those hackers to want access to. Or rather, I’m baffled that information like that would need to be stolen in the first place. It should be given.

Naomi Klein weighed in on the tech dystopia we’re marching towards, about how tech giants are leveraging the pandemic for the private takeover of public services. I didn’t find myself agreeing with everything she has to say, but frankly, as discussion about COVID becomes more and more polarized politically, I appreciated her progressive voice being critical of some of what seems to be coming.

There are a lot of discussions happening right now about privacy and human rights. About ethics, about government. One of the more fascinating and divisive discussions is happening around the implementation of contact tracing apps, as this interview with an ethicist gets into. Personally, I think the problem is that we live in a system that has in no way earned our trust. They haven’t earned our trust in terms of how they handle our data, nor in terms of how they handle the pandemic. Still, we want to keep ourselves and our communities safe. It’s complicated. We have to let it be complicated.

Oh but my favorite thing that happened this week is that some hacker saved everyone’s unemployment in Ohio by attacking a snitch website.


The Final Straw: Digital Security Tools for Organizing with the CLDC
Continuing from the episode I posted a link to last week, Civil Liberty Defense Center activists Cora Borradaile and Michele Gretes go further into all kinds of digital security tools, from what’s wrong with PGP to the threat modeling one should consider with your VPN and email provider.

Conference Talk of the Week:

This talk is part of our “Favorite Talks” YouTube Playlist. Check it out and subscribe! 

Blank Page Panic! Creating Confidence with Test Driven … by

Elayne Juten at RailsConf 2020 talks about how to get past the blank page



Recompiler is hiring editors and designers.

Do you know an upcoming conference or CFP that should be included in this newsletter? Email leads to

This newsletter compiled by Margaret Killjoy (@magpiekilljoy). Margaret is an author, activist, and musician based in Appalachia. Her most recent book series is the Danielle Cain novella series, which starts with The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion.

Image by Tim Green (CC BY 2.0)