It’s a strange world. Let’s keep it that way.


I am writing this far later than intended because life interrupted. On July 9th I gave a talk at Tech Nottingham called “Small Steps To A Better World: Content Warnings And Socially Responsible Practice”. There is an abstract on the talks page of this site, but the quick summary is the implementation of trigger warnings at Strange Horizons and why people in tech should be good people. The talk went well. It was my first “proper” talk that wasn’t a five minute affair. I was nervous before the evening, but overall I am grateful for the opportunity Andrew & Emma provided, as I think that pubic speaking about technical and social topics is a good way for people to contribute to their communities. Because of that belief it is also something that I have wanted to start doing for the past couple of years.

So it went well apart from one major hiccup: my speaker notes didn’t show up on my laptop screen, which was a problem because the slides are light on details. The mitigation was that I’d practised in the weeks prior so knew most of the content, but I also had a handwritten list of slides written down on a pad of paper as a memory aide. Only one detail eluded my memory and forced me to locate the specific details in a separate window.

The major good that the talk provided was that a lot of people learned what content warnings are and were given a bunch of references to think about their professional conduct outside of a strictly ethical framework, but instead a political one. However, at the same time, it was also stressful to frame a conversation within the scene setting of “everything is awful”, the environment is collapsing, disaster capitalism, and so on when ministers are resigning from the government over disagreements with a Brexit white paper, and potentially causing a already weak, minority government to collapse. I worried before speaking that I’d laid it on rather thick with the doom & gloom, when really reality was trying to outstrip anything I could commit to my notes.

That’s a problem with trying to be relevant.

One positive change that I need to make is address the fact that about a week ago the Association for Computing Machinery released an updated code of ethics, which you can here here. I will need to add a slide to the presentation about this.

For me the best moment of the talk came when discussing the process of selecting topics to warn on where I described myself as not playing devil’s advocate, but instead the devil’s fool, by asking all of the stupid, whiny, pointless questions to the team at Strange Horizons. It was a fun of the cuff play on words. It got a laugh and amused me.

This is a short retrospective post, because as three weeks have passed my memory has faded in the ensuing apocalyptic summer sun. I’m happy for the experience of talking at Tech Nottingham. It’s a community that I have a great deal of fondness and time for. It’s an experience that I intend to replicate and improve upon as well. So I guess that’s a thing I can do now.

Current music: Brian Eno’s Another Green World

This Talk Is Dedicated To All The Cyberpunks In the World Fighting Injustice Everyday