Scheduling a time to think about OPP – other people’s problems.
I am very angry. This new but old reality has seeped into my skin, tricking my mind to look for blame, to scorn allies, to ignore options. I want to hide in a bathtub with a blanket over my head. I want to yell. I want to punch. I want my skin to grow spikes. I want my breath to radiate fire. I want a quenching buffer of nothingness to pour from my soul and destroy my enemies…
…Aaaaaaand that’s too far…
Anger’s great. Gets things moving. Keeps the brain clear. Living in an inescapable chamber of rage, however, tends to go poorly. And not for the enemies. It certainly doesn’t get the firewall patched. So how to ride the line? Give. Give. Give. Give money, give time, give information, give resources. Not to normalize the outrageous, but because pacing means everything to the long game. Just the tiniest bit of generosity done regularly can keep the pressure valve clean.
I learned this trick from my terrible-should-never-be-mentioned-typically-culturally-appropriative flirtation with Buddhism. It’s a challenging practice, but luckily there are levels, making generosity accessible even in the grip of rage. The best focus will be different for everyone, but some InfoSec/Tech topical ideas exist. Pick one thing to focus on at a time. Make sure it gets onto the calendar. Be honest about what’s realistic. Trying to be too nice too soon to too many people can go very very poorly. Relevant search terms to learn more about the actual buddhist mediation practice inspiring this list include “loving kindness meditation,” “Metta bhavana” and “Tonglen.”
Level 1: Give to yourself.
Keep up your Tuesday list: Keep taking actions to care for your own technical security. Embrace the internet with all its messiness, but with healthy boundaries. You and your data have value and are worth protecting. Show yourself that love. Take the time.
Give money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation: I’m trying to focus on time rather than money in this list but, if there are dimes to spare, the EFF is a good cause and they use the money well, like creating the Security Starter Pack referenced in the last post. I’m saying this is a “give to yourself” because they have amazing reward T-Shirts. Just saying.
Level 2: Give to people you can relate to
People who think like us. They’re easy. They’re the mashed potatoes of giving a f*ck. And some days all you can eat are mashed potatoes.
Be a support-forum/discussion-list hero: Maybe leaving the house is too much. Specialized groups frequently have technical support forums or discussion lists. Being a n00b is no excuse. In fact, a new learner can be a much better explainer than an old hand. At the worst one of us curmudgeons gets pissed off and we’ll just have to correct you. That’s cool. The right answer is in now in the world! Good Work! If that’s too scary, upvoting or otherwise amplifying helpful answers curates the site. Contributing in 15 minutes or less from the couch. Score. CRASH Space has a list. People on the Arduino forum always need answers.
Show up at local interest/user group meetings: Lots of people find leaving the house to be too much, so it can be really challenging to be an event organizer. One tells people about the event, keeps fingers crossed, hopes people show up, hopes people enjoyed/found it useful it. They never tell. It’s stressful. Be nice to organizers. Go to their events. Tell them what you liked. That can be your gift. Showing up. Libraries, craigslist, forums/reddit, associations, ask your tweeple, meetup.com. These are all places to find local groups. Shout out to my local Linux User Group SGVLUG, they contribute volunteers to SCaLE, a fabulous open source conference here in SoCal.
Contribute to a local hackerspace: Some of these local interest groups actually go insane and decide to sign a lease. Each space is stamped with the personalities of the founders. Don’t be nervous, they shouldn’t have put their address on the internet if they didn’t want people to find it. If their website has an events calendar, that’s the engraved invitation folks. Every space is different, show up, sniff around. Here is a hackerspaces map or alternatively a makerspaces map if the h-word still feels squicky. You do you.
On a self interested note, CRASH Space will 100% take your money, but we’d also really like your time. We are a member owned and operated 501(c)3, and sometimes our heads are too deep up our projects to run it perfectly. We always need people to throw more events, to help tidy up… endless list.
Level 3: Give to something neutral
Options that are past the hyperlocal, but still feel relatively noncontroversial.
Mentor a kid: Children are the future, blah, blah, blah. But seriously, children are the future and their minds are a lot more manipulatable- er, flexible. Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brother, Big Sister have a large national reach in the US. I’m a big fan of DIY girls and Black Girls Code. Getting children into STEM is super trendy right now. There is bound to be something near you.
Document your work and make it publicly available: Some people don’t document their work because they don’t think it’s good enough. Some people don’t document their work because they think to do so would be vain, or they don’t care, or are lazy or just whatevs. Fight those feelings. Taking the time to document your work to the level that someone else could reproduce it serves as massive gift. Nor does it actually require talking to anyone. Just throw up what you’ve got on github, on hackaday.io, on instructables, wordpress, youtube, on freaking LiveJournal. So long as it gets search engine indexed, it’s all good.
Donate to the Internet Archive: The internet changes fast. Bad people may want to destroy the record of their words. If we don’t know our history we are doomed to repeat it. The Internet Archive is a private foundation not a public charity, but I don’t know of anyone else doing exactly the same work. Their donate link is hard to find.
Level 4: Give to something you find difficult
There is a super pro level of this, giving to the people actually provoking the anger. I’m not ready yet. I’m sticking with ideas that bring up unspecified discomfort, but don’t make me actually spit.
Don’t give up entirely on government: All government is not Federal Government. City and town governments provide so many vital services. There are lots of projects on Code for America that address these municipal needs. If you don’t have the time or skills, they do take money.
With all it’s flaws, the rule of written law is one of the best human innovations. Perhaps the most misunderstood lines from Shakespeare is “Let’s kill all the lawyers.” Causidicide was being suggested as a path to tyranny. In addition to the EFF there is also a Harvard based group called the Berkman Klien Center and The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford. If you are a lawyer there may be something you can do. (PS: Nerd-fist-bump to the Code of Hammurabi for having minimum wage statutes.)
Pay for News and Media: High quality information is expensive to produce. Doing project documentation teaches that real fast. This post alone has taken me hours and there isn’t even any photography. At CRASH Space we try to do our best to provide what we can with as few barriers as possible, but we’re super small fry. Large investigative news stories take money. Fact checking takes money. Public Radio and TV antennas require maintenance. All those awesome YouTube Creators and Twitchers, they have rent to pay. This is not a finger wag. A lot of people in this community learn paywall circumvention as a badge of honor. Okay. Learn how. Then choose not to. We’re watching real time what poor quality information can do to a democracy. Fund what you can. If the “regular” news outlets are a step too far, schedule a regular poke around Patreon or documentaries on Kickstarter instead.
Support women, people of color and the LGBTQ community in tech: I so wish this was ready to go into the neutral or even relatable category, but apparently not. That pushes the breath out of the lungs and doesn’t let it back in. Thank you for considering caring. In the mean time please forgive that this is as educational as I can be on this topic today.
Level 5: Give to Everyone
People you like, people you don’t like. People doing good things. People doing bad things. Basic internet security is for everyone. Believing that and giving to that can be challenging work. Loved ones may not always understand. Do it anyway.
Open Source Projects Need You: If the code isn’t being publicly reviewed, it cannot be certified as secure. Crypto projects require a lot of skills, but anyone can learn how to participate in open source. It isn’t all code either. Documentation, QA testing, usability and human factors work, open source projects have the same needs as their closed counterparts. There is some training required to learn how to interface with them. OpenHatch has training missions to get folks started. If learning git is the barrier, it only takes 15 minutes.