My present understanding of the WoT, part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacob Welsh @ 09:00

Continued from part 1

In the envisioned society in which all parties one might want to do business with participate in the WoT, there are many ways to gather deeper information from it beyond merely what is said in the ratings; for instance, how well connected a subject is to the evaluator's own network, relative to how that subject ought to be connected based on his claimed history. Or one might draw completely different conclusions about the subject from what a rater claims, based on knowledge of the rater. To not be present in the WoT at all, once of a sufficient maturity to protect one's key, is to be an un-person, an outcast, perhaps even more so than today's "undocumented" or "stateless" persons.

Even in its present form, many of the benefits of the WoT are already available; it has enabled substantial volumes of online commerce, and indeed it serves as a kind of filter for people who are both sufficiently intelligent and aware to find out about it, and who seek to accept the burdens and reap the rewards of a world of personal responsibility. If the concept works as well as is claimed and participants use it diligently, along with the other elements of economy, then it's not a stretch to imagine WoT-society continuing to grow in wealth and power until it's the only game in town.


My present understanding of the WoT, part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jacob Welsh @ 23:41

The Web of Trust (WoT) as conceived by Mircea Popescu is a set of concepts and practices for publishing and finding information pertinent to making trust decisions about people, or more generally, finding sources of such information for further exploration. "The WoT" can also refer to the mathematical, technological and human machinery implementing the concept in a given context.(i) Unlike the commonplace wishful-thinking based attempts at "reputation systems", it is understood not to provide mechanical answers to questions such as "is X trustworthy" (even when properly qualified as "for Y purpose"); trust exists in the people rather than in the tools, but the tools provide the structure for making one's own judgements.

The WoT is represented as a graph, with nodes being the public keys of the participants, corresponding to private keys generated by the individuals themselves; exclusive control of a private key is one's sole claim to identity in the WoT world. The edges of the graph represent the trust ratings between individuals, inbound and outbound, and consist of a sign (overall positive or negative trust), a number reflecting the rater's degree of certainty that the assessment will not change, and optional comment.

~ To be continued(ii) ~

  1. Presently: identity provided by the RSA cryptosystem as implemented in GPG, and a ratings database available through deedbot. [^]
  2. The installment style lately was assigned as an exercise in improving my abysmal writing speed by publishing whatever I can get out in one hour, with 300-word minimum target, spreading the pressure across smaller segments rather than allowing it be deferred. [^]


The road to Ossasepia, part 5

Filed under: Ego — Jacob Welsh @ 22:24

Continued from part 4.

My hesitation at this point came from three causes as far as I'm presently aware. For the first, there were my strongly independent tendencies that resisted the idea of taking up a harness to join someone else's team. I did not take these lightly, as I believed they had done well enough for me in many ways, from de-prioritizing the largely dull schoolwork of my late childhood years in favor of my own technical pursuits, to taking an interest in free-market economic theories over the objections of my family and undergraduate community, to getting out of the proverbial Mom's basement as soon as practical, to stepping down from a comfortable-enough suburban IT job to pursue my deeper interests in programming as well as Bitcoin, which I saw as one of those rare truly disruptive innovations, while trying out life in a foreign country. While I didn't manage to express or perhaps even quite understand this at the time, it was anticipated well enough:

diana_coman: if this is of the sort "I think I'm better off on my own" then it's quite easy to sort out too - set yourself a big goal and a deadline for it - e.g. "I'll make it to lordship on my own steam by April 2021 or I'll go on 1st of May 2021 on my knees to whoever will take me and do something useful with me"

It became clear to me that the "try my best and see what happens, on my own" approach was not going to get very far, at least given how far behind I was starting.

For the second cause, there was the question of Robinson. A day came where he definitively stated he'd be joining that evening. As darkness fell, I didn't see a join, and a phone call failed to connect, my imagination tended toward worst-case possibilities and I fired off some impassioned pleas by IRC. Sure enough he joined, and I had a prime situation to exercise that openness thing:

jfw: dorion: though we know it's but the first step, I'm proud of you for showing up here.
jfw: We've been stuck in some kind of a mutual encouragement yet avoidance-enablement pact.
jfw: I'd be witholding information not to say that I was crying like a little girl earlier, telling him over irc why he needs to join, and Now.
jfw: The neighbors are probably wondering who died; as far as I could tell it was gonna be either my 5-year best friends relationship with him, my potential relationships with ~everyone here, or a particularly stubborn bit of our own stupidity.

For the third, there was:

diana_coman: jfw: fwiw you seem to want rock-solid under your foot (and preferably a few hundred meters of it downwards too) before you even step anywhere; assuming that's true, it's like everything else, it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, not a "wrong" or a "right" thing.
jfw: yes I am very much of a 'look before you leap' tendency.

On this count, remembering the imperative of asking any necessary questions, I had attempted to inquire into the philosophical foundations and nature of the Republic, but found I lacked the language or background to get very far with this; still, some pertinent principles had come out, including:

diana_coman: jfw: realise that there is no right/wrong thing by itself; it's only about doing whatever you do well or not.
diana_coman: jfw: for a core principle of mine (and I'd say not only mine but I don't really talk for others): focus on figuring things out for what they are rather than for what you'd want them to be/ find convenient to be
diana_coman: jfw: and at every juncture, choose the thing that needs to be done rather than your comfort

~ To be concluded ~

The road to Ossasepia, part 4

Filed under: Ego — Jacob Welsh @ 06:38

Continued from part 3.

My reading of the log proceeded, though slowly; at first I struggled even to keep up with the lively current discussions, nevermind the background, in my free hours between existing commitments. The Marquess would check up on me from time to time, causing me to pay more attention to what was going on in my head and report as best I could; then she'd help to interpret or give advice, and refine it as more detail came to light. The main things I recall helping were: to take a more focused approach to the reading in light of my own questions; to write down whatever distracting thoughts were stirred up and whatever doubts I had; and that some pressure is necessary to motivate oneself to do things efficiently.(i)

The days turned into weeks and my reading project progressed, yet while it was interesting enough, my decision wouldn't budge from a firm "I dunno!" Two other prospects applied and were accepted (one of which not even such a "young" hand at 41). Robinson became perplexed and offered encouragement: in his mind, I was going to apply, be accepted, and excel. I took the words to heart, though knew I could not substitute them for my own judgement and action. At the same time, it worried me that he had not yet joined the channel. He certainly seemed to have a busy schedule, but I wondered if it was partly a continuation of the past avoidance pattern, while at least my various avoidances were now in public view. It seemed to me that if one of us engaged but not the other, it could set us on diverging paths, not to mention making it harder to communicate what we were up to.

The Marquess also urged me to communicate more. I theorized that my trouble with openness might come from a subconscious and self-defeating effort to get people to like me along with a fear of making mistakes; I reminded myself that I didn't care what most people would think about me. She gave reassurance that this was a learning place where mistakes were unsurprising, but noted the importance of the response and the stupidity of hiding oneself from those whose opinions one values.

~ To be continued ~

  1. Note that YMMV with advice, as it's tailored to the individual; the channel is a multi-way interaction, not a self-help guide. Reading along can be a valuable start but is really not the same as being there. [^]


The road to Ossasepia, part 3

Filed under: Ego — Jacob Welsh @ 08:29

Continued from part 2.

It took some time to finish my GPG preparation (probably longer than I should have let it drag on, though there were a number of steps including hardware provisioning and process rehearsal); once ready, I asked lobbes for voice in #trilema to get the key registered.(i) He told me the new policy was in effect whereby noobs were to start out in the surrounding castles, so I dropped into the two that looked active: #asciilifeform and #ossasepia. At the time I was vaguely aware of the "Young Hands" project but hadn't really delved.

In what I'd soon recognize as her typical manner, the Marquess cut straight to the heart of the matter, asking what I wanted to get from being there and directing me to have a look around, ask any questions necessary and say if I wanted to submit to training. I attempted to establish expectations as to what this would mean; she suggested I read the full channel log and clarified that it was a general mentoring relationship, thus dependent on the individual's needs as she saw them and not any kind of prescribed program. No minimum or maximum, just bringing people up as high as they can go; no loopholes for protecting stupidity; and no monetary cost but a long-term commitment.

Worth noting is that I also contemplated inquiring with the Lord Admiral Stanislav Datskovskiy aka asciilifeform, whose works I was more familiar with, as to whether he would take an apprentice. I had often found his writings stimulating, his knowledge on a range of subjects as seen in lengthy discussions in the forum remarkable, and his technical outputs - at least the more polished ones - wonders to behold. A part of me was eager to talk and perhaps earn the privilege of working with him. The main trouble I perceived was that his blind spots and deficiencies, which had been criticized at various points, seemingly without resolution, were dangerously similar to my own.

~ To be continued ~

  1. It turned out you can do this by private message to deedbot. I encountered some difficulty in getting it to load the key from my own web server, for reasons still uncertain, worked around by using a deedbot paste. [^]


The road to Ossasepia, part 2

Filed under: Ego — Jacob Welsh @ 08:06

I had been observing the doings of the Republic from a distance but found myself faced with uncertainty and perhaps a little fear.(i) Meanwhile in my own affairs the "being an engineer" side of my mind, perhaps spurred on by having seen what it wanted to see in the engineering side of the Republic, was able to dig up plentiful problems to fix, supplying an arbitrarily tall pile of work with which to procrastinate while feeling productive, and at least some of the time bringing my novice management along for the ride. Thus I'd gotten myself stuck in a state of manaloning: not entirely isolated, to be sure, but missing the crucial upstream links of a network.

Eventually the dissonance of reading and talking privately yet not engaging became too great to ignore; besides, the lack of publication of my work was seen as hurting business prospects. I was vaguely aware of "the ratchet", whereby participation in the conversation was becoming increasingly difficult (not that it had ever looked easy), and I didn't know if I would make the cut, but Robinson and I resolved to give it our best shot. For my part I wasn't entirely clear how to go about this, but the general plan was: introduce myself; join in conversations as I was able; deploy the standard blogging infrastructure to have an adequate space of my own to publish things and receive feedback; make manageable commitments and keep them.

Following some welcoming words from Eric Benevides aka lobbes, a Lord who was stepping down due to his own struggles and working to rekindle his commitment against wasting away toward derealization, I began to correspond a bit through his blog comments. He soon pointed out that talking about TMSR is not enough to be part of it(ii) and inquired what I was up to, so I shared that I was working on generating a properly-secured GPG key (knowing this was to be the basis of my identity and therefore required for any sort of participation or voicing in channel), blog setup (knowing this would be required for pretty much anything else(iii)), and assorted probably over-engineered futzing with Bitcoin node synchronization.

~ To be continued ~

  1. In the pages of Trilema one will find rape, killing, pillage, burning, eating of babies, slavery, beatings, torture... a wide band view of reality, much as one's head might prefer to accomodate only a narrow one. [^]
  2. This advice, or more likely an incomplete recollection of it, may account for the somewhat abrupt and "doing"-oriented nature of my initial lines. [^]
  3. But as a note for prospective Young Hands, you may be able to piggy-back on someone else's blog system until growing your own legs, so don't think of this as a prerequisite for saying "hello". [^]


The road to Ossasepia, part 1

Filed under: Ego, Politikos — Jacob Welsh @ 07:55

Where to begin but at the beginning?

lobbes: welcome jfw here as well! lol. diana_coman this is Jacob Welsh (he's commented on a few things on Trilema and my own blog). I pointed him to your castle
jfw: A vast republic of many castles! I think I'll start here because my current quest is blogotronics, which has me digging into a MySQL build and I see diana_coman was wrestling with it in

It reads more like a middle, doesn't it? Though of course any beginning comes as the middle of some larger process. So what meaning lies in the strange words, or behind them? What were their causes, and what was to follow?

The Most Serene Republic in question is a nascent political structure(i) whose values, as far as I've determined, include knowledge, wealth, honest communication, fixing problems at the root, and generally the fostering of elite individuals; it stands in opposition to the dying system of supposed sovereigns built on telling the crowd whatever it wants to hear - meanwhile screwing it as hard as any monarch ever did - often referred to as "Our Democracy".

The Republic operates through a forum consisting of an IRC channel of record where those of sufficient standing converse in real time, and a web of blogs functioning as an ever-growing library. The "castles" are a relatively recent addition, essentially side channels where Lords can converse with whom they please, as the culture of the central channel, #trilema, has grown increasingly rigorous. "Ossasepia", then, is the word adopted by Her Ladyship the Marquess Eulora, Diana Coman, first for her blog and later castle, that being dedicated to growing young hands.

~ To be continued ~

  1. Or "cult" if you prefer, though at the moment it's starting to look more like a kind of learning club. [^]

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