AI Won’t Destroy Tests

When calculators first started coming out, people said they would be used to cheat and students wouldn’t learn anything. Instead, we changed how testing works to focus on learning what’s important – broader concepts and implications – instead of “what is 232+47”. With AI tools, we again need to change how tests work. This time, instead of asking if a student can regurgitate information in a way that aligns with the teacher, we can start to see if students are actually paying attention to the work. The difference between AI answers and real answers is a level of understanding deeper than the surface.

Facebook: Violating You Is Profitable

Facebook might owe you money. You should find out. June 26, 2023 is the deadline.

Facebook was recently ordered to pay $725 million to USA’s Facebook users active between 2007 and 2022 for privacy violations1. This most likely applies to at least 200 million2 people, but will not be divided equally, and doesn’t account for attorneys and courts taking up to 25

This is an indicator that the USA federal government values its citizens privacy between $2.41 and $3.62. Whether or not this represents 15 years of privacy violations or is closer to a lifetime value, it is woefully below an accurate value. Ironically, you don’t even have to go that far to see that at least one judge in Illinois understands this. In 2021, 1.6 million users were awarded a minimum of $345 each (with a total of $650 million, alarmingly close to the federal judgement).1

How much money did Facebook make off of these privacy violations?

Let’s start with the most generous estimate possible: Over those 15 years, Facebook reported $168.3 billion net income3. As of 2023, they have 2.96 billion users4. If these numbers went together, that’s $56.85 per user. Ignoring that Facebook makes at least 2x more per North American user than any other user5, and estimating that only 10

But we can do better than that. In 2017 Q1, Facebook made $17.10 per user in revenue. This is the lowest value I could find over the range, and it went much higher – so it seems fair to use as an estimate. Assuming this is average for the entire period and using 200 million users in the USA, Facebook brought in $1,026 per user. They only kept 29.7

(Because of how close this calculated value is to the Illinois settlement, I’d argue it’s at least much closer to an accurate value. The Illinois settlement seems unusually correct in the amount of harm done compared to most large settlements.)

This is complicated, and most of the data isn’t easy to find. Even so, you can see the disconnect between corporate fines and corporate profits. Most companies don’t care about the law, because they know they can make more money than they will be fined for violations.

Will Facebook actually pay $725 million?

It may sound like a silly question, but out of 200 million people entitled to a cut of this settlement, how many of us will actually sign up and receive our pay? Not many. The FTC released a study6 a few years back that shows only around 9

When people don’t sign up, the excess award is sometimes divided amongst those who did sign up – boosting their payment. Other times a designated charity receives the difference (which can be good or bad). The third option? The defendant gets to keep it.7 While the rate of claims is not directly proportional to how much a company has to pay, Facebook could get away with paying $65 million or less depending on how the court ordered this settlement.

(If they get away with that, they are paying at most 2.1


  1. Have you used Facebook in the past 16 years? You may qualify for payment.
  2. Number of Facebook users in the United States from 2018 to 2027. Obviously this is based on estimates beyond a certain point, but it’s close enough to use for calculations.
  3. Annual revenue and net income generated by Meta Platforms from 2007 to 2022.
  4. Essential Facebook statistics and trends for 2023.
  5. Facebook’s Average Revenue per User by Geography (Q1 2017 – Q1 2022).
  6. FTC’s comprehensive study finds median consumer class action claims rate is 9
  7. What Happens to Unclaimed Class Action Settlement Money?

(And if you’re still here, I find it amusing that Facebook’s net margin is a little below the tech sector average.)

Are All Headlines With A Question Mark Answered “No”?


But actually, it’s sometimes more complicated. Perhaps a better question is “Should you ever use a question as the headline to an article?” The answer is still no.. but it’s more complicated. Such headlines are often associated with fake news, but NPR lists a few guidelines where such a headline may still be useful.

They don’t get to the point until the end of a long page though, so I’ll save you a click:

Using a question in a headline may be acceptable if the answer to the question is not clear, your post provides detailed analysis and explanation, and the headline cannot be easily reworded into a statement.

Archived copies of articles linked above:

  1. If there is a question in a headline, the answer is always no
  2. ResearchGate does not allow archival via the Wayback Machine, because they’re stupid.
  3. Should you write a question headline? It depends …

“Doing Nothing” is a Vital Part of Work

Recently, I saw a video of a construction worker hanging from a crane in Toronto. They’re okay, suffering minor injuries to a hand (though, no one talks about mental health, and I can imagine this was a rather terrifying experience). Their hand became stuck in a cable, which is how they ended up in this position, but I have to ask how there wasn’t another person with a radio present to command the crane operator to put this pallet back down immediately after it became apparent there was a problem (or even earlier, before it became dangerous).

No one has an answer to that question at the time of writing, but it brings my attention to an important part of construction work.. doing nothing. There is a trope of seeing construction workers standing around, apparently doing nothing, and this is often used to justify calling them lazy, and construction overpriced.

The beginning of the following video covers what’s actually going on in these situations very well, but the tl;dw of it is: Things don’t always go according to plan, everyone needs breaks, and looking out for problems is very important. Why wasn’t someone standing around to notice a stuck hand before it became dangerous?

While keeping a watch for safety is a specific job that is only employed for certain activities at certain times, everyone who is standing around is another set of eyes that can notice a problem before it becomes dangerous (or even just.. a problem that will hinder the construction effort), or who can respond in the event of an emergency.

Breaks are important, and supervising takes less effort than physical labor. People standing around to take a break are also supervising the work. They may not have the documents or job title to say they should be watching, but everyone with experience watching activity onsite is helpful.

The above was written in July, shortly after the publication of the embedded video. I have much more to say about work, but it has been half a year without publication. I feel it is important to not leave this draft lying around.

Fuck Windows ..and Ubuntu (A Rant)

My OS History

I started with Windows 95, and it was okay. Upgrading to Windows 98 helped a lot and I still love that OS. My next experience was with Windows XP, and it was good. When Windows Vista first came out, I tried it and had several problems with it. (No, I don’t remember what they were.)

Somewhere around this time I was introduced to Linux and tried a few distributions. (My favorites were Ubuntu, slax, & Antergos. Later, my absolute favorite would be CrunchBang. I still miss all of these, including old versions of Ubuntu.)

After Windows 7 came out, my experience with Windows started to go downhill. Nonsensical errors (why does an administrator not have full disk access?), rebooting my computer without consent (no matter how many times I disabled this “feature”), running slowly despite good hardware.. the list is long. This is when I first thought about using Linux for things besides programming.

I again skipped Windows versions until Windows 10, mainly due to free upgrades being offered and hating the UI changes in Windows 8 that were partially walked back. At this point, my hatred started. Default applications I can’t uninstall or even hide, advertisements built-in, a virtual assistant I could not disable or remove always running in the background.. and they even removed the pretense of controlling updates.

Oh, and the default malware included to spy on your usage, again, without consent.

But the problem is that I was running a mildly successful gaming YouTube channel at the time, I needed Windows because no video editor on Linux was good enough, and games only work on Windows.

Then Steam announced Proton, and reviews were good. Over time, Linux seemingly became viable. There was even a hot new video editor called daVinci Resolve, and it runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux!

What Happened to Ubuntu?

I ran various versions of Ubuntu as a secondary OS or on a USB drive from 8 to 18 without problems. Common problems like networking, video card support, and audio issues were never difficult – and often did not even occur. Ubuntu was a good choice because its popularity made it more often supported, and it was usually stable.

Not this time. I spent weeks trying to get it working, and while I was eventually successful, it was only through stubbornness and a lot of reading.

I started with a new SSD, as my old one only had 128 GB of space, and I was going to need a lot more for video editing and running games that require better disk streaming. First, the install failed because a disk I wasn’t even using is corrupted. Then, it failed to install the bootloader. Then it failed because of a partially completed Ubuntu install. I moved on to trying elementary OS (a derivative of Ubuntu) because it has several improvements and is still widely supported, but this also failed.

Turns out, since version 14.04, there’s a bug where Ubuntu won’t install a bootloader if you select any disk besides the first. There is no warning of this anywhere, and I had to find a bug report from half a decade ago to even learn this. So, I removed all disks except my new SSD, and moved it to first SATA port on the motherboard, and Ubuntu .. still didn’t install.

Time to try again, except I accidentally booted into Ubuntu from the SSD.. you know, the OS that failed to install? So, it turns out that not only does it fail to install a bootloader under most possible conditions, but a success crashes the installer. Oh well, at least I now have a working system, time to update!

Ubuntu Prominently Publishes Broken Versions

I run updates, and find out there’s a new OS version. I’d started with version 20.10 because it was what was out when I started this, and version 21.04 had released since then. I run the upgrade.. and now I can’t boot anymore. This has never happened to me before, and this is a brand new system.

Turns out, version 21.04 shipped with a bug that breaks the bootloader on any system, whether it be a fresh install or through an upgrade. Here’s the fucking problem: They only disabled update notifications, instead of pulling the faulty update or OFFERING ANY WARNING WHATSOEVER.

There is no reason I couldn’t have been notified not to update. There is no reason to keep a broken release public. There is no reason for any of this to have happened the way it did.

This is unacceptable, and even since fixing the problem on my system, Ubuntu has just been a completely different system than what it was. They added ads/spyware to the base OS and pushed updates that break configuration & uninstall apps. It’s just not good anymore, and it makes me sad.