About me

My name is Ronald Lovejoy and I am a software engineer living outside of Austin, Texas. I am a senior engineer with Mutual Mobile, a tech agency that builds mobile applications. My specialty is Android development.

Contact info

Skype: rglovejoy
Email: rglovejoy at gmail dot com

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by Ronald Lovejoy
Updated 31 May 2015 at 15:00

When I was looking through Hacker News this morning, I came across two articles that were closely related.

The first, Geeks, MOPs amd Sociopaths in Subculture Evolution by David Chapman, explores how subcultures live and die, based on who is allowed in. He divides the members of subcultures into four groups:

  • Creators
    These are the people who create the content that bootstraps the subculture. Authors, software developers, filmmakers, scientists, and artists make up this category. People like Gene Roddenberry or J.K. Rowling are creators, as are people like Richard Feynman or George Lucas. You don't have to be famous to be a creator; fame comes to the creator as a subculture (and then mainstream acceptance) builds about them.
  • Fanatics
    Fans are those who are extremely devoted to the creators' works. They will often create derivative works, such as fanfiction, or cosplay as their favorite characters. Oftentimes, they will do the yeoman's work of organizing conventions and fansites, editing fanzines, and doing the backroom gruntwork that enables the creators to focus on churning out more content. Star Trek fans (Trekkies or Trekkers, depending on who you ask) are the most well-known of these subgroups, however, I have encountered fierce partisans of the most obscure manga and 1960s girl groups. Their love and devotion is essential for keeping the subculture alive.
  • MOPs
    Members of the Public, a term from British English that we need to use more here in the States. These are casual followers, who do not have much emotional investment in the subculture, but are needed to bridge the gap to a broader, mainstream following. They may enjoy a creator's work, but are not necessarily going to stand in line for weeks (as die-hard Star Wars fans did when The Phantom Menace opened in 1999). MOPs are the people who go to Burning Man to just hang out and gawk, or who collect comic books or baseball cards or pogs, simply because that is what everyone else is doing.
  • Sociopaths
    Sociopaths will jump into a subculture when enough MOPs are there to make it worth exploiting. Like MOPs, sociopaths are not very concerned about what the subculture is about, they merely see a large bandwagon full of rubes whose pockets can be picked. As David Chapman observed, sociopaths will often disguise themselves as creators, in order to get some of that adulation and to push out those creators who are too weak to push back. I saw this happen back in the late-1990s Internet Boom, where a lot of the people who started tech companies in the Valley got pushed out in favor of smooth-talking folks in sharp suits who made the venture capitalists feel comfortable but who could not engineer their way out of a paper bag. (I once interviewed with a outfit that was supposed to be a "tech company" but whose board and upper management consisted entirely of sales and marketing people. The engineers who had started the company had been forced out a long time ago. Needless to say, I did not want to work there.) When the boom ended in 2001, the sociopaths moved on to other targets.

The second article is about rise and fall of Couchsurfing. The idea behind Couchsurfing was that travellers in a strange city could meet up with people who were willing to host them for a night or two. There was no money exchanged; it was all about cultural interaction and meeting new and interesting people.

For a while, everything worked out well. The community was small and it kept a low profile. The only people who knew about Couchsurfing were those idealists who believed in the Brotherhood of Man and wanted to share their experiences with others. The creators of the Couchsurfing site and the fanatics who used it had built a wonderful community for themselves.

You know where this is going, don't you? Word started getting around that there was this cool site, where you could sign up to host travellers or go crash in somebody's apartment for a few nights. The MOPs, who did not share the ideals of the creators or the fanatics, started showing up. They did not understand the culture, and often abused the service (such as wanting to be hosted in places like San Francisco or Aspen, but not reciprocating). Many young women began to feel alienated from hosting or guesting, because they would get creepy messages from guys wanting to flirt with them.

It was not enough that sociopaths drove away many female members with their creepiness, they also decided to "monetize" the site. Going from a non-profit to a for-profit business, couchsurfing.org became couchsurfing.com. The new website attracted more traffic, but what ended up happening was that the people who built up the community in the first place pulled up stakes and left. Many of the profiles on the site are empty or inactive. I would suggest the anyone looking for a place to stay go on Craigslist, but that site has become useless as well, for much the same reason.

So, what is there to do? Faithful readers of my blog will notice that they cannot make comments on the posts. This is because I simply do not have the time to clean out blog post spam; that was a big problem with a previous incarnation of this blog that I had on Blogger. My solution will not work for those who really want to interact with their followers. The only advice that I can offer is to be vigilant in protecting your communities.

I will leave you with a bit of wisdom from Eliezer Yudkowsky; he wrote in his essay Well-Kept Gardens Die by Pacifism,

This about the Internet: Anyone can walk in. And anyone can walk out. And so an online community must stay fun to stay alive. Waiting until the last resort of absolute, blatent, undeniable egregiousness—waiting as long as a police officer would wait to open fire—indulging your conscience and the virtues you learned in walled fortresses, waiting until you can be certain you are in the right, and fear no questioning looks—is waiting far too late.

Catching up
by Ronald Lovejoy
Updated 11 April 2015 at 19:30

A lot has happened since I last updated this blog. Some of the highlights:

  • I met and married a wonderful woman who is from here in Texas and we will be having our first child (a boy) next month.

  • I am still with Mutual Mobile, approaching my fourth anniversary with the company. A lot of interesting projects have come my way, and I've been able to avoid doing a lot of business travel.

  • In 2013, my wife and I bought a house way out in the Austin suburbs. By coming out here, we were able to avoid the high prices and property taxes that are emdemic to Austin, yet my commute time is about 40-45 minutes each way. Jennifer was working in the Round Rock schools and so her commute was much shorter, about twenty minutes.

    I think we got a good deal on the house. It is an Arts and Crafts style house that was built a little more than one-hundred years ago. It has what are known in the trades as "good bones": it sits on a pier-and-beam foundation and the wooden frame was made with much harder wood than used in the houses of today. We were easily able to put down twenty percent and so we do not have to pay for mortgage insurance.

  • A lot of my projects have fallen by the wayside, because I have been so busy working on projects for my job at Mutual Mobile. Back in May 2011, I mentioned that I was in some sort of submarine mode, because I was working on a music app for Android. Well, that never went anywhere, and I have also abandoned the apps that I have put on the Google Play store. I feel a little bad about orphaning them, but not too bad, since they were not very good apps.

  • Thomas, my cat, died back in 2013. He was almost 18, which is pretty old for a cat. I still have Mr. Hobbes, who is now about 11 or 12. I'm not sure of his age, because he was a stray cat who looked like he was already fully grown when he came to live with me. There is also Princess Catherine, who we adopted several months after Thomas died. She was an older kitten, about six months old or so when we got her. It's interesting how they have such different personalities.

I have a new job!
by Ronald Lovejoy
Updated 17 May 2011 at 10:30

Starting on 31 May 2011, I will be joining the development team at Mutual Mobile in Austin, Texas. It will be a big change for me, but I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities this presents.

The big challenge, of course, is getting all of my stuff here. It is not as simple as moving from California, since Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean. I have already moved one of my cats, Hobbes, here, and I will be getting Thomas (my other cat) here in the next week or so. Delta Airlines has been pretty good about letting me take them with me.

I have already made arrangements for an apartment, and I am looking into getting a new car rather than a used one. So far, Austin has been very nice and pleasant. The people here have proven to be very friendly, and there is a lot to do here.

Submarine Mode
by Ronald Lovejoy
Updated 07 May 2011 at 13:00

Lately, I have been busy putting together a new Android app, which is why I have not been posting much lately. I was inspired to write a music app by this Flash application, ToneMatrix. It was written by Andre Michelle, a French developer who is involved with AudioTool. Everyone should check it out; you could spend hours playing with it.

So, I wanted to write something similar, but which can do more stuff. For instance, I want the user to be able to choose a key, say C Major or f♯ minor. Also, I am setting it up so that the user can vary the tempo and set which octaves to use. All in all, it is a lot of work, but I think it will be cool and worth my while.

Going Mobile
by Ronald Lovejoy
Updated 18 April 2011 at 17:40

I have track 2 of side 2 of the Who's Who's Next going through my head right now as I am writing this. Just like Pete and the gang, this website is "Going Mobile". If you are looking at this with your phone, then you will see the difference.

It's actually kind of trivial to detect mobile devices, as long as you have a good library. In this site, I am using Mobile_Detect.php, which is covered by the MIT License. To use it, make sure you include mobile_detect.php file in your script. What I did next was this:

include( "Mobile_Detect.php" );
$detect = new Mobile_Detect();
$isMobile = $detect->isMobile();
if( $isMobile )
  // mobile-centric stuff here
  // do something else

The Mobile Detect site mentioned above has more examples to try out.

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
by Ronald Lovejoy
Updated 17 April 2011 at 16:40

This page now has German language support, mostly because I had a few hours on Sunday to play around with Google Translate. I have also set up the Mandelbrot's Dragon site to work in Spanish, German, French and Japanese, as well as English.

In order to view the site in these other languages, you need to set the preferred or default language in your browser's preference dialog. Where this may reside depends on your brand of browser. For Firefox/Mozilla users, it may be found in the Edit menu, where it says Preferences.