Dec 012014

On Saturday morning a terrible traffic accident happened just a block away from my home. Here's what has been confirmed as verified facts about this event: a BMW crashed into a motorcycle which went careening after the impact and struck a pedestrian (an employee from a nearby petrol garage who was on his way home after shift to his 9-months pregnant wife). Both the motorcyclists and the pedestrian were killed, the driver of the BMW left the scene but later turned himself into the police, strongly supporting the suggestion that his flight was not so much a lack of caring as a shock-response since he did the right thing once the shock wore off.
The accident happened at a crossing between two busy and wide roads, the bigger of which (in which the accident happened) has a large traffic island between the two directions of traffic, there is also one of the new extra traffic lights on the crossing which has been installed throughout Cape Town to allow the MyCiti busses to navigate crossings.
The event was discussed at length in the comments section of the Tableview neighbours group where a number of conflicting naratives arose, all from people who claimed to have been witnesses. Compare these examples:
"The motorcycle had stopped at a red-light and was waiting for it to change, the BMW was speeding and intent on running the red-light but didn't see the motorcycle. The BMW crashed into the motorcycle leading to the latter's collision with the pedestrian".
"The motorcycle was speeding, ran the red light and collided with the BMW before bouncing off and hitting the pedestrian."
Both these conflicting naratives were told, remember, by people who claimed to have witnessed what happened. More-over within those two groups there was another divide over another detail. About half of each group stated that the pedestrian had been running across the road at the time, the other half claimed he had been standing on the side-walk next to the road waiting for the pedestrian-signal to change in order to cross the road.
Then somebody suggested that the MyCiti signals probably confused one of the drivers leading to the accident, many agreed that these signals were confusing and this was a likely explanation and it rapidly became the accepted version of events among a significant majority of commenters. There is just a couple of problems with it. This particular crossing only has one MyCiti signal, on the South side of the crossing where it only applies to traffic heading North. One of the few things the witnesses all agree on, and which the physical evidence (notably the location of the crash and the vehicles afterwards) supports is that the accident happened on the North side of the crossing between vehicles which were both going South. It's therefore almost impossible for the MyCiti signal to have been in any way involved in this trafic accident.
The first part is a solid example of the scientifically well proven problems with human episodic memory – show 6 people the same event and you'll get 6 conflicting accounts of what happened. The latter bit however is emblematic of a different problem (albeit one that frequently contributes to the former) – the issue of bias. It's quite likely true that the MyCiti signals are confusing to many drivers (when many drivers say they are confused by them – this is strong evidence actually), but the issue isn't whether the bias is justified or not since the justifiability of a bias generally has no impact on it's application.
The fact is that, regardless of how safe or unsafe those signals are, they simply physically couldn't have been involved in this particular event – yet they became the explanation most people accepted. Not because it was likely or possible – but because it agreed with the bias they already held, evidence to the contrary was dismissed in a classic case of cognitive dissonance.
This is exactly how bias works and prejudice is just bias by another name. This is also exactly why racism, sexism, homophobia and other prejudices are so difficult to erase – because they are biasses. Those who hold these views are inclined to see them justified everywhere, to see them as explanations for events all the time and never question those explanations because they fit their prejudices. Every event that can be stretched to appear as if it's explained by prejudice becomes a reinforcement of that prejudices regardless of how uncommon such events may be, indeed regardless of whether the nature of the prejudice had played any role in the event whatsoever.
In order to combat prejudice therefore, we need to understand how it is reinforced, only by understanding that can we effectively argue against it. To the racist 369 black on white murders in South Africa over 21 months is a terrifying statistic – the fact that this is a mere 1.6% of the actual murder rate over that period and actually proves that statistically whites in South Africa are by far the *least* at risk of violent crimes is never considered, it doesn't fit the bias that they are being targetted (as opposed to the reality which is that they are most protected).
What this tragic event shows is how bias alters our thinking and leads us to conclusions that are logically unsupportable and morally untenable. It's the same problem that, in this same group, has led to the idiotic conclusion that informal traders are more, rather than less, likely to commit crimes. It is, in fact, perhaps humanities greatest challenge in the 21st century, to learn to recognize bias and apply critical thinking skills to ourselves so that it's impact can be removed because if history is teaching us one thing above all it's that bias has no positive outcomes whatsoever. It may have had some millions of years ago, but it is one hundred percent exclusively harmful today.

Oct 302014

I'm a gamer. I've been a gamer since Donkey Kong was state of the art. I learned English playing Kings Quest and I wrote a text adventure game when I was 12. I played Doom on a 486 and Quake 2 on a pentium 1. I finished Mario on the original NES and I played Grim Fandango on a celeron.

I played Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis and the original sim city on that same 486. I am currently playing World of Warcraft on a decent PC, Shadows of Mordor and Tomb Raider on my xbox 1. 

I am also married to a gamer, my wife and I love to game together – and she kicks ass at it. I also put the new Tomb Raider very high on my to buy list because a game with a strong female lead is such a rare pleasure. If there is one thing games do not need less off it's female leads, but if theres one thing gaming needs a lot less off it's mysoginistic bastards who pretend their tirade is about ethics.

There's been massive harrassment, there's been credible threats of large scale violence – and no, this isn't just a vocal minority, this is the essence of the entire movement. It may be the extreme version of that essence, but it's in perfect keeping with everything about this pseudo-scandal right back to it's origins in the slut-shaming attempt of a jilted ex-boyfriend.

But that is also it's weakness. If my wife spoke out against gamergate, she would face death threats and harassment, but when I do – as a man, I can expect not to. None of the other men who have did after all. So I am speaking out. I'm telling this movement that they do not speak for me. They don't speak for me as a gamer, they don't speak for me as a man – and I despise everything they are saying and doing and I want them to stop.

The very misogyny that makes gamergate so dangerous to women also makes it vulnerable to men who speak out against it. Every woman who does risks harassment, death threats, rape threats, threats of violence – but men can speak out against it without those risks, and we need to. You say not all men are like that ? Prove it then – by being one of the men telling those men that what they are doing is terrible and wrong. Saying "not-all-men" is the most meaningless tripe that a response can contain, but BEING a man who isn't like that is a step in the right direction. The next step is joining the women speaking out against the men who are, and speaking with them. If you're not confronting the men who act this way, then you're one of them.

I want my wife to be able to play games with me without entering a cesspool of mysoginy. I want to play games with my daughter without fearing for her safety. Gaming is a hobby. It's not for everybody and doesn't need to be anymore than stamp collecting or model trains are for everybody – but it sure as hell needs to be a safe space for all those who enjoy it. If you aren't prepared to treat women with respect and dignity, you're the one who doesn't belong in the gaming community, you're the one who should be rejected.

Gamergate is all about excluding people from gaming – it's just wrong about who to exclude – the ones who should be excluded is everybody who is part of this vile, disgusting movement. You're not welcome in my hobby. There is a culture around this hobby, built by people whom mainstream society had no place for. It's a hobby of outcasts, geeks and rejects – and that is what makes it beautiful, but in this behavior you become the very society that our community was built to escape from. You don't belong here. This is a community that should be welcoming and safe to all who wishes to join it, all who enjoy the hobby at it's core – and if you're not prepared to help make that the reality again, then you don't belong here.

I don't know if gamergate is a majority or minority of gamers – I do know that they aren't the gamers I grew up with, they aren't the gaming community I've been friends with and part off for 3 decades. Whether they are many or few now doesn't matter. The community I was part of was something beautiful and part of what defined it was that it was so inclusive and welcoming. What these people are now, is not gaming as I know it – but it may be gaming as it is today. 

Either way it needs to change. Gaming as it was when I became a gamer – that deserves to live on and prosper but gamergate needs to die in a fire.

Oct 282014

If you ask any geek about his browser, you'll get one of several answers, but if you ask about addons
there is one consistent theme: all of them use some kind of adblocker. Technically savvy people don't
see adds on the web anymore, and generally this has made them much happier browsers.
It has also reduced their risk of spyware and other malware infections.

So far so good but could there be a downside to this ? Not seeing ads means most engineers don't
see how targetted they've really become, don't experience the amount of data collection that 
this reveals – and thus have no itch to scratch on the underlying data collection itself.

Private companies collecting data to do targeted marketing have been shown not to be trustworthy
with that data, we know they've been happy to sell it to third parties – including governments
and government agencies like the NSA.
Some geeks have been warning about this for ages – Richard Stallman predicted it in 1983,
30 years before Edward Snowden revealed it as happening and the organisation he started
to fight for free software was in part motivated by trying to prevent this risk.
It is still one of the organisations on the forefront of fighting to reclaim our privacy with 
projects like diaspora and mediagoblin (which I wrote a short piece about last week).

But for some reason, even now, after Snowden's revelations – these FSF projects aren't getting
mainstream traction among geeks. There is still not enough drive to end them. It's becoming
ever more clear that there is no political solution to this issue – yet the technical ones
are struggling due to a lack of contributors.
Many of the very best engineers are actually working for the biggest culprits ! 

Why is this ? Why do engineers not feel the need to contribute to, make use of, and drive
technologies to end this corpo-government intrusions into our private lives ? I think in 
part because even good things can have unintended consequences. It's just possible that
unlike everybody else – the one group who can appreciate the visible evidence of data
collection and infer the scale required to do it, are not seeing that evidence because
years ago they started blocking the channels it exists on (since those channels are annoying).

Now I would never advocate that we stop using adblockers, if anything, I would advocate that
we should get them more widely used (if enough people use them – the advertising market would
collapse and a lot of the monetary reasons for data collection would dissapear) – but in it's
current state as something mostly used by tech savvy geeks and engineers, it may actually be
having a negative side effect by making those most capable of finding solutions to these issues
less aware and less motivated to do so.

So, no, don't uninstall your adblocker, but remember why you wanted it in the first place and
help us bring about a new true peering internet. Let's contribute to the FSF projects fighting
to change the way people share things online so that, once again, the users can control what
they share with whom. 

Oct 242014

Fill in the blank: More Americans have ______ than have caught Ebola.

A) married Kim Kardashian

B) walked on the moon

C) voted for Ron Paul

D) miraculously survived a parachute failure from more than a mile up.

E) broken a land-speed record

F) played Batman in a movie

G) All of the above.


Answer: G – all of the above.

You can still count all the Americans who have ever caught Ebola on the fingers of a Simpson's character's hand. Okay ?

Oct 242014

I've been following the development of GNU MediaGoblin with interest, and considering that the focus of this site has rather changed over the years: it used to be regular blogs with occasional forays into other media, now it's more often media sharing with occasional blog posts… I am thinking it may be a better approach to this site's purpose and functionality. 

The idea of running-your-own may feel dated nowadays but it's also a valuable way to try and preserve some privacy and control over the way that media I share is presented, what is public and what is more narrowly shared. The coming federation could be first steps toward restoring the internet to a system of genuine participative content under control of the users who participate. I'm ethically inclined to like their approach to social networking better than what the current corporate offerings are doing and I'm also geekily attracted to playing with what looks like a truly awesome codebase using some very cutting edge technologies in very cool ways.

On the other hand, wordpress is a mature codebase while mediagoblin is in it's infancy. For a professional site – that could be a major downside, but since this is my personal site and I have always seen it as a place for experimentation and discovery and learning as much as an online presence – that is far less of a concern for me. If it crashes now and then, so be it (I don't know that it's likely to).

So I am leaning towards installing it here and starting a content migration, when I have time in between parenting anyway – and possibly replacing the current wordpress site entirely – lets face it, python web-services behind nginx is just so much more "today" than php on apache :P


Oct 232014



When you, like me, believe in things like equality, women's rights, anti-racism, ending poverty, relieving suffering and all the other hallmarks of liberals – there is an odd response you constantly encounter from the rightwing side of politics: they call it idealism, and this is said with scorn. The implication: you are believing in the impossible, wanting the unobtainable. They'll even say so outright with phrases like: "the poor will always be with us" or "that's just the way it is and always will be". Their scorn reaches a pinnacle when they call us "social justice warriors" – which is not, as it would at first appear, a phrase of praise. 

Their belief is that theirs is a more realistic approach to the world – as if it's depressing claims are somehow more in tune with the real, material, universe. Then they have the gall of accusing liberals of "reducing people to mere pawns of circumstance with no control over their fate" – which flat-out contradicts their own stated belief in the previous paragraph. Ironically liberals do not do that at all – when we point out victimization (what they scornfully replace with victim-blaming – so blatantly as to refer to "victim-mentality") we are not reducing people to products of circumstance, on the contrary, we are recognizing that people have been reduced in this manner (by forces that are very hard for an individual to overcome) – and fighting to change that. You can't solve a problem unless you're prepared to admit that problem exists.

However that initial belief remains not just questionable but outright false. Their embrace of present-day as if it's some ultimate truth is no more realistic than believing in justice and mercy. Greed is no more real than compassion. They are idealists as much as we are – their ideals are just so depressing and disgusting that they can't admit they embrace them as ideals to pursue – so they pretend it's reality instead. Well grind the universe, sieve it and show me one atom of greed, one molecule of inequality.

For that matter show me an atom of liberty, a molecule of "money" (after all – the bits of paper hte government print has no intrinsic value – just the common agreement to pretend they do).

Every belief system – including the philosophical ones about society and the state are made up of 100% idealism, there is no reality in these things – no truth to them. But ideals have an interesting difference from all other metaphysical concepts – they can have the same impact on the world that they would have had if they were real even though they are not. Which is as close to real as makes no difference.

When you act with greed rather than compassion – choosing to exploit people instead, you create a world of the exploited, a world where all the effects of greed exist, even if greed is not an actual thing with a material existince. When you pretend this piece of paper is worth a stick of gum, you can acquire a stick of gum. In a way – idealism makes itself real enough to work.

Which then leaves us with but one conclusion – there is nothing inevitable about any particular outcome. The effects of greed exist not because greed is a real thing – only because people act according to the idea of greed. If people instead act according to the idea of compassion then the effects of compassion are completely real, even though the compassion itself was no more a real thing than the greed.

There is nothing superior about the right's set of ideals, their version of justice isn't more real, neither is their version of economics they are as idealistic and unreal as those of liberals. What is real however, is the effect of those beliefs – the real results of the choices they inspire. 

You can tell me you don't agree with my ideals, but don't pretend their inferior or less real – both our ideals have exactly zero reality to them. But when my belief in justice, mercy and compassion guides my actions, the effects of justice, mercy and compassion exist in the world just as real as if they had been real things. The more people believe in an ideal, the more it's effects become reality. That is how all societies are formed – by the collective effects of unreal causes. So I choose to believe in the ideals which will have the effects I desire to see in the world. That is, ultimately, the only defining factor. Do you choose a world of suffering, and thus contribute to that suffering, or do you choose to act according to believes that lessen suffering ?

That is ultimately the great lesson – if belief has the power to cause real effects (by guiding choices), then the kind of society we live in is really something we can change. Since there are no two societies alike in time and space, we have absolute proof that the structure of society is not some predetermined thing – it must be changeable or they would all be the same (or at least, similar) – they aren't, so social structures are maleable, it's up to us what we choose to mould them into.


Mar 272014

My previous post on being a new-player in the age of level-90 boosts skipped over what some may consider an essential piece of knowledge – and one that may, in fact, ideally predate doing any of the things in that post. So considering doing it right now. I am talking, of course, about addons. When blizzard first launched WoW ten years ago – they made a decision that remains allmost unique in the online gaming world ot this day – and yet has been one of their most successful and essential ideas: they released an API which allowed independent programmers to write addons for the WoW User Interface to expand it's capabilities in various ways user's find usefull. This has had a two-fold impact – in many cases addons which provided very useful and successful ideas would later have their functionality added to the main WoW Interface but – more commonly blizzard would actually deliberately refrain from adding this functionality on the basis that the addons already did such a great job at it and this allowed blizzard's developers to rather focus on new content.

Either way – this has made addons an integral part of the WoW experience and, particularly at max-level, one that is essential to being good at the game. So for the new player – a brief overview of them is probably an invaluable part of a guide like this. The very first thing you're going to want is an addon manager. You could manually install and update addons but frankly this rapidly becomes a massive chore. The top-of-the-pile for addon managers is the curse client and if you're on windows or mac you should get that now (unfortunately it still doesn't run well in wine so Linux users who want to use it will need to run a windows VM or partition). Curse's client gets most of it's power from having exclusive access to curse's extensive addon database (many addons are published nowhere else unfortunately) but for those who cannot or don't want to use it there are some alternatives. Wowmatrix is a decent one which supports Linux as well. Another option is the original wowinterface manager – now very dated but still functional though it only works with wowinterface's collection and has a terribly cumbersome approach to installing.  The third significant one is the child of the wowinterface manager which is called minion. Minion is a java project currently in beta but developement has been atrociously slow and personally I've never been able to get it to run (I should perhaps try it with the official oracle java sometime, that may work) – that said it seems to have taken some leaps recently (adding support for elder scrolls online for one thing) so this may be the future. Whichever one you choose, you'll have to tell it where your wow game is installed and you're good to go.

Now for the big question – out of the millions of addons out there- which ones do you need ? Well a lot of that is up to you – google will help you rapidly determine if there is an addon for any particular aspect of the game you would like to deal with -and there is an excellent guide series on wow-insider that highlights particularly good addons (and their addon-101 series greatly expands on the basic information I gave here), that said – for a start I will tell you about the addons I consider absolutely essential and won't even try to play without – I would suggest installing some of these right away.

Tomtom: This is a simple addon in many ways – yet it has become one of the most enduring addons in WoW because it's so incredibly useful – what it does it set up a floating arrow on your screen which you can have pointing you to any place on the map. You can configure it to automatically point itself to quest objectives, when you die it can automatically point you back to your corpse and you can set up custom markers very easily by doing a control-right-click anywhere on the map. You can also manually specify a location using coordinates (which you will frequently find on wow-sites when you look something up) by doing something like /way xx yy. Great for finding that hidden treasure. Wowhead (aside: this is the most valuable site for any wow player – you want to know how to do something or where to find a particular piece of gear- they have the data and the comments are filled with useful information) comments are almost always written with coordinates and this is the easiest way to find them. 

Auctionlite: While there are many auction house related tools out there, and some like auctioneer are far more feature rich – I find most of them clunky and if anything over-featured. Auctionlite has the features that I find most valuable (like comparing prices, finding the cheapest price on things and selling your own stuff at the best current market price) without much overhead and with a simple enough user interface.

Recount/Skada: if you're going to go raiding you will need one of these addons (recount is the more popular one). What they do is calculate statistics on combat, how much damage was done by who, who did how much healing and how much threat did who generate. All information that is critical to reaching your potential and also to evaluating when a group should change it's tactics. For a start when you're testing out new spell rotations or reforges you want ot head over to the training dummies with this on and start hitting and seeing what numbers you achieve. 

Tidy-plates/Threatplates: while there are many threat-measurement addons out there (and they are valuable to everybody – not just tanks – since the rest of you do occasionally need to make sure you don't pull threat off the tank) this is my favorite variety. It shows threat as a function of the nameplate over the monsters head, changing it's colour as threat increases and flashing a big warning if you get aggro. It also shows the mob's casts, buffs and debuffs under it's nameplate – which is very useful for keeping an eye on it.

Bigwhigs/DBM: DBM (deadly boss mods) is one of the most well-known and essential raiding addons, it's essential purpose is simple though – it keeps a timer of various boss abilities and will warn you when they are about to happen and what you're supposed to do about them. Many guilds insist on it for raiding and with good reason. Bigwhigs is the new kid on the blog in the same family – with many newer features and in some ways more advanced. Which one you choose is really up to you and you can even run both (I do) and combine their functionality, but you need to install at least one. They are invaluable for both pve and pvp.

ATSW: AdvancedTradeSkillWindow is an incredibly useful little addon that gives you a much better view of your profession window. It allows you to qeue up varying amounts of crafts to perform and will then automate it. When you ask it to make something it will calculate the materials you need and can auto-buy it at vendors and list it at the auction house for easy purchase. If you can make some yourself it will automatically set up the qeue to make the things you can make first – it's brilliant in so many ways and makes the classic profession window look like a terrible joke by comparison. Personally – I can't live without it.

AddonManager: this one is perhaps the most awesomest addon that has ever existed – and addon for turning addons on and off. Unlike the blizzard UI it doesn't require you to log out and back in if you want to switch and addon on or off, you can simply open it up from the menu, tick the addon selection you need and reload the UI – it saves enormous time and is ideal for handling addons you don't want *all* the time (i.e. to turn off your healing frames when you're in tank spec for example).

Healbot/Healium: If you're going to be a healer – one of these is essential – these provide your with easy to view frames of your team-mates showing who needs dispelling and allowing easy one-click access to your healing spells by simply clicking on their block in the frame – which is much faster than targetting the player and then casting the heal. The two function essentially the same -which one you prefer is really up to you.

Bagsync: I can't tell you how much I have come to love this addon – it's a tiny out-of-the-way addon but once you have more than a few alts with bank tabs it becomes so valuable. When you can't remember which alt has something you're looking for, or if it's in their bank or personal bags – this simple little searchable item will help you locate it. It's great for finding out who currently holds that heirloom you desperately want to put on your new alt, or the mats you need for that recipe.

Outfitter: this addon is either the most annoying or most valuable addon you'll ever have depending on where you are. I always turn it off on characters while leveling but once at max-level you'll want it on. Unlike the default blizzard UI it has automatic responses which allow you to set up gear sets that get automatically equiped depending on what you're doing. A simple selection to get your fishing rod and your fishing had equiped together ? An automatic tool to equip your deepdive helmet when you're swimming ? A tool that makes sure you're wearing your healing gear when you switch to your healing spec and your PVP gear when you enter a battleground or arena ? That's what outfitter provides. 

At this point – you should have the essential can't-live-without addons, including the ones you would seriously annoy people if you try raiding without. What comes next and what you add or remove from your addon selection is up to you. Have fun discovering pandaria at maxlevel and, soon, the new world of draenor past.





Mar 272014

When Blizzard first proposed the boost to 90 feature at blizzcon the majority of the players supported it – because they realized the blizzard was correct, the vast majority of people taking advantage of it would not be new players but returning players wanting to play the new expansion but not wanting to spend ages catching up to their currently max-level friends. But those are not everybody, there are at least a few new players who will upon buying warlords of draenor receive their free boost to 90 – and this post is meant to help you figure out what to do first when you hit that level out of the myriad of features that become available.

When patch 6.0 brings the new level 90 starter zone a lot of this will be outdated but that could be months away – so I thought I'd give some suggestions for those boosting in the meantime. The first piece of advice I'll give however is – don't boost right away. This may be tempting but I highly reccomend you don't do it. Level normally until you hit level 60 first. This has several advantages – firstly you will learn some of the basics of how your class works in easier content – secondly you will get your professions automatically maxed out in skill level (I highly reccomend taking gathering professions – at least initially since this will max out your ability to make quick and easy money at maxlevel). That saves a lot of time and gold later on.

But now you're at level 90 – you have a tiny amount of gold to your name and you're in a strange place. The place you find yourself is your faction's shrine in the vale of eternal blossoms. This is your current gaming capital and in there you will find access to a bank, reforge, item-upgrade and transmog as well as profession trainers and – if you're an engineer even an auction house. Near the door should be people whose mouse-over icon shows a scroll-like object, if you talk to them they will conveniently mark the location of whatever you're seeking on your map for you.

You will also immediately see a quest pop up called "A Flash of Bronze" – pick it up, but don't go do it just yet, there's a bit of preparation you want to do first. Start by visiting and look up your class and spec. Right now you're not yet interested in everything (you will be once you start gearing up) but your most immediate concern is spell priority. You have a ton of new spells – noxxic will tell you which ones to use and when to use them. Secondly have a look at their reccomended talents and glyphs and acquire those – talent setting is essentially free, glyphs will cost you some gold so you may have to postpone actually doing those for a day or so to make some money first. It's senseless to waste gold on gems and enchants for the low level gear you have now – generaly you will want to start doing those only when for gear with an item-level of at least 496. However do have a look at stat priorities as these will tell you which gear items to seek out and, later, what stats to reforge (this is going away in the next patch but for now it's a critical thing). 

What I suggest you do next is jump on a flying mount (you get flying skill for pandaria automatically when you boost) and fly south into the valley of four winds, find half-hill (your map is very valuable for this) and head down. There's a ton of quests there and you may want to do some for money/fun but right now pick up the quest from Farmer Yoon and the quest "So you want to be a chef" from the market. The latter is the start to your fastest and cheapest way to learn cooking skills. The former begins the process of unlocking your own private farm – you will clear boulders, plant your first crop and harvest it – initially you will have four plots to farm in but if you keep coming back daily to harvest and do the daily quests available here you will rapidly unlock more. Farming provides you cooking and other profession materials with great ease and will help you make money and learn your class against relatively easy enemies. You will also begin to acquire some valor points. Later when you have enough you'll use these to buy some 522 gear for slots you had bad luck in, and to upgrade gear you already have (don't waste it on anything below 522 however).

Once your done with the basic farming here, pick up the quest "Stranger in a strange land" from the guy near the inn, this will start you on the quest to get your legendary cloak – which is the best back armor in the game right now. The process takes a long time so you may as well start early. 

Now you're ready to go get some better gear on the timeless ilse – go hand in the Flash of Bronze quest you got right at the start and you'll be transported there, pick up the flight point right away. You almost certainly want to do this with a friend or a guildy as your current gear will struggle against the mobs on timeless. Start by picking up the chests on the island – there's an excellent guide to their locations here. Then pick up the daily quests and do those – all together this will get you a lot of ilevel 496 gear tokens – which produce gear appropriate for your class and spec and you can get most slots upgraded to this level in about 2 hours. For the quests that require killing 20 elites and getting stones – I reccomend slaughtering the gulp frogs, they are not very hard to kill, there's a lot in one place and it goes quickly.

You'll be coming back to timeless isle every day for a while as you gear up further, but at this stage you are ready to start dipping your toes into tougher content. Do not qeue for LFR yet – you aren't geared high enough and you haven't had time to learn tactics. Start by running scenarios and then heroic scenarios (For a nice bonus fly back to where you first handed in the Flash of Bronze quest) and do the scenario quests there first as this will help. Once you're a bit higher you will be grouping up with 2 friends weekly to run the heroic scenarios for fast valor.

At this stage you will have gotten a fair idea how your class works, and your gear is improving. Now you have a few options available, you can play the older content on thundering isle and the incursion. You can acquire honor point gear and do pvp or focus on raid gear for pve. If you feel ready – you may be good to try some LFR raids – start by heading to youtube and watching fight videos on the raid you're about to qeue for – learn the boss mechanics and what will be expected of you in the raid   first, then qeue up. LFR is the easiest level of raiding so you should be okay if you have a decent group and did your bit to study first. You will also be guaranteed gear drops in the lower level LFRs some of which will be upgrades and the rest you can sell for good money.

As your gear goes up – you can run tougher LFRs and start getting ready to run the flex and normal mode raids with your guild – and this is where the big next levels of gear start to drop.