Posts tagged media

Vox Vox
image from Vox
How those annoying ad blocks at the bottom of every article you read online work. Chumbox is the perfect name for them. I think the more we learn about how these things prey on our psyche the more immune we become.

ps. Corn, maybe.
Wired Wired
image from Wired
“In a connected, searchable world, it’s hard to share information about extremists and their tactics without also sharing their toxic views... Labeling extremist content or disinformation as ‘fake news’ doesn’t neutralize its ability to radicalize.”
This article describes the information contagion problem perfectly. I wonder if all information should come with specific instructions to stay grounded after consuming it.
OneZero OneZero
image from OneZero
"Remember ‘We’re the free speech wing of the free speech party’? How vain and oblivious does that sound now? Well, it’s the morning after the free speech party, and the place is trashed."
Fascinating interview with fourteen content moderators who have worked at various services like Google, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook.
law.duke.edu law.duke.edu
image from law.duke.edu
Some art from 1923 is finally entering the US public domain after a 20-year extension passed by congress in 1998. In addition to a partial list of works here, check out the What Could Have Been section to feel the impact of that 1998 decision. They also have a good page about Why the Public Domain Matters.

My Year in Social Media

Last year around this time I talked about trying to stop contributing to corporate social media: Facebook-Free in Twenty Eightee-n. That went ok. I stopped using Instagram altogether. I posted three pictures to Facebook in 2018. I deleted my Twitter account in August (Twitter Breakup) and then went back and claimed my username so it couldn't be used for evil. (I got my username back too late to save the 11-year archive which is mildly annoying—but also ok.) And I do still read Twitter ocassionally through a significantly smaller window. I didn't post to Flickr at all. (That might change now that they're under new ownership.)

So that's some kind of progress. How is my current relationship with social media? To put it in meme terms:



Leaving social media does not make it go away. If you work on the web in any capacity (I do), the big sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are omnipresent. It seemed like each week of 2018 brought a new jaw-dropping revelation of Facebook mismanagement. Google leaked user data, hid it, and employees were in the streets asking for fair working conditions. Twitter is a platform for Nazis because they incentivize engagement above all things and do not adequately handle abuse. I agree with Anand Giridharadas who posted this Twitter thread: "Trying to fight a predatory, politically connected monopoly through heroic personal responsibility doesn't work." We need regulation.

So that's depressing! I wouldn't call it heroic responsibility, but I did change my online habits quite a bit in 2018. I now read and post social messages via Mastodon which is a distributed kinder, gentler Twitter. I wish more people would make the switch so I could close my Twitter reading window altogether. I stopped posting photos online which is something I used to enjoy. I'll make an effort to post them here more frequently.

In October I did start posting more frequently to this site which means I also started paying more attention to my site metrics. Last week I made a snarky post about Google Analytics which was my poor way of processing this. I deleted it because the fact is, Google Analytics is a necessary tool if you work on the web. Necessary, but I don't like the way it turns people into numbers. So that's a tension I'm trying to live with and the answer might be that I shouldn't use web marketing tools for personal projects. I'd like to have a way to know if what I'm writing here is being read and resonating, but not if it means getting alerts and notifications that traffic is dropping, engagement is lower, and people are bouncing away forever. There has to be a more humane way to visualize and engage with web audiences.

My wish for social media in 2019 is for new leadership at all of the major web companies. I don't think we'll ever see them disappear, nationalized, or regulated in a meaningful way. I'd like them to have a less central role in how we create and share online. I think some new leaders could steer the companies away from growth-at-all-costs toward a more ethical relationship with users. I'd like to see them usher in the era of maintenance! That's where they take the amazing tools they've built and optimize them to work within society.
motherjones.com motherjones.com
image from motherjones.com
This is a good summary of the twists and turns in the Facebook saga. What makes this article interesting to me is that Mother Jones discusses their own relationship with Facebook over the years. Facebook sent them lots of traffic at the height of "Facebook as news feed" and they profited from it. This kind of symbiotic media relationship is a big part of the Facebook story but most media outlets don't want to discuss it. For example see: CBC's longstanding tech columnist condemns the broadcaster's cozy relationship with Facebook. Companies are still driving traffic to Facebook every day by encouraging their users to connect and subscribe via Facebook. Those solicitations are an endorsement of Facebook. We should discuss this part of the system.
kottke.org kottke.org
If you missed the fallout from the latest revelations about Facebook, Jason Kottke has a good summary. Hiring a PR firm to create fake news to smear critics does transcend merely awful and puts them into the truly evil category. They made it! With all of this pressure to improve, Facebook feels like they're at war, but Josh Marshall asks: Who is Facebook at war with? Gina Bianchini thinks we'll see a renaissance in smaller social media because The Facebook Era is Over. I want to believe! (Maybe we'll all start blogging at LinkedIn instead?)
thecorrespondent.com thecorrespondent.com
image from thecorrespondent.com
The Correspondent is an effort to create a news organization funded by news consumers rather than advertisers. They're raising money Kickstarter-style with a goal of raising 2.5 million in 30 days. They also have a nicely designed site if you're into that sort of thing.
Medium Medium
image from Medium
I like this framing of the Mastodon vs. All Social Media story. Mastodon doesn't have to supplant Twitter to be a success. If people like me enjoy using it (and I do!) then it's working on some level. Yet every article about Mastodon says, "it has a long way to go to supplant Twitter." When you look at raw number of users, that's true, but do we need massive centralized networks? This recent Mastodon 101 article falls into the same framing trap, but it's a good summary nonetheless: The quest to design an ethical social media platform.
medium.com Medium
image from medium.com
Here's another great article by linguist George Lakoff about our current media environment. It's frustrating to see the same dynamics play out over and over again. It's like seeing legacy code in action while lives depend on refactoring. Two other folks I tune into for analysis of the media are Ezra Klein and Jay Rosen and they recently had a conversation about what's happening now. Also also, don't miss Klein's article about Enemy of the People. And after you digest all of that important garbage, a reminder from Warren Ellis: You can tune your Internet connection until it is useful and fun.

Staying Informed

"But Paul," I can hear you saying through the internet, "how do you stay informed about the outside world if you can't visit Twitter and Facebook?" That's a great question but I'm afraid we've run out of time for today, sorry.

I was a huge Google Reader fan and I still use an RSS reader. When Google Reader shut down I installed a local version of Tiny Tiny RSS on my server and spent a lot of time customizing it to look and behave like Google Reader. I still use it regularly and I wish I could say that was my primary source of information these days. Unfortunatley the big two have pulled people's creative energy into them like content black holes from which not even light-hearted jokes can escape! I think of my tt-rss instance as "appointment" web entertainment. I visit it occasionally to keep up with specific sites but it doesn't feel urgent to stay up-to-date. I would love to see a return to distributed publishing and reading via RSS but tt-rss and newsreaders in general feel like too much work to install, set up, and manage.

Email has changed for me. I have distinct work and personal email these days and I use different clients to check them. My personal email traffic feels light, and with Gmail filtering spam and sorting things into buckets I have a strong signal to noise ratio. I follow some great email newsletters that I highly recommend: I usually read these as they come in and always get something out of them. Some weekly reads I enjoy include Friday Front-End (web development news), Hacker Newsletter (sorry), and the top questions of the week at RPG Stack Exchange.

What I like is that I control what's coming into my inbox. Like a newsreader, I choose the sources and let them curate news for me. There isn't an algorithm helping me decide which pieces of these I should read. Maybe it works because I haven't subscribed to very many. Maybe it works because email isn't a primary source of anxiety for me anymore.

Another daily source of news and info for me is link and favorite aggregation sites:
  • BELONG - Andy Baio's Twitter aggregator takes links from a good slice of Twitter. (Maybe this is cheating since it's based on Twitter? I'm ok with it.)
  • Pinboard Popular - The most-saved bookmarks at Pinboard with a heavy web developer slant. (Also has a strong Twitter bias with its auto-bookmark favorites feature.)
  • Popular favorites at MetaFilter and Ask MetaFilter - Sure, I'm biased, but it's still the best online community and while I'm not in the daily mix there anymore I always find great perspectives when I go.
  • Nuzzel - This is like a BELONG but with your Twitter follows. (ok, this is definitely cheating but it's very hard for me to escape this particular black hole.)
Looking at this list I know there is much more I can do to diversify my information diet. Part of this experiment is going through this self-examination to find ways to improve.

I'm sure you're sorry you asked by now, but I appreciate your concern. I'm still concerned about keeping up with friends and family but we really are out of time now so that'll have to be another post. Just know there's a lot you can take in outside of the big two and still feel like you're plugged into the hive mind.


danah boyd on what the traditional media can learn from the internet: don't feed the trolls.
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