twitter

Wired
"The business choices of internet platforms have enabled an explosion not only of white supremacy but also of Covid denial and antivax extremism, which have variously undermined the nation’s pandemic response, nearly sabotaged the presidential election, and played a foundational role in the violence at the Capitol. A huge industry has evolved on the platform giants to raise money from and sell products to people in the thrall of extreme ideologies."
Also, their monopoly power means no meaningful alternatives can exist for businesses who want to advertise or people who want to socialize on platforms that act ethically.
Platformer
"Americans voted Trump out of office, but instead of accepting that result, he has sought to overturn it. By inciting the violent occupation of the US Capitol, Trump has given up any legitimate claim to power. In 14 days, barring catastrophe, he will be out of office. The only question is how much damage he will do in the meantime — and we know, based on long experience, that his Twitter and Facebook accounts will be among his primary weapons."
Taking away some ability to incite violence would be a good step.

Update (1/7): Facebook bans Trump for his remaining time in office right after congress confirmed the electoral college votes and the Georgia election determined Democrats would control Congress.

Update (1/9): Twitter permanently bans Trump. And all attempts to use related accounts.
Twitter Blog
"Though this adds some extra friction for those who simply want to Retweet, we hope it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a Tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts, reactions and perspectives to the conversation."
This. But seriously, happy to see Twitter adding some friction to the system to slow misinformation. If friction helps the system during an election, why not all the time?
nytimes.com
Matt Haughey on social media trolls:
“Every bad thing at MetaFilter happened with someone who had been testing the rules for a year or two,” he said. “Those are the ones who tend to blossom into super-trolls over time. They’ll see what they can get away with, they’ll figure out what the limits are, and just stay a step inside. It can go on forever. And when you inevitably break and say, this is a bad idea, they freak out, and try to play the victim.”
Good for Twitter for starting to enforce their terms at this late hour. I can imagine a world where they enforced their terms all along and it makes me disappointed and angry.
getrevue.co
Best summary I’ve read of the Twitter activist investor threat.
"But business ain’t beanbag, and “good enough” clearly isn’t cutting it for Paul Singer. Unless something changes dramatically, it would appear that Jack Dorsey is in for the fight of his life."
After bending over backward to not enforce Twitter policy for politicians, this is the thanks Jack gets?
decrypt.co decrypt.co
My alternate headline for this: Twitter CEO makes the case that Mastodon has a superior architecture for social media; forms group to invent it. The Mastosphere has been chatting about this quite a bit with worries about embrace, extend, and extinguish. It wasn’t received well is what I’m trying to say. Mastodon BDFL Eugen was more diplomatic.
YouTube YouTube
image from YouTube
Take 25 minutes to watch this. He makes a fantastic, succinct argument for regulating social media to stop the reach of hate speech.
Gizmodo Gizmodo
image from Gizmodo
"I’d start with, at most, 10 news sites to subscribe to. This will give you a feel for how fast you want the feed to move. Too slow? Add more. To fast? Delete a few. I try to narrow things down even further: Instead of subscribing to the New York Times, which publishes dozens of items per day, I subscribe specifically to the Times’ tech section, which means I get a much more curated selection."
Seconded. And hey, I could have written this. This article has great advice for embracing the decentralized lifestyle. I personally use a self-hosted Tiny Tiny RSS with Reeder on iOS which costs about $8/month at AWS. Instead of limiting feeds, I subscribe liberally and put them in folders by subject. Then I browse by subject periodically instead of the full list of feeds and tune from there.
Gizmodo Gizmodo
image from Gizmodo
I never get tired of these stories where people change their digital habits. This piece by Kashmir Hill is an extreme example, but also a good illustration of how ubiquitous the major tech companies are. Understanding the often hidden architecture of our tech environment helps us make mindful decisions. A couple other posts in this genre I've enjoyed lately: Bye, Bye, Google by Bogdan Popa and Pulling the plug on Facebook by Drupal founder Dries Buytaert.

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.

Twitter Breakup

Jerry Seinfeld had a funny line on his show about how breaking up is like knocking over a coke machine:

That's how I feel about Twitter right now. Even though I swore off Twitter in January I've found myself back in the daily grind there. Despite uninstalling the app on my phone and hacking my hosts file, I still end up back. Twitter and I have had some great times over 11 years and five months! It's not easy to give that up. I found my current job via Twitter, I hear stories from people I would never have met, I keep up with friends, I get industry news, and there are always great jokes.

But Twitter also has a problem with toxic speech that they refuse to address. That is the dealbreaker for me. That's the poop in the pool. Here's a sampling of recent decisive leadership from Twitter:

I also found myself identifying with Matt's My own reasons for leaving Twitter. I too feel that addictive pull all. the. time.

So this movement to deactivate accounts on Friday is just the kick in the butt I need to remind myself to make conscious choices about the places I patronize.

I will genuinely miss the fun parts of Twitter but I don't want to be part of a platform that hosts hate speech. The US government tolerates hate speech because it places a high value on free speech. I understand the trade-off there but Twitter is not the US government. There are plenty of places to publish online. Twitter is more like the host of a big party. And if the host of the party doesn't kick out nazis when they show up it's time to knock over the coke machine for good. (I'm definitely mixing metaphors here but the point is that I don't feel comfortable spending time and attention there anymore.) Twitter, I know it's a cliché but: it's not me—it's you.

Controlled Link Burn

The underbrush of my link ecosystem has become so wild and thorny with hrefs that it's time to break out the blogging driptorch and burn them all so the mighty oaks of thought can live free once more.

Last week Andy Baio broke the Twitter time continuum with a well-crafted Twitter search that shows activity from the people you follow from 10 years ago. Reading a 2008 feed made me think about text vs. media embeds and I enjoyed the discussions about tweeting in the modern world. Someone put together a handy page of Twitter time-traveling links if you'd like to try it out.

Jessamyn West is fighting the good fight against Equifax by suing them in small claims court over their data breach. A week or so ago she went to court: Equifax Statement for Small Claims Court. Be sure to read the the follow-up tweets at the end of the article about how it went. Equifax probably won't pay a meaningful price for their recklessness with our data, but I'm glad Jessamyn is trying.

How is the smart speaker craze going? Vox epxlains How an Amazon Echo ended up recording and sharing a private conversation. I think it was @sudama who suggested calling them smart microphones instead so we remember data flows both ways.

I spent way too much time having fun at WASD Keyboards customizing keycap colors. I don't really need another mechanical keyboard. I don't really need another mechanical keyboard. I don't really need another mechanical keyboard.

This is some digital spycraft wizardry: Glyph Perturbation, The Science of Font Steganography. By imperceptably changing how fonts are displayed, you can embed encrypted messages within innocuous carrier text.

This was a good reminder for me to make time for reading with my kids: What's Going On In Your Child's Brain When You Read Them A Story?.

I recently started playing electric guitar again for the first time in *cough*+ years and that opened a whole new world of YouTube tutorial videos I wasn't aware of before. I'm here to recommend Paul Davids and fun videos like his 10 Extremely Tasty Licks.

The link thicket is light on web developer help this time around, but this 2014 article about How to Write a Git Commit Message is still great. My favorite tip is Use imperitive statements as the subject line. I always try to do this and I think it gives commit messages a timeless quality—like you're explaining to someone mid-process how to recreate your steps.

With my weekly URLs now ablaze, the only thing left to do is fire up Portland Cello Project playing Paranoid Android (a good version finally online!) as background music while I watch my reading list disappear.
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