Hello. This is no longer Bix's blog.


Well, now I know that your basic influencer “rented two rooms in an old house, smoked two packs a day, and wore baggy clothes... except on Instagram, where she lived in a van, cooked her own, healthy, meals, and wore the kind of clothes that left little to imagination” and took pictures of food “made inedible with glue, wire, hair spray and other tricks to spice up its looks”. Always listen to Leslie Knope even if she's paraphrased bastardized.

#Internet #Nonsense #SocialMedia #Web #September2019

In response to Tobias Van Schneider's love letter to personal websites, in which he is right that they are the “place where we can express, on our terms, who we are and what we offer” but a bit annoying in how he focuses on how it's about presenting your work to the world, Eric L. Barnes correctly observes that “social media keeps winning because it’s easy and we are all lazy”, except that if there's one thing I've learned from being diagnosed as autistic it's that sometimes what conventional wisdom would have as laziness in fact is a kind of cognitive inertia (in the mental health realm, often the result of executive function issues), and it's why as we try to motivate people to find their own opportunities to switch gears back to things like blogging, we need to push social media platforms to introduce friction.

#Blogging #SocialMedia #Web #September2019

Manton Reece is right. Matt Mullenweg wanting WordPress “to become the operating system for the open web” with “every website, whether it’s e-commerce or anything to be powered by WordPress” is basically the opposite of a web that “can go back to being more open”. No matter how much better a Mullenweg might be than a Dorsey or a Zuckerberg, the indieweb goal of “a diversity of approaches & implementations” is how we get to an open web that's open in actuality and not just rhetoric.

#Blogging #Business #Internet #Web #September2019

Earlier this evening, David Gasca, product manager at Twitter, announced that next week is “hack week” at the company. “What would you build,” he asked, “to improve conversations on Twitter?” I've been following Gasca, and a number of other Twitter employees, ever since Arielle Pardes' epic thread from a wide-ranging conversation at Twitter last month.

My initial suggestions will be familiar in light of all the things I've posted here about finding ways to instill more “friction” on our social media platforms. Among them: eliminating engagement counts, providing tools allowing users to control who does and who does not get to participate in replies to their tweets (an expansion of Twitter's author-moderated replies being tested in Canada), and the ability for users to self-organize into their own Twitter groups in a a sort of internal analogue to different Mastodon instances.

On that last, I argued, Twitter simply is too big at this point. If users could login to Twitter and be in a sort of “home community timeline”, a kind of safe space and home base from which to engage with the larger Twitter community and experience, perhaps that might provide a greater sense both of responsibility and control. Perhaps these chosen community timelines then could also (to borrow a term) “federate” internally on Twitter with other communities, creating shared timelines between or amongst them.

Gasca's reply: “Totally.”

To be clear, what I am not talking about here is Twitter's apparent push to allow users to follow topics in addition to following people. I'm talking about, in a way, something of a fundamental reorganization of the Twitter experience for those who want it: establishing the tools for users to create their own Twitter communities which would be subject not just to Twitter's wider community standards but in fact could construct their own and enforce them for its own members.

The “federation” model (which most people know, if they know it at all, from Mastodon) really is what I'm talking about but in the absence of literally breaking up Twitter into physically separate instances like in true federation, I think this sort of virtual internal federation is the way to go.

It's difficult to envision. Perhaps it would work much like Mastodon instances running forks such as Hometown which institute a “local-only” posting layer which vanilla Mastodon lacks, where you'd have to set the audience for each tweet as you go: some local-only, some private, some open to the entire network. Or perhaps a Twitter user could log in and literally spend their entire session just in a “local-only” mode consisting of their home community and/or any allied communities to which it's been linked, and never even look at the wider Twitter universe.

There'd be lots of details like that to work out. Personally, I like the latter model better, since you could just immerse yourself in that local community. But there'd be ways when browsing and engaging with the wider Twitter community to share things you find there just to your home-base community rather than publicly on your open timeline.

Like I said, it'd require a fundamental shift on the part of Twitter in terms of what service it thinks it's providing. I do think that if they were willing to made such a radical movie, certainly no user should be required to set up or be a part of a home-base community. You should be able to continue having the typical Twitter experience if that's what you prefer.

I'm just thinking that if users had the ability to have shared but private conversations—think of it like a group that is locked the way an individual Twitter account can be locked—people could feel a sense of security and a sense of ownership. Not, of course, over the service, but over their own experiences on it.

Maybe that's the thing that Twitter the experience is missing, and that Twitter the company missed. Communities require buy-in from their members, and they require some sort of emotional investment. Twitter users frequently have emotional investments in each other, but it's difficult to maintain that kind of investment in or as a group because Twitter can be so treacherous, often with no real safe place to retreat and be refreshed except by logging off.

What if the Home timeline really was just that: a home each Twitter user could make for themselves, with their friends or their family or their chosen family or whatever kind and size of group they wished, that no one else could touch except by invitation?

ETA: I got so carried away with the above that I forgot to reiterate something I've said before a number of times now: “Do away with likes in favor of highlighting. Do away with retweets in favor of commenting. Interaction over indication. Expression over excitation.”

#Community #SocialMedia #Web #September2019

Richard MacManus, of ReadWriteWeb fame, has an interesting analysis of email newsletter subscribers that gets into the question of whether or not people are willing to pony up for paid subscriptions, and if so to what are those willing customers subscribing, exactly. He talks a bit about the idea of “subscription fatigue” and as I've wondered before if “you could subscribe to all of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Medium for $17/month” why would you instead spend more than that to subscribe, for example, to just five SubStack newsletters? You've got to have a lot of casual cash sitting around to subscribe to anything more than a couple.

#Business #Internet #Web #September2019

Reading The Outline's profile of Lower Duck Pond, I found myself wondering how CityLab would cover this, or what would happen if The New York Times sent an economist to study its urban planning, or whether there's any conscious sense of race within the town's population.

#Cities #Community #UrbanPlanning #Web #September2019

But a copyright loophole means that up to 75 percent of books published between 1923 to 1964 are secretly in the public domain, meaning they are free to read and copy. The problem is determining which books these are, due to archaic copyright registration systems and convoluted and shifting copyright law.

As such, a coalition of libraries, volunteers, and archivists have been working overtime to identify which titles are in the public domain, digitize them, then upload them to the internet. At the heart of the effort has been the New York Public Library, which recently documented why the entire process is important, but a bit of a pain.

From Libraries and Archivists Are Scanning and Uploading Books That Are Secretly in the Public Domain by Karl Bode

#Books #Copyright #Libraries #Web #Highlights #September2019

For the life of me I can't remember where I came across it, and apparently I forgot to make a note of it, but there's all sorts of great stuff in this epic post about the indieweb and fandom spaces. You don't have to care about fandom, specifically, to find this worth your time if you care at all about the past, present, and future states of online community.

There are some especially terrific thoughts on how too much of a move into the indieweb ideal of having everything you do up for access on your own site might not actually be ideal for community-building.

Basically, if “own your content and host it on your site” also applies to your comments, interactions, etc, it starts running counter to one of the strengths of the Old Web. Which was community contexts where you explicitly weren’t posting to your own space or addressing everyone who might be looking at the main clearinghouse of all your different stuff. You were posting to the commons shared by a particular group with a particular culture and interests, not all of whom were people you’d necessarily want to follow outside that limited context, some of whom you might disagree with or dislike, but in any case you knew what audience you were broadcasting to. You knew what the conversation was, how similar conversations had gone in the past, and the reputations of all the main participants–not just the ones you yourself would subscribe to and the ones attention-grabbing enough to get shared by the people on your subscription list. And you weren’t spamming all your other acquaintances with chatter on a topic they weren’t interested in.

This is a tension between the ideals of the indieweb and the idea community that had never occurred to me, but to highlight it and raise concerns about it certainly makes a great deal of sense to me.

To my mind, what we need is not so much everyone having a central, personally-owned-and-hosted clearinghouse of all their online activity as a way for both personal sites and smaller community sites to have areas through which they can interact or follow each other in some fashion, without turning one's own “personal feed” into just another unceasing river of noise.

Marianne also has some great thoughts about whether relentlessly organizing things chronologically (or, rather, reverse-chronologically) itself can have a detrimental effect on community. To wit: “Relentless chronological ordering + the signal-to-noise ratio of any space with regular social interaction = greatest hits falling down the memory hole unless a community practices extensive manual cataloguing.”

These two sets of observations aren't even the half of what's on offer over there, and if there's anything I've run across in the past few months that I would shove to the top of the reading list for anyone looking at where the indieweb could, should, or might take us, it would be this post.

#Blogging #Community #Fandom #SocialMedia #Web #September2019

In time, however, the site began to espouse the worst of the internet—Urban Dictionary became something much uglier than perhaps what Peckham set out to create. It transformed into a harbor for hate speech. By allowing anyone to post definitions (users can up or down vote their favorite ones) Peckham opened the door for the most insidious among us. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and sexism currently serve as the basis for some of the most popular definitions on the site. One of the site's definitions for sexism details it as “a way of life like welfare for black people. now stop bitching and get back to the kitchen.” Under Lady Gaga, one top entry describes her as the embodiment of “a very bad joke played on all of us by Tim Burton.” For LeBron James, it reads: “To bail out on your team when times get tough.”

From What Happened to Urban Dictionary? by Jason Parham

#Language #Web #Highlights #September2019

Over in Micro.blog's “discover” feed (parenthetically, I'm again wondering if I should be over there instead of here on Write.as) I found these pretty great thoughts by Ton Zijlstra on technology, scaling, and community, in which he laments technologists “talking about how to create a community for their tech to help it scale”.

While crediting that, yes, some technologies help “communities ... form that otherwise wouldn’t, because of geographic spread, shame, taboo or danger to make yourself visible in your local environment”, Zijlstra argues that tech perhaps should “focus on me using it for my communities as is, and rather present itself as having me join a made up community whose raison d’etre is exploiting our attention for profit”.

This, perhaps, is the failing of Twitter, and one of the strengths of federation, in that what we need are technologies which enable people to support their existing communities, or ones they wish to create, while then also providing bridges into other communities and wider, more general streams of “content”. The model behind Twitter somehow thinks an unfettered river of such “content” alone is good enough.

Sites that are fundamentally about ads (and, really, that's typically what “scaling” is all about: adding more and more eyeballs for what advertisers are serving up, not for what users are doing) perhaps can never also fundamentally be about any sort of community for which it would be worth using that word.

#Community #SocialMedia #Technology #Web #September2019