social media

/Tag: social media

Oh no not even Rothko is safe!

Relatedly: to this day, my mother has a framed Rothko exhibition poster she stole from a wall in a random room in the Venice Guggenheim museum when she was a teenager. So I guess I’ve always subconsciously associated Rothko paintings with crime? Which is… kind of inappropriate, I guess? But really, really specific and probably not what The Algorithm is flagging for…

2018-12-06T07:42:10+00:005th December, 2018|Tags: social media, tumblr|

So to any fandom people looking for a new home in the post-Tumblr world, I’ve set up as a fandom-friendly and fan-run Mastodon instance.

I’m still setting up some things like the terms of service (and the all-important custom emoji), but general policies will include:

  • moderation for harassing or abusive content
  • allowed adult content (with content warnings in public timelines)
  • no ads, tracking, or user monetization.

For those unclear on Mastodon, it’s a Twitter-like social network, a primer on which may be found here. Any other questions, feel free to ping me. Otherwise, um… enjoy?

2018-12-04T20:21:18+00:004th December, 2018|Tags: fandom, mastodon, social media, tumblr|

Trapped in the feed.

No matter where I go on the Internet, I feel like I am trapped in the “feed,” held down by algorithms that are like axes trying to make bespoke shirts out of silk. And no one illustrates it better than Facebook and Twitter, two more services that should know better, but they don’t. Fake news, unintelligent information and radically dumb statements are getting more attention than what matters. The likes, retweets, re-posts are nothing more than steroids for noise. Even when you are sarcastic in your retweets or re-shares, the system has the understanding of a one-year-old monkey baby: it is a vote on popularity.

Om Malik on the feed.

I don’t generally engage with algorithmic feeds online.1 The closest I get to it is Twitter, which I access via either TweetDeck or Tweetbot, both of which only display a chronological timeline. My other feeds are Tumblr (chronological), which I strip of ads and promoted posts, and RSS, which is a pure oldskool chronological list of posts from sites I’ve chosen to subscribe to. New content I mostly discover horizontally, i.e. when it’s recommended directly by people I already subscribe to.

The other thing I’ve started trying to not do is, particularly on Twitter and Tumblr, is “hate boost” things. It’s not that I dislike it when other people do it—I will heart that scathing quote-tweet with the best of them—I just don’t want to do it myself. I think it was linking my Twitter and Mastodon accounts that made me more mindful about this; Mastodon has a very different culture than Twitter, and the takedown-quote-retweet isn’t part of it.2

  1. The one exception is I will very rarely click on a YouTube “suggested video”… and feel dirty for it every time. ^
  2. Partly, it must be said, because Mastodon doesn’t support quote-retweets. ^
2018-06-13T08:06:06+00:0028th November, 2018|Tags: social media, tech|

For the fun of it.

The greatest joy of LiveJournal, and other similar proto-social networks and chat rooms, was their uselessness. There was no reason for any of us to be there, not really. […] That uselessness was precisely the thing that the internet offered: this was a place you visited to get nothing done, a place where nothing counted or lasted with benefits or consequences.

Perhaps more than anything else, what has sucked all of the joy out of the social internet in its current form is its exhortation to be useful. We have arrived at a version where everything seems to be just another version of LinkedIn. Every online space is supposed to get you a job or a partner or a stronger personal brand so you can accomplish the big, public-record goals of life. The public marketplace is everywhere. It’s an interactive and immersive CV, an archive. It all counts, and it all matters.

Helena Fitzgerald on ghost towns.

While I am an advocate for the “useless” web, I do think there’s an element of rose-tinted nostalgia going on here.

The early internet—at least, in as much as I remember it—wasn’t so much about being (in the article’s words) “useless”, i.e. done purely for one’s own self, but rather a series of ad hoc experiments done while people tried to figure out how to be “useful”, i.e. how to do things popular with others. Online popularity has always been A Thing. You remember BlogShares? Those five little rate-my-blog squares? Exclusive webrings/cliques? “XHTML/CSS compliant”? “Tutorials” sections? Yes, this shit has been going for years.

What I think has changed is that the metrics for “utility” have been a) formalized, b) monetized, and c) moved into corporate hands. Before, participation in the attention economy was mostly driven by individual motivations; vanity, curiosity, an earnest desire to connect with others, or just honest-to-gods being-a-cool-person-ness. Nowadays, though, “utility” is driven by commercial platform owners whose profits directly depend on the “average utility” of their users, and thus spend billions on engineering their systems to constantly try and wring more “utility” out of everyone (more likes, more sign-ups, more ad impressions). The visibility of this “utility” has become ubiquitous. We wonder why Boys These Days seem so obsessed with lobster serotonin and “T-levels” and “canthal tilt” and other bullshit measurements of “status”… and yet they’re also the generation who’ve grown up in a social environment measured, externally and numerically (subscribers, followers, monthly donations), on a global scale.

Forget napkins and diamonds and all that bullshit; this is my generation’s actual broken legacy. Boomers destroyed the economy and the environment, Gen X destroyed giving a shit about things, and Millennials destroyed the idea of doing things for the heck of it. Even the expression, “doing things for the heck of it”, has been replaced by “utility” phrases, “doing it for the Vine” et al., that reinforce corporate ownership and empirical-yet-meaningless “social metrics”. We connected the world and told it to measure itself, and never really thought about what that would mean.

Well. This is what it means. And I doubt we’ve seen the last of it yet.

2018-05-21T15:05:10+00:0021st November, 2018|Tags: culture, social media, tech, xp|


I won’t lie; I’ve always kind of wondered1 about the idea of buying followers for someone else’s social media account as a weapon against their reputation.

  1. Like, in the abstract. ‘Cause, like. Wondering about this sort of stuff is literally my day job. ^
2018-05-15T08:53:53+00:0011th November, 2018|Tags: social media, tech, twitter|

A Tumblr of Our Own.

Interesting look at fan platform usage over time.

The main thing I’m getting out of this (other than the surprisingly low Dreamwidth adoption rate) is that someone totally needs to dev a non-commercial Tumblr-style social media platform…

(Or at least, like, run a fandom-targeted Masto instance…)

2018-03-29T10:08:01+00:0020th September, 2018|Tags: fandom, social media|

Back to basics.

Anil Dash on returning to the building blocks of the web. Which is to say, the idea of “the web” being made up of thousands of small privately run sites, rather than a handful of giant data-sucking digital feudal states. (Among other things.)

For people who don’t know Web History 1.0, Dash was one of the key figures of the early personal web, involved in the development of services including Movable Type (and its hosted version, TypePad) and LiveJournal (before it got sold to the Russians, in a move that looks Portentous In Hindsight).1

As someone who has run some version of my own website since 1999, and my own server since circa 2000, obviously I’m biased towards Dash’s argument. I’ve always crossposted content to the big “social” platforms of the day2—see for example my Tumblr and Dreamwidth—but I don’t let content sit there forever (it gets auto-deleted after about a month) and the “master” copy is always held by me, in my own database. I like the “data sovereignty” aspect of keeping my own stuff on my own site,3 but the main issue is, and always has been, in discoverability/social interaction. Hence the crossposting.

This is not something I think is insurmountable. The current crop of self-hosted blog/CMS tools are not great on things like federation but there’s no reason that needs to remain the case. Services like Mastodon and diaspora* prove modern social features like dashboards, liking, and reblogging work fine in a federated/multi-server model… even cross-app, assuming everyone is using open protocols. (Remember things like RSS and trackbacks?)

Obviously running their own federated social network infrastructure is not going to be an option for everybody. But, again, I think there’s a happy medium between “everyone is their own admin” and “Facebook owns everyone”. Think family- and community group-run instances of Federated Social Platform X, which can talk to but retain backend infrastructure/data isolation from other instances.

This is, obviously, idealistic and the main barrier here is money. Facebook has the money to run servers and pay devs to put in the features in a way, say, diaspora* admins don’t.4 Again, this isn’t a new problem; more people use iPhones than Ubuntu, too, despite them both technically being forks of the same operating system. But Apple, like Facebook, has the money, and the devs, and the designers, and thus the ability to produce (and market) a polished, commodified user experience.

All that being said, money alone won’t save Facebook if, for example, its bad PR gets to critical mass and/or (more likely) its business model is ruled illegal. And if the empires of digital feudal lords start to crumble, then Web 1.0 v2.0 will be waiting for it…

  1. Speaking of LiveJournal; one of the things a lot of people seem to forget is that LJ was originally only the official hosted version of a free codebase. In other words, anyone with a server could set up a LiveJournal clone… and they did, which gave us things like DeadJournal, InsaneJournal, JournalFen, and Dreamwidth. In theory, you can even still set up your own clone; I’m not sure where the LJ code lives these days, but DW’s fork has some fairly straightforward instructions. ^
  2. … Assuming they have APIs to do so. ^
  3. Obviously, I don’t run my own datacenter, so I’m still on someone else’s infrastructure somewhere down the chain. But there is a lot more choice of providers here than if I were relying solely on a SaaS/PaaS service like Facebook/Tumblr/Medium/, and also the financial relationship is a lot more traditional; I’m my provider’s customer, not advertisers or data brokers or governments. ^
  4. This is also one of the reasons I think Mastodon has gotten much more traction versus Twitter than diaspora* has versus Facebook; Twitter’s more abbreviated service and kinda crappy product management makes it a much softer target. ^
2018-09-05T13:04:11+00:0018th September, 2018|Tags: social media, tech|


Just over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.


There are, however, age differences in the share of Facebook users who have recently taken some of these actions. Most notably, 44% of younger users (those ages 18 to 29) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the past year, nearly four times the share of users ages 65 and older (12%) who have done so.

Andrew Perrin on Facebook’s changing fortunes.

Yes. Yes! Delete, my pretties! Delete!

2018-09-07T11:07:43+00:007th September, 2018|Tags: facebook, social media|