So apparently, of all companies, Automattic are the ones who’ve bought Tumblr. Huh.
Automattic are, of course, the parent company of WordPress.com and the company that pretends it doesn’t own the WordPress.org version of WordPress so that it can continue to benefit from the free labor of open source contributors, a la the Standard FOSS Company Business Model. They are… probably not the worst people who could’ve bought Tumblr? They certainly don’t (or at least, historically haven’t) have quite the hardcore exploit-the-users-with-advertising revenue model of most other social media companies, so… eeeh?
Also, if it means some of the Tumblr-standard features (post queues!) get worked into the WordPress codebase… hey. I would not be complaining.
Also, re. the purchase price:
3/ Story updated: Price less than $3 million.
— Dan Primack (@danprimack) August 12, 2019
Tumblr’s original sale to Yahoo! was for $1.1 billion.
So hey did you ever notice that the decline of blogging not only seemed to coincide with the rise of more “informal” social media… but also with the advent of large media outlets actually, like. Paying for blog posts?
Relatedly: So about six months ago I met my friend’s girlfriend, who normally lives halfway across the world from both myself and Friend, for the first time. I only knew Friend’s Girlfriend by her first name, but she nonetheless looked extremely familiar. Eventually, I got enough courage to ask, “So, hey. Weird question, but… did you used to write for The Border House?”
For those of you who don’t remember, The Border House was basically the first website to examine videogames through an intersectional lens. Nowadays it seems almost forgotten, in part (though admittedly not whole) because its market—and its writers—got gobbled up by commercial publications like Kotaku, Polygon, and so on.
As it turned out, Friend’s Girlfriend was, indeed, the person I thought she was, and we had a nice little reminisce about the site. And how it ended. Small fucking world, turns out.
But I’m struck by how one primary reason a fiasco like Fyre Festival could happen, or indeed how many of the worst aspects of influencer culture can happen, is because of the very real emotional effect of the Fear of Missing Out. It’s especially true because FOMO is a designed, intentional result of using most modern social media apps.
The stakes are so much higher now then back when we just worried that social media would make us feel bad about missing a party. Yes, that’s still a cause of stress, but far worse is social media enabling grifters to profiteer off of innocent people’s credulity. How can we fret about missing our friends when the emotional manipulation of social apps has warped every institution in our entire culture?
Anil Dash on missing out.
If you come to believe that you know the truth about someone or that you know their “real” self, then there is nothing else to learn. There is no need to listen or to observe. You can assume that every argument is conducted in bad faith. There can, in fact, be no dialogue at all. Conversation is altogether precluded.
We are thus tempted simultaneously, and somewhat paradoxically, to believe that those we encounter online are necessarily involved in an inauthentic identity game and that we are capable of ascertaining the truth about them, even on the slimmest of evidence. […] Or, to put it another way, we believe we know the truth about everyone and the truth we know is that there is no truth to be known. So our public sphere takes on not a cynical quality, but a nihilistic one.
L. M. Sacasas on the Discourse.
I’m somewhat torn about this article, as well as the essay that it references about “the unmasking style” in arguments.1 On the one hand, I think understanding “the unmasking style”—understanding that it’s even A Thing—is really critical in understanding certain manifestations of Arguing On The Internet and okay I’m going to say fandom antis. I mean I think it’s useful in understanding fandom antis (among others).
But, on the other hand… a lot of Arguing On The Internet really is conducted in incredibly bad faith. And assuming good faith in those situations isn’t just futile but can be actively dangerous. So… yeah.
I don’t really have a pithy conclusion or an action list or whatever to solve this apparent paradox, incidentally. Just… these things. They exist.
- Which, again, I think is interesting reading but have issues with on… numerous grounds, really, not the least being the author is one of the sorts of people who’d unironically put scare-quotes around the word “microaggressions” while simultaneously utterly failing to comprehend what they actually are. [↩]
A conversation with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey can be incredibly disorienting. Not because he’s particularly clever or thought-provoking, but because he sounds like he should be. He takes long pauses before he speaks. He furrows his brow, setting you up for a considered response from the man many have called a genius. The words themselves sound like they should probably mean something, too. Dorsey is just hard enough to follow that it’s easy to assume that any confusion is your own fault, and that if you just listen a little more or think a little harder, whatever he’s saying will finally start to make sense.
Whether Dorsey does this all deliberately or not, the reason his impassioned defenses of Twitter sound like gibberish is because they are.
Ashley Feinberg @s Jack.
Tumblr messes me up. AO3 too. Tumblr gives you metrics on the main page. Followers. You can’t see comments on a post without knowing how many likes and reblogs it got. AO3 tells me how many views each story got. Another achievements bar. Only this one doesn’t come with an upper limit for success. And my little hampster brain needs metrics. Can’t run on a wheel unless you know when you’ve won. So I invent my own. The first time I quit Tumblr, I had podcast creators reaching out to me to promote their works. I had a character named after a joke I made in fandom. Mutuals mailed me stuff. And I felt like shit because my daily posts hardly ever cracked 30 reblogs/likes and I couldn’t get over a 1:10 likes:hits ratio on AO3. I was the mommy blogger worrying that her middle child was going to grow up damaged cause his posts got fewer likes.
notasupervillain on metrics.
Social media metrics are for marketers and advertising firms, not humans.
As usual and, related to the conclusion of the post, because this is Dreamwidth, do also read the comments.
In retrospect, I think the problem is pretty clear: Tumblr, like most social networks, values creators as a means to an end—the people writing and posting make the platform more valuable and more worthy of the average person’s time, but the rewards for that value quite often go to the people who operate the platform, not the people who make it relevant.
Ernie Smith on value.
See also Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Steam, et cetera, et cetera. Basically any and every content aggregator.
Incidentally, the post this quote is taken from is about urging people to start an independent blog which, obviously, is something I am always here for.
If you believe moderation is a high-skilled, high-stakes job that presents unique psychological risks to your workforce, you might hire all of those workers as full-time employees. But if you believe that it is a low-skill job that will someday be done primarily by algorithms, you probably would not.
Instead, you would do what Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter have done, and hire companies like Accenture, Genpact, and Cognizant to do the work for you. Leave to them the messy work of finding and training human beings, and of laying them all off when the contract ends. Ask the vendors to hit some just-out-of-reach metric, and let them figure out how to get there.
At Google, contractors like these already represent a majority of its workforce. The system allows tech giants to save billions of dollars a year, while reporting record profits each quarter. Some vendors may turn out to mistreat their workers, threatening the reputation of the tech giant that hired them. But countless more stories will remain hidden behind nondisclosure agreements.
In the meantime, tens of thousands of people around the world go to work each day at an office where taking care of the individual person is always someone else’s job. Where at the highest levels, human content moderators are viewed as a speed bump on the way to an AI-powered future.
Casey Newton on moderation.
Hey y’all remember that article from a while back about how fucking awful it is to be a Facebook moderator?
Guess what? There’s a Part II. Content warning for the full story, which deals with death, workplace harassment and negligence, PTSD, and animal and child cruelty. Also: delete your fucking Facebook.
Also big shout-out to the graphic designers at The Verge, for the subtly filthy page margins, which… eurgh.