Aggregators.

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.

2019-01-23T10:16:05+10:0020th June, 2019|Tags: social media, tech|

Hidden bodies.

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.

2019-06-20T10:22:08+10:0020th June, 2019|Tags: facebook, social media, tech|

Shepherd Lee.

Pencil sketch of Lee from the Space Demons book. Also technically the “tentacles” part of Davey, at least when he’s in that setting and not our MotW game.

This was also my other thing I was going to paint at Continuum, but never got around to because lol finishing things what even is that?

2019-06-19T10:14:27+10:0020th June, 2019|Tags: my art, SPACE DEMONS|

Scripsville.

What’s more, [Facebook] targeting people in developing nations [for its digital scrip, Libra] sounds noble and could be genuinely useful, but it also smacks of neocolonialism. What happens if this currency fails to gain adequate traction? What happens if it succeeds in gaining traction, and now small, local economies in developing nations are dependent on venture capital firms and credit card companies in the United States for their functional base of trade?

I get the eagerness to disrupt something as big as the global financial system. But you don’t have to trust the system to worry about a small consortium of mostly-American companies inventing a private and poorly regulated psuedo-currency.

Nick Heer on company worlds.

So in my Space Demons book (that I’ll totally get around to posting soon I swear), one of the little bits of side-fluff is that every galactic megacorp has its own “in-game currency”, i.e. a digital token that’s used on its worlds, and… well.

(Also, for those of you paying historic attention, what Facebook is proposing is essentially just a digital version of a company script, which is nothing new…)

2019-06-19T08:43:43+10:0019th June, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|

Inbox infinity.

The case for not replying to emails.

I used to be meticulous about keeping inbox zero until I hit a middle-management-esque job where I was getting like a hundred of the things a day. So in defense I started instituting the Mustrum Ridcully Method, i.e. assuming people would just come in and tell me anything actually important, at which point I’d find the associated email and action it.

I can’t quite get away with that any more, but I still don’t reply to everything and don’t really worry too much about stuff “backlogging” and… yup. Yup, I can definitely recommend it.

2019-01-22T13:54:17+10:0018th June, 2019|Tags: business, email, tech|

New books for June 2019!

New books! Mostly my haul from Continuum, plus one Kickstarter reward, and one book from Japan. Titles include:

  • Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish
  • Alison Evans, Highway Bodies
  • Marlee Jane Ward, Welcome to Orphancorp
  • J.S. Breukelaar, Aletheia
  • Amanda Bridgeman, The Subjugate
  • the remaining B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth collected volumes
  • the Over the Edge core rulebook
  • a touristy artbook of demon and ghost ukiyo-e works I bought from a museum in Harajuku.

Also, if you squint, in the top left of the image you can see the box of Werewolf: the Apocalypse character sheets from the game we haven’t played for like a year because half the players decided to have a baby. Pfft.

2019-06-18T10:19:49+10:0018th June, 2019|Tags: books, comics, tabletop rpgs|

God is the machine.

From [Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger’s] perspective, the most serious threats digital technologies pose are not strictly personal concerns like identity theft or companies’ surreptitiously listening in on conversations but the emergence of a softly deterministic techno-social order designed chiefly to produce individuals that are its willing subjects. They note, for example, that when a school deploys fitness trackers as part of its physical education program, privacy concerns should extend not only to questions of students’ informed and meaningful consent. Even if consent is managed well, such a program, Frischmann and Selinger argue, “shapes the preferences of a generation of children to accept a 24/7 wearable surveillance device that collects and reports data.” This is to say that these programs contribute to “surveillance creep”: our gradual acquiescence to the expanding surveillance apparatus. Such an apparatus, in their view, appears pointed ultimately toward the goal of engineered determinism. Frischmann and Selinger conclude by advocating for legal, cultural, and design strategies that aim at securing our freedom from engineered determinism. And I would suggest that we would do well to reframe our understanding of privacy along similar lines.

L.M. Sacasas on the new panopticon.

2019-01-22T13:39:20+10:0017th June, 2019|Tags: privacy, tech|