I don’t know how we got to a point where chatting and sharing with friends means having to pick through adverts, and agreeing to being tracked and marketed at, and risk being exposed to, or abused by, terrible people. Our conversations and holiday snaps have become darkly marketed events. You could say this is a fair exchange but it feels wrong to me. The things being exchanged are too different, a kind of category error. It’s a wonky kind of barter in which I feel powerless and used. It’s not why I came here, to the internet.
Tuesday, June 18th, 2019
Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
This is a really great, balanced profile of the Indie Web movement. There’s thoughtful criticism alongside some well-deserved praise:
If we itemize the woes currently afflicting the major platforms, there’s a strong case to be made that the IndieWeb avoids them. When social-media servers aren’t controlled by a small number of massive public companies, the incentive to exploit users diminishes. The homegrown, community-oriented feel of the IndieWeb is superior to the vibe of anxious narcissism that’s degrading existing services.
Tantek’s barnstorming closing talk from Beyond Tellerrand. This is well worth 30 minutes of your time.
Own your domain. Own your content. Own your social connections. Own your reading experience. IndieWeb services, tools, and standards enable you to take back your web.
Saturday, April 21st, 2018
There was a moment that it seemed like a proliferation of flickr-like webservices would result in a network of deep shared pools of cultural resource, from which every user could build expressions and applications, but the “entrap and surveil” economics of platforms kicked in.
And now we have no history, and rather than communicating via visualizations of our own shared cultural record, we are left waiting like dogs for treats as facebook decides to surface one of our own images from 3 or 8 years ago. Don’t try to search the graph! Advertisers only.
Friday, March 30th, 2018
On moving from silos to your own website:
Over the last year, especially, it has seemed much more like “blog to write, tweet to fight.” Moreover, the way that our writing and personal data has been used by social media companies has become more obviously problematic—not that it wasn’t problematic to begin with.
Which is why it’s once again a good time to blog, especially on one’s own domain.
But on the other hand…
It is psychological gravity, not technical inertia, however, that is the greater force against the open web. Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that “others are here”—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site.
That’s true …which is why brid.gy is such an incredibly powerful service for, well, bridging the gap between your own personal site and the silos, allowing for that feeling of ambient humanity.
Sunday, February 11th, 2018
In trying to decide on his indie web approach, Dries gives an excellent breakdown of the concepts of PESOS (Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate to Own Site) and POSSE (Publish to Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere).
Sunday, January 14th, 2018
If only our digital social networks were to exhibit this kind of faded grandeur when they no longer exist.
Friday, September 1st, 2017
John Lanchester reviews ‘The Attention Merchants’ by Tim Wu, ‘Chaos Monkeys’ by Antonio García Martínez and ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ by Jonathan Taplin · LRB 17 August 2017
Triple the hand-wringing in this combined review of three books:
- The Attention Merchants: From the Daily Newspaper to Social Media, How Our Time and Attention Is Harvested and Sold by Tim Wu,
- Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine by Antonio García Martínez, and
- Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon have Cornered Culture and What It Means for All of Us by Jonathan Taplin.
What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality.
Thursday, February 16th, 2017
Much of our courage and support comes from the people we read and talk to and love online, often on the very networks that expose us—and our friends—to genuine enemies of freedom and peace. We have to keep connected, but we don’t have to play on their terms.
Saturday, December 5th, 2015
A wonderful sci-fi vignette from Matt.
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
It’s all about the signalling.
Friday, July 13th, 2012
I think Derek is on to something here. Maybe online communities and profit are simply incompatible?
The bigger you go, the harder the road. Meanwhile, small, focused, and yes, exclusionary community sites flourish.
You know what? I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
Robin Sloan compares Facebook and Google in an interesting way:
Really, Facebook is the world’s largest photo sharing site—that also happens to be a social network and a login system.
Google is getting good, really good, at building things that see the world around them and actually understand what they’re seeing.
Saturday, April 21st, 2012
Albert-László Barabási and Robin Dunbar are among the authors of this paper — it’s the scale-free network equivalent of the Avengers.
Thursday, November 17th, 2011
This post from Maciej might initially seem negative but read it through to the end: there’s a very powerful positive message.
Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Reminiscences of the BBSs of yesteryear that could in time be applied to the social networking sites of today.
Monday, October 4th, 2010
Responding to Malcolm Gladwell's recent piece in the New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer argues that the strength of weak ties *does* extend to social activism.
Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
An examination of behavioural contagion in social networks.
Sunday, January 4th, 2009
The spread of happiness, obesity and smoking habits through social networks.
Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
My new motto is "The Social Graph is a Spherical Cow."