… so just why does every YouTube thumbnail feature a person with the exact same damn expression?
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…)
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…
- 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. ^
- … Assuming they have APIs to do so. ^
- 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/WordPress.com/Blogger/etc., and also the financial relationship is a lot more traditional; I’m my provider’s customer, not advertisers or data brokers or governments. ^
- 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. ^
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!
Wait. Do… do people think the definition of the “public square” is a place where people just… gather in public? Because actually that explains a hell of a lot…
(Also, spoiler alert, the notion of the “public square” is of land held, collectively, both for and, more critically, by the public. By definition, if something is privately owned, then it’s not a “public square”.)
… Okay so now I’m thinking about what an actual “public square” social media website would look like.
I mean, the obvious answer is “managed by a government on behalf of its citizens”, i.e. how “public land” works, but the international nature of social media makes that… problematic.1
So, failing that… perhaps a site run under some kind of trust/co-op arrangement on behalf of its users? With some kind of governance body and associated user representation. Would that mean users had to buy-in to be members? How would membership (“citizenship”?) be conveyed? Would there be a ruling body? Some kind of bureaucracy?
Incidentally, the closest thing I can think of of a website that runs in this fashion is the AO3, which is not “social media” in the strictest sense, but does have a social element. But even the AO3 is tied to a private (non-profit) entity as defined by an existing nation state (the US).
I suppose it’s also possible that the entire notion of a “public good” on the internet is, in itself, unattainable given that the internet itself is a series of interconnected privately owned infrastructure systems. This, I suppose, is the argument for nationalising internet infrastructure… which, while it’s an idea I don’t outright oppose, comes with its own sets of issues.
Anyway, tl;dr I don’t have an actual answer to this, but it is interesting to think about. And also: Twitter, Facebook… even Mastodon instances, et al., are not “public squares”. They’re private ones.
- Also, I know how much y’all, not 100% unreasonably, hate/mistrust governments. ^
Mastodon in terms of features and affordances has for the most part copied those of services whose community management generally doesn’t work in the face of actual, planned, and sustained abuse.
Global social networks enable massive, coordinated, asymmetric, and sustained harassment and abuse campaigns. Being on an instance whose admin is willing to take aggressive measures helps but that’s still a game of whack-a-mole. There’s no reason to believe that federation as a network model (the main innovation Mastodon has over Twitter) is in any way a mitigation of coordinated harassment as a threat model.
Baldur Bjarnason on Mastodon.
Like Baldur I’m a fan of Mastodon—both as a technology in general and as a user, specifically—and I generally don’t have a lot of time for anti-Fediverse alarmism. But the Wheaton Incident (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) did happen and is pretty much The Problem With Mastodon In a Nutshell.
Back in my first job, when I was a baby graduate in my first IT security team, a coworker had the following printed out and stuck above her desk: Non-technical problems require non-technical solutions. I’ve been thinking about that sign a lot recently, in the context of systemic abuse on online platforms. Because that’s a non-technical problem, and you can’t solve it with technical solutions; federation (or the lack thereof) won’t solve it, block buttons won’t solve it, machine learning won’t solve it, blue ticks won’t solve it. Some of it isn’t even about community management, in the sense of “an external force of Community Managers”; a bunch of the work is small-c community stuff, and I don’t even have a universal answer for what it should look like, other than a set of private rules I try and apply to my own behaviour.1
This isn’t even about Wil Wheaton; I have no particular feelings about the guy other than that he’s a dude who’s done some great things and done some shitty things, at a ratio that seems fairly normal for a human person. I am prepared to be wrong about this; I’ve heard the arguments against Wheaton, I get why people would personally not want to interact with him, and I’m not trying to defend his behaviour, some of which I think, yeah, is pretty shitty. I just… don’t think he’s exactly at “cancelled forever” status. Bu he is a public figure and, yeah, there’s pace for discussion on this topic. But the absolute vicious glee I’ve seen over the past two days around his harassment from Mastodon? Kinda… not here for it.
I get where it comes from, though. So much of (English-language) Mastodon is currently made of marginalised people who’ve been chased off other social media platforms by abuse. So I definitely think there’s an air of fear there; fear of “their” home being “invaded” by mainstream social media, as represented by a geek-culture-popular celebrity with a well-known online presence. People who are afraid lash out. I get that, I really do. But.
The main argument I’ve heard in favour of Wheaton’s harassment is that “allowing” him on Mastodon “sets a dangerous precedent”, because he’s got some friends that are… not great, and because of The Blocklist Incident. And, okay. Firstly, if you want to talk about “setting a dangerous precedent” I’m really… not sure you want to play around with “harass anyone deemed not 100% ideologically pure off the service” because, yikes.2
But, maybe more importantly, the whole point of federated services is that there is no single community to be “invaded”. Each server is its own community, with its own rules and norms and, yeah. If you don’t want Wil Wheaton, specifically, to be a part of your experience of that, you have tools to deal with it; like not displaying the Federated timeline, moving instances, or blocking/muting at the user/instance level, or whatever. At the moment, I think people are still very locked into the toxic mindset of big silo’d social media; there is only The One Thing and we must police The One Thing from a central point. Except something like the Fediverse is not like that by design. It’s a different paradigm to something like Twitter; not necessarily objectively better, but certainly requiring different mindsets and different policies and guidelines to approach. In other words, basically what I’m saying here is that, if you are trying to “police” the Fediverse? It’s very likely you’re being a dipshit at best and abusive at worst, regardless of how “righteous” you feel. I mean, do you police who can use email? Like, not any one specific email service but the entire concept/technological implementation of email in general. No? Yeah, funny that.
The upshot is I do think that, as the Fediverse matures and gains momentum and broader adoption—and I’m going to be positive and assume it does and will—people will eventually work themselves into more appropriate mindsets for how to navigate it. I’m Internet Old enough to remember when we went through this with blogging, for example, and Gen 1 social media. People even older than yours truly will probably have similar stories about Usenet and IRC and whatever, and not to mention IRL communities have been dealing with these sorts of issues for literally the entirely of human history. People do figure them out… sort of. At the very least, I’m excited to see what kinds of online community norms will emerge (or, rather, reemerge) outside of the distorting influence of centralised capital.
And in the meantime… Stay in your own damn timeline. Seriously.
- HTML 101 (estimate time to acquire: one evening).
- 1 × friend with an existing domain (who’s prepared to host you).
- 1 × text editor (e.g. Notepad, Sublime Text, etc.)
- 1 × FTP client (e.g. Transmit, FileZilla).
- 1 or more ideas, to taste.
- Combine ideas with HTML 101 in the text editor to produce one or more websites, as required.
- Connect FTP client to your chosen webhost.
- Uploaded websites to chosen webhost via FTP client.
- Wait until fully uploaded.