Some bits about internet
What is Mastodon?
Imagine if you could follow an Instagram user from your Twitter account and comment on their photos without leaving your account. If Twitter and Instagram were federated services that used the same protocol, that would be possible. With a Mastodon account, you can communicate with any other compatible website, even if it is not running on Mastodon. All that is necessary is that the software support the same subset of the ActivityPub protocol that allows for creating and interacting with status updates.
Mastodon is a fascinating project. At surface level, it is similar enough to Twitter for people to consider it a valid alternative: the UI and the fundamental social constructs could not be more familiar. At the same time, you don’t need to dig too deep to encounter esoteric concepts like ActivityPub and the fediverse.
A common viewpoint is that Mastodon has failed to appeal to a broader, less tech-savvy audience so far due to its federation model, but I tend to disagree: after all we are using federated messaging systems every day and we’ll likely keep doing so until the end of time.
There was a moment when email itself was an esoteric concept and it was important to know what SMTP is in order to send a message, but we have managed to abstract all that complexity away, so I am cautiously optimistic about federated social media in the long run. Arguably the biggest challenge so far is the network effect (or lack thereof), as it’s hard to move to a new platform when all you friends are somewhere else. In that respect, feel free to follow me @email@example.com. Don’t be shy!via docs.joinmastodon.org
Diary of an Engine Diversity Absolutist
In all of these cases, the back pressure that gives wide review any force, beyond a moral high ground, is the fact of multiple implementations. To put it another way, why would implementers listen to wide review if not for the implied threat that a particular feature will not be implemented by other engines?
So yes, I absolutely think multiple implementations are a good thing for the web. Without multiple implementations, I absolutely think that none of this positive stuff would have happened. I think we’d have a much more boring and less diverse and vibrant web platform. Proponents of a “move fast and break things” approach to the web tend to defend their approach as defending the web from the dominance of native applications. I absolutely think that situation would be worse right now if it weren’t for the pressure for wide review that multiple implementations has put on the web.
Microsoft’s release of its new, Chromium-based, Edge browser has sparked renewed concerns about the rapidly decreasing diversity of browser engines. “All browsers becoming Chrome” is problematic in many ways, but while having bigger contributors like Microsoft in the Chromium project could actually help steering the project away from its Google-centric agenda, the issues intrinsic to relying on a single implementation remain open.via torgo.com
Do I counsel you to delete your Facebook account? #DeleteFacebook is a virtue with some, but with many almost a vice.
I asked Nietzsche what he thinks about #DeleteFacebook, and he was not amused.via medium.com
The beginning of silent reading changed Westerners’ interior life
For centuries, Europeans who could read did so aloud. The ancient Greeks read their texts aloud. So did the monks of Europe’s dark ages. But by the 17th century, reading society in Europe had changed drastically. Text technologies, like moveable type, and the rise of vernacular writing helped usher in the practice we cherish today: taking in words without saying them aloud, letting them build a world in our heads.
If a relatively small typographic advancement had such a profound impact on the way we construct reality, imagine what being constantly interconnected with every other individual in the world will mean for future generations.via quartzy.qz.com
DRM Is Toxic To Culture
The problem with technology-enforced restrictions isn’t that they allow legitimate enforcement of rights; it’s the collateral damage they cause in the process. In my personal opinion the problems are (very concisely) that they:
- quantise and prejudge discretion,
- reduce “fair use” to “historic use”,
- empower a hierarchical agent to remain in the control loop, and
- condemn content to become inaccessible.
Insightful analysis of the troubling collateral damages of Digital Rights Management technologies by Simon Phipps. While the short-term disadvantages of DRM may seem obvious, especially from a UX perspective, the long-term implications could be way more damaging in terms of access to our cultural heritage.via meshedinsights.com
Against an Increasingly User-Hostile Web
I quit Facebook seven months ago.
Despite its undeniable value, I think Facebook is at odds with the open web that I love and defend. This essay is my attempt to explain not only why I quit Facebook but why I believe we’re slowly replacing a web that empowers with one that restricts and commoditizes people. And why we should, at the very least, stop and think about the consequences of that shift.
Another good piece on the current state of the Web as an open platform, with some very practical examples.
While the idea of quitting social media may be unrealistic for most people, it’s important to raise awareness about what is at stake. No platform is inherently bad, as long as users understand what they are giving away in exchange for the service.via neustadt.fr
We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads
So when people voice fears of artificial intelligence, very often, they invoke images of humanoid robots run amok. You know? Terminator? You know, that might be something to consider, but that’s a distant threat. Or, we fret about digital surveillance with metaphors from the past. “1984,” George Orwell’s “1984,” it’s hitting the bestseller lists again. It’s a great book, but it’s not the correct dystopia for the 21st century. What we need to fear most is not what artificial intelligence will do to us on its own, but how the people in power will use artificial intelligence to control us and to manipulate us in novel, sometimes hidden, subtle and unexpected ways. Much of the technology that threatens our freedom and our dignity in the near-term future is being developed by companies in the business of capturing and selling our data and our attention to advertisers and others: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent.
Essential talk by sociologist Zeynep Tüfekçi on the (very current) risks of machine learning applications in social media and advertising networks.via ted.com
The Tech that Turns Each of Us Into a Walled Garden
The big change is: there’s now no difference between ads and content. Content, the information you see on your feed, is targeted at you just like ads. And that content can be anything and serve any purpose. There’s no implied social contract for content to be true. Content is now weaponized for a purpose. In other words: content is now propaganda.
A more fundamental question lies here, hidden in plain sight: what makes fake news “fake”? The answers to this question could be way scarier then technology in itself.via highscalability.com
Why the World’s Leading Photojournalists Are Ditching Their DSLRs to Shoot on Instagram
I look at my Instagram feed and it’s a network; I’m seeing through the eyes of people around the world,” says the image-sharing app’s Teru Kuwayama. Following two decades as a noted photojournalist, covering war and humanitarian crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir, the TED Senior Fellow now works on the community team at Instagram, specifically with photojournalists and the wider photo community. “So many eyes and so many minds are coming online and being harnessed to this grid,” he says. For Kuwayama, this collective network and its unprecedented audience serves as the greatest draw for his involvement. “It’s unlocked a totally different spectrum of reporting,” he says.
So far, Instagram has succeeded where Twitter has failed. They say a picture is worth more than 140 characters, isn’t it?via artsy.net
The Fake Traffic Schemes That Are Rotting the Internet
“I can think of nothing that has done more harm to the Internet than ad tech,” says Bob Hoffman, a veteran ad executive, industry critic, and author of the blog the Ad Contrarian. “It interferes with everything we try to do on the Web. It has cheapened and debased advertising and spawned criminal empires.” Most ridiculous of all, he adds, is that advertisers are further away than ever from solving the old which-part-of-my-budget-is-working problem. “Nobody knows the exact number,” Hoffman says, “but probably about 50 percent of what you’re spending online is being stolen from you.”