all posts tagged 'social media'

Lina Khan – FTC Chair on Amazon Antitrust Lawsuit & AI Oversight

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I heard nothing but good things about Lina Khan when she was announced as the chair of the FTC, and I think she did a tremendous job during this interview with Jon Stewart.

Jon and Lina break down the various lawsuits that the FTC is currently engaged in, not just with big tech companies, but also pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies.

I found it interesting when Jon mentioned that he tried to have Lina on his podcast when he was with Apple TV+, but Apple told him no.

I get it, but also, why would you have hired Jon Stewart in the first place? You’ve seen his show, right? Of course he’s gonna call a spade a spade, one of the few reputable media personalities1 who will not hesitate to bite the hand that feeds.

It’s also interesting that the FTC is often outgunned by the legal representation of the companies against which they pursue litigation, sometimes at a ratio of 10:1.

  1. I thought about using the word “journalist” here instead, but I’m not sure if one can consider The Daily Show journalism. I mean, Tucker Carlson can’t call himself a journalist… is TDS that far off? 

The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok

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Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a "two-sided market," where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.

If you’ve spent much time in the same tech bubbles as me this past year, you’ve probably come across this article already.

At a bare minimum, I’m sure you’ve seen the phrase “enshittification.”

Once you understand the concept, you do start to see the pattern unfold around you constantly. 1

While there are countless examples of this natural platform decay within our virtual world, what about the physical world?

Is enshittification simply human nature, an inescapable fate for any collaborative endeavor above a certain size?

And if enshittification is not inevitable, what are the forces that lead to it, and how can we combat them when building our own communities?

  1. Case in point: the Conde Nast-owned WIRED website on which this article was published. I’m using a Shortcut on my iPad to post this article, and while sitting idle at the top of the post, I've seen three levels of pop ups appear which cover the article content. I haven’t even scrolled the page yet!  

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The Internet Needs to Change

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I hate the internet.

...that's a lie. I love it, but I hate the algorithms.

That's also a lie... I love the algorithms.

I watched this video on the plane ride back from Nickelodeon Resort yesterday, and I have to say, it got me.

Hank's assessment of how the algorithms deployed by social networks come up short in actually giving us what we want is spot on.

It's why I love how many friends are spinning up their own newsletters. And this new newsletter was a no brainer instasubscribe.

Ever since my buddy Paul gifted me a premium subscription to Garbage Day, I've been a voracious newsletter subscriber. They do a great job of filling the void that Google Reader left in my life.1

This website has been my way of curating the internet, sharing things I've found that interest me, but maybe I should start a newsletter myself and do things in both places.

Should I tell my impostor syndrome to shove it and start my own newsletter, y'all?

  1. I do need to find a way to get them out of my inbox, though. I really should move all my subscriptions into Feedbin so they show up in my RSS reader app. 

TikTok and the Fall of the Social-Media Giants

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The era of social-media monopolies has been unhealthy for our collective digital existence. The Internet at its best should be weird, energetic, and exciting—featuring both homegrown idiosyncrasy and sudden trends that flash supernova-bright before exploding into the novel elements that spur future ideas and generate novel connections.

This exuberance was suppressed by the dominance of a small number of social-media networks that consolidated and controlled so much of online culture for so many years. Things will be better once this dominance wanes.

In the end, TikTok’s biggest legacy might be less about its current moment of world-conquering success, which will pass, and more about how, by forcing social-media giants like Facebook to chase its model, it will end up liberating the social Internet.

I saw Cal reference this article in his most recent post, and I’m glad he mentioned it because I must’ve missed it a couple years back.

I have been grossed out by TikTok’s blatant predatory behavior ever since hearing how their algorithms work.

Sure, most major social media companies have resorted to similar tactics, but there was something brazen about the way TikTok does it which feels egregious.

Cal’s analysis seems spot on to me. TikTok represents what happens when you’ve won the race to the bottom, or when the dog catches the tire.

As soon as you’ve got the thing, what else is there to do? Where else is there to go?

It’s all sizzle and no steak.

I’m sick of having my attention stolen from me under the guise of “connectedness.”1 Real connections require compromise, empathy, and growth. Sure, I get some dopamine hits when I see a funny or enraging video, but I don’t seem to get much else.

  1. When viewed under those terms, reflecting on Facebook’s mission to connect the world gives me even more of the heebie jeebies.  

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eternal woodstock

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As people keep trying to make Twitter 2 happen, we are now in a period that I'm calling Eternal Woodstock — every few weeks, users flock en masse to new platforms, rolling around in the mud, getting high on Like-dopamine, hoping that they can keep the transgressive, off-kilter meme magic going just a little longer, even though social-media culture already been fully hollowed out and commercialized.

I haven’t signed up for any of the new Twitter clones. I do have a Mastodon account that I created back before Twitter got terrible, but besides a futile one week attempt to get into it, it too has sat dormant.

Maybe this is just part of progressing through life, progressing through society and culture.

It’s something I’ve noticed now with having kids: as a kid, you are extremely tuned into social status. Everyone else listens to the ZOMBIES 3 soundtrack? Now you have to be into it. Your little brother likes it now? Now you have to be too good for it.

But for that brief moment, you feel like you’re ahead of the game. You’re a tastemaker.

The times where I’ve genuinely been the happiest in my life have been when I’ve done something just for myself. If it makes those around me impressed or weirded out or indifferent, it was of zero consequence to me.

The short list of things I can think of that fit that bill: this blog (which has existed in some shape since I was in sixth grade), making clips for television production class, learning something new, 90s/00s pro wrestling, running, and playing the guitar.

It’s only when I start to look around at others when I start to get depressed.

And maybe that’s a key insight into why I feel like I feel right now. I don’t have a job at the moment. At my age, your social status is determined by things like the vacations you go on, the home you have, and the title you hold.

But really, none of that stuff matters. What matters is the stuff that brings you joy.

It just so happens that those things, in fact, do bring me joy. The vacations I’ve gone on in the past 12 months have been the happiest I’ve been in ages. I spent all morning deep cleaning several rooms in my house, and it feels incredible.1 Building software and solving problems for people is what makes me happy, not being a director of this or a chief whatever.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I should stop feeling guilty about not posting a whole lot on social media.

My home is this website. People can come here if they wanna hang out.

Sure, I’ll poke my head up and see what’s going on with others around me on occasion, but I don’t need to feel compelled to chase the feelings that come alongside taste-making.

Those feelings are like capturing lightning in a bottle, and ultimately lead me to my deepest forms of depression.

  1. Even though I know the kids are gonna mess it up in roughly 4 minutes, that’s okay. It’s their house, too.  

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Masnick's Impossibility Theorem: Content Moderation At Scale Is Impossible To Do Well

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More specifically, it will always end up frustrating very large segments of the population and will always fail to accurately represent the “proper” level of moderation of anyone.

The argument made in this theorem that you can be 99.9% right and still be a colossal failure at scale is beautiful.

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Politics isn’t a per se bad. It’s a process. Making politics more productive and substantial make society better. Having people “nope” out of society whenever they get uncomfortable doesn’t help with any of the hard work politics does for things like allocating scarce resources, justice, or equity.

Poignant. I love this web comic.

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Everything is Terrible but I’m Fine

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With greater access to news on social media and the internet, Americans are more deluged than they used to be by depressing stories. (And the news cycle really can be pretty depressing!)

This is leading to a kind of perma-gloom about the state of the world, even as we maintain a certain resilience about the things that we have the most control over.

Beyond the diverse array of daily challenges that Americans face, many of us seem to be suffering from something related to the German concept of weltschmerz, or world-sadness. It’s mediaschmerz—a sadness about the news cycle and news media, which is distinct from the experience of our everyday life.

I’m really not sure how my journalism friends maintain their sanity.

I’m also not sure how to interpret this theory other than “this is what I’ve been trying to articulate for two years now, but with some data.”

Turn off the news, delete your social media accounts. Your weltschmerz and mediaschmerz will thank you for it.

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The Waking Up Podcast #145 - The Information War

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My longest friend recommended Sam Harris' podcast to me about a year ago, and I've been hooked ever since. Some episodes are easier to get into than others, but this one is definitely worth a listen.

We've got a lot of work to do as a nation to address the implications and aftermath of Russia's use of social media during the 2016 election, but as an app developer, it gives me all the more reason to help steer people towards building software that makes society an objectively better place.

(By "objectively better", I mean taking a look at the pros and cons of social media and ubiquitous internet connectivity and see if its use makes us wealthier/healthier/happier, or if it's only making a handful of people those things.)

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The Joe Rogan Experience - Ted Nugent

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I consider myself to be a podcast enthusiast, but I will be the first to admit that I have not listened to many of the most popular podcasts.

I've been a fan of Joe Rogan ever since NewsRadio, and I've seen some clips here and there of The Joe Rogan Experience, but I've never sat down and listened to an entire episode of his podcast. I had a feeling that his political views were more libertarian, but beyond knowing that he's a proponent of weed, I didn't know much about him on a personal level.

With that in mind, I went through the most recent episodes of his podcast to see if there was an episode that would help me learn what he was all about.

I can't be the only one in the world who thinks the political scene in 2018 is incredibly draining and makes me feel ultimately powerless. As soon as I saw that Ted Nugent was on an episode, my initial reaction was, "ugh, why the hell would I listen to this crap and subject myself to more of that same feeling?"

Before listening to this episode, here was the sum total knowledge of facts that I knew about Ted Nugent:

  • He was a musician of some sort
  • He wasn't popular in my Twitter bubble
  • He tends to speak in brash, general, and oversimplified statements

In an effort to remove myself from my bubble, I thought, "you know what? A lot of folks seem to love Ted Nugent, so I'm gonna listen with an open mind and see what it's all about."

The episode was pretty long (over three hours), but if you've got the time, I highly encourage you to give it a listen. A few things I took away:

  • I didn't realize Ted was all about hunting, and I noticed myself nodding my head in agreement during the discussions around being responsible with nature and treating the circle of life with respect.
  • The discussion around the vegan lifestyle was also illuminating. I know a few folks who try to do the vegan thing, and it's interesting to look at it from the perspective of "look at the number of animals and plants you need to kill with pesticides in order to keep them off your land so your tofu can grow."
  • The first hour or so is mostly Ted and Joe talking about how misunderstood hunters are. Of primary note is a part where Ted says that people think hunters are all fat, sloppy rednecks who go out and hunt down hundreds of animals at a time. He says that if non-hunters would actually talk to a hunter and see the world from their perspective, it would really make things better. I thought this was a profound point, which was made completely ironic by the next observation:
  • No fewer than 50 times in this episode does Ted identify a group of people (liberals, politicians, the DNR, bureaucrats, anti-gun folks, illegal immigrants), caricaturize them, and berate them for their "ignorance."

Joe spent a lot of the episode silent, because Ted just would get on a rant and keep going. However, I think Joe did do a great job of holding Ted's feet to the fire a bit over some of his statements.

My favorite part of the episode was when Ted went to the bathroom, Joe monologued about how messed up the gun situation is in our country and that he doesn't have any answers for it. It was refreshing to hear that, since everyone seems to have an answer that wouldn't work in practice.

Like I said above, the episode was long, but I found it to be absolutely illuminating, and I will be seeking out more podcasts like this in order to make sure my perspective on life isn't being persuaded by only one type of voice.

If anything, the biggest takeaway from this episode for me was that what we need right now as a country is to find a way to come back to the table together. Social networks seem to thrive off of exploiting the worst in us as humans, and even though the first word in that phrase is "social", it has made us anything but.

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