Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

More than 15 years ago, I wrote about my resolve to keep up with the writings of Brent Simmons. I wanted to do that, not because he was one the makers of Frontier and working at UserLand, but because I liked (and still like) the fact that he applies ethics to all aspects of his life – including programming and software.

You don’t have to agree with his take on things, but at least go over and read Brent’s hopes for 2018:

Rebuilding the social open web is not the one cure that we need for all our ills. I’m fully skeptical of technological solutions to problems of culture and politics. But it is an important thing we can and should do. My small hope for 2018 is the knowledge that I’m not the only person thinking that way.

Building a social open web will, unfortunately, take more than one calendar year. But it’s important to start (some will say: to continue) the construction of such a web: every journey starts with a single step. Technology won’t bring the cure; only people can do that.

PS. No, I haven’t yet started reading Tim O’Reilly’s “WTF What’s The Future And Why It’s Up To Us”. But you can see why I had to buy (and read, I promise) that book.

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Now That’s Activism!

(Thanks, BoingBoing, for pointing me to this story: “Man spraypaints Twitter office sidewalk with abusive tweets it refuses to delete“)

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David Byrne wrote Eliminating the Human.

Human interaction is often perceived, from an engineer’s mind-set, as complicated, inefficient, noisy, and slow. Part of making something “frictionless” is getting the human part out of the way.

I’m not an engineer, but it’s true that certain processes, certainly in a business context, can benefit from automation.

While Facebook and others frequently claim to offer connection, and do offer the appearance of it, the fact is a lot of social media is a simulation of real connection.


We have evolved as social creatures, and our ability to cooperate is one of the big factors in our success. I would argue that social interaction and cooperation, the kind that makes us who we are, is something our tools can augment but not replace.

Personally, I would rewrite that last sentence: “I would argue that social interaction and cooperation, the kind that makes us who we are, is something our tools should augment but not replace” (and perhaps I should have used the word “must”). But you have to read the complete piece David Byrne wrote – really. Or better yet: check out the extended version on his website.

(I found this portrait of DB on http://liveforlivemusic.com/)

It took me a lot of time to learn that talking to people can be more effective (not necessarily more efficient) than a note, an email, or a letter in the right situation. How do you know when to use which tool? Well, you have to learn that by doing and making mistakes ;-)

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Social media are everywhere these days, to the point where they suddenly seem to be more important than any other communication medium. Families and friends use them to stay in touch while on holiday, companies use them for informal meetings and discussions, news media distribute their headlines with them, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (and probably elsewhere in the world too) use them to try and set the stage for policy changes.

Privacy questions remain, however. Especially now that the concept of real and virtual walls around nations is rearing its (ugly) head again. So here’s an interesting suggestion from Maciej Cegłowski, in a post titled “Social Media Needs A Travel Mode“:

All I care about when I’m on vacation is posting devastating beach photos that will make my friends jealous. So why do I need to carry the complete list of people I went to high school with, or an archive of messages I exchanged with a chance acquaintance ten years ago?


We need a ‘trip mode’ for social media sites that reduces our contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when they use their social media accounts away from home.

Reinforced real borders the world all over form a strong contrast with an Internet that has (almost) no frontiers. So I do wonder if we’ll ever see such a thing – perhaps Diaspora could propose a solution?

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I did not know who Peter Thiel was until a few months ago, with the Gawker incident. But the reaction of Zuckerberg to Thiel’s donation to Trump is just another symptom of the false neutrality that FB wants to display. In the words of Davey Alba on the Wired website:

Thiel isn’t just another Facebook user; he’s a man in a unique position of power who has decided to use that power to suppress diversity and work against the very goals Zuckerberg claims to support. Zuckerberg may fear that in removing Thiel, Facebook opens itself up to charges of bias. But it’s too late: not removing him is biased against everyone who Trump has demeaned. Zuckerberg may want a middle to straddle, but it doesn’t exist. “Diversity” certainly isn’t it.

It’s hard to see how any social media platform can be neutral if it is managed by commercial objectives. We, the end users, will have to run our own platform to avoid the censorship of big money. But will Diaspora be able to rescue us?

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The first mention of Snopes on this blog goes back to the year 2000, and I’m happy to announce that there is a good overview of what Snopes is (and how it came about) on the Webb Awards website. In summary, Snopes is a “fact checker”, where you will almost certainly find your favourite urban legend, its ‘truthiness’ and its history. Snopes started checking ‘hoaxes’ and ‘urban legends’ in 1994, shortly after the birth of the Web. These days, the presidential election is more than enough to keep the Snopes team hard at work; suffice it to say that many extravagant claims turn out to be fabrications, with or without Photoshop. There are many ‘fake news’ sites on the Web, but ‘real’ news media sometimes forget to verify their stories as well, and that just means more work for Snopes and its ilk.

Sarcasm by XKCD

Sarcasm by XKCD

How the Truth Set Snopes Free – Racing Against the Web’s Rumor Mill” also explains:

And therein lies one of the biggest lessons that Snopes has to teach: Urban legends are most interesting for what they say about those who spread and believe them—our hopes (as in the grateful millionaire tale) as well as our fears about the secret ways the world really works.

Here’s the current biography of David Mikkelson, Snopes’ founder:

David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

The interpretation of that sentence is left as an exercise in humour detection to the reader ;-) Or you could try the “Random” function of the website to be surprised again and again with how stories are morphed from fact to falsehood, myth or hoax.

For details on what Mark Twain said, check out https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Mark_Twain

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Since about two years,  a few colleagues at work are trying to explain different forms of social media to all the personnel. I was asked to explain what blogging is all about, and this is what I presented in December 2014: “My life as a blogger (PDF).

So tell me about yourself: where do you blog?

For more cartoons by Quirit click the image.

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