Stop using Twitter

Twitter is a company, that runs a communication service. They are profiting from the President-elect publishing the following message:

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.

This is one in a string of moments like those in Dr. Strangelove that no one tried to prevent, but leads us off a cliff. Because here’s the deal: if the President-elect is posturing as a strongman authoritarian figure to their base, that is leaving the majority of voters fearing for the future. We didn’t want this, and nuclear proliferation is the most dangerous privilege the role of President comes with.

Twitter as a service provides the President-elect the seemingly invulnerability that comes with any confidence scheme: anything said there can be played with, denied or reinforced, and never taken seriously by a quorum.

Perhaps the most gratifying and successful move would be for Trump supporters to contact their representatives and express their concern for the cavalier attitude in which they are publishing opinions.

I don’t know how to reach those folks. If I were a Republican politician I would be coordinating with my party to reign in the impractical and disastrous communication that remains unaccountable and harmful.

While I don’t know Trump supporters, I do know people that use Twitter, and here is what I am telling you: stop using Twitter. All of you.

For most of the people I know on Twitter, it won’t be hard to justify: most of you are women, and Twitter (the company) does you no favors. There are safer places to connect with your networks. I will be happy to assist in anyway I can.

And if you happen to have the ability, lack of obligation and will to leave, make it known why you are leaving: because Twitter empowers Trump to scare the world without accountability. Make a hashtag or something. Email their support. Let this company that has taken your focus and time and given you fake news and bigotry at scale, let it know that you don’t think a company should empower a demagogue. Let it know that nuclear proliferation and climate change is fucking serious, and you won’t let this one company profit while announcing the end of the world.

The (Indie)Web we weave

I am making a note here, so when we take for granted how awesome our information streams are, we can look back at this snapshot and see how we did it in the ol’ days. Bonus humor, if you catch how meta the topic is.

  1. Mike makes a post about, among other things, blogging and the IndieWeb.
  2. Matthew leaves a considerate and detailed comment on Mike’s post.
  3. Matthew decides to document the sentiment on eir own site (correctly, I think).
  4. Mike employs a snarky editorial method and posts an excerpt on identi.ca.
  5. That gets me thinking, and I reply, both to that particular line and the observation of how RSS is used on the web.
  6. To ensure that my reply is part of a conversation, I post a link in reply to Mike’s identi.ca post.
  7. Mike points out my reply in further commentary, on the original blog post.
  8. Since I am not participating in the conversation on the original post, and other reasons, Mike then replies with the link to this new comment in the identi.ca thread.

The hosted software involved in this conversation includes one or more email stacks, WordPress, Drupal and pump.io, and content was published on no less than five websites (not including the federation in pump.io for non-participants).

Not our DRYest moment. ^_^

The important lesson here is that Mike, Matthew and I are obviously comfortable with all the software involved, and the additional cognitive expense in posting in multiple places is mitigated by other factors that include dopamine and connectedness. The same things that bring people back to Facebook and Twitter. It isn’t fair, but fighting to stop the exploitation of human nature was never going to be a fair fight.

Pros and cons: Social Networks

I should say, mainstream and/or popular social networks. I don’t use Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. I use a self-hosted StatusNet instance, and of course I have this site.

Let’s start with what I am missing:

  • Connection with people I’ve met – I haven’t stayed in touch with people from my time in public education, nor do I follow up with most people I meet at meetups or conferences.
  • Timely updates – I don’t use social networks to keep up to date with anything, from major life changes in friends to memes or movements they find important.
  • Ease of using platform-specific technologies – I can’t see half the events people send me, since they are hidden in Facebook. There are games I can’t play, and people I can’t contact when they decide to leave an @handle instead of an email address.

I listed the cons first, because those are real things I miss out on, but they are also all reasons I don’t use those sites; hence, my pros:

  • I email, text or call the people I am interested in, and I have a very strong core group of people that I can rely on for various things. A strong tribe that isn’t diluted by casual connections.
  • I advocate the slow web. I don’t seek out information that is peripheral to the task at hand, and my tribe curates my news.
  • I don’t turn over my information, reputation and network integrity to companies that merely promise to be good.

I don’t think that social networks are bad, but we have a strong historical record demonstrating that companies lack the flexibility and power to be good stewards of cultural dialog. I believe that the internet has to be paid for, and since the consumer web was introduced it has been marred with an increasingly abstract funding scheme, where ads and private data are the currency. I would take it even further though, and say that humans don’t collectively understand how we’ve adapted to our computer-mediated communications, and that digital illiteracy has to be mitigated before capitalist principals loose grip of the popular web.

I am documenting this here mostly so I can refer to it later. I want to be on the public record saying that I don’t think social networks, or really social anything, is bad. But we can do better, and it is fairly straightforward.

How do you internet?

The other night I was hanging out with some folks, and despite my best attempts at not talking about them, someone wanted to know what I thought about Twitter and Facebook. Meh.

I haven’t quite distilled down the plethora of issues that surround those things, not into pub talk at least. Folks don’t want to bust out their devices to double-check references or read up on what are essentially assertions about privacy, community, people as products, federation, culture or ownership. So I just say I don’t use them, and that I have my own sites, and I like doing it the way I do.

A new pattern has come up lately, and I wonder if it is out of desperation, or if these networks are so ubiquitous that people are dumbing down. They ask me, “If you don’t use Facebook, then what do you do? How do you talk to people?”

My canned response is email, but I realize they won’t catch such a vague joke. I am kinda stumped, because at some point, folks have gotta go out and learn about the world, and I just don’t have enough energy to tutor every dopamine-addled social-update addict I meet in a pub.

What would you say? How do you internet? ^_^

Sharing doesn’t have to be a popularity contest

High school was largely about popularity for me. I wasn’t popular, I was something like infamous. Most students didn’t like me, although nearly everyone knew of me. Faculty, for the most part, had a love-hate relationship with me, and it was mutual. I habitually called teachers by their first names, while also pointing out how moronic most students were. Basically, I had enough presence to be known, but lacked any social grace that would make me popular.

Not much has changed.

I think that is why I hold such contempt for “sharing” buttons. Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Reddit. They all have these widgets that can be embedded on pages, and allow people to quickly broadcast to a particular social network that they pushed a button there.

That isn’t to say that it’s not useful, I am sure many people find great value is crowd-sourcing the curation of their reading lists. But that isn’t the point of these widgets. They are badges, a status symbol to demonstrate how valuable something is. It is as useful as being popular is high school.

The only shared items I read are from StatusNet. I am sure a widget or bookmark could be created that would allow the network to be flooded by links, but as it is, most are considerate acts of sharing. People observe something, and want others to be informed by it. Due to the federated nature, we don’t have anything that can count the popularity is a centralized way. It is incredibly meaningful.

This affects my work, because inevitably clients will ask for “social media” to be added to their site. Buzz terms aside, this behavior ends up propagating the idea that we want stats instead of meaning. It makes sense, one can’t report on meaning, or explain to stakeholders how important a piece of content is. We defer to currency of analytics: unique visits, bounce rates, shared items, etc.

We’ve been building tools that make it easier to build superficial relationships, and human nature dictates that we justify why we would value something like that. We tell high school aged humans to focus on their studies, that there is more to life than the microcosm that is school grounds/activities. Consider this a warning in the same vein: you are not your analytics, and there is more to life than how many times your post was shared.

Don’t be popular. Be meaningful.