The Internet is Worse Than Ever

If you’re not familiar with Kurzgesagt, they’re a Youtube channel that does well researched, informative videos about a broad range of topics. In this case, it’s about the impact of social media on society, and clarifies some information about social filter bubbles and social sorting.

I suppose it’s unsurprising to say that I agree with their thoughts on how to improve the situation – move out of the “digital town square” and get back to smaller communities. It’s healthier for society, it’s healthier for you. This also all puts me in mind of a recent article in Garbage Day, which was discussing that the internet has actually gotten smaller, with a subset of creators making an outsized portion of the content you see day-to-day. In short, social consolidation leads to a reversion to the same sort of “broadcasting” mentality of older media. Social media serves as a channel for this sort of broadcasted content, and if you want to get back to a broader, weirder, more diverse range of content, the answer is to get back to a broader, weirder, more diverse range of online communities.

That’s a trade-off, economically speaking: if you make it big in a centralized outlet, you stand to make a lot of money – smaller communities inherently have less money to offer. But, that presumes you’ll manage to rise to the top of the creator heap – it’s far more likely that you’ll fall somewhere in the long tail of a pareto distribution. In a more distributed, fractured internet, the peak is lower, but you have more opportunity to get a slice of that sum, so you might actually end up making about the same (or more). It’s hard to say.

That’s a bit of a digression, though. Go watch the video, it’s only ~11 minutes long, and let me know what you think.

Thoughts on Aloneness

Not my thoughts, for once, but some put together by Craig Mod has he prepares to walk the width of Tokyo (found via Kottke). A lot of what he wrote resonated. I’ve said before that there’s a difference between loneliness and being alone, and between solitude and isolation. While we may differ on definitions (the type of aloneness he describes I’d describe as loneliness), he definitely gets it.

Aloneness sucks. It’s insidious and becomes habitual. It’s rapacious. It saps the spirit. It twists a peaceful dude all truculent and paranoid. It renders decision making oddly cumbersome. It’s more difficult to feel elevated as a human when swaddled in aloneness. Self-worth plummets as aloneness rises.

And aloneness as a default is tremendously difficult for some folks to understand.

For many, being surrounded by big families or long-term partners is so normalized, that to empathize with someone who is deep in aloneness (which I distinguish from solitude or quietude, more volitional and opted-into states) is akin to imagining what it’s like to fart your way to the moon.

Craig Mod

And then later:

I still feel a deep and terrifying aloneness — mostly when when I’m worn down. But now I can slightly detach myself from it, tell myself that we’ve felt this before, that we’ve come out of it, and believe in that pending emergence. If I admit to a friend that I’m experiencing these grueling bouts of crushing aloneness, I often get responses like: How can you feel alone?! You have so many people in your corner and support and love and friends! This is a terrible response. (But I know well meaning!) Aloneness and depression go hand in hand, and for someone not depressed, the idea of your body weighing ten thousand pounds, of wearing that lead cloak, of not being able to get out of bed in the morning, is unthinkable, unfathomable. So, too, with that sense of aloneness. How can you feel alone? How can you feel so isolated and hopeless?

Craig Mod

This is something that I think is important to note: when we say stuff like this, we’re not trying to brush things off as “oh, you wouldn’t understand” — that’s really not the point. The point is that, like so many lived experiences, the reality of the experience is hard to articulate in a way that actually gives enough context for someone who hasn’t experienced it. It’s hard to grok something that is as abstract and arbitrary as feelings and experiences that are almost entirely inside someone else’s head.

Thanks for sharing, Craig. I hope your walk goes really well.

The Handcrafted Artisanal Web

John Scalzi talked a while back about How to Weave the Artisan Web:

1. Create/reactivate your own site, owned by you, to hold your own work. 

2. When you create that site, write or otherwise present work on your site at least once a week, every week.

3. Regularly visit the sites of other creators to read/see/experience the work they present there.

4. Promote/link the work of others, on your own site and also on your other social media channels where you have followers. Encourage your followers to explore more widely, beyond the algorithmic borders of “social media.”

John Scalzi

I do agree with those suggestions, even if I’m not always the best at doing them myself.

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October in New England

Here we are, halfway through October. It’s been a bit over a month since my last post. In that time, we spent more time in Peterborough, New York City, Newport (Vermont), and Holderness. We socialized, we saw friends, saw family, had a good time. It’s starting to get cooler out, and we’re currently far enough north that the leaves have begun dropping in earnest.

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On the Road Again

The short version is that Simone and I (and Cecil!) have put most of our belongings in storage, and have begun a grand sojourn around the country, with plans to stop at various destinations for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months at a time. Our first destination is Vermont, and we plan to be there for most of the fall (at least September and October, we’ll see beyond that). (Doesn’t mean the whole time will be Vermont – we’re definitely planning some day trips to other parts of New England, and a weekend in New York City to see a few friends. But it is where we plan to have our base of operations for the fall!)

The how is actually pretty straightforward: my job is very remote friendly, so barring the occasional travel day, I can do my job anywhere with a semi-decent internet connection. And Simone is in a remote-friendly graduate program, so again, nothing to hold us in one spot. So if you have that freedom, why not make use of it? I’m still working through all of this, which is also an interesting experiment, to see how I do keeping up with work while traveling. (And yes, they’re aware that I’m doing this and have my boss’s blessing.) Continuing to get paychecks certainly makes the traveling a lot easier!

Looking down an embankment to a gently flowing river. The water is clear with a slightly blue tint to it. Pines run up the embankment on the other side, with a blue sky behind.
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FFFF 2023

Just got done attending the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Fest in Las Vegas. It was two days of hanging out with 15,000 people who were all there because they love a game enough to throw down on tickets, airfare, hotel, and all the other costs to be there, to celebrate with other fans, to learn new things, and to see the announcement for the new expansion, live:

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Threads and Mastodon

I’ll shush on this soon, as I’m sure y’all either are already getting flooded with thinkpieces about this, or don’t care about the topic that much. But before I move on to other things, a nice article by Watts Martin: “You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This App Is About You: On Meta and Mastodon” The gist is that a lot of the hand-wringing about Threads (and more specifically, Meta) joining the Fediverse and mucking it up is probably overblown.

How can I say that so confidently? Because Threads is not a Mastodon instance. It is its own self-contained, centralized social network with plans to let its users follow Mastodon accounts and vice versa.


So, on one hand: a billion users who accept Instagram showing them ads, algorithm-jamming their timelines and hoovering up as much personally identifiable information about them as they can. On the other: two or three million users on an explicitly anti-corporate platform engineered to be highly resistant to leaking private data. I dare you to make a convincing business case for Facebook spending a single cent trying to capture a fraction of the second group, when it’s less than a percent the size of the first group.

Watts Martin

I’m inclined to agree… mostly. I think them even announcing plans to support ActivityPub was a red herring, a way to hedge their bets in case they didn’t get the immediate traction they were hoping for. (And as Watts points out in their piece, it looks good to regulators.) Since they did get the rapid adoption going, I wouldn’t be surprised if that feature quietly drops off their roadmap entirely. And honestly, that’s fine – I didn’t really expect them to keep it open for very long anyway, so if it never opens up in the first place, the end result is the same.

I do also agree with Watts that mastodon instance admins being reactionary and defederating Threads before it even opens is overkill – silencing them so they don’t end up flooding your Federated tab and killing your server is probably plenty.

The truly toxic idea, though, is that Mastodon instances should not only refuse to federate with Threads, but they should refuse to federate with other servers that do federate with Threads. In other words, users should be punished for decisions they have no control over and may not even be aware of, made by the administrators of servers they don’t belong to. I am dead serious when I call this toxic. The default position must, must, be that breaking your users’ social graphs is a last resort against clear and present danger. A server explicitly welcomes Nazis, child porn, TERFs, and serial harassers? Block that fucker. But it’s absurd to insist that federating with Meta’s general-interest server presents the same threat level.

Watts Martin

Enshittification (and what to do about it)

A while back, Cory Doctorow had an article that made the rounds called “Tiktok’s Enshittification“, and then a follow-up called “Gig apps trap reverse centaurs in wage-stealing Skinner boxes“, both of which are well worth the time to read. I’m fairly certain that’s where the term “enshittification” was coined, and damn if it doesn’t make a lot of sense:

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, holding each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.

Cory Doctorow, “Tiktok’s Enshittification
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Site Updates

Two things, only one of which is probably relevant to you:

  1. I’ve migrated my gallery into WordPress. It currently is just the work that was in my old gallery, but I’ll be adding new stuff going forward. (It’s also linked to in the nav bar at the top of the page!)
  2. I’ve made some behind-the-scenes tweaks, how image attachment pages work, and also added a plugin for improving how the WordPress media library works (FileBird is what I landed on, will explain my thoughts on it all below the cut). If you notice any broken links or odd behavior, please let me know!
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