Get Blogging

Ben Werdmuller put together a nice site laying out current tools for blogging, and why you might want to start. If you wanted a good summary of the state of things and what to try, it’s a good site to check out!

Not much to add in, other than that I agree, it’s nice to do and it’d be swell to see more folks blogging again. Do you run a blog? Let me know, I’d love to add it to my rss feeds!

Now, Now

Fun little concept, the “now” page. From their about page:

Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.

Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.

So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.

Maybe I should put together one of those. And of course, the name reminds me of the classic “when will then be now” scene from Spaceballs:

How to Enjoy the Internet

Via Neil Gaiman’s tumblr, Ezra at ghostonly has an excellent post explaining some simple steps you can take to get back to enjoying yourself on the internet. It’s a good list.

#4 – Learn to say, “It’s none of my business.”

Don’t understand someone’s desire to use neo pronouns? None of your business. Can’t understand why someone is a furry? None of your business. Curious about how someone who talks about being poor can have a Starbucks in that last selfie they posted? None of your damn business.

[…]

If you have genuine questions from a place of good faith (i.e. what inspired you to use neopronouns?/what do you pronouns mean to you?) Go for it. But if you’re only asking questions to draw negative attention to someone or make them feel bad or to other them, you’re just being a nosy asshole.

Minding your own business is also good for you because – and I mean this genuinely – feeling entitled and superior is fucking exhausting. I know, because I’ve been 20 before. You will have a way better time online if you just stop caring about shit that doesn’t concern you.

Go read it, I agree with the whole damn thing.

Lilo and Stitch Got it Right

Over at Vulture, Bilge Ebiri has a great interview/retrospective discussing Lilo & Stitch, and what made it so good. It’s worth a read if you liked the movie, or even if you just wanted a better sense of the inside scoop of how things get made.

DeBlois: When we arrived in Florida, we knew these people because we had worked on Mulan with them. That was a difficult film to finish. There were lots of divorces and ailments that came out of that process. I remember myself working daily until well past 11 p.m., listening to people riding the Tower of Terror and poor custodians pushing around vacuum cleaners in these trailer buildings. So we made a decision. We sat down with the entire crew when we got there. We said, “Okay, here’s the deal. We have a lot less money. We have less time. But we want to figure out how we can make this movie so that everybody goes home at night to have dinner with their loved ones. Everybody gets a weekend. We’ll figure out how to make this and be happy doing it.” That became the spirit of making the film.

I still remember the first time I saw the movie – it was 2002, it was hot out, and we wanted to catch a movie since the theater would be air conditioned. I think we’d seen a trailer for it somewhere, figured it’d be cute, and so we went. I’m really glad we did.

Now, I don’t want to make it out to be some revelatory experience – it’s not going to blow your mind. But it is a remarkably well made, thoughtful, fun film. It has a lot of heart, both in the story and performance, but also in the animation and the subtle details. It wasn’t “designed by committee” and you can tell.

The Work Day Broken Down

From Melanie Curtin over at Inc: the average amount of productive work that happens at work is lower than you think.

Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.

That’s right–you’re probably only productive for around three hours a day.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.8 hours every day. Yet a study of nearly 2,000 full-time office workers revealed that most people aren’t working for most of the time they’re at work.

Melanie Curtin

What really made me laugh is that when the “missing” time is broken down, it’s not even including stuff that is unproductive but still technically work, like being stuck in often endless meetings that often don’t really matter for half the people in them. It’s literally just other random cruft like socializing, reading news sites, et cetera. (This article reminded me of a conversation I had with an old boss. During a 1:1, I was lamenting that I felt like I should be making better use of my time. He pointed out that if you were productive for even 5.5 hours on average, you were frankly a top performer. Something I continue to try and bear in mind when I’m feeling bad about the occasional unproductive day.)

Obviously, you should make the most of the productive time you actually manage to get! But also, maybe don’t beat yourself up too much when you end up having an off day.

The Soul of the Web

Over at The Atlantic, Kaitlyn Tiffany has an article on The Battle for the Soul of the Web – a headline that may sound a little dramatic, but is touching on some important topics. The article touches on a few different topics, but a central one is about the decentralized web (DWeb), and where that both intersects and contrasts with the Web3 space. It’s an interesting topic that is worth a deeper dive if you care about online spaces at all.

Decades removed from the gonzo highs of blinging GIFs and wacky blogs, the web is now a place where many people feel exploited, manipulated, and tracked; where freedom of speech is being tugged around in a strange culture war; and where the rich get richer.

Among this set, one solution seems to be the consensus favorite. If these problems are intrinsically linked to consolidated tech giants like Meta, Google, and Amazon, why not embrace technologies that decentralize power? 

Kaitlyn Tiffany

I’ve been railing against and ranting about information silos for years, so I suppose it’s no surprise that this line of thought might be a little appealing to me. I’ve had a passing interest in the potential of technologies like IPFS for years, for instance, though it remains to be seen how things pan out, and what adoption looks like – how much broad adoption is necessary for a technology or philosophy on technology to sustain itself and become independently viable?

That said, I think they’re at least asking the questions, and that’s a good start:

Nathan Schneider, a media-studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a frequent writer on collectivism and tech, told me. “DWeb asks more,” he said, and dwells on two key questions: “What do we actually want socially, and how do we center those values in our technical designs, so the technical becomes a means to an end, rather than an end in itself?”

There’s obviously some overlap between some decentralized web efforts, and decentralized finance efforts. I hope that the former doesn’t get dragged down because of the latter (or, more specifically, the scam-filled gold-rush that congealed around DeFi in recent times). There’s lots of questions I don’t have answers to about this (perhaps others do?), like how do we make the technology useful, approachable, ubiquitous… without also making it a target for those who want to exert power and control, and exploit it? User congregation around particularly useful or interesting tools or information is inevitable, and with that, how do you prevent just making silos all over again? (Another topic that gives me a headache is how to shepherd information accuracy, and curb disinformation in a world where oversight is virtually impossible?)

The Old Days are Gone

Over on Matt on Tumblr, the head of both WordPress and Tumblr shared his thoughts on how the old, porn-y days of the internet are likely not coming back (for better or for worse).

That said, no modern internet service in 2022 can have the rules that Tumblr did in 2007. I am personally extremely libertarian in terms of what consenting adults should be able to share, and I agree with “go nuts, show nuts” in principle, but the casually porn-friendly era of the early internet is currently impossible.

Matt Mullenweg

He goes on to list some reasonably well thought out arguments as to why he feels that way. Something I appreciate is that none of the argument is a moralistic one, it comes down to practicalities. Allowing sexual expression on a platform is challenging when the financial and regulatory Powers That Be™ are definitively anti-porn. Which is pretty maddening – there’s nothing wrong with consenting adults having fun on camera, nor is there anything wrong with those consenting adults getting paid for their work (and it is work). Yet because some senior executive at Visa feels squicked by it, the entire industry is left scrambling to find ways to let people give them money.

Anyway, it’s a quick read and some decent food for thought, so go take a gander.

Simple Language is Better

I’ve ranted about this before, but here’s yet another article (this time in The New Yorker), “Why Simple Is Smart” about how using simple language is better, and using overly elaborate, verbose, or jargon-y language is a sign of insecurity, not knowledge.

Simple is smart. High school taught me big words. College rewarded me for using big words. Then I graduated and realized that intelligent readers outside the classroom don’t want big words. They want complex ideas made simple.  If you don’t believe it from a journalist, believe it from an academic: “When people feel insecure about their social standing in a group, they are more likely to use jargon in an attempt to be admired and respected,” the Columbia University psychologist Adam Galinsky told me. […] Why? It’s the complexity trap: Complicated language and jargon offer writers the illusion of sophistication, but jargon can send a signal to some readers that the writer is dense or overcompensating. 

Derek Thompson

Aside from that central talking point, the rest of the article is also a nice read, discussing some basic tips towards better writing (writing musically is an interesting note, for instance). It’s a quick read, so just go read the article yourself.

Dead Malls and Public Spaces

It’s something I’ve talked about before, but I think “Dead Malls Predicted the Erosion of Public Space in America” by Rachel Presser is a good read, discussing the unfortunate decay of public spaces in the United States, and the impact it has on our sense of community, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and our general mental health.

But perhaps we mock because it’s the only way to come to the grips with the fact that we’re just losing places we can actually go without immediately being hustled out once we’ve dropped some cash.
[…]

It’s happening whether you live in a small town or one of the largest cities in the nation: places where we can just congregate and socialize freely are being yanked out from under us. To say nothing of how this disproportionately impacts young people who seem to have even less autonomy and rights than when I was their age; as even adults with decent incomes and control over their time thanks to remote jobs and freelancing are finding themselves lonelier than expected with very few places to go.

[…]

But when discussing Millennial loneliness, is no one seriously noticing how few places we have to go compared to yesteryear? Blame us being buried in our phones all you want, for a lot of us it’s the only way to find other people at the rate we’re going.

Rachel Presser

That our privatization of everything has done significant harm to our society is, in my opinion, indisputable at this point. I don’t think it’s irreparable, but I do think it’s going to take conscious effort and perhaps broader support than things currently have. There have certainly been attempts to revitalize areas by making areas more walkable, bringing in new businesses, updating shared spaces, and so on. But I think their success ends up depending a lot also on the intentionality of the people governing and participating in that area. If they want an area to feel alive, then they need to reconcile a disdain for “loitering”. The same practices they use to make an area “hostile” to homeless also drive away others who might gather in that area. You also have to let go of some degrees of control, and understand that an area is going to evolve and grow on its own, and if you try to force an area to be “just so”, you stifle the sort of organic community you are (in theory) trying to cultivate.

Just more food for thought.

Facebook as a Dead Whale Carcass

Over in Garbage Day, Ryan doubles down on his metaphor of Facebook being a dead whale carcass, and it’s great:

The fact that this report dropped the same week as the newest missive from Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs for Meta, which outlines the company’s roadmap for building the metaverse, feels important. Facebook, as a product, is over. Meta knows it. Facebook’s creators know it. Possibly even Facebook’s users. But no one has anywhere else to really go. Meta seems to want to migrate their users from Facebook to Horizon, their metaverse platform, because that would feel like a win, an upgrade. But we’re still years, if not decades out, from the immersive VR-powered internet they’re dreaming of, if it’s even possible to gain mass adoption at all. For instance, do we really expect older users to wear a VR headset to follow online updates from their grandkids or read the news?

And so, we’re left with the whale carcass. It’s full of scams and misinformation and weirdly sexual and violent viral videos, but for many users in the US, it’s the only place to go. Facebook wanted to eat the whole internet. It almost succeeded. And now we all, including Facebook itself, have to sit here and wait for it to fully and completely rot away until we can build something new and, hopefully, better.

Ryan Broderick

It’s pretty illuminating to see reports and data about what is actually the most viewed on the hulking behemoth that is Facebook. Illuminating, and disappointing. Algorithm-driven consumption feels increasingly like a race to the bottom, as inevitably it’s gamed and abused to cater to baser and baser instincts. I’d say two of our biggest failures with the internet in the last dozen years are: 1) not curbing monopolistic platforms early; 2) not curtailing algorithmic consumption early on.