Bluesky Is For Techies!

Since joining Bluesky, I’ve learned more about developers (coders, programmers, tech bros, whatever they’re calling themselves these days) than I ever imagined.

Let me make clear, up front, what I expect from a Twitter replacement: a forum like Twitter but without the Nazis and other moderation problems. I do not want to moderate a server, nor do I want to have to put up with some of the nonsense that goes on at Mastodon.

The first day I was on Bluesky, three or four weeks ago, it was mostly developer-speak. The next day, a large number of users arrived, and the developer-speak was drowned out in a sea of body parts and shitposting. Everyone was giddy not to have to deal with the mess that Elon Musk has been exacerbating. It was fun, but the sort of thing that ages quickly. The wave of euphoria crested. Now people are trying to figure out what comes next.

Read More

Growing Pains For Bluesky

After a two-week orgy, Bluesky is settling down to the problems of being a social medium. Not solving those problems yet, but defining a problem is the first step to solving it.

Bluesky looks to me like the most likely successor to Twitter, if they can solve their problems. The others have stagnated, for their various reasons. The network – the people on the app – is the most critical factor, and Bluesky did a good job on that starting off. But there are next steps.

Bluesky’s intention is to be a better Mastodon – distributed over servers/instances, with distributed moderating. What Mastodon has gotten wrong on that is the intimidating signup, which demands that you choose a server before you have any idea of what that is. They have now said that they will make that process easier, but I am not clear whether that has happened yet.

Read More

There’s A Lot To Be Depressed About

Last week, a CDC report,  “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” dropped. It shows devastating levels of depression in young people, particularly young women. A great many people, predominantly middle-aged white men as far as I can see, have hastened to tell us that it’s all because of those newfangled phones.

There might just be a few other things that might depress young women.

  • Getting into the right college and its costs
  • Climate change
  • Gun violence
  • A pandemic that is not being dealt with
  • Rising fascism
  • A future in which it is unlikely they will be financially secure
  • Increasing numbers of laws taking away their bodily autonomy
  • Laws persecuting trans and gay people, soon to come to the rest of us
  • A government of old people
  • Sexual violence against them
  • The opioid crisis
  • A sense that their concerns are not being heard; those same middle-aged men gaslighting them
  • One of our two political parties dedicated to preventing any solutions to these problems
Read More

Twitter And Its Substitutes

I get my news from Twitter. I follow experts in various fields, from universities, think tanks, wherever. I also follow individual reporters and editors who have proved their worth and governmental officials. I do not follow “official” news feeds from media.

I use Tweetdeck on the desktop with an ad blocker, and my mobile is an Android. Both of those seem resistant to Elon Musk’s mucking about. In any case, my experience on Twitter is about the same as it’s ever been, minus some of the people I’ve followed who’ve given it up, plus far too much about Musk. My “For You” feed shows only people I follow anyway, with their tweets mixed up in time, not the string of Musk tweets others are reporting.

I have signed up on Post, Spoutible, and Mastodon. Mastodon came last night, when the feed on Twitter seemed particularly thin. I have been avoiding it for many reasons, mainly its complexity. I looked at it before the rush and was put off by the demand to choose an “instance.” WTF. I later joined up, randomly chose a server, and then tried to set up a profile. It was during one of the rushes, and the screen kept freezing. I really really hate software malfunctions and am slow to go back to sites that display them. It doesn’t matter that I knew why it was.

Read More

Information Theory

Several decades back, Claude Shannon defined information theory. Here’s a short description that partakes of some of the hype that has always surrounded information theory.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Shannon’s “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” served the purpose that “quantum” does today. It was a way for a group of people to show their perspicacity in understanding pretty much everything and probably a contribution to dealing with a developing field. The transistor was invented in the early 1950s, and World War II had demonstrated the usefulness of high-speed computation.

There was much trying-to-be-erudite discussion of information theory and just plain mystification, as for the quantum everything we keep hearing about today. “Entropy” has always been useful. The fad for information theory in this respect has largely died, which is why I was surprised to hear that it has intrigued Elon Musk and others in Silicon Valley.

Read More

Making Sense Of Elon Musk

Between temper tantrums, it appears that Elon Musk has some coherence to his worldview. There’s the rightwing stuff, but there’s also a distinctive Silicon Valley contribution. Jason Steinhauer explicates that contribution in terms of three “clashes” on how power is to be wielded.

Clash #1: An integrity problem v. an interference problem

The professionals (lawyers, scientists, college professors, trust and safety people) on Twitter see integrity of information as primary, whereas Musk sees interference with information as primary. This requires a fair bit of explaining, which Steinhauer does.

Elon has spoken publicly about how he views problems through an information theory framework. Information theory, which you can read about in the Encyclopedia Britannica, is a mathematical framework, not a journalistic or humanistic one. It is not concerned with the substance of a message—its meaning, its accuracy, its intrinsic value. Rather, its principal concern is getting messages from point A to point B with as little interference as possible. Information theory insists that solving the technical problem is the necessary first step in developing any reliable communications system.

This is why Elon has doubled-down on engineering while laying off staff focused on marketing, public relations, and trust & safety (in addition to wanting to save money). It is also why Elon has consistently tweeted about Twitter’s improved network performance and reduced latency under his leadership.

Further, Musk construes government and journalism as contributing noise, where others might see them as contributing organization and clarification.

Clash #2: Reverence for legacy institutions v. animosity towards legacy institutions

This is one of Silicon Valley’s dearest beliefs. Move fast and break things. Steinhauer has more.

Clash #3: Saving democracy v. saving civilization

A person who defines this as a conflict has defined the side they are on. A bunch of white men from South Africa and elsewhere have decided that they will save the human race. The Mars thing is part of this. Producing many children of their superior stock is part of it. The long-termism of Sam Bankman-Fried and William McAskill fits.

Musk is not the only denizen of Silicon Valley who thinks this way. It’s useful to understand their thinking for future battles.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Changing Times

I am moving into Phase 2 of my three-phase strategy for dealing with the destruction of Twitter. Phase 1 was to set up accounts on alternative platforms.

  • Mastodon. A quirky platform run by quirky people. I have seen too many reports of it being unfriendly to people of color and arbitrary bannings by those quirky people.
  • Not a bad interface, but nobody’s going there.
  • In beta, but they are building it surprisingly gracefully as they add users. Up to something over 100,000 users as I write. It looks like the best choice to me.

Phase 2 is to spend some time figuring out what is the best way to interact on Post. Its setup is different from Twitter: longer posts allowed, and comments on the post, rather than the Twitter free-for-all of individual reply tweets. My first feeling was that these are improvements, but I have become less sure of that. The interface is better than Twitters, but I hope they will eventually have something like TweetDeck.

Read More

Bad Day For Tweets

The deal is done.

I have greatly enjoyed Twitter. It has been my main source of news and a continuing thread of humor, and I have met a great number of intelligent and helpful people through it. It’s a communication medium in which I’ve tested my ideas and learned from others.

That is now likely to end.

Read More

The Meme War

Every war has them: Tokyo Rose, Lord Haw-Haw. Your side will betray you, your leaders don’t know what they’re doing, come join us on the side of history blah blah blah. They’re part of the propaganda campaign and always will be.

This time around we have social media! And so it starts.

It actually started some time ago. Russian embassies have been shitposting for the past few years. They even hit me with one, but it was two or three years back, and I can’t find it.

This is no surprise.

The US Embassy Kyiv meme has been criticized from several directions. I like it. It’s historically accurate, refutes Putin’s assertion that Ukraine is a creation of Vladimir Lenin, and plays into some of my favorite counterfactuals: What would Russia look like if the Novgorod Republic had taken the lead rather than Muscovy? Or Kyivan Rus? That’s too long ago to work up a counterfactual – too many forking points between here and there – but I do like to think about it.

Back in November, deputies in the Ukrainian Rada (parliament) called on Kyiv to begin calling the Russian Federation Muscovy. It was not fully supported by their colleagues.

Many of those opposed to do so say that advocates are drawing on a 2009 book of fiction by amateur historian Volodomyr Bilinsky that argued that Muscovy was not the successor to Kiyevan Rus “but only a typical ulus of the Golden Horde and had nothing in common with the Eastern Slavs.” Many Ukrainians believe that but historians do not.

So Russia might be able to claim that its meme war is completely defensive.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money