While walking back from town earlier with groceries I turned a corner and came across a man in his mid-thirties walking his dog. The dog was attached to him via an extending lead. Both he and the d…
Yesterday I was catching up on chat logs and ran across a stub for lurking on the IndieWeb wiki. I cleaned up the formatting a bit and added some additional material. Later Ton Zĳlstra dropped a link to his excellent article from 2004 on the topic: Lurking and Social Networks (though honestly, I first came by the link courtesy of our good friend Jeremy Cherfas who added it to the wiki page).
Lurking is the quiet watching/listening that what many people of the web do in chat rooms in order to begin gauging culture, learning jargon or lingo, and other community norms or unspoken principles before diving in to interact on a more direct level with other participants.
While the word lurking can have a very negative connotation, online it often has a much more positive one, especially in regard to the health and civility of the commons. Rather than rehash what Ton has done an excellent job of doing, I won’t go into the heavy details and history of online lurking, but instead, let’s take a look at where it isn’t in today’s social media landscape.
Since 2004, Twitter and a slew of other social media has popped up on the scene and changed many of our prior behaviors concerning lurking. In particular, Twitter’s interface has made it far easier to either like/favorite a post or retweet it.
In comparison the the preceding era of the blogosphere represented by Tons’ post, Twitter has allowed people to send simple notifications back and forth about each others’ posts indicating a lower bar of interaction than writing a thoughtful and measured comment. Now instead of not knowing about dozens, hundreds, or thousands of lurkers, a (micro)blogger would more quickly know who many more of their readers were because they were liking or resharing their content. Naturally there are still many more potential lurkers who don’t interact with one’s posts this way, but these interactions in some way are like adding fuel to the fire and prompt the writer to continue posting because they’re getting some feedback that indicates they’ve got an audience. Twitter has dramatically lowered the bar for lurkers and made it more socially acceptable for them to make themselves known.
Of course, not all is rosy and happy in Twitterland as a result of this lowering the social bar. Because it’s so easy to follow almost anyone and interact with them, naturally everyone does. This means that while before one may have lurked a blog for weeks or months before posting a response of any sort, people are now regularly replying to complete strangers without an resistance whatsoever. While this can be valuable and helpful in many instances, oftentimes it comes off as rudely as if one butted into the private conversation of strangers at a public gathering. At the farther end of the spectrum, it’s also much easier for trolls to tag and target unsuspecting victims. As a result, we have the dumpster fire that Twitter has become in the past several years for many of its users.
The problem for the continued health of the commons is how can we maintain a bar for online lurking, but still provide some feedback? How can we keep people from shouting and yelling at passer-by from their proverbial front porches or vice-versa? How might we encourage more positive lurking online before directly jumping into a conversation?
Read Posts and Private Posts
For several years now, as a part of the IndieWeb movement, I’ve been more directly controlling my online identity and owning my content by using my own domain name and my own website (boffosocko.com). While I still use Twitter, I’m generally only reading content from it via a feed reader. When I post to or interact with it, I’m always publishing my content on my own website first and syndicating a copy to Twitter for those who don’t own their online identities or content and (sadly) rely on Twitter to do that for them.
Within this setting, since roughly late 2016, I’ve been posting almost all of what I read online or in books, magazines, or newspapers on my own website. These read posts include some context and are often simply composed of the title of the article, the author, the outlet, a summary/synopsis/or first paragraph or two to remind me what the piece was about, and occasionally a comment or two or ten I had on the piece.
In tandem with these posts, I’m also sending webmentions to the websites of those pieces. These (experimental) read webmentions are simply notifications to the originating site that I’ve read their piece. In our prior framing of lurking or Twitter, I’m sending them the simplest notification I can think of to say, “I’m here lurking. I’m reading or looking at your work.”
I’m not saying that I liked it, favorited it, disliked it, bookmarked it, commented on it, or anything else, but simply that I read it, I consumed it, I spent the time to interact with it. But in contrast with Ton’s older method of looking at server logs to see what kind of traffic his posts are getting, he can see exactly who I am and visit my website in return if he chooses. (Ton’s old method of sifting through those logs was certainly not a fun experience and the data was usually relatively anonymous and useless.) These newer read notifications could potentially give him a much richer idea of who his (lurking) audience actually is. Then when someone shows up with a comment or reply, it’s not completely from out of the dark: they’ve previously indicated that they’re at least somewhat aware of the context of a potentially broader conversation on his site.
These read notifications are semantically different from likes, favorites, or even bookmarks on other platforms. In fact many platforms like Twitter, which has moved from “stars” (with the semantic idea of a favorite) to “hearts” (with the semantic idea of a like), have so few indicators of reaction to a post that the actual meaning of them has been desperately blurred. Personally I’ll use Twitter’s like functionality variously to mean: “I’m bookmarking this (or the linked article within it) for reading later”, “I like this post”, “I’ve read this post”, or even “I’m acknowledging receipt of your reply to me”. That’s just too much meaning to pack into a silly little heart icon.
Because I’m using my own website over which I have complete control, I can make it do a better job of unpacking some of this semantic tom-foolery. I’ve written about it a bit in the past if you care to see some of the details: Thoughts on linkblogs, bookmarks, reads, likes, favorites, follows, and related links. See also: the read-posts tag on this site.
If they choose, some website owners display these read post notifications in one or more ways. Some sites like Aaron Parecki’s or Jeremy Keith’s will show my interactions as bookmarks. Others, primarily WordPress-based websites that support Webmention (via plugin), will actually show these interactions in their comment sections under the heading “Read” and display my photo/avatar as an indicator that I’ve interacted with that post. In the case of read posts on which I’ve written one or more comments, the receiving site also has the option of showing my interaction not as a read/bookmark intent, but could also show my comments as a reply to their post. I’ve written a bit about this and its potential for large news outlets before in Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet for A List Apart. There are also some older legacy sites that might show my interactions as a trackback or pingback, but these seem few and far between these days, particularly as those systems are major targets for spam and the Webmention protocol has a richer interaction/display model.
A new itch
But as I think about these read posts, lurking, and being more civil on the internet, I have a new itch for some functionality I’d like to add to my website. I very frequently use my website as a digital commonplace book to collect links of things I’ve read, watched, and listened to. I’ll collect quotes, highlights, and even my own marginalia. As I mentioned above, my read posts sometimes have comments, and quite often those comments are really meant just for me and not for the author of the original post. In many cases, when my comments may be too egregious, sensitive, or perhaps even insulting to the original author, I’ll make these posts private so that only I can see them on my site. Of course when they’re private, no notifications are sent to the site at the other end of the line.
Sometimes I would like to be able to send a read notification to the site, but also keep my commentary privately to myself. This allows me to have my notes on the piece and be highly critical without dragging down the original author or piece who I may not know well or the audience of that same piece which I haven’t properly lurked (in the positive community-based sense indicated above) to be as intelligently and sensitively commenting as I would otherwise like. Thus I’d like to build in some functionality so that I can publicly indicate I’ve read a piece (and send a notification), but also so that I can keep the commentary on my read private to either myself or a smaller audience.
I suspect that I can do this in a variety of meta-fields on my website which aren’t shown to the public, but which might be shown to either myself or logged in users. In some sense, this is a subset of functionality which many in the IndieWeb have been exploring recently around the ideas of private posts or by limiting the audience of a post. In my case, I’m actually looking at making a post public, but making smaller sub-portions of it private.
To begin with, I’ll most likely be looking at doing this at a small scale just for myself and my commonplace book, as I can definitely see second and third-order effects and a variety of context collapse issues when portions of posts are private, but others who may be privy to them are commenting on those pieces from the perspective of their public spheres which may not be as private or closed off as mine. i.e.: While I may have something marked as private, privy readers will always have the option of copy/pasting it and dragging it out into the public.
For those interested, I’ll briefly note that Sebastiaan Andeweg just wrote Private posts: the move of the checkins which has some useful and related background to private posts. (Of course I remember exactly when I read it.) I also highly suspect there will be a private posts related session(s) at the upcoming IndieWeb Summit in Portland in June (tickets are still available). I’m interested to see what others come up with on this front.
The Lincoln Memorial debacle showed how vulnerable the press are to a myriad of social and political forces. This week, we examine how the outrage unfolded and what role MAGA hat symbolism might have played. And, a graphic photo in the New York Times spurs criticism. Plus, a reality show that attempts to bridge the gap between indigenous people and white Canadians.
1. Bob's thoughts on where the Lincoln Memorial episode has left us. Listen.
5. Vanessa Loewen, executive producer of the Canadian documentary series First Contact and Jean La Rose, CEO of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, on their televised effort to bridge the gap between indigenous and settler Canadians. Listen
I increasingly want to get my news once a week well after a story has begun and most of the facts have shaken out. Rarely is something so timely that I need it immediately. I saw a few mentions of this story as it was developing, but it all had the stink of click-bait, so I kindly moved on. It’s amazing to hear the underlying pieces and fuller story after-the-fact.
The best section of this episode (and probably the most thought provoking story I’ve heard recently) was that of the interview with Kainaz Amaria on how we report on wars and famines that affect other countries and particularly countries involving poor people and those who are non-white. While the recent photo of the Yemeni girl (in conjunction with Jamal Khashoggi) may have helped to turn the political tide with respect to US participation in the crisis in Yemen, we definitely need a better way to engage people in the US without trampling over the dignity of the people living in those communities. Interestingly I’ll also point out that we all know the name and almost all of the details concerning Khashoggi, but almost no one knows the name of Amal Hussain and this fact alone is a painfully stark one.
The final portion of the episode was also truly enlightening. I’d love to see the documentary they made and hope that someone might make an American version as well.
new to queer twitter? just made your account? came out recently? well, lucky for you, i’m going to save you a whole bunch of heartache with the official:
JESS FROM ONLINE GUIDE TO QUEER TWITTER ETTIQUITE
1. REPLYING TO SELFIES
this is everyone’s first mistake. does the poster follow you? if not: you are a “rando”. a stranger. do not tweet at them as you would a friend. what does this mean practically?
- do not proposition them
- do not make a “playful” rude joke
- do not make a sexual comment or observation
best general rule: do not place yourself in the reply. if you want to compliment someone, you can do that, but be careful with “i” or “me”.
yes, this includes “i’m gay!”. while not true of everyone, many people will be made uncomfortable by the way that places *you* into the compliment. this is okay to do with friends, but not when you’re a rando!
final note: jealousy is not a compliment! attempting to compliment them but telling them how you wished you looked like that or how much better you look is you venting your dysphoria, not a compliment, and can be very upsetting to read!
2. RETWEETING SELFIES
some people love having their selfies retweeted. some people absolutely hate it. it’s best that you know which someone is before you RT that selfie. if a selfie has 10+ RTs already you’re probably good. otherwise, if you dont know, ask first!
3. FOLLOWING LOCKED ACCOUNTS
many people have a private “locked”/“sad”/“vent” account and a private “AD”/“lewd” account
if you come across a private account and you don’t know who it is or you’re not mutuals with their main DO NOT REQUEST TO FOLLOW
4. OTHER PEOPLE’S MENTIONS
if you see two people talking in a reply chain and you don’t know either party (or if you’re being safe, both parties) DO NOT FAV OR REPLY. reply chains are a private convo between two people and many people find it very uncomfortable!
5. CAREFUL WHO YOU TAG
if someone mentions a person, especially a microcelebrity, who has a twitter account, but doesn’t use ther @, that’s probably for a reason! don’t tag someone you don’t know just because someone else you don’t know is talking about them.
6. HORNY ON MAIN
here’s a controversial one. while not everyone finds it acceptable, it’s not uncommon for queer people to be horny on their public accounts nowadays. that said, THIS DOES NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO BE HORNY AT THEM.
a person having sexual content on main says “i am okay with you opting into seeing my sexuality” not “i am opting in to seeing your sexuality”. if you’re a rando, you probably shouldn’t reply with or tag someone in horny-on-main content.
7. REPLYING TO RTS
don’t make us tap the sign. if you’re going to reply to a retweet, either be 100% sure it’s Premium Content or, more safely, pull up the tweet separately so you can reply to it without including the person who retweeted it.
don’t make me tap the sign pic.twitter.com/WIOor5EgMw— Casey Kolderup (@ckolderup) December 19, 2017
8. TWEETS YOU “SHOULDN’T SEE”
twitter is terrible and implements features that break ettiquite patterns. as a general rule: faving or replying to tweets of people that you don’t follow that haven’t been retweeted or visibly quote tweeted will likely make someone uncomfortable.
9. CURATE YOUR FOLLOWERS
this is more advanced, but also important. if you allow bad followers, it means that you expose those you retweet to bad followers. unless you don’t plan to ever retweet people, it’s impolite to be irresponsible about followers. what does this look like?
first, if a rando is homophobic, transphobic, racist, ableist, etc. in your mentions, block/softblock.
second, if someone breaks these rules in your mentions, gently correct them. if unsuccessful or dont have the bandwith, then block/softblock.
third, are you trans? especially a trans woman? do you post selfies? you’re going to start getting chasers! these are men who fetishize trans people/trans women and will follow you to jerk it to your selfies. it’s disgusting! (cont.)
for the sake of both those you RT and *yourself*, watch out of chasers. i vet almost every follower, but a good rule of thumb: no icon, generic male name and icon, or entire bio in language that is not your’s, means check their “Following” or
“Likes”. if they’re a chaser their likes will usually be full of pornography of trans women and their “Following” will be contain mix of both porn + non-porn accounts of trans women. BLOCK THESE PEOPLE ON SIGHT. i usually block a couple each day.
10. DON’T REPEAT YOURSELVES
this is a good rule in any twitter community: before you reply with a joke or suggestion, especially to a popular tweet or account, check the existing replies. make sure this isn’t the second (or tenth) time someone had said the same thing. i realize some of these rules are unintuitive! this is why i’m collecting them; it’s always felt a little unfair that people are expected to “just know” them. it’s ok to have messed up. many of us learned the hard way. but hopefully this will help that happen less often!
11. TAGGING OUT
almost missed a big one. if youre going to have a conversation in replies between two people who aren’t the original poster, you should remove the OP. anything more than 2 back and forths without OP and make sure you tag them out aka remove them from reply chain.
12. BIGOTS IN REPLIES
similarly, if you feel like you need to reply to a bigot in someone’s mentions, do NOT include the @ of the OP in the reply. they may have even blocked the bigot and now your replies to them are in OP’s mentions, and that is Not Good. something i’ve definitely learned from having this thread go viral is just how many people are fine being rude and making people uncomfortable because they “disagree” with a social convention
hat tip to Greg McVerry
Robert De Niro and Samantha Bee model the wrong way to resist a dangerous president.
On my own website I’ve got a relative heirarchy of bookmarks, likes, reads, replies, follows, and favorites. (A read post indicates that I’ve actually read an entire piece–something I wish more websites and social platforms supported in lieu of allowing people to link or retweet content they haven’t personally vetted.) Because I’m posting this content on my personal site and it’s visible to others as part of my broader online identity I take it far more seriously than if I were tossing any old comment into an empty box on someone else’s website. To some extend this is the type of value that embedded comments sections for Facebook tries to enforce–because a commenter is posting using an identity that their friends, family, and community can see, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll adhere to the social contract and be civil. I suspect that the Nieman Lab is using Disqus so that commenters are similarly tied to some sort of social identity, though in a world with easy-to-create-throw-away social accounts perhaps even this may not be enough.
While there’s a lot to be said about the technology and research that could be done with such a tool as outlined in the article, I think that it also ought to be bundled with people needing to use some part of their online social identities which they’re “stuck to” in some sense.
The best model I’ve seen for this in the web space is for journalism sites to support the W3C’s recommended Webmention specification. They post and host their content as always, but they farm out their comment sections to others by being able to receive webmentions. Readers will need to write their comments on their own websites or in other areas of the social web and then send webmentions back to the outlet which can then moderate and display them as part of the open discourse. While I have a traditional “old school” commenting block on my website, the replies and reactions I get to my content are so much richer when they’re sent via webmention from people posting on their own sites.
I’ve also recently been experimenting with some small outlets in allowing them to receive webmentions. They can display a wider range of reactions to their content including bookmarks, likes, favorites, reads, and even traditional comments. Because webmentions are two-way links they’re audit-able and provide a better monolithic means of “social proof” relating to an article than the dozens of social widgets with disjointed UI that most outlets are currently using.
Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As budding young readers learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other's differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Psychology has a golden rule: If I am warm, you are usually warm. If I am hostile, you are too. But what happens if you flip the script and meet hostility with warmth? It's called "noncomplementary behavior" — a mouthful, but a powerful concept, and very hard to execute. Alix and Hanna examine three attempts to pull it off: during a robbery, a terrorism crisis and a dating dry spell.
Wow! Just wow! This concept is certainly worth thinking about in greater depth.
I loved the story of police and harassment; it is particularly interesting given the possible changes we could make in the world using these techniques. It shows what some kindness and consideration can do to reshape the world.
Fake news is the easiest of the problems to fix.
…a new set of ways to report and share news could arise: a social network where the sources of articles were highlighted rather than the users sharing them. A platform that makes it easier to read a full story than to share one unread. A news feed that provides alternative sources and analysis beneath every shared article.
This sounds like the kind of platforms I’d like to have. Reminiscent of some of the discussion at the beginning of This Week in Google: episode 379 Ixnay on the Eet-tway.
I suspect that some of the recent coverage of “fake news” and how it’s being shared on social media has prompted me to begin using Reading.am, a bookmarking-esqe service that commands that users to:
Share what you’re reading. Not what you like. Not what you find interesting. Just what you’re reading.
Naturally, in IndieWeb fashion, I’m also posting these read articles to my site. While bookmarks are things that I would implicitly like to read in the near future (rather than “Christmas ornaments” I want to impress people with on my “social media Christmas tree”), there’s a big difference between them and things that I’ve actually read through and thought about.
I always feel like many of my family, friends, and the general public click “like” or “share” on articles in social media without actually having read them from top to bottom. Research would generally suggest that I’m not wrong.   Some argue that the research needs to be more subtle too.  I generally refuse to participate in this type of behavior if I can avoid it.
Some portion of what I physically read isn’t shared, but at least those things marked as “read” here on my site are things that I’ve actually gone through the trouble to read from start to finish. When I can, I try to post a few highlights I found interesting along with any notes/marginalia (lately I’m loving the service Hypothes.is for doing this) on the piece to give some indication of its interest. I’ll also often try to post some of my thoughts on it, as I’m doing here.
Gauging Intent of Social Signals
I feel compelled to mention here that on some platforms like Twitter, that I don’t generally use the “like” functionality there to indicate that I’ve actually liked a tweet itself or any content that’s linked to in it. In fact, I’ve often not read anything related to the tweet but the simple headline presented in the tweet itself.
The majority of the time I’m liking/favoriting something on Twitter, it’s because I’m using an IFTTT.com applet which takes the tweets I “like” and saves them to my Pocket account where I come back to them later to read. It’s not the case that I actually read everything in my pocket queue, but those that I do read will generally appear on my site.
There are however, some extreme cases in which pieces of content are a bit beyond the pale for indicating a like on, and in those cases I won’t do so, but will manually add them to my reading queue. For some this may create some grey area about my intent when viewing things like my Twitter likes. Generally I’d recommend people view that feed as a generic linkblog of sorts. On Twitter, I far more preferred the nebulous star indicator over the current heart for indicating how I used and continue to use that bit of functionality.
I’ll also mention that I sometimes use the like/favorite functionality on some platforms to indicate to respondents that I’ve seen their post/reply. This type of usage could also be viewed as a digital “Thank You”, “hello”, or even “read receipt” of sorts since I know that the “like” intent is pushed into their notifications feed. I suspect that most recipients receive these intents as I intend them though the Twitter platform isn’t designed for this specifically.
I wish that there was a better way for platforms and their readers to better know exactly what the intent of the users’ was rather than trying to intuit them. It would be great if Twitter had the ability to allow users multiple options under each tweet to better indicate whether their intent was to bookmark, like, or favorite it, or to indicate that they actually read/watched the content on the other end of the link in the tweet.
In true IndieWeb fashion, because I can put these posts on my own site, I can directly control not only what I post, but I can be far more clear about why I’m posting it and give a better idea about what it means to me. I can also provide footnotes to allow readers to better see my underlying sources and judge for themselves their authenticity and actual gravitas. As a result, hopefully you’ll find no fake news here.
Of course some of the ensuing question is: “How does one scale this type of behaviour up?”
While some might categorize this as a “self-help” or “business” book, it’s really a broader reaching thesis which is perfect for almost any reader. It’s both a descriptive as well as prescriptive manual for the human thinking machine. Similar to his previous two excellent must-read books on civility (Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude), this is a well-written, clear, and concise text whose aim is the noble goal of improving all of our lives.
In the vein of excellent recent books like William Powell’s Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and others, Dr. Forni covers the ground of how to best deal with the current “age of distraction” in which we live. Even better, however, he makes many of these books obsolete as he uses his phenomenal depth of knowledge of everything from the Greek and Roman schools of thought to Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and then through to Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich) and Dale Carnegie (How To Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living)and beyond to provide simple and useful examples of how to be a better and clearer thinker and to elucidate how that will make your life a happier one.
Fans of “Getting Things Done” (GTD) will appreciate some of the underlying philosophy, but will love how it extends those concepts to create a truer sense of happiness in their daily lives.
When I initially approached the book–as an avowed addict of the fast-paced flow of information from both the internet and television–I was daunted at the mere ideas that the book portended. But again Dr. Forni breaks the proverbial mountain into a practical mole-hill. He divides things into simple and understandable chunks, but also provides the necessary motivation along with simple examples of how to carry out this wonderful philosophy. In the short time since I’ve read the book, I’ve been able to more easily put down my “crack-berry” smart-phone and focus more on what I’m doing and getting the best out of life.
Fans of his previous work who have “chosen civility”, will also appreciate how he ties in the concepts of civility and further extends them to the concept of thoughtfulness. The same way he broke down the concept of being civil and created simple, executable ways of changing your daily behavior, he does so with thinking while simultaneously removing the implied modern-day stigma of being a “thinking” person.
In short, this is the book that I wish I had been given before I started high school or even before I started college. I’ll desperately miss all the time I’ve had without this book, but I’ll definitely be living a better life now that it’s here. One thing is certain: everyone I care about will be getting a copy for the holidays this year!
- Started reading on 09/12/11
- Finished reading on 10/01/11