In our discussions with publishers, we often notice higher standards applied to websites than ePapers. This is intriguing, knowing the level of reader engagement of the latter, and seeing steady yearly growth of ePapers in the past eight years. Publishers often tell us their ePaper readers are their...
New ad technology for Spotify-exclusive podcasts is coming
Dawn Ostroff, Spotify chief content officer ❧
Former President of the UPN and the CW and under Les Moonves at Viacom/CBS.
Annotated on January 08, 2020 at 12:35PM
It just crystallized for me what I think has been mistaken about thinking of unwanted interaction on social networks as a "privacy" problem. It's not.
A privacy problem is things becoming known more widely than they should, subject to surveillance and contextless scrutiny.The onslaught of sexual harassment on platforms like early Twitter (and later twitter for people of notability), @KeybaseIO, every naive social network is an attack on the right to exist in public. It is the inverse of a privacy problem.But the conceiving of this as a privacy problem brings the wrong solutions. It means we are offered tools to remove ourselves from public view, to restrict our public personas, to retreat from public life. It means women are again confined to private sphere, denied civic life.It's so endemic, so entrenched, and so normal that women should have to retreat to protect ourselves that we think of this as part of femininity. A strong civic life is seen as unfeminine, forward. It poisons us politically, socially, and personally.It is, at its core, an attack on democracy as well.The only way to undo this is to reconceive of this, not as a privacy problem but as an attack on public life. There will be new problems with this but at least they will be new.There has been work done on this, but I've never seen it connected to civic life, and this connects with my thoughts and work on community. The unit that social networks must focus on cannot be the individual. We do not exist as individuals first but as members of our communitiesWhen a new user joins a social network, their connection must be to their peers, their existing social relationships. A new user can only be onboarded in the context of relationships already on the network.Early adopters form such a community, but extrapolating from the joining of those initial members to how to scale the network misses the critical transition: from no community to the first, not from the first users to the next.New communities can only be onboarded by connections from individuals that span communities. New communities must be onboarded collectively, or the network falls to the army of randos.The irony is that surveillance capitalism has the information to do this but not the will, because as objects of marketing, we are individuals, statistics and demographics, not communities. The reality lies in plain sight.There have been attempts at social networks, sadly none dense enough to succeed, but that treat people as part of a web, and that their peers can shield and protect them. The idea is solid.The other alternative is to stop trying to give people a solitary identity, a profile and onboarding to a flat network, but instead only provide them with community connections. Dreamwidth is this to a large degree, if too sparse for most people to connect.Our social networks must connect us, not to our "friends" but to our communities. The ones that succeed do this by intent or by accident.
Facebook has a narrow view of community, but for those it matches, it works. With major flaws, but it does.Twitter, its community of early adopters, its creepy onboarding by uploading your contacts and mining data to connect you works. If I were to join and follow a few people I know, it would rapidly suggest many more people in my queer and trans community. It works.And this is why Ello failed. This is why Diaspora failed. This is why Mastodon succeeded, if only by scraping by the bare minimum. This is why gnu social failed. This is why a random vbulletin forum can succeed. The ones that succeed connect a dense community.Note that gnu social and mastodon are the same protocol! But they are different social networks. The difference in their affordances and the community structures they encourage are vastly different, despite interoperating.I'd say I don't know how apparent this problem is to white men — the ones largely designing these networks — but I do know. I know because of the predictable failures we see.
Part of this, I think boils down to how invisible community is when you are the default user.At no time am I unaware that I am trans, that I am a woman, that the people I follow and who follow me are distinct from the background. I can spot my people in a crowd on the internet with precision, just like a KNN clustering can.Trans culture in particular is Extremely Online. We are exceptionally easy to onboard to a new platform. But the solution can scale if we focus on solving it. And by knowing who is in the community (likely) and who is not, we can understand what is and is not harassment.We don't need to even know what the communities are — Twitter does not — and yet it knows how we cluster, and that suffices.
If we stop thinking of this as a privacy problem — letting us hide from the connections that are our solution — we can enlarge public life.That exceptional article —We can only fight this with a new, loose solidarity and an awareness of community boundaries. We can build technology that makes space for us to be safe online by being present with those that support us, and react together, rather than as individuals and separating us for safetyThis thread has meandered a bit, but I'm dancing around something important. We fundamentally need to stop organizing online activity the way we do. Follow and be followed is not where it's at.
It's join, manage attention, build connection.Stop sorting things topically and trying to find connections in content.
Start looking for clusters of relationships between people.
The question should not be "what is this about?" but "who is this for?"
Friend: I spent all day researching marketing for colorectal cancer for work. Now my social media feeds are overflowing with healthcare ads for cancer screenings and treatment.
Me: Social silo algorithms will get you every time with surveillance capitalism.
Friend: THEY ARE LITERALLY ‘UP MY BUTT’!!!
A document obtained by Motherboard shows how DMVs sell people’s names, addresses, and other personal information to generate revenue.
Remarks by Sacha Baron Cohen, Recipient of ADL's International Leadership Award
Thank you, Jonathan, for your very kind words. Thank you, ADL, for this recognition and your work in fighting racism, hate and bigotry. And to be clear, when I say “racism, hate and bigotry” I’m not referring to the names of Stephen Miller’s Labradoodles.
Gettin’ Air with @hypervisible Professor of English at Macomb Community College. Self described as the “The Beavis of Twitter”, we chat about how he works to raise awareness of the absurd and abusive tech practices of various platforms and companies and how he helps his students navigate this increasingly dystopian world. “There’s always material to talk about how something sucks if you’re in the ed-tech space”.
Somehow @hypervisible blocked me on Twitter, which is a painful shame–at least for me. He’s one of the few researchers to have done so and one of the few people it’s worth having a separate account just for reading his content. I’m glad that others like Terry help to get his message out in other ways!
Chris also mentions a great list of recommended reads at 11:30 into the episode including:
- The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information by Frank Pasquale
- Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness by Simone Browne
- Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Noble
- Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin
- Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media by Sarah T. Roberts
- Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass by Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri
My OPML Domains Project
Not being able to attend Domains 2019 in person, I was bound and determined to attend as much of it as I could manage remotely. A lot of this revolved around following the hashtag for the conference, watching the Virtually Connecting sessions, interacting online, and starting to watch the archived videos after-the-fact. Even with all of this, for a while I had been meaning to flesh out my ability to follow the domains (aka websites) of other attendees and people in the space. Currently the easiest way (for me) to do this is via RSS with a feed reader, so I began collecting feeds of those from the Twitter list of Domains ’17 and Domains ’19 attendees as well as others in the education-related space who tweet about A Domain of One’s Own or IndieWeb. In some sense, I would be doing some additional aggregation work on expanding my blogroll, or, as I call it now, my following page since it’s much too large and diverse to fit into a sidebar on my website.
For some brief background, my following page is built on some old functionality in WordPress core that has since been hidden. I’m using the old Links Manager for collecting links and feeds of people, projects, groups, and institutions. This link manager creates standard OPML files, which WordPress can break up by categories, that can easily be imported/exported into most standard feed readers. Even better, some feed readers like Inoreader, support OPML subscriptions, so one could subscribe to my OPML file, and any time I update it in the future with new subscriptions, your feed reader would automatically update to follow those as well. I use this functionality in my own Inoreader account, so that any new subscriptions I add to my own site are simply synced to my feed reader without needing to be separately added or updated.
The best part of creating such a list and publishing it in a standard format is that you, dear reader, don’t need to spend the several hours I did to find, curate, and compile the list to recreate it for yourself, but you can now download it, modify it if necessary, and have a copy for yourself in just a few minutes. (Toward that end, I’m also happy to update it or make additions if others think it’s missing anyone interesting in the space–feedback, questions, and comments are heartily encouraged.) You can see a human-readable version of the list at this link, or find the computer parse-able/feed reader subscribe-able link here.
To make it explicit, I’ll also note that these lists also help me to keep up with people and changes in the timeframe between conferences.
Anecdotal Domains observations
In executing this OPML project I noticed some interesting things about the Domains community at large (or at least those who are avid enough to travel and attend in person or actively engage online). I’ll lay these out below. Perhaps at a future date, I’ll do a more explicit capture of the data with some analysis.
The largest majority of sites I came across were, unsurprisingly, WordPress-based, which made it much easier to find RSS feeds to read/consume material. I could simply take a domain name and add
/feed/ to the end of the URL, and voilà, a relatively quick follow!
There are a lot of people whose sites didn’t have obvious links to their feeds. To me this is a desperate tragedy for the open web. We’re already behind the eight ball compared to social media and corporate controlled sites, why make it harder for people to read/consume our content from our own domains? And as if to add insult to injury, the places on one’s website where an RSS feed link/icon would typically live were instead populated by links to corporate social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In a few cases I also saw legacy links to Google+ which ended service and disappeared from the web along with a tremendous number of online identities and personal data on April 2, 2019. (Here’s a reminder to remove those if you’ve forgotten.) For those who are also facing this problem, there’s a fantastic service called SubToMe that has a universal follow button that can be installed or which works well with a browser bookmarklet and a wide variety of feed readers.
I was thrilled to see a few people were using interesting alternate content management systems/site generators like WithKnown and Grav. There were also several people who had branched out to static site generators (sites without a database). This sort of plurality is a great thing for the community and competition in the space for sites, design, user experience, etc. is awesome. It’s thrilling to see people in the Domains space taking advantage of alternate options, experimenting with them, and using them in the wild.
— Lauren Brumfield (@brumface) June 10, 2019
I’ll note that I did see a few poor souls who were using Wix. I know there was at least one warning about Wix at the conference, but in case it wasn’t stated explicitly, Wix does not support exporting data, which makes any potential future migration of sites difficult. Definitely don’t use it for any extended writing, as cutting and pasting more than a few simple static pages becomes onerous. To make matters worse, Wix doesn’t offer any sort of back up service, so if they chose to shut your site off for any reason, you’d be completely out of luck. No back up + no export = I couldn’t recommend using.
I also noticed a few people had generic domain names that they didn’t really own (and not even in the sense of rental ownership). Here I’m talking about domain names of the form
username.domainsproject.com. While I’m glad that they have a domain that they can use and generally control, it’s not one that they can truly exert full ownership over. (They just can’t pick it up and take it with them.) Even if they could export/import their data to another service or even a different content management system, all their old links would immediately disappear from the web. In the case of students, while it’s nice that their school may provide this space, it is more problematic for data portability and longevity on the web that they’ll eventually lose that institutional domain name when they graduate. On the other hand, if you have something like
yourname.com as your digital home, you can export/import, change content management services, hosting companies, etc. and all your content will still resolve and you’ll be imminently more find-able by your friends and colleagues. This choice is essentially the internet equivalent of changing cellular providers from Sprint to AT&T but taking your phone number with you–you may change providers, but people will still know where to find you without being any the wiser about your service provider changes. I think that for allowing students and faculty the ability to more easily move their content and their sites, Domains projects should require individual custom domains.
If you don’t own/control your physical domain name, you’re prone to lose a lot of value built up in your permalinks. I’m also reminded of here of the situation encountered by faculty who move from one university to another. (Congratulations by the way to Martha Burtis on the pending move to Plymouth State. You’ll notice she won’t face this problem.) There’s also the situation of Matthew Green, a security researcher at Johns Hopkins whose institutional website was taken down by his university when the National Security Agency flagged an apparent issue. Fortunately in his case, he had his own separate domain name and content on an external server and his institutional account was just a mirrored copy of his own domain.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
—Mel Brooks from The Producers (1968), obviously with the it being a referent to A Domain of One’s Own.
Also during my project, I noted that quite a lot of people don’t list their own personal/professional domains within their Twitter or other social media profiles. This seems a glaring omission particularly for at least one whose Twitter bio creatively and proactively claims that they’re an avid proponent of A Domain of One’s Own.
And finally there were a small–but still reasonable–number of people within the community for whom I couldn’t find their domain at all! A small number assuredly are new to the space or exploring it, and so I’d give a pass, but I was honestly shocked that some just didn’t.
(Caveat: I’ll freely admit that the value of Domains is that one has ultimate control including the right not to have or use one or even to have a private, hidden, and completely locked down one, just the way that Dalton chose not to walk in the conformity scene in The Dead Poet’s Society. But even with this in mind, how can we ethically recommend this pathway to students, friends, and colleagues if we’re not willing to participate ourselves?)
Too much Twitter & a challenge for the next Domains Conference
One of the things that shocked me most at a working conference about the idea of A Domain of One’s Own within education where there was more than significant time given to the ideas of privacy, tracking, and surveillance, was the extent that nearly everyone present gave up their identity, authority, and digital autonomy to Twitter, a company which actively represents almost every version of the poor ethics, surveillance, tracking, and design choices we all abhor within the edtech space.
Why weren’t people proactively using their own domains to communicate instead? Why weren’t their notes, observations, highlights, bookmarks, likes, reposts, etc. posted to their own websites? Isn’t that part of what we’re in all this for?!
One of the shining examples from Domains 2019 that I caught as it was occurring was John Stewart’s site where he was aggregating talk titles, abstracts, notes, and other details relevant to himself and his practice. He then published them in the open and syndicated the copies to Twitter where the rest of the conversation seemed to be happening. His living notebook– or digital commmonplace book if you will–is of immense value not only to him, but to all who are able to access it. But you may ask, “Chris, didn’t you notice them on Twitter first?” In fact, I did not! I caught them because I was following the live feed of some of the researchers, educators, and technologists I follow in my feed reader using the OPML files mentioned above. I would submit, especially as a remote participant/follower of the conversation, that his individual posts were worth 50 or more individual tweets. Just the additional context they contained made them proverbially worth their weight in gold.
Perhaps for the next conference, we might build a planet or site that could aggregate all the feeds of people’s domains using their categories/tags or other means to create our own version of the Twitter stream? Alternately, by that time, I suspect that work on some of the new IndieWeb readers will have solidified to allow people to read feeds and interact with that content directly and immediately in much the way Twitter works now except that all the interaction will occur on our own domains.
— Mo Pelzel (@MorrisPelzel) June 10, 2019
As educators, one of the most valuable things we can and should do is model appropriate behavior for students. I think it’s high time that when attending a professional conference about A Domain of One’s Own that we all ought to be actively doing it using our own domains. Maybe we could even quit putting our Twitter handles on our slides, and just put our domain names on them instead?
Of course, I wouldn’t and couldn’t suggest or even ask others to do this if I weren’t willing and able to do it myself. So as a trial and proof of concept, I’ve actively posted all my interactions related to Domains 2019 that I was interested in to my own website using the tag Domains 2019. At that URL, you’ll find all the things I liked and bookmarked, as well as the bits of conversation on Twitter and others’ sites that I’ve commented on or replied to. All of it originated on my own domain, and, when it appeared on Twitter, it was syndicated only secondarily so that others would see it since that was where the conversation was generally being aggregated. You can almost go back and recreate my entire Domains 2019 experience in real time by following my posts, notes, and details on my personal website.
So, next time around can we make an attempt to dump Twitter!? The technology for pulling it off certainly already exists, and is reasonably well-supported by WordPress, WithKnown, Grav, and even some of the static site generators I noticed in my brief survey above. (Wix obviously doesn’t even come close…)
I’m more than happy to help people build and flesh out the infrastructure necessary to try to make the jump. Even if just a few of us began doing it, we could serve as that all-important model for others as well as for our students and other constituencies. With a bit of help and effort before the next Domains Conference, I’ll bet we could collectively pull it off. I think many of us are either well- or even over-versed in the toxicities and surveillance underpinnings of social media, learning management systems, and other digital products in the edtech space, but now we ought to attempt a move away from it with an infrastructure that is our own–our Domains.
At the OLC Innovate conference—a conference where I was presenting with Adam Croom about the need to be more thoughtful and careful with student data—I ran into my own issues with unnecessary surveillance and invasions of privacy: Door keepers at the entrance to every session demandingly and som...
On Tuesday we have the makings of an intensely glorious chat with sava saheli singh (screeningsurveillance.com), Tim Maughan (Infinite Detail) and Chris Gilliard (hypervisible.com). Your onsite buddies will be Autumm Caines and Joe Murphy. Virtual buddy duties will be handled by the delightful Helen Dewaard. This will probably get very, very interesting.
Online conversations about your community could contain insights about its safety and well-being. Social Sentinel knows where to look so you don’t have to.
Some broad initial bibliography from the top of my head:
- The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshona Zuboff (Public Affairs)
- Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro
- Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci (Yale)
Larry Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia)
- How to decentralize social media—a brief sketch
- Proposing a “Declaration of Digital Independence”, (WIRED 3/19)
- Version history for “Declaration of Digital Independence”
I’ve seen via personal correspondence, should be publicly available soon:
- Declaration of Digital Independence
- FAQ about the project to decentralize social media
- Social Media Strike!
Some useful history/timelines:
I’m curious if you’d publicly share your current blbliography/reading list?
Controversial ‘smart locks’ show the way that surveillance tech begins with the poor, before spreading to the rest of us
Instead, when we talk about technology, we should be thinking about power dynamics.
Great piece about ethics in technology.