Economics and evolution are basically in the same business: Both are all about productivity selection, though one has been at it for billions of years longer than the other. Both involve “invisible hand” magic — intricate, unplanned, “self-or...
Folks who have been reading David Wengrow and David Graeber’s The Dawn of Everything are sure to appreciate the sentiment here which pulls in the ideas of biology and evolution to expand on their account and makes it a much more big history sort of thesis.
I’m reminded of Kate Raworth’s excellent Donut Economics as a potential remedy.
Raw capitalism mimics the logic of cancer within our body politic.
Revealing Zello's role in last week's riot, making a case for deplatforming, and exploring the idea of responsible social media.
Evidence shows that insurrectionists used the walkie-talkie app Zello to help organize the riot at the capitol. On this week’s On the Media, a look at how the platform has resisted oversight, despite warnings that it was enabling right-wing extremism. Plus, how to sniff out the real corporate boycotts from the PR facades. And, how to build social media that doesn't exploit users for profit.
1. OTM reporter Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] on Zello's role in last week's insurrection, and what the app is finally doing about its militia members. Listen.
2. Casey Newton [@CaseyNewton], writer for Platformer, on why this wave of social media scrubbing might not be such a bad thing. Listen.
3. Siva Vaidhyanathan [@sivavaid], professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, and Americus Reed II [@amreed2], professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business, on the true costs of corporate boycotts. Listen.
4. Eli Pariser [@elipariser], co-director of Civic Signals, on how to build digital spaces that do not monetize our social activity or spy on us for profit. Listen.
Music from the show: Fallen Leaves — Marcos Ciscar The Hammer of Loss — John Zorn — A Vision in Blakelight Hard Times — Nashville Sessions — Songs of the Civil War What’s that Sound? — Michael Andrews In the Bath — Randy Newman Boy Moves the Sun — Michael Andrews Ain’t Misbehavin’ — Hank Jones
Last October Doc Searls gave the Ostrom Memorial Lecture for the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University. In his lecture he carries on what I believe to be an incredibly unfortunate tradition. I’ll call it, “the dance of the not commons.” It’s an incredibly simple dance. Step one (right foot)...
As I’m reading the notes from the New Affordability session at IndieWebCamp Austin I can’t help but to think back on my old IndieWeb business hosting idea which I’ve been meaning to flesh out more fully.
What if local newspapers/magazines or other traditional local publishers ran/operated/maintained IndieWeb platforms or hubs (similar to micro.blog, Multi-site WordPress installs, or Mastodon instances) to not only publish, aggregate, curate, and disseminate their local area news, but also provided that social media service for their customers?
Reasonable mass hosting can be done for about $2/month which could be bundled in with regular subscription prices of newspapers. This would solve some of the problems that people face with social media presences on services like Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously solving the problem of newspapers and journalistic enterprises owning and managing their own distribution. It would also give a tighter coupling between journalistic enterprises and the communities they serve.
The decentralization of the process here could also serve to prevent the much larger attack surfaces that global systems like Twitter and Facebook represent from being disinformation targets for hostile governments or hate groups. Tighter community involvement could be a side benefit for local discovery, aggregation, and interaction.
Many journalistic groups are already building and/or maintaining their own websites, why not go a half-step further. Additionally many large newspaper conglomerates have recently been building their own custom CMS platforms not only for their own work, but also to sell to other smaller news organizations that may not have the time or technical expertise to manage them.
A similar idea is that of local government doing this sort of building/hosting and Greg McVerry and I have discussed this being done by local libraries. While this is a laudable idea, I think that the alignment of benefits between customers and newspapers as well as the potential competition put into place could be a bigger beneficial benefit to all sides.
With the rise of social platforms and an uptick in threatening comments, the newsroom is taking reader engagement in a different direction.
We analyzed our Disqus data and we found that roughly 17,400 comments were made on our site in 2019, but 45% came from just 13 people. That data tells us that social media, email, phone calls, letters to the editor, our Crosscut events and an occasional visit to the newsroom are far better tools for us to hear about your concerns, story ideas, feedback and support.❧
The Disqus data statistics here are fascinating. It also roughly means that those 13 people were responsible for 600+ comments on average or roughly 2 a day every day for the year. More likely it was a just a handful responsible for the largest portion and the others tailing off.
Sadly missing are their data about social media, email, phone, and letters to the editor which would tell us more about how balanced their decision was. What were the totals for these and who were they? Were they as lopsided as the Disqus numbers?
Annotated on January 08, 2020 at 04:33PM
In the meantime, stay in touch with Crosscut by:
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Signing up for one (or all) of our newsletters ❧
It seems like they’ve chose a solution for their community that boils down to pushing the problem(s) off onto large corporations that have shown no serious efforts at moderation either?
Sweeping the problem under the rug doesn’t seem like a good long term answer. Without aggregating their community’s responses, are they really serving their readers? How is the community to know what it looks like? Where is it reflected? How can the paper better help to shape the community without it?
I wonder what a moderated IndieWeb solution for them might look like?
Annotated on January 08, 2020 at 04:42PM
It would be cool if they considered adding syndication links to their original articles so that when they crosspost them to social media, at least their readers could choose to follow those links and comment there in a relatively continuous thread. This would at least help to aggregate the conversation for them and their community while still off-loading the moderation burden from their staff, which surely is part of their calculus. It looks like their site is built on Drupal. I would suspect that–but I’m not sure if–swentel’sIndieWeb Drupal module has syndication links functionality built into it.
Rather than engaging their community, it almost feels to me like they’re giving up and are allowing a tragedy of their commons when there may be some better experimental answers that just aren’t being tried out.
The worst part of this for me though is that they’ve given up on the power of owning and controlling their own platform. In the recent history of journalism, this seems to be the quickest way of becoming irrelevant and dying out.
That disinformation was going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before he says he discovered it.
I keep saying that anyone who has Kellyanne Conway or her ilk on their airwaves is actively suborning perjury in the public commons. Kudos to Jay Rosen on this excellent piece.
It’s honestly hard to believe that even Christianity Today seems to have come around on some of the truth of what is happening before Chuck Todd has.
I’m glad that at least Chuck Todd knows/understands what is happening now and may change course to help protect it. Perhaps he needs to spend a few days with George Lakoff to attempt an intervention and a solution?
Looking back at our history of reportage of white power/white nationalism will provide some additional immediate ideas. WNYC’s On the Media has had some great material in the last few years on these topics:
One might suggest, “just replace the word ‘racist’ with ‘Republicans'” in these stories, but I think many of them have generally done that for themselves already.
Listened toJim Luke by Terry Greene from Gettin' Air The Open Pedagogy Podcast | voicEd
Jim Luke (@econproph) is an economics professor at Lansing Community College and pioneer of their Open Learn Lab. Jim is Running errands for ideas at the intersections of economics, org theory, higher ed, and open pedagogy. His economist’s take on Open Education, higher education and how we can use The Commons for the good of learners is truly fascinating.
I like the idea of “Running errands for ideas”.
They took a reasonable stab at defining the commons, but never quite got it concretely for those who’ve not come across it before.
I also appreciated Jim’s idea about the commons being needed to be applied to smaller groups around the size of the Dunbar number. Larger groups definitely seem to have issues as things scale up, not the least of which is the potential for free-riding. Colin Woodard’s book could be looked at from an economics perspective particularly as different nations within America have different approaches to the commons and who pays for what and how much trust those groups have with each other.
Herein, against my better judgement, I wade into the Great Instructure social media wars of 2019. Last week, Instructure Inc., the publicly traded (NYSE: INST) company announced it had agreed to go private and sell itself to private equity firm Thoma Bravo. For people who teach in higher education this is big news. Instructure, is the current name for the company founded in 2008 that created and sells the Canvas LMS. Canvas in the last decade has toppled the previous king-of-the-LMS’s, Blackboard. Canvas is now widely reported to have largest market share of higher ed LMS market at least in North America. Moodle, the open source system, appears to dominate outside North America.
Capitalists and market-thinkers inevitably seek to enclose the commons, privatizing benefits and externalizing costs onto society.❧
It’s nice to see this reminder every now and then.
–highlighted December 09, 2019 at 09:00PM
Some pragmatic and solid analysis here. Better than some of the FUD I’ve seen bandied about.
Social media has become our new home. Can we build it better? Taking design cues from urban planners and social scientists, technologist Eli Pariser shows how the problems we're encountering on digital platforms aren't all that new -- and shares how, by following the model of thriving towns and cities, we can create trustworthy online communities.
I liked Pariser’s idea of a video facepalm UI around the 12:25 mark.
I also loved the analogy of Facebook and 1970’s New York… I was sort of surprised at the audience applause at his comment, but this is such a heartwarming sign.
She was a presenter and wrote a couple of nice follow up pieces about her experiences on her website. I bookmarked one of them to read later, and then two days later I came across this tweet by Terry Green, who had also apparently noticed her post:
I really hope this new post of the Open Learner Patchbook comes across the feed of lots of learners who haven’t experienced a Domain of One’s Own program before.
While I didn’t see a Creative Commons notice on Cassie’s original or any mention of permissions or even a link to the source of the original on the copy on the Open Patchbook, I don’t doubt that Terry asked Cassie for permission to post a copy of her work on his site. I’ll also suspect that it may have been the case that Cassie might not have wanted any attention drawn to herself or her post on her site and may have eschewed a link to it. I will note that the Open Patchbook did have a link to her Twitter presence as a means of credit. (I’ll still maintain that people should be preferring links to their own domain over Twitter for credits like these–take back your power!)
Even with these crediting caveats aside, there’s a subtle technical piece hiding here relating to search engines and search engine optimization that many in the Domain of One’s Own space may not realize exists, or if they do they may not be sure how to fix. This technical subtlety is that search engines attempt to assign proper credit too. As a result there’s a very high chance that Open Patchbook could rank higher in search for Cassie’s own post than Cassie’s original. As researchers and educators we’d obviously vastly prefer the original to get the credit. So what’s going on here?
Search engines use a web standard known as rel=“canonical”, a microformat which is most often found in the HTML <header> of a web page. If we view the current source of the copy on the Open Learner Patchbook, we’ll see the following:
By adding rel=“canonical” to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink should be considered the preferred or definitive version of the current page. This helps search engines avoid duplicate content, and is useful for deciding how to link to a page when citing it.
In the case of our example of Cassie’s post, search engines will treat the two pages as completely separate, but will suspect that one is a duplicate of the other. This could have dramatic consequences for one or the other sites in which search engines will choose one to prefer over the other, and, in some cases, search engines may penalize one site for having duplicate content and not stating that fact (in their metadata). Typically this would have more drastic and averse consequences for Cassie’s original in comparison with an institutional site.
How do we fix the injustice of this metadata?
There are a variety of ways, but I’ll focus on several in the WordPress space.
WordPress core has built-in functionality that should set the permalink for a particular page as the canonical one. This is why the Open Patchbook page displays the incorrect canonical link. Since most people are likely to already have an SEO related plugin installed on their site and almost all of them have this capability, this is likely the quickest and easiest method for being able to change canonical links for pages and posts. Two popular choices for this are Yoast and All in One SEO which have simple settings for inputting and saving alternate canonical URLs. Yoast documents the steps pretty well, so I’ll provide an example using All in One SEO:
If not done already, click the checkbox for canonical URLs in the “General Settings” section for the plugin generally found at /wp-admin/admin.php?page=all-in-one-seo-pack%2Faioseop_class.php.
For the post (or page) in question, within the All in One SEO metabox in the admin interface (pictured) put the full URL of the original posts’ location.
(Re-)publish the post.
If you’re using another SEO plugin, it likely handles canonical URLs similarly, so check their documentation.
For aggregation websites, like the Open Learner Patchbook, there’s also another solid option for not only setting the canonical URL, but for more quickly copying the original post as well. In these cases I love PressForward, a WordPress plugin from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media which was designed with the education space in mind. The plugin allows one to quickly gather, organize, and republish content from other places on the web. It does so in a smart and ethical way and provides ample opportunity for providing appropriate citations as well as, for our purposes, setting the original URL as the canonical one. Because PressForward is such a powerful and diverse tool (as well as a built-in feed reader for your WordPress website), I’ll refer users to their excellent documentations.
Another useful reason I’ll mention for using rel-canonical mark up is that I’ve seen cases in which using it will allow other web standards-based tools like Hypothes.is to match pages for highlights and annotations. I suspect that if the Open Patchwork page did have the canonical link specified that any annotations made on it with Hypothes.is should mirror properly on the original as well (and vice-versa).
I also suspect that there are some valuable uses of this sort of small metadata-based mark up within the Open Educational Resources (OER) space.
In short, when copying and reposting content from an original source online, it’s both courteous and useful to mark the copy as such by putting a tag onto the URL of the original to provide it with the full credit as the canonical source.
Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)
Spring 2019 Membership Meeting
April 8-9, 2019
St. Louis, MO cni.org/mm/spring-2019/
Joseph explores the extent to which discourses about community suggest an antidote to or escape from capitalism’s depredations, while distracting us from the supplementary role that community actually serves with respect to capital, filling its gaps and smoothing over its rifts in ways that permit it to function untrammeled. The alternative presented by community allows the specter of socialism, or genuine state support for the needs of the public, to be dismissed. This relationship becomes particularly clear in Joseph’s discussion of the role of non-profit organizations — entities highly likely to participate in and benefit from the idealized discourse of community — which often fill needs left behind by a retreating state, allowing that retreat to go unchallenged.
…raises the key question of what it is we mean when we talk about community?
As Miranda Joseph argues in Against the Romance of Community, the concept is often invoked as a place holder for something that exists outside the dominant economic and institutional structures of contemporary life. A set of estensibly organic felt relationships that harken back to a mythical pre-modern moment in which people lived and worked in direct connection with one another without the mediating forces of capitalism.
Now community is in this sense, in Benedict Anderson’s sense, an imagined relationship, and even an imaginary one. As its invocation is designed to yoke together bodies whose existence as a group is largely constructed. It’s a concept often used both idealistically and as a form of discipline.
A claim of unity that smoothes over and thus suppresses internal difference and disagreement. And as Joseph points out, the notion of community is often deployed as if the relationships that it describes could provide an antidote to or an escape from the problems created by contemporary political and economic life.
But this suggestion, serves to distract us, she says, from the supplementary role that community, in fact, actually serves with respect to capitalism. Sort of filling its gaps and smoothing over its flaws in ways that permit it to function without real opposition. So we call upon the community to support projects that the dominant institutions of the mainstream economy will not. And this is how we end up with social network-based fundraising campaigns to support people facing major health crises rather than demanding universal health care, and elementary school bake sales rather than full funding for education.
So community becomes, in this sense, an alibi for the creeping privatization of what should be social responsibilities.
Some interesting thought here with respect to economics, community, the commons, and education. While a large piece of the talk is about higher education, there are definitely some things that can be learned and used with respect to social media, and particularly the IndieWeb movement. I’d recommend everyone take a peek at it and think about how we can better deploy and give credit to some of our shared resources.
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.
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 Internetfor 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.
Lurking, although the word seems to imply a negative connotation, has usefull aspects nonetheless. It is a way of determining rules of behaviour for new comers to a group.
The most obvious characteristic of a lurker is that he’s at the fringe of a group, listening and observing. Being at the fringe may seem like a bad place from the core, but in fact is a good position to build bridges to other groups, and be aware of other groups in the vicinity. In a face to face setting like a pub or a meeting of some kind, a lurker is visible, often shortly introduced after which the focus of attention shifts to the established group members again.
In on-line settings things are different. In some fora lurkers are encouraged to introduce themselves and then adviced to lurk, i.e. observe and learn for a while. But at all times there is no way of knowing how many lurkers are there that you are unaware of.
As lurkers are possible bridges to other groups, I as a blogger, would like to know:
How many lurkers I have, who read my blog but don’t comment or post.
Who they are
Serverlogs can give some clues, and I keep a close watch on them. Dave Winer’s RSS-tool also brings new info to light.
A chance encounter led me to want to post about my evolving views on education as essential public infrastructure. Thanks to a tweet by Sara Goldrick-Rab, I was led to an article by someone I’d never read, Corey DeAngelis, Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute: “Is Public Schooling a Public Good? An Analysis of Schooling Externalities”. If I were not already thinking about education as public infrastructure, I probably would have walked away from this article given all its issues (which I’ll end up addressing, like it or not) and the futility of engaging such polemical works. Yet so much sprang out of my reading of DeAngelis and the other works it led me to that I feel compelled to write, if only to set out some thinking on education as public infrastructure to build on later.