October 2019

Darcie Wilder attended an influencer summit that turned out to be sponsored by Levi Strauss and conducted by the Ad Council.

While both the issues of immigration rights and avoiding extinction via climate change are undeniably important, I was still looking for any statements from the panelists that gestured towards anything beyond notions of “raising awareness.” Raising awareness seems to include speaking both publicly and privately, doing anything online, and holding or attending protests. They stressed the idea of “social influence,” which in this context meant that they cared about delivering information and/or making that information more widely known so that others could continue to deliver that information to others. After raising awareness, we’re supposed to buy a t-shirt (great for passive message-spreading), attend a protest, and then go home, waiting for things to change. While passing the time, we can always scroll through the hashtag connected to the issue and increase awareness by upping the engagement on some posts.

As my bastardized Leslie Knope quote (which I pull out at every possible opportunity) says, “You’re ridiculous and influencers is nothing.”

Will Oremus highlights a problem with Twitter’s forthcoming ban on political ads: defining “political”. Oremus points out that issue ads about climate change likely run afoul of the new policy, but an oil company would not. This despite being able to make a valid argument that advertisements by and for the fossil fuel industry in the early 21st century necessarily themselves are politcal in nature. One of many open questions, then, is whether banning only “political” ads favors the status quo and the powers-that-be and disfavors challenges to them—something similarly raised by Noah Kulwin when it comes to political candidates, where, says Kulwin, “social media advertising is most critical for political challengers — not incumbents”.

Once I learned that Airbnb allowed owners of multiple properties effectively to set up their own little hotel chains, I soured on an otherwise pretty great concept. That mogulizing of Airbnb made abuses like these inevitable and predictable.

Portrait of the author’s feet trying out a pair of Adidas Americana Hi as he tries to replace his beloved yet poorly-made Champion Inferno sneakers.

Avocado politics is the parallel phenomenon of the right: Green on the outside, but brown(shirt) on the inside. Just as watermelon politics repackaged the political wish list of the left on the basis of the environmental crisis, so avocado politics reiterates the policy agenda of the far right, but now justified on the basis of the environmental crisis. Far from forcing the right to embrace the left’s prescriptions for anthropogenic global warming, our climate crisis may provide a powerful new set of justifications for the far-right policy program.

From Beware the Rise of Far-Right Environmentalism by Nils Gilman (via John Stoehr)

For, I guess, psychological or cognitive capacity reasons, I don’t really cook anymore. Most of my meals depend on their instantness (e.g. Minute Rice) or their easy availability (e.g. store-bought clamshells of veggies or shredded chicken). Today’s flavor find: rice, tri-color bell peppers, canned corn, chili pepper shredded chicken, and sweet-and-sour sauce.

The test, which all stems from the concept of how easily kids can find the front door to a house on Halloween and then move on to the next one, has been useful in getting a broader range of people thinking about how suburban house design relates to more livable, walkable streets. It helps make the case for building houses with rear garages instead of front, often off a lane, and having true front doors. Once the garage is moved, the door can be moved closer to the sidewalk. The lack of driveway curb cuts allow for street trees, uninterrupted sidewalks, on-street parking, and slower speeds for residential traffic, illustrating the ripple effects that suburban-style garages can have on the public realm, walkability, and yes, trick-or-treating.

From Why the ‘Trick-or-Treat Test’ Still Matters
by Brent Toderian

In continuing sneaker saga news, the Converse and New Balance pairs both are a no-go. I do like the Adidas but either despite appearances I still have gout inflammation in that toe on my left foot or that foot is naturally larger than my right, because when I try the Adidas over my thicker, winter socks, it’s too tight a squeeze on the left. I’m not entirely sure what to do about this. Do I move up a half-size?

Alan Jacobs is right (via Tom Critchlow) that any revitalized indieweb blogosphere depends not just upon writers of blogs but readers, who “have all been trained by social media to skim the most recent things and then go on to something else”.

I’m skeptical of this open blogchain with which CJ Eller is playing. I feel like blogchains work better if structured and organized between or among their participants, otherwise it’s not longer a back-and-forth but a kind of free-for-all. Perhaps I’m just mentally stuck on “blogchain” meaning the former, and wish there were a different term for the latter? The blogchain concept really does just strike me as a cross-blog Brain Tennis, with discussion being batted “over the net” (see what I did there). Tom Critchlow, in a multi-blogchain post (his own, and Eller’s), raises the potential alternative of aggregators, and I think there’s no question that whatever else blogging takes on these days the indieweb blogosophere definitely needs to figure out its own Bloglines and Technorati.

I had such a hard time with the first season of Runaways, and then season two (I’m doing a month of Hulu to catch up on some stuff) comes along and delivers something like its fantastic fifth episode. (Although it’s vaguely ridiculous that a carload of super-powered teenagers somehow cruises around town unnoticed in a Rolls-Royce.) Even the parental storylines aren’t aggravating me. Last season the show couldn’t bring me to care about anything that was happening, but this season has so much going on. I’ll be prepped and ready for next season, which also is the last chance to see Tandy and Tyrone after their own Cloak & Dagger was cancelled over on Freeform.

If you’re a Twitter user, product lead Kayvon Beykpour just shared a tweet by user Marc Köhlbrugge asking what features you’d want if there were a paid Twitter Pro product. Beykpour apparently wants to know.

Those lamentations by Lambert and Warzel continue to reverberate. Colin Walker is right that my original response to him sort of glossed over the impact upon blogging of social media—I was perhaps overly focused on making sure we knew how ridiculous the Lambert/Warzel complaints really were.

I don’t, however, especially agree that “rise of the large (social) platforms has, in part, destroyed the market for paid, professional blogging”. The speculative mythology of VC-backed blogfarms is what destroyed that market, while social platforms is what laid waste to personal and non-professional blogging.

(Arguably, perhaps, since much of, say, pre-Twitter blogging included a mixture of short and long posts, once Twitter siphoned off those small posts—the “micro” in “microblogging”, which is what Twitter had pitched itself as—a kind of intertia took over and “macroblogging” almost became something of a chore.)

As aptly noted last year by Sameer Vasta, “blogging has always been about thinking out loud, and about allowing my thoughts and ideas to evolve and grow, through time, out in a public sphere where I’m connected to others who are thinking out loud and growing, too”.

“The garden metaphor is a compelling vision for what a blog can be,” writes CJ Eller (in part of a proposed “blogchain” on ways to “expand upon blogging as a medium”). “It implies that our thoughts can grow over time with the right kind of nurturing care.”

The important thing to remember about blogging before the professional VC-backed class took over is that it’s a process not a product. This never was particularly true for paid, professional blogging, where for the most part you still were locked into a more journalistic approach and each post more closely resembled an end unto itself.

Rarely did paid, professional bloggers appear to be thinking out loud or tending a garden. Every personal or non-professional blog post, on the other hand (or, at least, most if not every), ends with an unwritten but silent understood, “To be continued.”

“Assassins and stalkers,” Twelve Azalea said. “Just what I needed. If I was a more judicious sort of man, Ambassador, I would not only call the Sunlit but imply that you’d blackmailed me into committing … oh, there’s got to be a crime for stealing from the dead. Is there a crime for that, Reed?” “Plagiarism,” said Three Seagrass, “but it’d be a stretch in the courts.”

From A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

To characterize the earliest societies we can draw on evidence from hunter-gatherers of recent centuries and the archaeological record. The vast countries that now cause hearts to swell with pride would have been unfathomable to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We will explore what made this transformation possible, leading to societies that continue to discriminate against outsiders even though they have become so numerous that most members are unknown to each other. The casual anonymity that characterizes contemporary human societies may seem unremarkable, but it is a big deal. The seemingly trivial act of entering a café full of strangers without a care in the world is one of our species’ most underappreciated accomplishments, and it separates humankind from most other vertebrates with societies. The fact that the animals of those species must be able to recognize each individual in their society is a constraint most scientists have overlooked, but it explains why no lions or prairie dogs will ever erect cross-continental kingdoms. Being comfortable around unfamiliar members of our society gave humans advantages from the get-go and made nations possible.

From The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall by Mark W. Moffett