I want everything deleted. I want to backup everything to an external drive and delete everything. I want to delete my social accounts. I want to delete my blog. I want to wipe and fresh-install my laptop. I want to stop reading everything but books, because all the other possible reading decisions make me too nervous. I want to unfollow everything in my feed reader. I want to unsubscribe to everything in my newsletter app. I want to want to write nothing online except occasional homepage updates. Maybe I’d include a single “status” line to hold whatever I would have tweeted, but it gets overwritten with each new status and there’s be no archive. I want to just post photos to an iCloud album I can share with you, although that cuts out everyone not using Apple, I guess. I want to want to not worry if I’m missing out on something someone else said. I want to want to be inaccessible by feed. I want to want to not want to read any feeds. I want all that confusion to go away. I want to know how to get out of an internet that’s failing my brain but not anguish over feeling left out. I want there to be a way to go away from all of this but still have some idea of what’s happening. I want not what we have. But I don’t know how to want it enough to get rid of it all.

Matthew Bogart touches on differences in getting to know people on bulletin boards versus doing the same on Twitter, and I think that part of the obstacle is that “a community like Twitter” is a phrase that makes no sense. Twitter isn’t a community, although it likely manages to contain various communities which form despite the platform’s actual disinterest in community. The more I think about it, I believe that social media platforms exist at a scale that’s perhaps inherently hostile to hosting community. One of the things that happened in the earlier era of social networking is that communities formed in groups or chats, virtual places you had to reach out to, or for; in the current era of social media it’s all about that single, solitary jumble of a feed. Fundamentally, I don’t think the feed as an organizing principle is compatible with community.

In what thankfully became the end of it, I took a deep breath and girded myself for another call to Xfinity. After fifteen minutes of the first guy repeatedly refusing to listen to what I was telling him and transfer me to the escalation queue or specialist, he finally did that. The new guy tried a couple of new things, and then decided we should just roll me back to my original gateway, have me send back the new one I never asked for, and forget about it entirely. So that’s what we did. My nerves, however, remain very tightly wound on a spring-loaded hair of a trigger. For my troubles I receive a whopping $15 account credit.

Colin Nagy’s look at “analog focus” reminds me that my dad wrote his books on a PC running DOS, in WordPerfect. Eventually, we got him an i-Opener so he had access, mainly to us. The PC was in the office nook, the internet appliance in the bedroom.

Status: I’ve now been more than twenty-four hours without Internet because the new gateway Xfinity sent me that I didn’t ask for but I guess they require now only coughs errors during setup and therefore does not function and none of the “Comcast Cares” reps have been of any help whatsoever, when they bother to talk to me at all rather than go silent in Twitter DMs for anywhere from two to fourteen hours at a stretch, or after half an hour of phone “support” brush me off with a “if it’s not working in thirty minutes call back”. Meanwhile, of course, their system also now won’t recognize my old gateway, so I can’t even just put that back in. And at this point, with no service — in both meanings of the word — and no recourse, I am rapidly falling now into the danger zone when it comes to my anxiety and the cognitive rigidity and emotional dysregulation that can come from being autistic and I am flailing to find a foothold to keep from dropping into a full autistic meltdown. I feel almost exactly like I do when I wake up in the morning and literally my eyes will not open.

I’d no idea that the cave in Adventure was based on a real cave, nor that it was discovered by others because the mainframe it was on became an IMP.

It must have been strange for Pat. By the time she encountered Adventure firsthand, at a Cave Research Foundation meeting in Boston sometime in 1976 or 1977, she was Patricia Wilcox, having married the leader of the 1972 expedition. Will’s computer game proved a delightful oddity for the experienced cavers in their circle, and indeed for anyone who knew Mammoth well. In Boston, the foundation spent much of their meeting playing Adventure. Because they played the more popular version supplemented by Don Woods, who had embellished sections of the game, Patricia didn’t immediately recognize the cave it described. She told a researcher in 2002 that it was “completely different from the real cave.”

Except it wasn’t: Mammoth cavers who tried Adventure found they needed no maps. It was so accurate they could navigate it from memory.

Newsletters Aren’t New, But They Are Still Newsletters

It never will not be weird to me that people feel the need to make up new names for old things. Newsletters are not blogletters just because services like Substack have come along; they are newsletters with a fancy archive. It’s also not true that “what most newsletters of this type have inherited from blogs is tone of voice”. Newsletters with a personality and a perspective have existed for a very long time and pre-date blogs. Back in the early days of blogging and even before, I can think of two just off the top of my head that I subscribed to: Red Rock Eater News Service (mentioned here before) and Entropy Gradient Reversals. Most such newsletters had an online archive of one sort or another, although in the early days it might have been accessed via FTP or gopher. EGR ran off of Topica, and so had an easily-used web archive. What something like Substack does is model its lists’ archive pages on blogging’s traditional reverse-chronological format; that doesn’t magically create a new thing, per se. Nor is sending out your blog via email once a day a new thing; blogs as a form often have incorporated “daily digest” emails for quite a long time. Arguably the sort of thing Dave Winer has been doing lately has more claim to some fancy newish term, as what he does arguably could be described as writing his daily newsletter in public, viewing each day as a discrete entity that relates to itself as it goes. My admittedly-biased gut feels like this is what happens when content marketers discover a thing that already existed: they need to rebrand it in order to claim it, because their job and their mentality is to generate hype. It’s just newsletters. They literally pre-date the web, so you can’t hardly suddenly call them weblogs.

Aside from the fact that Conor Friedersdorf thinks that someone being removed from a listserv is among the terrifying evidence of cancel accountability culture gone shockingly wild, once he set the following words to paper he triggers an automatic dismissal of anything else he might have to say.

But in the stifling, anti-intellectual cultural climate of 2020, where solidarity is preferred to dissent, I hear echoes of a familiar Manichaean logic: Choose a side. You are either an anti-racist or an ally of white supremacy. Are you with us or against us?

Well… shit, man: yes. Yes that’s literally exactly the choice, and it’s not a difficult one. There’s no middle ground there. Whatever (mostly invalid) criticisms there might be about potential overreach in holding people accountable for word and deed, if you’re framing the debate this way in order to dismiss it, you’ve chosen your side.


Bonus read: Jillian C. York on what real censorship looks like in the world. (Hint: it isn’t “losing a job opportunity for having said something insipid, misunderstood, poorly timed, or hateful”.)

My eyes sort of glazed over at that kerfuffle between Balaji Srinivasan and Taylor Lorenz until Vicki Boykis learned me that the latter “maintained that journalists should be allowed into Clubhouse to know what was being said about them” (presumably this tweet and this one) which is such a ridiculous and nonsensical overstep of journalistic entitlement that this, not anything else she’s said, is what should make The New York Times question her integrity. No private entities somehow are duty-bound to just open themselves up to journalists. Which isn’t to be taken as a defense of abusive conversations on Clubhouse, and I’m quite sure that knowing you’re being discussed, possibly in abusive ways, cannot possibly be a comfortable position — but “journalism” isn’t somehow a master password to every chat, forum, or website. Extra points to Boykis for calling Clubhouse “like volunteering to be part of a very long conference call full of buzzwords”.

Near the end of the latest Normcore Tech newsletter I learned of a particular critique of HEY that I, too, never would have considered: that doing away with email signatures might just be a privileged design position to take, as pointed out by a Black engineer.

I always have to fight for the right to get the inherit respect and “qualifications” that I belong in a conversation. So yes I have a signature because I need one and I do not have the privledge if not needing one.

In the latest Civic Signals newsletter, Andrew Small interviews Charlton McIlwain about his book, Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter. (I’ve once again used the Bookshop affiliate link of site editor Kevin Chau; those commissions get donated.)

That was the first commercially successful web community within AOL and it was built by black people, premised on black cultural products and content. It was black folks who were filling this space to show “this is what people will come to this new medium for.” To think about that as an origin story for the web blew me away, that black people and black content were the foundation on which this new web was built. It was revolutionary, but it’s certainly not the story that we’ve ever told about the history of its development

Mine Furor’s executive order “on preventing online censorship” is baffling, as primarily it orders a slew of agencies to “file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission” — an agency which has absolutely zero statutory authority regarding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The literal moment the FCC takes any action it will be swamped with lawsuits on that basis alone.