Simon Woods’ warranted drive-by of “button-based metric operator[s]” sent me off on an entire conversation with myself, partly aloud and partly internal. Not just the vigorous mental nodding, because I agree, and not just a lamenting that I don’t know how to get sites and services which use likes and dislikes, up-voting and down-voting, and the like to roll back such usage. I also got to thinking about one of the differences between the original social networking platforms versus the current social media platforms: the former’s central use of the individual profile page. Imagine if rather than letting you like tweets, Twitter let you add, say, five tweets from other people to a special pane on your profile page. Something like MySpace’s “top 8 friends” widget, but for tweets you’ve found especially useful, insightful, or funny. What if Twitter looked backward instead of forward and turned profile pages into destinations unto themselves where a person could offer a fuller bio, share more than just one of their own tweets, highlight five tweets from other people, and who knows what else. Remove some Twitter activity from the endless, scrolling Feed and put more Twitter activity into the personalized, semi-static Profile. This rattling idea isn’t about saving Twitter; it wouldn’t. I’m just drawn to ways in which, if we wanted to, we could turn back the clock a bit on social media and recapture some of the slower and more personal charms of social networking, even on existing social media sites.

Brandon says the way they use the internet is broken but one thing they say in a tangential about using RSS was a quiet light-bulb moment for me.

I don’t follow too many blogs and I’m always pruning sites that don’t offer anything useful or entertaining.

One thing that’s been a psychological stressor for me on social media platforms, although I’ve been getting better about it over the past year or two, is that because people can see who follows them, it’s tough for me not to feel like I’m insulting someone if I unfollow.

Among the many positive features of RSS is that while someone might be keeping stats on numbers of subscribers, generally speaking they only know when that number rises or falls, not who is coming or going.

Nick Punt, observing that on social media “it is far easier to escalate than it is to de-escalate”, proposes a pretty fantastic new Twitter feature: the Mea Culpa. (I’m sorry; I’ve lost where I found this.)

Twitter Mea Culpa is a way for a poster to flag their tweet as a mistake and de-escalate a situation, using the same action menu that deleting a post uses, and the same visual design as flagged tweets[.]


By admitting a mistake, the poster stops the runaway train of replies and amplifications of their mistake, and the reputation damage that follows. In other words, Mea Culpas are intentionally designed to favor respectful debate and ability to cool off over maximal information exchange.

Either my cognitive capacity just is too low today, or much of Venkatesh Rao’s piece on “the extended internet universe” is beyond my capacity outright, but I’m stuck on one snippet.

social media, dated to the invention of RSS, is 20 years old

I am trying to figure out how Rao gets to this idea, that we should date social media to the invention of RSS. Are we defining social media simply as “a feed of stuff from people you follow”?

That would seem weird to me, as there’s literally no social in that. What am I missing?

(For what it’s worth, I landed on the Rao piece because a Nadia Eghbal newsletter led me to a Maggie Appleton tweet.)

Will Oremus assembles a shortlist of suggestions to fix social media drawn from answers to a Charlie Warzel tweet, and I just want to address the final one a bit.

(I should note that as usual, I do not synonymize social media and social network, as I believe these are two different things. I see Friendster and MySpace as social networks; Instagram and Twitter as social media. Facebook somewhat sits astride the two forms.)

Oremus’ final shortlisted suggestion is, “Let a field of smaller social networks bloom.” My issue with his framing, however, is that it’s mired in current contexts.

In a world of many smaller sites, he says when listing the upsides of this idea, “Facebook wouldn’t be able to brush off boycotts so easily if users and advertisers had more viable alternatives.” Notice how he’s stuck thinking about social media as avenues for advertising, when that’s not at all inherently required for smaller communities and places on the web.

On the downside, however, Oremus argues that “intense competition might further fuel the battle for engagement and data harvesting” — again showing only that he’s letting himself get stuck in thinking only about smaller versions of what we have now instead of thinking about things we don’t have now. Or even of things we used to have.

Mostly when people talk about smaller sites, people are talking about places rather than platforms, communities rather than feeds. Oremus seems to be thinking only about sites which continue to be platforms of indication and excitation, just on a smaller scale; most people when they talk about smaller — or slower — sites are talking about places of interaction and expression.

Oremus somehow thinks that smaller sites still would be about users instead of about people, and until we stop trying to replicate our current circumstances just in some allegedly more manageable way, we’re never going to get anywhere worth being.

Erin Ross details how Lincoln County’s guidance regarding its masks directive and an exemption for people of color blew up on social media and in the news media, and suggests what I’d suspected: that they didn’t get enough guidance from communities of color up front. Tidbit that I didn’t know until now: Andy Ngo (a danger to our community who provides kill lists to Atomwaffen) riled people up about it through his usual misinformation tactics.

Well, this is new. Twitter just inserted a Discover New Lists item into my timeline which expands to something like this when you click to see more (this is not the entire list of suggested Lists). I know they’d been working on ways to push Lists more; I know I’d complained about the way in which topics used to appear in Explore before they launched followable Topics. It used to show all tweets from people commonly discussing a given topic; it became only tweets about a topic. Lists was something they said they were going to try to use to capture more of the old way of topics.

Having been asked about my earlier “nah”, I’ll blog here the gist what I’ve been saying about cancel culture in the discussion it sparked off; obviously, you can read the entire thing over there.

  1. A story here or there does not a reign of terror social media mob ruining people’s lives by design make.
  2. Karens is, you know, a real thing. These are not random innocents being thrown into some social media guillotine in some sort of “cancel them all and let god sort them out” reign of terror.
  3. The alleged “junk-food dopamine where the crowd gets to feel like they’re dismantling racism” originated with Black Twitter punching up at legit offenses.
  4. Like all things I’m sure there are abuses but as a straight, cisgender, middle-aged white guy I’m not about to condemn cancel culture or the outing of Karens writ large, and usually the sturm und drang against alleged mobs arises out of one part or another of the power structure bearing the brunt of the punching up. I’m okay with a skeptical eye, but I’m not okay with doing the dirty work of the powers-that-be who are scrambling to keep their barricades intact.

I get the allure of the ideal that we limit collateral damage, but it’s tough for me to get too overly worked up about potential collateral damage from cancel culture when it can’t help but pale in comparison to the every day damage suffered or borne by the communities which are most often engaged in the punching up of cancel culture.

Before I go to bed, I want to say one more thing about item 3. up there. I’ve little doubt that cancel culture attracts the lazy hangers-on and the hollow performative allies; I’ve little doubt as well that they routinely get called out — which makes this just so much concern trolling.

What I’m not going to do, however, is quietly listen as white people urge throwing the baby out with the bathwater by diminishing it to nothing more than chasing a dopamine high, insulting any community which engages in cancel culture as part of their daily survival in a white supremacist society.

I almost deleted my LinkedIn outright recently, but instead I pulled everything off that wasn’t a job, and annotated each position with why and how it was an Unsuccessful Work Attempt (a term of art in the world of Social Security benefits) due to my then-undiagnosed autism, or with why and how it succeeded, for a time, due to coincidental accommodation or mitigation of my then-undiagnosed autism. I’d had those annotations sitting in a notes file for months, and only just realized that I could add them to my LinkedIn profile. Someday, I will need them when I make another attempt at obtaining benefits so I am not entirely dependent upon a family member’s fixed income until they’re not around anymore and I end up on the street or in a home. It’s complicated, but, even assuming another evaluation from the state’s Disability Determination Services were to make me eligible for benefits, I’d only be able to try for SSI — when it comes to SSDI, they consider me to have worked too little to be eligible on my own, and yet somehow at the exact same time too much to be eligible under a parent’s credits. In order for the latter to happen, I’d need to demonstrate that nearly the entirety of my job history consists of Unsuccessful Work Attempts, which, sure enough.

I present this without comment.

A Gizmodo reporter registered a Parler account on Wednesday and was prompted during the sign-up process to follow Breitbart, the Epoch Times, the Daily Caller, the Washington Times opinion page, the Western Journal and several of its subsites, pro-Brexit site Westmonster, NASA, and bizarrely, Gwyneth Paltrow’s quackery brand Goop.