How to fix Facebook

The NYT asked nine experts how to “fix” facebook. Kevin Kelly (my favorite tech guru) offered the following suggestion:

“Facebook should reduce anonymity by requiring real verification of real names for real people, with the aim of having 100 percent of individuals verified.”

“Companies would need additional levels of verification, and should have a label and scrutiny different from those of people. (Whistle-blowers and dissidents might need to use a different platform.)”

“Facebook could also offer an optional filter that would keep any post (or share) of an unverified account from showing up. I’d use that filter.”

Ash Furrow

Mastodon is a microblogging platform, often compared to Twitter. If you’re not familiar with Mastodon, you can probably skip this interview. You’ll find a good explainer here. Ash Furrow is the administrator of one “instance” of Mastodon. In this 25 minute interview he answers the questions below.

  1. Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? What do you do when you’re not feeding and caring for Mastodon.Technical?
  2. How did you get involved with the Mastodon movement?
  3. When did Mastodon.Technical go live? Do you recall who was Tooter #1?
  4. Are you (now or previously) active on other social media platforms?
  5. While a lot of people are apparently happy with Facebook and Twitter, many others are fleeing and looking for something else. What’s happening?
  6. What are the important differences between Mastodon and the more established social platforms?
  7. There have been no shortage of Twitter “replacements” but few have gotten traction. Is Mastodon different? Why?
  8. The “federation” concept seems pretty simple to me but I keep reading about users who find it confusing. Is this a problem?
  9. Are there instances operated by hate groups? Have you had to ban users from your instance?
  10. What is the biggest misconception about Mastodon?
  11. How much time do you invest each week working on your Mastodon instance?
  12. As it grows, do you feel trapped in any sense?
  13. As the admin for your instance, you are — I assume — all powerful. You’ve published user guidelines, have you had to exercise that power?
  14. What would you like the Mastodon Federation to look like a year from now?

Mastodon is a federation

This is the best explainer of Mastodon I’ve found. Aptly, it’s by the creator, Eugen Rochko. Here’s an excerpt:

One of Mastodon’s fundamental differences to Twitter is federation. To bring that word into context, the United States of America are a federation. In a more technical context: E-mail is federation. It means that users are spread throughout different, independent communities, yet remain unified in their ability to interact with each other. You can send an e-mail from GMail to Outlook, from Outlook to someone’s private e-mail inbox. Mastodon’s federation is similar: users from different sites (let’s call them “instances”) establish connections between these sites by following each other and sending each other messages like on any other social network.

What does federation mean for the user?

  • You can have the username your desire, as long as you can find an instance where it is available
  • You can pick an instance run by someone you trust and whose content policies you agree with, or run one yourself with some technical knowledge
  • Users are spread out, so individual instances are smaller, and as such communities are easier to build and moderate
  • No monopolies, if one instance ever shuts down, you don’t have to convince your friends to switch to a different social network, you just let them know to follow your new account on a different instance

I’ve never used Facebook and stopped using Twitter six months ago. Still cruise by Google+ a couple of times a day but spending more time at Mastodon.Technology these days. You can search for @smays@mastodon.technology

“Notification gratification”

“Social media was serving, at least for me, as a sponge that wicks up any stray attention—and with it, time—and then keeps drawing more of both until you consciously break away from it. And of course it does — unlike reading, working, physical activity, or real-life socializing, social media is an activity that takes no effort. It doesn’t require any confidence, resolve, or intention, and doesn’t entail any risk.”

The only social media apps on my phone were Google+ and tumblr, with the former getting the lion’s share of attention. Both gone now. I can still check in but I have to be “intentional” about it, as David Cain says in his thoughtful post. Sit down. Open up the MacBook. And a browser. He said the mindless scrolling was eating up 45 minutes to an hour a day. Easy to believe.

Try to play the hits

I came of age in the era of push-button radios (in cars). If a station played a song I didn’t care for… (chunk!) I hit the button for another station. Commercials or news? (chunk!) If going through my presets didn’t get me a song, I’d keep punching. When I got a job as a DJ an awareness of that ever-so-brief window was hard-wired. You only had a listener until you aired something they didn’t like. Which was inevitable, of course, especially in a small market like ours. But you tried to play the good stuff and keep the tune-outs to a minimum.

I’ve always (instinctively?) approached online with this in mind. Blogging in the early days and social media later. Will my share ‘hold’ the reader… or tune them out? After all, few of my ‘followers’ know who I am (or care). They’re waiting for the next nugget and if it doesn’t come (often enough) why would they hang around.

I have a theory that most on social media imagine a relationship that doesn’t exist. “They follow me because they care about what’s happening in my life, even the most trivial thought or event.” Maybe. I’m gonna keep playing the hits (or try to).

Tweeting the execution

My Small History of Learfield and the Internet is nearing completion. Every drawer I open has some interesting new tidbit. Missourinet News Director Bob Priddy (now retired) share’s this gruesome bit of history:

“One of the highlights of our coverage of executions was when I became ( I think) the first reporter in the world who tweeted an execution. Dennis Skillicorn was executed in May, 2009. I could not take anything into the witness room except my notebook and a pen, and the book I had been reading in the waiting room, but I kept a careful chronology and as soon as we came out, I posted tweets on a minute-by-minute basis describing the events.

I stopped using Twitter in November of 2016 because it had become toxic with politics. Might return someday, might not. But searching for these Tweets reminds me of it’s historical importance.

Mastodon

I’ve been hanging out in a new social media neighborhood for the last week or so. It’s called Mastodon and it’s sort of like Twitter that you made in your garage with a glue gun and some Gorilla tape. This article will explain it better than I can. Or this one.

I created my Twitter account on February 21, 2007 (account #786,471). When I stopped using Twitter last November I was following 176 people and 118 were following me (but I never saw any evidence of that). In those ten years I tweeted 11,565 times. Twitter was where I got most of my news.

But in 2016, nearly every single tweet, from every single user I followed, was politics. A solid fucking year of politics. And while I haven’t been back to my account, I assume that has not changed and will not for the foreseeable future. So I moved on. No idea if I’ll ever go back.

This Mastodon thing is fun and interesting but I’m not sure I can explain why. Where there’s one Twitter, owned and operated by a big corporation… there a thousand (?) Mastodon ‘instances.’ Maybe like 1,000 Twitters that can talk to each other?

I liked Twitter’s 140 character limit but Mastodon’s 500 character posts are growing on me. I’ve always leaned more toward writing something than throwing up one of the annoying goddamned animated GIFs (you an do that on Mastodon, too). There’s a bit of a Wild West feel for now but I suppose that will change.

I’m meeting new people and that’s a breath of fresh air. I’m reading the businesses don’t like it and that is a BIG plus for me. I do not like being “monetized.”

Mastodon is just confusing enough to keep your grandmother from showing up, another plus.

The Passion of St. Dilblert

I stopped keeping up with Scott Adams when he went wall-to-wall Trump stuff, but Google still slips me a link to his blog from time to time. In a recent post he complains that Twitter “throttles back my free speech when it doesn’t fit their political views.” He insists this only happens with “Trump-related content.”

Sounds a little paranoid to me but who the fuck knows anymore. And then there’s this near the end of the post:

“I’m trying to get my channel on YouTube running smoothly for after Twitter’s collapse. I’m still having massive and unpredictable hardware/software issues. You’ll see my A/B testing over at this link. Keep it handy in case I suddenly disappear from Twitter.”

I find this interesting from a social media perspective. It sounds like he’ll switfh his social media efforts to YouTube if/when Twitter makes him “disappear.” I watched a few minutes of this “A/B testing” on YouTube although I’m mystified why one would post such a test. Does he expect people to watch long, crazy-head YouTube rants?

Watch a minute or two of this video and you’ll see this rich, semi-famous guy sitting in a dark room in his California mansion, switching back and forth between webcams.

Quit social media?

“My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.”

Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It. (New York Times)

A word or two about how I use Twitter

Far and away my first source for news. I’ve been on Twitter since early 2007. The first place I look in the morning and last thing I check before hitting the hay.

The 140 character limit is still my favorite feature and I hope that never changes. I follow 145 people (only 87 on this list) but am continuously pruning and tweaking that list. I follow a few friends but most of my favorite tweeters are authors, reporters and publications.

To the extent I am able to tell, I only follow people who appear to be composing their own tweets. I like links to useful and interesting stuff. I avoid anonymous accounts. Before adding an account, I take a look at their profile page and read some of their tweets. If they don’t tweet with some regularity, I don’t add. If their tweets are mean, racists or sexist… no add.

I keep hearing that Twitter is in trouble. If it ever goes away it will leave a big hole in the internet. For some of us. For a while at least. In conclusion, I’d say Twitter is only as good as the people you follow and the time you spend in curating that list.