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.

30 years online

I started blogging in 2002 and still post a few times a week. It’s more of a journal than a public blog because a) I don’t get a lot of visitors and b) I don’t much care. With 5,000+ posts, “link rot” is always an issue but WordPress has gotten so good it’s pretty easy to manage things. Sifting back and forth through 14 years of posts, one becomes aware of how much has changed, in terms of the tools and services we have for online sharing.

online

I got my first computer around 1985, about the time local BBS’s (bulletin board systems) started popping up. Wasn’t long before CompuServe, AOL and Prodigy came along and I delighted in the topic forums.

I started blogging before there was a good tool. I used Microsoft FrontPage to create a website where I could post stuff but a few years later (1999) Blogger came along and I was in heaven. I stayed with that for a few years before jumping over to TypePad (a tortuous process) and then, finally, to WordPress.

Social media took off in the early-to-mid ’00s. Friendster, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, tumblr. These days it feels odd (to me) to use the term “social media” because it’s all social. Is there a newspaper, radio station, TV station, magazine that does NOT have an “online presence” (another quaint expression)?

It feels like all of this has happened almost overnight but my little graph tells me it’s been 30 years. How connected will we be in another 30?

The Political Power of Social Media

The excerpts below are from an essay by Clay Shirky, Professor of New Media at NYU and author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. The essay was published in 2011 but remains as relevant as today’s headlines (okay, more relevant than that).

One complaint about the idea of new media as a political force is that most people simply use these tools for commerce, social life, or self-distraction, but this is common to all forms of media.

The more promising way to think about social media is as long-term tools that can strengthen civil society and the public sphere.

In a famous study of political opinion after the 1948 U.S. presidential election, the sociologists Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld discovered that mass media alone do not change people’s minds; instead, there is a two-step process. Opinions are first transmitted by the media, and then they get echoed by friends, family members, and colleagues. It is in this second, social step that political opinions are formed. This is the step in which the Internet in general, and social media in particular, can make a difference. As with the printing press, the Internet spreads not just media consumption but media production as well — it allows people to privately and publicly articulate and debate a welter of conflicting views.

Little political change happens without the dissemination and adoption of ideas and opinions in the public sphere. Access to information is far less important, politically, than access to conversation. Moreover, a public sphere is more likely to emerge in a society as a result of people’s dissatisfaction with matters of economics or day-to-day governance than from their embrace of abstract political ideals.

“The conservative dilemma” — The dilemma is created by new media that increase public access to speech or assembly; with the spread of such media, whether photocopiers or Web browsers, a state accustomed to having a monopoly on public speech finds itself called to account for anomalies between its view of events and the public’s. The two responses to the conservative dilemma are censorship and propaganda.

“The cute cat theory of digital activism” — Tools specifically designed for dissident use are politically easy for the state to shut down, whereas tools in broad use become much harder to censor without risking politicizing the larger group of otherwise apolitical actors.

There are, broadly speaking, two arguments against the idea that social media will make a difference in national politics. The first is that the tools are themselves ineffective, and the second is that they produce as much harm to democratization as good, because repressive governments are becoming better at using these tools to suppress dissent.

Tumblr, teenagers, and digital marketing

Let me say up front, this is a very long article. But I found it most interesting. Couple of nuggets:

“They are the most brilliant digital strategists,” she said. “These teens are better marketers than anyone in the game right now.”

“Tumblr culture has developed over the past five years as the smart weird kid in school connected with all the other smart weird kids from all the other schools all over the world”

My takeaway: There’s a big online world of which I am totally oblivious. And, maybe, tweens and teens today are fundamentally different creatures from anything I can relate to? As one who is child-free, I can’t be certain of that. Just a feeling after reading this piece.

What your tweets say about you

In my experience, people are about as quick to pee on Twitter as Facebook. But I’m a longtime user of Twitter and spend as much time following my finely curated list as I do hanging at on G+. And I’ve long suspected a person’s tweets say something about them. This essay by Maria Konnikova in the New Yorker seems to confirm that suspicion:

AnalyzeWords, one of the latest creations from James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas who studies how language relates to well-being and personality. One of Pennebaker’s most famous projects is a computer program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (L.I.W.C.), which looks at the words we use, and in what frequency and context, and uses this information to gauge our psychological states and various aspects of our personality. Since the creation of the L.I.W.C., in 1993, studies utilizing the program have suggested a close connection between our language, our state of mind, and our behavior.

So I plugged in my Twitter handle and you can see the results below. Additional nuggets from the essay:

For decades, Pennebaker’s studies have shown that when people keep a journal they tend to fare better emotionally, recover more quickly from negative experiences, and achieve more academically and professionally. Other recent work suggests that social media provides the same benefits, despite the fact that, unlike a journal, it’s inherently public.

And one more:

Counties where residents’ tweets included words related to hostility, aggression, hate, and, fatigue—words such as “asshole,” “jealous,” and “bored”—had significantly higher rates of death from atherosclerotic heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes. Conversely, where people’s tweets reflected more positive emotions and engagement, heart disease was less common. The tweet-based model even had more predictive power than other models based on traditional demographic, socioeconomic, and health-risk factors.

IBM Watson User Modeling Service

“The IBM Watson User Modeling service uses linguistic analytics to extract a spectrum of cognitive and social characteristics from the text data that a person generates through text messages, tweets, posts, and more.”

So I took one of my longer posts and had it analyzed. It identified my “Big 5” as follows:

Openness – 50%
Conscientiousness 4%
Extraversion 65%
Agreeableness 54%
Emotional range 86%

Then it breaks each of these broad areas down further. Continue reading

Be Right Back (Black Mirror)


An online service that creates a virtual presence for a departed loved one, based on all the photos, videos, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc etc. I’m sure I’ve posted on that several times over the years, eagerly anticipating some digital immortality. Once again, Charlie Brooker has changed my mind with the Be Right Back episode of Black Mirror. If you’ve recently lost someone close, you might want to skip this one (or wait a bit)