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Instagram be GONE

My old Instagram account has been languishing unused for about two years, finally got round to moving the images and videos over here. Now I’ll be keeping all that content on this site in a photolog. If they open up their API a bit someday then I’ll syndicate from here to there, but I’m not holding my breath.

Note to self: use Handbrake to convert .mov videos to .mp4. The standard “Fast 1080p30” preset (see docs) is fine for now.

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“it is possible to imagine [a critical sensibility] in which social paranoia is not foundational”

The sore winner is a product of the hyper-surveilled and personalized world in which we all now live, one in which people feel both nebulously responsible for everything wrong while also feeling responsible for nothing at all.

From the Outline article “A decade of sore winners” by B.D. McClay. A lot of stuff in this article is spot-on. It also relates directly to the response I received from my Republican representative regarding the impeachment of President Trump.

One of my rep’s many dubious points was that Ukranian leaders publicly attacked candidate Trump in the press, and that this was evidence of Ukranian meddling in 2016 elections. Specifically, he linked to an article in The Hill by Ambassador Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States from 2015 to 2019. I read the article by Amb. Chaly, and all I can see is an opinion piece that fairly criticises statements made by a candidate for one of the most powerful positions in the world.

How do you make the mental leap necessary to conflate principled criticism with personal attack? Furthermore, how could anything in that article be considered meddling in an election? The vast majority of Chaly’s article is a recent history of events in Ukraine.

This is sore winner territory. Here’s how McClay illustrates it in their article:

Worse still than the idea that things are for you is the extension into identification: that these things literally are you. If someone writes books for teen girls, to criticize her books is to criticize teen girls. Expressing something other than support for Taylor Swift guarantees you a place in that special hell for women who don’t support other women. If you like superhero movies and video games, and somebody outlines the reasons they think superhero movies and video games are a waste of time, that’s an attack on you, personally, not a disagreement over aesthetics.

How do we get past this? More critical thinking taught in schools and beyond? More restrictions on social media? Surely it has to be a personal exercise but it seems like such a fundamental and widespread problem, almost a public mental health emergency (one of many).

It is impossible to imagine a critical sensibility that does not exist socially. But it is possible to imagine one in which social paranoia is not foundational, and in which social reception — of work, of ourselves — does not have to determine our reaction to each other.

It’s possible to imagine it, but it’s pretty difficult to picture without some sort of major overhaul in day-to-day life.

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“Political rewilding” vs. libertarianism, and attempting to escape the barrel with Mastodon

In a recent Guardian opinion piece, George Monbiot calls for “political rewilding” to fight against demagoguery.

At the moment, the political model for almost all parties is to drive change from the top down. […] I believe the best antidote to demagoguery is the opposite process: radical trust. To the greatest extent possible, parties and governments should trust communities to identify their own needs and make their own decisions.

Makes a ton of sense at first glance. But isn’t “political rewilding” just the best of libertarianism repackaged, the freedom of choice and voluntary association? I can understand why he didn’t use that word. The worst of libertarianism — civil liberties at all costs, at the expense of others, the earth, and more — has usurped the rest of it ideologically. “Libertarian” is to the left as “socialist” is to the right.

Related, but separate: in his article, Monbiot draws attention to Finland’s impressive (and seemingly successful) efforts to teach their populace how to spot fake news. In the CNN article he links to, the former secretary-general of the European Schools Kari Kivinen cautions that “it is a balancing act trying to make sure scepticism doesn’t give way to cynicism”.

That line hit home. Reading the news, parsing Twitter, fielding well-intended but misguided email forwards from loved ones. I’ve been living in the barrel for a while now, and it’s exhausting.

On the upside, I’ve joined Mastodon on the vis.social server. My handle is @piper@vis.social, and I’ve downloaded Toot! for iPhone since I like their stance against servers that spread hatred. I’m excited to give a smaller community a whirl, hopefully it will expose me to a more human and humane part of the social web.

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If a tree falls in a forest

❤️👍😍⭐️🙌

The quick-kudos tools that have evolved online definitely have their usefulness, but most of the time it feels like sugar. Satisfying and fostering a hunger. It cultivates a bottomless pit of competition, arbitrary measurements of self worth, and requires a level of intrapersonal gymnastics that I’m not personally capable of sustaining.

Is the problem just the public-ness of it all? What about deliberately quiet kudos?

I want to give those sorts of kudos almost every day. It’s hard to describe the use cases, though there are many… Maybe someone famous does work you admire. That’s the I-want-to-tell-you-that-this-is-fantastic-but-I’m-genuinely-not-latching-on-for-likes use case. Or a rather private friend finishes a project they should be damn proud of. That’s the you-need-to-know-this-is-great-but-we-both-know-you’d-prefer-if-I-didn’t-turn-this-in-to-a-conversation use case.

And I sure as hell would be happy to receive that sort of thing. Little pick-me-ups are critical, especially when you are mostly/fully your own employer.

It’s the digital equivalent of a great compliment from a stranger. The sort of compliment that leaves you feeling a tiny bit lighter. The sort of compliment that isn’t motivated by a mob of people giving you the same compliment. And it usually has little to do with the identity of the complimenter. (In fact, when a complete stranger follows up an IRL compliment by introducing themselves, that’s often when the moment sours a bit, or gets a smidge creepy.)

So how to give quiet kudos? It should be as simple and familiar feeling as similar features – as in, just select an emoji – but definitely not public. It shouldn’t associate an identity with the kudos either, IMO. Hopefully that would avoid spamminess. It’d probably also need a daily/weekly/monthly summary setting but good lord, it definitely shouldn’t ever send a “you received 0 kudos this week!” sort of email. And it should include other reactions, the bad with the good.

I would be surprised if this doesn’t exist already in some form or another… need to dig a little harder. I suppose one preexisting version of this is the e-newsletter since it’s an opt-in system. Particularly TinyLetter. But that just feels a little too business-y for what the sort of thing I’m imagining. Might look in to making the tool I’m imagining. Add it to the someday list.

In summary:
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? I say yes.

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“manual until it hurts”

Over the weekend I had some good conversations with new friends about social media, how they use it, how they’re considering changing/continuing certain habits moving forward, etc. Off the back of that I’m (hopefully) going to progress a little further with syndicating these notes to selected channels. Probably just Twitter, really.

While looking in to that, I came across the phrase “manual until it hurts”. Hits the nail on the head.

Somewhat related: we just tore down our SB-PH site and replaced it with a holding page. I feel lighter already.

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“A ‘trend’ can be, and often is, entirely a product of people energetically looking for a certain thing”

The point of the phrase “Summer of the Shark” is to remind yourself that a “trend” can be, and often is, entirely a product of people energetically looking for a certain thing, even while the actual rate of the thing is unremarkable, abnormally low, or declining. […] If a self-sustaining hype bubble can form even over something as relatively easy to measure as the number of shark attacks, imagine how common it must be with more nebulous social phenomena.

Read Summer of the Shark post on Scott Aaronson’s blog