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As clicks dry up for news sites, could Apple News be a lifeline?

"The free version of Apple News is one of the biggest news platforms in the world. It’s the most widely used news application in the United States, the U.K., Canada, and Australia, and boasted over 125 million monthly users in 2020."

And publications are becoming dependent on it.

I agree strongly with the journalist's view at the bottom of this piece:

"It incentivizes users to subscribe to Apple News+ rather than to publications directly, likely cannibalizing some potential revenue. It’s driving editorial decisions, meaning publishers are once again changing their content strategy to placate a platform. And of course the company could wake up one day and decide, like Facebook, that it no longer really wants to be in the news business, leaving news publishers stranded."

Newsrooms - say it with me - need to establish direct, first-party connections with their audiences. Anything else gives a third party too much supplier power over their businesses and presents an existential risk. Apple News is useful right now, but at its heart the dynamics that drive it are no different to Facebook or Twitter. There's nothing to say it's here for good, and there's nothing smart about letting Apple own your relationship with your readers.

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The IndieWeb’s next stage?

"I want the IndieWeb to be a viable alternative to social media, gradually widening the audience beyond tech-savvy folks by making the tools easier to use and more reliable."

This is what we were trying for with Known: something that felt social but was fully under the user's control. We had installers at third-party hosts; we had our own managed service; we had the open source code for people who wanted to use that directly.

The fediverse adds a missing piece here: Known suffered immensely from a blank page and no reader view when you logged in for the first time. Now we can build platforms that immediately connect people to a much wider social network that is outside of monolithic corporate control but also makes it (relatively) easy to find the people you care about.

A combination between the fediverse and indieweb is almost inevitable. This is what Ghost appears to be building today, for example, with its new integrated fediverse reader tool. WordPress may also be headed in that direction. And there will be many others.

A huge +1, also, to the idea that we can "manifest momentum by speaking aloud your dreams and letting others share them with you". This is how community-building works.

And, for the record, I'm all-in.

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ShareOpenly is now on Tedium

1 min read

I adore the way ShareOpenly has been added to Tedium:

You can see it for yourself on all its posts, including this great one about the decline of the ball mouse. Its founder, Ernie Smith, told me: “figured I had to have fun with it”.

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Share Openly: A simple icon for a new social sharing service

A lovely blog post by Jon Hicks on his process for creating the ShareOpenly icon. Characteristically, lots of care and attention went into this.

I'm really glad you get to see the open hand icons, which we eventually decided against, but feel really warm and human.

Jon's amazing, lovely to work with, and has a really impressive body of work. I'm grateful he was able to contribute such an important part of this personal project.

[Link]

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A new Ani DiFranco album is something to celebrate

2 min read

I’ve been following Ani DiFranco for decades. I’ve seen her play live around twenty times: she always brings a kind of joyful, progressive energy that leaves me motivated and buzzing.

She has a new album out, and it feels like a return to visceral, honest form. It’s not quite the acoustic punk from the late nineties / early aughts — seriously, go check out Living in Clip, Not a Pretty Girl or Dilate — and it goes to some really experimental places, but I’m into it. This time, rather than making it on her own, she’s worked with producer BJ Burton, who’s also worked with Bon Iver and Taylor Swift.

We need progressive, momentum-bringing, energetic music more than ever. Ani delivers. And even the name of the album itself — Unprecedented Sh!t — feels very apt for the era.

From the liner notes:

The title Unprecedented Sh!t is not only representative of how much of a sonic departure the 11-track album is from Ani’s other work, but also a political and social commentary on the current state of the world. “We find ourselves in unprecedented times in many ways, faced with unprecedented challenges. So, our responses to them and our discourse around them, need to rise to that level.”

Amen.

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Apple, SpaceX, Microsoft return-to-office mandates drove senior talent away

"Taken together, our findings imply that return to office mandates can imply significant human capital costs in terms of output, productivity, innovation, and competitiveness for the companies that implement them."

There's no doubt that there's a lot of value in being in the same physical room together; I'm writing this on the day after a work summit that brought my team together from across the country, and I'm still buzzing from the energy. But I think anyone in tech that proposes a full-time return to office policy needs to rethink.

It comes down to this: "it's easier to manage a team that's happy". People want their lives and contexts to be respected; everyone's relationship with their employers has been reset over the last few years. This goes hand in hand with the resurgence of unions, too: the contract between workers and employers is being renegotiated, and particularly for parents and carers, but really for everyone, working from home yields a kind of freedom that's hard to replace. And asking people to come back reads as a lack of trust and autonomy that erodes relationships and decimates morale.

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Google’s broken link to the web

"A quarter-century into its existence, a company that once proudly served as an entry point to a web that it nourished with traffic and advertising revenue has begun to abstract that all away into an input for its large language models."

This has the potential to be a disaster for the web and everyone who depends on it: for journalism, for bloggers, for communities, for every voice that couldn't be heard without an open, egalitarian platform.

The answer for all of those stakeholders has to be depending on forging real, direct relationships with real people. It doesn't scale; it doesn't fit well with a unidirectional broadcast model for publishing; it's now how most people who make content think about what they do. But it's how all of them are going to survive and continue to find each other.

I've been urging publishers to stop using the word "audience" and to replace it with "community", and to think about what verb might replace "publish" in a multi-directional web that is more about relationships than it is reaching mass eyeballs.

Of course, it might go in a direction we haven't predicted. We'll find out very soon; the only real certainty is that things are changing, and the bedrock that many people have depended on for two decades is shifting.

[Link]

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Mozilla Foundation Welcomes Nabiha Syed as Executive Director

This is great news for Mozilla, for everyone who uses the internet, and for everyone who cares about ethics, privacy, and human rights.

We need a well-functioning Mozilla more than ever - and that much-needed presence has been absent for years.

The spirit in the following quote gives me a lot of hope - I think this is how all technology should be built, and how all technologists should approach their work, but it's rarely true:

“After all, the technology we have now was once just someone’s imagination. We can dream, build, and demand technology that serves all of us, not just the powerful few.”

I hope - and believe - that she can make it happen.

[Link]

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Former Far-Right Hard-Liner Says Billionaires Are Targeting Texas Public Education

"When Courtney Gore ran for a seat on her local school board in 2021, she warned about a movement to indoctrinate children with “leftist” ideology. After 2 1/2 years on the board, Gore said she believes a much different scheme is unfolding: an effort by wealthy conservative donors to undermine public education in Texas and install a voucher system in which public money flows to private and religious schools."

An interesting ProPublica story about the motivation behind some of the money that's funded these bizarre right-wing school board elections. It's not so much about the ideology as it is about undermining trust in public education itself, so that it can be replaced with a voucher system that would benefit the underwriters.

This quote says it all:

“It’s all about destroying the trust with the citizens to the point where they would tolerate something like doing away with public schools.”

[Link]

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Facebook news referrals: no sign of the slow-down stopping

"Aggregate Facebook traffic to a group of 792 news and media sites that have been tracked by Chartbeat since 2018 shows that referrals to the sites have plunged by 58%."

I'll bang this drum forever: establish direct relationships with your audience. Do not trust social media companies to be your distribution.

That means through your website.

That means through email.

That means through direct social like the fediverse.

It's long past time that media learned this and internalized it forever.

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The SF Bay Area Has Become The Undisputed Leader In AI Tech And Funding Dollars

"Last year, more than 50% of all global venture funding for AI-related startups went to companies headquartered in the Bay Area, Crunchbase data shows, as a cluster of talent congregates in the region."

In other news, water is wet.

There was a moment during the pandemic when it looked like everyone was going to work remotely and there was an opportunity for startups to be founded anywhere. I think that time has gone: the San Francisco Bay Area is once again the place to found any kind of technology startup.

Yes, there are always exceptions, but the confluence of community density, living conditions, universities, and mindset make for a perfect storm. NYC and London - and maybe Boston / Cambridge - are pretty good too, for what it's worth, but the sheer volume of startup activity in the area gives San Francisco the edge.

This is something I fought earlier in my career: my first startup was proudly founded in Scotland and largely run from England. I wish we'd just moved to San Francisco.

This isn't to completely sing the praises of the city: the cost of living is now astronomical, and there's a contingent of right-wing activists that seem to want to paint it as some doom spiraling hellhole, as if its progressive past isn't something to be proud of. But there is still beauty, there is still that can-do sense of adventure, and if I was founding something new, that's probably where I'd be.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer is here to fight

Is this really a good ad strategy?

1 min read

SEPTA - the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority — trains are covered with these ads for the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Combative Philadelphia Inquirer ad

I’m curious to know if they actually work. They feel very negative to me: a pot-shot at the New York Times rather than an argument for why the Inquirer is great in its own right.

There’s an underlying assumption here that newspaper subscriptions are zero-sum: that each household will only receive one. Of course, most households aren’t even that: it’s increasingly rare for anyone to subscribe to a paper newspaper. But for digital subscriptions, I’d have assumed that it would be additional: households might subscribe to both the Inquirer and the Times (as well as a few other publications; maybe the New Yorker and Philadelphia Magazine).

Is their assumption right, or is mine? I don’t know. What I do know is that the ad feels combative and what I’m left with is the conflict rather than anything about the Inquirer’s own coverage. While there is definitely some anti-New York feeling among multi-generational Philadelphians, it feels like an odd choice.

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British newspaper groups warn Apple over ad-blocking plans, FT reports

"British newspaper groups have warned Apple that any move to impose a so-called "web eraser" tool to block advertisements would put the financial sustainability of journalism at risk, the Financial Times reported on Sunday."

Counterpoint: block the ads.

The web is designed to be a flexible platform that can be mixed and remixed however you need. One of the points of CSS was that you could have your own styles for a site and they would supersede the interface that came out of the box.

Relying on ads is a race to the bottom. There are plenty of other ways to make money and build deeper relationships with your audience - many of which don't require paywalls or any invasive technology at all.

Ad technology profiles and tracks users; slows down websites; wastes energy; obliterates the user experience; and isn't even all that profitable. It's hard to square an organization that claims to be acting in the public interest advocating for them.

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Abortion bans drive away young talent: New CNBC/Generation Lab survey

"The youngest generation of American workers is prepared to move away from states that pass abortion bans and to turn down job offers in states where bans are already in place, a new survey from CNBC/Generation Lab finds."

This stands to reason: why would you move to a place where government wants to control what you do with your body? Whether you have a uterus or not, caring for the well-being of people who do is obvious. And all the societal overreach and Handmaid's Tale overtones affect everybody.

I'm interested to see how this affects those locations over time. Of course, there are other implications of this legislation, too: it's likely to be one of the major drivers for voters in November.

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The itch

1 min read

I’m really itching to build something new again.

Not a new widget or open source project, but a new service. Something that makes peoples’ lives better.

I love startups. And the ideas are brewing.

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Think twice before exercising your stock options

Number go up

I recently wrote a short aside about stock options:

But in general, for regular employees, I think options are rarely worth it. They typically require an up-front investment that many employees simply can’t make, so it’s a bit of a fake benefit to begin with, and their future value is little more certain than a lottery ticket.

Hunter Walk kindly reshared it on a few networks with some of his own thoughts; a conversation with Tony Stubblebine arose in the comments that Hunter wrote up as its own post. In particular, he says it helped him articulate the ups and downs of private stock to the average person:

For much of a startup’s life new FUNDING VALUATIONS are LEADING indications of POTENTIAL. They are what someone is willing to pay for shares today based on what they believe the company CAN DO in the FUTURE.

DOWN ROUNDS and RECAPS are LAGGING indications of PERFORMANCE. They are what someone is willing to pay for shares today based upon what the company HAS DONE in the PAST.

It’s a great post, and the comments from Tony were thoughtful. Which led me to feeling a bit bad about how flippant and imprecise my original post had been.

So, on that note, I’d love to define options, make some corrections, and dive a little deeper into my core argument.

The ins and outs of options

First, let’s define options and explain why they’re so common as a factor of startup compensation.

An option is the right to buy a specified number of shares in a company at a specific price. That price is typically defined by an external auditor. It’s good practice for this to happen once a year, but it’ll also be triggered when the company raises a round of equity funding (i.e., when it sells shares to outside investors in order to raise significant capital).

If a startup were simply to grant stock directly to employees, it would be taxable as compensation. Options are almost always non-taxable at the point where they are issued, so they’re a favorite way to give employees the ability to see some of the potential upside in a venture.

Typically in a startup you’ll receive an option grant as part of your compensation package. So, for example, you might receive the right to buy (“exercise”) 40,000 shares at 50 cents a share (the “strike price”). This is almost always on what’s called a vesting schedule: you won’t be able to buy any shares in the first year, but then when you cross that threshold (the “cliff”), you’ll be able to buy 25% of your allocation (the first 10,000 shares in my example). Over the next three years, the amount of your allocation that you can exercise will increase proportionally, until you can buy them all at the end of four years.

If you leave the company, you usually only have 90 days to exercise whichever options have vested. Some particularly progressive companies extend that exercise window — sometimes to a couple of years. But for 80-90% of startups, it’s 90 days.

If the startup is excited about keeping you, you may find that they’ll grant you more options periodically, each with their own vesting schedules. This, they hope, will keep you at the company.

In my example above, you might have done the math to realize: 40,000 shares at 50 cents a share is $20,000. You would need to lay out that amount of money to acquire the shares — and you need to hope that the company’s shares increase in value in order to see any upside.

If the company’s share price has increased in the time between the options were granted and when the employee exercises them, the difference is taxable. In the above example, recall that my options are for 40,000 shares at 50 cents a share. Let’s say I choose to exercise them all at the end of my four year vesting period: as we’ve discussed, I pay $20,000. But let’s say that the real fair market value has risen to 75 cents a share. The difference between 40,000 shares at 50 cents and 40,000 shares at the market value of 75 cents is $10,000 is usually taxed as income. So I’m actually paying $20K + income tax on another $10K. (This isn’t by any means the full extent of potential tax implications; I’m not going to touch ISOs and AMT in this post, for example.)

Early employees, who join before most funding rounds have taken place, will receive options with a very low exercise price. Later employees will usually receive options with a higher price, because more growth and fundraising has taken place in the interim. (Down rounds and recaps are certainly possible, though: many startups go through tough times where their valuation decreases. Not every graph always goes up and to the right.)

In both cases, any stock they buy is largely illiquid. Because the startup is likely a private company rather than a publicly traded one, their shares are not liquid. They will need to wait for the company to go public or hope that management will allow them to trade their stock on the secondary market.

Some corrections

So the first thing to say is: no, options are not really like a lottery ticket. They are a sort of gamble, but it’s one where (depending on your position, seniority, and what size the company was when you joined) you have a say in the outcome.

The second, which I’ve already corrected in the original post is: as Hunter pointed out in his post, a recap is not the thing that actually lowers the stock price. It’s a trailing signal of what the company has already done. A change in stock price is an effect of what has already happened.

And a clarification: options don’t require an up-front investment at the time that they’re granted. You invest at the time when you exercise them, which may still be as a lump sum.

Why I think exercising options isn’t worth it for many employees

If you’re on a rocket ship startup, exercising your options is almost certainly worth it (depending on the strike price of your particular options grant). The problem is: how do you know you’re on a rocket ship? Or, given that most startup employees won’t be part of a startup with hockey-stick growth, how can you be reasonably sure that your company will grow in such a way that exercising your options is worth it?

90% of startups fail. That doesn’t mean that every startup has an equal 1 in 10 chance of success: a lot depends on a range of factors that include internal culture, management expertise, execution quality, and market conditions. Still, there is not a small amount of luck involved. Most startups won’t make it.

You should never make an investment that you can’t afford to lose. As Hunter says in his post:

Don’t behave as if they’re worth anything until they actually are

Don’t over-extend yourself to exercise [options] in scenarios which put your financial well-being at risk.

If you’re obviously, unquestionably on a rocket ship: by all means, buy the options. (Yes, sometimes it really is obvious.)

If it’s not clear that you’re on a rocket ship, but you’re feeling good about the startup, and you can definitely afford to spend the money it would take to exercise your options: knock yourself out. Honestly, I don’t really care what people with wealth do in this scenario. My worries do not relate to you.

If it’s not clear that you’re on a rocket ship and spending the money to exercise your options would be a stretch: I would suggest you think twice before doing so. I also would warn you to never take out debt (which many startup employees do!) in order to exercise your options.

And that’s really the crux of my argument.

Startup employees without significant independent spending power who work for a venture with an uncertain future and who did not join their ventures at a very early stage — which I would argue describes most startup employees — should think long and hard before exercising their options.

It’s more than a little bit unfair that the people who can most easily realize upside from the startups they work for are people who already have wealth. Granting the ability for employees to buy shares directly at their fair market value is limited, too: this would make them investors, who the SEC says mostly need to be accredited. The definition of accreditation is either being a licensed investor, earning over $200,000 a year for the last two years, or having a net worth of over a million dollars excluding the value of their home. So the door is effectively closed to people from regular backgrounds.

I wish more equitable systems were commonly in use. Some different tactics are in use, which include:

  • Restricted Stock Units. Here, stock is granted directly as part of an employee’s compensation. Upside: the employee has the shares. Downside: they’re taxed on them as soon as they vest, and selling them is restricted. So the employee effectively receives an additional tax bill with no way of recouping the lost funds until much later (if they’re lucky). RSUs are common in later-stage companies but very uncommon in riskier, early-stage companies for this reason.
  • Phantom stock. Really this is a bonus plan tied to stock performance, income tax and all.
  • Profit sharing. Which is only useful if the startup makes a profit (most don’t).

While some have value in their own right in particular contexts, I see them as compensation strategies that might sit alongside stock options, rather than replacing them.

I would love it to be less risky for the employees who are actually doing the work of making a startup valuable to see more of the upside of that work. But, at least for now, my advice remains to take those inflated Silicon Valley salaries and bank them in more traditional investments.

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Monetizing ShareOpenly

That's not my intention.

1 min read

I was asked if I’m planning to monetize ShareOpenly.

Short answer: I have no plans to do so. This is a personal project.

If it’s wildly successful and the infrastructure costs skyrocket, I may look for donations or sponsorship of some kind in order to cover those costs. I’m not looking for it to be profitable or for it to be my job.

It’s intentionally very very lightweight, so I don’t expect that to happen for a long time to come.

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Some ShareOpenly updates

ShareOpenlyIt’s been a little over a month since I launched ShareOpenly, my simple tool that lets you add a “share to social media” button to your website which is compatible with the fediverse, Bluesky, Threads, and all of today’s crop of social media sites.

You might recall that I built it in order to help people move away from their “share to Twitter” buttons that they’ve been hosting for years. Those buttons made sense from 2006-2022 — but not so much in a world where engagement on Twitter/X is falling, and a new world of social media is emerging.

People have been using it, and I’ve had lots of great feedback.

So, today, I’m pleased to announce releases for two of the biggest requests people have made for the tool.

A share icon

A share button needs an icon. That was clear from the very beginning. It needs to be something distinctive — this is a different kind of social media share tool — but also immediately recognizable as a share icon.

I reached out to one of the best designers in the field: Jon Hicks, whose excellent work includes the new Thunderbird logo, Disney’s SpellStruck, Spotify’s icon set, and Truck, an excellent record store in my hometown. I was delighted when he agreed to create a share icon for ShareOpenly.

This icon works really well at small and large sizes: in sidebars, in footers, and wherever you need to help people share. Click the version embedded here to share this very post:

ShareOpenly

A WordPress plugin

Lots of people have asked me for an easy way to embed a ShareOpenly link into WordPress.

David Artiss, a support lead at Automattic’s excellent WordPress VIP service, has written a WordPress plugin that is now available in the official WordPress plugin directory. He writes more about it in an announcement blog post on his site:

Simply download the plugin, activate it and you’ll find a link added to the bottom of every WordPress post or page. A simple settings page allows you to change the sharing text, as well as whether it appears on posts and/or page content.

Boom! It couldn’t be easier.

I really hope that the new icon and the WordPress plugin make it easier to include more open sharing to your website. ShareOpenly is suitable for everything from small blogs to large publishers.

Manually creating a share link

Of course, you don’t need to use the WordPress plugin. You can embed a share icon onto any web page using this code:

<a href="#" id="shareopenly"><img src="https://shareopenly.org/images/logo.svg" alt="Share to social media"></a>
<script>
  document.querySelector('#shareopenly').addEventListener('click', (e) => {
    e.preventDefault();
    let href = 'https://' + 'shareopenly' + '.org/share/?url=';
    href += `${encodeURIComponent(window.location.href)}&text=${encodeURIComponent(document.title)}`;
    window.location.href = href;
  });
</script>

Or you can construct the URL yourself by following the instructions on this page.

Have fun, and please keep the feedback coming! You can always email me at ben@werd.io.

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An Interview With Jack Dorsey

This interview is as interesting for what it doesn't mention - fediverse, for example - as for what it does.

This helps explain why he distanced himself from Bluesky after he'd previously established it and ensured it had funding:

"This tool was designed such that it had, you know, it was a base level protocol. It had a reference app on top. It was designed to be controlled by the people. I think the greatest idea — which we need — is an algorithm store, where you choose how you see all the conversations. But little by little, they started asking Jay and the team for moderation tools, and to kick people off. And unfortunately they followed through with it."

That's not actually how Bluesky works - the people who were banned were banned from the reference implementation, not the protocol. And, often, they were banned from the reference community for heinous content that would have prevented other people from being able to make use of that space. Any open social platform that doesn't support moderation will be dead in the water: moderation is a key part of running any community.

I think Jack knows this, so I don't buy it.

Meanwhile, the interviewer is a Partner at Founders Fund who once blocked me on Twitter for being too left-wing, which I think sort of puts the comments about moderation and freedom of speech in context.

[Link]

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Slop is the new name for unwanted AI-generated content

Simon Willison has a perfect name for unreviewed content that is shared with other people: "slop".

He goes on:

"I’m happy to use LLMs for all sorts of purposes, but I’m not going to use them to produce slop. I attach my name and stake my credibility on the things that I publish."

I think that's right. I'm less worried about using LLMs internally - as long as you understand that they're not impartial or perfectly factual sources, and as long as you take into account the methods used to generate the datasets that were used to train them. (Those are some big "if"s.)

But don't just take that output and share it with the public. And *certainly* don't do it so that you can publish content at scale without having to hire real writers. Not only is that not a good look, but you're going to harm your brand and your reputation in the process.

[Link]

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A letter to Russell T Davies

On the broadcast of the new season of Doctor Who

2 min read

Here’s what I would say to Russell T Davies if I could:

One of my very first television memories is sitting watching Peter Davison’s Doctor (and reruns of Tom Baker’s) on a tiny 12” TV set, my face probably too close to the screen. My imagination ran wild. There was a large horse chestnut tree set in the playground of my primary school, and it became the console of my own time machine: first by myself, as a lonely, weird little kid, and then more as other children decided to see what on earth I was doing.

When Sylvester McCoy’s era rolled around, we would fold out the sofabed every Wednesday after Wogan and watch the next installment. I remember being particularly drawn in by the continuing story around Ace, the hints about something bigger in the Doctor’s past, and his plans for her.

When it was canceled, I devoured the New Adventures books, starting with the Timewyrm and Cat’s Cradle series.

And then, in 2005, when it all started up again, I would gather up the episodes and watch them over Christmas with my mother, once again. When she became terminally ill and I moved to be closer to her, we watched them all together in real time. We loved the reboot, the reinvigorated ethos and the joy of it, and the continuation of stories that had been in progress since before I was born.

Russell: it wasn’t just a TV show that you resurrected. (Although it was that, too, of course, and a really good one.) It was those times sitting together, the shared family space, the love and togetherness and fun of it all.

She would have loved the bi-generation and Ncuti Gatwa’s sparkling take on the character. She would have been excited for this new season as much as I am.

I can’t wait to watch. I’m excited for all these new stories, new ideas, new provocations. I won’t be alone. Through all those adventures in time and space, I’ll have a companion with me, invisibly sitting close, the sofa bed unfolded, laughing and hiding behind the cushions alongside me.

Thank you for this. Thank you for all of it.

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Palantir's earnings call rhetoric is terrifying

"Woke is paganism", says the CEO.

2 min read

Mark Nottingham highlighted this alarming quote by CEO Alex Karp from the latest Palantir earnings call:

I think the central risk to Palantir and America and the world is a regressive way of thinking that is corrupting and corroding our institutions that calls itself progressive, but actually -- and is called woke, but is actually a form of a thin pagan religion.

That is a real danger to our society. And it is a real danger to Palantir if we allow -- if we don't discuss these things. The reason we have by far the best product offering in the world is because we have by far the best alignment around how to build software, what it means to build software, full alignment with our customers, a view that some -- the Western way of living is superior and, therefore, it should be supported by the best products.

[…]We believe we are fighting for a stronger, better, less discriminatory, wealthier, more open, and better society by providing the friends of the West, U.S. industry, U.S. government, our allies, with by far superior products.

I find this so alarming. I’m so opposed to this way of thinking that I don’t exactly know where to start. “Woke is paganism” smacks of a deeply regressive way of thinking; not least because “paganism” is bad smacks of a very narrow way of thinking where some religions are better than others. I hate it on every level — and that’s before we get to the US-centric nationalism.

Palantir, of course, is the company whose products and services routinely power systemic human rights abuses. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. But it’s still very striking to see these kinds of words expressed during an earnings call.

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Stack Overflow bans users en masse for rebelling against OpenAI partnership — users banned for deleting answers to prevent them being used to train ChatGPT

"Users who disagree with having their content scraped by ChatGPT are particularly outraged by Stack Overflow's rapid flip-flop on its policy concerning generative AI. For years, the site had a standing policy that prevented the use of generative AI in writing or rewording any questions or answers posted. Moderators were allowed and encouraged to use AI-detection software when reviewing posts."

This is all about money: "partnering" with OpenAI clearly means a significant sum has changed hands. The same thing may have happened at Valve, which also unblocked AI-generated art from its marketplace.

This feels like short-term thinking to me: while Stack will clearly make some near-term revenue through the deal, it comes at a cost to the health of its community, which is ultimately what drives the company's value. If motivated contributors drop off, the only thing left will be the AI-generated content - and there's no way that this will be as valuable over time.

I'd love to have been a fly on the wall of the boardroom where this deal was undoubtedly decided. What are they measuring that made this seem like a good idea - and what are they not measuring that means they're blind to the community dynamics that drive their actual sustainability? It's all fascinating to me.

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Meet AdVon, the AI-Powered Content Monster Infecting the Media Industry

"We found the company's phony authors and their work everywhere from celebrity gossip outlets like Hollywood Life and Us Weekly to venerable newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the latter of which also told us that it had broken off its relationship with AdVon after finding its work unsatisfactory."

Even if the LA Times broke off its relationship because the work was unsatisfactory, the fact that this was attempted in the first place is unsettling. What if the work hadn't been "unsatisfactory"? What if it had been "good enough"?

It's not so much the technology itself as the intention behind it: to produce content at scale without employing human journalists, largely to generate pageviews in order to sell ads. There's no public service mission here, or even a mission to provide something that people might really want to read. It's all about arbitrage.

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Bookending

"Here’s a small trick that worked for me over the dozen years I led remote teams: at the end of your working day, shut down every app on your machine. Yes, all of them. Stash your tabs somewhere if you must, but close them all down."

I do this, including closing all of my tabs. Who really needs to keep hundreds of tabs? You? Why? Let them go!

The note-taking aspect of this has been my actual use for Obsidian: I take daily notes that plug together my thoughts for the day and some ideas about what I might need to do next, as well as things I'm worried about (I'm always worried about a lot of things).

Not that long ago, I would have turned my computer off at the end of every day. This is kind of a modern version of that. Although, of course, there's something to just switching the computer off, too.

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