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Leviathan Wakes: the case for Apple's Vision Pro

“Now we’ll get to answer the AR question with far fewer caveats and asterisks. The display is as good as technologically possible. The interface uses your fingers, instead of a goofy joystick. The performance is tuned to prevent motion sickness. An enormous developer community is ready and equipped to build apps for it, and all of their tools are mature, well-documented, and fully supported by that community.”

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Apple Vision

“The arc of technology, in large part led by Apple, is for ever more personal experiences, and I’m not sure it’s an accident that that trend is happening at the same time as a society-wide trend away from family formation and towards an increase in loneliness.”

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The Coming Fight Over American Surveillance

“The government had little difficulty persuading lawmakers to renew the law in 2012 and 2018, despite growing evidence that it was being used to spy on Americans. But that evidence is now overwhelming, and the politics of surveillance have radically shifted.”

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Twitter Admits in Court Filing: Elon Musk Is Simply Wrong About Government Interference At Twitter

“Twitter’s filing is like a beat-by-beat debunking of the conspiracy theories pushed by the dude who owns Twitter. It’s really quite incredible.”

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Alexandra Holt's Insurgent Experiment in Fine Dining at Roxanne

““I’m sorry we’re not sticking a silver spoon up anyone’s ass when they walk in,” she says. “But we’re there just to give people a good time. A memory of a few good hours in their day. So I put eyes on their tiramisu, you know?” I want to eat here.

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I absolutely want to try Vision Pro ASAP but I do not need to own it.

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Moderation Strike: Stack Overflow, Inc. cannot consistently ignore, mistreat, and malign its volunteers

“The new policy, establishing that AI-generated content is de facto allowed on the network, is harmful in both what it allows on the platform and in how it was implemented.”

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The baby stack at 9 months

A Nanit Pro screenshot on a tablet

Before our son was born last September, I published a UsesThis-style baby stack of devices and software we were using.

He’s now nine months old, so I thought I’d revisit the list now that he’s been alive for longer than he gestated. We’ve got far more experience than we did.


Stroller: We’re still using and loving our Uppababy Cruz v2. Its modular design made a big difference for us. We grew out of the bassinet mode, but the seat is still holding strong for daily walks — and it was incredibly useful to also be able to plug the Mesa car seat right into the stroller base for quick trips into the store etc.

Car seat: We grew out of the Uppababy Mesa, but it was great while it lasted. I loved how adjustable it was, as well as easy to install into my car (something I had a genuine fear of before the baby was born).

We’ve moved on to the Clek Foonf, which is broadly recommended as well as being fun to say — I’ll update once we know if we’re satisfied with it. But the reviews look great, and we were happy that it came with an option without nasty chemicals in the cover material.

Bed: For a while, the Happiest Baby SNOO was absolutely magical. Then, not long before he grew out of it, he became scared rather than soothed by its rocking motion (although we still used its white noise feature). It became moot, because he grew so fast that watching him in the bassinet began to resemble watching bread dough proofing out of its tin.

These days we’re on the Ikea Sundvik crib, which grows with the baby. We paired it with the Naturepedic Classic Organic Cotton Crib Mattress and have already lowered it to prevent him from falling out when he stands up.

White noise: The Hatch Rest is pretty good, and can be used both with and without an app, but he’s developed a fascination with technology and has started wanting to grab it whenever he can. I think we might be on our last few weeks of this one.

Baby monitor: The Nanit Pro has great sound and vision and connects to our smartphones on and off wifi. We use it with the stand above the bed. The app also does a great job of recording when he fell asleep and woke up, so we can plan ahead to his next nap.

Nanit Pro app screenshot

Changing mat: The Keekaroo Peanut is still going strong. It’s easy to clean, does a good job of holding him in position, has a good strap, and is easy to move. We have two around the house.

High chair: The Stokke Tripp Trapp is well-made and adjustable as he grows. I wish it was a little easier to clean, but there are no nasty nooks and crannies - it just takes a wipe down after every meal. We’ve been using it both with and without the tray and we’re loving it.

Toys and Play: We’re trying to avoid screen time and toys that make noise / use electronics in favor of Montessori-inspired simple toys. I like our Lovevery Play Kits. They arrive at our door every few months; they’re made from good materials and each box is geared towards his developmental stage. They come with suggestions for when to introduce each toy and how to play with them — which, to be honest, I’ve ignored more often than not.

We use ALZiP Mat Eco Color Folder playmats to give him a safe space to play where he’s less likely to hurt himself. It’s free from harmful materials and the insides are recyclable.

Food: We like WeeSprout silicone baby spoons. Usually we just use a small Glasslock glass food storage bowl to serve him. We try and cook for him, but he absolutely adores CereBelly brain-supporting food pouches. We also add Ready Set Food powder to introduce him to common allergens.


Tracking: Huckleberry is buggier than I’d like — sometimes it loses entries with no explanation — but it’s still proven to be a useful way to keep track of eating, sleeping, and diaper changes between parents. It also does a fairly good job of predicting when his nap might be based on his sleep. Like most parenting software, I dearly wish it had multi-user support. Dads look after their babies too! (We just share our credentials, which works fine unless the two of us are in different timezones.)

Food: Solid Starts has been a useful reference as we’ve begun to introduce solid food. It helps us understand not just what we can introduce, but how.

Shopping: Baby gear is expensive; doubly so if you don’t want to compromise on quality. We use GoodBuy Gear to get it second hand whenever we can. It doesn’t have everything, but when it does, it’s usually a pretty good deal.

Babycare: We’re using to find carers. It’s been a grueling process and we’re nowhere near there yet. That’s not the fault of the platform, although I wish it had more CRM-style features — hiring baby care is not dissimilar to hiring for a full-time role and I’ve found myself missing the tools I’ve used when I’ve built teams. But the carers are there, and that’s the important thing.

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Tech Elite's AI Ideologies Have Racist Foundations, Say AI Ethicists

“More and more prominent tech figures are voicing concerns about superintelligent AI and risks to the future of humanity. But as leading AI ethicist Timnit Gebru and researcher Émile P Torres point out, these ideologies have deeply racist foundations.

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Meta Is Trying, and Failing, to Crush Unions in Kenya

“Kenyan content moderators at Meta have been fighting for better compensation for workers forced to watch videos of murder, rape, and ethnic cleansing. Meta was initially unwilling to give in to these demands, but Kenyan courts are intervening on the side of workers.”

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Guy Who Sucks At Being A Person Sees Huge Potential In AI

“Just yesterday, I asked an AI program to write an entire sci-fi novel for me, and [as someone who will die an empty shell of a man who wasted his life doing nothing for the world and, perhaps, should never have been born] I was super impressed.”

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Creating Psychological Safety for Black Women at Your Company

“Leaders who are truly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace must ask themselves these two critical questions: What are the individual, interpersonal, and organizational costs of neglecting how psychological safety is different for Black women? And how might a tailored approach to psychological safety boost well-being and work outcomes of Black women in the workforce?”

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If your company gives its employees a space to blog or journal internally, what platform do you use? What do you think of it?

eg: Confluence has blogs; at Medium they have a whole internal version of the site called Hatch; etc.

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Is Bluesky Billionaire-Proof?

“Unlike Mastodon, which is notoriously confusing for the uninitiated, it’s simple to get started on Bluesky.” Mastodon has work to do.

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The notable list: June 2023

A map of slow internet neighborhoods in Washington DC, by The Markup

This is my monthly roundup of the links, books, and media I found interesting. Do you have suggestions? Let me know!

Apps + Websites


Generative AI: What You Need To Know. “A free resource that will help you develop an AI-bullshit detector.”


TimeGuessr. Fun little game that asks you to guess the place and time a series of photos were taken. My best score so far: 38,000.

Moderator Mayhem: A Content Moderation Game. This is HARD. Which is the point.


See your identity pieced together from stolen data. “Have you ever wondered how much of your personal information is available online? Here’s your chance to find out.” Really well-executed.



Severance, by Ling Ma. Though it fades out weakly, I loved this story about loss, meaning, and what it means to be an immigrant, dressed up as a science fiction novel. The science fiction is good too, and alarmingly close to the real-life global pandemic that took place a few years after it was written. This is a book about disconnection; it resonated for me hard.



Little Richard: I Am Everything. A well-argued documentary that does an excellent job of showing the debt every rock musician has to Little Richard - and, in turn, how rock and roll was birthed as a Black, queer medium. Joyous and revelatory.

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‘This robot causes harm’: National Eating Disorders Association’s new chatbot advises people with disordering eating to lose weight. ““Every single thing Tessa suggested were things that led to the development of my eating disorder,” Maxwell wrote in her Instagram post. “This robot causes harm.””

Google Unveils Plan to Demolish the Journalism Industry Using AI. “If Google’s AI is going to mulch up original work and provide a distilled version of it to users at scale, without ever connecting them to the original work, how will publishers continue to monetize their work?”

Indirect Prompt Injection via YouTube Transcripts. “ChatGPT (via Plugins) can access YouTube transcripts. Which is pretty neat. However, as expected (and predicted by many researches) all these quickly built tools and integrations introduce Indirect Prompt Injection vulnerabilities.” Neat demo!

ChatGPT is not ‘artificial intelligence.’ It’s theft. “Rather than pointing to some future utopia (or robots vs. humans dystopia), what we face in dealing with programs like ChatGPT is the further relentless corrosiveness of late-stage capitalism, in which authorship is of no value. All that matters is content.”

Google Bard is a glorious reinvention of black-hat SEO spam and keyword-stuffing. “Moreover, researchers have also discovered that it’s probably mathematically impossible to secure the training data for a large language model like GPT-4 or PaLM 2. This was outlined in a research paper that Google themselves tried to censor, an act that eventually led the Google-employed author, El Mahdi El Mhamdi, to leave the company. The paper has now been updated to say what the authors wanted it to say all along, and it’s a doozy.”

OpenAI's ChatGPT Powered by Human Contractors Paid $15 Per Hour. “OpenAI, the startup behind ChatGPT, has been paying droves of U.S. contractors to assist it with the necessary task of data labelling—the process of training ChatGPT’s software to better respond to user requests. The compensation for this pivotal task? A scintillating $15 per hour.”

Schools Spend Millions on Evolv's Flawed AI Gun Detection. “As school shootings proliferate across the country — there were 46 school shootings in 2022, more than in any year since at least 1999 — educators are increasingly turning to dodgy vendors who market misleading and ineffective technology.”

Will A.I. Become the New McKinsey? “The doomsday scenario is not a manufacturing A.I. transforming the entire planet into paper clips, as one famous thought experiment has imagined. It’s A.I.-supercharged corporations destroying the environment and the working class in their pursuit of shareholder value.”

Google "We Have No Moat, And Neither Does OpenAI". “Open-source models are faster, more customizable, more private, and pound-for-pound more capable. They are doing things with $100 and 13B params that we struggle with at $10M and 540B. And they are doing so in weeks, not months. This has profound implications for us.”

Economists Warn That AI Like ChatGPT Will Increase Inequality. “Most empirical studies find that AI technology will not reduce overall employment. However, it is likely to reduce the relative amount of income going to low-skilled labour, which will increase inequality across society. Moreover, AI-induced productivity growth would cause employment redistribution and trade restructuring, which would tend to further increase inequality both within countries and between them.”


Earth is in ‘the danger zone’ and getting worse for ecosystems and humans. “Earth has pushed past seven out of eight scientifically established safety limits and into “the danger zone,” not just for an overheating planet that’s losing its natural areas, but for well-being of people living on it, according to a new study.”

Outrage as Brazil law threatening Indigenous lands advances in congress. “Lawmakers had sent “a clear message to the country and the world: Bolsonaro is gone but the extermination [of Indigenous communities and the environment] continues,” the Climate Observatory added.”

Documents reveal how fossil fuel industry created, pushed anti-ESG campaign. “ESG’s path to its current culture war status began with an attempt by West Virginia coal companies to push back against the financial industry’s rising unease around investing in coal — which as the dirtiest-burning fuel has the most powerful and disrupting impacts on the climate.”

Petition: Global Call for the Urgent Prevention of Genocide of the Indigenous Peoples in Brazil. “As citizens from all over the world, we are uniting our voices to demand urgent justice for the indigenous peoples of Brazil.” This is urgent; please sign.

Recycled plastic can be more toxic and is no fix for pollution, Greenpeace warns. “But … the toxicity of plastic actually increases with recycling. Plastics have no place in a circular economy and it’s clear that the only real solution to ending plastic pollution is to massively reduce plastic production.”

CEO of biggest carbon credit certifier to resign after claims offsets worthless. “It comes amid concerns that Verra, a Washington-based nonprofit, approved tens of millions of worthless offsets that are used by major companies for climate and biodiversity commitments.”

New York is sinking, and its bankers could go down with it. “When discussing climate change that banker suggested that sinking cities was the biggest problem he thought the sector faced. Over 80% of the property portfolio of many banks was, he suggested, in cities where the likelihood of flooding was likely to increase rapidly.”

New York City is sinking due to weight of its skyscrapers, new research finds. “The Big Apple may be the city that never sleeps but it is a city that certainly sinks, subsiding by approximately 1-2mm each year on average, with some areas of New York City plunging at double this rate, according to researchers.”


Narrative over numbers: Andreessen Horowitz's State of Crypto report. “The result of this approach is an incredibly shameless piece of propaganda showing the extents to which Andreessen Horowitz is willing to manipulate facts and outright lie, hoping to turn the sentiment on the crypto industry back to where retail investors were providing substantial pools of liquidity with which they could line their pockets. If anyone still believes that venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz are powerful sources of innovation and societal benefit, I hope this will give them pause.”


Jesse Armstrong on the roots of Succession: ‘Would it have landed the same way without the mad bum-rush of Trump’s presidency?’. “I guess the simple things at the heart of Succession ended up being Brexit and Trump. The way the UK press had primed the EU debate for decades. The way the US media’s conservative outriders prepared the way for Trump, hovered at the brink of support and then dived in.”

Creative Commons Supports Trans Rights. “As an international nonprofit organization, with a diverse global community that believes in democratic values and free culture, the protection and affirmation of all human rights — including trans rights — are central to our core value of global inclusivity and our mission of promoting openness and providing access to knowledge and culture.” Right on. Trans rights are human rights.

The Real Difference Between European and American Butter. “Simply put, American regulations for butter production are quite different from those of Europe. The USDA defines butter as having at least 80% fat, while the EU defines butter as having between 82 and 90% butterfat and a maximum of 16% water. The higher butterfat percentage in European butter is one of the main reasons why many consider butters from across the pond to be superior to those produced in the US. It’s better for baking, but it also creates a richer flavor and texture even if all you’re doing is smearing your butter on bread. On the other hand, butter with a higher fat percentage is more expensive to make, and more expensive for the consumer.”


How I Won $5 Million From the MyPillow Guy and Saved Democracy. “But if more people sought truth, even when that truth is contrary to their beliefs — such as when a Republican like me destroys a Republican myth — then I think we really can save democracy in America. In fact, I think that’s the only way.”

Henry Kissinger at 100: Still a War Criminal. “Kissinger’s diplomatic conniving led to or enabled slaughters around the globe. As he blows out all those candles, let’s call the roll.”

Georgia GOP Chair: If the Earth Really Is Round, Why Are There So Many Globes Everywhere?“Everywhere there’s globes…and that’s what they do to brainwash… For me, if it is not a conspiracy, if it is, you know, ‘real,’ why are you pushing so hard? Everywhere I go, every store, you buy a globe, there’s globes everywhere—every movie, every TV show, news media, why?”

NAACP warns Black Americans against traveling to Florida because of DeSantis policies. “On Saturday, the NAACP joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino rights advocacy group, and Equality Florida, an LGBTQ rights advocacy group, in issuing Florida travel advisories.”

May Anti-Trans Legislative Risk Map. “The map of anti-trans risk has polarized into two Americas - one where trans people have full legal protections, and one where they are persecuted by the state.”

Techbro SF. “San Francisco is a dystopian hellhole caught in doomloop and it is all because everyone hates techbros. Well, we are tired of being disrespected. Therefore we are going to attack those who can’t fight back, yes, poor people.”

One year after Dobbs leak: Looking back at the summer that changed abortion. “The 19th spoke with people from across the country about those historic days: lawmakers, physicians, organizers on both sides of the abortion fight and pregnant people navigating a new world.” What a newsroom.


Can Americans really make a free choice about dying? A characteristically nuanced, in-depth piece about the debate around assisted suicide.

One more dead in horrific eye drop outbreak that now spans 18 states. An actual nightmare.

Widely used chemical strongly linked to Parkinson’s disease. “A groundbreaking epidemiological study has produced the most compelling evidence yet that exposure to the chemical solvent trichloroethylene (TCE)—common in soil and groundwater—increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.” By as much as 70%!


Of Course We Should All be Working Less. “In 1940, the Fair Labor Standards Act reduced the workweek to 40 hours. Today, as a result of huge advances in technology and productivity, now is the time to lower the workweek to 32 hours—with no loss in pay. Workers must benefit from advanced technology, not just the 1%.”

Hollywood writers strike could impact diverse stories on TV and in film. “When Kyra Jones wrote for the ABC broadcast show “Queens,” she collected a $14,000 residuals check that helped her get through the months after the project ended and she was without work. Then last summer, she got her first residuals check for writing on the Hulu streaming show “Woke.” It was $4.”

Business Mentality. “Hi, we’re the company you work for and we care about your mental health!”

Hustle culture is over-rated. “When hustle culture is glorified, it incentivizes people to work longer hours, not because it’s a good way to get the work done, but because they want to be perceived as working long hours.”


How We Reached Dairy Farm Workers to Write About Them. “The reporters’ process underscores one of our central beliefs at ProPublica: Publishing a story about injustice isn’t enough if we don’t reach the people who are directly affected.”

2023: The year equitable journalism goes mainstream. “For too long, journalism has had a laser focus on holding power to account, rather than widening its aperture to recognize the opportunity to build and share power in and with communities.”

Unconstitutional TikTok ban would open the door to press censorship. “But if we accept the arguments for banning TikTok, what might come next? The consequences are even more catastrophic. Bans on foreign news websites that track Americans’ clicks and comments? For example, the Guardian must have a gold mine of information on the millions of Americans that read it every day.”

It’s Time to Acknowledge Big Tech Was Always at Odds with Journalism. “Do we want to preserve the dominance of companies that like to act as if they are neutral communications platforms, when they also act as publishers without the responsibilities that come with that? Do we want digital behemoths to accumulate so much power that they can exploit personal data in ways that buttress their dominance and diminish the value of news media audiences?”

How we told the story of the summer Roe v. Wade fell. “We knew this wouldn’t be an easy feat to pull off. But this project, while technically reported over the past five months, benefited from years of our work covering abortion at The 19th. After working nonstop since 2021 to cover the looming fall of Roe, I had built a list of sources whose stories I knew would be instructive and illuminating. And I knew that they would trust me to do a thorough, accurate job.”

Grist and the Center for Rural Strategies launch clearinghouse for rural US coverage. “The Rural Newswire was created to help newsrooms that serve rural communities by providing a platform to both find and share stories that can be republished for free. Editors can use the Rural Newswire to source stories to syndicate, and they can also upload links to their own coverage. As part of this project, together the Center for Rural Strategies and Grist are providing $100,000 in grants to report on rural America. The grants are open to both newsrooms and freelancers.”

Elon Musk thinks he’s got a “major win-win” for news publishers with…micropayments. “In a digital universe where every news story is behind a hard paywall — one impenetrable to the non-paying reader — then a micropayments model might make sense. But that’s not the digital universe we live in.”


Seniors are flooding homeless shelters that can’t care for them. “Nearly a quarter of a million people 55 or older are estimated by the government to have been homeless in the United States during at least part of 2019, the most recent reliable federal count available.” Hopelessly broken.

Letter from Jourdon Anderson: A Freedman Writes His Former Master. “Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.”

A College President Defends Seeking Money From Jeffrey Epstein. ““People don’t understand what this job is,” he said, adding, “You cannot pick and choose, because among the very rich is a higher percentage of unpleasant and not very attractive people. Capitalism is a rough system.””


My New Startup Checklist. Interesting to see what creating a new startup entails in 2023.

What a startup does to you. Or: A celebration of new life. “Just like having kids, you won’t understand until you do it. But if you do it, even if you “fail,” you will come out stronger than you could have ever been without it. Stronger, wiser, ready for the next thing, never able to go back to being a cog, eyes opened.”


Block Party anti-harassment service leaves Twitter amid API changes. “Announced in a blog post last night, Block Party’s anti-harassment tools for Twitter are being placed on an immediate, indefinite hiatus, with the developers claiming that changes to Twitter’s API pricing (which starts from $100 per month) have “made it impossible for Block Party’s Twitter product to continue in its current form.””

How Picnic, an Emerging Social Network, Found its Niche. “By putting a degree of financial incentive in the hands of moderators by offering them fractional ownership of the community they built through a system of “seeds,” they ultimately are able to control their community’s destiny.”

Twitter Fails to Remove Hate Speech by Blue-Check Users, Center for Countering Digital Hate Says.“Twitter is failing to remove 99 percent of hate speech posted by Twitter Blue users, new research has found, and instead may be boosting paid accounts that spew racism and homophobia.” Who would have predicted?

Power of One. “It’s not about how many views you have, how many likes, trying to max all your stats… sometimes a single connection to another human is all that matters.”

Social Media Poses ‘Profound Risk’ to Teen Mental Health, Surgeon General Warns. “Frequent social media use may be associated with distinct changes in the developing brain in the amygdala (important for emotional learning and behavior) and the prefrontal cortex (important for impulse control, emotional regulation, and moderating social behavior), and could increase sensitivity to social rewards and punishments.”

Leaked EU Document Shows Spain Wants to Ban End-to-End Encryption. “Breaking end-to-end encryption for everyone would not only be disproportionate, it would be ineffective of achieving the goal to protect children.” It would also put a great many more people at risk.

Growing the Open Social Web. “I think there are two big things that would help the Open Social Web seize this opportunity to reach scale.” A big yes to all of this.

Hype: The Enemy of Early Stage Returns. “Technology alone does not create the future. Instead, the future is the result of an unpredictable mix of technology, business, product design, and culture.”

Montana becomes first US state to ban TikTok. “Montana has became the first US state to ban TikTok after the governor signed legislation prohibiting mobile application stores from offering the app within the state by next year.” I’m willing to wager that this never comes to pass.

Many US Twitter users have taken a break from Twitter, and some may not use it a year from now. “A majority of Americans who have used Twitter in the past year report taking a break from the platform during that time, and a quarter say they are not likely to use it a year from now.”

Why elite dev teams focus on pull-request metrics. “What’s clear from this study is elite development workflows start and end with small pull request (PR) sizes. This is the best indicator of simpler merges, enhanced CI/CD, and faster cycle times. In short, PR size affects all other metrics.”

See the Neighborhoods Internet Providers Excluded from Fast Internet. “A Markup analysis revealed that the worst internet deals disproportionately fell upon the poorest, most racial and ethnically diverse, and historically redlined neighborhoods in all but two of the 38 cities in our investigation.”

How people are archiving the storytelling and community behind Black Twitter. “They see an urgency to preserving Black Twitter in a world in which Black history and Black women’s cultural labor are undervalued or unacknowledged — and where the future of Twitter seems unknown. They also want to document the racist and sexist abuse that Black women on the platform received, in part to help people dream up and create a more inclusive way of connecting that prioritizes the needs of the most marginalized.”

Google AMP: how Google tried to fix the web by taking it over. “In 2015, Google hatched a plan to save the mobile web by effectively taking it over. And for a while, the media industry had practically no choice but to play along.”

The UX Research Reckoning is Here. “It’s not just the economic crisis. The UX Research discipline of the last 15 years is dying. The reckoning is here. The discipline can still survive and thrive, but we’d better adapt, and quick.”

The web's most important decision. “But also, and this is important to mention, they believed in the web and in Berners-Lee. The folks making these decisions understood its potential and wanted the web to flourish. This wasn’t a decision driven by profit. It was a generous and enthusiastic vote of confidence in the global ambitions of the web.”

Blue skies over Mastodon. “One of big things I’ve come to believe in my couple of decades working on internet stuff is that great product design is always holistic: Always working in relation to a whole system of interconnected parts, never concerned only with atomic decisions. And this perspective just straight-up cannot emerge from a piecemeal, GitHub-issues approach to fixing problems. This is the main reason it’s vanishingly rare to see good product design in open source.”

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A pledge to fight climate change is sending money to strange places

“Although a coal plant, a hotel, chocolate stores, a movie and an airport expansion don’t seem like efforts to combat global warming, nothing prevented the governments that funded them from reporting them as such to the United Nations and counting them toward their giving total.”

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Earth is in ‘the danger zone’ and getting worse for ecosystems and humans

“Earth has pushed past seven out of eight scientifically established safety limits and into "the danger zone," not just for an overheating planet that's losing its natural areas, but for well-being of people living on it, according to a new study.”

· Links


Can Americans really make a free choice about dying?

A characteristically nuanced, in-depth piece about the debate around assisted suicide.

· Links


Block Party anti-harassment service leaves Twitter amid API changes

“Announced in a blog post last night, Block Party’s anti-harassment tools for Twitter are being placed on an immediate, indefinite hiatus, with the developers claiming that changes to Twitter’s API pricing (which starts from $100 per month) have “made it impossible for Block Party’s Twitter product to continue in its current form.””

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Outrage as Brazil law threatening Indigenous lands advances in congress

“Lawmakers had sent “a clear message to the country and the world: Bolsonaro is gone but the extermination [of Indigenous communities and the environment] continues,” the Climate Observatory added.”

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Of Course We Should All be Working Less

“In 1940, the Fair Labor Standards Act reduced the workweek to 40 hours. Today, as a result of huge advances in technology and productivity, now is the time to lower the workweek to 32 hours—with no loss in pay. Workers must benefit from advanced technology, not just the 1%.”

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Extinguishing the fediverse

The Mastodon homepage, displayed on a smartphone

I’m soliciting prompts for discussion. This piece is a part of that series.


Erlend Sogge Heggen asks:

There’s legitimate reason to be worried about Meta’s P92 project being part of a EEE play against the fediverse.

How might the fediverse community counteract this, perhaps with its own EEE strategy?

We know Meta will attempt an EEE play, but what if we play the reverse UNO card and EE(E) them instead?

Embrace: Carefully federate in a minimum-viable fashion that doesn’t overrun the existing .

Extend: Make a reality, so accounts can be moved effortlessly.

Extinguish: In case of misconduct, defederate and provide mass-migration assistance.

First, some quick definitions!

P92 is the codename for Meta / Facebook’s new app that will support the same ActivityPub protocol as Mastodon and its cousins. Users will be able to log in with their Instagram credentials, and one can potentially (but not definitely) imagine it being folded into the mainline Instagram app.

Embrace, Extend, Extinguish was a phrase coined internally inside Microsoft to describe its strategy with respect to the web. The idea was that the company would embrace open protocols, extend them with its own proprietary extensions, and then use its control over those extensions to extinguish competition. In particular, its plan was to do this with HTML in order to cement Internet Explorer as the web browser.

Finally, the fediverse, of course, is the community of small, independently-owned, largely non-profit social networks that interoperate using shared protocols, on which Mastodon is the largest platform.

There is legitimate concern that a company like Meta might attempt to control the fediverse. This is particularly true if they are allowed to create a uni-polar world: one where Meta is the only large company embracing these standards. In that world, Meta can throw hundreds of millions of users at the protocol, and it will instantly become its largest user.

I think it’s helpful to look at how Microsoft’s EEE strategy failed. There were arguably two main factors: antitrust risk and competition.

The Department of Justice sued Microsoft for monopolistic business practices, ultimately leading to a settlement where Microsoft capitulated to changing some of its approach in return for the DOJ dropping its desire to break up the company. It’s not clear to me that this kind of case would or could take place with respect to Meta extinguishing the fediverse; while I’m not a lawyer, I think the argument would probably be that many other social networks are available.

The other thing that hurt Microsoft’s dominance was Firefox. It was a good browser backed by a good community, but that wasn’t the deciding factor; Firefox gained market share because Google pushed it at every possible opportunity. Because Internet Explorer’s dominance was a business risk to Google, and because Firefox was built by a non-profit that was non-competitive with Google’s business, it made financial sense to try and break Microsoft’s stranglehold. Mozilla’s model was stronger than its predecessor Netscape’s had been: whereas Netscape needed to sell licenses, Mozilla’s deal with Google meant it made money every time someone used Firefox to search for something on the web. There was almost no friction to its growth strategy.

This activity led to a resurgence in a healthy ecosystem of standards-based web browsers for years — until Google decided to re-use the technique it had used on Firefox to push its own web browser. Even then, Chrome is a far better standards player than Internet Explorer ever was.

There won’t be hard evidence that Meta is adopting ActivityPub until we see its app in the wild. But if it is, that likely means that it sees the protocol as at least worth experimenting with, and maybe even as a potential threat. That’s a sign of great progress, and everyone involved in building the fediverse should feel good about it.

If Meta wants to own the fediverse, this isn’t a battle that will be primarily won with features or technology. Easy-to-use platforms, nomadic identity that easily lets you move your presence from one provider to another, and assistance will all be essential, but they’ll be table stakes. (If Meta is working on the platform today, it’s probably also too late for truly nomadic identity to make a difference.) To really stand a chance, the fediverse will need the kind of marketing and go-to-market support that Firefox enjoyed back in the day. Which may mean support from another large player that considers Meta’s ownership of the standard to be an existential risk.

It’s hard to see who that might be. Twitter is now the incompetence wing of the incompetence party. It’s highly unlikely that networks like Pinterest care. Microsoft’s platforms are tightly bound to its ecosystem, with access control at their core; I don’t see LinkedIn joining the fediverse any time soon. Google has fallen on its face every time it’s tried to build a social network, and runs YouTube as a separate entity that strongly benefits from closed ads. Salesforce might consider it a risk, as it provides social tools for businesses, which are easier to build and sell on an open social networking standard. Some of these entities might consider the fediverse to be worth exploring — but there’s no clear technology backer. Cloudflare actually did provide its own Mastodon-compatible platform that runs on its CDN, but it hasn’t seen anything like wide use. Medium has embraced Mastodon but has not deeply built support into its existing platform.

Perhaps media companies, who generally live and die on the size of their audiences, and have often been beholden to the large social networks, might find themselves interested in embracing a social networking federation where they have more say and control. The rise of the fediverse certainly is a de-risking of their business models. But I don’t think they see it yet; nor do I think they consider it their place to pick a winner. (Nor should it be, really, in practice.)

Perhaps there can be another kind of backer: an entity that sees the existential thread centralized control of social media poses to democracy itself. We’ve already seen how, left unchecked, centralized companies like Facebook incite genocides and throw elections. The fediverse can be an antidote to these trends — if we see it as a set of collaborating communities rather than simply the technology alone. The erosion of democracy, like monopolistic abuse of power, are human problems with human solutions rather than technological ones. Foundations and philanthropists may choose to provide this level of support, if they continue to see Meta as a threat to democracy.

Building features will not protect the fediverse from being extinguished, although they may provide a useful baseline. It’s going to take a whole different level of strategy, relationship-building, deal-making, and movement-building. I believe the fediverse is capable of doing this, as long as it doesn’t mistake building software for making true progress.

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How Picnic, an Emerging Social Network, Found its Niche

“By putting a degree of financial incentive in the hands of moderators by offering them fractional ownership of the community they built through a system of “seeds,” they ultimately are able to control their community’s destiny.”

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Adding a sustainability lens to design thinking

Via Jeremy Keith, Future-First Design Thinking:

Incorporating non-human personas into the design thinking process would allow us to embody the essential elements that constitute our environment, such as air, trees, water, and land. These personas can serve as tangible reminders of the interconnectedness between our design decisions and the health of our environment, a living entity that deserves our protection and consideration.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t trust it.

My bias: personas are harmful. A persona is an amalgam — a fictional person, really — that is supposed to be drawn from extensive user research. The problem is, the process of drawing up a persona always requires a degree of subjective invention, regardless of the amount of research that went into it. It is always a reflection of the biases on the team.

In contrast, POV statements that describe a single person who has been interviewed, in combination with direct transcripts and photographs, allow you to use a non-invented example to build your product — and, at least theoretically, go back and use that person as your referee for product decisions as you continue to build. While condensing a person’s interviews into a POV does require some invention, it isn’t a statistical exercise. You can always go back and ask.

It’s very difficult to do this with a tree. By its nature, then, all you can do is invent — and potentially excuse all kinds of activity because your fictional tree persona approves (or, more likely, has blind spots).

All of this said, I do think it’s vital to include future-facing sustainability in design thinking frameworks. (Design thinking is prone to colonial thinking, so considering distributed equity is vital too.) My proposal was to add sustainability to the desirability, viability, feasibility lenses; it’s not necessarily right, but it’s something to consider.

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