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The Handcrafted Artisanal Web

"The future is returning to an artisanal web, where you cultivate your niches and small communities, where maybe you don’t become a millionaire and a star, but you do feel a sense of belonging, and maybe make enough to get by. I think that’d be okay, honestly."

I think that's more than okay. I'd say it's optimal. Let's get there quickly, please.

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Beyond Checkboxes: Privacy Protections That Work for the Future Generation

I think the conclusions here are the right ones. In particular, ensuring privacy by design is a far better strategy than pushing for informed consent, because the vast majority of people are not informed about the implications of data collection (even without considering Gen-Z's ambient comfort with the idea of being tracked). And DEI in the context of trust and safety is an obvious and hard requirement.

These are not standards the industry will come to voluntarily. Regulation is required in every jurisdiction and eventually as an international agreement. Without international cooperation, it'll be too easy for companies (and governments) to hop jurisdictions and use locales that are convenient for their data collection needs.

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Without a Trace: How to Take Your Phone Off the Grid

A really accessible guide to privately using a cellphone.

One thing I think might be missing here: you probably shouldn't use the phone near your home or regular haunts. While not connecting to your home wi-fi is probably smart, cell tower records will still show your most common locations, which can also be used to identify you.

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Leaving Twitter

Interesting to see this comment from Benedict Evans, who is far from an ideological internet participant: his social commentary very often leans conservative, and he was formerly a partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

But enough is enough. Musk's promotion of antisemitic sources and tropes has pushed him off the platform with no plans to return. Others will be watching and will certainly follow.

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POSSE: a better way to post on social networks

Really fun to see indieweb concepts like POSSE gain attention again.

When I built POSSE into Known, I knew it would be a matter of time before API changes cut off access (and it was). These days, in a world made of open source protocols, these restrictions don't exist: my website is syndicated directly to Mastodon, and soon Threads, and nobody can stop me from doing so.

Syndicating to closed platforms is almost pointless because their owners will close the doors once they feel threatened. But open platforms have no doors. You can share your content there in a hundred different ways.

It's truly a social web.

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Patrick Newman's Software Engineering Management Checklist

I have no real arguments here: this is a concise, simple list of things an engineering manager should strive for. There's a world of detail not represented here, of course, but these are the headlines.

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Leading researcher: Strong encryption protects journalism

"In addition to being important for protecting the information that journalists are provided by all types of sources, encryption is key to making sure that information and communications within news organizations are kept safe as well."

This is my finding too from my time spent leading technology teams in newsrooms: encryption is an absolutely vital tool that keeps journalists and stories safe.

Backdoors might make life slightly easier for law enforcement, but they have so many negative downstream effects that they should not be considered a real solution in the public interest.

Backdoors are an antipattern; let's keep them out of our software.

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IFTAS Fediverse Trust and Safety Needs Assessment Report Q3 2023

An in-depth assessment of moderation needs on the fediverse. Findings here include that most instances aren't incorporated and don't have liability insurance.

I'd bet that these numbers are actually better than if they'd done the same study for all community spaces on the web: web forums and so on. Considering the open nature of the fediverse - let's please just call it the social web - this is promising.

Which is not to say that folks don't need help, and that there doesn't need to be support for instance operators as they come online and support different communities. I love that this survey was undertaken, and I'm curious to see how this data is used.

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Meta in Myanmar (full series)

Erin Kissane's full series about Meta's conduct in Myanmar and its involvement in the genocide of the Rohingya. This is required reading for anyone in tech, and good for everyone who touches any of Meta's products to know.

"Meta bought and maneuvered its way into the center of Myanmar’s online life and then inhabited that position with a recklessness that was impervious to warnings by western technologists, journalists, and people at every level of Burmese society." And then it utterly failed the community it had placed itself in the center of.

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Mastodon Is the Good One

"I’ve now been using [Mastodon] for about two months and I am here to tell you that it is, in principle, what we should want the internet to be. If you have been remotely interested in Mastodon but had reservations about joining because you thought it would be difficult, confusing, or otherwise annoying, it is not."

Co-signed. I love Mastodon. That's not to say that there aren't problems to solve - of course there are - but it is exactly the kind of open flourishing of disparate communities that the internet should be.

The fragmentation issue that Jason Koebler dicusses here - you have to post to a million different networks to get the word out - will come out in the wash when social media lands on a "winning" protocol. Which it will - and it will be the ActivityPub standard that underpins Mastodon, WordPress, and (soon) Threads.

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To Save Democracy, We Must Stand Up for Strong Encryption

Encryption has been perennially under attack since (at least) the establishment of the commercial internet. Lawmakers argue that backdoors will make us safer; in reality they will harm journalists, activists, domestic violence victims, and lots of vulnerable communities, and put real chilling effects on free expression.

The bottom line, for me and many others, is that privacy from government and law enforcement is a human right and a fundamental prerequisite for living in a democracy. The alternative is a surveillance state.

So what can we do about it? Like many ongoing debates that have real effects, this seems to be a place where we just have to keep fighting. So let's do that.

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Everything Looks Like A Nail

Ed Zitron is characteristically on-point and razor sharp on the topic of Marc Andreessen's ludicrous "techno-optimism" manifesto. I agree with him: it's a cynical, disingenuous piece that has nothing to do with optimism.

"In 5000 words, Marc’s only real suggestion is that social justice or government regulation is bad, and that economic growth is good and makes people rich. This unbelievably wealthy man, one that has made rich people even richer and lost regular people billions of dollars, does not have any solutions, or policies, or ideas." Exactly.

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Hackers Target Company That Vets Police Data Requests for Tech Giants

Anyone that sets themselves up to be a single point of failure like this will be a target. And here we are, with hackers now able to make authentic-looking police requests for data.

Something that caught my eye in these screenshots: they include Authy, Twilio's 2-factor authentication app.

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Signal app President Meredith Whittaker on messaging privacy

I'm grateful that Signal exists. Meredith Whittaker has so far shown great leadership and spoken about the right things. May all projects follow her lead.

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Marc Andreessen's manifesto

"Perhaps, then it’s no surprise this reads like it was written by a 14 year old and put on Pastebin. That it was written by a 52 year old with billions of dollars at his disposal says more about the failure of capitalism to imbue life with meaning than Andreessen could possibly imagine."

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How to fix the internet

"The fix for the internet isn’t to shut down Facebook or log off or go outside and touch grass. The solution to the internet is more internet: more apps, more spaces to go, more money sloshing around to fund more good things in more variety, more people engaging thoughtfully in places they like. More utility, more voices, more joy."

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I Will Fucking Haymaker You If You Mention Agile Again

"You have to hire the correct people, motivate them to continue working even when there's no clear risk of being fired, make them feel valued and appreciated, not waste their time, ensure they've got the space to do work the right way, only accept the right work, and then just leave them the hell alone."

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“EtherHiding” — Hiding Web2 Malicious Code in Web3 Smart Contracts

A smart attack where malicious malware is stored on the blockchain, where it is immutable and can't be easily removed or blocked. The code can then be retrieved with any JS code that reads the blockchain.

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Building The Next Web

"This is the kick-off post in a series in which I'm going to explore things that we could change about the Web." I trust Robin - and his impressive list of feedback-givers - to do this justice, and I'm very much looking forward to this series.

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Engage a Wider Audience With ActivityPub on

Every hosted WordPress site - millions and millions of sites - can now be first-class members of the fediverse. This is a huge deal that has the potential to change the whole web.

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23andMe user data targeting Ashkenazi Jews leaked online

Pretty much the worst thing that could happen as an outcome of using a service like this.

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Teens Love LinkedIn

I no longer think the kids are alright.

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40 global technology companies beating their Western rivals

A fascinating list of 40 market-leading tech companies that are founded and run outside of the west. There are some familiar names here, but lots were new to me - they might be to you, too.

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More Thoughtful Reading & Writing on the Web

"The combination of taking more time (as longer form writing encourages) and publishing on a domain associated with your name, your identity, enables & incentivizes more thoughtful writing. More thoughtful writing elevates the reader to a more thoughtful state of mind."

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Mastodon Annual Report 2022

Amazing work. Consider how much this team has been able to achieve with a tiny fraction of the budget of a VC-funded tech startup - and the impact of their work is phenomenal.

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