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Designing Mastodon’s reply safety features

An interesting breakdown not just for people interested in Mastodon - but for anyone who cares about safety on any community platform.

These kinds of prompts turn out to be really useful, with measurable impacts, if they're done right. It's great that an open source project is doing this in the open; we can all learn from what happens next.

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Spoutible Introduces Cross-Posting to Mastodon and Bluesky

This is something, but it would be nice to see real ActivityPub support in a way that would allow Spoutible profiles to be first-class profiles on the fediverse.

Still, the nice thing about building in support for Mastodon and BlueSky is that - unlike when I built support for Twitter et al into Known years ago - the networks physically can't shut off or charge for the APIs.

Open networks allow for integration like this without incurring deep supplier risk, as well as much deeper integrations that plug users directly into the networks. All for free.

I'm looking forward to Threads joining the party, too.

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Harvard Gutted Initial Team Examining Facebook Files Following $500 Million Donation from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Whistleblower Aid Client Reveals

"Harvard University dismantled its prestigious team of online disinformation experts after a foundation run by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated $500 million to the university, a whistleblower disclosure filed by Whistleblower Aid reveals."

If this is true, it's damning: essentially a payment to shut down academic investigation into harm caused by Facebook. There should be a firewall between research and payments like this; no donor should ever have the ability to shut down a line of research.

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The Chimeralogists

I see myself very clearly in this post, which is a somewhat rare and lovely thing.

I've called myself a technologist for over a decade, but the definition in this post is better than anything I've offered. Thank you, Robin.

Also, this:

"The past few decades have been stormy from a technological point of view, and much has been tossed about in the waves. It makes sense that a job specialising in plotting a course through technology would become necessary. The storm isn't over. If you want to actively navigate rather than just be pushed around by the wind, a technologist is what you need."

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Why We're Dropping Basecamp

Duke University Libraries says "no" to 37 Signals based on DHH's blog posts:

"When we enter into business with a company whose boss takes delight in the mass layoffs of tech workers because it disempowers those who might speak out against their company keeping a list of non-Anglophone names that some members of the team find hilarious, we have a decent sense of who we’re dealing with."

This move away from Basecamp on ideological grounds is, I think, something to be applauded. I'd love to see more of these kinds of public statements. Because the more of them there are, the less likely a company is to embrace the kind of racist libertarianism that 37 Signals has been so proud to broadcast.

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Elon Musk tells advertisers: ‘Go fuck yourself’

If Elon Musk seems to be acting more like a politician than a businessman, then I think it has to be on purpose. This was an awkward exchange that played to an audience on X rather than the one that was in the room.

X is not a business in any real sense. He is losing revenue dollars hand over fist, seemingly in search for clout from a particular set of people.

And it goes without saying that the views he's spreading are noxious: right-wing, exclusionary, knee-jerk, and often at odds with inclusive causes. It's perfectly possible that he's just letting an unstable mental state play out in public. Or he's just become a right-wing wingnut in the Trumpian tradition. Regardless of the underlying cause, he's doing a lot of damage.

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FCC Moves Slowly To Update Definition Of Broadband To Something Still Pathetic

Upgrading the broadband standard is good, although I agree that the new, improved speed benchmarks are still really substandard.

Almost all US households have broadband, although in reality, for many of them the internet is very slow. I wonder if this is one of the reasons that most internet traffic takes place over a phone, beyond the convenience of that form factor: a 4G connection, for many people, is faster than their home internet.

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Effective obfuscation

Molly White explores why effective altruism and effective accelerationism are such dangerous ideologies - selfishness disguised as higher-minded philosophies.

"Both ideologies embrace as a given the idea of a super-powerful artificial general intelligence being just around the corner, an assumption that leaves little room for discussion of the many ways that AI is harming real people today. This is no coincidence: when you can convince everyone that AI might turn everyone into paperclips tomorrow, or on the flip side might cure every disease on earth, it’s easy to distract people from today’s issues of ghost labor, algorithmic bias, and erosion of the rights of artists and others."

I strongly agree with the conclusion: let's dispense with these regressive ideologies, and the (wealthy, privileged) people who lead them, and put our weight behind the people who are doing good work actually helping people with real human problems today.

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Origin Stories: Plantations, Computers, and Industrial Control

"The blueprint for modern digital computing was codesigned by Charles Babbage, a vocal champion for the concerns of the emerging industrial capitalist class who condemned organized workers and viewed democracy and capitalism as incompatible."

"Babbage documented his ideas on labor discipline in his famous volume On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, published a year before Britain moved to abolish West Indian slavery. His work built on that of Adam Smith, extolling methods for labor division, surveillance, and rationalization that have roots on the plantation."

File this - all of this - under "things about the industry I've worked in for 25 years that I absolutely didn't know". How can we build on a better foundation?

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Matt Mullenweg on Tumblr's downsizing

This is a great post from Matt: in response to a leak, he re-posted the full leaked content and added transparent context. Exactly how it should be done.

I wish, like many, that this wasn't the reality for Tumblr. But it's likely that it's too set in another era of the web, and it was too neglected by its previous owners. Automattic is a great company that makes sense as an acquirer, and they spent $100M to try and turn it around. That they ultimately couldn't is not an indictment of them.

Kudos also for not letting go of the team, and simply finding other places for them to go in the org - again, exactly how it should be done, even if it almost never is.

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We're sorry we created the Torment Nexus

"Speaking as a science fiction writer, I'd like to offer a heartfelt apology for my part in the silicon valley oligarchy's rise to power. And I'd like to examine the toxic role of science fiction in providing justifications for the craziness."

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Mark Zuckerberg ignored teen and user safety warnings from Meta executives

Over time, I think it's becoming more and more likely that Zuckerberg will step down. I strongly suspect he'll be replaced by Adam Mosseri, whose Instagram and Threads products have been doing very well for Meta (in contrast to Zuckerberg's metaverse shenanigans).

In any event, if he really did veto proposals to protect teens' mental health, it's a pretty damning indictment of his leadership.

Now that the internet's growth is at the other end of the S-curve and we're societally more comfortable with technology and its implications, I think we're likely to see more 2000s-era CEOs replaced with people who have a more nuanced, less exponential-growth-led approach.

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Court rules automakers can record and intercept owner text messages

At least in Washington State, car manufacturers may record and intercept the text messages of drivers who have connected their devices to their cars via Bluetooth or cable.

That data can then be resold or provided to law enforcement without a warrant.

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Accessing go links across tailnets

Golinks seem like a small thing but actually might be the thing that pushes me over the edge to running my own tailnet.

I like Will's solution here to running multiple otherwise-conflicting golinks servers.

The whole thing seems powerful and I suppose I should just dive in.

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Confessions of a Venture Capital-Backed Startup Founder

"In the past few years, causality inverted: Start-ups and entire markets were manufactured from whole cloth to meet the demand of overcapitalized venture funds searching for a home run."

I am certain I'll found another startup, and I'm certain it will be a revenue-based business that will not be designed to raise investment. Perhaps ironically, in doing so, it may be more valuable as a result.

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Technical Standards Bodies are Regulators

This is an interesting point of view, but I don't think I fully buy it: while these bodies set technical standards, they have no ability to actually enforce.

Consider the situation with Internet Explorer back when it virtually owned the web (and, to a lesser extent, the situation today with Chrome). Standards could be set, directions could be established, but there was no-one to stop Microsoft from going their own way.

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Pushing for a lower dev estimate is like negotiating better weather with a meteorologist

I've lived this, and I'd go so far that it's a sure sign of a dysfunctional team: when non-technical leadership pushes for lower estimates based on their own business hopes and doesn't accept the ones given by their in-house experts.

"Pushing for a lower estimate is like negotiating better weather with the meteorologist" covers it nicely.

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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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