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Joined 2Y ago
Cake day: Jun 30, 2020


I don’t like to be the dude that says “told you so” but I had a feeling things would turn out this way roughly a decade ago. It was super concerning with the massive push for “just learn to code” spearheaded by Google and friends. I knew we were headed down a dangerous road. Their goal was to monopolize the talent under their terms and they’ve achieved that.

A sentiment I heard a lot over the years boils down to not understanding the libre/liberty vs free as in beer concept. A lot of new comers (I guess they’re not very new anymore by now) are still under the impression that free software means free as in they shouldn’t be allowed to make a living off their code.

A point that really irks me is the bastardization of the understanding of open source. chromium is open source but it’s dictated by Google. They can act like their super “open source” friendly but it’s not really libre. And now chromium dominates the browser market share.

Finally the demonization of social/political issues. It make tech geeks squirm but these issues are inseparable from technology. It used to be mostly apathy but in recent years the social climate seems to have fostered active disdain for ethical considerations of their creations. It’s like software is in the dark ages of ethics compared to other engineering disciplines. Your code affects people.

Hyperbolic analogy but imagine when a bridge collapses and the engineers say “meh, I just build it, their fault for using it”. What other engineering discipline has the gall.

I fear for the day when this generation of greybeards has completely passed. They’re not getting any younger and the line of succession seems awfully thin.

Behavioral shaping is on the same order of magnitude of importance as privacy. A counterpart to it. I think it’s only recently starting to gain momentum in popular dialog. People knew about privacy issues long ago and for the most part handwave it away as another thing you can’t really do much about.

I will write small bit of my own experience for the interested. Skip the wall of text if you wish.

One way I use reddit is to keep up to date on certain topics. For example sports news. It turns out the crowd is really effective at aggregating and dictating what the popular news stories are. My routine has been to scroll through the main page of subreddits picking what’s new and popular. The cumulative time spent on this per day can be quite a lot.

Often I get pulled into random posts or comment threads. I end up spending a lot of time which in the end is not very fulfilling to me. The platform isn’t designed to give me what I’m looking for in an efficient way. Many platforms these days aren’t IMO in spite of their insistence that they try to. I believed that myself too. The objective is to keep me engaged or contributing so that I produce the units of value for their company. That’s what we are to them. We are the root from which their valuations are derived.

I’ve been experimenting with scraping the main page of subreddits and sorting those results by time posted. That way I can quickly check if there has been a new and popular post. There’s no need scan down the subreddits and filter through what might be new and interesting. I won’t be directed towards infinite scroll, random posts, comment threads, or whatever mechanisms might exist.

I find it strange these crowd engagement mechanisms have nudged us closer towards something akin to oral history. You’ve got to follow the crowd to keep up to date with what’s going on. Trust in traditional media has been eroding. People don’t read what journalists work hard to investigate and write about anymore. They follow what the social trends are. Not to denigrate traditional journalists but they can miss details of things that can only be grasped by knowing the nuances of communities. It is driving our desire to remain perpetually engaged in these platforms. Anyways I digress.

I read something once that stuck with me. It was something like don’t let the internet use you. These platforms don’t give me what I’m looking for so I’ve found myself contemplating what it is that I want and ways to get to it. Trying to be mindful of the ways they aren’t very meaningful rather than going with their flow. With out getting too existential, I’ve found myself asking myself why? I fall into this trap of allowing the platforms lead me in directions of where ever content they feed me. Makes me question to what degree I’ve really been in control of my own faculties at times. Feels kind of weird.

Mass media has been well studied and written about for longer than the internet has been around. It’s well known that new medium coincides in times of political and social upheaval. The details of the specific medium are fuzzy until we have the hindsight.

We don’t always have the picture before it’s come to pass and it’s not a requirement anyways. What we do is present the state of the art as we know it. That’s how technology develops too. As OP said, Zuckerberg didn’t have a clear picture of what Facebook would become. We’re a roughly 10 years into the state of affairs we find ourselves in now. There have been people studying the social dynamics of internet for as long as it’s been around.

If we can shove millions of kids through coding classes we can inform them about 21st century soft sciences as well.

That is a faulty premise to begin with. Social media platforms are not a Daryl Davis situation. The scope is not about changing the minds of the few facist users this way. You certainly will not accomplish this by carving out a wide berth for them to operate. In giving them unfettered theater to normalize their propaganda they will radicalize far more than you can change the minds of a few Klan members. It’s a net negative. That’s probably one of their most effective MO. It’s the really the essence of what we’ve been observing on the web.

There’s no need to dance around these silly charades because it’s just another pry bar.

If someone wants to take it upon themselves to personally chat with a neo-Nazi and be a Daryl Davis then that’s their prerogative. If you snoop their private communications and banish them off the internet entirely then maybe we start to have an equivalence to what you propose.

This topic ought to be taught in schools. We assume kids inherently know technology. They don’t. Especially not the underlying social/economic/political mechanisms. This stuff should be part of the core curriculum.

I liken it to the tobacco industry. We have a generation (gen-z and older) who are already adults. They’re out of their formative educational years so we can’t reach them by that means. They will struggle for life with how to grapple their relationship with 21st technology. For society as a whole to shift, the future generations need to be informed from early childhood. It took generations before social norms of smoking became unacceptable. I expect it will take a similar path for such philosophies of technology to turn around.

People always say the entirety of humanities knowledge is available to us. Yet the scope of this topic is incredibly subdued. It’s not in anybody’s interest to speak of it in depth so it exists on the fringes of the web.

From what I’ve seen, people start off by working with the code until they become trusted enough to be offered the job. More specifically they have contributed code and have been involved in the community to the point where they have knowledge+expertise of a subsystem such that they are as capable or more than the current/prior maintainers.

It’s a proper main stream social media site now. In earlier iterations it still held onto its essence of being similar to an old school message board but on a larger scale. All of that is gone now. I see the platform on the same plane as Facebook and Twitter.

My one main beef with it right now is that mods aren’t the classical definition of moderators of yore. They’re more akin to over powered power users or something. Subreddits are controlled by people who editorialize the content under the guise of “moderating”. Thus it’s become more like somebodies personal blog+aggregator with ginormous comment sections.

For example some subreddits are basically the mods allowing what they think the community wants. That’s how we arrive at binary options like “yes Trump” or “no Trump”. There’s no room for grassroots ideas. Most mods will mark that stuff as off topic or low content or some such.

What’s worse is it’s as if nobody seems to care or understand this sort of thing is happening. The platform is still perceived as a community driven content based system. Yes, there’s still voting on posts but other mechanisms are invoking god mode to override/bypass that. I suppose there really isn’t a term for this sort of phenomenon because it’s not been seen before but I hope this makes sense to someone. I mean what do you call these “moderators” now that can more accurately convey the situation.

I think this is what people feared of Digg back in the day? Anyways I can’t abide by the nature of that platform anymore.