Bookmarked If You’re Not Paying for the Product, You Are… Possibly Just Consuming Goodwill for Free by Troy HuntTroy Hunt (Troy Hunt)

What gets me a bit worked up about the “you’re the product” sentiment is that it implies there’s an ulterior motive for any good deed. I’m dependent on a heap of goodwill for every single project I build and none of that makes me feel like “the product”. I use NWebsec for a bunch of my security headers. I use Cloudflare across almost every single project (they provide services to HIBP for free) and that certainly doesn’t make me a product. The footer of this blog mentions the support Ghost Pro provides me – that’s awesome, I love their work! But I don’t feel like a “product”.

Conversely, there are many things we pay for yet we remain “the product” of by the definition referred to in this post. YouTube Premium, for example, is worth every cent but do you think you cease being “the product” once you subscribe versus when you consume the service for free? Can you imagine Google, of all companies, going “yeah, nah, we don’t need to collect any data from paying subscribers, that wouldn’t be cool”. Netflix. Disqus. And pretty much everything else. Paying doesn’t make you not the product any more than not paying makes you the product, it’s just a terrible term used way too loosely and frankly, often feels insulting.

Troy Hunt marks the argument that just because you are not paying for the product, it does not necessarily mean that you yourself are the product. Sometimes, he posits, we are simply consuming goodwill. On the flipside of this, he points out that when you pay for products such as YouTube or Netflix, this does not all of the sudden make you less of a product.

For me, this reminds me of Austin Kleon’s discussion of the power of an email list:

The model is very simple: They give away great stuff on their sites, they collect emails, and then when they have something remarkable to share or sell, they send an email. You’d be amazed at how well the model works.

Replied to Interrogating Our Stuckness by wiobyrne (digitallyliterate.net)

We Are Not Living in a Simulation, We Are Living In the Past

L. M. Sacasas with an essay on the premise that life online is lived in the past.

The essay is organized into seven points.

  • On the internet, we are always living in the past – There is no present online, there is only recreation and memorialization of events of the past.
  • On the internet, all actions are inscriptions. We steadily create digital versions of events to create documented reservoirs legible to humans and machines.
  • On the internet, there is no present, only variously organized fragments of the past – We spend time, and effort looking busy by endlessly re-interpreting, reshuffling, recombining, and rearranging the past.
  • On the internet, fighting about what has happened is far easier than imagining what could happen – We fight about the past, and because our fights are documented online, there is no resolution…only more conflict and overwhelming/silencing/canceling others.
  • On the internet, action doesn’t build the future, it only feeds the digital archives of the past – I’ve written about this as digital breadcrumbs as we look to the trail we’ve created, as opposed to looking forward.
  • Because on the internet we live in the past, the future is not lived, it is programmed – As we spend time documenting and digitizing our past, these data points are scooped up, aggregated, and form the structure that dictates future actions.
  • On the internet, the past is a black hole sucking the future into itself – Our capacity to live in the present and imagine the future deteriorates as attention, energy, and creativity are devoured.

Two things are sticking out for me. First, I’m thinking about some of the focus in last week’s issue of DL in which we discussed reading and time for reflection and how this impact the way we think, interact and make sense of the world.

Second, it makes me wonder why I continue to write this newsletter. ┐_(ツ)_┌━☆゚.*・。゚

Ian, I was left thinking about L. M. Sacasas’ argument that life online is lived in the past.

On the one hand, I am left thinking about my breadcrumbs as possibly leading to slow hunches. The thought that ideas for the future are produced from pieces over time.

On the flipside of this, I was also left thinking about the way in which we have become content machines.

Like yourself, this all makes me wonder about why I do what I do? Why make it public? And why publish my newsletter? I think that I actually like the habit and find it a useful exercise in regards to taking stock of things, but maybe I am just fooling myself. I have long given up on taking much notice of the ‘clicks’. In general, I only POSSE now days when I feel there is purpose.

Anyway, I best get back to the past.

Bookmarked How the Internet Turned Us Into Content Machines by Kyle Chayka (The New Yorker)

Kyle Chayka discusses two new books about the Internet—“Content,” by Kate Eichhorn, and “The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is,” by Justin E. H. Smith—which examine how social media traps users in a brutal race to the bottom.

In reviewing Kate Eichhorn’s Content and Justin E. H. Smith’s The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is, Kyle Chayka explores the way in which the internet has turned up into content machines. These books continue a long tradition of books critiquing the internet and its influence on us, including Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble and Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Eichhorn discusses the way in which “content begets content”. This is captured in the term ‘content capital’, referring to a user’s ability to create additional content.

Eichhorn uses the potent term “content capital”—a riff on Pierre Bourdieu’s “cultural capital”—to describe the way in which a fluency in posting online can determine the success, or even the existence, of an artist’s work. Where “cultural capital” describes how particular tastes and reference points confer status, “content capital” connotes an aptitude for creating the kind of ancillary content that the Internet feeds upon.

On the flip side, Smith’s portrays the internet as a ‘living system’ that is the product of centuries of work. We cannot just undo all of this, instead what we need to do is better understand ourselves.

To understand the networked self, we must first understand the self, which is a ceaseless endeavor. The ultimate problem of the Internet might stem not from the discrete technology but from the Frankensteinian way in which humanity’s invention has exceeded our own capacities.

In some ways, this reminds me of Ethan Zuckerman’s discussion of the ‘good web‘. I wonder if the solution is in the actual discussion and reflection.

Bookmarked Specifying Spring ’83 (Robin Sloan)

Spring ‘83 is a protocol for the transmission and display of something I am calling a “board”, which is an HTML fragment, limited to 2217 bytes, unable to execute JavaScript or load external resources, but otherwise unrestricted. Boards invite publishers to use all the richness of modern HTML and CSS. Plain text and blue links are also enthusiastically supported.

Robin Sloan rejects Twitter, RSS, and email newsletters, instead he argues for a more weird and chaotic web that focuses on HTML and CSS which he calls Spring ’83. This reminds me of the work of Kicks Condor and the small web. For now I am happy with RSS, but will keep on an eye on this as it definitely looks interesting, especially in regards to serendipity.

Bookmarked Books Become Games by Justin E. H. Smith (Justin E. H. Smith's Hinternet)

On the face of it, the gamification of reality looks like fun. But when everything becomes a game, it turns out, that game ends up dissolving into its merely apparent opposite: work. The dupes of the new ideology, underlain by the metaphor of the game, think they’re giving us life in an arcade —a child’s dream!— but what we’re really getting is life in a global warehouse, monitored and metricized, forced at every turn to devise strategies that maximize engagement with whatever it is we’re putting out there… all in the name of scraping by.

Whether it be reviews written based upon promotional copy, responding to random podcast requests or competing with Amazon ‘study guides’, Justin Smith reflects upon the way in which the the publishing of books has become a game.

This reminds me of Cory Doctorow’s reflection on the challenges of self-publishing, as well as C. Thi Nguyen’s discussion of the problems with the gamification of social media.

Replied to 6x6x1 Two Things To Stand On (CogDogBlog)

If ever you apply Thing 1 to ask a question in public, always keep in mind Thing 2— understand that there is often more.

I always find asking questions online intriguing. There is often so much ambiguity in responses. I find there is as much learning to be had in making sense of suggestions as there is of the suggestions themselves.
Liked The Metaverse and the Future of the Internet | Dr. Ian O’Byrne (Dr. Ian O’Byrne | Literacy, technology, and education)

The problem I have with the metaverse, and “everything changing” is a concern about trust and third parties in a distributed system. Up to this point, it seems like most of the solutions we’re seeing in terms of blockchain, distributed ledges, the metaverse, NFTS, and crypto are trying to solve current problems using newer solutions. For now, I don’t see the solution to the problem and the introduction of blockchain and “what comes next” as being better than the current solution.

What is exciting is decentralizing power and decision-making as we think about the possibilities. Add a dash of transparency in the model…and count me in.

Bookmarked Why are hyperlinks blue? | The Mozilla Blog by an author (blog.mozilla.org)

The internet has ingrained itself into every aspect of our lives, but there’s one aspect of the digital world that I bet you take for granted. Did you ev

Elise Blanchard explores the archives to find out why hyperlinks are blue. She traces it back to Mosiac, but cannot find any explanation for why. What is also strange is that there seems to have been two separate developments at the same time:

Our “link blue” had never shown up in user interfaces before 1993, and suddenly it appears in two instances within two short months of each other in two separate browsers at two different universities being built at the same time.

Blanchard believes that the real reason behind the push was Windows 3.1 and the support for colour monitors.

Mosaic came out during an important time where support for color monitors was shifting; the standard was for hyperlinks to use black text with some sort of underline, hover state or border. Mosaic chose to use blue, and they chose to port their browser for multiple operating systems. This helped Mosaic become the standard browser for internet use, and helped solidify its user interface as the default language for interacting with the web.

Bookmarked To Mend a Broken Internet, Create Online Parks by Eli Pariser (WIRED)

We need public spaces, built in the spirit of Walt Whitman, that allow us to gather, communicate, and share in something bigger than ourselves.

Eli Pariser reflects upon Walt Whitman’s creation of Fort Greene Park in 1846 and suggests we need an online version of a shared public space. He suggests that there are three problems with the current space: it encourages a frictionless experience, unequal by design and  the lack of maintenance/governance. Pariser discusses three challenges that need to be overcome in the creation of such a space: funding, talent and will.

Private spaces and businesses are critical for a flourishing digital life, just as cafés, bars, and bookstores are critical for a flourishing urban life. But no communities have ever survived and grown with private entities alone. Just as bookstores will never serve all the same community needs as a public library branch, it’s unreasonable to expect for-profit corporations built with “addressable markets” in mind to accommodate every digital need.

Alongside and between the digital corporate empires, we need what scholars like Ethan Zuckerman are calling “digital public infrastructure.” We need parks, libraries, and truly public squares on the internet.

This reminds me of Michael Caulfield’s discussion of the garden and the stream and Ethan Zuckerman’s work on digital public infrastructure. It was also interesting to read about the place of libraries. This had me thinking about Greg McVerry’s idea of borrowing/renting domain space from the local library.

In his commentary, John Naughton spoke about the rise of the automated public sphere, rather than the one that was hoped for.

When the internet arrived, many of us thought it would provide a virtual space that would be like Whitman’s concept, except on a global scale. In my case, I saw it as the first instantiation of Jürgen Habermas’s concept of the “public sphere”. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, this looks like utopianism, but it was real enough at the time. The problem was that it blissfully underestimated the capacity of private corporations to colonise cyberspace and create what the legal scholar Frank Pasquale designated an “automated public sphere” – ie, a collection of privately owned spaces (walled gardens) that we know as social media.

In a different take, Richard Flanagan references John Clare and his writing about the enclosure movement in Britain in 19th century to privatize common waste. For Flanagan, we are going through a second great enclosure, where these platforms are enclosing our emotions, soul and fear.

I wonder if that makes someone like Kicks Condor a modern John Clare?

Bookmarked This Is the Internet and This Is Why It Sucks: A Children’s Book by Ethan Hauser (newyorker.com)

Ethan Hauser writes humorous descriptions of different parts of the Internet, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and Google, and why they are terrible.

A humorous take on the web and what it has to offer.
Bookmarked India, Jio, and the Four Internets (Stratechery)

One of the more pernicious mistruths surrounding the debate about TikTok is that this will potentially lead to the splintering of the Internet; this completely erases the history of China’s Great Firewall, started 23 years ago, which effectively cut China off from most Western services. That the U.S. may finally respond in kind is a reflection of reality, not the creation of a new one.

What is new is the increased splintering in the non-China Internet: the U.S. model is still the default for most of the world, but the European Union and India are increasingly pursuing their own paths.

Ben Thompson continues his exploration of TikTok in his discussion of the ‘four internets’: China, Europe, Silicon Valley and India. In particular, he highlights the rise of Jio and the Indian internet.

It is increasingly impossible — or at least irresponsible — to evaluate the tech industry, in particular the largest players, without considering the geopolitical concerns at stake. With that in mind, I welcome Jio’s ambition. Not only is it unreasonable and disrespectful for the U.S. to expect India to be some sort of vassal state technologically speaking, it is actually a good thing to not only have a counterweight to China geographically, but also a counterweight amongst developing countries specifically. Jio is considering problem-spaces that U.S. tech companies are all too often ignorant of, which matters not simply for India but also for much of the rest of the world.

This is missing Washington DC’s commercial internet and the Moscow mule model from Kieron O’Hara’s list.

Liked Free protection for your home Internet. (1.1.1.1)

Although I have an awesome, trustworthy ISP, I’ve used a DNS resolver for years. Recently I switched from using Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1service locally on my machines, to using 1.1.1.1 for families on our home router. This blocks both malware and adult content.

via Doug Belshaw
Bookmarked The Internet of Beefs (ribbonfarm)

If the relatively peaceful web of the 90s and aughts was about civilian eyeballs, the IoB is about mook-on-mook combat clicks, and is now entering its second decade

In this lengthy post, Venkatesh Rao makes the case for the ‘internet of beefs’, where the focus is on

A beef is a ritualized, extended conflict between named, evenly matched combatants who each stand for a marquee ideological position, and most importantly, reciprocate each other’s hostile feelings in active, engaged ways. A beef is something like the evil twin of a love affair. A beef must be conducted with visible skill and honor (though codes of honor may be different on the different sides), and in public view. Each combatant must be viewed, by his or her supporters, as having picked a worthy adversary, otherwise the contest means nothing. The combatants fight not for material advantage, but for a symbolic victory that can be read as signifying the cosmic, spiritual righteousness and rightness of what they are fighting for. So the conflict must be at least nominally fair, hard to call decisively, and open to luck, cunning cheating, and ex-post mythologizing by all sides, in terms favorable to their own champions.

These arguments are built around a feudal model of knigths, mooks and manors.

Mook manorialism is an economy based on axe-grinding. As the peasantry, mooks do more than fight other mooks. They are also responsible for keeping grievances large and small well-nursed and alive. Occasionally, through an act like whistleblowing or leaking of confidential communications, a mook might briefly become a named player in a particular theater of conflict, but the median mook is primarily expected to keep everyday grievances alive and fight under the glare of algorithmic lights when called upon to do so, unrecognized by history, but counted in the statistics and noticed by the AIs (senpAIs?).

The problem is that there is no way of ignoring or escaping this space.

If you participate in online public life, you cannot entirely avoid the Internet of Beefs. It is too big, too ubiquitous, and too widely distributed and connected across platforms. To continue operating in public spaces without being drawn into the conflict, you have to build an arsenal of passive-aggressive behaviors like subtweeting, ghosting, blocking, and muting — all while ignoring beef-only thinkers calling you out furiously as dishonorable and cowardly, and trying to bait you into active aggression.

It has come to define the modern web.

If the relatively peaceful web of the 90s and aughts was about civilian eyeballs, the IoB is about mook-on-mook combat clicks, and is now entering its second decade

The only way is to foster a new way of being.

We are not beefing endlessly because we do not desire peace or because we do not know how to engineer peace. We are beefing because we no longer know who we are, each of us individually, and collectively as a species. Knight and mook alike are faced with the terrifying possibility that if there is no history in the future, there is nobody in particular to be once the beefing stops.

And the only way to reboot history is to figure out new beings to be. Because that’s ultimately what beefing is about: a way to avoid being, without allowing time itself to end.

This is one of those posts which seemingly forces you to stop and reassess many actions and assumptions. Interestingly, it also inoculates itself against criticism.

One piece that I am left thinking about was my question of tribes from a few years ago.

Bookmarked Cory Doctorow: Inaction is a Form of Action (Locus Online)

When the state allows the online world to become the near-exclusive domain of a small coterie of tech execs, with the power to decide on matters of speech – to say nothing of all the other ways in which our rights are impacted by the policies on their platforms, everything from employment to education to romance to (obviously) privacy – for all the rest of us, they are making policy.

Because inaction in the face of danger is a form of action.

Cory Doctorow argues that depending on the social media platforms to clean up the problem of moderation simply continues down the path of political inaction. Instead he argues that we need to demand a better internet

A restored internet is one that values pluralism (power diffused into many hands) and self-determination (you get choose which tech you use and how you use it). Achieving a pluralistic internet of technological self-determination will be a long process.

This is a part of Doctorow’s wider discussion of adversarial interoperability. It is also interesting to consider this alongside John Harris’ investigation of the punk rock internet.


Doctorow also recorded an audio version of the essay.

Replied to Digitally Literate #227 by wiobyrne (digitallyliterate.net)

WELCOME
Youth Never Forget
Digitally Lit #227 – 1/4/2020
Hi all, welcome to issue #227 of Digitally Literate. Welcome to 2020. I hope the new year…and the new decade treat you well. You’re more than welcome to review these materials on the website. Please subscribe if you would like this to sh…

Another great newsletter Ian. Just a few thoughts. Firstly, in regards to the flaw with the research associated with YouTube:

One of the key critiques of the study is that the researchers didn’t log in. That is to say that they could not experience the full impact of the algorithm as it impacts their findings.

As Becca Lewis suggests, is the problem with measuring radicalisation of YouTube associated with methodology? This reminds me of some of the discussions associated with social media and teens. The examples I have read ‘How YouTube Radicalized Brazil‘ and ‘The Making of a YouTube Radical‘ are anecdotal. I assume this is why Arvind Narayanan says that we do not have the vocabulary to make sense of complexities generated via algorithms.

Also, in regards to Kate Eichhorn’s post about the internet that never forgets (and the subsequent book):

Kate Eichhorn, an Associate Professor of Culture and Media at The New School suggests that people are now forming their identities online from an early age, and in the process are creating a permanent record that’s impossible to delete.

I am reminded of a post from Katia Hildebrandt and Alec Couros from a few years ago in which they suggest that in a world where there is digital record for everything somewhere then we need to learn to consider intent, context, and circumstance when considering different artefacts that may be dredged up.

Bookmarked Is Tor Trustworthy and Safe? (Read This Before Using Tor) (Restore Privacy)

Given that Tor is compromised and bad actors can see the real IP address of Tor users, it would be wise to take extra precautions. This includes hiding your real IP address before accessing the Tor network.

To hide your IP address when accessing Tor, simply connect to a VPN server (through a VPN client on your computer) and then access Tor as normal (such as through the Tor browser). This will add a layer of encryption between your computer and the Tor network, with the VPN server’s IP address replacing your real IP address.

Note: There are different ways to combine VPNs and Tor. I am only recommending the following setup: You > VPN > Tor > Internet (also called “Tor over VPN” or “Onion over VPN”).

Sven Taylor discusses the history of the Tor project, some of the issues associated with it and difference between Tor and using a VPN. It was interesting reading this in light of Edward Snowden’s autobiography.

via Ian O’Byrne

Bookmarked The Old Internet Died And We Watched And Did Nothing (BuzzFeed News)

Quick: Can you think of a picture of yourself on the internet from before 2010, other than your old Facebook photos? How about something you’ve written? Maybe some old sent emails in Gmail or old Gchats?


But what about anything NOT on Facebook or Google?


Most likely, you have some photos that are lost somewhere, some old posts to a message board or something you wrote on a friend’s wall, some bits of yourself that you put out there on the internet during the previous decade that is simply gone forever.


The internet of the 2010s will be defined by social media’s role in the 2016 election, the rise of extremism, and the fallout from privacy scandals like Cambridge Analytica. But there’s another, more minor theme to the decade: the gradual dismantling and dissolution of an older internet culture.


This purge comes in two forms: sites or services shutting down or transforming their business models. Despite the constant flurries of social startups (Vine! Snapchat! TikTok! Ello! Meerkat! Peach! Path! Yo!), when the dust was blown off the chisel, the 2010s revealed that the content you made — your photos, your writing, your texts, emails, and DMs — is almost exclusively in the hands of the biggest tech companies: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, or Apple.


The rest? Who knows? I hate to tell you, but there’s a good chance it’s gone forever.

Katie Notopoulos discusses the sites that came and went during 2010’s. The IndieWeb has a more extensive list of site deaths.