3x24: Weaponised Rooster

Stuart Langridge, Jono Bacon, and special guest star Alan Pope present Bad Voltage, in which we are large and in charge, there is ancient history about electricians and phones, and:

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News music: Long Live Blind Joe by Robbero, used with attribution.

Thank you to Marius Quabeck and NerdZoom Media for being our audio producers!

I did some superficial study on what makes social media terrible, a few years ago. I’m surprised how close the conversation came very close to the elephant in the room without actually getting there: Eliminate advertising on the platforms.

I could pile on analogous examples from television (which might depend on age and being in the United States), but prior to cable’s dominance, it wasn’t hard to untangle a winning marketing strategy. You want ads in front of gullible people. Emotional engagement makes people less skeptical. The easiest emotions to consistently provoke in people are fear and anger. Therefore, each act break should be an upsetting surprise, so that the audience won’t change the channel and might focus on the commercials.

Social media accelerates and optimizes that feedback loop to drive up ad revenue. So, not only is the landlord likely to miss your request to quiet down the belligerent creep, but it’s actually in the landlord’s best interests to keep the creep and boot you out for drawing attention to his belligerence. It’s in the platform’s financial interest to gamify your retweet of something that’s going to make people angry and, if you don’t, the algorithm will get it in front of someone who will.

Basically, if any of these companies got rid of advertising, that outrage-feedback cycle falls apart, and the algorithms start to align themselves with showing you things that are actually relevant, instead of provocative. Yes, there are exceptional cesspools whose entire purpose is to radicalize people, but most of them struggle to stay relevant beyond the occasional investigation after an act of terrorism to find the kid’s manifesto, so they don’t really count.

If that’s not viable, there are a couple of other features that I’ve saw when I surveyed the Free Software social networks that seem to mitigate problems.

  • Onboarding is crucial to establishing a healthy culture. Explain the features so that they don’t get misused and annoy people. Explain the moderation rules. Explain the algorithm. Help craft an introductory post to get people started.
  • Mastodon’s “content warning” system means that people need to take an additional, affirmative step, if they want to be annoyed, though using them well requires training.
  • Kill infinite scrolling. People are going to want to read to the end of the page, so there had best be an end to the page, unless the goal is to train them that they’re not allowed to leave.
  • Have personal moderation tools beyond a “dead to me” button. For example, Scuttlebutt distinguishes between a response that’s part of the threaded conversation and a response that’s it’s own thread with a reference, and it’d be nice if that decision could be retroactive for the person being replied to, to say “that’s off-topic.”

Without more information about the inner workings of the systems or the people actively using the system, those would be my targets.

I’ve been off facebook for a little over a year now - around the time the utter b/s around COVID broke - because I came to the conclusion that even though there are benefits to be had - keeping in touch with friends & family abroad, tapping into the zeitgeist, etc - the cost-benefit was not in my favor: the benefit to my mental wellbeing did not outweigh the cost.

Felt a bit like an abusive relationship, and in with some distance, that probably not a bad analogy.

This does not mean I do not empathize with people who choose to remain, but rather that I do not feel I am able to participate in a positive or constructive manner, so had to remove myself.

I’ve not deleted my account (yet), as I still require access to the network/platform, primarily for work, as that’s where the audience is.

As for twitter, it’s simply to much too fast and too shallow.
I find it completely overwhelming, but still a valuable source of real-time current information & trends.

I think that one key thing about right to repair is that it is not just intended to make companies stock old parts, but to make it uneconomical to change parts for no reason. Every rice cooker has a different shaped bowl, washing machines have different seals, etc etc. I am sure sometimes there is innovation, but often there is no incentive to keep a part standardised once it is past warranty. Using standardised parts makes things far more repairable, easier for them to meet this standard, and easier to tear unfixable machines down for useful spares.

As a little aside part standardisation only look off with the railways adopting Whitworth standard screw threads. I spend my spare time maintaining a pumping station from 1813 and every damn nut and bolt is a custom matched pair. Some of the nuts are 8 sided not 6.

Making an economic incentive for companies to standardise things helps reduce waste. Just look at the charger rules in the EU. The EU can’t top down standardise everything, but these laws provide a strong incentive for companies to standardise more parts.

This post says “standardise” too many times.

Maybe we need a standardized post form.

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