Taking back and decentralizing my content is the subject of this week’s Weekly Wrapup video – this is number 400 in the series! The piece is largely about this blog and my plans for it.
One of the founding fathers of blogging, Dave Winer, said:
Twitter grew out of the blogging world and the people of blogs and the norms of blogging moved here. That’s why Twitter is what it is.
To a large degree a lot of people who used to blog a lot (myself included) found Twitter to be much more convenient with far greater reach. The reason is that it centralized the conversation and provided a feed with zero friction. Click the follow button and you were done.
But what happened is that we turned over our content to the Twitter corporation. They made lots of money off that content and returned very little money to creators. And apparently it’s valued at $44 billion.
Given these developments I decided I needed a home base for written content that I owned and controlled. Hence this blog. And now everything that I post elsewhere will originate here!
WordPress really impresses me. I used it extensively on a media startup I was working on about a decade ago and was very pleased with how many improvements they’ve made. You can pay them to host it or download the open source version and host it yourself. The cool thing is that WordPress federates content across all WordPress sites no matter where they are hosted and aggregates it into a mobile app feed that also has a useful content discovery engine.
Its use of RSS allows that federation to go beyond WordPress’ platform. I’m using it to put together my morning and weekly email newsletters and sending them out with an excellent (and super inexpensive) email blasting tool called Sendy (affiliate ink).
Buy one on Amazon: (compensated affiliate link) – Anker’s new Cosmos Laser projectors look great but are very pricey. There is, however, a narrow use case that this projector will work well for which is why I bought it.
I ended up getting a great deal on it. I preordered the 1080p version on their Kickstarter page a few months ago following its announcement at CES. When it showed up about two weeks ago they accidentally sent me the 4k version! Whoops!
Why I bought it: I always find myself in need of a projector for presentations & video playback for some of the things I volunteer with locally. I’m also the guy people call when they need a projector for whatever it is they are doing.
I have been using an old Acer that runs with a halogen lamp. It’s as bright as this laser projector but it runs at a low resolution and its halogen lamp is probably not long for this world.
So for my purposes this is an excellent replacement. It works great in a fully lit room, has an awesome set of speakers, and is relatively portable and easy to set up. The Android TV experience is the best I’ve seen on a projector to date. It better be for its price!
I preordered the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser Projector when they rolled it out on Kickstarter. I ordered the less expensive 1080p version but it looks like they mistakenly sent me the 4k version! Here’s a link to the video.
My current projector that I use for presentations is almost 11 years old and was only 720p so I wanted something with comparable brightness that offered higher resolutions.
I am putting together a full review but in the meantime you can watch an unboxing and first impressions on the Extra’s channel. The visual quality is remarkable but it’s very pricey.
Buy one on Amazon (compensated affiliate link) – Radon is a dangerous radioactive gas that is the second leading source of lung cancer in the United States. The Airthings Wave Plus can detect Radon levels in a home over long periods of time and measures other air quality metrics.
What was interesting when we did the livestream unboxing the other day was how many people were not aware of the dangers of radon gas in their home. I had to put in a mitigation system when I bought my home to bring the numbers down.
Twitter may be under new ownership soon if a mammoth $44 billion purchase by Elon Musk goes through. For this week’s Weekly Wrapup video I offer 7 ideas that I think would help make Twitter work better and perhaps even address how free speech can work on social platforms.
Here’s what I think Elon should do:
Eliminate “Blue Check” Elitism Twitter has two classes of citizens: ones with a blue check and ones without. Blue checks are reserved mostly for people who belong to major media organizations or have enormous followings. They can upload much longer videos, filter out those of us without the checkmarks, and get other privileges. It’s time to level the playing field so every user has a chance.
Balance Political Content Recommendations Social platforms have algorithms that could very easily provide viewers with multiple perspectives on hot button issues. But because they value attention and engagement more than responsible discourse they tend to only put things in front of viewers that they already agree with.
For nearly a century broadcast media has been required to follow an “equal time” rule. The way it works is that if I as a candidate for public office get interviewed for a news story, the broadcast station has to offer the same opportunity (and air time) to my opponent. The same rules apply to purchasing advertising – my opponent gets the same deal and time that I was offered. And a candidate’s advertisement cannot be censored – a political candidate can say anything they want in an advertisement.
There also used to be a “fairness doctrine” in the United States that required broadcasters to cover controversial topics and offer ample opportunities for opposing viewpoints.
So how would the algorithm determine what to recommend? Perhaps instead of topics they should look at behavior.
Moderate on Behavior – Not Topics As the chairman of my local board of education one of my responsibilities is to ensure the public has an opportunity to be heard. We have an “audience of citizens” at our regular meetings where any citizen can come and address the board and share whatever they wish.
But there are limits to speech – and those limits typically involve the behavior of the speaker. For example shouting obscenities, inciting violence, and other behaviors that disturb the peace or regular order of a meeting could result in that person being asked to leave. Unfortunately modern social platforms tend to amplify and even promote bad behavior – rewarding conduct that does not contribute to constructive dialog.
Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.
Every right has responsibilities. If social platforms focus on both the RIGHT and the RESPONSIBILITY moderation could be done much more effectively – especially if it focuses on the behaviors of speakers vs. what it is they are trying to say.
There’s a great Twitter thread from Yishan Wong, the former CEO of Reddit, on this topic. It’s a great read that unpacks where Elon Musk is coming from related to free speech and how challenging it is to create a true online public square when everyone acts like imbeciles.
One place social platforms could look is how computer bulletin board systems (BBS) governed themselves. FidoNet, one of the largest international BBS networks in the 80’s and 90’s, spent a lot of time focusing on this problem. Their moderation rules focused almost entirely on the conduct & actions of users – not the messages they were trying to convey. There’s some wisdom in that.
Require Verification But Allow Anonymous Speech Musk wants to “authenticate all real humans” in an effort to cut down on bots. But at the same time he should look at protecting anonymous speech – an important protected right here in the United States. This would also protect parody accounts which add a lot of value to discourse.
Twitter Blue Should Get Rid of Ads Twitter Blue is a $3 monthly subscription plan that offers some additional features to the Twitter app. While it does offer some news content ad free, most of Twitter still includes advertising both as in-line tweets and as pre-roll videos.
I think Twitter Blue should work more like YouTube Premium and offer an ad free experience.
Yes, We Need an Edit Button It’s a running joke at this point that Twitter does not allow users to edit a tweet after publishing. While Twitter Blue does have a “recall” function for a few minutes after posting generally the only way to edit a tweet is to delete it and do it again.
There are some legitimate concerns that editable tweets would allow someone to accumulate a ton of RT’s and Likes and then change the content to something different (and possibly offensive). But that could be easily mitigated by clearing them. In most cases the only time I want to edit a tweet is shortly after I post it.
Open Source Twitter’s Software & Federate Content Finally I think Elon should go a step further than just open sourcing the algorithm. He should open source the entire codebase and give users the option to install their own self hosted Twitter application. Those self installs should be able to federate content with Twitter.com and other self-hosted users. This would be something similar to how WordPress makes their software available for free at WordPress.org but hosted at WordPress.com.
Samsung released a revision of their T7 portable SSD. This new one is called the “Shield” and it offers a more rugged design vs. their previous model. Performance, however, is the same. See more portable SSD content here.