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Preview: Epeus' epigone

Epeus' epigone

Edifying exquisite equine entrapments

Updated: 2017-04-28T07:40:09.825-07:00


Mastodon, Twitter and publics


Long ago, I wrote about the theory of social sites, with the then-young Twitter as the exemplar. As Mastodon, GnuSocial and other federated sites have caught some attention recently, I thought I'd revisit these theories.FlowA temporal flow with no unread count that you could dip into was freeing compared to the email-like experience of feed readers back then. Now this is commonplace and accepted. Twitter has backtracked from the pure flow by emphasising the unread count for @'s. GnuSocial replicates this, but Mastodon eschews it, and presents parallel flows to dip into.FacesHaving a face next to each message is also commonplace - even LinkedIn has faces now. Some groups within the fediverse resist this and prefer stylised avatars. On twitter, logos are the faces of brands, and subverting the facial default is part of the appeal to older online forms that is latent in the fediverse.PhaticTwitter has lost a lot of its phatic feeling, but for now Mastodon and the others have that pleasant tone to a lot of posts that comes with sharing and reacting without looking over your shoulder. Partly this is the small group homophily, but as Lexi says:For many people in the SJ community, Mastodon became more than a social network — it was an introduction to the tools of the trade of the open source world. People who were used to writing interminable hotheaded rants about the appropriation of “daddy” were suddenly opening GitHub issues and participating in the development cycle of a site used by thousands. It was surreal, and from a distance, slightly endearing.Eugen has done a good job of tummling this community, listening to their concerns and tweaking Mastodon to reflect them. The way the Content Warning is used there is a good example of this - people are thinking about what others might find annoying (political rants, perhaps?) and tucking them away behind the little CW toggle.The existential dread caused by Twitter’s reply all by default and culture of sealioning is not yet here.FollowingPart of the relative calm is due to a return of the following model - you choose whom to follow and it’s not expected to be mutual. However there are follow (and boost and like) notifications there if you want them, which contains the seeds of the twitter engagement spiral. This is mitigated to some extent by the nuances of the default publics that are constructed for you.PublicsAs with Twitter, and indeed the web in general, we all see a different subset of  the conversation. We each have our own public that we see and address. These publics are semi-overlapping - they are connected, but adjacent. This is not Habermas’s public sphere, but de Certeau's distinction of place and space. The place is the structure provided, the space the life given it by the paths we take through it and our interactions.Since I first wrote Twitter Theory, Twitter itself has become much more like a single public sphere, through its chasing of ‘engagement’ above all else. The federated nature of Mastodon, GnuSocial,  the blogosphere and indeed the multiply-linked web is now seen as confusing by those used to Twitter's silo.The structure of Mastodon and GnuSocial instances provides multiple visible publics by default, and Mastodon's columnar layout (on wider screens) emphasises this. You have your own public of those you follow, and the notifications sent back in response, as with Twitter. But you also have two more timeline choices - the Local and the Federated. These make the substructure manifest. Local is everyone else posting on your instance. The people who share a server with you are now a default peer group. The Federated public is even more confusing to those with a silo viewpoint. It shows all the posts that this instance has seen - GnuSocial calls it “the whole known network” - all those followed by you and others on your instance. This is not the whole fediverse, it’s still a window on part of it. In a classic silo, who you share a server shard with is an implementation detail, but choosing an instance does define a neigh[...]

Could Apple make premium devices in the USA?


Brief summary for tweet length attention spansWe can get back the much-mourned favorite star on twitter by an 'add a comment' retweet with a 🌟 emoji eg: 🌟— Kevin Marks (@kevinmarks) November 4, 2015executive summary in bullet formThis has the following advantages: Lets you use star again, or any other emoji that better expresses nuance. Notifies the person starred, just as 'like' does shows up in your feed (but not in your favorites list) works in all twitter clients as it shows the emoji and link by default, and the linked-to tweet in official ones can be liked and retweeted in its own right and some drawbacks: is not counted as a like or a retweet (this is true for all quoted tweets) is a bit more obtrusive than the old favorite takes more than one click to create Historical exegesis and discussion of semioticsBack in the dawn of twitter, new ways of using it were created by users, sporadically adopted, and then reified first by the vibrant client ecosystem, and eventually by official Twitter clients. Hashtags, @ replies and retweets started this way, as microsyntax or picoformats. Favorites were added early on and had a favstar-like top ten list with the lovely url slug 'favourings'. Your favorites were always public, and obviously so (unlike Google reader's which scared users). But when they caused notifications and showed up in timelines as actions, people were disconcerted. The very opacity of the star meant that people could imbue it with its own meaning, and the nuances of what faving meant have been long-discussed - see Jessica Roy in Time for an example. Hence the immense hand-wringing over Twitter's change from star to heart and favorite to like. Perhaps they were led by AirBnB's 30% engagement boost when they made the change? The difference is one of semiotics though - when you apply a heart to a place to stay that is clearer than applying it to a tweet; it may still be a nuanced note on the host, or ironic, but the layers of meaning are more limited than in a tweet. With a tweet there are many more possible signifiers you may be indicating favour or attention to. Who saying it, who's @-tagged, hashtags, links, embedded media, the threads extending before or after, can all be grist for that little pointer. However, there is another user-driven pattern that Twitter has not paid much attention to - emoji as replies. If you look through emojitracker there are nearly a billion uses of the 😂 emoji and over a billion of the various hearts. This is a way people use to express the missing nuance that a single system-chosen glyph doesn't convey. Now you can reply to people with this directly, but that doesn't have the right effect; it is directly responding to the person, not the tweet, and relying on twitter threading to handle it. Twitter's new 'quote tweet' option, hidden under the retweet button, gives a better way: 🌟— Kevin Marks (@kevinmarks) November 3, 2015Shown in twitter with the quoted tweet inlined: Shown in classic clients as a star and a link. This is a public post, clear in intent, and directed at the tweet with its associated media and nuance, just as a favorite was. There is more flexibility here - repeated emoji; multiple emoji ☑ ✅ 💯— Kevin Marks (@kevinmarks) November 4, 2015@zeynep Maybe Twitter should add a checkmark -- ✔-- to signal things like "noted" and "save for later" etc. Keep the heart for "likes" etc.— Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) November 3, 2015In fact, had twitter thought this through they could have saved time on the disappointing new "polls" feature by emulating Slack's 'reacji' voting instead. In the meantime, join me and the billions of other emoji tweeters in using a star reply to indicate your favoring. originally published on kevinmarks.comSo here's my proposition for Tim Cook:Reopen the Elk Grove Apple factory to sell top-line Apple products, designed for those who want 'designer' luxury goods, and are [...]

Translation from sanctimonious bluster to English of Chris Dodd's statement on the internet blackout protests


WASHINGTON —The following is a statement by Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) on the so-called “Blackout Day” protesting anti-piracy legislation:

Senator and CEO - let's lead with the revolving door promises to politicians

“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together,

Why are my former colleagues listening to their constituents about legislation? Don't they stay bought?

some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.

Maybe if we keep saying copyright infringement is a real problem without evidence, they'll believe it.

It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services.

How dare they edit their sites unless we force them to under penalty of perjury and felony convictions?

It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.

Tomorrow was supposed to be different, that's why we bought this legislation.

It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.

Being the gateways and skewing the facts is our job, dammit.

A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals.

I am high as a kite

It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

What have the Romans done for us? Apart from instantaneous global communications, digital audio and video editing, the DVD, Blu-ray, Digital projection, movie playback devices in everyone's pockets and handbags...

How to fight this nonsense

(with apologies to John Gruber and Mark Pilgrim)

Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus shun HTML, causing the infographic plague.


By choosing images over links, and by restricting markup, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are hostile to HTML. This is leading to the plague of infographics crowding out text, and of video used to convey minimal information.

The rise of so-called infographics has been out of control this year, though the term was unknown a couple of years ago. I attribute this to the favourable presentation that image links get within Facebook, followed by Twitter and Google plus, and of course though other referral sites like Reddit. By showing a preview of the image, the item is given extra weight over a textual link; indeed even for a url link, Facebook and G+ will show an image preview by default.

Consequently, the dominant form of expression has become the image. This was already happening with LOLcats and other meme generators like Rage Comics, where a trite observation can be dressed up with an image or series of images.

Before this, in the blogging age, there was a weight given to prose pieces, and Facebook and Google preserve some of this, but the expressiveness of HTML through linking, quoting, using images inline, changing font weight and so on, is filtered out by the crude editing tools they make available.

Feeds and feed readers started out this way too, but rapidly gained the ability to include HTML markup. Twitter went back to the beginning, and added the extra constrain of 140 characters because of it's initial SMS focus. Now it is painfully reinventing markup, though the gigantic envelope and wrapper of metadata that accompanies every tweet. This now has an edit list for entities pointing into it, and instructions for how to parse this to regain the author's intent is part of the overhead of working with their API.

Image links, however — at least those from recognised partners — are given privileged treatment. Facebook and Google have emulated this too, leading to the 'trite quote as image' trope. The spillover of this to news organisations became complete this year, with blogs and newspapers falling over themselves to link to often-tendentious information presented in all-caps and crude histogram form.

So here's my plea for 2012: Twitter, Facebook, Google+: please provide equal space for HTML. And for authors and designers everywhere, stop making giant bitmaps when well-written text with charts that are worth the bytes spent on them could convey your message better.

Update: My son made a Rage Comic version of this post (with an explanation) why.