Time to clear out and close some open browser tabs, so here’s another set of collected links, this time with a little bit of commentary thrown in.

Attention Shoppers!

Attention is different. It really is scarce, and the total amount per capita is strictly limited. To see why, consider yours, right now. It’s going to these words. No matter how brilliant or savvy at multitasking you are, you can’t be focusing on very much else. Ultimately then, the attention economy is a zero-sum game. What one person gets, someone else is denied.

Wow, this 1997 piece from Michael H. Goldhaber in WIRED was incredibly prescient in many, many ways and outlines the fundamental principles that every social network has been built upon.

The Disappearing Art Of Maintenance

Maintenance could serve as a useful framework for addressing climate change and other pressing planetary constraints that, if left unaddressed, could recreate on a global scale the localized austerity of a cash-strapped transit agency. Indeed, maintenance as a concept could encompass both the built environment and the so-called natural world. Perhaps maintenance, rather than sustainability, is the more useful framework for a green transition, because it can account for how human infrastructure is now deeply entangled with the environment in the age of the Anthropocene.

The idea of maintenance as framework for solving big problems is one worth thinking about in more detail. How much of our approach to issues like climate change is driven by a Western capitalist market mindset—i.e. the market will solve the problem, because that’s what markets do? (Likely answer: All of it.) But that mindset is heavily biased towards building new things, not maintaining the things that exist.

How to Leave Dying Social Media Platforms

Online, a lot of us have been unhappy with our social media platforms for a long time, but we hang in there, year after year, scandal after scandal, because as much as we hate the platform, we love the people who use the platform.

Great piece by Cory Doctorow, and one that resonates with me deeply. Realistically though, I can see that the switching costs are too high for some people, and the alternatives are either too niche or too technical to entice many people to make a change. And I’m definitely not going ot hold my breath waiting for Facebook, et al to offer any kind of real interoperability.

No, you’re not entitled to your opinion

The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.

I have no problem with people holding whatever beliefs they like, even if I (or the majority of other people) don’t share them. What I do have a problem with is people using using lines like “I’m entitled to my opinion” to shut down dissenting discussions.

Blockchain’s real world problem

Cryptocurrencies and smart contracts truly do reduce the need for trust and centralization! However, if you want to connect them with off chain data, you need to trust the source(s) of that data.

And therein lies the problem with so many blockchain-based “solutions”; the concepts of “trustlessness” and “immutability” are all well and good, but they all fall over when the incoming off-chain data isn’t—or can’t be—verified. And any systent that interfaces with, you know, people (so all of them) is always going to be vulnerable ot thos epoeple trying to manipulate it in some way. Also, LOL at blockchain is “a database that hates you”.

Moby Dick Big Read

I’ve never read Moby Dick, but this audio version, with each chapter being read by a different narrator, might get me in line. It doesn’t hurt that there are some big-name narrators like Tilda Swinton, Simon Callow, Stephen Fry, Fiona Shaw, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir David Attenborough doin the reading, either. Ex-UK Prime Minister David Cameron even jumps in for a chapter.

Computers are an inherently oppressive technology

Yet the ruthlessness of machines does not imply or require malevolence on the part of their designers. Instead, the ruthlessness of machines is an intrinsic consequence of their nature, perhaps even an inevitable one. Suppose, for example, that a computer system is setup to accept some kind of bureaucratic filing, and to enforce a certain deadline. Were a human to accept delivery of such a filing, it is unlikely they would be bothered by the filing being late by a second. Not so with a computer; the computer was given a deadline of noon, and so a filing one nanosecond later is rejected. It does not matter if the filing not being accepted ruins someone’s life utterly, or leads to the destruction of one’s whole family, or for that matter to nuclear war; it was a nanosecond late, so it was late. There is no magnitude or scale of human misery that a computer’s decision might cause that will naturally overturn it.

Worth a read, especially in the context of thinking about so-called crypto-based “smart contracts”; computers. Not sure I entirely agree with all of the arguments presented here, but do share the author’s concern about “the deliberate use of machine-assisted ruthlessness to malevolent ends”.

Deciding what belongs on my website

We discussed syndicating notes from your website to Twitter at yesterday’s Homebrew Website Club in light of the upcoming Twitter ownership transfer, as a way to demonstrate existing POSSE technology and encourage more people to adopt IndieWeb approaches. I expressed that I struggle with *whether* I want to do this rather than *how*. What seems like it should be a simple step — posting to Twitter from my website — reveals itself as a complex decision rooted in how I want to present myself online.

Personally, I’m a fan of the POSSE approach, but I can definitely see where Tracy is coming from here and can see the logic of the way she breaks down her online presences. I kind of took the opposite approach, though… everything more-or-less lives here in one big, messy blob. Sometimes it’s not ideal—the lack of separation between personal and professional would maybe be the biggest sticking point, but I generally steer away from posting “professional”-type stuff anyway—but I’ve found that usually it works out OK for me.