Monday Note

"The social network is built on values that are so shady that it can’t be trusted to address fake news issues. Some countries already suffer from it."
—Frederic Filloux

Normally I read Monday Note for the inimitable Jean-Louis Gassée's posts, like 50 Years in Tech, Part 1 and Part 2 largely about HP; as a former HP-er during Carly's disastrous reign of terror, it's fascinating to read about an HP that wasn't on fire and screaming.

But this time Frederic, the news guy, is actually posting something of interest, and you should read those Fake News posts.

Facebook Cares About Fake News

The central message of the film is that Facebook really does care profoundly about false news. The company was slow to realize the pollution building up in News Feed, but now it is committed to cleaning it up.
Not only does Facebook care, it’s got young, dedicated people who are on it. They’re smart, too. John Hegeman, who now runs News Feed, helped build the Vickrey-Clark-Groves auction system for Facebook advertising, which has turned it into one of the most profitable businesses of all time.

See? It's like if the LAPD was shocked, SHOCKED I say, to discover police brutality was real, so they appointed Daryl Gates to oversee human rights. (My other considered analogies went even further into war crimes territory)

Facebook sells ads. Lurid yellow journalism and propaganda from Republicans and their foreign owners buy those ads. Facebook promotes those ads to make more money. Putting the ad guy who made this shit happen in charge of cleaning it up is (more war crimes analogies).

WIRED was always the slick advertising/design corporate sellout end of cyberpunk 'zines, as opposed to the sex-and-drugs-and-wires end of Mondo 2000, or the neurotic basement h4xx0rz of 2600. But even for WIRED, this is an unusual level of corporate fellatio.

Post-Facebook Microblogging

So, you've deleted your Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts and all of their apps, right? Where do you social?

First, I'm the most technical boy in town, but you don't have to be for any of what I'm going to tell you. This is all fairly easy, even for a normal Human.

Second, you will have to learn things. You'll need to set aside a day or two to read, make decisions, go look terms up. I know learning is hard and scary, but go look at a motivational poster and do the thing:

I am a tiny cactus and I believe in you. You can do the thing!
original

Third, I'm on Mac and iOS; I have complaints with current Apple, but it's still the slowest-sinking ship. That said, you may be using Windows, BSD, Linux, or Android. Most of this is completely platform-independent, and there are some apps for other platforms.

Fourth, some of this costs money, up front for new software, and every month for hosting. As I have previously noted:

"If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."
—Andrew Lewis

  • Search: So, first, set your browser to search with DuckDuckGo. Google is just as bad as Facebook. In Safari, hit Preferences ⌘, > Search tab > dropdown. In Chrome, Preferences > Search engine > dropdown.
    • Now anything you type in the address bar goes thru a search engine that doesn't track you. And there's neat tricks in DDG: Type "!w blog" to see the Wikipedia page on "blog". Type "!g porn" to search Google if DDG's results aren't good enough, tho mostly they are.
  • Blog. I'm using DreamHost managed WordPress, found a nice domain, paid, and was up and running in a few minutes (new domains take a few hours to appear everywhere on the Internet; but while you wait there's plenty of setup and writing to do).
    • There's other options, but whatever you do, make sure you have your own domain name; the WordPress.com free blogs are not bad, but the site is owned by Automattic, not you. Own your own thing, but it's OK to let someone manage it if you can move it somewhere else.
  • Theme: I went with the Twenty Sixteen theme because it looks most traditional blog-like. Twenty Seventeen seems to be more business-oriented. Try both, and other themes, and see what you like.
    • The side menus are a pain to set up: WP Admin > Appearance > Menus, then Appearance > Widgets to create a widget showing that menu. Ask me or someone else with a blog you like, if you need more help; this is all fussy, not technical just annoying.
  • Social: I'm currently using micro.blog (MB) for a social network. Register, choose the "I already have my own microblog." option, the RSS feed is the "Entries RSS" link on your WP blog.
    • Add some WordPress plugins: Micropub, Webmention, Semantic-Linkbacks. These let replies from MB appear as comments under posts, with avatars and names, just like you can see here.
    • You might want to set up WP to "Publicize" to Twitter, and Mastodon Autopost does the same thing for the Fediverse. Alternately, MB can be paid to crosspost to Twitter.
    • I use the MB iOS and Mac apps for posting quick items, or the web site (WP Admin > Posts > Add New) to post here. I'm editing this in the browser, because WP's "classic" editor is OK; I'm scared of the next-gen editor but I'll see if I like it.
    • MarsEdit has a better Mac editor, and posts to all sorts of blogs. But if I'm on the Mac, the web page is fine.
    • I'm still using Fediverse/Mastodon some, and I want that to become bigger and more widespread. But be aware that the site admins have a lot of power, and there's no privacy. I'm likely to set up my own Pleroma instance just for myself so I control my Fediverse activity, and I don't like Gargron's Mastodon tech junkpile/stack.
  • Photos: The MB app does OK at posting photos. Not great, I take photos with Camera+, edit, save, then open the MB app and click the photo button; the share action didn't work when I tried it, but I think that's an iOS 10 issue? Tap tap tap tap stroke tap turn-crank tap tap tap.
    • Sunlit is the other app from Manton Reece (guy behind MB), formerly for App.net (which we all miss), and now a general-purpose photo-blogging tool. I'm not really into it yet, but if I was photo-blogging a lot I would be.
  • Messaging: Facebook can read every message you ever sent thru FB Messenger. Probably not a person (but they can, it's just in a database any FB dev can read), but a program can know everything about you. DELETE THAT SHIT.
    • You can use Email for initial point of contact with people, but realize that's not secure, either. Use iMessage, Telegram, Signal, maybe LINE, maybe WhatsApp (warning: owned by Facebook, so they can still read the metadata of who you're calling), for safe, secure chat; these use end-to-end encryption so nobody, not the company, not the NSA, not a fucking advertiser, can read your messages.
    • Skype, Slack, and Discord are nice for public chat, but realize these are NOT PRIVATE. They have access to everything you send, and of course everything is hosted on their servers. IRC is a complex service, it can be made secure, but any public instance is not secure.
  • Reading: So if someone's on micro.blog, you can just follow them, and see all their posts, and reply/comment on their posts as if it was Twitter.
    • Anyone who hasn't joined MB, you need to find the RSS feed link on their site, and add it to a feed reader. I use FeedBin and think it's worth paying for.
    • Reeder is OK, and runs on iOS and Mac. I like it less than the FeedBin web interface, but YMMV.
    • There used to be a great Mac app called NetNewsWire. It was then acquired, killed, rewritten badly, beaten, chained up, and abandoned to die in a corner with only the rarest bug fixes. I do not recommend the current version in any way, total catastrofuck.
    • Brent Simmons has a new app in development, Evergreen, but the alpha requires High Sierra, and I'm still on Sierra. Still, I expect this to be a good app sometime.

That gets you independent, publishing, and reading posts again, without a scumbag owning everything you do. I'm sure there's a ton of other things you're going to miss, and if you've got questions, ask.

Nightmares of the Only Human

I just had this dream/nightmare, so now I'm telling you so you can be scared.

I was one of the only Humans ever abducted and brought to live in alien society, mostly in space stations. I was getting along as a PI/thug for hire since Humans are more casually violent than aliens, who are mostly small and peaceful. Their infosystems are ridiculously open and simple, so I can just code around anything. I suspect Humans had been loose in the Galaxy before this cycle of civilization, because they already had a suspicious fear of our kind.

Then I hear about a ship full of Humans coming, so I bribe/threaten the dockmaster into giving me the passenger manifest. It's Mark Zuckerberg and a shitload of Facebookers. A few seconds of thought reveal how this is gonna go: Facebook infestation, spreads system to system, within a Galactic cycle everyone would be their slaves.

I get ready to take my ship to the other side of the Galaxy, figuring 100,000 years time and light-years should keep me safe (even in my dreams, I don't believe in bullshit like FTL travel). The station panics, having never seen anything that scares a Human. I get out to the edge of the system, see their ship on my radar. Moral quandry: Should I kill them all, and prove how violent Humans are, or let these predatory literal motherfuckers loose on defenseless little alien critters?

I woke up. What I'm saying is, if you meet a Facebooker, kill them before they get out into the Galaxy.