The perfect social medium


An interesting idea: what if using social media didn’t leave you buck-naked and exposed?

What would “internet realists” want from their media streams? The opposite of what we have now. Today, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are designed to make users easy to contact. That was the novelty of social media — we could get in touch with people in new and previously unimaginable ways.

It also meant, by default, that any government or advertiser could do the same. Mr. Scalzi thinks we should turn the whole system on its head with “an intense emphasis on the value of curation.” It would be up to you to curate what you want to see. Your online profiles would begin with everything and everyone blocked by default.

Think of it as a more robust, comprehensive version of privacy settings, where news and entertainment would reach you only after you opted into them. This would be the first line of defense against viral falsehoods, as well as mobs of strangers or bots attacking someone they disagree with.

Right now, the system is set up so bad social media can sell your information if they want. That’s all they’re in it for, is monetizing you. I would be so there for a site where you weren’t public by default, where you could control what bits and pieces of your life that you want to share, and where the hosting service didn’t assume that they owned everything you published.

Of course, you’d need a different model for funding it, unless it was nationalized somehow.

Here’s another idea that appeals:

Trying to keep up with this torrent, media companies have used algorithms to stop the spread of abusive or misleading information. But so far, they haven’t helped much. Instead of deploying algorithms to curate content at superhuman speeds, what if future public platforms simply set limits on how quickly content circulates?

It would be a much different media experience. “Maybe you’ll submit something and it won’t show up the next minute,” Ms. Noble said. “That might be positive. Maybe we’ll upload things and come back in a week and see if it’s there.”

Yes, throttling would be good, as long as it were fairly applied. I could imagine a system at Freethoughtblogs, for instance, where all the bloggers would submit their posts to a system-wide queue, and the software would post for you when a slot opened up say, once an hour, and publishing would be prioritized for who entered the queue first and for people who hadn’t posted in a while. It might also lead to longer and more substantial posts from us kneejerk fire-hose wielders if we knew our stuff was likely to be delayed to give less prolific bloggers the next available publication slot.

Not going to happen, though. Blogs here are independent and autonomous, so that’s a scheme that probably wouldn’t be favored. We’d also have to implement it, which would take considerable tinkering with the guts of WordPress.

Comments

  1. remyporter says

    This is why I’m a holdout that relies heavily on RSS. I curate it, and it’s slow. I’ll never give up RSS.

  2. says

    I could imagine a system at Freethoughtblogs, for instance, where all the bloggers would submit their posts to a system-wide queue, and the software would post for you when a slot opened up say, once an hour, and publishing would be prioritized for who entered the queue first and for people who hadn’t posted in a while. It might also lead to longer and more substantial posts from us kneejerk fire-hose wielders if we knew our stuff was likely to be delayed to give less prolific bloggers the next available publication slot.

    The thing that I dislike most about blogs is how the content is posted and then readers are expected to consume it on the same day after which the post becomes old and is forgotten. WordPress makes it hard for a reader to go through all the archives, often dating back many years. A blog post about some current political event won’t be interesting for readers a year later, but the thing is that most well-written articles ought to be timeless and relevant also a decade later.

    How to fix this?

    Currently blog posts are sorted by date. Instead people could implement some system that sorts posts by topic or allows users to easily search for what they would find interesting.

    The second solution would be for bloggers to stop publishing 200 word long posts and all sort of “filler” material. The idea that a blogger should post every day (or else they will be forgotten by readers who expect regular content) is harmful, because creating quality content takes time and effort. At least I cannot publish good content on a daily basis. For example, this post https://andreasavester.com/history-of-the-always-changing-female-beauty-standards/ took me several days to research and write.

    Bloggers on Freethoughtblogs have created some excellent posts that still remain relevant also years later. It’s annoying that I cannot find those posts without first combing though an archive of “filler” posts. OK, I get why some blogger publishes a 200 word post in which they inform the readers about the fact that they are currently in a hospital. But such posts become a mess to sort though when I want to read some blogger’s old posts from 8 years ago.

    remyporter @#1
    I also use RSS feeds. What other option is there really? Have Facebook algorithm curate what I see? Hell no.

  3. redwood says

    I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, so “everything and everyone is blocked by default. News and entertainment only reach me after I opt into them.”
    Did I get so far behind the curve that I’m actually ahead of it?

  4. Susan Montgomery says

    @2 “Brevity is the soul of wit”, eh? Well, you’re right. I’ve seen quite a few bloggers that blatantly repeat themselves just to pad things out.

  5. says

    @remyporter #1,
    Well let me tell you what kids these days think about rss. Among most people I have talked to on Tumblr, they simply use Tumblr’s proprietary news feed, which only shows content on Tumblr. They don’t understand rss or they complain about one thing or another. It probably doesn’t help that Tumblr’s rss feeds are hard to find, and occasionally buggy. And upon reflection, I can’t see what incentive Tumblr has to fix it up, as Tumblr would rather trap users on its own hellsite where they can show ads.

    Another site I use, Pillowfort, doesn’t have rss feeds at all. And it’s easy to see why. It’s in beta, and not enough people use rss for it to be worth their time. Additionally, I don’t see how rss would be able to deal with their privacy controls–only public posts would be viewable. So maybe rss has problems too, but I guess we’re never going to solve them, because social platforms just have no incentive to use a standard syndication process.

  6. us3r1d says

    (Long-time reader; first-time commenter. ;-)

    “I would be so there for a site where you weren’t public by default, where you could control what bits and pieces of your life that you want to share, and where the hosting service didn’t assume that they owned everything you published.”

    This describes the diaspora* approach pretty well.

    I set up a small diaspora* hosting environment a few weeks ago (when I decided it was time to get myself off of facebook); any of you are welcome to try it out. It’s at http://www.oksocial.net.

    One of the things I’d like to try with it, though, is setting up diaspora* sites for pre-existing online communities (like Pharyngula’s readers, for example); that way you could moderate it yourselves according to your own community norms.

  7. DanDare says

    One of the problems is that, unlike forum software, facebook and twitter are both publish, consume, forget platforms. They aren’t designed with conversation and reflection in mins.
    Blogs are a kind of halfway house but they could really do with some of the organising functions of forums. I would so love to be able to scroll to the first unread comment when I return to a post.

  8. jack16 says

    @2.

    Andreas Avester

    5 December 2019 at 8:56 am

    Very good. It would have taken me years!

    jack16

  9. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    An issue with posting delay is that it prevents or slows time sensitive issues. That hurts activism and community discussion.

  10. says

    If you have a throttled pipeline, you just end up with a backlog. If there’s one week where more things are posted than can be passed through the system, it just backs up. If there isn’t, then things just get posted effectively as normal. So the system only does anything in situations where you have an ever growing backlog of unposted material and the likely delay between writing and posting grows continually wider, unless there is some way to purge unposted material from the pipe. You’d end up either with things posted months if not years after they were written, or not posted at all.

    The problem with social media doesn’t really have much to do with the systems themselves. It always comes down to people, and how they prefer to interact. Facebook didn’t become what it is in spite of itself, but because it’s exactly what most people want it to be. On the bright side, as time passes people adapt. The next generations will be significantly better at curating their online lives. Unfortunately technology now moves faster than culture, and society is likely to be continuously lagging behind the curve until we hit a critical point and some kind of luddite revolution kicks in.

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