Ever since Elon Musk took over Twitter and turned it into a tawdry reality show in which he is the star, the villain, and the comedian, everyone has been talking about a new decentralized web. New products, such as Mastodon, and new technologies, such as Activity Pub, are part of a new desire to build a new “fedeverse.” This is utopian thinking about taking the web back from the centralized web platforms.

One of my favorite bloggers, designer Lars Mensel notes:

We all feed social networks and online platforms with unprecedented amounts of data, hardly accounting for the fact everything might vanish when the ownership of a network changes (as seems likely with Twitter’s ongoing nosedive) or the business model collapses.

Mensel is right. And it makes sense that more of us should be doing it, but we don’t because, in the end, we want an easy way out. Manuel Moreale, a programmer points out:

The more I think and read about it, the more I’m convinced that there’s no solution to the centralisation issue we’re currently facing. And that’s because I think that fundamentally people are, when it comes to the internet, lazy. And gathering where everyone else is definitely seems easier. It’s also easier to delegate the job of moderating and policing to someone else and so as a result people will inevitably cluster around a few big websites, no matter what infrastructure we build. And sure, there is always going to be an independent minority that is going to do things their way but it’s just that, a minority. The rest of the internet will move along and aggregate around a few big hubs and the issues are gonna be the same.

Read full post on manuelmoreale.com/on-internet-silos

Moreale, who has eschewed all social media services, pours a glass of cold water on the current excitement and hoopla around Mastodon, Fediverse, and the decentralization of the Internet. When reading his post, I found myself nodding my head in agreement. It is not to say that I don’t believe in decentralized Internet, and after all, the Internet’s premise was a lot of federated (interconnected) networks.

I appreciate the excitement and move away from the centralized services, but most of the excitement comes from the people who were part of the first two waves of the Internet. The newer generation of internet natives doesn’t care much about archival or permanence on the network.

Ephemeral is a concept that is more apt for describing that generation. Streaming, on-demand, and vanishing ephemeral content are their native behaviors. The rest of their social media presence is with intentionality — either to create or curate a presence much like a celebrity.

Regardless of age, the big elephant in the room is that we are certified addicts to attention.

It doesn’t matter whether it is Twitter, Instagram, or Mastodon. Everyone is playing to an audience. The social Internet is a performance theater praying at the altar of attention. Journalists need attention to be relevant, and experts need to signal their expertise. And others want to be influencers. For now, Twitter, Instagram, and their ilk give the biggest bang for the blast. It is why those vocal and active about Mastodon are still posting away on Musk’s Twitter.

If we didn’t care for attention, we wouldn’t be doing anything at all. We wouldn’t broadcast. Instead, we would socialize privately in communication with friends and peers.


Here are some of my previous writings on social media, our addiction, and why it is a problem.

January 4, 2022. San Francisco

 

How did it get so late so soon? 
It’s night before it’s afternoon. 
December is here before it’s June. 
My goodness how the time has flown. 
How did it get so late so soon?
Dr. Seuss

It has been a few weeks since I sent one of these updates. I thought I would write one last month. Like all writers, I, too, have developed a penchant for procrastination. It is a deadly affliction, especially if your think in words and write to bring order to your inner self. So this morning, when a 4.0 Earthquake woke me up, I knew I couldn’t go back to sleep, and I took it as a cue to sit down and write this quick note. 

Over the past few weeks, I have been busy playing with new technologies and jotting down ideas for future (longer) pieces. It is a much better use of time and a good distraction from the shit show around us. Twitter, in particular, is a dumpster fire. And while I am not on Mastodon (yet,), I might set up a personal instance and tinker with it over the holidays.

Mastodon, in itself, isn’t novel, as it mimics Twitter. The idea of Fediverse and, by extension, ActivityPub, are interesting because they hark back to an early vision of the web, one that wasn’t dominated by the “centralized attention” economy. I feel there is a big opportunity for WordPress (my blog publishing system) to give a push to Fediverse and ActivityPub. More on that in a future communique.

In case you missed some of the recent writing, here are a few links.

December is almost half done, though I am just getting started. Winter months are my favorite time of the year — when I take my camera and head out wherever there is snow. 

And now for some recommendations: 

  • If you are looking for a nice, calm (cozy) crime series to view this holiday season, I highly recommend Three Pines, which is based on a novel by Louise Penny and stars Alfred Molina. Molina is just such a great pick for the role of Chief Inspector Armand Ganache. It is spectacular viewing and free to watch for Amazon Prime members.
  • If you are in London and are looking for a modernist twist on Indian cuisine, I highly recommend Bibi. Great ambiance, a fresh take on food and flavors I am familiar with, without pandering or diluting the originals. 
  • Closer to home in San Francisco, check out El Rey Taquiza Artesanal, which has a fresh (and I mean really fresh) take on Mexican food. I have been there a dozen times already and have never been disappointed. 
  • If you are on Mac, you should check out Arc, a new, simpler, modern take on the Chrome browser. It is kinder to your computers than the junk Google puts on the market. There is a waiting list.
  • I got rid of Google search and replaced it with Neeva. It is a new search engine built by Google Search team members. For me, it has been worth switching. 

PS: Please visit the website more often and catch up on my short posts, recommendations, and photos. You can leave comments and start a conversation now that we are avoiding Twitter. 

December 17, 2022