From now on, I’m bringing Al Franken with me wherever I go so I don’t have to talk to anybody any more.
This is an interesting development and provides some interesting lessons:
Facebook apparently knew quite early on that Russian agents were manipulating Facebook feeds and Facebook users in order to influence the American election, favoring Trump and working against Clinton.
But they publicly denied that they had any of this information, and went so far as to delete information about this in a report. The report contained details about Russia that Facebook legal and marketing teams removed before the report’s release.
Then, as you may know, they eventually admitted it.
The result of this long and inexplicable delay may have set back by months our understanding of the whole Trump-Russian scandal.
Watch this for all the gory details:
Twitter is about to ruin itself.
I’m convinced that the people who made and run both Facebook and Twitter don’t have a clue as to what Facebook and Twitter are for. And by “for” I mean how the users use them. I know, I know, if you are not paying for the product than you are the product. I get it. But it is also true that for a service to be successful it should meet a need or two, and knowing what those needs are is ultimately linked to success or failure. It seems like on line services like Facebook and Twitter are too big to go away or fail. And that is exactly how we humans tend to view established institutions right up until the day the go away or fail.
Twitter’s CFO has said that Twitter will start to filter your twitter feed in a manner like Facebook does. This probably means that your feed will contain a subset of tweets that you normally would see depending on who you follow, or what list of tweeters you are looking at. There may be a technological way around this, but any fix provided by an updated API will not be helpful because Twitter has a reputation for changing the API (the way programmers use to interface with it) in such a way as to stifle development of applications that actually use twitter. Any larger scale or longer term investment in Twitter requires using the simplest interface, with few bells and whistled, or the rug may be pulled from underneath your project.
One of the great uses of Twitter is shared conversations (like this one) or shared not taking at conferences. Other uses include data collection and communication of ongoing processes. People have used twitter to record the catch by fisherfolk in marine conservation projects, for example. If Twitter Facebook-i-fies the Twitter feed, none of that will be possible because those projects and others like them require reliability of the flow of tweets.
An unfiltered stream is a core feature: This might seem like a small thing, similar to Twitter’s move to insert tweets that other people have favorited into a user’s stream if there aren’t any recent tweets to show them. But as the controversy over that feature shows, the Twitter chronological-order model is at the core of what the service offers for many users — and a number of them have specifically said it is the thing they like most about Twitter when compared to Facebook.
A friend of mine, Gareth Renowden, wrote a novel called The Aviator (The Burning World). It is a post-climate change story, set in the future, and it is a good one. I highly recommend it. Gareth is also an activist who puts considerable effort into climate change. Some time in the last few hours, the Facebook page Gareth had created to promote his novel was taken down by Facebook. From Gareth’s blog post on the matter:
Yesterday The Aviator‘s Facebook page disappeared. When I logged in to check the page I was greeted by a message that said the page was being removed because it had been identified as carrying material related to bullying. There was a button labelled “appeal”, so I pressed it. That’s all. No contact information, no detail of the complaint. Nothing. Except that I was also prevented from posting or sharing anything on Facebook for 12 hours. The page no longer exists, and I am annoyed.
So: why did this happen?
Gareth is well known to the science denialist community, and I strongly suspect that climate change denialists are behind this. This is what they do. They bully people. There are a lot of bullies on the Internet and they know no constraint and have no sense of ethics or responsibility to the Internet community. An overlapping and similar set of bullies attacked my my book as well which was meant to be a fundraiser for the Secular Student Alliance. And, they were successful. The attacks on me and my book were not especially effective and the bullies did not accomplish anything, but the level of support I saw from my own secular community when I was under attack was anemic at best, and made me realize that being part of a community of activists who don’t know how to activate was a waste of time. (This is why I now spend most of my activist time in the climate science area, and regional progressive politics.)
Anyway, Gareth is not at all certain as to what really happened to his facebook page. He suggests it might be a matter of Facebook being bad at what it does, but leaves open the possibility that this was a coordinated (and apparently successful) attack by science deniers on a piece of literature … a sort of vigil ante book burning … using Facebook as an unwitting pawn.
If that is the case, there is a lesson here. Never give Facebook any money. If this is how a “client” (a free unpaid user) is treated, is there any guarantee that a paid user, someone who buys facebook ads, would be treated any differently? Once again, Facebook has shown itself to be ineffective at what it does. Effort spent on Facebook, and money spent on Facebook, is effort and money at risk of being tossed aside because Facebook is unable to tell the difference between a page promoting a novel and a page that bullies, when actual bullies come along and lie.
I’m not sure what can be done about this at the present time. If Gareth comes up with a strategy other than ignoring Facebook henceforth (which is what I would recommend) I’ll let you know. In the mean time, show the bullies who burned this particular book that they can’t win, and get yourself a copy of The Aviator! It really is a good book.
Also, in the mean time, I’ve got something else for you to read. I’m working on a piece of fiction that is set in a post-apocalyptic utopian world, in which everything is fine, and that’s a huge problem. It is a climate change novel, so if you are one of the denialist bullies, this will be a future target for you, piece of literature you can burn along with your precious fossil fuels. Below, I’ve got a passage from an early draft to give you a flavor and hopefully amuse you a little. The scene takes place about 150 miles north of what is now Laramie Wyoming, in the Spring, in the year 2546. Enjoy.
The group was easy to locate from some distance owing to the toddler who frequently cried or screamed, and otherwise, was very loud. If there was an animal out there that habitually ate people, all the people would be eaten, Bale thought, owing to these toddlers. Bale approached the group the long way, allowing her to put several patches of vegetation between them, and watched for a while. The toddler was being taken care of by an older brother, just a few years older but acting very responsibly and trying to keep the little one from harming himself more than necessary on sharp rocks and thorny bushes. Then there were three girls, one half way in age between the toddler an the toddler’s caretaker, one older, just coming of age, and one full grown but young woman, and that is who Bale had come for.
Bale placed one of her arrows across the bow, and pulled enough to test the string and determine that she could fire the arrow full strength. With the arrow half cocked in this manner, she moved from her hiding place behind some bushes to the next clump of vegetation, a small mound of soil with a cowlick of tall grass on top of it. In order to not be seen, Bale had to push herself into the dirt and line her body up to be invisible from the direction of the people. She watched for a full ten minutes, and again, tested her arrow against the bow.
At one unlikely moment, all five of the people she was watching were preoccupied, although each with totally different thing. The toddler was sitting on the ground screaming with his eyes closed. The boy was looking for something to amuse the toddler with, facing away form Bale. The younger girl kid was hiding her face as part of a game she was playing with the teenager who was now looking in the opposite direction, and the young woman was taking a nap half in the shade of a creosote bush. Bale took the moment to move like a snake to the next place where she had cover, and now there was one large clump of vegetation between her and the woman under the creosote bush. Again, she tested her bow and arrow. She looked at the young sleeping woman, and she looked at her arrow, and decided to change ammo. She slipped this arrow between her belt and the small of her back where it would be handy and drew a different arrow out of a quiver, and tried that one. Good. Straighter, the fletching was in better shape. She would not miss with this one.
Then, Bale aimed. She took a careful bead and drew the arrow as tightly as it could be drawn and then held perfectly steady. She waited a full minute to make sure that everything was lined up right, her body still invisible to the group, her arrow, her quarry. Then, without moving a muscle in her body she let out a very loud shout.
And this caused the young woman to suddenly sit up underneath the creosote bush, striking her head on the thorny branch and getting her hair stuck. Cursing, rare among Gem Deva, ensued, and she pounded the ground with her foot. Suddenly, owing to the loud raucous coming from the creosote bush, a young peccary that had been hiding in that last clump of vegetation started, and began to take flight. But just as quickly as the peccary stood to run, it was impaled by Bale’s first arrow, and just as the Peccary started to turn its direction out of fear, Bale’s second arrow had it in the throat and it went down in the dust.
Zeta, the girl in the bush, had extracted herself from the killer vegetation and sat, still somewhat stunned by hearing her name coming from a direction in which there seemed to be no person. At this point, Bale stood, and shouldered her bow. She walked briskly towards Zeta, and half way there bent down to pick up her prey by it’s hind feet, and dragged it the rest of the way to where Zeta sat. By this time the two of them were grinning from ear to ear.
“This is for your father,” Bale told the young woman. “I hope your siblings can carry it to his camp, so you and I can take a walk.”
In Gem Devan culture, “taking a walk” was a euphemism. In a society where everyone slept in a minimalistic hut within a few feet of the next hut, certain things were done not so much at home, but … well, while taking a walk.
The two boys and two girls were also grinning, and each of them came over to Bale and gave her a long and strong hug, and exchanged words of greeting. Except the toddler, he was busy eating some ants.
“I love you, brothers and sisters,” Bale told them, as they turned, sharing the job of carrying the peccary, to deliver the gift to Zeta’s father. She looked at Zeta. Like An Yon, Zeta was the same age as Bale. Unlike An Yon, she was Devan. In fact, the one time prior that Zeta accompanied Bale to West Village, she was mistaken for Bale a number of times. They were the same height, build, had the same overall looks, but really, Zeta was less muscular and had a thinner face and her hair was a shade darker. Or perhaps dirtier.
In fact, at the moment, Bale was the one that was inappropriately dressed and not properly adorned. She was wearing shorts, a skirt, a waistcoat and tunic, all made for her by Lizzie. She wore her old billed hat and googles and two belts, one low over her hips one tight on her waist. She also donned a bandoleer, a small backpack, and several utility satchels attached to these various leather straps and belts.
Zeta, on the other hand, was mostly just wearing her smile. Well, as modest as the next Devan, she wore a loin cloth. But she was covered by a layer of brown dirt and bear grease, which was mostly winter wear but these early summer days had been cool so many of the Deva were wearing the grease-dirt mixture. Underneath, her skin would be very light. Once summer got going, Deva browned nicely and never burned in the sun, and their skin was not affected by the ravages of sunlight as one might expect, considering that they were pale people who lived outdoors and wore little clothing. This could have been partly because the skies were usually cloudy in this region, and partly because of the bear grease and dirt, but was probably just because they had been living in this setting for enough generations to adjust.
Bale took Zeta’s hand and they took a walk. For real. Bale did not tell Zeta at this point what she had come for, but filled her in on the other important things in her life. Zeta did the same, enumerating which cousins were living in their camp now, and which cousins were staying elsewhere, relating who had died recently (no one Bale knew well) and listing off the new babies. The Gem Deva were thinly dispersed on the landscape and often on the move, but in fact, they used the same exact camping spots again and again, and every feature of the landscape they lived on had a name every one knew. So, as Zeta related the recent comings and goings, she referred repeatedly to places that Bale would know, and if a location was mentioned that did not seem familiar to Bale, Zeta would fill in the blank.
“Uncle’s rock? You know, that big rock sticking out of the ground where Zim, my mother’s sister’s son, left that mess after butchering the dead deer he found that nobody could eat because it was too rotten, about a half day’s walk beyond…”
“Oh, right, that rock, just south of Rattler’s Gully.”
“Right. Anyway, that’s were Cousin Zoe-Lan and her family are staying now…”
And so on and so forth for an hour until everybody was caught up with everything.
And by this time they had come to a place where they could sit and watch the sunset, and hold each other to stay warm against the chilling night air, and restore their intimacy. They had not seen each other in two years. They were not betrothed, or a couple in any way. They were just occasional lovers, and had been so since the very day they met many miles east of this spot when they ran into each other on a bounty hunt. Zeta, like Bale, was a hunter. In fact, there were many things they both liked. There were things they both liked to do, and there were things they both liked to have done. So as the red sun slid below the horizon, and the shadows lengthened and softened and finally became one with the night, they did. Those things. A few times.
The walk back to the camp was quiet and comfortable, and lit by a full moon two hours up. Their welcome by the cousins was warm and loving. The peccary was excellent, served with a half a dozen other food items brought into the camp during the day. This group had just moved to this camp, and Zeta should have built a hut for herself and her sister that afternoon, but distracted by Bale’s arrival she never did, so her sister stayed with the toddler and his mom, the toddler’s brother and his two friends who shared a young man’s hut went off to the bush to sleep under the stars, and so the cousins gave Bale and Zeta a hut to share, a fire already built at its entrance and a couple of blankets tossed inside.
“Tomorrow morning,” Bale said to Zeta before they fell asleep. “I’m going to ask you to do something you won’t want to do.”
“That’s OK, sister,” Zeta replied. This was actually a standard Devan way of saying good night, and Zeta gave the standard response. “I hope you let me touch you with my gift.”
“I hope so too,” Bale added, which was not part of the standard good night ritual. “Because I’m actually going to ask you to do something you won’t want to do.” But she said this too quietly for Zeta to hear. Really, she just said it in her own mind. But it was true.
Look at this picture and ask yourself if it is funny, or if it is … something other than funny:
I have mixed feelings about automatic updates of one or more social networking sites from another social networking site. Like when you twitter something and your Facebook status gets the same string of words, or visa versa. I know a few people who do this on a regular basis, and it seems to work very differently depending on what the person tends to write and how the connection between her or his social networking sites is set up.
Continue reading Sending tweets to Facebook, status updates to Friend Feed, blog posts to Twitter, and on and on