This week's notable links
This is my regular digest of links and media I found notable over the last week. Did I miss something? Let me know!
"My advice to business leaders is this: If your “personal belief” tells you that in-office work is better, approach the question analytically. What actual, measurable problems related to your business objectives will be solved by a return to the office?"
This is the crux for me: there are very few actual problems that are solved by returning to the office. Instead, it's often a feeling - a return to the past. I would argue that looking backwards is never a good way to think; it's better to consider what you need to do in order to truly adapt to the future. #Business
A nice investigation into who actually hosts fediverse instances.
I've been in a few situations where I've had to fend off a DDoS originating from Hetzner servers, and it's just now dawning on me: what if those weren't malicious attacks but were actually a post going viral on the fediverse? #Technology
"Five dictionaries as well as eight encyclopedias and other reference materials including “The Guinness Book of World Records” and “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” are among over 1,600 books that Escambia County Public Schools removed from its library shelves in December and flagged for review."
Alongside Anne Frank and a biography of Oprah Winfrey. I wish I could say it was baffling, but it's not: the mindset and set of values that lead to this is obvious and abhorrent. #Education
"So when we wonder where all the websites have gone, know it’s the curators we’re nostalgic for because the curators showed us the best the web had to offer once upon a time. And the curators— the tenders, aggregators, collectors, and connectors— can bring us back to something better. Because it’s still out there, we just have to find it."
For what it's worth, that's what I'm trying to do to share these links with you: highlighting interesting pieces, often from independent writers publishing on their own sites. I really appreciate the other curators I subscribe to, too.
Let's all connect and learn from each other! #Culture
It's feeling more and more like Substack will be toast if they don't significantly walk back their policy on Nazis. (And honestly, at this point, even if they did, who would want to be associated with it?)
"This was never about the fate of a few publications: it was about whether Substack would publicly commit to proactively removing pro-Nazi material. Up to the moment I published on Tuesday, I believed that the company planned to do this. But I no longer do."
Casey Newton discusses why Platformer is leaving Substack, bringing its paid subscribers with it, and why he selected Ghost (which really is an excellent choice).
As with Citation Needed and Garbage Day, I'm delighted to resubscribe at their new homes. #Media
An in-depth writeup of Meta's fediverse meetup last year by Tom Coates, who was one of the roughly 20 people in attendance.
Most of these details have been discussed and speculated on at this point, but it's good to read them in one place, and I think Tom's perspective is (as always) very good.
The legal issues Tom discusses here are important: I think a lot of fediverse administrators and service operators tend to hand-wave them away, but they really are big issues. I encountered some of them when I was running Known, too: people were angry their content was showing up on some other service that they hadn't opted into.
Meta does seem to be heading into this endeavor in good faith. There's still a lot to figure out, but I think Threads will be a full, participative fediverse participant. I'm curious to see which other large network operators join them. #Technology
I like this argument that generated content is an invasive species in our content ecosystem.
"As generated material rapaciously populates the Internet, human-created artworks will be outcompeted by generated graphics on social media platforms by virtue of volume."
I agree that this is something to be concerned with, and the paragraph about legal rights and obligations is also spot on. #AI
"The tools that likely brought down Harvard president Claudine Gay are improperly used on students all the time. [...] The technology of text mining can be used to destroy the career of any scholar at any time."
Tools like Turnitin are rife with false positives, and can be weaponized to target students for any reason. It's bad software. But even more importantly, it's bad educational policy to deploy it, and its design encourages bad grading decisions. The result is an entire generation of students who are badly served. #Education
I think Chuck Tingle is awesome and proves love. This was a disappointing decision by the Texas Library Association, which is hopefully a learning moment for every organization like it.
Chuck's description of the intersectional challenges at play here is in-depth and well-stated. And there's this important statement:
"let me be very clear for the 100th time: i am a real person. this is not a joke. i am not playing a character. i am really autistic and bisexual. tinglers are sincere and they are not ‘so bad theyre good’. they are just good. camp damascus is not ‘my first serious book’ because my queer erotica is serious. my art is important and real." #Culture
This was why I started Known, and I wonder if I should try again.
"If we want the future web we’re all clamouring for, we need to give people more options for self-hosted independence. If we seriously, truly want the independent, non-enshittified personal web to flourish, we need to make it easier for people to join in."
Everything here. I love the indieweb, but it needs to be accessible to people who are much less technical.
The one flaw here is that there's discussion of hosting as the shared, FTP-centric kind. I think that kind of hosting needs to die; I'd like to see web hosting look much more like installing an app on an iPhone. #Technology
The headline here is a little misleading, because it should end: "... but not proactively, and with no changes to our content policy."
Substack seems to want to have its cake and eat it: to offer content deals, promote writers, and shape its writer community, but also be treated as a neutral utility rather than a platform with its own editorial policy, content goals, and community management.
I don't think it should have that ability. Either it's a neutral utility - which is an impossibility because of its obvious community curation, but also because of rules imposed on it at the payment layer - or it's a platform. It can't be both. And because it can't be the former, the company needs to take real responsibility for its actions, rather than pin itself to this clearly cynical policy dressed up as principles. #Media
"Every year, the Supreme Court’s nine justices fill out a form that discloses their financial connections to companies and people. Using our new database, you can now search for organizations and people that have paid the justices, reimbursed them for travel, given them gifts and more."
Journalism doesn't need to be an article or a finite piece of content. It can be a searchable database or an interactive application that puts a new spin on public information, set out to be usable in the public interest. #Democracy