purelyconstructive wrote

Nice! How was it? I had recently watched his lecture at this year's DEF CON that covers the same topic.

I'm glad that people are thinking of designing things that properly interface with each other, especially since The Web has become progressively more user-unfriendly over the past few years (e.g.: Reddit paywalling its API).

It is painfully ironic; The Web itself only has the reach that it does because interoperability was of primary concern, and if that design philosophy was integrated into our social media platforms they would probably suffer from less problems. At the very least, it would make it easy to switch and/or make good backups.

If you like this, you might also enjoy his book How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. It was originally an article that he wrote for Medium in 2020, but he also made it into a free audiobook on his podcast:

The only other book that I've read by him is the one that he co-authored with Rebecca Giblin, Chokepoint Capitalism. I gave a brief summary of it here, but Cory also gives a more thorough rundown in his interview for UCL IBIL.

While it has some material that is good to be aware of (especially if one is a writer or musician), most of the suggestions on how to correct the issues revolve around anti-trust law. He mentions "adversarial interoperability" in passing, but I assume that he wrote The Internet Con to elaborate upon the concept in more detail.


purelyconstructive wrote

Insightful. Thank you for sharing! Lots of food for thought in regards to how design impacts psychology and vice versa.

I had never heard of the term "notification fatigue", but unfortunately, I am familiar with the experience.

Starbreaker had an interesting article called This Is Not My Side Hustle that defined the difference between "push notifications" (i.e.: those served directly to a user by default) and "pull notifications" (i.e.: a source that a user can choose to retrieve updates from).

Or, as the article succinctly puts it: "The difference between pull technology and push technology is that the former relies on polling and the latter runs on interrupts. Every email you get from a newsletter every notification from a app or website is an interruption, a demand for your immediate and undivided attention."

It is no surprise that the modelling of the Internet as an "attention economy" would lead to the creation of those types of mechanisms to govern it.


purelyconstructive wrote

Sorry I am a week late from the finish date. Finally got a chance to read it...

First, here is an extended table of contents (i.e.: chapters with subsections) to make it easier to reference and review specific topics:

Preface - Among the Eels

Market Failure
Into the Stack
New Directions

Part 1 - The Pipes

Chapter 1 - A People's History of the Internet

Birth of a Network
The Mainframe and the Battlefield
From Protocol to Place
Open for Business
The Electronic Shopping Mall

Chapter 2 - The Plunder Continues

The Internet's Slumlords
The Possibility of Democracy

Chapter 3 - The People's Pipes

The People Rule
Making an Example
Defend and Extend
Wiring an Ecosystem
Small Is Not Always Beautiful

Chapter 4 - From Below

Competition is Overrated
Spy Machines

Part 2 - The Platforms

Chapter 5 - Up The Stack

Platforms Don't Exist
The Ultimate Market
Community Standards

Chapter 6 - Online Malls

The Eyeball Business
Making Friends

Chapter 7 - Elastic Empires

The Internet's Factories
Far from the Mothership
The Everywhere Machine
Command and Control
Discipline at a Distance
Real Abstractions
Saturation Point

Chapter 8 - Inclusive Predators

An Entangled Existence
Risk and Reward
Innovation Opportunism
Beyond the Bubble
Balancing Act
Multiple Choice

Chapter 9 - Toward the Forest

Market Forces
Facing Reality
Birds in the Food Court
Protocolize the Walled Gardens
Public Programming
Common Sense
Innovation from Below
Everything Else

Conclusion - Future Nostalgia

Next, here is a brief summary and a bit of personal commentary:

Ben is a fantastic writer. The book offers an expansive view, yet stays clear and concise, steadily building upon itself throughout.

Tying all of this together are two analogies:

  1. The House Analogy - All aspects of the Internet are stacked on top of one another. The physical networks described in part 1 are like the pipes within the basement of a house, and the systems used by the businesses described in part 2 are like the activities occurring within the upper floors. One is built upon the other. [While it is related, this is not to be confused with The OSI 7-Layer Model that is used within the study of Networking. It is a lot more general.]

  2. The Shopping Mall Analogy - The systems described in part 2 are often presented within public discourse as if they are "platforms" in the literal sense of the word (i.e.: a tool that people can use to present something to a large crowd). In actuality, they are environments structured by those businesses for the purpose of "profit maximization" at the expense of their "users" through algorithms and other means. He likens them to online "shopping malls". [It is important to note how much research into human behavior is behind the design of business environments of all kinds. It would seem that many people are unaware of just how influenced they are by forces outside of themselves.]

The book also serves as a useful outline of alternatives. To quote the Conclusion...

...Privatization was an act of reinvention: it made a small academic network into the modern internet. Deprivatization must be no less inventive. If privatization meant creating an internet that served the principle of profit maximization, deprivatization means creating an internet organized by the idea that people, not profit, should rule.

No single line of attack can achieve this end. Different strategies are needed for different layers. Down the stack, in the realm of the pipes, publicly and cooperatively owned community networks are the building blocks of a democratic internet. These networks can serve the communities exploited and excluded by the slumlords of the broadband cartel; instead of funneling money upward to executives and investors, they can focus on making service accessible and affordable. They can also give communities control over their operations, so that users and residents determine how infrastructure is run. Hundreds of such networks already exist across the United States, but they will have to be defended and extended with public support.

Up the stack, among the so-called platforms, the path to deprivatization is less linear. There is no equivalent of the community network. Here what's needed is the imaginative work of abolition. Two maneuvers are involved: first, shrinking the footprint of the online malls, which means making common cause with anti-monopoly advocates. Yet the goal of deprivatization is not an internet with more competitive markets, but an internet where markets matter less. This is why, while working to disassemble the online malls, we must also be assembling a constellation of alternatives that can lay claim to the space they currently occupy. And these must be real alternatives, not smaller or more entrepreneurial versions of the tech giants but institutions of a fundamentally different kind, engineered to curtail the power of the profit motive and to enshrine the practices and principles of democratic decision-making. Some are already emerging in rudimentary form - self-governing social media communities, worker-owned app-based services - but they will need to be refined and expanded through public investment. We will also need spaces that help new alternatives emerge, where people can collectively articulate their needs and construct the online worlds capable of meeting them.

There is so much material here that could be elaborated upon and implemented in various ways. Many of the examples that he shares are quite inspiring as well. I am tempted to systematically go through all of it point-by-point and add comments, but I will stop there for now. Thank you so much for sharing!

Did everyone else enjoy the book? What are your thoughts?


purelyconstructive wrote

...FOMO with social media is so so so common but there's also just the fact that once you integrate those platforms into your routine, it gets harder and harder to UN-integrate them (I don't think that's a word, but you get what i mean haha).

Haha! Yes, I know exactly what you mean. A good example is Google. They have many useful services, but the integration into nearly every facet of online activity seems like a security issue in general...

  • The searches made on Google, whether typed or spoken
  • The emails sent and received through Gmail
  • The apps downloaded through Google Play
  • The videos watched on YouTube
  • The books read on Google Books
  • The passwords and bookmarks saved on Google Chrome
  • The files uploaded to and downloaded from Google Drive
  • The translations done with Google Translate
  • Other accounts connected to a Google login
  • All navigation done with Google Maps
  • The photos and location of an Android phone
  • All sorts of home data from Google Nest?! ...and on and on.

It is like quicksand. One can stop tracking to some extent, but it can be discouraging to try to separate from it completely if one has a lot of stuff to replace or migrate, especially when it requires some level of technical knowledge and skill to do so (e.g.: setting up a "de-Googled" phone).

...I've been getting better at resisting that temptation but the fact that it's there in the first place really reminds me of how prevalent this problem is; and how it's by design, not by any personal moral flaw on my end.

As we gain awareness, it becomes easier to discern what will lead to over-dependency or self-empowerment, and to help others do the same. Strength and wisdom to you on this journey.


purelyconstructive wrote

Sub for Saria's Song at the end there...Haha jk! Interesting video. Thank you for sharing! I agree with the main points.

Main Points:

  • It is not necessarily that our attention spans have gotten shorter, it is that things have gotten better at attracting and holding our attention. Attention might also vary depending upon the task, our personal state, etc.

  • People sometimes use short-form content as a coping mechanism, trying to get a shot of dopamine to help deal with daily stressors (e.g.: burnout, social phobias, etc.).

Personal Elaboration: