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    1. Are there any viable alternatives for Facebook?

      A lot of people are currently switching over from WhatsApp to Signal right now, and the two are comparable enough that Signal can pretty much act as a drop-in replacement for WhatsApp. They have...

      A lot of people are currently switching over from WhatsApp to Signal right now, and the two are comparable enough that Signal can pretty much act as a drop-in replacement for WhatsApp. They have very comparable features, and Signal is easy enough to use that it's adoptable by non-techy people.

      Does something similar exist for Facebook? I'm fully aware of the network effects that keep people on Facebook, but let's pretend a lot of people wanted to leave that platform and migrate elsewhere. Is there anything that has a similar featureset and that is usable by the general population?

      8 votes
    2. The Great Deplatforming: An alternate explanation for the Parler, et al, shutdowns

      A common current narrative is that tech monopolists are suddenly acting of their own initiative and inconcert to deplatform the burgeoning fascist insurgent movement within the US. I approve the...

      A common current narrative is that tech monopolists are suddenly acting of their own initiative and inconcert to deplatform the burgeoning fascist insurgent movement within the US. I approve the deplatforming strongly, though I suspect an alternative significant motivating and coordfinating factor.

      An example of the "tech monopoly abuse" narrative is Glenn Greenwald's more than slightly unhinged "How Silicon Valley, in a Show of Monopolistic Force, Destroyed Parler"

      Greenwald's argument hinges on emotion, insinuation, invective, a completely unfounded premise, an absolute absence of evidence, and no consideration of alternative explanations: an overwhelmingly plausible ongoing law enforcement and national security operation, likely under sealed or classified indictments or warrants, in the face of ongoing deadly sedition lead by the President of the United States himself, including against the person of his own vice president and credible threats against the President-Elect and Inauguration.

      Such an legal action is, of course, extraordinarily difficult to prove, and I cannot prove it. A critical clue for me, however, is the defection not just of Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Stripe, and other tech firms, but of Parler's legal counsel, who would have to be an exceptionally stealth-mode startup to fit Greenwald's, or other's, "it's the tech monopolists" narrative. I've tempered my degree of assurance and language ("plausible" rather than "probable"). Time will tell. But a keen and critical mind such as Grenwald's should at least be weighing the possibility. He instead seems bent only on piking old sworn enemies, with less evidence or coherence than I offer.

      This is the crux of Greenwald's argument. It's all he's got:

      On Thursday, Parler was the most popular app in the United States. By Monday, three of the four Silicon Valley monopolies united to destroy it.

      I'm no friend of the tech monopolists myself. The power demonstrated here does concern me, greatly. I've long railed against Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, among other tech monopolists. Largely because as monopolies they are power loci acting through their occupation of a common resource, outside common control, and not serving the common weal. Hell: Facebook, Google (YouTube), Reddit, and Twitter played a massive role in creating the current fascist insurrection in the US, along with even more enthusiastic aid and comfort from traditional media, across the spectrum. Damage that will take decades to repair, if ever.

      But, if my hypothesis is correct, the alternative explanation would bet he opposite of this: the state asserting power over and through monopolies in the common interest, in support of democratic principles, for the common weal. And that I can support.

      I don't know that this is the case. I find it curious that I seem to be the only voice suggesting it. Time should tell.

      And after this is over, yes, Silicon Valley, in its metonymic sense standing for the US and global tech industry, has to face its monopoly problem, its free speech problem (in both sincere and insincere senses), its surveillance problem (capitalist, state, criminal, rogue actor), its censorship problem, its propaganda problem (mass and computational), its targeted manipulation adtech problem, its trust problem, its identity problem, its truth and disinformation problems, its tax avoidance problem, its political influence problem.

      Virtually all of which are inherent aspects of monopoly: "Propaganda, censorship, and surveillance are all attributes of monopoly" https://joindiaspora.com/posts/7bfcf170eefc013863fa002590d8e506
      HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24771470

      But, speaking as a space alien cat myself, Greenwald is so far off base here he's exited the Galaxy.


      Update: 2h30m after posting, NPR have mentioned sealed indictments and speculated on whether the President might be charged, in special coverage.

      19 votes
    3. LinkLonk - A link aggregator with a trust system

      I built a link sharing website where you connect to users that share your interests. When you upvote a link - you connect to other users who upvoted that link and LinkLonk shows you what else...

      I built a link sharing website where you connect to users that share your interests. When you upvote a link - you connect to other users who upvoted that link and LinkLonk shows you what else these users upvoted.

      The more in common you have with another user the more prominently their other recommendations appear on your list.

      The intuition is that the more useful your past recommendations have been for me, the more I can trust your future recommendations.

      This is how trust works in meatspace - we keep track of how positive our experiences have been with other people and use that track record to decide who we can trust in the future.

      Except that mechanism does not work online. It just does not scale to the numbers of users we interact with. We can remember around 150 other people (the Dunbar number). Beyond that our builtin trust mechanism breaks down. We revert to more coarse and primitive trust mechanisms such as tribalism and mistrust in everyone.

      While we cannot personally keep track of every user on a platform - that is what computers are good at.

      That is the idea behind LinkLonk. You don't need to remember the names of users who you can trust (in fact there are no usernames on LinkLonk). You simply upvote content that was useful to you and LinkLonk constantly keeps track of how useful every other user has been and ranks new content accordingly.

      Another important part of trust is that if you misplace your trust in someone and they let you down then you need a mechanism to stop trusting them.

      This is what the downvote button is used for: when you downvote an item, LinkLonk reduces your “trust” in other users that upvoted it. As a result, you will see less content from those users.

      The above describes the basic idea. There are a couple more concepts:

      • You start off weakly connected to all users, which means that at first you see content sorted by popularity. Rate something and refresh the page - the ranking will change.
      • You are not limited to a single persona/interest. If you have multiple interests then you can create a separate collection for each of your interests. When you upvote a link you can choose what collection it belongs to. For example, if you are interested in woodworking and music then you can create two collections and put woodworking links into one and music links into the other. Then other people who liked your woodworking recommendations will only see your other recommendations from the same collection and will not get your music. This is mostly a way for you to help other users find relevant content. It’s optional. You can put everything into the “default” collection if you don’t feel like organizing.
      • LinkLonk has another source of recommendations - RSS feeds. When you upvote a blog post LinkLonk connects to the RSS feed of that blog - as if it was another user. LinkLonk pulls updates from the feed and shows you the new entries using the same ranking algorithm: the more you upvote items from the feed the higher the other items from the feed are ranked. You can submit any RSS url and LinkLonk will connect (subscribe) you to it. My hope is that in the early days when we don't have many users you would find LinkLonk useful as a sort of an RSS reader.
      • Moderation. When you downvote an item then you get connected to other users who also downvoted that same item. In other words, you will trust their other downvotes. If they downvote something then that item will rank lower for you.

      Give it a try at: https://linklonk.com/register with 'tildes' as the invitation code. The invitation code can be used multiple times and I will keep it active for a few days. After that please DM me to get a fresh code.

      I’m posting this on Tildes in part because I like the group of people that Tildes has attracted. And I also feel the topics of trust systems, content curation and moderation are relevant to Tildes and to its users (see: https://docs.tildes.net/future-plans#trustreputation-system-for-moderation).

      What do you think?

      27 votes
    4. Did youtube just make it so you can't watch embedded videos that have an age restriction without logging in?

      I just try to navigate the internet with as little "logging in" as possible. Youtube always had an age restriction that forced you to confirm your age by logging in but it could be bypassed when...

      I just try to navigate the internet with as little "logging in" as possible. Youtube always had an age restriction that forced you to confirm your age by logging in but it could be bypassed when watching the video embedded on another site. I just tried for the Hitman 3 trailer on /r/games and it didn't let me. That's the first time this happened. Could it be just some adblock thingy? Or are they no longer letting you watch restricted content without logging in?

      10 votes
    5. Vimeo is not very good

      (This is kind of a rant about Vimeo's website. It might be better in ~tech, or ~comp. Feel free to move it.) I've always preferred using Vimeo to YouTube for finding interesting videos because...

      (This is kind of a rant about Vimeo's website. It might be better in ~tech, or ~comp. Feel free to move it.)

      I've always preferred using Vimeo to YouTube for finding interesting videos because it's more oriented towards artists than people just uploading random stuff. As mentioned in the recent What Creative Projects Have You Been Working On? thread, I had some nature videos I shot of hummingbirds and wanted to upload them somewhere. My spouse had uploaded videos to Vimeo before, so I thought I'd put them there rather than YouTube because I don't like dealing with Google.

      The site is a hot mess. I've hit the following problems after lightly using it for 2 days. I uploaded a single video and set it to be public:

      • No way to enter keywords or tags. Searching will only find your video if you mention the search terms in your title (and maybe your description).
      • Some of their own pages are broken or missing. If I go to "categories" and click on "documentary" it shows me an error message saying the page doesn't exist. If I click on "arts" or "music" I go to that category and see videos available.
      • No information on how to add your video to a given category. Is it done automatically? Is it done by someone on the staff noticing and adding it? I have no idea!
      • My video has gotten a few views from people here, so it is uploaded and available for anyone to see. But if I search for "hummingbird" and limit the search to videos uploaded in the last 7 days, my video is not displayed. Why not? Who knows?
      • I ran the iOS app without logging in and it showed my account but said I had no videos, even though others were able to see them. Logging in shows the videos and confirms that they are set to allow anyone to view them. WTF?
      • I attempted to send them a message telling them about the broken links. When you go to the help section and click on "Contact Us," you get a fake chat window that's just a bot that will pick keywords out of your question and reply with articles that don't answer your question. In fact, they even ask below each one, "Does this answer your question?" with a button for yes and nothing else. There's no way to say, "No, this was unhelpful." If you scroll to the bottom of the list of articles they recommend, there's a button to send a message to their tech support.
      • I'm on the free tier, so I wasn't expecting any sort of answer to my help question, but still wanted to let them know so they could fix it. But that didn't work either. They have enough sense to copy your question from the chat bot into the tech support form (nice!) but it strips out any URLs. (Thanks! Very useful since I was trying to report a broken URL!) But it doesn't matter anyway because after you choose a category (none of which are correct) and attempt to submit your form, nothing happens. You press "Next" and the button turns into a spinner for a few seconds, and then stops and turns back into the "Next" button. Nothing appears to have been submitted, but no error is presented.
      • The site is full of dark patterns. I get that they want upgrade revenue coming in, and I have no problem with that. But they do things like have a blinking icon in your video's settings for "interaction tools." These are things you can do to monetize your video, or whatever. Stuff I will never need. All the options in this section require a paid upgrade and there's no way to turn off the blinking beacon (except, I assume, by upgrading).

      I was considering upgrading to their bottom-tier paid account, but after seeing how much is broken, I have to wonder if they're circling the drain? I get using chat bots and forms to make it easier for their support people, and making sure users know about ways to upgrade, but this is ridiculous. Anyone else run into this?

      26 votes
    6. Credit-based communication platforms?

      Does anyone know of any communication platforms [1] which use a credit system or have a 'cost' attached to actions such as making a post or commenting? I am imagining something like Reddit or a...

      Does anyone know of any communication platforms [1] which use a credit system or have a 'cost' attached to actions such as making a post or commenting? I am imagining something like Reddit or a forum where users have a balance, and actions have a cost which is charged against that balance. So if I have 100 credits and posting in r/whatever costs 2 credits/post and 1 credit/comment then that limits the amount of interaction in that sub.

      I am wondering if a cost system like this would be useful for moderation or to promote high-value content, since it effectively turns the platform into a market. One effect of this system is that it would discourage low-value posts/replies/comments, because there is a cost associated with making a post, namely opportunity cost of posting something else later. Perhaps the credits are purchased with real-world currency, which I assume would amplify this effect?

      I imagine a sustainable system would have some way to reward users of high-value content with more credit so they are incentivised and able to produce more content: maybe upvotes count as credit, or users can donate credit to each other?

      [1] I hope this term is vague enough to encompass all forms of modern digital communication. I am curious about direct communication (email, WhatsApp, ...) as well as social media in its various forms (Reddit, Tildes, Twitter, ...), niche platforms (Letter), wikis, fora, and anything else under the sun.

      12 votes