Politics · Technology

The slow decline of social media platforms

Well, I have to admit, I’ve been enjoying the decline of the two big players in social media – not the people losing their jobs, I would never relish innocent bystanders finding out the day before thanksgiving that their services are no longer required, but rather the hubris of billionaires believe that they can be like Mary Poppins where at the snap of their fingers that everything falls in place.

Although both Meta and Twitter are declining I would be hesitant about putting them in the same boat given that Elon Musk is a younger version of Donald Trump who considers himself the smartest person in the room and the reason why (in this case) Twitter isn’t successful is because the company is run by morons and only he can fly in like superman with his ‘big brain’ to fix up the platform (all while ignoring that almost everyone of his ideas have been thoroughly investigated by the internal team and found those ideas either never got off the drawing board or if they did found that when they ran small scale tests the idea crashed and burned quickly).

Mark on the other hand is an example of someone who is too smart for his own good – the inability to appreciate the fact that he isn’t the ‘average person’ no matter how much he might wish to talk about his smoked meats. Running a successful business is in part knowing what skills you have but it also requires you to know what your limitations are so then when you confront something your skill set is unable to address you find someone who can. Getting back to Mark, he cannot seem to wrap his head around why people aren’t interested in his Meta version – he can’t work out why his employees aren’t interested in it even after working on it while ignoring that they’re working on it because that is what they’re paid to do not because they are interested in it. The other part of Facebook’s decline has been the ‘vibe’ of the place, people just don’t want to be associated with all the scandals around it with large numbers either going to TikTok or using alternative platforms where it is more reminiscent of the internet of old – chat rooms, dedicated ‘instances’ for particular topics etc. in other words it is the slow and gradual decentralisation of the internet after years of consolidation around a small number of internet businesses. It also doesn’t help when key people within the organisation have delusions of grandeur about ‘taking over the world’.

As for when or if these organisations may collapse – I’m not going to indulge in speculation because there are so many variables but that being said it is possible for these platforms to hang around for years before turning into something else or dying quickly as it becomes apparent that it is no longer a viable business. I remember when Internet Explorer was the dominant browser out there but then Firefox suddenly appeared and gradually its marketshare slipped then Firefox became the dominant browser then Apple embraced KHTML/KJS to create Safari then Google forked KHTML and became blink and replaced KJS with their own JavaScript engine known as V8 and here we are with Chrome dominating the browser market. Point being, there can be long stretches of time where nothing happens and suddenly things start to happen, what was seen as a permanent part of the landscape then suddenly out of nowhere disappears. Netscape Navigator/Communicator was seen as a permanent fixture on the web landscape up until it wasn’t then Internet Explorer took that place which was then quickly replaced etc.

Personal · Technology

Extended weekend.

I had an extended weekend this week – got some extra hours saved up so I thought I might as well make productive use of it – cleaning up the yard, dealing with the backlog of washing, cleaning the home, update my CV and CV letter – something I had been putting off for ages. Long story short, I got most of what I wanted done within a few days and I feel a whole lot less stressed knowing I don’t have a list of things that still need to be addressed.

Mastodon is taking off like a rocket – in a space of less than a month there are almost 2 million new users and the active users have pushed the number of act users to 2 million. For many of the newbies they’re finding their legs as they learn the new terminology while others revel in the features that Mastodon has but Twitter lacks (or requires people to pay a monthly fee to get access to such as the edit button on Twitter but free of charge on Mastodon). There will be some growing pains as the infrastructure expands to meet demands, hopefully more donations improving the various instances on the fediverse along with growing pains regarding moderation and ensuring the rules are consistently applied.

The choice going forward that people of the internet need to ask themselves is this: Do they want social media platforms that are subject to the whims of a billionaire whose motivation is profit maximisation through increasing user engagement by amplifying content that increases that engagement and thus able to sell more ad spots to advertisers or would they prefer social networking that doesn’t manipulate users for profit maximisation and instead are run by volunteers and non-profit organisations through donations. I would prefer to have an imperfect system tended to by volunteers and funded by donations rather than one where the perverse incentives for profit maximisation result in democracies being undermined via the amplification of conspiracy theories, misinformation and disinformation.

Regarding Musk allowing Trump to come back to Twitter – Musk doesn’t appear to be the brightest bulb on the chandelier because if he was he would realise that Trump won’t come back to Twitter because Trump learned a valuable lesson in life and that is to always control your platform. When it comes to media he has OAN, NewsMax and RSBN on his side but when it came to social networking he was at the mercy of those who he saw that weren’t allied with him so instead he created his own platform which enabled him to have total control of the narrative that is put out there. The other part that will be interesting is whether those who opened up Twitter accounts on the rumour of Trump’s return will close up their account and go back to Truth Social, GAB or many of the other Trump/MAGA orientated social networking platforms.

On a good side of this whole train wreck: Twitter shareholders got a good pay out for their shares and the profile of Mastodon has been raised to the point it is being discussed in mainstream media outlets (aka ‘the normies’ are hearing about it) which may open up further discourse about the alternatives to Facebook (Diaspora) and Instagram (PixelFed). Where there is a crisis there is also opportunity – the crisis at Twitter may force the ‘friend/family member who is good with computers’ to investigate it then evangelise it to those whom they interact with, like a van guard of early adopters who then invite others to take part in this ‘new thing’ they just found. The thing is with social networks is that as soon as the ball starts rolling and picks up momentum then word will spread of its own accord through to the mainstream audience who will first be attracted to the fact that there are no ads for starters then explore to see other benefits such as the ability to edit a toot, the fact that there isn’t an algorithm shovelling the worse of what humanity has to offer into their timeline/feed.

Personal · Politics · Technology

Dealing with long COVID, Apple releases an update and no red wave.

It is an ongoing issue with the constant dry coughing, occasionally coughing up phlegm – I’m try to make sure I get a good a good night sleep each night but I think it is going to be a long road to recovery. At the moment I am working at home with the icing on the cake being able to use my own computer – Mac Studio with a boat load of RAM and a speedy processor thus making the whole work day go a whole lot faster.

Apple released a small update this week to address a security hole in libxml2 (link) which covers macOS, iPadOS and iOS along with some odd bits and pieces to fix issues that couldn’t wait until macOS 13.1 and iOS/iPad 16.2. It is rumoured that the next 13.x/16.x update will be released around mid-December so it’ll be interesting to see what improvements make their way into Safari given how quickly improvements are appearing in the Safari Technology Preview. I think the whole Webextensions API implementation is going to be interesting to watch because a lot of it is in a state of flux so I wouldn’t be surprised that Apple is taking a ‘taking things slowly’ as to avoid implementing it only for their to be a major change resulting in all that work being undermined.

Midterms in the United States didn’t turn out to be the ‘red wave’ that many in the media and Republican talking heads boasted about in the media. I think the sad part was hearing the post mortem by those on the right arguing that they didn’t go right wing enough – it’s almost as though they cannot admit that maybe the ’normal folk’ out in suburbia aren’t interested in the culture wars. Being angry all the time, hating, more anger followed by more hate isn’t sustainable for the long term – it becomes physically, mentally and spiritually taxing on oneself to the point that either you get eaten alive by it or you have to step back and simply leave it altogether.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens next year as inflation drops (the latest statistics out of the US show inflation as well as core inflation have dropped), the economy keeps growing, deficit decreases and crime decreases. What I find interesting is how economists talk about the concern over inflation becoming embedded but these same economists said nothing about 20+ years of super low interest rates in the United States which has resulted in asset inflation, housing bubbles, a stock market bubble, riskier and risker investments and all the factors that would contribute to greater financial instability. Maybe what we’re seeing today in terms of high inflation has its origin further back that two years.

Personal

Back to work tomorrow.

Well, after having a three day weekend I am back to work on Wednesday and hopefully things won’t be too chaotic but thank goodness I work from home which makes life a bit easier. Tonight I visited mum and had dinner with her, my sisters partner and two nieces. They’ll be heading up north for Christmas but I’ll give them their presents before they head off – I generally give them money which then allows them to make the decision on what they wish to spend it on rather than me trying to guess what kids are up to these days.

Giving Chrome a go last night – a strange bug kept happening where the bookmarks appear from the bookmarks menu yet if you click on bookmark manager they’re there. In the end I deleted Chrome and all the remnants from the installation then moved back to Safari 16.1. It’ll be interesting to see whether macOS 13.1 will include the improvements that have been merged into Safari Technology Preview.

Technology

The Twitter exodus has started.

When Elon Musk took over Twitter I expected some migration from those who had already planned an exit strategy but the reality was more than I could have imagined to the point that within a space of seven days there have been around 275000 new accounts created with an average of 3000-4000 new accounts created every hour.

One thing to keep in mind is that 90% of activity on twitter comes from 10% of users and to be considered part of that 10% you have to tweet at least 3 times a day. Although the numbers may not be in the millions the reality is that the impact will be big over time particularly when you look at who are introducing themselves – journalists, academics, politicians etc. the sort of ‘high value’ users that you want on your website so that you can attract the advertisers. What we’re witnessing is the slow death of Twitter and Elon Musk is going to find out the tough way that businesses don’t want to be associated with a ‘free speech free for all hellscape’ meaning all the subscribers in the world aren’t going to make up for the revenue drop off from advertisers. Just to wrap this up, here is a great interview with Nilay Patel from The Verge:

I’m back to using Chrome after giving Safari a try. I was hoping that with uBlock Origin developer creating a MV3 version of uBlock Origin (known as uBlock Origin Lite) would result in it eventually coming to Safari but it appears that as much as Apple likes to boast about it’s support for Webextensions API the reality is that there is a lot of functionality missing that uBlock Origin Lite relies on. As mentioned on a previous post, I waited until macOS 13 came out with Safari 16.1 to see whether those short comings have been addressed particularly in the area of Webextensions API support but so far it appears that just like the web standards, Apple is dragging their feet every step of the way. Although people have complained about Chrome moving to MV3 it appears that Webkit is in a much worse position when it comes to implementing the Webextension API.

Personal · Technology

Deleted all my tweets, I’m all in on Mastodon.

Well, I’ve finally did it – I deleted all my tweets, retweets, likes etc. from my Twitter account and now it is completely empty – nothing there. I deleted it all using TweetDelete (link) – it does have a limit of only being able to 3200 tweets, retweets, likes etc at a time so depending on how long you have used Twitter for you may need to several ‘sweeps’ to get all the tweets, retweets, likes etc. on the account.

For those thinking of moving to Mastodon here is a great article that gives a top level overview for new comers to the platform (link). One may find that at first the experience is a big overwhelming particularly the idea of having a federated network of instances that synchronise all with each other – I’m on mastodon.social which is one of the the latest instance (803K users) and hopefully soon I’ll start making donations each month – I would sooner my money fund a non-profit that my data being hoovered up so a billionaire can go on an ego trip.

Regarding why I moved, as I noted on my recent toot:

With all the #twitter migration taking place I want to put this out there: I’m all for robust discussions but those discussions must be not only grounded in respect but also grounded in reality, grounded in facts. For example, climate change is real, it’s a fact, what is up for debate is how best to solve the problem – carbon tax? ETS? direct intervention? carbon tariffs to stop leakage (off shoring of production)? that is where the discussion needs to be, not undermining facts and reality.

Long story short Twitter has become more and more toxic because ‘getting’ someone is more important than sticking to the facts and discussing how best to solve a problem. A discussion is pointless when the other side substitutes reality with their own custom reality that they would sooner live in as it allows them not to deal with the harsh reality that actually exists.

Personal · Politics

Going cold turkey, I can’t take it any more.

I’m going cold turkey when it comes to Twitter – I like to ‘stop in’ occasionally to see what is happening in the world of Twitter but it appears that as the US draws closer to mid terms (there is early voting in many states) the avalanche of crap that’ll appear on Twitter will keep getting worse and worse until it reaches a fever pitch then it’ll be months of relitigation as supporters of the two major parties accuse each other of everything ranging from steqaling the vote all the way through to some absurd insane conspiracy theory involving Antifa, space aliens and whatever else happens to be the du jour flavour of the month when it comes to conspiracy theories.

It has just been signalled that the Twitter purchase by Elon Musk is on track to close this week (link) so expect more of the same as many of the banned users or users who left because they didn’t like the rules come back to the platform in the belief that Elon Musk will give them free rein to do what they want all in the name of ‘freedom of speech’. I think young Elon Musk is going to find out the hard way when Twitter turns into a bigger toxic cesspit than it is today, when advertisers start pulling their advertisements from his platform because they no longer want to be associated with such a platform,  

Twitter is putting up the ‘Twitter Blue’ cost up to US$4.99 per month but it’ll be interesting to see whether there is a sizeable number of subscribers willing to pay for it. That is one of the things talked about, that the goal is to make Twitter less dependent on ad revenue but something tells me that the very sort of people who refuse to pay for YouTube Premium and instead use an ad blocker aren’t going to suddenly start paying for a subscription for ‘Twitter Blue’ even if they are ae giant simp for Elon Musk.

Personally, I would sooner make a donation to the Mastodon project than giving it to a billionaire so they can fund their vanity project. Once I get some stuff cleared out of the way in terms of debt I’m going to given then $20 per month – it may not make a huge difference but every bit of money counts and with the European Union also backing the project I am hoping that with a bit of momentum with help from Elon Musk sabotaging himself that the end result will be a robust alternative for those who don’t want to deal with the less than salubrious characters that Twitter will eventually attract.

The swathe of first updates are being pushed out by Apple for beta testing and if the rumour is true then I’d say that their goal is to get it ready for the rumoured refresh of the Mac range although rumour has it that Mac Pro refresh won’t be coming until next year some time.

Side note: If a person is pointlessly replying to you and it is clear that they have no interest in listening to what you have to say then just block them – nothing of value will be lost.

Technology

macOS 13 Ventura, iOS 16.1, tvOS 16.1 released.

Yeah, I stayed up all night waiting for the release of Apple’s new operating systems and with that came the cleaning of my devices and doing a fresh install of each of the operating systems. When it came to my Macs I created a bootable USB drive. Both of the Macs had their firmware updated at the same time but funny enough the firmware on the Apple displayed has remained at 15.5 – I was expecting that maybe it would be upgraded inline with iOS update but then again it is possible that it could happen later on in a future refresh of iOS.

The big benefit I see is the improvement with Safari – the web browser is pretty much the central application that people use on their computer and there have been a sizeable number of improvements particularly around the area of compatibility as well as implementing Webextensions API. It also appears that maybe the bug with YouTube has been fixed as well – may possibly have to do with the CSS work they’ve been doing to address the compatibility issues between the implementations on Firefox, Chromium and Webkit. As for the rest of the operating system, it is pretty much problem free for a x.0 release product – I don’t have any interest in stage manager so I’m unsure as to it’s usefulness (as I’ve said in a past post – it’s a solution in search of a problem) but everything else is pretty good.

If you’re interested in a more exhaustive review then check out Arstechnica (link) which goes into a lot more detail.

Technology

A geeky weekend coming soon.

I’m buzzing with excitement regarding the great news about the release of iOS 16.1, tvOS 16.1 and macOS 13 on 24 October (US Time, which translates to 25 October NZ Time) and with that news I organised a couple of days off so I am lucky enough to have a long weekend (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) by using alternate days I had built up when working on public holidays. I’m looking for a small break before the big holiday at the end of the year.

I’ll be doing a clean install on all the devices which is a practice I’ve gotten into the habit of doing because what it allows is for the operating system to be installed on a blank slate which avoids the possibility of the previous version of macOS causing problems. In a perfect world an upgrade should be relatively easy but having experienced upgrades with problems vs a clean install without them so I always err on the side of caution. It isn’t something unique of Windows and macOS, I also saw the same issues appears with Linux, FreeBSD etc. where old setting files hang around, old versions of system libraries etc. Long story short, reducing the number of vectors reduces the chances of things going wrong.

When macOS 13 Ventura is released it’ll be interesting to see the software updates that’ll be released on the day and the weeks that follow – the important thing to keep in mind is that the migration to Apple Silicon is still on going with Aspyr still working on moving games to native Apple Silicon, software vendors optimising their code and taking advantage of underlying technologies that Apple provides etc.